Your Joy-Con Are Holding You Back: Grab This Wireless GameCube Controller For Just $34 @ io9

WIRE Buzz: Snow Crash TV series in the works; Robin's 80th birthday bash; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Now here's a Hiro we can believe in.

One of sci-fi author Neal Stephenson's most heralded works, Snow Crash, is headed to the small screen, courtesy of HBO Max.

According to Deadline, the streaming service has enlisted Paramount TV, 21 Jump Street scribe Michael Bacall, and Attack the Block director Joe Cornish to adapt the 1992 dystopian cyberpunk classic.

(Credit: Bantam Books/Brilliance Audio via Amazon)

Published in 1992, Snow Crash is an epic adventure set in the 21st century after a global economic collapse when big business reigns, everything has become privatized, and people (even armies) live in sovereign gated communities called burbclaves. Enter Hiro Protagonist, a hacker and pizza delivery driver who works for the Mafia and whose avatar is a warrior prince in the Metaverse, a virtual-reality successor to the internet.

In the Metaverse, Hiro's offered Snow Crash, a narcotic that turns out to be a datavirus. When the drug takes out a fellow hacker, Hiro and a younger skater/courier named Y.T. embark on a mission to stop an assassin that's planning to use Snow Crash to bring about an "Infocalypse."

Frank Marshall, the legendary producer behind Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and the Bourne movies, among others, will oversee the series, while The L Word's Angela Robinson will serve as showrunner. Stephenson, whose other cyberpunk novels include The Diamond Age and Cyptonomicon, will executive-produce.


Holy birthday, Batman!

Hard to believe, but after making a splash on the March 6, 1940, cover of Detective Comics No. 38, Dick Grayson, aka Robin the Boy Wonder, is an octogenarian now.

And to celebrate this awesome milestone and his legacy as arguably the greatest sidekick in comic book history, per The Hollywood Reporter, DC is rolling out the Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular.

The anthology will hit comic book shops and the web on March 11, 2020, and offer an inside peek from creators including Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dixon, Mikel Janin, James Tynion IV, and current Detectives Comics writer Peter J. Tomasi. It will also include new short stories honoring various iterations of the character from the original Dick Grayson on up to Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, and Teen Titans' Robin Damian Wayne.


The Simpsons is not only turning things upside down as far as celebrity cameos, but it's adding a little Hollywood royalty as well.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Stranger Things star David Harbour and Oscar winner Cate Blanchett will guest-star on the perennial animated comedy next year. The Lord of the Rings actress, whose most recent big-screen turns include voicing the sinister python Kaa in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and starring in Where'd You Go, Bernadette, will appear in what is shaping up to be Season 31's finale.

Cate Blanchett/Getty

In "The Way of the Dog," Blanchett will voice a canine psychologist named Elaine who tries to help Santa's Little Helper out of a depression.

"She determines if there's a trauma in his past that they have to go solve, which actually goes back to the first episode of the series," Simpsons executive producer Al Jean tells EW, noting fans will be getting "a callback that is older than the Internet" itself.

Credit: Will Heath/NBC

As for Harbour, the Stranger Things sheriff will turn up as an alternate version of Mr. Burns in a Season 32 episode later in the year, a spoof of Undercover Boss.

We can't wait to see what Smithers thinks of that!


WIRE Buzz: Power Rangers suit up for movie reboot; Spooky new peek at Locke & Key; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Power up, Morphin fans, because the Power Rangers reportedly are jumping back into action.

A new movie reboot for the rainbow-colored teenage hero squad is reportedly in the works at Paramount, and it sounds like a clock-spinning, time-traveling adventure. THR reports that the untitled new project — the first big-screen showing from the crime-fighting ensemble since 2017’s Power Rangers — will “involve a time-travel element that brings the kids to the 1990s” in a Back to the Future-style time trap.

Paramount reportedly has an intriguing director lined up for the new movie: John Entwhistle, who helmed The End of the F***ing World. The Netflix drama-comedy series likely treads darker territory than anything Paramount has in mind for Power Rangers, but, as the report notes, Entwhistle “has shown he has a grasp on the voice of the younger generation, which execs hope will translate into something unique and appealing onscreen.”

Writing for the film is reportedly being done by Patrick Burleigh (Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway), with Hasbro — which holds the licensing rights — producing via the company’s Allspark Pictures. There’s no early word on casting or a release date, so stay plugged in to the grid as we await more Mighty Morphin’ news.


It’s been a long, winding road for the TV series adaptation of Locke & Key since the IDW Comics-based horror series first took aim at Fox (and then Hulu) before finally landing at Netflix. But with the premiere date for the Joe Hill-created series now less than two months away, Netflix is offering up photographic evidence that the show is very real — and, if you’re one of the Locke siblings, probably very creepy.

Netflix has tweeted out a handful of new images that show off Keyhouse Manor — the Locke family’s mystical, history-laced ancestral Massachusetts home in the comics — and it looks like there’s plenty of labyrinthine room for all kinds of spectral spookiness to come out of the woodwork. 

Hill himself recently told SYFY WIRE that fans of his original stories aren’t likely to be disappointed by what Netflix has done in adapting Locke & Key from the comics. “I've seen all 10 episodes, and I thought it was absolute TV crack,” Hill said. “It's super Netflixy, in the very best, kiss-your-weekend-goodbye kind of way.”

That’s exactly the kind of “don’t look away” challenge that’s getting us keyed up for the series premiere. Locke & Key arrives at Netflix on Feb. 7 of next year.


We're all eagerly anticipating Henry Cavill tracking his first monster when The Witcher stalks onto Netflix next week, but in the meantime, the hugely anticipated fantasy series is giving a nod to its origins with a look at a cool behind-the-scenes chat between showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich and Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski — the creative mind who spawned the entire Witcher universe.

Sapkowski confesses in the Netflix-hosted talk that his recent TV set visit was his very first encounter with a live production environment — despite the success of CD Projekt RED’s immensely popular Witcher video games over the years. It all ends in a fun pact between Hissrich and Sapkowski to pal up and watch the new series together — but not before the two agree that the heart and soul of the new series stems not from his mainline Witcher novels, but from the short story collections where, as Hissrich puts it, the real “worldbuilding” takes place. 

Sure, it comes out on the same day as The Rise of Skywalker — but who’s really complaining when a single weekend’s viewing choices pit the Force against Geralt of Rivia? The Witcher hits Netflix on Dec. 20.


Calling All Expanse Fans: Your Spoiler-Filled Season 4 Discussion Zone Awaits Like a Newly-Discovered Planet @ io9

You may have heard us mention it a time or two, but The Expanse season four has finally touched down on Amazon Prime, much like the Rocinante on Ilus after some landing-gear adjustments. Since many io9 readers have no doubt already carved out time to binge all 10 episodes—it’s time to talk about ‘em!

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Venus could tell us if life on Earth is headed for an inferno @ Syfy Wire

1p>The seventh circle of hell doesn’t only exist in The Divine Comedy. It’s Venus.

Never mind that this scorching, inhospitable planet was named after the Greco-Roman goddess of love (someone must have had a sense of humor there). Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, even though it isn’t the closest to the Sun. Now NASA wants to investigate this infernal world more than ever for what secrets it may reveal. How did it turn out to be so different from Earth if they both supposedly started out as similar environments — and could greenhouse gas emissions put us in danger of the same fate?

"Venus is like the control case for Earth," said planetary scientist Sue Smrekar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We believe they started out with the same composition, the same water and carbon dioxide. And they've gone down two completely different paths. So why? What are the key forces responsible for the differences?"

Smrekar is part of the space agency’s Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG), which is investigating how to study the planet up close, as well as what its extreme climate could tell us about our own.

Venus gets hot and heavy at up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which can easily melt lead. That explains why its blistering surface has a reddish glow reminiscent of an ancient goddess’s passion, and why only a few probes have made it to the surface before perishing in a matter of hours. Its atmosphere, swirled with sulfuric clouds, is a crushing 90 times denser than Earth’s. This is why it might seem surprising that scientists believe Venus was once a rocky ocean world not too different from our own. The thing is, the Sun was a lot smaller and dimmer back then.

“Many of the same tools we use to model climate change on Earth can be adapted to study climates on other planets, both past and present,” NASA Goddard researcher Michael Way said in an earlier study. “These results show ancient Venus may have been a very different place than it is today.”

As our star matured, the solar heat triggered an onslaught of greenhouse gases. As temperatures crept up and then skyrocketed, immense amounts of water from the oceans of Venus evaporated. It just kept getting hotter from there, because water vapor is amazing at trapping heat.

As if that weren't enough, carbon from its rocks sublimated, or transitioned directly from a solid to a gas phase, and those molecules bonded with oxygen to create even more carbon dioxide. Anyone who calls Earth home should know how CO2 emissions have ramped up the greenhouse effect on our own planet. Venus ended up turning into a cosmic hell after the thick layer of water vapor and carbon dioxide trapped heat that would otherwise have escaped into space.

The burning question is whether Earth could be next.

It is highly improbable that the heat over here will ever reach Inferno levels as described by Dante. Venus can raise awareness about what happens when the greenhouse effect is beyond extreme, but all life on Earth would be extinguished if we reached even half the CO2 concentrations in the Venusian atmosphere. That still doesn't mean we’re immune. When global warming happened at warp speed during the Permian period around 252 million years ago, it effectively extinguished most of life on Earth. Temperatures during what is now called the “great dying” weren’t even close to the wrath of Venus.

The only way to find out more about Venus and its relation to Earth is to go there, whether by a robotic probe or specialized hot air balloons that can handle the heat. These proposed balloons would float somewhere between the killer atmosphere and searing surface to keep their sensors alive long enough to gather useful information. NASA has also designed an awesome steampunk rover, the Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments (AREE) that could possibly stand to crawl across the surface.

So if there were any prehistoric aliens on Venus, could they have been completely incinerated? Who knows? We may never find out.

(via NASA)

Radicalized is one of the Wall Street Journal's top sf books of 2019! @ Boing Boing

Radicalized, my collection of four novellas, is one of the Wall Street Journal's picks for best sf books of 2019! My thanks to Tom Shippey, who listed it alongside of David Walton's Three Laws Lethal, Daniel Suarez's Delta-v, Erin Craig's House of Salt and Sorrows and Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Mother!

Mark Hamill shares heartfelt Star Wars memories on being Luke ‘as the end draws near’ @ Syfy Wire

1p>With our faith intact that Luke Skywalker’s seemingly ultimate demise in The Last Jedi wasn’t really the true ending to the story of the galaxy’s most fervently worshiped Jedi, Mark Hamill’s Star Wars swan song is nevertheless speeding toward its final descent. So as The Rise of Skywalker counts down the days to its premiere next week, the farm boy from Tatooine is taking to Twitter — where he’s letting fans everywhere know just how emotional a journey playing the role of a lifetime has been.

Hamill shared a batch of remarkable behind-the-scenes photos of his time in the Star Wars universe over the years, accompanied by a heartfelt message to fans about how taking his first step into a larger world, all those years ago, ended up setting him on a career path — and a personal journey — that’s helped him see the good side of how a mega-movie franchise can unite people from all walks of life.

“As the end draws near — I can't tell you how much 1 single role has meant to me over the years,” he began:

“Because of him,” wrote the Star Wars icon with the hashtag #BeingLuke, “…it seems like the whole world is my family. I will be grateful for that…Forever.” 

That kind of talk has the hair-raising power to send a chill down the spine of even the most seasoned fan — especially when it’s paired with images that show Hamill in a candid chat with Harrison Ford (RIP, Han Solo), reflecting on his time-altered personae from the different Star Wars movie eras, and beaming like a schoolkid beside a Star Wars logo from so early on in the series that most fans probably haven’t seen it (or simply forgot).

It’s a nostalgia wave for sure, but when you’re staring down the finale of a nine-movie, four-decade saga that’s forever tied Mark Hamill, the actor, to one of movie history’s most titanic fictional characters, it’s a wave we’ll let wash over us every time. Even if all we see of Luke’s luminous being in Episode IX is a light-shrouded Force Ghost projection, we’ll probably get a little misty-eyed when The Rise of Skywalker arrives on Dec. 20 — and after all Luke’s been through, we won’t even try to hide it.


Paramount Is Now on Board With a Reboot of the Power Rangers Reboot @ io9

Remember way back in time, say, two years ago, when a new Power Rangers movie was released to reboot the franchise? Well, it didn’t do so well and now Hollywood is about to say “It’s Morphin Time” yet again.

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The Trailer For VHYes Will Transport You Right Back to the 1980s @ io9

Imagine you found an old VHS tape from when you were a kid and popped it into a VCR. What nostalgic magic would you find? That’s just part of the fun in the new movie VHYes.

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Why Peter Jackson failed so hard with The Lovely Bones @ Syfy Wire

1p>In 2002, Alice Sebold published her debut novel, The Lovely Bones. The fantasy-drama told the story of Susie Salmon, a typical teenage girl who is violently raped and murdered by her neighbor. Her spirit flees upward and heads to her own personal Heaven, where she remains indefinitely as she watches her family struggle with the fallout from her disappearance. Almost immediately, The Lovely Bones became a startling success. Inspired by her own experiences with sexual assaults, Sebold's tale tapped into something unique and yet universally understandable about grief and trauma, told through an unexpected lens that subverted audiences' expectations. Curiously, The Lovely Bones is a beautiful and uplifting book about a horrific rape and murder. Readers couldn't get enough of it, and the title sold more than a million copies in one month, a near-unheard-of phenomenon given its lack of big-name endorsements and Sebold's status as a debut author. Of course, a movie would have to follow.

Before publication, the Scottish director Lynne Ramsay snapped up the adaptation rights, hoping to turn the story into a psychological examination of Susie's father as he goes mad with grief, akin to Hamlet. Ramsay had acquired a proof of the book before it was even finished and worked from there, admitting she preferred the darker content to the sugary Heaven scenes and wanted to get away from the more fantastical elements in favor of something more in line with her other films. When the book became a million-dollar hot property, Ramsay was removed from the project, as the producers wanted something more faithful to the source material. Ramsay would later say that she nicknamed the project "The Lovely Money," since that was all the producers seemed to care about. They desired a director who would slavishly stick to the book and ensure audiences got what they wanted on a grand scale. Enter Peter Jackson and a world of misguided creative decisions.

By 2009, Peter Jackson had thoroughly established himself as one of the biggest film directors on the planet. After many years of delightfully crash low-budget shock-horrors, he made the seemingly impossible happen by bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy to life on the big screen. He took on the oft-described insurmountable task of adapting one of fantasy fiction’s most beloved sagas and did so with epic scale, loving attention to detail, and true cinematic flair. There’s a reason those films stand up to scrutiny today and are considered as close to a perfect adaptation of Middle-earth as we’ll ever get. The franchise’s financial and critical success, plus its plethora of Oscars, put Jackson in the much-envied position as a filmmaker of essentially being able to make whatever the hell he wanted. First came his remake of King Kong, a three-hour display of pure fanboy glee that delights and infuriates in equal measure. While there’s much to love in the film and the way it expands its scant source material, this was the first sign audiences got that Jackson might have been flying off the rails a little with his lavish approach to cinema and increasing reliance on CGI.

It made sense that producers of The Lovely Bones would want Jackson at the helm of this much-hyped project. Expectations were high, fans wanted something that stuck to the source material, and Jackson had the required experience to bring Susie’s otherworldly Heaven to life. He also had a great eye for casting, which carried over well with The Lovely Bones as the much-coveted role of Susie was awarded to Saoirse Ronan. The oft-underrated Stanley Tucci was perfectly cast against type as Susie's murderer George, while her parents were to be played by Rachel Weisz and Ryan Gosling. The latter didn't work out, mostly because Gosling was only 26 at the time and he'd also chosen to grow a beard and go 60 pounds overweight without informing Jackson. He was quickly replaced by Mark Wahlberg. Jackson wanted to retain the "curiously optimistic" tone of the novel and portray Susie's Heaven in a way that was "ethereal and emotional but not hokey." He was also insistent on keeping the movie at a PG-13 rating to ensure it could reach the widest audience possible.

None of his decisions was necessarily bad at the time. They were essentially the same ones he'd made when taking on The Lord of the Rings. The key difference here was that The Lovely Bones, for all its illusions of optimism and grasping at the warmth of a beautiful, comforting afterlife, is an extremely dark book. Remember, this is a story that starts with a teenage girl being raped, murdered, then dismembered, never to be fully found by her family or those who love her. She remains eternally an adolescent, watching her family grow and suffer and being completely unable to do anything about it. Even though she now lives in paradise, she’s painfully aware that she’ll never truly experience peace after what she’s been through. The Lovely Bones is about many things, but most importantly it’s a testament to the crater of damage left behind by trauma and how we seldom suffer alone, for better or worse.

Jackson said he was drawn to the book because "like all the best fantasy, it has a solid grounding in the real world." Strangely, there's not a shred of evidence to support that fact in his adaptation. Instead, Jackson seems obsessed with turning Susie's Heaven into a crash-bang-wallop of colors and effects that are more headache-inducing than inspiring. It's clear that this is where the lion's share of Jackson's attention (and the $65 million budget) went, and it's to the film's ultimate detriment. This CGI spectacle overshadows the human heart at the center of The Lovely Bones, reducing Susie and her family to puppets of misery. The rougher and more abrasive edges of the story are sanded down into something more palatable, which greatly defeats the point of the narrative: Death isn't supposed to be easy.

To add insult to injury, Jackson's effects extravaganzas have a distinct lack of imagination. None of it looks especially original or even comes close to evoking the ambiguous beauty of the novel. Sebold's novel refuses to give easy answers to her readers' questions over the nature of this Heaven, one she says is separate from belief in God and the doctrine of Christianity. Turning that liminal concept into distinct visual language would be impossible for any director, but Jackson simply chooses to throw everything at the screen and hope some of the lollipop sweetness sticks. This Heaven is Lisa Frank meets a painted van by the beachside, only without any of the self-conscious camp. The ultimate effect of this approach is that Heaven ends up seeming kind of cool and not that bad a place to go once you’ve been brutalized. All of the tension and emotional heartache of Susie's afterlife voyeurism and her family’s pain is sugar-coated by the pastel prettiness she then inhabits. Truthfully, watching these scenes on my revisit made me feel sort of dirty. They were accompanied by an unnerving stain of good faith decisions gone wrong, a smudging away of more complex ideals in favor of distraction. The film is less a filling meal than a beautifully decorated cake that's tooth-rottingly sweet on the inside and has started to rot on the inside.

Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, famously described it as "deplorable," with a seriously messed-up message: "If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to. You can get together in heaven with the other teenage victims of the same killer, and gaze down in benevolence upon your family members as they mourn you and realize what a wonderful person you were. Sure, you miss your friends, but your fellow fatalities come dancing to greet you in a meadow of wildflowers, and how cool is that?"

For all the producers’ demands that the film stick as closely to the source material as possible, The Lovely Bones ends up falling incredibly short of that aim despite joining all the dots together as directed. The aesthetic overshadowed the true meat of the narrative, and by the time the film came out, few were satisfied with what they saw. Instead, what it came to symbolize were the long-running pros and cons of Peter Jackson as a filmmaker. Jackson has always been defined as a director who took on the frequently dismissed genres of fiction and used them as sturdy foundations to experiment with new special effects and evolutions in cinematic technology. The Lord of the Rings is so successful because every aspect of its beautifully rendered craft is working in tandem with the script and actors, elevating rather than overshadowing the core of the stories. Moments of CGI that haven’t aged well are forgiven because everything around them is so stellar and enthralling. Good storytelling never ages, but that's become less of a priority for Jackson following on from The Return of the King. This stance came to an especially crushing nadir when Jackson took over The Hobbit films from Guillermo del Toro, bloating the slim story to three epic films and using an increased frame rate that made the action look like a PS2 cutscene. He became so obsessed with seeing how far he could push the technological envelope that he forgot to make a good film to put it all in. It may have seemed like the right choice for The Lovely Bones, especially since everyone seemed to be asking for it, but sometimes a director needs to deviate from the source material and put aside their preferred ideas for the good of the narrative.

Personally, I still think a lot about what Lynne Ramsay's movie of The Lovely Bones would have looked like. Ramsay is one of the best directors working today and easily one of the most proficient in tackling themes of trauma, something that runs through all of her work, which made her the perfect choice for Sebold's novel before it became a phenomenon. A more austere approach focused less on Heaven in favor of the pain left on Earth by Susie's absence would have grounded the film in the humanity of its themes. That's what people were won over by, not the promise of prettiness.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.

A Wonderfully Articulated Wonder Woman Is the Most Super Toy of the Week @ io9

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular roundup of the latest and greatest in all things toy. This week, we’ve got even more Hot Toys from a galaxy far, far away; fancy figures big and small from the realms of Marvel and DC; and even an incredibly fashionable space wizard from Destiny 2. And that’s before we get to…

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WIRE Buzz: Lucasfilm & Porsche build a fast Star Wars ship; Kid Flash zooms back to The CW; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>It likely won’t be part of the on-screen action when The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters next week, but a new Star Wars fighter — spawned from a cool collaboration between Lucasfilm and Porsche — definitely wouldn’t look out of place with Poe behind the controls, either.

Design minds from the two companies recently teamed up to dream up the "Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter,” a sleek vessel inspired by both the Star Wars universe and Porsche’s all-electric Taycan sedan. Watching the 11-minute video that tracks the design process is like a fascinating voyeuristic peek at the creative thinking that goes into bringing to life a spacecraft worthy of the Rebel Fleet.

Porsche on YouTube

With help from Lucasfilm creative executive Doug Chiang, the teams literally reshape a car into a deft three-winged fighter, applying the same ethos that Star Wars relies on when it’s time to take a real-world object and rethink it for the galaxy far, far away. Chiang explains.

“George [Lucas] taught us that Star Wars design is about bold designs, simple designs,” Chiang says in the clip. “We ask ourselves: ‘Is it iconic?’ A good example of this is the TIE Fighter — it’s bold; it’s graphic; it looks like a logo. Is it something I can redraw very quickly? When the audience sees it on the screen, they only have a few seconds to know what it is.”

Sadly, the Pegasus reportedly will remain here on Planet Earth as a byproduct of the Episode IX marketing machine, and it’ll only see life as a 5-foot scale mockup on display at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere. But Porsche mysteriously teases that the ship will "live forever in a future Star Wars universe" at the end of the video, and in the meantime we’re left with a new insight into how the Star Wars design team takes an idea from concept to reality. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker warps into theaters on Dec. 20.


After an extended absence, Wally West is flashing back. 

True to the buzz generated by this year’s San Diego Comic-Con talk about how Season 6 of The Flash would unfold, Keiynan Lonsdale — who’s been only an intermittent presence at The CW since disappearing from The Flash following Season 4 — is at last returning to the series for the season's 14th episode, via TV Insider.

According to the report, showrunner Eric Wallace hints we’ll be getting a more seasoned, mature version of Kid Flash, who apparently ran off to put in some hard self-discovery time during the season-and-a-half since he’s been away. “After working on his inner life in Tibet, Wally West, aka Kid Flash, is back to help Team Flash against a familiar threat ... but one with a very new face!” Wallace teased.

“…[W]hat’s different this time [is that] Wally has grown, along with his speedster abilities, too. …this won’t be your same old Kid Flash making a reappearance” on the Earth the good guys inherit in the wake of the world-shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, he added.

Since Kid Flash is showing up after Crisis, the threat possibilities about whom Team Flash will stare down on the back end of Season 6 are wide open. Got a theory? Share it in the comments!


If the announcement of a proper Dungeons & Dragons video game at this year’s Game Awards has you hopeful that the iconic role-playing franchise is stepping up its … role … as an interactive powerhouse, then it looks like your 20-sided die just made the perfect roll. 

Speaking with Gamesindustry.biz recently, Wizards of the Coast president Chris Cocks shared that the just-announced Dark Alliance video game is only the first of several gaming projects of all shapes and sizes the D&D universe has planned in the months and years to come. 

Dark Alliance on YouTube

Teasing “seven or eight” new D&D titles in the works, Cocks said the goal is to hit “a variety of genres ... And in future games we will explore different areas, whether it's grand strategy and combat at army level scale, to really intimate character portrayal.” He went on to say that single-player adventuring will be key across the future D&D lineup — but it won’t be the only way to play. 

“There will be single player modes in all of our games, but we always think that our co-operative perspective, that forming a party with your friends and doing great things together — the party is bigger than individual components —will always be an important part of our secret sauce.”

While that doesn’t spill the beans too much on what Wizards of the Coast has planned, at least we know that the resurgent popularity of Dungeons & Dragons won’t be a mere momentary blip on gamers’ radar. It all begins with Dark Alliance, which is slated to storm the gates sometime in the fall of 2020.

Who Won the Week Ep. 210: The Expanse, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jumanji: The Next Level @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome to the latest episode of Who Won the Week, a weekly podcast in which SYFY WIRE's Adam Swiderski and Karama Horne look back at the week that was and the stories that are blowing up the geek-o-sphere.

Lots to talk about this week! We are joined by Ana Marie Cox as we remember the Cant with the fourth season of The Expanse, now streaming on Prime Video. The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event is all sorts of comic book crazy. And the holiday movie season is officially in full swing with the release of Jumanji: The Next Level. Join us.

Listen below!

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To contact us about the podcast, feel free to drop us an e-mail, or tweet at us with the hashtag #whowontheweek! And if you like what you hear, please be sure to rate and review us on iTunes! Let us know what you think the biggest stories going are, what you might want to hear in future episodes of the 'cast, and whatever else is on your mind.

Look of the Week: Jumanji takes winter style to the Next Level @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome back to Look of the Week, celebrating the best in TV and film sartorial excellence, past and present across sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and other genre classics!

Clothing choices are limited when playing a computer game avatar, as the characters in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle discovered two years ago. There is only one available outfit per identity in this old game: For Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), this look is on the skimpy side. "Why am I wearing half a shirt and short shorts in the jungle?" Martha (as Ruby) asked upon realizing just how little of her body this costume covered. It was later revealed to be a choice made by the filmmakers to subvert the well-worn and sexist trope featured in computer games like Tomb Raider. Nevertheless, even with good intentions, it is hard to convey this message without leaning into it; Ruby spends the entire film in this midriff-baring getup. At the time, Gillan told Vanity Fair, "I have to say, I think everybody had a point. To look at the picture out of context, it is ridiculous, and that is exactly the point that we’re making with it."

Much like the great "running in heels through the jungle" debate that plagued Jurassic World, the impractical nature of this costume in this environment is hard to ignore (even if that is the point being made). Thankfully, after starting in the jungle and the desert, Jumanji: The Next Level offers a wardrobe expansion pack to match the expanding world of this computer game.

Credit: Sony Pictures

The body-swap adventure fantasy takes on new dangerous scenarios, but out in the real world, the now-college-age teens are grappling with other big changes. The holiday season has brought them home to their snowy town, but they will soon be facing even colder climates. Filmed on location in Canada, the elements add to the intensity of the Calgary mountainside, which the cast journeyed to via snowmobile. "It was very extreme, but it's so worth it when you watch the film," Gillan mentioned to The Hollywood Reporter at the Los Angeles premiere, earlier this week.

Before circumstances take the teens back into the game (along with a couple of new faces), it is all puffer jackets and pea coats. While everyone has been obsessing over the Knives Out knits, the broken heating in Spencer's (Alex Woolf) house leads to a cream cable-knit sweater worn by his mom (played by Marin Hinkle), rivaling Chris Evans in the jumper department. Truly, you can never go wrong with a garment like this in your closet, but it is the heavy-duty winter attire in the game that deserves our attention.

Without giving too much away, the gang re-enter Jumanji in a bid to find the now-missing Spencer. Not only are new characters introduced, but the original cast have different personas to take on, thanks to the body-swap element. Awkwafina ends a bumper 2019 (she received a Golden Globe nomination this week) playing new avatar Ming Fleetfoot, who has some very useful skills for this virtual world. She is also the best-dressed character, wearing a leather-detailed coat and leather pants, which wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Star Wars — it is serving low-key First Order vibes.

Taking over from Laura Jean Shannon, costume designer Louise Mingenbach goes all out with the gang's protective winter attire. Think plush fur-lined hoods, layers of tweed, and all-purpose boots. Plus, Ruby finally gets to wear pants! This outfit nods to her jungle costume by using the same burgundy tone for her jacket but is far more practical in its layered styling. She gets a highly covetable pair of new boots that would look good in a less dangerous scenario.

Meanwhile, Fridge as Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) complains he has swapped "one stupid hat for another stupid hat." He shouldn't moan too much, as the trapper ear-covering design is an ideal choice for the cold-weather climate (it is also a cute look). Nick Jonas is also back, reprising his role as pilot Seaplane McDonough. Not much changes with his classic attire, other than gaining an extra thick layer of shearling.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Hilariously, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) doesn't need sleeves; instead, his shirt is switched for a wool sweater — pushed up to reveal his impressive forearms — and the outwear upgrade consists of a leather fur-lined vest.

For the most prepared to deal with the freezing temperatures, look no further than zoologist Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart), who is essentially wearing the clothing version of a sleeping bag. The puffer onesie is reminiscent of Sam Rockwell's wearable yellow sleepsuit from the Duncan Jones space movie Moon.

It is the point where coziness, practicality, and clothes intersect; thankfully, sleeping bag suits aren't just a conception worthy of science fiction and fantasy. The wool beanie, scarf, and gloves emphasize Mouse's Boy Scout preparedness, which is a flex I can appreciate in subzero temperatures. Finally, she doesn't really need a new outfit, because she's already dressed for the season, but Ming's lace-up jumpsuit is probably better for the dangerous level ahead.

How they get their new threads very much plays into the gaming aspect, which is one of the strengths of this franchise, along with the charm, humor, and heart of this cast. It might be a virtual world in Jumanji: The Next Level, but you don't need to be a computer game avatar to indulge in stylish (faux) fur-lined hoods, multi-purpose boots, cozy hats, and puffer jumpsuits when the sequel lands in theaters this weekend.

Jason Isaacs Wants Racists to Stop Pretending to Be Star Trek Fans @ io9

There are a lot—a lot—of reasons that fandom culture in the modern age has been tarred with a general air of toxicity thanks to the actions of select groups. One of those myriad reasons, is, well, bigots and racists getting mad that progressively minded fiction is a Thing That Exists. And Jason Isaacs has no time for…

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Star Wars Weekly: The Mandalorian is filled with Clone Wars Easter eggs and SNL is now canon @ Syfy Wire

1p>Time again for STAR WARS WEEKLY, the SYFY WIRE series that rounds up the most important news of the week from a galaxy far, far away. Think of us as your own personal Star Wars Holocron.

MANDALORIAN CLONE WARS

The latest episode of The Mandalorian, Chapter 6 “The Prisoner," is so full of Easter eggs and surprise cameos, we might still be discovering new ones in a decade. Perhaps the most surprising Easter eggs, though, were all of the cameos from The Clone Wars. The first came in the form of Clancy Brown playing the Devaronian muscle. Star Wars fans might recognize Brown as the voice of Maul's brother, Savage Opress.

Pedro Pascal is The Mandalorian, Clancy Brown is Burg, and Bill Burr is Mayfeld in "The Mandalorian" Chapter 6. (c) Lucasfilm

The next one we got was from Matt Lanter, the voice of Anakin Skywalker himself. He plays a New Republic Prison Ship guard and doesn't even sound like himself, which speaks to his skill as an actor. The last cameo we had from The Clone Wars was Dave Filoni, arriving in the final moments of the episode in an X-Wing under the name of Trapper Wolf (no surprise there). Hilariously, he arrived in an X-wing with wingmates played by fellow Mandalorian series directors Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Chow.

THE NEW REPUBLIC

One of the most interesting things in this episode are the new glimpses we're getting of the New Republic. We have a new uniform to look at with interesting flourishes from different eras and sides. The blue of the uniform matches the color of the pilot uniforms of the New Republic we saw in the opening episode of Star Wars Resistance. The egg-shaped helmet was first seen in A New Hope and became synonymous with some rebel soldiers. They make a point to highlight the boots of the uniform, which look suspiciously like the jackboots of a Stormtrooper.

Matt Lanter is a New Republic Prison Ship Officer. (c) Lucasfilm

And seeing it all come together on Matt Lanter is nothing short of perfect.

The other fascinating thing is to see the New Republic security droids. They look and walk very much like a "good guy" version of a KX-Series droid, like K2-SO. They're white instead of black, they have more pronounced faces and they have a rebel Phoenix emblazoned in orange across their back.

In fact, everything about the New Republic prison ship is fascinating in that it looks like a white mirror of the sort of evil holding spaces in Star Destroyers and Death Stars of the Empire. Are they turning into the same thing they defeated?

RESISTANCE RADAR TECHNICIANS

The newest episode of Star Wars Resistance brings to the canon one of the most interesting things we've seen in a long time.

Watch this clip:

Do you recognize that uniform Kaz is wearing? It's the Radar Technician uniform that Saturday Night Live created for a sketch featuring Adam Driver called “Star Wars Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base.”

It's hilarious to see this costume gain so much traction. It started as a joke and everyone embraced it. At Star Wars conventions you can catch as many Matt the Radar Technicians running around together as you can Willrow Hoods, and that's saying something. Now that the costume has made it into the official canon, the 501st will need to be admitting these into their ranks as legit costumes and that just puts a smile on my face.

This episode of Star Wars Resistance airs on Sunday on Disney and Disney XD. Again, if you're not caught up on this show, get on it. It's a lot of fun and is barreling toward a finale that promises to dovetail right into The Rise of Skywalker.

ILUM AND STARKILLER

Fans of The Clone Wars have had their minds blown as they play through Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. During the game, Cal Kestis travels to Ilum and finds that it's been overrun by the Empire. That doesn't stop him from going in and finding a Kyber crystal, though.

But when you return to the planet in the game, it has undergone a disquieting metamorphosis. It seems as though the Empire began undergoing construction of Starkiller Base long before the first Death Star was even complete. Seems like Palpatine was hedging his bets and working on a variety of plans and super weapons.

Here is Star Wars Explained breaking it down further with information we had prior to the new stuff from the game.

Until next week, when we finally get to close out the Skywalker Saga, May the Force Be With You!


An Unnecessary Deep Dive Into the Magic of Netflix's Holiday Movie Universe @ io9

Time travel, sorceresses, curses, ghosts, human cloning. Netflix has officially established a Holiday Movie Universe, connecting several of its Hallmark-style seasonal films through references and Easter eggs. What this has done is create a fantasy realm where Christmas can sustain a country’s economy, hot chocolate…

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WIRE Buzz: Burger King trades food for Star Wars spoilers; James Gunn talks Guardians Vol. 3 script; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>If you're particularly averse to Star Wars spoilers, you should avoid any Burger King in Germany. Why? Well, the fast food chain is reportedly giving away free Whoppers to folks who willingly spoil The Rise of Skywalker for themselves.

Is it worth the trade? Some people seem to think so, because there's an entire video of people reading out major plot points (don't worry, they're all bleeped) in exchange for burgers at no expense.

The Hollywood Reporter was able to confirm that the ad is, indeed, legit and that the "spoilers" were not given by Disney or Lucasfilm, but sourced from the internet. As a result, they may not be 100 percent accurate.

“We wanted to challenge people’s Whopper love and put it to the ultimate test by asking them to choose between their love for our flagship product and their love for the most epic sci-fi movie ever,” Klaus Schmäing, director of marketing at Burger King Germany, told THR via email. “Whether the spoilers really correspond to truth will ultimately only be revealed once the film is released."


Interacting with fans on Instagram, director James Gunn offered an update on his script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, writing that it would not be affected by the events of Avengers: Endgame.

“The script will change because my scripts always keep changing up until the moment I shoot them. But it won’t change according to anything from Endgame, because I already knew what was in that script before I wrote Guardians 3," wrote the filmmaker, who was an executive producer on Endgame.

Credit: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Vol. 3 was originally slated to begin filming this year for a 2020 release, but plans fell through in summer 2018 when Disney fired Gunn over old tweets that clashed with the company's family-friendly image. Gunn was then able to head over to Warner Bros., which almost immediately contracted him for The Suicide Squad, which opens in August 2021. 

In March of this year, Gunn was officially rehired as director of Guardians Vol. 3, which is expected to begin production sometime in 2020. There is a possibility that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will be a part of the movie, as he gave up the Asgardian throne, handed it to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and blasted off with the Guardians at the end of Endgame.

(Gunn quote via ComicBookMovie.com)


Four new HBO shows are coming to Alamo Drafthouse locations around the country in 2020, the theater chain announced today. The initiative begins with The Outsider, a mystery series based on the 2018 novel of the same name.

Starting Wednesday, January 8, fans can get an early look at the show four days before it debuts on television.

“I’m so excited to continue our partnership with HBO in celebrating their incredible slate of original programming,” said Henri Mazza, Vice President of Content, Sponsorship & Events, in a statement. “And providing fans a chance to watch the new Stephen King event series premiere in our theaters is so much fun.”

Alamo didn't announce the other three shows it would also be screening in the new year. However, the press release did confirm that these special screenings will be "one-night-only events."

The Outsider premieres on HBO Sunday, January 12 at 10pm EST. 

Ben Mendelsohn stars as Detective Ralph Anderson, a cop looking into the rape and murder of a young child. Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) is arrested for the crime, but the case takes a turn when it's discovered that Terry has an ironclad alibi. To help him make sense of all the conflicting evidence that throws his entire belief system into doubt, Ralph teams up with private investigator, Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo).

Both Mendelsohn and Bateman are producing.


How Are You Afraid of the Dark? created a generation of feminist horror fans @ Syfy Wire

1p>In 1992, there were plenty of young girls who loved horror — but most horror producers just didn’t seem to care. Take my word for it; I was 10 then, with a newly minted taste for the creepy, and a potent combination of parental neglect and basic cable left me free to surf the airwaves each night. I couldn’t get enough of the era’s goofy, gory horror on shows like Amazing Stories and the syndicated Nightmare on Elm Street spin-off, Freddy’s Nightmare. But as I wiled away my nights watching ghosts terrorize horny teens and Brad Pitt get shot with an arrow, I noticed a pattern: On TV, girls were almost never the heroes.

The horror films of the late ‘80s and very early ‘90s were hit-and-miss when it came to female characters — though many of the movies were misogynistic messes and almost none were ethnically diverse, the era gave us some great heroines, like Nightmare on Elm Street’s Nancy Thompson and OG Buffy Summers. But we were a long way from the feminist horror of today — especially on TV, where being a girl generally meant that you didn’t get to save the day; more likely you just got to shriek photogenically while some creep tried to kill you.

What was an emerging feminist horror nerd to do? Luckily, a new show had just come out — one where girls got to be the imperfect heroes as often as the boys did. Are You Afraid of the Dark? premiered on Canadian TV in 1990, though it only became a tween phenomenon when it appeared on Nickelodeon in the summer of 1992. Each episode followed the Midnight Society, a group of tweens who loved horror as much as I did, as they met in some suitably atmospheric woods and told each other genuinely scary stories. The stories did more than just give an entire generation some trauma around clowns, though. They hinged on regular problems and fears that didn’t have anything to do with ghosts trapped in mirrors or gross bloody pool-monsters — bullying, peer pressure, family trouble. Several issues addressed female experiences, like being bullied by other girls, or having boys resent your presence in an all-male space. It was the first time I realized that horror didn’t just have to be about a boy’s fears or problems; it could be about my fears and problems, too.

Series co-creator, writer, and director D.J. MacHale hadn’t consciously set out to create a work of feminist horror —“I wrote about strong characters and many of them happened to be girls,” he says. But telling inclusive stories was part of the show’s mission from day one.  “I write about kids who find themselves in challenging situations, and ultimately solve the problems themselves ... no matter their sex, race, or age,” says MacHale. Like his other work (including the girl-centric Kirsten Dunst vehicle Tower of Terror), Are You Afraid of the Dark? focused on “the theme of self-empowerment” — and for the show’s many female characters, that meant blowing past stereotypes of how young girls should act, and finding the strength to be heroes.

When MacHale first developed the show with partner Ned Kandel, they had planned it as a series of bedtime stories. But the pair hit a roadblock: They realized bedtime stories were actually incredibly boring. What had they actually liked as kids? “Scary stories,” says MacHale. So they changed course, shifting the show’s focus to horror and thrillers for kids — a practically nonexistent genre at the time. It took a year to sell Nickelodeon executives on it, but by 1992 the show was airing weekly in the U.S., just in time to be part of a kids’ horror golden age that included Beetlejuice the Animated Series (1989-1990), Eerie, Indiana (1991-2), the original Addams Family films (1991 & 1993), and Goosebumps (1992).

But Are You Afraid of the Dark? differentiated itself from the pack not just by including real scares, but by taking kids’ problems and feelings incredibly seriously. (MacHale, not coincidentally, worked on ABC Afterschool Specials years before developing the show). “I wanted stories about real kids who were facing challenges that had nothing to do with the supernatural situation they ended up in.” Though the Ghastly Grinner might be what pops into our brains when we think of the show, the emotional punch of watching kids face and conquer their fears is probably what really embedded the series in our brains. “If I had set out to make a flat-out scare-fest, the episodes would all have been much scarier,” says MacHale. “I wanted to make eerie stories that also touched you on a more interesting, human level ... like The Twilight Zone did so brilliantly. Those are the kinds of stories that stick with you.”

The show worked hard to be inclusive at a level rarely seen in the early ‘90s; the Midnight Society included a diverse group of actors, as did the stories themselves— in fact, it was actually nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 1996. The show’s mission toward exploring a broad array of experiences also extended beyond the camera; in the first season alone, says MacHale, half of the scripts focused on female characters and were written by female writers.  “We wanted to depict a wide variety of stories, characters, and situations. It was all about diversity,” says MacHale. “We didn't play to stereotypes.”

MacHale now works as a YA novelist ("I can just sit in my cave and be creative.”). He’s the author of the New York Times bestselling Pendragon series, and says that in his books, “the strongest characters are the girls.” Reflecting on the lasting legacy of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, he notes, “I can't say for certain that there has been any hugely dramatic influence on our culture. But I'd like to believe that by depicting kids taking charge of difficult situations, it opened up kid-viewers to the idea that they aren't powerless in their own lives.”

Today, girls who feel the allure of ghosts and gore don’t have to worry that the world of horror doesn’t want them — from Monster High to Hotel Transylvania to the Disney Channel’s Vampirina, horror culture now opens its arms to young girls as well as boys, says Kate Hagen, director of community at screenwriting site the Blacklist and creator of the site’s 31 Days of Feminist Horror Films. “It definitely feels like there's been sort of a reckoning, like, ‘Hey, little girls love this stuff, too!'”

The series reboot debuts into a wholly different world. I mean, most kids watching it now have never lived in a world without Buffy or Dana Scully or the desperately-needed critical reclamation of Jennifer’s Body. Today’s ghoulish girls wouldn’t find their jaws on the floor, like I did, after watching “The Tale of the Watcher’s Woods,” and realizing that their fears and pains weren’t trivial; they were the stuff of horror tales. Horror culture has changed vastly and for the better over the past 29 years, and the new Are You Afraid of the Dark? will doubtlessly take on new problems. I’m glad to see that the show, like all our great stories, can be changed and adapted for new generations. But I also hope we never forget the impact of the original series, and how it beamed into people’s houses, a few minutes after Ren & Stimpy, and let young horror fans who didn’t look like the heroes on other shows understand that their stories were worth telling, too.

The Expanse added all-new and novella material to S4's adaptation to set up S5 @ Syfy Wire

1p>Amazon dropped the full fourth season of The Expanse today, which means that enterprising fans of the series will have it binged by day’s end. They may also notice that while Season 4 encapsulates James S. A. Corey’s Cibola Burn — the fourth novel in the series that’s almost a bottle episode of a book — it has plenty of other story to tell in order to keep the rest of the characters in the show involved.

Speaking to EW, showrunner Naren Shankar explained where the fourth season’s additional material came from and why it needed to pull from outside sources. One important element behind the season’s scripting was the confirmation of a fifth season on the horizon. Knowing that there’s more to come meant planting seeds that could bloom beyond the scope of Ilus and its colonial dispute.

“With Cibola Burn, the issue was the book is essentially a one-off, right?” Shankar said. “It’s entirely set on this alien planet. It only has a tiny bit of a prologue and an epilogue that’s back in the solar system.” Solving that problem meant looking beyond the scope of the book. “Book 4 extends across Season 4, but we created material that bridges book 4 into book 5,” the showrunner explained. “So there’s new material that deals with stuff that’s happening back on Mars, on Earth, in the solar system, in the Belt, that sets up things for the next season. And we incorporated Gods of Risk, which is the novella that’s set on Mars, into the narrative as well.”

Gods of Risk, released in between the second and third books, finally takes fans to Mars proper. Shankar noted that his team “took the events of Gods of Risk, and we shifted the perspective probably more onto Bobbie to tell that story through her” — a storyline he promises has “great ramifications going forward for the rest of the series.”

That series is already looking forward to its fifth season (thanks to its set-up with Naomi’s ex, Marco Inaros, a major character in the fifth book) and beyond. A looming three decade time jump is on the docket for the books and Shankar is ready to face it. 

“We have actually talked about it, and I’m confident we can pull it off,” the showrunner said of the 30-year hop. “I’m not sure I could say more than that, but I am confident that we can pull it off. It’s a really unique thing, and it is what I love about these novels and this adaptation is you get to do things that you generally don’t get to do.”

For more on The Expanse, subscribe to The Churn: A Podcast about The Expanse where you can hear cast interviews, season, and episode recaps.

The 10 most surprising hit films and TV shows of the past decade @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome to SYFY WIRE's Decade in Review, a series of articles that will look to catalog the best, worst, and weirdest cultural and entertainment moments of the 2010s as we look toward the future. Today, we explore the most unexpected breakout hits of the 2010s.

Some aspects of pop culture are pretty easy to predict. A Star Wars film will make a pretty large amount of money. A movie produced by Judd Apatow will be stacked with great cameos. And if it’s Friday, then Netflix is releasing at least three new seasons of television you'll never have the time to watch.

So that makes the below surprises from the last 10 years even more precious because these films and TV shows didn't just catch us off guard, they reminded us that when it comes to storytelling, in everything from existential animation to haunting horror, the quest for those unexpected joys keeps great film and television so vibrant.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Backlash Is Inevitable, According to Richard E. Grant @ io9

We’re now less than a week from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and two emotions seem to be dominating the conversation. Excitement, of course—we’re about to get a movie fans have waited years for. But also, fear. Fear of what will happen in the movie and how it may change the discourse.

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Mortal Kombat 11's Joker Gets A Much-Needed Makeover @ io9

In August, when Netherrealm Studios revealed the full roster of downloadable fighters for Mortal Kombat 11’s first Kombat Pass, many fans were put off by the buff, well-groomed version of DC Comics villain Joker. Apparently Netherrealm took those concerns to heart, as last night’s video announcing a January 28 release…

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OSIRIS-REx Team Will Boop This Spot on Asteroid Bennu @ io9

The OSIRIS-REx team has decided on a location to collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu. It’s a 460-foot-wide crater that they’ve dubbed “Nightingale.”

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44 thoughts we had while watching The Day the Earth Stood Still @ Syfy Wire

1p>I spent a good amount of my college years skipping class from time to time to go to the movies. Sometimes it was worth it, other times not so much. 2008's The Day the Earth Stood Still was a movie that wasn't. Not even Keanu Reeves wearing a semi-tailored was enough, which is honestly a travesty.

It's been just about 11 years since the fateful day I decided to skip class for Keanu, and I still have some of the same thoughts I had back then. For one, I think aliens would probably still get us up out of here if they saw this movie.

1. The movie starts with a bearded Keanu from 1928 — which is promising — but I know better.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

2. If there was a mysterious glowing orb near your campsite you'd go at it with a pickax too.

3. Jennifer Connelly was booked and busy once upon a time ago. I used to get her mixed up with Jordana Brewster a lot.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

4. Jaden's curls are POPPING!

Credit: 20th Century Fox

5. Stepchild/stepmom drama. Did Steven Spielberg direct this?

6. No wonder Jacob wasn't trying to have dinner. The food is looking very bland.

7. Not only did this poor boy lose a parent, but he also lost seasoned food along with them.

8. There seems to be never enough time in sci-fi movies for the person being urgently picked up by the government to get filled in on why they are being so very urgently picked up.

9. There is absolutely nothing at all suspicious about an entire motorcade driving down a shutdown freeway.

10. What exactly could the military do if there was an alien invasion, other than annoy the aliens?

11. Jon Hamm and not Josh Brolin. Bless.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

12. New York City is an asteroid magnet, according to Hollywood.

13. Jacob really does not like his stepmother.

14. The end of the world as they know it and the scientist are still being big nerds. It's a commitment.

15. Plot twist: it's not an asteroid, it's a spaceship.

16. No way they're wearing proper PPE.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

17. Again, I ask: what is the military going to do?

18. What sense does it make to shoot at the entity that just pulled up to your planet with technology you never even dreamed existed?

Credit: 20th Century Fox

19. I wonder if the gigantic humanoid robot is any kin to the one from Thor.

20. Actually, a gigantic humanoid robot is exactly why no one should be shooting at these alien visitors.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

21. How will they perform an operation on a lifeform they know nothing about?

22. Keanu was wrapped up in a placenta burrito this whole time.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

23. Who gives a damn about finances when there is a gigantic humanoid robot?

24. KATHY BATES!!!!!!!

Credit: 20th Century Fox

25. I always get a good hearty laugh when colonizers in sci-fi movies freakout because the earth is being invaded. Doesn't feel good, does it?

26. More like Grand Theft Auto: Alien Hijacking.

27. Kathy Bates is giving us call-the-manager realness in this movie.

28. Keanu stays in a damn suit.

29. I'm just surprised the name Klaatu wasn't changed to John at Keanu's request.

30. I need some of that instant healing balm for my knees.

31. LOL at the fate of humanity getting hashed out in a McDonald's. It oddly adds up.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

32. I'm so happy Jaden is just giving us bops and anime these days.

33. Noah's Ark, but make it glowing spheres.

34. Jacob is on my LAST nerve in this movie.

35. If I had to rank this child in a list of children you wouldn't mind not surviving a sci-fi movie, Jacob would be in the top five — and not at number five.

36. Wow. Klaatu came to Earth like the Orkin Man. They're space exterminators.

37. Klaatu just Easy Baked Oven'd someone back to life.

38. All the colonizers in this movie saying they could change is HILARIOUS.

39. Jacob snitched. Leave him!

40. The Earth doesn't stand a chance against those micro-locusts. Klaatu's employers are serious about restarting the Earth.

41. I love to see an asshole government type end up getting what they deserve: a horrendous death.

42. A stepmom and her stepson having a moment is what saved humanity. Dr. Phil could never.

43. The New York Giants can't catch a break. This movie made sure to destroy the hell out of MetLife Stadium.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

44. And then the Earth indeed stood still behind a terrible green-screen backdrop.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Our Favorite Comics of 2019 @ io9

Another year has come to an end, and we wouldn’t have gotten here without some pretty incredible comics to read along the way. We’ve had new dawns and final ends, epic sagas and intimate tales, serious drama and serious silliness. But above all, we’ve had some serious fun—and these series are the ones we had the most…

Read more...

Star Trek returns to animation for a short that was almost in the Discovery finale @ Syfy Wire

1p>For the first time since 1976's Star Trek: The Animated Series, the franchise of the final frontier has returned to animated form. Two different Short Treks have boldly gone where Star Trek has never gone before. And while the nostalgia-heavy romp "Ephraim and Dot," spans the classic '60s era of Star Trek, the other, "The Girl Who Made the Stars," focuses on a more subtle aspect of recent Discovery canon, which, in turn, references an ancient African myth from antiquity.

For Brandon Schultz, writer for the Short Treks take on "The Girl Who Made the Stars," the story was a chance to expand on one character we'd only seen briefly in Season 2: Michael Burnham's dad.

"As the father of two little black girls, I was so fascinated by Michael Burnham, this strong black woman protagonist," Schultz tells SYFY WIRE. "But until 'Perpetual Infinity,' we didn't know much about her birth parents. We got a chance to discover the story of Gabrielle Burnham, her mother, but we didn't touch on a ton about her father. As a father of two daughters, I identified with Mike Burnham Sr., Kenric Green's character. so I was pitching from his viewpoint."

In real life, Kernic Green is the husband of Sonequa Martin-Green, and he's back in this Short Treks, playing the voice of Mike Burnham, the father of Michael Burnham. In terms of the Trek timeline, "The Girl Who Made the Stars" is clearly way before the flashbacks in "Perpetual Infinity," mostly because little Michael Burnham is much younger, and also, because her dad, Mike, isn't about to fend off a Klingon home-invasion, phaser in hand.

For Schultz, writing "The Girl Who Made the Stars," not only allowed him to expand upon the Discovery Season 2 episode "Perpetual Infinity" (which he also co-wrote) but this Short Treks also was the realization of a different pitch, which directly ties into the season 2 premiere episode, "Brother." As part of that opening narration, Michael Burnham retold the African myth of "The Girl Who Made the Stars," as a kind of thematic framing for the entire second season, and the story of the Red Angel. But, who told Michael that story? In this Short Treks, we discover it was her father.

"I was super-interested in where that came from, so it was actually a pitch based on that opening dialogue," Schultz, explains. "I specifically pitched Olatunde Osunsanmi — who was the director of the two-part finale — about maybe incorporating something regarding that story as part of the Season 2 finale ["Such Sweet Sorrow"]. But it just turns out they had so much to do in the Season 2 finale that didn't end up making it in."

But, later, because Trek producer Alex Kurtzman liked the idea, the notion of telling the story of Michael's father telling her a story became an animated episode of Short Treks. In some ways, this episode is unlike anything Star Trek has attempted before. It's a story within the Star Trek universe, but it's also a new retelling of an ancient fable. Still, Schultz insists that he was out to make part of the Trek universe, and not try to usurp an existing myth.

Young Michael Burnham and her father. (Credit: CBS)

"I wanted to build it within the world of Star Trek," he says. "I'm not an anthropologist and I'm not from the original cultures of southern and western Africa. At least not directly. But, what I like to do, and what Alex talks about in the writers' room was creating canon that references Discovery. It was making it true within the world of Star Trek: Discovery, that's why felt important to embellish with alien beings, and also, with Burnham's imagination. So, those were the elements we wanted to play with because as much as you want to do justice to a creation story, that has its origin in the oral tradition, we also wanted it to feel resonate with Star Trek themes."

So, could this be the beginning of more stories featuring young Michael Burnham? Could we explore more of what her parents were like before they got swept up in all that Section 31 cloak-and-dagger stuff? Schultz is involved with writing Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, but can't say for sure if young Burnham will return.

"I loved tiny Burnham!" says Schultz enthusiastically. "And Kyrie Mcalpin did such a great job playing her! So sure, who knows! We'll just have to wait and see."

Short Treks is streaming now on CBS All Access. The final new Short Treks, "Children of Mars," will air on January 9, 2020, just two weeks before the launch of Star Trek: Picard.

Chris Pratt wants to turn you into buff Star-Lord with his pumped-up Amazon store @ Syfy Wire

1p>Chris Pratt is following in the footsteps of his MCU co-star, Jeremy Renner, by opening his very own Amazon store.

Packed with equipment and apparel meant for activities like working out and golfing, the Pratt-based retail hub is sure to turn you into a beefy, cosmos-traversing outlaw akin to Peter Quill/Star-Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

"Working out is about putting in the work and challenging yourself," reads a statement from the actor, who went from pudgy to ripped for the first Guardians movie in 2014. "The best part is seeing results."

Credit: Amazon

Credit: Amazon

So, what are the most Star Lord-y products being offered in this new store? We'd say the Garmin smartwatch ($287.99) and Omron Body Composition Monitor and Scale with Bluetooth Connectivity ($75.13). Both feel like they'd fit perfectly into the science fiction canon of the MCU's cosmic universe.

"Being active is more than just about getting fit — the mental and emotional benefits go far beyond the physical,” Pratt also says on the site. “It’s about setting a goal and showing up for yourself."

Pratt will reprise the role of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which was delayed after the firing of James Gunn two summers ago. The director was eventually rehired, but the third installment of the Guardians franchise is still a ways down the road, as Gunn is currently working on The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros.

Last we saw of him, Star-Lord was looking for the missing Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and sparring with Lebowski Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

Are you going to be purchasing anything from "The Chris Pratt Store"? If so, let us know in the comments!


Kazaam, Steel, Shaq Fu!: When Shaquille O'Neal ruled the world @ Syfy Wire

1p>Even if you've never watched a game of professional basketball, chances are good that you've seen Shaquille O'Neal. Even after nearly a decade since he retired from the NBA, Shaq is everywhere. He's a TV pitchman, an NBA analyst, an occasional actor, an entrepreneur, and even the star of his own video game.

But back in the '90s, Shaq's popularity was in the stratosphere. The big guy might be the first to admit that he hasn't always been the best actor. However, Shaq had, and still has, a magnetic personality and a ton of charisma. His smile is infectious, and he's a genuinely funny guy. That's why Shaq was also a movie star at the height of his popularity. He even beat Will Smith to the punch by 23 years when he played a genie in Kazaam. Keep in mind, that was only the second film role that Shaq ever appeared in! And yet he carried that movie on his massive shoulders.

Shaq was also ahead of the curve in 1997 when he headlined the superhero movie, Steel. He played John Henry Irons, a genius who reinvents himself as an armored hero. In the DC comics, Steel was inspired by Superman, a character that Shaq openly admires with a Superman 'S' tattooed on his arm. Steel may not have been the apex of superhero movies, but it arrived in theaters well before its time.

However, the greatest example of Shaq's undeniable crossover appeal was the video game fighter, Shaq Fu, which hit multiple systems in 1994. There's something inherently funny about putting Shaq in a Street Fighter 2-like game. A modern remake of the game was even released last year as Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn.

For more memories about Shaq's contributions to pop culture over a few Shaq Fu battles, check out SYFY WIRE's new video, When Shaq Ruled the World!

Marvel's Runaways almost killed off more characters than bloody final season actually did @ Syfy Wire

1p>What do you do when your superhero show is coming to an end after its third season? How about when the entire division of Marvel that makes said show is being shut down and reorganized? Well, if you’re the creative team behind the Hulu show Marvel's Runaways, you go for broke and get messy. After all 10 of its bloody final episodes hit the streaming service, fans might be shocked with just how many characters die. But the more impressive thing is that the body count was almost even higher.

Speaking to EW, executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage explained why they felt free to wreak havoc on their Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona adaptation — and why they didn’t end up going as far as they could have.

This story contains spoilers for the final season of The Runaways.

“Brian and Adrian killed all the parents in the first 18 issues, so we felt like it was time to get our hands dirty,” Savage said. The parents are all members of a criminal organization known as The Pride, so don’t feel too bad that Janet Stein (Ever Carradine), Catherine Wilder (Angel Parker), and Robert Minoru (James Yaegashi) all got smoked in the final season.

“We knew we were moving towards what we anticipated to be the final season,” Schwartz explained, “and we felt like there needed to be consequences to show just how grave the stakes were now, to both the Runaways and to Pride.” That said, some of these consequences weren’t as permanent as they seemed on the surface.

“A lot of them we knew there was some kind of extra element of ‘You’re dead in this world, but we’ll still see you here or there, or you could always come back in this form,’” Savage said. “Knowing they were going to be a big part of our Dark Dimension story helped all of us with the emotions of killing the characters in the real world.”

But when the final season’s big bad, Elizabeth Hurley’s Morgan le Fay, killed Gert (Ariela Barer), there was a real “conversation” about whether or not to make it stick for good. However, it came down to how much the EPs loved their characters. Going full Endgame in the finale, the Runaways time travel and undo Gert’s death — a death that’s a longtime comics favorite.

“It’s something that the comics did give us license to do, if we wanted to,” Savage said of a more permanent death. “We were just, I guess, too soft-hearted and too in love with our characters.” But, referencing the later resurrection of Gert in the comics, Schwartz noted that since the source material “demonstrated that there was a way to bring her back,” they felt free to follow their soft hearts. The show may have ended, but the team is all alive and together — so if there is a future for them somewhere on the small screen, there won’t be any canonical hoops to jump through.

The entire third season of Runaways is streaming now on Hulu.

This Spider-Man: Far From Home VFX Reel Cheekily Breaks the 4th Wall @ io9

VFX reels are, usually, pretty perfunctory. After all, they’re not just for us fans to admire some of the behind-the-scenes details, they are, well, reels. They’re industry samples of the work a studio did on a film or show, something to use to pitch an FX house’s work on future projects. So they show the work, albeit…

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Dracula: Sink your teeth into seductive full trailer for Sherlock alums' BBC series @ Syfy Wire

1p>Dracula is a property that's been done to death in pop culture, but the officially seductive trailer for the BBC's upcoming take on the classic Bram Stoker blood-sucker does make a very good case for yet another live-action adaptation. Created Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat (the duo behind Sherlock), the series stars Claes Bang (The Affair) as the titular Count.

Set to Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," the first batch of footage promises an updated, almost irreverent twist on a well-known horror icon. Sure, Dracula is scary (he torments a horde of troubled nuns while trapped in a jail cell), but he's not above making a joke, either. It's all about balance, folks.

Break out your wooden stake and necklace of garlic before you watch the bloody trailer below:

"In a slightly strange way, Dracula has become one of the great leading male roles ever," Moffat told Empire Magazine for the publication's end-of-year issue. "He's everything a great leading man can be without the burden of heroism. Making the hero evil is an extraordinary decision. You can't make him good because that's not the point of Dracula. It's quite a challenge. It took us a long time to figure out how he spoke — he doesn't usually speak much. What do you say when you're Dracula?"

John Heffernan, Morfydd Clark, Dolly Wells, Sarah Niles, Matthew Beard, Chanel Cresswell, Lyndsey Marshal, Clive Russell, Joanna Scanlan, Jonathan Aris, Sacha Dhawan, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Catherine Schell, Youssef Kerkour, and even Gatiss himself co-star on the show.

Around the same time that the BBC dropped the above trailer, Netflix, which will be hosting Season 1 in the United States after it airs on TV, dropped its own look at the show. Check it out below:

Dracula premieres on BBC One Wednesday, January 1 (aka New Year's Day). It will hit Netflix three days later on Saturday, January 4 after the first three episodes have aired on television. Similar to other TV shows produced in the United Kingdom, Dracula's first season (or "series," as it's known in Britain) is only three episodes long.


Chosen One of the Day: The virtual reality camper bait girls from Jason X @ Syfy Wire

1p>It's Friday the 13th, it's a full moon, and it's the holiday season. It's the perfect day to celebrate frozen Space Jason!

If you haven't seen Jason X, first of all, it's perfect. It's legitimately the most ridiculous thing mine eyes have ever seen. Allow me to attempt to describe: Jason is cryogenically frozen for 400 years. Obviously. He gets put on a spaceship headed to a new Earth and the spaceship is filled with sexy college students. Obviously. He immediately thaws out and starts murdering the sex havers in tremendous ways involving liquid nitrogen and android beheadings. It's great. It's art. Give it an EGOT.

But the best part is when the people on the ship attempt to distract Jason by creating a virtual reality hologram of Crystal Lake featuring two sexy teens offering him beer, pot, and premarital sex. Literally in that order.

Credit: New Line Cinema

Then he immediately kills them with sleeping bags.

Credit: New Line Cinema

God I love this movie.

Jabba the Pod: Countdown to The Rise of Skywalker - A New Hope @ Syfy Wire

1p>It all began here, back in 1977.

SYFY WIRE's pocast about all things Star Wars, Jabba the Pod, is rebounding from the events of Order 66 and looks out at the twin suns with hope. The Countdown to The Rise of Skywalker series continues today with Star Wars: A New Hope.

Join regular co-host Caitlin Busch as well as SYFY WIRE's Preeti Chhibber and Jon Erwin as they discuss the crazy space movie that was destined to bomb... until it didn't. They will hop that Bantha, jump into the trash compactor, and fire when ready. Also, how will this film affect Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? This is the movie that started everything, so the chances are high. Yes, very high.

Into the garbage chute flyboy! Listen below, or wherever you get your podcasts. Maclunkey.

Click here to subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe on Google Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe on RadioPublic.

Click here to subscribe on Spotify.

Click here to subscribe on Stitcher.

Steven Moffat's Dracula Trailer Teases a 'Bi-Homicidal' Villain @ io9

The latest trailer has arrived for BBC and Netflix’s Dracula, a three-part miniseries from former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and his Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss.

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From Grace Jones to Bo Derek: 40 Years of Marvel's Dazzler @ Syfy Wire

1p>Nearly four decades ago, Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix Saga redefined the X-Men. That storyline also introduced one of Marvel’s most unique and even notorious characters: Alison Blaire, aka Dazzler! Although when Alison first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #130, she was very much the Disco Dazzler long after Disco had lost its luster.

One of the reasons that Dazzler was outdated upon her debut is because she was conceived years earlier for a much more ambitious project that would have combined Marvel comic books with a real life singer performing as Dazzler. And if Dazzler co-creator John Romita Jr. had his way, Alison would have been based on model and actress Grace Jones.

“Tom DeFalco came up to me and said ‘we have to create a character who goes to clubs,’” recalled Romita. “This was in the late ‘70s. He said ‘do what you can and come up with something...I want a female character that goes to clubs that you see all the time.’ Hanging out in New York in the ‘70s and ‘80s at the clubs, I saw Grace Jones. That’s the first thing I thought of. Her hair was buzzed, stunningly beautiful, statuesque. [She] wore this skintight outfit, she was on roller skates. I said ‘this is the character.’”

However, Dazzler was greatly changed by the time she appeared on the page. Instead of using Jones as a model, Dazzler resembled Bo Derek and other actresses from that era. In fact, Derek was briefly attached to play Dazzler in a planned feature film that would have been directed by her husband, John Derek. Unfortunately, the stars were not aligned for that project to reach fruition.

After Dazzler headlined her own comic book series, Claremont further developed her as a member of the X-Men. She’s no longer quite as prevalent as she used to be, but Dazzler still has a devoted fan following 40 years after her debut.

For more Dazzler memories from Romita, DeFalco, Claremont, and more, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel!

Mando, Baby Yoda, Bill Burr, and an ex-lover: Breaking down Chapter 6 of The Mandalorian @ Syfy Wire

1p>Who exactly was the person in the boots at the end of Chapter 5 of The Mandalorian? What happened next for our main Mando and Baby Yoda, everyone's favorite little darling? Some answers may (or may not) have been revealed, as the first ever live-action Star Wars series has dropped Chapter 6 this morning on Disney+.

Directed by the returning Rick Famuyiwa with a teleplay by Christopher Yost (based on a story by him and Famuyiwa), the new episode was not short on excitement, action, and expansion of the Mando story. Tussle those adorable floppy ears, come to momma, and clean up that carbon scoring because it's time for a breakdown of everything that the new installment has to offer.

**SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for Chapter 6 of The Mandalorian, as well as every chapter up to this point. If you are not caught up and do not wish to be spoiled, then consider the spoiler klaxon sounded. Make like Toro Calican on a bender and run off into the desert.**

To catch up with the previous five installments of the series (as well as join in the celebration for everything and anything to do with Star Wars) be sure to take a listen to SYFY WIRE's podcast Jabba the Pod, embedded at the bottom of the story.

Credit: Lucasfilm

LOOKING FOR WORK IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

The Razor Crest pulls into a space station, and Mando meets up with his old comrade Ranzar "Ran" Malk (Mark Boone Jr.). Ran has heard rumblings, but the general policy here is to ask no questions. There's a job on the table and Mando has to pay those bills. Ran needs a fifth person for a job, and more pressingly, he needs Mando's ship — it can go under the radar of both Imperials and the New Republic.

Ran introduces Mando to his team — running point will be Mayfeld (Bill Burr), a former Imperial Sharpshooter. Mando remarks that that's not saying much, to which Mayfeld replies, "I wasn’t a stormtrooper, wiseass." The jab at stormtrooper shot accuracy was not appreciated. Mayfeld then says that the Razor Crest looks like "a Canto Bight slot machine." What a great guy. Also on the team is a Devaronian named Burg (Clancy Brown), and a droid named Q9-0 (called Zero) played by the great Richard Ayoade.

Zero's model looks somewhat similar to 4-LOM. Rounding out the team is a purple Twi'lek named Xi'an (Natalia Tena) who may have had some steamy times (or not) with the Mando in the past. She's all business now though, saying that she "learned from the best." After Burg calls Mando tiny, we cut to our title — Chapter 6: The Prisoner.

Credit: Lucasfilm

TEAM OF JERKS

Zero starts to hack into the Crest using a plug-in prod, and begins to decode the holo message from Greef Carga from a few episodes back. The job in question involves rescuing "a friend" from a New Republic Prison Ship. Mando hears this, realizes that the target was arrested, and not taken — no one but him seems to care. As Ran says, "a job is a job." The ship in question is manned solely by droids, and Xi'an asks Mando if he still hates them.

After a holo map planning session, they plan the job. Zero is going to be flying, and also in the hacker "tech guy" position. Appropriate then, that Ayoade is playing him... if something goes wrong, he can try turning it on and off again. They fly off, and we get the classic white lines that jump is to hyperspace. There's already friction on the team, and Burg goes through some of Mando's things. Mayfeld and Burg ask Xi'an if the Mandos are as good as they say, and she says "ask him about the job on Alzoc III." The planet in question is a deep cut from the old legends, memorably featuring as the location for the demo of the game Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, which featured Kyle Katarn. While Katarn hasn't been re-canonized, welcome back Alzoc III!

Xi'an assures Mayfeld that Mando never takes the helmet off, and she mockingly says, "this is the way." The nerve! Mayfeld says, "I wonder what you look like under there. Maybe he’s a Gungan. Is that why yousa don’t wanna show your face?” Burg tries to get the helmet off, Mando knocks him into the vac tube, and a hatch opens revealing Baby Yoda. Xi'an says, “Didn’t take you for the type. Maybe that code of yours has made you soft.”

Mayfeld picks the child up (putting his filthy mitts on him, not cool), but soon drops him as the ship lurches out of hyperspace, Zero does some fancy flying, and docks with the New Republic prison ship. The team of jerks (and Mando) go aboard. In one of the cells, we see a four-armed Ardennian, the same species as Rio Durant from Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, who was voiced by the creator of this series, Jon Favreau.

They come across a MSE-6 series droid, aka a mouse droid. Burg blasts it after toying with it for a moment. Security droids are on the scene quick, and Mayfeld deploys a third blaster on a little prod that extends from his back. Mando wastes no time in taking all of the droids out, using his pistol, blade, wire shot, and flame thrower. Zero detects an organic signature, and sure enough there is one New Republic Officer onboard — he's named Devan, and played by Matt Lanter.

Lanter voiced Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and here he is in live-action. Devan has a tracker that can call New Republic ships to their location, but after a little standoff Xi'an throws a knife in his throat and Devan's dead. The tracker, however, is now active.

Credit: Lucasfilm

THE NOT SO GREAT ESCAPE

They reach the prisoner — it is Qin (Ismael Cruz Cordova), and he's Xi'an's brother. He also has some history with Mando, and it doesn't sound pleasant. Before we know it, Burg smacks Mando into the cell, and Mayfeld locks him in. He doesn't stay caged for long, though — he uses his wire shot to grapple a security droid, rips its arm off, and uses its plug prod to open the cell. Zero becomes aware of this and alerts the team, but then the comms get jammed. He tells them they are on their own right as Baby Yoda enters the cockpit. Zero takes up an EE-3 carbine rifle (the same model used by Boba Fett) to deal with our little friend, but thankfully Baby Yoda is once again playing "hide and go screw yourself."

Mando makes his way to the control room, and grabs the New Republic tracker. He starts cutting the jerks off from one another with doors, and now Qin just wants off the ship, to hell with his sister. He offers more money to Mayfeld to just get him out. Burg gets to the control room and has a throw-down with Mando — nothing that Mando does affects this guy, including a blast of fire right in his face. Devaronians (at least this one) are flame-resistant? Mando tries slamming a horizontal door on him but that doesn't work, so he tries a vertical door.

Mando encounters Xi'an in the hallway, and she lets loose with a seemingly endless supply of vibroblade knives. Mando gets her in the neck, but we don't see her die. Mayfeld gets spooked by another mouse droid, before Mando comes up behind him. Mando then confronts Qin, the only one left. Qin naturally starts making deals, questioning Mando about his honor. Back on the ship, Zero finds Baby Yoda in his hiding place, and Baby Yoda reaches his adorable little hand up. Zero falls apart, but it wasn't the force — it was Mando, blasting Zero from behind.

Credit: Lucasfilm

BACK TO BETRAYAL STATION, A HAROLD PINTER SEQUEL

Mando lands back at the station, with Qin in custody. Ran asks where the others are, and Mando says, “No questions asked, that is the policy, right?” Ran pays him says it's just like the good old days, and Mando takes off. As soon as he does, Ran opens a huge hatch and a gunship rises into the hangar. Ran says to kill him, but then Qin notices that Mando placed the New Republic tracker on him, and it is still active.

As Mando flies off, three New Republic X-Wings blast in from hyperspace, piloted by none other than series producer/director Dave Filoni (as Trapper Wolf), director of this chapter, Rick Famuyiwa (as Job Dodger), and director of chapters 3 and 7, Deborah Chow (as Sash Ketter). The lock their S-foils into attack position, blast the gunship to bits, and start firing on the station. Mando jumps away, and once more we get those classic white lines.

In the cockpit, Mando unscrews Baby Yoda favorite little toggle-ball and hands it to him. We then cut back to the prison, where we see Mayfeld, Burg, and Xi'an all locked in a cell. Mando didn't kill any of them. They are, however, fairly pissed off.

SO ... WHAT NOW, MANDO?

We think we are now quite aware that everyone and anyone (aside from Cara Dune and his fellow Mandos) are going to betray our hero. Everyone is after him, and now seems like the time for some bigger fish to come around. Might the next episode finally bring in Giancarlo Esposito as Moff Gideon? We hope so. We also hope that we get an answer on who was walking up to the body of Fennec Shand at the end of the previous episode. We're hoping against hope that it was Cad Bane. We can dream.

The Mandalorian will return earlier than usual for Chapter 7, coming on December 18th before all of The Rise of Skywalker madness envelops the galaxy. For more on the Mando, the Skywalkers, Ackmena, and everything else, be sure to listen and subscribe to Jabba the Pod. We have spoken!

More Suicide Squad Rumors About the Identity of Idris Elba's Mystery Character @ io9

Sony’s take on Cinderella finds its king. Warner Bros. gives the Shazam sequel a release date. Ubisoft’s Rabbids are making the leap to the big screen. Florence Pugh says Black Widow is not about Natasha handing off her mantle. Plus, what’s to come on Supernatural, and another element from the recent comics comes to

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Flyby video of a Martian moon @ Syfy Wire

1p>Mars has two moons, Deimos and Phobos. Unlike our Moon, which is pretty big and spherical, the Martian moons are tiny and irregular. Deimos is a little over a dozen kilometers wide, and Phobos is more like 20 km across.

Phobos is in a very low orbit around Mars, just about 6,000 km above the planet’s surface. It orbits so rapidly that it goes around Mars faster than the planet spins, so it rises in the west and sets in the east! That would be weird to see.

Mars Express is a European Space Agency spacecraft that’s in a highly elliptical orbit around Mars, and the dance of orbital mechanics has it passing relatively close to Phobos three times per year. Just a few weeks ago, on 17 November 2019, it passed the wee moon at a distance of about 2,400 km. As it passed, it took a series of images from different angles, which makes for a dramatic animation of the encounter:

Animation of flyby images of the Martian moon Phobos by Mars Express.

Whoa. At the beginning of the video we’re looking down on the huge impact crater Stickney, which is about 9 km in diameter. You can see parallel grooves all across the moon, which have been mystery for decades. A recent bit of research points to Stickney as their source: Rocks and debris ejected from the impact rolled and bounced across the moon’s surface, carving those tracks.

As the animation continues you may notice that Phobos appears to brighten and then darken again. That’s a real effect! When the video starts, the Sun is down and to the left. As Mars Express moved, the angle between the Sun, the spacecraft, and Phobos narrowed until they were all very nearly in a line, and the camera was looking down onto landscape with the Sun directly behind it — Phobos was "full," seen at high noon. But the spacecraft kept moving, and then slides away from the Sun-Phobos line.

Video explaning how the phase angle changes what we see from Mars Express as it flies past the Martian moon Phobos. 

That angle from the Sun to Phobos to the spacecraft is called the "phase angle," and it changes the appearance of the illumination of the surface. From a high phase angle shadows are obvious, and they provide contrast so that craters and other features are easy to spot. As the phase angle narrows, as Mars Express moves closer to being between the Sun and Phobos, the shadows disappear. Contrast is lower, and topological features harder to spot. But the surface also looks brighter, because shadows are shorter! There's more illuminated surface visible, so the brightness increases.

On top of that is another effect called heiligenschein (German for “halo”), where dusty surfaces tend to reflect light back in the direction it comes. That means sunlight is preferentially reflected back toward the Sun, so if you’re in the line between the Sun and that surface, it gets even brighter. You may have seen this yourself: When you appear to have a halo around the shadow of your head as you walk on a dusty dirt field, or on grass wet with dew in the morning. This makes Phobos, in this case, appear even brighter. Another name for this is the “opposition effect” or “opposition surge”, because you see the Sun in the opposite direction of the surface.

If this sounds familiar, yes, it’s why the Moon goes through phases (hence the term phase angle!) and appears so much brighter when it’s full.

The images Mars Express took of Phobos at different angles can tell scientists about the texture of the surface, too, as the brightness surge depends on what the surface materials are made of, their grain size, and so on.

That’s important. Even after all these years, we still don’t know how the Martian moons formed. It was thought for a long time they were captured asteroids from the Main Belt. The materials composing the two moons are similar to many asteroids, so that’s a plus in favor of the idea, but it’s extremely difficult for a smallish planet like Mars with a thin atmosphere to capture asteroids that fall in from the Main Belt. Most likely they’d just fly on past.

Still frames from a sequence showing an oblique impact of a large asteroid on Mars. Debris from the impact is ejected into space, forming a disk around Mars. Phobos and Deimos formed from this debris. Credit: SwRI

A newer idea is that they formed from the debris after a big asteroid or comet impact on Mars itself, the force of the oblique collision blasting ejected material literally into space. Recent work indicates that this could result from an impact with an object the size of Vesta one of the largest objects in the Main Belt, at about 500 km across.

In that case the moons would form mostly from material from the planet itself, but heated to a degree that a lot of lighter material (like water) would be lost to space. Simulations indicate it’s possible an impact like this could explain the moons' major features.

The only way to know is to look at the moons more closely to understand them better. Landing on them and looking at samples in situ, or even returning them to Earth, would be fantastic — and Japan is working on just such a mission.

Until then, though, images like those from Mars Express will tell us more about these weird little moons, and hopefully untangle some of their mysteries.

From the depths of a disastrous shoot swam Jaws, the ultimate summer blockbuster @ io9

In the 1949 thriller The Third Man, Orson Welles plays Harry Lime, one of the all-time great screen villains. Welles is barely in the movie. For most of the running time, he’s simply a whispered name—first a dead body, the center of a mystery, and then the mastermind of a criminal conspiracy that’s leaving Austrian…

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Lug All of Your Dirty Clothes to the Laundry Room In This $14 Hamper @ io9

Lifewit Laundry Hamper | $14 | Amazon | Clip the coupon on the page

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Indochino's Overcoats Are Just $295 For a Limited Time @ io9

$100 Off Overcoats | Indochino | Use the promo code KINJA

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Cook a Ton of Crispy (and Mostly Healthy) Food With This Discounted Smart Air Fryer @ io9

The Mandalorian Gave Us a Few New Stars to Gaze at This Week @ io9

If you watched this week’s episode of The Mandalorian and thought, “Wait, is that who I think it is?” Chances are, the answer is “Yes.”

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FFVII Remake, D&D: Dark Alliance and more of The Game Awards' fresh new trailers @ Syfy Wire

1p>This year’s Game Awards brought more spectacle than ever to a video gaming world that’s bursting at the seams with cool new projects for just about every imaginable format . But while plenty of deserved awards were doled out live, the real spectacle remained on the screen — where one new trailer after another teased hugely-anticipated blockbusters alongside some surprise announcements to whet our insatiable gaming appetites even more.

Square Enix rolled out a brand-new look at the upcoming Final Fantasy VII: Remake, putting the spotlight squarely (ahem) on Cloud Strife while showing off fresh glimpses at RPG icons like Tifa Lockhart, Barret Wallace, Aerith, and even Sephiroth. 

We already know tons about Remake’s first installment, which will reportedly follow the groundbreaking PlayStation 1 classic up to the point when the action is about to move away from Midgar's cyberpunk confines. Consider the new clip, then, an eye-dazzling placeholder while we make the short wait between now and Mar. 3 of next year, when Final Fantasy VII: Remake materia-lizes (see what we did there?) for PlayStation 4:

Final Fantasy on YouTube


The Dungeons & Dragons renaissance has led us to this: The first full-length D&D video game designed to take its rightful place alongside the ocean of present-day RPG titles its pen-and-paper ideas have been inspiring since video games first began. 

Wizards of the Coast and in-house developer Tuque Games showed off a thrashin’ new trailer for Dark Alliance, the D&D-themed spiritual successor and sequel to 2001’s Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance — which itself was set in D&D’s Forgotten Realms and employed the gameplay rules laid down in the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rulebook. It’s definitely a gonzo take on the D&D lore-verse. If you had any qualms that the video game version of D&D would be sanitized of all the blood, gore, drama, and fantastical ambition of its tabletop counterpart, the trailer proves the perfect antidote. Dark Alliance is slated to arrive sometime in the fall of 2020.

Dark Alliance on YouTube


Ghost of Tsushima has been a distant mirage for a while, but that all appears to have changed with Sucker Punch’s meaty cinematic trailer for the upcoming action-adventurer set in a lushly-rendered version of mythic feudal Japan.  

Boasting what may be some of the most detailed CGI graphics to grace the current generation of game consoles, the new Ghost trailer serves up an epic look into a world where death gives way to a new, determined post-life for protagonist Jin Sakai (aka the Ghost) — the “last samurai” to avenge his countrymen after the Mongol invasion of Japan. A PlayStation 4 exclusive, Ghost of Tsushima releases sometime in the summer of next year.

PlayStation on YouTube


It seems like an age since Amazon teased its first foray into the world of big-time gaming, but it looks like the wait is paying off. The online giant has finally shared a nice long glimpse at New World, its upcoming MMO adventure that puts a fantastical twist on the age of discovery. New World makes landfall in May of next year:

Play New World on YouTube


Former employees at Arkane Studios, the makers of some of Bethesda's most innovative games (Dishonored, Prey) may be starting up their own outfit, but they're wasting no time showing off what they've got in store. Devolver Digital and the newly-minted Wolfeye Studios showed off Weird West, an intriguing new western-themed action-RPG that reimagines the Wild West as a place "where lawmen and gunslingers share the frontier with fantastical creatures," according to the developers.

DevolverDigital on YouTube

The ink on Weird West's announcement is still fresh, so there's no early word on a release date. But with so many new titles inbound for 2020, we'll happily bide our time as we sift through the growing pile of gaming goodies to tide us over.


The Game Awards' biggest winners: Microsoft, Death Stranding, Disco Elysium and Sekiro @ Syfy Wire

1p>The sixth annual Game Awards hosted by Geoff Keighley wrapped up in Los Angeles on Thursday, and wow it did not disappoint... well, as long long as your favorites won. The ceremony celebrates the best in video games from the previous year and, of course, brings a slew of new trailers and premieres for the year ahead. Below we've compiled the biggest winners from this year's awards.

Okay, so technically Microsoft wasn't an official award winner, but they definitely won the news of the night. While we've known the company has been working on a replacement counsel for the Xbox One for a while, all we've really had to work with is the codename: Project Scarlett. Well, guess what folks, we've moved beyond codename territory. Meet thel Xbox Series X. 

Here's the official trailer reveal:

Xbox on YouTube

Xbox Series X will be available Holiday 2020. 

Now, when it comes to the awards themselves, some of the winners of the night include Capcom's Devil May Cry 5 for Best Action Game; Respawn Entertainment's Apex Legends, which won for Best Multiplayer Game; and Fortnite for Best Ongoing Game. The enduring success of Apex and Fortnite continues to prove the dominance of the battle royale genre, which doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

The open world role playing game, Disco Elysium from publisher ZA/UM pulled off a bit of an upset early when it won over Death Stranding for Best Narrative. Disco Elysium won a total of four awards including Best Role Playing Game, and Best Independent Game. 

But Kojima Production's action game Death Stranding was still a massive winner throughout the evening, nabbing multiple awards including ones for Best Performance, Best Score, Best Narrative, and Best Game Direction. The cinematic and experimental game features the essential Kojima weirdness we all know and love, along with an all-star cast of actors and voice-over artists like Norman Reedus, Guillermo del Toro, and Mads Mikkelsen. Word is that Hideo Kojima is already back at work on another game. Does he ever stop?

The evening's top honors, the big cheese, the... okay we'll just get to the point... The Game of the Year award went to the creators of the massively gory action-adventure game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Video game director Hidetaka Miyazak accepted the award on behalf of his team and developer From Software and publisher Activision. 

Congratulations to all the big winners throughout the evening. While we didn't get our Breath of the Wild 2 trailer, we did get to celebrate an amazing year in video games and the community of creators who help bring these worlds to life. If 2019 was this good, we honestly can't wait to see what 2020 has in store.

For full list at all the winners and nominees head over to the official The Game Awards website


All The Big Announcements At The 2019 Game Awards @ io9

The new Xbox was shown off at the fifth annual Game Awards, during a show that also saw a slew of new game announcements, release date reveals, and trailers.

Read more...

We Know the Name of the Next Xbox and It's Series-ous @ io9

Microsoft’s next-generation gaming console is called Xbox Series X, the company announced during an onstage unveiling at this year’s Game Awards Thursday. It’s slated for a holiday 2020 release, unsurprisingly corresponding with competitor Sony’s release date for its Playstation 5.

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WIRE Buzz: Bob Iger and Martin Scorsese to meet; Will Poulter pulls out of Lord of the Rings series; more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Remember that one time the Oscar award-winning director Martin Scorsese decided to torch the Marvel Cinematic Universe by calling the films "not cinema"? Yah, Disney CEO Bob Iger still isn't over that, apparently. In an interview with Time magazine, Iger revealed that he and Scorsese may be having a face to face on the matter.

Representatives for Iger and Scorsese are apparently in talks to schedule a meeting between the two high powered Hollywood heavies. Iger revealed news of the possible meeting as part of an interview he gave to Time after being named "Businessperson of the Year."

"If Marty Scorsese wants to be in the business of taking artistic risk, all power to him. It doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t art,” said Iger, while on the subject.

So yeah, we're eager to see how that meeting goes, if it eventually does get scheduled.


It looks like Amazon's Lord of the Rings series will have to dive back into the casting pool. The Hollywood Reporter says actor Will Poulter (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) has had to pull out of the big-budget series due to scheduling conflicts.

The British actor joined the series back in September, but news of his specific role was never officially revealed or confirmed by Amazon. That's not too surprising considering Amazon Studios has been keeping most of the series' casting details under lock and key. In fact, some of the only other news we've heard is the hiring of Markella Kavenagh (Romper Stomper) and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones).

The Amazon TV series will dive into the Second Age of Middle-Earth, as confirmed back in March. Any other juicy plot details are also shrouded in complete darkness, but that's not stopping us from getting fully aboard this hype train. We're not the only ones either, the series has already won a Season 2, even as production continues on Season 1.

The series is being developed by JD Payne and Patrick McKay — the screenwriting pair behind Star Trek. It will be partially produced by Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and directed by J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).

Please, gives us more precious details Amazon. We wants it, we needs it!


DC Comics has finally revealed more details about a buzzy comics project they teased back at San Diego Comic-Con. The classic 1950s sci-fi hero Adam Strange is coming back in 2020 for a 12-issue run called Strange Adventures. The first issue is due out Mar. 4, and will once again reunite the creators behind DC's Eisner-Award winning Mister Miracle series. 

Writer Tom King, artists Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner will collaborate on the story and artwork. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will tell two stories and also include a surprise DC character! Strange Adventures was DC's first science fiction book when it was created by Julius Schwartz and Murphy Anderson back in 1958.

In a statement to THR, King said, "I wanted to tell two stories simultaneously, and have them play off each other: the story we tell others and the story others tell about us. To represent these two aspects, we use two of the best artists in comics, then we weave those two tellings together in odd and new ways that I don’t think anyone’s seen in modern superhero comics."

Well mark this one up for the buy pile, as we can't wait to see where these Strange Adventures take us! 


Microsoft finally unveils Project Scarlett console: Meet Xbox Series X @ Syfy Wire

1p>One of the first big surprises of this year’s Game Awards came early in the proceedings, when Microsoft’s Phil Spencer took the stage to take the wraps off one of the most long-awaited reveals of the upcoming console generation. We’re talking, of course, about what its Xbox One replacement console, codenamed Project Scarlett, will actually be called when it hits the streets — not to mention what it’ll look like sitting in our living rooms.

Sporting a vertically-oriented, blocky look that veers in a different direction from any Xbox (not to mention any mainstream console) that’s come before, Spencer rolled out the new console — the Xbox Series X — as Microsoft’s new flagship gaming rig, in the process finally giving fans a chance to call its next-gen device by its proper name. 

Say goodbye to Project Scarlett, and say hello to Xbox Series X:

Xbox on YouTube

Though we’ve already heard plenty of buzz about what kind of graphical and processing tricks the high-powered new console will be able to perform, Spencer kept the details to a minimum, preferring to let the console’s new look do the talking. Series X, said Spencer, will deliver “the fastest, most powerful Xbox” in the company’s history, with games already in development “to take full advantage” of the top-tier model’s next-gen power. 

Developer Ninja Theory served up a quick, in-engine look at the new game it announced in conjunction with Microsoft’s big reveal: Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II (the sequel to 2017’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice). Take a peek at how the first wave of games on Microsoft's next batch of consoles could look below:

Xbox on YouTube

While the Xbox Series X will sit atop Microsoft’s Xbox lineup, it likely won’t be the only Xbox console you’ll be able to get your hands on as the new console wars heat up next year. A cheaper, less-powerful version is reportedly also in the works — though even with fewer tech goodies under the hood, it’ll still outmaneuver even the fastest Xbox One or PlayStation 4 we’re currently able to get our hands on. 

Microsoft stuck with its broad 2020 release date timeline in its announcement, so for now, we’re marking our calendars for the Xbox Series X to arrive sometime during the “holiday” season late next year.


Remember The Expanse! The Churn recaps Seasons 1-3 @ Syfy Wire

1p>Before you jump into The Expanse Season 4 on Prime Video, dive into our recaps of Seasons 1-3 below!

I. Join host Ana Marie Cox as she refreshes our memory of all the most important parts of The Expanse's first season and then talks to political scientist, Dan Drezner about all things Earth, Mars, and the Belt!

II. Join Ana Marie Cox as she walks listeners through the most important moments of The Expanse Season 2 before chatting with political scientist Dan Drezner about the characters and how they change as the show progresses.

III. Join host Ana Marie Cox as she takes us through all of the most important moments of The Expanse Season 3 before diving into a discussion with political scientist Dan Drezner about all the different ideologies and factions of the show.

Click here for the podcast's RSS feed.

Subscribe on iTunes here.

Subscribe on Google Play here.

Subscribe on Stitcher here.

Click here for previous episodes of The Churn.

If you have questions for the cast and crew, tweet us @syfywire with the hashtag #TheChurn.

The Team Behind Dark Alliance's Return Tell Us Why Now Is the Time to Bring It Back @ io9

Dungeons & Dragons has a long and storied history of video games set in the vast worlds of the Forgotten Realms. But there are few that inspire a longing fervor quite like the fans of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and its sequel. Now, after 15 years away, the series is being revived—and io9 spoke to the people behind…

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Fantastical 44,000-year-old cave painting proves we've believed in cryptids at least that long @ Syfy Wire

1p>Anyone into sci-fi, fantasy, or horror has seen a slew of cryptids across comics, books, TV shows, and movies, but humans have been into these sorts of creatures for much longer than Fantastic Beasts or Supernatural have been around.

Belief in entities that are human-animal hybrids or ones that can transform themselves into something not of this Earth dates back tens of thousands of years. A Griffith University-led team of paleontologists has now discovered that a 43,900-year-old cave painting on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is not just the oldest example of rock art and figurative art in general, but also the oldest evidence of humans imagining supernatural beings. Specifically therianthropes — creatures that are part human and part animal.

Credit: Griffith University

“The images of therianthropes at [rock art site] Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 may also represent the earliest evidence for our capacity to conceive of things that do not exist in the natural world, a basic concept that underpins modern religion,” said Maxime Aubert, an associate professor at Griffith University who co-led a study recently published in Nature.

What appeared to be just more rock graffiti from an ancient civilization turned into a groundbreaking find when the team got much closer. Anthropologists used to think that early artists just started breaking into more sophisticated depictions of people and animals around 35,000 years ago, and human art didn’t advance to interactive scenes until about 21,000 years ago. That is now a myth that has been debunked by this hunting scene (below), which not only shows a surprising amount of detail for the time period, but also therianthropes.

Never before have such clear images of therianthropes been found in Paleolithic cave art (or anywhere else). The piece was dated by measuring the radioactive decay of uranium in mineral deposits on the image, which shows hunters with humanoid bodies and animal heads and other features chasing down Sulawesi warty pigs and fierce dwarf buffaloes, aka anoas (pictured). Until now, the oldest known depiction of a therianthrope was Germany’s 40,000-year-old Lion Man sculpture.

“All of the major components of a highly advanced artistic culture were present in Sulawesi by 44,000 years ago, including figurative art, scenes, and therianthropes,” said Griffith University professor Maxime Aubert, the other co-lead of the study.

Therianthropes were important to the mythology and religious practices of ancient peoples. For example, grave goods have revealed that the Scythians of ancient Russia and Ukraine would deck out their horses with elaborate antler headpieces to transmogrify them into deer, a revered animal in the Scythian culture. Just like the Scythians, it appears that ancient Indonesians “may have expressed spiritual thinking about the special bond between humans and animals,” as Brumm added. Many religions that have survived until now still worship therianthropic deities.

Think about all that next time you see a faun or a centaur galloping across your screen.

(via Griffith University)

Crisis on Infinite Earths Review – Part 3: The Flash S06E09 @ Bureau 42

Crisis on Infinite Earths (Part 1 and 2) continues this week on The Flash, taking the show up to a mid-season break.  For the characters, they take a whole lot more.

Title: Crisis on Infinite Earths (3)

Cast and Crew

Directed: David McWhirter
Written: Lauren Certo & Sterling Gates

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen / The Flash
Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen
Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow / Killer Frost
Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon / Vibe
Hartley Sawyer as Ralph Dibny / Elongated Man
Danielle Nicolet as Cecile Horton (credit only)
LaMonica Garrett as Mar Novu / The Monitor
Tom Cavanagh as Harrison ‘Nash’ Wells / Pariah
Jesse L. Martin as Joe West (credit only)
Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor
Matt Ryan as John Constantine
Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen / Green Arrow
Caity Lotz as Sara Lance / White Canary
Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer / Superman
David Ramsey as John Diggle

 

Premise

Pariah enlists Black Lightning to help stop the Anti-Monitor after Flash-90 Shares what he learned from his battle in ‘Elseworlds’. With the help of Black Lightning, Barry, Cisco and Killer Frost come up with a plan that could save them all. Meanwhile, Iris has a heart-to-heart with Ryan Choi while Oliver and Diggle return to an old familiar stomping ground. (from IMDB)

High Point

Lucifer.

Low Point

The Crisis of Infinite Cameos is very enjoyable, it is great to see appearances by many other past shows and unrelated shows, but it has reached a point where the appearances and cameos are so irrelevant to the story that they lose their appeal.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6 With only a passing familiarity with the source material, this level of universe hoping and destruction is rivaled only in comics, and rarely (if ever) on television.

Effects: 4/6  The effects dip back to regular television levels.  SuperRouth’s muscle suit, especially next to Ray Palmer, looks like the same type of super-padding we can expect from Saturday Night Live.

Acting: 6/6 The final scene between Black Lightning and The Flash seemed impossible, but the actors carried it off very well.

Story: 5/6 It appears to meander a bit, and the scenes in the Anti-Monitor’s hide out are full of plot contrivances,

Emotional Response: 6/6 This would be a solid five, but the Earth-666 logo was enough to raise expectations, and it delivered on those expectations.  The rest of the episode was good as well, pulling the appropriate heart strings at the appropriate locations.

Production: 6/6 This is an ambitious undertaking.  It’s like Infinity War for the CW.

Overall: 6/6 It is surprising that a forced story on a television budget is turning out to be so much fun.

In total, The Flash receives 38/42

Of Course There's a 14-Month Waitlist for This $300 Unofficial Baby Yoda Toy @ io9

Etsy is currently teeming with unofficial merch for The Mandalorian’s “The Child,” or Baby Yoda, as he’s colloquially come to be known. But if you’re hoping to get your hands on this $300 lifelike replica before Christmas, think again.

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LEGO fan solves an age-old headache with AI-powered brick sorting machine @ Syfy Wire

1p>Making things with LEGOs is the best, but keeping track of all those infinitely sized bricks is the worst. Nothing stinks more than attempting to put the finishing touches on your space station masterpiece only to realize, after sifting through a jumbled pile, that you’re a few pieces short. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew at a glance exactly what materials remained in your invaluable LEGO inventory before your last-minute builder’s frustration sets in?

LEGO fan Daniel West thought so, and he decided to do something about it. Armed with some impressive computing knowledge and an abundance of patience, West set out to build an AI-powered automated sorting machine that does all the dirty work of putting similarly sized pieces with their own kind — and get this: He built his amazing creation out of LEGOs.

Behold, the game-changing contraption that West has dubbed “the world's first Universal LEGO Sorting Machine” ...

Daniel West on YouTube

From the clip, it really does appear to be as easy as it sounds: Dump in a chaotic hodgepodge of just about any LEGO piece that’s ever been created, and watch as the machine dutifully scratches that OCD itch to put everything in its proper place. The 3x2 pieces get dumped into the 3x2 bin; the tiny 1x2 pieces go with the other 1x2s; and on and on until you have a nice, neatly organized stockpile of raw LEGO material ready to satisfy your most ambitious creative urge.

West explains in the info that accompanies the video that there’s a handful of specialty pieces the machine can’t process: “parts that are unable to fit in the machine, [or] flexible/articulated parts,” as well as parts that haven’t yet been documented in the LDraw parts library — the open-source computer architectural drawing resource that catalogs the multitude of pieces LEGO has produced over the years.

West gives a shout-out to a similar sorting machine another LEGO fan made back in 2011 as inspiration for his souped-up device, though the earlier version relied on simple physics (shape and weight) rather than machine learning to get the job done. But whether it’s a machine that goes by feel or one — like West’s — that deploys the brain power of an AI neural network, we confess to not being terribly picky. Just hurry up and figure out a way to mass-produce this block-sortin' bad boy … so we can finally get our own LEGO houses in order.

Game of Thrones' David Benioff and D.B. Weiss May Adapt the Graphic Novel Lovecraft @ io9

They’ve gone from the far reaches of Westeros to (almost) a galaxy, far, far, away. For David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the next stop on their journey is 1920s New England with a whole lot of tentacle monsters.

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Game of Thrones showrunners to tackle Lovecraft horror-verse in ‘Cthulhu mythos’ movie @ Syfy Wire

1p>They may have warped away from the Star Wars movie-verse, but Game of Thrones TV creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are about to plunge themselves into a spookier, more spectral big-screen project.

Deadline reports that the duo have just signed on to produce a new film for Warner Bros. inspired by the shudder-inducing works of horror master H.P. Lovecraft, based on Vertigo's graphic novel Lovecraft from Hans Rodionoff, Keith Giffen, and Enrique Breccia.

Details on the untitled movie are light, but the report speculates that it may turn on an intriguing what-if twist — as in, what if Lovecraft’s mythic tales of sinister eldritch beasts and primordial evil spirits were never meant to be fiction? Or as the synopsis for the graphic novel asks: “What if the imaginary terrors that Lovecraft wrote about were not imaginary at all? What if the monsters he created are real?”

There's no early word on who might direct the film. The only other information about the project for now posits that it may be set “in 1920 within the Cthulhu mythos.”

Along to script the new film are Aeon Flux scribes Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, a team whose previous credits also include Ride Along, The Invitation, and Destroyer. Karyn Kusama, who directed the latter two movies, will also reportedly serve as an executive producer on the Lovecraft project.

Benioff and Weiss recently announced they were stepping away from their much-buzzed planned Star Wars movie trilogy, an undertaking they’d originally boarded as the most ambitious of their post-Game of Thrones projects. The pair are still committed to their mammoth Netflix deal, which makes the red-letter streaming giant their new, post-HBO television home.

The overall creative deal with Netflix, valued at somewhere north of $200 million, gives Netflix exclusive access to a bevy of forthcoming series and feature-length projects overseen by the Emmy-winning creative duo — but WB's Lovecraft film project reportedly predates Benioff and Weiss’ arrangement with Netflix by several years. 

There's no early word on a release date for the Lovecraft movie, so we'll be keeping a frightful vigil as we await more news.


The Expanse Crew Shares Their Thoughts on Season 4 Getting a Binge Release @ io9

The Expanse is finally coming back with season four, after Amazon rescued the Rocinante and its crew from being stuck adrift in the empty space of non-renewed television shows. But there’s a catch: All 10 episodes of season four are being released at the same time, instead of weekly. We asked the cast and crew of The

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A tale of two Christmases on The X-Files @ Syfy Wire

1p>Ghosts are a lot like family. Expected or not, they have a habit of showing up during the holidays. Whether they're metaphorical apparitions of past choices or very real spirits lining up to help fix your life, the month of December is big on hauntings.

Over its original nine-season run, The X-Files made only two Christmas episodes. The show wasn’t all that big on tying episodes to certain holidays or celebrations, but back-to-back Season 5 and 6 outings went all in on the festive season.

Credit: Fox 

The first was a two-part mythology-heavy story focusing on the ongoing ripple effect of Scully’s abduction on both her body and family. The other equipped the well-known "Monster of the Week" format, delivering a fun haunted-house episode. For better or worse, these Christmas stories are a snapshot of two distinct Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) adventures.

“Christmas Carol” is an all-Scully affair (in part to accommodate Duchovny’s off-camera promotional duties for the movie Playing God), which occurs while she's visiting her brother Bill for the holiday. Her sister-in-law is heavily pregnant, and their military home looks exactly like the one Scully grew up in. The holidays can dredge up a lot of feelings, and Dana has more baggage than most. At this point in the series, she has just learned that as a result of her abduction in Season 2, she won't be able to have children. This is something she hadn't considered wanting until she was told it was no longer possible. 

Credit: Fox 

Absent family members make this all-too-familiar house layout unsettling, which is further compounded when Scully receives a call from beyond the grave. A voice that sounds an awful lot like her dead sister, Melissa (Melinda McGraw), implores Scully to “go to her.”

The “her” in question is a 3-year-old girl called Emily, a girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to Melissa when she was a toddler. The matter is made even more complicated, as her mother was lying dead in the bathtub (from seemingly self-inflicted wounds) when the call was made from that phone. This all sounds very X-Files and not particularly festive. Scully does call Mulder, but can’t bring herself to tell her partner what has transpired in San Diego. Instead, she puts up with her skeptical family, who believe she is transferring grief about her infertility onto this little girl. Bill has always been a bit of an a-hole, but this character trait is fully on display here. He's frustrated by Scully’s lack of seasonal jolliness, and he blames the influence of Mulder (who isn’t even here).

In a twist on Dickens' famous holiday story, Scully sees her past, present, and future woven together via dreams of past Christmases. In one, her brother Bill wants to kill the rabbit she has found (but Scully kept it so safe in a lunchbox that it died anyway), while another depicts the year her mother gave Scully and her sister the cross necklace loaded with meaning. The last portrays a Scully full of doubt about heading to Quantico. In this scene, her sister offers guidance and reassurance, combing ghosts of Christmas past and future. Because Melissa gave her confidence in the past, Scully gets the push she needs to confront the truth in front of her.

Credit: Fox 

Dickens once wrote of a man who confronted himself in order not to die alone, and Scully must do the same — but ultimately, she is saving this little girl from an awful fate. “Christmas Carol” ends on Christmas morning with the Scully clan eagerly unwrapping presents. She receives a much more significant gift than any of the boxes sitting beneath the tree. DNA results reveal Emily isn’t Melissa’s child; this is Scully's biological daughter. 

The second part, “Emily,” is less interested in the festive framing of the story, even if Christmas lights framing certain images are a reminder of this time of year. The religious connotations are somewhat heavy-handed: This child was essentially brought into this world to serve a purpose before dying. Executive producer and creator Chris Carter has made some pretty questionable choices regarding motherhood and Scully’s body, and while this isn’t as eyebrow-raising as the most recent season, it still reduces this character’s violation to some sort of miracle in the face of a horrifying experiment. The mythology storyline got so bogged down that it can make revisiting these episodes seem more arduous than when it first aired, something that doesn't typically happen with the "Monster of the Week" format.

Credit: Fox

Despite the running theme of despair, “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” is far less melancholic even if it is predicated on Mulder and Scully’s inherent loneliness. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are the titular spirits attempting to pull a Grinch, but deadlier as a couple who made a pact in 1917, killed themselves on Christmas Eve, and have been driving the residents of this gothic mansion to the same fate ever since. Business has been slow since the home was condemned, but Mulder is ripe for a haunting even if Scully would rather be anywhere else. She mentions she still has gifts to wrap and grumpily tells her partner she has "holiday cheer to spread.”

While “Christmas Carol” linked back to Scully’s abduction, her family, and her innate fears, Maurice and Lyda poke and prod at Scully and Mulder’s co-dependent relationship. Before the partners are separated, Scully lays out all the scientific reasons people are fascinated (and scared) by ghosts. “It actually ends up saying more about the living than the dead,” she opines, adding that a belief in spirits is fueled by an immortality desire. This way, we can be with our loved ones for eternity. She even draws a line between the feelings we have about ghosts and what draws us to Christmas: These powerful desires are the essence of what makes us human.

Matters go from unsettling, as a storm rages outside (you can’t visit a haunted house without the appropriate weather), to deeply disturbing. This is a house that seemingly has two identical libraries, brick walls where doorways should be, and disappearing ladders. Despite Mulder and Scully's continuing philosophy that these are “gimmicks and cheap tricks,” the ghosts put years of practice to good use on these two lonely souls.

Credit: Fox 

Maurice accuses Mulder of being narcissistic, self-righteous, and an egomaniac, while Lydia accurately calls out Scully's enjoyment of proving Mulder wrong. At this point, there are a lot of unspoken words and unresolved feelings between the pair, but there are only so many illusions they will fall for. They have been through far more intense and dangerous ordeals.

Later, Mulder is watching the 1951 Scrooge adaptation on TV when Scully swings by his place. Gifts are exchanged (sadly, we don't see what they got for each other), and while the ghosts hit a few home truths, what they saw as weaknesses are also the reasons these two are perfect partners. Despite these flaws (and occasional manipulations), there is no one either would rather spend time with. 

Credit: Fox 

Ultimately, these two Christmas episodes represent the two X-Files narrative styles. Neither is a Top 10 contender in either category, but there is something to be gained from these festive outings. If nothing else, having Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin as mischievous (and murderous) spirits should be enough to add this to your holiday genre television watching line-up.  


The best 'so bad they were good' movies of the decade @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome to SYFY WIRE's Decade in Review, a series of articles that will look to catalog the best, worst, and weirdest cultural and entertainment moments of the 2010s as we look toward the future. Today, we look to the movies that were so bad they were entertainingly good.

We all love to watch them, those movies where one part of your brain says, “This is terrible,” while another, more fun part of your brain says, “This is amazing!” Sometimes we want to watch Oscar-worthy performances, but sometimes we just want to chomp on some popcorn and watch a movie that’s dumb or silly or weird or mindlessly action-packed.

The last decade has given us plenty of films that could hold the “So Bad It Was Good” moniker. There are some, however, that stand above the rest with their glorious terribleness; read on for a list of some of the best cringe-worthy, delightfully awful yet utterly enjoyable movies.

WIRE Buzz: Shazam! sequel set for spring 2022, Rabbids movie hopping to theaters, more @ Syfy Wire

1p>Billy Batson and the rest of the Marvel Family are officially coming back for another DC adventure in a second Shazam! movie. Warner Bros.' comic book sequel is confirmed to hit theaters on April Fool's Day 2022, SYFY WIRE has confirmed.

At this time, it's unclear whether David F. Sandberg will return as director, but odds are good, as the first movie charmed audiences and brought in more than $360 million at the global box office. Critics were also smitten with the Big-meets-Superman flick, which currently holds a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

In April of this year, it was reported that WB had re-hired Henry Gayden (screenwriter on the first film) to start writing a script for a possible follow-up. Now that the project is allowed to go full steam ahead, you can probably expect Asher Angel and Zachary Levi to confirm their returns as Billy Batson and Shazam very soon.

Shazam! 2 will open a little less than four months after Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam movie, which means Teth-Adam (a classic foil for Batson) will probably factor into the sequel in some way, shape, or form. Given the mid-credits scene in the first Shazam! film, it's probably safe to assume that Mr. Mind is going to be the main antagonist.


 

Per Deadline, Lionsgate has scooped up the big-screen rights to Ubisoft's Rabbids video game series. The studio is reportedly planning a hybrid film adaptation that incorporates both live-action and animated elements.

Todd Strauss-Schulson (Isn't It Romantic) is reportedly in early talks to helm the project, which is being produced by Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman — the duo behind 2017's Beauty and the Beast remake and Wonder.

Previously developed by Sony, the movie is getting a new draft of its screenplay by Matt Senreich, Tom Sheppard, and Zeb Wells. Todd Rosenberg is said to have revised a previous version.

Credit: Ubisoft

The Rabbids are wide-mouthed, noseless bunny rabbits who first popped up in the Rayman games.

Much like the Minions of the Despicable Me franchise, the crazed, gibberish-speaking creatures were so popular that they were able to spin off on their own. Their video games have sold millions of units, and the characters have even crossed paths with Nintendo's Super Mario.


 

Brian Yorkey, the playwright known for adapting 13 Reasons Why, is reportedly working on a new Netflix TV show based on another YA novel. Deadline writes that Yorkey is currently developing a series drawn from Neal Shusterman's Game Changer, which will be published by HarperCollins’ Harper Teen label next September.

Since the book is still a ways away, we don't know much about its plot, although Deadline describes it as a "present-day teen Quantum Leap."

L-R: Yorkey and Shusterman - Credit: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images &  Todd Williamson/Getty Images For Netflix

Yorkey and Shusterman will be writing the scripts together, while Yorkey takes up the post of showrunner.


The Newest Short Treks Offer a Bright Hope for Star Trek's Animated Future @ io9

Although attempts have been made, today marks the first official animated stories told in the Star Trek universe since the days of the charmingly goofy Star Trek: The Animated Series in the early ‘70s. While they might not be the particularly traditional Trek tales you’d expect, they offer a promise that this medium…

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Jabba the Pod: Countdown to The Rise of Skywalker - Revenge of the Sith @ Syfy Wire

1p>Power. Un-LIM-IT-ED POWER!!!!

SYFY WIRE's podcast about all things Star Wars, Jabba the Pod, is going to the dark side with the third installment of its Countdown to The Rise of Skywalker series, and today it's a burning hot celebration of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

Join regular co-host Captain Matt Romano as well as SYFY WIRE's Ben Fullon and Jon Erwin as they discuss some Grievous intrigue, how to properly Order 66 someone, and whether it's a good idea to have a lightsaber duel while surrounded by lava. How will the events of this movie affect what we might see in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? They'll cover that too.

Take the high ground and give a listen to their latest installment below ... or wherever you get your podcasts.

Click here to subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe on Google Podcasts.

Click here to subscribe on RadioPublic.

Click here to subscribe on Spotify.

Click here to subscribe on Stitcher.

Weeping Angels and Autons invade Titan's Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor S2 #1 @ Syfy Wire

1p>There's a certain British tradition dating back to Victorian times of telling spooky stories around the holidays. London-based Titan Comics honors that legacy by launching the ongoing exploits and misadventures of Doctor Who in The Thirteenth Doctor Season 2 #1 following the chiming bells of New Year's — and SYFY WIRE has a special look into its eye-opening angelic contents.

Credit: Titan Comics

Delivered by Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Season 1's creative team of Eisner-nominated writer Jody Houser (Stranger Things)  and Witchblade artist Roberta Ingranata, Season 2 #1 will see the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Graham, and Ryan team up with one of the Doctor’s past incarnations, the Tenth Doctor, along with a former companion.

The debut issue slips into our timestream on Jan. 8, 2020, as a cool reimagining of Steven Moffatt‘s 2007 TV episode, Blink, and unites the current TARDIS team with the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones, as portrayed on the small screen by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman. Together, they’ll square off against a pair of the Doctor’s most nefarious foes, the Weeping Angels and the Autons.

Credit: Titan Comics

To salute the thrilling launch of Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Season 2, five variant covers have also been commissioned for this premiere issue by Titan Comics, showcasing a tempting spectrum of art courtesy of Paulina Ganucheau, Will Brooks, Alice X. Zhang, Sarah Graley, and a Batman-themed cover via Andrew Pepoy.

Credit: Titan Comics

Any Doctor Who encounter with the time-sucking, quantum-locked humanoid creatures known as the Weeping Angels is bound to make one's skin crawl, and when paired with the robotic mannequin murderers, the Autons, it makes for a perilous piece of sci-fi entertainment any self-respecting Whovian will immediately gravitate toward.

"I'm very excited to see the Weeping Angels back, and it's very cool we get to reimagine the iconic episode Blink, which I think still stands out as the best WA story to date (apart from maybe the tearful goodbye of Amy & Rory)," series editor Jake Devine tells SYFY WIRE.  

Credit: Titan Comics

"Jody absolutely nails the characters, and bringing the Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors together is something I feel she was made for," he continues. "It's witty, mad, and reads exactly how you'd imagine it on screen. And with Roberta's ability to create unique and quirky expressions with minimal ink lines, the comic really captures the essence of the Thirteenth Doctor series. You won't want to miss what happens next!"

Make time to check out our extended preview of Titan's Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Season 2 #1 in the gallery below and tell us if you're completely freaked out by Weeping Angels and Autons as much as we are!

BBC's Doctor Who Season 12 arrives on Jan. 1, 2020.

The Decade Disney Won @ io9

The control Disney has on pop culture right now is so enormous it’s kind of terrifying. Marvel’s superhero movies and Star Wars are two of—if not the—biggest franchises in the world. Add those to Pixar’s beloved library of films and its own perennially popular movies, and Disney is effectively in charge of an enormous…

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New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egyptian Head Cones Were Real @ io9

For years, archaeologists have debated the existence of ancient Egyptian head cones. These objects are portrayed in Egyptian artworks, but not a single one has been found by archaeologists—until now.

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The Decade In Five Games @ io9

It’s true: Five is a ridiculous number for summing up a decade’s worth of video games. It’s far too small. One can’t even put together an already-insufficient list of one game per year with that little real estate. You should know, then, that this is a different kind of list.

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Shock around the Christmas tree with an electric eel that powers holiday lights @ Syfy Wire

1p>This is one of those things you might be less likely to believe than Kevin staging a lavish fake Christmas party to drive away his stalkers in Home Alone — but rockin’ around the Christmas tree has just leveled up to shockin’.

Miguel Wattson (see what they did there?), the Tennessee Aquarium’s resident electric eel, who even has his own Twitter, can now use his voltage to illuminate a Christmas tree. Some really ingenious elves hooked up a special system to Miguel’s tank so he can work some holiday magic. His shocks can turn on a rainbow of lights decking out the tree standing right next to it, which is why this program is called, appropriately enough, “Shocking Around the Christmas Tree.”

“Whenever Miguel discharges electricity, sensors in the water deliver the charge to a set of speakers,” said the Aquarium’s audio visual production specialist, Joey Turnipseed. “The speakers convert the discharge into the sound you hear and the festively flashing lights.”

Another shock is that electric eels are actually not true eels, but a type of knifefish, and share more DNA with carp than legit eels. They also breathe air and have to surface every so often to get a gulp of oxygen. If you don’t want to get accidentally buzzed by these fish and possibly end up in the ER, avoid dipping your feet in the murky waters of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers where they lurk.

It was Turnipseed who figured out how Miguel’s electric pulses could get the holidays more lit. Adults of the species have terrible eyesight and usually release about 10 volts of electricity at rest and when seeking out prey, but they can generate up to 850 volts for getting back at predators. The electricity is only discharged at one amp but is still enough to shock or at least stun anything that wants to sink its teeth into this fish. They are also capable of rapid-fire zaps, which are great for freaking out whoever wanders by that Christmas tree.

“The rapid, dim blinking of the lights is caused by the constant, low-voltage blips of electricity he releases when he’s trying to find food,” Aquarist Kimberly Hurt explained. “The bigger flashes are caused by the higher-voltage shocks he emits when he’s eating or excited.”

Rockefeller Center can move over, because this might be the most (literally) electrifying tree lighting ever.

(via Tennessee Aquarium)

How Nintendo's history of 8bit tunes made their orchestral tracks so catchy @ Syfy Wire

1p>In terms of the current big players in the home console market, Nintendo easily has the longest legacy-making games. With the first attempts at making games releasing in arcades in the mid-'70s and its first home consoles in the early '80s, Nintendo got its start right at the birth of modern gaming and created many of its most beloved franchises during its earliest years.

By comparison, Sony entered the home console business around a decade later, in the mid-'90s, and Microsoft started making its own consoles and games in 2001. While today all three of these companies have found fairly stable footholds in the market, one area where Nintendo has managed to maintain an advantage over its competitors is the consistent memorability of its music. It's no coincidence that in an era of orchestral sweeping soundtracks, Nintendo's remain more memorable than those of its competitors. It's a direct result of the fact that it created its best-known series during a less technologically advanced era of gaming technology.

Source: Nintendo

So, let's dig a little bit into how music on the NES tended to work. Simplified a little, the NES could only handle working with five channels of audio, which had to cover the soundtrack as well as any sound effects. If you wanted to be playing a musical note, and a sound effect for jumping, and a sound effect for grabbing a coin, you would very quickly run out of the ability to produce any other sound. Sure, some later made cartridges expanded this a little, but at the system's launch, this was a pretty strong limitation, which limited playing many notes at the same time as each other, or in quick succession.

If you wanted your early NES game to be able to include sound effects, you had to keep music pretty simplified, and this led to Nintendo focusing on largely simple melody-driven tracks for many of its early games. Without being able to focus on layering multiple instruments, the melody line by itself had to be catchy, impressive, and drive the tone of the piece.

The original GameBoy, on which Nintendo franchises like Pokémon got their start, features a similarly limited four tracks for audio, and as a result, Nintendo's early portable games similarly had to rely on catchy melody lines to drive their narratives.

Source: Naughty Dog

If you compare this to the PlayStation, which was released in 1994, the console had a CD drive, as well as a dedicated sound chip, making the console capable of CD-quality audio. While its competitor the N64 had better quality visuals and loading times, the big draw of the PlayStation was that it could produce basically any music you wanted as a soundtrack. This meant Sony entered the console market without this limitation of having to rely on melody-driven chiptunes. Eager to show off the power of their sound chip, many games on the system made use of layered complex soundtracks that were, in many cases, great, but not rooted in that same need to keep things simple.

Moving forward to the launch of the Xbox in 2001, the increased storage capacity of DVDs meant that Microsoft not only didn't have to worry about limited complexity when making tracks, but it also didn't have to worry as much about compressing that audio, and how tracks would sound if played at a lower level of clarity, meaning it had even less incentive to focus on simple memorable melodies where it could use dramatic sweeping scores.

Credit: Microsoft

Now, none of this is to say Nintendo's soundtracks are inherently better than those produced by Sony or Microsoft, but it's hard to deny those limitations Nintendo worked within necessitated a style of soundtrack creation that has stood the test of time. Games like Super Mario Bros., Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and more featured simple hummable melodies that got stuck in your head, whether you were big into video games or not, and permeated popular consciousness in ways many more modern game soundtracks don't.

You can hear the influence of those old 8-bit soundtracks today in Nintendo's modern releases. While Nintendo has largely adopted the standard of orchestrated soundtracks, many still make use of old 8-bit melody lines to invoke nostalgia, but additionally carry that philosophy to new tracks they design. Their tracks first and foremost have a catchy melody, something you want to hum along to, before layering new instruments over that. Their history informs the way they make music today, and have helped their oldest tracks last over the decades.

Here's the exact USS Enterprise timeline for Short Treks: "Ephraim and Dot” @ Syfy Wire

1p>One of the two new Short Treks this week, "Ephraim and Dot," is about an adorable space-dwelling tardigrade laying her eggs aboard the USS Enterprise. This episode is also, appropriately, about a different variety of eggs: Easter eggs!

As becomes quickly apparent, the entire episode takes this tardigrade and a DOT-7 robot on a rollicking ride through a huge portion of the history of Star Trek, specifically, the lifespan of the classic NCC-1701 USS Enterprise. But just how many years pass during this Short Treks? Here's the breakdown of when Ephraim's epic quest takes place in Trek canon, plus one possible explanation as to why a few things happen in the wrong order.

**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Short Treks, "Ephraim and Dot."**

Although some fans thought "Ephraim and Dot," would be focused on a tardigrade hitching a ride on the Enterprise during Pike's tenure as captain, it's quickly apparent that this is, in fact, the classic Captain Kirk time period! Of course, the concept of space dwelling, oversized tardigrades originated with Star Trek: Discovery; in Season 1, a tardigrade nicknamed "Ripper" was briefly drafted into operating the Spore Drive of the USS Discovery.

By Episode 5, "Choose Your Pain," Michael Burnham had set the tardigrade free. So now what we're seeing is yet another tardigrade, Ephraim, who, like Ripper, can basically travel at warp speed on its own. The Dot robot who tries to stop Ephraim from hanging out on the Enterprise also originated on Discovery. In the Season 2 finale, "Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2," several DOT-7 robots popped out of the Enterprise to make repairs on the ship. In fact, Pike even mentions a DOT-7 briefly in the Short Treks episode, "Ask Not." 

But, again, this is clearly no longer Pike's Enterprise. Because as Ephraim starts to see and hear events from Star Trek: The Original Series — and eventually a few of the classic movies — we get the journey of the USS Enterprise from a totally different point of view. But just how many years pass for this little tardigrade and its robot opponent? The answer is: pretty much 19 years. Everything seems to start around 2266 (or 2267) and, very clearly, ends in 2285. But then again, maybe 27 years pass. Here's how it all shakes out.

The first original series episode Ephraim observes is "Space Seed," the classic Season 1 episode of TOS which first introduced the world to Ricardo Montalban's villainous Khan. From there, we fly through the first three seasons of the original Star Trek with overt references and scenes from "The Trouble With Tribbles" (tribbles), "The Naked Time" (Sulu with the sword), "Who Mourns For Adonis?" (giant green hand in space), "The Doomsday Machine" (big planet killer), "The Tholian Web" (orange energy crisscross in space), and "The Savage Curtain" (Space Lincoln!). 

The Enterprise meets Abraham Lincoln in space. (Credit: CBS)

All of these references span Kirk's famous Five-Year-Mission of the USS Enterprise, which lasted from 2265-2270. But, because "Space Seed" is the first shout-out, this whole thing seems to begin around 2267, since that's when "Space Seed" happens. But, then again, since time seems to pass differently for Ephraim the tardigrade, you could make an argument that the asteroid Ephraim is digging on at the very beginning of the episode is a reference to "Balance of Terror," since, in that episode, the Enterprise is investigating the destruction of starbases that are constructed on asteroids.

If that's true, then "Ephraim and Dot," could start in 2266, which is also totally corroborated by the Sulu going crazy with his sword in "The Naked Time," because that episode 100 percent takes place before "Space Seed," also in 2266. 

Ephraim hides from Dot as Sulu goes nuts with his rapier in "The Naked Time." (Credit: CBS)

Now, if the tardigrade is experiencing a sped-up (or slowed down?) version of time passing on the Enterprise, why does "The Naked Time" appear to occur after both "Space Seed" and "The Trouble With Tribbles"? The Doylist answer is: lighten up, it's just a fun animated episode of Short Treks. But, the Watsonian answer is even more fun. In the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, it was very clear that Paul Stamets experienced time and space in strange ways, and occasionally would perceive things that had either not yet happened or events that happened in alternate universes. Now, we all know Stamets had tardigrade DNA, so, because this episode follows the adventures of an actual time and space traversing tardigrade, maybe some of these linear events appear slightly jumbled up through Ephraim's perception. In other words: This is how the tardigrade sees the flow of time, because time works differently in its mind, right?

If we buy this explanation, then the 16-year-leap from "The Savage Curtain" (2269)  to The Wrath of Khan (2285) makes a lot of sense; Ephraim is traveling through time as well as space. Because now, at this point, Ephraim has followed the Enterprise through its famous refit and redesign in Star Trek; The Motion Picture! (This is why the Enterprise suddenly has a blue deflector dish instead of orange.)

But, of course, this also means that Ephraim and Dot are now both hanging around when Admiral Kirk decides to blow-up the Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Eprhaim experiences the Enterprise's destrcution in 'Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.'

Now, at this point, there's one more continuity gripe. At a few points during its destruction, it looks like the Enterprise has the registry number NCC-1701-A, which is actually wrong. The NCC-1701-A Enterprise was the ship that replaced the classic Enterprise in The Voyage Home, even though it looked virtually identical. So again, this could be a production mistake. Unless of course, yet again, the tardigrade is experiencing time out of order, and has briefly had a vision of a different Enterprise during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which takes place in 2293. 

We see a Klingon Bird-of-Prey attack the Enterprise in this scene, which should reference the same Bird-of-Prey that attacks the Enterprise in The Search for Spock in 2285. But, if Ephraim briefly experiences the future — and the Enterprise-A — then we could squint and decide Ephraim's wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey brain has conflated the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (in which the Enterprise is also attacked by a Klingon Bird-of-Prey) with the events of The Search for Spock. Again, thinking about it this way is infinitely more fun than thinking an incorrect letter just happened to pop-up on the Enterprise.

Either way, you look at it, the Trek canon just got two new adorable new characters in the form of Ephraim and Dot, and if we're lucky, this isn't the last time these two will gate-crash their way into famous events in the final frontier. 

Short Treks' "Ephraim and Dot" is streaming now on CBS All Access.


Important Toy News: More Baby Yoda toys debut! Plus, an adorable dumpster fire @ Syfy Wire

1p>Welcome back to Important Toy News, the SYFY WIRE column that shows you a week's worth of amazing new playthings, collectibles, shelf candy, and tokens of joy. Everyone wins! Join me, your resident toy journalist, as we start our geeky toy-hunting journey by showing everyone this week's hotness in toy collecting. And this week, not only are we getting even more Star Wars toys of the Child (aka Baby Yoda) from the amazing Disney+ show The Mandalorian, but the world is just a giant dumpster fire. Again!

Credit: 100% Soft

The year was 2019, and San Diego Comic-Con was approaching. A seemingly harmless little resin toy was discovered by Toy Wizards on the unofficial SDCC blog. And said coverage of that little Dumpster Fire resin toy thus unleashed a viral sensation. People wanted that toy so badly and they just couldn’t have it, because artist Truck Torrance of 100% Soft was only selling 50 pieces per day for all of SDCC.

But now, my friends, your patience has been rewarded. This resin toy is now vinyl, and it is on sale now at Entertainment Earth. This material swap not only makes it more of a traditional toy, but brings the price point down to only $22. You can preorder this bad boy today, and it will ship your way February 2020.

 

Credit: Hasbro

What at first seemed like zero toy representation has now become the most adorable and welcome snowballing boulder of cuteness that I ever wanted to crash into my heart, wallet, and toy shelves. I'm not evening kidding, because this is breaking toy news. Today, Disney/Hasbro unleashed six new Baby Yoda toys onto the internet, and they are available for pre-order today! Funko and Mattel may have announced their toys first, but Hasbro followed up with a full deck of awesome.

Now, I'm sorry to say it, but these pieces all have a shipping date of May 2020, which is the same date as the previous toys we've showcased. Unfortunately, there will be no Baby Yoda for the holiday season. Regardless, let's check out what we can order! We have The Child 7 1/2-Inch Electronic Plush Toy for $24.99, The Child 6 1/2-Inch Action Figure for $19.99, Baby Bounties Hold Me and Ball Mini-Figures for $15.99, Star Wars The Black Series The Mandalorian The Child Action Figure for $9.99 (WANT!), Baby Bounties Soup and Blanket Mini-Figures for $15.99, and the Baby Bounties Frog and Force Mini-Figures for $15.99. You can order all of these right now on Entertainment Earth, Shop Disney, or where your favorite collectibles are sold.

Credit: Super7

Wrestling toys are enormously popular. From the traditional WWE toys from Mattel over to the New Japan Pro Wrestling, it seems like toy collectors are wrestling-crazy. Well, now a very classic wrestler is being added to the ring. André the Giant: The 8th Wonder of the World! — one of the most recognized icons of the 20th century, thanks to his exploits in the wrestling ring and on movie and television screens. The André the Giant Ultimate Figure is 8 inches tall (an inch taller than other Super7 Ultimate Figures), highly articulated, and fully posable. It will come packaged in a deluxe slip-case-style box that presents Andre in all his larger-than-life greatness. This made-to-order release is open to pre-order now and will close on Tuesday, Dec. 31. They cost $45 and can be pre-ordered on Entertainment Earth.

Credit: Super7

Speaking of Super7, the good people over there are presenting the world with a gift we don’t deserve: legitimate Conan the Barbarian figures from the 1982 movie. Guys, think about it: We are getting figures from a movie that came out in 19 freaking 82! We need to be grateful that the Toy Gods smiled upon us! And smile they did. I never thought, when I watched this movie as a kid in ... like, yesterday ... that we would get action figures from this franchise! To get the likeness of James Earl Jones and Arnold Schwarzenegger and the two bodyguards Thorgrim and Rexar is amazing, absolutely amazing. They cost $45 each and can be ordered on Super7’s official website.

Credit: Kotobukiya

It’s time for one of our favorite Toy News segments — Super Hero Toys! And we’re kicking off with a gorgeous piece from Japanese toy maker Kotobukiya. Available for pre-order for $159.99 and a ship date of June 2020, the Women of Marvel line (part of Kotobukiya’s ArtFX Premier series) shines a spotlight on popular female characters within Marvel. Silk, the second to join this new line, stands in at 1/10 scale and has been perfectly sculpted to the finest detail. The window that is connected to the base uses materials similar to a magic mirror in order to replicate the shine and reflection of a person that can be seen from a real window.

Credit: Hot Toys

This next one is so incredibly beautiful, and it kills me that it is sold out online. As described on the Hot Toys website, their “brand new 1/6th scale Spider-Man (Iron Spider Armor) collectible figure, inspired by the Marvel’s Spider-Man unique take on the armor, will continue to expand your favorite Spidey collection! Incorporating distinct elements of Tony Stark’s Iron Man design, this Iron Spider Armor is an awesome piece of battle tech modified with extra details while staying true to its comics origins and the video game’s fresh spin on it.” If nothing else, I just love the color scheme, because red and gold make me feel the tingles.

Credit: Hasbro

Last in line for Super Hero Toys, we have an entire new wave of Marvel Legends figures announced from Hasbro! It’s the Black Widow Wave 1, which is also the Crimson Dynamo Build a Figure. The individual figures will arrive in stores in March 2020 for about $19.99 each, but if you want to, you can order the entire wave through BigBadToyStore for $159.99. The wave includes Black Widow, Taskmaster, Yelena Belova, Winter Soldier, Spymaster, Crossbones, and Red Guardian. Each figure is 6 inches tall, comes with accessories, and is fully articulated.

Credit: Hasbro

We’ve reached the end, my toy-loving friends, but we couldn’t wrap up this issue of Important Toy News without mentioning Transformers! Freshly announced over the weekend at Dortmund Comic Con in Germany, Hasbro is adding three new Bayverse Transformers (officially known as the "Studio Series") to its portfolio.

The characters upcoming are Bumblebee (who transforms from robot to Jeep mode), Roadbuster (who transforms from robot to Chevy Impala), and Shatter (who goes from robot to Decepticon jet). All of them will be released in April of 2020. And seriously. Whether or not you’re a fan of the studio series, look at the bright side here — these are only $20! Which means you can have like … I don’t know, more toys! And that’s what we’re here for in the end, right? Exactly — more toys.


WIRE Buzz: RDJ introduces The Age of A.I.; HBO visits the set of Stephen King's The Outsider; and more @ Syfy Wire

1p>After playing an inventor of fictional technology in the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. will fulfill his Tony Stark destiny by hosting and narrating The Age of A.I., an upcoming documentary series from YouTube. Each episode explores how science fiction is fast losing its element of fiction as robots and other machines advance at an accelerated rate.

Check out the trailer below:

"The premiere episode follows co-founder of Soul Machines, Mark Sagar, an Oscar-winning special effects artist who has created some of the most sophisticated avatars, as he builds an autonomously animated digital version of Grammy-award winner will.i.am," reads the press release.

Other guest appearances include: Tim Shaw, a former NFL linebacker battling ALS and working with Google "to help restore his ability to communicate" as part of Project Euphoria.

Here's the poster as well:

Credit: YouTube

The Age of A.I. will start streaming on YouTube for free Wednesday, Dec. 18.

A new episode will be released every week, but YouTube Premium subscribers can get access to the first four installments before everyone else. Starting on January 15, they'll gain access to episodes 5 - 8.


Watchmen is sadly ending this Sunday, but HBO is looking to fill its impending absence with an adaptation of Stephen King's The Outsider. In a brand-new featurette, you can go behind-the-scenes of the series with King himself.

"How does a person cope with the unbelievable?" the author says, describing the show in eight simple words.

Based on the 2018 novel of the same name, The Outsider follows Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn), a small town cop trying to wrap his head around a mystery that is full of contradictions. Did Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman), a beloved member of the community, rape and murder a young child or is he the victim of mistaken identity?

Watch the featurette now:

Anderson's world view and faith begin to crumble when he teams up with private investigator, Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), who believes that there is something more sinister at play. Funnily enough, Gibney is also a major character in King's Mr. Mercedes trilogy of books.

Bill Camp, Mare Winningham, Paddy Considine, Julianne Nicholson, Yul Vázquez, Jeremy Bobb, Marc Menchaca, Hettienne Park, Michael Esper, Derek Cecil, and Max Beesley also star in the series.

Episode 1 of The Outsider premieres on HBO Sunday, January 12 at 9pm EST.


Carnival Row was just the beginning, folks, because Orlando Bloom has signed an overall, first-look deal with Amazon, Variety has confirmed. The Pirates of the Caribbean actor will develop movies and shows for Prime Video.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Jen Salke and the team at Amazon and I look forward to growing that relationship with this new and exciting production deal,” Bloom said in a statement run by Variety.

"Orlando is a fantastic creative talent and collaborative partner for all of us at studios,” added Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “We’re thrilled to continue working with Orlando not only on Carnival Row, but on future projects for our Prime Video customers.”

Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Does this mean we could get a Legolas appearance in Amazon's Lord of the Rings series?! We can only hope...

Bloom will reprise the character of Inspector Rycroft Philostrate in Season 2 of Carnival Row. There is no set premiere date yet.


The best scene in Star Wars is when the Ewoks mistake C-3PO for a god in Return of the Jedi @ Syfy Wire

1p>Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of the Skywalker Saga, a nine-movie series that's spanned 42 years and three generations of characters to capture the imaginations and hearts of millions of fans around the world. While it's impossible to sum up everything we love about these films, we here at SYFY WIRE are going to try.

Leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, we're breaking down and celebrating our favorite scenes from the series. Today, we focus on C-3PO's rise to power among the Ewoks in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.

C-3PO holds a special place in the Star Wars universe as the only character to have a speaking role in every single film in the Skywalker Saga. No matter how small the role — and, yes, as the series has gone on, Threepio has been given fewer lines — Anthony Daniels’ posh, particular, dramatic, and wholly wholesome protocol droid C-3PO has seen it all. Whether he remembers it all is another story. 

Despite having his memory wiped, his head removed, and his friends killed, C-3PO has persisted. I like to think that’s because, deep down, he knows he’s special. He was constructed from scraps by one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live, witnessed countless political machinations and historic incidents, and survived through seemingly sheer luck time and time again.

For all this, everyone’s favorite protocol droid spends a majority of the original Star Wars trilogy being interrupted, pushed aside, and generally abused — not just by the many Imperial forces he runs into, but by his friends as well. Han Solo takes every chance to brush him away, Leia Organa is regularly irritated by him, and even Good Boy Luke Skywalker rarely has the patience to put up with him.

Worst of all, R2-D2, Threepio’s closest and oldest friend, mocks him almost constantly. One of Artoo’s first actions in Star Wars: A New Hope is to call Threepio a “mindless philosopher.” Granted, Threepio launches back by calling Artoo an “overweight glob of grease,” but hey, a protocol droid can only take so much before he snaps!

Then, two and a half movies later in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, come the Ewoks. This tribe of Stone Age-dwelling teddy bears knows what’s up.

When Chewbacca falls for a simple bait-and-net trap and gets all his friends launched 10 feet into the air, Artoo may have been the one to free them, initially, but it’s Threepio who saves their skins. There’s a very good chance that the fearful, confused Ewoks would have impaled Han right then and there if C-3PO, gold plates and all, hadn’t sat up in time.

The Ewoks, struck by his beauty, fall to their knees, having mistaken him for a god.

Han is shocked that Threepio can understand them — which, for what it’s worth, might be Han’s dumbest moment in the original trilogy. Of course C-3PO, who has told his friends and compatriots for years that he is fluent in “over 6 million forms of communication,” would be able to communicate with the Ewoks.

Luke, to his credit, could not be more amused. He tells Han from the moment they encounter the Ewoks that “it’ll be okay,” seemingly guided to that conclusion by the Force. But the way Mark Hamill plays out his character’s reaction tells me Luke didn’t necessarily know how it would turn out all right, and the uppity golden droid he and his uncle bought from a bunch of Jawas on Tatooine years ago being mistaken for a god must have been the funniest damn thing Luke has ever seen.

Threepio takes to his new role as a god like mynocks to a ship’s hull. Luke helps him along the way (using the Force to make Threepio fly is genius), but Threepio’s years of political experience and the fact that his default nervous reaction is politeness (same) ultimately endears him and his compatriots to the Ewoks. 

That night, as the Ewoks gather together, Threepio tells them the Skywalker Saga thus far (the parts that he remembers, at least). With his best friend Artoo filling in with carefully recorded audio from their adventures, Threepio weaves a tale of family and friendship, loss and hope. The Ewoks are captivated.

This cozy scene is what it all comes down to, really. This might be the first time the story of Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion was told, in-universe, as a grand fantasy; years from that evening, Luke Skywalker would be rendered as nothing more than a myth. But at that moment, it’s very real. These sweet, simple creatures, fascinated and terrified in equal measure by the images painted for them by Threepio and Artoo, are the perfect stand-ins for Star Wars fans.

How many times have you, a Star Wars fan, sat in a cozy room, surrounded by loved ones, and whisked away into a sci-fi fantasy by these characters?

In short, yes, C-3PO is a god. I welcome his fair, anxious rule into my life. I recommend you do the same.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

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