The first season of House of the Dragon, the highly popular prequel to HBO’s acclaimed fantasy drama Game of Thrones, has concluded and earned a great deal of praise for its fully realized performances and in-depth storytelling. As a relative neophyte to the world established by George R. R. Martin in his landmark book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, I was very impressed with the series once I was able to sort out the various factions and character relationships so I can follow the labyrinthine plot. Of course, the sweet dragon action and intense swordfights are just icing on the dark and violent cake.
Of course, as I’ve often observed and discussed on the blog, the popularity of a given franchise paves the way for a series of fan-made tributes. During the 8-year run of the series, numerous homages and parodies taking place in the world of Westeros were created. Today, let’s take a look at 2016’s Game of Hyrule, a short film written and directed by Kial Natale that presents the setting of the highly influential Legend of Zelda video game series through the edgy lens of Game of Thrones. Highlights include a chilling interpretation of the Happy Mask Salesman from Majora’s Mask, a rousing appearance by King Harkinian from the infamous Zelda games on the Philips CD-i and some skilled cinematography and costume work.
Hope you enjoy this unconventional Halloween post!
At the time of this writing, the sixth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the latest installment of Amazon Studios’ prequel series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic fantasy novels, has been uploaded to Prime Video (I’ll reserve my judgment of the first season once it finishes). Even with the bad faith arguments from certain observers regarding the more diverse casting and emphasis on female characters, the show has revived mainstream interest in the Middle-earth saga and introduced newcomers to the more obscure parts of Tolkien’s Legendarium in the same way that Peter Jackson’s film adaptations did, which brings me to today’s post. Today’s subject is The Hunt for Gollum, a 2009 LOTR fan-film by British director Chris Bouchard that was influenced by Jackson’s take on Middle-earth and made on a budget of only £3,000. Despite their limited resources, Bouchard and his crew crafted a short that felt like a natural extension of the Jackson films, with immersive visual effects, creative cinematography and intense action scenes. This might be one of the most outstanding examples of fan-created media I have ever seen.
This Saturday, I’ll be in attendance at the 2022 edition of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, best known as C2E2! I’ve been going to this convention since it started in 2010 and every trip to C2E2 has deepened my understanding of different fandoms and given me a chance of interact with both talented enthusiasts from around the world and the luminaries of the comic book industry, including Chris Claremont (Uncanny X-Men), Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and the late, great Neal Adams (Batman). On top of all that, I’ve always had a lot of fun at the con.
If you’re in the Chicagoland area and you have an interest in attending C2E2, take some of my advice if you want to have a good time:
Have a plan for what you want to check out. There’s a lot to do at C2E2, which can be incredibly overwhelming for a newcomer…or even a veteran congoer like me. Make sure there are panels, exhibits and vendors that you know you want to see so you’re not wandering around the show floor waiting for something to happen.
Budget your money wisely. You don’t have to break the bank in order to have a good time at this convention.
Most importantly, stay safe and healthy! Make sure to pack a lunch and water to stay energized and hydrated and keep the C2E2 health and safety policy in mind.
The sixth and final part of the latest Disney+ Star Wars series, Obi-Wan Kenobi featuring Ewan McGregor reprising his role as the title character and direction by Deborah Chow (The High Cost of Living), streamed last week and was met with a mostly positive reception if you ignore the racist dweebs who are throwing a tantrum just because a black actress, Moses Ingram, was given a prominent role in a Star Wars production. Incidentally, Ingram, who portrays a Force-using Jedi hunter named Reva, gives a very different performance compared to a lot of other villains in the franchise. In a nice change of pace from the icy, understated calculation of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin and the operatic rage of Emperor Palpatine and Kylo Ren, Ingram approaches Reva as someone who is desperate to achieve a higher status within the Imperial structure even though she doesn’t truly believe in her mission. Reva comes off like someone who’s trying very hard to be threatening solely because her job calls her to be a menace but her heart isn’t in it. Ingram consistently and effectively sells this characterization and it pays off very well in the final part of the series.
Despite the griping from the racist trolls, Ingram’s performance has received a lot of praise from the majority of Star Wars fans, which goes to show you the importance of positive voices in any fan community. The Star Wars fandom has a lot of toxicity problems to address but I’m confident that those issues will always be dealt with in various ways, whether it’s through charity, discussion spaces or creative endeavors. The subject of today’s post is For Love of the Film, a 2005 short film directed by the current head of Marvel Studios security Barry Curtis and the winner of the 2005 George Lucas Selects Award at that year’s Star Wars Celebration. I’ve chosen this short because it reminds me of how diverse the fandom truly is, especially now. People of various races, genders and ages have always loved the series and no amount of gatekeeping can change that. The Star Wars fandom is not perfect but there will always be bright spots that make it all worthwhile.
Before I go into the main topic of this post, I would like to do something unusual for this blog: a review of a recent movie.
I have just seen The Batman, Matt Reeves’ revamp of the Caped Crusader starring The Lighthouse’s Robert Pattinson as the title character. The most impressive attributes of the film are the visual effects and Greig Fraser’s cinematography. I especially love how the lighting changes over the course of the movie, going from nearly pitch black in the beginning to the more vibrant and naturalistic colors that we see in the end, which represents how Batman’s mission changes from a quest for vengeance to a crusade to help the downtrodden. Pattinson delivers a more humanistic portrayal of Bruce Wayne than we’re used to seeing in live-action. Zoe Kravitz’s energetic performance as Catwoman and chemistry with Pattinson provide a welcome amount of tension, Jeffrey Wright’s stern but warm portrayal of Commissioner Gordon is an effective counterpoint to Batman’s stoicism and Paul Dano’s demented Riddler provides a chilling contrast to the more flamboyant depictions provided by prior Riddler actors like Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey. Wrap it all up in Michael Giacchino’s fantastic score and you have a film that I’d place in the upper echelon of Batman movies alongside Mask of the Phantasm and The Dark Knight.
If you’ve already seen the movie, which is now on HBO Max, check out World’s Finest, a 2004 short film directed by Sandy Collora featuring a then-hypothetical team-up film for the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel and using most of the same cast and crew from his prior short, Batman: Dead End. It’s an interesting time capsule to a simpler time when movies like this were things that fans could only dream of. At the very least, the characters were utilized in a better way than in Batman v Superman (sorry Snyder fans).
Initially created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1971 as a vampiric adversary for the amazing Spider-Man, Dr. Michael Morbius is now the antiheroic subject of the newest installment in Sony’s scattershot attempt to create a shared universe adjacent to the Marvel Cinematic Universe by drawing from Peter Parker’s ample supporting cast. The pre-release reactions to Morbius, starring 30 Seconds to Mars frontman/psychopath Jared Leto as the title character, have been…unkind, to say the least. However, the fact that the Living Vampire is the hero of his own movie is still an interesting surprise, especially when his most notable appearance prior to this was 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, where he drained bloodplasma from his victims through suckers in his palms instead of his fangs.
Once again, I’ll celebrate the upcoming release by showing another fun short produced by Throwbackstudioz, this time focusing on a modified origin story for Morbius. It starts a little awkwardly but it really picks up at the halfway point.
So…how ’bout that new Matrix movie? Capsule review: I enjoyed it. The Matrix Resurrections isn’t as good as the first film but its unique approach to following up on the original Matrix trilogy and the new ideas that it presents put up above its predecessors The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. It also kicks multiple forms of ass so check it out if you haven’t already.
Today, I’d like to showcase an example of the influence that the Wachowskis’ groundbreaking science fiction franchise had on its initial wave of fans. This is The Fanimatrix: Run Program, a 2003 fan film produced in New Zealand by director Rajneel Singh and stunt performer Steven A. Davis, who stars in the short as Dante, a warrior who joins his partner Medusa (Farrah Lipsham) in a fateful mission into the Matrix where he battles an Agent to the death. The stunt work and fight scenes in the short are an impressive facsimile of Yuen Woo-ping’s choreography in the original film and the filmmakers nailed the gritty, cyberpunk-inspired aesthetic of the films even on a budget of $800 NZD. Not bad for a video that’s still the world’s oldest active torrent.
Hope you enjoy it and let’s all have a happy and safe new year!
Thanks to a new franchise installment, the eyes of pop culture have once again turned toward Ghostbusters. What started in 1984 as an expression of actor/comedian Dan Aykroyd’s fascination with the supernatural has grown into a incredibly lucrative property with animated shows, video games, comics and, of course, a fervent cult following which can be a major boon or a debilitating curse. An embarrassing example of the latter was part of the reaction from the fanbase towards the 2016 female-led reboot of the original film, where certain sects of the GB fandom lobbied hate speech at cast members like Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy just because of their gender. On the other hand, the Ghostbusters fandom can be a creative and welcoming bunch, with countless fan creations that embrace the most appealing idea this franchise ever had: anyone can be a Ghostbuster. You don’t need special powers or an important destiny to wield a proton pack. To paraphrase the great Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), all you need is “the tools” and “the talent” to take up the profession. I believe that central conceit is the reason why this franchise still endures and has the potential to draw in new fans. I haven’t seen the latest film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but from what I can tell, the story seems to take its cue from the somewhat populist idea that any ordinary schmoe, even some random kid, can trap a ghost.
Tonight’s subject, often said to be one the earliest Ghostbusters fan films, plays with this idea. In 1998, David Sadler, Brandon Crisp and Rob Cleaton released this nearly two-minute short featuring a pair of GBs taking a nearly peaceful smoke break. Like a lot of early fan films, it’s crude but has a relaxed vibe that doesn’t take the property too seriously.
Hope you enjoy it and remember to never get involved with possessed people.
The sequel to the 2018 cult classic superhero film Venom debuts tomorrow and the early buzz for the Andy Serkis-helmed Venom: Let There Be Carnage seems to peg the movie as a crazier and more creative follow-up. To commemorate the release, I’m showcasing a charming fan film produced by the Atlanta-based independent film company Throwbackstudioz featuring a heavily-truncated adaptation of Venom’s comic book origin. The ending battle between the Lethal Protector and the Webslinger is easily the highlight of the short but the costumes are pretty decent and I appreciate their usage of Udi Harpaz’s wonderful score for Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
Next week, James Gunn’s sequel (or reboot) to David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad adaptation makes its theatrical/streaming debut. I’m looking forward to it not only because of Gunn’s involvement as writer and director but because the first film was such a mess that there’s nowhere to go but up. The early buzz is positive, which is already a step above the mixed-to-negative reception of its predecessor, with a lot of praise going to Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s creation Harley Quinn. Ever since her debut in the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series episode “Joker’s Favor” (one of my favorites), the former psychiatrist-turned-criminal-turned-antihero has proven to be an indispensable part of the Batman franchise and one of the most popular characters in modern DC Comics history.
Of course, as this blog as documented several times before, that kind of popularity leads to fan creations of various stripes, ranging from artwork to, the subject of today’s post, short films. Directed by stuntman Fernando Jay Huerto (Battle Hero Absolute) and starring actress and writer Jacqui Verdura as the titular character, 2016’s Harley is a breezy but fun entry in the common fan film subgenre of “one long fight scene/stunt showcase” that capitalizes on Harley’s revamped look and characterization from Ayer’s adaptation. At the very least, Huerto’s short is easier to follow than the actual Suicide Squad film.