The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
From The Blog
April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
Leah Schnelbach
April 22, 2015
The Old Guy Action Comeback: I’m Getting Too Old for This Sh*t
Ryan Britt
April 20, 2015
The Net is the Meat: Bruce Holsinger’s Middle Ages
David Perry
April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
Kelly Quinn
April 16, 2015
The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: Natalie Zutter click to see Natalie Zutter's profile
Apr 20 2015 4:00pm

Orphan Black Puts the Greater Good Above Its Clones: “The Weight of This Combination”

Orphan Black season 3 episode 1 review The Weight of This Combination

There has always been a difference between Project Leda and the Clone Club: Project Leda is the secret initiative that created Sarah Manning, her identical twin, and their genetic doubles and then sent them into the world so that their nature and nurture could be observed (and, once in a while, manipulated). The Clone Club is the tight-knit group of Leda clones—Sarah, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, and, now, Helena—who have laughed, danced, cried, and lost together, (mostly) united against the Dyad Institute.

But now, with the start of Orphan Black season 3, the Clone Club must work with Dyad to protect Project Leda from those who would wipe it out completely. When a creepy member of Project Castor tells Sarah to “count your sisters,” he’s not just letting her know that one has gone missing—he’s making her think about every member of Leda.

[Read more]

Apr 10 2015 11:00am

The Fake is a Lie in Ex Machina

Ex Machina movie review Domhnall Gleeson Oscar Isaac Alicia Vikander Alex Garland

Early on in Alex Garland’s tense, darkly funny, sci-fi psychological thriller Ex Machina, coder Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) keenly points out that he hasn’t actually been summoned to his boss Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac) secluded mountain home to perform a Turing test. The basis of that test, you see, is that the examiner does not know that the subject is actually a machine. In this case, Nathan’s android prototype Ava (Alicia Vikander) is clearly inhuman, with her face and hands covered in synthetic skin but her insides laid bare in a mix of metal mesh and fiberglass components. Nathan’s aim is not to deceive Caleb as to Ava’s true form.

This is the only honest moment in the movie. The rest of this taut cautionary tale has the characters and the audience constantly sifting through layers of trickery and manipulation—from both humans and machines. The growing dread we share with Caleb is tempered by sweet, witty, and truly “wtf” moments, little pockets of humanity that only serve to further convince us that everyone is human... or everyone is a machine... or both. While Ex Machina isn’t perfect, as Garland’s directorial debut, it’s incredibly polished.

[Read more]

Mar 30 2015 12:00pm

Shakespeare Adaptations That Best Speak to Teens

Romeo + Juliet

Later in our Shakespeare on essay series, Emily Asher-Perrin will tell you about a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was engineered to get teens excited about Shakespeare. It did not work. It also wasn’t the only scheme of its kind: There’s always some well-meaning drama teacher—or movie director—who wants to make Shakespeare speak to the youth of today. Whether that involves playing up the sex, drugs, and violence that characterize various works; dropping Shakespearean verse into a modern setting; or building something entirely new off the framework of a play—many have tried.

In the best of these adaptations, Shakespeare’s work serves as a jumping-off point for meditations on race, sexuality, and gender roles, with films that embrace diversity in more meaningful ways than just colorblind casting or genderswapping, and instead try to get to core truths about the human condition. (Often with outrageous musical numbers.)

[Read more]

Mar 23 2015 11:00am

Your Truth But Not Mine: Insurgent

Insurgent movie review

To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for Insurgent, the second movie in the Divergent trilogy based on Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA novels. The massive book was bogged down in Tris Prior’s self-loathing and self-sabotage, serving mostly as a link between the faction system in Divergent and the big, game-changing reveal that leads to Allegiant.

In the wake of Erudite (the intelligent faction, led by Kate Winslet as the faction-upholding Jeanine Matthews) enslaving the Dauntless army and using them to destroy selfless Abnegation, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), Four (Theo James), and Peter (Miles Teller, having way too much fun with his role) are fugitives on the run, looking for shelter and allies in the other factions, which just want to protect themselves from more fracturing.

However, like the Hunger Games adaptations, Insurgent the movie manages to stand apart from its source material, with a leaner plot and clearer stakes. While some plot points are dispensed of and some of the nuance lost, Insurgent makes fascinating commentary on generational divides and clinging to the old ways, better depicting the breakdown of a dystopian society.

[Read more]

Mar 18 2015 11:00am

The Perfect Vessel: Kushiel’s Avatar, Part 2

Kushiel's Reread Kushiel's Avatar new book cover Jacqueline CareyOur reread of Kushiel’s Legacy comes to a close! Whereas last week we were really beaten down by Phèdre and Joscelin’s willing entry into the hell of Daršanga, here we end on a joyous note. Not unlike Phèdre, filled with the Name of God, we’re brimming with new knowledge and insight into the trilogy—plus at least one disagreement about how things settle after the epic end of Kushiel’s Avatar.

We’re going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments. As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[Read more]

Mar 11 2015 11:00am

The Perfect Victim: Kushiel’s Avatar, Part 1

Kushiel's Reread Kushiel's Avatar new book cover Jacqueline Carey

“Serve true, and remember what others have named you; ten years’ respite shall be yours if you do.”

Kushiel’s Chosen closed with this warning, and Kushiel’s Avatar opens on the other side of ten years, with a prophetic dream calling anguissette/lypiphera Phèdre nó Delaunay to serve the gods of Terre d’Ange once more. Only this time, they’re turning her into a veritable Job, with their overlapping demands.

You thought that the island prison of La Dolorosa was bleak? Get ready to willingly lead yourselves into the kingdom that died and lives. Kushiel’s Reread is getting dark. We’re also going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments. As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[Read more]

Mar 4 2015 11:00am

Blood is Thicker Than Water: Kushiel’s Chosen, Part 2

Kushiel's Reread Kushiel's Chosen Part 2Just as the first half of Kushiel’s Dart saw Delaunay and Alcuin murdered, and Phèdre and Joscelin sold into slavery, Kushiel’s Chosen Part 1 ends on a similar cliffhanger: Melisande Shahrizai, upon revealing herself in La Serenissima, has Phèdre’s chevaliers slain and imprisons the meddling anguissette on the island fortress of La Dolorosa. Clearly this murder plus slavery/imprisonment/exile combination is Melisande’s favorite move, though you’d think she would have learned from the events of Dart that she should not try to make her pet-turned-peer yield.

We’re going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments. As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[Read more]

Feb 25 2015 12:00pm

Of Masks and Mary Sues: Kushiel’s Chosen, Part 1

Kushiel's Reread Kushiel's Chosen Jacqueline CareyWe’re continuing Kushiel’s Reread with Kushiel’s Chosen, the perennial middle book: It has to recapture the magic of the original, while upping its stakes without getting ludicrous. In many ways, Chosen tracks Phèdre nó Delaunay’s development into a better Servant of Naamah, spy, and peer of the realm. In other ways, the book is the weakest of the trilogy by dint of being a bridge between the naïve girl of Kushiel’s Dart and the worldly woman of Kushiel’s Avatar. But first, let’s find out what happens when Phèdre rededicates herself to serving and spying!

We’re going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments. As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[Read more]

Feb 18 2015 11:00am

That Which Yields is Not Always Weak: Kushiel’s Dart, Part 2

Kushiel's Dart Reread Jacqueline Carey new cover trade paperbackWelcome back to Kushiel’s Reread! This week, we wrap up Part 2 of Kushiel’s Dart, in which Phèdre nó Delaunay and Joscelin Verreuil survive slavery in Skaldia, join a diplomatic delegation to the far shores of Alba, and bring Queen Ysandre’s betrothed to Terre d’Ange so he can help kick the Skaldi out.

In rereading Kushiel’s Legacy, we’re breaking each book into two parts; turns out there’s a very natural delineation between Part 1 and Part 2 of each of Phèdre’s adventures (hint: it involves her getting imprisoned and/or enslaved). Each reread will include a brief summary, some plot highlights, and our commentary. We’re going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments.

As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[From Skaldia to Alba to the Master of the Straits, and Phèdre finds a bedmate in every port...]

Feb 12 2015 3:00pm

Love and Cruelty: Kushiel’s Dart, Part 1

Kushiel's Dart Reread Jacqueline Carey new cover trade paperbackGeorge R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t the only fantasy series to tackle the thrilling game of thrones: Jacqueline Carey was doing the same in the early 2000s with the Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy. And this one had plenty of sexposition long before it was a thing on the HBO series—thanks to courtesan/spy-turned-diplomat Phèdre nó Delaunay and her encounters with patrons, usurpers, and the divine. The Kushiel books readily accepted and depicted all sorts of sexualities—especially LGBTQ and BDSM—long before they were part of the mainstream conversation.

To celebrate the trade paperback release of Kushiel’s Dart, Theresa DeLucci and Natalie Zutter are rereading Kushiel’s Legacy. We’re breaking each book into two parts; turns out there’s a very natural delineation between Part 1 and Part 2 of each of Phèdre’s adventures (hint: it involves her getting imprisoned and/or enslaved). Each reread will include a brief summary, some plot highlights, and our commentary. We’re going to get spoilery—because it turns out there is a ton of foreshadowing for later books and trilogies—so feel free to do the same in the comments.

As Shemhazai said, all knowledge is worth having. And as he might have said… Reread as thou wilt!

[Read more]

Feb 12 2015 11:30am

SFF Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

SFF sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey Sex Criminals cover

Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend, with many audiences worried that the movie will repeat the mistakes of the book in depicting an unrealistic, unhealthy BDSM relationship. But it doesn’t have to be this way—after all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have written believable power exchanges and sexual agency into their books and comics for decades. Instead of headdesking over Christian and Ana once again, pick up these books by Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Matt Fraction, and more.

[Read more]

Jan 9 2015 10:00am

If You’re Going to Blow Up a Planet, It Should Stay Destroyed

Vulcan destroyed Star Trek

When Roberto Orci stepped down from directing Star Trek 3, rumor had it that one of the major problems was his screenplay. According to Badass Digest, the script saw the Vulcans racing to find a time travel device so that they could go back in time and save their planet Vulcan from (in the reboot’s new timeline) Nero blowing it up with red matter, effectively rebooting the reboot.

It’s for several reasons that I’m glad Orci won’t be helming the new Star Trek, but this one is paramount: They shouldn’t try and resurrect Vulcan! Or any obliterated planet, for that matter! Blowing up an entire world should be the kind of narrative decision that writers stick to, without the safety net that they can reverse it when they need more stories a few years down the road.

That doesn’t mean I’m against “let’s save the world!” narratives. I am all for a rah-rah story about narrowly avoiding that massive asteroid/white-hot laser/nuclear warfare. But there are clear consequences to blowing up an entire world, and they should be honored. As TV Tropes points out, with nearly any other apocalyptic scenario, mankind can rebuild. Not when their planet is dust.

[Read more]

Dec 22 2014 4:00pm

Technology is the Worst Gift in Black Mirror: White Christmas

Black Mirror: White Christmas TV review Rafe Spall Jon Hamm Oona Chaplin Charlie Brooker

It’s unnervingly fitting that Black Mirror: White Christmas focuses less on societal issues (as covered in the show’s other, self-contained episodes) and more on technology and the normal people who wield it. After all, Christmas is the season of giving big, highly desired gifts to loved ones, always with the best intentions in mind. But sometimes those intentions only lead to pain. In Charlie Brooker’s dystopian British Christmas special, technological advancements meant to make our lives easier instead break down communication and dilute our sense of humanity. Brooker doesn’t even go for some futuristic tech like drones or artificial intelligence, instead extrapolating out from Google Glass and implant tech that already exists.

Through three interlocking tales and a frame story deftly handled by Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall, we learn the consequences of humans using technology to reform how we see the world and to force those closest to us into new roles or contexts. This special is supremely disturbing but necessary holiday viewing.

[Read more]

Dec 19 2014 11:00am

Global Franchises, Particle Physics, and Manhattan as a Hell Dimension: The Ghostbusters 3 Movies That Could Have Been

Ghostbusters 3 alternate plots

The latest treasures from the Sony email hack include Ivan Reitman’s proposal for a Ghostbusters 3 that would reunite the original Ghostbusters as well as pave the way for the next generation. In a 2013 email to Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal, Reitman laid out the plot for what he called Ghostbusters: Alive Again. However, with Harold Ramis’ passing in 2014, this version was scrapped.

While it sounds like the strongest idea for a third installment, it’s definitely not the first. Ghostbusters 3 has stopped and started so many times since the 1990s, with at least five different versions rumored over the past 20 years. Read on for Dan Aykroyd’s multiple drafts, Reitman’s pitch, and what Ghostbusters 3 director Paul Feig is actually planning to do.

[Read more]

Dec 18 2014 12:00pm

Following Battlestar Galactica’s Lead: Ascension, “Night Three”

Ascension Night Three review

Going into Ascension, I assumed that it was a self-contained miniseries, not unlike the generation ship itself smoothly sailing through space toward its destination. But once we discovered the twist behind the series’ premise—which redefined everything this supposed space opera was commenting on—it also makes sense to learn that Ascension is intended as some sort of sneaky pilot, not unlike Syfy’s 2003 miniseries that spawned the new Battlestar Galactica.

Ascension’s finale forced the ship to face its gravest danger yet; saw characters usurping power in “yay!” ways and killing each other in “no what no!” ways; and upped the ante with a very different sci-fi twist that might guarantee a series pickup but could also wind up alienating future viewers. Basically, Ascension has become a hot mess of a show—but that might not be the worst thing!

[Read more]

Dec 16 2014 2:50pm

Asking for Forgiveness Instead of Permission: Ascension, “Night One”

Ascension Night One TV review

In space, no one can hear you scream… Unless you’re on the Orion (that’s important—more on that later) class generation ship Ascension, which has just marked year 51 of its century-long voyage to Alpha Centauri to colonize a new planet. Launched in secret in 1963, this space ark houses 600 people and has already brought up two generations, though not without issues: The fact that the ship’s social mores are stuck in the 1960s, coupled with the younger crew members’ disillusionment with the fact that they’re grooming their successors for their new home, has created a society layered with fiercely guarded secrets and hidden violence.

Ascension is an ambitious miniseries from Syfy, as the network is struggling to launch its own science-fiction epics to challenge the other genre programs currently commanding viewership on other networks. The series was originally going to air over the course of six weeks, but the Powers That Be have smartly condensed it into a three-night event. That’s an especially keen choice since “Night One” ends with a massive twist that will determine how you view the rest of the show. As we can’t ignore the twist when discussing the show, watch out for spoilers later on in this review.

[Read more]

Dec 10 2014 1:00pm

We Need a Kink in Our Stories: BDSM Characters in Your Favorite Genre Fiction

Farscape, Scorpius, John Crichton

Look at a beloved genre TV show, movie, or comic book. Is there simmering sexual tension marked by shifting power and the exchange of control? Do the characters strut around in leather corsets and wield whips? Does someone get tied up? You’re looking at BDSM (variously standing for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) at play. Which really doesn’t come as a surprise, because geeks are kinky as all get out.

Older, more conservative narratives would have us believe that people who engage in BDSM are somehow wrong or depraved. But the sheer presence of kinky characters across so many stories—whether hiding in children’s shows as jokes for the parents, or in the case of Farscape’s Scorpius, hiding in plain sight—simply proves how universal the notion of power exchange is.

Remember your safe words, ’cause it’s time to meet our favorite fictional kinksters!

[Read more]

Dec 3 2014 11:00am

Why We Shouldn’t Reboot ReBoot

ReBoot The Guardian Code logo information Rainmaker Entertainment

If you had told 13-year-old Natalie that her beloved CGI animated series ReBoot would be returning to television screens for its 20th anniversary, her squees would have been heard out in space. Now, that revival seems to be a reality: After several false starts, Rainmaker Entertainment has released the logo and some information for ReBoot: The Guardian Code, a modern continuation of the series after the last new episodes were released in 2001.

But as an adult who will always cherish my memories of the series, and who owes most of my attitudes about fandom to my time spent online with fellow Bootnicks, I wish people would just leave ReBoot alone.

[Read more]

Dec 1 2014 10:00am

Songs That Did (and Didn’t) Work in Genre Movies and TV

Seal Kiss From a Rose Batman Forever

An animated girl-power narrative undermines its entire message with a cringingly cheesy soundtrack. A way-modern band shatters the illusion of a period film. Two superheroes decide to consummate their relationship in-costume, only for the mournful strains of Leonard Cohen to completely kill the mood. Music choice is everything, but especially in genre stories where you have a specific world and tone to match.

Many unsuitable songs are shoehorned into genre movies and television series, the worst ones coming off so anathema to the scene being set that they make viewers say “huh?” Below, we list songs that did that for us, but we also list instances where the music paired with a movie absolutely kills it. Relive the greatness and badness of these songs! (And add your own!)

[Read more]

Nov 19 2014 11:00am

The Time Traveler’s Wife Provides the Perfect Way to Rewrite Your Favorite Pairing in Fanfic

The Time Traveler's Wife fanfiction crossovers Supernatural Sherlock Star Trek The Vampire Diaries

A funny thing happened the other day when I decided, on a whim, to look up The Time Traveler’s Wife fanfiction. It’s one of my favorite books, and while there are several years to wait until Audrey Niffenegger writes the sequel, I figured I would bide my time by revisiting Clare and Henry in their out-of-order time-spanning romance.

Except, at least half of the fanfics tagged with “The Time Traveler’s Wife” on Archive of Our Own aren’t from the world of TTTW. They just use the book’s structure to retell the love stories of Kirk/Spock, Sherlock/John, Dean/Castiel, and more.

[Read more]