The Ripple Effect: The Giver

By now, I’m sure everyone knows that the young-adult dystopian novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry, is on the big screen this weekend. Based on the preview, I already have grouchy preconceived notions about the beloved novel turned film. Regardless, it still prompted a trip down memory lane for me. With the slue of dystopian novels becoming movies, I’m not surprised The Giver is being adapted into a film. The interesting thing, however, is that it was The Giver that allowed the young adult dystopian genre to flourish today. The novel was originally published in 1993 and soon took root in Young Adult readers.The Giver has been a staple in middle school language arts classrooms for years. Many critics at the time of its publishing argued it wouldn’t hold up to the passage of time. Yet, 21 years later, The Giver still has the impact and literary weight it did when it first came out.

The Giver was a maverick of its time, and was published at the beginning of what I think has now become the golden age of Young Adult literature. This novel portrayed the futuristic lives of teenagers in a dystopian world and asked kids to question the present world around them. It’s a book of questions. What happens to a people who are cut away from their emotions and their bodies? What happens when you disconnect an entire people from their history? What happens when you have access to knowledge? Who does it belong to? Who has power? These are all questions that teenagers explore when reading the novel. For many, it was the first time they started to empathize with the realities outside of themselves, and explore how their inner worlds worked into the larger context of society.

One aspect of the novel that struck me when I was a young adult was use of emotions, in particular, pain. Who are we without our pain?  For a teenager, this is a novel concept.  Adolescents are in the throes of trying to figure out their autonomy as they question the authority around them. They have a keen sense of pain and passion and, because of this, The Giver validates the teenage experience.

As an adult, I have had the pleasure of teaching The Giver in the classroom. I’ve watched as students worked their way through The Giver, and come to conclusions, outrage and debate as they journeyed through the book. I watched as they connected to Jonas. I could feel their turmoil as they connected their history class, current events, and their own narratives together and find new connections they hadn’t thought of before. It is inspiring for me because I could see the direct relationship a book had on the expansion of someone’s world. Many students were hungry for more books after they had finished. They wanted to read books like 1984, Brave New World, and Parable of the Sower. Some students of mine who are now in college write science fiction. Granted, I can’t speak to whether or not this inspired them to do change the world, but I can see the hint of a spark still lingering in their eyes. What sort of stories are they now creating?

Without The Giver, there would be no Hunger Games, no Divergent, and no Feed. That’s the lovely thing about stories – they don’t exist in temporal vacuums. They are a tapestry, a community, a communication of our hopes, dreams, and possibilities. Sometimes these novels are like a call and response. Lowry sent out a call with The Giver and the narratives that came after were a response, which then sent more calls out to be answered. We can never stop examining our lives and the world around us, and books like The GIver  keeps the conversation going.

I am curious, readers of Hush; what is your relationship to dystopian literature? Did The Giver impact you in any way? Are you excited about the movie? What other novels have impacted your lives?  Leave your thoughts below.

The Ripple Effect: How Science Fiction and Fantasy Changes Us

It is no lie that I’m a die-hard Trekkie, and after years of watching Trek over and over, I am still surprised to see how deeply the show impacted my life. Star Trek is what allowed me to empathize with the world around me. I was able to see future possibilities – a world where humanity could coexist in a space where our differences were honored. Star Trek became the mechanism through which I found my analogies to relate to my reality. But Star Trek isn’t the only show that has informed my values, ethics and questioning of everything around me; it is the realm of Science-Fiction and Fantasy which has informed my life in general. It has created a computer-like simulation in which I can see the possibilities of what can be and how to change what is.

This is what interests me as a writer of Science-Fiction and Fantasy. These mediums explore the potential for new realities. They also examine and aim to help us understand how we interact and exist in the now. As someone who not only consumes this genre, but writes it, it has forced me to imagine what futures I want to create. It helps me examine myself. It’s like writing a poem. Out of confusion and frustration and anger and hope, I write.  I write to figure out the world around me. At times it brings a deeper understanding of myself and others, yet it can bring up more questions. Without the Sci-Fi and Fantasy creators before me, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now. I stand on the backs of the visionaries of the past and as I look forward I see a whole new generation of visionaries paving new avenues I never thought possible. It excites me to the core. It is this excitement that many in the nerd world are feeling as they continue to push the envelope on “What if?”

I think Science-Fiction and Fantasy is entering a Golden Age.  It’s full of a potential I haven’t experienced since the first time I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am discovering writers, movies, and comic books I never knew existed. And instead of filling me with a sense of dread for humanity, it leaves me optimistic that humanity won’t crumble into an oblivion. Unrepresented narratives are finally coming out of the woodwork, demanding to be heard and seen. I’m in a constant state of awe at what is being generated. It’s given me a new language, new ways to communicate, empathize and understand our Earth. It leaves me with too many words forcing their way out of my fingertips. What new realities are being created that are informing a new generation of beings, beings that inspire me to create and continue to examine humanity?

Therein lies the thought behind this weekly article, “Ripple Effect.”  In this article, I want to explore what Science-Fiction and Fantasy is teaching us and how it explores our humanity today. But, moreover, how is Sci-Fi and Fantasy inspiring us to consider new realities? How is it really impacting people who participate in these realms?   We have so many questions, and so little time to explore the words that fill up our universes, words that send ripples out into the cosmos of our endless human potential.

 

Join me every other week to read a new “Ripple Effect!”

 

“Respect My Craft” – Karl Urban

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Click on the link to view all our Denver Comic Con articles!

NOTE: Karl Urban can’t make Denver Comic Con.  So sad!  We will see you next year!

 

Name: Karl Urban

Profession: Actor

Notable WorkStar Trek (reboots), Xena: Warrior Princess, Lord of the Rings, RED, Almost Human

“That is a big danger, losing your inspiration. When I work in film and television I try to do each take a little differently. I never want to do the same thing twice, because then you’re not being spontaneous, you’re just recreating something.” – Karl Urban

 

We all know Karl Urban; even if you don’t think you know Urban, you do. If you are a nerd and follow this site, it’s safe to say that he’s been in something that you’ve seen. It safe to say he’s somehow in all or our favorite fandoms. He’s the guy who looks familiar but you can’t quite place him because his characters change so much – from Xena to Star Trek to Lord of the Rings. We all love him for different reasons and in many ways is the uniting factor between the different fandoms.

Urban went to school at the Victoria University in Wellington New Zealand. He left after a year to focus on his acting career. He started out in several commercials and then eventually got his start on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. On the shows he has played: Julius Caesar, Cupid, and Meal in Altered States. Hercules and Xena happen to be my first introduction to him. These shows have some of the largest international following and fandom, as well as, some of the most devoted fans in all of nerdom. It was also one of the longest-running and best fantasy franchises on television. Urban was going to be in Season 6 finale but due to conflicts with Lord of the Rings, he was unable to be in the episode. However, he was later written into a role for Julius Caeser in “When Fates Collide,” which is still considered one of the most popular Xena episodes.

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That leads us to the other big franchise he’s been a part of: Lord of the mother fucking Rings. If you don’t know or have been hiding in a rock and never have watched Lord of the Rings, Urban was Éomer, Third Marshal of the Mark and successor to King Théoden. Urban’s character was introduced in The Two Towers. Since Éomer was an expert horseman, Urban spent a lot of time training with horses. His goal was to be able to reign in his horse while also wielding a sword. For two hours a day for eight weeks, he was on a horse, training for his role. This also meant he had the opportunity to gallivant around his native New Zealand and see the countryside, a landscape he has never before seen. The experience was epic and something he would never forget. One of his favorite memories was when he and a few other cast members were on set one day, and instead of make the hour-long trek back to the hotel, they fished and camped out in the New Zealand wilderness.

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Urban has been introduced in three spate franchise in their second movie. Two Tower, Chronicles of Riddick and Borne Supremacy. Urban played Vaako in Chronicles of Riddick. For a nice little nerd fact for you; Urban, Vin Diesel, Judi Dench and Thandie Newton passed the time on set by playing Dungeons and Dragons. He was also a fan of the 2000 AD comic character Judge Dredd since he was a teenager and was thrilled to later reprise the role in the movie which came out in 2012. He was also in another comic book movie Red with Bruce Willis, John Malcovich, Morgan freeman. He had never read the comic before and was only exposed to the story when he read the script.

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Of course, everything leads back to Star Trek. Urban has always been a fan of Star Trek. In JJ Abrams reprisal of Star Trek,Urban was cast as Dr. McCoy. It’s been said that his accent reminded Lenard Nimoy of the late DeForest Kelly so much that he was brought to tears on set. There were also a lot of rumors and question about his potential future involvement with Star Wars. Urban has no desire to do Star Wars. While he considers it his holy grail of genre shows and movies, he committed to the Trek world and didn’t want to bring the audience out from being immersed in Star Wars by hopping universes. Urban is also a huge fan of Harrison Ford and his alter-ego, Indiana Jones. He even named his son Indiana for his love of the franchise. He’s a nerd who makes nerd films.

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The lasted show that Karl Urban has been a part of is Almost Human. Which, sadly, has been canceled. Fox has opted not to pick up a second season. The show was about a cop who is paired up with an android to solve crime. Urban felt the script was poignant and dynamic and that the characters were engaging. We can sadly add it to the ranks of Sarah Conner Chronicles, John Doe, and Firefly. Now that Almost Human has been scrapped I am curious for what’s next to come for the New Zealand actor. He’s not one to slow down anytime soon and I am sure that we will be seeing him in something very soon.

 

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Danger Girl creator and famous Marvel cover artist, J. Scott Campbell.

“Respect My Craft” – Colleen Doran

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Colleen Doran

Profession: Writer/Artist/Cartoonist

Notable WorkDistant Soil, Gone to Amerikay, Orbits, Sandman

“So, there came the self publishing movement and the Image revolution. Creators like me decided we’d had enough of being published badly, and went our own way. Image did crazy, scary business; the sales were out the roof. It was comics artist as rock star time. Good and bad for comics, because while the self publishing movement started off with a handful of people like me, everyone who could use a photocopy machine was rushing to the trough; not because they had a burning desire to make comics, but because they were hoping to get rich.” – Colleen Doran

 

Colleen Doran has had an impressive career and has been writing and making art since she could hold onto a pencil. Doran was always fascinated by animation and loved to draw. Her first realization that she could be a comic book writer came when she was ten and got really sick. An old family friend gave her a box of comic books and she devoured them. She couldn’t get enough. It was soon after this the idea of A Distant Soil came about. She has always been a big fan of superheroes. At age 15, she was commissioned by Steven Miller and Sharon Lee (writers) who wanted her to do their cover art. Steve Hickman then asked her to work on the Miss Fury revival for his fanzine Graphic Showcase. This is what got Doran her start and she hasn’t stopped since. She has left a lasting and continued presence on the comic book industry.

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On top of her extensive creative work, Doran is known for her openness about the publishing/comic book industry. She writes a lot on the topic in her blog. This website was also developed in an effort to restore Distant Soil and turn them into digital copies. Her original printer went bankrupt and the negatives (4′ x 4′ flats, not film strips) of her work were thrown out, which amassed to about 1000 pages. The process is slow – more complicated than many people realize – and eats up a lot of personal income. With the restoration effort, she can reprint Distant Soil, as well as keep a digital archive of her work. Stuff like this happens in the industry and it’s really sad that a lot of work once it goes out of print is completely lost. (Point one for the digital age). If you’re interested in her efforts, I highly recommend helping her fund the effort.

Doran’s work on Distant Soil has encapsulated three decades of work. It is about a young woman who’s born on a distant world to parents of a religious dynasty. The comic explores: politics, gender, sexual identity love. (It’s just awesome in other words) Many readers and those in the industry feel this graphic novel series is some of the greatest contributions to the industry and to literature. She creates an intense expansive world and her writing has a profound depth to it.  It was among the first graphic novels to be created solely by a female artist/writer which she came up with in started in high school. What a badass! What an awesome accomplishment, I probably won’t finish my work until my death bed. Goes to show you how consistent writing and drawing can help get work finished. Looking at her credits on her website it’s mind blowing, and I recommend taking a look. She has had her hands on a lot of work that you may not be aware of.

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Some of her latest work includes Gone to Amerikay, which came out in 2012 under Vertigo. It’s about Irish emigrants who come to New York. It spans about a century and follows several individuals whose tale intertwine and weave in out of the characters’ lives. According to scifiplus.net interview she did a lot of extensive research for the graphic novel. “Well, I care about all my books, but this is a historical work, and I don’t skimp. Research is essential to this sort of work. Not only is the story absolutely wonderful, and I owed it my very best, but it is also an important work, and I owe it to everyone involved, including the reader to provide as authentic an experience as possible. We’ve all seen comics where people simply don’t bother to do basic research” (scifiplus.net). She spent a lot of time entrenched in books for research and since a lot of her references were in black and white she had to spend more time on getting the costumes rights and the colors just so. On a cool note: Doran finished Gone to Amerikay off the coast of Tasmania while she started her work off the coast of Morocco.

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On a personal note, Doran has had to deal with a stalker over the last several years. It has been something that she has been honest and vocal about. She appeared on the show Someone’s Watching to talk about her experience.  It is really important to talk about these sorts of crimes as it impacts a person’s safety, family, and creative output. Doran has stayed away from and lot of conventions because of this in order to remain safe. Cons have a responsibility and a duty to make sure people feel protected and safe while attending conventions. In many ways, her choosing to come to Denver Comic Con is a huge deal. We in Denver are extremely lucky to have the opportunity to possibly meet her and see her on panels. (So no one fuck it up!)

 

According to various interviews, Colleen Doran has a busy year for 2014. A lot of work has been pushed off for this year. So, you can expect a lot of creative work to come out from her in the near future.

 

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con as we spotlight the Incredible Lou Ferrigno.

 

“Respect My Craft” – Marina Sirtis

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Marina Sirtis

Profession: Actress

Notable WorkStar Trek: The Next Generation, Gargoyles, Hamlet

“It covered up my cleavage and, consequently, I got all my brains back, because when you have a cleavage you can’t have brains in Hollywood. So I got all my brains back and I was allowed to do things that I hadn’t been allowed to do for five or six years. I went on away teams, I was in charge of staff, I had my pips back, I had phasers, I had all the equipment again, and it was fabulous. I was absolutely thrilled.” – Marina Sirtis

 

Marina Sirtis is coming to Denver Comic Con along with several from the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The cast reunion is going to prove to be a one hell of a time with so many from the cast in the same location. Trek has been a hotbed of talent and a cornucopia of collective work. McFadden has worked as a choreographer for Dark Crystal and the Labyrinth, Frakes has directed, Burton ran Reading Rainbow, Denise Crosby was currently on The Walking Dead and Trek fans are still waiting for a Dorn to reprise his role of Worf to be captain of his own starship.

For anyone who has seen Sirtis at a convention, it’s easy to be instantly taken with her. Her real life persona is more like that of her screen mother, Laxana Troi, than Deanna. She is a spitfire, strong and commanding – and her body of work is extensive and dynamic.

Sirtis got her start on the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company and with The Worthington Repertory Theatre Company’s production of Hamlet where Sirtis played Ophelia. She was also in a production of Rocky Horror Picture Show in which she played Magenta and toured Malian and Munich. Sirtis has never left theater and still takes the stage when she can. Her last stage performance was Neil Simon’s Hotel Suite at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

 “I would have to say that most of my other favorite things that I’ve done have been theater projects. Playing Ophelia in “Hamlet” is one of my favorites. Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Magenta in “Rocky Horror” are my other favorite stage roles. (1994)”

After her work on the stage, Sirtis was on several well-known British television series, such as: Up the Elephant and around the Castle, and The Return of Sherlock. Her working history is extensive, however, she is best known for her role as Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sirtis left England and came to the United States to get work here. When she originally auditioned for Trek, she was reading for Denise Crosby’s role, Tasha Yar. Rodenberry felt they were each better suited for the other’s role. In the end, Sirtis was cast as Troi, while Crosby was cast as Yar.

Sirtis, at the time she got the role, was rather shy and took some time to get out of her shell. She’s been known to say she was just hiding more of her spunk so as to keep her role for Troi. It wasn’t long before her dynamic personality shined through. She quickly became close with several of the cast members and was particularity close to Majel Barrett (Laxana Troi) Gene Rodenberry’s wife. Sirtis called her mom and was sad when she past just a few years after her mother back in England.

What is amazing about Sirtis was her dedication to her character and the advocacy to expand and grow Tori as a character. At first, the writers for TNG found it hard to write for the half-human Betazoid. After all, when you have a character who can feel others’ emotions and intentions, it can take away from conflict of the plot. After the first season, however, Rodenberry was able to figure out her character and she continued to grow as the season continued. Troi had many intriguing and dynamic relationships with the character of TNG. I was always intrigued by her interactions with the Yar and Crusher on the show. TNG did a great portrayal of the spectrum of what femininity is and could be and the strength that it could convey to an audience and Sirtis had a big influence of were the writers took her character.

Sirtis’ favorite time on the show came in the sixth season when she got to explore Troi outside of her Betazoid counselor self when she was disguised as a Romulan in Face the Enemy, her favorite TNG episode. It pushed her acting and her character into a new path. At first, Troi was supposed to be like the wiz kid, Weasley, and Sirtis was happy when Troi made the transition from counselor to Starfleet officer. Sirtis felt her character went through a transformation. She went from staying on the ship to leading away teams and caring phasers, and getting a different voice. In both position of the passive and the active, Sirtis brought a spark and a strength to it that was refreshing to watch on-screen. Sirtis has had a lasting impression on television with this seminal role. Those of us who go to conventions know the impression she’s had on Sci-fi and we can thank her for the dynamic women she has played throughout the years. Sirtis did more than play a character, she helped create images of strength for a generation of women.

When TNG ended, Sirtis continued on in 1994 to voice Demona for Disney’s Gargoyles. Which she did for two years along side  TNG costar Jonathan Frakes . Sirtis has lent her voice for other projects, including Mass Effect and Adventure Time. After her time with Gargoyles, she switched modalities and stared as a police detective for a British movie Gadgememant. She also had many character roles in her career which consist of: Stargate SG-1, Outer Limits, Star Trek Voyager, and NCIS. Her character work shows her versatility as an actress – how much of an awesome and inspiring personality she is on the stage. She is also still great friend with Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn (Sirtis calls him Dorny) and were even groomsmen at her wedding.

Her work with her fans is also something to note. Sirtis feels she has the best fans. It isn’t often you see such a direct relationship with the fans and all the people she has inspired. Like a lot of other Trek actors, she has worked on a lot of fan based stories and online shows. Her recent work includes the fan show, Castlevania. This is what so amazing about the creatives involved with Trek – it’s the close relationship to their art and the audience.

“I have the best time. My stand-up material is pretty well-set now. The traveling part gets me down, but the actual convention part I still love. I come home after a weekend at a convention, and you have to scrape me off the ceiling. I’m so up and high and full of self-confidence, and I thank the fans for making me feel that way. Sometimes I think I should be paying the fans money to let me be there. I bet they would like that, too. I probably get more out of it than they do. (1994)”

As of late Sirtis has been working on NCIS and Star Trek Continues, where she plays the voice of the computer. There is also a fan campaign going around to get her on Doctor Who. Sirtis loves that her fans want her to be on Doctor Who, and would be on the show if given the opportunity. She sure would make a good doctor in my opinion. I hope that this is something that will happen for her. With the magnitude of collective power her fans have, it wouldn’t surprise me if she eventually didn’t get a role on the show. Hell, maybe she could even be the next Doctor. She, after all, has the spunk for it.

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties. Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con as we spotlight legendary comic book artist, George Perez.

 

Once Upon A Time Returns March 9th

Once Upon a Time Returns March 9th (Are You Ready?)

Well, after a three month hiatus, Season 3 of Once Upon a Time is finally returning. Based off the preview we can expect: the Wicked Witch of the West, everyone in mortal peril again, and it’s up to Emma to save the day. Again.

At the close of the last episode, Emma was in domestic bliss with no memory of her magical past or her family. It seemed she and Henry got their happily ever after – one year without magic, villains, and complicated love triangles. That is, until Hook showed up on her doorstep giving her one knock out of a kiss trying to jog her memory. We all knew that happy ending could only last so long. (I will say, if the show had been canceled it would have been a stratifying way to end the series.)

“Serenading Manhattan” will pick up where the cliffhanger left off. The actors have been talking about the season and it seems the show might take a darker grittier feel. Also, there’s a new villain at play. I’m a little hesitant about the Wicked Witch of the West but with Regina and Gold switching sides and Pan concurred we need a new villain to change things up a bit. This season has been working towards a different feel, and I hope the show continues to listen to its fans. Again, we are left wondering if OUAT will be all over the place or figure out a rhythm that suits the show.

What I hope will be cleared up:  What’s happening with Mulan and Aurora? Will Regina and Robin Hood happen? What’s going to happen with the Hook, Emma, Neil love triangle? What’s up with the creepy Darlings?  What Once Upon A Time in Wonderland tie-ins will there be? (At the moment Once Upon A Time in Wonderland is the better show).

Watch the promo below. What are your thoughts and hopes for the rest of the season?

P.S. Once Upon A Time in Wonderland is also coming back Thursday, March 19th

Written by Jené Conrad

Pompeii Review

Pompeii Review

Genre – Historically-based Fiction, Romance
Director – Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat: The MovieDeath Race series, Resident Evil series
Cast – Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (LostOz), Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), Kiefer Sutherland (24), Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix), Jessica Lucas (Evil Dead), Jared Harris (Mad Men)
Alluring element – Jon Snow goes back in time a thousand years or so to rise against Jack Bauer and get the girl! 
Check it out if you liked 300Troy
SCORECARD (each category out of 10):
Plot – 7
Acting – 7
Representation of Genre – 9
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 9
Logical consistency – 8
Originality/Creativity – 7
Soundtrack/Music – 9
Overall awesomeness – 8

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Pompeii is about Milo (Kit Harington), a Celt whose family and entire people were slaughtered by the Roman senator Corvus, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Milo is enslaved and turned into a gladiator. Eventually, he is taken to Pompeii where he meets the captivating Cassia (Emily Browning) and fellow gladiator-slave Atticus (Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Once Mount Vesuvius erupts, it becomes a race against the clock not only to save Cassia but to seek revenge against the corrupt Crovus. Pompeii is part love story, part political rebellion, and all parts natural disaster.

I am a big fan of ancient historical fiction, and to be honest, I was a bit worried about this film. Many times, films like Pompeii are a bit over-the-top; they are over-acted and rarely historically accurate. To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised with Pompeii. The visual world was captivating and, at first glance, I thought I was working my way through the Pompeii exhibit at the museum. In reality, the volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius kept the town so well preserved that archeologists have been able to replicate the city of Pompeii with detailed accuracy. The movie paid close attention to these details of the city and this was heightened by the use of 3D which really made the world pop down to the street venders. The eruption of the volcano was on point and accurate in sequence. The only inaccuracy were the pyroclastic bombs and the dramatic tsunami which dragged a ship into the city. During the time of the actual eruption, there were warning signs days before the eruption and many people actually left before the volcano erupted.   The film didn’t touch on these facts, but it is forgivable because of the visual effects.

The dynamics of the characters were what I enjoyed most. While the plot was cliché and predictable, the character nuances and subtleties made up for it.  I really liked Cassia. Granted, she was a wealthy elite stereotype, but she also wasn’t totally naive nor a typical damsel in distress. Her parents also were likeable. They were present parents and good people. Her mother Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss) was a strong, charismatic woman who worked closely with her husband’s politics as Corvus has come to Pompeii to invest in the construction of a new arena which Severus hopes will continue to brings money into the city. Both Severus and Aurelia genuinely dislike Corvus who later find out he’s also come to Pompeii to scheme for Cassia’s hand in marriage.  The other thing I really have to give the movie props for was a lack violence against women used to garner entertainment. Corvus was creepy and gross without being over-the-top violent.

While there was a love story, Pompeii was more a story between Milo (The Celt) and Atticus, who was one fight away to winning his freedom under Roman law. Both lost their families to the Romans and are trying to maintain their identity while enslaved. The arena becomes their political battlefield as Milo seeks revenge on Corvus and by extension the Roman Empire. Atticus joins Milo as his faith in Roman law is betrayed. I don’t want to give away the rest of the story, but in many ways, this overpowered the love story. It may be unfortunate for the popularity of the film that Pompeii was seemingly marketed as a love story, because the film was prominently a historical and political plot. Though, I’ve been known to read too much into stories and may be reading more into the plot then I need to.

One last note of importance: the soundtrack was fantastic. It was emotional, engaging, and epic. The music enhanced the overall experience of the film and is something I’ll invest in to listen to later. Rotten Tomatoes only gave the film 29% rating, and critics were harsh. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the film. The storyline was simple, engaging, and oddly deep in its subtlety. The 3D didn’t sully the movie but rather enhanced it; I would highly recommend watching this film in 3D.  However, the story is strong enough that it will be worth watching at home if you can’t get to the theater.

Written by Jené Conrad

Graphic Novel Review – Fables Volume One: Legends in Exile

Graphic Novel Review: Fables: Legends in Exile

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Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics that has published works such as Sandman100 Bullets and V for Vendetta)

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Characters: Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, Beauty & the Beast, lots more!

Writer: Bill Willingham (Fables #1-present, Angel: After the Fall, Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure)

Artist: Lan Medina (Silver Surfer, District XVenom)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8

Art – 8

Captivity and Length – 8

Identity – 9

Use of Medium – 7

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 8

Intrigue/Originality – 10

The Little Things – 7

Overall awesomeness – 9

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It’s been awhile since I’ve read Fables. Looking at my home library I’ve noticed I was missing my first volume along with others I’ve seem to have lost over the years. It was fun to pick it up after all this time. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. In many ways, it’s what I wish Once Upon a Time would be. All the characters are familiar, as they’ve existed in fairy-tales, children’s books and Disney movies over and over again. The concept of using characters that are now public domain (no copyright claims can be made on them) with an original story and a modern twist is something that had never been done before in the comic book world.

Fables follows the stories of characters from fairy tales and fables who have been exiled to the “mundane” realm of New York City. They were pushed out from their many lands by a villain only referred to as the “advisory” and must now coexist in secret from the “mundy” humans of New York City. Characters who cannot pass as human live on a farm on the outskirts of New York. If you think this story sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct. Writer Bill Willingham has blatantly expressed that his story, while not politically directed, is social commentary on the current Israeli-Palestinian state of affairs.

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What’s fun about Fables is that it plays with several different genres. In this volume, we observe a murder/mystery. We are first introduced to Snow, the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, who’s having to deal with marital problems between Beauty and the Beast. Her course reverts when the two experience martial conflict. After all, it’s hard to maintain the magic of a marriage when you’ve been married for the past thousand years.

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At the same time Jack, rushes in to tell Snow that her her sister, Red, has had something horrible happen to her. He found her apartment in disarray and her blood soaking everything. Bigby (the big bad wolf) runs around New York trying to piece together the mystery while at the same time introducing the readers to the world of Fabletown and the characters who inhabit it. I find the way Willingham constructs the story both interesting and clever, and left me with quite a few chuckles. Even the panels have a few eggs that if you pay attention closely can make you laugh. Who doesn’t love a hairy man in a banana hammock?

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While enjoyed Legends in Exiles, I also found the dialogue to be a bit strained and hard to believe. I also felt Snow’s reaction were a bit all over the place (OUAT much) and the cheese were at times grating. As for the art, I felt it was well drawn comic for the most part, but, for a murder mystery, I thought it lacked the visual clues necessary for the reader to try and puzzle it together. I actually took me until the reveal of the plot, which carries on for an entire issue, that I was supposed to be playing detective along with Bigby, as a reader. Had I known the ride I was in for, I may have been more perceptive to the subtleties instead of just laughing along with the punch-lines. As a reader, you can now be prepared to be prepared with your pipe and monocles for a fantastical, quasi-interactive murder/mystery.

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Overall, I highly recommend reading Fables for anyone Jonesing for a spot of fantasy and who loves a good twist on their fairy tales.

General Reception: Fables is a highly acclaimed book, both critically and among casual readers. There has been an rise in stock for the series, as the series has been awarded fourteen (and counting) Eisner Awards. Talks of a television show have all but died (and then reincarnated in the spirit of Once Upon A Time), but a movie adaptation is currently in the works! Fans love Fables so much that Rochester, Minnesota held the first ever FablesCon in March 2013. In addition, a videogame has been developed by TellTale Games, the same geniuses behind the story-driven The Walking Dead series, and is called The Wolf Among Us, which I will buy as soon as this article is published!

Related Books: If you somehow manage to catch up to the 136th issue that hit shelves on New Year’s Eve, then you still have a plethora of spin-offs and side-stories to explore. And as an added bonus for those willing to purchase the collected versions (graphic novels) of Fables, there are almost always bonus short stories (with words!) explaining a bit of the Fables mythos to hungry readers. Legends in Exile included “Wolf in the Fold” which is of the Wolf’s time when he was fighting the Advisory. I enjoyed the short story and it adds nice origin story for Fabletown.

More by the writer: Bill Willingham is an interesting man. Most of his catalog consists of Fables, as he has impressively written the entirety of the Fables stories (minus a couple here and there). He has just recently came out with a series, published by Dynamite Entertainment, called Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure, which I can only assume is as hilarious and fantastical as his work on Fables. He’s also done an adult fantasy (image LARPing naked) book called Ironwood, as well as work on the earlier Angel comics for IDW. He’s nerdy in the best ways.

More by the artist: Rolando “Lan” Medina has been a quiet presence in the comic book industry, making his mark on everything from Cable & Deadpool to Punisher: MAX to Storm, the last of which Medina won a Glyph Comic Award in 2007 for, along with his Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story for Legends in Exile in 2003. His style is simplistic, but portrays the story well enough without distracting from it. Starting in April, you can find his art in DC’s new series, Aquaman & the Others.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to Vertigo Comics for the images.

Written by Jené Conrad

Once Upon a Time “The New Neverland” Review

I still haven’t figured out what it is about Once Upon a Time that keeps me watching week after week. I think it may have something to do with the side of me that enjoys being frustrated and dissatisfied. The show constantly goes the route of  predictability. Case in point: Peter Pan is Gold’s father. Massive-epic eye roll. Like none of us saw that coming.

And now two episodes later  Pan has taken over Henry’s body and those stuck in Neverland are back in Storybrooke.

I would like to take a moment to go back to the episode “Saving Henry”. I have this love, love relationship with Regina. I know she’s an evil vengeful woman but, I love her. She acts through the terrible writing with vigour and her motivations are the clearest. Not to mention, she’s hot. Every once and awhile when Emma and Regina gaze at one another, I imagine them becoming lovers, raising Henry, and living happily ever after. Does anyone else notice the great chemistry those two have?

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Regina dominated “Saving Henry”. She’s so kickass it makes my nethers twinge. The best part of that episode is the moment when all the mothers are being constricted to death by the tree of regret and Regina is glowering at Pan: “I did cast a curse that devastated an entire population. I have tortured and murdered. I should be overflowing with regret, but I’m not because it got me my son.” She breaks her bonds, plunges her hands into Pan chest, and reclaims Henry’s heat. It’s moments like these that the show is so good at. If it wasn’t for Regina, I think I would have stopped watching a long time ago.

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This episode also revealed some information about the Darlings I had been expecting: The Darlings are totally evil. Granted, after watching Hemlock Grove and seeing Freya Tingley as Wendy, all I could do was scream evil, evil at the screen. The boy Darlings’ have been searching for Henry since he was a babe and is working for Pan. Time will tell what will become of the Darlings in the season to come. Maybe Wendy is the good one of the bunch, but I doubt it.

Both the crew and the lost boys are back in Storybrooke. They all think they are safe except Emma who’s got one of those gut feels. Henry isn’t right and Emma feels like there is something up. Overall, I found this episode to be obnoxious, trivial, and annoying.  The episode kept going back to the Magical Kingdom when Snow and Charming were on their honeymoon. Is anyone else tired of watching them make out and get all lovey-dovey and optimistic on each other? At this point it’s overdone. This part of the story wasn’t needed at all. It was useless, unless there is some egg I’m missing that will play out later in the season.

In Storybrooke: Ariel and Eric have a reunion. Gold and Belle have a tender moment (vomit). Tinker Bell meets up with the Blue Fairy (bitch).  Hook is brooding over Emma. Snow and Charming are pushing Emma and Neil to try dating and Emma just doesn’t seem interested. The Hook, Neil, Emma love triangle seems to continue.

It’s amazing how much nothing really happens in this episode. Pan, which is the most important part of the story becomes a subplot. Pan’s number one goal is to get into Regina’s tomb where she keeps all of her magic. In order to get in there, Pan calls his shadow to wreak havoc on the town. The shadow attacks the Blue Fairy: Yes! I have never liked her and I think the show is evolving to explore the darker side of her. I’m intrigued to see what they might do with Blue and Tinker Bell.

This of course makes Emma’s gut feeling push her to get the box where Henry is imprisoned. They all find out that Pan is in fact Henry. At the same time Regina takes Henry/Pan to her tomb for safety. This is exactly where he wants to be. He knocks her out and steals the curse Regina originally unleashed on the Magical Kingdom.  Dunt dunt duh. With that, the episode ends. Up next week is the winter finally.

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Possibilities and predictions: I don’t think the Blue Fairy is truly dead. Not many are truly dead in Once Upon a Time.  We all know that Pan has to sacrifice what he loves most in order for the curse to work. Is it Gold? I hope it’s not. I hope it’s a little darker than that. But, we can’t forget the prophecy: “The child will be your undoing.” Since Pan is in Henry’s body I wonder if  this is  how the undoing will work out?

Pandora’s box: It releases all the ills for the world and at the bottom there is hope. I believe Henry still remains to be that hope now that he is out of the box. This still plays into my idea that Henry is the once and future king.

Magical Kingdom: We haven’t seen the Magical Kingdom since Mulan and Aurora had their moment. Does this mean both landscapes will once again become one? What about Robin Hood and his Merry Men? It would seem both groups will need to come together to defeat Pan.

Overall, “The New Neverland” gets a D. There was too much useless story that really didn’t need to be there. But, I can’t get give it an F. I enjoyed Regina and Emma’s dynamic and their ability to work together to protect their son. I’m also intrigued by Blue and The Shadow. With so many new characters being introduced I’m curious how they will all begin to fit together.

written by Jené Conrad

In Defense of Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager

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I’ve been hitting my head against a wall the last couple of days trying to figure out the best introductory article I could write. I always hope for something that would awe and amaze. However, all of my ideas could be dissertations and long drawn out tangents better suited for a bar. So, for now I’ll start with something I can always talk about: Star Trek.  More specifically Voyager, because if I’m going to go on a tangent, Captain Janeway seems like a good place to start.

I’m a fan of most Trek series, but for me, my first obsessive relationship with Star Trek began with Voyager. It was the first series I was old enough to watch as it aired on television. Countless actors and writers have talked to the fact that seeing certain characters on Trek have deeply impacted their creative adult lives. The biggest example being Whoopi Goldberg and her first introduction to  Lt. Uhura of the original Star Trek series.  Uhura gave Whoopi a female black role model that existed outside positions of service help. It seemed plausible that there was a future where white people could get past racial bias and stereotypes. For a child this kind of inspiration is monumental.  When Whoopi was older, she went to Gene Roddenberry asking for a part on the The Next Generation and thus Ginan was born. She in turn inspired many more sci-fi watchers.

Seeing Captain Janeway on the screen was my Lt.. Uhura moment. As much as I love other Trek characters, there will always be a special place in my heart for the cast of Voyager. Janeway stuck with me in a way that still clings to me in adulthood. I think Trek was the first place viewers saw women who talked less about their romantic relationships and more about the dynamics of their careers and their relationships to the scientific world around them. Janeway was the ultimate role model for me. Here was a woman who was not only a Captain in charge of star-ship but first and foremost a scientist. On top of being a scientist, there was the added burden of getting her crew out of the Delta Quadrant and back home.

Watching Captain Janeway talk to Da Vinci in order to work out scientific problems made my heart giddy. While I never grew up to be a scientist, watching Janeway was the first time I felt my mind was represented in media. What I mean by this, is that while I can be a romantic, what I valued more was my creativity and my intelligence. Janeway let me know that this was okay. I finally felt it was okay to be intelligent first and something that my emotional relationships could exist in tandem with.  She taught me I didn’t have to be alone in my mind, that I could base my relationships off of intellectual interests. To this day I haven’t compromised my need to connect to people in an intellectual level.

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Janeway was constantly discussing and debating with Kess, B’elanna, and Seven of 9 in ways that were complex and dynamic and reached past romantic love. These women were her go to experts, the ones who saw her plans through. Then, there was Chakotay, a man who was okay with being second in command. He respected her power wholeheartedly as an authority and as a scientific thinker. In the seven seasons she was on air, her character was never compromised or changed to fit a mold our culture needs women to belong to. In turn, I never compromise my intelligence in order to fit in with what others expect of me. That is why Science Fiction exists, to give us a future that is socially evolved and different from our own. It is the last place where we can hold on to our optimism that says we will one day exist in a better world and in one where we are fleshed out and dynamic individuals. For some of us nerds, Science Fiction is the last home we have.

There is a reason Science Fiction doesn’t get the respect it deserves; it’s trying to articulate what other stories ignore. That there is a place for everyone, that there are people who will fight for it. These are the  stories that inspired millions to be the change the want to see in futures to come.

Voyager may be the least liked series of the franchise, but it will always remain my favorite. There, I’ve said it! Voyager is my favorite Star Trek series and I will continue to defend it until the end.  Many more tangents on the subject to come later. Till then, cheers!

written by Jené Conrad