The Princess Bride Board Game Is an Inconceivably Good Idea @ io9

Turning only one part of The Princess Bride into a board game is an exercise in futility—the framing device is what makes the whole damn thing shine in the first place. So Ravensburger’s new attempt to actually incorporate that into its tabletop adaptation of the classic is a really neat idea.

Read more...

New York Comic Con going virtual in 2020, will host live YouTube panels instead @ Syfy Wire

Well, it's official: New York Comic Con's 2020 edition will be going totally digital as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to prevent large gatherings of people. While we'll be missing the cosplay and nerd-based energy that inhabits Manhattan's Javits Center every fall, the news isn't all bad. The annual event's organizer, ReedPOP, announced that it would be partnering with YouTube to host live-streamed panels from "leading entertainment brands" between Oct. 8-11.

Unlike the programming for Comic-Con@Home, fans will actually be able to participate in virtual Q&As with their favorite celebrities and creators, turning "every panel into a watch party and geek out with other fans using YouTube’s Community and Live Chat features," promises the release.

Starz's American Gods, CBS All Access' Star Trek Universe, DreamWorks Animation, Hulu and FX are among the recognizable shows, networks, and platforms taking part. More participants will be announced in the coming weeks.

"We are thoroughly disappointed that we can’t gather together, in-person for the New York Comic Con we love to build and our fans love to revel in. We look forward to this weekend all year long, just like you, and with this being our 15th edition, we were particularly excited. I will miss walking up and down artist alley and seeing friends that I’ve made since we were in the basement at the Javits Center," Lance Fensterman, president of ReedPOP, said in a statement. "While this year will definitely be a different experience, we are going to look to bring the best and most engaging event to our fans, exhibitors, and studios through our partnership with YouTube."

ReedPOP has already confirmed another digital convention, Metaverse, which is scheduled to kick off this Thursday.


Doom Patrol showrunner opens up about how the pandemic led to that cliffhanger S2 finale @ Syfy Wire

If you thought Season 2 of Doom Patrol ended a bit abruptly, you were not alone. The accaimed DC Universe series left its heroes in a strange predicament at the end of its first season, but the second season conclusion left us with an even steeper cliffhanger. This time, though, it wasn't by design. According to showrunner Jeremy Carver, we have production shutdowns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic to thank for the where we left things with the world's strangest superheroes. 

**Spoiler warning: There are spoilers for the Doom Patrol Season 2 finale ahead!**

The Season 2 finale, "Wax Patrol," seemed to be setting the stage for both an epic final battle and a major reveal. While Jane struggled with her own mysteries in the Underground, including an effort to uncover who "Miranda" really was and what exactly happened to create the Miranda issues all those years ago, the rest of the team headed off to help Dorothy in her fight with The Candlemaker. With the stage set for a showdown, the team began a battle with their own childhood imaginary friends and then...well, they lost. When we left them at the end of Season 2, Larry, Rita, and Cliff were encased in wax prisons by The Candlemaker, leaving Dorothy to battle him alone. 

If it seemed like a tricky place to leave things, that's because it was. In an interview with TV Line, Carver explained that there actually were plans for a 10th episode in Season 2, but as a shutdown loomed over the cast and crew, he and his team were forced to adapt "Wax Patrol" to become the substitute season finale. 

"We knew we were facing a potential shutdown [while working on Episode 9], so we were able to do a bit of a pivot and make sure that Episode 9 would be just as satisfying of a conclusion to the season as if we had moved on to Episode 10," Carver explained. "There were probably a few more loose ends than there would have been if we’d gone all the way through Episode 10, but we were very happy with how we were able to structure it to give us a satisfying end to the season."

While the showdown with The Candlemaker is a clear cliffhanger setting certain characters on a path that would kick off a potential third season, the situation with Jane/Miranda is a little trickier. She is, as always, in conflict with herself, trying to get to the bottom of what exactly happened to Miranda, and who the personality claiming to be Miranda actually is. According to Carver, addressing that is a high priority should the series get a chance to return.

I’ll say that you’ll get a better understanding of who that identity is as we move into a new season, should we be lucky enough to get a new season," he said. 

So, now the big question is whether or not Doom Patrol will indeed be back for Season 3 somewhere down the line. While Carver noted that he was pleased at what the show's creative team was able to do in terms of finessing "Wax Patrol" into a season finale, there are of course more storylines to follow, and he'd like to keep following them.

"No one likes to have unanswered questions. I think there’s enough there that people can go away with some satisfaction. There’s a little more we want to say about this, and should we get the opportunity, we’ll be saying it," he said. "I could play coy and say that what you see is what you get, but I’ll be honest with you and the fans. There’s a little more there to deal with, and we’d really love the opportunity to do it."

The entire second season of Doom Patrol is now streaming on DC Universe and HBO Max.

 

Battlestar Galacticast: Remembering Season 4, Episode 6: 'Faith' @ Syfy Wire

Welcome back to Battlestar Galacticast ... time to talk Battlestar Galactica Season 4!

Tune in as Marc Bernardin and Tricia Helfer are joined by director Michael Nankin to discuss BSG Season 4, Episode 6: "Faith." This is the episode in which the mutiny attempt aboard the Demetrius is foiled as Starbuck leads her crew to the Cylon rebel's Basestar. It's also the episode that might be named after a George Michael song. Gotta have it.

Spoiler Alert for Season 4! Listen below ... and watch every episode of Battlestar Galactica on SYFY!

 

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Jurnee Smollett is here to fight monsters and disrupt the system @ Syfy Wire

We first meet Letitia Dandridge as she emerges from a taxi, stepping into her old neighborhood on Chicago's South Side in the midst of a block party. She is dressed impeccably, her flawlessly red lips outlining a hesitant but wistful smile. This party is a burst of Black joy and celebration — and will be a stark contrast to the rest of the episode. Leti's display of vulnerability begins and ends among her community — from here on out, her lipstick and her clothes are her shield, a sartorial act of protecting herself from the hateful white world.

For Jurnee Smollett, who brings Leti to life in HBO's new series Lovecraft Country, she's honoring a long line of Black women who wore dignity like chainmail, the daggers of white supremacy attempting to stab through at every turn. A dignity, as Smollett tells SYFY FANGRRLS, "that [Leti] has in a time in which your dignity was so under attack, in a time in which there was such a mission to erase us as a people."

Since her breakthrough performance in Eve's Bayou all the way to her role as Black Canary in this year's Birds of Prey, Smollett has played characters who won't be erased — within their own stories or to the viewers who love and appreciate these films. And she does so filled with recognition for the women who came before her.

"I recognize my grandmother in [Leti]. I recognize my mother. I recognize so many of these women that are in my DNA and the chance to be able to explore this woman who's really out of place in this time," Smollett says. "In the 1950s, there wasn't a space for someone like her to truly be able to embrace her full self. And yet she does it so defiantly and unapologetically. There were quite a few things that I could relate to about her. This like wanderer spirit who's forever in search of her home."

Smollett never met her grandmother but pulled inspiration from this woman her family nicknamed "Showtime."

"My grandmother was not treated well by the people who employed her. She worked cleaning white folks' homes. And, I always heard stories about how they just mistreated her. And yet she would go to work every single day with her dress ironed, with her hair done, with her lipstick on because she knew she was a walking example of the dignity and the pride of her race" Smollett says. "There was a real mission to be educated. To be an example of the best of who you come from could be, right? And so I love that. I admire that. We come from kings and queens and regardless of how we were treated, we can not be robbed of our dignity."

It is that sensibility, as Smollett shares, the kind of dignity "that we as black people have had continuously throughout history in spite of such undignified treatment," that inspired Leti — specifically her style. "It is part of her armor. It's her way of saying, 'F*** you.' Truly. She knows that it's a weapon that she can use."

In a year where she has appeared in Birds of Prey, The Twilight Zone, and now Lovecraft Country, Smollett has carved out a space in genres that previously wouldn't have her. "I have always been a fan of genre-type storytelling, and unfortunately haven't been able to participate in much of it because most of the scripts I would get offered prior to now within these various genres was the best friend or the Black chick who gets killed on page 33," she says. "For so long, I wasn't really able to participate in it as much until now. I'm in heaven, truly."

Smollett previously worked with Lovecraft Country showrunner Misha Green on the period drama Underground, a series about the Underground Railroad. In Lovecraft, Green, who also wrote for shows like Heroes and Helix, blends these worlds — the world of science fiction and the all-too-real world of racism and the mistreatment and sanctioned murder of Black people. "I'm definitely drawn to stories and characters that create conversations or force us to face really uncomfortable or ugly parts of humanity. And with Lovecraft, it's definitely a radical re-imagining of our history, a history that's unfortunately so overlooked, and I just loved Misha's take on it and how she wanted to execute it," Smollett says. "Her vision was so bold or is so bold and so unapologetic. And I think she's just got such a great gift for maintaining varying tones at the same time."

Smollett has a long history of working with creative women of color whose work is bold and unapologetic. Green, Birds of Prey's Cathy Yan, and all the way back to Kasi Lemmons for Eve's Bayou, which also had a female editor (Terilyn A. Shropshire) and cinematographer (Amy Vincent) — impressive and important now, let alone in 1997. "For me, it's a privilege to be a part of projects in which we are — just through storytelling, just through art — doing our part in dismantling the lies," Smollett says. "I think representation matters. I think that for too long, the gaze has been limited to a cis straight white male. And by doing that, you leave out an entire population of people who are hungry to see themselves reflected in story because every person who's been born loves some element of storytelling, right? Whether it's music or books, theater, film, art, whatever, storytelling is innate, right? It's primal."

In 2020, it should not be remarkable for an actor to have had so many high-profile roles working with female creatives in positions of power, but in 2020 a lot of things should not be, yet are. Over the last few months, the themes and moments of Lovecraft Country are top of mind and relevant in a way that feels purposeful, down to a lingering close-up on an Aunt Jemima billboard. But there is privilege in seeing something as newly relevant — for Black people, these stories are omnipresent, ceaseless, and ever-timely.

"Here's the thing that you must realize is that, as a Black American, unfortunately, this show and the themes that the show tackle — the show could have been released on any day, on any network, or in any month since 1619 and the themes that are explored in the show would have been relevant," Smollett says. "Because as a nation, we have yet to dismantle the systemic racism that we, as Black Americans, are still fighting against. And so the sad thing is, yes, we're touching upon things that feel timely for right now, but because they've been in our history and this nation was formed or stolen, they will forever be timely until we dismantle that system."

Credit: HBO

For Smollett, she's ready to personally do her part to dismantle the dangerous system that has long been the norm for entertainment and society alike. "I learned that I, more than ever, want to disrupt the system. I mean, it's that simple," she says. "I want to be one of the disruptors. There are so many amazing disruptors, and, more than ever, I know I have a very clear path to f*** some sh*t up. I want to tell the story of the other. I want to tell the stories that are not told much, which is what drew me to Lovecraft, drew me to Birds of Prey."

The stories Smollett has been part of telling have been taxing — as an artist and human alike — but they drive her in ways less challenging art could never.

"I'm that crazy type of artist who wants a project to do that to me, like I want to go home thoroughly worn out, thoroughly feeling like there is no way in hell I could get up the next day and give any more, and yet so excited to get the f*** up the next day and go back at it," she says. "And that's what Birds of Prey and Lovecraft did for me. It stretched me beyond limits — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — and cracked open my artistic craft in ways that you hunger for as an artist."

This is the year Jurnee Smollett f***s sh*t up. And we're thrilled just to watch, but beyond that, to disrupt and dismantle right along with her the systems propped up all around us, systems many of us benefit from. This is the year we all fight monsters.

New York Comic Con Has Been Canceled, Will Move Online @ io9

The stretch of sad (but predictable) convention news continues. New York Comic Con 2020, meant to take place in October in Manhattan, has been canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead, ReedPop will be partnering with YouTube to move the convention online, similar to what San Diego Comic-Con did last…

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No rewind necessary: Last Blockbuster store on Earth is available to rent on Airbnb @ Syfy Wire

Streaming may have killed the video store, but there are still some stragglers out there adapting to a new nostalgia-driven business model. The last Blockbuster video store has been through a lot. Located in Bend, Oregon, the store recently saw a boost in tourism from Captain Marvel's throwback cameo. But those wanting a more intimate experience with a franchise that spawned genre geeks galore could now rent something new at the last Blockbuster: a slumber party.

This Airbnb listing, posted by the store's manager Sandi Harding, advertises three nights where locals can nab an overnight stay at a relic to media consumption's recent past. On September 18, 19, and 20, lucky local groups (up to four people in size, all of whom must be from the same household) can get the key to the store for a single night — and no it definitely isn't haunted in a "get a million dollars from the will if you spend the night in the spooky mansion" way.

Instead, these "socially-distanced movie nights" (Harding requires key pick-ups to be conducted in masks and following the 6ft. distance protocol) will be spent slamming movies both classic and B, eating snacks, and crashing on the sofa bed. And the '90s prices are there too: It's only $4 a night. Lucky Deschutes County residents are getting a heck of a deal, all for cheaper than a rental of Jumanji. All they have to remember to do is be kind and rewind.

The last Blockbuster will give back to the community by making a donation to the Humane Society of Central Oregon. Fans can book their stay here when the listing goes live on Aug. 17 at 4pm EST.

 

WIRE Buzz: Lovecraft Country podcast; Ghostbusters shares raw FX footage; The Amityville Harvest @ Syfy Wire

One of the summer’s most hotly anticipated genre shows just announced an accompanying podcast looking to guide fans through its dangerous lands. Lovecraft Country’s tentacled and unknowable evils desperately need navigating — and Lovecraft Country Radio is here to help.

Series writer Shannon Houston teams up with host Ashley C. Ford in this introductory episode, which explores the adaptation strategy taken by showrunner Misha Green from Matt Ruff's novel, the experience of the writers room, and the series’ influences.

Take a listen:

The show will take on a recap role once the series premieres — likely leaving fans with less homework than the pre-air episode — helping viewers get through the dense series in the most insightful way possible.

Lovecraft Country hits HBO on Aug. 16.


Next, warnings to not cross the streams have been present in geek culture since 1984’s Ghostbusters’ climactic scene atop a New York apartment building. Now fans can get a glimpse behind the scenes at what it looked like when Venkman, Ray, Egon, and Winston didn’t have any streams coming out of their proton packs — all pre-viz, raw, uncorrected footage.

Released on the Ghostbusters YouTube channel, the scene is presented in splitscreen, showing the final version with its iconic glowing proton energy streams and the original version with its...acting. Seeing the ‘Busters flail around with nothing at all is pretty entertaining.

Check it out:

Thank Zuul for special effects. Not to take away from the acting abilities of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, or Ernie Hudson, but that scene really — really — needed those beams. And the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, of course.

Fans can next feel good thanks to bustin’ when director Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife hits theaters — hopefully on March 5, 2021.


Finally, it's time to head back to Amityville. Sorry for those fans that don't want to be haunted, but we don't make the rules. Lionsgate does. The Amityville Harvest looks to enter into the extensive horror canon based around the famous Lutz family haunting, and it's dropped its first footage today.

Written and directed by Thomas J. Churchill, the film sets a documentary team into a very evil mansion with a host that can't be filmed. That seems like bad pre-production work and a definite recipe for spooky behavior.

Horror fans can watch the first trailer below:

Vincent Miller is up to no good - and that old-school trailer voiceover...beautiful. The film stars Sadie Katz. Paul Logan, Julie Anne Prescott, Eileen Dietz, and Kyle Lowder in all its gory, butchery glory.

The Amityville Harvest hits DVD, Digital, and On Demand on Oct. 20 - plenty of time to organize a distanced Halloween screening.

 

The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Talking Cats @ io9

Cats are mysterious creatures, and we often wish we could know what they’re saying every time they meow, hiss, or calmly walk away. Well, what if you could? Talking cats are a surprisingly robust part of sci-fi and fantasy storytelling—probably because we’re so damn eager to know what these creatures really think of…

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Dwarf Planet Ceres Has a Secret Saltwater Ocean @ io9

Scientists are attributing the mysterious bright spots on Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt, to a gigantic reservoir of salty water beneath the dwarf planet’s crust.

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Get Rec'd: Eight YA SFF reads to pick up in August @ Syfy Wire

The latest batch of YA SFF is here. August promises epic debut fantasy worlds, the return of everyone's favorite sparkly vampire, ALIENS, nine-tailed foxes, space operas, and so much more. YA SFF has a wide range of books to kick you out of that reading slump or give you something to take your mind off the state of the world, even if it's just for even an evening.

Stephenie Meyer's long-awaited Midnight Sun has had a 12-year lead-up, but it's finally here. For debut authors, releasing during a pandemic is tough. There's uncertainty and fear, which is the natural state of authors, but even more so for those whose first novels are entering the market. So if you're looking to support some SFF, give them some extra consideration. We have a dazzling few for you to choose from! 

Tuesday's Best Deals: Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones, Tacklife T8 Jump Starter, Tide Pods, Everlane Masks, Yamazaki Home Goods, and More @ io9

Boeing 747s Still Use Floppy Disks to Get Critical Software Updates @ io9

It’s been approximately 12 million years since most of us last used a floppy disk, but apparently, the antiquated tech still plays a critical role in delivering software updates to Boeing’s 747-400 planes.

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Disney loses billions due to theme park closures, and the effects are starting to show @ Syfy Wire

Hello and welcome to another week of Theme Park News! Summer (or the lack thereof) may be winding down, but this one’s a doozy with lots of math by way of earnings calls (whew!) and the nitty-gritty about theme park admission and all ways it can be sliced and diced.

Beyond that, we’ve got some dreams of Disneyland, some updates on last week’s shenanigans, and a look inside why the athletes at one of Disney World’s resorts may have some nautical ground to stand on when it comes to their last-seeded hotel pick:

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

Shutting down all your global theme park resorts isn’t exactly great for business, and The Walt Disney Company’s third-quarter earnings call last week showed just how detrimental the pandemic-related closures were. Its Parks, Experiences and Products division, home to Disney’s theme park resorts, posted losses of $2 billion for its parks, part of $3.5 billion in losses division-wide; it was the most significant hit across the company, due to most of its resorts and hotels and cruise lines ceasing operations for the duration of the quarter. 

Sadly, the call’s Q&A portion did not reveal any updates on theme park budgets and related cuts or delays — $900 million of them are anticipated, as mentioned by CEO Bob Chapek on last quarter’s call — but we did get word that Walt Disney World reopening was financially worthwhile, echoing Comcast’s call and Universal Orlando Resort’s report from the week prior, yet not as much as they had once hoped.

SeaWorld Entertainment announced its second-quarter financials yesterday, as well, with revenue dropping 95 percent to $18 million due to pandemic-related closures. Iron Gwazi, the much-anticipated hybrid coaster coming to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker launch coaster are officially delayed until 2021. Opening details for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, scheduled to open this summer at Walt Disney World, have not yet been revealed. (SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and SeaWorld San Antonio have reopened, but like Disney and Universal, the company's California resort —  SeaWorld San Diego — has not yet opened.)

And then there's one more theme park closure — well, potential closure — that is hanging in the balance. Orlando Sentinel's Gabrielle Russon reported that IAAPA Expo, the annual theme park entertainment convention that showcases new products and technology for various parks, may not go on.

Yes, may not go on. Scheduled for mid-November 2020, the story states a decision will be made in early September — a surprising turn considering our country and Florida's COVID-19 caseloads and the inherent danger in gathering large groups of travelers into an indoor space. Several exhibitors have canceled, but the event preliminarily proceeding raises a lot of questions, particularly in terms of encouraging domestic and international travel to Florida, as the coronavirus continues across America. The same paper reports that Orange County is seeing a decline in COVID-19 cases, but the pandemic has not gone away. Clearly, its long-term effect on Central Florida’s tourist-heavy market and beyond cannot be understated.

Credit: Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

THE LONG AND SHORT(ENED HOURS) OF THINGS

These days, Walt Disney World theme parks are unusually empty, due to capacity restrictions put in place to promote social distancing resort-wide. Truth is, yes, you can get on the rides extremely quickly compared to “before times”; even with weekends looking busier, the wait times aren’t as long as they used to be this time last summer. Still, many Walt Disney World experiences are not currently available. Pricey productions like fireworks are on pause, stage shows are (well, mostly) halted, and character meet-and-greets are amended into cavalcades yet essentially unavailable in their prior form.

These changes all make sense and I’m in full support of them; safety must come first when publicly opening a theme park amid a pandemic, while Florida was hitting record-breaking case numbers. But it’s also quite clear that, for many who visit Disney World, the drawbacks may not outweigh the benefits, particularly as there will soon be even less time to spend in the parks.

Starting on Sept. 8, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will operate one less hour daily, while Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will cut two hours off their schedules. Yes, it absolutely makes financial sense for them if crowds are thinner than expected — but it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the rest of us, shedding light on a predicament among Disney fans, especially Passholders.

As reported by local news outlets and anyone with a theme park-skewing Twitter feed over the past week, some of Disney’s most loyal customers are frustrated. A new Park Pass calendar — put into place to curb crowding in the park and limit attendance prior to reopening — has made it somewhat difficult to plan visits. Reservations are required and limited to three per guest at a time, but even with additional access added, availability is limited. With half of Walt Disney World's guests coming from out of market, Passholders who would traditionally come from a farther distance would need to stay at a Disney hotel to visit all four parks or simply book more than three days of reservations.

I understand why some Passholders are upset. Although I personally have no plans to travel back right now, my Annual Pass, which typically grants access to all four Walt Disney World parks every day of the year, won’t let me into any of them for the next two weeks. All spots are taken. I wouldn’t be able to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios for over a month, and if I wanted to go on a weekend? I’d have to wait until Oct. 18 — over two months from now, despite having already paid for daily access. Yes, passes were extended for the length of park closures and then some, and many plan further ahead than that, but combine Park Pass availability with the temporary removal of park hopping, fewer offerings, hours being cut back, and that some are understandably wary about visiting the parks, particularly if it requires travel, and it’s obvious: It doesn’t make much sense for some to keep their Annual Passes. 

Now, Disney has been extremely flexible with Annual Passholder cancellation and refund options throughout the resort’s park closures, no doubt, and a recent 30 percent merchandise discount doesn’t go unnoticed. But, in some cases, you’re getting significantly less than what you paid for and you’re more likely to be unable to access it. It's why some WDW Passholders took advantage of the option to cancel their passes by today, receiving pro-rated refunds calculated by way of an equation that is customized to each guest.

It’s a real conundrum for Annual Passholders but also a burn for ticketholders, too, as hours are slashed and experiences are amended as ticket prices remain the same. And, on top of it, deals for locals nearly incentivize choosing a discounted ticket and visiting less frequently to avoid the headache of selecting dates, as the Park Pass calendar remains wide open for ticketholders. (Universal also just launched a deal for locals that grants access for nearly the rest of the year with one day's admission; Disney World hotel guests, regardless of admission type, are also granted better availability to Park Passes, though block-out dates still apply.)

It's tough to unexpectedly let go of the last thing tethering one's self to the memories and joy theme parks bring, but 2020 is not a normal year by any means, and this proves it even more.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

There have been a lot of at-home incarnations of theme parks during pandemic times. We've covered plenty of them! But this creation from artist and designer Don Carson is different.

When you push this video to full-screen and focus closely, I don't know, it really does feel like you're there, back in the parks, back in time, back experiencing the original artistry of this early Disneyland ride, and for a moment... everything is perfect:

LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!

- The publicly adored operator of the Griffith Park Carousel, where Walt Disney famously had the first idea for Disneyland, has sadly passed away.

- Disney Cruise Line cancellations have now been extended through mid-November.

- Didn't think more ride weirdness could happen after last week? Think again!

- planDisney will replace the can't-believe-it-was-still-called-that Moms Panel.

- Some interesting stuff in this interview with one of Epcot's executive chefs.

- Haunted Mansion Crocs!

- Looks like Disney's forthcoming lakefront retreat and its A-frame cabins are kaput.

SYFY and Universal Theme Parks are properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

Tenet's Editor on How She Got Over Being 'Intimidated' by the Film's Intense Action Scenes @ io9

Editing any big-budget movie is a challenge, but Tenet’s editor faced two major hurdles. Not only was her background in indie dramas, not blockbusters, but director Christopher Nolan was calling it “the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut.” Jennifer Lame is sharing how she got over the hump and found the…

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Massive Warner Layoffs Gut DC Comics, DC Universe @ io9

The merger between AT&T and Time Warner into another monolithic media megacorporation has seen a massive wave of layoffs targeted primarily at Warner Bros. this week. One area hit hardest overnight was DC Entertainment, with reports of huge swathes of staff at both DC Comics and DC Universe laid off.

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Chosen One of the Day: Tom Hiddleston’s love for Chili's @ Syfy Wire

OK, OK, OK way back in 2011 — a brief moment of silence for the Before Times — Tom Hiddleston, best known for playing our beloved chaotic bastard Loki, gave an interview to Collider at D23. He was promoting the first Avengers movie, due out the following year — god, were we ever so young? — and in it, he shared a very relatable anecdote about wanting a good chicken sandwich. 

Apparently, it was Clark Gregg who spilled the beans, because the interviewer starts by saying, 
“Clark Gregg told a funny story about you, saying that you discovered a great restaurant in Alberquerque called Chili’s.” And Hiddles’ reaction as to what he knows is coming is great. 

Credit: Collider

 

“It’s true,” He says after composing himself. “I discovered Chili’s in Alberquerque.” 

By which he means he asked his driver where he could get a “really nice grilled chicken sandwich.” 

An aside to say that, I, too, often have hankerings for my favorite kind of sandwich, Tom. Call me. 

And his driver was like, bro, let me blow your mind. 

Honestly, what I’m learning from this interview is that Chili’s is the reason we have such a great Loki in the MCU. So thank you for that gift, Chili’s. 

Credit: Collider

“I’ll always have Chili’s.” Tom’s echoing my own dreams, these days. 

‘The last mission’: Space battles, super powers in trailer for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series finale @ Syfy Wire

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comes to an end this week, and ABC has dropped a final trailer to set up the series finale — and it’s guaranteed to blow your mind and squeeze out some tears in the process.

The story this season has found the S.H.I.E.L.D. team bouncing across time, chasing high-tech aliens who are aiming to sabotage our time stream to take over the Earth for themselves. They’ve rewritten the MCU timeline, and the season finale kicks off with a seemingly unstoppable alien fleet in orbit taking out every S.H.I.E.L.D. base on the planet. All seems lost, which means it’s finally time for “the last mission.”

So what can we glean about the two-hour finale, airing Wednesday night on ABC? We get to see some major space battles, with the Zephyr facing off with a fleet of Chronicom ships; some super-powered fight scenes involving Yo-Yo’s super-speed and Daisy’s quake powers. There are also some glimpses of long-missing team member Fitz (Iain De Caestecker), who looks to finally make his return for the finale. Here’s hoping he brings some answers with him.

Check out the trailer below:

The framing really does a good job of setting the history and stakes here, as this team has become a makeshift family over the past seven years. Flashbacks interspersed with new footage is always fun. They’ve come so far, it’d really be a shame for the Chronicoms to destroy the world and erase that progress. Good luck, agents.

Block Out the World With $72 off Sony's WH-1000XM3 Headphones, Today Only @ io9

Updates From Wonder Woman 1984, The Boys, and More @ io9

The Boys recruits an Iceman to play with fire. Netflix is making a new sci-fi “eco-fable” for kids. Nickelodeon’s weird plans for Spongebob expand with another new spinoff. Plus, Agents of SHIELD looks back ahead of its grand finale, and a new tease for Hulu’s take on Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Spoilers now!

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The sky is falling! Here's how to watch tonight's Perseid meteor shower @ Syfy Wire

As the Earth orbits the Sun, every year around this time it plows through the debris left behind by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. These tiny bits of rock — most no bigger than a grain of sand — slam into our atmosphere and burn up in a second or two a hundred kilometers above our heads. You can usually see one or two meteors per minute if you’re lucky. And if you do, you are witnessing the Perseid meteor shower, one of the best of the year.

The meteoroids (the solid bits of dust/rock) are spread out across a wide region of space, so the shower technically starts in mid-July and lasts until late August, though for most of that time it’s pretty weak. But it peaks over a few days, providing a larger number per hour, so your best bet is to watch during that time. For this year, 2020, the peak is tonight and tomorrow night (the night/mornings of 11/12 and 12/13 August).

A meteor flashes over the ALMA observatory in Chile. The different colors correspond to different elements vaporizing and glowing at characteristic wavelengths. Credit: ESO / C. Malin 

In general it’s best to go out after local midnight (literally halfway through the night, so around 01:00) because that’s when the part of the Earth you’re on is facing into the direction of Earth’s motion, increasing the number of meteors; this is the same effect as rain always appearing to come from in front of you when you drive through it in a car.

However, tonight the 3rd quarter Moon rises around midnight and is bright enough to spoil things somewhat. It probably won’t be bad until about 3AM, though, when it’s high enough to light up the sky. Tomorrow night it rises an hour later, so that’s better.

But still, you don’t have to be up at the wee hours to see the meteors. Any time after 10PM should be OK, it’s just that you won’t see as many. Be patient!

So what do you need to do to see them?

A good idea, but I suspect Photoshop. Credit: Not an Exact Science Show, used by permission

You don’t need a telescope, and in fact I suggest you don’t set one up; if you’re looking through the eyepiece you’ll miss the meteors. Instead, you want to be in a place that’s dark and has a wide-open view of the sky — those are the two most important things. Some meteors are faint, so the darker the site the better, and the more sky you can see the more meteors you’ll see. I usually grab a blanket and find a spot far from trees and streetlights. If you have a chaise longue or something like that, even better. Comfort is key.

Also, your eyes take a good 20 minutes to get adapted to the dark, so it’s best to be patient and don’t give up after 15 minutes if you haven’t seen anything! If you have binoculars you can spend that time stargazing a bit. That’s what I usually do.

I’ve written about observing meteor showers many, many times. Here’s my write-up for the 2016 Perseids; ignore the specific dates because those are for that year, but the overall instructions should be helpful. I also have a FAQ there that should answer most of your questions about why we get meteor showers, what they are, how to watch, and more. Other sites with good info include EarthSky, Time and Date, and Sky and Telescope. Another site, MeteorShowers.org, has a cool interactive animation of the shower, too.

Crash Course Astronomy: Meteors, Meteoroids, and Meteorites, Oh My!

There are a few things I want to point out, though, for you to think about as you watch the meteors zipping across the sky.

  • These individual grains are moving at about 60 kilometers per second, or nearly 200,000 kilometers per hour. That’s fast. It’s not friction with the atmosphere that burns them up so much as pressure; they ram the air hard, and when you compress a gas it heats up. If I’ve done my math right, a meteor 1 mm in size that burns up in one second gives off very roughly 10–100 Watts of power, which is a lot. That’s why it can look so bright even from a hundred or more kilometers away.

  • They’re no danger to us, because they burn up so high in the air. The odds of the Space Station getting hit by one are pretty low, though astronauts have seen meteors burning up below them!  


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A Perseid meteor taken by astronaut Ron Garan on board the International Space Station in 2001. Credit: NASA

  • About a hundred tons of meteors burn up in our air every day. That’s equivalent to a single spherical rock about a meter across.

  • Did you know you can listen to the shower? The vapor trail left by a meteor reflects radio waves, creating a radio echo that, when translated into sound, can be quite eerie. Here’s a site where you can listen live, and a web search will turn up lots more.

  • Meteors tend to streak away from one point in the sky called the radiant. This is the same perspective effect as driving through a tunnel and seeing all the roof lights appearing to come from the vanishing point ahead of you. The location of the radiant on the sky gives the shower its name; in this case it’s in the constellation Perseus. When you see one flash, track the meteor’s path back and it should point toward Perseus. If it doesn’t, it’s likely just a stray meteor, what we call a sporadic.

  • The farthest away you can see a meteor (when it’s on your horizon) is a little over 1100 kilometers. But it’s hard to see them that low, so most of the ones you see are much closer, but rarely closer than 90 km (when one burns up directly over you).

  • Most meteors look white because they’re not bright enough to trigger the cones in your eye, the cells that detect color. But they do have colors! They correspond to different compositions. Orangey-yellow is sodium, which isn’t hugely abundant in meteors but tends to glow brightly when heated. Green is magnesium, yellow is iron. Can you spot any colors in the meteors you see?


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So get out there and take a look if you can! There are several showers during the year, but the Perseids is one of the best; the Geminids in December are actually better but it’s a bit harder to observe in the dead of winter for northern hemisphereans (note: That link to the Geminids has more viewing advice for showers, too).

Meteor showers are lovely and fun for the family. Kids get to stay up late and everyone gets to oooohhh and ahhhhhh when they see one. I hope y’all get to go out and watch the heavens fall.

Apple's Understanding of Games Is So Narrow It's Screwing Itself @ io9

When most people think of Apple, video games aren’t the first thing to come to mind. Photo- or video-editing, of course, or some other type of creative work, but not gaming. That’s because of the way Apple designs and markets its products.

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Aesop’s Fables: The Sick Stag @ Bureau 42

Some friends, I tell ya.

Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bedtime-in-the-public-domain/message

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Author: W. Blaine Dowler

DC Comics, DC Universe staffers laid off in major Warner Media reshuffling @ Syfy Wire

The rise of HBO Max has led to major layoffs at DC.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, following the launch of its premiere streaming service, Warner Media has decided to let go of a slew of high-powered executives at DC Comics and sister streaming service DC Universe as part of a major restructuring now underway. SYFY WIRE confirms that DC Comics COO Jim Lee will remain in his position and that his duties will expand to include supervising the creative side on all future DC-related initiatives.

Among the biggest names being let go are DC's editor-in-chief Bob Harris, executive editor Mark Doyle, and senior story editor Brian Cunningman. Suffering similar fates are some major players on the publicity and marketing side, most notably senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, and VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase.

The loss of Doyle is a particularly tough blow for fans of DC's Black Label, the imprint he helped spearhead in 2018, which published graphic novels aimed at a more mature audience. No word on who'll be replacing him.

The corporate realignment also caused an earthquake at DC Universe, which saw the majority of its staff lose their jobs.

The once promising video-on-demand service was meant to be the vanguard leading Warner Bros. into the streaming wars. Now it's one exclusive original show, Doom Patrol, is popping up under the DC option in HBO Max's ever expanding hub, stirring speculation that DC Universe may eventually be aborbed by the more prestige streaming service.

Among the hundreds of layoffs at Warner Media today were numerous high-profile executves at Warner Bros. as well.


 

Seth Rogen explains how MCU's $200M 'comedies' put other movie makers in a pickle @ Syfy Wire

Making a good comedy movie isn’t easy, especially when the MCU is your big-budget competition. From 2008’s Iron Man onward, big-hearted goofballs like Hulk and Thor have been vying with Doctor Strange’s wisecracks and Tony Stark’s snark to create hilarious screen tension that gives fans more than just CGI action and save-the-world heroics.

In short, the MCU is good at being funny — and that, says funny dude Seth Rogen, just makes other comedic movie makers’ jobs harder.

Speaking with Total Film to promote his new time-traveling, fish-out-of-water comedy An American Pickle, Rogen pointed out a widely known, but often neglected MCU fact: Most of its biggest stars and stories serve up huge laughs, even as they tackle high-stakes, world-threatening menaces summoned from the farthest realms.

HBO Max on YouTube

“[S]omething that me and [producing partner] Evan [Goldberg] talk about a lot is how Marvel movies are comedies,” Rogen said. “Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy. Ant-Man is a comedy at its core…There are $200 million comedies out there, and so that's something, as a comedic filmmaker, to be aware of. That is the benchmark that people expect! If you're going to make a big huge comedy, just know that your competition is, like, Marvel.”

If that feels like criticism that the biggest box office fish have a way of edging out the little guys for laughs, it’s not. Rogen sounds like a huge admirer of the MCU’s ability to find comedy gold by casting naturally hilarious A-list stars for roles that have them swinging between epic action and delightfully welcome moments of pure silliness, like Thor in Surtur’s lair. “They are legitimately funny [movies] and star comedy stars,” Rogen said.

What can an aspiring film comedian do in the face of Marvel’s infinity gauntlet of funny firepower? Let the big-budget movies worry about mixing in humor with their special effects and grand universal ideas, and instead just focus on the things that money can’t buy — like endearing characters and a story that lets them find the humor in smaller moments.

Or, in other words, find a way to be just as funny as Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok, or Ryan Reynold’s mouthy merc in Deadpool — but just on a smaller scale.

“Audiences still love comedy, and they want that – Deadpool – but the scope of them is huge,” he said. “So when you're not offering them that scope, you have to think, 'What am I offering them?' … What we're offering is pure comedy and emotion and relatability and nostalgia. That's the trade-off. You don't get to see the God of Thunder being hilarious, but you get to see something that maybe represents your actual life, and that's very gratifying in another way.”

Plus, when it comes to crazy costumes, time travel, and saving the whole universe in general, Rogen already has plenty of experience putting his own comedic touch on science fiction. He and Goldberg executive produced Hulu’s Future Man (with Rogen himself playing an idiotic media executive of the future), and An American Pickle finds his early-1900s immigrant character waking from a 100-year nap to bumble into one funny mistake after another in modern-day America.

Produced by Rogen, Goldberg, and The Boys co-EP James Weaver, An American Pickle is streaming now on HBO Max.


U.S. video game sales hit historic high as people stay home to play @ Syfy Wire

In a historic high, people in the U.S. just set a new record for shelling out for video games, turning more than ever before to interactive entertainment for the three-month period from April through June.

Mega-releases from the first half of 2020 including The Last of Us Part II, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and (of course) Animal Crossing: New Horizons all helped power games spending to the highest levels ever seen for a single quarter in the U.S., according to newly-released sales info from data analyst NPD Group. Game sales surged in the second quarter from April-June, leaping 30 percent over last year’s same-period total for a record $11.6 billion on hardware and peripherals, services, and the games themselves.

Perhaps signaling that gaming has taken its place alongside TV binging as stay-at-home comfort food, the list of games that drove much of players’ epic splurge is a who’s-who list of big, familiar titles. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Warzone, Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Final Fantasy VII: Remake, Grand Theft Auto V, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, Minecraft, NBA 2K20, Pokémon Go and The Last of Us: Part II were among the best-performing titles of the second quarter,” reported NPD.

With all three major game consoles now well-established and new ones on the way soon from Sony and Microsoft, the vast majority of that $11.6 billion figure went directly for games. Sales of game titles on their own reportedly accounted for $10.2 billion of the huge number, with “only” $848 million spent on console hardware. Even so, the hardware spending still represents an enormous jump from last year: “Strong growth across Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One led to an overall hardware category sales increase of 57%,” the report notes.

Putting things in context, NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said that it’s hard not to associate the across-the-board surge with the new realities of finding more entertainment at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

“During the pandemic, many have turned to video games not only to keep them preoccupied, but also to stay in touch with family and friends,” he wrote. “This has resulted in an acceleration of what were already established trends towards heightened video game player engagement. I don’t see any signs of this slowing down.”

With movie theaters still reluctant to reopen en masse and release dates for nearly all blockbusters deferred until getting outdoors gets back to normal, it’s hard to argue with that prediction. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are waiting in the wings for big product launches later this year, too, alongside launches for huge AAA games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. So if we’re all still keeping things close to home through the second half of the year, at least we won’t be starved for gaming options.


Image's 'Dracula, Motherf**ker' graphic novel takes a knife to Bram Stoker's vampire tale @ Syfy Wire

With a sly nod to pulpy, grindhouse horror cinema of the Swingin' Seventies, a new vampire graphic novel from Image Comics hopes to resurrect the subgenre and deliver a scary swagger to readers as we slowly approach Halloween — and SYFY WIRE is sharing an exclusive bite out of its entrancing story.

Written by bestselling author Alex de Campi (No Mercy, Bad Girls, Archie vs Predator) and adorned with spellbinding artwork by Eisner Award winner Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Jughead), Dracula, Motherf**ker arrives in comic shops Oct. 7. It's a tempting 72-page twist on the familiar Bram Stoker terror saga, this time set in the shadows of Southern California's Hollywood dreamland and 19th century Austria.

Credit: Image Comics

Drifting between two distinct timelines, Dracula, Motherf**ker ventures beyond the old world charm of Vienna in 1889 as the vampire king's petulant brides nail him to the bottom of his coffin, then onward to Los Angeles of 1974, where a has-been starlet decides to raise the stakes. Dedicated crime scene photographer Quincy Harker the is sole man who witnesses the horror and knows how it happened, but will anyone believe him before he gets a white chalk outline of his own? 

Credit: Image Comics

De Campi believes Dracula is one of those classic horror tales that people like to claim they’re doing bold reimaginings of, but they’re actually just dusting Stoker’s old story off and moving it to another room in the house.

"Honestly I think it’s because a lot of the people who rewrite Dracula specifically are men, so it tends to become a bit of a power fantasy," De Campi tells SYFY WIRE. "I mean, Dracula absolutely is a power fantasy, but it’s not an attractive one. The brides and lady victims are there to spur the hero into action, that’s all. But the brides are the most interesting characters, if done well (and they never are). Why did they choose to marry Dracula? Why did Georgina Chapman marry Harvey Weinstein? Why did Melania marry Donald? Don’t say it was love; none of us are that naïve. Or at least, not love of the man. Love of what comes with him, sure, I’d buy that. They are victims, yes, but they are not the blameless and perfect sort of victim that popular narratives like. But that’s why they’re exciting. They thought they knew what they were doing, but it turned out to be ever so much worse than they expected." 

Credit: Image Comics

"The influences on Drac Mofo come from things like the Japanese epic tales (Heike and Genji) which deal a lot with women who ally themselves with power, and what happens when that power moves on," De Campi adds. "There’s also a lot of the abstraction of horror anime in the presentation of Dracula — we don’t diminish him by making him just a man, or even a pretty man. He’s disgusting, and the brides went into this knowing that. He is the shadow inside us all, the corruption that pushes us to not ask at what cost power and fortune comes."

Credit: Image Comics

Award-winning artist Erica Henderson normally likes working with a writer to help craft the plot, working out ideas and figuring out the story together.

"This time, Alex just sent me the script, I immediately read it and I think that same night said that I was down," she tells SYFY WIRE. "I started drawing the book within a few days. This story just hit on so many things that I wanted to work in. It gave me the opportunity to do horror, which I love but haven't had a chance to work on. It gave me the chance to really focus on style. Since it's a graphic novel, I got to play with the way I laid out pages. I like to do something different every time I sit down to a project and this one really let me do that." 

Credit: Image Comics

"Some of the major influences on the style of the book came from '70s poster art, Dario Argento, and Klimt," Henderson notes. "I was focused on intense, unreal colors. I wanted to borrow the heavy design elements that 70's pop art had, without just copying them. The amorphous human shapes in Klimt's art heavily influenced Dracula here, and since he's from another time, I felt fine pulling that in. I have a book of '70s fashion photography that you better believe I pulled out for this. The decade we're focused on is one that often gets made fun of for its bold stylistic choices and I was just happy to revel in it.”

Credit: Image Comics

Image Comics' Dracula, Motherf**ker appears in comic shops Oct. 7 and bookstores Oct. 13.


2 Months of Un-Hulk-Like Calm Went Into Making This Incredible Avengers Flipbook @ io9

Remember how proud you were of the stickman riding a skateboard flipbook you made in your high school chemistry textbook? Had you continued improving your skills, this is where you’d be now: creating flipbooks of famous movie scenes, including Bruce Banner hulking out during the climactic final battle in The Avengers.

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The Rock, Gal Gadot & more DC heroes 'suit up' in anticipation of 24-hour FanDome event @ Syfy Wire

Next weekend, DC fans will come together (virtually, of course) for the 24-hour FanDome event.

With reveals planned for nearly every DC/Warner Bros. property under the sun, you just know it's going to be a super time (eh? eh?) that opens up the celebrity and teaser trailer floodgates. To ramp up excitement, participating stars — like Dwayne Johnson (Black Adam), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Cress Williams (Black Lightning), Zachary Levi (Shazam!), Ezra Miller (The Flash), and even Javicia Leslie (aka, the new Batwoman for Season 2) — are helping show off heroic and villainous cosplays from around the world.

Mimicking the seamlessly matched action of that kickass video Zoe Bell organized back in early May, the #DCSuitUp posts begin with a certain DC film or TV actor, who then hands things off to the fans and their Tik Tok videos. Because who would any of these blockbuster stars be without the people supporting them, right?

It beautifully underscores what the 24-hour celebration of comic book ecstasy is all about. WB's glaring absence from Comic-Con@Home will hopefully be forgiven if we lay eyes on some sweet, sweet footage from The Suicide Squad or The Batman.

Videos have been steadily dropping on DC Comics' Instagram account throughout the day and more are expected to arrive (where you at, Pattinson?) as we draw closer and closer to FanDome.

Get in on the fun with the Instagram videos below...

DC FanDome begins Saturday, Aug. 22. Check out the full lineup of talent here.


Catch Up With Lucifer Ahead of the Devil's Return for Season 5 @ io9

Lucifer returns to Netflix on August 21 with the first eight episodes of its 16-episode fifth season—with a sixth and final season already planned. That means season five will likely start setting the show’s endgame in motion, but it’ll still have time for plenty of devilish hijinks. Are you all caught up?

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The Umbrella Academy and the joys and pain of time-traveling queers @ Syfy Wire

As they drive down a dirt road, headed toward freedom, Vanya and Sissy (Ellen Page and Marin Ireland) hold hands. They smile at each other, happy to be starting their new life together with Sissy's son, Harlan. When they see cop cars blocking their way, they become uneasy and Sissy pulls her hand away.

Vanya stops the car, ready to fight for her love — and she's got a secret weapon not even Sissy knows about: Vanya is a bona fide time-traveling superhero who can manipulate sound waves.

She uses her powers to disarm the cops but is knocked out when she turns to face Sissy, leaving herself open for an attack. When Vanya wakes, she's in an interrogation room where she's tortured until her powers overload and bring about the apocalypse. Again.

At least, that's the way her story ends at the beginning of Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy. By the end of the season finale, our story reaches a new conclusion. That might seem contradictory, but any story with a superhero who can time travel at will is bound to have some interesting timelines, sometimes intersecting with other timelines.

Warning: Spoilers for Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy within.

Netflix's The Umbrella Academy is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. The series has some notable differences from the source material in terms of characterization and plot, but overall, it's the same: Superpowered siblings adopted by an eccentric billionaire fight evil and save the world. Until we find out dear ol' daddy has actually been lying to all of them, experimenting on them, and worst of all, telling young Vanya she has no powers at all and then drugging her so that she can't access the considerable powers she has.

Season 1 follows the siblings as they unsuccessfully try to keep Vanya from bringing about the apocalypse when she learns of her sound manipulation powers and lets them loose. The season finale shows Five using his time-traveling powers to avoid the apocalypse with his siblings, including an unconscious Vanya.

Season 2 opens with each of the Umbrella Academy siblings being dumped in an alley in Dallas alone between 1960 and 1963 due to Five's lack of control over his powers. After seeing the world end in a nuclear apocalypse, Five jumps back in time and spends the bulk of the season trying to find and then unite his siblings so that they can thwart (another) apocalypse brought on by a, to them, unknown source.

Credit: Netflix

Where Season 1 is uneven, Season 2 is much stronger, in no small part due to how it handles the stories of its queer characters — namely Vanya, Sissy, Klaus, and Dave. What's particularly powerful about the representation is how it handles the joys and pains of time-traveling queer characters.

For instance, in the above scene, it's important to keep in mind that in Dallas in 1963, a woman leaving her husband for another woman wasn't just frowned upon, it was outright illegal — Texas only removed their antediluvian restrictions against "intercourse with another individual of the same sex" in 1973. So when Vanya is apprehended by the cops, they have a legal right to detain her. Add to that the fact that she's suspected of being a Russian agent (in part because of her name), and you've got a recipe for bad news.

What the series does, though, is it shows us that future (er, well, past) where Vanya is tortured to the point of exploding and ending the world, a future where homophobia leads to her destruction. And, then it offers us an alternative. Vanya gets a do-over without even realizing it. When she starts to overload, her siblings come to her aid, having figured out what triggers nuclear war. Their act of love, which it isn't hard to read as an act of accepting your queer sibling, helps her ground and control her powers, which allows her to return to her love. That moment opens up a plethora of possible futures, futures where acceptance flings open the doors of the world.

Meanwhile, Sissy has been back on the farm with her husband, where she's decided to take a stand: She's leaving him to live with the person she really loves, Vanya. The confrontation doesn't end well for the husband, who is accidentally killed. Good riddance. Ultimately, when Vanya has to return to 2019, Sissy decides not to join her — no longer because she's afraid of being queer, but because she's ready to be queer in 1963. It's a powerful moment not only because it's a kind of happy ending — a bittersweet kind of happy where Vanya and Sissy part with love in their hearts and tears streaming down their faces — but because we've spent the whole f***ing season holding our breath hoping the series won't fall into the Bury Your Gays trope again.

Credit: Netflix

I say again because one of the great disappointments of Season 1 was when Klaus met the love of his life Dave while time traveling back to the '70s, only for Dave to be killed in the Vietnam War. I'm not saying it's not realistic for a young soldier to die in Vietnam, but we have to call it what it is. In Season 1, there were two main queer characters and one of them died. Furthermore, Klaus develops a serious chemical dependency that he has a... let's say self-destructive relationship with throughout the series.

That said, Season 2 has grappled with Dave and Klaus in interesting ways. Klaus finds Dave in the '60s, before he enlists, and begs him not to join the military. He even confesses his love for the future Dave in a diner, eliciting a homophobic tirade from a relative of Dave's who eggs Dave into punching Klaus. It's devastating and it honors the homophobia young queer men experienced in the '60s — and many queer people still do experience.

In the end, we learn that Dave has enlisted even earlier than he did originally, seemingly representing how Klaus' plan has backfired. However, the last thing we see of Dave is him boarding a bus to head toward boot camp and though it's not exactly him bucking the system, he does hesitate. And that hesitation is an open door, one that Dave may yet walk through.

Throughout powerful, cathartic, painful, and, frankly, scary moments, the queer representation in The Umbrella Academy Season 2 is by and large very positive, yet realistic. The series declares that queer people have always existed throughout history, that we've always deserved to have good, safe lives, but that we still live in a flawed world — and even by omitting Black queer characters or any other queer characters who are people of color, the series itself replicates that flawed society.

Vanya, Klaus, Sissy, and Dave have to grapple with the homophobia of their society and their time in history, but they also get to find love in unlikely places, help each other find themselves and their queerness, get second chances thanks to time travel, and end with a kind of hope. Is it shiny, rainbow-colored, glitter-filled euphoria? No. But it's hard to believe there's a way to be queer that doesn't embrace the pain and joy of being queer, that doesn't recognize the things some queer people have had to and do have to endure to be ourselves. And that resilience in and of itself is a kind of hope.

WIRE Buzz: 'Come True' dreams up eerie trailer, Clive Barker's Books of Blood heads to Hulu & more @ Syfy Wire

We're picking up some Nightmare on Elm Street vibrations from the first trailer for Come True ... you know, like "dream come true?" It's a new horror flick that's on course to premiere at this year's Fantasia International Film Festival on Aug. 30.

Written, directed, and shot by Anthony Scott Burns (Our House), the movie stars Julia Sarah Stone (Honey Bee) as Sarah, a troubled teenager who struggles with recurring nightmares and financial instability after she runs away from home. She consents to take part in a university sleep study that offers shelter, money, and the friendship of head scientist Jeremy (Truth or Dare's Landon Liboiron). However, something starts to seem fishy about the study, which may be making Sarah's disturbing dreams worse, not better.

"As the darkness begins to close in, it's soon clear that Sarah has unknowingly become the conduit to a horrifying, new discovery," says the plot description.

Check out the trailer below (which was first reported by Deadline):

Aided by some '80s-inspired synth, the trailer captures the haziness and terror that often accompany your average nightmare/dream state.

Credit: XYZ Films

Fantasia 2020 will take place completely online between Aug. 20 and Sept. 2. You can purchase festival tickets for Come True right here.


 

The Suicide Squad and Zack Snyder's Justice League may be a little too mature for the kiddos, but don't worry — DC FanDome won't exclude young members of the comic book audience. In a newly released teaser, Warner Bros. highlighted its kid-friendly slate of programming during the 24-hour August event inspired by all things DC: from comics, to TV shows, to films.

While you catch up on the latest reveals for Wonder Woman 1984 and Aquaman 2, your children can head into Titans Tower from Cartoon Network's Teen Titans GO! There, they can play games, watch exclusive videos, read comics, and explore the multi-level virtual space for all kinds of special surprises. They can even take the elevator down to the basement and visit the Batcave.

Here's the teaser:

DC FanDome kicks off Saturday, Aug. 22 and runs for 24 hours until 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT on Aug. 23.


 

Clive Barker, the acclaimed horror writer whose literary works include the Hellraiser series, is now coming to Hulu. The Disney-owned streaming platform announced today that it would debut the Books of Blood film adaptation — which was first announced last November — on Oct. 7. The project is based on the six-volume collection of short stories Barker published in the 1980s.

Helmed by Brannon Braga (a writing alum of Star Trek, 24, and Terra Nova), the movie co-stars Britt Robertson, Rafi Gavron, Anna Friel, Yul Vazquez, and Freda Foh Shen. Barker executive-produces alongside Braga and The Orville creator Seth MacFarlane. Viewers can expect to embark "on a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three uncanny tales tangled in space and time," reads the synopsis provided on IMDB.


I'm Still Not Over the Bob-omb Thing @ io9

It’s been weeks since I finished Paper Mario: The Origami King. I’ve since moved on to another replay of Fallout 4, this time delving into the moral dilemma that is playing as a raider in the Nuka-World storyline. But nothing that Fallout 4 (or most other games) makes me experience can compare to the emotional…

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Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson Would Like to Remind You That They Fought to Make Animation More Queer @ io9

With both Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power having finished their respective stories and becoming shining examples of this current moment in queer representation in animation, it can be exceedingly easy to forget that up until very recently, queer characters more or less didn’t exist in the…

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Tenet needed Hereditary's editor for 'the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut' @ Syfy Wire

While much of the conversation around filmmaker Christopher Nolan's upcoming time-twisting film Tenet has been centered on relatively basic things like "When does this thing come out?" and "What is Tenet even about, Chris?" there are some practical issues that just haven't been touched on. Like, for instance, how one edits a movie where parts need to reverse themselves and time has a warped meaning. Enter Hereditary's BAFTA-nominated Jennifer Lame.

Leave it to the editor behind a ton of indie favorites (everything from Manchester by the Sea to recent Noah Baumbach films to Hereditary follow-up Midsommar) to be able to sort out the character moments within a film seemingly dominated by time "inversion." There's a big, all-star cast (including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) that'll need their small dramas made legible during the madness of the film's action. Speaking to ICG Magazine (h/t Indiewire), Nolan explained the process for picking Lame as his editor on the project.

“For me, hiring is about looking at the work people have done in the past, but not necessarily in relation to what you’re looking to do,” Nolan said. “I look for excellence and judgment. When meeting, it’s more about discovering if there’s a common creative language, which is exactly what turned out to be the case.” That common ground led to an offer...and quite a challenge, since this is bigger and crazier than anything Lame's cut before. In fact, Nolan thinks it's probably more difficult than anything any editor has cut before.

"I joked with her when she first came on that this might be the hardest movie any editor has ever had to cut — and I’m not sure she would dispute that right now," Nolan laughed. "Working out all the aspects of portraying time running in different directions meant going beyond what was down on the page, as the execution lay with a successful translation of the visual.”

That translation required Lame's own interior translation — seeing time-warping action as essential to storytelling as close conversations. “The films I have worked on up until this have been more character-driven, so I enjoyed getting more intimate scenes to cut,” said Lame. “I found myself spending more time on the quieter moments and perhaps slightly intimidated by the action. To get over that, I began to think of action as also driving the story forward, explaining, and fleshing out the character’s journey. When Chris saw I was intimidated by the action sequences, he reiterated this point; the story was always the driving force.”

Now just imagine if Midsommar was edited with sequences in reverse. Yeesh. Tenet looks to hit international theaters starting on Aug. 26, with U.S. markets getting the film on Sept. 3.

 

I Tried Three Pairs of True Wireless Earbuds. And I Have Opinions @ io9

This $150 Pet Feeder Saved My Sanity When I Got a Second Cat @ io9

For five years it was just me and my sweet grey kitty, Charlie. I didn’t have pets growing up, so when the opportunity finally came for me to be a cat mom as an adult I took it. She’s the perfect cat. Taking care of one cat, especially a cat with her personality, was easy. Then a friend of mine needed to find a home…

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Book Review – Peter Green and the Unliving Academy @ Bureau 42

If Harry Potter was the boy who lived, Peter Green was the boy who died. This initially feels like a Potter knock-off, but that changes quickly. In fact, it may only feel that way to me because the “magic boarding school” genre which I’m told is popular in the UK is not as popular where I am, so the Potter books were my first exposure to it. This is my second.

General Information

Title: Peter Green and the Unliving Academy

Author: Angelina Allsop

Original Publication Date: November 20, 2018

ISBN: 1631610643, 978-1631610646

Publisher: TCK Publishing
Cover Price: $14.99 is the price at Amazon. My digital copy doesn’t have a cover price I can confirm.

Buy from: Amazon.com

Premise

The book starts with Peter Green “awakening” into his AfterLife. Most of his memories are gone, and he’s sent to a combination orphanage and boarding school. There are engaging characters, and a genuine mystery to be solved.

High Point

Actions have reasonable consequences. One of the biggest issues in the Harry Potter books is the amount of shenanigans the students get up to that are overlooked by a principal who doesn’t hold them accountable for… reasons. These students also break and bend rules, but those actions have consequences, which sets it apart rather dramatically from the competition by the time it’s all said and done.

Low Point

It took more time than I’d hoped before I really felt engaged. I was just over half way through before the book pulled me along as a reader, rather than feeling like I was bringing the book along out of a sense of obligation. (I received a free review copy from the publisher. When that happens, I try to review the book quickly, but honestly. If I had just picked it up off the shelf, I’d have put it down before I hit the half way mark, and that would have been a mistake.)

The Scores

This is more original than the first quarter of the book indicates. Yes, the boy who died gets sent to a world he’s completely unfamiliar with, and said world is filled with magic, monsters, and secrets. He soon befriends spunky friends that help him on his rule-breaking adventures. There the similarities end. The (unspoiled) conclusion in particular says this book series will head in a very different direction. I give it 4 out of 6.

The imagery is done well enough. You can picture everything you need to, although sometimes things aren’t described until just after the characters interact with them. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story takes time to get moving. The first third of the book or so is heavy in world building, but once we get through that, and particularly past the half way point, things really start to pick up and the book gets much more engaging. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization is fairly clear. It takes time to get there, because our lead character doesn’t really know who he is himself for most of the book, so he starts out a little more passive than we are used to in our heroes. Those around him are well defined from the start, and Peter gets there before it’s all over. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is pleasant enough. The book is a bit of a chore to read at first, because the world building is just band, and invites the Harry Potter comparisons just a little too clearly. It takes time to work past that and get engaging, but it does get there. I give it 4 out of 6.

The editing works well enough. I did notice a couple of typos in chapter 25 or 26 out of 28, but of course, proofreading is only a small part of the editing process. The structure of the book is much more important, as well as guiding the author’s creativity when he or she is stuck. I see no such major issues here. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a book worth reading if the concept sounds interesting to you. While I see no title or release dates for the second book in the series, I’d like to read it, so that’s definitely a vote in the positive column. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Peter Green and the Unliving Academy receives 29 out of 42.

Nickelodeon eyeing new SpongeBob SquarePants spinoff series 'The Patrick Star Show' @ Syfy Wire

What's lazy, pink, and lives under a rock? If you said Patrick Star, you'd be correct! We only bring it up because Deadline brings word that Nickelodeon is developing a spinoff series based around SpongeBob's dim-witted neighbor and best friend, voiced by Bill Fagerbakke. Hailing from the main SquarePants creative team, The Patrick Star Show (as it's currently titled) is expected to receive a 13-episode order from the kid-friendly network. Voice recording for the project is said to have already commenced.

Taking inspiration from classic programs like The Larry Sanders Show and Comedy Bang Bang!The Patrick Star Show will adopt a late-night talk show format that opens the door for an exploration of Patrick and his family (Janet and Marty need not apply). While Fagerbakke will be joined by a mostly-new voice cast, established SpongeBob characters (performed by the usual cast members like Tom Kenny, Carolyn Lawrence, and Clancy Brown) will pop in for sporadic guest appearances.

This is the second SpongeBob spinoff series ordered by Nick. The first was Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years, a prequel show that is scheduled to premiere on CBS All Access in early 2021. The franchise's third feature-film, Sponge on the Run, also arrives on the subscription streaming platform at the start of next year. It was originally supposed to open in theaters, but Paramount was forced to pivot in the wake of the movie theater shutdown caused by COVID-19.

SpongeBob SquarePants empire celebrated its 21st anniversary back in May. Its creator, Stephen Hillenburg, sadly passed away from complications relating to ALS in 2018. Fagerbakke is known for his live-action roles on ABC's Coach and CBS' How I Met Your Mother.


Star Trek's 13 scrappiest Starfleet ships, ranked in honor of Lower Decks' USS Cerritos @ Syfy Wire

The newest Star Trek series, Star Trek: Lower Decks, is all about roaming the galaxy with a starship that isn't exactly tasked with seeking out new life forms. In fact, as the first episode of Lower Decks revealed, the mission of the starship USS Cerritos is to seek out alien life that everyone 100 percent already knows about, and follow up with a "second contact." While more famous Trek starships also had to do some boring maintenance work (the Enterprise was bringing extra salt to some wayward colonists in the very first aired episode of Trek), the voyages of the Cerritos are unique because the ship's scrappiness is built into the premise of the show.

But, prior to the Cerritos, what are the scrappiest ships in the history of Star Trek? For the purposes of this list, any of the Enterprises are excluded, as is the USS Voyager, the USS Discovery, and both USS Defiants from Deep Space Nine. We're also just sticking to Starfleet ships, otherwise, we'd be talking about the La Sirena, and Captain Kasidy Yates' freighter, the SS Xhosa. So, for now, here are the 13 scrappiest Starfleet ships in all of Star Trek canon, and how they made the USS Cerritos possible.

**Mild spoilers ahead for all of Star Trek.**

Robert Pattinson tried to keep The Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan in the dark about his Batman audition — and failed @ Syfy Wire

Going from Tenet to The Batman is a one-two genre punch that's hard to imagine anyone pulling off and staying sane besides noted weirdo Robert Pattinson. The Twilight and indie star actually auditioned to be the new Bruce Wayne during production on the former film...and he apparently tried to hide this fact from The Dark Knight trilogy's own Christopher Nolan. C'mon, man. Nobody does moviemaking secrecy like Nolan!

This lie came from Pattinson in full skipping-school or ditching-a-shift mode — kinda lazy and totally transparent, especially from someone well-versed in high-profile genre filmmaking. Speaking to the Irish Times, Pattinson explained how he tried to pull one over on the former Batman director.

“It’s funny because Chris is so secretive about everything to do with his movies,” Pattinson said. “And then I had to be really secretive about Batman stuff. So I had to lie to Chris about having to go for a screen test — I said I had a family emergency. And as soon as I said ‘It’s a family emergency,’ he said, ‘You’re doing the Batman audition, aren’t you?’”

Oops. Bluff called, R-Batz. Nolan would definitely be the person to out Bruce Wayne as Batman in the comics. No chill, that guy. Pattinson also touches on how Tenet helped his Batman training routine, mostly by having him keep up with co-star Washington.

“When I’m running on screen I’m generally paired with John David who is an ex-NFL player so it was the most unfair thing in the world,” Pattinson said. “The maximum workout I do most of the time is a casual stroll. John David can run all day long. It was good that I ended up being pretty fit. But definitely, at the beginning, there were days I just could not walk afterwards.”

Director Matt Reeves' The Batman hits theaters on Oct. 1, 2021 while Tenet looks to hit international theaters starting on Aug. 26, with U.S. markets getting the film on Sept. 3.

 

The Cassian Andor Star Wars Show Adds Good Omens' Adria Arjona @ io9

A great spy sneaks up on you without you even knowing it. And so it’s rather appropriate that the upcoming Star Wars show about Rebel spies just added actress Adria Arjona.

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First look: Artists, filmmakers pay tribute to 40 years of Alien in Titan Books' latest @ Syfy Wire

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of perhaps the greatest fusion of science fiction and horror ever conceived with director Ridley Scott's original Alien. The shocking 1979 film that spawned the infamous tagline, "In Space No One Can Hear You Scream," has gone on to birth numerous sequels, prequels, spinoffs, comics, graphic novels, video games, and prose novels from across the entire Alien galaxy.

To honor the celebratory occasion, London-based Titan Books is unleashing a gorgeous new coffee table book on August 11 titled, Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists, as a vivid artistic tribute to the cinematic gem that still haunts our dreams.

Here in this oversized, 112-page love letter to the allure of Alien, an international posse of artists, filmmakers, illustrators, and fans were invited to contribute a piece of original art to commemorate Alien's lasting influence — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive peek at four of the brilliant renditions to share.

Credit: Titan Books

This hardcover birthday edition (sans candles and cake) is flooded with inspired artwork ranging from comic book-style pieces, heavy metal album covers, and alternative movie posters, to frightening interpretations of key scenes, nightmarish Weyland-Yutani propaganda statements, and even a Mesoamerican wall mural. Rough sketches, process glimpses, and illuminating interview text accompany each new mind-shuddering nightmare.

Image Credit: Dane Hallett

In addition to the chilling, blood-red main cover by Alien: Covenant concept artist Dane Hallett, the contributors include Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve with Sam Hudecki and Tanya Lapointe; Star Wars concept artist and creature designer Terryl Whitlatch; Dark Horse Comics' artist Tristan Jones; Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts with Jon Wilcox; Star Trek: The Original Series poster designer Juan Ortiz; and Eisner Award-winning Alien: Tribes artist Dave Dorman.

Image Credit: Katharine Keuhne

A foreword by Alien concept artist Chris Foss is packed with early spaceship paintings and developmental designs for the Refinery, the Nostromo, and eerie interior/exterior ideas for the Derelict. Then after you've ingested all the incredible art, Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists also contains appendix galleries of rare Alien theatrical poster art that are not to be missed.

Image Credit: Juan Ortiz

"It's such an honour (and childhood dream) to be connected, in some small way, to this most esteemed, deepspace misadventure," Hallett tells SYFY WIRE. "I can't even begin to describe the incredible thrill it is for me to be invited to once again collaborate with my friends at Titan, let alone present my work in the company of so many profoundly talented artists. 

"It's too easy to heap praise on Alien, so I'll save that for our unending conversations out there in the digital world of fandom and instead focus on just how special it is that we (you, the reader), me and all others who have fallen hopelessly in love with these stories can unite and worship at the altar of acid blood, forever bound together by our affection for this brutal, elegant, visceral, timeless cultural phenomenon."

Image Credit: Dane Hallett

All images taken from Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists, docking at book stores August 11 and published by Titan Books. Alien™ & © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Why Do We Celebrate Spider-Man Day on (Probably) the Wrong Day? @ io9

Every August 1, social media lights up in celebration of one of comics’ greatest heroes: the amazing, spectacular, ultimate, and every so often sensational Spider-Man. It does so because August 1 is “Spider-Man Day,” a celebration of the character’s debut in August 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15. But why do we celebrate…

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‘The Martian' movie's toilet tuber could happen: NASA testing machine that turns poop into veggie fertilizer @ Syfy Wire

Matt Damon growing potatoes from his own poop in The Martian may be closer to reality than some sci-fi fans might think. Thanks to a new system that replicates waste-reclamation practices used by communities on Earth to generate clean water and fertilizer, astronauts may soon have access to fresh vegetables over long spaceflights.

According to a release, this technology — dubbed the Organic Processor Assembly — comes from NASA and University of South Florida professor Daniel Yeh, the latter of whom also developed the NEWGenerator resource recovery machine that is helping achieve these same principles in India and South Africa. Cleaning up toilet water into useful components is helpful everywhere, both in earthbound communities and the hardships of space.

“Over the years, our team has gotten pretty good at coming up with technologies that work well on Earth,” Yeh said in a statement. “Developing resource-recovery solutions for space was something new. It presented a whole new series of design challenges to overcome, such as those related to mass, volume, modularity, and reduced gravity.”

Around the size of a washer-dryer combo (the smaller, stackable kind), the Organic Processor Assembly heads to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center next week, where it will be tested in Principal Investigator Luke Roberson's lab. That means churning through four astronauts’ worth of wastewater (synthetic, thankfully) and generating clean water. Then, that water's excess nutrients are conditioned into fertilizer thanks to an algae bioreactor.

Not only does it need to work, though, it needs to work with everything else on the spacecraft. But if it works, it'll be a big step in the right direction for longer manned missions.

Source: University of South Florida

“NASA can only resupply a limited mass and volume to the Moon and Mars habitats. This limitation forces research advancements to provide a reliable, closed-loop system between food consumption and production,” said Roberson. “With the OPA technology, we’re investigating if we can sustainably begin recycling human wastewater resources into potable water and fertilizer nutrients. There is a big difference between a fresh and canned strawberry in both nutrient content and interaction with your senses.”

This tech isn't just a morale boost: It could help upgrade the existing fresh veggie system — called Vegetable Production System or VEGGIE, suitably — into something sustainable. Although it's much smaller, the current system is limited in resources since it uses "clay-based soil and fertilizer." The astronauts just have to avoid thinking about their food growing in stuff taken "directly from the toilet."

"Waste not, want not" has never been so applicable. But that's what astronauts get when looking beyond the ISS. Extended space travel means food needs and waste problems, with storage already at a premium. So why not make the most of the stuff that's going to be generated naturally? If it was good enough for Matt Damon, it's good enough for NASA.

NASA expects to make a decision on whether the Organic Processor Assembly will go to the Moon over the next few years, possibly through the Artemis program that hopes to launch in 2024. Another Organic Processor Assembly will stay on terra firma for continued testing ... but if it works on the Moon, there's no telling the distances to which our own by-products could take us.

The unending appeal of time loops @ Syfy Wire

For most of us, it began with an alarm clock. The old fashioned, mechanical numbers flipped down to 6 a.m., and the familiar beats of Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" rang out. It was Groundhog Day, again, and Bill Murray's Phil Conners was about to begin reliving the worst day of his life over and over again. Groundhog Day didn't invent its concept, but the comedy manages to occupy an almost impossible intersection of dark, silly, and genuinely heartfelt, and as such has stood as the defining example of the time-loop genre for almost 20 years.

The trope is simple enough: A character or multiple characters experience the same period of time on a loop, with their interactions within it being the only element of change. And though Groundhog Day's shadow loomed large over the '90s, the mid-2000s and onward allowed for a veritable explosion of new takes on it. From the underrated Emily Blunt (and Tom Cruise, but mostly we're here for Emily Blunt) vehicle Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live. Die. Repeat.), the Happy Death Day horror franchise, the popular Netflix comedy series Russian Doll, and the newest entry, Hulu's Palm Springs, the "It's like Groundhog Day but…" genre has been booming.

Warning: The following may contain spoilers for Palm Springs.

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in Palm Springs / Courtesy of Sundance Institute

What is it about the time loop trope that draws us in? It certainly feels like it has an extra dose of relevance currently, with many folks working from home while trying to retain any awareness of the difference between days. Palm Springs especially has benefited from a timeliness the filmmakers had never intentioned. The film eerily predicted the behavioral patterns we're seeing within our real-life national time loop. Andy Samberg's character is adrift without an anchor; Cristin Miliotti dives into workhorse mode, teaching herself complicated quantum physics in the booth of a diner; J.K. Simmons devolves into abject primal cruelty, admitting he hadn't even considered the way his actions affected the others.

But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg's Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people's fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

Credit: CBS

But these themes are not the universal notes behind all time-loop stories. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery made excellent use of the trope in the episode "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Mad" as a tool for villainous Harry Mudd's schemes, and in which the crew members repeatedly attempt to prevent the destruction of the ship. Similarly, the "Eleventh Hour" arc of the actual-play RPG podcast The Adventure Zone features a time loop in which the characters must try to stop the destruction of a rural town. Stories like this, often using much shorter time loops to up the stakes with a ticking clock, magnify one of the other key relatable themes of the trope, repeating events over and over until one can get them right.

The appeal for this "getting it right" element to time loops is fairly universal. Who among us hasn't replayed a past mistake or fumbled social encounter over and over in our heads, imagining all the ways that we could have done it better? The time-loop premise offers us a wish-fulfillment fantasy, giving us the most literal representation of that experience possible. In a "be careful what you wish for" lesson in morality though, often it's the characters' attempts to stop a thing from happening that leads to much more catastrophic results. The lesson perhaps being that obsessing over a past event is ultimately destructive and the goal should be to move on.

These two themes are not completely independent of each other. In seemingly lower-stakes stories, the thing that the characters might be most actively trying to fix is their own lives. In the real world, those of us who live repetitious loops from day to day likely don't do so out of a sense that we've got everything exactly how we like it — rather, we do it thinking that, if we just stick with our grind, one day it will probably all pay off.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The simple beauty of a time-loop story is that when presented with a world where everything is ultimately static, the only element of true change must come from the characters themselves. According to Groundhog Day screenwriter Danny Rubin, what starts as the worst day of Phil's life ends up as the best day, based entirely on how he personally changes and how that affects the way he experiences the world. Similarly, in Edge of Tomorrow, while there is a very real alien threat, Tom Cruise's character has moved from being a coward trying to escape conflict to rushing into danger, sacrificing himself to save the world, even after he's been freed from the time loop.

Between the relatability, the darkened wish fulfillment, and the intense zeroing in on character development, all combined with the inherent entertainment value of a well managed time-loop story, it's easy to see why time loops moved out of being a seldom-used premise from a handful of specific sources into a full-on subgenre of its own. It's a near-certainty that we'll continue to see more and more of these stories as time moves forward. Or doesn't.

Ezra Miller and Grant Morrison's Flash script was more 'Back to the Future' than superhero movie @ Syfy Wire

In the most ambitious superhero/Back to the Future crossover since Avengers actors Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland got deepfaked into the roles of Doc and Marty, two of the many, many writers who have tried their hand at scripting the upcoming standalone Flash movie from director Andy Muschietti have explained that their version was a lot more sci-fi than superhero. Oh, and one of the writers was Barry Allen himself, Ezra Miller. The other? Comic legend Grant Morrison.

Speaking to Collider, Morrison explained the idea behind the pair's draft, which the studio passed on in favor of a version by Birds of Prey's Christina Hodson. One more brick in the long and winding road of the film's production, the draft from the odd couple came about when Miller went over to Morrison's house and figured out a draft. "Ezra came over to the house and we just had a real blast and created the story. And maybe one day the script will leak out into the world," Morrison explained.

The movie had been cycling through creative talent at this point, so really what did they have to lose? “Yeah, I mean, Ezra Miller and I wrote that last year, but it kind of, you know what it’s like? It was just one of those things we all … Well, I thought we had a really good version of The Flash and we wrote it as fast as The Flash, because it was so demanding, and it was pretty good," Morrison said. "And I think after a few drafts, it would have been great. But the way some studios work, these things just come and go. I think about 15 people have already written versions of The Flash. But it does seem to be going ahead now, but not with the version that we did."

Not being able to rewrite the script didn't do the screenplay any favors, though Morrison also notes that "it was a very different kind of superhero thing." Instead, their take on Flashpoint sounds like it's taking from one of the all-time classic time-travel tales. "It was more like Back to the Future, I would say, than a superhero movie," the comic writer said. Time travel is a big Flash element, especially in the altered timeline event Flashpoint that the movie is said to draw from. But no, it wasn't the dark-and-gritty version of the comic material, either.

“No, it wasn’t [darker] really. I mean, elements of darkness were there and the material that they wanted us to use [was] the Flashpoint stuff," said Morrison. "So Ezra and I were actually trying to do something that was a bit more — like I say, it’s kind of like just a great science fiction story. And if you don’t know [the comics], it would have made sense."

What would it have looked like, exactly? Only a leak could tell fans, as The Flash film looks to head in a different direction ... one where The Flash probably doesn't have to avoid seducing his own mother. The Flash is scheduled to come out on July 1, 2022, while Miller and Muschietti will be making an appearance (and possibly divulging more info on The Flash) at DC's FanDome on Aug. 22.

 

Exclusive: In Hollywoodland starring Yetide Badaki trailer reveal @ Syfy Wire

We are so excited to reveal the trailer for In Hollywoodland, written by and starring SYFY FANGRRLS resident favorite Yetide Badaki. Directed by Jessica Sherif, In Hollywoodland is a dark fantastical short film that follows an actress Zodwa (Badaki) as she heads toward an audition that could change her life.

Instead, she falls through a looking glass and ends up in Hollywood — but not Hollywood as we’ve ever seen it before. Zodwa must deal with characters like the agent RABBIT, the casting director QUEENIE, the studio head CATERPILLAR, and the director HATTER.

Badaki is joined by a stellar cast, including Karen David (Fear the Walking Dead), Luke Youngblood (Harry Potter), Jen Richards (Mrs. Fletcher), and Dom Burgess (The Good Place).

Check out the exclusive trailer below: 

In Hollywoodland premieres this week at the Bentonville Film Festival, tickets available right now.

WIRE Buzz: Cassian Andor spinoff casts Adria Arjona; Eli Roth's History of Horror S2; and Immortal trailer @ Syfy Wire

The galaxy of Disney+'s Cassian Andor spinoff just got a bit bigger with the casting of Adria Arjona. Per Deadline, the 6 Underground actress has boarded the Star Wars show (which serves as a prequel to Rogue One), but as of this time, details about her role haven't been confirmed.

Arjona joins an ever-growing ensemble that includes: Diego Luna (playing the titular Rebel spy), Alan Tudyk (returning as the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO), Genevieve O’Reilly (reprising her Rogue One role as Rebel leader Mon Mothma), Denise Gough, Stellan Skarsgard, and Kyle Soller.

Credit: Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Production on the series should have kicked off in earnest this year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, all live-action projects were thrown into chaos. We don't know when cameras are scheduled to get rolling on Cassian & Co., or when the finished product might arrive on Disney+.

Tony Gilroy, who helped write the screenplay for Rogue One, is taking up the post of showrunner. He's also writing and directing a certain number of episodes.


Eli Roth fans beware, you're in for a lot more scares. Today, AMC confirmed the premiere date and all-star slate of guest stars for Season 2 of Eli Roth's History of Horror. The interview series will officially return Sunday, Oct. 10, at 10:00 p.m. EST.

The spine-tingling guest list features genre heavyweights like:

Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, Bill Hader, Nancy Allen, Megan Fox, Greg Nicotero, Rob Zombie, James Brolin, Edgar Wright, Piper Laurie, Leonard Maltin, Katharine Isabelle, Jack Black, Slash, Rachel True, Ashley Laurence, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Mary Harron, John Landis, Tom Savini, and Karyn Kusama.


"Life changes when you can't die." That's the intriguing tagline for Immortal, an upcoming horror/thriller anthology film from writer-director-producer Rob Margolies. "Thrown into the face of death only to emerge unharmed, the characters of Immortal are left staring at eternity in the face with uncertainty and fear like they've never imagined," reads the synopsis.

Consisting of four different chapters, the movie features the acting talents of Tony Todd (Candyman), Dylan Baker (Hunters), Robin Bartlett (Shutter Island), Samm Levine (Inglourious Basterds), Vanessa Lengies (Waiting…), and Agnes Bruckner (The Woods), Mario Van Peebles (New Jack City), Lindsay Mushett (Blue Bloods), and Jason Stuart (The Infiltrators).

Watch the trailer now:

In terms of plot, Immortal's chapters are broken up by the following characters:

  • Chelsea: a high school track star who comes clean about sexual misconduct with her coach only to find out her confession might be too late
  • Gary and Vanessa: a young, expecting married couple who scheme a morbid solution to their financial issues
  • Ted: a man filled with sorrow who agrees to euthanize his cancer-ridden wife Mary
  • Warren: a young man with little direction in life who is forced to discover his new gifts after a tragic accident.

Credit: Stonecutter/DifferentDuckFilms

Tom Colley, Jon Dabach, and Danny Isaacs are also credited as directors.

Immortal arrives on demand Tuesday, Sept. 1.


Humans have had mystery DNA for 300,000 years—and now we might finally know what it is @ Syfy Wire

Humans getting into interspecies dating? Not on this planet — oh wait, that already happened. While there was really no such thing as dating hundreds of thousands of years ago, when it was more of a “find your mate and don’t get eaten” sort of thing, there is evidence that Homo sapiens interbred with other proto-human species in the distant past.

Neanderthals were one of those species (and also the butt of endless caveman jokes). Denisovans were another. Geneticist and computer scientist Adam Siepel developed an algorithm to trace human genetics and recently published a study in PLOS Genetics. He and his research team have now found that these groups gave us more of their DNA than we thought, and that some of us have genes from a mysterious ancestral hominid, possibly Homo erectus. There was only one way for that to happen. But why did Homo sapiens end up taking over while Neanderthals and Denisovans eventually vanished?

"That is a great matter of speculation among both archaelogists and geneticists—could be disease, conquest, out-competition for scarce resources, or perhaps the modern humans simply absorbed them. There is little hard evidence," Siepel told SYFY WIRE. "But the one thing that we can see, as geneticists, is that these Neanderthal and Denisovan populations had relatively low levels of genetic diversity, suggesting they may have been prone to genetic diseases and/or particularly susceptible to infectious diseases."

Hybridization of a species results in introgression, or the genetic exchange which occurs in interbreeding species. Humans migrated out of Africa to Eurasia about 50,000 years ago and interbred with the Neanderthal population there. This is the migration and subsequent genetic merging that is the most recognized example of such a phenomenon. What Siepel found, using an updated ancestral recombination graph (ARG) algorithm called ARGweaver-D, is that they were already headed elsewhere much earlier, around 200,000-300,000 years ago. The algorithm also revealed interbreeding between mystery “super-archaic” ancestors with both Neanderthals and Denisovans before either of those species interbred with ancient Homo sapiens.

Homo erectus is the most likely ancient relative of humans to be that ancestor. Now extinct except for fragments of DNA that show up in some modern human samples, these proto-humans were the first Homo sapiens relatives that showed body proportions similar to what you see when you look in the mirror. Unlike earlier hominids, the arms and legs of Homo erectus had evolved to be shorter than its torso. They were also the first hominids believed to have migrated out of Africa. This strengthens the case for interbreeding with Denisovans and Neanderthals, especially Denisovans.

That has to make you wonder. If you've ever taken a commercial DNA test and your results came back with a small percentage labeled "unknown", could that be a connection to the mystery ancestor?

"Some of the commercial tests specifically look for Neanderthal ancestry, but yes, it is possible that superarchaic ancestry, or ancestry from a highly divergent branch of Neanderthals or Denisovans, would be labeled 'unknown' by a commercial test," Siepel said.

The most common genetic transfers happened between Neanderthals and Denisovans, Neanderthals and ancient Homo sapiens, super-archaic ancestors and ancient Homo sapiens who stayed in Africa, and super-archaic ancestors and Denisovans. Alleles, or alternate versions of genes, shared by Denisovans and the mystery ancestor support super-archaic DNA making its way into the modern gene pool when that species interbred with Denisovans. Unfortunately, so did mutations.

"It appears that Neanderthals and Denisovans introduced deleterious mutations into modern human populations when they interbred with them," Siepel explained. "Many of these mutations gradually faded over time, but some undoubtedly persist. Interestingly, however, we could not find clear evidence of the reverse effect—of modern humans introducing deleterious mutations into Neanderthals through this interbreeding. It is possible, though, that we do not yet have enough sensitivity to detect this phenomenon."

Even with an advanced algorithm, it still proved more difficult to identify when and where super-archaic human ancestors interbred with Denisovans than it was to find the same information about Neanderthal or Denisovan interbreeding with Homo sapiens. This is probably because no sequence exists for the genes of the super-archaic ancestor yet, and also because they have been broken over and over again by recombining with the genes of ancient humans and the other two hominid groups so many times. Will we ever really know who the super-archaic ghosts of our ancestors were?

"That is the big question we are all wondering about," said Siepel. "It is conceivable that it could be done, at least in principle, if very well-preserved remains were recovered from permafrost or from a cave that is well protected from the environment.  But I do not know of any promising leads at present."

So don’t be offended if someone calls you a Neanderthal. Just tell them science says you probably are to some extent, and so are they.

An Explosive Piston Inside This Baseball Bat Means Anyone Could Shatter the Home Run Record @ io9

The longest verifiable home run in professional baseball history was hit by Joey Meyer of the minor league Denver Zephyrs at a distance of 582 feet. Shane Wighton, an engineer known on YouTube for his sport-cheating inventions including a never-miss basketball hoop, things he can break that record with a baseball bat…

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Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire absolutely rules, y'all, and you should dive back in @ Syfy Wire

It’s hard to say any Disney animated feature is a “lost gem.” How lost can it be? It’s a movie released by the biggest media conglomerate in the world. Even the least successful of them, at the very least, probably did OK at the box office and are readily available for discovery on a juggernaut of a streaming service. As such, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen Atlantis: The Lost Empire, one of the more fascinating entries in Disney’s later canon. You probably don’t need me to tell you to watch it again, but alas, that’s what I’m here to do. Because here’s the thing, y’all: Atlantis rules.

It’s hard to say what Atlantis is. Cult classic? Squandered opportunity? Cursed with the genius of being a decade ahead of its time? It’s all of those things and more, and given the abundance of free time so many of us find ourselves with these days (and no new movies to see in theaters), it’s perhaps as good a time as ever to revisit Disney’s brilliant adventure epic and wonder what could have been.

Originally released in 2001, Atlantis was a big swing for Disney in just about every conceivable way. With the famed Disney Renaissance (beginning with 1989's The Little Mermaid and ending with Tarzan in 1999) beginning to burn out, the company’s future was very much up in the air. Atlantis seemed to draw notes from two prior Renaissance films, Mulan and Tarzan, and simultaneously chart a tonal shift from Disney’s wheelhouse. Rather than princesses, romance, and music, Atlantis took on a classic adventure story, drawing equally from pulpy science fiction comics, classic mythology, and Jules Verne novels.

The result is a thrilling adventure film full of memorable characters (the whole crew of the gargantuan submarine the Ulysses stands out in particular) and exciting set pieces. It follows a young, down-on-his-luck linguist named Milo Thatch who’s recruited by an eccentric billionaire to accompany a ramshackle crew of weirdos on an undersea voyage to discover the lost city of Atlantis. Upon discovering it, though, it becomes clear that certain members of the crew have slightly less altruistic motivations for the endeavor than they’ve let on. The animation, a groundbreaking blend of hand-drawn animation and CGI, holds up incredibly well nearly two decades after the film’s release, and the world of Atlantis is as thrilling to explore as ever.

To aid in creating the world surrounding Atlantis (and that of the lost city itself) Disney famously brought on legendary comic creator Mike Mignola. The brain and proverbial brawn behind Hellboy, Mignola brought an aesthetic sensibility to the film wholly unlike anything Disney had created in years past. Largely gone were the soft lines of Disney Renaissance films, and with them the desire to create a world that in any way resembled ours. Mignola’s work on Atlantis is, like his comic work, hard and angular, but doesn't lean into the minimal abstraction Hellboy’s visual language operates through.

Credit: Disney

Perhaps the greatest testament to what Mignola brings to the table is that the film’s run time is one of its few detriments. Atlantis, like most Disney animated releases of the era and prior, has a crisp running time, in this case an hour and 36 minutes. While the length by no means serves as an impediment to the film, it’s the rare Disney flick that could largely benefit from an extra 10 minutes spent allowing the characters (and the audience by proxy) to take in the majesty of Atlantis — it would make the eventual attack on the city from the film’s villain feel all the more personal in terms of stakes. Alas, the world Mignola and his collaborators craft is so fully realized that the biggest shame in the film is that we aren’t given more time to spend in it. 

To be fair, there seems to have been a real intent to give us more time to spend in the world of Atlantis by Disney, but it hedged its bets on this property in a big way. Atlantis was set to be the next big Disney multimedia franchise. A sequel rumored to have been titled Shards of Chaos was planned, along with an animated series to be called Team Atlantis (which, fun fact, would have featured a crossover with the hit Disney animated series Gargoyles!). There was even a ride at a Disney park in the works that would have taken the passengers underwater (presumably in a ride pod or glass tube). 

Credit: Disney

Unfortunately, the progress on these projects was halted when Atlantis failed to set the box office on fire. It’s hard to say for sure what caused the film to underperform, but it likely came down to audiences not being used to a Disney film defying the norm to this extent. Even its contemporary adventure-heavy films like Mulan and Tarzan had the cushioning of traditional Disney romance and a few good musical numbers. Atlantis was, all things considered, perhaps too ahead of its time. The produced episodes of the TV show were combined into a passable straight-to-video film sequel called Milo’s Return, and then it was over.

However, nothing ever really dies, thanks to the streaming era. Both Atlantis films are currently available on Disney+. It’s as good a time as ever to revisit Disney’s most ambitious failure. Heck, if those viewership numbers go up, who’s to say someone won’t take notice? There’s always a chance the famed Lost City won’t be lost for much longer ...

Butcher Babies' Heidi Shepherd reveals upcoming Lobo-based song on SYFY WIRE's 'Metal Crush Mondays' @ Syfy Wire

Last week, SYFY WIRE's "Metal Crush Mondays" kicked off with a badass tease from Black Veil Brides' Andy Black about his involvement with metal-tastic DC comic Dark Nights: Death Metal. Now another DC property is the topic of conversation: Lobo. The antihero was born out of the hardcore '90s comics of bikers and blown cigar smoke, but has taken on an interesting evolution over the years — including a live-action stint on Krypton.

During a conversation with SYFY WIRE's Whitney Moore (which also featured New Years Day's Ash Costello, and Sevendust's Lajon Witherspoon), Butcher Babies' Heidi Shepherd spoke about her connection to Lobo and some upcoming music that might just feature the Czarnian killer. Superman's a chump, anyways, right?

The interview below accompanies a screening of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter that airs on SYFY tonight as part of this week's "Metal Crush Mondays."

Take a look:

"I'm just gonna tell you this: We have written a song about Lobo," Shepherd said. "It might be on the new album. We'll see. We haven't recorded it fully yet." While it's not specifically about Lobo's scruffy sex appeal, it's certainly about how he's "the 'main man,'" according to Shepherd. "Lobo's my fave. He's just a metal guy, just throws on metal music and is super destructive — but is a teddy bear at heart. And that's so metal. Every metalhead is that exact same way."

In other words, contrary to Lobo's tough-as-nails persona in the comics, the character's soft side might finally get a highlight courtesy of the Butcher Babies.

Source: DC Comics

"Metal Crush Mondays" airs on SYFY every Monday in August. Butcher Babies has a new album on the way, with a new single coming in September. Fans can find more interviews on SYFY WIRE's YouTube page and extended "Metal Crush Mondays" conversations on the Metal Crush podcast.

Click here to subscribe via Apple Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe via Spotify.

 

All the Big Summer (Streaming) Blockbusters of 2020 @ io9

Black Widow. Wonder Woman 1984. Fast and Furious 9. No Time to Die. These were meant to be some of the big summer blockbusters of 2020. And yet, none of them have been released yet. We all know why—the novel coronavirus—but in the place of those films, something strange happened. New movies... did come out. Here’s…

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How the Rocky Horror Picture Show perfected cult movie fandom @ Syfy Wire

It may seem strange given my general mien (queer goth femme) and personal history (a recovering theatre kid swiftly regressing in the time of COVID-19), but I had never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show until the hellish year of 2020. In college, I spent my midnight movie hours riffing movies like The Worst Witch (another Tim Curry production) with my friends; the film simply never darkened my door, be it via screening or a television in the background at a party.

Accordingly, I wasn't exactly sure what I was in for. Oh, I'd absorbed some elements through pop culture osmosis, but I thought it was going to be an anthropological experience more than anything else. But as midnight faded in my mental rearview mirror, I found myself, like a great many theatrically minded queers, weirdos, and queerdos, under the glamorous, messy, and meta spell of Rocky.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show does a great many things. But one of the greatest things it ever did was to codify the cult — or midnight — movie fandom.


The witching hour has always been a perfect time for strange, mind-altering entertainments. In the 1930s, stage magicians like Elwin-Charles Peck performed midnight ghost shows like "El-Wyn's Midnight Spook Party" in movie theaters. These shows originally mimicked the kinds of seances popular in late 19th-century America, but they became more horror-oriented as films like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy gained popularity. For instance, Jack and Wyman Baker's "The Asylum of Horrors" featured Jack Baker emceeing as the mad scientist Dr. Silkini in a show that mixed horror effects and comedy. (They even added Frankenstein's monster to their show in 1941, for maximum synergy.)

When television's popularity threatened movie theaters in the 1950s, these midnight horror shows were one of the casualties, as movie theaters got rid of their stages in favor of large film formats (like CinemaScope) designed to attract viewers with an experience they couldn't replicate at home. But television had its own delights for the midnight ghost show fan. From 1954 to 1955, Los Angeles area viewers enjoyed The Vampira Show, where late-night horror films were introduced by Maila Nurmi's "glamour ghoul" Vampira. While The Vampira Show was short-lived (running only a year), it set the groundwork for the concept of the horror host: a horrifying but often humorous host who introduced the movies, made snarky remarks, and performed sketches. In 1957, as packages of Universal horror films became available for television syndication, horror hosts proliferated across the land. By the 1970s, midnight, horror, snark, and ghoulish glam walked practically hand in hand.

It was exactly the kind of B-grade horror and science fiction movies horror hosts, well, hosted that inspired Richard O'Brien to write The Rocky Horror Show in the early 1970s. The show's opening number, "Science Fiction/Double Feature," is almost entirely composed of references to these films. The musical, staged at the tiny Theater Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973, was a smash hit, ultimately transferring to the King's Road Theatre — which, incidentally, was a cinema, rendering The Rocky Horror Show a midnight horror show in the old-fashioned sense.

When legendary American music producer Lou Adler was tipped off by actress Britt Ekland about the show, he snapped up the American theatrical rights to stage it the next year at his new Sunset Strip nightclub, the Roxy. It was, unsurprisingly, equally successful there, and 20th Century Fox made a deal with Adler to create a film version: The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But before the film came out, the show opened on Broadway in 1975 — where it failed miserably, running for only 45 performances and receiving dismal reviews. The film followed and performed so poorly that Fox canceled the planned New York City premiere. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was circling the drain until Fox publicist Tim Deegan realized it might be perfect for the burgeoning midnight movie market.


While the exact date and location of the first modern midnight movie is in dispute (between San Francisco and New York City), it's indisputable that New York City's Elgin Theater, under the management of Ben Barenholtz, jump-started the trend with its decision to screen Alejandro Jodorowsky's surreal, philosophical, and gruesomely violent El Topo at midnight seven days a week in 1970. The film, which had struggled to find an audience, began to sell out to a young, hip, and, to be perfectly honest, often stoned crowd.

El Topo's success at the Elgin inspired other art house cinemas in New York City to do the same, and a loose cannon of midnight movies began to form: Freaks, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, and The Harder They Fall among them. The films ran the gamut from horror to deliberate filth to crime drama, united less by genre and more by the promise of being something unique, new, and transgressive. Something audiences had never seen before.

Something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Credit: The Walter Reade Organziation

When The Rocky Horror Picture Show made its midnight debut at the Waverly Theater (now the IFC Center) in Greenwich Village in April 1976, it was welcomed with open arms by what was now the cult of the midnight movie. Waverly manager Denise Borden played the difficult-to-find cast album before each screening, lending the proceedings a convivial atmosphere. As the Official Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club president Sal Piro relates in his 1990 book Creatures of the Night, a core group of regulars began to coalesce, booking seats in the balcony every week. One of these regulars, Louis Farese Jr., shouted out the first callback line the following Labor Day weekend, extolling Janet to "Buy an umbrella, you cheap bitch!"

Through 1976 and 1977, the trappings of what would become the quintessential Rocky Horror experience began to take shape at the Waverly. The regulars began lip-syncing to the cast album before screenings, which, as fans began donning costumes, evolved into the full-blown shadowcasts Rocky is famous for. The callbacks become more elaborate. When Piro saw the film in the winter of 1976, he was inspired by his own memories of local horror host Zackerley's riffs to join in. A friendly rivalry between the balcony regulars and the orchestra regulars blossomed, using callbacks to tease each other. Balcony regulars Amy Lazarus and Theresa Krakauskas introduced props in April 1977, when they used shreds of paper to approximate rice at the wedding. Candles as props were briefly introduced, but as the fire hazard threatened to shut the screenings down, Borden asked fans to stop. A two-sided handout known as The Transylvanian was given to attendees to keep them apprised of new and retired lines, as well as any special events.

By 1979, The Rocky Horror apparatus was fully functional and spreading to other cities. Tim Deegan booked The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings all over the country. Fans from and fans who visited the New York City community took the callbacks, performances, and props with them to these screenings. The Transylvanian evolved from a one-sheet to a full fanzine, while burgeoning local groups published their own newsletters.

And, of course, the mainstream media was starting to take notice, reporting on this strange new phenomenon and trying to evaluate the film in the light of these fan practices. By the time a screening of Rocky Horror appeared in the 1980 film Fame, it was clear that Rocky had given the midnight movie a new meaning.

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

The definition of "midnight movie" or "cult movie" can feel like a moving target in the modern era, especially once the midnight movie slot went mainstream when films like Batman and Dick Tracy debuted with midnight screenings. When the film magazine Cinéaste published a special focus on cult film issue in the winter of 2008, it included a critical symposium where six contributors to the field of cult film studies defined cult films. Unsurprisingly, all six have slightly different answers. According to Peter Stanfield, the term had become marketing copy, given to films before they've even had a chance to generate a following. To Tim Lucas, the film has to come from outside of the mainstream. And Damien Love believes that the official definition involves the film being appreciated for the elements that originally sank its success.

The definition with the longest legs comes from J. Hoberman, who wrote the pioneering text on cult films, 1983's Midnight Movies, with Jonathan Rosenbaum: "a cult film is created by its audience."

But what happens when that audience isn't exactly together?

The rise of home video has long threatened cult movies; in fact, Hoberman and Rosenbaum discuss that very topic in a 1991 Film Comment article. "I see Rocky Horror as one of the last gaps of collectivized theatrical moviegoing before video took over and atomized the audience," says Rosenbaum. One of the appeals of the midnight movie experience was the rare opportunity to catch a film you may otherwise never see; home video opens up a world of possibilities in that realm. But it also takes you out of the social and physical space of the witching hour. It's hard to build a coven—or cult—of one.

The rise of the Internet and of streaming has provided further distance. In an incredible 2018 article for The Baffler, film critic Judy Berman notes how the streaming boom has provided seemingly infinite access to films but also buries modern films that could be the new cult classics under an ever-churning mountain of content, content, content. She also posits that a particularly soulless variant on bad movie fandom—cult movie fandom's more ironic younger sister, typified by Mystery Science Theater 3000—is on the rise, using the objectively poorly made but nonetheless popular The Room as an example. Is The Room really being screened at midnight to find an audience more receptive to its message, as El Topo was?

Credit: Universal

But I don't think The Room is the archetype of the 21st century midnight movie — at least, not anymore. Cats has, undoubtedly, dethroned it, transformed from a prestige follow-up to Les Miserables in the eyes of its audience into a modern camp classic. Cats' cult may have initially gathered to rubberneck at the film's production, but any cynical enjoyment is transmuted into shrieking, unhinged delight when Skimbleshanks pirouettes so hard he levitates and explodes.

And that moment can be shared with anyone. I'm lucky enough to have access to screenings where I am allowed, nay, encouraged to riff to my dark heart's content, but for those who can't or would prefer not to congregate (in general, not in COVID-19 times, when nobody should be congregating), you can watch it with friends over Skype, chat online, listen to any number of podcasts. I particularly recommend The Flop House's episode on the subject, if only to catch Natalie Walker hollering "it's Cats, baby!!" In 2020, it takes deliberate action and work to connect with your cult—but it can be done.

And that's why Rocky Horror's fandom persists and will persist: it's known that for decades. It prioritizes community organization. Even in the age of COVID-19, the Official Rocky Horror Fan Club has been sharing fans' virtual streams like the "Zoomy Horror Quarantine Show" and the NYC Rocky Horror Picture Show was able to stage a virtual show that allowed for the holy grail of audience participation. Rocky's future certainly won't be... rocky.

Disney boots up new 'Tron' movie starring Jared Leto, hires director @ Syfy Wire

Disney is officially developing a new Tron movie starring Morbius' Jared Leto, who's been on board since 2017.

According to Deadline, which first broke the news, Garth Davis has been tapped to direct. The filmmaker is known for smaller, more independent projects like 2016's Lion and 2018's Mary Magdalene. While this will be his first big-budget undertaking, Deadline cites "insiders," who noted that "Davis aggressively pursued the job and his take won over Disney execs in the end." The studio, it should be noted, has yet to issue a formal green-light for the film.

Credit: Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images & Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Nowhere in the report is it mentioned that the latest Tron effort will be a sequel to 2010's Legacy (itself a follow-up to the 1982 original). This seems to confirm that the Mouse House is looking to reboot the franchise, rather than continue it. Jesse Wigutow (It Runs in the Family) wrote the latest draft of the screenplay, while Leto, Justin Springer, and Emma Ludbrook are attached as producers.

Leto himself confirmed the news on Twitter, writing:

"I’m struck with such gratitude for the opportunity to bring this movie to life, especially as both the original video game and the film affected me so deeply as a young child. The fact that I get to be a part of this new chapter is mind-blowing. I am so very excited and proud to confirm that YES - I will be starring in TRON. We will work as hard as we possibly can to create something that I hope you all will love.  We have some very special ideas in store for you all...See you in the grid!"

In the spring, Legacy's director, Joseph Kosinski, discussed the possibility of another installment, saying: "It's still a nice jewel in the crown of Disney IP, and I think there are fans and people petitioning and pushing to continue it inside the halls of Disney. So, I think it could happen ... It's all about timing and the right elements and everything's got to come together for a movie to happen."


Thunderstorms Linked to Breathing Trouble for Older People @ io9

A new study out Monday might provide the strongest evidence yet that thunderstorms can worsen certain health conditions. Across a 14-year period in the U.S., researchers found that the days surrounding a thunderstorm were clearly associated with a spike in emergency room visits for respiratory problems among older…

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Wynonna Earp: The Official Podcast: Let’s Talk About Kombucha @ Syfy Wire

Welcome back to Wynonna Earp: The Official Podcast! Season 4 of Wynonna Earp is up and running.

Episode 403, “Look at Them Beans,” is full-on Wynonna Earp, especially since it was directed by Wynonna Earp herself, Melanie Scrofano. After the epic twist at the end of 402, Wynonna, Waverly, and Doc find themselves playing catch-up in Purgatory after they were missing for 18 months, three weeks, and four days. In her absence, the town believes Wynonna has killed Randy Nedley and the team has to compete in the Randy Nedley Chili Cook-Off for Freedom to clear Wynonna's name.

In the end, it is Kombucha that saves the day, not chili. The team frees Nedley from the literal monster he had become and prove Wynonna's innocence once and for all. Needless to say, The Official Wynonna Earp Podcast has a lot of feelings about this episode.

Rachel Zeolla and Katie Wilson are joined by the Kombucha master herself, Rachel Valdez, played by Martina Ortiz-Luis, to give us the inside scoop on what it was like working with Melanie as a director. Rachel can't stop talking about vagina curtain, Katie watched a bad community theatre production of Into the Woods, and Martina spills the Mar- "Tea"-na about her new castmates.

Earp with us right here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Don't forget to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or however you prefer to get podcasts in your earbuds! You can also follow the podcast's Twitter at @OfficialEarpPod.

Tron 3 May Finally Go Ahead With Jared Leto and a New Director @ io9

So it seems that whole Tron 3 thing may be happening again.

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Iceman heats up: X-Men's Shawn Ashmore will play Lamplighter in Season 2 of The Boys @ Syfy Wire

Season 2 of The Boys is going to be extra spicy with the addition of X-Men's Shawn Ashmore. Amazon confirmed today that the Iceman actor will (ironically) be taking up the post of flame-powered Lamplighter, a character that was mentioned several times — but never physically introduced — last season. A former member of the Seven, he's a flawed Human Torch archetype whose fiery abilities led to the tragic deaths of Mallory's grandchildren and initial break-up of the Boys.

"When he enters their lives again, he dredges up painful memories, pokes at their raw nerves, and changes everything," reads the official announcement. Fans might recall that Lamplighter's vacancy in the Seven is what opened the door for Annie/Starlight (Erin Moriarty) to join the team of pretentious Supes in the first place. Ashmore's casting is a fun little wink to the audience that perfectly fits into the subversive DNA of The Boys.

“I watched the show before I was cast, so I sort of knew [Lamplighter] and I was wondering about this character," Ashmore said in a statement to a select few outlets. "What was fun for me stepping in is that a lot of the mythology and the backstories are already built, and I was asking myself: 'Who is this character? What is this character?' There's going to be a preconceived notion of who this character is based on his actions, based on how people talk about him. What the show does well with everybody, including Lamplighter, is peel some of those layers back."

"We were thrilled that Shawn — who is, let’s be honest, an OG superhero — wanted to play the crucial part of Lamplighter," added showrunner and executive producer Eric Kripke. "He brings so much depth, menace, and world weary humanity to this former member of the Seven. And Shawn is a really good guy. We’re grateful to have him join our bloody little family."

Here's your first look:

Credit: Prime Video

Ashmore is just one of the newcomers joining the ultra-violent and swear-filled world of the show based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Aya Cash ("Stormfront"), Goran Višnjić ("Alistair Adana"), Claudia Doumit ("Victoria Neuma"), Cameron Crovetti, PJ Byrne, and Patton Oswalt will also be popping up this season as supporting players. Giancarlo Esposito, who briefly appeared as Vought CEO Stan Edgar in the Season 1 finale, has been upped to a regular.

As for the main lineup, Karl Urban ("Billy Butcher"), Jack Quaid ("Hughie Campbell"), Laz Alonso ("Mother's Milk"), Tomer Capon ("Frenchie"), and Karen Fukuhara ("Kimiko") return to play the Supe-busting team that gives the project its name. Antony Starr ("Homelander"), Chace Crawford ("The Deep"), Jessie T. Usher ("A-Train"), Dominique McElligott ("Queen Maeve"), Nathan Mitchell ("Black Noir") reprise their roles as sadistic and self-absorbed members of the Seven.

Shantel VanSanten ("Becca Butcher") Malcolm Barrett ("Seth Reed"), Colby Minifie ("Ashley Barrett"), and Laila Robins ("Grace Mallory") round out the super ensemble.

The first three episodes of The Boys Season 2 drop on Amazon Prime Friday, Sep. 4. After that, the remaining five installments will premiere on a weekly basis. In addition, Aiysha Tyler (Archer) is set to host a special aftershow, Prime Rewind: Inside The Boys, that kicks off Friday, Aug. 28 with a recap of the first season. From there, Tyler's deep dive series will explore new episodes, all the way through to the Season 2 finale on Friday, Oct. 9. A third season was confirmed at Comic-Con@Home.


“Auxiliary: London 2039” Giveaway Contest complete @ Bureau 42

The Auxiliary: London 2039 book giveaway winner has been selected and contacted. Thanks to all who entered!

Amazon Prime Gaming aims to bundle Twitch Prime bonuses, more into revamped service @ Syfy Wire

Fans with Amazon Prime subscriptions should be seeing their gaming experiences getting a little more special in the near future. Today, Amazon launched Prime Gaming — which basically transfers all the gaming goodies, bonus content, and more from Twitch Prime over to fans’ Prime accounts — and made a Prime subscription into a multimedia experience.

According to a release, Prime Gaming automatically adds onto Prime accounts (a la Amazon Prime’s streaming service and the current Twitch Prime model, launched in 2016) while making it clearer that Twitch and Amazon are one and the same. This rebrand puts Gaming in context with Amazon’s Video and Music categories, giving the same cross-platform benefits — like exclusive skins, free games, and more — with a more Amazon-centric name.

“Prime members already get the best of TV, movies, and music, and now we’re expanding our entertainment offerings to include the best of gaming,” said Larry Plotnick, GM, Prime Gaming. “We’re giving customers new content that makes playing their favorite games on every platform even better. So no matter what kind of games you love, and no matter where you play them, they’ll be even better with Prime Gaming.”

That means nostalgic free games like Metal Slug 2, downloadable freebies in current hits like Apex Legends, and a monthly Twitch channel subscription. The free game selection rotates every month (though if claimed in previous months, those games are fans’ to keep), while the in-game content is also updated over time.

Amazon Prime subscribers (or those interested in a 30-day free trial) can go here to claim their Prime Gaming benefits.

 

WIRE Buzz: Zack Snyder shares look at Steppenwolf; Psych 2 blooper reel; and 'The Last Bus' @ Syfy Wire

As he prepares to release his long-awaited cut of 2017's Justice League, Zack Snyder isn't afraid to show fans just how different his version of the DC team-up movie will be. Posting on Vero over the weekend, the filmmaker gave us a glimpse at an alternate (and thoroughly intimidating) design for Steppenwolf, the Apokolips baddie voiced by Ciarán Hinds. Based on the image below, it looks like Snyder's take on the otherworldly villain will be a lot taller, spikier, and scarier than he was in the theatrical cut of the film, which featured a slew of reshot footage and effects from Joss Whedon.

"Just working today, pulled this out of the editorial," Snyder wrote in the photo's caption. "Sorry he's low-resolution, but I've seen him in all his high-res glory, and he's a thing to behold. Quick question...how many f***s do you think he gives???"

Check it out for yourself:

Credit: Vero/Zack Snyder

While the theatrical cut only featured Steppenwolf as the main antagonist, the Snyder Cut will bring Darkseid (played by Ray Porter) into the mix as well. Indeed, Snyder recently said that he won't be using a single shred of footage that was not photographed under his supervision as director.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is slated to arrive on HBO Max sometime next year.


Psych is back and like the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours. Not only can you now stream the Psych 2: Lassie Come Home movie on Peacock, you can also enjoy a meaty, eight-minute blooper reel from the film's production. And believe us when we say it's totally worth your time; then again, we'll take any excuse to spend more time with this talented ensemble of comedy-sharpened actors.

From flubbed lines, to intrusive airplanes, to MCU references, prepare to laugh with the video below:

Directed and co-written by series creator Steve Franks, Lassie Come Home sees Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) returning to Santa Barbara for a case that may actually involve a genuine supernatural element...for once. Timothy Omundson, Sarah Chalke, Jimmi Simpson, Joel McHale, Richard Schiff, and Maggie Lawson co-star.

Franks co-wrote the project with Roday and Andy Berman.


According to Deadline, Netflix has placed an order for 10 episodes of The Last Bus

A live-action series for young adults, the project is described as "a sci-fi road trip adventure, which tells the story of a group of mismatched school kids who band together to face a fearsome new machine intelligence." YouTube creator Paul Neafcy wrote the show for Wildseed Studios (PrankMe) after catching the company's eye with low-budget films shot from his bedroom.

"Although at the top level The Last Bus is a shamelessly entertaining sci-fi romp, at another level it is a powerful eco-fable about how the younger generation must be empowered to make very different choices from the generation which preceded it when it comes to the two big challenges of the age – environmental breakdown and hugely sophisticated artificial intelligence," Wildseed co-founders Miles Bullough and Jesse Cleverley said in a statement published by Deadline.

The plan is to shoot the series in the United Kingdom this fall. Drew Casson, Lawrence Gough, Steve Hughes, Nour Wazzi have been tapped to direct. In particular, Gough and Hughes previously directed episodes of Doctor Who. No cast has been announced yet.


See Leia's Rise of Skywalker Lightsaber in All Its Glory @ io9

Star Wars without lightsabers is like life without sun. The Jedi weapon is one of the most recognizable pieces of one of the world’s most popular franchises and a truly elegant feat of design. Later this year, these key pieces of Star Wars are getting their own book and, to celebrate, io9 is excited to give you your…

Read more...

Monday's Best Deals: Anker PowerWave Sense Pad, Nintendo Switch Joy-Con, 4000A Peak Jump Starter, Nordstrom Rack Face Masks, and More @ io9

There might be a star out there barely old enough to remember the ‘80s—among stars that are billions of years old @ Syfy Wire

Millions of years is young for a star. When orbs of fire have been around for billions and billions of years, some still blazing from the time Earth was born out of a fiery chasm, several million years is nothing.

Which makes it all the wilder that there is a neutron star out there that is 33 years old. Not 3 billion or 33 million. Thirty-three, as in coming into existence the same year Spaceballs was released. Back in 1987, a supernova that became know as SN 1987A blew up in the Large Magellanic Cloud 170,000 light-years away. Astronomers observing SN 1987A suspected the star corpse had left something in its wake. They assumed a neutron star had emerged, but have not been sure whether that star survived. Now there is new evidence it is still blazing out there.

“This discovery builds upon years of ALMA observations, showing the core of the supernova in more and more detail thanks to the continuing improvements to the telescope and data processing,” said astronomer Remy Indebetouw, who was not involved in the study which uncovered that evidence but has been on the ALMA imaging team.

Human lives are hardly a blink of a star’s proverbial eye. The next youngest star known to exist is Cassiopeia A, and nobody alive now can remember when it ignited 330 years ago. Hi-res images from ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter array) were what exposed something shining with extreme brightness SN 1987A. It looked like an amorphous blob of plasma brighter than anything around it. While that in itself is a gargantuan cloud of gas and dust, not a neutron star, something was heating up the star stuff in the cloud to make it so blinding.

The astronomers investigating SN 1987A believe that was where the supposed star had to be if it really did crawl out of the supernova.

“The dust and gas could be at higher temperatures than the surrounding material, though higher density cannot be totally excluded,” they said in a study recently published in The Astrophysical Journal. “One of the possibilities is that a compact source provides additional heat at that location.”

That compact source is probably a neutron star — though not a pulsar or black hole. Neutron stars form after the protons and electrons in a supernova core merge into neutrons. These extremely dense objects often turn into pulsars, whose pulses of radiation occur regularly. Their magnetic fields spew particles out from either end. Pulsars are only as strong as their spin speed and magnetic fields, and what the two teams of astronomers saw simply did not match what observations of a pulsar should have looked like. The hypothetical star in SN 1987A was also emitting heat energy consistent with what should be expected to come form the surface of a young neutron star.

Supernova cores that exceed 3 solar masses can become dense enough to morph into black holes, but assuming the object is a black hole would make it difficult to explain its luminosity. Black holes are surroujnded by glowing accretion shields and photon rings, but even that light doesn't come anywhere near a neutron star's blaze.

The only way to find out whether the thing lurking in SN 1987A is a neutron star for sure is to wait several more decades until enough dust and gas clears to expose it. Millennials might be the new boomers by then.

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