Sunday, June 14, 2015

R.I.P. Christopher Lee

This week Death died, you guys.

So... I don't have to tell you that Christopher Lee was a top drawer actor with a MASSIVE career and achievements. If you've seen any horror movies from... well, EVER, then you know this dude.

Draculas, Mummys, evil Germans, evil Asians, evil Englishmen, evil doctors, evil wizards, guys with crystal balls, guys with lightsabers, guys with golden guns, princes of darkness, and LITERALLY the grim spectre of Death. He's ACTUALLY narrated my nightmares!

Because I am who I am, I enjoyed my first exposure to Mr. Lee as Dr. Catheter in Gremlins 2. I've also really enjoyed every subsequent exposure to this towering genius, with a vast history of films I've never even attempted.

Celebrate the shadow. Celebrate the life. Rest in Peace, Mr. Lee... and live everlasting.

Monday, May 25, 2015

TV Review: Battlestar Galactica

I can be like a daggit with a Borellian bone once I get an idea in my head, so I recently finished re-watching the entire GOL-MONGING saga of Battlestar Galactica! As my pal Kirk asked: "For punishment?" 

Was it all worth it? You decide! (No, strike that. I'll decide.)

Of course, I watched it the way the One True God intended: Chronologically by Content! 

First- the Remake's Prequel Series! "Caprica", or as it is more popularly known- "Patton Oswalt Explains It All", takes us far way and long ago to a decadent planet where everything is edgy except the sheets of paper. (Because all the corners are cut off. Actually... they have MORE edges. I might be getting off topic...) Everyone's out for number one as an evil robot army congeals inexorably out of the quest for immortality during a clash of political, religious, and racial ideologies. Plus it has Eric Stoltz!

Fav. Ep.: "Apotheosis"- Cylon heroes fight for the forces of decency and corporate profit vs monotheist terrorists in a crowded sports stadium! There may be some explosions involved.
Least Fav. Ep.: "Retribution"- Intrigue becomes intriguing as machinations turn wheels within wheels and schemes near the point of no return while the thick, simmering plot begins to... *snore*

Next, I watched Battlestar Galactica (2004) AKA "Battleglum Galacticglum". It's as glum as the Black Hole of Hades but on stunning blu-ray it turns out it's also one of the finest TV dramas of my lifetime. There, I admit it.

Fav. Ep.: "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan" Again, the Cylons are the heroes! Yes, he may stab little children, but he's Dean Stockwell, so it's all good!
Least Fav. Ep.: "Black Market" If it wasn't bad enough that Re-imagined Apollo had a dull, human name like Lee Adama, now they've made him a whoring John with a heart of gold. Who battles child sex slavers! Yikes! It may or may not be the darkest tale from a collapsed society trapped in the void of space, but it's pretty dark stuff.

From the troubled ancestors of the Incas, the Toltecs, and the Lemurians we proceed to the star-brothers of contemporary man: on a 30 year star voyage beginning sometime after 1969, culminating in 1980, and full of too many other inconsistencies to believe for a single micron!

Battlestar Galactica (1978) is a ridiculous, archaic piece of misogynist quasi-Mormon laser disco. Dirk "Face-Man" Benedict and Lorne "Bonanza" Greene light up the small screen, sharing equal billing with some poor chimp stuffed inside a Muppet. Kids will scratch their heads with delight unless they were born in the late seventies. In which case they already spent hundreds of centons watching and loving it like an Ovion grub loves an overfed gambler who's stumbled drunkenly into its honeycomb!

Fav. Ep.: "Saga of A Star World" This is where it all began! Well, "Star Wars" is where it all began, but this is also available! 
Least Fav. Ep. Tie: "The Lost Warrior" & "The Young Lords". Which is worse: space cowboys in tinfoil Stetsons versus a tribe of horny pig-men, or seven to twelve 7 to 12 year olds in ratty Viking costumes riding unicorns against the most flamboyant candy-cane that ever called itself a Cylon?

Yeah, the cutesy robots are purest felgercarb. Granted, my beloved Muffit 2 gets a pass, but the goofy awkward "dancing" Hector & Vector were MUCH worse. Just picture the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz re-imagined as a pair of pasty dildos in overalls. Just awful. 
Honourable mention: "Experiment in Terra" for having all the conceptual ingredients for "Quantum Leap". It's not as good by half as any episode of Quantum Leap, but the seed is there.

Galactica 1980 AKA "Space Invaders Meet Wolfman Jack". This is where the punishment really begins, but I'm a completist, gods frack it all. Our rag-tag fugitive fleet has lost all but 2 of its lead characters and replaced them with one angelic teenage boy with magic science powers. You'll believe a motorcycle can fly.
Fav. Ep.: "The Return of Starbuck" It does what it says on the tin, and it's not half bad. Again, the evil Cylon is the good guy. What does this say about me, I wonder?
Least Fav. Ep.: "Spaceball" Precocious super-powered moppets spewing precocious nonsense and playing baseball as if they were from space. Get it?

Series creator Glen A. Larson, made a lot of cool things happen on TV for a lot of years. This was definitely one of my favourites, along with the arguably slightly more successful 'Buck Rogers'. Also, I read that Mr. Larson stole a song from James Garner, so Rockford socked him in the snoot! 

Series re-imagineer Ronald D. Moore used to work on Star Trek. He's good at stuff.

Much praise extended to Netflix, YouTube, and my buddy Ron for the blu-rays that made it all possible. So say we all!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Favourite Characters: Self-Portable Sapient

What little hacker boy or girl wouldn't want a Banana Junior 6000 for Christmas, 1984?

Oliver Wendell Jones of Bloom County, U.S.A., for example.

Little wonder (considering the havoc caused him by his son's previous computers) that Oliver's father Floyd was reluctant to part with $2500, and indeed may have put it on an overzealous department store Santa's very own VISA!

But there is was! On Xmas morn! The cheery, yellow, walking, talking, 9000 series personal computer from Banana Electronics, Inc.

When not assisting Oliver by engaging in nefarious schemes to bring about the collapse of their own decadent Western civilization, the Banana Jr. could be found contemplating the nature of the electronic mortal soul, or offering lesser appliances in sacrifice to its mercurial god: the Jones family television set.
Both characters were the inventions of Berkeley Breathed, an insane Texan. I guess that's redundant. A Texan, then.

Along with all their huggable, liberal, MERCHANDISABLE pals (like Mr. P. Opus & Bill The Cat), Banana Junior and Oliver have amused me greatly this week in volume after volume. Just as they did when I was a precocious young scamp, save that thanks to Breathed's annotations I now get some of the more esoteric jokes.

I also admire Mr. Breathed for his ongoing efforts to conserve living things, and look forward this year to Disney's adaptation of his adorable kids' book "Mars Needs Moms".

Favourite Kid-Friendly Catch-phrase from the Banana 6000: "Ted Koppel is a Waffle."

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Favourite Characters: Captain Crash

Superheroes tend to have code names. The closest Ralph Hinkley ever got was "Super Guy" or "Captain Gonzo". As you probably know or can recall hearing an old man jabbering about, Ralph was 'The Greatest American Hero' from 1981-1983.  When I was six he was the best. Ralph tried really hard and he crashed into things... a lot! In my early 20s, GAH became synonymous with making rash purchases based on nostalgia. One of my first complete season DVD acquisitions... turned into bitter disappointment. My arrogant opinion back then: the show was bland, only sporadically funny, hellishly repetitive, and inconsequential.

Trying again is what a superhero is all about, so when all it was costing me was time and my sanity... I watched all 44 hour-long episodes on YouTube. And (much like using a powerful alien spacesuit when you've lost the instructions), I CANNOT recommend it. GAH is a phenomenal concept, executed by well-meaning people, and it was NEVER intended to be shotgunned in this way. I got SO bored during season 2 that I tried screening 4 episodes at once on all 4 devices at my disposal- TV, laptop, iPad, and iPhone. Does this count? Was I even following the story at that point? Don't Care! I finally watched it, and I'm never doing it again. Until next time.

With the assistance of mysterious alien voices on the radio, snarling FBI agent Bill, and long, long, LONG suffering girlfriend Pam, Ralph overcomes adversity, often caused by his own inability with his abilities. He breaks his own home, and doors, and friends. His ESP has him wearing women's clothes and reacting to things that aren't there. His invisibility is unreliable and his shrinking is pretty damn unconvincing. He flies as low as he dares and as rarely as he can. He ends up looking silly all the time, and would rather not be caught dead in his own magic jammies. But he can always shrug it off. Ralph's a teacher, and from Ralph I learned something valuable: I will fail. I will look ridiculous. And I will not stop trying even when the payoff is mediocre. Here's to ordinary people who help others- especially if the only cost is your dignity.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy

(Illustration credit Paul Hanley)

I never met Leonard Nimoy, but his work had a powerful influence in my life. I am saddened by his passing, and I have to add my small element of gratitude to the outpouring of tributes I'm seeing online. As Star Trek's Mr. Spock, Mr. Nimoy was a touchstone for all nerd culture. In my mind, his voice is the very voice of reason. A passionate heart guided by a disciplined mind. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be remembered for centuries.

Writer, director, musician, artist, and actor, he was most inspirational. There are depths to the person that I will never know, but the character I loved and will always love.
We outsiders needed Spock, and we loved him. For bringing that eerily alien yet so-familiar human being to us all, especially to me, I am sincerely grateful.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

TV Review: LEXX

In terms of SF Comedy where a low-ranking slacker, a re-animated dead guy, a libidinous part-animal creature, and a fussy, broken robot wander a universe devoid of humanity in an empty spaceship 10,000 meters long there is only one work of timeless, extraordinary genius-- Red Dwarf.

Also, starting in 1997, LEXX was on!

Brought to you by two countries that know a little something about side-splitting humour and atrocity, Germany and my own native land, Canada, created a hot little mess of program I never hear anybody talking about.
And I watched all four seasons just for YOU! Well, you and boobs. Yes, there are a couple of boobs, plus some bums also.

The series fits no single category I know: Grand Guignol? Erotic Satire? Dystopian Musical? Sociopath Date Movie? It features the epic, 4000 year quest of repugnant, self-serving Security Guard Class 4 Stanley H. Tweedle to find meals and sex while trying not to be eaten or screwed over. Through no effort of his own, Stan is thrown together with Xev Bellringer (a truculent women raised in a "Wife Bank" and accidentally given the powers of a voracious giant lizard), Kai (last of a noble race who defied the unspeakable oligarchy of His Divine Shadow and was punished with eternal servitude as an unstoppable zombie assassin), and (last and least) 790, a severed head with an all-enveloping snark and an all-consuming passion. Speaking of "all-consuming", these troubled... people, I suppose, live inside the stolen command ship of His Divine Shadow, a giant, living, not-too-bright space dragonfly that is always very hungry and loves to destroy a lot of planets.

To sum up, Season 1 is 3 great movies and a 4th so-so movie that throws the crew together, defines their messed-up, so-called "Light Universe", and pits evil against... somewhat less evil. Season 2 is too long and repetitive to be endured in the now-popular "binge watching" approach but basically features the inverse of the Star Trek away team "seeking out new lays in new civilizations where the girls and boys are not too picky or hung up on physical attractiveness or strength of character" every single planet of which ends up obliterated by a self-replicating, galaxy-sized swarm of worker drone arms. Season 3 picks up as LEXX explores the flawed workings and horrible secrets of twin planets Fire and Water. Season 4 finds them in the Darkest depths of the Dark Zone, orbiting the barren single moon of a primitive little Type 13 planet months away from self-destruction by the combined efforts of goths, fairies, geeks, a vampire, a mummy, a demon, several corrupt government agencies, reality TV, Newfoundland, and an asteroid crammed full of scuttling cyborg carrots hell-bent on jumping up everyone's butts. For good or for ill, there has never been another show like this.

Maybe LEXX is the weird inbred cousin the sci-fi family never talks about, and maybe I wouldn't revisit it very often, but in my current mood it hit a certain nostalgic "Who-Gives-A-Shit" button for me. And even though I really, REALLY shouldn't... I liked it.

The moral of the story, if LEXX can be said to have anything resembling a moral, is this: you may think your life sucks-- but (just like most people, things and people-things) life could always suck harder.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

Life being what it is, there are plenty of folks in dire circumstances. My own situation has been (as someone from China apparently said) "Interesting Times" lately. So you may take what I say with all the grains of salt on the moon of Io.

But Jupiter Ascending is a kick-ass romantic adventure and it's totally worth your time!

Whether it's worth your cash depends on your high level of tolerance for gorgeous, possibly extraneous amounts of lasers, space opera cliche, and handsome people saying ridiculous things betwixt explosions.

It's about Russian-Chicagoan janitor Jupiter Jones who discovers she is royal genetic heir to the Earth, which planet turns out to be a commodity the One Percent of the Galaxy are eager to begin fracking. Also Channing Tatum comes to her rescue a lot as Timber Wolf from the Legion of Super-Heroes with his handy-dandy rocket boots.

The poster says "Last Starfighter", Michael "Speed Racer" Giacchino's bombastic music says "Star Trek 2009", and the universe of partly Animal-Men (including D&D-style dragon men in leather jackets) says "Flash Gordon". It's not ground-breakingly feminist although it does pass the Bechdel test (I mean, seriously, Jupiter has to be rescued at the last minute from a loveless space marriage, but she does physically save her own space bacon more than I could). This popcorn flick is no "Guardians of the Galaxy", but it's a darn sight more fun than "Man of Steel" or "John Carter". And speaking of popcorn flicks, dire circumstances, and interstellar greed- $15 is officially nutballs for a salty corn bag and soda.