Friday, February 27, 2015
I was asked earlier today to contribute to a memorial of the man at Biff Bam Pop!, and I had nothing. I was so stunned and silenced by his passing.
By the time I was aware of Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock, and "Star Trek," the show had left the network airwaves and was then currently running in syndication where it was experiencing a renaissance. Out of production for years and more popular than ever, I first saw "Star Trek" on Philadelphia's channel 48, which butchered the show mercilessly to fit more commercials in. It would be more than a decade before I saw all the episodes in their entirety.
My big sister loved the show, and so I watched it too. While I dug William Shatner as the mainstream good guy hero of the piece, I was drawn more to Nimoy's Spock. I guess that the way that Spock is alien, had pseudo-super powers, and was an outsider, almost a superhero, I connected to him more. And I think still today, the character is the best, and central to the show.
The first real Trekkie, or more accurately Trekker, I ever met was the big brother of the girl who lived across the street when I was a kid. Denis knew everything about "Star Trek,' everything. His knowledge of the show and the mythos was extraordinary, the type of minutia I knew well as a comic book fanboy, but somehow "Trek" seemed more important. He had all the books, the models, the Star Fleet Technical Manual, he knew how many decks were on the Enterprise. Yeah, I really looked up to him. Sometimes he picked on me, but it was okay, because he was cool, because of "Star Trek."
There were missteps of course, like his recording career, perhaps done to compete with William Shatner's equally dismal musical forays, but sometimes we can forgive. And really, the stuff wasn't that bad in an ironic humorous way. Either way, none of us will ever forget "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" once we’ve heard it. He did stage plays, voice work, movie serials, video games, audiobooks, almost every aspect of the business and left his mark in all. He was the man.
His portrayal of Spock bridged all versions of Star Trek, and influenced those who followed in his footsteps. Star Trek, the world, all of us… has lost a legend, an icon, a role model, a part of us all. Live long and prosper, my friend.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
TCM Classic Cruise on board the Disney Magic. The 1967 animated Disney version of The Jungle Book is probably one of my favorite Disney features, and it was probably one of my first as well. Quite honestly I can't remember if I did see it in theaters at the time or not (I have been assured that I did), but I do know that my big sister bought me the soundtrack record that came with a storybook. I knew all the songs, I knew all the corresponding scenes as well, and I loved it.
This is one of those movies that when it comes on, I just have to stop and watch it. As I said, the music was ingrained in me at an early age, and even today with the original tunes, or with covers like "Bear Necessities" by Harry Connick Jr. or "I Wanna Be Like You" by the Jonas Brothers, I still love it. The flick has a great soundtrack, probably the last full soundtrack to be so cool as a whole until the late eighties.
It is notable that The Jungle Book was the last film that Walt Disney had a hand in personally, and it was also the beginning of a new era of animation for the company. I call it the Don Bluth era myself, even though Bluth wasn't involved in every facet of that era, but his style was prevalent. Many of his tricks are evident here, such as the fake out death of Baloo, and the look of some of the characters. Some of the scenes here are even repeated in 1973's Robin Hood.
The Jungle Book stands out among other Disney animated features for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its stunning voice cast. In a
In many ways, despite my love for this film, I kinda dig the 1942 Sabu version more, but still this is one of my favorite Disney features, and an important piece of my childhood. Five stars all around.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Oliver had asked Malcolm to train him so he could beat R'as al Ghul, and apparently the island is his idea of training. As if we didn't already know Malcolm was a bit twisted, right? I loved the camera pan approach to Flashback Island, with the shipwrecked Amazo near the shore, nice touch.
In the past, Oliver and Maseo are still tracking China White and her bio-weapon. Being in Starling past gives us a chance to not only see cast members in a variety of bad "Undercover Boss" hairstyles but also see dead folks like Colin Donnell returning as Tommy Merlin. We also see the past addictions of Thea, Quentin, and Laurel in more revealing light.
I loved when Oliver, trying to say he was good at hiding from his family and friends, said he pulled his hoodie down to cover his face - and Maseo countered with "that disguise wouldn't work even if you smeared grease paint over your face." Beautiful. It is also a testament to Stephen Amell's acting skills that he can pull off both naive and spoiled, and then brave and resourceful - in the same character years apart and make it believable. He's damn good.
And then there's Deathstroke's line to Oliver about Thea, how she's been touched by darkness and that Merlyn must be an interesting man to do that to his own daughter. Although we've seen a character in the show called Ravager, in the comics Slade did do something very similar to his own daughter who then called herself Ravager. And let's not even discuss her brother, his son, who was the original Ravager.
Larry Lance, we know he's doomed sooner or later.
Colin Donnell isn't the only actor to return from the dead this time out. There's also Jamey Sheridan as Robert Queen as seen in a recording for Oliver, solving another minor mystery of the series. This is neat tie-up of a small but missing piece of Arrow's origins.
The final closer however is the appearance of General Matthew Shrieve as played by a rather worn and aged looking Marc Singer. This is a surprising addition to a TV series based on Green Arrow. In the comics, Shrieve is the human leader of Project M, better known as the Creature Commandos, sort of a war/horror hybrid comic. They are a squad of soldiers made up of classic monsters - a werewolf, a vampire, a gorgon, and Frankenstein monster-like creature. Who knows where this plot point will go...
Next: "Nanda Parbat!"
And if you'd like to discuss this episode and anything else in the Arrowverse, please join the Arrow discussion group on Facebook.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Kevin DuBrow and drummer Frankie Banali.
Some of us purists don't like to believe it, because they had such a huge, if momentary, pop success, but Quiet Riot opened the floodgates for metal in the 1980s. Without "Cum On Feel the Noize" and "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)" one might go so far as to say it might have been longer before the mainstream public heard bands like Motley Crue, Whitesnake, and Guns N' Roses. They opened the doors, like it or not, by having the first American metal album on the pop charts.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Evel Knievel, Planet of the Apes, or SSP Racers.
Begun as three made for TV movies of the week, "The Six Million Dollar Man" was very loosely based on the book Cyborg by Martin Caidin. The book and its three sequels were much more serious, adult, and more science fiction-oriented. Much had been changed, but when I read the book sometime in the mid-seventies as a pre-teen I still enjoyed it. The telemovies were wildly successful leading almost immediately into the TV series, which ran for five years, with one spin-off, "The Bionic Woman," and at least three other attempted spin-offs. There were toys, lunchboxes, and all the other paraphernalia one might expect a phenomenon.
The premise was pretty simple. Lee Majors played Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut and test pilot who was involved in a body crushing accident that left him without the use of an eye, an arm and both legs. Secret government organization OSI offered to rebuild him, "make him better than he was before," with bionics. Now, it's real and is something that happens (although sans super strength and telescopic vision), but then this kind of technology was pure science fiction. In exchange for saving his life, Steve agrees to go on missions for the ominous Office of Scientific Intelligence. It was average spy fare for the most part, and invariably you waited through the boring stuff to see Austin kick some butt at the end, just like "Kung Fu."
V," "Alien Nation") name on the series, but I had forgotten that Glen A. Larsen ("Battlestar Galactica") and Harve Bennett (responsible for the best of the "Star Trek" films Wrath of Khan) were involved as well. The show had a very small cast, usually only Majors, Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman, sometimes Dr. Rudy Wells (played by various actors), and dozens of nameless bad guys who Austin would throw around during fight scenes. Yep, keep it simple.
The Robot (weirdly called Maskatron), Sasquatch, and the Venus Probe from above all got action figures in the playsets, it should be noted. Both the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman had action figures from Kenner. There also had the Fembots, Oscar Goldman, vehicles, and lots of mission or fashion outfits. Like Evel Knievel, these were toys that kids of a certain age had to have. I never did though. Evel was my jam.
The episodes I've seen on Esquire are, as I said, only ordinary, but full of nostalgia. I remember "The Six Million Dollar Man" fondly though, despite the season Majors sported a bad mustache. It was the first thing I watched on my first TV, a tiny black and white set, and watching the show that Sunday night was just the best. Simple things are good. More to come.