UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, Robert Stack, 1987-

I remember staying up late night watching reruns of Unsolved Mysteries, as host Robert Stack helped tell the stories of, well, REAL mysteries. As they say, truth is much stranger than fiction. And NOW a new generation will get to experience the show, as mega streaming giant Netflix has confirmed that they are indeed looking at a reboot.

But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

There are SO many reboots and relaunches of beloved franchises and content that one could (rightly) assess that maybe Hollywood just doesn’t like to try NEW things. Netflix started streaming the old Unsolved Mysteries back in 2017, and it was clear that there was a great interest in the classic show- so why not just keep showing the classic show?

According to Entertainment Weekly co- creators Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove, are back for the reboot, so that gives some hope that it will be in the same spirit as the original. YET, the description for the reboot says that Netflix will be developing 12 new episodes that “will focus on one mystery and will look to viewers to help aid investigators in closing the book on long outstanding cases.”

Hm.

Does that mean this will be interactive?

I don’t need them to BANDERSNATCH Unsolved Mysteries. For the uninitiated, Bandersnatch is a new interactive film on Netflix that allows the viewers to do a ‘choose your own adventure’ throughout the narrative. It’s fun to a degree, but in my opinion interaction on that level takes away from being able to just sit back and enjoy the story.

Yes, I’m aware the original show’s website allowed viewers to write in with tips, but I don’t think we need it on the actual episodes themselves.

There’s a reason why the classic is doing so well on the platform- because it’s GREAT as is. The old saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and I think that holds true for this show.

I am curious who will be the new host. Stack, may he rest in peace, will be a hard act to follow.

I’m not always for reboots but, if done right, they can breathe new air into a great piece of work. Fingers crossed this reboot does exactly that.

Annabelle1

A group of young orphan girls move into a home of a couple that lost their daughter years ago. Throughout the film we see the development of their bonds and relationships, as the couple and the girls, learn to love again and find out true family can come in many forms… That is the heart of Annabelle: Creation.

OK, no, I’m lying.

Aside from the initial exposition, of a married couple opening up their home to a group of young orphan girls, the similarities to what could have been a modern day Annie ends there. There’s no musical numbers, but there is vintage music playing on old record players in the background, as a demonic doll attempts to steal the souls of the young orphan girls. This brings a whole lot of classic horror fun for viewers who enjoy good quality scares.

Annabelle Creation is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, and the fourth film in The Conjuring film series. For fans of The Conjuring you’ll recognize the creepy doll Annabelle from those films. Annabelle Creation shows us how Annabelle came to be. The story begins as town dollmaker Samuel Mullins and his wife Esther open their home to Sister Charlotte, a nun, and a small group of girls from an orphanage that has been closed. What seems like a blessing to Sister Charlotte, turns into a nightmare, as the dark secret of the Mullins’ comes to light in the form of a demonic doll living in the house.

Some may call the film formalistic and predictable. They may say that the scares are seen a mile away, and the characters all fit the similar horror tropes.

My question to those critics is: So what?

I don’t know about anyone else, but ever since the days of Scream and all it’s copycats, the so-called horror genre had become more of a slasher and gore genre. Nothing wrong with quality slasher films like Scream, and gore like the first SAW, but despite those innovative ways to tell the story of dreadful humans preying on other humans- NOTHING beats a good ghost story or monster flick. In a time when social media and technology has desensitized, or oversensitized, many to everyday tragedies, it’s nice to see films that still play into the mystery of the unknown, the great beyond, and what goes bump in the night.

It’s nice to watch a film that I’m pretty certain won’t find me in a similar situation as the characters in it (I say as I clutch my bible and say my prayers at night). Being able to watch a movie and get lost in the plot, and for a time, distracted from the real world, can be a nice mental vacation- even if I find myself screaming at the screen in momentary fear.

Annabelle: Creation starts off laying the groundwork for the scares, but wastes no more than 20 minutes before the horror gets underway. As I screamed and hollered with each moment in the theater, and the rest of the audience did as well, I was reminded of feeling like I was on a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t last long, but it doesn’t need to, because the short thrill is well worth it.

The cast of characters are quality as well. The young orphan girls all had believable portrayals, while Talitha Bateman shines through as the one girl who Annabelle has taken a special interest in. There’s some moments of sisterhood and solidarity among the girls, that gives the film a bit of heart that can sometimes be missing in horror films. You actually come to care for some of them, which raises the stakes in wanting them to make it out of the house alive.

I give the film bonus points also for having the stellar actor Anthony LaPaglia, of Without a Trace fame, playing the tragic doll maker. I also give the film additional bonus points for having a slightly diverse cast, including Mexican American actress Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte, and the young Black actress, Tayler Buck, as the orphan girl Kate. Annabelle: Creation takes place in the 1950s/1960s, but the filmmakers don’t use that as some sort of misplaced cop out in order to make the film completely devoid of people of color.

The special effects are subtle, as they should be. The CGI isn’t overdone. The scare factor in Annabelle: Creation is owed a large chunk to what the audience can’t see, but only anticipate appearing. It’s a return to fearing what’s in the dark, as oppose to having it all laid out in front of us. Annabelle is no Chucky. You may find that to be a good or bad thing depending on how you like your killer dolls, but I thought the understated, and silent, presence of the creepy looking doll was enough for me.

What New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Pictures has been able to do with The Conjuring film series is bring back good classic horror and monster tale fun. With future spinoff films, The Nun and The Crooked Man, set to come out soon, it’s clear the producers know they’ve got a good thing going.

Is Annabelle: Creation on the level of Shakespeare in writing and character development?

Perhaps not.

Yet, it doesn’t need to be. it is still unique, even if it’s a return to formalistic scary fun. It’s something perhaps we didn’t know we needed in this day and age, until it was presented to us, and I for one, can’t get enough.

Annabelle: Creation opens nationwide August 11.

Domino

If ever there was a prime example to use as a case against comic book “purity,” and the dominance of overzealous fanboys in fandom spaces, the recent reveal of the character Domino for  the upcoming Deadpool movie sequel would be it.  Ryan Reynolds gave fans their first look at Domino today for the highly anticipated film, and the internet went wild. Many were excited, (and rightly so because Zazie Beetz as Domino looks phenomenal) yet, there were some areas of the internet that just were not happy with Domino’s movie-verse look for a “variety” of reasons.

I put variety in quotes because the issues that some of these people took up against the new look had no variety at all. The ones who had issues with Domino mainly didn’t like the fact that she didn’t have super pale white skin, as she’s been known to have in her comic book appearances. Also, some didn’t care for the fact that she has an afro now… go figure.

Now, I’m sure there are some comic book fans who are going to call foul, and say I’m putting race into something where it doesn’t need to be. That they simply want a true interpretation of a character they’ve come to know from their comic book reading. They’ll claim that there’s nothing wrong with wanting her painted white, because plenty of actresses have played in fantasy and had their skin changed to supernatural hues in order to portray a character. Believe me, there were plenty of these people using Zoe Saldana’s Gamora role for reference all over the web today. This is the thing though, read this next line SUPER carefully:

IT’S FANTASY. IT ISN’T REAL, AND CREATORS ARE ALLOWED TO CHANGE CHARACTERIZATIONS IN ORDER TO APPEAL TO BROADER AUDIENCES.

Read the previous line back if you still have issue with what I’m saying here. So called comic book purists can give all the reasoning in the world, but short of “she needs pale white skin in order to have her powers” there is NO REASON she has to be painted white. There is also no reason why she can’t have kinky hair as opposed to straight. There is no reason why she can’t have white skin around her eye, to contrast  with her beautiful brown skin, as opposed to black pigmentation around her eye.

NO REASON AT ALL- except YOUR PREFERENCE.

There’s also the issue with her name. There’s claims that due to ONE of her origin stories (comic books give characters different origin stories all the darn time based on the verse and timeline) that her codename of Domino was given because of her pale white skin and black coloring around her eye. They claim that by changing her skin tone her codename useless.

WRONG.

Domino, also known as Beatrice, also known as Neena (in fact even her original name is shrouded in mystery), can still have the codename with or without pale white skin. Her actual powers deal with luck and making it so events fall into place the way she wants. One can argue that although her white skin may have been one of the reasonings for her codename, one could also say she was given the name due to her luck- luck and probability being heavily associated with the game of Dominos. So no, her codename does not need to be tied to her looks. And even if that were the case, there are such things as black dominos.

Then again, why even go through the back and forth of logic when it comes to how this fantasy story can be changed to how the creators see fit?

That’s not the point.

The point of this is that some people need to come out of their fandom bubbles, and understand what the interpretation of this character means for representation and diversity. That may not be important to some, but for those people who are part of marginalized communities who live in a world where mainstream representation that isn’t tokenism is still ever so slowly making progress, the Domino movie-verse interpretation is a step in the right direction.

To use Zoe Saldana’s Gamora as an example to prove my point, all too often when Black women, or non-white women, are added into fantasy genres, they aren’t allowed to have their NATURAL skin tone. Zoe has had this happen to her twice now (Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy). Paula Patton was green in Warcraft. Lupita Nyong’o was unrecognizable as the yellowish older alien Maz Kanata in Star Wars, and those are just a few recent characters. At times it has been that Black women are either having to paint their skin something other than brown to appear in fantasy movies, or aren’t present at all. There have been some recent strides, but the representation is minuscule in comparison to their white counterparts, who although there have been white actresses painted different colors, there are also a whole ton more who were allowed to have their natural skin as well.

Domino’s skin tone is not a make or break for the character. It just isn’t.

Let it go.

Also, just because Domino has an afro, it does not mean she automatically looks like Misty Knight or Riri Williams.

STOP.

Is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow the equivalent to Jean Grey, since they both have red hair? Or does the “they all look the same now” only apply to Black women? Not all Black women with afros look the same.

Do better, people.

Further, comic book movies and television show interpretations are allowed to switch things up when translating something to screen. Especially if the original stories appeared in times where diversity wasn’t as dominant. These interpretations are allowed to adapt and evolve to their full potential. So yes, this might mean that Iris West isn’t a redhead, or Valkyrie isn’t a blond, but it isn’t the end of the world if they aren’t.

As a community of passionate fans of entertainment, some people could use a real hard introspection as to why certain changes (such as gender and race) of some characters truly bothers them, when most of these changes do nothing to harm the heart of the storyline. Rather they offer inclusion and representation to certain demographics who are greatly under represented.

What’s REALLY bothering you here?

Is it the fact that without Zazie being painted white you have to face the fact that she’s a Black woman?

Don’t worry, it’s all make believe…

Photo credit: Ryan Reynold’s twitter