Legend of the Saturday Afternoon

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In years gone by, Saturday afternoon was often a time that was empty on my calendar. There were outings with friends, D&D games, homework, or errands, but there was also a lot of crappy syndicated TV filling those afternoons. At various points my local Fox affiliate or WGN superstation were destroying my neurons with photons from:

To be fair, I also discovered a couple gems in Hercules and Xena during those Saturday afternoons on the couch. Not everyone considers them fine entertainment, but I think they were cleverly put together and well executed.

While I was lounging around last Saturday some familiar looking action caught my eye and got me to stop on WGN. It turns out that the driving forces behind Hercules and Xena, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, have marched back into Saturday afternoon syndication (at least in my market) with Legend of the Seeker.

legend_of_the_seeker_logo

Seeker is based on the fantasy novels by Terry Goodkind, which just happen to be one of the few fiction series I've read in the last 10 years. It's less campy, but the show still has some of the Hercules/Xena feel due to the New Zealand shooting location and local filler talent.

Saturday afternoons aren't as free as they once were and I haven't seen enough of Seeker to say if it will be a winner, but it's nice to know that someone is trying to keep the Legend of Saturday Afternoon alive.

Antique Nerd Show

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The guy who owned the last company I worked for also did a lot of real estate stuff. While cleaning one of his properties, he found a copy of the funnies from Champaign-Urbana, IL's local paper, The News-Gazette, that dated all the way back to March 29, 1936.

He knew I was into comics and gave me the paper. I took them, but really didn't do anything with it except secure it in some mylar and acid-free cardboard. It got boxed up and moved three times since then and I had forgotten about it. Rediscovered the paper yesterday during some organizing. Decided it would be worth taking some pictures. Read all the strips. Turns out the funnies weren't all that funny back in 1936 either.

Figured some folks who frequent the blog might get a kick out of the pics. I set up a gallery on Picasa. You should be able to zoom in and read everything, too.

For as cool as this is, I'd still love to find a buyer who'd really appreciate this. If you know anyone, send them my way.

Go Speed Walrus, Go!

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Story:
This movie was like real sugary candy. As I begin eating it, I'm enjoying it. Then I start to have a bit too much. After I'm done, it fades away and I'm a weird combination of sick and ready for something more substantial.

Really though, for what it was, it was fine. Even a little fun at times. The plot is thin and predictable. Of course, based on its source material, I wouldn't expect anything else. My only major complaint is that the movie runs a little long. It could have been trimmed by about a half and hour and nothing major would had to have been cut.

Presentation
The main reason I got this movie from Netflix was for the visuals in the movie. The Wachowski brothers adapted various anime styles into live action with The Matrix. What followed was the most imitated style in action movies for years. I was curious to see what they would do with this movie.

It was visual overload, but from a technical viewpoint, it was astounding. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Although, that doesn't mean I want to see it again in this movie or any other movie. It was a fun experiment and creatively, I believe it succeeded even if it failed commercially.

The acting was strong despite what had to be massive amounts of green/blue screen time. From what little I know of the cartoon, the parts were well cast and spot on.

In the end, imagine the pod race scene from Star Wars Episode One turned up to eleven. Then watch that scene while tie dying it (so it's spinning and has got all kinds of crazy colors). That's what this movie is, but with better acting.

STORY


PRESENTATION


REWATCHABLE

300 Walruses

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Tonight we dine in hell My fellow townspeople must have quite the taste for gory action epics, because the 300 DVD has been continuously checked out from our local library for the last several months. My number finally came up in the last few weeks and excitedly brought it home for a screening. I had heard only good things about the movie, so I had positive expectations.

Story

The story is just enough to get the ball rolling towards the non-stop action of battle. In short, the Spartans are total badasses with an honorable king, Leonides, who just want to enjoy their way of life freely. Hordes of invading Persians arrive in Greece and demand submission from the Spartans. Leonides will have none of that, but due to political maneuvering of cowardly parliament members, the Spartan army is not allowed to go to war. So Leonides takes 300 volunteers on a misión suicida to stop the Persians.

There are some definite parallels with Braveheart and Gladiator (two of my favorites) and the writers go to great lengths to depict the Spartans as patriotic freedom fighters. Unfortunately, Leonides is not as well actualized as either the Wallace or Maxmius characters. I also did not buy into the notion of Spartans as noble democrats, but that isn't a requirement for me to root for them.

Presentation

The cinematography and visual style of 300 are great and actually necessary for its success. This movie features an insane amount of carnage with an on screen murder count that has to be in the thousands. The comic book inspired aesthetic and visual effects help to temper some of the violence in additional to providing visual interest.

The score is very good and, like other well done soundtracks, the music can conjure up images of various scenes as you listen. Kudos for throwing plenty of electric guitar into the music for a period piece. I'd like to think Steve Resler would do the same.

The acting performances were solid all around, though it's difficult to call any of them great. Admittedly, there's not a lot of subtlety to work with in the script, so that may have limited opportunities to stretch the acting legs.

Story score--

Presentation score--


I waffled a quite a bit on whether or not to hand out the rewatchable walrus. I would like to see this again, but ultimately I don't think 300 would be a movie that I would revisit over and over again.  So no rewatchable for you, my Spartans.

All hail Poobala

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I mentioned Poobala's Crossovers & Spin Offs site in a 2007 post about some of my favorite TV crossovers. Allow me to restate how fantastic this site is. Sure, the web design aesthetic is straight out of the year 1997, but the content cannot be topped. Take this little example.

My wife's latest guilty pleasure from the local library is the Charlie's Angels DVDs. I can be easily talked in to watching 50 minutes of Jaclyn Smith, so I've come along for the ride on a few episodes as well. I was especially intrigued by a special episode which took the Angels to Las Vegas to help guest star Dean Martin.

What could be better than Dean Martin putting the moves on Kate Jackson? How about Bosley making repeated references to a fellow investigator, Dan Tanna, whom the Angels just have to meet? Could a Charlie's Angels/Vega$ crossover be in store? A quick trip to Poobala.com confirmed that indeed it was.

Disappointingly, the above minute of video includes the entirety of Robert Urich's participation in a two part episode. Cue the horn.

However, my visit to Poobala revealed that I also have an Angels/Love Boat crossover to look forward to. And I have high hopes for that.

Share my joy...

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Thanks to the awesome semi-annual sale at DeepDiscount.com, I finally obtained the entire Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD collection.

DEEP because of DeepDiscount.com. SPACE because it's going to take up a lot of space on my DVD shelf. NINE because we'll watch most of these in 2009.

The conversation with my wife about DS9 went much better this time as compared to when they first came out years ago:

"How much were the Next Generation sets?"
"Um...hundred bucks."
"Each?!"
"Yeah."
"Okay. How long was it on? Four, five years?"
"To some. Personally, I don't ignore the first two seasons. I love them all."
"That doesn't answer my question. How many sets are there?"
"...seven..."
"Okay, so seven at $100 a piece...that's a lot of money."
"Yeah, but it's hours of entertainment. Well worth it."
"Fine. So it's just seven and we're done."
"Well, no. There's also the movies."
"Of course."
"And Deep Space Nine follows Chief O'Brien and eventually Worf so I consider those a part of Next Generation."
"How much are those sets?"
"They're also $100."
"How many sets?"
"Also seven."
"No. No Deep Space Nine."
"Deep Space Nine also has the Jem'Hadar..."
"The Jem'Ha-what?"
"The Jem'Hadar. They're awesome."
"No."



PS--I know we all want to get into the DS9 v. B5 comments, but for now, let's leave that for another post. I like both. Just let me bask in DS9 right now.

Consider the Source

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Empire Magazine did a write up that I read today revealing details on four scenes from next year's Star Trek film from J.J. Abrams. Up until now, I've been cautiously optimistic about this project. As I read the article, I realized that I have too much baggage and will likely be unable to enjoy this film.

It's all about the source material. There are certain things I don't care if you mess with. A drastic reboot of Battlestar Galactica where Starbuck was reimagined as a female...that I can handle, even wound up liking better (sorry Dirk Benedict, if you're reading this blog). Organic webbing in the Spider-Man movies...that I can handle. The Force is somehow harnessed through "midichlorians" or whatever...that I just don't care enough to handle.

Mess with the Muppets, mess with Superman or mess with Star Trek and I'm out.

I'm all for watching things with an open mind. Don't make a judgment about a movie you haven't seen or a book you haven't read and all that. For the most part, I agree. But we nerds have to be honest with ourselves. Our little nerd hearts are sometimes already spoken for. I'm already 'married' to Star Trek as it was. I want to settle down and grow old with that Star Trek. Sure, maybe the new Star Trek is young and pretty, but that's not my Star Trek. That's another man's Star Trek. And it's not for me.

00Walrus #20: Die Another Day

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DIE ANOTHER DAY
Bond: Pierce Brosnan - 1 tusk
I feel sorry for Pierce because in spite of not really having a high opinion of his third entry, he really deserved better than this to go out on. This winds up being Brosnan's Moonraker. (And calling it that might be a compliment.) In spite of the fact, he's just about the only thing that makes this movie bearable, he's lost some of what made him Bond here. He's a little more stiff, a little older and really draws upon the qualities of Roger Moore that I don't dig.

Girl: Halle Berry as Jinx - 0 tusks
She's the Ben Affleck of actresses. Way overrated. Can't deliver a line without it sounding like her infamous toad/lightning line from X-Men. I could not buy into her being an agent. Outside of showing up in a bikini, she was a useless character. Could have been cut completely and the movie would have improved.

Gadgets: don't get me started - 0 tusks
Invisible car?! Do I even need to say anything about how I might feel about an invisible car at this point?

Opening Theme: "Die Another Day" performed by Madonna - 0 tusks
Dreadful song that invoked no sense of Bond at all. Saved only by an interesting attempt to play with the intro and advance the story somewhat through those three minutes of credits.

Villain: Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves - 1 tusk
The genetic manipulation thing aside, I could see this character being a decent Bond villain. Stephens is mildly interesting as a villain who is purposely emulating Bond. Seems like a concept that could have been done way cooler than it was done. You know, kind of how it was done in The Incredibles.

Henchman: Rick Yune as Yao - 0 tusks
I don't understand why the Brosnan films had these over-the-top henchman. I guess he was supposed to be cool because he had diamonds embedded in his face? What else makes him cool? Nothing really.

Pre-title opening sequence - 2 tusks
This first part of the movie is about the only tolerable part. It feels like a Bond movie which is good, because the rest of the movie does not.

Story:
The short version of my review? This was horridly absurd.

As I said earlier, this is Brosnan's Moonraker. The greater mistake that this makes over Moonraker is that at least with Moonraker, I knew where we were heading towards taking Bond to space and having laser battles. Over the top and un-Bond-like, at least I knew what I was getting into. With this movie, you actually get about30 minutes of a potentially decent Bond flick right before everything goes haywire.

If this was a movie for Alias or G.I. Joe, I could stomach this, but I can't for Bond. This movie took gadgetry and turned it into Star Trek. We start off with DNA manipulation in order to change appearance in a main thread. We then follow that up with a Q sequence that begins with some sort of VR Holodek thing and ends with an invisible car. Bond makes it to Iceland where he drives in the snow with his invisible car (no one notices the tracks?!?!?) and gets introduced to the Icarus, a giant satellite that absorbs the rays of the sun and shoots giant sun lasers on the people of Earth. As if it weren't lasery enough, Bond then saves Jinx in a fight scene that featured four or five lasers shooting every which direction. Finally, Bond has a final fight scene with the main bad guy who is wearing half of Iron Man's armor which he's using to zap Bond with electricity. In the previous 19 movies, I've accepted a lot of stuff, but never has one Bond movie contained such vast amounts of absurdity. If it was one or two of those things, maybe I could accept it, but all of that? No. Way.

I want to go back to my point from earlier, this had the makings of a decent Bond flick for the first half hour or so. Still, I don't really like the Bond gets captured idea. It seems like he's gotten out of worse problems before. That aside, let's assume he gets captured...fourteen months? Really? Bond? And how does he get out? Prisoner exchange. He doesn't break out. No, because that would be too cool.

I have long been impressed with the stunts done for the James Bond movies. So many of them were done practically and added so much realism to the films (even if it was hard to believe Roger Moore was really snowboarding or whatever). It was disappointing to see such a huge amount of CGI in place of cool stunts. The worst has to be Bond's parasurfing scene near the end of the movie, but right behind that is the laser battle and the helicopter fall. In so many ways, this movie did not even look like a Bond movie because of that.

With this being the last of my 20 Ultimate Bond discs, I don't want to end on a bad note. I will say that I was impressed at the number of homages (at least one per) for each of the previous Bond films. Twenty films in a series is quite an achievement. It was great to see little nods to the past in recognition of the previous 40 years worth of movies. Sadly, the movie couldn't have been a better tribute to that history.

Finally, Judi Dench is amazing again and I'm so glad they kept her on for the reboot with Daniel Craig. Her work in the Brosnan films is almost wasted. I could watch a movie that was exclusively about M. Also, John Cleese as the new Q was wonderful and really the only guy who could follow Desmond Llewelyn. It'd be a shame if they didn't work him into the Bond series again. I'd hate for this and TWINE to be his only chances to contribute to Bond.

So, I probably won't get to see Quantum of Solace for a little while mainly because of my first-run theater ban. Once I get a sense of when I'm going to get a chance to see it, I'll rewatch Casino Royale, follow that up with Quantum of Solace and then put together my final two reviews.

But, with the first twenty viewed and this being an excellent place to stop, I will say that I have enjoyed this series of Bond viewings and have gotten a lot out of coming here and writing my thoughts about them. It's been real surprising going through these movies again and discovering Bond all over again. Despite mixed early reviews, I'm looking forward to Quantum of Solace and can't wait to write up the next two reviews.

Previous Bond Movie Reviews
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Goldfinger
Thunderball
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
Moonraker
For Your Eyes Only
Octopussy
Never Say Never Again
A View to a Kill
The Living Daylights
License to Kill
GoldenEye
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough

Old sci-fi stars never die...

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...they just morph into parodies of themselves.

Sadly we know that isn't entirely true (RIP, Bones and Scotty), but I may have spotted a trend.

My wife recently picked up the next to last season of the BBC's feel good drama, Monarch of the Glen. As we were watching the antics of the MacDonald clan, who should stroll in as new character but the 4th Doctor himself, Tom Baker. He plays the protagonist's uncle who, in his very puffy senior years, returns to the family estate after a life of cavorting around the world.

He's melodramatic, shameless, and seemingly self absorbed in ways that are along the lines of a genteel version of The Shat's recent claim to fame.

Baker ends up being one of the more enjoyable parts of a show which is clearly past its prime and I was glad to have something more recent to replace the memory of Tom Baker: Elven Healer in the awful Dungeons & Dragons movie.

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