Ten Things We Need to See in the Fables Movie

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Almost a decade ago there were television networks who wanted to capitalize on the crazy success of the multiple Eisner award winning comic Fables by transforming it into a series. From that point on fans of the fantasy comic were continually disappointed by various networks as they took small aspects of the story and turned it into shows like Grimm or Once Upon A Time. After a certain point, a lot of fans were convinced that if Fables didn't get the attention of the successful cable networks like AMC or HBO at this point that it would never be turned into a live-action anything... that is, until yesterday.

Earlier yesterday afternoon it was announced that Fables would not be turned into a television show...but it would be a film. A foreign, Oscar-nominated director (Nikolaj Arcel) is set to take on the film along with a screenwriter (Jeremy Slater) whose recent writing experience deals with another comic book property, Fantastic Four. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the comic, Fables focuses on a group of childhood fantasy book characters, from Snow White to Blackbeard, who have been exiled out of their Homelands centuries ago after a fierce battle with a foe known as the Adversary. Now the remaining fairy-tale creatures hide in present day New York City as they try to stay out of reach from said Adversary and live quiet, normal lives. Well, not completely normal.

The idea of a rich story like Fables suddenly turning into what could be the start of a successful movie franchise is exciting to watch. But after the first wave of anticipation washes over us, you have to sit back and think: well, how are they going to spread the comic out? Will they be going straight into the major story dealing with the Adversary within the first movie, or will they spread it out within the span of three films, turn it into a trilogy (which is very doable)? There are a number of stories and characters they can try to use within the first movie, so that's where this list comes in. Because the filmmakers need to know what HAS to be in what we assume (please!) will be the first Fables movie of many.

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8 Video Games to Fake the Summer Vacation You Can't Afford

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 6:00 am

Summer is upon us, and like most people you probably want to get away from the stresses of day to day life with a nice vacation. Unfortunately, your broke ass can't afford it. Maybe you just bought a new house, maybe you're struggling to find a job, or maybe your latest meth-fueled orgy went over budget. Whatever the reason, you're staying home this year.

Luckily your old friends, video games, have your back. It turns out you can put together a pretty decent fake summer vacation by playing the right games. Sure, it's no substitute for the real thing, but it beats looking at photos of past trips and quietly sobbing to yourself.

8. Wave Race

If you can't afford a vacation, you sure as hell can't afford a jet ski. Yeah, you could rent or borrow or steal one, but then you'd feel even worse about not owning one when it was time to return it or appear in court. Those who taste the jet ski want more.

Save yourself the anguish and play a Wave Race game, preferably Wave Race: Blue Storm on the Gamecube (the most recent in the series). The water effects hold up surprisingly well, and most of the courses have a relaxing summer vibe. In addition to looking way nicer than some crowded beach full of discarded beer cans and food wrappers, you're on the water winning championships instead of dodging errant children dogpaddling around. It's basically the sort of jet skiing you would do if you were a professional and/or a multi-millionaire. Which you're not, presumably. If you are, congratulations! That's pretty cool.

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The rest of us are only pulling moves like this off in video games.

Also, you can ride a dolphin! Try doing that in real life without getting arrested or beaten to death by the very creature you tried to tame.

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The 14 Best Quotes From Friday's Man of Steel Press Conference

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 6:00 am

Yeah, so I wasn't just at the Warner Bros. lot to look at Man of Steel costumes and props. The real reason was a press conference featuring some of the stars and filmmakers.

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The "tribute" to JJ Abrams here is totally accidental, uh, I mean deliberate.

It was a lively discussion, generally pretty spoiler free, and I figured the best way to let you readers enjoy it vicariously was to compile a list of the best quotes from the day. So here you go.

1. Jor-El, Meet Bow-El (Movement).

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"I had a very interesting experience being a father on this movie. I think Zack employed four babies as the recently born Kal-El, and unlike in my own experience as a father of two, I've managed to dodge all the piss and the poo, even though I'm pretty slick with a nappy. But on this movie, I got farted on first - that was okay. Pissed on - that was a little inconvenient. Then the topper happened under those hot lights. It was after lunch, to be expected, and I got a handful of the essential Kryptonian material. So I learned a lot. I had new experiences as a parent on this movie that I hadn't previously had. So thank you, Zack." -- Russell Crowe, on how his experience as a parent informed his performance.


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8 Cartoons That WWE Should Cross Over With Next

Friday, May 31, 2013 at 6:00 am

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A while back, we discussed the many times pro wrestling has attempted to blend in with the mainstream, and failed miserably in the process. Well, either Vince McMahon never read the article (slacker) or he DID read it, and was somehow inspired to cross-promote even more, thinking the law of averages has to be on his side by now.

How else to explain WWE crawling into bed with Hanna-Barbera all of a sudden? A few months ago, they announced a new Scooby-Doo movie centered around a haunted WrestleMania (Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair are main-eventing again?) and now they've unveiled the follow-up: The Flintstones. With wrestlers. All because The Rock called John Cena a "fruity pebble" one time. Thanks a bunch, DWAYNE.

So now we get to deal with Cena meeting Fred and Barney, and presumably beating their asses at bowling because he's the awesomest at everything in the history of history. But why stop there? Tons of cartoons are ripe for an Invasion Of The Bodyslammers. All Vince needs is a semi-plausible angle to explain why they're there.

Barring that, he could just steal our nifty ideas for future WWE-cartoon crossovers. Feel free to do so; all we ask for in exchange is a spot on the next pay-per-view where we beat up Brock Lesnar, pin him in 90 seconds, and make him weep like a baby. Also, a private weekend with the Diva of our choice. But only one. We're not unreasonable or anything.

8. The Smurfs

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Hey, we've already got two Hanna-Barbera shows that McMahon should've left alone, so why not make it a third? Smurfs and wrestlers together might sound like a bad idea, but so was making a CGI Smurfs movie. And they've done that TWICE. So clearly, an idea being "horrible" is not a deterrent.

How to set it up? Pretty simple, really. Gargamel invents a shrinking potion to make him small, thinking if he's the size of the Smurfs, he might be able to find their village easier. Did he already do that? It sounds like something he might do. Oh well, he can do it again. Better than coming up with an entirely new scheme that inevitably dies a slow, painful death.

Naturally, he leaves the potion behind, and it's discovered by a traveling band of wrestlers. They drink it, because how could a random boiling beverage in a dirty beaker possibly be bad? This shrinks them down, they are soon discovered by the Smurfs, and everybody just has the wackiest day imaginable. Probably all the male wrestlers will fall for Smurfette, because it's not like they work with impossibly gorgeous women every day or anything. Also, Grandpa Smurf will beat up a lower-card talent, because that's exactly the kind of positive exposure one needs to make it in the rasslin' business.

The unrated Director's Cut could feature Hornswoggle, extra-extra small due to being a little person shrunk down to Smurf-level, getting squashed like a bug. Doesn't matter who does it, as long as it's squishy and icky and the camera stays on it for a real long time.


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Ten Amazingly Strange Celebrity Hotlines of the 1980s

Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Before we had the Internet, we had celebrity hotlines.

I don't like making phone calls, and I never have. But back in the 1980s, we were constantly being exhorted to pick up our telephones and call, call, call! It was often a celebrity telling us to do it - and really, who can you trust if not a famous person, even if we have to pay? Here are ten particularly noteworthy (and occasionally tragic) uses of premium-rate telephony during the Reagan years.

1. The Empire Hotline (early 1980)
800-5-21-1980
Charges: Free!


In the Winter 1980 issue of Bantha Tracks, the Official Star Wars Fan Club newsletter, the following appeared:
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Premium-rate calling was in its relative infancy at the time, and the number was intended to be a promotional tool for The Empire Strikes Back rather than a source of profit, so it made sense for it to be a toll-free call. (Lucasfilm was extraordinarily nervous that the public would lose interest in Star Wars before Empire came out, the most extreme example of that anxiety being The Star Wars Holiday Special.) As Lucasfilm's then-Director of Fan Relations explained to StarWars.com some thirty years later, the needed "521" prefix was only available in Illinois, and the influx of calls to the not-yet-computerized system basically broke AT&T for several hours.

The messages themselves are what we would now consider to be very spoiler-y. Harrison Ford sounds like he'd rather be anywhere else doing anything else, and Carrie Fisher slurs the word "scourge" so much, it sounds like she's about to slide out of the recording booth. And all of them demonstrate why it's a bad idea to try to shoehorn the words "the empire strikes back" (or anything else written by George Lucas) into a sentence spoken aloud by human beings.


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The Nine Most Harryhausen-esque Monsters in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the publication of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979 with its now famous Appendix N, there has been a lot of discussion of the literature that influenced the creation of D&D. RPG hipsters and D&D scholars alike love to name drop Appendix N into conversations. The scholars do so to share their passion for the game. Hipsters do so because they think it makes them sound impressive to RPG neophytes, as if having read Lin Carter's Thongor series or Gardner Fox's Kothar series were praiseworthy. Trust me, if I were asked whether I had any regrets in life, I would have to say "Yes, I have regrets in life. I've read Lin Carter's Thongor novels." Lin Carter was an amazing editor, but he was nowhere close to a masterful writer.

It wasn't only books - both great and terrible - that influenced the creation of the D&D game. As Jon Peterson points out in his excellent book Playing at the World, films also played a significant role in the imaginations of D&D's creators. According to Peterson, D&D co-creator David Arneson "found inspiration...in classic B-movies like those of Hammer Studios, Roger Corman, monster-perpetuated disaster extravaganzas and anything featuring the inimitable claymation of Ray Harryhausen."

I was glad to read Ray Harryhausen's name in the list of D&D inspirations, as it made a connection between two of my passions. I've been playing D&D for over twenty years, and have been a fan of Harryhausen's special effects for even longer. Harryhausen's cinematic work is emotionally evocative and timeless. There is a reason that Jason and the Argonauts is included in the 85 movies Martin Scorsese thinks are must sees in order to be able to talk about film. And it's not just Jason that Scorsese thinks is vital. As the Fast Company article points out, "as part of his film education of his daughter, [Martin] Scorsese screened a bunch of Ray Harryhausen classics, including [Jason and the Argonauts]."

Like many here at Topless Robot, I was deeply saddened by the news of Ray Harryhausen's death at the age of 92 on May 7 of this year. Luke summed up my feelings when he asked, "How do you begin to encapsulate the life of a man who has meant so much to everything we hold dear?" Our editor's answer was that we cannot, and that the best way to do even try was to show a sampling of his work. I would add that we can also show some of the works that he inspired, and the Dungeons & Dragons game falls squarely into that category.

But we don't have to take my word for it, as all it takes is a quick look through the AD&D Monster Manual to see the Harryhausen influence on the world's most played role playing game. Join me as I take a walk down memory lane to see some of Ray's classic monsters, and then look at the 9 most Harryhausen-esque monsters of AD&D.

9) The Roc - I'm not talking about the pro-wrestler and movie star here. I'm talking about the famous monster from the Tales of the Arabian Nights. Sinbad and his crew are attacked by one of these terrifying creatures when they try to steal a giant Roc egg to make giant Roc omelets. The - ever reliable - Wikipedia tells us that the Roc "had its origins... in the fight between the Indian solar bird Garuda and the chthonic serpent Nāga..." and that Marco Polo described the creature as "so strong that it will seize an elephant in its talons and carry him high into the air and drop him so that he is smashed to pieces."

It is possible that the Roc would have appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons game without the influence of Ray Harryhausen's film, because the image in the Monster Manual is evocative of a Detmold illustration from The Arabian Nights. The Monster Manual description matches that from Marco Polo's account and from that of The Arabian Nights in that it tells us these creatures "prey on large creatures such as cattle, horses, and elephants." Just because the creature existed in mythology and classic tales of wonder doesn't mean that the 7th Voyage of Sinbad - based as it was on those same tales of wonder - didn't have a strong influence on the minds of Gary Gygax and David Arneson. It does mean that no matter how awesome these birds are, that we have to put them lower on the list than creatures more quintessentially Harryhausen. As an aside, the Roc in the Detmold illustration and the D&D Roc have only one head and Harryhausen's has two. I think that the two-headed Roc is more intimidating and from now on, all of my Rocs will have two heads.

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The Monster Archives
How Bad Did You Want Those Scrambled Eggs?

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AD&D Monster Manual 1979


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Eight '90s Franchises That Shockingly Never Got A Terrible Tie-in Videogame

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

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Ugozima

There are two major options when it comes to designing a videogame:

1: Let's write an engaging, original, dramatic story, and combine it with sleek and smooth gameplay that will both challenge and titillate the player, and make them want to replay the resulting classic over and over again, to uncover the bevy of secrets we so expertly hid throughout each and every level.

2. HERE'S A THING THAT THING IS COOL WE MAKE CRAP GAME WITH THING IN IT BOOM DONE TIME TO EAT.

Option 2 explains why, throughout gaming history, tons upon tons of boring, horrific, and horrifically boring games have been unleashed upon us, with their only justification being "b-but guys! Austin Powers is in this one! Yeah ... baby? Guys? Guyyyyyys ..."

It's happened so often, we're frankly more surprised when it doesn't happen. In the past, we've discussed various franchises that never received the awful game treatment they so deserved. But we only focused on the '80s that time; as it turns out, developers of the '90s missed plenty of boats as well. Such as:

8. Budweiser Frogs

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Hey, why not? They gave the 7-Up Spot a game, and that guy literally looks like a pimple. A game featuring a bunch of frogs - actual animals that many people find cute and delicious - would have done decent numbers.

Of course, there'd be the issue of what these frogs endorsed: beer. In case you haven't noticed, there's not a whole lot you can do when advertising booze, aside from holding the bottle and grinning like a madman. You can't drink it, because that would cause impressionable children everywhere to become raging alcoholics the second they see one sip touch one set of lips. Despite not having lips themselves, what could three amphibians, known for croaking out the beer's name and not much else, hope to do?

The answer, as always: Video Game Logic. That crap'll save your skin every time. In this case, have all your pod buddies become poisoned by generic beer (yes, we know alcohol is already poison. This is, like, octuple poison, OK?) and mutate into vicious monsters. Pick a frog and hop from stage to stage, spraying the enemies with Budweiser and returning them to normal. Again, these monsters will have their mouths shut the entire time, so no budding lush in the audience would get any ideas.

The end boss would be the beermaster who unleashed the poison brew in the first place; if the idea of three tiny frogs kicking the ass of a fully-grown man with the power of mediocre beer doesn't excite you, then you're more dead inside than any washed-up celebrity forced to work retail to make ends meet.

An alternative game idea would be one where you get to torture and murder the WAZZUP guys, in thousands of humiliating brutal, gory, and utterly hilarious ways. No plot, just straight-up murder. It would still be selling today.


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The Thirteen Greatest Fictional Snails

Friday, May 24, 2013 at 6:00 am


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The Dutch equivalent of "like molasses in January" is "als een slak op een teerton," or "like a snail on a tar-barrel." In As You Like It Shakespeare describes "...the whining schoolboy...Creeping like snail/Unwillingly to school." And of course, with the advent of email the conventional posting of letters became known as "snail mail."

All of which is to say that snails are slow, both proverbially and in fact. Thus the little creatures just aren't a natural fit with the hyperactive, quick-cut, short-attention-span idiom of contemporary pop culture.

Yet it's shaping up to be a higher-profile-than-average year for gastropods. The animated fantasy Epic, opening this weekend, features a comic-relief snail and a slug. And slated for July is Turbo, another animated feature, this one about a snail with racing ambitions. Then there's this distressing development.

Here are 13 other notable snails:

13. The Doorkeeper Snail in Pinocchio

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"Snails are never in a hurry," says this domestic of the Blue Fairy in Collodi's classic children's novel. She makes an exception in Pinocchio's case: it only takes her nine hours, while he waits outside in the rain and cold, to come down four flights and let him into the house. When he asks for something to eat, it's only a few more hours before she returns with a tray for him.

Apparently she was too slow to make it into Disney's 1940 film version; however there's a charming statue of her in The Pinocchio Park (Parco di Pinocchio), a tourist attraction in Tuscany.


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Five Characters We Want To See In Star Wars: Rebels (and Five We DON'T)

Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 6:00 am

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This week, Lucasfilm and Disney announced what many fans had been suspecting for some time; after pulling the plug on Star Wars: The Clone Wars earlier this year, Disney has greenlit a new animated series called Star Wars Rebels to air on Disney XD in fall 2014. In fact, the series has already begun production, and will be debuting preview footage at Star Wars Celebration in Europe this summer.Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class) will serve as an executive producer on the new series, and is writing the pilot.

Dave Filoni, who was the supervising director and lead creative force on Star Wars: The Clone Wars will also serve a executive producer, along with Greg Weisman, producer of fanboy favorite animated series like Young Justice,The Spectacular Spider-Man and Gargoyles. This animation dream team are setting the show during the "Dark Times" between Episode III and IV, and will be using the concept art from Ralph McQuarrie for the classic trilogy as a jumping off point for designing the look of the show. So far, all of this news takes a lot of the sting away from losing Clone Wars so abruptly.

Regardless of what one thinks of the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars animated series ended up being the best Star Wars anything since the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Series producer David Filoni took the lemons of the prequels and gave fans sweet lemonade in exchange, with over one hundred episodes showcasing the best CG action animation on television. Within months of Disney buying Lucasfilm, they cancelled Clone Wars, probably not wanting a Disney owned property on the Time-Warner owned Cartoon Network. Several episodes were already produced for a sixth season, but it seems that Disney was more interested in launching an all-new Star Wars series for their Disney XD channel than playing out one last season of an older show.

The fact that Rebels follows up Clone Wars chronologically means that this new show can be a sequel series in most respects,addressing the dangling plot points left hanging by the abrupt end of the Clone Wars this year, while still being its own show. Star Wars: Rebels can give fans a show set in the beloved timeline of the original movies (or at least closer to it) and please younger fans, for whom the animated series is the only Star Wars they know. And to start things off on a positive note, here are the five characters I most want to see return on Star Wars: Rebels when it makes its debut next year.

5. Darth Maul

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When last seen in the final season of Clone Wars, a resurrected Darth Maul was waging his own war on the galaxy as its newest crime lord, along with his brother Savage Oppress. (Yeah, Savage Oppress was a stupid name, but he was actually a cool character.) Of course, Darth Sidious didn't quite like his former apprentice mucking up his plans for the galaxy, and had already replaced him with Dooku, so in a rather awesome fight sequence, Sidious killed Maul's brother and subjected Maul to the old lightning torture routine. We are led to believe this would be the inglorious ending for Maul, but in a surprise twist, Palpatine decided to leave Maul alive for his own, as yet unknown purposes. I can only expect that Filoni had plans for Darth Maul in season six of Clone Wars, as Maul was obviously nowhere to be found in Revenge of the Sith, much less the original trilogy.

So, what if the Emperor's secret plan for Darth Maul was to use him to help the Empire hunt down and destroy the remaining Jedi? And what if this puts him into conflict with Palpatine's official Sith apprentice, Darth Vader? The prospect of Darth Maul and Darth Vader, scouring the galaxy for hidden Jedi Knights, then eventually coming into conflict with each other, has to be too good of a prospect for Dave Filoni and the production crew to pass up. It's Star Wars fanboy porn, and it would address one of the biggest loose plot threads left over from the end of the last series.

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The Five Best/Worst Things About Microsoft's Xbox One (So Far)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 6:00 am

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In Redmond, WA, yesterday, Microsoft held their big press event to unveil their new console, officially named Xbox One. Overall the specs are pretty similar to the PS4: 8 gigs of RAM, cloud storage, no backwards compatibility, 4K output for movies (games unconfirmed), built-in motion tech, DVR ready, blah blah blah. Unlike the Sony conference, which ran long at two hours, Microsoft's was barely one, and to say they left us wanting is an understatement - their boldest move was actually showing the console. (Sony has only teased their plastic box in a recent commercial.) During those 60 minutes, most of the time was spent talking about the All-In-Oneness (oh, I get it now) of this miracle device they hope will be the main hub of your living room.

Games? Sure, the new Call of Duty: Ghosts, some sports titles and maybe one more. That was it.

So here's what I dug and what I found disappointing:

BEST:

5. It's Official: Original Programming is the Future of Everything.

We can probably look to Netflix as the one getting the ball rolling on this, but the future for streaming services is killer brand-name programming. (Can't wait for Arrested Development this weekend!) So Halo as a live-action series was a no-brainer, but having Steven Spielberg oversee its development is a nice surprise. Yes, the last show he produced was the floundering Smash on NBC, but a sci-fi setting is way more in his wheelhouse.

Plus, the Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn web series that launched alongside Halo 4 was solid. I'm making assumptions here, but I would think the key is to use the live-action storylines as a way of expanding on the insanely huge online community of wannabe Spartans and Covenants, which probably means the Master Chief (or at least the version we're used to) will only show up sparingly. If you're a fan of Halo and buy the Xbox One, why wouldn't you watch this?

Added bonus: MSN is looking to revive Heroes for Xbox Live. Would the main cast come back? I'm betting not, since the cheerleader stars in Nashville and another is Spock nowadays.

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