A Cup of Salt Tears August 27, 2014 A Cup of Salt Tears Isabel Yap They say women in grief are beautiful. Strongest Conjuration August 26, 2014 Strongest Conjuration Skyler White A story of the Incrementalists. Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land August 20, 2014 Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land Ruthanna Emrys Stories of Tikanu. Hero of the Five Points August 19, 2014 Hero of the Five Points Alan Gratz A League of Seven story.
From The Blog
August 25, 2014
Animorphs: Why the Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care
Sam Riedel
August 20, 2014
The Welcome Return of the Impatient and Cantankerous Doctor Who
David Cranmer
August 19, 2014
The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: Introductory Post
Leigh Butler
August 19, 2014
Whatever Happened to the Boy Wonder? Bring Robin Back to the Big Screen
Emily Asher-Perrin
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
Showing posts by: ryan britt click to see ryan britt's profile
Wed
Aug 27 2014 10:00am

Mary Poppins is a Wizard Who Literally Sings Her Spells

Mary Poppins

Some might say science fiction or fantasy is inaccessible because the settings are unrealistic or the characters exhibit extraordinary or magical abilities. And yet, alternate realities in which people, creatures, and sometimes inanimate objects break into song are totally mainstream. Musicals like West Side Story or The Sound of Music might not qualify as fantasy just for existing in these singing-heavy dimensions, but what about when there’s overt magic involved too?

The film version of Mary Poppins is lousy with magical singing, by which I mean singing that is actually magic-inducing. She’s casting spells in a bizarro dimension using only the power of her perfectly on-key voice. No, really.

[Read more]

Tue
Aug 12 2014 1:00pm

You’ve Got to Hide Your Feelings Away: Why We Buy Into Emotional Dystopias

This weekend, Lois Lowry’s old-school YA novel The Giver arrives in the form of a big-deal movie complete with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, the latter of whom is definitely not playing the Dude, but rather the title character. He’s the Giver, who, in this future dystopia, hangs onto all the relevant information that makes life interesting while everyone else has a boring, colorless, almost emotionless life.

In hit-you-over-the-head allegorical dystopian sci-fi, the repression of emotions and basic regulation of thoughts comes up a lot. But do these styles of dystopias actually make narrative and logistical sense, or are they only allegorical? Further, does their own self-importance make them ironically oppressive?

[Read more]

Tue
Aug 12 2014 9:30am

Adieu, Fillory! Here’s What Happened in The Magician’s Land

Lev Grossman Magicians trilogy

Last week, Lev Grossman concluded his fantasy trilogy—The Magicians—in totally epic style. It turns out, not only is the magical land of Fillory real in these books, but in our world too, thus making all the Magicians books retroactively works of autobiography, complete with a meta-“LEV GROSSMAN” character who becomes Fillory’s narrator.

PSYCH. No. But pretty much ALL THE COOL STUFF happened in The Magician’s Land. If you’re a fan of this sly, brilliant series, here’s a guide to what went down in its final installment.

[Read more]

Mon
Aug 4 2014 10:00am

Please Love This Thing You’ve Never Heard Of: The History of Sci-Fi Hype

Even at seventeen years-old, I thought it was weird how many people were doing the camp-out thing for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace while sitting in an inflatable Darth Maul chair they bought at Target. Sure, Maul looked cool in the movie trailer, but I didn’t know he was cool yet. (And to be fair, that particular cool jury is still out.) This weekend, Guardians of the Galaxy opened, and depending on what feelings you’re hooked on, it’s been stamped a certified genre classic. But it was also specifically and meticulously pruned to get us all excited, well before it opened. And in the history of sci-fi and fantasy movies, why do we so often believe the hype?

[Read more]

Tue
Jul 29 2014 1:11pm

Holy Nostalgia! Harlan Ellison Wrote an Episode for Adam West’s Batman

Adam West Batman Harlan Ellison

If you’re a fan of alternate universes that specifically relate to pop culture, then you know Harlan Ellison is a very important figure when asking the question “what if?” From Star Trek, to I, Robot, to the infamous “Starlost,” Ellison’s filmed projects are sometimes equally as famous as his unfilmed ones. Now it turns out that Ellison wrote an episode for the light-hearted 1960s Adam West Batman that would have introduced Two-Face and…Clint Eastwood?

[Na na na na na…Ellison!]

Mon
Jul 28 2014 11:00am

Lucy is Like a Party Where Clichés Get Drunk and Fight

It’s true that Lucy is an aggressively dumb movie masquerading as a thoughtful one, but it’s worse than that because even its pretention feels like a put-on. Here is a film that attempts to answer a philosophical question which Douglas Adams managed to take care of with a few witty lines. While Douglas Adams was joking, Lucy is simply a joke.

[Read more]

Thu
Jul 17 2014 9:00am

Three Possible Directions for the Next Planet of the Apes

Caesar Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

After a fantastic opening weekend both critically and financially, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is obviously poised to bring back Caesar and company in a few years. A sequel to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely happening, and will be directed AND written by Matt Reeves. Recently, Reeves dropped some hints as to the shape of the next film. But what about some specifics?

Here are three scenarios that might fit into the new Apes mythos.

[Read more]

Tue
Jul 15 2014 10:00am

Who Should Play The Magicians?

Casting Lev Grossman The Magicians

After a few false starts, a TV version of Lev Grossman’s slick fantasy series—The Magicians—seems to be finally coming to the SyFy channel. With the recent announcement that the pilot for the show has really, really been ordered, is it too early to start dreaming the possibility of the cast? Nope! And because all possible worlds are seemingly accessed in The Magicians, I’m sure this cast list exists somewhere, and all I’ll need is one of the magic buttons to see it realized. For now, take a look at my bizarre potential cast list for The Magicians.

[Read more]

Mon
Jul 14 2014 12:30pm

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Calcifies the New Era of the Post-Human Blockbuster

There has been a troubled tradition of humans sticking their noses in movies that are supposedly about robots, aliens, Draculas, sharknados, talking monkeys and all kinds of other cool critters. Caesar and his fellow apes aren’t new to this party, but the revolution they’re pushing in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has the strong possibility of creating a new kind of genre movie: a seriously good blockbuster that actually features a ratio favoring non-humans way more than humans.

[Read more]

Thu
Jul 10 2014 10:00am

If Wishes Were Horses, Apes Would Ride Them: Why Planet of the Apes Will Always Blow Our Minds

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

If we had an infinite amount of apes banging on an infinite amount of typewriters, I think we can all agree, they’d eventually write every single Planet of the Apes movie, and then rise up and enslave us humans as their copy-editors, gaffers, and interns who get them coffee.

Basically there’s no way any of us are ever going to get over the idea of talking apes, like, ever. But why?

[Read more]

Tue
Jul 8 2014 10:00am

The City that Never Sleeps or Goes Away: Harlan Ellison and Star Trek, Again

Leonard Nimoy William Shatner Harlan Ellison City on the Edge of Forever Star Trek

Growing up, I was that annoying kid who was suspicious of The Next Generation like five years after I was potty-trained. Precocious and pretentious about all things Star Trek doesn’t begin to cover it, and when a library book called Inside Star Trek gave me a glimpse of the story behind the story of the most famous classic Trek of them all—“City on the Edge of Forever”—I nodded knowingly. Affectation is a powerful force and when you couple it with little-kid intuition, weird truths can be uncovered. Because even back then, when I first watched Kirk and Spock leap through that giant donut time-machine, something about this adventure felt incomplete.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 30 2014 4:00pm

Getting What We Paid For: Penny Dreadful’s Season 1 Finale, “Grand Guignol”

Penny Dreadful Grand Guignol

Coupling grotesque supernatural thrills with our culture’s insatiable nostalgia for Victorian pomp isn’t a bad bet for any TV show. Back when Dracula and Frankenstein were turned into their 1931 film counterparts, making an hour-long movie based on a book was also a safe bet, because the recognition of those novel titles helped to ensure butts where squirming around in those seats. Not quite a hundred years later, we’re still digging on Dracula and Frankenstein, albeit now with these newer, subtler-and-yet-more-obtuse versions of them.

With the season finale of Penny Dreadful, the easy question to ask would be: did it deliver on its various promises? But then, you have to remember it didn’t actually promise all that much in the first place.

[Read more]

Wed
Jun 25 2014 10:00am

Party Like Dick: The Charming Audacity of Radio Free Albemuth

Very early on in the film Radio Free Albemuth, we’re straight-up shown an alien satellite in orbit shooting a zap-beam into the head of Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe), the movie’s protagonist. This scene almost dares us to just accept what is going on, but when you’re making a Philip K. Dick movie, a disconnect between reality (even a science fictional one) and “normal stuff” is bound to happen. And instead of avoiding that inherent disconnect, this film embraces it. Because if you’re not willing to have a tonally jumbled movie, one in which the movie itself seems to almost parody the human experience, then you can’t adapt Dick.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 23 2014 3:00pm

Demonspotting: Penny Dreadful Ep. 7 “Possession”

Lemony Snicket’s (Daniel Handler) next-to-last Series of Unfortunate Events books, The Penultimate Peril, managed to get nearly every single character from the previous books all checked into the same hotel. I was thinking of this during the penultimate episode of Penny Dreadful’s first season, not only because so many unfortunate things happen on this show, or because most of the characters remind me of Brett Helquist illustrations from the Snicket books, but because like so many penultimate installments of a story, all the characters get shoved into one room. Here in the land of the Dreadfuls, it’s to deal with Vanessa Ives’s demon possession, and the results are both horrifying and homage-ridden.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 23 2014 9:30am

You Wanna Get Nuts? Let’s Get Nuts! The Schizophrenic Excellence of 1989’s Batman

Twenty five years ago today, Michael Keaton uttered the words “I’m Batman,” twice. The first was while wearing the iconic rubber bat-mask complete with eye-makeup underneath, but later he repeated this sentiment with his regular non-Bat face, too. All these years later, many of us either love this film or loathe it, but which is the correct way to think about it?

Like the duplicitous nature of Batman himself, the answer is you should both love it and be suspicious of it. Batman (1989) is great because its mash-up of good decisions and bad decisions make it an accidentally perfect tribute to the Dark Knight.

[Read more]

Tue
Jun 17 2014 1:00pm

8 Great Science Fiction Movies Where No One is Murdered

Star Trek IV

Being the genre of the future, or at the very least, of speculation, science fiction needs to both be awesomely creative and, more importantly, relatable to its audience. As such, sci-fi movies often fall back on plot devices and tropes common across all genres, especially to ratchet up the tension and keep things exciting—and what’s more exciting than death? And murder is even better—the more ruthless the bad guys(s), the more we’ll root for the good guys.

But, just like a good majority of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories don’t have a dead body in them, cool science fiction movies are not required to feature death and killing if they don’t want to. With high stakes expected by mainstream audiences, it’s tempting to kill characters off, but here are a few sci-fi flicks that manage to forego death (almost) entirely.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 16 2014 4:00pm

Shoot-Out at the Undead Corral: Penny Dreadful Ep. 6 “What Death Can Join Together”

Penny Dreadful What Death Can Join Together

It’s no spoiler that in the Harry Potter books He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is actually named Voldemort. And though those books didn’t make Voldemort’s name a spoiler at all, Rowling did pull back the curtain on Voldemort’s whole deal fairly slowly, giving us just a smidgen of information about her particular dark lord with each book. But if you’d already known who Voldemort was, say, because he appeared in an older book or TV show before, then the slow reveal of his machinations may have gotten a little old.

The latest Penny Dreadful keeps on teasing out the existence of “the vampire” or “Dracula,” but continues to relegate their version of this famous monster to not only to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named status, but instead to He who must not be named, clothed, understood, or seen for more than a few seconds at a time.

[Read more]

Mon
Jun 9 2014 4:00pm

Don’t Look Back in Vampire: Penny Dreadful Ep. 5 “Closer than Sisters”

If you’ve ever seen the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye joint White Christmas, then you know there’s an earworm of a song in it more pervasive than anything Frozen has embedded in our collective unconscious. And that song is Irving Berlin’s “Sisters,” as performed by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.* Its relevant lyric, the one that kept turning over and over in my head while watching the latest Penny Dreadful was this: “And Lord help the Sister who comes between me and my Man!”

Vanessa Ives is in full flashback mode in “Closer than Sisters,” and all the questions we may have had about why she hangs around with Sir Malcolm, what her relationship was with Mina, and what kind of haircuts she used to rock, are all here, laid plain in her super creepy letters to the past.

[Read more, spoilers]

Mon
Jun 9 2014 1:30pm

Plenty of Extra Lives: The Edge of Tomorrow

The Edge of Tomorrow review

There’s this part in the second level on the easy path of StarFox 64 when a giant, wildly impractical robot-spaceship adversary pretends to give up for like three seconds. This trick only works the first time and when you know what’s coming a second time, you’re already thumbing your spaceship to safety way before anything crazy happens. The most unrealistic thing about video games isn’t talking foxes or giant robots, but instead, the idea that not only can you have do-overs, but that the do-overs themselves are necessary to success.

The Edge of Tomorrow—the latest Tom Cruise sci-fi action summer action vehicle—is exactly like a lot of video games because its narrative structure combined with its shoot-em-up aesthetic makes the do-over both seem simultaneously cheap and essential.

[Read more, very light spoilers]

Mon
Jun 2 2014 3:00pm

Hungry Like Hartnett: Penny Dreadful Episode 4 “Demimonde”

Penny Dreadful Demimonde

One of my favorite things about Penny Dreadful is how realistic it is. Seriously! Save for Dorian Gray and Sir Malcolm, everybody on this show seems to have a job and that job is directly related to the plot. In a world of Vampires, undead corpses, and guys who wear leather pants, it’s nice to know that the economics make sense. Frankenstein wouldn’t have met these people if he didn’t need cash, and ditto for gun-slinging Ethan Chandler. Now, at the midway point of its first season, the Dreadfuls properly introduce us to the best of Victorian industries and get decidedly meta with a gruesome and revealing invitation to the theatre.

[Read more, spoilers]