content by

Leah Schnelbach

Ranking the Corpse Art of Hannibal!

From the depths of my mourning for Hannibal’s cancellation, I wanted to think about the good times, and focus on some of the show’s best corpse sculpture.

See that picture up there where Will Graham is happily fixing a boat motor, surrounded by his loving puppies? That is the last happy picture you will see in this post. This post is literally made of (fictional) dead people. So proceed with caution. Also, there will be spoilers for the ENTIRE SERIES.

[So, so many dead people.]

You Beautiful Monster: The 20-Year Struggle to Make Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

Clive Barker has had a bumpy film career. After writing scripts for Underworld and Rawhead Rex, and being underwhelmed with the results, he decided to try directing his stories himself. So he adapted his story “The Hellbound Heart,” and created the classic Hellraiser. Unfortunately, for the next movie he wanted to do a thoughtful, dark fantasy adaptation of his story “Cabal,” but his producers just really wanted a slasher movie.

[Because the world needed more of those…]

If Someone Asks You if You’re a God, Do You Say Yes?

It’s a perennial question among comics fans: flight or invisibility? This is a simple test to see where your values are. If you answer flight, you’re a free-spirited romantic. Invisibility? You’re a skeevy perv not fit for human society. Insist that those choices suck, and that you want something really cool like invincibility or teleportation? Then your friends will just yell at you.

[The real point of the question is to force you to make a choice.]

Crimson Peak‘s Feminist Gothic, Krampus is Coming for Christmas, and World of Warcraft Brings New Resonance to the Word Wow at the Legendary SDCC 2015 Panel!

The casts and crews of Crimson Peak, Krampus, and World of Warcraft invaded Hall H for the Legendary Films panel! And not to be too excitable, but I now want to see all three of these movies immediately. Check out the panel highlights below!

[Haunted Houses, Dark Christmases, and Orcs!]

A Sober and Verbose Reflection on Robert A. Heinlein

Today we commemorate Robert A. Heinlein, who was born on this day in 1907. He is a giant in the science fiction genre, but like most giants, his path to literary greatness was tangled and circuitous. His naval career ended in the 1920s when tuberculosis scarred his lungs. He attempted real estate and silver mining, ran for political office in California, and only began writing to make a mortgage payment. His first story, “Life-Line,” was published in the August 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, after Heinlein realized that Astounding paid more than the prize money for the contest he had originally entered. This began a long relationship with Astounding’s editor, John W. Campbell, who published much of Heinlein’s work through the 1940s.

[Read more]

Series: On This Day

Hiding From Mr. Sun? Here Are Some Shows To Catch Up On This Summer!

Don’t go outside! You know you’ll just burn. Stay inside where the air conditioning lives, and catch up on life’s greatest gift: streaming television.

We’ve picked out a few of the shows that we like the most, that also happen to be readily available for binge-watching. A few have just finished seasons, while others are launching into new ones, but in most cases you can easily watch these suckers over a weekend, if you want. We’ve also done our best to curate a few different flavors of geek TV, so there’s some comedy, some sci-fi, some Marvel, some whatever-the-hell-genre-the-Wachowskis-are… In short, there’s probably at least one show on this list that you’ll fall in love with.

[Read more]

Talking Villainy at BEA: The Big Bad Theory with Charlie Jane Anders!

You might expect a late-Sunday BEA panel to be a sedate affair, but The Big Bad Theory was anything but! Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky, moderated a lively discussion on the tropes of villainy with authors Ilana C. Myer, Scott Westerfeld, David Wellington, and Michael Buckley. If you’re trying to write a villain, these panelists have some excellent advice for you! Anders kicked things off by asking the audience to give her their best “villainous mwahahaha” – and the room responded with a truly terrifying enthusiasm.

[Panels need more Villainous Mwahahahas]

What Is The Frequency of Hope? Tomorrowland Never Quite Tells Us

Mad Max: Fury Road will remain firmly atop its pedestal as my favorite film of summer so far. Tomorrowland, despite all the hope and fairy dust, did not unseat it. And for anyone complaining that Fury Road had a “thin” plot… well, Tomorrowland’s plot is essentially: Hope is great! We should all have it! This is not to say it’s a bad film, but it is a simple one, and I am not its target audience. This is the kind of optimistic, gee whiz kids movie that the ’80s were particularly good at, and if you have a human under 14 in your home, you might want to drop it off at the theater and pick it up after.


We All Agree that Mad Max: Fury Road is Great. Here’s Why It’s Also Important.

Mad Max: Fury Road premiered to an avalanche of praise, with an astonishingly high Rotten Tomatoes score, an even higher IMDB score (it’s already at #23!), and nigh unanimous praise from everyone from The New Yorker to The Hollywood Reporter to The Mary Sue, with SBNation getting it best (I think) by saying that “Mad Max: Fury Road is a Movie Made with Caps Lock On.” Quite right. Many people also noted the film’s feminism and the environmental themes. But here was one thing I noticed: even in reviews that were a little more in-depth, many of them didn’t actually dig into what makes this film important, and how it is a giant step forward for the Mad Max series–a trilogy that seemed to go out with a hilariously over-the-top bang in 1985.

I want to take a closer look at why this film is so resonant. Spoilers abound for all the Mad Maxes (obviously) and for Thelma & Louise (come on, you’ve had, like, 50 years to watch it) and Game of Thrones (ugh). This post will discuss sexual violence, so tread carefully if you need to.

[We Are Not Things.]

The Hype is Real. Mad Max: Fury Road is One of The Best Films of the Year

The first half hour of Mad Max: Fury Road may be the greatest action movie I’ve ever seen. But then the film keeps going, keeps piling on more cars and more explosions and more perfectly choreographed fight scenes, and quickly becomes one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, period. Really this review should just be me writing GO SEE IT WHAT ARE YOU DOING TELL YOUR BOSS YOU’RE SICK AND GET YOUR ASS TO A THEATER RIGHT NOW, because honestly, anything less is unethical on my part.

[Oh what a lovely day!]

Should You Watch the Original Mad Max Trilogy?

The short answer is “Yes, of course, what the heck were you thinking not watching it?” But perhaps you need some convincing. Perhaps you missed Beyond Thunderdome each of the many times it was shown on a cable outlet, and are now leery of Tina Turner in a fright wig. Perhaps you think moviemakers couldn’t create a believable post-apocalyptic landscape in the (mostly) CGI-free days of the 1980s. Perhaps you just can’t with Mel Gibson. I understand. (Truly! Especially about that last one.) But I’m here to show you that the original Mad Max trilogy holds many wonders!

[Tina Turner’s hair is but one of them.]

Does Biology Need to Be Destiny in the Work of Joss Whedon?

Avengers: Age of Ultron is about a lot of things. The film is a conversation about monsters, gods, what is right, what is wrong. Ultron is a monster, by our standards, but he thinks of himself as a god. Is Tony a monster for creating him? Will Steve ever be able to leave the war behind? Will Hawkeye ever finish the dining room?

The biggest question that my friends and I have been discussing, however, is what we’ve all already started calling “The Black Widow Monster Scene.” There are several ways to interpret the exchange between Natasha and Bruce, all of which seem valid, in my opinion. But I specifically want to examine how this scene functions in the context of Joss Whedon’s overall work, and the popular perception of Whedon as a feminist writer. Simply put: let’s look at how often Whedon has relied on this trope of a woman’s power or uniqueness or, yes, monstrosity, being inseparable from her gender and sexuality—why, in Whedon’s stories of women’s power, does their strength and talent always need to be bound to their bodies and biology?

[Read more]

An Uncut and Non-Remastered List of Star Wars Editions!

The thing that makes Star Wars truly great is Greedo shooting first. Wait, come back, I’m being serious! The original Star Wars trilogy was an incredible cultural touchstone, and obviously Star Wars merchandise and expanded universe novels created a whole world for fans to inhabit. However, the moment when Star Wars became truly great was the moment in 1997 when a generation of fans had to examine what this film meant to them, and why it was so important that Han shoot first. This moment galvanized an already fervent fandom to, if you don’t mind me mixing my geek metaphors, play Sam Beckett in the SWU, going back to earlier prints of the films to put right what Lucas had made wrong.

Using the sort of film tech popularized by Lucas himself, the fandom dove in and started making new editions of the original trilogy, and then turned their scalpels on each of the prequels. Rather than accepting anything as “canon,” they made their own. Now, as a flurry of new films loom, causing hope, fear, and trembling, I’ve rounded up nine different ways you can experience Star Wars into one handy list!

[Read More]

Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe

One of the things reviewers have commented on is Daredevil’s unexpected grittiness. The violence is real, and the consequences of that violence are also real. When Matt Murdock snaps a man’s arm, the femur (ulna?) bone breaks through the skin. When Karen Page is choked with a sheet, the welt shows on her neck for several episodes afterwards. People make their choices, and then they face the consequences. This realism quickly made Daredevil one of my favorite elements of the MCU.

The other thing that I love is how the show’s brutal world is informed by the particularly Catholic morality of its hero. There have been a few conversations online about whether this show gives us an accurate portrayal of Matt’s religion, and I would argue not only that it does, but that by taking his religious beliefs seriously, and weaving Catholicism into the fabric of the show, Netflix has given us the deepest, most emotionally resonant version of Daredevil we’ve ever had.

Warning: this post comes with SPOILERS for the ENTIRE SEASON.

[Plus confession comes with a latte!]

Shakespeare Adaptations That Best Speak to Teens

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]

Series: Shakespeare on

A Perfect Cost-to-Shenanigan Ratio: Community Season Six is Here!

So the big question with Community: Is it still good? Is it even better? Has the jump to Yahoo changed it? The answers, respectively are: Yes; kind of?; not really.

It is still a great, solid sitcom about a group of wacky friends and their hilarious misadventures. The test with these kind of shows is simple, and sounds kind of dumb when you say it: I missed Greendale, and I was glad to spend time with these characters again. The plots were the usual mix of important things (like Britta’s need to grow up) and silly things (like the Dean suddenly becoming obsessed with early-90s-style VR). The only downside is that after five seasons, the important plots can’t help but feel a bit reheated.

[“You bet your sweet ass I saw Lawnmower Man!”]

Is Ladyhawke the Best Fairy Tale of Them All?

I spent last month rewatching a bunch of 1980s fantasy movies. (I know, I missed some, I’ll get there eventually.) Sometime around the middle of the month, I revisited Ladyhawke for the first time since high school, and found myself surprised at just how well it held up. True, some elements have not aged well—an opening song that recalls nothing so much as the MacGyver theme, for instance—but on the whole, it ended up being one of my favorites. And the more I think about it, the more I think Ladyhawke may be the most successful of all the fairy tale films.

[Yes, even better than The Princess Bride. Yes, those are fightin’ words.]