American Vampire

February 4th, 2018

Last night we watched American Vampire. Mid-90s film involving beaches, vampires, and a darn, bloody ghoul. Released in 1997, it is a bit of a cult classic, especially with fans of the Beach movies from the mid-60s that starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, it’s actually a pretty good film.

The synopsis is – Frankie’s parents are in Europe for the summer. He and pal Bogie meet vampire Count Erik Von Zipper, aka Moondoggie, at the beach. Bogie invites von Zipper and his entourage to come party and Frankie’s house. The vampires move in, along with their ghoul, Bruno. Frankie now needs help to rid himself of these troublesome vampires. To accomplish this, he turns to the Big Kahuna, Professor von Helsingmeister. No wonder Stoker shortened the name!

Oh, and Von Zipper’s ghoul, Bruno (Sydney Lassick), really gave us a case of the creeps. Unlike the vampires, who were very neat and clean vampires, taking their dinner out, Bruno made huge messes in the kitchen.

Overall, a pretty good film, although some of the dialog is not suitable for young ears (like my daughter’s). It has fun with the beach movie connection, with Frankie and DeeDee, Erik Von Zipper, who also uses the name Moondoggie from the film Gidget, and Adam West as the Big Kahuna. Oh, and least I forget, Dick Dale, the King of the Surf Guitar, puts in a cameo playing at the beach with his son on drums.

Count Erik Von Zipper was played by Johnny Venocur, and he carried the Von Zipper role quite well, even looking a lot like Harvey Lembeck, the original Von Zipper.

Also of interest, this was Carmen Electra’s first film, and she really vamped it up as one of Von Zipper’s vampire girls.

If you have never heard of it before, don’t be surprised. I ran across mention of it quite by accident and was intrigued because of the beach movie connections, Adam West, and Dick Dale.

So, if you really dig the beach movies of the ’60s, give this film a shot. Maybe Bruno the ghoul won’t wig you out as much as he did us.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review – The Last Jedi

January 30th, 2018

Spoilers abound

Okay, I admit it, I am a bit disappointed with The Last Jedi. Question – am I the only person around who thought they were watching a bad remake of The Empire Strikes Back? The parallels between the two films are numerous. Seriously, the Empire has found the Rebel base, the Rebel Alliance is forced to flee. Jedi wannabe seeks out and finds Jedi Master for training. Empire sets trap for Jedi wannabe, and nearly succeeds. Jedi Master joins the force. There are more. The only thing missing was Kylo Ren telling Rey “I am your brother”, which, I guess, they are saving that for the next film.

There are also numerous plot holes, may big enough to drive a Mac trunk through. Poe is snarky, and should have atomized in the opening battle. But, hey, I wasn’t in command, otherwise he would have toasted. Since Poe survived this film, hopefully they will make some improvements to the character.

Bombers in space. Seriously? Seriously. Microgravity activated bombs, and the bombardier is not affected by the vacuum of space while in the bomb bay with the bombs. Ugh! They spent too much time watching Twelve O’clock High (which is a fantastic movie), and not enough time developing an interesting and unique story.

Leia is sucked out into the vacuum of space and somehow is able to use the Force to survive.

And so it goes.

On the upside, Finn is still a fairly decent character, and John Boyega does a good job. There is a problem with how the character is treated early on when he is in a healing tank of some sort, for snarky comedy relief, which wasn’t necessary.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, is okay. Driver, outside of Star Wars, has done a few incredible things with his life that needs to be pointed out, most specifically founding Arts in the Armed Forces. As for the Force Awakens, there are some scenes were he does a very good job. The problem for him is how Kylko Ren is written, which comes off as a spoiled brat who likes to throw temper tantrums. But there are times where the script gives a better, more interesting view of the character of Kylo Ren, especially in the flashback scene with Luke Skywalker.

Meanwhile, Skywalker is a bit of a curmudgeon, but that’s okay, it actually worked for me. Mark Hamill does some good stuff with the role, but I wish they had handle the ending conflict between Skywalker and Kylo Ren differently.

Other than the plot holes and the feeling I was watching The Empire Strikes Back (and wishing it were as good as Empire), it is an okay movie, and it is best seen on the big screen. Also, you should decide for yourself it is a great film, or if I am calling it right.

Maybe, just maybe, the next entry into the franchise will be better. One could hope.

Final note, the end credits has a tribute for Carrie Fisher who passed away before its release, and a nice, appropriate tribute to boot.

Tags: ,

Review – The Greatest Showman

January 2nd, 2018

I took the family to see The Greatest Showman over New Year’s weekend. To start off with, we all enjoyed the film very much. This is the story, fairly well fictionalized (Barnum was not orphaned, whereas is partner, Baily, was orphaned), done for artistic reasons, of P. T. Barnum and how he built his circus. The film was made as a musical, and that worked well with the overall story.

This is going to come as a shock for people who know me, but I haven’t seen any of the actors in a movie before, even Hugh Jackman (Wolverine). Yes, that’s right, I haven’t seen an X-Men movie, well, maybe the first one back in 2000, but I don’t recall it. So, all of these actors are in a sense new to me, although Jackman is a known quantity by name, and a few movie trailers.

We’ll start off with the good things about the movie. Hugh Jackman turned in an outstanding performance as P.T. Barnum. As the focal point of the story, he had a lot of weight to carry, not just acting, but singing and dancing as well. When Barnum purchased the American Museum (was museum), and renamed it for himself, it was his daughters who pointed out that the missing ingredient for success was living, breathing performers. This set him on a quest to find the talent he needed, people who would stand out, and started with the man who would become known as General Tom Thumb, played by Sam Humphrey. One thing leads to another and he has a cast put together and a show that people come to see. Of course the show takes a beating in the press, and uses the bad review to further promote his show.

Later, in a great barroom scene with Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron, Barnum enlists the aid of Carlyle to further promote his show. Carlyle is listed as a composite of several characters, including James Baily, but I would argue that some of Baily’s life was incorporated into the character of P.T. Barnum. Carlyle falls for Anne, played by Zendaya, and we are treated to a great acrobatic duet between the two.

Barnum meets Jenny Lind, played by Rebecca Ferguson (singing dubbed in by Loren Allred), a renown Swedish opera singer, and takes her on tour of the United States. This leads to other problems for Barnum as there is an implied romantic interest.

There is a long list of excellent performers in the film, that makes The Greatest Showman a real treat.

Now the bad things. Darn it, I can’t think of any. Or maybe that’s a good thing.

The Greatest Showman is a great film that deserves to be seen on the Big Screen. The music and choreography are excellent and the cast and crew delivered a film that can be enjoyed again and again.

Tags: , ,

The Flash – Season 3, Episode 21

May 16th, 2017

“Cause and Effect”, Season 3, Episode 21, needs a real scientist to check their facts. First off, this was not much more than a throw-away fluff episode. “Let’s erase Barry’s memory and see what happens” says Cisco. That part was bad enough. But then we get the “Speed Force Bazooka”. Okay, sounds like a good plot device, and a board with all kinds of sciencey stuff on it, and then Wells and his love interest, Tracy, say that it needs 3.86 terajoules to power it, and go on to state that is MORE power than the Sun. Say WHAT?

A quick check at NASA’s Cosmicopia (item 27) shows that the Sun’s energy output is 386.4 yottajoules. You may be wondering what the heck is a yottajoule is. I can dig it, but if you guessed that it is a bigger number than terajoule, you are on the right track.

Let’s use a bit of mathematical notation. 3.86 terajoules is 3.86 x 1012, 386 followed by 10 zeros, whereas 386.4 yottajoules is 3.864 x1026, 3864 followed by 23 zeros, lots and lots of zeros, more zeros that you get with terajoules.

It’s important that if you are going to do science, you get it right, especially something as easy to check as this.

And The Flash continues to jump the shark. And in season 3, episode 22, jumps the King Shark. Erk.

Tags: , ,

Scooby Apocalypse #1

June 23rd, 2016

As mentioned previously, DC Comics is doing reboots of a number of Hanna-Barbera properties, and one of them is Scooby-Doo and Gang. Based on the cover art, I was a bit skeptical, more so of this one than any other in the set.

Howard Porter’s pencils and inks, are nice, but lack the feel of Scooby-Doo. None of the characters really look like the original gang. Unsurprising, I guess, as they are trying to do something that is, um, different. The story, well, jinkies, it is NOT the Scooby-Doo I grew up with and my daughter has learned to love. Not by a long shot. Velma is a bit of a mad scientist trying to save the world, unleashing nanites onto an unwitting population, that when triggered will turn humanity into docile slaves.

Scooby is in training as a military dog with enhanced intelligence, and is a failure in the program, and Shaggy is his trainer. Daphne and Fred run an obscure TV show exploring weird things.

And, of course, it’s the end of the world as we know it.

I had major concerns when I read the promo-blurb about this before the actual release. Sadly, it lived up to my expectations, and I don’t like it. These characters are so unlike in look and personality, and the story is, well, yeesh. Even my daughter didn’t like it. I am going to give the second issue a read, but I am not hopeful.

Oh, well, at least we have Future Quest to look forward to.

Tags: , ,

Future Quest #1

June 23rd, 2016

When DC announced a few months back that is releasing a new line of Hanna-Barbera comics, re-envisioned for the 21st Century, I was rather skeptical of what they would be like. Future Quest #1, written by Jeff Parker, art by Evan Shaner and Steve Rude, plus a host of other contributors, turned in a darn good yarn, updating classic Jonny Quest for the modern era. The art and story brings back fond memories of watching Jonny Quest on the TV when I was a kid. complete with nemesis Dr. Zin and his robot spiders, right out of Memory Lane.

Future Quest is a mash-up, with superheroes abounding and what appears inter-dimensional beings. Who knows.

So, with this first issue, I think Future Quest is off to a good start and I am looking forward to the second issue. So is my daughter, who gave it a big thumbs-up, and she has never seen the original Jonny Quest cartoons, so that’s saying something. Looking forward to issue #2.

Tags: , ,

The Rolling Stones

March 11th, 2016

I recently read The Rolling Stones, one of Robert A. Heinlein’s young adult novels. I am going to say it is a lot of fun to read. Following the misadventures of the twins, Castor and Pollux, as the Stone family takes an extended vacation in our solar system, visiting Mars and the Asteroid Belt, we get an idea of what life, and space travel might have been like.

Outbound, a passenger liner headed for Mars puts out an emergency call tot he Rolling Stone, Edith Stone, their mother, who is a doctor, is called over to help with an epidemic that has sickened some of the crew and passengers of the liner, including the doctor. There had already been fatalities. When both craft arrive at Mars, the epidemic has been resolved, and the liner is placed in quarantine for a spell. The disease was a new strain, and potentially fatal.

The twins are natural capitalists, one to make their first million before they turn 18. Good on them. When their first money making scheme initially fails them on Mars, they manage to find a way to turn it around and make a profit; at least until the government on Mars comes along and taxes them to bankruptcy. They end up in tax court with their Grandmother representing them, and Hazel is able to use the legal system to show that the taxes being applied are incorrect, and so the twins, even after legal fees, manage to end up with a small profit. Hazel is a feisty character and a lot of fun.

Some of the science fails to hold up in the modern era, as we know a lot more about life in zero gravity than we did when Heinlein wrote this novel back in the early ’50s. This brings me to one of the parts I like about the edition I have: the afterword by Steve Hughes, where he discuses the technology and science used in the book, what Heinlein got right, and wrong, but recognized that writing in 1952, long before the first manned space flight, that much of what Heinlein speculated was the norm for the time.

It is a good read, and did I mention flat cats? The original Tribble? But you knew that already!

Tags: ,

Merry Christmas

December 26th, 2015

A day late, but…

Merry Christmas everyone, especially to those who are far from home serving their country and are unable to be with their loved ones. May God continue to watch over you and keep you safe.

marvin-donovans-reef

Lee Marvin bearing gifts to the baby Jesus in the film Donovan’s Reef, with The duke in the foreground. Thought it was suitable.

Tags:

Happy Veterans Day

November 11th, 2015

For all who served, thank you for doing a difficult job, frequently in hostile conditions, in times of great need. Thank you for serving.

Tags:

Review: Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience

June 16th, 2015

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time. I can tell how long as the receipt from when I bought it (dated 1998) was still stuck in the book. Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, edited by Ben Finney and Eric Jones, is a collection of papers published in 1985. Although 30 years old, much of the information is still relevant today. We know more about the science and engineering on what it will take to colonize space now, but that’s the only change.

The papers cover a wide variety of topics, not just the engineering and science side for colonizing space, but also a lot of anthropology and history, how and why Man has moved about the globe, especially a lot of focus on the Polynesian migration. Theories as to why migrate also abound, but are also relevant.

Discussions cover O’Neill Colonies, Dyson Swarms, Asteroid and comet mining, Comet Traveling Nomads, space drives, and time frames to reach the nearest stars. There are also papers that discuss how Mankind might spread across the stars, as well as fill up our own solar system, using star-lifting to extend the natural life of the Sun, and use the local resources. It also touches on the Fermi Paradox, why haven’t we seen them, as well as the early years of SETI.

Contributors include the likes of Carl Sagan and David Brin, as well as several papers, mainly as section intros, by the two editors.

Overall a darn good read, well worth the time as it will make one thing about where will we go next, and how.

In closing, I am left with one question: When will we get a volume 2?

SF Writers Who Served

November 11th, 2014

This year for Veteran’s Day, I thought I would take the time to recognize some of SF’s writers who served in the Armed Forces. Although mainly looking at U.S. writers, I’ll also be recognizing some of the British Commonwealth writers as well.

Robert A. Heinlein, one of SF’s Three Grand Masters, author of Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, and many other novels and stories. Graduated Annapolis Naval Academy and served in the United States Navy.

Arthur C. Clarke, the man who gave us 2001: A Space Oddity among many other stories and novels, another member of SF’s Three Grand Masters, served in the Royal Air Force during World War 2.

Isaac Asimov, the third member of SF’s Three Grand Masters served in the United States Army for nine months in 1946. This came after working as a civilian at the Naval Yard during World War 2.

Harlan Ellison, one of fandom’s most celebrated authors, with such stories as A Boy and His Dog. Ellison served in the United States Army during the late ‘50s. I would really like to see pics of Ellison in uniform.

Gordon R. Dickson, United States Army, World War 2, he would go on to give us the Dorsai stories, as well as collaborate with Poul Anderson on the Hoka series of stories.

A.Bertram Chandler was merchant marine and the last master of the HMAS Melbourne. His life as a merchant marine would influence much of his writings, including the Commodore Grimes series.

David Drake, the man who gave us Hammer’s Slammers and many other stories, mainly writing Military SF, served in the 11th Armored Cavalry, US Army, during the Vietnam War.

John Ringo, another fine Military SF writer, 82nd Airborne, US Army. Ringo has contributed a large body of work to SF, including the Posleen series.

John Brunner, whose novel Shockwave Rider who brought forth such computer terms as worm as well as predicting computer viruses, served in the Royal Air Force during the 1950s.

J.R.R. Tolkien, the man who gave us Middle-earth and one of the world’s most brilliant Fantasy authors, served in the British Army in the First World War.

C.S. Lewis, a close friend of Tolkien, and another of the world’s great Fantasy authors, and world bring us the Chronicles of Narnia, also served in the British Army in the First World War.

C. M. Kornbluth, co-author (with Frederick Pohl) of the novel The Space Merchants, served in the US Army during World War 2, and awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the Battle of the Bulge.

Speaking of Frederick Pohl, he also served in the US Army during World War 2, as an air corps weatherman, attached to the 456th Bombardment Group in Italy. Pohl went on to write many SF novels, including HeeChee Rendezvous and Man Plus.

Joe Haldeman, author of The Forever War, which is considered a counter-point to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, as well as one of the best examples of Military SF. Haldeman served in the US Army during Vietnam.

This list could easily be a lot longer, however, I think I’ll call it here.

My thanks to all who served their country, whether it was during a time of peace, or during a time of war.

Tags: , ,

Fury, One of the Best WW2 Films in a Long Time

October 29th, 2014

Last night I went to see the movie Fury with a couple of my friends (Mike and Linda). Fury is the latest film starring Brad Pitt, set in the last days of World War 2. It is the story of a tank crew of a M4E8 Sherman tank, and their exploits in the liberation of Germany from the Nazis. It is a fairly graphic violent movie, and laced with large amounts of profanity. This should not be surprising as it is a war film.

Fury was written, directed and produced by David Ayer. I am not familiar with his previous work, although I remember seeing the trailer for U-571 (which failed to peak my interest), and it has been suggested he learned a lesson from that film about tweaking history too much.

Brad Pitt is the main lead, playing the tank commander “Wardaddy” Collier. The rest of his crew are played by Shia LeBeouf (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) as “Bible” Swan; Logan Lerman as Norman Ellison, the crew’s replacement bow gunner, a kid fresh from the States; Michael Peña as “Gordo” Garcia; and Jon Bernthal as “Coon-Ass” Travis. Most of the cast I am not familiar with, however, if this an example of their work, they are quite good at what they do.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot as I hate spoilers as much as the next person. The story opens with Collier and crew (minus Norman) on a battlefield, post battle. They are trying to get their tank running again so they can return to base. Once rolling, and back at base, the dead bow gunner is removed, and they begin the process of rearming for their next engagement. Enter Norman Ellison, a kid, eight weeks in the Army, trained as a clerk typist (he says he can type 60 words a minute), has never been inside of a tank, let alone seen battle.

Their platoon of tanks (5 tanks comprises a tank platoon) is dispatched to a town that the U.S. is presently engaged in retaking. Allof them Sherman tanks, but only the Tank Fury is an Easy 8 model sporting the high velocity 76mm gun, the others are all older Shermans sporting the medium velocity 75mm gun (probably M4A2s or M4A4s).

The town is littered with the bodies of young German men (more likely teenagers) who were hung by the SS for their refusal to take up arms and fight. In this town Collier and Ellison meet two German women, and befriend them. Things were fairly relaxed and friendly until the rest of the tank crew bursts in and causes a great deal of tension. Ellison shows he is quite smitten with one of the women, Emma.

The crew of the Fury, along with the rest of their tank platoon are dispatched to stop an advancing column of German infantry, which we later find out is a battalion of SS looking for a fight. En route to engage the enemy, they encounter a Tiger tank. And we’ll leave the spoilers there.

The appearance of the Tiger tank is significant film-wise as the Tiger used is Tiger 131, the only operational Tiger 1 tank in the world, and was on loan to the film production team, courtesy of The Tank Museum in Bovington, England. This is also significant in that it is the first time in modern film that a real Tiger tank was used (according to notes elsewhere, the last time a real Tiger tank was used in a film was in 1946). The Tank Museum also furnished an M4E8 to serve as the main tank (and title character), Fury. A total of 10 Sherman tanks were used in the film. Kudos to The Tank Museum for their participation in the making of Fury. The added bit of realism by using working tanks, and not prop tanks like other films says a lot about the quality of this film production.

Battles are bloody and violent, graphically so. People who know me now I am not a fan of overly graphic violence. However, for a war film to be truly accurate, it is going to be pretty bloody. They say War is Hell, and if you want an honest, and real depiction of war, it is going to be bloody.

Other themes explored in the film, along with the horrors of war, are camaraderie, friendship, duty, honor, courage, and self-sacrifice. We see this well depicted as Collier takes young Ellison under his arm, so to speak, and helps him learn to survive the horrors they are going to face together, and how each of them is dependent on their comrades to do their job (killing the enemy), and do it well and without hesitation. The crew eventually counts Ellison as one of their own when Travis gives Ellison the nickname “Machine”. The crew of the Fury on several occasions, including in the climactic battle, say “best job I ever had”, in reference to their duties as a tank crew.

Fury is certainly the best war film I have seen since Saving Private Ryan, and I think in many ways it is a superior film. Excellent production values, great story, wonderful performances. This is a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen as movies are meant to be seen.

Tags: , , , ,

Beyond Belief

October 14th, 2014

I only recently learned of this about Marin Zimmer Bradley, child abuse accusations laid down by her daughter Moira Greyland. There is more, in Greyland’s own words, at Sounds like Weird, if you have the stomach (I only read part of Greyland’s poems about the abuse, I don’t have the stomach for more).

I knew about Walter Breen’s child abuse, he went to prison for it. I remember meeting him a few times at SCA events (when I was involved in the SCA) and at conventions. I seem to recall Breen wearing a button that read “If it moves, fondle it”, which was disturbing even to me. I could be misremembering who wore that button, it was quite a few years ago, but I don’t think I am.

This is sad as I remember reading many Darkover novels in the ’80s, and was recently thinking of revisiting Darkover. Not now. Not ever.

Tags: , ,

A Brief History of Klingon Fandom Part 1

October 4th, 2014

Introduction

Earlier this year I was on a panel on Klingon Fandom at MarsCon (the one in Minnesota) with several of my fellow KAG members. I was the proverbial dinosaur on the panel. No, not the oldest member, just the one who had been doing Klingon the longest, since the mid-70s. Dinosaur. Or, maybe Neanderthal?

After much reflection, I thought maybe it was time to write up a bit of history about Fandom, Klingon Fandom in particular, based on a host of experiences. This will be a periodic series of unknown length. And from my own observations, so it will be far from complete.

Part 1

My first REAL introduction to organized SF fandom, which would quickly lead to Klingon Fandom took place because of a chance meeting at an event at Cal State Fresno. Ray Bradbury was speaking, and I was able to get excused from my classes (I was in high school at the time). Crickey, I even remember the jacket I was wearing – light-weight windbreaker that had a Star Trek insignia on it. Yes, I was a geek at an early age.

While there, and waiting to get an autograph, a guy flashed me the Vulcan salute, and we started chatting. Turns out he had heard about a Star Trek club that was forming. STAR Fresno. After some chit-chat and information exchange, I was well on my way to SF and, more importantly Klingon Fandom. You see, this guy was Chris Gudger. No, not an organizer of STAR Fresno, but he knew about it, and the guys forming it (turned out one of them was someone I knew from Junior High School, albeit a couple of years older than me).

Chris was one of the original Klingon fans, the first person I ever ran across who costumed as a Klingon, and one of the very few at that time on the West Coast who did Klingon. This is still the era of The Original Series. No latex headpieces required.

STAR Fresno was being formed by John (or is it Jon) Golding, Mark Hernandez (the guy I knew from Junior High School) and another guy whose name eludes me.

Things kind of blossomed from there. I started hanging out with Chris Gudger and a couple of other friends, can’t exactly remember names (Eric, Ron, and a couple of others). I developed an interest in film making, costuming and, well, Klingons. I also started reading Famous Monsters of Filmland (Forrest J. Ackerman’s famous magazine!). Also of note was a friend of Golding’s who would regularly show up, who had legally changed his name to James T. Kirk and drove the Shuttle Van, a van painted up to look like the shuttlecraft Galileo from Star Trek. To an impressionable young teen, this was cool stuff.

Over the next couple of years I would learn about Lincoln Enterprises (a business run by Majel Barrett that sold Trek and related memorabilia), the Star Trek Welcomittee (a group dedicated to promoting Trek Fandom and connecting fans with clubs) and SF Conventions.

I also joined my first Klingon Club, Friends of Klingon. For a buck I received a membership card, a certificate, and a couple of other items. Okay, it wasn’t a real club, and it was a buck that may have been better spent on a few comic books, or a Doc Savage novel, but, what the hey, I did it anyway. At least it made for a good memory.

Next time, San Diego and my first convention

Tags: , , ,

The Search for Sergeant Rock

October 2nd, 2014

I have a search going on, or, rather a quest. You see, when I was a young kid, about my daughter’s age now, I wrote the only fan letter I have ever written. It was to Joe Kubert and the DC Comics series Our Army At War, featuring Sgt. Rock. They published it.

Of course that was so long ago, and before I discovered that, hey, there is a market for comic books. (I sold a lot of them off at a swap meet for a couple of bucks…if I had only known then what I learned a few months later! I never would have sold them.) Sadly, I no longer have the issue in question.

Now, being a parent, I kind of have a hankering for nostalgia, and such. And I am trying to find that long lost issue with my letter in it.

Last spring I was at an event where I was able to check a few likely issues, but no joy. I did purchase a couple of issues that I particularly remembered and had fond memories of reading. Nostalgia at its best!

Now a few months have passed, and I am preparing to begin the chase again. There are two (that I know of) online comic databases, and, low and behold, one of them (Grand Comics Database) listed letter writers for some issues in the target range. Although my name did not come up in any of the issues I checked, I was able to eliminate eight more target issues.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get lucky soon.

Tags: , ,

Gilligan’s Island Season 1 DVD

September 23rd, 2014

One of the great things about parenthood is introducing a new generation to the things I loved as a kid, and in many cases, I still love these same things. Gilligan’s Island is one of these things, and we recently finished watching season 1 of Gilligan’s Island.

Without a doubt, Gilligan’s Island is one of the best sitcoms ever made, as well as being my favorite sitcom. My daughter loves it as well.

The season 1 DVD set for Gilligan’s Island also includes the series pilot. Some of the scenes from the pilot were reused in later episodes for the first season, especially the part with Gilligan sending the radio and the transmitter into the ocean while fishing, and then searching the fish he caught to find them again.

From the pilot to the shooting of the series, three supporting characters were changed. The high school teacher became the Professor, Bunny became Mary Ann, and Ginger went from being a secretary to a glamorous movie star. Reasons noted in various documentaries is that those three actors didn’t do well with test audiences, and after watching it, I have to agree. Sometimes actors and roles just don’t work well, and that was the case here.

Thus we were fortunate to get Tina Louise as the glamorous Movie Star, Ginger Grant, Dawn Wells as the girl next door from Kansas, Mary Ann, and Russell Johnson as the brilliant Professor.

Bob Denver and Alan Hale, Jr., were the comedic equivalent of Laurel and Hardy. These two actors had their roles down pat, and played well with each other with such chemistry that it is hard to imagine anyone successfully reproducing these roles (and in the ’70s, we saw an attempt to pair Bob Denver with Forest Tucker in the similar series, Dusty’s Trail, which I am probably one of the few people in the world who liked it, but the chemistry wasn’t there).

Jim Backus as the Millionaire, Thurston Howell, the Third, and Natalie Schafer as his wife, “Lovey”, always great, always fun.

Seven actors, seven characters, all blended together to make this a wonderful, and memorable series, that is still loved after nearly 50 years.

A few high points from season 1 – Hans Conried as Wrongway Feldman appears in two episodes, even attempting to teach Gilligan to fly. Vito Scotti shows up as a Japanese sailor in a mini-sub ( and appears later in the series as the mad scientist, Dr. Balinkoff), still fighting WW2, and a young Kurt Russell as a jungle boy.

We are also treated to the castaways learning to get along with each other, getting organized to survive, several episodes involving voodoo, greed when Gilligan stumbles into a gold mine and finds a treasure chest, gangsters, and an invasion by hostile natives from a nearby island.

Yes, I do love Gilligan’s Island, even after all these years, and am delighted that my daughter loves it as well.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Movie THEM!

April 29th, 2014

Recently on one of the very few groups on Facebook that I participate in, there was a discussion about the movie THEM!, mostly because a very young Leonard Nimoy had a small, uncredited role in the film. I remember watching this film a couple of times as a kid and have some distinct memories about it. So I sat down and watched it over the weekend, with my daughter.

THEM! is one of the first post-atomic SF films involving mutated creatures as a result of atomic bomb tests. Watching it today I was amazed at how well written and produced the film is, with some very good performances by some young actors who went on to star in some major films and television over the next couple of decades.

The film opens with James Whitmore, starring as a New Mexico State Trooper named Ben Peterson, on patrol with his partner Ed Blackburn (played by Chris Drake), and supported by another trooper in an aircraft. The trooper in the aircraft spots a kid in the desert, all by herself. Peterson and Blackburn pick her up and find that she is in a state of shock, unable to talk, or even respond.

Up ahead is a car and trailer, it has been torn apart and the occupants missing. A gun is found, as well as plenty of blood, but no bodies. Cash is also found. An odd print is found in the sand near the trailer; Peterson rules out it belonging to a bobcat due to its shape and being too far from the mountains where bobcats can be found. Forensic experts and medical personnel are called in to the scene. The girl is taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Peterson and Blackburn head up to Gramps store to see if he knows anything.

At Gramps store, they find it has also been torn apart. Gramps rifle, a .30-30, is found bent at rendered useless. Gramps is found dead, in a small basement under the store.

So far we have the makings of a good suspense story. We see a lot of evidence, a lot of clues, but we don’t actually see the source of the attacks until later.

Robert Graham (played by James Arness) comes on to the scene, an FBI agent assigned to the area and put on the case. Soon we are introduced to a pair of scientists, one played by Edmund Gwenn (Dr. Harold Medford) whose voice is recognizable from his role as Kris Kringle in The Miracle of 34th Street. The other is played by Joan Weldon, Dr. Pat Medford. Later on we are treated to a spectacular performance by Fess Parker as pilot Alan Crotty who saw flying saucers that looked like ants, which helped get him the role in Disney’s Davey Crockett. His performance alone makes this film worth watching, and it is a darn good film overall.

Granted, the mechanical ants are a little dated in their appearance, but for the time it was made, 1954, they would have been considered quite good.

THEM! was nominated for an Oscar for its special effects, and won a Golden Reel Award for sound editing. Not bad for what today would be considered a ‘50s B-picture.

It was planned to be shot in color and 3D, however those plans were scrapped in favor of black and white. Quite frankly, I think that was the right decision. Black and white filming can convey some pretty interesting effects, especially when building up a suspenseful feeling, a feeling that color film often loses.

There is a lot of interesting trivia about the film on the ‘net. One bit I found that interested me is that the VB-25J used to transport the Doctors Medford (father and daughter) was the personal transport for a Major General. Being an warbird buff, I would like to learn more about that aircraft.

After watching the movie, I asked my daughter what she thought of it. Her response: “Awesome!”. I agree with her assessment 100%. THEM! is a classic SF/Horror thriller that any SF buff should see.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Soylent Green

January 14th, 2014

Soylent Green is a long time favorite film of mine, and am glad I had the opportunity to watch it again over the weekend. Based loosely, and I do mean loosely, on the 1966 harry Harrison novel, Make Room, Make Room, we are introduced to a dystopian society where there is a sharp divide between the haves and the have-nots. Set in the year, 2022, the action takes place in a heavily overpopulated New York City, where 40 million people are attempting to survive in a heavily polluted environment on starvation rations. Unemployment is high, and those with jobs are under constant pressure to keep their jobs as there is a long line of people waiting to get the few jobs that there are.

If you have never seen Soylent Green, then you should add this to your must see list.

Winner of a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as well as a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, Soylent Green sports a great cast headed by Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. Robinson was one of the all-time great screen actors, and this was his last film, passing away 12 days after filming. Chuck Connors, of The Rifleman fame, plays the main heavy, Tab fielding, and Brock Peters of Star Trek Fame, better known to Trekkers as Admiral Cartwright as well as Sisco’s father, plays Hatcher, the Lieutenant of Detectives, Thorn’s (Charlton Heston) boss. Robinson plays Solomon Roth, Thorn’s aged Police Book, a researcher who helps with investigations, skilled at finding information in various archives.

There are few resemblances between the film and the book it is based on, and for good reason. I read Harrison’s novel several years ago, and found it, well, lacking. Harrison spent too much ranting about overpopulation and the need for zero population growth. aside from the major themes of overpopulation, pollution, cannibalism, the green house effect, and the murder that triggers the investigation and the major plot line, there isn’t a lot in common, and I find that the movie is by far a superior and compelling story than Harrison’s novel. But one should read it and decide for themselves, and not take my word for it.

Thorn’s investigation into the murder of the wealthy elite named Simonson triggers a long chain of events, that leads to Sol, and others, learning the truth about what Soylent Green really is. Simonson, it turns out, was eliminated as he good not live with the truth he learned. Thorn is able to deduce, based on circumstantial evidence, that Simonson was not the victim of a burglary gone wrong, but assassinated for some unknown reason. Thorn takes from Simonson’s home a number of items for his personal use, including a pair of research books by the Soylent Corporation, which he gives to his police book, Sol.

Any rate, things become even dicier for Thorn as he and Sol get closer to the truth.

Robinson is a stellar performer, and shows it in his final scene in this film, making Soylent Green a must see for his performance alone. God, he was great! I wish we had more actors like him in film today.

Richard Fleischer directed an excellent cast in a darn good story scripted by Stanley Greenberg. All of the supporting cast turned in solid performances, a cast that included Joseph Cotton, Leigh Taylor-Young, Mike Henry (The Green Berets!) and Lincoln Kilpatrick, among many others.

Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green Day.

Tags: , , ,

The Right Stuff Blu-Ray

December 18th, 2013

Recently we celebrated the 66th anniversary of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. I was surprised to learn that my wife had never seen the movie The Right Stuff. And I was delighted to learn that there was a new 30th Anniversary (for the movie) Blu-Ray edition out.

I am willing to be that most people visiting my blog have seen The Right Stuff before. It’s a great movie depicting a tremendous period of history, especially Space History.

Good stuff: the casting director, Lynn Stalmaster, along with whoever had final say on casting decisions, did a remarkable job of assembling actors that could carry the roles of some pretty well known people in American History. Every one of the cast members, the test pilots, the astronauts, their wives, turned in great performances. Ed Harris was excellent as John Glenn, and Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeagar was convincing. Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn, and all the rest, excellent performances.

How historically accurate the film is can be debated, but this is a film, and some artistic license has to be made for an epic that is squeezed into a two and a half hour time frame.

There are also a lot of bonus features with the set, some of which are a little dated, and obviously so, but are still good to watch.

For the film, there are a few things left out that would have been better to know about, such as Pancho Barnes’ background – she was an aviator herself, and had set a number of records. But we don’t get that from the film. Also, why did her place burn down? Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly at Mach 2, is mostly just a minor background character, despite his importance in the age of spaceplane development (X-1 and X-15). Crossfield was an aerospace engineer (BS and MS), and became a test pilot so that he could design better planes. But that’s movies for ya, and, like I said, there is only so much that can be squeezed into the time they had for the film.

This Blu-Ray edition also comes with a booklet discussing the film, some of the historical figures, and some of the actors in the film. It’s a nice little booklet, but I would have preferred more of a focus on the real people rather than the actors. That’s a personal nit.

Overall, a great picture, well worth adding to the film library, and, if you are one of the few who has never seen it, now is the time to check it out.

Tags: , ,

Review: Fool Moon

December 10th, 2013

A few years back I read Stormfront, the first book in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. Although I liked the story, I didn’t like the main character harry Dresden, nor did I like the number one supporting character Detective Karrin Murphy. I thought Harry Dresden was a class-A jerk, and Murphy was a thug with a gun and a badge. I just did not like either one of these characters. Friends of mine who had read more of the books assured me that they get better.

Fast forward to today, and I have read the second book in the series, Fool Moon. Dresden is a more likeable character. Murphy, on the other hand, is still a thug with a gun and a badge. Murphy also jumps to conclusions based purely on circumstantial evidence. Some friend!

Johnny Marcone returns, and he is a convincing character that works well. He is a real thug, Chicago’s gangland master. He also has some legitimate business interests.

As for Fool Moon, this is another good tale from Jim Butcher. As the title suggests, we’re going to get werewolves. Lots of them. Butcher obviously did his homework on werewolf folklore and had me doing some of my own. I had no idea that folklore presented so many different ways of achieving the lycanthropic effect, as I am so used to what we used to get in the movies. Full Moon rises, and, behold, Lon Chaney, Jr., becomes the Wolfman. Nope, in Fool Moon, we get a lot more, and Butcher gives each type a unique moniker fitting the type.

Dresden finds himself drawn into an investigation of a recent outbreak of murders that look like wolf attacks, but forensic evidence points to something not quite wolf-like. Thus his research into werewolves with the help of Bob, his air spirit in a skull.

Not wanting to give out too much in the way of spoilers, everything about Dresden’s investigation goes wrong at every turn, and somehow still manages to pull his bacon out of the frying pan in the nick of time. This makes for a nice, fast paced story with plenty of action. It is also extremely violent, more so than what I recall from Stormfront. But then we are dealing with werewolves.

Susan Rodriguez is an important character in this story, not only as the reporter for the Arcane, but also bails Dresden out of several tight situations, and we see a budding romance as it becomes obvious that she has deep feelings for Dresden. Susan is a likeable character, and, character-wise, I think she helps bring out some of the better qualities in Dresden that we see in this book.

Meanwhile, Butcher stitches together some very nice prose, especially when describing the full moon coming up at the climax of the book where Butcher gives us some really nice imagery that goes beyond your typical “silvery moon”. Overall I enjoyed reading Fool Moon more than Stormfront, in part because it was a darn good tale, and also due to Dresden’s improving character. And if you are wondering if I will read more in the series, the answer is, you betcha. Albeit it may be awhile as I have several other books staged up ahead of the next book in the series.

Tags: , ,