Dark, alternate universes are nothing new to the comic book genre, but there does always seem to be something exciting about a new, dark, alternate universe featuring your favorite superheroes. That type of Elseworlds thrill is exactly what Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series) and the rest of the cast and crew have crafted with the latest DC Universe Animated Original Movie, Justice League: Gods and Monsters. Featuring an impressively talented cast and completely new takes on the iconic characters of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and many others, Gods and Monsters continues the “winning streak” of quality superhero stories that DC Animated seems destined to deliver.

After hearing about the animated film, Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery, my initial reaction was to wonder how it has taken 40 years for this team-up to happen. One is a group of colorful characters who have been entertaining children of all ages for generations, and the other is a marketing juggernaut that has become one of the most iconic brands around . . . I will let you decide which one is which.

"Hello, my name is Frank. I have Tourette’s.” This is the nametag that Frank (Garrett M. Brown) wears constantly in the film of the same name to explain to strangers why he sporadically bursts into profanity and occasionally barks like a dog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work very well, and he’s still frequently ostracized for something that he can’t help.

How do you find happiness? What do you do about regret? What would you do if you had a chance to change a single mistake in your life? These are some of the questions explored in the quirky and fun Welcome to Happiness, which screened at Dances With Films on Sunday.

I rather enjoyed Echo Lake, which has me a bit worried. The film, which screened at Dances With Films earlier this week, was explained to me as having an unlikable protagonist, and without a happy ending. Well, I rather liked and, furthermore, identified with, the protagonist. And, though the ending isn’t exactly tied up with a ribbon and bows, I found it happy in its own small way, or at least satisfying.

Parallax is the story of a man trying to create the Internet, sort of. Taking place in the 1980s, he uses television sets and radio waves to build a revolutionary, new communications device that will connect everyone to everyone else. In the meantime, he himself becomes more and more isolated, as he withdraws into his obsession with making his dream a reality.

The basic plot synopsis for Actor for Hire, which premiered at Dances With Films this week and was written/directed by Marcus Mizelle, goes something like this: A bald actor, down on his luck and struggling to find work in L.A., buys himself a wig and suddenly finds everything starting to go his way. This is technically accurate, but there’s much more to it than that. Actor for Hire is a funny, real, and often an uncomfortable look at what it takes to make it in the business.

For pretty much anyone who’s reading this, chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve wanted to be a superhero. Having superhuman powers would be amazing, of course, but the appeal is more than that. It’s the confidence they project, the respect they command, and the unflappable nobility that they exude that makes superheroes so cool, and that makes us long to be them.

The FFOW! series takes a look at that vast library created by the proud and the passionate: fan films. Whether the budget and talent is astronomical or amateur, FFOW! celebrates the filmmakers whose love of comics, books, movies, video games, and TV shows inspires them to join the great conversation with their own homemade masterpieces.


Writer/director Hisonni Johnson made a splash in 2013 when he premiered Grayson: Earth One, an online pilot that centered on a gritty version of Nightwing. It asks the question, “What if Dick Grayson was never adopted by Bruce Wayne but, instead, fended for himself on the streets of Gotham and Blüdhaven?” Since then, it has won top prizes at Dragon Con, Phoenix Comic Con, and recently at the GeekFest Film Fest.

Now, there’s Episode -- or, technically, Episode 1.5, since the story is now branching out and finding other Robins in Gotham and what their lives would be like if they never encountered the Batman. So, in honor of the Dynamic Duo, let’s look at both episodes!

Shevenge, an 11-minute film which screened at the Dances With Films festival on Saturday evening, is the tale of three women and the men who wronged them. Each of them spins an elaborate revenge fantasy, which the three of them proceed to act out in their collective imaginations.

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