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Master of the World (1976)
An odd choice for a TV special.
I saw this once in 1978 or 79 when I was 11 or 12 years old, so my memory of it is a little dusty. It aired on CBS one Saturday morning after their normal lineup of Saturday cartoons was done for the day.
The story is fairly faithful to Jules Verne's novel, with a man named Robur who has developed a flying car/boat and is either attempting to take over the world, or simply show off (His motivations are a little bit muddy). It's set in or around the turn of the century, which is consistent with the book, which takes place in 1903 or 1904. It's an odd choice of story to adapt for the small screen, since it's one of Vernes' more obscure tales, and certainly not among his more compelling. Still and all, for the conscious decision to do something comparatively unknown, I'm probably giving them higher marks than the special actually deserves.
The voice-casting was adequate, and an Irish-sounding cleaning woman sticks out in my memory going on about how man was not meant to be moving "At fifty miles an hour!" Animation, however, was very weak particularly in the seemingly endless talking heads scenes, and was probably comparable to some of the less-inspired scenes in Charlotte's Webb or maybe a really good episode of that dumb Partridge Family In Space cartoon from the early 70s.
I have no idea who produced or financed this, or why, but even as a kid I had the feeling it was just being dumped on to the air in a more-or-less dead time slot as a one-shot special simply to get rid of it. Our local CBS affiliate seemed to have more than it's share of those in the late 70s.
In any event, this is probably not worth tracking down unless you're an absolutely incoherent Verne fanatic.
It's a bad movie, but it tries REAL hard to be good...
There's a lot of negative things to say about this movie, which the authors of the reviews prior to mine have already done to death, and I'm not really going to argue with them: this is a badly made, lethargically written film. It's a textbook B-movie. However, unlike virtually every other low-to-no budget Science Fiction film I've ever seen, this one actually tries to work some actual "Science" into the fiction, and for that I give them high marks for trying, even if the rest of the flick completely undercuts the interesting time dilation aspect of the film.
Here's the deal: A flotilla of starships have been on the planet "Centaurus" for some time, and are heading back to their homeworld again, launched in six-month intervals. There's a human civilization (Composed of Asians) on Centaurus that has fallen on hard times, and appears to have been colonized by the Caucasians. En rout back home, some Centaurans rebel on one of the ships, and it goes off course, eventually crash landing on the heretofore uncharted planet "Solaris 3". The flagship of the flotilla decides to go back to look for survivors, and eventually meet up with the child of the survivors of the crash.
Here's the cool stuff: 1) They point out in great detail that they're traveling near light speed, and hence time is passing slower for them aboard ship than it is back on their homeworld. The starship's helmsman points out that by the time they get home again, his brother will be 32 years older than him. It only takes the rescue ship three weeks to get to Solaris 3 in subjective (Shipboard) time, but objectively, on the planet 18 years have passed. How freakin' cool is that? Come on, after a lifetime of watching lousy SF films where interstellar flight is as easy as hopping an airplane to Reno, you have to admit one which actually deals with Einsteinian Relativity is pretty sweet! It's a very cool idea to have someone look at a functional ship he just saw six months before, and yet it's derelict wreck that's been sitting in a jungle for 18 years. What's that? You find relativity confusing? There there, sparky, that's OK. Why don't you go back to watching Star Trek and leave the science fiction to the big boys, OK? That's a good boy... 2) The race relations aspect of the movie is pretty neat, too: the astronauts are all Caucasians, the Centaurians are all Asians, and neither side really trusts the other. Some of the Caucasians don't even consider the Asians to be human, despite the fact that they obviously are. Again, in an age when all SF postulates a future where all races live together in a spirit of peaceful unity, it's kind of charming to see a movie that dwells on how hard it can be to attain that kind of unity. 3) This movie actually goes out of it's way to imply a larger history than we actually see on screen, which is pretty clever. The Admiral believes (According to dialog in the film) that humanity established interstellar travel millenia ago, and then lost it for whatever reason. The Centaurans are the descendants of human colonists that adapted to the conditions of the planet Centaurus over scores of thousands of years, which is why they look different than the spacefaring humans who found them. 4) Irene Tsu is just smokin' hot in this movie, seriously. It doesn't hurt that her cave-girl sarong is slit up the leg all the way to her waist, but even without that she'd still be just..wow. I remember seeing this movie for the first time when I was 10 (On Dr. Paul Bearer's "Creature Feature" show) and getting strangely attentive whenever she'd come on screen and eat a banana or kick her legs when being carried off. I was only 10, mind you, I had no idea what it was about her that was affecting me so, I just knew that I felt pleasantly happy whenever she was on screen. 5) The final twist of the movie actually came as a big shock to me. Granted, I was ten, but it does kind of come out of nowhere, and it is sort of neat.
To conclude, I'm not saying this is a good movie because it certainly ain't. I *am* saying that it tried really hard, that it's got more interesting ideas than an entire season of Next Generation, or the entire series run of Seaquest (Not that that's hard in either case), it actually tried to say something about race relations, and while it unquestionably failed artistically, I have to admire it for tackling the big questions when so few more professional productions would even take the chance admitting the questions exist.
Probably the MST3K version of this film is the best way to watch it, though, because it is deadly dull, and Joel and the 'Bots really do liven it up quite a bit.
A Science-Fiction version of Frances Farmer's life.
This movie skirts the line between actual iconic film and utter "Mommie Dearest" trainwreck. Mostly it stays on the iconic side, but only barely. The film is fairly ghastly in it's depiction of the Mental Health Industry in the 40s and 50s, and some of it is justified, but it becomes very apparent that the production has an axe to grind, an agenda to promote, and accuracy be damned. As a result, very very very very elaborate liberties are taken with the facts of Miss Farmer's life (That's a polite way of saying they lie like crazy in this film.) For instance, the centerpiece of the second half of the movie is that Frances had a lobotomy. She never did. The way the scene is filmed gives us the strong implication that we're supposed to believe that her soul died in that instant, though her body lingered on for several more decades. This is simply not true, and I feel it's a disservice to Frances to co-opt her into someone's personal propaganda war. Another instance: we see her go on TV and talk about how her faith in Jesus pulled her through her hard times, and again we're given the impression that the real girl is long gone, she's been turned into a mere automaton. Again, this isn't true: she never said this, she never did this, it's all made up. The movie is at least a half-hour too long, and it's very biased. I will say that Jessica Lange is brilliant in the movie, however, and fans will be impressed: her tour de force here is clearly the high water mark of her career. In the end, though, this movie is not even remotely a real biography: it's a 90% fictional 'decline and fall' story with an axe to grind: watch it with caution.
Macross Zero (2002)
It's candy: Tasty, but ultimately unfulfilling.
Don't get me wrong, I love anything Macross-related, and this isn't a total disaster: the animation is beautiful, particularly in the dogfights, there's some nice humor here and there, some pulse pounding action and so forth, though the musical score struck me as rather generic and bland, and there's much to praise in the beautifully-realized transforming mecha, that's all great stuff.
Alas, the story is goofy and the conclusion is incoherent. Young Buck Pilot crash lands on a Polynesian island that's populated by Aztecs (Or maybe it was Mayans). Excuse me? Turns out the Aztecs were experimented on 10,000 years ago by aliens they called "The Birdmen," and the priestly bloodline in these Polynesian Aztecs (Or Mayans) have the ability to psychically control various Birdmen artifacts left behind, including a machine that will wipe out all of humanity if we haven't figured out how to control our more base instincts (Violence, hate) by the time it's activated. Well, despite what Thor Heyerdahl wrote, neither Mayans nor Aztecs were Polynesian, and Polynesians are no mesoamericans, and even if they were, Polynesia was only settled in the last two or three thousand years and neither Mayan nor Aztec civilization was anywhere near 10,000 years old. In essence, it's just ancient astronauts crap that would play well in the 70s, but is kind of dated and silly now. That notwithstanding, we have the UN fighting the aptly-but-unimaginatively-named "Anti-UN" over control of this island and it's artifacts. The Anti-UN are not given any great depth or motivation, and the characters are not exactly compelling. It's good to see Roy Fokker again, but he's more of a jerk than usual in this OVA, and we get a cameo of Captain Bruno Global towards the end, but aside from that, no one we know is here. All of this would be merely annoying, of course, if the story were good, but the story is not good. It's merely an excuse to show some admittedly amazing dogfights, some cool transforming robots, and a (Typically) hot naked chick. The story is something to string action pieces to, but doesn't really have any umph behind it. It's ending is utterly abrupt and incoherent, and in the end none of this has any real relevance to the rest of the Macross universe. (or, for that matter, the Robotech universe where I think it could probably fit in somewhat easier.) In the end, it's just a bunch of stuff that happened that no one ever bothers to talk about again afterwards, so it may as well have not happened.
Many people complain about the hokey-jokey nature of Macross 7. (Occasionally for good reason) Macross Zero goes to the exact opposite extreme, and is positively grim, far far grimmer than the original Macross, and remember the original Macross involved the deaths of 6 billion 999 million human beings in the space of about ten minutes, so it's a pretty grim show on occasion by itself. Everybody in this miniseries is so dour and unlikeable and grim all the time, to the point that it was hard to get involved in the whisper-thin storyline.
Also, I found the redesign of Fokker's character to be particularly distracting. Pilots in Macross generally had long hair, and Roy was no exception. In flashbacks in Macross we also saw that he had long hair years in the past, however in Zero he's got a more typical military buzz-cut in 2008. Unless he's wearing a wig or hair extensions (Unlikely), there's no way he could have grown his hair out to Macross lengths in a year or so. This creates a continuity error through the series, and I'm probably taking this too seriously, but it really distracted me.
Good Evening, Captain (1981)
A touching tribute by a network that couldn't wait to cancel the show.
This was a special intended to celebrate 27 years of the Captain Kangaroo program. It was surprisingly heartfelt, with lots of clips from the early live and black and white episodes, interviews with the various actors and puppeteers on the show, comments from other children's entertainers, and so forth. As far as I know, it only aired once, but was generally of better quality and more emotional impact than you'd expect in a prime time special that was obviously intended as a space-filler for a dead spot in the broadcast schedule. I remember getting slightly choked up seeing characters and people that I hadn't seen since I was a very little, little child.
Elements didn't work, however, and the clearest memory I have of the show were these awkward bumpers before and after the commercial breaks featuring celebrities from prime time shows uncomfortably giving their best wishes to "The Captain." ("Hi, I'm Joyce De Witt." "And I'm John Ritter, from Three's Company." "We'd like to congratulate The Captain on 27 years, and wish him 27 more years to come!" That kind of thing.) The strangest thing about this, however, was that CBS even made the special, seeing as they couldn't wait to cancel the show. The very next season, the show was shortened to make more room for morning news, then pushed back an hour so that no one other than farmers and pastry chefs could watch it. Certainly no kids did. Then it was pulled from daily broadcast and only aired on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and then it was canceled outright at the end of an abbreviated 29th season. Very shabby treatment for a well-regarded, long-running and iconic show.
Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006)
A major disappointment for all concerned.
For those not in the know, the DC Comics Animated Universe ("DCAU" for short) has been running continuously since the early 90s. First there was Batman: The Animated Series, then Batman: Gotham Knights, then there was Superman: The Animated Series, then Batman: Beyond, then Static Shock, then Justice League, and then Teen Titans, and then Justice League: Unlimited. Though there were some klinkers here and there, the "Shared Universe" that all these overlapping shows took place in was generally a great example of American Animation and American Storytelling. The last shows - Teen Titans and "JL:U" - ended their runs just a couple months ago on an extreme high note, and this film is the first DCAU story to be told since then. As such I, and ever other animation geek out there had high hopes for it.
Alas, the film is a massive disappointment for all concerned. Several of the voices of prominent characters that we've grown very accustomed to over the last ten years or so have been re-cast for no reason whatsoever, and the new voices are really distracting. The plot is just typical "Indestructable man vs. Unstopable machine" stuff that we've all seen so many times before, the dialog is largely cringe-inducingly awful and, most bizarre of all, though this movie looks just like Superman: The Animated Series, it completely ignores a decade's worth of continuity that's been established since that show ended. For example: JL:U ended with Lex on the run from the law after a failed bid at the presidency, and he and Darkseid apparently either dying or at the very least leaving the earth. Brainiac Attacks begins with Lex inexplicably once again a respected business man, no mention of Darkseid, and no mention of Luthor's previous extremely close relationship with Brainiac. There is, however, nothing in this film that indicates it's a prequel, or shoehorned in between the end of Superman:TAS and the two Justice League series.
In short, the movie makes a mess of the DCAU, stomping all around without wiping it's feet first, and it doesn't really give us a story worthy of the annoyance it brings us. It's just junk. They had the opportunity here to do a great coda to 15 years of great shows (Warners has tacitly announced that the DCAU is done for the foreseeable future), a great final chapter, and they blew it. They had a chance to tell a really good story, and they blew it, and, what's more, they didn't care.
Fans will find out about this movie, expecting it to be like a farewell kiss on the lips from someone you loved who's moving away forever, but in the end it's more like an unexpected punch in the mouth. Avoid! This is not a movie for enjoying, this is a movie for laying down and avoiding!
The Silencers (1966)
A 1966 teen aged boy's dream
The Matt Helm movies were in fairly steady rotation on the local UHF channel in my town in the 70s. I watched them quite a bit as a kid, when I was little because they involved gadgets and explosion,and when I was a slightly older kid because they involved gadgets and explosions and literally acres of almost-naked gorgeous women. Needless to say, this movie was a pretty big hit in 1966 when it was first released, however it trades pretty much entirely on the desire of teen aged boys to see as many nearly-naked women as possible. This was back in the days before VCRs and DVDs and Cable TV made smut into a major industry, and when it was presumably much harder to get a copy of Playboy if you were a kid, so the appeal was not to be understated.
Alas, on this end of the 20th century, where you literally can't check your Email w/out someone offering you pictures of naked women, that aspect of the film has lost some of it's allure. The movie is something like a late night soft-core Cinemax film, only without the actual nudity. (Well, actually, there's plenty of nudity, most of which is conveniently obscured by a chair back, or a coffee cup or whatever) The plot is, well, mostly incoherent, and functions mainly as a means of getting Helm from one sexual situation to another. If the Bond formula is "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" then the Matt Helm formula is 3-parts Kiss Kiss to one quarter cup of Bang, so it actually gets rather tedious.
The direction is pretty much atrocious, and that adds to the proto-soft-core feel of the film. Production values are on the whole about equal to the level of a good Irwin Allen TV show, and the gadgets are pretty lame, even by the standards of the day, and there is frankly just too much sex. I don't mean that to sound prudish, but come on! That's why Playboy pads out each issue with articles about Peruvian oil wells, it can't *All* be about the T&A. Ideally, a spy parody like this should be something like an Oreo cookie, where the sweet, creamy middle of Stella Stevens (Pretty amazing as a redhead, BTW) is sandwiched in between the chocolate cookies of good storytelling and an interesting plot. Instead, this film plays out like you've scraped the filling off of three or four Double Stuffs, and piled it all on an Andes Candy, so that in the end all you've got is a big pile of sweetened lard and, well, it never ends up tasting as good as you thought it would when you started slapping it all together.
Other Caveats: The brilliant Victor Buono is horribly underused in this film playing a character that *might* possibly be Chinese, but more likely simply *wants* to be Chinese. Or he might simply be an overweight female impersonator with a particularly unfortunate fashion sense. Another odd feature is that the movie is at it's worst when Dino actually acts. Most of the time he sleepwalks through the film in his trademark personality, seeming slightly buzzed, but at random intervals he'll actually act and emote in a scene ("Did you think you bought me off last night?") and then suddenly you remember that Dino was one half of the second-most-successful comedy team of all time, and actually a pretty talented actor on occasion. Those glimmers pull you out of the films sugar shock, and, well, it's distracting. The film was apparently running rather short, so they decided to pad it out with a lengthy and pathologically un-funny scene where we spend about ten minutes watching Stella Stevens attempt to get out of a station wagon in the rain and repeatedly fall in the mud. It's painful to watch, and I can't believe they didn't cut it out. Horrible.
On the bright side, Stella is amazing looking, and not at all shy about it. Indeed, all the women in the film have that inexplicable mid-60s va-va-voom quality, but the most striking of them is the 45-year-old Cyd Charise who is just jaw-droppingly sexy in her two brief appearances in the film. And as ever, it's impossible not to like Dino.
Two notes for the DVD version of this film: If you saw this show on UHF back in the day, the uncut DVD version is...well, surprisingly lurid. There's nothing on here that wouldn't get past a network censor in 2006, but even so the tone of it is kind of aggressively pornographic, so keep that in mind before you screen it for the youth group on Wednesday night at church. Also, stick around through the end credits! There's a teaser for the next film in the series that features an almost-blooper by Martin, who's clearly thinking "What in the hell am I doing?" that makes the preceding 90 minutes of cheeze whiz all the more worthwhile.
Murderers' Row (1966)
A sequel that's better than it's predecessor, though that's not saying much...
"Murderer's Row" is one of those rare sequels that's actually better than it's predecessor. That's not saying much, however, as the predecessor is basically a soft-core porn film minus the nudity. This movie is a step up in most ways, having better direction, a more coherent plot (Which is to say it has a plot, something the former film mostly lacked), and more interesting locations and subject matter. Certainly it's a far more 'watchable' film than the first one in the series, but as with all the Matt Helm flicks, it kind of falls apart in the middle.
Ann Margaret is drop-dead gorgeous in this movie, and very energetic, however the scenes of her dancing in a disco just go on way the hell too long, and the producers seem undecided as to whether they want her to be the love interest for Dean/Helm or if they want her to be a poor, innocent lamb that he rescues. (She has a boyfriend character who shows up awkwardly throughout the film, as if to point out that nothing is going on between the sex kitten and the dirty old man). Oddly, Helm has fairly few romantic interludes with women in this film, and aside from Ann, none of them really make much of an impression. This film seems to be going out of it's way to avoid being as unrelentingly naughty as it's predecessor. Ann's character herself is rather incoherent and implausible, there's not a lot of acting involved there, but she lights up the screen when she's on it. Karl Malden is fun to watch simply because he seems to keep forgetting he's foreign in the movie, and wanders in and out of a vague accent. Martin himself is more consistent in this film than in the previous one, and endlessly likable as ever.
There's something that should be really really cool in the last third of the film - a chase sequence between two (real) hovercraft, but, alas, it's shot so blandly (And without accompanying music!) that it just kind of kills all the energy in the film. This is strange, since it's obviously supposed to be the movie's centerpiece.
In essence this film is kind of an outgrowth of the Rat Pack's mostly-unfortunate habit of making what more-or-less amounts to "High concept home movies" and then releasing them theatrically. It's not bad stuff, it succeeds mainly on the amiability of it's stars, but after all is said and done you don't have much else to show for it.
Eyes in the Night (1942)
A near-classic film.
I'd never heard of this film, but discovered it bundled in with a lot of other 30s/40s B-movies in the "Mystery Classics" collection from Platinum Video. It's a surprisingly good film, really a near-great film that's hobbled a bit by it's middle act.
The first part of the film is really the only part that's a straight-forward detective romp, w/ a blind detective and his seeing-eye-dog and his hired muscle simpleton helping him sleuth out a fairly typical wrongfully-accused-murder plot. This part of the film is all golden, partially, I think, because the Detective's characters (All intended to be recurring characters in an ongoing film franchise that never quite got off the ground after this really good first chapter) feel like they have a past together, they feel like they know who they are, which is unusual for a potboiler of this era.
The second act resolves the murder a bit too quickly - in fact, it's never exactly resolved, the film merely abruptly changes focus from the detective et al to the murderers themselves discussing why they did it. This robs the film of most of it's dramatic strength, and essentially the middle act becomes little more than filler. It's entertaining enough filler - a sort of World War II version of "Wait Until Dark" - but it doesn't really advance the plot much.
The third act is the somewhat-rushed climax/resolution, though it features an unexpectedly cool shootout filmed in a very unusual style, and extended sequence with the detective's amazingly-well-trained dog. (Seriously, this dog is great! He could easily do his own taxes. He makes any other trained film dog - and really most trained film monkeys - look like idiots by comparison). On the whole, the film ends well, but it never fully recovers the momentum it lost by shifting focus in the middle, and as a result the final wrap up just comes across as slightly unsatisfying. It is, however, a more than satisfying introduction to what no doubt would have been a great detective series which, sadly, never really took off. I'm very surprised the concept was never revisited on TV or Radio, since the central character is endlessly entertaining.
One odd note: the ending feels a bit truncated, with some of the action happening off-camera. For instance, early on one of the bad guys is captured and held by the detective's men. Later on, we're shown the detective's men bound and gagged, the bad guy having evidently escaped. Later the bad guy reunites with his own people, but the transition is so abrupt that it feels like we're missing a scene or two. Also, there's a subplot in which the bad guys are hiding family information from one of their own people. This sets up what is obviously intended to be a major plot point, but, in the end absolutely nothing comes of it. Again, is this a missing scene, or simply bad writing? I can't tell.
Still and all, this is a near-classic film with a great character and some fantastic performances that unfortunately hobbles itself. Well worth a viewing, however.
Shalom Y'all (2003)
A funny, sad, touching, and interesting film.
This is just a great little documentary that I stumbled on to during my local PBS station's irritating, seemingly monthly pledge drive. If you ever get the chance to see it, I strongly recommend doing so. It's just a wonderfully funny, sad, touching, interesting, quirky little film that explores an aspect of the Jewish experience in America that seems to be mostly overlooked. (of course I'm not Jewish, so for all I know there could be scads of films like this one that I've simply never noticed before, but somehow, given the homogenious nature of the American Media, I doubt that.) Basically, the premise is simply this: there has always been a strong Jewish presence in the American South, dating from colonial days, and it's played a profound part in the development of the region and the country as a whole (The first Jewish senator, for instance, was from Florida in 1845). The film tries to examine what it means to be Jewish and Southern, and looks at how that differs from the Jewish experience in the rest of America. In some ways, it was easier - there seems to have been comparatively little antisemitism in the south, and - as they point out in the film - most southerners didn't care *What* religion you were, just so long as you were religious - but in some ways it was harder, too, as there wasn't a centralized enough presence for Jewish southerners to really define and reinforce themselves as they did in more concentrated population centers like New York and Chicaco. "There wasn't a Jewish community center on every corner," says one character in the film, and he's obviously both proud and sad of that fact at the same time.
Speaking as a southerner myself, it's refreshing to see a film where my own people aren't automatically made out to be screaming cross-burning racists and lunatics, and, on the whole, got along well with another race (For a change). It's also rather heartening to see how integrated into general society Southern Jews are. It's nice to see a positive side to race relations, to know that things actually can work out OK on occasion.
At the same time, there is a very bittersweet examination of the long, slow retreat Judaism has experience in the south since the end of World War II, as more and more people moved to the cities, causing the dwindling, and eventual extinction of the once-flourishing Jewish enclaves in places like Natchez, Mississippi.
Again, it's a fine film, and I can't imagine anyone not enjoying it.
The Wizard of Oz (1925)
This is a movie for laying down and avoiding!
What a terrible film! I should point out that I don't like the famous 1939 version of the film either. I am, however, a big fan of the 40 or so Oz books, and this film really has nothing to do with any of them! In essence, it's set in contemporary (1925) Kansas, and Oz is a modern country off in the third world somewhere. (It looks a bit like Russia). Dorothy was the heir to the throne, who was kidnapped by the prime minister as a baby and dropped off with the Gale family in Kansas. Eighteen years later, the Prime Minister is afraid she'll return to the throne, so he sends some goons to Kansas to off her. (They go by plane!) They fail owing to a tornado, and Dorothy et al end up in Oz, where she becomes queen, but the Prime Minister is still attempting to gain power. A whole lot of pointless and frequently racist slapstick ensues, when, unrelated to any of this, the Prime Minister is deposed, Dorothy marries a Prince of Oz, and lives happily ever after.
As inexplicable as all this is, it's even more inexplicably told in a series of flashbacks from a creepy 'grandfather' figure to a little girl; he's reading it from a book. There's no reason for this device, it's just one of a bunch of things they do in this movie to kill time.
What amazes me about this isn't so much that they took a beloved 26-year-old children's book (at the time) full of magic and wonder, and they managed to completely wrest any semblance of magic or wonder out of it. That's no mean feat, but they did it. It's as if someone made a movie version of The Bible "Without any of them thar' hokey miracles in it!" Seriously, stay away from this film. I was charged two dollars for it, and feel I got ripped off at that price!
Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980)
An odd little slice of time
Having only heard of Sun Ra from third-hand sources, I was interested to know more about him. This film from 1980 provides an entertaining but very superficial glimpse into his music (Which, even in the context of sloppy 70s Jazz meltdown stuff, is kind of annoying) and his odd little commune/cult of likeminded musicians and admitted disciples. I would have preferred more insights, frankly, and less music. It's not that the music was always awful - some of it is quite good - but it's less interesting than trying to figure out what makes Mr. Ra and his minions tick, what makes them devote themselves to him for years or decades at a time, when they could clearly find better-paying gigs in other bands. There's a charisma that's hinted at, but never really seen. Istead we get some brief talking-head interviews a few bandmembers, and a lot of shots of Sun rambling odd statements in front of the (Carter) White House, or in an Egyptian Museum Exhibit. Some of the stuff he says is interesting, such as "You can't have a department of Justice punishing people for doing wrong without having another department praising people for trying to do better," but if there's some kind of religious ethos or real beliefs underlying all this, we never see it. I feel a bit cheated by that. The closest we get is a couple scenes of Sun lapsing into an almost-smile-laugh thing which might mean that this is all a joke, or it might mean he's got a bit of gas. It's irritating not being able to tell which. Basically, if you can stumble across this documentary in Bealls Otlet for $2.99 like I did, it's worth a watch, otherwise, don't waste time trying to find it.
This movie used to show up a lot on Night Flight in the mid-to-late 80s, and I gave it a go since a lot of their stuff was avant garde or at least interesting. This was just space filler, however, not cheezy enough to be fun, not bad enough to be funny, not funny enough to be memorable, not anything enough to be anything. It gets some honorable mention points from me for a low-budget indie film attempting to be a period piece, but the story is utterly incoherent, the acting is entirely forgettable, and really, aside from them irritatingly running this on Night Flight 8 or 9 times a season when they couldn't find anything better to put on, I doubt anyone would remember it at all.
The Return of Captain Nemo (1978)
A merely-tolerable surrogate for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
I fondly remember watching this show when it first aired in 1978. I was very excited about it thanks to previews in Starlog magazine, and had been waiting for it for months. I videotaped all three episodes on my dad's Betamax. I was 11.
I enjoyed it, but even at 11 I was *very* aware that it was, at root, a retread of the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premise about a super-sub and it's super-genius owner/builder who save the world from certain annihilation every week. The sets were similar to Voyage ones, the feel of the show was similar, and at one point during a dive scene, we even get a few bars of the old Voyage theme music. I would not have been surprised if Admiral Nelson or the Seaview showed up at some point, it was just that similar. (And I later found out that the Nautilus miniature was actually a heavily re-worked Seaview miniature!) That said, it wasn't that good. I enjoyed it as only an 11-year-old weaned on crappy Irwin Allen shows can, but I was very much aware that it wasn't a really great show. It's about on par w/ some of the 4th season episodes of Voyage: watchable, but kinda' lame. Not only was it derivative of Allen's earlier work (And even managed to use a lot of stock footage), it had a strong dose of "Whatever people like right now" so you had shootouts very similar to the ones in Star Wars in corridors that resembled those of the Death Star, etc.
I'm a bit confused about the production, however: This aired as a 'series' that ran for 3 weeks, and wrapped up it's entire storyline. Years later, I saw it as a movie version that included - as far as I can tell - all of the 3 episodes of the series. I get the feeling this was perhaps filmed as a 2-hour-and-change movie, and then chopped into three parts to fill a hole in CBS' schedule or something.
I wouldn't mind watching it again, just to see how fuzzy my memory has gotten, but I didn't mind too much when it got canceled.
Partridge Family 2200 AD (1974)
Wow, this was bad.
In 1974, my family and I bought into the idea that "Rock and Roll" was inherently evil. I was 7, so I was easily sold on the idea, but I was typically drawn to the thing I was supposed to be repulsed by, and was always sneaking peeks at The Partridge Family (the live-action show). When I heard about this show - from an ad in a Richie Rich comic book prattling on about the virtues of the new CBS Saturday morning lineup - I was overjoyed in a pre-pubescently naughty way. I knew I could sneak peaks at the show without my family knowing about it, because who cared what I watched on a Saturday morning? No one. My own dirty little secret in waiting. Little did I realize how inherently lame and non-rebellious the 'live' Partridges were, but oh well. When the show actually came on, it was just terrible. So bad that even a seven year old was bored silly by it: there was no explanation as to why the Partridges were suddenly two-and-a-quarter centuries in the future, their world consisted mostly of old backgrounds and incidental music left over from the Jetsons, and it wasn't at all funny. I watched it once or twice, and then drifted away and forgot it even existed. In the early 80s it was briefly syndicated, and I watched about one episode, unable to get through it, and kind of embarrassed to remember how much I looked forward to it. As part of the inexplicable early-70s demi-trend of taking established properties and putting them in space for no good reason, this show ranks a poor second to "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space".
A step up, but not great.
Pokemon movies tend to be rather hit and miss. This one is one of the better ones. It's not truly compelling, like the 2nd movie, but it's an improvement on "Pokemon Heroes" and a vast step up from last year's "Jirachi, the Wish Maker".
Production design in the film is pretty impressive, and the city scenes are reminiscent of those old futuristic movies we were always seeing in 50s science fiction movies. Watching the backdrops is still more fun than watching the plot in this movie, but it's not awful.
There's one really neat scene of the 'block robots' using their own bodies to build a bridge to evacuate the city's civilians which is visually impressive.