4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

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The second FF movie (well, third, technically) captures all its title characters perfectly. Unfortunately, it fails with its villains, as both Victor von Doom and Galactus are a total disaster–as is the ridiculous plot, as they take one of the greatest comic book stories of all time and botch it. The great superhero movie rewatch gazes upon Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

An excerpt:

So many things here don’t make sense, starting with how, exactly, the U.S. Army is able to run operations on foreign soil like the UK, Germany, and especially Russia without any kind of presence from local military forces. (Apparently, early drafts of the script had Nick Fury in the role that eventually became Hager. This would’ve worked way better with S.H.I.E.L.D. than it does with the Army.) How does the Fantasti-Car get literally halfway around the world in ten minutes? How does Johnny exchanging powers with anyone he touches translate to him getting everyone’s powers at the end, which is contradictory to how it worked in the movie up to that point? (At the very least, his flame powers and ability to fly should have been transferred to one of the other three.) How does the Surfer actually stop Galactus? (He just sorta flies into him and Galactus collapses in on itself, and that’s it, and holy shit is it anticlimactic.)

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see me in Ticonderoga this weekend for Star Trek Author’s Day

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On Saturday the 23rd of June — this Saturday — it will be “Author’s Day” at the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, New York. This tour is a painstaking, and amazing, re-creation of the studio set from the original Star Trek in the 1960s. In addition to the tour, on Saturday you can also meet a bunch of nifty Trek authors. We’ll not only be signing and selling books, but we’ll each be giving a talk:

  • 11am: Dave Galanter (Crisis of Consciousness, Troublesome Minds) and Scott Pearson (The More Things Change, Honor in the Night)
  • 12pm: Keith R.A. DeCandido (Articles of the Federation, Q & A)
  • 2pm: Peter David (New Frontier, Imzadi)
  • 3pm: Robert Greenberger (A Time for Love, A Time for Hate)

So come up and see us!

 

Othello in Central Park

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Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Featuring Kevin Rico Angulo, Christopher Cassarino, Peter Jay Fernandez, Motell Foster, Andrew Hovelson, Chukwudi Iwuji, David Kenner, Heather Lind, Tim Nicolai, Flor De Liz Perez,

Yesterday was a lot of fun. Wrenn and I had lunch with friends then hung out on the standby line in Central Park for Othello, which starred Chukwudi Iwuji in the title role (he was in John Wick 2 and also the impossible astronaut two-parter on Doctor Who), Corey Stoll as Iago (he was Yellowjacket in Ant-Man), Heather Lind as Desdemona (she was one of the stars of Turn: Washington’s Spies), and Alison Wright as Emilia (a regular on The Americans). All four were superb, and the production was very well directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (whom folks probably know best as an actor playing Captain Montgomery on Castle; as a playwright as the author of Lackawanna Blues; and as a theatre director for his recent revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson).

This is the second time I’ve seen Othello as part of Shakespeare in the Park, the ongoing free productions of Shakespeare in Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre that have been going on since the 1950s, and which I’ve been attending for as long as I’ve been alive. (In fact, some of my earliest memories of childhood are sitting on the Great Lawn waiting for tickets while some dude wandered around peddling sangria.) The last production of Othello I saw was in 1991, and starred Raul Julia as a big bombastic Othello and Christopher Walken as, basically, Iago from Brooklyn. It was glorious.

What I particularly liked about this version of Othello is that among most of the characters there is genuine affection. Far too often, whoever is playing Othello is so focused on the obsessive flame jealousy that Iago stokes that his love for Desdemona never comes through. It’s a tough role to play because Iago plays him like a two-dollar banjo, and it’s very easy for Othello to come across as an idiot.

Iwuji threads that needle nicely: his Othello is a man of passion, but never does he lose sight of the fact that he loves Desdemona, even in the final scene where he strangles her in their bed (always a brutal scene to watch, and this one was particularly nasty, as Lind is flailing as she tries and fails to keep breathing).

But the standout here is Stoll. If you’d told me that the guy who was so incredibly uninteresting as Yellowjacket (just one of a multitude of things wrong with Ant-Man) would make a great Iago, I’d have laughed in your face, but Stoll is simply brilliant here. He modulates so cunningly into the different modes he needs to be in: solicitous friend to Desdemona, loyal friend to Othello who is reluctant to give him ill news, devil in the ear of Roderigo, faithful comrade to Cassio, disdainful husband to Emilia, and then in his many asides, his true face of loathing toward the Moor. Stoll keeps the character’s racism subtle, which in 2018 may not have been the best approach (subtlety is for when racists aren’t feeling emboldened), but it’s still an incredibly effective performance.

Stoll is also the only one who has no love in his heart. Every other actor in this film shows love for their fellow, whether it’s Desdemona’s father for her (though, like Othello’s, his is twisted, in this case by his racism), Emilia’s for Iago (which the man himself drains out of her) and Desdemona, Othello’s for Iago, Cassio’s for pretty much everyone. That love, that passion, informs all the characters’ actions (or, in Iago’s case, the passionate hatred), and it makes everyone’s performance better, particularly those of Lind and Wright. Lind really sells Desdemona’s utter confusion; Wright does likewise for Emilia’s conflict between marital duty and moral outrage.

Unusually for the Public Theatre, whose bread and butter is doing variations (whether it was last year’s Julius Caesar, where Caesar was played as a thinly disguised Trump or 1990’s The Taming of the Shrew, which was re-set as a Western), this version of Othello was completely straight, with the costumes and settings exactly right for the 14th-century Italy setting of the play.

Just an excellent production that sadly is only running for a couple more days, so if you want to go see it, gotta do it today, tomorrow, or over the weekend. Information on how to get tickets here.

Cloak & Dagger‘s changes from the source material

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On Tor.com, I take a look at the changes that FreeForm made to Cloak & Dagger from the comic book version.

An excerpt:

In the comics, Tyrone and Tandy were among the many runaways who were swooped down and preyed upon by minions of drug kingpins who needed human test subjects. They were trying to design a drug themselves in order to control the flow of it, and avoid exorbitant import costs. The experiment failed, and all of the subjects died, except for Tyrone and Tandy. (At one point, they were thought to be mutants, and the experiments unleashed their latent powers, but that was retconned later.) In their very first appearance, they were seen to be taking revenge against the drug lords who accidentally created them.

About the only aspect of their origin that the show keeps is the presence of water. In the comics, the experiments were being held on Ellis Island (which, when the comic was written in 1983, was closed to the public), and they escaped by swimming in the Hudson River. On the show, they get their powers much younger, as little kids. Tyrone dives into the Gulf of Mexico after Billy is shot and falls in, and Nathan Bowen is driving his daughter home when his car crashes into the river. An accident on a Roxxon oil rig (still unexplained as of episode three) seems to be the catalyst for Tandy and Tyrone’s link and their light-and-dark powers. But those powers don’t manifest until years later.

new on Patreon: Doctor Who, “Chaos Theory,” vignettes, cat pics, and more!

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Here’s what’s gone up this month on Patreon:

 

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Fantastic Four (2005)

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The second attempt to do Marvel’s first family on film is more successful than the first — in fact, it’s actually good enough to release to theatres! But ultimately, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis are the only saving graces of what is otherwise a total misfire. The great superhero movie rewatch examines the 2005 Fantastic Four.

An excerpt:

This movie and its sequel have come under tremendous amount of fire, and while some of it is deserved, the movie has two very big things going for it: their names are Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis.

Honestly, I remember my first thought after seeing this movie thirteen years ago was that I wanted the next movie to be called Strange Tales (a title that featured the Human Torch and the Thing at various points in the 1960s and 1970s) and only feature Chiklis and Evans, with Reed and Sue off on their honeymoon.

Chiklis apparently lobbied to play Ben Grimm, and he’s letter perfect in the role, from his easy friendship with Ioan Gruffudd’s Reed to his equally easy friendship with Jessica Alba’s Sue to his war of words and deeds with Evans’s Johnny to his frustration with being the Thing. The moment when he can’t pick Debbie’s discarded engagement ring up off the pavement because his fingers are too big is just heartbreaking, and Chiklis does an amazing job of selling Ben’s anguish through the metric shit-ton of latex he’s covered in.

Anybody who’s followed the Marvel Cinematic Universe knows the greatness of Evans. If Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is the heart of the MCU, Evans’s Captain America is the soul. So it’s even more impressive to see him in this role that’s 180 degrees from Cap, an adrenaline junkie who jumps into being a superhero and a celebrity with both feet. Evans is a pure delight, and he and Chiklis make a superlative combination.

It’s really too bad they’re stuck in this movie.

They Keep Killing Glenn is now on sale!

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Now on sale from the fine folks at Crazy 8 Press is the anthology nobody was demanding — unless, of course, they’ve actually met Glenn Hauman — They Keep Killing Glenn.

It started as a joke at the C8 panel at Shore Leave last year, and co-editors Peter David and Kathleen David decided to go ahead and actually do an anthology, where everyone gets to kill Glenn — who is the production guru and web-master for C8, and also the one responsible for their 2016 anthology Altered States of the Union, as well as the guy who keeps ComicMix going.

My own story is called “House Hunting,” and it was inspired both by Glenn and Brandy’s original search for their house 25 years ago, and also by my own six-month tenure as their tenant in one of the apartments in that house in 2000 and 2001.

The full list of contributors, listed alphabetically:

    • Lorraine J. Anderson
    • S. Brady Calhoun
    • Russ Colchamiro
    • Joe Corallo
    • Kathleen O’Shea David
    • Peter David
    • Keith R.A. DeCandido
    • Mary Fan
    • Michael Jan Friedman
    • David Gerrold
    • Robert Greenberger
    • Brett Hudgins
    • Paul Kupperberg
    • Blair Learn
    • Amy Lewanski
    • David Mack
    • Aaron Rosenberg
    • Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg
    • Dean Scott
    • Hildy Silverman
    • Setsu Uzumé

Currently the book is on sale in trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The eBook versions, as well as print and eBook versions from other online dealers, are forthcoming. Plus we’ll be formally launching the book at Shore Leave 40 next month, at which Anderson, Colchamiro, both Davids, Fan, Friedman, Greenberger, Learn, Mack, and both Rosenbergs, as well as the subject himself, will all be in attendance.