Thursday, March 26, 2015

Star War Anime short

This looks pretty nice.   I'd be game for an anime Star Wars.  It'd be great to see someone attempt it.

Happy Dr. Who Anniversary

Happy 10th Anniversary to the new incarnation Dr. Who.  For the longest time, and I guess it still holds the title, Dr. Who was the longest running SF TV series.  There's a difference in the old Who and the newer updated Dr. Who, which this 10th Anniversary celebrates.  The older Dr. Who episodes had longer stories, usually around 4 or 6 episodes with around 25 minutes per episode.  Of course the original, Dr. Who started on Nov. 1963, cantankerously played by actor, William Hartnell, still one of my favorites--although I like many of the actors.  All those different actors have had their own spin on the doctor too, which might be the reason it has kept such a fan base.  The changing of the actors and the way the doctor behaves brings something fresh and new to the series.  You may not always like the current actor's portrayal as much as another, but it does keep it adding something new to the mix, which has a building effect and also adds to the mythos.

 I can't say I'm a diehard fan of the show.  That's not to say I don't like and enjoy watching it, I do.  But what I mean is I'm not so diehard a fan that I can name off all the episodes or what mistakes go against cannon, and that sort of thing.  I'm a casual fan, one that became aware of the program late one night, while staying up on the weekend, and ran into one of the Tom Baker episodes on a cable network program, I believe called Night Flight, (although it may have been some other late night programming). Night Flight was a cool program back in the day, which showed older B-movies, horror films, concert videos, a little animation, and any manner of things.

 I just remember the first Dr. Who I ever saw was a Tom Baker and Leela episode called The Robots of Death, and it was strange and unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  The effects were old-school, yet drew me into the program taking place on some mining expedition of a desert world.  The crew members are running this giant landship harvesting minerals and have robot operators, ranging from simple robot operators to more capable SV7 (super-Voc) Coordinator.   About the time the TARDIS shows up, one of the crew members gets murdered.  Suspicious of whodunit run amuck, and of course, they blame the Doctor and Leela.  But of course, none of them dares to think it could be one of their own robots as that might spell the end for that civilization. 

The episode is also noted, as this story saw the last appearance of the wooden walled control room aboard the TARDIS.  It had its debut in The Masque of Mandragora as a replacement for the more familiar room seen since 1963.  However, while it was felt to be very atmospheric, the set suffered from being too static, not much going on visually, and too reliant on wood which warped when the walls were put into storage for a few months, ha.

That episode was followed by one of my all-time favorite Dr. Who features, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and from there I more or less became a fan of the show.  It wasn't much later that I was over in Midland at a comic store and talking to one of the proprietors of the shop about any sort of pop culture stuff, but I think somewhere in the conversation Pink Floyd was mentioned and a guy behind me said, "Pink Floyd? I love Pink Floyd." and introduced himself as Allon.  I remember saying, that's a Jewish name, if I ever heard one, and we quickly became friends.

He was a friends with some other people that were the remnants of a Dr. Who fan club in that town, known as The West Texas Timelords, and he invited me to come over and we'd eat pizza, and then we adjourn and we met up at an apartment complex where one of the friends lived.  The apartments had a central meeting room, with a pool table, TV set and VCR, and we could use it to watch a Dr. Who program.  Eventually the guy moved from that apartment complex, as I remember, and we had to shift things to meet at his apartment.  I have to say he was very accommodating to put up with us, ha.   From what I understand, the gal that originally had started the club there, moved on, but left her VHS tapes with one of the members, and he had a whole cache of Dr. Who tapes.  So we'd meet on weekend, eat pizza, chat, and then go watch a tape.  It was a lot of fun, met some good people, and my knowledge of SF grew as well in the process.

So the above concerns the "classic" Dr. Who programming.  At some point in time, they stopped making Dr. Who programs around 1989 with the classic team-up of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred.   A lot of those episodes I still have not seen, and should make a point of watching them.  But there was 16 year absence, with the exception of a made-for-TV movie, which starred Paul McGann, that the BBC started up the newer series, starring Christopher Eccleston as the doctor with Billie Piper as Rose Tyler as the companion.   The rest is more or less history.

Here recently our cable has just picked up the BBC America network, and I've enjoy seeing some of these rebroadcast of the newer Dr. Who series.  Last week, they showed a couple of David Tennant episodes, as well as a couple of Matt Smith.  I hope they continue to do so.  Radio Times has an acknowledgement from some of the actors and associates of the new series here.   It's where I got the above picture of the newest incarnation of the doctor played by Peter Capaldi.

Yeah, final notes:  I was trying to find a cool classic podcast of Dr. Who programs.  If you know of one leave a link in the comments.  The one I ran across today looks somewhat promising, but I'm still looking for more.  Here's one I found:  Who Back When. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harryhausen and movies

My taste in art runs pretty broad, whether that be visual or audio.  I'm not as informed on the literary world, and tend to enjoy specific genre, though surprise myself occasionally.   I'm pretty open-minded about the medium, and appreciate a lot of different styles.  The above is a Ray Harryhausen sketch that a friend sent me a link to, which if you are a fan of his films, you might enjoy looking at some of the other sketches on that site as well. 

Here's lately on cable we got two new networks.  One is El Rey network, which I'm not sure what their target audience is, but I'd say action, adventure, and perhaps exploitation.  They have been showing a lot of martial arts films lately, along with some spaghetti westerns.  I tend to enjoy the spaghetti westerns more because I've always enjoyed westerns.  My dad did too, which is probably when I was exposed to them.  The martial arts films, mostly coming out of the Shaw Brother's production studio, is more (no pun intended) foreign to me.  I just don't know much about them or their creators, and didn't really know who the Shaw Brothers were.  But overall, they are pretty fun too once you can acclimate your mind to that genre.

One of the things I think the El Rey network could probably do, however, is perhaps mix things up a  bit more.  From their commercials and trailers they plan on showing a lot other things, which I'm in favor of, and it might be good to introduce some of that as well like maybe some blacksploitation, some Godzilla (which I'm hoping they'll show) and maybe some crime movies.  But, yeah, it's been a welcome channel for sure.  Some time back Suddenlink (the cable company I'm with) cut off MTV and VH1 (no big loss to me at all), but they also cut off the Comedy channel too (which I didn't mind too much though I did like watching the Colbert Report and Jon Stewart).  I thought that part sucked.  Too tell you the truth after that there wasn't a heck of a lot on Suddenlink except, TCM, which gets pretty repetitive at times, though still a pretty classy channel, and PBS, probably a mainstay for me. 

So I was thinking of just dropping my cable bill down to a minimum--the first 15 channels or so, saving about half on the cable bill, and then picking up more Netflix, or maybe even going Amazon Prime, which would open up to a few things that Netflix doesn't have.  With Amazon Prime, you get access to their movies and series, along with instant shipping too.  So I could have gotten that, and it still would have been cheaper than what I'm paying for my cable bill, and there's so much drek on cable anyway.

But for now, I'm sort of happy to watch El Rey for a bit longer, and they also picked up BBC America, which has been showing some of the newer Doctor Who series, and I've missed many of those episodes (though I wish they'd also include some of the older Dr. Who as well) so I'm sort of hanging with it for a while longer.

I grew up and watched the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns: A Fist Full of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  I remember how odd these films were when I first saw them, compared to say, the John Wayne or James Stewart westerns. They had a certain authentic look and feel to them.  They were a bit different from American westerns, which had violence in them, but the spaghetti westerns went a bit further with that, everything was a bit sweatier, filthier, whore-ier, and ugly.  It's hard to beat those soundtracks by Ennio Morricone too.  They had a hipness about them with that twangy guitar, almost 007-like or a very '60s feel to them.  I went and bought the Hugo Montenegro soundtrack album.  It wasn't the "official" soundtrack, but I got more bang for my buck with it, getting several movie themes from it. 
So all these years later, watching some of these lessor known westerns has been a lot of fun.  I finally got to see the original Django and Django Kill movies, which were pretty good.  Maybe better that the remake, thought I enjoyed them all.  They've also shown: Keoma, about a mixed race Indian that returns to restore order after the Civil War.  It was pretty good, but had some horrible songs on the soundtrack, which would take me out of the movie a bit by an annoying female singer that sounded a bit like the 60's singer, Melanie Safka, (which probably no one remembers today), but she wasn't anywhere near as good.  There was also a male singer who seemed to mimic Leonard Cohen too, but wasn't as good either.  The story was pretty decent however. 

They also showed, Companeros, which was odd in its structure, and had moments of comedy between the two main actors, and I thought stayed way from cliched storytelling.  Which seems to be another feature of these spaghetti westerns, it's hard (or was for me) to predict how some of the protagonist would get their way out of a jam.  Sure you'd figure the good guy would win in the end, but it's hard to predict how.

Some of the others they've shown were: The Grand Duel with Lee Van Cleef, and Texas, Adios.  Like I said, they've all been pretty fun to watch.

I also got to see, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I enjoyed a great deal.  Life Itself, which is a documentary on the life of Roger Ebert.  Being a long time fan of the Siskel and Ebert's PBS program, At The Movies, it was a sad, but interesting tribute to the man.  It's too bad there isn't something similar on TV somewhere these days, but I guess all that has been relegated into Youtube these days. 

Whiplash was pretty good, and fairly engaging to watch, but fairly unbelievable too.  I enjoyed the action and mythology building of John Wick, and would probably enjoy another in the series, if they could come up with  a decent story.  Gone Girl was pretty good too.  I enjoyed trying to figure out who was the good guy and who was the antagonist, and which way this crazy crime mystery was going to go and how it would end up.  Finding Vivian Maier was an unusual documentary on a Chicago photographer and nanny that was not famous in the normal sense of the word, she was just an average person that pursued photography really out of her hobby and joy in life.  She did not get famous or work for a high prestigious New York magazine.  She just enjoyed taking hundreds of pictures.  Boyhood, yes, I enjoyed it.  I watched it nearly twice.  Raw Deal, yes, the old action Schwarzenegger film.  I'd never seen it, and it wasn't great, you kind of knew what you were going to get, but it was a lot of fun, if you've never seen it.  Four Horsemen is a documentary I found on Youtube about our current state of affairs: terrorist, the debt-based economy, lobbying, etc. It's sort of similar to the film, Inside Job.  I think both films are worth watching and would like to know more about such things and cures as well.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Star Blazers Reminiscences

I thought I'd piggyback this article I found on i09 about one writer's reminiscences on the early anime, Star Blazers, and it also details a bit about their teen years of being bullied in high school.  I didn't know too much about Star Blazers until around perhaps the late 90's or so when a friend made mention of it one day when eating pizza.  I asked him what he was talking about as I just never ran across it on TV or anything I read.  He was a pretty big SF and Star Wars fan, and compared it to space opera and Star Wars, so I was intrigued, and bought the first VHS tape to the series.  I'll admit, I thought it was pretty good, and again didn't know much about it coming from the original version of Space Battleship Yamato either.  I wonder if he did since it was a bit before the web has grown like it is now.   At any rate, if you're a fan of the show, you might like reading the article here.  

There's also a web comic series, here. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Speculative Fiction

I read this article about speculative fiction, and I'm not one to split hairs  much over what to call something. I generally just call stuff that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, a duck, so if I see something that looks like Sci-Fi whether it be Star Wars, or Godzilla, or whatever else, I just lump it into SF as a broad genre, whereas someone else may take exception to it.

I once had some guy take me to task over some movie or book for making mention of it being Sci-Fi.  I have no idea how serious he was or whether or not this was one of his great pet peeves or whatever, but I just thought, whatever, lighten up dude--you know what I mean...  He also mentioned that Harlan Ellison (whom I like) would take me to task over such labeling as well, and I think he was more opposed to the hyphenating (Sci-Fi).  I thought about that, and I know Harlan probably would as well, but hey, if Harlan be outspoken and say and do what he wants so can I.  End of story.  ha.

I don't  agree with the writer of the article that big-budget SF can't be philosophical, after he already mentioned two examples above his disclaimer.   But I guess he's saying that big-budget films are more about action (but can't they be both?).  At any rate, here's the article. 

Been awful rainy here the past few weeks, and I've been trying to get my paperwork together for taxes so I can get that over and done with, which is being worked on currently.  I've also got a summons for jury duty on Monday, which I'm not looking forward to, but I guess it's my civic duty--and there's no exemptions that I think of, heh.  I had a friend once tell the judge that he didn't think he was of sound mind or moral character to sit on the jury, but the judge told him to go sit back down. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Alan Moore interview

Alan Moore is a British writer who is known for such successes as Watchman, V for Vendetta, among other comics, which were optioned into movies.  In 1984 he began writing for DC's Saga of the Swamp Thing, which is where I initially started reading him.  It's a wonderful run if you enjoy macabre, horror comics.  The art on it is exceptional too.  The disturbing gothic tone of storytelling and also treading the thin line of comic book censorship during the 80's (which seems a bit silly now many years later) set it apart from most comics on the shelf at the time.

The success of Swamp Thing led directly to Watchman, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, is a superhero tale set against a doom-laden holocaust fomented on the inside from one of their own members.  I'll admit that it does resemble some of the plot from one of the old Twilight Zone episodes, Architects of Fear, but Watchmen, like most of Moore's output, is densely layered, ambitious, and greater than the sum of its parts.

He gone own to create other works, but prefers doing things by his own terms and pursuing his own interest as well.  Here's a recent interview.  Scroll down the page to read it. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Anime part 2

This is the second part (the first part is below) of an email exchange with a friend, Stephen, on anime.  I've been meaning to get back in touch with him to follow up a little bit to see what else he might have enjoyed that is current, but have yet to do so.  I'm also curious to see what other films he might have enjoyed.  So here goes.

Me: So Stephen, that's a lot to discover, thanks for all the information. I plan on tracking down some of these series so appreciate your feedback.  I wondered about the Galaxy Express 999 series. Some of the others you've mentioned I'll just have to keep an eye out for as time allows. You mentioned Akira, and I've had a copy of that on VHS for a long time now as well as owning the first part of the manga, and just recently picked it up on DVD. I did not know that it had been remastered until a friend told me. Then they showed it on Cartoon Network, and it still blew me away. So for now I'm just discovering some of this stuff little by little. I've also got Ghost in the Shell, but have not seen the subsequent sequels.

 The first I heard much about anime was from a friend who enjoyed Robotech and loaned me a version in Japanese from his VHS copy of the series. It wasn't subbed or dubbed, but at least you could see the artwork. I later found a English subbed copy and enjoyed it. Around the same time, they started showing Gigantor early in the mornings on some cable channel and I'd tape them.

 Then the SciFi Channel (back when there were good :) started showing some earlier anime along with the already mentioned Akira, which is where I taped my copy. They also showed Vampire Hunter D, which I enjoyed along with Robot Carnival (another great one), plus Lensmen, Roujin Z, Gall Force, Record of the Lodoss Wars, Odin, Venus Wars, Dominion Tank Police, and some others.

 I do like some of the current anime, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, and Space Dandy, but at times I think some of it lost some of its charm along the way, and others either I just just don't get or don't have the patience for.  That still doesn't stop me from trying something different or discovering something new.

Stephen:   The "problem" I had was that in the early 2000s, I had more disposable income than sense, and I bought a TON domestically released (in the US) Anime. Learned Japanese (at least being able to hear and translate, not so good with reading) and started buying Japanese DVDs (and some BDs) around 2004 or 2005.

My first taste of Anime was probably Robotech on TV in the early 80s. Not that anyone had a clue it came from Japan, considering how well they cleansed it before releasing it to the US. I also loved Tranzor Z (was made from Mazinger Z). Voltron. Then Anime stopped appearing (again, not like I had a clue what it was), or I grew up. Or maybe both?

It's funny you mention Sci-Fi. Saturday Anime. Akira was my first reintroduction to Anime. Well, if you exclude my brief interlude with Sailor Moon (still had no clue it was Japanese until I looked it up on the then budding Internet) I guess. After seeing Akira on Sci-Fi, I went out and bought the VHS copy of it. And picked up.... Ghost in the Shell (original movie) at the same time. Probably the worst $50 I ever spent, considering how much more I spent on Anime in the intervening years. There was also Lodoss War. And again, Robot Carnival. Dominion Tank Police. Wow. Not long after jumping into Akira and GitS, I went and bought Evangelion one tape at a time, when the closest video store that carried Anime was something like 40 miles away.

 My fascination with older Anime blew up when I learned Japanese and could understand most of what was going on. I kept thinking "there's got to be some great stuff we've just never seen that I can now get hold of and understand that won't likely be licensed." Mazinger Z was one of my first. My very first import was actually the Ah! My Goddess movie, but I didn't know Japanese so well then. So Mazinger Z was second when I knew more Japanese.

I actually bought the entire run of Galaxy Express 999 TV box sets, having no experience with the series at all, from Yahoo Japan Auctions for a pretty hefty sum. Couldn't be happier. And that sparked buying anything Matsumoto Leiji. Harlock, Queen Millennium, Harlock SSX (not my favorite), Queen Emeraldas, and quite a few others.

The nice thing about looking back into the 70s, 80s, and 90s is you can just completely forget the not so good stuff. Time gives us the perspective that allows us to see what REALLY shone through the murk. Classics are classics, even if it being a "classic" isn't apparent on its first release.

So Lodoss was license rescued... until it wasn't. Apparently Media Blasters picked it up and then decided not to bother. Not sure why, but probably has to do with a lack of money. Been a long time since they've made money as best I can tell.

Discotek/Eastern Star have picked up Robot Carnival. I bought it some years ago on Japanese DVD.

That all being said, most of what I gave you were TV series. There are plenty of OVAs worth watching, and films of course.

Gunbuster, the original not the newer one, is great and highly recommended.  Feel free to email me if you want to know more.

Me:  Thanks Stephen, I appreciate talking to you about some of this stuff.  There's just so much to check out, and like a lot of media, whether it be movies, comics, or books--different things appeals to different people.   I'm glad Discotek is releasing some of this stuff, and hope they continue to do so.
I found their Facebook page and "liked it", so I can keep up with some of their newer releases as they come out.  Another series I started watching, but haven't gotten to deeply into is Yu Yu Hakusho. 

At any rate, I'm slowly find new stuff all the time, which is probably why this genre is so seductive.

At any rate, such was the exchange.  I plan on emailing him back, but so far have gotten sidetracked by life.  Hey it happens...

Sunday, March 01, 2015

More Leonard Nimoy Interviews

I was hoping I could run across a longer interview with Leonard Nimoy and ran across this one, but it's not the one I had in mind. Enjoy.

Actually, below is a link to the interview I was looking for, which is more in-depth about his early life, his Star Trek years, and so forth--but for whatever reason, I can't get it to post correctly so I'll put up this link to it.  It is an eight-part interview from the Archive of American Television.