Archive for September, 2011

Great Movie Years: 1984

September 24, 2011

Great Movie Years: 1984

I agree with many critics that 1939 was the best movie year to date. It’s hard to argue against one year with such pop culture classics as

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Stagecoach
  • Charles Laughton as the Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Gunga Din
  • Of Mice and Men (“Tell me about the rabbits, George…”)
  • The debut of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
and on and on. When I look at a great movie year, I also look at movies that weren’t so great, but were part of significant series. 1939 has a Marx Brothers movie, a Tarzan movie, a Frankenstein movie, and more. I consider cartoons and such, and other pop culture. I’m also more interested in pop cultural impact than quality…what we quote (sometimes without knowing it), what we reference, what we put on lunchboxes. I’m also interested in movies with a strong fandom…that didn’t do well at the time.
So, what argues for 1984?
The Terminator
“I’ll be back.”
3 sequels (so far) and a TV series.
The Karate Kid
“Wax on, wax off”
3 sequels, a remake, and an animated series.
Ghost Busters
“He slimed me.”
2 sequels (so far), two animated series.
“Kick off your Sunday shoes”
This is Spinal Tap
“These go to eleven.”
Live concerts, videos, albums…and a bunch of “mockumentaries”
A Nightmare on Elm Street
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you”
7 sequels, plus two movies in a new series, two TV series, and a lot of Halloween gloves
“Never feed him after midnight”
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
“No matter where you go…there you are”
Serious fandom
Police Academy
7 sequels, live action TV series, animated series
Beverly Hills Cop
2 sequels (with another planned)
  • Splash
  • Streets of Fire
  • Romancing the Stone
  • The Natural
  • Starman
  • The Toxic Avenger
  • Purple Rain
  • Sixteen Candles
  • C.H.U.D.
Series represented: Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Friday the 13th, Conan, Cannonball Run, Godzilla…
I once threw a 1939 movies party, and everybody came as characters from a movie from that year (I gave them a list of movies, but they picked what they wanted). Could you do a 1984 movies party? Seems easy to me…
What do you think? Good year, bad year…too geeky? Other favorite 1984 movies? Other years you want to propose as better? Feel free to let me know.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Cliff Robertson reported dead

September 11, 2011

Cliff Robertson reported dead

Cliff Robertson was absolutely a geek-friendly actor, even winning an Academy Award as Best Actor for his role in Charly, which is science fiction. You won’t always see it defined that way, but it clearly is.

That was hardly Robertson’s only geek credit.

He starred as Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers in the mid-1950s.

He appeared on both originals of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits (appearing in the first episode, The Galaxy Being).

He played the cowboy bat-villain, Shame, in four episodes of the Adam West series.

He was in Brainstorm in the 1980s, and played the President in John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. in 1996.

In the 2000s, he appeared as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man movies.

Robertson was a strong, quiet presence…I picture him with a sort of half-smile and a sincere look in his eyes.

He will be missed.

This post by Bufo Calvin appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

2011 Fall Geek TV Preview

September 11, 2011

2011 Fall Geek TV Preview

Question 1: Do geeks even care about TV seasons? After all, we can just watch a Star Trek episode for the hundredth time, and there’s always anime we haven’t seen.

Answer 1: Yes. We like novelty. We’ll wait in line for a week to be the first person to see something. We’ll crowd into a convention ballroom to get a sneak peek at something that might not even get made.

Question 2: Is Fall still the big season for TV?

Answer 2: That’s a bit trickier. Just as geek movies often rule the summer box office, geek TV gets good when all those mainstream folks indulge in all that solar radiation…you know, running around, camping…yuck. 😉  This summer, we got Alphas, Death Valley, Doctor Who on BBC America, the surprisingly good Teen Wolf, Paranormal Challenge, the new Thundercats, new episodes of True Blood and Game of Thrones…it goes on. Fall is when everybody comes back inside and watches TV…do we care when everybody else cares? The answer is…yes. Doctor Who once said that everything is important, and we always care. There is still a certain cachet to being a fall series on a major network.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some of the shows debuting this fall.

September 13:

Ringer (the CW, 9pm)

This one stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, a definite geek hero (and not just for Buffy). She plays twins. Geeks will give it a shot, and it will probably debut pretty well. I’m just not sure how well the idea is going to sustain over time.

September 15:

The return of the Vampire Diaries (the CW, 8pm)

Angels Among Us (CMT, 8pm)

Elizabeth Hasselback hosts a show that presents reports of angelic activity.

The Secret Circle (the CW, 9pm)

From the folks who bring you The Vampire Diaries, it’s a “discovered destiny” series with a teenaged witch

Start of a three-week run of new episodes of Archer, arguably the best show on television (FX, 10:30 PM)

September 19

The return of Castle (ABC, 8pm)

September 20

Unforgettable (CBS, 10pm)

This is arguably a superhero show, with Poppy Montgomery as a crime solver with “Superior Autobiographical Memory”…a real thing. She can “re-see” anything she’s experienced before…correctly. The idea is likely to be that she sees things that have no significance to her at the time, but that she can recall again later when it is important. I’m reasonably sure that there will be a “Hulk-out” type rule…Bill Bixby had to become the Hulk in every episode, and I think we’ll see a stylized version of her going back in her memory every episode. This is just going to depend on how well it is done, but I think we can all relate to the significance of information being hard to find in overwhelming amounts of data. This character’s life is like what the rest of us experience on the internet. 😉

September 22

The return of The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8pm)

Charlie’s Angels (ABC, 8pm)

Good luck with this one. Drew Barrymore made it work on the big screen, and is an executive producer on this version. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar of Smallville are writing.  Still, it’s going to depend to some extent on the charisma of the stars…and they are going to have to be truly distinct stars from what else we see on TV. That’s going to be the challenge.

Person of Interest (CBS, 9pm)

This one can’t avoid being a cult favorite. Michael Emerson of Lost is a tech genius and Jim Caviezel is the action guy. Emerson predicts trouble…Caviezel stops it. Maybe sort like Minority Report, but it sounds more like Early Edition…with guns. I think this could be quite good…

The return of The Mentalist (CBS 10pm)

September 23

A Gifted Man (CBS, 8pm)

Topper in a hospital, apparently. I’m always willing to give a show a shot, but I have my doubts about this one.

The return of Nikita (the CW, 8pm)

The return of Fringe (Fox, 9pm)

The return of Supernatural (the CW, 9pm)

The Dead Files (The Travel Channel, 10pm)

Paranormal reality show

The Nerdist (BBC America, 10pm)

Chris Hardwick brings his popular blog to TV as a chat show

September 25

The return of The Simpsons (Fox, 8pm)

The return of Family Guy (Fox 9pm)

The return of American Dad (Fox, 9:30pm)

Long Island Medium (The Learning Channel, 10pm): reality show with medium Theresa Caputo

September 26

Terra Nova (Fox, 8pm)

The big (read expensive) time travel/dinosaurs series from Steven Spielberg. I think Spielberg has made some of the greatest movies ever, but the fact that he’s involved with a TV show isn’t a plus for me. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch it, of course, but nobody’s clamoring to make a movie out of Earth 2, Amazing Stories, or SeaQuest 2032. However, he may be getting better at it (Falling Skies was okay), and cartoons are a different story (Animaniacs, Pinky & the Brain, for example). I just don’t think this one is going to really engage the general public and last multiple seasons. I could always be wrong, though.

October 1

Bedlam (BBC America, 10pm)

A haunted apartment complex…and we do like those British fantasy shows.

October 2

The return of Dexter (Showtime, 9pm)

October 5

American Horror Story (Fox, 10pm)

This may get the most geek love this season. Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and Brad Falchuk (Nip/Tuck)  produce. Actors include Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek), Jessica Lange, Jamie Harris (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and a host of others. The publicity has been distinctive and quirky. This one won’t be able to avoid fanfic and fan clubs…whether or not it hits with the mainstream.

Penn & Teller Tell a Lie (Discovery, 10pm)

The magicians present true weird facts and a faked demonstration…and the home audience tries to pick which is which.

October 7

The return of Sanctuary (Syfy, 10pm)

October 12

The return of Psych (USA, 10pm): this season’s guest stars include William Shatner!

October 16

The return of The Walking Dead (AMC, 9pm) 2nd season, new show runner

October 21

The return of Chuck (NBC, 8pm)

Grimm (NBC, 8pm)

Sounds sort of like Men in Black with fairy tale characters. That whole “fairy tale trend” hasn’t really made it to the ball, yet (see Beastly and Red Riding Hood…hey, the odds are you haven’t seen them yet). It’s possible that this is just too soon, and that the two Snow White movies will ramp it up…but that could be too late for this one.

October 23

Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8pm)

This is another fairy tale show, but has the advantage of being on Disney-owned ABC. It also sounds like a clever premise. I think it will outlast Grimm, but I wouldn’t count on a happily ever after (read: renewal).

October 27

The return of Beavis and Butt-Head (MTV, 10pm)…hey, it worked for Futurama.

November 3

The return of Bones (Fox, 9pm)

This post by Bufo Calvin appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Dear DVDs: sorry, but we’re over

September 7, 2011

Dear DVDs: sorry, but we’re over

Look, DVDs, we’ve had some great times. Saying good-bye isn’t easy, but we both know it’s over between us.

Don’t pretend you haven’t seen the signs. I stopped buying new ones a while ago. At that point, i knew I needed some space…cyberspace. No, just kidding, I actually mean physical space. You just keep taking up more and more of it. First, it was just a shelf, and then a rack, and then a whole wall unit. Well, you did share it with some other electronics, but still.

Yes, we had some good times. I loved those boxed sets, and those weird collectible boxes that were shaped like viking helmets and stuff. That was cute.

But there were bad times, too. I just couldn’t stand your scene swings…we’d be happy watching a movie, and every time we got to one scene, you just froze and then skipped back to the beginning. What was that about? I even bought some kind of spinny thing to try to fix that…didn’t work. It’s in a cupboard with my Ronco record cleaner.

We got over how much you cost with Netflix. But now, Netflix tells me I’m a bad person if I watch DVDs. They charge me a fine every month if I do it, but they let me watch all the streaming video I want for less than I used to pay!

That’s right, I said it…streaming video! I’m going with someone younger, someone not so needy, someone…more available, who fits in better with my lifestyle. Sure, sure, I might not be able to watch everything I could on DVDs…but there are a lot of things on streaming I would never have gotten to see if I had to buy a piece of plastic and then find it again when I wanted to see it. Would I have bought a boxed set of The Guild? Nope, but I love it on streaming video. Would I have gone back and watched every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show? Okay, you got me there…but not the ninety episodes of Dark Shadows I’ve watched recently

Ironically, one of the last DVDs I watched was 127 Hours…great metaphor, right? Trapped by some big hunk of the physical world, unable to go anywhere any time I wanted (hello, video on a SmartPhone)…

Don’t worry, we’ll always have Paris…at least until Netflix streams Casablanca…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Open Channel D…2012 brings a new Man from U.N.C.L.E.

September 2, 2011

Open Channel D…2012 brings a new Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Sometimes, it amazes me how a super popular Baby Boomer show can be completely out of the consciousness of New Millenials (basically, people born in the 1980s, 1990s, and maybe 2000s).

It wasn’t cool in the 1970s to like 1940s culture. In the 2010s, though, it’s fine to like the 1980s (and farther back). That’s due, in part, to the availability of that older pop culture, and definitely, digital is part of that (along with genre-TV channels, and multiple ways to consume culture).

I work with people of a lot of ages, and I don’t mind making references that are dated…that’s kind of endearing. I can count on people (even New Millenials) getting a Gilligan’s Island reference, or the original Star Trek, of Leave it to Beaver).

Since I teach technical stuff to medical people, I deal with a lot of acronyms. In my situation, you want to make jokes about your geekiness, to disarm that thought (which they are going to have) that you don’t understand non-technical people. I tell them (again, jokingly) not to ask me for a website address, because what I hear in my head is “hyptertext transfer protocol colon whack whack”… I also tell them I did it as a kid. I look around the room to size up the generations a bit, and ask who knows The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I’ll get nodding heads from the Boomers, blank looks from the New Millenials.

I tell them I knew that it was the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. I tell them the bad guys were THRUSH: Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and Subjugation of Humanity…and how they later became Microsoft. 🙂 Undesirables in that scenario, I tell them, are Mac users. I just always thought that sounded like a great name for Microsoft.

I’m not 100 percent sure why there isn’t more awareness of Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. There was a reunion TV movie in 1983 (although the New Millenials were at best toddlers at that point), and one of the stars (David McCallum) is on the highly rated NCIS.

I suggested recently that1960s afficionado Johnny Depp could play Napoleon Solo…and David McCallum could play the boss, Mr. Waverly, who was played by Leo G. Carroll in the original series.

So, I was both pleased and surprised to read a story that George Clooney was dropping out of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie due to back issues (which meant it was filming now or soon).

It turns out its being directed by Steve Soderbergh (Clooney’s Ocean’s 11 movies, among other things). It’s being co-written by Scott Z. Burns, who wrote Contagion and The Bourne Ultimatum.

So, what would be part of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie?

Napoleon Solo is an American (although Robert Vaughn always seemed a bit British) secret agent, but the agency for which he works is global. He is partnered in the original by Ilya Kuryakin, a Russian agent (played by Scottish David McCallum. While Ilya wasn’t originally intended to be a partner, he hit immediately with audiences. That might have been a surprised…remember, the Russians were the bad guys at the time. To have that same impact, I suppose if it’s set today, Napoleon Solo could partner with an agent from the other side of the “War on Terror”, but I doubt they’ll do that.

Their boss was Mr. Waverly, and I expect him to return (although they could play with that role…I thought about a woman playing it, but that’s just too much like M in the new James Bond…and Soderbergh hasn’t minded doing testosterone driven movies).

They had special communicators, most famously a pen. If this was set contemporaneously, that wouldn’t be much over a SmartPhone, of course.

They also had a special gun…I expect we’d see that back.

I’m sure there’d be some reference to the bongo-infused Jerry Goldsmith score.

The episodes were also titled the “Such and Such Affair”, so I think we’ll hear that (even unofficially).

Other things? Maybe an oblique reference to April Dancer, the main character in the spin-off series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. They may also get into the secret headquarters through a tailor shop.

Now, what about the tone? That’s a tough one. It startad out more serious, got campy, and got serious again. That’s often the tricky part with doing movies based on successful TV series…the series aren’t static while they are broadcast, and it can be tough to pick the right pieces.

One ancillary effect I’d like to see is the e-book publication of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, including the unpublished The Final Affair. That novel has been out in fandom for a while, but I haven’t read it. I enjoyed the ones I have in paperback.

If you know the Man from U.N.C.L.E., how would you replace Clooney? Who should play Ilya (and I’m presuming they’ll go that way)? Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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