Film Review: We Need to Talk About MY FRIEND DAHMER (LAFF 2017)

My Friend Dahmer (2017)
Written by Marc Meyers (based on the graphic novel My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf)
Directed by Marc Meyers
Produced by Marc Meyers, Milan Chakraborty, Jody Girgenti, Adam Goldworm and Michael Merlob
1 hr 47 min, rated R

Who better to write about Jeffrey Dahmer than a high school friend? While a pre-serial killer graphic novel seems like a cash-in on a depraved man who killed 17 people (it is), it also helps humanize a character so disturbed even he couldn’t explain his actions. In My Friend Dahmer (the film adaptation of the graphic novel), director Marc Meyers explores Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school years.

Portraying the serial killer at his most human is Disney Channel escapee Ross Lynch. He’s a marvel in the film. Never more so than in his quiet moments where he leaves you wondering if Jeff’s about to explode. Also remarkable is the vulnerability he brings out in Jeff as the class clown/weirdo. When he spazzes out in public, a group of guys take a liking to him and deem themselves the “Jeff Dahmer fan club.”

While they hang out and basically ignore Jeff, he says he wishes they could be his friends. In addition to trying to fit in, he copes with bullies at school. He manages to escape abuse from the jocks by ignoring a fellow gay classmate’s pleas for help. Ultimately, he still has to confront his own homosexuality. Over time, his fascination with dead things and his desire for men become inextricably linked.

Throughout the film, Jeff has to cope with his unhinged family life. His mother was just released from the mental hospital and his dad is a busy chemist. That might be where Jeff got his interest in biology from. While his dad tries his best to help Jeff (by telling him to bulk up so he can make friends), his mother only has time to fight with his dad and ignore her son. Meanwhile, he sinks deeper into his own illness accompanied by heavy alcohol abuse.

When she does express an interest in him, she’s lost in her own delusion. Derf (played by Alex Wolff), one of his new friends, visits his house during one of his mother’s episodes. She proceeds to get him confused with another person and he becomes uncomfortable. Anne Heche plays Joyce and owns the role (and her wig). She based her performance on her real mother and paints a true portrait of a mentally ill woman.

When she becomes too difficult to care for, Jeff’s dad Lionel (played by Dallas Roberts) decides to get a divorce. As his home life deteriorates, so does Jeff’s mental health. After dealing with his fractured family, school shenanigans and the activation of his sexual desires, Jeff is no longer able to control his sick compulsion.  It’s in the car scene that Derf finally realizes how dangerous Jeff can be. In real life, Derf has stated that he never felt like he was in danger around Jeff. Though fictional, it’s still an affecting scene.

In the end, many different factors could’ve contributed to what Jeffrey Dahmer became, from his friends using him to his alcoholism to his mother’s inability to help him to his dad’s inability to understand him to his parents’ divorce and abandonment. My Friend Dahmer does it’s best to portray him as the fragile young man he was and largely succeeds due to a captivating performance by Lynch. Director Marc Meyers does an excellent job balancing Jeff’s family woes with his high school tribulations. If you have even the slightest curiosity to watch a biography on Dahmer, I highly recommend this one. Bonus points for shooting in Dahmer’s actual childhood home. Now, that’s dedication.

My Friend Dahmer, which screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival last week, will be coming out in the fall. For the latest updates, visit the movie’s Twitter account.

 




MST3K Recap: 1111, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM II

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1111

Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Copyright 2017

Given the reputation of sequels in general, it’s no surprise that MST3K has had a fair few of them pass through its portal doors. There’s the Gamera series, of course. Then Cave Dwellers, the two Amazing Colossal Man movies, a few Godzilla films here and there, a dash of Hercules. Then there’s the sort-of sequels: where TV shows such as Fugitive Alien and Master Ninja are taken and episodes spliced together into ersatz movies for the Saturday-afternoon-UHF market. What is unusual is to get two in a row: this week’s episode is the second blow of a one-two punch that is positively devastating.

It’s a rainy day in outer space (wait, what?) and the SOL crew are moping around until it’s time for the invention exchange. Jonah & the bots introduce GIF Notes: book summaries done entirely in emojis for today’s attention-span-deprived students who can’t slog all the way through the Cliff’s Notes version. It’s a cute idea, but I hear their version of The Naked Lunch is longer than the actual text. The Mads introduce us to Punt Bunnies: cute little bunniewunnies who actually enjoy getting a swift kick into next Tuesday.

Well, it says sequel on the tin, but Wizards II seems to bear only the faintest relation to the original. The setting is extremely similar, the storyline follows a (now vastly more annoying) young wizard around as he battles not one but three evil sorcerers. The big walking shag rug is now an elderly, moderately shaggy wizard who keeps his dad’s skull in a cave, and the boozy ex-hero who tags along to bail them out every few minutes is now played by David Carradine.

Now, this movie…I know better than to expect good in these things. I mean come on, this is MST3K. But most of the films we get are at least semi-competent. Even the first Wizards movie was fairly adequate. But this? This is actually quite surprising in how thoroughly awful it is. First off, someone along the line decided to go with making it “funny”–I guess they thought the laughs should be on purpose this time. The jokes, unfortunately, tend to fall flat. The fight choreography consists of people lightly tapping one another with swords and then having a nice lie-down. The villains are not only bad at their job but seem to be made of pure ham. The situations are poorly thought out, and the “hero” almost never actually does anything on his own. We’re talking flatline character arc, here. This reviewer literally lost track of the number of plot threads that wound up going absolutely nowhere. I mean, we got a lot of cheesy films on the SOL, but very few of them are this level of just plain broken.

The first host segment has the crew presenting an instructional video on how to run a pub like the one Carradine’s character has at the start of the movie. Suffice to say he’s even less of a restaurateur than Hulk Hogan (Pastamania, anyone?). Remember: get their money first, then stab them. Not the other way around. That’s important.

The second segment takes on the movie’s (*cough*) humorous tone, with Jonah reminiscing about the 80’s and the wizard-comedy craze. He then proceeds to take them through a bunch of Jeff Foxworthy-esque jokes about how you just might be a crummy wizard. He even provides a giant pop-up book full of said jokes. One can only imagine thousands of copies sitting in medieval outhouses and boxed up in castle towers, gently moldering away unread.

In the third segment, Kinga gets a visit from Gramma Pearl, and discusses ratings and how to dominate on-demand television in a world without timeslots. She decides to get married in a cynical publicity grab and make herself the center of the show. “I appreciate the depravity of your motives,” says Pearl in my personal vote for quote of the year, but declines to help out, preferring to bail.

Post-movie, the SOL crew are OD’ing on bad movie, prompting Jonah to come up with “remedy” movies to counteract the various pain points of this week’s experiment. Some rather excellent suggestions, here, actually.

Well, this was a real groaner. It somehow manages to make the original look–well, not all that bad, considering. Poorly written, poorly acted, most of Carradine’s best scenes are lifted wholesale from his earlier film The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984). And worst of all, the humor. Lord help us, the humor. In Woody Allen’s Shadows and Fog (1991), a character says, “Nothing is more terrifying than attempting to make people laugh and failing.” To that I would say nothing is quite as wince-inducing as being on the receiving end of that transaction: that mix of annoyance, sympathetic embarrassment and mild nausea that comes with watching someone desperately and repeatedly failing to be funny. That is Wizards II‘s greatest crime, and all in all it’s just as well that they never did a third one.

What do you think, sirs?

Kelly Luck has found that if you don’t fumigate your bookshelves every few months, Jeff Foxworthy books just show up unbidden. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.




Will ANNABELLE: CREATION Crown the New “Evil Doll” Champion?

[Featured image courtesy ANNABELLE official Facebook page]

Ah, Annabelle. New Line Cinema’s inanimate darling may not have the pithy malice of Talky Tina (The Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll”), or the prolific swagger of knife-wielding, trash talking Chucky (the seven movies & counting Child’s Play franchise). But after only one feature film, the Raggedy Ann inspired collectible is already killing it at the box office; 2014’s Annabelle grossed $257 million worldwide from a production budget of $6.5 million.

Any killer toy with that much box office power deserves an origin story prequel. Annabelle: Creation arrives on August 11 to provide just that. Anthony La Paglia and Miranda Otto star as a grieving couple who open their home to (kindly?) Sister Charlotte and a gaggle of orphaned young girls. Since this is a movie in The Conjuring-verse, terror ensues.

David F. Sandberg directed 2016’s Lights Out, by far the better of that year’s two “don’t turn off the lights” horror movies (the other being The Darkness). Along with Jennifer Spence (production design), Michael Aller (editing), and Bejamin Wallfisch (score), Annabelle: Creation also features horror movie veterans Maxime Alexandre (director of photography, The Other Side of the Door) and Leah Butler (costume designer for Paranormal Activity 3 AND 4).

Here’s the latest official trailer for Annabelle: Creation

 

So far, so scary. Matches the tone of the official poster –

Fog, a full moon, a well with no guardrails – what could go wrong? Image courtesy New Line Cinema.

You may find this all very intriguing, but wonder “do I know enough about the whole Evil Doll subgenre to truly appreciate Annabelle: Creation?” Here are some handy articles, lists, and commentaries to help you along.

  • Wikipedia has (of course) an extensive list of Killer Toy movies, books, and television shows.
  • The fine folks over at TVTropes guide you through the many, many works featuring a Creepy Doll.
  • CultClassicHorror.com debates the eternal “Talky Tina vs. Chucky” issue here.
  • For old-school horror fans, the Ghosts & Scholars podcast guides you through the classic M.R. James short story “The Malice of Inanimate Objects”

Image: JohnSaul.com

On a personal note; even though Annabelle: Creation is set in 1960, the whole atmosphere reminds this 70’s Horror Kid of one of my gateway drugs into the genre –  John Saul novels like Comes the Blind Fury (1980).

If Annabelle’s backstory has even a fraction of the pulpy, nightmare inducing quality of those books, this movie should be a creepy, giddy, ride.

 




2017 Locus Awards Winners Announced

The 2017 Locus Awards were announced Saturday, June 24, at the Locus Awards Weekend held in Seattle, WA. The awards are hosted by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation and winners determined through an open online poll; this year the poll ran from February 1 to April 15.   The nominees and winners are:

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
  • Winner: Death’s End, Cixin Liu (Tor; Head of Zeus)
  • Company Town, Madeline Ashby (Tor)
  • The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Saga)
  • Take Back the Sky, Greg Bear (Orbit)
  • Visitor, C.J. Cherryh (DAW)
  • Babylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey (Orbit)
  • After Atlas, Emma Newman (Roc)
  • Central Station, Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon)
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (Doubleday; Fleet)
  • Last Year, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
FANTASY NOVEL
  • Winner: All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor)
  • Summerlong, Peter S. Beagle (Tachyon)
  • City of Blades, Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay (NAL)
  • The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)
  • The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville (Del Rey; Picador)
  • The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
  • The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross (Ace) Necessity, Jo Walton (Tor)
HORROR NOVEL
  • Winner: The Fireman, Joe Hill (Morrow)
  • The Brotherhood of the Wheel, R.S. Belcher (Tor)
  • Fellside, M.R. Carey (Orbit)
  • Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones (Morrow)
  • The Fisherman, John Langan (Word Horde)
  • Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Dunne)
  • HEX, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Family Plot, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff (Harper)
  • Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay (Morrow)
FIRST NOVEL
  • Winner: Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US)
  • The Reader, Traci Chee (Putnam)
  • Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis Chen (Dunne)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig (Greenwillow; Hot Key)
  • Roses and Rot, Kat Howard (Saga)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Infomocracy, Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)
  • Vigil, Angela Slatter (Jo Fletcher)

YOUNG ADULT BOOK

  • Winner: Revenger, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz; Orbit US)
  • Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo (Holt)
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin)
  • Lois Lane: Double Down, Gwenda Bond (Switch)
  • Truthwitch, Susan Dennard (Tor Teen)
  • Poisoned Blade, Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
  • Burning Midnight, Will McIntosh (Delacorte; Macmillan) Goldenhand, Garth Nix (Harper; Allen & Unwin; Hot Key)
  • This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab (Titan; Greenwillow)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)
NOVELLA
  • Winner: Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Lost Child of Lychford, Paul Cornell (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Census-taker, China Miéville (Del Rey; Picador)
  • The Iron Tactician, Alastair Reynolds (NewCon)
  • The Dispatcher, John Scalzi (Audible; Subterranean)
  • Pirate Utopia, Bruce Sterling (Tachyon)
  • A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
NOVELETTE
  • Winner: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny May/June 2016)
  • ‘‘The Art of Space Travel”, Nina Allan (Tor.com July 27, 2016)
  • “Pearl”, Aliette de Bodard (The Starlit Wood)
  • “Red as Blood and White as Bone”, Theodora Goss (Tor.com May 4, 2016)
  • “Foxfire, Foxfire”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies March 3, 2016)
  • “The Visitor from Taured”, Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s August 2016)
  • “Spinning Silver”, Naomi Novik (The Starlit Wood)
  • “Those Shadows Laugh”, Geoff Ryman (F&SF September/October 2016)
  • “The Future is Blue”, Catherynne M. Valente (Drowned Worlds)
  • The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing)
SHORT STORY
  • Winner: “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
  • “The Story of Kao Yu”, Peter S. Beagle (Tor.com December 7, 2016) “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander (Uncanny November/December 2016)
  • “A Salvaging of Ghosts”, Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies March 17, 2016)
  • “The City Born Great”, N.K. Jemisin (Tor.com September 28, 2016)
  • “Seven Birthdays”, Ken Liu (Bridging Infinity)
  • “Afrofuturist 419”, Nnedi Okorafor (Clarkesworld November 2016) “Sixteen Questions for Kamala Chatterjee”, Alastair Reynolds (Bridging Infinity)
  • “That Game We Played During the War”, Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com March 16, 2016)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong (Tor.com March 2, 2016)
ANTHOLOGY
  • Winner: The Big Book of Science Fiction, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage)
  • Children of Lovecraft, Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse)
  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois (St. Martin’s Griffin)
  • Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, Mikki Kendall & Chesya Burke (Crossed Genres)
  • Tremontaine, Ellen Kushner (Serial Box; Saga)
  • Invisible Planets, Ken Liu (Tor; Head of Zeus)
  • The Starlit Wood, Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe (Saga)
  • The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume Ten, Jonathan Strahan (Solaris US)
  • Bridging Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (Solaris US)
  • Drowned Worlds, Jonathan Strahan (Solaris US)
COLLECTION
  • Winner: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Ken Liu (Saga; Head of Zeus)
  • Sharp Ends, Joe Abercrombie (Orbit)
  • Hwarhath Stories: Twelve Transgressive Tales by Aliens, Eleanor Arnason (Aqueduct)
  • A Natural History of Hell, Jeffrey Ford (Small Beer)
  • The Complete Orsinia, Ursula K. Le Guin (Library of America)
  • The Found and the Lost, Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga)
  • The Best of Ian McDonald, Ian McDonald (PS)
  • Dreams of Distant Shores, Patricia A. McKillip (Tachyon)
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds, Alastair Reynolds (Subterranean)
  • Not So Much, Said the Cat, Michael Swanwick (Tachyon)

 

NON-FICTION
  • Winner: The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley (Tor) Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1981-1990, Mike Ashley (Liverpool University)
  • Octavia E. Butler, Gerry Canavan (University of Illinois Press) Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction, André M. Carrington (University of Minnesota Press)
  • Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin (Liveright)
  • The View From the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline)
  • Time Travel: A History, James Gleick (Pantheon)
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books 2000-2016, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
  • The History of Science Fiction: Second Edition, Adam Roberts (Palgrave Macmillan)
  • Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)

For complete information about additional awards, the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, the Awards Weekend, and anything Locus Magazine related, be sure to visit the Locus Magazine website.




The 12 MONKEYS Season Finale Presents a Witness with a Twist

The last three episodes are the best. I don’t know if it’s because we go farther back in the past with lush costumes and a beautiful Prague masquerading as London, or because there are many time twists and time turns, or because Cole and Cassie’s kid is the Most Interesting Man in the World. The reasons are undoubtedly all of the above, because they pull out all the stops for the finale.

Read this only if you have watched episodes 8, 9, and 10 of the third season.


Season 3, Episode 8 “Masks”
Written by Tony Elliott
Directed by David Grossman

We open with Athan (Jack Hamilton) as a young man and Sebastian (Rupert Graves), his guardian, as a middle aged man in London in 1879. Athan is as whiny as Luke Skywalker on a moisture farm. I can’t blame him, because abuse at work has resulted in his hand impaled on a nail.

We find out a lot from this little scene. We know that Cassie (Amanda Schull) and Cole (Aaron Stanford) have not found Athan before he’s grown up, which is sad. The Monkey Army hasn’t found him either, which is good. We know that Sebastian pictures Athan returning as a benevolent Witness, leading the Army to good things. He thinks that he can only wield his considerable power wisely if he knows what it’s like to have nothing. I agree with him on that issue, but not on the returning as a benevolent ruler.

I have one little quibble with this scene. Sebastian says that Athan won’t lose his hand because he had a tetanus shot in 1987. A tetanus shot would protect him from the tetanus bacteria that could cause him to lose his hand and have all his muscles seize up and kill him, but it won’t protect him from a staph infection or gangrene if blood flow is lost. I hope Sebastian brought antibiotics as well. However, it also shows that Sebastian is taking good care of him and thinks ahead.

Athan has a vision and Sebastian encourages him to map it. This is the beginning of the Word of the Witness. The vision he has is of Sebastian’s death. He writes it as “Red Death, Two Pence for a Pauper, 1899” on the map.

Hannah (Brooke Williams) and Deacon (Todd Stashwick) travel to a train on V-day 1945, chasing a clue that Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) drew for them. Hannah looks really good with her hair down and no shadow makeup over her eyes. They do find Cassie and Cole on the train. Cole has figured out how to use the time vest as an advantage in fighting, splintering at just the right moment and reappearing from behind. I wonder if he has remainders and if they kill themselves?

Jones (Barbara Sukowa) and her gang are frustrated at their inability to catch Cassie and Cole. They suspect Jennifer is being less helpful than she could be, which she is. Jennifer draws footprints in the snow leading to a statue. The footprints stop abruptly. They have traced Cole and Cassie to every moment in time on the Witness map, using the signature trace left by one of the suits. Jones makes a fateful decision. She decides to get help from Olivia (Alisen Down) and lets her out of her cage.

Jennifer is beside herself. Strange when Jennifer is the only voice of reason. She tries to reason with Deacon, but he has been hardened by Cassie shooting him, and Cole choosing his son over them. He is over his guilt for killing the Jennifer of the future.

Olivia gives them the answer. Cassie and Cole are retracing their footsteps, so the scientists don’t know where they are by tracing the signature. Olivia is told that three of the guardians are dead.

Jennifer has a vision of Big Ben and knows where Cassie and Cole are. She puts a strawberry down between young Terry the tortoise and old Terry the tortoise and apologizes. The resulting paradox explosion brings everyone running and she convinces Lasky (Murray Furrow) to send her somewhere in the time machine. She threatens him real good.

Cole and Cassie are at their last stop. They have no more moments that were recorded on the Word of the Witness. Cassie thinks that the Red Death is a reference to Poe, and there’s a party with that theme that they decide must be the place. They lack money to pretend to be wealthy so Cole has to teach Cassie how to pick pockets. Cassie teaches Cole to dance. These bits are pure joy. It’s so much fun to watch both of them learn and teach. They kiss, and Cole says, “Nothing bad could come of this.”

Sigh. Thanks so much, show runners and writers, for those moments.

Cassie and Cole go to the ball and they are gorgeous. They make an entrance and it’s a real Cinderella moment. And Prince Charming, of course. The everyday Victorian outfits they are wearing are wonderful, but the costumes for the masquerade ball are exquisite.

Athan will be the one in the mask. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

Cassie does a double take when she sees the real life Constance, from the painting. They don’t see Athan, but they do see an older Sebastian, who still has a limp from when Cole shot him. He was hoping to see Athan, too. They had a falling out twenty years ago because Sebastian tried to return them to Titan because he felt Athan was ready, and Athan wanted no part of it.

This is when Katarina, Hannah and Deacon show up. They have Cole and Cassie captured and separated in a short amount of time because they don’t have their splinter vests on. Katarina is regal in her costume. She has her hair up, which makes her look taller, and is wearing fur, which makes her seem larger. She is an imposing figure. Deacon looks like a highwayman or a pirate. Of course, he always looks like a highwayman or pirate. Hannah looks cute.

The depth of Katarina’s fury is a testament to the depth of her love and trust in Cole. She compares his betrayal to the death of her child and calls him her child. He is not defensive and not apologetic, just resigned. She throws his killing Ramse in his face. They have guns on each other when another figure in a red plague mask makes an entrance.

It’s Jennifer, with bottle rockets on her hips! “This is the part where you run.” Cole, Cassie and Sebastian get away. They get to talk about Athan a bit. Sebastian tells them where Athan lived, at one point anyway. He has no idea why Athan put this point on the map until Deacon and Jones show up, and he realizes what the two pence for a pauper means. He grabs a weapon and Deacon and Katarina shoot him while Cole and Cassie get away.

Jennifer is imprisoned at the facility. Cassie and Cole break into their kid’s house. A man in a red skull mask comes to where Sebastian’s body is lying in the snow and puts a penny on each eye. He says that they will meet again when the forest is red.

This is the first time we see the Witness as an adult. He is older than Cassie and Cole now, and played by James Callis!

Deacon and Jones don’t come off well in this episode. They are really out of control, and although neither one would admit it, they’re acting on emotion, not reason. They are both feeling the sting of betrayal. Deacon tells Cassie that from now on, apologies will be issued in blood. Katarina SLAPS Jennifer, and Deacon throws Jennifer in a cell even though he had told her before that no one wanted to lock her up. They both shoot a nice man. This shows that they are willing to do anything to kill the Witness and save the world, even though saving the world would also be accomplished by keeping the Witness from returning to Titan or getting him on their side.

Olivia appears to be sympathetic towards Jennifer when she hands her the charcoal, but I’m sure she just wants to see what visions she has.

I’m sorry about the loss of the turtle. I’d like to think that they were instantly transported to the Galapagos Islands in a time before mankind rather than that they died in the explosion.

Another little quibble: Cassie describes the Red Death as wearing a red skull mask, and when Athan shows up, he is wearing a red skull mask. Death in the story wore a corpse mask with signs of the red death, the plague that Poe invented, on its face. Presumably this would be something that would look like a pox or a hemorrhagic fever, like Ebola. The red skull mask is a pretty good interpretation. Skull=death, red skull= red death.

We’ll always have London. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

The entire splinter team reminds me of Greek Gods, or superheroes. They wield incredible powers and have impossible quests, but they are held back by very human foibles. Jones, in particular, lacks insight. Cole is correct that he didn’t do anything she wouldn’t do, but also, what did she expect? Did she expect Cole to choose the mission over his child? Did she expect Jennifer to let them kill her friends? Everyone is shocked that Cassie and Cole kept secrets. Perhaps they expected too much out of them. Deacon and Jones are both authoritarian, and they clamp down harder when things go wrong.

 

Season 3, Episode 9 “Thief”
Written by Sean Tretta
Directed by David Grossman

In this episode we get to know Athan. So do Cassie and Cole. We see his life through their reading of his extremely detailed diaries, which line the shelves of one room. He’s been popping around history randomly, feeling that freedom helps him deal with the visions that being primary bring. This explanation is interspersed with shots of poor Jennifer, who has lost her freedom and is furiously drawing visions.

I am surrounded by ghosts. Loud, tipsy ghosts. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

James Callis has a dry, understated humor. The splinter vest breaks and Athan says mildly, “That’s unfortunate.” He takes a small metal part to a metalsmith, but while he is talking to him someone in a plague doctor mask comes in and steals it along with some gold. He chases the thief until he catches up with her in a hospital. She’s been stealing to buy medication for her patients. They threaten each other a bit, or maybe it’s flirting, and she gives the part back.

He makes women swoon because the next time they see each other she faints at his feet. Actually, she has a staph infection and he takes her home and gives her antibiotics from the future.

Eliza (Claire Cooper) is still a hard sell and he has to be persistent to woo her. He has time because the clock maker (Booda) keeps making an inferior part for the splinter vest. Although they don’t discuss it, Athan is obviously fabulously wealthy. There are many ways of making money if you have the ability to see the future and time travel. Everything from betting on winning races to finding lost treasure could make you wealthy.

Of particular interest is the scene where he takes her out to dinner. She is not dressed well enough for the place he takes her to. In that time period how you dress and what transportation you use would instantly identify you as having means — usually property that engendered income — or not. We still have this in our day, with clothing brands and what kind of car you drive. Even though Eliza protests, she is embarrassed. The maitre de makes a disparaging comment that Athan cuts short. Eliza accuses Athan of trying to impress her with his wealth and she wants none of it. When she gets up to leave, he offers to pay for the starters of anyone who takes their jacket off — the entree of anyone who removes their vests — and the bar tab for anyone who removes their shoes and socks. A lot of people do it. Men, of course, because they are the ones paying the tab, and because there’s less social censure for their removing their clothes.

This is a character note. It shows that Athan is a creative problem solver. It shows that he has learned from having nothing, as Sebastian planned. But it’s also, like the episode before it, a comment on income inequality. Clothes make the class, like it did for Cassie and Cole at the ball. Naked, we are all equal. Or at least half-naked we are more equal.

And yes, the guy in the background with the incredibly overdone mustache is one of the show creators, Terry Matalas!

So Athan wins the heart of the fair lady, but then she dies. Eliza is killed by the man who stole the baubles that she stole again. Athan uses the suit to go back and save her, of course, after coercing the watchmaker into telling him he’d already made the part. That’s what happens when you pay by the hour instead of on completion.

This is also interesting in terms of character, because he is efficient and ruthless in saving her. He uses modern weapons to shoot the gang and slits the throat of the ringleader who slit Eliza’s throat the first time around. It’s brutal but also very satisfying.

Eliza is appalled, as she is by time travel, and tells him not to do it again. She hands him a broken pocket watch to make the point that all we have is now. It’s the same watch that Cassie stole from the Witness museum. Athan stands over the splinter suit with a hammer. Luckily he wants her to see him doing it because she doesn’t come when called and she is dead. Again. This time it’s a blood clot.

He tries 607 times to save her and every time she dies on that day. It’s like the bit in Groundhog Day where Bill Murray can’t save the homeless guy no matter what he does. For Bill Murray that lesson is about accepting what you can’t change. Athan doesn’t take that lesson so well.

He visits each of his parents, they find out from reading the diaries. Cole when he was just a scav. Athan visited Cassie after he has given up on saving Eliza and Cassie has just lost her first patient. She rails against time, which makes her think that she has pushed him into returning to Titan and waging the war against time that we know the Witness will do/has already done.

In the meantime, Jennifer has a conversation with her selves, future Jennifer and past Jennifer. They help her focus her quest and when she has to be there, and tell her to use her head. She does. On the floor. I hate this scene. I hate seeing people hurt themselves, and she looks like she has a skull fracture and a blown pupil. Deacon breaks and intervenes and tells her she can go wherever she wants. They put her in the chair and she winks at him while she splinters.

Jones is still foolishly going to Olivia for advice.

Knowing what happened to Eliza gives Cassie and Cole the clue to where their son is. They find him standing over her coffin in a church.

607 times. That’s primary, and the same number as the room at the Emerson. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

Now we have finally gotten to know the Witness, Cassie and Cole’s son. I can see a lot of them in him. I don’t think it’s an accident that he fell in love with a doctor like his mother. He is extremely persistent and he is fierce when he has to be. It’s very easy to empathize with him and his sorrows. It doesn’t hurt that he is doe-eyed. I disagree with Cole. I don’t think he has his mother’s eyes. I think they look like his dad’s.

I hate to admit it, but it took several viewings before I realized that the ghost in Jennifer’s vision from a previous episode was Eliza. It’s her plague mask, and at one point she shows up with a slit throat. It makes me think that maybe she’s a real live dead guy and not just something Jennifer conjured up to show her the way.

There is no reason given for why Athan can’t see her death, but I suppose if he did, he wouldn’t have gotten involved.

I love the music in this episode. It tickles me that Athan has music with him in a way that people in 1899 can’t. I like Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger”. I love “Lilac Wine”, although I prefer the Jeff Buckley version. The soundtrack is always good. I think I just noticed it more because there was a new character to suit the music to.

 

Season 3, Episode 10 “Witness”
Written by Terry Matalas
Directed by Grant Harvey

Athan is ready to go back to Titan and be the sad little demon at the end of the world that he was always told he would be. The decision is fueled by grief, the most painful of emotions, which is the same thing that the Army of the 12 Monkeys taps into when they recruit people. Cassie and Cole aren’t about to let him go, though, so they chase him through time.

Meanwhile, Jennifer bought the mausoleum in her visions and is entertaining some brave young people when the lights start to flicker.

Athan hits the self-destruct button on Cassandra’s suit, which is a really rotten thing to do. He tells Cole he has a choice between saving her or chasing him. Cole cuts the splinter vest off Cassie and because they are still synchronized, they follow Athan. This is interesting because it shows that Athan doesn’t know Cole or understand him. He thinks he let Cassie die and accuses him of it in a shocked tone of voice. He’s horrified, yes, but believes it and if he knew Cole, he would know that Cole would never do that.

You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

Cassie grabs Athan from behind and Cole disables the suit. They grab him and jump through time.

Olivia tells Jones where they can be found. I hate that she does that, but I like they way she says it. “The lions are taking their cub back to their den.” And yes, they have taken him to the house of cedar and pine. If you are counting, that makes one suit out of three that is still working.

Athan stands in front of the mirror and asks when are they? Cole says it’s December 26th, the day after he ended their lives there. So final. He makes it sound like he murdered the both of them.

We then find out that Jones has let Olivia have the red tea, and she is standing on the other side of the mirror, asking when they are. Deacon, at least thinks this is a bad idea. Olivia sees the Witness on her side of the mirror after she finds out the information they need. It scares her badly.

Cassie and Cole finally get to talk to Athan. Cole has his first dad moment. “Sit down, you little s—.” Athan does sit down, with the surliness of a teenager. But then he threatens Cole and tries to get Cole to shoot him. He threatens Cassie if Cole doesn’t do it. (He’s learning.) Cole doesn’t. Then Athan says that they are coming for him and Cassie and Cole are in danger. He sounds genuinely concerned for them.

The first people to come are Hannah and Jones. They’ve gathered the best fighters of the daughters. They sent Olivia back to her prison before they left. They shoot up the place and there’s some back and forth conversation with Cole, who says they can’t have Athan. You can tell this is painful for both parties.

Then Titan shows up. (Yeah, Athan, maybe you shouldn’t have told Olivia when you were.) Fighters pour out of the time traveling fortress and Hannah and the daughters engage in gunfire, with casualties on both sides. Jones and Hannah run into the house of cedar and pine, where Cassie and Cole have put the last remaining working suit on Athan and told him to go somewhere safe.

Katarina Jones and Hannah have guns on Athan, and Cassie and Cole are pointing guns back. Cassie points her gun at Hannah, to make a point. Jones says “sorry” to Hannah and shoots Athan. His suit starts malfunctioning and he disappears. Cassie of course, does not shoot back. That’s one of the problems with mutually assured destruction. If someone pushes the button first, there’s no reason to add to the carnage by evening up the score. The deterrent is what is important.

Hannah and Jones are astonished that they are still there and time hasn’t changed. No nosebleeds. It’s a pretty good indication that they were wrong. Jones gives Hannah an injection and sends her back to the facility while the three of them are captured by the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

Deacon doesn’t make it to the house of cedar and pine. He hesitates on his way to the splinter chair, sensing something is wrong. An alarm sounds from Olivia’s cell. He figures out on the way that they have been the victim of a long con, but it’s too late. Olivia beats the crap out of him and makes her way to the time machine. It looks like the scientists escape. She sends herself back.

The dying man shows up, finally, in the mausoleum. Jennifer rolls him over and it’s Athan. The statue that Jennifer saw in her vision is over Eliza’s crypt. This is where Athan sent himself when told to go to a safe place. Jennifer sends the kids for help.

Olivia shows up dressed as the Witness and kills the Pallid Man (Tom Noonan) on the podium. She announces that the Witness will never return. She tells our people that they were doing her bidding all along. Setting up Ramse for Cole to kill was just a test to see how far Cole would go. She needed him to take out the guardians, which they did. She needed Cassie to find the Witness.

Olivia compliments Katarina, then stabs her. She likes to stab people. I suppose it’s more personal than shooting them. Cole yells out when Jones is stabbed. When it seems that all is lost for Cole, Cassie and Jones, the Witness appears on the dais. He throws back his cloak to reveal two automatic weapons and a splinter vest. Cole and Cassie’s shining faces have identical expressions: hope and pride. During the firefight the splinter vest gets shot, just when Athan had it working again.

They proceed down the hallway, Cole dragging an injured Jones. It soon becomes obvious that Athan does not expect to come back from this fight. He says goodbye to his parents and hands Cole the broken splinter vest. They reluctantly leave without him. Don’t you just hate it when they grow up and go to college or move to Argentina or sacrifice themselves for the greater good and you just have to accept it?

Cassie uses the two pocket watches to cause a paradox as they leave. The resulting explosion kills Mallick (Faran Tahir). Glad to see him go.

Deacon and Hannah show up with an injection. Deacon looks humbled, at least. They all wink out, splintering one after the other while watching the burning house of cedar and pine.

Athan is dragged off to Olivia. He tells her that she is the Witness and always was. She’s not happy about that. She worshipped him, Athan, before she decided to overthrow him. She slits his throat and the blood lands on Elizah’s mask.

We see many images of the Witness and one is Olivia, face on fire from beneath her skin. The sound of a baby crying is in the background. We backtrack a little to Athan and Jennifer. She’s not happy to see him go, but she is not complaining because he’s off to save Cassie and Cole. It’s too bad those two couldn’t stay together. They obviously understand each other, and together might have figured it all out.

Olivia reassures the survivors that they will get their red forest, and that they will attack their enemies in their home. She knows where that is, of course.

The last scene is of Cole and his father (Patrick Garrow) reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. A card falls out that has a picture of a snake eating its tail with the story of the snake that only goes one way until it meets a demon. The card is from his mother.

So this season is a masterpiece of deception. The writers of 12 Monkeys aren’t writers, they are magicians and masters of misdirection. I wasn’t looking Olivia’s way at all, even though I knew better than to trust her. It was all there. She hated the Witness. We knew that. She sent Ramse after Cassie. We knew that. She got herself put exactly where she needed to be and gained Jones’ confidence. Because we knew that she was not on the side of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, it did not occur to me that there was another side. The enemy of my enemy is NOT necessarily my friend.

She got them to do all the work for her and got Ramse killed and set Katarina and Deacon against Cassie and Cole. She made her move to escape when all the major players should have been gone. (Deacon was a bit late). Cole and Cassie had been on their own for a while, and Jennifer went back to her present, so the people most likely to trip her up were gone.

Mallick was on the inside helping Olivia. He saved Deacon so Deacon could rescue Cassandra so she could find her son for them. Olivia somehow communicated what time and place they were at for Mallick so that Titan could show up at the climactic moment.

Her reward for this is that she is now the Witness. I wonder if Athan became NOT the Witness when he decided not to become the Witness, or when Olivia decided to kill him and take his place, or if he really was never the Witness that returned to Titan and tried to kill time at all. At any rate, the Witness that let Olivia down and disillusioned her, that she decided to kill, was herself. She’s not primary. She may be strong and smart but she doesn’t see the future or the past. I wonder if when Jones tortured her in the machine, she gained new abilities. If not, she will have to get bitten by a radioactive spider or something.

I’m okay with Athan dying. He had an amazing life despite a horrible childhood and lived to be older than his parents are now. He had a great love. He went out in a blaze of glory. What more could a character ask for? Still, I would like to think that his saying, “See ya soon,” to his mom, and “Another life,” to his dad, means something. Maybe that he will be reborn to them once the timeline is improved. Maybe that he will see them again in their future. There was an awful lot of middle that was left out of his and Jennifer’s story. I would certainly try to get done everything I wanted to do before I faced certain death. With a time machine, you have all the time in the world to get it done.

Really. We’re the cool parents. (Photo by: Dusan Martincek/Syfy)

We are also left with a whole lot of unanswered questions. Who is Cole’s mother? I think it would be hysterical if it turned out it was Jennifer, and Deacon was his dad. But since Jennifer is primary, wouldn’t she have figured it out by now? She would make a wonderful grandmother for Athan. They have a lot in common. Don’t they say that talent skips a generation?

Terry Matalas intimated on Facebook that Cole was another enhanced child, like the messengers or Olivia. Of course, that could mean that he was a messenger’s child or Olivia’s child. Or the child of some poor unknown primary that was then experimented on.

What is Katarina’s plan to save the facility? Evidently the time machine can’t be moved and we know that the facility is destroyed in the future.

I’m hoping that Cole dragging Katarina out of Titan will do a lot to heal the rift between the two. Maybe she can’t trust him to tell her that his son is the Witness, but she can trust him with her life. What I would like to see in the next season is the entire crew working together against Olivia, or a Witness beyond Olivia if it turns out that she is not really the one. It would be fine with me if the struggle is external, and there isn’t any infighting and there aren’t any secrets.

We still haven’t found the end of the knot, and the Gordian knot solutions aren’t working either. This season’s problem was resolved in the same way that Hannah’s death was solved, by trickery. Athan just looked like he was the Witness. I’m wondering if Jones might be the frayed end after all. Maybe they should have told her that Hannah was not killed by the virus, but by something else. If she hadn’t invented and implemented the time machine, maybe none of this would have happened.

It’s interesting that when we see the Witness or a Witness-like figure this season, it turns out to be a woman. Elizah as a thief in her plague mask. (If you’re going to promise death, you should look the part.) Jennifer at the Masque, whose appearance made all parties wonder if she was Athan before she unmasks. Olivia seeing herself as the Witness. There have been other times in the series where the Witness seemed feminine.

I wonder why Olivia is glowing from within and why there’s a baby crying. Is it symbolic? Is she going after Cole as a baby? Or is she on a Godzilla-like rampage of the facility and there is actually a baby there?

James Callis as Athan so overshadows everything that it’s possible to overlook other great performances. Cassie with her mom. Olivia and Katarina. Aaron Stanford does a great job as Cole in a different place than he was at the beginning of the season, or after Ramse’s death and finding out his son was the bad guy. After making the decision to try to save Athan, he’s back to himself again. He’s calm, centered and committed. He is our hero again.

It was a great season, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the fourth and final season. Have I forgotten anything? What was your favorite part of this season?

12 Monkeys, which is currently being filmed, returns for its fourth and final season in 2018.

 




Film Review: THE FEMALE BRAIN Is A Great Sci-Rom-Com (LAFF 2017)

The Female Brain (2017)
Written by Neal Brennan, Louann Brizendine and Whitney Cummings
Directed by Whitney Cummings
Produced by Erika Olde and Michael Roiff
98 min, rated R

The Female Brain debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival and star Whitney Cummings pulls triple duty. Not only does she star in it as Julia Brizendine (aka Louann Brizendine), the doctor with a heart of glass, she also serves as co-writer and director. This is a major feat in an industry dominated by men. The result is a brainy and romantic story about how women and men affect one another.

From the start, Cummings makes it clear this is a different kind of rom-com from the moment Julia looks over brain scans to find that women’s brains aren’t as complex as she wants them to be as she profiles three different couples whose brains she has examined. When they act on their impulses, there’s always a scientific explanation given by narrator Julia and this device works very well for the film.

As for the couples, there are three of them and Cecily Strong plays one half of my favorite one. She plays aspiring entrepreneur Zoe, and Blake Griffin plays Greg, an NBA player (sound familiar?) who suffers a leg injury, giving his “trophy wife” a chance to pursue a career of her own. The storyline could’ve been stereotypical and boring, but thanks to Griffin and Strong it stays fresh and entertaining. Whether it’s Zoe trying to fit in at her new crappy job or Greg trying to adjust to life without basketball, there’s never a dull moment.

Now, let’s talk about Blake Griffin. I’m not into sports and only vaguely knew his name before watching this. That said, he’s a good actor and has excellent comedic skills. He kills it with his improv and even throws in physical comedy when necessary. His scene with Will Sasso (as his personal trainer) has some unsubtle homoerotic undertones and is one of the funniest scenes in the film. He also manages not to chew too much scenery but when he does, it’s just the right amount. If you liked John Cena in Trainwreck, you’ll love Blake in this.

As for Julia and her love interest Kevin (whose brain she reads), it’s another example of a woman trying not to be a woman until the right man comes along to change her mind. The thing that sets this one apart from the other rom-coms is the chemistry between Cummings and Toby Kebbell and how they interact. He says he loves her after they meet cute in the MRI room at her school. She says she doesn’t do dating. He thinks she’s full of crap. They date and she learns to open up her heart as easily as she does minds.

In addition to these couples, Lucy Punch plays the typical nagging girlfriend Lexi to James Marsden’s scruffy Adam. She wants to change him. He wants her to let him be. They have ups and downs but the journey ends with a truthful and improvisational moment of clarity. Deon Cole and Sofia Vergara play Steven and Lisa, an old married couple on the brink of divorce. When the writers aren’t making fun of Vergara’s accent, they portray the ending of a long marriage in a realistic and simple way.

In the end, The Female Brain doesn’t set out to placate feminists but rather paints a picture of flawed humans with insecurities. Highly recommended for people that like comedies with heart and a brain. Bonus points for the awesome Ben Platt (2017 Tony Award winner) cameo. Rumor is there’s a “Male Brain” sequel in the works too. That should be brief.

 




Film Review: THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE is A Disappointment (LAFF 2017)

The Song of Sway Lake
Written by Elizabeth Bull and Ari Gold
Directed by Ari Gold
Produced by Michael Bederman, Allison Rose Carter, Ari Gold and Zak Kilberg
1 hr 40 min, rated R

**SOME SPOILERS AHEAD**

Out of the 5 total films I viewed at the Los Angeles Film Festival, The Song of Sway Lake is the most baffling. When I first screened the film, I was excited to see Mary Beth Peil (2017 Tony Award nominee whom I adore) and Rory Culkin (a personal favorite of mine) star in a sweet independent film about music, family and romance. What I got when I sat down to view it was a well-intentioned mess of a movie with great acting, great cinematography, great production design and a very poor script that served almost no one.

To start, the film opens with a song called “Sway Lake” playing along with the image of Charlie and Hal Sway getting married in a time long past. For some unknown reason, a voice over (in letter form) of Charlie explaining how important that time was with her precious husband commences. It inexplicably goes on to her son’s suicide (he jumps into the lake and dies in 1992), then flashes to the present (5 months later, she says) where we meet her grandson Ollie (played by a game if a little bored Rory Culkin) and his Russian comrade Nikolai (played by a charming Robert Sheehan). Not only are they introduced visually but the voice over goes on to explain the plot to us (why????!) again in letter form.

The plot: Ollie is planning to steal the original “Sway Lake” 78 record from her house because he’s a music collector and he believes his dad (the one who committed suicide for whatever reason) would want him to have it.

When the film eventually lets go of the tired voice over device, it is a lot smoother but still devoid of the cinematic magic it longs to tap into from yesteryear. The boys go to the grandmother’s house and help out with the grounds-keeping so that Charlie can get closer to the Russian Casanova Nikolai. This was a feeble attempt to add some sexual tension to a film that was so not that kind of film in any way, shape or form.

I’ve seen many a romance between unlikely duos, but this one takes the cake. Not only is the love story wrongheaded but it’s creepy. Not creepy in a good way like a forbidden romance. No, this romance (if you can even call it that) is based on the fact that Nikolai wants to be Ollie’s grandfather. The whole affair (you can’t even call it that) ends in one of the most awkward and unsatisfying scenes I’ve ever seen.

In fact, I would say that for the film itself. It’s so frustrating to watch something that you like in every other way but the most important part is a big disappointment. I think this film could’ve been a fun time to be had by all if a few things happened. If the story about the lake being made public had been more detailed, if Peil was given anything to do other than reminiscing and being kind of a bitch (for no discernible reason), if the romantic arc between Nikolai and Charlie had been scrapped, if the lake was shown to have magical properties as advertised and if the whole thing was better realized and the script reflected real life, this could’ve been a great film. As it stands, the unfinished product is a shell of what could’ve been.

Those of you who love Jack Falahee from How To Get Away With Murder will be pretty disappointed with his role here. He plays a young guy that wants to be able to jet ski on the lake and hang out with his friends there. There’s not much more to his story but he still does a decent job with the awful lines he’s given. Still, in no way does he fill enough screen time to warrant his name being on the poster.

As for Rory and Robert, their chemistry is one of the few reasons I’d consider watching the film again. They actually seem like friends. I wanted more scenes with the two of them hanging out near the dock meeting girls. Instead of focusing on the relationship between the boys and Charlie, the film focuses on Nikolai’s obsession with Ollie’s family. No reason is ever given for this obsession and it’s one of the weakest parts of the story. It’s a shame breakout star Robert Sheehan isn’t given the proper motivation for his character’s actions.

The same can unfortunately be said for the magnificent Mary Beth Peil, who recently dazzled me in “Anastasia” on Broadway. Here, she plays Charlie as one-dimensional as instructed and has no real motivation for her actions either. That’s a problem. She’s made out to be prickly but she doesn’t exhibit that quality until the illogical ending. One of her best moments here (and there are a few) is when she listens to old records with the boys and opens up about her past with Hal. It’s one of the few natural scenes in a wholly unnatural film.

All in all, The Song of Sway Lake means well but comes off as an odd little trifle that I believe is best viewed in the privacy of one’s own home. It’s not really bad but it’s not really good either. Watch it in the theater if you dare, but I recommend waiting for it to come to Netflix or Amazon.

For more information about the film, visit https://www.facebook.com/swaylake/

Keep track of updates at http://arigoldfilms.com/the-song-of-sway-lake

 




STAR WARS Solo Solo Film: Ron Howard Shoots Second

Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far, far away…the question was raised: who shot first? Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller? Or Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy? We may never know the truth, but we do now know this: Oscar winning director Ron Howard is now officially shooting next.

Shocking news broke on Tuesday that the Han Solo directors, Lord and Miller, were leaving the project over “creative differences.” Rumor has it that there was a difference of opinion over the character of Solo, stating, “people need to understand Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.”

Today it was officially announced that Howard will now pilot the project into the original May 2018 release date. He is considered a safe choice to finish the film while having a calming presence on a restless set.

Apparently, the friction between the directors and higher ups began immediately when filming started in February. Kennedy was not too keen and brought in Lawrence Kasdan, the legendary writer behind The Empire Strikes Back and co-writer of the Solo script with his son Jon. While Lord and Miller are good with comedic sensibility and improvisational style, Kasdan prefers strict adherence to the written word. It appears the tone in his vision won, added to the fact Lord and Miller felt a lack of support from Lucasfilm’s producer Allison Shearmur, pushed them out the door.

However, it is also said they were blindsided by the firing. Though that can also be argued differently by other sources.

So now, Howard has the task of coming in and finishing the Solo film with a current schedule of three-and-a-half more weeks of principle shoots and five weeks of reshoots as needed. The project is on a current hiatus till July 10 to give Howard time to meet with the cast and pore over what has been done to see what is needed to be done.

Howard has a history with George Lucas, appearing in Lucas’ 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and directing 1988’s Willow. In 2015, Howard did reveal on a podcast that Lucas had approached him to direct 1999’s prequel The Phantom Menace. Howard’s geek card also includes Apollo 13GeniusCocoon, and Splash. He’s also producing the upcoming adaptation of The Dark Tower.

We are sure the news will be filled with fantastic rumors over the next few weeks over how the project redevelops itself with a new leader. Make sure you check out SciFi4Me’s Star Wars news show, Salacious Crumbs, on YouTube for all the latest updates as they come!

 




ZOMBPOCALYPSE NOW: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Is Actually Good. Huh.

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Is this the best episode yet of Fear the Walking Dead? Rubén Blades returns and Team Zombie has thoughts. It’s Zombpocalypse Now!

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Season 3, Episode 4 “100”
Written by Alan Page
Directed by Alex Garcia Lopez

Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar (Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Timothy: So here’s what concerns me…

Dustin: That Fear the Walking Dead has actually become a well-written show that we’re enjoying, and it’s going to get our hopes up and then crush them beneath a return to the awfulness that we have endured lo these previous two seasons?

Curtis: “Lo”? Really?

Dustin: I am waxing poetic.

Mindy: This is a legitimate concern, at least based on what you two have been saying. Of course, I have just started watching this show, so I haven’t had to suffer the way you two have. Or at least the way you two say you have. Repeatedly.

Dustin: It’s been a terrible burden to bear. 

Mindy: Mmm hmmm.

Dustin: IT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN, MINDY.

Curtis: So what’s this concern, Tim?

Timothy: Well, I’ve been looking at the viewing numbers. When the show debuted, it had about 10 million viewers, which fell to a little less than 7 million by the end of the first season.

Dustin: This does not surprise me. At all.

Timothy: The second season started with about 6.5 million viewers, and ended with about 3 million.

Curtis: Ouch. 

Dustin: At all surprised, I am not.

Mindy: And this season?

Timothy: This season kicked off with just over 5 million, which became 4.8 million by the second episode. We don’t have the +3 and +7 numbers for the 3rd and 4th episode yet, but their live numbers have fallen every episode. 

Dustin: Wait, we’ve only had three Fear the Walking Dead nights… oh. 

Curtis: They were losing viewers on the first night the show came back, between the first and second episodes. That aired back to back.

Timothy: Yeah. Fear the Walking Dead has had four well-written, well-acted, actually good episodes this season…

Mindy: And fewer and fewer viewers.

Timothy: Exactly.

Dustin: I’m not sure how I feel about being in the position of defending this show, but we are, and we do, and here is the podcast thing we do. Listen while we say nice things about a show we’ve hated while it’s good and we’re hoping it stays that way. LISTEN!

 

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SUPERNATURAL Carries on with WAYWARD SISTERS Spinoff

Supernatural, but with girls. The CW is going to make another stab at a Supernatural spinoff, this time revolving around the recurring character of Jody Mills, played by Kim Rhodes. On Supernatural, Sheriff Jody Mills is fostering two girls who have been orphaned by supernatural means. The backdoor pilot, Wayward Sisters, is said to expand on that idea, with Sheriff Jody turning wayward girls into a fighting force. There is no word yet as to whether the characters of Claire Novak (Kathryn Newton), who was orphaned by the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) possessing her father, or Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), rescued from being a lure for a vampire nest, will be in the new series.

Did you hear? They’re finally going to make Wayward Daughters, I mean, Wayward Sisters. (Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW)

Fans have been asking for a spin off series, Wayward Daughters, with the same or a similar premise, for years. Supernatural tends towards the masculine side, and the female characters that we get to know and love come to violent ends. This is all the better to keep the Winchester boys (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) lonely and available. The name comes from the song “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas, which is played at every season finale. It also comes from Claire’s first reaction to Jody’s home. She asked if it was a halfway house for wayward girls.

In the ninth season, there was a backdoor pilot for for a spinoff series set in Chicago: Bloodlines. It didn’t go anywhere. I think the reason is that it introduced entirely new characters that the fans were not attached to, and were, quite frankly, not very interesting. Wayward Sisters would use characters that are already known and loved, new characters, and hopefully some crossover guests from Supernatural. The high death toll in the season finale this year gives few choices for guest characters. On the other hand, just because someone dies on the show doesn’t mean they have to stay dead.

Showrunners Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb will write and produce along with Robert Berens and Phil Sgricca. It is a Warner Bros. production.

The backdoor pilot episode will air during the thirteenth season, which starts Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 8pm/7c on the CW.

Everyone tune in. Hopefully it will be a great episode that spawns another long lived series. At the very least, it shows that sometimes creators listen to the fans.




STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Finally Gets a Launch Date

CBS has finally announced an official release date for Star Trek: Discovery (until/unless it changes again). The show will premiere Sunday, September 24th at 8:30pm Eastern on both the CBS network and CBS All Access, the digital subscription service that will run the rest of the series. CBS All Access will also have the second episode ready to air that night as well.

From the press release:

STAR TREK, one of the most iconic and influential global television franchises, returns to television 50 years after it first premiered with STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY will follow the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new lifeforms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship, new characters and new missions, while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.

(We won’t quibble about the fact that we’re now fifty-one years out from the premiere of Star Trek, right?)

The show will roll out in two segments: eight episodes between September 24 and November 5, with the back half of fifteen episodes hitting the air in January 2018. So, not all at once like you would get on Netflix. It’s running like a standard network program, only on the digital side rather than the broadcast side.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BVhu458gpAA/

Star Trek: Discovery takes place roughly ten or so years prior to the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and the gang during the original Star Trek, and appears to be set in the “Kelvin” timeline following the movie reboot. Cast includes Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh, Rainn Willson, James Frain, and Rekha Sharma.

In addition, CBS All Access will be producing a weekly aftershow, Talking Trek, which will follow a weekly schedule along with Discovery. Outside the United States, the show will air in Canada on Space and CraveTV (OTT) and on Netflix in 188 other countries.

 




MST3K Recap: 1110, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Experiment 1110

Written by Joel Hodgson et al
Directed by Joel Hodgson and Robert Cohen
Copyright 2017

1985 was a watershed year for genre movies. It saw the introduction of the Back to the Future trilogy, and The Goonies, Terry Gilliam’s amazing Brazil, Weird Science, Real Genius, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Almost all were new properties, and fondly remembered to this day. With such an imposing lineup, it’s no surprise that this week’s experiment got lost in the shuffle. But then, that really would have happened anyway.

Cold open in Moon 13. Max is crushing hard on Kinga, and discovers a giant key. Also, a giant keyhole. Inserting part A into part B reveals a giant, armature-like robot who emerges from the ceiling. Unfortunately, it’s show time, so he sends it back whence it came. We’ll have to see where that goes.

Invention exchange: Jonah has invented “Verbal Smoke Bombs”: flash cards with guaranteed conversation-killers like “Got to go. Can’t feel my arm.” and “Oh look, a hurricane!” I need this. The Mads have sold the naming rights to every hour on the clock, which I’m kind of amazed nobody has actually done yet.

Movie sign, and we follow a boy prince who is also a magician who is teleported out of the castle when his father the king is overthrown by the queen and their “trusted” advisor. He tromps through the woods with his…pet? walking shag rug Gulfax until they come up on washed-up drunk and ex-hero Kor the Conqueror, who basically Rowsdowers (episode #910, The Final Sacrifice if you don’t get the reference) the kid around the movie until it’s time to go back, defeat the bad guys, and gain the throne. Shot on the cheap with poor monster costumes and sets that scream “off-season ren faire”, you would think something like this would sink without trace. Surprisingly, it did enough to warrant a sequel, about which more later.

The first host segment has Jonah & the ‘bots pondering just how Kor the Conqueror got his title. He’s…well, he’s not the most conquer-y of persons, to put it mildly. The general consensus is he got it on some sort of technicality (incidentally, Kor is played by Bo Svenson, a very highly thought of actor, director & latterly author with over a hundred credits. He’s one of the few bright spots in this silly mess).

The second host segment features Tom as Magic Prince Boy recreating a scene in the movie where the boy raises warriors from the dead for…well, for teh lulz, as far as anyone can tell. Jonah/Kor steps in, and explains what a terrible idea that is in the form of a 50’s doo-wop coming-of-age-song.  Also, we get a quartet of undead warrior Crows, which is the coolest sentence I’ve ever typed. Bonus: the phrase “Pump your brakes there, Verruca Salt,” which is my new go-to phrase any time someone’s being impatient.

In the third segment, we get (finally!) back to the fan mail! Hooray! I’ve missed the mail, particularly the pictures from kids. Couple of cute ones this time around. I guess that’s kind of a less-good side effect of doing an entire season in batch like they’re doing now, that you don’t have the same kind of feedback loop throughout the season like in the old days. Well, things changed: maybe they’ll set up some kind of internet site where fan mail can be submitted and worked into the next season, assuming there is one.

After the movie, they recreate the seriously underwhelming Suicide Cave scene from later on in the movie, while the Mads gloat over bringing forth the sequel. Which we will bring to you next week.

Well. This is a pretty rough film, to be sure. You can easily spot the places where it is trying desperately to harness the charms of better-made movies that came before it, and likewise spot where it fell short in doing so. It puts longtime MiSTies in mind of such “classics” as Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, Quest of the Delta Knights, and Cave Dwellers. There is something inherently charming about low-budget fantasy: some combination of rubber monsters, cheap video FX “magic” and Medieval Miscellaneous Chic outfits transcends the awfulness and becomes genuinely entertaining, through still terribly bad. And just think, we get to do it again next week.

What do you think, sirs?

Kelly Luck would have thought the queen dressing as a Freaking Lizard would have been a bit of a giveaway. Her other SciFi4Me work can be read here.

 




Brigsby Bear Claws Its Way to the Top at LA Film Festival

The little indie film that took the film festival scene by storm has arrived at the Los Angeles Film Festival with a Gala Screening at Arclight Hollywood. Brigsby Bear is an amusing and creative film that has not only delighted audiences but critics around the world.

It’s about a man named James and his obsession with a children’s TV show called Brigsby Bear Adventures. When the show gets canceled, he sets out to finish it himself.  The film was a crowd favorite at Sydney Film Festival and Sundance as it continues on to the LA Film Festival.

The film’s stars arrived on the red carpet along with Brigsby Bear. He wasn’t able to speak with us but he still made quite an impression on the crowd. Also on hand was director Dave McCary, most of The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) and the star and writer Kyle Mooney.

Matt Walsh, co-writer Kevin Costello, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Ryan Simpkins stopped by to speak with us about the film as well as their upcoming projects. We talked about everything from Matt Walsh’s fake news show “Dog Bites Man” to Ryan Simpkins’ fake kids show “Wonder Showzen.”

Brigsby Bear starring Kyle Mooney, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Greg Kinnear, Ryan Simpkins, Michaela Watkins, Matt Walsh, Beck Bennett, Alexa Demie, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Andy Samberg comes out July 28th to a theater near you. The surrealist fantasy film is directed by Dave McCary and produced by Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg (The Lonely Island), P. Jennifer Dana, Lian Hua, Will Allegra, Al Di, Phil Hoelting, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Ross Jacobson, Mark Roberts, Jason Zaro and Billy Rosenberg. Its distributor is Sony Pictures Classics.

 

For more information about the LA Film Festival, visit https://www.filmindependent.org/la-film-festival/

Follow @BrigsbyBear on Twitter for updates on the film.

 




Glenn Close Returns To TV As A Funny Zombie

Amazon is working to continue building their impressive collection of original television content by adding zombie comedy Sea Oak and casting Emmy winning Glenn Close in the lead role.

Close will play Aunt Bernie, a meek and unmarried woman in Rust Belt City who dies during a home invasion. Being unhappy with the way her life turned out keeps her from completely dying. She wills herself back to life as a rage-filled revenge seeking zombie determined to achieve the good life that she missed as a blue-collar living human. Bernie returns to what is left of her nuclear family, which includes a quasi-stripper nephew and two feckless nieces, who live in a low-end subsidized housing complex called Sea Oak. Once there, she demands they help her reach her goal.

The series is written by George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) and is executive produced by Jonathon Krauss with Affiliated Pictures. Lael Smith and Keir McFarlane will co-executive produce.

This will be Close’s first regular series role since FX’s Damages, where she won two Emmys for lead actress in a drama. She has won three Tony Awards for roles including The Real Ting, Death and the Maiden, and Sunset Boulevard. Some of her big screen appearances are Fatal AttractionThe Natural, and The Big Chill.

 




THE CROOKED MAN Joins THE CONJURING-Verse


[Featured image courtesy TheConjuring2.com]

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

With one sequel and three spinoffs, The Conjuring (2013) has officially become a movie universe. Along with 2016’s direct sequel The Conjuring 2, three spinoff characters from those films are now starring in their own movies.

Demonic doll Annabelle received her own movie in 2014. Last October, New Line Cinema announced that creepy-portrait-turned-menacing-ghost The Nun will hit theaters in 2018, starring Damien Bichir and directed by Corin Hardy.  This week we learned the identity of the next supporting scare promoted to feature player in the Conjuring-verse – The Crooked Man.

Annabell is just like the Elf on the Shelf, but creepy and murderous. Image courtesy Annabelle official Facebook page.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, James Wan and Peter Safran will be producing the film. Mike Van Waes will be creating a scirpt from Wan’s story idea. No director or stars were announced by New Line.

The Crooked Man first appeared in The Conjuring 2 as an unsettling zoetrope toy, then as a menacing skeletal man. Believe it (or not), the Crooked Man rhyme refers to events in 17th century history involving the unification of Scotland and England. The last line (and they all lived together in a crooked little house) supposedly refers to the rocky relationship between Scotland and England after unification.

The Nun – yet another delightful resident of the Ed & Elaine Warren Souvenir Room. Image coutresy The Conjuring Official Facebook page.

However … if you need to see a movie about that menacing rail-thin fellow today, you are in luck, horror movie fans.

Last year Syfy kicked off its annual “31 Days of Halloween” with a direct to television movie called (you guessed it) The Crooked Man. You can read the SciFi4Me review here.

While it’s not a landmark of horror by any stretch of the imagination, this version does a pretty effective job taking the original rhyme and using  it in a “Bloody Mary” sleepover game gone very wrong setup. (I also gave main characters in this Crooked Man credit for actually using their brains at the end to dispose of the titular villain.)

If you’re so inclined, Syfy’s version of The Crooked Man is available on multiple streaming platforms including Vudu, iTunes, FandangoNOW, and Amazon.

The Crooked Man on Syfy featured characters who used their brains to defeat evil (for once). Image courtesy Syfy.