Monday, September 30, 2013

The Time Machine

 This weekend was rather fast and furious.  I think I was in a fog for the better part of it.  Not so much fuzzy headed or thinking-wise, just rather indifferent and rudderless.  But that's okay, it was a weekend after all.

On Friday night TCM had their Future Shock SF block night, and I caught most of it.  They kicked things off with The Time Machine, by George Pal.  A movie I own, and is a favorite of mine for all sorts of reasons.  I like the British flavor of it set in the Victorian era. I like how a small group of scholarly men meet in the drawing room of George Wells played by Rod Taylor to discuss all sorts of scientific things. I like how the inside to the house is filled with clocks and all the bric-a-brac of their cozy world.  He tells them he's invented a time machine and they all find that amusing, until he shows them a few things, which they dismiss, except for a close friend played by Alan Young.  I think the first time I saw the Time Machine might have been back in the 70's, when I watched it with a group of  young cadets at a San Marcos Military Academy were I was working as a proctor there for a semester in San Marcos.  I'm not sure why they chose this particular film or the film, Fantastic Planet, that we saw the next week, but I'm glad they did as both films are classics of the genre, and provided great escapism.
I've read the short novella by H. G. Wells, and it follows fairly close to the original movie version, with exceptions here and there, for example, the opening mentioned above.  H.G. Wells just referred to the main character as the traveler, not giving him a name per se, if memory serves.  However, that sort of framing device worked for me, and is also similar to the way they framed the recent John Carter movie, by including E.R. Burroughs within it to some degree.
For the time period of the 60's to even today's standards,  The Time Machine still holds up rather well.  The special effects I would think would still charm a younger audience and hold their attention, and the story is complex enough to keep adults engaged.  It wasn't until later on when  I read further about Wells's intent about the story and the parable that it contains that gave me pause.  Not so much to form anything negative about either the film, book, or author, but merely to understand them a bit more and the idea behind it.  The parallels between the troglodyte-like Morlocks as the working class part of Victorian society, and the beautiful, pampered, and thoughtless Eloi as the upper class removed from each other.  The Time Traveler becomes the romantic hero, rousing the Eloi to battle against their devourers and oppressors. 

Odd how time changes things and gives one newer perspectives.  Now I find it a bit strange that the working class were portrayed in that rather negative light, and the upper class as the enlightened nobles.  But there again one has to take such matters in the time frame they're written.  Mostly I just find The Time Machine as an interesting escapism, and classic film.  More later.







Friday, September 27, 2013

Ikarie XB-1

In 1964 American-International released an odd space movie in B&W called Voyage to the End of the Universe

The movie had a serious tone and some scary situations. The original was called Ikarie XB.  

 Sometime in the 22nd century, the Earth space ship Ikarie begins a voyage to cross the galaxy to a satellite of the star Alpha Centauri known only as "The White Planet." A mixed crew of forty is making the two-year round trip, although when they return, Earth will have aged fifteen years. They are soon too distant from Earth for radio communications. The Engineer (Radovan Lukavský) regrets that his pregnant wife (Svatava Hubenaková) chose not to accompany him; he won't see his daughter until she's fifteen years old -- if he returns at all. A married couple on board discovers they're pregnant, and the ship's doctor (Jaroslav Rozsíval) tells them there should be no problem with the delivery. The ship's Science Officer (Frantisek Smolík) has brought a mostly useless but friendly old robot that he tinkered together a hundred years before. A birthday party becomes an excuse for a formal dance, at which two crewmen compete for the attention of the attractive Bridget (Irena Kacírková). They're dismayed to be told that she has a husband back home. 


The ship then pauses to investigate a derelict spacecraft. Two astronauts are sent to enter the dead ship. Ikarie's files indicate that it is a military craft from 1987 called the Tornado. Scores of corpses are inside, including gamblers still holding their cards and two officers who apparently killed each other with ray guns. The spacemen theorize that the officers gassed the other passengers to conserve a dwindling oxygen supply, and then fought between themselves. One of the investigators accidentally trips a mechanism, and before they can leave, Tornado self-destructs with an atomic bomb. 


The ship continues on its voyage. It comes within range of strange radiation from a Dark Star, which has adverse effects on the crew. Svensen and Michael (Jirí Vrstála and Otto Lackovic) receive heavy exposure while on an EVA to install a new power module. They break out in ugly burns, and Michael becomes deranged and threatens to destroy the ship. The Engineer talks Michael into surrendering peacefully, just as the Dark Star's radiation makes the rest of the crew somnambulistic. The Captain (Zdenek Stepánek) talks the engineer out of aborting the mission as both fall asleep.

The crew reawakens less than a day later, and the Science Officer discovers that the Ikarie has been shielded from the Dark Star by a force field projected from The White Planet: An intelligent civilization has reached out to protect the voyagers. The crew of Ikarie, including the newborn baby, watches their viewscreen to see what miracles await them on the welcoming new world. As the clouds part, they're greeted with a view of an endless city of light.



 Unlike some of the other Eastern-bloc space movies, Ikarie XB 1 doesn't have any direct political speeches. Very little of the dialogue is about conditions on Earth, and we don't know what kind of government is there. There is also no mention of organized religion, which some viewers may take as political commentary by omission. Unlike the inclusive worker's Utopia of Der Schweigende Stern there are no African or Asian astronauts, and the only names we hear are Bridget, Svensen, Mark, Stephanie, Ervin and Michael. Ikarie XB 1 is one of the best outer space movies ever, and surely the most serious made before Kubrick's film. 

 The film was inspired by one of Stanislaw Lem's books.   English subtitles link:   http://archive.org/details/IkarieXb1Eng.sub

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is arguable second to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four as the most famous SF novel ever written.  I haven't read it yet.  It's on my "to read" book list, I just haven't gotten around to it.  Ironically when it was published in 1932  it wasn't published as SF--that term would take a while to catch on and become the genre it is today.  Brave New World dissects the consequences of World War I.  It warns about the aftermath of war, loss of faith, obeisance to technology, and the allure of pleasure.

A couple of things are noteworthy still about the book, aside from it being a classic, Huxley's use and his idea of "Feelies"  which predates virtual reality by half a century, and "Soma" predicts the use of drugs as a technique of social control.  He believed that drugs would be overtly used by governments to make us chemically happy.  This prediction isn't entirely accurate, but one can see how much the current  large pharmaceutical industry has grown in our lifetime, and also the growth of illegal drugs to see Huxley wasn't too far off that extrapolation.   He also described a caste system, with a dictator at the top, but mostly it was a book about change, and how radically our own world would change.  I'd say he was correct about that.  Who could have predicted the internet, cell phones, and such was on the horizon?

He wrote a follow up, nonfiction book, Brave New World Revisited in 1958.  It is a series of articles telling us what has happened to the world since 1932, and attempts with some success to predict the future.

I wanted to share a site where I found of a recording of Brave New World.  The CBS Radio Workshop was an “experimental dramatic radio anthology series” that aired between 1956 and 1957. And it premiered with a two-part adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s now classic 1932 novel, Brave New World. Huxley himself introduced and narrated the program, and now this classic radio drama has resurfaced online.

You can find it: here, in parts one and two or you can listen to both parts online as well.  

I also found a BBC production of a Brave New World on Youtube: here.
It stars Julie Cobb, Bud Cort, Keir Dullea, and others.  It's a three hour movie. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SF Television

Last night was a pretty good night for TV watching.  The premiere of ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD came on last night and it was pretty good.  I guess that shouldn't be too big a surprise since Joss Whedon is behind it.  He  is also known for other successful shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, the Avengers movie, and many other enterprises.
I don't know a lot about Marvel's Avengers, however, I did see the hit movie, and enjoyed it a lot, and I've read some of the Marvel comics.  But that said, I haven't been a diehard fan and never followed the comic books in my youth.  So if the TV show breaks some sort of continuity or changes up some of the mythos, I'll never know it.  I watched it from a novice point of view.  I know that the character of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (actor Clark Gregg) is revived from Whedon’s Avengers film – just as the character himself is revived, somehow, from the dead.  They make mention of it in the first episode and also drop a hint that there's some mystery surrounding that as well.  

In the first episode they pretty much get the team together, and the action moves along pretty quickly as they pick up each member.   Each member has their own specialized talent.  Coulson’s right hand man, or so he thinks, is Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), a whiz in combat and espionage. Agent Melinda May’s (Ming-Na Wen) expertise is martial arts and she also knows how to fly a plane. Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) is a topflight engineer while Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) specializes in bio-chemistry. The obligatory crack computer hacker is named Skye (Chloe Bennet).  The last member they pick up is the strong man of the outfit, who was the one they were hunting during the program.  At least that was what I assumed, I guess I'll find out next week.

If they can keep the episodes light with bits of humor, build on the characters, and keep up the action, I think they'll have a pretty good hit on their hands.  I think that might be possible from just watching the opening show, and I'll be excited to see what they do next week. 

After that I watched Face Off, which is a reality show on the Syfy Channel about creating special effects make-up.  This is the fifth season I believe and I've enjoyed all of them.  I enjoy seeing how the contestants create a creature from an  idea to the drawing board and then to the actual 3-D design.  It's been a fun series, and I don't know if I'll tire of the format or not, but so far I haven't.


 A new show premiered on the Syfy Channel after Face Off called Fangasm.  I enjoyed it too.  If you enjoy SF how can you not have a bit of geek fandom in your inner soul?  To be sure, it's manipulated much like all reality TV.  I would think that the young people involved are probably not as geeky as we are led to believe, however, it's not pushing the envelope too much from what I've seen.  

The basic premise of the program is that these fans are chosen to help Stan Lee out at a Comic Con.  I have to say I was actually moved when one of the fans got to meet one of his idols, George Takei, from Star Treak: TOS.  He  got rather tearful relating a story to the group that he didn't have may friends growing up, and that he used to watch Star Trek: TOS with his grandmother. Even though she wasn't a big fan of the show she enjoyed the time they could spend together watching it.  Takei left on a good note saying that we are all special, and you should embrace your own inner beauty.  


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rainy TGIF

Yesterday we got a lot of rain, which was needed, and I had to stay inside anyway as I was dealing with financial matters.  Such is modern life.  Most parts of that spectrum of business I can deal with pretty well. Sure I get behind in filing all the paperwork away or keeping it in order for that matter, and I also have areas of indifference or weaken.  However, when dealing with more complicated issues like understand tax laws and stuff of that nature, it drains my thinking.  So when I finally got that wrapped up, even though it was still drizzling outside, I took a break, went and grabbed a Mexican dinner at a restaurant, then came home and watched some SF on TCM.
This month on Fridays, TCM has been showing a block of SF movies, which they've referred to as Future Shock, they've also been spotlighting some Hitchcock films as well.  I like them both so it's a win win for me.

Last night they started out with the 1975 film Rollerball starring James Caan as Jonathan G, captain of the Houston team.  I've seen this film several times and still get caught up into some of it.  Perhaps I'm attracted by the action sequences, which are filmed amazingly well.  One other aspect which made an impression on me is, even though we don't know the actually rules of the game, you can follow along pretty easily.  It seems that Rollerball is a mixture of football, hockey, and roller derby.  The teams play for different areas of the globe and is entertainment for the masses, but also a substitute for warfare.  At the same time it's also a way to take away one's individuality.  Jonathan G wants to hang onto his individuality, and rebels against the system, therein lies part of the conflict.  Even though it's somewhat dated, and at times I think James Caan speaks too softly throughout the film, the universal theme of retaining one's own individuality and the action within the film make it a  pretty watchable film.
That was followed by A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which is still an amazing film for me.  A. I. got a mixed reaction from viewers when it was released, but I find it's one of Spielberg's better films.  It's certainly entertaining with dazzling effects and surreal landscapes and situations.  It deals with an artificially made boy, David, who is adapted into a family whose real son has been placed in suspended animation due to a rare illness.  The film touches on many levels of the human condition and society at large and while much of it is dark and sad, there are moments of hope, fellowship, and the longing of David to be loved, which I think is something we all want.  Some criticize the ending saying that Spielberg didn't know how to end it, and at times it seems that may be true, but also there are moments in that whole act that are touching, spellbinding and somewhat surreal, that works for me and had emotional resonance.  It would certainly be in my top fifteen or so SF films of all time, and is recommendable watching.

TCM ended the night with Total Recall, which I started watching until it got too late, The Satan Bug, and First Men in the Moon, which I may watch later.  These Friday night Future Shock blocks of SF films have been a lot of fun.
I ran across an interesting article on Chaz Ebert's blog.  She's the wife of Roger Ebert, the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times also noted for his At The Movies syndicated movie review show,  who passed away not long back.  She asked him to take a break from his movie reviews and create something fun like he might have written when he wrote for fanzines back in his youth.  He composed this short story,  The Thinking Molecules of Titan, but never got around to finishing it.  Chaz put it up on her site and asked readers to help finish it.  She got back many replies, and has already posted many ending from various authors on the rogerebert.com site.  You can go there if you care to read them.

It would be a lot of fun to be able to read some of those early Roger Ebert fanzine articles. 

I ran across a couple of videos on Joel Hodgson of MST3K fame as well.  There's an episode called A Taste of Hell From On High with him and Jerry Seinfeld cutting up together in the Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.  If you like that sort of thing there are other episodes with different comedians as well.

I also ran across a two-part interview he did recently with TCM.  He talks about movies that influenced him and that he grew up watching in his youth.  You can find part one, here, and part two, here. 







Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hellblazer #1 review

Hellblazer is a DC horror comic, which eventually switched over to the Vertigo imprint in 1993 written by Jamie Delano with art by John Ridgway, and covers by Dave McKean.  The protagonist, John Constantine, first appeared in Alan Moore's run of Swamp Thing, and this is his own spinoff title.

The debut story opens in NYC as a guy that works for the post office has some odd insatiable hunger to eat, so much so, he eats himself to death. 

Shortly thereafter, Constantine arrives home in NYC to his flat finding a junkie friend of his, Gary Lester, has holded up in his flat.  The place is infected with insects as well.
  
Constantine calls up a mate for help and then he hypnotizes Gary to find out the source of his madness.  We find out that his friend, while visiting Tangier, has come into contact with a demonic entity known as Mnemoth, and he traps it in a bottle.  Somehow the demon followed Gary back to NYC and is infecting others with this curious desire for hunger. 

This begins Constantine's search for Mnemoth the demon.  Jamie Delano has a nice writing style, sort of  a mixture of hard boiled prose and horror poetry.  The art conjures the mood perfectly as Ridgway employs scratchy, yet realistic looking art.  The panels are quite innovated too as he'll break them up into expressionistic puzzle-like swatches.  

The trail for Mnemoth takes Constantine to Africa where he indulges in a psychedelic trip with a shaman, back to NYC to a nightclub owned by a voodoo magician, then he meets up with the ghost of a former girlfriend, ending on a cliffhanger, which continues into issue 2. 

Forty pages of horror with no ads--they don't make them like this anymore.  Spooky stuff.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

StarShipSofa

Ever so often you run across something on the web that's so cool you just gotta share it right?   Well, I just found out about the Star Ship Sofa podcast today while looking around the web.  It's focused on the SF genre.  Since I just discovered it, I haven't listened extensively to any of them yet, I've just sampled a few bits and pieces of it here and there mostly to see if they still work and if the links are active. 

I just listen to episode  No. 94 by Jeffery Ford on a comic called Drafted, which sounded like an alien invasion comic that has already been optioned for a film adaptation.


 It looks like they cover a little bit of everything from books to authors, and even few SF artist.  They also have short stories and some poetry that they share.  There are updates on the Hugo and Nebula nominations.  All in all it looks like a nice effort by a couple of blokes (they sound Irish, could be Brits, but I'm not sure yet) that enjoy the SF medium.  Check it out, there may be something you find interesting.  I'll provide two links.

This link is for an archive of their shows:  http://www.starshipsofa.com/podcast-archives/

With this link it looks like you can download a MP3 version if you'd rather take the podcast on the go with you:     http://starshipsofa.libsyn.com/rss


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rough draft story idea

Just like visual artist do rough pencil sketches,  I like to jot down sketches of story ideas. I got this one from looking at an image while also listening to some music.  These are the wellsprings of ideas that create images in my mind that stir it to want to try and formulate something.  I don't make any claims to being a writer or artist, although I've done a little bit of both. It's okay if you want to call me a dilettante.  I think of myself as more of a fan and admirer of the arts, and most of the time for me it's a pastime, or a way to be a little creative, and not much more than that. I think that's why I enjoyed poetry so much at one time in my life and still do to a degree as it was a quicker and less involved way to write down an idea.

                                                             The Chosen

And so it was, the chosen young dark mage apprentice, Gelph Coltsfoot, went into his master's learning chamber.  He was searching for a new potion to help him understand why he felt so alienated and didn't fit in with his other classmates.  He was hoping to find perhaps a new potion or spell that might make others find him more desirable, and friendly.  Isn't that what most of us long for in life?

He didn't fell this way when he was in the darkened woods.  Within that realm the deer, owls, and rabbits were there, harmless creatures that didn't shy away from Coltsfoot the way they did from other humans.  It was the home of the  moon sprites as well, though they were mostly shy, hiding about under brush and thicket. Although Gelph had spied one that wasn't quite as shy, and at times it would come out to flit about his ears once the evening sun had set.  He had shooed it away the first few times thinking it a mosquito or gnat, but after he caught a side glance at it, as they are very quick in flight, he steadied his hand.

His master was off on a journey to Greylady Castle on business and he did not feel that his purpose there was any business to a young whelp, particularly a learning apprentice.  The Winter's Harvest was approaching, so perhaps it had something to do with that.  Maybe he was elected to arrange some ceremony within the realm.  No matter, Gelph looked at his departure as a reprieve from all his formal duties and studies that was expected of him, and he could relax a bit more and sate his mind with some of his master's laboratory.   He was free to peruse the great library and roam about with all these potions and herbs scattered about, the apothecary equipment, and all that musty arcane manuscript.

His familiar, a pet mouse he'd named Anabell, was there with him.  She was his eyes and ears at times. She was once even his bodyguard tripping up a bully that had chased him into a barn.  Gelph ran up the ladder that led to a hayloft to try and hide, and as the bully ran up the ladder after him, Anabell ran down and landed on the bully's head, and with a scream, he let go and fell in some hay below.  Who knew, that such a loud brash clod would be afraid of a simple small  mouse?   Gelph was learning this was the way of the world, to expect the unexpected.  But hard as he tried to make friends, his closest ally and companion was Anabell.



Such is my indulgence on this Sunday morn.  Hope yours turns out well.




Saturday, September 14, 2013

Live Long & Prog On

Live long and prog more or something like that.  Actually this tidbit of news doesn't include Spock or Leonard Nimoy, but is more about William Shatner.  I'll say one thing about Shatner, he knows how to have fun and how to reinvent himself and make money.  It's amazing that the guy is still acting at his age, does cons pretty regularly, commercials like the Priceline ads, and releases music.  I have his The Transformed Man album and his humorously titled, Has Been.  They're both pretty good too.  I'll admit, The Transformed Man, was an early release and probably only going to be something a diehard Trek or Shatner fan would care about.  Also to be honest, Shatner doesn't sing per se, it's more like speaking in prose.  The Has Been album though bumped that up quite a bit.  It's more rock oriented, does have a bit of sly humor in that it doesn't take itself too seriously, and they got good musicians to play on that album as well.

William Shatner's newest album will be titled, Ponder The Mystery, with the progressive (prog) rock group Circa: featuring Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye formerly of the band Yes.  This most recent solo record, Ponder the Mystery, which includes guest artists from the prog and fusion genres such as Rick Wakeman, Al DiMeola, Steve Vai, Robbie Krieger, Vince Gill, Edgar Winter, George Duke, Zoot Horn Rollo and Dave Koz to name a few, expands Shatner’s musical horizons due to the fact that all of the songs are original, written by Shatner and his musical partner in the project Billy Sherwood. The album will be released on both CD and vinyl on October 8, 2013.

 This partnership of Shatner and Sherwood has created a vast and expansive artistic landscape for Shatner’s amazing gift of poetry while Sherwood composed the musical backdrop. The record is conceptual in nature: following a man in despair through the setting sun, twilight and finally darkness, and in the process, regains his joy of life.

Both Shatner and Sherwood had a vision of taking the record to the stage and performing it live. When it came time to form the band for this event, Circa: was the obvious choice, Sherwood and Kaye have had a long running musical relationship playing on stage together with Yes and forming Circa: in 2006. Circa: recently released a new album Live From Here There and Everywhere.

 In a statement released on Facebook, Shatner revealed that he and Circa would perform the album in its entirety: “I hope you will be able to join us and help us to Ponder the Mystery!” he said.  Ponder The Mystery comes as Shatner’s fourth album, following up from his 1968 debut The Transformed Man, 2004′s Has Been and 2011′s Seeking Major Tom.




Shatner penned all the lyrics, which he said deal with, “ageing, depression, love and beauty” in a press release.

He went on to describe ‘Ponder The Mystery’ as, “quite possibly the most creative thing I have ever done.”

In a statement released on Facebook today (September 2), Shatner revealed that he and Circa would perform the album in its entirety: “I hope you will be able to join us and help us to Ponder the Mystery!” he said.

‘Ponder The Mystery’ comes as Shatner’s fourth album, following up from his 1968 debut ‘The Transformed Man,’ 2004′s ‘Has Been’ and 2011′s ‘Seeking Major Tom.’ - See more at: http://www.allaxess.com/guitar-blog/guitar-news/william-shatner-to-tour-in-support-of-new-prog-rock-album#sthash.sEzHPswV.dpuf


Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th Sci-Fi

Tonight on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) for those that have cable, they're running some classic SF films.  Starting with Soylent Green.  It stars Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson's in his last role on film, and directed by Richard O. Fleischer.  It's a dystopian, detective film set in 2022.  One of my favorite SF films.

Minority Report follows that directed by Stephen Spielberg.  Tom Cruise plays one of the future cops who catches people before they can commit crimes.  However he is framed for murder.  I think this got pretty favorable reviews, generally speaking.  I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Logan's Run follows that, taken from the William F. Nolan novel--actually he created a trilogy of books out of it.  I've only read the first one (though I'd like to read the other two as well), which differs somewhat from the movie.  It's a fun SF film too.  Parts of it were shot in a Ft. Worth Water Gardens and Dallas Market Center, which I should try to visit someday.  It had a TV series spinoff.

Mad Max follows that, which stars Mel Gibson.  Another dystopian film, where vicious gangs roam the world.  Gibson plays a cop who goes after them seeking vengeance.  I remember seeing this in a film appreciation group when I was in college.  They all four are great SF films, and if you have seen them before, I'm sure they are worth re-watching--that is my plan.




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sci-Fi Saturday rundown



Saturdays have become known as Sci-Fi Saturdays for me now as for many years starting around 1995 or so I was part of a small Dr. Who club, which met together in the small West Texas town of Midland on Saturdays nights around 7pm.  We'd meet for pizza at some pizza buffet and discussed SF and stuff, and then we'd go watch a Doctor Who video.  Sometimes we'd watch some other SF movie, but it was a fun time and shared social experience.  Like many things life has a way of changing ones course and many of the people in our club had to move on due to jobs and other commitments--me included.  But the Saturday experience stayed with me and is hard to shake, not that I particularly care too as I'm still a big science fiction fan, and there's still plenty of it I wish to watch and re-watch.  I think I learned more about SF and gained a deeper appreciation of it due to that experience.  It was a relaxing way to forget about work and the past week and forget about other worldly matters and just shared a like-minded hobby. 



This past Saturday was no exception as I got up and watched Battle In Outer Space (1959) or originally titled Uchu daisenso, by director Ishiro Hondo and the Toho studios.  He made other Japanese movies like Rodan, Mothra, Destroy All Monsters, and others.  It was an epic SF movie in that it had cool special effects, aliens, flying saucers, cool laser battles, and was a perfect way to begin Saturday.  It is similar to a lot of other alien invasion films in that the aliens want to take over Earth for their needs, which means getting rid of  humans or enslaving the rest of us.  The Japanese are wonderful at crafting small miniatures for blowing up, and using quick cuts in the editing so that it fools the mind with their special effects.  The film has a retro coolness about it too with the space uniforms, space station, and vehicles that they used.  It was interesting too that the aliens used mind control to get some of the earthlings to do their bidding.  The one small flaw in the film occurs a bit with the special effects.  With the advent of high def  TV and blu-ray DVDs some of the strings used for the space ships and such are visible which spoil the effects a bit, but as I said they are quickly edited so the action moves pretty quickly.  The second half of the film deals with a great battle of laser weapons from both them and us.  What a fun film. 


I did a few chores during the afternoon, but my general habit for Saturday nights has been to watch Star Trek: The Original Series.  I have the first and third seasons on DVD, but I like watching them this way  because for some reason seeing the broadcast over the airwaves takes me back to their original time of on-air broadcast.  The episode that was shown was another classic called Errand Of Mercy.  Where Kirk and Spock are sent to the planet Organia to help rally them against a Klingon invasion.  They seem alarmingly unconcerned and pacifistic.  The Klingons do indeed show up, and not to give away spoilers, that's when the episode gets interesting.  It seems when Star Trek fans get asked the question, "What's your favorite Star Trek episode, most polls come up with the classic episode, City on The Edge of  Forever."  Which I can't blame them, it's a classic episode, and there are many classic ones when dealing with Star Trek: TOS.  This one seems classic to me as well, as it ends with Roddenberry's  utopian view of the universe in that war could be overcome if we'd work harder at it. 


I finished out the night by watching Neon Genesis Evangelion Platinum Collection.  It's an anime series that came out in 1995, which contains episodes 1-5.  It's pretty good, and a fast paced series that deals with the invasion of  our planet by some creatures oddly known as Angels.  I say oddly, because living in the western world normally angels have a reverent connotation.  At any rate a young boy is chosen to become the one to operate one of the mechanical robot weapons that is to defend the earth against this invasion of aliens.  Perhaps it comes out later why he was chosen--possibly it's due to his father's references as he works for the same government organization.  I've just started watching the episodes, but I'll say it is fun to watch with interesting art, and I enjoy it when the robots and aliens start battling with each other. 


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Planeta Bur (1962)






The other night there wasn't much on TV so I hopped on Youtube to look around to see if there was anything worthwhile.  I've been watching these YT videos over in the vinyl community about these people that go to thrift stores and find some interesting vinyl records and then show what they have found to viewers.  I guess this would only be of interest if you're a big music fan or vinyl collector, but they are fun to watch, and sometimes someone might spotlight a musician or band I've never heard of, in someways I find it nostalgic.  But while on YT,  I ran across a SF movie I had not seen, so I decided to check it out.



Just like everything else on the web some people are going to say Planeta Bur is a semi-masterpiece, while others will criticize it for being too slow, boring, or too old or whatever.  I thought it was interesting.  I didn't think it was any slower than any other SF film from that time period.  SF in the 50's and 60's didn't rely on special effects to carry the story, it was the other way around, they let the story carry the story.  A pretty novel idea if I might say so.

At any rate, Planeta Bur is a Russian SF movie that came out in 1962.  Oddly enough it appears that some of the space suits and a few other things, like one of the vehicles they were driving was a bit of an influence on the more recent SF film, Prometheus by Ridley Scott.  Another thing about Planeta Bur is that it has been retitled and edited and recombined more times than Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.  So far I've read about it being called Planet of the Storms, Planet of Storms, Planet of Tempest, Storm Planet, and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (which is the title I found it under on Youtube).  This later edition, Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, was acquired by Roger Corman Productions and re-edited, cutting out a number of scenes and released in 1965.  I would actually like to see the original film with all the scenes in tact. It would be nice if someone like Shout Factory or Criterion would release it in that manner.

Also not to merely rest on his laurels of making it into one movie Corman  sucks a few more strands of DNA out of the movie, and created the movie, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women.  The production designers on Planeta Bur were V. Aleksandrov and M. Tsybasov. The film itself deals with a stranded Russian landing party on Venus, comprised of six men, a woman and a robot - an almost identical configuration to Alien, incidentally (which had 4 men, 2 women and an android). In terms of conflict and genre, it's probably nearer to relatively recent 'pure' sci-fi films such as Contact (1997) and Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars (2000).  I enjoyed seeing the robot in the film, the film sets, and space suits and all that stuff.  There were a few monsters and encounters as well, which I won't spoil here.

If interested in watching the film, under the re-edited version of Corman, you can see it here.  Sometimes the movies on YT seem to load slow or don't match up with the dialog, but in this case the dialog is Russian anyway, so it's easy to overlook. 




Sunday, September 01, 2013

unclassifiable


Last week was a busy hot week in Texas, and this week maybe be a duplicate copy, with just different things to do.  But as I told my sister, I guess that's what life is all about.  I noticed that this month on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) that they will be showing various Alfred Hitchcock movies throughout the month, so if you are a fan of his films and want to try and catch one or two of them, you might want to head over to the TCM.com site and check their schedule.  This morning I taped Rope, which is about two wealthy men who are trying to create the perfect crime by murdering a friend (some friends, huh?),  and currently I'm taping Spellbound, where a psychiatrist tries to help the man she loves solve a murder buried in his subconscious.  Later on this Sunday night they'll broadcast The Birds and Psycho, if you are more into the horror genre.

I also noticed in this month of September, TCM will also be showing some other  SF and horror  films like:  Haxan, Metropolis, Escape From New York, Things To Come, Brazil, Battle in Outer Space by Inoshiro Honda, The Awful Dr. Orloff (which I've never seen or heard of before), and Bride of Frankenstein.  On Friday the 13th they have Soylent Green, Minority Report, Logan's Run, and Mad Max slated for showing.  At any rate, if any of films interest you or you are in the mood for some Hitchcock, you might want to check out the TCM schedule.









Also a couple of weeks back the local library had a small book sale and I picked up a few books,  one of them was Joe Hill's horror novel, Horns.  Joe is the son of Stephen King, and he seems to be following in his Dad's footsteps of writing, already establishing his name in the horror community.  I had to take a car in for some repairs as my handheld key fob had quit working the electric door locks, the dome light, and truck latch.  While waiting for them to put in a new module to correct the problem I read a few chapters of Horns.  So far so good.  It's about a young guy, Ignatius Perrish,  who wakes up to find he has horns growing out of the top of his head, but we also find out he is suspect for the murder of his past girlfriend.  Also it's hard to figure out if the horns are real or imaginary or he's cracking up, and it seems he also can read minds and put suggestions into other people's heads as well, all the while being hassled by the local cops.   As the novel unfolds a bit more I'm sure the book will reveal more about Ig and all his troubles. 

Hastings is a local chain store here locally, similar to Barnes & Nobles, and they had a graphic novel sale here, and I picked up the first collected  Hellblazer book, and also a pulpish superhero book called The Twelve by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston, who handles the artwork.  I had collected Hellblazer for a while, but had sold off the first ten issues, if memory serves, and thought I might like to reread them lately.  If you've seen the movie Constantine (2005) with Keanu Reeves, it was based on the Hellblazer set of comics. 

Today after breakfast I got up and started sorting through a bunch of  recently acquired DVDs, and in tying in with the title to this blog entry I wondered which genre to classify them under?  For instance, Dark City, is sort of a noir SF story, but I guess it could also be classified under horror.  Krull is sort of an odd mixture of SF and fantasy.   Lifeforce is a mix of horror and SF, and The Road sort of falls within that same mixed category of SF/horror.  I think I'll just put them all in the SF section and make it work, but I can certainly understand some people's line of thinking just to order their media A thru Z without creating a genre for things.  It might make things easier, but I guess I can't get beyond classifications. 





Late Saturday night on the Cartoon Network  they broadcast Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance, which I'd never seen before, but enjoyed it.  I'm not very familiar with that anime, and this may not be the best place to start, so I  would get lost in the storyline, but I knew just enough about it to follow along and enjoy the art.   It basically concerns giant robots in the mold of the Pacific Rim movie, and the characters would suit up in these giant robots to fight monsters, at least on the surface. But the anime also concerns the characters and the way they interact with each other, and how we need others in our lives to enhance living. Like some of the better anime the art was interesting, complex, and world building in a grand design. I hope they'll rebroadcast it so I can get a copy on VHS (yes, I still have one of those ancient devices).