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Theater Review: Songs For A New World

Culture, Events, Reviews

March 25, 2017

Our world is an ever-changing complexity. The modern era is seeing a massive shift in paradigm as we gain access to information at a rate never seen before, and this shared information is allowing our species to evolve on a sociological level at a rate that would have been impossible even two decades prior. Capturing the consequences and feel of that shift in a two-hour musical is a damn ambitious goal and a nearly impossible task, but Songs for a New World tries and comes closer than you might think.

Playing from March 23rd through to April 1st, 2017 at the Pal Studio Theater located in Coal Harbour, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is a re-imagining of an off-broadway musical by the same name. The original was written and composed by Jason Robert Brown and was his first effort, and the Vancouver redux is the first foray done by Mary Littlejohn and Damon Jang of Fabulist Theater Productions.

The re-imagining is a series of single set-pieces that focus on disparate themes that tie together through two characters that appear only infrequently, and one is far easier to notice than the other. The entirety is minimalist, with simple costume changes, few props, and still images projected onto a floating background. The end result is individual pieces are intense but feed into a larger whole that is an emotional gut-punch, a condemnation of a dying world and a statement of hope for the one to follow.

All of the music was written twenty years ago, but the performances and terms modernize the whole and show the relevance of the stories being told. For those that worry about such things, spoilers lurk ahead. You have been warned.

The opening brings is to an airport where a soldier is looking to go to war. She is the first character we see, the one we attach ourselves to; the second is a small refugee girl, followed by a host of others. The whole cast comes and goes while singing The New World, a song about transitions and the sharp decline a life can take through unexpected events. Airports are a perfect setting for such a song, and planes have become an important symbol in our world: from the attacks on nine-eleven to the advent and invasiveness of the TSA, we are reminded that nothing is certain and nothing is stable, that the war is being fought (the soldier) but the consequences are often unintended and severe (the refugee girl).

It’s subtle, and here the story shifts from the original play dramatically. The off-Broadway show’s second song was On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492, and was about a captain praying for his crew and passengers. The ship setting remains, but the boat is now full of refugees families seeking solace from the utter destruction of their homes. The greed of a very few destabilized entire countries and ruined the lives of people by setting countries against them, and the countries that were so duped will not take responsibility. The result is destitute millions, homeless nationals that have no place to go begging for a homeland of their own. It’s a stark song and a stark set and it is insanely powerful.

The darkness of that song demands a counterbalance, and we get it in the form of Just One Step. Both original and redux feature a wealthy woman climbing onto the window ledge of a highrise in an attempt to get the attention of an absent and cheating husband. Here, this is played for laughs – the celebrity insanity and over-reaction one might expect from someone on a reality television show, where the attention is more important than the outcome. It’s sung by Charity Principe and it’s both uncomfortable and genuinely funny, a tightrope walk as perilous as stepping onto that window ledge, but handled with grace by the performer. It’s important to remember that we joke about the things we’re not comfortable discussing, and the illogical extreme emotional reactions we’re taught are real by reality television is warping and damaging entertainment.

Switching again to utter darkness, the screen above shows pictures of war-torn Somalia, a product of rampant colonialism where the result has been civil war and child soldiers. Actress Shina Lakasa comes out dressed as such a child, and her fragile voice belies a powerful presence that makes a beautiful mockery of I’m not Afraid, a song that speaks of the fears that rule other people and the chains they have wrapped around her, a realization that leads to her casting those people aside. It’s intense, stark, and mighty, a slap in the face to an audience still reeling from the emotional whiplash of prior scenes.

When the scene ends and the world fades to darkness there is a palpable sense of relief that is mangled by the appearance of homeless people. The audience was taken aback, not sure how these invisible people snuck into the theater until they are revealed to be part of the show. The song they sing, the River Won’t Flow, was originally a duet between two derelicts, but here it becomes an ensemble piece that speaks about a system that is stacked, vicious, and all-consuming. Of note is addition near the end, where a police siren sends the homeless people scattering – they know that the police are not there to serve and protect them, and the song only concludes when the police are gone.

The small refugee girl then returns to briefly steal our attention, a small moment that feels isolated and intimate. Played to vulnerable perfection by Arta Negahban, her brief but haunting memory ends and leads us into something that looks more lighthearted, at least at first.

Kate MacColl takes the stage to sing Stars and Moon. The song is about a woman set upon by three suitors and the song is improved here. The direction and performance make it clear that this is a woman torn by conflict: she is lost between what she wants and what society says she should want. She listens to society in her choice and… there’s a song called America by Simon & Garfunkel, about two lovers that train across America. It’s catchy and fun and, towards the end, there’s this aching moment of melancholy and there’s a moment here where Kate captures that exact feeling, a single moment where mirth turns to silencing heartbreak. It’s impossible to look away from, impossible to ignore.

Following this is another song that undergoes a similar journey. She Cries was initially a song a man sings about the power women have over him, but here it’s subverted. The man is a bartender giving advice to drunken fools, the idiots and pick-up artists that are as trapped by the horrid dating game as the bartender is himself. The tragedy here is a reminder that the first thing toxic masculinity asks young men is to mutilate their own emotional well-being, but the only thing ignoring emotions does is cause them to fester. It’s another powerful moment in a string of them, and singer Aerhyn Lau left the stage to thunderous applause.

The first act was not done yet, though. Viciously, brutally, a taste of the tragedy to come: Rema Kibayi rules the stage with Steamtrain. Both the original and the redux tell the story of a young man pursuing a future in basketball, taking spoken asides to tell of the hardships he’s overcome. The original played this straight, but Rema adds complexity to the song by making it clear that this is his only way out of a created hell, an impossible dream that he can achieve but will have a heavy price. He will pay it, and gladly, and his command of the song and his performance left the audience breathless and in need of the intermission that followed.

We were given fifteen minutes to catch our breath, to recover and settle.

Talk was excited, brittle, and when the lights faded the audience hushed and waited, needing whatever was to follow.

Originally, the World was Dancing was a song about a man whose father bought and lost a store, and how that made him leave his fiance. It was trite there, but here… the singer is presented as a drunken frat boy who learns that the market is not his friend, that nothing is permanent. He moves the arms of his first love to another girl and then to a man, pulled by the forces of society to marry his first love but yearning for the arms of his man he truly loves. His world falls apart and all he learns is not to trust, not in the world or the systems of that world, and the shame he feels leaves him desolate and his world broken.

After that the audience needed something light, so we’re treated to Cheryl Mullen performing Surabaya-Santa, the tale of Mrs. Clause getting ready to leave Santa. It’s cute and does what it has to do, lighten the mood of the audience, but once again there’s a subversion here: Cheryl takes the lyrics and turns them into something, a critique of codependency and the importance of being your own person in a relationship. It’s fun, but this isn’t the sort of musical that lets us have fun moments without being punished for it.

So, naturally, we get Christmas Lullaby, a song that was originally about a woman reacting to news of her pregnancy with wonder and comparing herself to the Virgin Mary. Arielle Tuliao’s performance comes from the perspective of someone utterly alone and very much pregnant, and the joy of the song turns to ash when she realizes how very much alone she is. Abandoned, homeless, her comparison to the Virgin Mary is born of pure desperation, a cry for help from a god she will never see.

The world fades to darkness. Images blaze to light: riots against police brutality, the DAPL protest, others. A single barred spotlight manifests and frames Frankie Cottrell as he sings King of the World. This is one of the play’s most powerful songs and Frankie delivers, turning the ravings of a deluded man to the warcry of an imprisoned American Dream, the very best a country has to offer locked away for fighting for the things a country was founded on and strived for. There’s a shock that runs through the crowd as they realize the full weight of what is being implied: that the American Dream itself has been locked away by the greed of the people that know ruin that nation and the people that live therein. The song offers a final note of hope, however, a slim chance for a better world to come.

I’d Give It All For You is a statement of that hope. The boy whose father bought and lost a shop searches for the man he fell in love with, the two of them both wandering the highways of their homeland in search of one another. They find one another, they love one another, and by the honesty of the search and the finding, it is implied that their lives can truly begin.

Their moment, lovely as it is, ends. The soldier from the opening scene saves a refugee and the two of them flee from unseen attackers, a brief moment that cuts and leads to another woman.

The Flagmaker was meant to be the song a woman who sits at home, weaving and holding her house together while her husband and son fight in the war. Here, the woman is fighting for herself: the song becomes a feminist anthem as images of suffragettes and feminist figures flicker on the screen behind, giving a glimpse at some of the struggles women have had to suffer to come as far as they have and reminding us all that the battle is not yet done, not for some, not until we are all equal.

For others, though… Flying Home was always a song about a dying soldier, the soldier from the beginning. She dies saving someone and her soul sings about flying home, about how her duty is over and she will know peace. The original play implied a sense of glory, but here there is none of that: war is stupid, her life was paid to sate the greed of men she will never meet, her life spent protecting the innocent lives that were ruined by those same men. It’s a powerful song and a powerful performance and it feels like this is where the play should end…

… but the refugee girl takes the stage once more. There’s a short transition at an airport, the soldier’s mother waiting for a child who will never come home and refugees seeking an echo of the home they have lost.

Hear My Song, the finale, is an echo of both the first and second songs. We return to the refugee camp where the song is a funeral dirge for everything lost and a prayer for a more compassionate future, one where they may have a home once more.

It ends. The audience stands, claps, the cast bowing to thunderous applause. There people walking out at the end look shocked, thoughtful, chattering amongst themselves. This play makes you work for answers, for meaning, and this iteration is incredibly dense. Ambitious? Yes, and all the more beautiful for it. Highest possible recommendation; if you have the chance to see this, do so.

You can learn more about Songs For A New World be clicking here, learn more about Fabulist Theater Productions by clicking here, learn more about PAL Studio Vancouver by clicking here, or purchase tickets by clicking here. Do get tickets online – the show I got to see was sold out, and the general quality of what was on stage should keep them packed for the whole of their run. Still, this is well worth seeing and those tickets are worth their weight in gold.

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God of Comics: X-O Manowar #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

X-O Manowar #1

We spent four years calling X-O Manowar the best of all comics. We then went into detail explaining why we said this, and you can read that explanation by clicking here. Everything we said still rings true and Valiant is about to take Aric of Dacia into a whole new storyline.

For those that don’t know, Aric of Dacia was a land-locked proto-Viking at war with Rome who mistook some aliens for Romans and attacked him. He got abducted, led a revolt, was chosen by their God, teleported back to earth more than a thousand years later, fought Italy until Italy surrendered, went back to free his people, and then brought his people home.

I’m brushing over the finer details for the sake of not repeating myself, but Aric saved the world, an alien civilization, and all sentient life in the cosmos. He learned and fought and began to desire only peace, and we learn that he found what he wanted at the beginning of this comic.

He’s given up the armor, settled on an alien world, and is tilling the land. All he wants is to tend his crops and live with his mate, an alien woman he’s met on this new and primitive world. He wants to be left alone, free from the war and violence that defined his every waking breath. Even the god-armor that gave him power lies dormant and Aric is finally at peace.

So, of course, some people are going to cross him and spoil everything.

Here’s the set-up: an alien army comes recruiting and decides to drag Aric to the front lines to be used as canon-fodder, but this is motherfucking Aric of Dacia, and he will win this battle so that he can go home, but the aliens leading this army won’t let him leave, won’t hold up their end, and are going to force him to fight. They have no idea who they’re dealing with or what they’ve awoken, because Aric of Dacia is not the sort of person you want to push around.

Matt Kindt is taking over writing duties from Robert Venditti, and if there’s anyone that can bear the weight of Venditti’s crown it’s got to be Kindt. He’s the force behind the utter brilliance that is divinity, also from Valiant, and if he brings the same sense of pathos and epic to this title that he brought to that one, then we’re in for one hell of a ride.

Tomas Giorello is handling the art, and you might know him from his work on various Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian comics, which might be the single greatest resume possible to work on X-O Manowar.

Seriously, get in now. If this run ends up being even a tenth as good as the original it will still be mind-blowingly excellent.

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God of Comics: WWE #3

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

WWE #3 (Boom Studios)

Normally, I talk about the writers when I discuss comics. I love writing, am drawn to it with a certain degree of madness, and I’ve got some ideas for a comic I’ve been batting around for a while but I need an artist and it’s the artist here that I want to talk about: Dan Mora.

Dan Mora did the art for a Lovecraftian horror comic called Hexed, a spinoff from the incredible Fall of Cthulhu comic that was written by Michael Alan Nelson and also published by Boom. He also does the art for Klaus, a series that basically casts Santa Clause as Conan the Barbarian. It’s freaking brilliant and you should go and read all the things and take the time to study the gorgeous art.

Here’s the thing: that is Dan Mora’s entire body of work. He has done nothing else and this means that he is criminally under-recognized. The work he does is amazing and more people need to be aware of how amazing it is, so, kudos to you, Mr. Mora. You rock.

Case in point: the covers for this comic.

This isn’t to take away anything from the inside, either: Serg Acuña and Doug Garbank do a stellar job of capturing the insanity that is the world of professional wrestling and translate it to an entirely different medium, one that it has quite a lot in common with.

A lot of people liken professional wrestling to soap operas, but that’s not quite it. Professional wrestling is a pre-determined (not fake!) artform in which performers who are part-actor and part stunt-people pretend that they are in a wrestling show. It’s a live action comic that features larger-than-life good guys and bad guys in costume who engage in battle for a variety of complex reasons, but no fight can ever end in death and the show must go on.

Want an example of the insanity that is unique to wrestling? Recently, a swamp-dwelling cult leader had his cult infiltrated by a snake-obsessed sociopath. The sociopath ruined the cult to get to the source of the cult leader’s power, literally burning his house down to rob him of the powers granted him by the sister of Satan himself, only for the cult leader to go and baptized himself in her ashes. The two of them are one of the headlining battles at Wrestlemania this year.

And speaking of Wrestlemania, one of the big stories going into the marquee event – wrestling’s version of the SuperBowl – features Seth Rollins taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley. You can learn more about the latter by clicking here, but Seth Rollins is something else again and this comic is about him.

Seth came in with a trio called the Shield, and they spent a year and a half dominating the whole roster before Seth betrayed his companions, selling out to his enemy to eventually become the WWE Champion. He’s an uber-talented performer who, because of his prior relationship with HHH, was treated badly by him. It was interesting, because Seth was a bad guy who was treated like a good guy by the bad guys in charge, and had good guy reactions while still being hated but appreciated by the crowd.

Did you get all that?

A little more than the grunting you thought wrestling was?

This comic goes into even more detail, giving background and expanding upon the events that led to the betrayal of the Shield, Seth’s rise to power and feud with his two blood brothers from that group, his difficult relationship with HHH, and the tragedy of a real-life injury that put him out of action for more than a year and stripped him of the heavyweight title, forcing him to come back and fight to regain the championship he never lost.

Dennis Hopeless – the writer on this – totally gets the pathos, pomp, and circumstance that goes into wrestling, and it makes this comic a hell of a lot of fun to read. Boom is onto something with this comic, and with Wrestlemania just around the corner, you might want to give this a look.

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God of Comics: The Unworthy Thor #5

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

The Unworthy Thor #5 (Marvel Comics)

While Marvel continues to copy DC Comic’s plan of fail (controversy equals cash! Everything needs to be dark and gritty! Let’s reboot the universe! Captain America is a Nazi! Magento is a Nazi! Nick Spencer is a Nazi! Wait a minute…), some of their books have managed to avoid the terrible and quietly do incredible things. Few have managed to do the incredible as well or as long as Jason Aaron’s entire run on the mythic side of Marvel Comics.

Jason’s been working on a proper set of myths, building and expanding the visions set forth by luminaries like Walt Simonson and others. He’s turned a house into a mansion, and the one event Marvel let him plan (Original Sin) gave us Heven, a background for Angela, new Nick Fury, and the new Thor. It created new stories that made sense in the context of the world and added new facets to the heroes involved, as opposed to some other more recent events (Captain Marvel screwed over all her friends because she doesn’t like Phillip K. Dick!)

Part of the consequences of Original Sin led to Thor Odinson losing his hammer. Thor, now simply the Odinson, is no longer considered Worthy. We don’t know what caused this, but he went out and tried to fight without the hammer and lost his arm in the process. His arm has since been replaced, and after giving the new Thor his blessing, went off to look for a replacement Mjolnir.

So, funny story: remember the Ultimate Universe?  It was a mostly successful attempt to place the Marvel superheroes in a more realistic setting, modernizing and condensing some classic Marvel comics. The Ultimates, their Avengers analog, was basically the template for the Avengers movie. It was good times. The Ultimate line also has Jonathan Hickman at his very best, and as critical as I am of him, his Fantastic Four is amazing.

Anyway, their version of Thor was never considered unworthy, so that Mjolnir never had a curse put on it. Anyone with the strength to do so can pick that thing up and it looks super weird and awkward, but someone as strong as Odinson isn’t going to sweat those details. There is a hammer, he wants it, and he’s on the verge of getting it.

Jason Aaron simply gets the Odinson in a way no one else does. He’s been rocking at this for years, instilling all the mythic Marvel comics with pathos and humanity. They are some of the very best that Marvel has to offer on an epic scale, what with Doctor Strange and the Mighty Thor and the Unworthy Thor, and if you’re not reading this and want to see what sort of magic Marvel is capable of you should pick this up.

All those comics feature some of the best artists that Marvel can get their hands on, and the Unworthy Thor is no exception; Olivier Coipel is doing some amazing things with this book, so if you’re in this for the pretty you will not be disappointed. Check it out.

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God of Comics: Iron Fist #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel Comics)

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

So, the Netflix series happened. I’m about halfway through it not, and it’s… there, I guess? The better side of okay, maybe? There’s just a lot of stuff that they touch on that doesn’t seem to pay off with the main story: everything they’re doing with the Hand is great, but the main story is just kind of there. Nothing happens. There’s chances to talk about corporate greed in more than just a superficial way.

Daredevil was about legal and political corruption. Jessica Jones was about rape culture and PTSD. Luke Cage was about institutionalized racism and crime. Iron Fist is about… what, exactly? American Exceptionalism?

It’s frustrating. The show introduces the concept of heaven and time-displaced cities, hints at talking about corporate greed and the burgeoning class war, touches on colonialism and stereotypes, and even brushes in some talk about PTSD in a different way than Jessica Jones does. There’s mention of reality and expectation and then none on it is followed up upon.

Danny is joyless, laughless, exhibiting a sort of douche-bro cool that comes from a cishet white rich high schooler who went backpacking for the summer and just has to tell you about it. He doesn’t struggle. There’s no danger of him starving or dying of cold or being harrassed when he’s poor. And he comes across as a rude jackass Harry Stu, what with his moralizing without humor, lack of self-awareness, and walking into someone else’s dojo and trying to take over.

The whole thing is irritating.

And yet, I still have high hopes for this series.

Writer Ed Brisson has a proven track record and digging into the guts of a character’s themes, especially characters like this. Look at the work he did on Sheltered or the Violent, or his other big Marvel comic, Bullseye. He gets it, the view from the trenches, the utter destruction that an entire generation is enduring, and what are superheroes if not a means of fighting back against the corruption that is killing us all?

The set-up sounds like Ed has that very concept in mind: to start, K’un Lun is in ruins. Heaven is ruined. Because of this, the flow of chi – the life force of everything on the planet, the pure life energy that gives Danny his powers – is flickering away into nothing. Danny Rand is pushing himself to the breaking point trying to find some means of fighting the decay of his immortal power but the implications are terrifying.

If the life-force of the planet is fading, then so is the life of the planet. Danny might be the only person with the training to recognize the damage being done, but as his strength entropies he might not be in a position to do anything about it – not physically, anyway. Not through brute force. He might need to turn to a battlezone he’s unfamiliar with, the war that is politics, to save us all.

No idea if that’s where this is going, but it feels like a very Ed Brisson thing to do and I kinda wanna see that story. Social martial arts? If someone doesn’t write that I’m going to. Mike Perkins is handling art, and you might remember him from the awesome Ed Brubaker run on Captain America that Marvel and Nick Spencer betrayed when they turned Captain America in a Nazi.

Anyways, this sounds like a lot of fun. Check it out.

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God of Comics: Bloodshot Reborn #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

Bloodshot: Reborn #0 (Valiant Entertainment)

Quietly, subtlely, Jeff Lemire has been writing an opus to the different flavors action stories come in. Taken as a whole, Bloodshot has been a masterwork – the sort of nuanced and detailed storytelling that you wouldn’t expect from something that started as a pure action story, but both the comic and the character the comic is about have evolved over the past four or five years through the application of consequence, a thing that Valiant Comics excels at.

The story began with a super soldier named Ray being deployed against enemies of the United States. Ray was an ordinary looking person who, when activated, turned into a snow white-skinned ghoul with solid red eyes and a red circle on his chest. He was super strong and fast, able to regenerate from all kinds of damage, and could hack into and take-over any machines in his range.

He was also part of a conspiracy, his family and memories a lie concocted to keep him loyal. The powers behind the politicians of the world – the bankers and corporations that profit off of human suffering – were worried about a man named Toyo Harada. Harada combines the best parts of Professor X and Magneto, only he started a corporation himself and was working against profit and capitalism, subverting the system from the inside. He was also, personally speaking, on par with gods so far as power: a telekinetic and telepath who can affect things on a microscopic level. Bloodshot was created to kill Harada, but in the process of his creation he ended up with a soul.

Since then he’s gained power, lost power, had allies and watched them die, been the subject of a manhunt, fought himself, discovered the full weight and history of the conspiracy that created him, and fought against the powers that be to free all humanity from the shackles of greed and avarice. He’s also made a massive mess in the process. This is not a comic for the faint of heart, but those of you that want some thought packed in with your ultraviolence really should be reading this title.

Also, Sony is planning a Bloodshot live-action film and Valiant did a web series where Bloodshot was played by Jason David Frank (the Green Power Ranger), so Bloodshot has that going for it. No idea if Frank will reprise the role for the movie, but Dave Wilson is directing. Wilson did promotional videos for some small projects like Halo and Titanfall 2 and that awesome mini-movie that announced a new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game. He’s also the partner of Tim Miller, who you might remember having directed a little film called Deadpool.

With Sony having finally clued in that making good movies that happen to have comic book characters in them rather than making comic book movies is why Marvel is doing so well (as evidenced by Logan and Deadpool), we have high hopes for this eventual release. If you’re looking for the early scoop on something that can and should be awesome, get into the comics now.

It’s the perfect moment. Jeff is starting the next part of his epic saga here, so this? This is the moment that you’re going to want to jump on board. Renato Guedes, on art duties, will shock you with how pretty his art is. Do not miss this.

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Amy Jo Johnson Wants to Watch a Movie With You

Culture, film, Showcase, Videos

March 15, 2017

You remember Amy Jo Johnson, yes? With all the attention being paid to the new Power Rangers movie, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at what one of the originals is doing – and, in short, she is continuing her quest to be awesome.

Amy’s gone on to act in other projects (Felecity and Flashpoint), flirted with music (The Trans-American Treatment and Imperfect),  and done a number of short films (Bent, Lines, and others). She was kind enough to take a moment from her incredibly busy schedule to speak with us before, and you can read that interview by clicking here. She’s not the sort to rest on her laurels, though, and has just completed writing, directing, and producing her first-ever feature film, The Space Between Us.

Here’s the trailer:

That looks both cute and poignant, which is interesting given the potential seriousness of the subject material.

According to press materials, “The Space Between is a heartfelt comedy about Mitch, a 35-year-old new father, whose world is turned upside down when he finds out his adored baby isn’t his. Leaving his wife, he sets out on a mission to find the man who ruined his life. As his wife Jackie is desperate to win him back, she enlists the help of her best friend and family as they embark on a journey to find Mitch.” It’s was the 2014 IndieWire Project of the Year, part of the 2015 Tribeca All Access Program, the 2015 Telefilm Micro Budget program, and developed in the producers’ lab at the Canadian Film Center. It premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival before moving on to the Whistler Film Festival, the Savannah Film Festival, and is about to be shown at Gina Davis’ Bettonville Film Festival.

It stars Michael Ironside (Top Gun), Kristian Bruun (Orphan Black), Jayne Eastwood (Chicago), Julia Sarah Stone (Wet Bum), and Amy herself.

All of that is kind of great, but it is not the coolest part of this whole endeavour: rather, Amy Jo Johnson has started The Space Between Super Host Theatrical Tour, wherein eight lucky winners of a contest will be chosen to host a special one-night screening of the film with Amy Jo Johnson herself in their hometown. The contest opens March 15th and goes through to April 1st, 2017, with the eight winners being announced at the end of April and the film going on tour in the summer of this year.

The Space Between team will handle all of the logistics of booking the theater and the eight winners will get to take home 5% of the Producer’s Box Office earnings for their screening, and get to spend the evening with Amy Jo Johnson as the host of the event.

Giveaways are also part of the contest, with Amy awarding prizes that include t-shirts, Skype dates, and a one-time grand prize private dinner with Amy Jo Johnson and her producer, Jessica Adams. You can, should, and must click here to learn more and fill out an application, or click here if you want to learn more.  In short, applicants will submit a pitch video describing why they want to host the film and Amy in their hometown and how they plan to bring their friends, family, and community out for the screening that night.

The Space Between team can be found on Twitter and FaceBook simply be clicking the place you’d like to communicate with them. Amy Jo Johnson is also on Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, and has her very own website, and you can find any of those spots by clicking on them. All of them are pretty great.

Good luck, peoples. The clock it is ticking.

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God of Comics: Vampirella #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Vampirella #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Huh. Two Dynamite comics in one month. That’s never happened before. Keep up the good comics, guys.

Dynamite goes back and forth between being simple TnA and in-depth stories where some skin gets flashed. They’ve been focusing more on the latter for years now, most notably with Miss Fury, the aforementioned Gail Simone comics, and others. They did a rather incredible send-up of every modern western vampire story a few years back using this character, and that was a lot of fun, but…

… well, it’s Vampirella. There’s some weirdness here because the character is weird. She’s had origin stories that make her an alien or make her a vampire or make her the daughter of Lilith or… she’s got a convoluted back story that involves gods, other planets, angels, demons, pretty much everything. Her root, though, her very start was in horror erotica and it was often genuinely terrifying, playing with concepts of monstrousness and humanity.

There’s something to the character that speaks to the heart of vampiric myth, an honesty born of the Victorian era while confronting and murdering the conceits of that era. She can be fun, she can be commanding, she can horrific – there’s very little that is beyond the character’s literary grasp given the utter chaos that is her history.

Many writers, when confronted by this, shuffle it all to the side and start anew. This is the real mythology, they say, and move on. The writer Dynamite has chosen for this iteration of the character, Paul Cornell, has a different view on the subject: they’re all true, he says. I like to imagine him laughing as he says it, perhaps even cackling.

He’s having Vampirella woken up after a thousand years of sleep, the subject of a prophecy in a world that we’re going to have to learn about as she does. At the same time, her own memories have been damaged and so she’s got to try and piece together who and what she is. Thankfully, the people that died waking her up left her a somewhat legible book of prophecies to work with, so she does have that going for her.

Paul has no problem letting his world and characters build themselves, and artist Jimmy Broxton walks a perfect line between camp, atmosphere, and epic. This is an incredibly powerful start to a new series and an entirely different take on a familiar character that snaps into what you might know of her perfectly, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

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God of Comics: Red Sonja #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Red Sonja #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)

This title had a character-defining run a few years back when Gail Simone decided that she was going to take a stab at the She-Devil with a sword and took her through her whole life. It was fun and worked well with the legendary tone of the character, leaving enough blank spaces between story-arcs for anything and everything to happen.

And anything is the best word to describe what Amy Chu has decided to put her through.

So, here’s the story: Sonya is hired by a village to stop a mad sorcerer, Kulan Gath, from summoning up demons and elder things. She goes in and basically does her thing, being a high-level warrior in a mid-level campaign, and slaughters her way through to the sorcerer. They fight, he surprises her with a spell and she loses track of him and finds herself entombed somewhere.

Getting out isn’t a big problem because this is Red Freaking Sonya we’re talking about, but the tomb she was in? It’s a subway tunnel. She’s been transported to modern day New York. Typically when this sort of thing happens in a fantasy story it’s because the production is running low on money, but there have been good high-fantasy/modern day crossovers in the past (Elric was pretty big on them, come to think of it).

This is one of the good ones, playing to the paranoia of the modern world and the concepts that come with high fantasy. Sonya is Sonya, regardless of the world she’s in. She’s been shot at and arrested by cops (who had to remind one another to de-escalate the situation and utterly failed to do so), one of whom speaks a broken version of her language. There’s been beer and all sort of madness and that’s been fun.

More interesting, though, is the sorcerer. Kulan went and started a corporation and is doing all the things corporation CEOs and big banks do in the modern era – causing more misery and suffering than the most evil of his ilk could have dreamed of in the past. He’s also now in charge of the police and various intelligence services due to graft and political corruption, meaning he can turn the whole city on her without having to lift a finger.

Welcome to modern day America, Sonya. Its a dystopia both worse and better than you might have thought possible.

This issue is going to see Sonya confront the evil CEO from her time and maybe get some questions answered, but this isn’t going to be easy for her – because as bad and cruel as her world could be, this one can be much more worse.

Red Sonya might not be the hero we deserve, but here’s hoping that she is the hero we need.

Amy Chu is clearly having fun with the concept, and so is artist Carlos E. Gomez. The latter’s talent for juxtaposition comes to the fore here, as he gets to mix the madness of Sonya’s world with the madness of our own. The whole thing is pretty great and if you’re craving more fantastic in your urban fantasy, you’ll probably dig this.

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God of Comics: Injection #11

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 15, 2017

Injection #11 (Image Comics)

If you like horror – creeping intelligent gets-inside-your-head dread – then you need to be reading this comic.

This is Warren Ellis at his absolute best, giving artists Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire the perfect stories with which to play with their art and haunt the rest of us. This book is the purest sort of magic, a story that could only ever properly be told in this medium by three absolute masters of their craft.

It’s also been on hiatus for a bit while the three worked on other projects and plotted out the next storyline, of which this is the first part. The premise is simple enough – a think tank was put together to try and make life more interesting, the greatest thinkers and cultural scholars thinking that mankind was heading for a cultural and political plateau that looked pretty good but also boring.

The lot of them met one another and put together an AI that was supposed to make things more interesting, an injection into the technological consciousness, but one of their number wasn’t a scientist or strategist or what-have-you; he was a Cunning-Man (read: wizard), and his presence altered the injection somewhat.

What was created is no longer limited to computer systems, but is acting out in the confines of reality and changing what is real and what is not. It has no limitations other than perception and is an intelligence designed by some of the most intelligent people that have ever lived to be more brilliant than all of them.

Problem is, the damn thing went rogue and now the team that created it has to try and mitigate the messes it makes. The one person that’s doing this in any sort of official capacity, Maria Kilbride, has gone insane because of it and is basically let out of the asylum to fight a bodiless presences that is, quite simply, beyond the comprehension of most people.

It’s a sanity-shattering concept that’s writ and drawn to perfection, a philosophical/spiritual thriller that is unlike anything else you’re going to find, well, anywhere.

The new storyline starts with Maria sending one of the other creators of the injection, Brigid Roth (think a merging of Harold and Root from Person of Interest), to an archaeological site in Cornwall to investigate a series of flensed skeletons that have been chained to a wall. Brigid is there to separate data from legend and is putting her sanity at risk by doing so.

If you like intelligent horror you need to be reading this. Do so. Now.

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