Friday, October 24, 2014

Scare Yourself Silly With These Unsung Horror Films

by Sara N.

Rupert Everett in Dellamorte Dellamore
October's the season for scary movies, and if you're not thrilled with the offerings at your local megaplex (coughAnnabellewasprettybadcough), I've pulled together a list of some smaller horror films that you may have missed. These are all good: either scary, gory, funny, scary/gory, scary/funny, gory/funny or scary/gory/funny. And their level of obscurity to you all depends on how deep down the horror rabbit hole you tend to fall. Anyway, read on for a list of spooky viewing options.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kid Readers Are Awesome

The author of that article might not like Percy, but a
whole bunch of young readers love it,
read it & rec it to their peers.
This week another article came out about how horrible it is that kids are enjoying reading the books they've chosen and not ones that some people have decided they should like. Or at least that's what I've gotten out of the New Yorker op piece. (I'm not linking to because it's all just clickbait anyways. I fell for it, why should you?)

Today I got to speak to a group of 9 year olds about books. Nonfiction, fiction, biographies, historical fiction, fantasy, mysteries, I talked with them for an hour. AN HOUR. And the kids participated in the conversation, asked questions and were really excited to learn about some new books.

You can teach a kid to read, but that doesn't necessarily turn them into a reader. The mechanics aren't enough. Leave out the joy of discovering and falling into a new story, and you might make reading seem like a chore. I'm a big fan of letting kids choose the books that most interest them. Seeing 30 kids excited about reading was a ginormous boost to my day. Here's to our future readers!
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wonder Woman Is Coming to the Big Screen

This past week, DC unveiled a massive list of films they expect to release going all the way into 2022. It had everything from the Flash getting his own movie to the Justice League. DC is desperately playing catch up against Marvel and it's universe and time will tell if DC can pull it off. (Personally, I'm not betting money on it). The biggest shock was the addition of a Wonder Woman movie, slated to come out in 2017.

FINALLY! Finally someone heard our pleas and is bringing Diana to the big screen. Now, who knows if it will be any good or not, the important thing is that a female super hero movie is finally on the docket. It's official. It's going to happen. That's completely awesome. It's also shocking that DC beat Marvel to that milestone. Marvel, as wonderful as it is, doubled down and said they still have no plans for a Black Widow film or any other female super heroes. What?

In this superhero movie arms race, DC just won a major battle. Shots fired. It's disappointing that DC got there first and it's really frustrating that Marvel isn't responding in kind. Female superhero films still seem to be a complete pipe dream. It's so shocking because Marvel currently has a more cohesive universe than DC does. A Black Widow film could be incredible and everyone is clamoring to see Ms Marvel get her time in the spotlight. Why the hesitation?

Now more than ever, female super heroes are moving comic book units. The revamped (and awesome!) Ms Marvel has been hailed as a fantastic turning point in comics and sells very well. Batwoman and Batgirl (that costume!) are both making waves. There are more women in super hero comic books than ever and yet that isn't being reflected on the big (or small!) screen. So what gives? Why the disconnect?

Studios claim they're wary of female super hero stories because they've been burned in the past by shows and films that flopped. Elektra and Birds of Prey both come to mind. This is, again, one of those double standards for women in film. A lot of male super hero movies flopped and yet they still kept making superhero movies. Green Lantern was abysmal but that didn't stop DC from going forward with Superman. The second a superhero movie led by a woman fails, the studios shrug and trot out that tired old "women stuff just doesn't sell" trope. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm glad Wonder Woman is going to get her time on screen and I hope it's a massive success... because if it's not, it might be many, many years until we see another female superhero movie again.
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Monday, October 20, 2014


by Megan S.

I love a good tequila.  Not the stuff you slam at a bar or use as a mixer in a margarita.  No, I enjoy the full flavored, aged (añejo) tequilas that are best savored slowly.  So you can imagine how excited I was to stumble across this bottle of Los Azulejos's limited edition Skeleto añejo tequila at Costco!  Not only is it delicious, the ceramic container is perfect for Halloween and Día de los Muertos!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Here's What You'll Be Carving Into Your Pumpkin This Year

by Sara N.

We're a little over halfway through October, and that means two things. First, that Halloween candy you bought a little too early to hand out on the 31st? You've already eaten most of it. Just admit to yourself that you're going to have to buy a second bag  — but maybe don't buy it until the morning of. And second, it's time to start thinking about what you're going to carve into your Halloween pumpkin. Here are some of the best new geeky patterns for 2014.

Orange and Black Pumpkins has some cool stuff this year, including the 12th Doctor ...

... Groot ...

... and Tyrion Lannister. (He always pays his debts.)

Keep reading for more ...

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Desperately Seeking Leia

Do you recall the outrage back around May of this year when the Disney Store unveiled their Star Wars line and Leia was no where to be found? How could there not be an abundance of merchandise for the most badass Disney princess? Then, the new hope in June when they announced that our concerns had been heard, and that Leia toys would be coming soon (I first heard about it on The Mary Sue). Ever wonder what happened next?

Yesterday, I visited my local Disney Store and took a look around. Here we are, in October, just a couple of months from the biggest gift giving and toy buying holiday of the year, and I couldn't find anything with Princess Leia on it. I asked a helpful employee. She pointed to a toy above the clearance rack in the back. It was a slave Leia figurine. After a quick query to the stock powers that be, she informed me that there was nothing else, "nothing for girls."

Seriously? They are pulling this?.
What the hell? Slave Leia? That's it? That's the "toys" we were promised? I'm not buying my not even a tween yet daughter a freaking slave Leia. I don't want one. (Laurie wrote a post a few years ago that pretty much covers my reasons why.) It wouldn't be so bad if there were other figurines or a t-shirt or a New Hope costume for the kids, but no, we get one Leia-in-a-metal-bikini toy.

Also, the "nothing for girls" bit. I'm going to be pissed off about that one for a while.

It turns out that if you go to the Star Wars page of the Disney Store online, you can get a Leia costume, Leia figurines in a couple of sets (New Hope and Jedi), and you can make your own shirts, bags, and iPhone covers with a small selection of Leia images.

That's it, though, and you will never convince me that this is "enough." I still remember my daughter's face when we visited the Disney Store back in early June. We saw the Vader and Stormtrooper costumes, as well as the R2 and Chewbacca toys. She then announced that she was going to look for the Leia stuff and I had to tell her that there wasn't any, but that they said they would have some "soon." She's starting to notice the huge disparity in "boy" vs "girl" SFF merchandise and representation. The industry is missing out on a huge market. They could be helping to create lifelong fans. They could, if they manage to pull their heads out of their asses before they alienate future buyers.

I know, my jaded self should have realized that this would always be the outcome (like after what happened recently with Gamora and DC's shirts at Walmart), but I'm not going to stop wanting things to be better.

I sent an e-mail inquiring into our promised Leia merch. We'll see if I get a response.

What happened? Did they think we would just go away? I think it'll be a very long time before we head back to the Disney Store, so in a sense, yes, we will be going away. Usually I do a decent amount of shopping at the Disney Store around the holidays, but I don't feel like doing that right now.

As the very nice Disney Store employee mentioned, "I think they really dropped the ball on that one."

Yes, yes they did.

Update: I got a boilerplate response to my e-mail that never mentions anything about my request other than to say "I'd like to invite you to visit our Store as we may have other Disney items that may interest you." Somehow I don't see myself visiting their store.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Make It A Scary Godmother Halloween!

Do you love Mary Poppins but wish she was a little more... spooky? Have I got news for you!

Jill Thompson, accomplished illustrator and author, has created a Halloween icon and I am head over heels in love with her. Friends, have you met the Scary Godmother?

Scary Godmother is a series of comics, storybooks and two delightful Halloween cartoons all about the wonderful title character and he household of zany friends. She's a Halloween fairy tasked with making sure the holiday goes off without a hitch. She knits cobwebs and bakes crunchy autumn leaves. She's funny, charming and fully in charge of her domain. When a frightened girl named Hannah Marie stumbles into her realm, Scary Godmother takes her under her wing and helps her discover that scary stuff can be fun and that she's stronger than the things that frighten her.

The world of Scary Godmother is a Halloween delight. She lives in a perfectly gothic Addams Family style Victorian with Mr. Skully Pettibone, her campy skeleton roommate. He's the lovingly sarcastic counterbalance to Scary Godmother's exuberance. The bane of their existence is an ill-mannered British werewolf named, what else, Harry.  The last residence of the Halloween house is Bug-A-Boo, a huge fuzzy monster with a heart of gold.

The best characters, apart from Scary Godmother herself, are the vampire family. They're modeled on old silent movie vamps and just do not understand anything in this century. Count Maxwell (an illusion to Count Orlock from Nosferatu) and his wife Ruby (an illusion to Vampira) have a son named Orson who befriends Hannah Marie. The characters are all amazingly developed and sincerely fun to read and watch.

I was introduced to Scary Godmother by two animated specials that run on the Cartoon Network every Halloween. Despite a bit of wonky animation, the specials are full of heart. They're funny, adorable and have become a bit of a Halloween tradition. Likewise, the Scary Godmother comics have become their own tradition. Branching out from Halloween, they also include Scary Godmother and friends dealing with such shockingly strange and bizarre holidays as Valentine's Day and Christmas.

This is your formal invitation to the Fright Side! It's time to get to know Scary Godmother. Your Halloween is incomplete without her!
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Temporary Tattoos Perfect For Halloween or Everyday Geek Life

by Megan S.

Maybe it's commitment-phobia, maybe it's an aversion to needles,* but some of us just won't get a tattoo no matter how much we want one.  Thank goodness crafty crafters on craft site Etsy have come up with a solution for those who want to be inked without all the hassle.

That's right, kids, geeky temporary tattoos are real and they're the perfect way to complete your outfit or your Halloween costume.  I've combed Etsy and found 17 awesome ones perfect for cosplaying or just a night out with friends.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Seriously, Are We Living the Opening Credits of a Zombie Movie?

by Sara N.

Look, I know we're not all going to get Ebola and die. The CDC has assured us that the chance of a widespread outbreak in the United States is very low. Experts in the news tell us again and again that Ebola has an extremely low transmission rate and that we should worry more about influenza. Well-reasoned pieces of journalism give us a host of reasons that we shouldn't fear. Heck, even The Onion has tips for avoiding Ebola, in case you're still worried.

I understand all this and truly don't believe the average American is at risk. And yet ...

And yet I've seen the news montages in the movies, you guys! 12 Monkeys. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. World War Z. Shaun of the Dead. Dawn of the Dead. 28 Days Later. Pretty much any zombie movie ever. These movies all start with news reports explaining how the world descended into flesh-chomping chaos. They're usually innocent at first, maybe a little eyebrow-raising but not overtly terrifying. But then they escalate to a horrifying cataclysm that leaves the world a shattered, shambling wasteland.

And I've got to be honest, when I see the steady trickle of Ebola news — It's in the U.S.! We're sending more troops! Look out, Spain! — it does seem a little cinematic. Below are actual headlines from the last week or so.

Be honest. Doesn't this steady stream of terrible news seems a tiny bit like the early part of the news report montage in a disease outbreak movie, like so?

The culprit is in part, of course, the media and their fear appeals. Scary stories get you to tune in and keep you coming back to see how much worse things have gotten. Heavy exposure to "scary" news stories can cultivate skewed audience beliefs that the world is a scarier place than it actually is. (In fact, cultivation theory could even help explain why a heavy viewer of zombie movies makes the link between media in the films and the worst-case scenario in real-world reporting.) And in extreme situations, fear-based media can be used as a form of social control of the public.

So in the end, we're seeing stories about a serious issue reported through the lens of a media desperate for audience numbers. It doesn't mean we're headed into a pandemic of cinematic proportions — even if it feels a little like it to zombie fans.  
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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Axes and Monsters and Tentacles, Oh My!

There are lots of books that I like reading this time of year. I've found a new one for the favorites list in my current read, A Night in the Lonesome October. Another fantastic read for the best month of the year is Cherie Priest's MAPLECROFT.

The blurb: "Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.... 

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe."

I wasn't completely sure what to expect, other than I read a tagline somewhere on twitter that this story was Lizzie Borden meets Lovecraftian horror and I knew I had to read it. I've read Priest's Clockwork series, which feels like a modern dime novel, and the Chesire Red books, an Urban Fantasy with a snarky vampire thief. Both series are fast-paced, action-packed reads.

MAPLECROFT is a different animal. I thought that we would mostly be viewing the story from Lizzie's perspective, but the book is told through the journal entries and letters of several characters. The letter approach isn't always my favorite. Sometimes I find it interrupts the story, or slows everything down to a snail's pace (like, say, Frankenstein). Not the case here. The book kept my attention, but was less non-stop action and more creeping, rising tension.

We have characters isolated from society because of a scandalous murder as well as a town geographically separated from the larger metropolises. They are also facing a Problem that is completely outside their known history and experience. To think on it is to risk sanity, but they have to figure it out if they have any hope of stopping it.

Something is transforming the residents of Fall River. Lizzie killed the first two, after her parents were afflicted. Since then she has studied as best as she could with the equipment at her disposal, looking to myths to try to explain the impossible. Her parents weren't the only victims, though, and soon Lizzie and her small group of allies must fight for their lives, minds, and souls.

Emma, Lizzie's sister, is frail but surprisingly resourceful. She and Lizzie have a complex relationship. They have been sequestered together, sharing terrible secrets. They crave help from others but have a very realistic fear to opening themselves to the outside world. Doctor Seabury is the town doctor whose testimony helped keep Lizzie from a murder conviction. He saw Lizzie's stepmother shortly before her death, and knew she was different, that she had changed into something horrifying, even though he couldn't bring himself to mention the truth. Nance, Lizzie's lover, is an actress and a force of nature herself with an inextinguishable curiosity. Lizzie and Nance had so many forces pulling them apart, societal and supernatural.

So much I would love to discuss here but can't because spoilers.

I definitely felt the rising dread as a monster stalked towards our little group. The transformation and murders, while horrifying, were the kind that leaves quite a bit to the reader's imagination. And my imagination tends to go into overdrive in these situations. The whole setting felt claustrophobic as everything came pressing down. Tense, at times heartbreaking, I really fell in love with the mythology here, the historical twist. While we do get a conclusion, there is room for more.

If you are looking for something creepy, engrossing, and refreshingly different, go pick up MAPLECROFT. I will be pre-ordering book 2 as soon as it is available.

MAPLECROFT  Amazon | B&N | Kobo | BAM | Powell's | Indiebound

Cherie Priest:

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