Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Batmobile

Stewart mentioned that the Batmobile deserved credit in my Cars With Charisma post, and I couldn't agree more. So this post is dedicated exclusively to the Batmobile in all its glory. The Batmobile as had several incarnations, the most recent from Batman Begins is my absolute favorite; though they are all worthy of mentioning. I can't pretend to be a car aficionado, or even a Batmobile expert. Mostly the car is important for what it represents. Batman was known for his gadgets and the Batmobile was one heck of a gadget. It was a huge extension of Batman's power and resourcefulness. I'm mostly just going to lay out the specs and leave it to the rest of you to try to remember what the car could do and what it represents to you. The original TV Batmobile started out as a concept car called the Lincoln Futura originally built in 1955. Apparently the car weighed 3 tons and was prone to stress fractures, but did we really care? We just wanted to see all the cool stuff it could do. This model was said to have atomic batteries, turbine engines and all sorts of gadgets. And, lest we forget the 60's show also featured a bunch of other vehicles like the Batboat, the Batcycle and the Batcopter. The next Batmobile was the Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney car from the first series of Batman movies. The Keaton version featured a jet engine, aircraft instruments and browning sub machine guns.The Kilmer car had "Powerful interior machinery radiating with blue-white light through a ribbed body, wing and fins rising majestically from the rear of its body, illuminated hubcaps emblazoned with the Bat Ensignia, a powerful engine pulsating beneath the meshed hood, an orange-red flame jetting out of the rear turbine exhaust." What else is there to say? The Clooney version is pretty wild looking, though it doesn't appear to have had much more than the appearance altered having "Goodyear tires with the Bat emblem embossed on the treads; single rear cockpit; independent suspension; illuminated blue hubcaps; pulsing chassis lights...(and) Six flame columns produce a V-shaped exhaust pattern six feet long." Ok then. By far my favorite is the Batmobile from the Batman Begins movie, although it is never actually referred to as the Batmobile in the movie. It is a military vehicle called The Tumbler. This car has: "HOOSIER racetrack tires on front, 4 Rear 44 inch SUPER SWAMPERS, a our wheel drive conversion component, jet burner in rear with vector controls for the jet, back end flaps for quick stops, landing Hook, enabled with front-firing machine guns, built-in safety link for petrol control, built-in fire extinguisher system, front wheels on bolted arms for an axle-less front end, conventional single axle rear end." But mostly it was cool. What also made this car the best was the way you could see Batman adjusting the car to do it's various functions. And watching the uninitiated try to lie on their stomach to drive the car was just plain fun. That's all I really have for now. It's surprisingly hard to find more specifics on the cars, though I thought this was pretty good. I didn't read the comics as a kid so I don't know what may be missing that was featured in those, so if anyone has info on that I'd love to hear about it. So what do you guys remember? And why do you think the Batmobile is so important to the Batman legend? You know you wanna tell me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nobody's Watching Part 1

Guess What Billy Did After Battlestar Galactica? This is his pilot...for real.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Looking Ahead

In 1970 Alvin Toffler published a book that had most of us wide-eyed and self-impressed, "Future Shock" (I should mention that people were also reading and talking about such nonsense as "Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask" and "Fear of Flying", but that would just be excessive on my part and I'm not about to stoop to that to impress people...nor will I mention "The Naked Ape" or "The Media is The Message"---but I digress). Toffler's book warned that as our world changed rapidly that some people would struggle to psychologically adjust to the change. Well. Maybe. Having grown up in the 60's, I am still waiting for the flying cars, rocket packs, and wall tv screens that they promised us would be here after the turn of the century, along with the colonies on the moon. They also said women would lose most of their secondary sexual characteristics, and like Twiggy, have no breasts or hips. Allow me to give thanks for that one prediction not coming to pass. So, the question is, as sci-fi writers of the fifties and sixties tried to guess what changes would be wrought in the next fifty years and how those changes would affect the life of the average person, what predictions are our contemporaries making today? What will the next fifty years hold? One group of visionaries have made prediction as to the future of the internet. According to a post on the Pew/Internet Report ( http://www.pewinternet.org/index.asp ) the following predictions have been made: *A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world. *Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey. *Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems. *Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change. *People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy. *English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence. Another group of visionaries addressed the question of the next fifty years over at New Scientist ( http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/science-forecasts). Some of their predictions include: people living into their hundreds, computers capable of passing the Turing test, and final and workable grasp of a unified field theory. Of course not all futurists are optimistic. With global warming and the growing number of nuclear states capable of supplying terrorists with dirty bombs, it's easy to adopt a different paradigm. Personally, of the doom and gloom predictors, I prefer the unknown future plague that will sweep through the industrialized nations like a fire through dry grass. Maybe the dead will even rise and walk the earth. So what about you? What do you see the next fifty years holding?

Cars With Charisma

As I was writing my post the other day about cartoons and animated movies I mentioned the movie Cars. It occurred to me then that there are an awful lot of TV shows and movies out there in which cars have been given distinct personalities. I'm not talking about the General Lee, though some might argue that car has personality. No, I mean cars with actual consciousness. Probably the first TV show that featured the kind of cars I'm talking about was 1965's My Mother the Car. This show was comedy starring Jerry Van Dyke (brother to Dick) as David Crabtree. He hears his mother talking to him through the radio of an old 1928 Porter and realizes that his Mother has been reincarnated into the car. No one else can hear her, so of course most everyone thinks he's crazy. This show came out at a time when a lot of other shows featured supernatural storylines, like Bewitched and My Favorite Martian. And though at the time it was widely panned as one of the worst shows on TV, it has become a kind of sentimental favorite to many. Steven King wrote of a possessed car as well, though of a much more malevolent kind in Christine, which was later turned into a movie directed by John Carpenter. The book describes the car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury (appropriate car wouldn't you say) as having been possessed by the spirit of a guy named Roland LeBay, though the movie portrays the car as simply evil. I also remember a movie that was similar to Christine that I saw as a kid that scared the crap out of me called simply The Car. There's very little to this movie other than it's a customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III that runs people down for no apparent reason. The movie never specifies why the car is evil, if it's possessed or otherwise. Though I believe this was meant to be based on the movie The Duel by Stephen Spielberg, that time with an inexplicably evil Peterbilt Truck. Disney took the idea of a car with a mind of its own and made it into a kid friendly franchise with the Herbie movies of the late 60's through the early 80's and the most recent incarnation with Lindsay Lohan in Herbie Fully Loaded. Herbie, as you all probably remember, was the lovable Volkswagen Bug that had it's own personality and abilities far beyond that of a regular Bug. I've never heard that any kind of "possession" was attributed to Herbie, he just simply was a car with its own consciousness. Another family friendly magical car was featured in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang based on a book written by James Bond author Ian Flemming for his son. The movie starred Dick Van Dyke and had many fantasy sequences in which the car flew. I haven't seen it in so long I can't remember if the car was actually supposed to be able to fly or if it was merely imaginary. Hopefully someone can enlighten me. One of my all time cheesy favorites was the 80's classic Knight Rider; another David Hasselhoff masterpiece. The car in Knight Rider was known as Kitt, or the Knight Industries Two Thousand. Kitt was given its somewhat sarcastic personality through Artificial Intelligence and was used as a crime fighting weapon of sorts. I really did love Knight Rider, I think the car's sarcasm appealed to me even then. After all, who doesn't want to give "The Hoff" a verbal smackdown now and then? Cars are often a big part of film and TV, from The Dukes of Hazzard to movies like Bullitt we've always had a love affair with cars. But there is something a little extra special about movies and TV shows that have cars with animated personalities. At least I've always thought so. ;) As always, tell me what you think.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Off With His Head!

Ok, the title of the post is a bit much. Anyway. When I was in high school I remember the guys all talking about the movie Highlander. It was kind of a big deal to these guys and I couldn't figure out what the heck they were talking about until I finally saw it for myself. It wasn't the best movie in the world, but the idea is what makes it such a great cult classic. If you haven't seen the movie then I'll fill you in on the basics. The main character in the movie is Connor MacLeod, aka The Highlander, played by Christopher Lambert. He is an immortal man who can only be killed if he is decapitated. He is one among a small group of immortals who all vie to be that last man standing. The immortals in this movie duel with swords and whenever they kill another immortal, they absorb their power. The last immortal alive is supposed to then have great power and influence world events. The movie also stars Sean Connery as an immortal who is a mentor to MacLeod. As the story begins the time of The Gathering is approaching and all the immortals will be drawn to a particular place, in this case New York, for the final battle. The movie starts with a sword battle in a New York parking garage and when Connor finally wins the battle we see him absorb the power from the other immortal. It appears to be almost as if lightening is striking him and we later learn it is called The Quickening. The movie kind of reminds me of the first Terminator movie. It's dark and grainy and you get the feeling it was filmed on a fairly low budget. And at times it can be confusing. But I still liked it. In fact, so many people liked it they ended up making four movies, two TV series, one animated series, not to mention all the books that have been written. The first TV series starred Adrian Paul as Duncan MacLeod, who is a clansman of Connor MacLeod. (not to mention rather easy on the eyes...ahem) I really liked the TV series with Adrian Paul, and not just for obvious reasons. I thought it was rather well done. It showed the conflicts many immortals had with a virtually never ending life span and what happens when you find yourself forced to face personal demons that come from such a long life. And ultimately I think that's what appeals to viewers, the idea of immortality. Don't you wonder what you would do if you could live forever? It's something to ponder anyway. Or maybe like the Queen song that asks "who wants to live forever?" Or better yet, who wants to watch their loved one's die over and over? This is a concept that is dealt with in both the movie and the TV series. Essentially I liked how the story developed over time, except maybe for the concept of the Watchers. The Watchers were basically a group of mortals who watched and kept track of the immortals but didn't interfere; or they weren't supposed to anyway. The Watcher's always seemed forced to me. Basically it was used as a device to introduce other characters into the show and used as a means to give us a historical background on certain characters. But I think I could have lived without the whole Watchers element. My other small gripe is that I don't think the movies were done as well as the TV series. I haven't even seen the third one because I heard it was so bad and frankly didn't realize there was a fourth one until I wrote this. Oops! I do plan on renting the fourth one though, after all, it does include Adrian Paul. ;) I also haven't really figured out how they have reconciled the fact that Connor MacLeod was supposed to be the last immortal at the end of the movie, but somehow the story was continued with Duncan MacLeod and several cameo appearances by Connor in the TV series. I'm hoping the fourth movie will answer that for me. Shhh, don't spoil it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Lets talk cult movies for a minute. Buckaroo showed up in 1984. Now I remember enjoying it, but my husband ENOYED it. And apparently it has left a lasting impression on many people over the years. The movie had an amazing cast. Peter Weller was our hero, Dr. Banzai. John Lithgow was the fabulous comic archetype villian, Ellen Barkin was our spunky damsel in distress, and Jeff Goldblum played New Jersey one of Banzai's trusty crew. I think the funnest aspect of the film, and what no doubt contributed to its lousy results in the theatres, was that it just jumped into the film and acted like it assumed we all knew who everyone was and the back story. You got the sense that this was just part of a long story that MUST be still out there. Many have likened it to Doc Savage. I think the movie nods its head at least, to the old serialized adventures like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers. Wikipedia says it best: "The plot of Buckaroo Banzai is quite complex, often requiring multiple viewings before it can be fully understood. This is partly due to the fact that it spans roughly 50 years, begins in the middle of the story, and doesn't fill in some of the earliest parts of the story until the viewpoint characters themselves unravel the mystery — roughly halfway through the movie. In its essentials, the plot concerns the efforts of the multi-talented Buckaroo Banzai (whose careers include physicist, neurosurgeon, martial artist, rock musician and comic book hero) to save the world by defeating a band of aliens called Red Lectroids." It asks a lot of its audience, so if you are not into the genre, you are probably NOT going to give it a chance. I just thought it fun, quircky film, that did not take itself very seriously.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Animate Me Baby!

I admit it, I love cartoons. I always have. Cartoons are awesome in my humble opinion. Only in a cartoon can a talking coyote chase a beeping road runner, fall off a cliff and get up to paint a railroad tunnel on a boulder. Aaaaaaaaaaand only in a cartoon would a train come barrelling through the tunnel a few moments later. Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius proclaims his business card. How beautiful is that? But cartoons have come a long way, baby; haven't they? I just recently watched Monster House with my kids and I was pretty darned impressed. It's a scary one actually, so those who haven't seen it should probably watch it first to make sure it isn't too scary for their little ones. In fact if Monster House was live action, it would be a Steven King movie. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't watched it yet, but it was pretty good. I don't know if everyone likes the new computer generated cartoons that have become so popular, and sometimes the characters can look a bit freaky. But the children in this movie were so endearing to me. I loved the kid called Chowder. If this kid was a real actor I'd say he was a prodigy. There has been a glut of cartoons this year though, so I've actually got some catching up to do. But with so many I end up being kind of choosy about what I want to see. This year I think I've only seen two movies, Cars and Monster House. Cars was cute, but not as innovative as Monster House IMO. I think my favorite Pixar film in recent years was The Incredibles which was released in 2004. I've watched that several times on DVD. And if you haven't watched Jack Jack Attack on the extras portion of the DVD, you must, it's hilarious. But what I like most about the movie is that I could totally buy the premise of the movie. In a world of super hero's fused with our own, couldn't you just see some yahoo suing a "super" for causing them injury while saving their life? I just loved the way the movie looked at how ridiculous our sue-happy society has become. ($2 million for spilt coffee anyone??) And that's the genius of really good cartoons; the ability to appeal to kids and adults at the same time. When I was a kid I loved Bugs Bunny. I thought that rabbit was the cleverest thing in the world. As a adult I love looking back at the old cartoons and laughing at the parodies of Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. I'll still never understand why my Mom didn't like cartoons, theres something for everyone isn't there? And even today, I love watching cartoons with my kids. I can easily sit down and watch Sponge Bob or Jimmy Neurton. And you can't tell me it isn't a Gen-X'er who writes Dexter's Laboratory with all the clever references to The Superfriends. So if you don't already, pull up a chair and watch some cartoons. After all, it's quality time with the kids, right?

A Modern Bibliophile’s Paradise

For my first post here on the F&SF Lovers Blog (thank you so much for the invitation, SQT!), I’d like to share with you one of the greatest finds of my SF&F reading life – http://www.bane.com/. Jim Baen was way ahead of his time. Or perhaps I should say he was the only one of his peers who was with the times. Until his untimely death of a massive stroke earlier this year, he was the publisher and founding partner of Baen Books. He was always actively involved in seeking out and developing new authors – including many of those I see listed to the right of this column. Probably 80% of my favorite authors are published by Baen, at least in part. His vision of how a publishing house should operate, aided and abetted by some fantastic literary minds (Eric Flint, David Weber, David Drake to name a few) was, and still is, the biggest reason. At the suggestion of Flint, in 2000 he created in the Baen Free Library, where readers can get free electronic copies of many of the Baen authors’ books. Thanks to this resource I was able to try reading many new authors, even when money was tight. I fell in love with many of their works. Another of Baen’s innovative notions was that of embracing unrestricted eBooks. As long as I do not sell it, I am free to reproduce and share any Baen book I buy with my friends. Jim Baen’s opinion was that people would rather buy than steal. He and his authors argued that sharing an eBook was no more damaging – and possibly even beneficial – to the author and publisher than me loaning you a paperback. And the numbers proved them correct over and over again. As well as the free library, their website includes the ability to buy individual books and download them as many times as you like. You can purchase bundles of five or more books (called Webscriptions) for the price of two or three, or purchase advanced copies of books still in the editing phase. Many of the authors are frequently online in the forums, known collectively as Baen’s Bar, to discuss current and upcoming works with their readers. You can even order dead tree copies of your favorites (to share with those poor sods who don’t use computers). In short, Baen.com is, in my opinion, as close to paradise as an SF&F book lover is ever going to find.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

FOREST J ACKERMAN

Night. 1965. A ten year old boy waits until the door to his room is closed and then sneaks a magazine from under a pillow. The flashlight comes on and his fingers flip through pulp pages. The pictures lurid and in black and white. The captions absurd. The magazine: FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. Forest J. Ackerman, publisher of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND gave American kids what they wanted. Picture after picture of the Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and more. He kept these icons alive, feeding the interest for a new generation in horrors created on celluloid many years before. Pre teens and teens weren't able to go to the magazine stand and pick up STARLOG or FANGORIA. Those magazines and their ilk wouldn't be around until the late seventies and early eighties. And other magazines that might cater to the subject of weird films just weren't accessible to that demographic. Known as Uncle Forry to the science fiction and fantasy world, Ackerman started maybe the first fanzine in 1932, "Time Traveler", while at the age of sixteen. The fanzine became an international publication. (pictured: Karloff and Ackerman) Over the next several years Uncle Forry would continue to encourage fandom by helping to found The Las Angeles Science Fantasy Society (http://www.lasfs.info/html/mainmenu.html ). He would meet, befriend, and encourage a number of aspiring personalities including Ray Harryhausen, Charles Beaumont, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Ray Bradbury. Anthony Boucher(writer and editor of SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY) is said to have once proclaimed: "If Forrest J. Ackerman had not existed, it would have been necessary to invent him." Ackerman continues to be a presence; his FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND is still available in a different incarnation (http://www.filmlandclassics.com/01home.html ); he maintains an outstanding website(http://4forry.best.vwh.net/) and the Las Angeles Science Fantasy Society continues to be a force in the genre.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tell Me What You Want To See.

Ok, so sometimes it's hard to come up with ideas. Is there anything you've been wanting to talk about? If so let me know and I'll post about it. If you want to author something, let me know and I'll put you on the contributor list.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm Going To Be Busy Sooooo.......

With the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm going to be too busy to really put any time into posting on the blog. So right now I'm totally cheating. Dave over at Dave's Long Box put up a funny post about the lamest scenes in the James Bond Series. I think this is totally hilarious and timely considering the newly released Bond movie. Check it out and tell me what you think. Are there any scenes you would add to the list?

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Thanksgiving Favorite

It's almost Thanksgiving, and though I know not everyone that comes to my little blog celebrates this American holiday I'm going to throw out one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. Dr. Doolittle. Not the horrible Eddie Murphy version, but the gold-standard starring Rex Harrison and Samantha Eggar. I'm not entirely sure why, but this movie was broadcast every Thanksgiving when I was a kid. While my poor Mom slaved in the kitchen over a hot turkey, I would hole up in their bedroom and watch Dr. Doolittle. Somehow my Mom seemed to know this had become my own personal ritual and allowed me the opportunity to lose myself in one of my favorite childhood stories. For those of you who have only seen the Eddie Murphy version of this movie, I would say you haven't actually seen Dr. Doolittle as it was intended. Sorry Eddie, but I think that particular movie stinks. Rex Harrison's Dr. Doolittle is a kind of brusque character, one who largely prefers animals to humans. He also has the ability to talk to the animals, which was always my favorite part. And in the world of Dr. Doolittle, miraculous animals abound. The first one I remember is the pushme-pullyu. It mostly resembles a two-headed llama, and I don't even want to guess how the animal is supposed to go potty. But these weren't concerns that occurred to my childhood brain. (though I suppose I'm more childish now in even bringing it up) There are also an inordinate number of giant animals in Dr. Doolittle. The first of which we see is a giant whale, who is so big that it is actually able to move an island. Then there is the giant pink sea snail, with room inside for Dr. Doolittle's friends to travel. And lastly the giant lunar moth on which we see Dr. Doolittle fly off on at the end of the movie. And to the never ending delight to my childish mind, the movie was a musical. Does anyone besides me remember "If I could talk to the animals?" The movie is fairly long, running over 150 minutes, so with commercials I could kill most of the day watching it. Oh joy! But it was so much fun. It also starred the lovely Samantha Eggar as Emma Fairfax, who basically attempts to act as the voice of reason in the movie. Unfortunately they don't really broadcast this wonderful movie anymore. But thankfully I can watch my Thanksgiving standard on DVD. For me, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it. I would love to hear about any other Thanksgiving traditions anyone else has. And if anyone would like to write a guest post about their favorite Thanksgiving movie or special, then let me know and I'll add you to the contributor list. (I'll do a similar feature at Christmas). For those of you who don't celebrate Thanksgiving, feel free to share your holiday memories with us. We'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Know His Name

"Casino Royale" is the film Bond enthusiasts have been waiting for. It isn't Bond as he's evolved over the years; Daniel Craig's spy isn't the unflappable superhero that a younger generation has come to know and videogame. Craig is flesh, blood, and bone. He's a sex god and a man's man. He's brutal. In a fight, his opponents die slow, and the agony of their death registers on his face. And when he's through, he leans over a sink to wash the blood from his face, sickened by what he has just done. "Does killing bother you, Mr. Bond?" "I wouldn't be very good at my job if it did." But it does bother him. In the novel by Fleming, Bond is disillusioned and somewhat sickened by the unfeeling killing machine that he is afraid he is becoming. In Casino Royale, both movie and novel, it's about the character development. The action sequences, though thrilling (the chase in the beginning the most exciting thing I've seen on film in some time) take a backseat to the story and the relationships therein. This isn't a reboot of Bond, as some people have taken to calling it. It is instead a return. This is the gritty symbol of what politics (cold war or otherwise) have brought us to, depersonalizing us in the face of too much media exposure to violence and international catastrophe. While it is easy to see this as a reimagining of Bond, especially when watching the segment where he tries on the tuxedo for the first time. One is easily reminded of Batman first donning the cowl, Superman first ripping open his shirt to expose the red "S", and Spiderman first swinging over Manhattan, but I prefer to think of it instead as a reacknowledgement, a sense of "that's how it should be". If you want throw away lines and flippancy, rent "Live and Let Die". If you want Bond...James Bond..the genuine article, then "Casino Royale" is the place to begin. In honor of this release, I will now post for you something inspired by Mr. Sidney Williams, a Bond Trivia game. From HQ: 1. What was the name of the actor who first played the role of James Bond? 2. What was the first Bond film not named for a Bond novel or short story? 3. What was unique about Gerte Frobe and his performance as Goldfinger? 4. How many different actors, including the most recent, have now portrayed CIA operative Felix Leiter? 5. Including the first "Casino Royale", how many actors have played a character called James Bond? 6. In which films has Bond resigned from MI6? 7. What is Q's real name? 8. How many different actors have played the role of M? 9. What were the first words uttered by James Bond in the first of the United Artists' films, "Dr. No."? 10.Bond once had a secretary, she even appeared with him in one of the films. Her name?

Another Great Sci-fi Classic

Only in an alternate universe could these people exist. Where else could a stranded movie star wear evening gowns everyday without a dry cleaner? Where else could banana cream pies appear without a cow within a thousand miles? Where else could someone make a bamboo bowling alley? (and yet somehow be unable to fix a hole in a boat) Or how about... A bamboo safe? A bamboo car? A bamboo jail? A bamboo lie detector? Are these people actually from the Twilight Zone?

Friday, November 17, 2006

You Asked For It

It has been brought to my attention that there are a number of Harrison Ford fans among the readers of this humble blog. Cool. I've been a fan since I saw Star Wars as a kid. I don't know about the rest of you, but Luke Skywalker never seemed as tough as Han Solo. Ford infused the character with a coolness that can't be faked; just as he brings a certain twinkle to Indiana Jones' eye. Ford doesn't have the number of sci-fi/fantasy movies roles under his belt that Schwarzenegger does, but if you were to create a contest in which you measure quality vs. quantity, Ford wins hands down. The original Star Wars trilogy is just one of the best series' of movies that has ever been made in my opinion. Though episodes I-III were a disappointment to me. And being in a blockbuster series doesn't guarantee a future in Hollywood, just ask Mark Hamill. I think what won me over about Han Solo was the bit of swagger Ford brought to the role. The guy is a bit of a scoundrel and generally speaking only looks out for himself. Over time he changes and I think it Ford does a good job of showing the progression of the character. One of my main complaints about the newest Star Wars trilogy was that the character of Anakin went through such an abrupt personality change. I never felt there was a natural progression. Ford manages to bring empathy to Han Solo without changing the essential character. Perhaps there was a bit of luck that landed Harrison the part of Indiana Jones, after all it was originally offered to Tom Selleck. Fortunately for Ford, Selleck was unable to take the role and Ford became indelibly linked to the part. Indian Jones is another fun character. I loved these movies growing up and really can't imagine anyone else in the role. Indy can have a bit of the scoundrel in him too, but he's mostly a good guy. I love the way the character is a bow tie wearing teacher when he's not off looking for some artifact and a fedora-wearing, snake fearing adventurer the rest of the time. I also think Ford brings across the idea that Indy is winging it most of the time, never really knowing if his latest gamble will pay off. One of my all time favorite movies is Blade Runner, based on the Philip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (is that the coolest title or what?) Ford plays Rick Deckard, a retired bounty hunter who is hired to hunt down rouge "replicants," as androids were called. Some people I know don't like this movie that much, feeling the pacing is too slow. I like it though, it conveys a broodiness that I feel is in keeping with the storyline. This part was also very different that Han Solo. There isn't the cocky bravado he became known for in the other role and instead brought a certain weariness to the role. I can watch it over and over. Ford has done so many more movies than the one's I described here. But since this blog does have a theme, I'll leave off mentioning any others for now. Though What Lies Beneath has supernatural elements, it's not one of my favorite Ford films. Also, tell me if you think they will end up making another Indiana Jones movie. They keep promising to though I think it's been stuck in development Hell for quite a while. Do you guys think Ford is too old to keep playing the part? Frankly, he could be 80 and I'd go see it. But that's just me.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ahhhhhhhrnold!

Ah, the Governator. Has anyone done more to promote the art of the sci-fi action movie? His resume reads like a pumped up sci-fi extravaganza, and don't we love him for it? Or maybe he's perfect for the medium because he looks just like a robot. Although, in the early days no one looked more like Conan the Barbarian than Schwarzenegger. This is one of the few sword and sorcery films Schwarzenegger did. As we all know, he wasn't likely cast for his acting skills but for his obvious brawn. But I still remember Conan fondly, especially Conan the Destroyer with Grace Jones. Not long after he made Conan, Schwarzenegger made what is still probably his best movie ever, The Terminator. I love The Terminator, and I think Terminator 2: Judgement Day is terrific too. I think in my mind these will always be the best movies James Cameron ever put out. If you are one of the few who haven't seen these movies, and you're a fan of sci-fi, you don't what you're missing. And talk about accuracy in casting, Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg; perfect! The Running Man came in 1987 and it's sort of what I think of as Steven King's take on the reality show Survivor. But the real genius of this movie was casting Richard Dawson as the host. The same year Predator came out. In this one Schwarzenegger's character, Dutch, finds himself fighting a deadly alien. This movie did well enough at the box office to merit a sequel in 1990. Though I mostly know the movie for all the one liners my husband loves to repeat ad nauseum. Dillon, you son of a bitch! Total Recall came in 1990. This was based on a Philip K. Dick novel, though mostly I just remember Kuato. ((shudder)) Eraser came in 1996, though I only remember the smallest of sci-fi elements in this. The 6th Day, a warm little movie about cloning and all kinds of violent mayhem came next. Actually, I liked this one. It doesn't dwell too much on the ethical reasons for or against cloning, but it does show what a future where cloning is commonplace might look like. Fun stuff. End of Days is another warm and fuzzy movie about Satan and the Apocalypse. But who doesn't love a movie about Satan. I especially like it when he looks like Gabriel Byrne. And then in 2003 he returned to his roots in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. This one wasn't as good as the earlier Terminator movies, especially without Linda Hamilton in my opinion. Though I did like the super cool Terminatrix. So there you have it. One heck of a list of sci-fi action movies. If Schwarzenegger isn't the patron saint of these kind of movies than I don't know who is.

Homework Assignment

Stewart Sternberg over at House of Sternberg gave me (among others) a writing assignment. If you would like to read it, here it is; though it isn't fantasy or sci-fi related. Mark This is an assignment from Stewart Sternberg on Seduction. I've put my little stamp on it. Hope you like it. A mark is always easy to spot. There's just something about certain men that cries out to be taken advantage of and who am to deny their purpose in life? I can live with what I do. He is beautiful though, I've always been a sucker for black hair. I don't worry about getting close to him, I long ago learned to trust in the attraction the opposite sex has for me. Maybe it's my legs. It doesn't matter, there have been few men I couldn't get to look my way. The sounds of the casino are deafening to me this late at night and I feel a sense of dizzying power as I sit next to him at the blackjack table. I'm in my element. I place my chips on the table and take my cards. I don't lay anything less than $100 on the table. He looks at me and I smile quickly and return my attention to the cards. I hold a king and seven, I deliberately ask the dealer to 'hit me.' I bust my hand, just as I intended. "You should've held at seventeen." He says to me. I shrug and put another $100 on the table. This earns me a raised eyebrow but nothing more. I play the next hand more conservatively and win my money back. The next two hands I bust. I have his attention now. "Maybe this isn't your game." I shrug again but don't reply. Instead I start to gather up my chips and make a show of leaving the table. He gently touches my hand. "Leaving already?" I pause before I speak, quietly so he has to lean in to hear me. "I think I'm done for the night." He gathers his own chips and follows me as I head toward the elevators. "Let me buy you a drink." I smile and turn to face him. My hair obscures my face and I know I have him. Slowly I walk back and link my arm through his and we make our way back to the bar. The bar is noisy and demands a forced intimacy so we can hear each other talk. I like that. He orders my drink for me and has the feeling of being in control; I like that even more. He makes a show of paying for the drinks which affords me the opportunity to see that he has plenty of cash. Good. I've learned that clich├ęs work. Running my fingers over the rim of the glass and subtly stroking his leg with my foot I engage in the small talk that people use when they’re attracted to each other. “My name is April.” I say. Next time I plan on calling myself May; my own private joke. He introduces himself as Mark and I wonder if he’s giving me his real name or if he thinks I’m a prostitute. And then it strikes me odd that in my mind I see him as a ‘mark’ and this is the name he gives himself. It’s irrelevant. The music pulses and the sound of the slot machines is a distant ringing I can almost tune out. He keeps his jacket on despite the warmth of the room, though the first two buttons on his shirt are undone. I decide I like the way he looks. He smiles at me again with the little half smile he's been using all night and I wonder how often he practiced the look. We're both players only he doesn't know it yet. "Are you staying here?" he asks. Before I can answer he speaks again. "Of course you are, that's why you were heading to the elevator." I give him back his half smile and tell him a lie about a convention that doesn't exist. If he knows I'm lying it doesn't show. I don't think he cares, he's just looking to get me back to his hotel room and I'm only looking to oblige him. I reach over to touch his hand but someone walking by jostles my arm. He frowns at them as they walk by and looks at the crowd surrounding us as if seeing them for the first time. He opens his mouth to speak and then closes it; as if embarrassed. I don’t say anything. After another person brushes against him as they walk by he seems to gather up his courage. “Why don’t we go back to my room?” I protest, saying “I’m not that kind of girl.” He presses his hand to his heart and reassures me it’s only drinks. I allow myself to be moved some more by the crowd and grimace in annoyance. I pretend as if that makes the decision for me and step in front of him as he puts his hand on my lower back to guide me out of the bar. I link arms with him again as we make our way to the elevator. I am pleasantly surprised to see he has a suite and excuse myself to use the bathroom as he calls room service for some wine. I make some noise and flush the toilet. I look at myself in the mirror and like the way the red of the dress looks with my blond hair. I open my purse and take out a small vial. I put it in my bra and adjust my cleavage. I doubt I’ll have much trouble putting it into his drink. The wine is already there and he hands me a glass. I sip gently and sit down on the edge of the bed. In a matter of seconds the room is spinning and I realize something is very wrong. I look over at him but then I realize I am no longer sitting up. I open my mouth to say something but find I can’t. I see a shadow looming over me and know that I have become a victim of my own game. Only this is a game I haven’t played before. I notice he has a knife in his hand. I try to scream but only hear my breath roaring in my ears. He smiles the first full smile I have seen all evening. I see the knife and hear him cutting my dress off my body. I can almost feel it as he runs it over my skin. His eyes are dilated and his breathing is heavy as he looks at me and says, “I love a woman in red.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reading Recommendations From Yours Truly

Today I want to talk about a couple of talented friends of mine. One a struggling Sci Fi writer and the other an amazingly talented artist and writer, currently employed by DC's Vertigo Comics. Don DeBrandt is a local Vancouver writer that I have been acquaintances with for quite some time. Being that he seems to STILL be a 'starving artist,' shows that even being a published author does not make you a HUGE success. His first published work, The QuickSilver Screen was a William Gibson inspired cyberpunk novel. And while we enjoyed it it was nothing compared to the next two books, which I do urge you to check out. TimberJack and SteelDriver take place in the same universe and his cast of characters are well developed and his aliens are a lot of fun. When my husband first started his movie website, he came in contact with a local artist/writer and she gamely jumped into doing the artwork for a story that he wrote and self published in an anthology comic book. We were very impressed. Pia Guerra has doggedly fought and struggled to have her work appreciated and taken seriously by the Comic Giants DC and Marvel. She endured years of rejection letters and so on. She did make a good living doing artwork for various role playing games though. Pia finally made it big when she teamed up with Brian K. Vaughn and created Y: The Last Man, published by DC's Vertigo Comics. It is an amazingly fun series around a bleak premise in which one day all the males of the world...all male mammals of the world...drop dead. All except for one young man and his pet monkey. The ensuing journey of the young man in his search for his fiance and a cure to this mysterious 'event' is harrowing and crazy at the same time. I would recommend checking out the trade paperback of Y, as those are collections of a few issues at a time and good way for non comic readers to venture into the world of comic books. Have fun!

Four legged superheroes

Mighty Mouse They belonged to the kids. At least it started that way. And as older kids demanded that their heroes grow with them, the comics became more mature, tackling near adult themes and exploring relationships that were almost complex. This left a void though for the little ones, and so a new generation of kids meant a new generation of superheroes were born--cartoon animals with superpowers. I'm talking about Mighty Mouse, Atom Ant, Underdog, and Hong Kong Phooey. What they lacked in creativity, they made up for with mediocrity. I know, some of you are cringing at these words. You're feeling it heretical for me to question these critters. But let's take a look back at this super-powered animal menagerie and see if they deserve such respect. Mighty Mouse, a project from Terrytunes, was the invention of Izzy Klein and Paul Terry. Originally the little feller was meant to be a parody of Superman, complete with a blue costume and a red cape. Appearing in 1942, the rodent made a debut and his success earned him a place as an icon of popular culture in America. Eventually making his way to television, with Pearl Pureheart at his side, he defeated armies of cats and his archenemy, Oil Can Harry (not to be confused with baseball hurler Oil Can Boyd, whose name was given him for a fondness for beer). I'll give this little guy credit. At the time, his presence was unique. For cartoon fare, he could hold his own with Popeye and Felix any day of the week. Although he stayed too long and had far too many incarnations, the original deserves a place in our hall of fame. I give you Mighty Mouse here to have a standard by which to compare later fare. And we can start looking at that later fare with an introduction to.... Atom Ant. Atom Ant represents to me what happens when commercialism collides with lack of imagination. I am not a fan of Hanna Barbera cartoons, although I will occasional give a nod to the likes of Yogi, Quickdraw, and Huck, but overall, I have found their product to be overly pedestrian (I will not include Johnny Quest or the Flintstones in this criticism). Atom Ant, created in 1965, was a science fiction wonder. This walking advertisment for the need for "Black Flag" operated out of an ant hill and would receive assignments from the police. It must have made the residents all comfy cozy to know they were paying taxes so that an a vigilante insect could look to their Homesland Security needs. His superpowers? Flight and being able to lift fifty times his weight. Not real inspiring, is it? Considering the weight of an ordinary red ant.Want another example of poorly developed ideas? Hong Kong Phooey. What this inept superhero really needed was a few sessions with The Dog Whisperer. According to his legend, a mild mannered janitor and his faithful sidekick, acting on tips from the police department, would emerge from the closet (I meant janitorial closet) and use their martial arts skills to save the day. Although he had no super-powers, Hong Kong Phooey had excellent taste in street machines. His Kung Fu Car (not making this up), with the sounding of a gong, had the ability to turn into just about any vehicle imaginable. Chances are you never saw this wretched show. He only made a brief appearance in the early seventies. If you want though, his entire run can be caught on DVD. Let's look at one more example of taking an idea and crushing it. The late seventies were a low point for Hanna Barbera. Besides Josie and the Pussycatts, The Harlem Globetrotters, Jabberjaws, The Hair Bear Bunch, and Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics, the animal superhero among that emerged from this group was... Dynamutt? The name was an attempt to cash in on the phrase "Dy-no-mite!!!", made popular by that superstar J.J. Walker from the successful TV show "Good Times". A mechanical dog with little coordination and less intelligence, Dynamutt was basically one of the many incarnations of Scooby Doo, who himself was predated by the much funnier Precious Pupp (Wait, I didn't mean to use Scooby Doo and funny in the same sentence. Sorry) Dynamutt with his owner BlueFalcon, a tribute to Batman, fought all manner of spy and super villian from 1976-1978. I know I've stepped on some fans' favorite memories, but sometimes life means moving on. Is there really anyone out there who wants to defend Atom Aunt? Hong Kong Phooey? or Dynamutt? And if they did, do we really want to hear that defense? Especially if we're sober on a weeknight? At least I didn't step on the foot of Underdog. A character voiced by Wally Cox and with such magnificent theme song deserves some respect. So I do have some sensitivity.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Magical Creatures

One of the things I love most about fantasy fiction is the use of magical creatures. The first time I ever heard of most animals we see in popular fiction was in Greek mythology. I was kind of an odd kid. I went to the school library on my own and picked out books. They were truly my first love. In fifth grade I went through a Greek mythology phase. I can remember reading about Pandora and her box of horrors and the great Hercules (Heracles). The books I read then were simplified versions of the myths I came to know better later in life, but they certainly gave me an incredible introduction into the world of fantasy. The first dragon I ever encountered was the Hydra in the Hercules myth. The Hydra in the Greek myth had 8 heads and grew two for every one that was cut off, though I have read some stories that say 3 grow back. It doesn't really matter, it set the groundwork for countless stories of derring-do about the grand knight who slays the dragon. Anne McCaffrey takes a whole new approach to the story and created a world where dragons are allies to man and have human-like intelligence. Mercedes Lackey has also written a series of books that feature Dragons called The Dragon Jousters. She doesn't create them as intelligently as McCaffrey does, choosing instead to imagine them almost as beasts of burden. Though her earlier written Halfblood Chronicles, co-written with Andre Norton goes back to the idea of intelligent Dragons. And what would fantasy fiction be without the Unicorn. Like the dragon, the first magical horse I knew was Pegasus. Though most stories I grew up with featured the Unicorn. I wasn't a horse mad girl, but the idea of the Unicorn was very appealing, and I'll always remember the movie The Last Unicorn based on the novel by Peter S. Beagle. I also really liked the way Piers Anthony created his own Unicorn legend in his Apprentice Adept series. Mercedes Lackey also took a different approach to the magical horse idea and created a world in which horses have human-like intelligence and the ability to speak psionically to their chosen partners in her Valdemar series. She also introduces an intelligent breed of Gryphons in this series and continues the story in her Mage Wars series. Mermaids can also trace their origins to Greek mythology, though I think they were more often portrayed as Sirens, the women with the magical voices that would lead sailors to their doom. What little girl doesn't know mermaids? The Disney film The Little Mermaid is probably the most well known take on the myth. Other than the Greek Sirens, I think I first remember seeing mermaids in the Disney cartoon Peter Pan; obviously mermaids are a popular subject of Disney films. Though I think my favorite mermaid film will always be Splash starring Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah. I could go on, but I think I'll spare you the endless post. I think the reason magical creatures appeal to me so much is because I've always wondered where the legends came from. Over the years there have been many hoaxes by people who claim to have images of fairies or other creatures on film. And the success of these hoaxes tells me that I am not alone in my wonderment over the magical worlds that I have read about in Greek Mythology and elsewhere. I have barely skimmed the surface of all the books and movies out there that feature the magical creatures I have mentioned. I haven't even gone into the world of magical people like elves, dwarves, pixies and giants. And there are many stories that also endow more mundane animals like cats and dogs with magical qualities. So tell me what stories these magical beasts make you think of. What memories do you have? And what do you like to see and read about?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What Superpower Does This Woman Possess?

What mystical power enables this woman of little endowment to lure men into her evil trap? Does she have the ultimate power of attraction? Is it a secret potion? Or does she simply obscure the vision of the object of her desire? I'm watching closely so that I may discover her secrets.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

THE INVADERS

One night in 1967, Architect David Vincent ( RoyThinnes) is driving home and sees an alien landing. He has stumbled onto an invasion. Leaving the scene, Vincent's life deteriorates into a long nightmare as he tries to warn an uncaring public that Earth is in danger and that there are creatures in the society who look just like the rest of us but are in fact aliens intent on subjugation. We're talking about Quinn Martin's "THE INVADERS", a science fiction drama that ran for two seasons. It was the embodiment of Cold War paranoia and the turmoil of the 60's. With the Vietnam war in full swing; a growing youth movement that tore at well respected traditions and values; and several riots throughout American cities---the show played on the helplessness that some felt and the breakdown in trust in government and society as a whole. Now, skip ahead to 1995. With "Quantum Leap" behind him, Scott Bakula signed up for a stint in a three hour remake of "The Invaders". This disappointing enterprise (all puns intended) lacked the tension of the original series. It was pedestrian fare. Sci-fi by the numbers. No chances taken, and no rewards reaped. For those of you who may have missed this, the remake will be aired on the Sci Fi Channel at some point in the near future. If you happen to have the remote at hand and aren't watching something more pressing, then go ahead and give it a look. However, if you want to see the original, you'll have to buy vhs copies from Amazon. However, if you want them on DVD, they're available in bootleg form if you root around long enough on the net.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cheese O'Rama

Usually when I think of topics to post here I try to think of stuff I really like and want to rave about. But every once in awhile it's fun to look back on some of the really cheesy stuff I grew up with. Honestly, I knew this stuff was corny even as a kid. It didn't stop me from watching it though. Barbarella was a bit before my time. It came out in 1968, a year before I was born. I admit I didn't really get it when I attempted to watch it. It was on TV and I am sure heavily edited due to what I now know are its heavy erotic overtones. But what I do remember was the cheese factor. I know there are people out there who still think it was great even though it starred Jane Fonda despite what appears to me to be funky special effects. So this could fit into the cult favorite category, it all depends on your taste. But somehow Angels in nests just don't do it for me; though I must admit having an 80's band (Duran Duran) name themselves after the main villain does give it a little more of a coolness factor. Flash Gordon is a movie I remember a bit better, the one that came out in 1980 that is. I also remember thinking the effects in this one were so bad. I think the bar for sci-fi special effects had been set in 1977 by George Lucas and Star Wars, so anything less wasn't going to do well in my book. And this movie was so over the top in everything; the costumes and even the theme music supplied by Queen. This is another one that is often described as a cult classic, though I don't think the cheese factor can be denied. Oh, and I love the ending shot that says "The End?" Love the question mark. Xanadu can best be described as a horrible movie with a great soundtrack. At least I thought so at the time. This movie came out in 1980 as well (apparently a great year for kooky sci-fi flicks) and I even went to the movie theatre with my best friend to see it. At most I would have been 12 and I can remember just dying for the movie to end. I think it was the roller skates that killed it for me. Gene Kelly wasn't even able to save this film for me, and I loved him even then from watching Dancing in the Rain. Legend was a movie I really wanted to like, and kind of did. But hey, I was 15 and already a little into Tom Cruise.(he wasn't crazy yet) This movie had all the things a girl could want from a fantasy film; unicorns, princesses and fairies. It even had Tim Curry as the demonic villain, what's not to love right? But for some reason this one didn't completely work for me. According to Wikipedia the film was cut quite a bit for its American release which could explain it. And it also says that part of the set burned down and forced them to finish the movie with "hastily completed sets." Which is a shame since the movie had potential that was never really realized. So tell me what you think. Am I being unfair to these movies? And what movies would you add to the list?