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THE THING: INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31 Board Game

TheThing-3dbt-_cropped_1024x1024Mondo Tees has announced the THE THING ™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, their very first board game in collaboration with USAopoly’s designer games division, Project Raygun. The regular version of the game will be in stores and online nationwide this October, and a limited edition Mondo exclusive version will be available at MondoTees.com.

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An alien lifeform has infiltrated a bleak and desolate Antarctic research station assimilating other organisms and then imitating them. In the hidden identity game THE THING ™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, you will relive John Carpenter’s sci-fi cult classic in a race to discover who among the team has been infected by this heinous lifeform.

TheThing-GB_1024x1024The game has been designed to be as authentically cinematic as possible, ensuring that the players will experience the paranoia and tension that makes the film so great.

“Mondo brought more than their storied design acumen to the table,” said Joe Van Wetering, Creative Design and Game Development at Project Raygun. “Thanks to their deep understanding and reverence for THE THING, they helped define the tone and shape the game play itself. INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31 reflects a true collaboration between our two brands resulting in a game that will excite table top and film aficionados alike.”

The regular version of the game features artwork and designs by Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative. The Mondo exclusive version, sold exclusively through MondoTees.com, is limited to 1,982 copies, and features different packaging artwork by Jock. The limited edition game will also come with a Mondo print, enamel pin and two additional sculpted movers: the Norwegian character and the Palmer Thing.

Commenting on the design, artist Justin Erickson said, “with THE THING box art, I wanted to focus on the isolation of Outpost 31 and hint at the hidden alien dangers that lurk around every corner. The title of the game cut out of the ice/snow is a call back to the Thing originally being cut out of the ice by the Norwegians.”

TheThing-GBtop_1024x1024The Thing™ Infection at Outpost 31 Gameplay
It is the start of the bleak, desolate Antarctic winter when a group of NSF researchers manning the claustrophobic, isolated U.S. Outpost 31 comes into contact with a hostile extra-terrestrial lifeform. Bent on assimilating Earth’s native species, this being infiltrates the facility—creating a perfect imitation of one of the Outpost 31 crew. The staff frantically begin a sweep of the base, desperate to purge this alien infection before escaping to warn McMurdo Station that somewhere, out there in the frigid darkness, something horrible is waiting.

In THE THING™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, relive John Carpenter’s sci-fi cult classic as a hidden identity game designed to push you to the edge. Play as one of a dozen characters like helicopter pilot MacReady, mechanic Childs, or station manager Garry. Face sabotage and infection as you investigate the facility—gather gear, battle The Thing, expose any imitations among you, and escape Outpost 31!

Jonathan Demme R.I.P

Jonathan_DemmeJonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who observed emphatically American characters with a discerning eye, a social conscience and a rock ’n’ roll heart, achieving especially wide acclaim with The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 73.

His publicist, Leslee Dart, confirmed the death. Mr. Demme disclosed that he had cancer in 2015.

Mob wives, CB radio buffs and AIDS victims; Hannibal Lecter, Howard Hughes and Jimmy Carter: Mr Demme (pronounced DEM-ee) plucked his subjects and stories largely from the stew of contemporary American subcultures and iconography. He created a body of work — including fiction films and documentaries, dramas and comedies, original scripts, adaptations and remakes — that resists easy characterization.

Robert Jonathan Demme was born on Long Island, in Baldwin, on Feb. 22, 1944, and grew up mostly in nearby Rockville Centre, where he listened to music and went to the movies.

The family moved to Miami, where Jonathan went to high school and worked in a kennel and an animal hospital. Wanting to be a veterinarian, he attended the University of Florida with that in mind until he failed chemistry, at which point he went to the university newspaper, discovered it had no movie critic, and assumed the job himself, he said, so that he could get into movies free.

It happened that Mr. Levine was on vacation in Miami Beach, staying at the Fontainebleau Hotel, where he had become acquainted with the hotel’s publicist, Robert Demme. The elder Demme introduced Mr. Levine to his son, whose review of Zulu impressed him. Mr. Levine offered him a job.

A personable man with the curiosity gene and the what-comes-next instinct of someone who likes to both hear and tell stories, Demme had a good one of his own, a Mr. Deeds kind of tale in which he wandered into good fortune and took advantage of it. A former movie publicist, he had an apprenticeship in low-budget B-movies with the producer Roger Corman before turning director.

In 1971, he took a job as a unit publicist in Ireland for a Roger Corman film, Von Richthofen and Brown, about a German flying ace. Shortly after that, he began making films of his own for Corman’s production company. He wrote (with Joe Viola) and produced a biker film, Angels Hard as They Come, and wrote and directed a handful of others, including Caged Heat (1974), a heavy-breathing women’s prison movie, and Crazy Mama (1975), a campy road story with a ’50s rock score that starred Ann Sothern and Cloris Leachman as mother-and-daughter outlaws.

Demme then became known early in his career for quirky social satires that led critics to compare him to Preston Sturges. They included Handle With Care (1977), originally titled Citizens Band, and Melvin and Howard (1980), a tale inspired by true events.

“Music was my first love, movies came second,” Demme once told the New York newspaper The SoHo News. In a 1988 interview with Premiere magazine, he said: “I grew up with rock ’n’ roll — literally,” adding, “The first rock song I remember was ‘Sh-Boom,’ and since then I’ve never stopped obsessing on at least something.”

“I can’t think of any other director who is so instinctively and democratically interested in everybody he shows you,” Kael wrote.

David Byrne of Talking Heads Demme worked together frequently, notably on Stop Making Sense, a 1984 concert film about Talking Heads that many critics (and filmgoers) found mesmerizing, though it had few filmic bells and whistles. (Demme preferred to call it a “performance film” because, he said, it wasn’t about the concert experience — he didn’t show the audience until the end.)

Mr. Byrne also scored Demme’s Married to the Mob, a gaudy 1988 farce in which Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wife of a Long Island gangster (Alec Baldwin) who tries to exit the mob life after her husband is bumped off when he dallies with the girlfriend of the local boss (Dean Stockwell). Things get especially dicey when she moves with her young son into a shabby Manhattan apartment and strikes up a romance with an F.B.I. agent (Matthew Modine) who has her under surveillance.

Later, as a known commodity, Mr. Demme directed prestige Hollywood projects like Beloved (1998), an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel about the lingering, post-Civil War psychological horror of slavery, with Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover in starring roles, and The Manchurian Candidate (2004), a remake of the 1962 Cold War drama of the same title about a brainwashed American prisoner of war. Mr. Demme’s updated version, starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep and Liev Schreiber, takes place during the Persian Gulf war.

Demme may be best remembered for two films from the 1990s that were, at the time, his career’s biggest anomalies. The first, The Silence of the Lambs (1991), was a vivid thriller based on the novel by Thomas Harris that earned five Oscars, including best picture and best director. Unlike his previous films, with their mischievous pleasure and tender melancholy, this was straightforward and serious storytelling with only a few moments of shivery humor.

The story is told largely from the perspective of an F.B.I. trainee who becomes a key figure in the pursuit of a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill when she is assigned to conduct a prison interview with Hannibal Lecter, a mad and murderous psychiatrist, hoping to extract from him clues to Bill’s identity.

Demme’s next narrative venture, Philadelphia (1993), brought to the fore a strain of advocacy that was otherwise evident in his documentaries about Haiti; former President Jimmy Carter; New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; and his cousin Robert W. Castle, a white activist priest in Harlem.

It was the first big-budget Hollywood film about AIDS, and with its forthright depiction of homosexuality, homophobia and the disease that was rampaging through gay communities, it was a turning point in the way mainstream movies treated gay men and lesbians, who had previously been handled with hush-hush delicacy or flamboyant caricature. Mr. Hanks won an Oscar, and so did Bruce Springsteen, for the song that introduces the film, “Streets of Philadelphia.”

His publicist Annalee Paulo said Demme’s funeral would be private and that in lieu of flowers, the family had asked that donations be made to the group Americans For Immigrant Justice in Miami.

The Walking Dead Malaise

TWD_S7Great article from Vanity Fair about the storytelling malaise that is growing at a similar rate to which the ratings are plummeting (still the biggest show on cable) on The Walking Dead… 

It’s no secret that the critical tide has largely turned on AMC’s zombie series The Walking Dead. Though it’s still a ratings giant, the show saw major viewership atrophy in its seventh season as a result of eroding goodwill, thanks to its tendency to employ death fake-outs and gruesome cliff-hangers—not to mention 16 episodes that felt directionless at best. Can The Walking Dead be saved and returned to its glory days? Or should it be allowed (like Game of Thrones) to bow out gracefully despite the still-high viewing numbers? A new interview with executive producer Greg Nicotero indicates that if the show can be saved, the first step will be admitting it has a problem.

Though Robert Kirkman’s comic books have found a way to squeeze a continuous story out of Rick Grimes and his embattled band of zombie survivalists, it’s clear that at 99 episodes, The Walking Dead is unsure of how to keep a story about the undead, well, lively. A show that once got major juice from jump scares, dazzling set pieces, and bumping off major characters will, of course, naturally run the risk of audience fatigue.

But the real problem The Walking Dead faces is a major misconception that Nicotero (and presumably others) have—that the way to solve audience fatigue is to turn their attention to the dead, rather than the living. “After seven years of making sure the audience does not get fatigued and goes on this journey with us, it’s pretty important,” Nicotero said in a recent interview with the Empire podcast, referring to the show’s experimentation with special effects. He added that his team has “been able to express ourselves more powerfully visually”—by, say, adding a tiger in Season 7. But visual spectacle alone does not make good television if the human drama can’t keep up.

Nicotero went on to say that he and show-runner Scott Gimple tried to keep their effects experimentations tied to the plot—but throughout Season 7, it often felt like the undead tail was wagging the dog. Nicotero explains:

Scott will come up with some ideas and he’ll immediately reach out and say, “I have this idea for this art installation-type zombies” The walkers who were in the Oceanside episode with Tara who were in the sandpile. We really wanted them to look different. The idea that they were buried under the sand and desiccated and lacking any sort of moisture. It’s really good after seven years to – it’s a constant thing.    

Walker - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Oceanside creatures, though, are a perfect example of a plot that felt invented just so Gimple and Nicotero could test the extremes of prosthetic barnacles. Tara’s detour to Oceanside in all its grisly, water-logged glory is given much more time and weight than, say, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment later in the season where she finds out that her girlfriend, Denise, died while she was away.

The same goes for the other (admittedly impressive) Season 7 set pieces Nicotero mentions with pride. Whether it’s Michonne and Rick cutting down a freeway full of zombies, or the weaponized battle zombies that menaced our heroes in the back half of the season, Nicotero points out that the show has “to remind the audience every once and awhile that the world is dead.” But not at the expense of the living.

The desire to go home on these set pieces may explain why some of the more important character-driven action of the season was sidelined. Nicotero himself mentions budgetary concerns, while over on Vox Aja Romano distilled the issue like this:

I realize a lot of that sidelining might be down to budget concerns — it’s understandable that it might not have been in the production budget to show Sasha full-scale blitzing Negan’s compound, for example — but I’ve been continually baffled that the Walking Dead writers can’t find any other way to take us on these journeys than by telling us after the fact that they happened.

Many of the most portentous plot points that have happened this half-season, like Sherry freeing Daryl and escaping herself, or Ezekiel finally deciding to join the Alexandrians, or Sasha’s suicide run, have been narrated by the characters afterward when they could have made for compelling moments of drama if actually depicted. The show’s handling of them has contributed to the overall feeling of ambivalence and lethargy.

In other words, you can’t make a satisfying series out of listless human drama that’s occasionally punctuated by visually experimental zombie action. And you certainly shouldn’t spend an entire season building up to a battle everyone knows is coming, only to ultimately defer it to Season 8. You’d think the show had learned its lesson about the dangers of delaying satisfaction by now.

But what’s to be done, really? The Walking Dead is still one of TV’s most popular series, meaning that this hollowed-out version of the original show is still working for plenty of people. And those ratings imply that even if the creators themselves thought it was time for Rick and the rest to hang up their hats, the show would almost certainly keep shuffling along. Will The Walking Dead learn its lesson in Season 8, and turn its focus back to the characters that once made the show’s grisly premise work? It seems unlikely. Instead, we may continue to see this reanimated version of a once-lively thing shuffle and groan its way onto the Sunday-night schedule for several more years to come.

Bernie Wrightson R.I.P

It was just over a month ago that Liz Wrightson announced that her husband, legendary artist Bernie Wrightson was retiring. Liz confirmed on Sunday that after a long battle with cancer, Bernie has passed away. Here is the full transcript from Liz. My condolences to the Wrightson family, Rest in Peace Bernie.

A Message from Liz Wrightson.

After a long battle with brain cancer, legendary artist Bernie Wrightson has passed away.

Bernie “Berni” Wrightson (born October 27, 1948, Baltimore, Maryland, USA) was an American artist known for his horror illustrations and comic books. He received training in art from reading comics, particularly those of EC, as well as through a correspondence course from the Famous Artists School. In 1966, Wrightson began working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper as an illustrator. The following year, after meeting artist Frank Frazetta at a comic-book convention in New York City, he was inspired to produce his own stories. In 1968, he showed copies of his sequential art to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano and was given a freelance assignment. Wrightson began spelling his name “Berni” in his professional work to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver named Bernie Wrightson, but later restored the final E to his name.

His first professional comic work appeared in House of Mystery #179 in 1968. He continued to work on a variety of mystery and anthology titles for both DC and its principal rival, Marvel Comics. In 1971, with writer Len Wein, Wrightson co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing for DC. He also co-created Destiny, later to become famous in the work of Neil Gaiman. By 1974 he had left DC to work at Warren Publishing who were publishing black-and-white horror-comics magazines. There he produced a series of original work as well as adaptations of stories by H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. In 1975, Wrightson joined with fellow artists Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith to form “The Studio,” a shared loft in Manhattan where the group would pursue creative products outside the constraints of comic book commercialism. Though he continued to produce sequential art, Wrightson at this time began producing artwork for numerous posters, prints, calendars, and coloring books.

Wrightson spent seven years drawing approximately 50 detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which the artist considers among his most personal work. Wrightson drew the poster for the Stephen King-penned horror film Creepshow, as well as illustrating the comic book adaptation of the film. This led to several other collaborations with King, including illustrations for the novella “Cycle of the Werewolf,” the restored edition of King’s apocalyptic horror epic, “The Stand,” and art for the hardcover editions of “From a Buick 8” and “Dark Tower V.” Wrightson has contributed album covers for a number of bands, including Meat Loaf. The “Captain Sternn” segment of the animated film Heavy Metal is based on the character created by Wrightson for his award-winning short comic series of the same name.

Characters he worked on included Spiderman, Batman and The Punisher, and he provided painted covers for the DC comics Nevermore and Toe Tags, among many others. Recent works include Frankenstein Alive Alive, Dead She Said , the Ghoul and Doc Macabre (IDW Publishing) all co-created with esteemed horror author Steve Niles, and several print/poster/sketchbooks series produced by Nakatomi.

As a conceptual artist, Bernie worked on many movies, particularly in the horror genre: well-known films include Ghostbusters, The Faculty, Galaxy Quest, Spiderman, and George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and Frank Darabont’s Stephen King film The Mist.

Bernie lived in Austin, Texas with his wife Liz and two corgis – Mortimer and Maximillian. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, John and Jeffrey, one stepson, Thomas Adamson, and countless friends and fans. A celebration of his life is planned for later this year.

Brimstone

Wrongly accused of a crime she didn’t commit, a frontier woman turned fugitive is hunted by a vengeful preacher in the menacing inferno of the old American West.

At 149 minutes long, Dutch director Martin Koolhoven’s (Winter in Wartime) first English-language film is a beast—and that’s only where the Biblical references begin. The neo-Western stars Dakota Fanning as Liz, a woman on the run from her reverend stepfather (Guy Pearce), a self-described false prophet, or “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” on the American frontier. It’s a world wrought with dour religiosity, where primal impulses bubble just beneath the surface, and God is evoked as an excuse to stoke the fire.

Divided into Biblical chapters titled “Revelation,” “Exodus,” “Genesis,” and “Retribution,” Brimstone takes us through Liz’s journey in reverse, showing us the brutal abuse she endured at the hands of her Calvinist and chauvinistic stepfather and the twists and turns her life takes as she tries to elude him.

Check out the interview re-posted below with Director Koolhoven conducted by the No Film School website. Discussion surrounds some of the film’s nearly unwatchable scenes, his rigorous process of screenplay revisions, and his successful attempts to maintain creative control on a daring, provocative film. Looks interesting…

No Film School: This is a very dark story told with an exacting vision. Why did you decide Brimstone was a story that needed to be told?

Martin Koolhoven: The last movie I did was quite successful, and it sold very well across the world, especially in Holland. Of course, Hollywood started calling. They sent scripts and nothing that they sent I found interesting. So at some point, somebody said, “You know, Martin, what would you want to do?” And I joked, I said, “You know, I would like to do a Western.” This was before Tarantino had even announced Django Unchained. It was completely dead, Westerns. And, sort of jokingly, I said, “Westerns.” And then I started thinking, “Why not?”

Koolhoven: So I decided to started writing one, and then I started thinking, What is it actually that I’m interested in here? Why is it such an interesting genre? There’s this almost boyish quality to it, this adventure and artistic idea of freedom. But then, as I was thinking that, I thought, that’s a very macho approach. It’s only a half-truth because for women, Westerns are not actually about freedom all. I had just read a book called In the Rogue Blood by James Carlos Blake about two brothers, and at some point, the sister runs away and they say, “Okay, what are her options? Either she’s going to marry someone or she’s going to be a prostitute.” And that sort of hit me. I realized that that side of the story is never really told. There’s not a lot of movies about that. Actually, none at all. Then I thought there has to be a movie from that point of view.

I was intimidated by the fact that some of my favorite movies are Westerns. I said, “How am I going to do something that is original and has a place?” And I thought the only way was to make it personal and to use my culture and heritage. I come from Holland and, of course, a lot of the settlers were Dutch. The Calvinistic belief is something that has had a very strong impact on our culture. Some people at the time thought it wasn’t strict enough anymore in Holland, so they went to America to start a purer form of Christianity. That’s something I had never seen in movies. I was brought up Protestant, so that’s something that I could relate to. It was like a hybrid between American culture and Dutch culture. The female angle of this whole religious thing is where Brimstone sprouted from.

NFS: It’s a very strong script, especially in terms of intentionality; every piece of dialogue serves a function. Can you tell me about the writing process?

Koolhoven: I had never done an international movie; I had only done Dutch movies. The reason I got access to people like Dakota Fanning and Guy Pearce and Kit Harington was the script. The moment we put the script on the desks of all the agents, they started calling us. “Could he or she be in the movie?” If you have a strong script, that’s where everything comes from.

When you’re writing, don’t be afraid of ambition; you have to be as ambitious as you can be. Making a good movie starts with really, really wanting to make a good movie. Do not accept mediocrity, even from yourself. You have to raise the bar. You have to be very tough on yourself.

If you have a good first draft, get people in to read it who you think are very good. I got authors that I thought were very good and I got them to read the script. I put them [in a room] when I was not there, and I put somebody who I know I in with them so that they could be as tough as they wanted. They’re always going to be polite if you’re there. I let them discuss and see what interesting stuff [came] up. Then the person who was there reported to me. So if you have a new draft, get other people in and listen to them.

Of course, on the other end, you have to be stubborn enough to not listen to everything. But you have very honest. Very often, you [already] know what the problems are in a script.

NFS: Once you had the script, how did you cobble together financing? 

Koolhoven: We didn’t get any money from Hollywood. It was financed in Europe. I did get American talent, so we did have to deal with Hollywood agents and all that. But we chose to have financing in England, in Holland, in Germany, in France, in Sweden. It’s a lot of countries combined. In the end, I think there were more than 35 different financiers on this movie, which is hell for a producer because you have to juggle all those balls in the air and have them all be happy.

I knew it was going to be a controversial movie. It has a lot of powerful stuff: it talks about religious fanaticism and combines it with violence and sex. So that’s a very dangerous cocktail. We knew that this is something that you have to keep control of—you have to have the final cut. Otherwise, they’ll take it out of your hands and you’re not going to make the movie that you want.

NFS: Can you remember any specific instances where you were fighting for creative control?

Koolhoven: Well, I knew in advance that it was going to be a long movie. That’s not something that a lot of distributors and money people like. I knew that if I had no control, they would want to make it shorter.

The other thing is that, of course, there are controversial scenes in it. Nowadays Hollywood actually uses a lot of violence, but it is very often comical. I wanted it [to be real] because the movie is about the consequences of violence and the poisonous role that it has in the world and in life. So there are some scenes that are very uncomfortable, and that’s what I was striving for. I wanted to portray violence not necessarily in a cool way.

People get scared of that. People are very often afraid of demanding things from their audience. And this is a movie that is, at some points, quite demanding. There are some tough scenes in there that need to be told for the story. If you only go to the movies to have a laugh, then you’re not going to have a good time with this movie.

NFS: How did you approach shooting some of those uncomfortable and demanding scenes?

Koolhoven: There’s a misconception nowadays, especially with the interpretation of method acting, that the toughest scenes to watch are also the toughest scenes to shoot. That’s not necessarily so. If there’s a very tough scene, everybody always comes in very prepared and knows that this is going to be a difficult scene. Somehow, these scenes are very often the ones that are not the hardest things to do. It’s often scenes you don’t expect that are difficult from a technical point of view.

NFS: The film’s imagery is a bit different than what you might expect from a Western—it’s more poetic, more like a painting. How did you communicate your vision?

Koolhoven: I knew I wanted it to be a very visual movie and I knew that I wanted strong images. It’s something that’s conscious and thought about.

I communicate that by any means necessary. I use music, I use paintings. I have a bible where I put everything. As you are writing, you do a lot of research. There’s a lot of stuff that you go and check out, whether it’s on the internet or in books, so I put that all into a document that I felt was relevant for my crew. It had a lot of imagery in it. By the time we went into production, it was a “bible.”

NFS: Can you remember any other specific challenges, in terms of production, and how you overcame those challenges?

Koolhoven: We shot this movie for… I think, in dollars, it would be about 15 million or so. If I had done this in America, it would be, I think, three or four times as much. I was extremely ambitious. I didn’t want to give in. So there were so many challenges. Every day was a long day. We went overtime constantly. There was constant pressure. I felt very strongly about this movie and I wanted it to be exactly the way I had it in my head.

The toughest thing was getting everything that was on the paper to the screen. That was the toughest thing.