20090924

Oh No They Di'int!! -- episode 2

Why are they remaking Clash of the Titans? They don't need to ... it's just as uncalled-for as all the other remakes that are littering the landscape already. Maybe it's just the fact that I'm becoming older than I feel, but there should be a law out there that says a movie can't be remade if it's less than 50 years old, and a movie adaptation of a TV series can't be made if the TV series ended less than 30 years ago. It's not as if every original idea that could possibly exist has already been done, right? And doesn't the track record of so-called "reboots" of movie and TV series kind-of speak for itself? There have been far more misses of that sort lately than there have been hits ... and don't even get me started on the A-Team movie (Oh, heaven help us, Liam Neeson is going to play Hannibal Smith? What are they thinking?!?) and the Karate Kid rehash that are on their way ... I can already see the dismal box-office receipts for them. People say nostalgia sells nowadays, but I say if you want nostalgia, go out and buy the original series on DVD and watch that; 98 percent of all TV series worth any pop-culture value are out on DVD, and trust me, they were all done far better the first time around.

But, back to the topic at hand: Clash of the Titans. Not everyone will agree with me, but far as I'm concerned it was a classic. Sir Laurence Olivier as Zeus, king of the gods (hey, who else would he play?) ... the always delightful Maggie Smith as the goddess Thetis ... the late, great Burgess Meredith as Ammon ... and, last but certainly not least, Bubo the mechanical owl as himself!! Not to mention the formidable Kraken, the icky Stygian Witches, the creepy Styx ferrymen, and the scare-you-shitless Medusa. The folks over at The Sci-Fi Movie Page complain that the original was "slow and dull", but I never ever get bored watching it; in fact, I'd rather have a movie that's comfortably paced rather than the lightning-fast, flashy and noisy video-game-stylized movies that are all the rage now. They also whine about the special effects being poor, but I consider them an artform -- think of all the man-hours it took to produce those shots ... not the most realistic-looking scenes in the world, but I tend to appreciate effects that actually took a lot of effort. Toiling in front of cameras for endless hours to put together a ten-second scene shows a kind of care and character that sitting in front of a computer and sliding various light/shading/color/contrast tools back and forth never can and never will.

I'm just not impressed with anything I've seen or heard yet about the Clash of the Titans remake. Liam Neeson as Zeus? Sure, I like the guy fine (he was in Krull, after all, and of course he was Qui-Gon Jinn!), so he'll probably do nicely in the role. Sam Worthington? Okay, I can't comment on him one way or another since I don't think I've seen anything he's been in ... but I bet he won't have the charisma that Harry Hamlin had in the role. And what's Hades doing in this thing? He wasn't in the original ... I bet we'll see a flashy, effects-laden battle, ala Anakin versus Obi-Wan, between them ... whatever. I am mildly interested that Nicholas Hoult is going to be in it, 'cause I liked him in the British series Skins. And is Medusa going to be a strictly CG character? Oh ... actually she was entirely animated in the original, now that I think about it. And dollars to doughnuts, they won't even have a Bubo in this one at all. Well, that just tears it right there. Unless the trailers seriously blow me away, I won't be seeing this thing until it hits DVD.

20090920

Star Trek: The Lost Missions - Episode 3

Okay, it's time once again to boldly go into the world of the Peter Pan/Power Records Star Trek stories. (Click on the 'Star Trek: The Lost Missions' label for others in the series, including an overview in the first post.) This one, "The Crier In Emptiness" (written by Alan Dean Foster), tells the tale of a very unusual kind of visitor that unintentionally wreaks havoc aboard the Enterprise. This is one of my favorites in the series, not only for the rather unique and innovative story, but also because the "visitor" happens to be one of my greatest loves. Listen long, and prosper.

20090915

Oh No They Di'int!! -- episode 1

For quite a number of years now I've been a casual fan of the classic '60s animated adventure series Jonny Quest. I'm not nearly as into it as I am Star Trek, Quantum Leap, or other series, but I like it enough to have collected the excellently done '80s comic book series published by Comico, and to have bought the DVD set when it came out a few years back -- and the '90s TV retooling of it probably stoked my interest in it too. I'm also familiar enough with it to know that, for a good 20 years or so, there's been talk of a live-action feature film version being in the works. Indeed, in issue #1 of Starlog Press' "Comics Scene" magazine, published in 1987 and which I just consulted, there was a small sidebar article in which Fred Dekker, director of the then soon-to-be-released Monster Squad, was gearing up to go into pre-production on it. But now, after more false starts than Bandit can shake a stick at, Hollywood appears to have finally shifted into high gear on the project, thanks most likely to the list of high-profile retro animation reboots and comic book hero adaptations.

But, all is not quite rosy in Quest land, at least if you ask me. What's bothering me, specifically? The actor they've all but officially confirmed as being cast in the title role ... Zac Efron. (His IMDB page still says he's only "rumored" to be cast, so I'm still holding out hope.) Now, understand that I don't have anything against Mr. Efron personally, or even critically; he's a decent actor and a good-lookin' dude (whether he deserves all the adulation and adoration that's been heaped upon him is a debate for another time ... or not, since it's not a subject fit for this blog) ... I just think he's flat-out wrong for the part. He's too old to play the Jonny we know and love -- in the original series, he was 11 years old, and in the '90s update he was in his early teens -- and Efron basically looks his age, which is, as I said, too old. Are they wanting to cast a big name primarily to draw the crowds to the theaters? The Jonny Quest brand arguably carries enough of its own weight to bring in not only the people who grew up watching the show, but their grandkids and the nostalgia buffs, so the producers should feel reasonably free to seek out a lesser-known name, or even an unknown -- a younger (or at least younger-looking) actor, with a closer visual resemblance to Jonny, good acting chops, and a bit of an athletic inclination certainly wouldn't hurt (for the potentially demanding physicality that the role would implicitly demand). Surely, with the population of this country, a young man matching those criteria couldn't be too hard to find.

But then, the whole "pulling the crowds in with the Jonny Quest brand" thing might be moot, because the producers are -- get this -- considering not even calling the movie (or, presumably, the character) Jonny Quest at all! More absurdly, they're basing this thinking on the box-office failure of the recent live-action Speed Racer movie. Uh ... what?!? Not only were the original JQ and SR animated series not even produced in the same country, let alone by the same people, but as far as I know the Speed Racer movie wasn't written or directed by any of the same people who'll be involved in Jonny Quest. So why are they automatically presuming it'll be a failure? I can just hear the JQ writer and director, whoever they may be, now: Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence, studio mucky-mucks. But then, the Hollywood studios don't appear to have ever placed a whole lot of stock in outside-the-box thinking anyway. But, I digress. If they're going to make a Jonny Quest movie without calling it Jonny Quest, then what's the point? And what, exactly, is making the studio bigwigs assume that such a strategy won't backfire on them, and cause the movie to be an even bigger flop than it would have been if they'd kept the Jonny Quest title?!?

But, back to the question of who to cast in the role of Jonny. I'd have to think about already established names in that age group, but the one that comes to mind first is junior Gossip Girl cast member Connor Paolo. He looks like he's still firmly in his mid-teens (and I think a JQ movie would work better with Jonny at that age), and even has a bit of a Jonny Quest look to him. Sure, he's naturally dark-haired, but he looks pretty good with dyed hair and could always wear colored contacts. But then, does Jonny even really need to be a blond? (But, like the above question, that can wait till later.) He's a pretty good actor, to boot -- was kind-of creepy in his Law & Order: SVU appearance recently (not that JQ would demand creepy acting) -- and could probably hold his own with the physical stuff. So, how about it, Hollywood? Connor could use a big feature-film break, and I'd bet he could pull this one off with flying colors.

20090909

Short In Stature, Tall In Power

Of all the "sword-and-sorcery" movies that came out in the early to mid 1980s, Krull is the only one I like. As I recall, it didn't get very good reviews when it was released, and it wasn't a box office success, so I can't help but feel that it's just never gotten the respect that I feel it's deserved. But then, it got a pretty decent special-edition DVD release (with commentaries, and a behind-the-scenes featurette -- narrated by Tom Bosley, no less!) a few years back, whereas Dragonslayer never has, so I could just be biased by my undying love for this movie. Sure, it has the oft-used scenario of the princess taken captive by the evil beast (quite literally Beast with a capital "B", in this case), and her lovelorn prince wrangling a scrappy band of outlaws and braving a series of hardships to come charging to her rescue, plus it was being released in the middle of a near glut of semi-sci-fi/medieval-fantasy movies (so much so that it had started becoming difficult to tell them apart), but to me this movie is like nothing else out there.

First of all, there was the toally bitchin' weapon-of-choice in the movie (this movie's Excalibur, if you will), the Glaive -- not your ordinary run-of-the-mill sword, but rather a five-armed flying blade, kind-of a cross between a starfish and a ninja throwing star. True, in real life it'd probably be about as aerodynamic as a pop-tart, but how ├╝ber-cool would it be to actually have one of those? And then there was the character of Rell, the cyclops (played by the late Bernard Bresslaw), an imposing figure who could throw his trident weapon with deadly precision from yards away, but who was just a big teddy-bear on the inside. Heck, all the characters in the movie are enjoyable for one reason or another ... but then, as I said before, that just might be me gushing on about this movie as I am wont to do.

One of the neatest things about Krull, though, is the cast ... the Brits will be able to spot two EastEnders players in their much-younger days, Todd Carty and Graham McGrath, but more significantly, we get three early peeks at actors who are at least semi-notable genre personalities now. Two of Torquil's band of escaped criminals, who end up showing their hearts of gold in aiding the prince in the rescue of his lady, are played by Liam Neeson (who would, of course, go on to play Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) and Robbie Coltrane (who is now loved the world over as the hulking but huggable Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter films). But take a close look at the lead character, Prince Colwyn himself -- if he looks familiar, that's because he's Ken Marshall, who went on to play the duplicitous Maquis operative Michael Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of Krull, and also one of its most enthralling, is the magnificent score by James Horner. It has seen three different commercial releases over the years, in progressively more expansive forms leading up to a two-CD issue of the complete score, but none of them are in print or readily available any longer. And one of the most tragic things of all is that no pieces from this score ever seem to make an appearance on any compilation, whether it's a general film music recording, a genre-specific collection, or a James Horner anthology ... not even the wonderful and well-rounded releases by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra have ever played a Krull selection on any of their releases. I simply don't see how that can be, as I honestly feel it's one of Horner's top three works ever (behind Titanic and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

As if you couldn't tell by now, I love Krull immensely and strongly recommend it to anyone who's never seen it. Unless you simply don't like anything to do with medieval-themed sci-fi/fantasy or sword-and-sorcery movies, I just don't see how you wouldn't love it. And I didn't even mention Ergo or the firemares ... wait till you see them!

20090906

Star Trek: The Lost Missions - Episode 2

Here we have the next episode in the Peter Pan/Power Records series of Star Trek stories, released back in the '70s. (See the first post in the series for background info.) In "In Vino Veritas" (written by Alan Dean Foster), Kirk and Spock serve as mediators in a territorial dispute between the Romulans and the Klingons, but the meeting is thrown into chaos by a man who appears to be a cross between Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones (I'm guessing the producers of the story records didn't have permission to use either of those two characters, so they made up this guy instead). I hope it's just as entertaining for you as the last one. Enjoy!

20090902

Will It Be "Marvey" or "Dismal"?

You know when you hear some news, and you feel like you should react about it in a certain way (or in some way, period), but it turns out you don't? Well, that's what happened when I read the recent news that Disney is buying out Marvel. I don't have any particularly strong opinions about Disney one way or another -- I'm a fan of a few of their movies, mostly from the late '70s to mid '80s, but that's about it. And I'm not all that emotionally invested in Marvel, either -- I totally dig the "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" movies, but am not much into super-hero comics otherwise. I venture to guess that we consumers will see little to no evidence of Disney's acquisition of Marvel, except that characters from the Marvel Universe will probably take up a fairly high-profile residence at the Disney theme parks ... and we might see the Disney production company "tag" (whatever the little five-second logo thingie is called in the industry) alongside the Marvel "tag" at the beginning of any future Marvel hero movies.

Frankly, they would be wise to keep the Marvel brand separate from the Disney brand, at least when it comes to the existing line of comic books; somehow I imagine the hardcore Marvel Universe readers would balk a bit at the thought of being seen buying Disney comics. But I doubt we'll need to worry in that regard; I'm sure Disney isn't all too eager to "sully" their family-friendly logo by slapping it on books featuring masked avengers brutalizing ruthless crime lords. And from there comes the one worry that's probably on a bunch of people's minds: Will Disney demand that the Marvel Universe clean itself up, and become less violent and more family-friendly? Somehow I doubt it -- the powers that be at Disney are smart enough not to dump four billion dollars into an acquisition, only to run the risk of watering it down and effectively flushing it straight down the crapper.

Hmm ... I guess I did have more to say than I expected to on this subject, despite having very little emotional investment in the scenario or its consequences ... at least, as it pertains to any particular companies. It does, however, bug me in the larger context of an ever-continuing series of corporate buyouts in the entertainment industry. The Disney/Marvel deal is the one I've had the most trepidations about since the Sony/BMG merger in 2004 -- but that one bothered me more, as I'm far more into music than any other facet of entertainment. (But then, record company mergers do have their advantages when it comes to being able to release comprehensive anthologies of artists who have a tendency to hop labels.) One would think that these buyouts and mergers would have to be stopped at some point to avoid concerns over ant-trust or monopolies in any given industry.

It makes me wonder if these corporate CEO's have ever seen that cartoon where the little fish gets eaten by a slightly bigger fish, and then that one gets eaten by a bigger fish, and so on. Such as it is with the entertainment world, where smaller companies progressively get absorbed into larger ones. Are they forgetting that this will eventually just leave one fish in the water? (And isn't it in that same cartoon where a character carrying dynamite is swallowed by that super-big fish and blown up? Okay, maybe that's carrying the analogy out on a limb.) They also need to be careful of the old adage, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." If these mega-publishers end up collapsing under their own weight from a bad business decision of some sort, they'll take down all the smaller companies they bought out.

But then, as I said, Disney is pretty smart, so that probably won't happen. And even if it does, and Marvel somehow falls victim to corporate foibles, the comic book industry is one of those that seems (at least, at my level of scrutiny, which admittedly isn't intense) to do best at re-inventing and re-invigorating itself when it needs to. So, let's have positive thoughts about the Disney/Marvel merger ... we might as well, since we can't undo it.