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Sci-Fi

Mortal Kombat : Legacy

Dollar

indexI’m a fan of Moral Kombat, indeed I was always more of a MK guy than a Street Fighter person and absolutely love the film with Robin Shoe and Christopher Lambert . With the new movie in theaters this weekend,  I wanted to also revisit some of the old stuff! We’re going to start with this Dollar Tree find.

When I pulled out the MK legacy DVD, I was shocked to see it cut into episodes. I suddenly assumed I was looking at a TV series instead of the movie I expected. Turns out these are actually about 10 minute webisodes that all collect into a sort of feature anthology. Not a terrible idea, so we’ll still treat this as a film.

Part one actually starts off very industrialized, and believe it or not it’s actually a good look for Mortal Kombat. The factory building robots, this heavy foreshadowing for things like Sektor’s head and Kano’s mask. Sonya’s there though, and I’ve got admit, I think I actually like Jeri Ryan in this role even better and I did Bridgette Wilson (the actress in the original film). She’s got a harder edge t her than Wilson, though I think I would’ve preferred her a bit younger, nevertheless Jeri Ryan still pulls off the part.  Michael Jae White as her partner Jax on the other hand, images2kind of strikes me as a bulkier Shemar Moore.

Sonya reports back in that she’s found Kano in the factory, and hearing this, Jax knows she’s gonna go off half cocked and sets off to rescue her. He’s not wrong, in the next scene we see her in a lonely hallway, chained to the ceiling with Kano coming in menacingly. Elsewhere in the factory, Jax and his team arrive in the rescue mission. It’s a good fire fight, not necessarily what you expect from Mortal Kombat but definately well choreographed action.

As the melee  continues between Jax and Kano, Sonja frees herself and we get to explore the complex. Jaxdelivers one mean roundhouse punch to Kano and we pretty much see why he wears a mask now! It ends up when A bomb explodes and we see everybody image4srecuperating how they can.

Our next is Johnny Cage, being hyped up in a sort of reality TV feature documentary. Unlike the original film, where Cage is at the height of his power, this shows him all washed up, unable to make the transition to big budget action films. It’s not his talent that’s in question, it’s his bad behavior off screen, picking fights with random people and getting into trouble with the law. I cringe a little bit when he tells is it agent “I haven’t worked since Power Rangers went off the air”. I hope this isn’t really a swipe at the green ranger Jason David Frank (a great martial artist, nice guy and regular on the con circuit). It might not be, actor Matt Mullins did in fact star in one of the Power Ranger spinoffs, Kamen rider. Either way, they’re honest in thier evaluation of film culture in 2010…The action film is dead, and you can see why he’s having a hard time…except he’s getting stabbed in the back by his agents and they’re pitching his show other people now.

Cage gets into a tussle with security and he takes them reasonably easily because, course hes Johnny Cage!  Suddenly, time stops. A mysteries man walked out of the darkness imagesoffer him a place in the tournament.

I’m reminded again that these are a bunch of separate little vignettes when we transition to the next set which is a combination of animation and live action. It’s the story of Outworld and Sho Kahn’s rise to power, with his General Baraka. But it’s really the story of Princess Kitana , Princess Mylena and Queen Sindel.

The combination of animation and live action is bizarre, jarring in places. I was wondering if they went this route because they didn’t have enough footage shot. Either _50161575_006680143-1way though the character development is marvelous, far greater than anything we’ve seen before and generally more than the subject matter deserves. They really lean into the Game of Thrones fantasy aspects and it works.

Raiden’s story fast forwards us back to the present, here on earth and see him in a mental facility. It’s a strange take on the character and continuity.

Using a taser on Raiden is probably the worst idea ever.

bfc37acfd4740383b514d6fe8612d10cUltimately, he has to transcend his human form and release the god within. Of all these segments, it’s probably the most out of place, and were I watching just a film, I would have assumed it was added to fill time rather than as a passion project for the director, Kevin Tancharoen.

It doesn’t matter that much though, because the next section is what I’ve been waiting for. Subzero and Scorpion! We get an interesting origin for our two archetypal ninjas. It feels like a snowy ninja movie, and the first time those familiar robes are unveiled, sent a shiver down my spine. It’s a well done piece of homage to the kung fu films that Mortal Kombat draws it’s inspiration from. We have ninja clans and  a dead shogun and a index2generational grudge and it’s beautiful.

Traditionally, we’ve spent more time following Sub Zero, but this time Scorpion is the star, and it’s really fascinating to explore how he became this kind of ghost, why he’s filled with vengence and why he’s back. It sets up the grudge match in the tournament perfectly.

We end the series with the robots, and interesting concepts where a particular clan has trained and brainwashed assassins for generations now turning towards cybernetics. Assasins are transitioned from humans and rebuilt into robots. It’s definitely a the index3section with the most body horror, but I do come I feel like I know a lot more about Sektor and Cyrax, and it brings the story full circle as we can see that this is what Kano’s factory was working on at the beginning.

Mortal Kombat and example of a dollar store find that isn’t at all what I expected it to be but still a nice hidden gem. Wish I’d had this movie 20 years ago at the height of my fandom, but I’d still be content to pop this in and watch it as a prequel anytime before I dig into the classic film. I recommend. Good action and good sci fi.


Roller Blade

Movie banner10367582_872180892826335_755174026719423114_nIt’s that time of year again, when Cleveland Cinemas smacks us about the head with the celluloid equivalent of a brick wrapped around a slice of lemon. I’m a fan of bad movies, a regular attendee at Cinema Wasteland, and a member in good standing of Cinemageddon. Yet somehow, David Huffman still consistently pulls out the most bizarre movie gems that were never on my radar.

imagesThis year, the Cedar Lee theater screened “Roller Blade”… a film that makes “Shredder Orpheus” look like “Gone with the Wind”. Don’t be deceived, there are no actual rollerblades in this film, 1986 was a little early for that. What we do have are roller skates, and butterfly knives tucked in by the heels – thus categorizing them as “roller” blades.

Set in the dystopian post apocalyptic near future that was so popular in the 80s, we’re introduced vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h59m17s667to our three main factions. For starters, there’s the madman at the acid plant (or is he a puppet? Or is he just wearing a puppet? It took me most of the film to finally come to the conclusion that Santos evil twin was somehow kind of conjoined to an evil mutant. It kind of looks like somebody glued up an old Boglin head onto a baby doll and then spray painted the whole thing brown). On the other side there is a convent full of Nuns in KKK robes – but colored red and blue to make things more confusing. They’re called the Cosmic Order of Roller Blade, and led by Mother Speed. They ally with the local Marshall… Though I can’t tell who was actually in charge. Sometimes he seems to have authority over them, and other times they seem to be vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h54m46s860calling the shots (After doing some research, it appears he was meant to be there protecting their monastery). There are also homeless people on roller skates pushing shopping carts, and punks who demonstrate how anti-establishment they are by riding skateboards instead of roller skates.

After a lengthy introductions in the first act, the action starts with a blonde in spandex stabbing a dude on the sidewalk because he was foolish enough to go outside without roller skates. She is apparently doing a job for the mutant in the acid plant -work for hire mercenary stuff. When she demands batteries for her walkman he tells her to go vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h02m52s261infiltrate the convent so that she can steal their crystal McGuffin. It’s not clear what it does other then turning the Nun’s butterfly knives into magic healing wands, but they suggest that humanity will end if it falls into the wrong hands. The blonde lets herself get roughed up by the punks so that she can prey upon the mercy of the nuns and steal their power crystal. In the meantime the acid mutant and Santos evil twin kidnap the marshall’s son because, reasons.

The third act explodes in a climatic battle where Santo’s evil twin uses the crystal to power a sled on wheels across the chasm in an attempt to escape to “Meccho” while the nun and the Marshall look on. They realize the crystal wasn’t that important, and salvation is actually in the human heart.vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h01m21s801

 

vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h59m32s692Don’t let that semi-coherent description fool you. This thing is all over the place. I was encouraged to see the New World logo come up in the beginning. Corman films are usually bad, but fun. Nowhere however, does Corman’s name show up here (Fred Olen Ray’s does though. I assume they abducted his kid to get this thing made). I find myself wondering if they just distributed the movie rather than actually producing it. I suppose it may have been filmed on some of their leftover sets, but it lack the professional panache that you get as a bare minimum from a Corman studio flick. I think that’s a professional grade vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h56m28s884camera shooting this – the state of consumer electronics in 1986 would have this looking more like Chester Turner’s “Black Devil Doll from Hell” or “Tales frm the Quaddead Zone” filmed around the same time. But they must have spent too much money on the camera because they obviously couldn’t afford sound equipment. This entire thing is sloppily overdubbed – and they knew it when they were filming. Every other shot outside the studio sets involves characters talking into large walkie talkies, strategically placed in front of their mouth so you can’t see their lips move in contrast to the dub. Two exposition scenes have been zoomed into and cropped just above the actors mouths. Entire conversations occur vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h00m56s931without seeing any lips move. Occasionally grunts are inserted to cover long shots with mouths working. Even the mutant hand puppet can’t synch his mouth with the lines he speaks.

The dialogue that is used doesn’t help any. There was a moment when shopping cart guy dies for the first time (Yes, I said “First”, as in multiple times) and the overdub gets really hollow as he says “Ow! (not the sound, he says the word)What did I do to deserve this?”. In other scenes, the King James English comes off a particularly distracting. “Hold! Skate not from this place! Word has come that little Chris has been taken!” At one point I turned to Johnny Crayfish next to me and asked “I’m really hearing this right? This is the ACTUAL dialogue they chose and not just a parody right?” He shrugged and shook his head.

vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h58m21s723After 88 minuets, the credits rolled. The final title card reads “Watch for Roller Blade 2 : Holy Thunder”

You’re kidding, right?

I turned to the back of the theater where the film programmer was standing, bewilderment on my face .
“Does that actually exist?”
He nodded. My buddy Mark spun around and shouted “DOUBLE FEATURE!”.
“Not tonight,” Dave wisely declined this demand. “I can’t believe you guys all stayed through the entire credits!”

I discovered that in fact, not only does a sequel exist – there’s actually FIVE movies in this series (Six if you count the remixed and re-released version of The Roller Blade Seven. Seven if you count the documentary on the unmade Roller Blade 3).

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I need to know more. Expect a new Franchise Focus coming next year.

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Yuri’s Night 2018

28056232_1968447723169705_6442038820830732349_n2According to Wikipedia; Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held every April 12 to commemorate milestones in space exploration. Yuri’s Night is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In Cleveland, we hold it at the Great Lakes Science Center.

Man. That sounds like an awfully stuffy affair doesn’t it? Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yuri’s night kicks off with the VIP arty at 6:30, in a roped off area serves amazing food from Cleveland’s most innovative restaurants. New York style pizza with prosciutto, soft tacos made from an amazing seasoned pork. Sandwiches and salads, a deconstructed sushi-like dish with mango and peppers. Strange margaritas in plastic cups and an open bar. And even here in the VIP, I found myself surrounded by sci-fi costumes. Some elaborate Star wars or giant astronauts, and some as simple as funny hats. There was even one person dressed as Stitch, complet with two extra arms wired to her real forearms. Cosplay is so pervasive at this event that a sign over at the Melt table (where they were hocking their take on oatmeal creams) read “If your outfit isn’n’t sci-fi related, you must give us your best Chewbacca impression before taking a cookie”.

The rest of the science center and it’s exhibits are available as well, but the halls felt eerily empty the first hour until the general admission began to trickle in. At one table, a 1young lady in a funny outfit served up cheese balls that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen. You have to keep the ball moving in your mouth or it’ll stick to your tongue (like Schwartz and the lampost in A Christmas Story). You breath steam out of your nose and mouth while you eat it. The taste is like a cheetos flavored snowball.

In one section, science demonstrations go on with bottle rockets, while further down there was a photo booth just around the corner from the main stage where they alternated between a band and a DJ. The lower area really starts to fill up the later the evening goes. Around ten, the floor was packed and I wandered down. I always say it’s 33043218_1936560823054998_7239210404390371328_nnot a party until the lightsabers come out, and I immediately found myself by a dark Jedi with two red lightsabers. Old Skool Cleveland pumped out cover songs and when they kicked off Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, we were all in full swing dancing. For a moment I lost myself.

Sometimes that’s easier in a costume. I pulled out my Borg suit for t he first time in a couple years. There’s not a lot of places for me to wear this, but it was right at home there at Yuri’s night. From the Balcony I spotted some friends coming in with a Xenomorph egg in tow and a chestburster popping out. I ran into Ghostbuster friends in thier spaceball costumes – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t recognize them until they grabbed me to say 33164936_10214174223183756_7349358770591367168_nhello! I screamed my lungs out for the I Dream of Jeannie team during the costume contest, and wandered around the science center like any curious Borg would – a drink constantly in my metal prosthetic claw.

I missed my chance to come out last year and now I really regret that. This may have been the best party I’ve been to in years, and as the night drew on I never even noticed the time fly by. It’s been ages since I’d been to the Great Lakes Science Center (Certianly before I was married) and I can’t think of a more fun way to renew my acquaintance with this particular attraction. I’m already thinking of my costume for the next Yuri’s night next year and I can’t wait.


ConCoction 2017

As the storm whipped the snow around the building outside, the Eternian man-at-arms made his way past the pool and into the gloomy cavernous lobby of the hotel – a small ghost floated by his shoulder and he found himself following the green Dalek down the hall. No one batted an eye. After all, this is ConCoction.

As it neared the piles of records and old videotapes guarded by a sign that simply read “free” the Dalek found itself stuck and unable to proceed. His companion asked “what’s wrong Skarino? ”

“Stuck!  Un-able to pro-ceeeeed!”

“What’s the matter?”, his companion queried.

“Carrrr-pet! Carrrrr-pet! ”

Dalek Skarino was given a friendly shove, freeing him from the snag and proceeded to make his way down the hall towards the opening ceremonies. Dalek Skarino is one of the hosts at ConCoction, usually found in the ConSuite (a lounge area with food, drink and books available to relax with) or hosting improv games like the Doctor Whose Line Is It Anyway? (which would occur the next day).  This year he was joined by Vladimir Snape, a Alan Rickman impersonator who has to be seen to be believed – it’s more than just the costume, it’s the intonation and attitude with which he holds himself. It’s dead on, and when he whips out his illuminated wand, you had better watch out!
During the opening ceremonies we were also introduced to musical guests like Tom Smith and the Blethering Humdingers, as well as cosplay guests Mogshelle, Super Kayse, and Nerd Girl – affectionately referred to as the Charlies Angels of cosplay. I was just happy to have finally gotten in early enough to catch the opening ceremonies and learn a little more about ConCoction!

ConCoction is an entirely fan run convention, it’s non-profit and very much done old school. I mentioned last year in my review that it reminds me a great deal of the Star Trek conventions that I used to attend as a kid… There’s a reason for that – the people here who work at this con and organize it are vetrans of that sort of show, it’s not a big corporation merely trying to cash in on fandom (like say, the Wizard World con that’s blowing into Cleveland this weekend…) This convention is done with the care and attitude of an old literary convention mixed in with some renaissance fair and Sci-Fi con style.

It’s my second year at the show and I started to run into friends almost immediately, Jason and Tina ambushed me in the lobby and of course I had to stop to let my little Orko dual with Snape! the first event I made it to, ended up being Tom Smith’s performance. Smith is a fun humour songwriter. He pulls up with his guitar and begins to sing songs about fandom, about fairytales, anything really that comes to his mind…delivering it with his own twisted sense of humour. It’s exactly the sort of filk exhibition that ConCoction is full of. Indeed I spent a great deal of Friday night in musical performances.
Vlademir Snape was next. In addition to being a dead-on impersonator, he’s also a talented musician and the front man for a band called Platform One. He was solo here however, performing mostly cover songs in the sort of dark and haunting style you would naturally expect from Hogwart’s potion master. He interacts with his audience frequently, which really connects you to him. It’s delightful to watch him look devilishly at the girl in the front row and promise “we’ll do something upbeat this time!” just before launching into Nine Inch Nails’ “hurt”. I got some of that business myself, as I snuck into his second performance the next day in full Jor-El regalia, complete with Baby Superman. He kept glancing over, and trying not to laugh until finally breaking down and announcing “I’d just like to point out, I’m really enjoying the baby in the rocketship! “. I felt bad when Jason came to retrieve me out of the song said so that I could do his phantom make-up!

The Confused Greenies Patchwork Players were back this year of course… The improv troupe has been a part of ConCoction since its first convention in their set seems to expand a little bit every year. This time around in addition to doing improv games, they were also doing two plays – an hour each, semi improvisational with distinctly fan-based subject matter. Friday night was the tri-wizard tournament of 1594, followed Saturday night’s Beauty IS the Beast – a slightly more adult to take on the beloved classic, presented in a very farcical way. Triwizard was reasonably mild while Beast was evening programming. Of course, as the Greenies would warn before every act, “If your kids get the jokes, it’s YOUR fault, not ours!”

The Confused Greenies were joined by this years musical guests of honor the Blithering Hummdingers (How on earth did autocorrect get that name right anyhow????). This duo bills themselves as “Wizard Rock”; a folky sort of acoustic rock rooted in Harry Potter lore with smatterings of fan culture. This seems like a GREAT idea.

It really does.

It sounds like a perfect match.

I don’t know what it was. Perhaps it was the fact that they were following the excellent performance from Vlademir Snape or perhaps it was the really esoteric nature of some of thier songs…perhaps I just don’t get the humor but whatever it was, this just wasn’t my thing. While technically proficient and excellent musicians this act kind of left me cold. Still, the integration wit hteh improv troupe was pure genuis and a perfect idea. I think I enjoyed thier bits during the Triwizard tournament more than thier actual sets!

There was a serious Harry Potter influence this year. If you didn’t know that the convention’s theme this time around was supposed to be “Grimm Faerie Tales” it’d be easy to assume it was a Potter con. I headed upstiars to check out the tail end of the Harry Potter panel comparing and contrasting the books with the movies. It’s a shame I’d lost track of time because I really would have liked to have seen more of this one.

Down the hall was the art show. While an artist alley is commonplace at a Comic convention, it’s not seen nearly as often at a sci-fi/fantasy show like this, and even then it’s usually squished into a corner of the dealer’s room. At Concoction, the artists are given thier own space, and are free to display the work they want to highlight and focus on. It’s an interesting concept, in it’s own way acting as a secondary dealers room. Sleepy Robot, one of my favorites, was there with a bunch of new adorable bot’s I’d never seen before, and over at Nigel Sage’s booth, they made sure to show me the Stained glass Superman print. My Little Demon (a Pony parody) was set up as well, and I was 17191484_1850562725160383_4410486832439811261_nparticuarly enthralled by the darling “Squirty Pie” demon – an unholy mix of pony and octopus. I made sure to snag one of Travis Perkin’s ConCoction prints.

Dinner ended up being a bit of a challenge in the Man-At-Arms armor. I expected straws! The biggest problem was that face guard that keeps me from being able to see anything below my nose also acted as a barrier to getting a sandwich into my mouth, forcing me to twist my neck to the left if I wanted to bite or sip. And only the left…because Orko blocked me on the right.

Yeah, I know. Descriptions about the perils of cosplay at dinnertime don’t really make for the best description of a convention! But it’s my experience after all…

I tried to make better use of the Consuite this year, socilizing more (and boy is that ever a challenge in of itself for an introvert like me…but then again, that’s one of the fringe benefits of con culture…. common ground)and hanging out with people there rather than just using it as a pit stop to eat or drink.

I caught one of my friends from Pop! The Comic Culture Club just outside the entrance and we loitered in the hallway chatting about the best eras for Superman and Batman, deconstruction vs a heroic purity and why DC just can’t figure out what to do with Superman. He expressed outrage that I was going with the Russel Crowe Jor-El instead of a full on 60’s version in a green tunic and gold headband. You know, there are some life choices I never expected to be questioned about…..

It was his second year here as well – I’d hear that several times over the course of the weekend. It seems like a lot of people really discovered ConCoction last year, and it’s definitely the kind of event that draws you back.

I grabbed a quick Martini at the Barfleet party. Since thier logo features a martini glass I figured it was a safe bet, however the apprentice bartender expressed some doubt. Never fear, their veteran barkeep managed to whip one up, shaken-not-stirred complete with onion juice for flavor! Still, Friday night the party was slow so I headed back out to see what else was going on. I was game for the variety show. The burlesque performance was just finishing up and I was just in time to hear Pete Mako pound his acoustic guitar. I genuinely enjoy Pete, and I’ve aught his act both here and at ZipCon. He was followed by the fanboy based stand up of Dan Brown. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; I love that stuff like Stand-up and improve comedy are a part of this con. It’s such a rare thing to see at an event like this and it’s always a good time.

I realized that at 11:00 I’d better head home. Sleep is always in short supply during a con weekend, but I knew that by the time I got home, I’d be turning around and coming back in less than seven hours. It was cold in the void outside the hotel walls. Wind whipped the snow around my car. I turned on the headlights and plunged into lightspeed.

I pulled back into the Sheraton about ten minuets after eight the following morning. The Consuite wouldn’t be open until nine and there wasn’t really any programming going on (other than the gaming demonstrations downstairs – and sadly, I’m not much of a gamer anymore). Still, when I left on Friday night, I notice three or four parking spots had opened up and i wanted to arrive early enough in the hopes that they’d still be vacant. There were eight or so spaces free in the morning. Parking is still the single biggest issue I face with ConCoction. It was a key factor in keeping me away for the first two years and I know I’m not the only one. At 8:30, there were still a couple spots open, but it would be tough to find them. Parking was full before 8:45. I overheard grumbling about the situation all weekend from at least half a dozen sources. It was so pervasive it even made it into some of the comedy entertainment. That Sheraton lot fills up WAY to quickly and to be stuck paying four times the Sheraton rate for an airport lot invariably leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths. This is an issue ConCoction HAS to find a way to address.

I ran inside and paid the con rate for the local lot (three dollars, compared to $12-$15 at the airport lots), then checked out the records and tapes (seemingly untouched from the previous day). I discovered some Kenny Loggins and a few soundtracks for my collection as well as some Lawrence Welk and Andy Williams for my parents. From the VHS stack I selected only the ones with nothing written on the label. We’ll play some VCR Russian roulette with these later as we go through that stack and find out what’s on them! About quarter till nine I stacked up my armor and lugged it just inside the doors (it was too cold to dress outside like I usually would), suited up and went off to find breakfast for me and baby Kal-El.

In the Consuite I was greeted at the counter with a hearty “You’re back!”. Across the room, the lady sipping coffee at a table added “His front too!”.

ConCoction is pun central. I expected nothing less.

After signing up for the costume contest I made my way down to “Introduction to Cosplay : What do I do with this stuff?”. It was a charming panel about how to get started, finding cloths and items at thrift stores. I love these kind of panels, because they always give me ideas and I was fascinated to see some of the props that had been created out of items I never would have dreamed of using! The host asked me how long I’d been creating armor (“Um….well…when did Iron Man 3 come out?”) and what that progression was like. It was fun to share a little in this context.

In this same vein was the makeup panel with Cosplay guest Super Kayce. I was curious to see what her techniques were  as her Bizzaro Supergirl gave normal Supergirl a black eye (Actually pretty much the behavior you’d expect from Bizzaro actually). Super Kayce kept running into problems though.

“You have such a small face!” She protested, correcting the size of the bruise with the sweep of a brush. “How 17308763_1468477419863343_1049149228081279977_nhave I never noticed you have SUCH a small face?”

I caught Cassandra Fear’s panel next. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. Fear’s Confection is a candy maker that is constantly popping up at stops around the con circuit. I usually see a plate of thier Star Wars themed candy at Carol and John’s Christmas party or superhero and sci-fi themes at NEO comicon, ect. As a result,  I’m familiar with the name. Less so with the face. It was interesting to hear about her background, and the challenges of figuring out how to create unique candies such as Groundhogs for Groundhog day, or trying to figure out the logistics of making a chocolate Lament Configuration box.  I also finally heard the whole story behind her “Trump Dump” candies, filling in a couple of details the news stories tended to gloss over (in particular the way she was misled about food vendors for the RNC in Cleveland). It was interesting and seems a lot less mean spirited than the previous impression I had gotten, and that’s nice, because Cassandra has been nothing but sweet and charming every time I’ve encountered her.

I managed to catch a teensy bit of the Tangent-Bound network’s Podcast panel. I’m an avid fan of podcasts and occasionally fight back the temptation to start one myself. I’m fairly certain I’m better off as a listener than a creator in this instance, but listening to them, it’s nice to feel like I could if I really wanted to.

Pre-Judging for the costume contest was almost here. You know what that means? It means it’s time to bring out the rocket.

For about half of the day I’d been carrying around baby Kal-El in a basket full of blue red and yellow blankets, however earlier in the week I’d decided on a whim to build a full rocket for him, complete with blinking lights and a compartment the doll would fit into so I could “Launch” the escape pod. The Styrofoam wings had held just fine on the car ride out and I managed to not break anything as I retrieved it from the car. As I waited in the hall for my turn, I set the rocket on a chair. As my name was called, I adjusted my grip and twisted the spaceship in exactly the wrong way.

There was a sicking snap as the left wing brushed against the back of the chair and popped off.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

Even if I’d remembered to bring a glue gun (I forgot it in my hast to get to the hotel early) there was no time. I rotated the ship and prayed it would look like it was SUPPOSED to only have two fins.

Prejudging at ConConction is always a fairly painless process. It’s nice because you get to talk a bit about your theory and method, and actually explain what goes into things leaving you free to actually concentrate on the audience during the masquerade rather than the judges. I saw the lady warrior from League of Legends and her husband who I’d been hanging out with back in the Consuite parading in to pre-judging right after me. I wished them luck and headed out to find Jason, a friend who wanted my help with his Phantom of the opera makeup.

After grossifying Jason and grabbing a proper lunch with Supergirl, Doctor Strange and a couple of other folks I just met I headed over to Pete Mako’s “Psychology of Cosplay” panel. Pete’s a part of this world, Convention, fandom, anime and cosplay. But he also has an education in psychology and brings a whole new perspective to the hobby. He described a study he’d been a part of and broke down demographics as they related to the cosplay community. There was a lot there that was exactly as I expected, things like who it appeals to and how people got into it. There were a lot of elements that were completely counter-intuitive to what I had imagined. I may have learned more at this panel than any other event of the entire con.

We all piled out of the panel and straight into the lineup for the masquerade, and in a way, it was a bit of a relief to finally be done with it. I summoned up all the chutzpah I possessed and recited Marlon Brando’s monologue from Superman ’79 as I lowered Baby Kal-El into the rocket on stage and prepared the ship for launch.

Then I looked at the roof and decided I better not let the escape pod blast off inside the hotel. Someone was bound to lose their deposit.

After over ten hours in the armor I  was finally able to shuck it off and eat a meal without the suit constricting my movement! You never know how much a luxury full range of motion is untill you try to bring an apple up to your lips and can’t quite reach without something ripping….

When I entered the Consuite, I spied Andy Hopp with a fist full of cards, playing a game of Dementalism with Dr strange and another companion. The cards spread across the table in a 6 x 6 grid with additional rows in front of each player… As I previously mentioned, I’m not particularly good at games but I’ve always been a fan of Andy’s art work which keeps coming 17308860_1468477103196708_9144397976912187959_nacross my path in the form of books and posts and of course the OddMall advertisements– Andy is the one who runs that event. I loaded up a plate and sat down. As Andy was explaining to me that the most flatulent player gets to take the first turn, the woman across the table from him flipped the card and declared that he must finish the round with his eyes shut until the next turn. When Andy was once again able to see, he noted the card That Doctor Strange flipped and informed all of us at the table that there was a house rule stating every time this card was played everyone had to eat a pickle. He got up and ran over to the bar, returning with a bowl full of dill slices which he proceeded to pass around.

Way back at the top of the article, I mentioned Doctor Whose Line is it Anyway? It’s 17264260_1468477186530033_6600793639397737791_nexactly what you think it is. Improv games with a fandom twist. It’s also quickly becoming my favorite part of this show. Dalek Skarino introduced the event;

“We;come to Doctor Who’s Line is it Anyway! Where the points don’t matter and the loser is EX-TERM-IN-ATED!”

“And the winner is EX-TER-MI-NATED…”

“…gently.”

By the time it was  finished it was late enough for the barfleet party to have started up again, and we made our way around the corner, back into the hallway where the music was already pulsing. As I stood in line for a drink my lip curled in slight disdain as the opening beats of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines flooded the air. The scowl turned 17308811_1468477093196709_7071554643056951811_ninto a grin when I realized the DJ was actually playing Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes instead. I found myself a piece of wall to hold up back where someone had set up at selfie station – the only place in the barfleet party where photographs were allowed.

“So what’s your story, “Andy asked me

“I don’t really have one,” I replied.

“Nonsense,” Andy retorted. “Everyone has a story! Start with your birth!”
“Well now,” I considered. “That’s a tough one, since I don’t know anybody who’s actually there…”

“Not even yourself? ”

“Can anyone REALLY know themselves?”

These are the kind of conversations you’re going to hear at the place like ConCoction, and nobody is even drunk yet…

I peered down at my glass as a large man in a kilt joined us and asked what I was drinking. I pondered it  for a moment.

17203057_1850562581827064_1805468780791048993_n“it’s…. It’s blue.”

“They had red back there to ”

“We should try the red next,” I nodded. Andy decided to mix the two and make something purple while Doctor Strange decided to go with a sensible, normal drink.

Under the swirling lights and the Bon Jovi dance remix, The Phantom of the Opera swished past the man in the kilt, and I waved hello, greeting him before he vanished with his wife and a photographer into the depths of the party.

ConCoction is unique as conventions go… It’s still young, but it feels like a mature convention – one that’s been around long enough to know how to run things smoothly and cater to its audience. As you can see, it’s such a unique experience that I have to  write a blog post the size of a book just to convey the gist of my weekend there. It’s one of those shows like wasteland that’s an experience, a reunion, and a party – and one I think I’m always going to look forward to returning to.


Population 2

boxftdf4e41c12817663fa8ff085a6e81974fcPopulation 2 is a story about a post nuclear apocalypse told mostly in flashback from the perspective of the sole survivor – a woman who wanders the earths looking for supplies and attempting to stay alive. Ther production values here are extremely good, well lit, well shot. In some ways it feels a bit like a student film, but with real actors – done, say at the end of the semester.

There is a good story here somewhere, but it gets lost in the form – the way that the story jumps back and forth between present day and it’s flashbacks can sometimes be a little bit jarring. While all the characters are extremely well performed and giving a compelling narrative, I spent about half the film A little confused and off balance – I get why now that I know the story, but as I was watching I frequently found myself not totally certain what’s going on or why – the set up is occasionally too vague, but the payoffs generally explain away my confusion.

The CG is the most daunting part of the film, the cutaways to the bomber aeroplane that occur in between just about every flashback and flash forward to the present. The plane itself is a compently constructed CG model, but it never feels right to the eye – the movement and the shadows are off, it just doesn’t work. Inside the plane, we have an equally CG cockpit – obviously a guy on a flight suit shot against a green screen and we cut back and forth between angles of him and a cockpit dashboard that again has obviously been created by computer. I understand the limitations of budget, but they use this sequence so much – and it’s the same footage again and again and again, with voices overdubbed to give the impression of the pilot in a casual conversation with whoever is on the ground. It does nothing to drive the story, and you can’t even find any sympathy for these characters as you’re still not sure what the deal is. I genuinely wonder if the sequences want inserted just to inflate the running time and get a respectable distance past 60 minute mark. This is a perfect example of how this film loves its stock footage. We also get stock of the Holocaust itself, as well as bits and pieces introducing talk shows and such – it all becomes a little over the top. The film earns its beats, the drama that we feel is absolutely justified, but undermined by those aeroplane sequences. Even the framing sequence is poorly paced – it’s too long to really be considered just framing sequence, but too short to really contribute anything other than some interesting imagery.

This film would probably work far better as a short feature – trimming the stock, trimming the present day, dropping the aeroplane stuff altogether to bring it down to a tight 35 to 40 minutes – I think we’d feel the drama and engage with these characters far better then.

It really is the perfect kind of film for a collection like this… I’m glad I saw it, and if I’d watched it at a film festival, it would’ve stuck with me just like it does now. But I don’t think it be too happy if I plunked down $10 for a DVD. Great get a collection like this and definitely worth a watch, but not worth the buy by itself.


To survive

boxftdto_survive_xlgTo Survive is the story of an ex cop in a surprisingly green post apocalyptic world – doing just with the title says trying to survive. Early in the film he gets on the wrong side of some bad guys and takes refuge in a church. There he finds a family who he sort of adopts and takes responsibility for protecting. As the film progresses a few more people join the group.

To Survive is really the Walking Dead, just without the zombies. It’s the breakdown of society and the interpersonal relationships that spring from this ragtag band of survivors. Generally with an apocalypse like this we see more desolation, more Desert Mad Max style landscapes. This is a little strange to have so much woodland and such an intact looking world. Again, it’s very reminiscent of the walking dead – the main character even looks more than a little bit like Rick Grimes. It’s obvious that’s what they’re going for, and it fits perfectly in this box set with the cover being so walking dead inspired. It’s a good film, competently made, but the comparisons to the walking dead are inevitable and they kind of taint the film for me. It makes me realize just how important this zombies are to this story as a McGuffin… as a storytelling device. I miss them here.

Still, all in all it’s a good film – and I wish we could see more of these kind of movies on the sci-fi channel rather than the dregs they constantly spew on the screen. It’s definitely worth a watch, and a great inclusion in a box set like this.


Outland

forgotten bannerThere’s this fascinating period in Connery’s career where he was doing all sorts of interesting off beat movies to break away from his James Bond persona.

Imdb’s plot synopsis : In the distant future, a police marshal stationed at a remote mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io uncovers a drug-smuggling conspiracy, and gets no help from the populace when he later finds himself marked for murder.

This one was another video rental store staple, but really I’d love to see this on the big screen. The effects are surprisingly good, riding the coattails of the Star Wars boom while still keeping some depth. It’s hard to create real intrigue in Sci-Fi, the technology frequently takes center stage and robs the plot of time and development, but not here. this is much more a story about people, and it feels like one of those films that could only have been made in the 80’s

I love this, and if you can get your hands on it, this movie is definitely a buy.


Brent Spiner

Autographs

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever gotten anyone from Star Trek the Next Generation through the mail before. I’ve gotten original series cast that way…they are getting harder to find on the convention circuit, but the TNG cast used to always be accessible.

I was really pleased to get this one though the mail, I especially wanted a Night Court pic here because one of my favorite things was discovering Data on my favorite sitcom. Thanks so much Brent!

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Preadator at the Capitol!

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1987’s classic film Predator is part of the Melt Bar and Grilled Cleveland Cinemas Late Shift Series! Admission is just $5! One lucky audience member will win some mud! Join us at midnight!

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popWhile everyone has a favorite “Elseworlds” or “What If…?” story, this will also be the perfect time to discuss the current DC Convergence at this weeks west side  Pop meeting in Parma!

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Jodorowsky’s Dune

Movie bannerJodorowskys-Dune-posterOver the weekend I caught the Alejandro Jodorowsky Dune documentary. It was not what I expected. I had thought I was going to be overwhelmed with this visionary film concept. Instead it felt overblown and over important. And that’s really curious. I think that people get caught up in the concepts that were presented here, and the beautiful concept art. The problem with the concept art, is that it bears very little resemblance to the finished product. We frame these images in the context of modern film. But I remember film from the 70s, I remember science-fiction from the 70s. A great time capsule is the making of Star Trek Phase 2 book that came out many many years ago, chronicling the attempted launch of the first Star Trek sequel series. The look of the ship, the concepts that we see, They all change significantly from page to screen. They just do. There’s a look in the 70s that wasn’t quite Star Wars yet, with it’s modular, busy, liney look up on the hulls of spaceships. There is still a soft pastel, white, silverish look to them. Not quite the forbidden planet of the 60s, but certainly not the Millennium Falcon of the 80s.

Chris-Foss-Dune-Guild-Tug1-470x353I imagine this film would’ve ended up looking for great deal more like Dark Star then 2001. Once run through the filter Jodorowsky’s madness, it would not have ended up looking as slick or as fantastic as we really imagine. We’re dazzled with names like HR Geiger, and Dan O’Banion, and Mobius. But those names alone do not necessarily mean success. They do not necessarily mean quality, and the degree of Jodorowsky-Dunetheir involvement is really hard to say. It makes for great documentary fodder, but in the real world with all these different artists, and different visions, how involved with they really be? Would they be there all the way from page to screen? I doubt it.

My end analysis is that this is a good documentary. It’s a fun film and a fun way of wondering what might’ve been. But it doesn’t inspire the longing that I get from something like say, Harlan Ellison script for I robot (Another hopeless cause). No I don’t see how this film ever really would’ve gotten made. And the sort of underdog that this documentary tries to paint it as seems forced. I definitely recommend a watch on this, and make sure you got subtitles involved because there is a lot of French going on here. Judge on your own and I’ll be interested in hearing what conclusions the rest of you draw from this film!

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Blade Runner this weekend

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Heading out to the Capitol theater in Cleveland this Saturday night for the midnight screening of Blade Runner. I’ve never seen this on the big screen, and while it’s not my preferred version of the film, this is definitely something to be experienced in the theater.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut’ is part of the Melt Bar and Grilled Cleveland Cinemas Late Shift Series! Admission is just $5. One lucky audience member will win a snake! Come on out and join me this weekend and it could be you!

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The Prometheus trap

Movie banner830262_fThe Prometheus Trap can be summed up in a very simple way. It wants to be Triangle (Imdb referance here) in space. We have a very standard time loop kind of story where the crew is unaware that things are changing .Over all, this film lacks the power of script that Triangle had. Triangle attempts to elevate the above subject matter, and really gives us a sense of dread, playing with the atmosphere and the timeline itself . You’re not really aware that you in some sort of weird time loop period until well into the film. Prometheus on the other hand, wears it like a badge of honor on its sleeve.

The Prometheus Trap has a great poster,now I know you cant judge a book by its cover, in the same is true of any movie, however I checked out the screen grabs insight in arresting costumes nice-looking said and some good-looking ships. That elevated it above a lot of sci-fi dreck that we run into from time to time. The production values are good, and the look is standard that stylized. The real problem here is the script in areas it almost feels like it wants to be terribly philosophical, however it doesn’t have anything to say P1020629(Though, I’ll admit I liked the bit about being programed to know your creator – there some Christian philosophy in there somewhere…) and the plot is just threadbare.

This is a problem because it doesn’t justify the 89 minute running time. One almost gets the impression that the screenwriter figured that because it  going to be repeating events over and over and over again we don’t really need that much plot and character development. This is where the film largely fails and possibly is the starkest contrast to Triangle which is all about character development. I suspect this would have worked better as a short subject rather than a feature film There’s some clever bits here, like the androids being able tThe_Prometheus_Trap_articleo perceive the time loop because thier memories are cloud based, stored outside the bubble, but it’s just not enough.

In the end I’d say don’t waste your time on this one. It’s rare that I say completely pass on something but this one just isn’t worth the time to watch. If you’re flipping channels and find on SyFy  hang out for half an hour or so you’ll get the basic idea and then move along.

Don’t forget, there’s new Violent Blue today!

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In Defense of Alien Resurrection

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1Wow. There sure are a lot of Sci-Fi films showing up here. I think I expected to be writing about more horror and superhero than sci-fi. interesting.

I really like Alien 4. There will never be another film as good as Alien or Aliens, but as far as sequals go, this is a good one. Perhaps part of the reason I like it so much is because it wipes the slate clean, it cleanses the pallet from the prior film. You see, I hate Alien 3.

I once heard someone say that if you really like a character in a horror movie – especially one who survives, then you shouldn’t ever watch the sequal, because something horrible will happen to them.  Alien 3 gives us this in spades, killing off EVERYBODY. It renders that rousing escape in Aliens practically pointless. Newt and Hicks don’t even get an on screen death. It’s horrible and it taints the entire movie for me. I hated the dog alien too. The rod puppet just didn’t work nearly as well for me as the puppets and suits Cameron used. I realize this is David Fincher’s directorial debut and there are a few good beats, but it’s riddled with stupid things like killing off beloved characters and getting Ripley laid because as the producers put it “It was about time she had a man.” 6

What really burns is that there were far better sequals avalible. Check out the novels (or graphic novel adaptions) of Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum and earth War (or Female War). This is a far more satisfying follow up to Aliens and actually can fit in nicely between Aliens and Resurrection.

That’s one of the things I really liked about Resurrection. It wipes the slate clean. It’s a fresh start, without really trying to connect itself as firmly to the previous sequals as 3 did.

One of the big complaints I hear about this film is what they did to Ripley. She doesn’t act like Ripley, she doesn’t feel like Ripley.

2That’s the entire point. She isn’t.

This is a clone grown from Ellen Ripley’s DNA, with perhaps a race memory. A few actual seeming memories surface from time to time as well, the cloning process is strange and imperfect, but make no mistake; this is NOT supposed to be Ripley. The characters call her that, and she has Ripley’s face (to appease a studio that wasn’t certain you could make an Alien movie without Sigorney Weaver) but she has a radically different set of memories of growing up. She’s really not even quite a mature adult.  In fact….she’s not actually human. That Alien DNA infects her.

Sigorney Weaver did some amazing things as this clone character. She got it. She plays it with hesitation, confusion and an animal bubbling just under the surface. Her character is conflicted, confused and actually more aggressive than Ripley ever was. It’s best represented in the final line of the film where they descend to Earth and she says “I’m a stranger here myself.”

3Trust me, you’ll like this character a whole lot more if your remember this. She’s not Ripley. In fact, this was one of the things I was happiest about. I was tired of Ripley. I can deal with her running into these things once….hunting them down the second time, but Aliens isn’t ABOUT Ripley and I was ready to move on. I’m glad this did. In fact it brought a great new cast of characters for us to move on with.

This is another sore point with some people though. In a lot of ways, you can see the template for Firefly here. Joss Whedon has said as much, and he has complained that the direction was completely opposite to the tone of his script. There are a lot of people who think Whedon can do no wrong. They hate this 5move because he says to hate it.

I’m not one of those people. I Like his work, but find him completely capable of missteps. Moreover, I’m a fan of Alien. I want this to be an Alien film, not a Whedon film.  It doesn’t need his quirky sense of humor. It doesn’t really need his distinct touches, this has always been an industrial, slightly dystopian future. It’s scary. Not cute scary, but rather dirty scary. I like the story he came up with. I prefer Renaut’s directorial vision. If a Whedon movie is all you are after, then I understand your dismay at what has been described as a kind of bastardization of tone from Whedon’s vision. Then again, movies are always more about the directors vision as opposed to TV which is all about the writer’s ideas (remember that difference we talked about a couple of months ago in Star Trek 5!). To everyone else, I simply suggest going into this as an expanded universe Aliens film. 4

It really does have that almost comic book expanded universe feel to it. Winona Ryder’s character in particular feels that way to me. It’s a well done character wit ha back story I really enjoy. It fits well in the Aliens world ….and I’m not usually one of her fans. In a lot of ways, she tries to take the place of Ellen Ripley, though she comes off as a little too young (I know she’s not, but she sure feels that way) and impetuous. Ron Pearlman (who in fact, really CAN’T do wrong) is his usually excellent self and I love seeing Michael Wincott and Brad Dorff chew the scenery.

It holds up a little better these days due to the disdain the AVP films get. Check it out again with some fresh eyes, and while you’re at it, try and track down those novels to see how different the Aliens universe can be without Alien 3 and Ellen Ripley.


Peter Capauldi (Spoilers. Just move on if you have to)

6487210-low_res-I’m just not sure what to think.  I wonder if that’s a bad thing?

It seems like I was just doing this, reviewing a new Doctor in a new season of Doctor Who. There’s not doubt, I bought it. I totally accept Capaldi as the new  Doctor. This is a good thing because it took a full year or so for me to accept Matt Smith in the role – and that was weird. Smith really always felt like he was a kid in a costume playing at the role until that big speech in “The Pandorica Opens”. It was there for the first time I could actually see the Doctor in him. It got better as time went on, particularly in the last year or so we could really see the ancient being in the young body. The old man with a youth’s face.

With Capaldi it’s instant. He feels like the Doctor. He’s confidant in the role, even as he tries to make us wonder what kind of person he is. This is a tactic that was already tried with both Colin Baker and Paul McGann, and it didn’t really work for me either time.10462933_779076368803455_7055546326964120705_n It almost seems like they are trying a little TOO hard to make you distrust Capaldi by making him abandon Clara. Twice.  Sorry, but there’s better ways to distinguish this incarnation from the others and better story devices to make him edgy. Nice pointing out how dynamic his eyebrows are though.

I’ve been optimistic in the year we’ve spent waiting for this. I mostly liked the costume, enjoying the similarities that his look has to my favorite Jon Pertwee. So much so, that I really kept watching for a similar persona. I saw a LOT of Pertwee influence in the Russell T Davies era, not quite as much in the Moffat era but enough that it’s still there and I’ve always loved it. Capaldi seemed to be heading that was as well from the buzz, but I actually don’t see it in the actual episode.

I kind of wish he had something on his neck too.

Honestly, I know, it seems like I’m never pleased and I’m overanalyzing – it’s Sci-Fi. That’s what we DO. But seriously, as much as Matt Smith’s bow ties bugged me (until he started wearing a vest. THAT costume, I loved), the buttoned up collar feels empty to me. I would have loved it back in 1992 when that was a common look, but not so much in 2014.  I hope it’s not going to be one of those little bothersome details that just drives me NUTS.  It’s made even more frustrating 974e2fbffa234f78cf5ef869db81c72ebecause of how GREAT Capaldi looked in that high necked collar and tie. Seriously, If I were a girl, I’d be swooning. I still might.

I hope the disguises become a part of this Doctor’s shtick. It was a great bit of business, and one of the things we really saw in this story was how well Capaldi does different modes of dress.

As for the story, first episodes are frequently a bit weak. I really like “Castrovalva” and “Robot”. I want to like “Spearhead from Space” and “Time and the Rani”. At least I can sit through  those. “The Twin Dilemma”, “The Christmas Invasion” and the movie are just plain hard to watch. This story was surprisingly average, surprising considering it has a Dionasuar bursting into flames and steampunk robots…then again, steampunk doesn’t really do anything for me.  The tenuious connection to the Madam De Pompadour felt a little to shoehorned in and would perhaps have been better served later in the season. I like the intrigue they are setting up, calling back to the Bells of St. John and connecting it to someone keeping Clara and the Doctor together.

The constant references to Madame Vastra and Jenny being married annoy me. It was like someone was determined to clobber you over the head with it. RTD was always very in-your-face with homosexuality, and 4fddac9a3e4f1ae01f68308936679d62always felt like he was driving an agenda. Moffet has generally been far more subtle. The subtext between Vastra and Jenny has always been there. You could revel in it if you so choose (much like my friend Don does) or you could just ignore it (much like I always did). Repeating “We’re MARRIED” four or five times over the course of one episode was unnecessary and if you consider it, a little insulting. Respect your audience and trust them to pick up on the subtext. There’s no need to be this dramatic.

The final thing that rather bothered me was Matt Smith’s appearance. I suppose I kind of get it; Moffat is appealing to the teeny boppers and fangirls who latched on to the show when they started casting pretty boys in the role of t he doctor instead of middle aged men with character in their faces.  I personally have been waiting for them to go older wit the Doctor again for  the longest time and if you truly GET the show, it’s a non-issue old or young.  It was an interesting way of speaking directly to that demographic. It also feels a little desperate. Like someone wasn’t confidant in the show continuing even as it moves closer to it’s roots.  I don’t like that, it sends the wrong message.

It’s a little more than that though as well. Dramatically, it’s….I don’t know…disingenuous? Stephen Moffat, through Matt Smith’s Doctor criticized David Tennants Doctor for being narcissistic and having issues referring to his half regeneration (keeping the face) and in a more meta sense, criticizing the lengthy and dramatic goodbye that Tennant had. But watching Matt Smith call Clara from Trensalore felt much like the Bvv6T_eIIAEpdKqsame kind of thing – a lingering goodbye. And extended swan song. It’s the second time we’ve bid him farewell, and it almost feels to me like he’s milking it. Yet at the same time, it’s a shocking scene. My jaw dropped and my heart plunged. The story EARNS that scene.

At the end of the day, I’m obviously going on and on about the trivial, and talking very little about Capaldi himself. Indeed, more than half the pictures in t his article are of other Doctors. It all comes back to my opening salvo; I just don’t know what to think.  I don’t instantly dislike Capaldi the way I did with Matt Smith. I don’t instantly love him the way I did with David Tennant. I’m hesitant, nervous. I’m still waiting to see where this is going to go.

For now, I’m going to hang on, and follow the eyebrows.

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Tales From Beyond

forgotten bannerMV5BMTM0NjcxMjc4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM5MjQyMQ@@__V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_I totally bought this out of a two dollar box at Cinema Wasteland because I saw Adam West on the cover. IMDB dosen’t tell us much about it though  –

Tales From Beyond   2004

When a trendy young couple enter a quaint-looking antiquarian bookstore seeking a present for their friend, they find more than they bargained for. A mysterious shopkeeper takes them into the world of his books, leading them through four amazing stories.

The DVD cover doesn’t tell us much more than that either really. It looks like horror, but it’s really more Sci-Fi. You do know going in that it’s an anthology (which I usually don’t really dig) but it ended up being far better than I expected.  The middle sections with West as the shopkeeper  presenting the books (the stories of the movie) to his customers are fun.  a little underacted, but passable. The stories themselves have a wonderful Twilight Zone quality to them. If it weren’t for some of the language, I’d swear I was watching one of the modern versions.

I think of the selections the time travel story in the diner is my favorite, very similar to Nightmare Cafe (a TV series that lasted about five minuets before it was cancelled, but boy did I love it.)

The shame is that it falls apart at the end. We see two new books write themselves – obviously the customer’s stories. That’s fine. I can get behind that, it’s when we get taken to the back of the shop, past the books into some wierd cryotube where the “stories” I guess are kept…I’m not sure what that was supposed to be or what they were thinking.

It’s still worth a watch and I suspect you can find it relatively cheap in dump bins or movie conventions.  Definitely take a look for this stuff. It’s worth a watch or two.


Not a review of Guardians of the Galaxy

Movie bannerguardians_poster_via_marvelI was aware of the movie of course, because of all the buzz, but it wasn’t one I was just waiting on pins and needles for.

In many ways I think I’m the target audience for it. People who might have heard something about this, but arn’t really familiar with it. I tried an issue or two of the comic when Bendis rebooted it a couple years ago, but nothing really grabbed me. I like the idea of the talking raccoon (a smart mouth funny animal character is one of my elements for a perfect sitcom formula) and I like Sci-Fi, but had nothing invested here.

There’s a million reviews for Guardians. There’s nothing I can add to those really. I  took my kids, Lydia’s favorite character was Groot – mostly because he spends the entire movie saying nothing but “I am Groot”. And Maddie loved Rocket. Yeah, nothing new here.

What I want to explore is why  this movie is important.

I like this because it’s sci-Fi without being SyFy. It’s not Star Trek or Star Wars. It’s not the gritty or nilistic attitude that we’ve seen in Sci-Fi for the last ten years or so (thanks for nothing Battlestar Galactica). It’s not Gravity or Edge of Tomorrow. It’s fun. It doesn’t take itself to seriously while still going all in to the genre – and this is where you can see Gunn’s Troma roots. Say what you will about Troma, (and I hate ’em) but it’s one of the last places you can go in as nothing and truly advance by merit.  You can start off as a PA or a grip and end up a script supervisor or editor. That’s not an exaggeration, Joe Lynch did JUST that on Terror Firmer. It’s like New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Much like Roger Cormans studio, Troma is actually forging a generation of professionals despite (or perhaps because of ) working on drek. Gunn knows where to be serious and where to go completely zany, and if he can make you tear up at the image of a raccoon staring down at the charred branches of a tree – that’s something worth noting. This is original. Like nothing else in film today, because they remembered this is supposed to be a good time. They remembered that they cans still make you feel, when you’re having fun, it doesn’t need to be bleak and heavy to get that reaction.

It’s also a game changer.

There has been much written in reviews of how the Marvel brand is a proven one. Sure it is. But only with Superheroes.

Thor was a Sci-Fi movie, but with Superheros. So was Iron Man. And even though they were second stringers at the time (remember in the 90 and early 2000’s if it wasn’t an X-book or Spider book it was back bench), they were recognizable enough. Guardians is pure Sci-Fi. A shrew eye can catch the comic book dynamic – charismatic leader, sexy girl, smart mouth, a warrior, and a tank. Even so, it’s very Sci-Fi, with more in common with Firefly than the Avengers. It’s proof Marvel can do other things. What could happen next? Marvel Horror? Marvel Mystery? We’re getting a very Crime based set of shows hitting Netflix and it’s obvious Marvel want’s it’s brand to encompass more than just superheros. Guardians is the proof it can do so, and may be the key to surviving when the market gets oversaturated with superhero movies and the bubble inevitably breaks.

It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.

Over at Violent Blue by the way, Steve took Jen to see the movie. We’ll be exploring their relationship against the backdrop of the film all week. Check it out here!


In Defense of Star Trek Five

defense

st5There’s no doubt that this is one of the weakest films in the franchise. In fact, there’s really not a lot of defense for it, but then again, the movie isn’t exactly the one who needs defending. What this really is, it’s a defense of William Shatner.

I’m not a fan actually, but I think he gets unfairly savaged when it comes to Star Trek five. It ended any feature directorial career he might have had and at the end of the day, there’s so much of what went wrong in this film that just wasn’t his fault.

Let’s start with the one real thing that WAS his fault, because it affects a lot of the rest of the film, but didn’t necessarily have to. Shatner’s greatest sin was begin an inexperienced director. Sure he’d done some TV work, but that’s just not the same thing. Having directed a couple of features myself as well as episodes of my own series, I can tell you that logistically those two tasks are very different. the vision has to be different. There’s a ton more “moving pieces” you have to coordinate. But most of all…you have a very different relationship with the studio. And that’s where everything began to go wrong.

st51Shatner invoked the favored nation clause in his contract (basically an agreement that anything they give Nimoy, they have to give Shatner as well.) generally used in salary negotiations, but more than one source has mentioned that this was Shatner’s way of leveraging his directorial debut on to Paramount. The studio wasn’t thrilled about this, but did still have dollar signs in their eyes after  Star Trek 4, possibly the most successful of all the Trek films (ironically, my least favorite). They backed Shatner into a corner and got a fourteen to sixteen month scheduled. They’d tried to do this with Nimoy, who had flatly refused, stating he needed at least two years to do things properly, and more likely three (I actually remember him mentioning this in an interview after Star Trek 3). Shatner’s inexperience allowed him to be bullied into an impossibly tight schedule. Still, that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world as long as you have a good crew working with you – particularly in per-production.

Well, that presents a little problem we like to call “The Writer’s Strike”. Hitting ST5 atst59 the worst possible time, we ended up with a less than polished script. In fact, we have a flawed premise from the word go. It’s one thing for the Enterprise to search for and encounter a small-gee god. It’s another for them to try and find  God, Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah. The problem is, anyone with the clout to be able to explain this to Shatner and company was out in front of the Paramount building holding a picket sign.

You don’t just need good people in pre-production though, you also need good people in production. Star Trek in particular NEEDS good special effects. This was 1989 – the year we learned the true meaning of  the word “Blockbuster”. Sure we’d had them before, but this is one of the first summers where we had constant back to back blockbusters packing out the box office. Indiana Jones and The Final st57Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters 2 and that’s just for starters. What this translated into was a shortage of effects houses, and you could just forget booking  Lucasfilm for another year at least (There’s that rushed production schedule again!).

ST5 went with a smaller house that was known for it’s smoky, wispy effects. It’s a decision that kind of makes sense as they were thinking about what to do with the Great Barrier section of the film. The problem was that this effects house had NEVER worked with models like this before. They had to learn the process from st58the ground up and the end results were….less than spectacular. The green screen is obvious, the tone and lighting is frequently wrong and the ship movements are jerky, unnatural. It brings the whole film down, and strips away a great deal of the suspension of disbelief.

Then there’s the villain chase at the end where Kirk is pursued by a giant floating head.

Well, that wasn’t actually the intention.You can find this in both the novel and comic adaptation. The original idea was to have the rocks burst from the ground and assemble themselves int man-like forms that breathed fire and chase Captain Kirk through the desert and up the cliff. Almost sounds similar to what we saw in Galaxy Quest. Of course today, thisgq would be all done in CGI, just like it was in Galaxy Quest, but in 1989, it would either have to be suits or puppets. IMDB reports the budget for ST5 at 27,800,000, higher than four. So I don’t understand what happened when they bargained Shatner down. He wanted an army. The studio said too much. We don’t have the budget. Shatner was willing to play ball. Five. He said. They agreed. Month’s later, word came down that five was being reduced to three. On the day of shooting, only one rockman costume appeared on set….and it looked awful. It looked like a rubber suit, not even up to the standard of the monsters that we saw on the TV show in 1966. The floating head was a post production fix…and one Shatner should st54actually get some credit for. It was a good bit of quick thinking that ended up being surprisingly effective.

Post production was rushed due to the firm start date in summer 1989 and there was no time for test screenings or tweakings. The film was going out as it was, for better or worse. So much of the story of Star Trek 5 is a tragedy of studio interference. A more seasoned director might have been able to turn out a superior film under these conditions. A more experienced director might have been able to stand up to the execs and fight for what was best for the film, perhaps snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Shatner just didn’t have that kind of juice and even worse, he didn’t have the kindst56 of support a first time director really needs to thrive.

A lot of times I’ll use this space to recommend you go revisit a movie and try to see it through different eyes.  This time around I have a different suggestion. Head to the library or the used bookstore or even Amazon and get yourself a copy of the novelization. Back in the days before DVD, there was no such thing as “Special features”. You know how we got to see deleted scenes? We read the novel. You want to see how truly scary Kahn is ? How brutal and violent? Check out the novelization for Star Trek 2 – you’ll see Kahn murdering the space station crew in scenes that were only hinted at in the film. The same is true of this film. The novelization helps show how good a film this really could have been if it had a bit more time, a bit more polish and better visuals. Shatner’s flair and touches are still there, but a lot of the gaps are filled. It’s not a short book. It’s as long as any of the Star Trek novels, actually longer than most.  Pick up the book and see if that changes your opinion about Star Trek 5.

 

 


My Girls

Remember that video we did for the Christmas party at Church a while back? (https://argocitycomics.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/calvery-ridge-christmas-party/)

Well afterwards, I shuffled out of my costume and the girls immediately picked it up and wanted to play in it.

Yeah, these are my girls….

100_3499 100_3501 100_3503 100_3504

These girls are going to find themselves in Violent Blue if they keep this up!


In Defense of Lost in Space

defenseimagesI actually have problems with series like Lost in Space, or Star Trek Voyager for that matter. there’s something inherinantly unsatisfying about them because you know he main plot point – getting home will either NEVER be resolved or won’t be resolved until the series ends (and personally I think it would have been a brave move to state at the end of Voyager that the ship was lost and never heard from again).

Lost in Space isn’t necessarily saddled with that  caveat as a film, but they choose to go that direction anyhow, in order to open the door for sequels. I get that but it was kind of a downer. There’s some gloom here because of that and because of the glimpse of the future we see. Stranding them kind of robs us of some true punch-the-air moments. It’s actually my one main complaint about the movie. Still, I find the rest of the film incredibly fun. It’s good actin and cool costumes. I love seeing Doctor Smith being truly EVIL again (he really did start off as more mattsof a bad guy and really mellowed after the first six episodes). It’s one of the rare times Matt LeBlanc shows some acting chops, the first time I didn’t look at him as an idiot (though what a bad choice picking this over the Matrix). He still has one of the greatest lines ever too “and the monkey flips the switch….”. I still use that myself on a regular basis.

I love the ship designs. The CG is still in it’s infancy, but works surprisingly well – smithsespecially in that spin around shot of the characters in zero G. It’s more believable than the troll in Harry Potter.

Can I make a quick guess as to why perhaps I like this better than a lot of people do?

I have no connection to the source material. I never watched it on TV and I’m not jarred by the differences here. To me this is a superior version. The derelict ship it’s like a haunted house in space and the spiders are genuinely creepy. I like the ship design better (why must we cling to space ships created in the 60’s anyhow? I don’t actually dig the original Enterprise shipdesign either – a contemporary of the Jupiter 1. I much prefer the film version!) and I like the characters just fine. It’s a good sci-fi shoot ’em up. I know that’s a common criticism of the Star Trek movies, but there’s a difference. Lost in Space never aspired to be more than a family space show where Star Trek actually was relevant at one time….

I really like this movie. If you can divorce yourself from the original TV show, SI suspect you will to. It’s still easily available, probably even on a budget release at this time!


Robocop

Movie bannerrobocop_poster_p_2013[1]I finally got around to seeing Robocop. I’d been putting it off, but you know what? the comic tie ins have actually been REALLY good. Enough to make me finally head out to catch the flick.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s missing something. Not just the hyper violence but something else….and I think I figured out what it is.

The original was bursting at the seams with character actors. Peter Weller,  Dan O’Herlihy as the old man, Ronny Cox  as the senior exec, Miguel Ferrer  as the junior exec, Robert DoQui  as the sarge, even Ray Wise  in his henchman role and especially Kurtwood Smith as the villain. All of these guys are very much character actors and bring that to the role, however big or small.  Kurtwood Sminth in particular created a most memorable villain.  villiansTo look at him he’s not much. A short bald guy in glasses. That’s not frightening. That’s not intimidating. That’s George Costanza with a gun.  But he immediately sets the tone by throwing a henchman out the back of a van and his tone and look tells you he’s sometone to be reckoned with. His approach is memorable and terrifying., even before the bad guys literally disassemble the human Alex Murphy. The villains in the reboot are far less memorable. What about the sarge? Brash and loud and yelling…but you like him none the less. The sergeant in this movie….I could care less. She’s so polite and softspoken I’m not even interested enough to look up her name.

You only have two real character actors in this movie, Sam Jackson and Jackie Earl Hailey – Jackson’s reduced to just little more than cameos . Jackie Earl Hailey fares a bit better and is one of my favorite characters, but might have maddoxbeen better used in a different role. (Michael Keaton used to qualify, but honestly, I don’t see it anymore). The cable news show segments don’t work nearly as well as the news program in the original did by the way,  Jackson is great, but where’s the satire in political commentary? It’s satire in of itself. Satirizing straight reporting works much better.

My other issue is it’s SO clean. Everything is just SO clean. I’ve been in Detroit. It’s not that sparkling. Even the graffiti is brightly colored and artistic.  The police station is nice, brightly lit…the police stations on TV like in Law and Order look dingier than this.  That was one of the things about the original – the police house looked dirty. The alleyways were messy. The vlcsnap-2014-02-27-14h25m31s164hideouts were dark and dank.  Even Robocop himself-he was…uncomfortable looking –particularly if you took that helmet off. It all made it feel more real world. A very NEAR future, and a far better illustration of the dichotomy between the white and blue collar worlds.

The power of the original was that it created something new. Something original that we hadn’t seen before. Robocop gave us violence in a level we weren’t used to seeing. It gave us robots and high technology that were comparable – perhaps in some ways even superior to what we had seen in Star Wars. Moreover it placed it in a VERY near future… one we could recognize, much as Alien did. The remake doesn’t create anything new…at best it polishes something old, and that’s hardly groundbreaking. It doesn’t endear us the way something original does.

ed209I’m not going to talk about the lack of violence or the superiority of Practical over CG – those are knee jerk arguments. In fact, I thin the Ed209s look better than they ever did.  I could attack it for taking itself too seriously –perhaps more seriously than the subject matter deserves. But honestly, I think I could deal with that –particularly if it had been a sequel (in the “next Generation” vein or Star Trek ’09 mode)  rather than a reboot. I can’t help but wonder, would I have gone to see this if it didn’t have the Robocop name?  The Tin Man metaphor that is brought up repeatedly through the movie is a good one, because this honestly, what this film is missing is simply it’s heart.


In Defense of Star Trek : Insurrection

defenseToday we’re talking about what is actually my untitledfavorite of the Next Generation movies. I’ve never understood the hat this movie gets. I have heard more than ne person tell me this is a worse movie than Star Trek Five.

This is frequently used as positive proof that Jonathan Frakes can’t direct. Funny, considering he also directed what is arguably considered the best film of the series too; First Contact. I do see his flair in it. The zooming shots, a lot of camera movement. Many of the set-ups are simple, but certainly not bad.

This film gets lambasted for it’s humor – as if humor was never a part of Star Trek. Why do I never hear that criticism leveled at “The Trouble With Tribbles”? It’s really more than just humor in this film, it’s familiarity. We should be comfortable enough with the characters that it’s a reunion. If you’re expecting 2001 from a Star Trek movie then I don’t know what you’re thinking. They tried that with the first film. It didn’t work. To be fair, by this time Trek movies had devolved into simple sci-fi action flicks…and  that includes Generations. and yeah, most of them have EXACTLY the same ending. This is still one of the better versions of it though…

sonaThe ships in this film are gorgeous – and it’s one of the first times we really some serious new design work  in TNG in ages. A pity that the interiors look like any other Okuda hell, but those ships hulls are beautiful and a nice departure from First Contact.

Speaking of First Contact- I like the movie, but it really doesn’t have a story.  No,  think about it. The characters drift from one engagement to the next – it’s a video game. A fun ride but no real plot. This movie has a narrative, growth in 2the characters (which we sadly abandon at the end because everything has to return to the status qoe) and some good plot twists. It has great actors like F. Murry Abraham and Anthony Zerke.

If the gags bug you, ignore them. Try watching this for the romp that it is and visit with these characters we really grew to care about. There’s not to many movies in the TNG film period and it’s a shame to have to throw this one out.


Ender’s game

Movie banner

urlI actually wasn’t planning on going to see Ender’s Game. Not that I was avoiding it, It just wasn’t real high on my list of priorities.

I changed my mind when I got the invitation to the sneak preview at Reagal Cinemas and I’m glad I went. The screening was in IMAX and this movie was absolutely designed for that format.  There are lots of antigrav sequences (imagine weightless Laser Tag) and tons of space scenes – not only shots of stations or ships passing by, but a great many POV shots. It takes fullest advantage of the IMAX format and I imagine it’s a trip in 3d as well.

The score was a pleasant surprise as well. Full and unobtrusive when necessary, but rousing during the action sequences and very memorable. Thematically it was very reminiscent to 2001 to me.

Harrison Ford is…well, he’s Harrison Ford. The same character he plays in every movie. The good thing is we like that character.  Ben Kingsly gives this film far more gravitas than even it’s very well thoguh out subject matter could have achieved on it’s own. Asa Butterfield is extremely good as the title character, and pulls off a very difficult role. We see years worth of maturity develop in a relatively short span of time. We see him become a very different person, far older mentally and emotionally than he ever reaches chronologically.

It’s actually the problem of time that is the films single flaw. It feels like it’s happening over a week or two (though I realize it’s longer). The pacing is a little fast, though I can understand why, any slower and this could have easily been a three hour movie – and while the subject matter  could definitely have justified it, I’m not sure it would have survived public perception (cool sci-fi action flick)

Definitely catch this in the theater. Catch it in IMAX or 3d because there’s no way this will ever look this good on a TV no matter how big a screen it is.


The Resident Evil series

Movie bannerI finally decided to sit down and watch the Resident Evil series this weekend. I’m not a gamer so while I am aware of the source material, I don’t have any real experience it or any connection to it. I totally get it when my buddy Jason says “forget the movies, just play the game….” but that’s not quite as viable of an option for me! Besides, I liked the first one. It was fine for what it was…..

Hmmm. There’s a question in that statement – what exactly IS this move anyhow?

This is the first thing you have to understand. Resident Evil and all of it’s sequels are not horror movies. I hear “Zombies” and I think “monster movie”. But much like in the Walking Dead, the zombies aren’t really the main antagonists. They’re background. They’re waking props. Resident Evil is far more about the people, and the evil Umbrella corporation. Once you’re past the first film, the Zombies -they’re always there but they really fade in to the background for the most part.

Resident Evil is a sci-fi action series. If you go in expecting a scary movie you will be disappointed. If you go in to see punches and kicks and gunfire, you’re in the right place. Once I realized this it changed my expectations and how I was going to view this series (it also made Milla Jovovich’s casting in the Expendables 3 make a lot more sense). You don’t go into Rambo relooking for great cinema. The quality of these movies across the board is still better than anything I see on the SYFY channel (in fact, if SYFY would just rise a few inches to this level, I’d probably be a fan again)

The thing that surprises me about this series is how uneven it is. What makes that odd is the fact that every one of these films have been written by the same guy. Resident Evil on screen is Paul W.S. Anderson’s baby, without a doubt. You can see it in the continuity and it benefits from having that guiding hand.

However, the second film is just SO BORING. I ‘d swear there wasn’t a scriptwriter here, just story by committee (It was what prompted me to check who the writer was. I was surprised to find it was still Anderson). In fact story is pushing the description a little bit. RE2 just drifts from set piece to set piece, encounter to encounter. Lot’s of action, some nice makeups but no development or plot. The series really isn’t expanded by this movie other than to point out that Umbrella really is evil….a point that one might be able to kind of argue in the first movie. A lot of people will blame this on the director – a newbie on his first film. I’d be quick to jump on him myself, but honestly, the direction is perfectly serviceable. There’s just nothing here for him to direct. RE2 really makes me wonder how RE3 ever got made.
I suspect the answer is two words: Ridley. Scott.

I’m not saying a RE movie is BENEATH Ridley…..well, yeah. Actually that’s exactly what I’m saying. It actually makes NO sense to me why he took this job, but he does a fine job with it. We go post-apocalyptic in this edition and it makes sense. He may have taken in it a little far though – suggesting the entire earth is one big Mad Max-like desert wasteland. That seems to be contradicted a bit in later films (but seriously, who in their right mind was expecting to milk this series for six movies?). Ridley was adamant about setting this one entirely in daylight. It’s an interesting turn, but perhaps not as noticeable as you might expect. These are, after all, action movies. Not horror.

The addition of elements like zombie crows and a chance to really showcase the main character’s powers is a good addition. The series has been around long enough to feature recurring characters and we kind of know the world now.  It’s enough to justify another sequel.

Form here on out, Anderson will direct all of these himself and number four manages to once again impress me, picking up on a thread left over in 3 – the search for a part of the world that is safe and not infected. There’s a little retcon, but nothing to dire and the axe wielding bad guy is another nice addition. RE5 will pick up from about thirty seconds after RE4 leaves off, so closely linked you might have thought they were filmed back to back. However we’re back to meandering territory here. Little story, Lot’s of action and one of Milla’s best outfits.  It almost seems like sometimes the producers feel the need to go back to making the movie look like a video game, just to get back in touch with it’s roots.

It’s a shame, other than the first and third, these films can’t really stand on their own, but it’s a series custom made for marathoning or running in the background of a party. I don’t ever expect much from  Milla Jovovich. She’s nice to look at and I suppose it’s cool to have a female action star, but she’s never had any real acting chops that I’ve observed. Her best role is still in the Fifth Element because she doesn’t have to speak for most of the film. I can absolutely see myself popping this stuff on while I draw Violent Blue and I might even catch the sixth one next year when it comes out, but I can’t imagine going out of my way to really watch any of these again.