Showing posts with label film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film. Show all posts

Monday, June 03, 2019

From the Archives (09/03/2007): The Pulps and Their Modern Legacy -- An Interview with Win Scott Eckert Discussing Barsoom, Hyboria, and Urban Mean Streets.

Listen to this blast from the past as the Geekerati panel discusses Win Scott Eckert's book Myths for the Modern Age and the long lasting legacy of pulp fiction. It's a conversation about John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow, French Pulps, and Dashiell Hammett. Who could ask for more?

Win Scott Eckert is one of the leading experts in pulp fiction and one of his major contributions to the continuation of pulp fandom has been his work on the Wold Newton Family and its universe of tales. The Wold Newton Universe was a creation of Science Fiction Grand Master Philip Jose Farmer who asked an interesting question, "What if many classic tales of fiction, literary and pulp, all happened in a shared universe?" Farmer uses the real world occurrence of a radioactive meteor landing in Wold Newton England as the cornerstone event of his shared universe, a universe in which Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Elizabeth Bennet, John Carter of Mars, Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and many more reside. Our conversation with Win begins with a discussion of his book on the topic, but expand into a conversation about what made the pulps successful and why they continue to inspire creators today.

During the Overtime segment, Shawna Benson discusses an unaired pilot for a new Phillip Marlowe show. It is currently available on YouTube if you are interested in seeing whether you think the networks should have picked it up.

In this archive episode, I've re-edited the episode into segments using's functionality. All future episodes will be edited into segments and new episodes (our first one is coming next week) will have distinct segments with unique and consistent introductions.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

BIRDEMIC (2010): Capsule Review

Birdemic: Shock and Terror ½ 

BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR is an attempted homage to Hitchcock's classic film THE BIRDS. Following in the footsteps of many nature gone awry films, BIRDEMIC's story links the crisis at hand with mankind's ill treatment of the environment. In NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, it was genetic research. In KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, it was farmer's use of pesticides. Here the birds are responding to global climate change.

While this kind of political commentary puts BIRDEMIC strongly within the "nature attacks" genre, it also moves it away from Hitchcock homage and into drive in theater formula. Hitchcock's film is about interesting personal relationships, but BIRDEMIC's attempts at these kinds of storylines fall flat as the screenplay spends more time discussing stock options than it spends time letting us get to
know the main characters.

A skilled film team could have turned BIRDEMIC into an entertaining film along the lines of ARACHNOPHOBIA, but filmmaker's amateurism prevented that from happening. Ironically, the film's charm is rooted in the filmmaker's amateurism. The filmmaker and crew were clearly excited to make the project and this shines through the awkward camera angles, bad editing, and terrible digital special effects.

The film is a sincere film, even if it is a bad one.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

RIP: Ray Harryhausen (1920 - 2013)

To say that the work of Ray Harryhausen had a significant impact on my life would be an understatement.  Not only are JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD two of my favorite films, films I cannot wait to share with my twin daughters, they are also parts of some of the happiest memories of my childhood.  I remember watching these films with my mom and dad when they ran as matinee films.  I remember my parents "secretly" smuggling me in to see SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER at the Drive-In.  I hid under a sheet in the back of the Gremlin and they pretended I wasn't there. It turns out that they paid the family rate and that the subterfuge was just for my entertainment.  

The movies were undeniably magical and one of my two favorite Comic Con moments is sitting in the audience at a "Ray & Ray" panel (that's Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen) where they both talked about their life's work.  Our local science fiction/fantasy bookstore in Glendale would frequently hold Ray & Ray signings. It was one of the things that makes Glendale the perfect place to live.

Finding out that Harryhausen has passed is sad.  That sadness is lessened by the truth that Harryhausen added so much joy to the world -- joy that will long outlive me.

Thank you Mr. Harryhausen for my childhood joys, and thank you for the future joy I will be able to experience thanks to your imagination.

The Harryhausen Family formally announced the death on Facebook with the following message:

Raymond Frederick Harryhausen
Born: Los Angeles 29th June 1920
Died: London 7th May 2013.

The Harryhausen family regret to announce the death of Ray Harryhausen, Visual Effects pioneer and stop-motion model animator. He was a multi-award winner which includes a special Oscar and BAFTA. Ray’s influence on today’s film makers was enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and the UK’s own Nick Park have cited Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation. Over the period of the next 46 years, he made some of the genres best known movies – MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949), IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957), MYSTERIUOUS ISLAND (1961), ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969), three films based on the adventures of SINBAD and CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981). He is perhaps best remembered for his extraordinary animation of seven skeletons in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) which took him three months to film.

Harryhausen’s genius was in being able to bring his models alive. Whether they were prehistoric dinosaurs or mythological creatures, in Ray’s hands they were no longer puppets but became instead characters in their own right, just as important as the actors they played against and in most cases even more so.

Today The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a charitable Trust set up by Ray on the 10th April 1986, is devoted to the protection of Ray’s name and body of work as well as archiving, preserving and restoring Ray’s extensive Collection.

Tributes have been heaped upon Harryhausen for his work by his peers in recent years.

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”
George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”
Peter Jackson

“In my mind he will always be the king of stop-motion animation”
Nick Park

"His legacy of course is in good hands
Because it’s carried in the DNA of so many film fans."
Randy Cook

"You know I’m always saying to the guys that I work with now on computer graphics “do it like Ray Harryhausen”
Phil Tippett

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”
Terry Gilliam.

"His patience, his endurance have inspired so many of us."
Peter Jackson

"Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever."
Steven Spielberg

"I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant.
If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are."
James Cameron

Thursday, July 12, 2012

[Cinerati] How Jedi are Like MLB Managers

To date, my daughters History and Mystery have had only limited Star Wars exposure.  They've seen one episode of the digital Clone Wars cartoon, a couple of the "trips" on Star Tours, and the first Star Wars movie.  No, not that first movie, the actual first Star Wars film -- the one that's called A New Hope to more recent generations of viewers.

So far, History and Mystery love the franchise.  They love Luke and Leia, but their all time favorite is Darth Vader.  They adore him and desperately want to play with him.  Jody and I have tried to get the girls picked at a couple of sessions of Jedi Training Academy during visits to Disneyland, but even dressing them in matching Stormtrooper Stand-Up to Cancer T-shirts (a gift of my dear friend Joel) hasn't prompted their selection.  Jody has observed that the selection trend by certain Jedi Masters has a noticeable gender bias, but I want more points of data before I make a decision in that regard.  If it is the case, I will definitely be sending management a stern letter.  But the Jedi "cast members" are comprised of a nice mix, so I'm willing to believe that our 4 or so attempts are too small a sample to make generalizations from -- though not too few to mention in passing.  But that is not what this post is about, so back on track.

As I stated, Mystery and History adore the Star Wars franchise and even create their own stories from time to time using their plush Darth Vaders.  Sharing Star Wars with my daughters -- and all my other quirky interests -- is one of the great joys of parenting.  But I am resistant to sharing the more recent installments of the franchise with them.

Sometimes, take The Empire Strikes Back for example, my reason for delay is tonal.  Empire is a great film, but tonally it's a bit much for 4 year old who weep uncontrollably at the end of Toy Story 3 because Andy leaves his toys behind.  I can only imagine the response that seeing Luke's hand being cut off would have on them.  Similarly, Darth Maul freaks the girls out a tad.  Darth Vader, to Mystery and History, is a cool robot who's sometimes bad and sometimes -- like when he's working at Disneyland -- a good guy.  They like to pretend to be Darth Vader.  Maul, on the other hand, genuinely freaks them out.  Which is good.  That's good character design.  I'm just not ready to show the girls this guy getting cut in half and all the resulting questions.

Other times, my resistance is entirely due to the fact that I don't want my daughters to see the "face-palmingly silly" moments that accompany many films in the franchise.  I'm not one of those who thinks that these moments ruin films -- except making Han shoot second which is ridiculous as it only makes him seem incompetent if lucky.  For the most part, I think every film in the franchise has its groan moments.  How "fast" did Han do the Kessel run?  How many years does it take the Sarlacc Pit to digest you?  Isn't that longer than you'd be alive in the first place?  Jar-Jar...  Pod races... Gambling with the lives of 8 year olds...  Okay, the newer films have more than the older films, but all the films have them.

To be honest though, some of the silly moments can be endearing as well.  Think of Han Solo shooting the comm system, or Luke leaning back after being kissed by Leia, or even C3PO as the storyteller golden god of the Ewoks.  These moments are silly, but downright charming.

Recently, Cracked did a post featuring 10 deleted scenes that would have ruined the films they were intended to be used in.  For the most part, they were correct.  When it comes to their moment from Revenge of the Sith, I disagree.  Would the moment -- in the video below -- have made me groan?  Yes, but I think I would have liked it too.  First, it shows the death of a Jedi featured in the first Clone Wars animated series.  It's kind of nice to bring her into the films.  Second, it makes Jedi look like Mike Scioscia.  All of the facial touching for a combat dialogue that looks like baseball batting/running signals has a certain appeal to me.  Not just because I'm a baseball fan, but because the thought of History and Mystery touching their cheeks and noses pretending that they are planning how to defeat Darth Vader has a certain appeal to me.  I can also see how fun this would be around the RPG table.  It might make me crazy, but I think the Jedi in my world are all going to use these kinds of hand signals.  Who knows, maybe someone will write a companion book to The Hidden Language of Baseball entitled The Hidden Language of the Jedi.  I'd buy it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin -- Should this really be in 3D?

As pretty as the new trailer for the upcoming Spielberg/Jackson "The Adventures of Tintin" looks -- weird motion capture movement and faces and all -- I find myself wondering if I wouldn't prefer to watch Tintin as a traditionally animated film. It is clear that the film attempts to capture some of the style of the original comic strips in the character design, but there is still some lingering tug at the back of my mind that would like to watch a film that looked less "spectacular" and allowed the spectacle of the story to tell itself. There also is something more impressive about the craftsmanship required to illustrate something like the maelstrom in "The Little Mermaid" that maintains a "tonal" verisimilitude to the overall animation of the film versus the craftsmanship required to create a similar effect digitally where the storm that looks "tonally" different from the characters of the film.

I think I just might prefer something that looked like this:

I'm still excited about the film, but the push for digital animation -- especially when unnecessary -- bothers me. I'll watch digitally animated Pooh on TV, and enjoy it, but I want to see hand drawn Pooh in the theaters. I think the same might just apply with Tintin.