Depiction of Grendel’s mother by artist J. R. Skelton in “Stories of Beowulf,” 1908

Then in wrath Beowulf threw the shining blade upon the ground. He would trust no more in weapons but with his hands alone would he fight.

Seizing the Water Witch by the shoulders, he dragged her downwards. But she grappled with him fiercely. Then was there a fearful fight in that dim hall, deep under the water, far from all hope of help.

Back and forth the two swayed, the strong warrior in armour and the direful Water Witch. So strong was she that at last she bore him to the ground and kneeled upon his breast. She drew her dagger. Now she would avenge her son, her only son.

— Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall



A short review of “Brightburn” (2019)

For all of its promise, “Brightburn” (2019) is the kind of movie that you can wait to rent from Redbox, rather than paying for a theater ticket.  It isn’t a bad movie, exactly — I’d rate it a 7 out of 10, due to its admittedly great premise and some nice visuals.  But you can wait for the DVD for two reasons:

  1.  The film does little with its wicked-cool premise (what if a super-powered child like Clark Kent became a homicidal bad guy?).  After walking the viewer through a horror-movie version of Superman’s origin story, the movie does almost nothing to expand on the idea.
  2. If you’ve already seen the trailer for “Brightburn,” then you’ve already seen most of the important parts.  Seriously — this is another instance where a movie’s trailer reveals too much, and shows you virtually the entire story.  I can’t see spending the ticket price to see what you might feel is mostly filler.

One of the more interesting things about “Brightburn” is its story concept, which is borrowed wholesale, of course, from DC Comics — apparently without any agreement with the company.  I’m no expert on intellectual property rights, but … isn’t that kind of a big deal?  Why is nobody commenting about it?  This is essentially an unauthorized “Elseworlds” tale.  (For those who don’t read comics, “Elseworlds” was an official DC imprint series where its characters were re-imagined in “what-if” scenarios, unconnected with the “real” DC universe’s continuity.  What if Superman landed in the jungle as a baby and was raised by animals?  What if he landed in Soviet Russia?  What if he were found by Thomas and Martha Wayne, whose subsequent murder motivated his emergence as Batman?)  

To make matters even more interesting, I’m willing to bet that some people will like “Brightburn” better than a few of the official Superman movies, especially 2016’s head-scratching “Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice.”

The filmmakers appear to making no effort to lampshade the intentional similarities, even in the movie’s marketing.  (Even the boy villain’s “logo” in the story is like a twisted cubist remix of Superman’s logo.)  I suppose if they claimed that “Brightburn” was a deliberate parody of the Superman mythos (and you could kinda view it that way), then it seems acceptable as satire.



Throwback Thursday: “Wizards and Warriors” (1983)!

I suppose that “Wizards and Warriors” was what passed for “Game of Thrones” in 1983.  Except it was cheesy as hell (which of course meant that I loved it as a fourth grader), and it didn’t last longer than eight episodes.

It was CBS’ mid-season replacement for my beloved “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” (the Bruce Boxleitner retro adventure series that I’ve written about here previously), which was cancelled due to low ratings.  “Wizards and Warriors” ran in its 8 PM time slot, and then itself was cancelled due to low ratings, so it never saw a second season.  (I believe both shows were competing with NBC’s ratings juggernaut, “The A-Team,” which every kid in the world loved except me.  I was weird.)

“Wizards and Warriors” was really just an obvious effort to capitalize on the popularity of the “Dungeons & Dragons” role-playing game.  The show was campy stuff.  The pilot episode, which you can watch in its entirety over at dailymotion, was entitled “The Unicorn of Death.”  It dealt with a time-bomb hidden inside a princess’ birthday present, which strikes me as a pretty surprising plot for a sword-and-sorcery program.

It had a cast that went on to better things, though.  One was Julia Duffy, of “Newheart” (1982-1990) fame.  Another was “Grease” (1978) veteran Jeff Conaway, who most 80’s kids will remember from “Taxi” (1978-1983).  The dastardly villain of “Wizards and Warriors” was played by the terrific character actor Duncan Regehr, a “that guy” actor who popped up in a lot of genre roles in the 80’s and 90’s.  Here’s the thing about Regehr — I want him to be a real-life bad guy.  He’s got an absolutely sly, suave, villainous face and manner — and his name just sounds like a villain’s name.  If he’d left acting to commit a series of high-profile crimes in the real world, that would be wickedly, awesomely meta.