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Robot Wars

I was at the original Robot Wars at Fort Mason San Francisco
This show angered me from the start, and the only reason I'm coming out of retirement to review this thing was because it took an all inclusive event started by an ILM employee, and turned it into this faux kid friendly event, complete with three or four supermassive "arena bots" that you could never beat because of the restrictions on design parameters.

I was at the 1995 Robot Wars, I was also at the 1997 Robot Wars where Bio Hazard took out everyone, even the much feared La Machine. I remember Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as the Master of Ceremonies, being freaked out by the 300 pound Snake-bot build by the guy who had built "the Master" the previous two years. I remember Joel Hodgson taking a dollar from the guy sitting next to me and trying to auction it off to the audience during down time between matches. I remember San Francisco's fire inspector looking none-too happy as he quite literally was inspecting the place (at some point it was SRO). None of the energy, none of the excitement, none of the engineering creativity that was at Fort Mason San Francisco from 1995 to 1997 was in this TV show. It simply wasn't.

What this TV show had was "Dave Lister" popping off smiles and kid friendly witticisms in a venue that was so restrictive as to be obnoxious. You had no chance of taking on the in show arena bots, even though that was part of the challenge. And you couldn't use any of the more effective techniques that were developed by the Fort Mason participants.

I'm sorry the creator of the event lost creative control. I'm sorry his idea got sold to some outfit in the UK that did a half baked high-restrictive version of the San Francisco competition. I'm sorry all that creative Bay Area and American energy got truncated in what seems like a revenge plot for the Revolutionary War. And, worse yet, I'm sorry the show got revitalized last year much to the chagrin of all.

If you see blurays or DVDs of this thing for sale, pass them up, and check out the American Robot Wars videos on YouTube.

Avoid this trash.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

The Last Film Review
Years ago a sound-man on a Sun Micro corporate video shoot gave me a phone number for a job contact up at ILM. Being a young sci-fi fan and a then aspiring film maker, I was a nervous wreck. I called the number, let it ring three times and then hung up, largely because I had very little technical training and didn't think I would be of much benefit.

After seeing Disney's take on mister Lucas's creation, I think I can safely say that that was a good decision.

This film is long. It's got tons of contemporary wit. Has several graphic novel (comic book) moments in it. And, most importantly, very much lacks the sense of wonder that everyone experienced back in the 70s and 80s with the first Star Wars' films--a thing that I think even the so-called prequels manage to keep in spite of suffering story shortcomings.

Films are meant for social inspiration, and this film departs from the predominantly white cast of the first films, and is a bit more all inclusive. That's a plus. Yet it feels ham-fisted to me. As if it was an afterthought to include African-Americans, Asians, Middle Eastern people, and whoever else, in the character line up. Personally, I don't care. Make the whole cast of mixed parentage from African Pygmies, Native Americans, Amazon tribes and Finnish and Russian for all I care, as long as it's a good story, but if you think that the fan who may have racist feelings is going to be suddenly enlightened, then you have another thing coming. In short, the benefits of a cosmopolitan cast, to me, do not outweigh an extremely iffy plot.

This film pays homage to The Empire Strikes back with several scenes that are lifted and yet re-arranged for this new movie's purpose (you'll note the space sequence and ground battle, reshuffled, as well as an "homage" to the showdown between Luke and Vader from "Empire"), but, unlike "The Empire Strikes Back"'s dramatic and operatic pacing and overall scale, we have a film that's driven by plot and subplot. Those of us who have seen and read the original Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers' serials, that would include mister George Lucas, there was larger edge to the story that made them grander than what they initially were; a relatively low budget series meant for boys and girls. "The Last Jedi" tries to placate to the Star Wars' fan, but doesn't understand its own roots other than what was produced in 1977 and afterwards.

An hour of this film could have been cut, and it's my personal opinion that the film was unnecessarily fluffed up or inflated for a distinct lack of good story material. "Empire Strikes Back" moves because each scene is pertinent, and moves the story forward for both the larger struggle in which the characters are involved, and their own personal struggles as they relate to the cause. That's what made those films so good.

The other real pitfall of this film is that we're never given a motive for the bad guys being bad guys. That is to say we don't know why they "turned to the dark side", unlike the nebulous yet rather emotionally found reasons explained to us in both Empire and Jedi. There's none the such given here.

There is one major positive about this film, and that is it reflects back on a message from the Hospitaller knight from Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven", and that is what matters is right action. But this is never really underscored nor pushed as a central theme, even though this is the key element around which the movie revolves. Instead the film meanders from one audience pleasing moment to the next, and never becomes fully realized.

I trained as a screenwriter, worked as a grip, stage manager, camera operator, and even just as a jack of all trades from the late 80s up through the mid 90s, a half hour south of ILM, wondering if I should have been really kicking myself for not taking that opportunity some three decades ago. Well, again, after seeing this film, I think it was the right decision. I can write a better movie. No joke. I can. Not that I would have ever had the chance to write a Star Wars' film, but to this end, and seeing this film in all its alleged glory, I'm glad I never worked on one. And, further, as much as I loved seeing Star Wars for the first time way back in 1977 on opening days, and subsequent re-screenings after that, I can truly say that this film epitomizes why I never became a fan in spite of being a dyed in the wool science fiction fan.

Thanks for reading.


What idiocracy is really about.
Luke Wilson represent the smart person with taste in a sea of tastelessness, and is so frustrated that he is hooked up with a woman of fiduciary virtue. That's all there is.

There's a plot about a dystopic future, there's a whole setting about how American's taste has bottomed out, everyone in the future has a double digit IQ, and, essentially, things are beyond bad.

It's a tasteless comedy meant for younger audiences, older high schoolers and post college grads who have yet to find their niche. The psychiatric formula in this thing is out of sociological-fear screenwriting 101, where sexual gratification is seen as cure all to "smart people's" ills, when, in fact, as per the setting and resolution of the plot, it may actually be the setting and other surroundings the subject is in that needs addressing. In other words, maybe the world is junk, but getting hooked up with a hottie isn't going to solve nor change that, nor even make it better until the world is de-junkified (to coin a phrase).

As a one time young budding screenwriter who's pulled back the curtain on a number of scifi films, as well as dramas, comedies and so forth, I think I can safely say that this thing is pretty tasteless, even though it reflects some of my outlooks in my younger days. Even so I can't say I liked this thing too much. It has a few minor highs, but the over the top nature of it reminds me of how tasteless humor came into vogue in the early and mid 1980s, and has come home to roost ever since.

Ergo, I don't think ti's a very good film, though the premise is certainly semi-interesting from a lay person's perspective.

I really didn't get anything out of it, and just thought the whole thing was abysmal in taste. The same film could have been made for all audiences and told the same message without crass and disgusting blue humor.

Lastly, this is probably my last film review. The IMDB has done its best to alter the format of their pages, effectively hiding what used to be showcased user reviews. I kind of know the reason, but will refrain from any commentary, just announce that I'm dissapointed with the decision, and, to keep it in vein with the spirit of the film, I feel like Joe Bauers as I sit here writing this last paragraph.

As for the film itself, eh, it's marginally interesting, competent on the technical level, but otherwise I'd skip it. There's nothing in this film that anybody isn't aware of, and, regrettably, misses an opportunity to cast a wider net to a larger audience. I mean, aren't films supposed to be inspirational?

There's no inspiration here.

Watch at your own risk.

Streets of Fire

Pure 80s.
I'm sorry, but films in the 1980s were pure entertainment. And by and large they were better than some of the offerings in the 70s, and certainly better than the films of the late 90s up to this day.

"Streets of Fire" is one of those "serious" films that you don't take too seriously. Like the copy says, it's a rock and roll fantasy. You'll go into this film and wonder where civilization went, and why the story and things in general unfold the way they do.

And that's your first mistake. You're just supposed to go along with it for the pure adventure. And that's what this film is, an adventure.

The cast is actually quite perfect for this, and it was cool seeing a YouTube clip and spotting Robert Townsend as one of the backup singers before he became a director in his own right.

The music is a kind of 80s take on traditional 1950s rock and roll, but with some modern and electronic flares.

The characters are from central casting, but work. The scenes are right out of Hollywood screen writing 101, but I think I remember my friend quoting director Walter Hill who said he wanted to put every movie cliché into this film. In an era of commercial film making when everyone was trying to top the other guy, when films like "The Right Stuff", "The Empire Strikes Back", and in particular for the year this film came out, "The Terminator", "Sixteen Candles" and "Ghostbusters" and others as the decade rolled on, it became harder and harder for film makers to top one another. But top they did, and Walter Hill really made a fine effort in showing what else could be done with commercial feature film making.

And it works. One scene rolls into another, and we're taken on an adventure that's familiar in terms of general theme, but has an added twist of a place far away and unknown in spite of being tragically familiar all at once. When you make a movie, you have to have fun doing it so the audience can have fun. It's grueling work, but you do it because you want to please the people who are counting on you to tell a rocking tale.

And that's what "Streets of Fire" does in spades. It's the kind of film that many a 1950's director, were they alive, would have liked to have made. It's that kind of movie. It's pure 80s.


Queen of Outer Space

Earthmen need women
A well meaning film that wasn't meant as a parody, but was shot with a kind of innocence of being self aware that the story was kind of silly.

Like with a lot of films of the era, I saw this during those lazy Sacramento days, probably during an afternoon showing on a local channel. As a kid I didn't get it, thought it was kind of silly, but it was still a "space film" so I sat and watched it.

It was then, and still is now, kind of boring, but it's got that slow paced campy look to it.

It's a fairly basic film with a "war of the sexes" kind of theme going on. It's certainly not great cinema, but it's got that kind of harmless "look at the hot women" kind of appeal.

Few cutaways, mostly master shots with anamorphic lenses, it's actually a rich film color wise, but otherwise it's just a real basic film meant for young men.

If you've seen the parody tribute "Amazon Women on the Moon", then you've essentially seen this movie.

In the words of Douglas Adams; "Mostly harmless..."

Three O'Clock High

Filled with high school clichés, this teen comedy is a bit more high brow and more aimed at post grads in college than actual teenagers still attending high school.

We follow the high-school adventures and misadventures who crosses paths with the local tough guy who's been to several schools with the goal of merely finishing off school. Not really a bully, but just your typical average tough guy who's learned to be though through a history we don't know about. Regrettably for our protagonist he becomes the unwilling champion of the school and school system who have confronted and had to deal with said tough guy throughout the years.

Like I say, it's a bit smarter than your usual teen-comedy romp, which usually has a lot of body function humor and sex gags, if not actual sex in some way, shape or form in and of itself. The audience is for the slightly smarter student who's had to confront the school tough guy in some way shape or form.

It's a fairly smart film with lots of high energy shots and few comedic bits to keep it light in spite of the impending confrontation as the title suggests. I remember the promos, but missed it when it hit the theatre, and instead was guided towards it by people I knew. I caught it on HBO, and the rest is history.

It's not really a film I connect with on any level, but it's got a certain charm to it that makes it watchable. See it once.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A couple of over-confident 20-somethings exchange zingers in this lavish comic book adaptation of the same, only this film uses live actors instead of either CGI or traditional cel animation for what, if the producers had gone that route, might have been a more forgivable film.

As I've stated on other forums, I just don't get why today's scifi genre placates specifically to pre-teen boys. I really just don't get it. From the cinematic junk pile we get "Green Lantern", "Aliens versus Cowboys", "Guardians of the Galaxy", and now this trash.

Yes, junk, garbage, trash, raw sewage, all these terms describe what the current scifi genre has been transformed into courtesy of the marketing machine that are Hollwood corporate studios.

I remember seeing original 1977 Star Wars as a pre-teen way back when. And I remember how it hit society because it wasn't just for kids, even though George Lucas said he had made it for 12 year olds. But the film had enough maturity and artistic gravitas that people flocked to see it again and again. Families loved it. Boys and girls loved it. Young teens and college age young adults loved it. Parents and single adults loved it. It had that kind of appeal.

But Valerian is just another tragic cog in the splashy high-budget crap of SFX CGI extravaganzas that have been pumped out in the last twenty-plus years. Star Wars this isn't.

Luke was confident and cocky in his own way, but not overly so. He was taking his first steps into a larger world, to paraphrase Obi Wan. But Valerian? It's like he's too smart for his own good, but still can't think his way out of a situation.

The romantic subplot doesn't mix in well. You know the two are an item, but so what? What difference does it make? It doesn't. And no military in its right mind would let a romantically inclined couple go on a mission together. It's another marketing tool that just adds to the reek of this film's stench.

On the plus side the amount of artistry and production values injected into this film are outstanding. Truly I mean this. This film looks gorgeous. The backgrounds, the aliens, the city-scapes, and just everything in total are vast, detailed and impressive. Visually it is a very sumptuous film. But that's all the good you can say about it.

As usual the military aspect is overplayed, and the military types are just bursting with esprit-de-corps as well as being dressed in some pretty corny uniforms. But hey, it is a film meant for newly minted teens, and not really adults. Still, when I was a kid I liked seeing real people portray real military types, not some director's interpretation of what he thinks military men and women say and do.

I remember classic films like "The Front Page" with Cary Grant and Rossylin Russel. Their machine-gun-dialogue had more wit and intellect, and was delivered faster, than the "we're an item" lines given the two actors in this piece of trash. If you want to make a smart film, then make a smart film, don't fill it with high-school level language, high-school wit and teenage put downs.

Yes, again, I know this film was meant for young people. And specifically un-educated young people who want to see fancy colorful splashy stuff on the big screen. But you know what? So did I as a kid, and the films I saw as a kid hold up better than Valerian. I just wonder why that is.

Valerian suffers from the same story short comings of "Blade Runner 2049" in that the entire story feels like one giant graphic novel. It's got that level of intellect going for it. Put in a lot of pretty things, make the audience think it's seeing something deep and profound, and let the story roll even if there is no substance.

I just don't get why someone can't make good scifi films that are smart, intelligent, and can entertain everyone. Why don't they make those films anymore? I don't get it.

Avoid this thing.

Heart Like a Wheel

Decent biopic about a woman racer.
This was another HBO-fodder summer movie that I would catch either after school or on the weekend. I don't remember too much about it other than it was exceptionally well shot, had some A-list talent in the cast, and it reminded me of my time at the local raceway.

It's a bit of a slow movie, some drama that may or may not have taken liberty with Shirley Muldowney's real story, and overall a bit of a sleeper of a film. I don't recall it getting a lot of promotion on TV before it hit cable, and to be honest I don't recall it ever playing in the local theatres. But it was a decent enough movie to see once or twice.

The 60s and 70s was a time when the women's movement was trying to re-assert female participation in what had become largely a male only world. The film shows some of the sexist barriers she faced, and her interpersonal struggles with her own crew and competition.

I can't say I was a big drag racing fan, and I didn't know too much about her until I saw the movie. The film helped bring her to the fore front for a brief amount of time to non-drag racers (though you did hear about her on occasion on the radio).

The film itself has that mid-range budget feel. It's a bit raw, but still has a good professional gloss to it.

Check it out.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Before the X-files
I've reviewed TV series in the past, but typically only if I find something interesting about them. So it is that I think this show is interesting, but for a different reason.

A lot of sitcoms and dramas have sociology implications. The idea being that we absorb impressions and regurgitate them in real life. Eh, that's true sometimes depending on who we are. And the reason I like this show is because it's good old fashioned story telling.

Kolchak is a reporter in a world where ghosts, spirits, and other supernatural phenomena are real, and he must contend with a hot headed reporter and a police chief who thinks he's off his rocker.

"The Night Stalker" doesn't have any agenda of addressing social issues like poverty, race relations, social stigmas, domestic abuse, or whatever. I'm glad we have those shows, but it's like these days you can't get away from that junk, and "The Night Stalker" comes from an era when you could tell an old fashioned ghost story without needing to put in some marketer's agenda.

It's not a fancy show, but it's got a good amount of suspense and thrills. It can be over the top here and there, but it's also grounded. Like a former producer or director of the series said in an interview "In those days, we just did it!" And he further went on to say "These days, everything has to be developed..." And I think he's hit the nail on the head of why we don't get better films and TV, and "The Night Stalker", even though its run was brief, was very successful.

And it wasn't scary as such, but just highly suspenseful and kept your attention. I mean okay, it deals with ghosts and other stuff from folklore (vampires and such), but it's a good suspenseful series showing how one reporter fights to get the truth out to the world and deals with threats from "the great beyond." Really a fun watch. I'm glad it's on DVD.


Blade Runner 2049

Not that good
This film is not that sophisticated. It's pretty low on scifi film IQ scale. And yet there were people applauding the thing when it ended last night at the San Francisco Meteron.

Anyone who read comics in the 70s and 80s will recognize the plot points in this film, and will know just how cliché and predictable this film was and is.

A "cop" going after a rogue AI. Okay, fine, but wasn't the whole idea behind Replicants from the first film was that they were sociopathic, and that after a while they developed emotions they didn't know how to deal with? That's never really explored in this film, but it's kind of implied that you have some kind of loose knowledge of this in order to understand (so to speak) some of this film's story's basis.

Truly this film's basic tale comes out of the graphic novel boom of the late 1980s, when the audience who read superhero comic books were holding onto their childhood icons and continued to buy more of those publications. The producers of said material put out more comics with slightly more sophisticated or adult material (and no, I don't mean sexually explicit, just stuff that had romance with some sex hinted at). That's pretty much all this movie is, and with a villain who is pretty cliché and one-dimensional.

I could hit on this thing scene by scene, and break it down as to just how predictable and actually unintelligent this film is, but I'd probably violate the "don't tell" rule.

This film puts on the pretense of being high-minded, but is just fairly slow. And even the "big finale" wasn't much of a surprise, again as if Frank Miller or one of the other noted comic book authors had written this film. For anyone who's read his work (say the "Dark Knight" series from the late 80s), you'll know what I mean when I say that this new Blade Runner puts on a presentation of being about more than what it actually is.

Little of the important matters are resolved in the end, and all you get is this very female oriented payoff at the end of the film. Science Fiction is supposed to be about ideas, ideals, and the such challenged with radical changes in society and technology. That's what films like "Planet of the Apes" or "Outland" or any of the classic 1960's Star Trek episodes are all about. If you want to tell a soap opera, then go see one of the old standbys like "General Hospital" or "As the World Turns", but leave my genre alone.

I truly wish I could write and say more in this review, but again I'll get slapped by the powers that be for potentially ruining the film going experience for anyone inclined to go anyway after reading what I've written here.

Oh Roger Ebert, where are you when we need you...

Babettes gæstebud

Another philistine review.
I remember grabbing this thing from the foreign film section at the local Blockbuster, seeing the accolades on the DVD cover, reading the captions on the back of the box, reading the plot summary, grinning, and then renting it.

Well, "The French Lieutenant's Woman" it ain't. As like a lot of foreign films out of the 80s it was meant for a 40+ and older crowd. And not to sound too cliché nor to put to fine a point on it, but I got that. And yet when I watched it I was not drawn into the story in the least.

The concept of how French cuisine can curb and soften the Danish religious moral fiber, to me, is boring in concept and execution. And boy did this film deliver on both.

If you're going to make this kind of movie, and hope that accolades heaped on it will not be from a kind of incestuous older crowd of film critics, then you do need to *ahem* "spice up the film", so to speak (pun intended). Babette was not dynamic in the least. The villagers were cliché inbred small town types, only with European heritage. And the grand finale at the end was typical of so called high minded art for the masses (read that as poor story concept dressed up as finely shot film and fobbed off as great art).

And when I saw the big buildup to the grand finale, I just stared at the screen with a cool level gaze, wondering how anybody raised the cash to shoot this thing.

Breaking religious taboos with food is interesting on paper, but this is the kind of concept that needs a short made of it first so that it can be developed. Because as it stands now it's the proverbial boring foreign (French/Danish) film. And sure enough, when it was over, I think I popped in Star Trek II the Wrath of Kahn or possibly a Kurosawa samurai actioner. Babbette's cooking didn't agree with me.

Shots of food being made, inane conversations between the characters, an amount of intrigue that simply is unbelievable about a single Gallic female cook, and of course, the actual meal itself whereupon religious notions and taboos are busted wide open (allegedly).

Do your brain a favor and rent something else.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

What Superman 4 is really about
Superman 4 is about a man suffering from bipolar disorder, psychiatric strategy used by doctors to get a patient to regurgitate some inner hidden thought that's bothering them, or, failing that, to get them either hooked up with a female who is probably a prostitute and will pass on whatever she discovers to both the doctors that hired her and law enforcement.

So it is that we get a real contrived plot of the man of steel ridding world of nukes. Eh, well, okay, but if you were a military with a stockpile of ICBMs and there was this all powerful flying guy hanging around, how would you go about guarding your weapons? That's a major plot hole.

The film is respectfully well shot, but the psychiatric story needed to bring in someone that Reeve's character could fight. So we get this very contrived villain who is very wooden and melodramatic, even for a comic book villain.

And that's pretty much the gist of Superman 4. It's an awful film for many reasons, and one of them being to make sure any Superman would- be heroes in the audience have their psychology put to rest in terms of Kal El like heroics or aspirations thereof.

And this is the thing that gets me, here the usual suspects who produced these films have a real chance to create something that people'll like, and instead decide to close the chapter on the series with a lackluster installment. Just once can't producers end a series on a high note? Lucas and Spielberg both showed it can be done. And yet we gets films like Superman 4.

Oh well.

So that's Supes-4. Take that for what it's worth. Just as with Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy or Woody Allen's "earlier funny ones" (movies), so it is that the consensus of the Superman films with Chris Reeves is that the first two are good, the two followups are less than lackluster.

Personally I think this thing and the previous film with Richard Pryor are an abysmal joke. I'm sorry Reeves and the rest of the cast got put in these films. Oh well.

Unhook the Stars

Kind of interesting
The story of an older woman who realizes that she has a life to live. I rented this from Blockbuster ages ago not knowing what to expect, and to be honest it's about what I expected. Lots of interpersonal clichés regarding how to live your own life and not be someone else's slave. It was in the comedy section, or so I recall, so I took a chance on it.

It's mildly amusing, and actually somewhat revealing about parents' attitudes towards their offspring, and also some hard truths about humanity and how we codify our basic desires to try and put some stability on ourselves, but then wind up causing more problems in the long run.

I can't remember too much more. Not a film I'd recommend for males nor even the family. Still, it was interesting for what it is.

Sweet Dreams

Good biopic.
I saw this on HBO and thought it was pretty decent, if somewhat brief. It was one of many biopics to hit the theatres in the 80s, and this one wasn't that well known. However, it saw a revival when it hit HBO.

I can't remember too much of it other than I wasn't sure that Jessica Lange was the right actress for the role. Even so the film is kind of endearing. How much if fact and how much is fiction I don't really know, and is probably a job for an actual documentary on the singer's life.

Pretty good production values, well shot. If you're a Patsy Cline fan then give this a shot.


Real Genius

Good film.
This is probably the best of the three big "science" films that hit the theatres in the summer of 1985. Well shot, lots of production values, and just fairly epic in scope compared to the other two films ("My Science Project" and "Weird Science"). The film focuses on a real dilemma some students who major in the hard sciences find themselves before or during graduation. If their genius is recognized, then they might be hired or otherwise lured to work on research that may have consequences.

There's wit, there's romance, there's intrigue, there's a kind of "legendary" status injected into the film in the form of a character who reminds me of many a former student burnout that hangs around the outskirts of the UC Berkeley campus.

I remember the making of documentary for this movie, and being curious about all of the strange stuff they were doing to get the film accomplished. It made me want to see it, and when I did I was genuinely entertained.

A recap, "My Science Project" was an adventure film. "Weird Science" was a comedy for teenage boys. "Real Genius" was truly a film about university science students with a moral and genuine humor. And I guess that's why I tend to remember this film over the other two. There were one or two other minor players in the student genre that year, but again this film had them beat.

Well shot, well acted, good production values, if you need a nostalgia blast in the science student genre, give "Real Genius" a try.


Death Becomes Her

Weird film.
I broke down and saw this after hearing a lot about it for about a year. I kept hearing how uproariously funny it was. I shrugged my shoulders at it. It was amusing, or rather the premise was amusing, but I didn't get what the humor was in mutilating people who should have died. It just didn't register with me as being funny.

I could get all high and mighty with a deep intellectual analysis of the humor, but I'm not going to. I just thought it was a strange film, and to this day I still get the humor. I mean, I do, but it doesn't strike me as being funny.

So me it's a pretty forgettable film. I think violent slapstick seen in cartoons ought to be left there, because to me this film in addition to be weird, is also kind of disgusting.

I recommend you avoid it, but if you like sick and twisted macabre humor, then check it out.

Weird Science

"It's done out of love..."
Sayeth the older big brother to the creation of two young men who have decided to create what they think is the ideal woman.

Another strange comedy to come out of the 80s that has elements of crude and violent humor, as well as more traditional silliness. This film was a little more grounded compared to "Real Genius" and "My Science Project"--the two market competitors--and has some actual funny moments in it.

The film is more geared towards satisfying teenage boy fantasies, and both the very popular Anthony Hall and Smith give pretty good comedic performances as they parade the also very popular Kelly LeBrock to the other characters.

I have to say that it was an okay film, and as a member of the target audience for the time, I'm perhaps remembering it with rose colored glasses. It's not a memorable film (that award would go to "Real Genius"), but it has a kind of immature entertainment value that was right for the time.

Either way it's not a film I'd go out of my way to see again. It might be worth a night's rental for those of us who grew up in the 80s.

Take that for what it's worth.

Return to Oz

I remember Siskel and Ebert trashing this movie, saying how dark it was and all that. After seeing it for the first time I'm not really sure what to say about it.

It's certainly not the same kind of Oz film with Garland, Bolger and gang, and there certainly aren't any musical numbers is in it. The characters look like those from the old classic Oz book covers, and that's about all can be said in terms of characters.

Technically it was well shot. There's a kind of seasonal or Fall visual look to it, lots of overcast and diffused lighting, even at the end. The little girl that plays Dorothy certainly doesn't look like Garland, but seems to do a pretty good job with her role.

I think the director wanted this film to appeal to both boy's and girls, and so he made a film that put Dorothy in a lot of dangerous situations with potentially scary adversaries. Did he succeed? I don't know, you'd have to ask anyone who was a pre-teen male at the time.

All in all it's an interesting effort. I think there's a more uplifting film to be made. One without all the hints at electroshock therapy in the beginning, and perhaps something a little more grand in scope, and again, perhaps a little lighter in tone in terms of both visuals and story execution.

If you have any concerns about your kids seeing it, watch it first while they're at school, and then decide for yourself. I think they'll be fine with it, but again I think it could have been a better film.

Just me.

Captain Cosmic and 2T2

"'s a giant chicken hawk! No, it's Captain Cosmic!"
More fond Bob Wilkins' memories from ages past. Wilkins' kept his understated persona behind this getup, but his unmistakable voice and mannerisms gave away his secret identity as he presented many scifi shows, mostly from Japan, although I think the animated Star Trek series may have had a run.

You know, I still have my Captain Cosmic Godzilla Fan Club membership card somewhere in the junk drawer archive locked away in storage. And it's no wonder, as per the other reviewer Wilkins showed "Spectreman", "Space Giants", "Johnny Soko and his Giant Robot", and of course, "Ultraman" with Hayata as the star who could change into the giant superhero with his beta capsule. It was a great time to be alive.

To be fair I had actually seen Ultraman and Johnny Soko in Sacramento before moving to the Bay Area, and Johnny Soko actually skews to a much younger demographic than your almost-pre-teen ten- year old. But showing boys and girls how science and technology can fight monsters, and having it presented to American audiences by the likes of Wilkins as Captain Cosmic, was a real treat.

I remember Wilkins interviewed Anthony Daniels (C3PO of Star Wars' fame) in both Berkeley and San Francisco, and had him on the Captain Cosmic show. And I remember seeing extended footage of the asteroid chase sequence from the Empire Strikes Back. Footage that has not seen the light of day since (if I understand correctly, Lucas may have been a Creature Features fan). That's the kind of show it was.

It was campy, it was low key, it was meant for children or the young at heart, and of course, who could forget his green slow servo moving pal, 2T2, who took several seconds just to take one step and is now forever restored and preserved at that comic book store in Santa Cruz that Bob used to mention every so often on his show (I went one time, and rain was coming through the roof, but Captain Cosmic gave the place his personal stamp of approval).

I guess the reason I'm writing this commentary is because Wilkins and the rest of the gang who helped produce the show were aware that the show was self aware of itself, and that kids (even the dumb ones) knew who he was, but that was part of the gag, reinforced by the cheap SFX used in the intro. That was part of its charm.

I didn't always watch it. There were some non-action shows that Wilkins' aired, and I think "Space Giants" got pre-empted every now and then after cable came to the peninsula because some station in Atlanta Georgia that had a national reach via cable was airing it at the same time. But Hyata, Johnny Soko, Goldar, Silvar and Gam, Rodak and all the rest made for some really good boyhood memories.

If you get a chance, scope it out on one of the online video sites and relive some memories, if only briefly.

Good memories. Thanks Bob.

Enemy Mine

Okay sci-fi romp.
I'm not a huge fan of this film, and I'll try and be as objective as possible here. I think it's an okay sort of run-in-the-mill movie that was striving for more, and probably hit a few chords with die-hard "watch anything" science fiction fanatics.

It's reasonably shot, but has that 1980's Hollywood gloss to it that's somewhat reminiscent of the look for Spielberg's films; lots of light and colors. Which I think is okay, but for some reason the film doesn't hit me as being too interesting. It's interesting enough for what it is, but it's not a film I have in my collection.

Quaid and Gosset make for an interesting duo, but Star Wars this movie isn't. The thing that strikes me about this movies is that Gosset isn't alien enough, and how the two characters develop strikes me as being Hollywood being Hollywood. Two different species probably wouldn't get along so well, much less be able to communicate so easily.

The other thing is that the film has a very studio look to it. A few location shots out in the desert someplace would have helped this film a great deal, as well as perhaps tweaking the script some. That is to say the premise is interesting enough, but I don't think the film went far enough to make the social rift between two species alien to one another more apparent. I could geek out on it, but I'll refrain.

All in all it's okay for what it is, but I think there's a better scifi film to be made.

Take that for what it's worth.

Young Sherlock Holmes

Decent film
If Indiana Jones met Sherlock Holmes, this is the movie you'd get. There's shades of Spielberg's and Lucas's "Temple of Doom" movie in here, and the film has that Spielberg gloss.

There isn't too much sleuthing here so much as old fashioned adventure, but it's a decent Victorian era yarn all the same. You get the sense that Basil Rawthbone would grin if he were alive to see this, as well as mister Doyle--author of all.

I seem to recall that this wasn't as big a splash as it might've been when it hit the theatres, but having seen it after all these years I think it holds up.

A good action-adventure Sherlock Holmes style. Check it out.


Sliding to disaster.
Like the other reviews stated, good in the beginning, then abysmal later on.

Film and TV are formulated to help us look at ourselves, and not really so much the pure creative pieces of visual art as Hollywood would have us believe.

So it is that one wonders why the show changed. The first couple of seasons were highly inventive, and then around season three things really took a turn for the worse, I'm guessing there was an effort to cut costs; i.e. stop shooting on location in San Francisco, and maybe throw in some repeatable elements to further cut costs (introduce a returning villain so the group can revisit worlds to cut down on production costs).

The result; a disaster. I saw the first several episodes of Season One, then got busy and only saw a few episodes of Season Two, and then when one of the "returning villains" first reared their head, I completely tuned out the show.

The first couple of seasons were about parallel Earths, and the main characters visiting the such. The rest of the series became about "fighting the bad guys", and the uniqueness of the show just lost whatever shine or attractiveness it ever had. In short, it became a junk show, and there was only one character left who had been completely turned around from what he was supposed to be.

It just strikes me as odd. I mean has any TV series improved and been prolonged by a cut in budget or with cost saving elements introduced into the production? Did original Star Trek in the 1960s see a full five year mission? Did Spielberg's Amazing Stories continue for a third and fourth season? How many non-sitcoms went onto legendary status because of budget cuts? How many improved or lasted with renown because of budget cuts? None, really.

So, that's pretty much all there is to it. Even Babylon-5, for as much as I disliked the show, really didn't drop off in terms of show quality. But Sliders, which was made around the same time, just essentially disintegrated. All you can do is shrug your shoulders and forget about the poor stuff.

I mean, think about it, there was no series finale. There was only one character left from the original cast. And no one ever got home.

I mean there are more reasons for the show's ultimate demise, but those were the big ones, and as a result we get this saga that started out strong, but then became something completely unrecognizable, and essentially garbage.

See the first couple of seasons, if you must, then move onto something else.

Amazing Stories: Lane Change
Episode 13, Season 2

As I've been watching this series over the last few weeks it seems like the second season of Amazing Stories had some budget cuts. The first season had some real top notch production values; filming inside a B-24 liberator, a train barreling into a house, SFX shots, animation, and all kinds of stuff.

This episode, and in fact all of season 2, scaled back on the sets and other visual artistry. Even so some of the stories are still pretty good. This one falls into a mediocre area in terms of production values. But the story is kind of interesting.

Two women, one familiar with the other, helps the other work through some issues, and as per the trademark of this series there's a supernatural element to it. And I guess that's the thing that gets me, is that this episode could have used a shot in the arm in terms of production values.

It's a bit of a talkative episode, and it somewhat tested my patience, but otherwise it's an okay story.

Not sterling material, but worth a look.


Kind of strange
I'm not the best screenwriter in the world, and I've often wondered what the criteria is to get something financed and shot from a major studio. And even though I'm not the best writer, I think the concepts I have are solid. So, imagine my surprise when late night on HBO I see some film about a "bike gang" (of sorts) going around doing Chaucer.

The thing is meant to mimic and otherwise mirror social groups that have a leader. It's more social psychology, only dressed up with motorcycles and high middle ages armor and costume.

Me, personally, I could take it or leave it ... I chose to leave it. It's not a bad film, and in fact is quite professional looking. It's just an oddball film, probably based on some dude who had read Mallory or some such and, in fact, was the leader of a bike gang.

If nothing else it'll kill an hour and a half, but there are better films out there.

They Call Me Bruce

"Me neither..."
I liked Johnny Yune, but it was the early 80s, and even though the likes of Bruce Lee had helped break some of the racial barriers, Yune and other Asian entertainers still wouldn't quite rocket to stardom, no matter how fun the film.

This is a pretty decent film, though there is some nudity and swearing, so it's not really a family film as such. And, as a 30 year vet of Tae Kwon Do I did borrow one or two of Yune's moves the first time I sparred. My instructor didn't think much of it (but I digress).

Drug running, mafiosos, an immigrant Asian on a quest to search for a special lady in New York. This film might have been his vehicle to stardom, but I only ever saw him in one other film after this, and that was the sequel to this very film. So, unlike the associate producer's comment in "The Canonball Run" DVD commentary track, Yune did NOT make it big, though I always appreciated his humor.

I'm not sure what else to add here. The film looks a bit old and has a slightly dated feel. And like Jackie Chan's film the martial art's sequences are typical Americanized slow and relatively un- dynamic compared to the their Asian counterparts.

The other thing is that it is a bit low budget. It doesn't have the gloss of Jackie Chan's film, largely because Yune is more of a standup comedian in spite of whatever martial arts' training he may have. Even so, for a martial arts' comedy film it's okay.

Maybe see it once and give it a shot.

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