Friday, August 29, 2014

The 60's, the Beatles

Being a Beatles fan, I like most things about the Beatles.  I ran into this documentary on the band made from the perspective of the BBC, which had a little bit of a different take on the decade and band from the American invasion of the band.  Of course, expect some overlap, but I thought it was interesting enough to share.  This is just the first part, you'll have to go to Youtube for the other parts if interested.


Lately, I've gotten on a Moody Blues kick.  I love the band at times.  Music depends a lot on my mood  (no pun intended), but they are one of the bands I can always go back to, and enjoy listening to over and over again.  Oddly the Moody Blues started out as a rhythm and blues act, coming together in Birmingham, England in 1964.  I don't have their first album, which contained their first hit song, Go Now, a Bessie Banks hit, but I have a 45 rpm of it.




In Search of the Lost Chord was the first album by them that I picked up.  Of course, I was aware of their radio hits off their Days of Future Passed album, like Tuesday Afternoon, and Knights in White Satin.  But probably due to the album cover art alone, I picked up this album first.  I was won over by their sound.  Their songs sort of had this Sci-Fi-fantasy and mystical imagery in them.  Plus all of the songs were written pretty well, had nice harmonies, and flowed in a conceptual manner.  And then, they were also one of those early bands to include mellotron in their sound, and I enjoyed their flute passages as well.  As I remember, Ride My Seesaw was also a radio hit back in the day.





Their third album, On The Threshold of a Dream, may be my favorite album by them, though I enjoy all of their first five or six  albums pretty equally.   This album continued the progression of their previous albums, in that there was a concept to the album. It starts off in a mysterious vein with sort of ominous music like being in a void or dream, and you get the feeling that the concept of the album is about man versus machine or Big Brother.  Also it toys with the ideas of dreams.  Is the dream a real world, or the real world a dream?  Again this album featured lush string arrangements,  mystical and philosophical lyrics, good harmonies, and nice production techniques by Tony Clark, sometimes known as the sixth Moody.

I eventually went back and bought Days Of Future Passed, and then also got the rest of their six albums, along with a greatest hits album.  They're all pretty good too. 

This is a documentary I watched on Youtube the other night on the band, it's pretty interesting and insightful.















Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Perils on Planet X





I thought I'd give a head's up and recommendation for an online web comic from Christopher Mills.  He's been in the writing and comic business for a while now.  I don't know him personally, mostly from the virtual world, but have read many, if not all, the postings on his main web site, Atomic Pulp & Other Meltdowns, as well as some of his other sister sites: DVDlateshow (where he reviews genre dvds), and Space1970.blogspot.com, where he talks about Sci-Fi from the 70's decades.  All three are highly recommendable for fun reading.  You can find the links to all the sites from his Atomic Pulp site link above, if interested. 

Lately though he's devoted his writing to some web comics.  Presently they are free to read online, so if interested, I'd check them out.  The above comic is a pulpy Sci-Fi comic in the tone of Buck Rogers and space opera.  If that sounds interesting, head over to Perils on Planet X.  The other web comic he has been writing is a crime type comic called Gravediggers.   The third is called, Femme Noir, Dead Man's Hand, which as the title implies, is a crime noir story.  They all three have great art too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Grabbers & Godzilla

Grabbers is a recent Irish-British monster movie, although done with a lot of humor and tongue and cheek to keep it pretty breezy.  The film stars mostly unknown actors, at least to me, and is reminiscent of a lot of the earlier horror-SF stuff I used to watch growing up like Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, or maybe more appropriately, It Came From Beneath the Sea, etc.

A meteor crashes in the sea near a quiet fishing village, and quickly odd phenomena start happening as they tend to do in a lot of these large monster movies.  A young woman is sent to the  small coastal village from Dublin as a substitute while the chief is on vacation.  She's the outsider, and learns that a lot of the locals find a woman filling the male position, too progressive, and at the same time, she's a bit at odds with their quaint lifestyle.  Her buddy on the force is a hard drinking guy and of course they don't exactly mesh starting out, but over the course of the film, they learn to work together.  There are cliches in the film, but at the same time the film manages to also play off these cliches, to turn them around, poke fun at them, and overall, have a pretty good time with the convention.

About midway through the film we find out the best way to stop from getting eaten by the creature is to get drunk.  For whatever reason, the creature has an aversion to alcohol, but at the same time must remain in water and needs blood to survive.  So once the lone, nerdy scientist on the island finds out that booze will fend off the creature, and that the weather is predicting a huge storm headed their way, they all meet down at the local tavern to try and defend against the creature.  Mayhem ensues...

Overall it's a pretty fun watch, not to be taken too seriously.  The creature effects were done pretty well for a low budget film, and the story moved along pretty briskly.  The cinematography was handled pretty well too, and I enjoyed the aspects of the sleepy fishing village.



I've been in a big monster, kaiju mood lately.  I've yet to see the recent Godzilla film, and although I've read a few comments saying it's not the most original film, I still want to watch it and I'm looking forward to getting it on Netflix.  I actually found a copy of Godzilla vs. Biollante the other day while I was out pawn shop looking.  I buy most of my DVDs from there.  So far, most of the DVDs I've bought from pawn shops have worked out well for me, and played well.  If you check the DVD underneath the disc (which is the playing side) not the label on top, check underneath it for scratches, you'll generally not encounter any problems.  Even if it's scratched a little bit, it should play.  You can find some great stuff and add to your collection, without shelling out too much cash.  Plus I love it when I find a bargain.

Godzilla vs. Biollante is not my favorite from the Big G franchise.  I'd say so far, I'd rank them (or at least the ones I've seen so for) like this:

1. Godzilla--the original film.  I've only seen the Americanized version of the film.  I've heard the Japanese version contains ten or more minutes of running time, and has a darker mood to it.  At some point in time I'd like to watch that version.

2. Mothra vs. Godzilla--I was lucky to run across a new copy of this sequel at a Half Price book store in Dallas.  I wish I had bought some of the other ones at that time, but at least I scored a copy of it.  It's the newer packaged one from Toho master, which contains the original Japanese 1966 version, and the English dubbed version on a single disc.   It also contains a few extras with audio commentary from Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle, a slide show of movie posters, and a Akira Ifukube biography.

From there it gets a bit subjective among Godzilla fans.  For me though, I think I'd pick:

3. Destroy All Monsters--It was directed by Ishiro Honda with music by Akira Ifukube, and special effects by Teisho Arikawa.  There are alien races, and all the monsters have been confined to a place called Monster Island.  We have learned to live in space and have a base on the moon.  Aliens, the Kilaaks, from the asteroid belt have taken over the minds of the scientist at Monster Island and made them into mental slaves.  They also have a base on the moon, and have set up transmitter for the mind control.  So basically they are wanting to take over the Earth using Godzilla and some of the other monsters: Rodan, Mothra, Gorosaurus, and so forth.  It features eight different monsters, and the explosions have to be coordinated to match the animated rays, wires, monster tails, wings, and so forth.  Supposedly King Ghidorah alone required twenty-two cables, operated by three to five behind-the-scenes technicians.  It's all monsters mayhem.

4. Godzilla 2000--I saw recently on Hulu, and I enjoyed it more than I would have thought I would.  It's updated and modern, although not anywhere near what the new movie is going to be like.  Still it is a fun film and worth a watch if you enjoy Godzilla.

5. I'm not so sure that I'd put Godzilla vs. Biollante here, as I really haven't seen enough of the Godzilla franchise to judge it squarely. There's, I think, somewhere near thirty Godzilla films.  GvB is okay, but personally, I was let down by it a little, though I feel like I need to re-watch hit again and give it another day in court.  The plot is pretty convoluted for a Godzilla flick, and deals with genetics, mercenaries trying to steal a cell or scale off Godzilla.  A scientist wanting to grow grain in the desert of an Arabian country fused with the Godzilla cell.  They fuse the cells together and it grows into a giant flower (Biollante). So there's some espionage terrorist, a psychic, a giant monster plant, and so forth.  It's a pretty whacked-out movie.

I thought the score was a bit weird too.  The soundtrack reminds me of something from a Christopher Reeves Superman movie, or a Star Wars movie, which was weird and for me didn't mesh.  Plus on the DVD that I found at the pawn shop, it shows owned by Miramax, but also on the back of the box I see, Echo Bridge, so they may have sold them the rights to the movie, but it's a half-ass attempt at best of transferring it to disc because at times Japanese subtitles will appear on the screen, which is distracting.  But for two bucks, I can't complain too much, plus I think this movie is already getting hard to find or deleted.  You'd think someone would want to preserve these films better, but I know, unless there's money in it, it probably won't happen.

From there I'm still renting a few more Godzilla flicks.  Some of them are getting hard to find too. Unfortunately, I see where the film, Space Amoeba or Yog, Monster From Space is already deleted and some eBay/Amazon sellers are wanting nearly a hundred bucks for the DVD, which for me, it ain't gonna happen.  I figure if you wait, maybe someone like Rhino, or Shout Factory will re-release them, so it won't hurt to wait.  Or maybe they'll show up on TCM or someplace else.

In the meantime I found that you can watch Space Amoeba/ Yog over at archive.org.  In fact you can download it over there, although it's only in the Japanese language, and without English subtitles, but I think I'm going to go ahead and get a copy that way.  At least you can watch it that way, and I'm game for that.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Attack and Beware

I just found out today that the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Toonami will be airing a block of Attack on Titan, episodes 1 - 12 coming August 30th, Labor Day Weekend.  I'll be setting my VCR for that.  In a lot of ways, the series reminds me of The Walking Dead, though the zombies are giants.  But I find it interesting enough so far, and I missed many of the previous episodes setting up the series, so it will be fun to watch.  This past weekend they also premiered the first of a new series called Gurren Lagann, which was also fairly interesting.  I guess I'm getting a better feel for some of this newer anime.

Over the weekend I watched the documentary, Beware of Mr. Baker,  on Ginger Baker, probably one of the angriest old rockers alive.  You get a taste of that right at the beginning of the video.  I find his demeanor somewhat appalling, but I guess it is what it is.  A lot of artist don't look good when put under the lens of a documentary.  The comic artist, Robert Crumb, in his documentary Crumb, appeared as a cranky, cynical, old man too. That said though, I could agree on some of what they were saying about art, and found both documentaries to be engrossing.  Plus I wondered if this is how they really are, personally I think so, as I've seen Crumb at comic conventions, granted it might  be an assumed persona he wears, but I think that's basically them warts and all. Reality is a cruel mistress.

I became aware of Ginger Baker from his short stint as rock drummer (a signifier he hates) so I better just say musician, in the British band, Cream.  He'd been in some other British band before that, but that's when I first became aware of him, like a lot of the youth of the 60's.  After that he played in Blind Faith, and that quickly faded away, although, being a member of the Columbia Record Club or some other record club back in the day, they spotlight a new band he was in called Air Force.  I eventually acquired their first two-record effort interested in what it might be like. 
The album cover appealed to me looking rather surreal or psychedelic.  It had to be good, right?  Well, you can't judge a book by its cover or an album of music either.  But to be fair, I just wasn't ready to hear something like that sort of music.  It was sort of big band-ish, and sprawling in scope. It had overtones of ethnic music embedded in it along with some vanguard jazz and big band, it just flew over my head.  So somewhere along the way, I eventually got rid of it, probably trading it in for store credit at a used media store, however, I'd like to hear it again, just to see if I find it worthwhile.  I at least think my taste in music now has matured so I could judge it a bit more evenhandedly.

At any rate the movie, Beware Mr. Baker, is worth watching if you are inclined toward rock documentaries, music, or the 60's era.  There are many different interviews with other musicians from that era as well like Eric Clapton,  Jack Bruce, Denny Laine, Steve Winwood, and so forth.  I think part of Ginger's attitude comes from his past, and his lifelong struggle with heroin addiction.   He didn't have a father figure growing up and I'm very grateful to my father's guiding hand and presence throughout my life.  I can see where that absence might be a detriment to a young person growing up and not having it.  A father's guidance can be invaluable, generally speaking, or was for me.

Parts of the documentary where he appears angry and confrontational, actually, I found amusing, I don't know why.  He certainly doesn't try to whitewash any of his past, which isn't exactly a model of self discipline or sterling goodness.  But I'll admit he's a good drummer, and the movie was interesting to watch.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Podcast on Bava and Planet of the Vampires


I need to get up and out the door, times awastin'.  Guess I always say that or feel that way.  I thought I'd make a short posting on Bava and this recent podcast I just listened to this morning, which came from the guys over at The Projection Booth.   On their show they had Troy Howarth, who had written a book about Mario Bava, The Haunted World of Mario Bava, and  who seemed well versed in Italian films, giallo, among other films.  His insights were quite informative.  It was a fun podcast to listen to if you are so inclined and have the time.   You can find the link:  here. 


Speaking of films, I watched Godzilla 2000 the other night over at Hulu.  It was a lot of fun as I hadn't seen any Godzilla films in a while.  I have yet to see the newest installment either, but I will as soon as it becomes available on DVD.  If you don't mind watching movies online, Hulu has some of the other Godzilla films up for free viewing as well from the franchise.  Godzilla 2000, like a lot of the other films in the Big G series, is not to be taken too seriously.  What I did enjoy about it was seeing some of the more modernized cityscape scenes of Japan.  The effects were more updated as well.  After that I was ready for more Godzilla, and even though I've read some fairly mixed reviews of the new movie, though I haven't read them too closely so not to spoil anything the movie might offer, I'm still looking forward to seeing it.


By the way speaking of giant kaiju and big monsters, I read online that Pacific Rim 2 has been given the green light, and I'm already looking forward to it.  Universal Studio has officially announced that the second installment of the movie has been scheduled to premiere on 17th April 2017.  I'm already happy and excited about that.   Here's a link to read more about it, if interested.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Van Gogh

Last night I watched the PBS documentary on Vincent Van Gogh.  Benedict Cumberbatch, played Van Gogh, and he somehow finds these roles, that so far, have been worth watching.  It made me a bit sad and melancholy, but still I thought it was very much worth watching, particularly if you are into the arts.  The documentary shed some new light on some of Van Gogh's life that I wasn't that familiar with, and the paintings that they showed were awesome as well. 


Well, I need to get off me duff and do some yard work.  It's back to Hot in East Texas, later today I told the aunt I'd take her to the doctor.  Seize the day!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Under The Skin Ennui


Last night I felt like I had a bit of attention deficit disorder as I was restless and couldn't quite decide on what to watch, and I think some of that ennui came about from watching Under The Skin, the newest SF art film.  In it Scarlett Johansson plays an alien seductress who prowls the streets of Glasgow, Scotland in search of male prey.  Not exactly a novel idea, as early SF films started out with a similar aliens or monsters need a mate tropes (Queen of Outer Space with Zsa Zsa Gabor, Creature From the Black Lagoon, or more recently, Species, etc.).  At any rate it's a slow film, without much dialogue, so don't expect Transformers or Michael Bay, or really much of a plot.  I sort of knew this going into it, but I was still restless. 

So I channeled surfed a bit while watching Under the Skin, and landed on the Cartoon Channel.  There I found some interesting anime.  Attack on Titan was about these large alien creatures, the Titans, (that look like large human giants) stalking the land and eating humans.  The humans are trying to stave them off.  The rebels  use these jet packs, and tactics to defend their fortress.  I'm catching the series in the middle? of it, so it's not like I have the full story.

 I'd go back and catch Johansson's alien striptease, then back to anime. Space Dandy is a more comedic anime, about a bounty hunter-type character, that cruises the spaceways for adventure with his robot and alien cat-like companion.  Last night they were fishing on an alien world for a mythic fish, wherein a reward/bounty was offered for its capture.  Very stylistic art, sort of psychedelic, Sgt. Peppers/ Yellow Submarine-like, pretty light on content, allowing the art to shine, but a pretty interesting series.

There were a couple of other animate cartoons on there I'm interested in, but it got late so I taped them for later: Blue Exorcist, a newer Batman series, and some Cowboy Bebop, which I probably haven't seen, though I've seen some of the earlier episodes of Cowboy Bebop, and they are a lot of fun.

Today, I'm putting together some poems or designing a short program for a spoken word program for the Apex Theatre 20 here in Tyler.  I'm more or less going into this blind as I don't know much about it at all.  I assume it's a collective of like-minded individuals that are getting together to see if the Tyler community will support such an event.  They had one last month, and I didn't attend, but I've decided to see if it will be worthwhile, and hopefully will meet a few people in the process too.

The theme for tonight's program is compassion, so I have a few things I've assembled to accommodate that theme.  I think I'm going to read a poem by the Japanese poet, Toyohiko Kagawa, a humanitarian author, who worked in the slums of Japan and saw disease and other human tragedies.  He was converted to Christian faith after his parents died, and then adopted, and though his poems speak of the terrible plights of the people in the slums, there's also a hope in his poems.  He was nominated for a Noble Peace prize for his writing.

The other piece is prose written by Frances Nail.  It comes from her book, Crow in the House, Wolf at the Door.  It's written about her growing up in a small rural part of Texas.   Her two brothers died while quite young in their teens, one was hit in the head playing baseball and developed meningitis, and the other developed pneumonia. It's about their absence, and her remembrances of her family during those growing years.  She's a writer that started writing late in life around the age of 70, and was later found by the Houston Chronicle, who later started publishing her work, which is now collected in books.  She's also a visual artist as well.  Her stories are very personal and highly readable.

The third selection I may read (still deciding) is a poem I wrote for my cousin, Mark.  He was shot during the University of Texas tower incident on August 1, 1966 in which Charles Whitman shot and killed sixteen people and injured and wounded thirty-one others.  Mark was the same age that I was when this happened (age 16).  My family had just moved from East Texas to West Texas when it happened.  Whitman first killed his wife and mother by stabbing and shooting them, and then killed the woman that was the receptionist at the Tower.  As he was setting up his arsenal of firearms along the top of the tower to begin his shooting spree, my aunt and uncle and cousins had headed up the tower to sight see.  At that time it was a noted landmark.  After the incident, they closed down the Tower, and I'm glad that they did at least for a while. 

They've since opened it back up, and the last time my sister and I were in Austin, we visited the Tower.  They now have armed guards on duty when you pay for tickets at the bottom of the building, and you go through a metal detector to get in as well.  I had such an eerie feeling as I rode the elevator up to the top of the Tower, and then walked the final steps up to the landing.  One of the things that I found different from the way that I had imagined it was that I thought there might be more room up there, but it's barely wide enough to squeeze around two people along the walkway going around the Tower.  In my mind, I thought the landing was more spacious.  The tour guides told a bit about the historical aspects of the building and tower, the large clock at the top, and the lightening system that is used when UT plays football, but omitted the Whitman incident, which I can understand.


If you look between the bars where I'm standing, you can see the Capital building off in the distance.