BREAKING: 3 New Harry Potter Ebooks Coming in September

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Today it was announced, possibly as an apology for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, that three new ebooks will launch in September.

The books, clearly intended to be supplemental pieces for the canonical seven, are under the heading Pottermore Presents and include the following titles:

  • Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists
  • Shorts Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies
  • Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

According to Amazon’s official description, the first title will have dealings with the origins of Most Hated Villain in History Ever Dolores Umbridge, as well as the truth behind the conversation where Slughorn and Tom Riddle discuss Horcruxes. Also detailed will be the history of Azkaban and other Ministry of Magic-related fare.

The second title will discuss fan favorites Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin, in stories that Marauders fans will excitedly lap up.  We’ll also meet poor Professor Kettleburn, the Care of Magical Creatures professor replaced by Hagrid in the third book.  Sibyl Trelawney will also be featured.  Most of McGonagall’s backstory was detailed on the Pottermore web site quite a while back, but I’m hoping for expansions and details!

The final title is the big question mark of the three, with very little detail promised on Amazon.

I, for one, am really hoping that there is more content in these ebooks than Pottermore provides.  I worry that this means we’re never getting that giant encyclopedia we were always promised, too.

Divergent Finale Film Ascendant Canceled

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Are we finally seeing the end of the multi-part finale? The dystopian YA craze?  Both?

Lionsgate announced yesterday that due to the critical and commercial failure of Allegiant, the third Divergent film, that finale Ascendant has been canceled as a feature film. Lionsgate claims to be shopping around a tv movie and spinoff television series.  Ascendant was to start filming this summer for a June 2017 release.

Divergent was merely cashing in on the pattern that was started by the final Harry Potter book and continued by Twilight and The Hunger Games franchises.   However, Allegiance had a mixed reaction in its book release, while the film was utterly reviled (13% on Rotten Tomatoes- that is worse than any of the Twilight films or Razzie darling Fifty Shades of Grey.)

Critical reception of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was very positive.  At a Rotten Tomatoes score of 78%, it ties with Order of the Phoenix for the lowest scores of the franchise, but still Certified Fresh. However, Deathly Hallows (whose book celebrates its 9th anniversary today) was a massive door-stopper of an incredibly well-received finale. The choice to split into two movies was widely accepted, with the note that many people wished Goblet of Fire had done the same.

Twilight had a different experience.  While none of the movies were rated particularly well, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 was the most reviled, with a paltry 24% rating. Widely regarded as a filler film intended to cash in on the success of Harry Potter’s split finale, the trick worked on its largely young teenage fanbase.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 was again the lowest rated film of the franchise, with a 65% score.  Even the positive reviews, however, admit that the story seems stretched too thin and the material should probably have been one film.  Like Divergent, Hunger Games goes rather dark in its ending, but the book was much more well received than Allegiant.

Only time will tell if Ascendant ever actually sees the light of day. Variety admits the Lionsgate has not even begun to pitch the projects.  Digging around on Twitter, none of the stars have commented, though Ansel Elgort has an extremely impressive Pokemon roster. The official Divergent account is also staying mum.

The dystopian craze seems to be dying out, with several Twilight and Hunger Games follow-the-leaders suffering at the box office.  TV seems to be the smarter way to go, with shows such as The Vampire Diaries, The 100, and Teen Wolf able to find footing.  TV’s Shadowhunters has found the success that eluded the film release The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.  Delirium and The Selection have failed to launch television shows, with the latter failing twice.

I’m hoping this will open the gates for new ideas instead of the constant case of Follow-the-Leader and multi-part finale cash-ins.  What YA books do you hope take off in the absence of this trend?

Review: Ghostbusters 2016

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Was Ghostbusters good?  Yes

Was Ghostbusters perfect?  No.

Do I care that it wasn’t perfect?  Honestly, no.

SPOILERS BELOW.

An ensemble comedy featuring four women, none of whom is the “sexy” one.  One is black.  One is plus-sized.  One is an oddball genius, and ambiguously queer.  One is a mousy academic.  All four have to rely on their brains, not what men think of their bodies, to save the day.  I’m going to take the ladies one at a time.

The Ghostbusters:

Like pretty much everyone, I was worried when I saw the trailer that Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan was going to be a racist caricature of a sassy black woman as the only one of the Ghostbusters not to be a scientist.  Instead, Patty is intelligent and a quick study.  In the after-credits stinger, Leslie Jones is clearly analyzing audio, even dropping the wham!line: “What is Zuul?” Patty is an amazing character- she shows up, comes to play, and becomes an invaluable member of the team.  She’s persistent, resilient, and she decides to change her own fate when she leaves the MTA to start busting- and studying ghosts. She never quits, never backs down or backs out, even when things start getting really messed up.  She’s clever, loyal, and funny, and never falls back on stereotypes.  I don’t really see why she couldn’t have been a scientist, but I think the character we got was pretty great anyway.

(Edit: The concerns above paragraph actually make a little bit more sense after I researched a bit- Feig originally developed the role for Melissa McCarthy and changed it to Leslie Jones to give her more of a breakout role, while placing McCarthy as the more reserved Yates.)

Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates was a solid hit for her.  McCarthy tends to play very over-the-top, and having her be the Only Sane Woman of the group allows her to dodge some typecasting.  She is a plus-sized heroine who has NO MAJOR GAGS ABOUT HER WEIGHT.  Let me say that to you one more time in the back.  She’s a heavier-set lead character who didn’t need to be heavyset because of the plot for reasons like Hairspray.  She just happens to be plus-sized, and she’s a brilliant scientist, a loyal friend, and a resourceful hero.  That’s amazing.

Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is a young woman who works in academia dealing with the struggle to be taken seriously, and her book and friendship with Abby are Old Shame for her.  Her clothes pre-Ghosbusting tell the whole story: very conservatively cut but in quirky mismatched prints.  As a fairly new Physics professor, she has probably fought to be taken even remotely seriously. Tywin Lannister smacks her down as her boss, because plot. That being said, Erin is supposed to be the emotional center of the film, but there isn’t quite enough to connect to. Her possible sacrifice and rescue of Abby needed a little more set-up to pack that grown-up Frozen punch. Abby Yates comes off saner than Erin Gilbert despite studying the paranormal and being presented initially as crazy.  Probably because Erin becomes a walking Freudian slip whenever Kevin turns up.

Finally, my favorite character, and probably yours, because she is pretty much everyone’s, Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann.  Growing up, the geekiest member of a team was very nearly always male- Billy the Blue Power Ranger, Donatello, etc.  If the geek was female (Gretchen in Recess comes to mind) she seldom took action. So seeing a smart geeky girl who looked a little like me start really kicking ass and taking names and being awesome?  Amazing. Jillian is slightly androgynous, unabashedly weird, and finds joy in every moment. The movie belongs to her, and she’s clearly the breakout character of the film.  McKinnon does a fine job here.

Kevin:
First of all, let me say: Chris Hemsworth acts the crap out of this.  He’s genuinely good in the role.  I just think Kevin is actually too dumb.  Like, I would have accepted a guy who was ditzy (the logos, or the phone in the aquarium joke, for example) but it’s hard to take one who you can’t figure out how he functions (Saying he’s not listening by covering his eyes, for example.) I understand he’s a send-up of ditzy secretaries, but I can’t think of a secretary character who is actually that stupid. I would have liked one flash of brilliance or even competence to him just to give the Busters a reason to keep him around.

The Reboot Problem
This is a nitpick, because I hate this about pretty much every prequel, reboot, remake, whatever.  It’s the faux-organic development of tropes we already know.  The logo starts out as a graffiti artist’s interpretation of the ghost in the subway (but looks literally nothing like the ghost in the subway.)  The only clever one was the firehouse- I loved the fact that there was a nod to it being absurdly expensive, as it would be in NYC, and that they pretty much win it as a prize for saving NYC.

The Cameos, both good and bad:
The Ramis nod was beautiful and simple.  Weaver gets a pass, since she’s a bonus scene in the credits and therefore a perfect place to put an over-the-top cameo. Hudson and Potts made cameos as characters that would have existed in the plot-Patty’s uncle who owns the car Jillian turns into the Ecto-1 and a hotel concierge respectively.  Potts does a perfect cameo, honestly.  It’s just enough of a nod to Janine without stopping the action or feeling unnatural. Aykroyd’s veers into stupid. Why does this cabbie know so much?  Bill Murray had way too big of a role, and he honestly didn’t bring much to it.  His scenes were actually some of the most bleh in the movie.

The Editing:
Paul Feig said the original cut of the movie was 4 hours.  I missed some of it.  I think Erin and Abby needed to part ways again temporarily for the former’s rescue of the latter to pack as much of a punch. Moving Kevin/Rowan’s absurd Thriller sequence to the end was probably wise.

The Villain:
Like any number of Marvel movies, the villain is really there to catalyze events.  I’m sure the choice of making Rowan a miserable, socially ostracized white guy didn’t help the movie endear itself to the incredibly vocal male critical base. He’s not a memorable villain or all that great of one.

The Impact:
The next generation of little geek girls will have Abby, Erin, Patty, and Holtzmann to look up to.  For that, I am profoundly grateful, just like I’m grateful they have Rey, and they’ll have Wonder Woman in a movie.

I loved this movie, but it doesn’t make it perfect.  However, I am happy to support it, and endlessly glad it exists.

 

Free Thoughts on Pokemon Go

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So, um, hi.

+2 Comedy’s Noah and I got back from DexCon, then 4th of July, then Pokemon Go.  So there was no DexCon recap.  We were so busy with Game the Gamer that I didn’t really get to play anything, so let’s leave it at Game the Gamer was awesome.

But like, Pokemon Go, right?

I admit, it took me a little while to get the hang of it.  I downloaded it Wednesday night, and didn’t feel like going out for a walk, so it seemed sort of pointless initially.  However, I figured out what I was doing, and now 2016 will be the year of Hamilton and Pokemon Go.

Sorry I’m not writing more.  I’m playing Pokemon.  Byeeee.

 

 

 

Too Many Games Recap

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Well, that was so much fun.

I’m home from Too Many Games, and we had a really great time.  I roomed with Uncle Yo and TV’s Noah of +2 Comedy, and golly, did we have an adventure.

Friday:

We hit all of the traffic and didn’t get to the Con until 5.  The con opened at 2pm.  Oops.  Anyway, upon arriving, it was off to go confirm that ProJared and Doug Walker were actually joining us for that night’s improv panel, and it was not a cruel joke.  Both of the lovely gentleman were ready to play.  We found These Guy Are Sick’s Brett Vanderbrook and Darrin DeMarco, and we put on an amazing show.  I actually remember the show, which almost never happens, partially thanks to the incredible Mew.  WHO DREW FANART IN REAL TIME.  Seriously.  I am framing this in my home.

Seriously. FANART. If you were there, you will recognize all of these moments.

Seriously. FANART. If you were there, you will recognize all of these moments.

So, yeah.  This was a life highlight.  So many people came up with kind words after the show  We loved it, it was amazing.

 

Saturday:

This was, bar none, the craziest day ever.  After arriving at the con, we got a chance to walk the floor (and I definitely didn’t buy a Flareon plushie because that would be irresponsible.) Seemingly before we knew it, 4pm had rolled around and it was time to get ready for Cosplay Pro Wrestling.  If I have failed in the past to mention it, I’m the Princess in Residence, the General Manager, Ring Announcer, and Legit Boss (yeah, no, that’s Sasha Banks, my bad) Princess Peach.  I had to take my first bump, which means that after three shows of being a seemingly untouchable onstage presence, I was about to get hit for the first time. I would say I hadn’t been that nervous in ages, but to be honest, I was crazy nervous for the improv show. Our Luigi informed me that he was going to do a HHH sledgehammer spot.  Which means I was going to get hit in the face with a warp pipe.  We did the spot, and I’m told it looked good, though I really have no idea what it looked like.  I was really surprised- by interrupting the fight, I turned the crowd against me in a huge way.  I really never get to play evil, so it was a little bit fun.  I also didn’t realize that when a wrestler hits you, they connect- I didn’t expect the pipe to touch me.

The rest of the show was amazing.  The guys and the wonderful Wii Fit Trainer put on incredible matches, and the crowd was crazy into it.  If you were at Too Many Games and heard an entire corner of the room chanting “HOLY SHIT,” you should have stopped by!  Our real-life fearless leader, Mike Goldstein, is just fabulous.  He checked in on me the next day, and was just an absolute rock star.  The audience was one of the greatest characters in the show- they kept us guessing.  We were so fortunate that Keith Apicary and MegaRan decided to stop by and save Uncle Yo from Giovanni.

Afterwards, I helped my friends at +2 Comedy by keeping score at Game the Gamer.  I will be promoting their kickstarter when it goes live this August- it’s a really special show, and I’m proud to be even a small part of it.  We hit the afterparty, and then we hit the hotel room and bed- hard.  I don’t think I’ve been that tired in a very long time.

 

Sunday:

“I’m such a heifer.  I ate, like, two bowls of Special K.” -Cher Horowitz, Clueless

I started my day by eating a lot of cereal, and then had to finish the Powerpoint to my Women in Gaming Panel, Wait, Samus is a Girl? A Brief and Ridiculous History of Women in Games. Brief was the right word.  I ran a little under time, and I think it would have been good to add a little more.  I was worried I would have too much ground to cover and over-edited.  I got a few games to play on my to-do list (Transistor) but I am still resisting Overwatch because I fear I will never leave the house.  We had an amazing discussion, and I actually gained a lot of insight into how people really feel about women in gaming.  I also felt better about my constant insistence on how I play Princess Peach stronger and stronger.

 

All in all, Too Many Games was more than kind to me, and I can’t wait to go back next year and have more fun, make more friends, and, well….balls.

 

(I’m posting this from DexCon, which is incredibly fun.  Guys, I am pretty much the luckiest.)

Appearance Information- Upcoming News

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Hey, Team,

Just a quick couple of things.

I’m the worst for not posting, but I have a sick Undertale review in the works.  I also just might be starting a YouTube channel later this summer.

I’ll be appearing TOMORROW at 8:30pm (oh crap) at Too Many Games Expo in Oaks, PA as the host and director of Too Many Games Improv.  I can exclusively confirm the involvement of Doug Walker, The Nostalgia Critic; and known accomplice Uncle Yo.  We’ll be in Panel Room 2!

I will also appear as Princess Peach in Cosplay Pro Wrestling on Saturday, as well as debuting my new panel Sunday, called: “Samus is a Girl?  A Brief, Ridiculous History of Women in Games” (Sunday, 3:30pm, Panel Room 2.)

I’ll also be helping out my close personal friends in +2 Comedy at this years DEXCON event in Morristown, NJ next weekend.  Keep an eye out.

 

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Also, I got Hamilton tickets.

Free Thoughts on Orlando

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I need to talk, guys.  Since this is my weird little pocket of the Internet to do with as I please, I guess I’ll do it here.  I’m planning to talk about a few things this week: the Tonys, Game of Thrones, E3.  I’m sure you know what I need to talk about first, though.

Sunday morning, something terrible happened.  Something huge and painful.  We lost fifty people- good, kind people who were there to celebrate themselves and each other- their heritage, their feelings.  This is something I do not want us to recover quickly from.  The video above lists each and every one of them by name.  It’s hard to watch. Watch it anyway.

Ever since, a thousand tiny wonderful things are happening.  Communities rallying around those who lost their lives.  Pride in LA and Philly, and many other cities, going off as planned.  Vigils in every city.  People finding it in themselves to do, to give, to stand up. Intelligent discourse about what we need to do as a country to prevent this kind of tragedy again.  Muslims standing up against the man who committed this act, standing up for LGBT people.  People of every color and age defending their Muslim friends and neighbors and strangers, knowing that this man did not speak for them. People rising up to meet this challenge.

Do not be silent.  Do not be cowed.  You might be angry that this happened- be angry.  Go outside.  Throw a plush toy at your wall until your arm hurts.  Scream.  Then go inside.  Take a breath.  And act with love.  Use rage to fuel the love that creates. Your rage comes from love of your fellow human being, and that kind of anger is okay.  Just use it for love.

Love is stronger than hate, but actions are stronger than words.  Today, act with love.  Give blood if you can.  Donate money.  Just go out of your way to be kind to someone.  Be the better world we all hope for. Send letters to Congress telling them to be better. Register to vote.  Educate yourself.

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger/ We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer/ And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.” -Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2016.

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Image Credit: Elaine White

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Theater Marquee

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Even though the much hyped play does not even begin previews until June 7, and most Americans won’t even get to read the play until July 31, London’s Palace Theater is already decorated.  Check out the front-of-house decor below.

HPatCC_FoH_full_Come on, that is beautiful and ornate, especially considering that many Broadway marquees really just have the digital Minority Report-like screens in front of the theaters.  I mean, look at that little one in the bird’s nest snitch.  I’m fairly certain that’s supposed to be little Albus hunched inside.

HPatCC_FoH_nestIt’s not surprising that the theater can have such an ornate decor, given that tickets have already been released out through May 2017, the Palace probably has the money to spare on some really, really nice photo ops.

White as a Ghost: on the casting of Scarlett Johannson

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Scarlett Johansson as "The Major."

Scarlett Johansson as “The Major.”

Scarlett Johansson is an immensely talented actress.  This is not up for debate.  However, what should absolutely be up for debate is the fact that she probably should not be cast as Major Motoko Kusanagi, the leading role in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film adaptation, out in March of next year.

In the first released promotional still, Johansson’s character is referred to only as “The Major,” though the IMDB page for the film specifically calls her “Kusanagi.”  Following the nasty backlash at Emma Stone’s casting as Allison Ng in Aloha, Rooney Mara’s inappropriate casting as Tiger Lily in Pan (a role she regrets taking, and probably only partially because the film bombed,) and the idiotic whitewashing of Gods of Egypt, it seems that the studios aren’t learning anything yet.  They’re casting whomever they want, and apologizing only after it looks like the movie will fail (and all three of the previously mentioned films did fail.)

When casting a person of color, there is often a small but vocal Twitter backlash from, well, racists.  See also the people who complained that the canonically “dark-skinned” Rue was cast as a young black girl, or the people who complained when Hermione was cast as a black woman in the upcoming Cursed Child play even when her skin color has never been mentioned.   Not to mention the backlash at the idea of casting Idris Elba as James Bond.

Asians have long been excluded from media entertainment and whitewashed. Dreamworks is making a huge mistake attempting to bet the property on a “bankable” star- before this, their first choice was then lesser-known-but-no-less-white Margot Robbie, best known as Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.

After so many attempts at whitewashing have failed spectacularly in recent memory, why are the studios still sticking by it?

Respectful dialogue welcome.