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Posts tagged “Sci-Fi

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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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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Captian Video

11058764_937433262967764_1448122600397396713_n10428540_934205623290528_661304230878551443_nYou don’t understand.

Sure that seems weird to start an article with, but I mean it. You can’t possibly understand what this means to me. See, when other kids my age were playing Star Wars, I was playing Captain Video. When I was a teenager drawing my own comics, my go-to was to create Captain Video comics. When I was  a kid playing out in the woods behind my home, or my grandparents home, I was pretending to be Captain Video. I have been imagining and talking about this character all my life…without ever seeing the source material.

See, here’s the thing, when I was a little child, my father would tell me stories about The Shadow, The Green Hornet….and Captain Video. Out of nowhere he’d bellow “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”. If I saw Green  Lantern on Superfriends, he’d talk about the Green Hornet. Captain Kirk? Let me tell you about Captain Video! and his Video Rangers!

The big difference between characters like The Shadow and the Green Hornet vs Captain Video, is most of the adventures of the Hornet and the Shadow survived over the years. Captain Video was on TV for over 1000 episodes, but the vast majority of those tv shows were destroyed decades before I was born. As a kid I longed to see something of the character, 20907_940521695992254_6314234432148090053_nANYTHING of him. I was about twelve when I got my first glimpse – the trailer to the serial was included in a copy of Zacherly’s Horrible Horror, a compilation of old public domain film clips and serial trailers. I wore a hole in that part of the tape trying to eke ever ounce of Captain Video that I could from those two minuets. I wouldn’t get my hands on a copy of that serial until I was in my early thirties. About five years ago I found ONE episode of the TV show…up until then I had thought it must have only existed as a serial.

This book changes everything.

In his foreward, Roy Thomas points out that the TV show was the source material, one of the few TV shows to ever have a serial made from them (it was more common for the serial to come first). I had no idea so many episodes were produced, yet to this day, only 12 survive. Eight of them can only be viewed at UCLA, the remaing four were released on an Alpha Video DVD (and 11068096_940521205992303_8972134773244118693_nfloat around Youtube). Not only that, there was a spin-off planned, featuring the robot Tobar. I had NO idea. It completely changes my perspective on the series!

But that’s not the most amazing part. There were comic books.

Do you have any  idea how I LONGED for Captain Video comic books when I was a kid? No, forget I asked. You can’t possibly imagine wanting something as much as I wanted Captain Video comic books, so much so that I was driven to create my own with no more reference point than a grainy trailer and my fathers fuzzy memories.

Only one other time in my entire life have I been more excited to discover a book exists, when I discovered that my favorite author Roger Zelaznay had written a second cycle to his Amber 11071457_940521202658970_8408108072931108953_nseries. It’s a strange feeling, to discover a book you never even knew existed, and yet to know with utter certainty that you have been waiting for it your entire life.

Robots, laser guns, space cars (oh, and according to Roy Thomas, the inspiration for Ultron – this summer movie seasons biggest bad guy) and my Fathers greatest sci-fi hero – now in the palm of my hands.

In fact, why am I sitting here wasting time writing this post? I’m off to read my book! (and write Roy Thomas a REALLY embarrassing thank you letter)

Go read some Violent Blue.

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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

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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….

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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

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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.


Star Trek into Darkness

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StarTrekIntoDarknessIMAXposterPTParamountFinally took a break from Violent Blue to get out to the Lorain Palace to  see the new Star Trek movie. My reaction was simple. It was good. It wasn’t Star Trek, but it was good.

I think that’s the only way I can look at these movies and be okay. The whole time travel conceit helps, but I’m just far too aware that these are not the characters I know. That’s Chris Pine playing Kirk. It’s not Kirk himself on screen.  I never had those kind of feelings with the original cast…not even with Nimoy’s cameos in the new movies….when Nimoy shows up – that’s Spock. I believe it. When Zachery Quinto is on screen, it’s Zachery Quinto in pointy ears.

It’s not just the cast though, J.J. Abrahams seems to be missing some of the soul of Star Trek, and certainly the familiarity. When the Klingon ships show up – I had no idea what I was looking at. If they hadn’t told me those were Klingon ships, I never would have figured it out. That wasn’t the case when  the bird of prey showed up in Star Trek 3. It LOOKED Klingon. There was a design language that told us what we needed to know immediately. Those new ships….they’re just a bunch of polygons flexing up and down. It’s a shame, I like Abram’s direction, and his style, but I wish he’d been P9gCjj5given the reins ten years ago and done this stuff in continuity, rather than in a tangent universe. I think that would have been a beautiful and bold change. This….this is just…not Star Trek.

I’m not going to try and make snarky remarks about this being a remake of Wrath of Kahn, because it isn’t.  It’s a completely different kind of Kahn story and a good one at that. It’s also a great thing they set Kahn up to be able to come back, and really using him is logical. Over the years he’s been set up (correctly or incorrectly) as Kirk’s arch-enemy. It makes sense for him to show up here. The touches like the Spock shouting “Kahn” as Kirk lies dying in a radiation chamber are obvious star-trek-into-darknesshomages (and I think, a little unnecessary) but this is not even remotely the same story. I do believe it can stand alone and really is a great story.

I did like all the alternate uniforms we saw. The diving suits were really cool and I even marginally like the gray suits for headquarters, though the hats I think took the military look to far – anyone who complained about Harve Bennetts red uniforms looking to militaristic ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Still the I liked the variety. I’ve always thought that was a nice part of the films- we had the base red uniform, and different coats for away missions, and different uniforms for engineering and medical.

star-trek-into-darkness-scene-600x337They take the alternate uniforms a little far this time though don’t they?

Seriously. It’s the same complaint I had with IM3. We don’t actually see  Tony in the suit enough. It’s still a problem here. We waited all last movie to see Kirk in the gold shirt, and we got it for five seconds at the end. This movie, we’re still spending the majority of the film with him in different uniforms.

Perhaps they were able to get away with this better when Shatner and Nimoy and Kelly were in the roles (although I’m not even sure about that. On of the things that irritates me about 3&4 is the lack of screen time for my favorite of all Starfleet uniforms) but with these characters, we haven’t had enough time to emotionally invest in these actors as the characters. We haven’t had movies_star-trek-into-darknessenough exposure to this ensemble and it only heightens the feeling that these are just actors playing the characters… not the characters themselves.

And that’s what it keeps coming down to. This isn’t Star Trek to me. I don’t recognize it, and that’s a shame. I think people like me would have been more ready to embrace it if we’d had more, not having to wait for three years. The only continuity we’ve had is a comic book series from IDW and perhaps a few kids novels.  A sister series on TV would have helped. A set of monthly novels and more magazines would have helped. Most of all, an eighteen month turn around schedule would have helped.

But there’s none of this, and whatever bloom there might have been, is off the rose.

These are fun sci-fi- action flicks (something that Trek  films devolved into during the TNG movies- and they really should be blamed for that), but they aren’t Star Trek, and that’s fine. But don’t expect my devotion. Don’t expect my respect.

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When does Doctor Who start up again?


Judge Dredd

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imagesI finally got around to catching up with Dredd. Really, I was hoping to get to this earlier, but other films just seemed more pressing.

I had been told by several friends that this movie is “ultra-Violent”. See, the problem here is that phrase has been used so often it’s lost a great deal of it’s meaning to me. What actually qualifies as “Ultra Violent”?  It’s not just a bunch of shooting. To me there has to be some flesh ripping. The Expendables is a violent movie, but not really THAT violent. You see a lot of guns blazing and a lot of people falling down, but you don’t see a lot of blood. No red spray, no torn skin. Robocop…that’s an ultra violent movie. Lots of guns, and TONS of entry wounds and exit wounds. No one ever gets shot just once there, it’s always multiple shots, and multiple squibs going off and every one of those squibs is full of red karo syrup.

So Dredd? Actually, yeah. Ultra violent. Lots of head shots….actually lots of head explosions….gives Scanners a run for it’s money. I loved seeing the slow-mo flare hit the inside of the guys mouth and explode….definitely enough to satisfy the gore hounds as well as the action fanatic.

It’s a shame then, that this came out so close to The Raid : Redemption. They were in production close enough to the same time that I don’t think there was any copying going on, but really it’s the same story, though with more guns and the familiar comic book settings of Mega City rather than the generic apartment building we see in The Raid.

I do have to wonder why they choose this setting. It seems like it works against an introductory film, and keeps us from really exploring this world. It would work fine for an established series, but I think it holds the movie back a bit. And make no mistake, this IS an introductory film. Forget the Stallone Judge Dredd. That was sole a Sly vehicle where the only thing they really got right was the costumes (those costumes REALLY are better than the ones in this movie, but then again in the Sly film you only see them in those costumes for what, ten minuets?) and it LOOKED like a summer blockbuster movie. The sets had that….LOOK to them, the scale was just a little off and obviously painted. Something about it just hits your eye wrong (you see it a lot in those kind of movies -the Original Total Recal has the same problem). Dredd 3d looks real. Everything is gritty and stark and just.. better looking. (everything but the costumes…btu I digress….)

Really this film came out at the wrong time, and got lost amongst the Avengers and Dark Knight. That’s a real shame because it deserved a chance to really shine on it’s own and a release in the spring instead of summer might have given it a better shot a success.

Dredd is definitely worth a watch if you catch it on Netflix. Not sure it’s worth a buy unless you’re a fan of the series or really into violent Sci-Fi, but I’ll admit it would look rally good on the shelf right next to the unrated criterion cut of Robocop…..( and a film version of Violent Blue?)

 


Prometheus and Expendables 2

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I got around to revisiting some of last years blockbusters, just to see if my initial reactions held up.

The-Expendables-2-PosterWith the Expendables 2, I see more holes in the story, but really, who’s going to this movie expecting a deep narrative? This is a vehicle, and vehicles have formulas : Start with the actor(s), create a character and then work your way backwards to build a story around them.

E2 is really the delivery of the promise made by the first film. It’s not that The Expendables was a bad movie, or even a bad action movie. What it was, it was a Statham/Stallone movie and that’s cool….except it billed itself as an action star reunion. Look, I’m in my late 30s. Jet Li, Statham, Couture and all the wrestling guys in the world…those aren’t my action heroes.  They’re good, but they aren’t my heroes….that’s all I’m saying. I wanted to see Arnold, Bruce, Jean-Claude and Stallone together. Those are the guys (and to a lesser extent, Chuck Norris, and Dolph Lundgren) that my generation thinks of as action stars. Those are the guys we wanted to see. The nice thing is that E2 delivers that, and when that’s what you’re really coming in to watch, it still holds up just fine. There are no surprises here, no plot twists, it has infinite rewatchability.

220px-PrometheusposterfixedPrometheus on the other hand…..

Truthfully, this film got a lot better with the second viewing. I previously commented on the expectations and how no amount of warning would convince anyone this wasn’t an Alien prequel. Having watched it once already, the anticipation is gone, allowing you to sink much easier into the story. It’s still annoying that the monsters are SO like the Alien monsters in behavior but not in form. It’s still half hearted in that respect, but being able to really get into the story without spending the entire time waiting for something familiar to appear or not….it helps.

Still, the movie suffers from being a part of this series. If this is sitting on my shelf and Alien is sitting on my shelf next to it….I’m choosing Alien every time, plain and simple.

And then I’m going to go read some Violent Blue.  Sounds like a plan to me….


Ship comission

So I reached out to a filmmaker I know from Cinema Wasteland to see if he’d like some help with his current project “Attack of The Killer Cyborgs From Beyond The Grave”.

The job was to design a ship that would be used for one of the characters and a bounty hunter chasing him. Because it was a cheesy 50’s sci-fi vibe I got stuck on the idea of a flying saucer and came up with this:

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ship pass 1

I emailed it off and the client was happy and I started some early animatics. The problem was, I wasn’t so happy with it. The more I looked at it the more it felt – I don’t know, half-way done.

I decided to scrap the entire design and start again from scratch. Something dirtier. More teeth.

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This design starts off way more as a travel pod from the early Star Trek movies, but is built up to be uglier, more like something out of Blade Runner or Aliens. From behind I wanted it to look like a Jim Lee drawing out of Wild C.A.T.S.

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912926_568273296550431_430293457_nI an SO glad I did. I’m so very much happier with this one.

The model is done, but I’ve fallen behind schedule a bit due to a family emergency. Beginning some animation this week, and may have to take some time of from doing new Violent Blue (we’ll still post strips every MWF of course). Can’t wait to see the final product!


Cedar Lee Sci-Fi festival

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Hey guys, just a quick reminder, there’s a lot going on this weekend! Saturday is Free comic book day. My girls and I will be hitting a bunch of local venues and trying to complete a set as well and buying stuff at each store to su557945_10151555964452138_2139572511_npport the retailers. Then that evening is the Cedar Lee theatre’s Sci-Fi fest! This is the first time they’ve tried something like this, but you know we’re big fans of their horror film festivals and are really hoping this is just as much fun. For the innaugral year they are presenting the following four films :

The original “Godzilla (Gojira)” (1954) at 8:00 PM, “The Matrix” (1999) at 10:00 PM, “Total Recall” (1990) at 12:30 AM and “They Live” (1988) at 2:30 AM. Marathon tickets are $16 and available in advance only. Day of tickets for individual films are $5 each.

Seriously, a screening of Godzilla should be enough reason to get out there this weekend! Then come on back here Monday morning for a new Violent Blue!


Doctor Who 2013

timthumbSo we are definately far enough into the 2013 half-a-season for me to be able to form an opinion. I’m very much enjoying this run. Of course you probably wouldn’t expect anything else right?

Well, maybe you would.

I’m not Matt Smith’s biggest fan. He’s kind of like Tom Baker to me, everyone else loves him and thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’m kind of lukewarm to him. I’m happy to watch him, but he’s nowhere near one of my favorites.

A couple of things have changed this time around though  The costume has changed slightly. longer coat, and a vest.  I can’t tell you how much the vest helps that costume. It adds loads to the “old man in a young man’s body” thing that Smith plays (In fact it actually helps him play it better than Tennant did I always wanted to see him look younger and more punk, maybe lose the necktie. Smith goes in the opposite direction and perfects it).  During Smith’s first two seasons I hated that suitjacket and bow tie combination so much I can’t even begin to express it. It never worked for me, and I cringed every time there was a long shot panning over the endless expanse of white shirt below that tie. A bow tie NEEDS a vest or a high button coat, otherwise it ravages the eye. The running gag about bow ties being cool is fine – very Who, but the costume ruined it for me. The longer coat we started to see in “Good Man Goes To War” helped, but this outfit perfects it. The occasional appearance of Amy’s eyeglasses is a superb touch.

The redesigned TARDIS is another source of delight to me. I despised the console from the previous run. The whole mish-mash of old technology that made up the console when the series first returned was handled with far more subtly in Eccleston and Tennenats era. It was too over-the-top in Smiths previous series. I love  the look of the new console. I miss the size of the previous console room,but it’s a fair trade for a console I can once again look upon with awe. I AM glad they still built the set so we can get in below the console and work in the guts of the TARDIS. That was a great innovation in the last set and a logical extension of how we would see Eccleston working under the grating of the console room in the first series.

pandorica-opens

Matt Smith came in under a disadvantage, following a popular Doctor (one that became a favorite of mine) his age (Actually too young. I didn’t know that could matter so much…but it does) and was saddled down with bad costuming and sets that went too silly. I know. All of that seems shallow – then again, just ask Colin Baker about how a bad costume can drag down a character. This stuff does matter.

It took me a full year to really accept Matt as the Doctor. It never clicked for me until his speech to the army of aliens in The Pandorica Opens.  “Remember every black day I defeated you! Then do the smart thing……let someone else go first”. Yeah, that was the Doctor. Finally.

All of those superficial complaints I’ve had however are gone now and let’s face it, the cosmetic shortcomings in the series have constantly been overshadowed by the excellent storytelling and directions Stephen Moffet has taken us.

That’s not slowing down either. For the first time I can remember, I’m really intrigued by the season arch – specifically who is Clara? It’s enough to make me move past the Ponds (who I was actually fond of, besides, I always liked a crowded TARDIS. Multiple companions always added a more ensemble feel to the show. One of the reasons Peter Davison is one of my favorites) and really wait on the edge of my seat for the next episodes.

While I’m waiting, I better get some Violent Blue done.


Other OZ

Movie bannerMV5BMjMyMzQ1ODM1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE2MTQxOQ@@__V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_A couple of weeks ago I took my seven-year-old daughter Madeline to see OZ : the Great and Powerful. She’d gone to see The Wizard of OZ with me when the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland screened it a year or so ago and it had been her first time seeing the movie. I thought it would be cool for the two of us to hit the theatre to see the new one together as well. I discovered it was playing at Amherst Cinema so I scooped up Maddie and off we went to OZ.

Someone explain to me why the new movie “OZ : The Great and Powerful” is getting nothing but hate?

ozbooksReally.

My best guess is that it’s because for most people, the Wizard of OZ is simply Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and that’s a shame, because there’s so much more to the Wizard of OZ in all of it’s forms than that.

A lot of people will know that the Wizard of OZ is a book. Not all of those folks will have actually read the book in one form or another but they’ll at least know it exists.  Not quite as many people know that there are fourteen books written by OZ’s creator L. Frank Baum, and forty altogether that are considered canon. The Fourteen Baum books have fallen into public domain and are freely available on the internet. Check over at Project Gutenberg and you’ll find the original fourteen along with a few of the later ones by other authors.

Hardly anyone knows that there were a grand total of four OZ movies (two of which were actually titled “The Wizard of OZ”. I own copies of ALL of them) that came before the Judy Garland film. Here’s some details below :

wizard_of_oz_1910THE WIZARD OF OZ
  Release date:        1910, March 26
  Description:         A short based on "The Wizard of Oz".
  Production Company:  Selig Polyscope Company
  Producer:            William Nicholas Selig
  Director:            Otis Turner
  Screenwriter:        L. Frank Baum and Otis Turner
  Length:              1,000 feet of film (one reel)
  Cast: Bebe Daniels (Dorothy), Hobart Bosworth, Eugenie Besserer,
        Robert Leonard, Winnifred Greenwood, Lillian Leighton, Olive Cox

his-majesty-the-scarecrow-06DOROTHY AND THE SCARECROW IN OZ
  Release date:       1910, April 19
  Description:        Based on excerpts from "The Wonderful Wizard
                      of Oz" and "The Marvelous Land of Oz".
  Production Company: Selig Polyscope Company
  Producer:           William Nicholas Selig
  Screenwriter:       L. Frank Baum
  Length:             1,000 feet (one reel)

  Scarcrow
his-majesty-the-scarecrow-01THE LAND OF OZ
  Release date:       1910, May 19
  Description:        Based on excerpts from "The Marvelous Land of Oz".
  Producer:           William Nicholas Selig
  Screenwriter:       L. Frank Baum
  Production Company: Selig Polyscope Company
  Length:             1,000 feet (one reel)

OZ films
MV5BMTUxOTMxMjg2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTA1NDYxMQ@@__V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_THE WIZARD OF OZ
  Release date:       1925, June 27
  Description:        A slapstick comedy that is loosely based
                      on the original story.
  Production company: Chadwick Pictures
  Director:           Larry Semon
  Asst. Director:     William King
  Screenwriters:      Larry Semon, L. Frank Baum Jr. (Frank Joslyn Baum),
                      and Leon Lee
  Cinematographers:   Hans F. Koenenkamp, Frank B.) Good, Leonard Smith
  Art Director:       Robert Stevens
  Editor:             Sam Zimbalist
  Distributor:        Chadwick Pictures
  Length:             7 reels, 6300 feet1925 Wizard of Oz
  Cast: Larry Semon (Scarecrow/Farmhand/Toymaker), Bryant Washburn 
        (Prince Kynd), Dorothy Dwan (Dorothy), Virginia Pearson 
        (Countess Vishuss), Charles Murray (Wizard), Oliver N. Hardy 
        (Tin Woodman/Farmhand/Knight of the Garter), G. Howe Black 
        (Cowardly Lion/Rastus (Snowball)), Josef Swickard (Prime 
        Minister Kruel), Mary Carr (Aunt Em), G. Howe Black (Rastus), 
        Frank Alexander (Uncle Henry/Prince of Whales), Otto Lederer 
        (Ambassador Wikked), Frederick Ko Vert (Phantom of Basket)

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0016544/?ref_=fn_al_tt_9

So, what’s my point?
The fundamental problem with an OZ movie since 1939 is that the OZ everyone else knows, isn’t quite the OZ I know. In a very real way, the Judy Garland film transcended  the source material and became a thing of it’s own. It’s it’s own entity with it’s own following and it’s own identity. the problem is, there still exists a property (to wit; the book and the previous and subsuquent films) that has the same name and a very similar story…..but not nearly as much market penetration. More people know the Garland OZ than know the source material, and as I said; that’s a shame because while it’s a seminal movie, a brilliant classic with groundbreaking effects and imagery….but it’s not a great portrayal of the source material.

return to oxI’d be okay with that. I really would, except that movie is so big – it poisons any attempt to further explore OZ…something Disney’s been trying to do for decades.

Some folks will remember Return to OZ.  This was the first real chance Disney had gotten to do an OZ film. There had been abandoned attempts to do some of the OZ sequals in the sixties and seventies for “The Wonderful World of Disney” but none could get off the ground….partily because of the hold the Judy Garland film had on pop culture.

They gave it a good try. They tried to pull directly from the source material, making a movie by mashing up two of the later novels (that in of itself probably led to some thematic issues . One novel would have been a better choice). In addition, one of the things they insisted on was making the characters look like the illustrations in the books. The problem with that however, isReturn-to-OZ-return-to-oz-31219337-1200-770 too many people expected those characters to look like the ones in the Garland film – that and too little scree time for character like the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. The movie felt beholden to the garland film as well, keeping the ruby slippers and making them a plot point (the slippers were silver in the book and are not as big a factor in later novels). The other big problem (and I wonder if it was an issue at the time) is that it looks dated. This is defiantly an ’80’s movie. You can tell. While The Garland film is timeless, the airbrushed look on the Wheelers and the dress on the witch are absolutely hallmarks of the time.

It’s other issue is that while it tries to incorporate the Garland film, it tries to hard to be dire as well. The electroshock scenes are dark and some of the thematic elements seem almost deconstructionist – something which doesn’t work well for OZ. Still it’s  a better film than anyone gives it credit for, overshadowed as it was by it’s 1939 predecessor.

return

And that brings us to 2013.

517Z4ZQE8RL__SL500_SS500_I don’t hate on prequels just on general principle. I think Smallville (at least in it’s first few seasons) is a brilliant prequel. My favorite Star Trek novels are prequels to the series and feature Robert April and a teenaged James T Kirk.

On the other hand, OZ can inspire some pretty rotten ones. The Lion of OZ  ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120733/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) was an interesting try, but it bugs me because it stomps all over too much of the established continuity.  I despise Wicked. Remember what I said about deconstructionism not working with OZ (It’s got something to do with the purity of the vision. It doesn’t work  well with Superman or the Lone Ranger either….but I digress)? That goes double for Wicked.  So how does OZ : the Great and Powerful rate?oz-poster-evil-wtich

This is the best new movie I’ve seen in years.

No, seriously. This is the OZ movie I’ve been waiting all my life for.  A while back I was criticizing Sam Raimi for some of his handling of the Spider-Man movies? I forgive him everything. I like a lot of his films, but I’ve never held him in high regard just because he’s a horror icon. I’ve always though him good, but still growing. This may well be his masterpiece.

They keep the look and feel of the Garland film without being beholden to it. When they need to diverge, they do. The shiney plastic flowers are now CG.  The Emrald City…oh my God. It’s just as I envisioned it: sprawling and beautiful. They fill the world up with amazing creatures – the China girl is the best character in the movie. The effects are spectacular, and I honestly can get past the CG for once, especially for the effects that are supposed to be illusionary.

oz-great-powerful-screencrush

Going with a prequel was a good idea this time around. There’s no expectation of seeing Dorthy or the Tin Man or the Lion or the Scarecrow. It Oz-The-Great-and-Powerful-postergives us a chance to clear the slate and start a new franchise….and boy…..do they ever. There are plenty of nods to what will happen in the Wizard of Oz though – the book or the movie, it doesn’t matter. Some of those made my jaw drop, especially when we find out who the Wizard’s long lost love is – and who Glinda looks like. Ozphiles will know that this fulfills long-held speculation on why Glinda doesn’t have a Kansas counterpart (the way the Witch and the Tin Man and the Lion and The Scarecrow do) in the Garland film. Moreover, it gives the later stories more depth. Suddenly it makes sense why Glinda would send Dorothy to the Wizard, it makes sense why, in later books  she would forgive his usurpation of the throne of OZ and teach him real magic. There’s so much more going on in this movie that we realize and it serves to give the OZ stories greater scope.

I love this movie. This is OZ as I know it. It’s OZ as I’ve always dreamed it could be. I look at these characters and I can see them growing into their counterparts in the 1939 Judy Garland film. I look at this movie and can see how they could create a whole new series of OZ films in their own continuity. It took decades, but Disney finally got it right.