Friday, 27 June 2008

Galactica 1980: The Return of Starbuck

I have almost nothing to add to what Heckler says about Galactica 1980[1]. What I'm going to talk about is the last episode of Galactica 1980, which, apart from it's framing, is actually more of an original Battlestar Galactica episode.

It begins with Doctor Zee, the Galactica's child genius, having a dream which closely ties in with his mysterious origin. It seems there was once a great warrior known as Starbuck who was lost when his ship was damaged in a fight with the Cylons. He crash landed on an uninhabited planet, which he named "Starbuck" and appointed himself President of. Bored, he finds a crashed Cylon ship and repairs one of the Cylons, who he names Cy. He convinces Cy not to kill him and teaches him to play cards.

Then it gets a bit weirder - a mysterious pregnant woman appears from nowhere, is silent for a week, then asks Starbuck if he would die for her. She reveals that she came from a "dimension beyond", and that the child is Starbuck's spiritual child. The kid is born and Starbuck and Cy stand as his godfathers, the woman (Angela, in a fairly unsubtle hint at her origins) says they need a spacecraft so Cy and Starbuck build one by sticking bits of the Viper and Raider together, then, as predicted by Angela, Cylons turn up. Starbuck sends Angela and the kid off, Cy shoots two of the Cylons, is shot himself and Starbuck gets the last one, leaving him alone with the dying Cy who describes Starbuck as his friend. Back in the framing story, it's revealed that Zee was found on his own in the lifepod of the Viper/Raider.

A swift look at Mormon beliefs leads me to note that Starbuck's drinking, smoking, gambling and womanising[3] aren't merely quirky flaws, but are actual sins. Here on the planet Starbuck he redeems himself by saving Zee and Angela. I note also that in Mormon theology, dead Mormons actively help God; we might say that they become angels. If I have a real complaint it's that this isn't The Return of Starbuck, other than within the scope of the story, it's actually a Farewell to Starbuck (Battlestar Wiki notes that it was originally titled "Starbuck's Greatest Journey", although a rubbish title, one closer to the actual events in the show)

There's one final thing to note - Zee, Starbuck's son, born of an angel, is clearly going to be the saviour of the human race (Zee, of course, is the last letter of the alphabet, indicating an ending - "I am the Alpha and the Omega"). He also has a Cylon for a godfather. What does this mean? Well to me, it suggests the ending is not victory, but peace. Sadly (or, considering the way Galactica 1980 was going, perhaps fortunately) we will never know.

Unless there's a spinoff from the new BSG, involving superpowered kids, flying motorbikes and time travel hijinks. Galactica 2010 anyone?

[1] I say almost nothing, but I'll point out that while those of us raised more or less as Catholics or Anglicans read Adama as Moses and the journey of Galactica's fleet as the flight from Egypt[2], Glenn Larson was a Mormon so it's more directly the journey of the Mormons from New York to Deseret (Utah). On the other hand, the Mormon leadership explicitly drew parallels between the flight out of Egypt and their own exodus to Salt Lake City. I'll be coming back to Mormon theology later in my review, although I'll note I've only read the most entertaining excerpts from the Book of Mormon so the odds are good that I will be very wrong. I should know better than to mix theology with liverwurst and buttermilk movie reviews.
[2] If only there were Ten Plagues, I could tie this into my reading of The Reaping.
[3] Do I need to note that Starbuck ends up with the traditional consequence of womanising - a child - by untraditional means?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Backdated Posts

Wew have plenty of other painful sci-fi to review here. The two series we finished before stratuing up this blog were;

Star Maidens - a 1970s social commentary on sexism


The Secret Service - a half live action, half puppet based sci-fi spy thriller with the best theme tune in living memory! (bear with it - it's worth it)

Reviews to follow!


Crime Traveller

It is almost inconceivable why this show did not get picked up for a second series. Crime traveller features police using time travel to solve murder mysteries (see what they did there?)

With episode titles like "Jeff Slade and the Loop of Infinity" and of course the unforgettable "Revenge of the Chronology Protection Hypothesis" this was surely a winner.

In fact - sadly - this show is actually complete and total rubbish.

Holly Turner, played by the classy and even modestly attractive Chloe Annett, has the use of a time machine invented by her father. I cannot even begin to describe this machine other than to say it is a conflagration of bizarre and cheap components and is built into the living room at Holly's flat. I don't know how an estate agent might describe the flat - maybe "bijou with surprising extra dimension to it"?!

The time machine can send you back in time by a seemingly random period - but in the episodes we have seen so far it doesn't seem to be much more than about 24 hours. Also - as the time machine is Holly's living room - you are presumably only supposed to leave and arrive points in time when you know you are not already going to be there.

This particularly so as in episode 4 Holly tells us that making eye contact with yourself from a different "time zone" could quite literally bugger up the entire universe! I don't see how you can really plan for this if you don't know how far back you are going to go and also as Holly and the male protagonist (of whom more below) MUST return to the time machine to be there at the exact moment they left. How then to avoid their own departing selves?

Anyway Holly works for the police as a "science officer" and seems to have whatever scientific looking miscellany the BBC had lying around when they filmed this. I've heard of forensic, ballistic and even scene of crime officers but never a police science officer. Nonetheless this introduces Holly to suave, smooth talking detective Jeff Slade played by Michael French. An actor whose acting has slightly less dimensions than Holly's flat.

Slade is a hard hitting unorthodox cop with a side line in terrible jokes. Here is another hard hitting unorthodox detective;

It's perfectly obvious that Holly and "Slade", as he is referred to throughout the series, fancy the pants off each other.

On the subject of pants and less specifically clothes in general Slade's wardrobe appears to consist of one pair of jeans, one yellow short and one suede look mustard yellow jacket which he wears in every episode. We're up to episode 4 and the only other outfit Slade wore was destroyed when he got caught in a fire (presumably they wanted to keep the yellow jacket et al*)

Anyway whenever a crime (this has always turned out to be a murder) occurs Slade immediately asks Holly to take them back in time to see who did it. In episode 4 Slade himself (having come back in time) nearly lands up caught and charged as the murderer.

The dimwit.

In episode 2 Holly is actually arrested for the murder of her aunt whose death she is investigating by coming back in time - she nearly doesn't get back to the time machine in time and thus allegedly trapped in the "loop of infinity" identified in the title to episode 1. I assume this is what happened to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day! Or anyone who visits Scunthorpe**

Anyway I don't know why they bother - it was made plain from episode 1 that they cannot actually change events in their own subjective past so , at one end of the scale, Slade's attempt to gamble using future knowledge leads to naught and at the other Slade only survives to travel in time to start with because Holly rescues him - unbeknownst to him - when she comes back herself. It seems then that the time machine only allows Slade and Holly Turner to see whodunnit and give you a headache about cause and effect! Importantly no murders are averted! It all seems an excuse to not do any proper detective work.

We have 4 more episodes of this to watch. I'm not sure I can stand it....

It would be a crime to travel to see this...


* - presumably in a time travel series, with an inherent risk of such things, it is easier to avoid continuity errors if your principal cast always wear the same clobber!
** - which I did a few months ago

My Take on Galactica 1980

Battlestar Galactica was a brilliant show!

It had all the classic elements of
proper sci-fi; i.e. strong characters with defining characteristics*, plots driven hard by the back story** and of course the sci-fi element of it being set in space with the bad guys being robots (cylons)!

Battlestar Galactica 1980 had none of this. In an ill conceived and budget driven attempt to maintain the success of the original series (which can still hold its own against many more recent series) BSG1980 showed us the Galactica and its rag tag fleet of refugees arriving at Earth only to have to send only two members of the crew and a bunch of aggravating children to Earth whilst the rest of the fleet arses about in space allegedly trying to draw the Cylons off.

The cylons - being the driving force behind the plot - actually only appear in three episodes, one being a two parter wher they appear to have advanced to the point where they can look human. By sheer chance in that episode, where the Cylons actually land on Hallowe'en, they are mistaken by some americans as people in fancy dress. In the other episode it is a flashback to a much earlier time and features Starbuck. That episode redeems the entire series only in as much as that none of its core cast is in it!

Worse still BSG1980 introduces us to Barry Van Dyke (son of Dick) and his hair.

Here's old Barry messing up another brilliant classic show (Airwolf) in the little known and unreleased on DVD final season where all the original cast have been replaced!

It seems to me that Barry's version of a colonial warrior (BSG's military elite) is as convincing as his father's cockney accent in Mary Poppins!

Oh and let's not forget the flying motorbikes (cue a cameo appearance by some people who look like they were in CHiPs). Sadly I can't find a clip of this.

All of the "best" of Galactica 1980 can be seen here - and even then it is too long;

In short - if you enjoyed the orginal BSG then you almost certainly won't like this. It sucks.


* - for example Starbuck is driven by passions for gambling, women, fine cigars and flying by the seat of his pants, Apollo is trying to be the galaxy's most boring fighter pilot and Adama is basically Moses leading his people from tyranny to a promised land - a shining planet called Earth
** - the last surviving humans from numerous colony worlds being driven hard across the galaxy dfrom a race of machines bent on destroying them

Friday, 20 June 2008

Movie Night: 20/06/08

Movie Night at Heckler's last night. Anything in quotes is from the show in question. Some parts got partially wiped out so I've reconstructed them [like this]. Here's what's on the Whiteboard:

From Galactica 1980: The Return of Starbuck
This will be the highlight of the series![1] What, the end of it?
"That was an unexpected move, he is a very good pilot"
"That is a small consolation, we are going to crash!"
[He's not] gone nuts, he's just amusing himself.
["We were] taking a vote and the ground come up and hit us."[2]
What did S___ look like in 1980.

An aside:
(Snake killing stick)

From Crime Traveller: Fashion Shoot
What? Me and Jack (sic) Slade having a cook off?
I don't care how [bad] the Dark Knight is, if we've just watched Batman and Robin, it will be fine.

From Batman Returns:
I was their number one son but they treated me as No 2.
"You can't have too much power, if my life has any meaning, that's the meaning"
"I'd like to fill her void"

Then we were distracted by a youtube video of Green Arrow and Black Canary which lead via an unexpected route to this comment:
Superglue chicken fillets to S___'s chest.

Back to Batman Returns:
Erogenous zones blown sky high.
That's the biggest parasol I've ever seen.

Crime Traveller: Revenge of the Chronology Protection Hypothesis
"There was nothing in the Guardian (laugh)".
"You're l[uck]y yo[u] don't take the [Gu]ardian."
"Malfunction in the gravity simulator booster circuits."
The Revenge of Chronology Protection Hypothesis.

In addition Heckler drew S___'s eyes and glasses, but then labelled them with a slang word for breasts, I described a spacecraft in terms not really suitable for this blog and for some reason the phrase "Heather Locklear in her bra and pants" all appear on the board.

[1] I thought I said "should", but Heckler had the board, so that's what was written. I'll go into why it should be better in a mini-review later.
[2] All quotes are from Cy the Cylon.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Galactica 1980: Space Croppers

The great blog Heckler and Kochk, our home for these many weeks. We have endured the wilderness of space. And now we are nearing the end of our journey. We have at last a review of some genuinely bad sci-fi.

Galactica 1980, originally a spin-off, later rolled into the main Battlestar Galactica syndication package follows the exploits of Troy (Apollo's son played by Kent McCord) and Dillon (Troy's sidekick played by Barry van Dyke) 30 years after the original series. The Galactica has found Earth, but the earthlings are too primitive to defend themselves against the Cylons, so the Galactica and it's fleet draw off the Cylons in another direction while various teams of agents try to help earth advance. Their methods of doing this involve hassling nuclear scientists, flirting with TV News reporters, travelling back in time to fight the Nazis[1], getting stranded on Earth with a bunch of kids from the fleet and using their flying motorbikes.

As well as flying motorbikes they turn out to be stronger than earth humans (due to a difference in gravity), and have invisibility bracelets and a lang-u-tron which translates English to whatever-they-speak in such a way as to create comic effect. Most of the jokes involve cultural misunderstandings between Dillon and Troy and the various Americans they meet.

Do I need to note that the main title sequence is from the original series with no footage from the 1980 series?

So much for the background, as Sun Tzu might say. Last week we watched the penultimate episode Space Croppers. Some of the plot and some of the footage is recycled from the original BSG episode The Magnificent Warriors. The Cylons, who it seems have been following the fleet to discover the whereabouts of Earth - and I'll come back to that point - get bored waiting and attack the one remaining agro ship. Troy and Dillon go to California, or possibly Texas, or conceivably New Mexico or Arizona, take a half share in a farm that's failing due to drought and unfair water allocation (due to prejudice against the farm's Hispanic inhabitants), grow a crop and seedlings to save the fleet from starvation and defeat the greedy, racist villains. The leader of the villains sees the ship that comes to water and supergrow the crops, as well as plant a colony on Earth and presumably recognises it from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Knowing that accusing them of being aliens would make him look nuts, he accuses them of being illegal aliens. He ignores the fact that the superscouts who've turned up to get the harvest in in time are almost certainly working in violation of child labour laws as well as being illegal aliens; since he's blatantly abusing water use law and regulations[2] maybe he's willing to spot them one labour law violation. Anyway everything turns out for the best.

Back on the movie night whiteboard notes post[3] there's a couple of quotes that illustrate some of the flaws. To repeat:

If I wanted crude artistic expression I'd watch your acting [Barry] Van Dyke

Troy and Dillon come across a scarecrow and attempt to work out it's use. The scene is not very funny, or well acted, and is over long. Dillon's final suggestion is that it's a form of crude artistic expression. Hence our-associate-who-I'm-calling-LeMat's outburst.

Are you suggesting some sort of Michael Bolton - Barry Van Dyke hair off?!
Adama is trapped in a 70s disco and can't get out!

By setting it on Earth, it looks very dated, which means when they create a funky control room lit by red strip lights it looks like a disco.

But this is all a natural consequence of what this series is: an attempt to continue the success of Battlestar Galactica on a smaller budget. What makes this episode really bad is the throw away line of the Imperious Leader which I'll quote here:

I'm growing impatient waiting for the Galactican fleet to lead us to the last outpost of humanity. Launch a full-scale attack on their agricultural ships. We must destroy their food supply, thereby forcing them to lead us to Earth.
What this does is convert the original BSG, all of it, all 24 episodes, into the Escape from the Death Star sequence. All of the struggles and sacrifices of the characters which we've been following are meaningless. They've not survived due to their own skill, daring and luck; the Cyclons let them escape to follow them to Earth, pressing them hard so they don't try and stop along the way, but not so hard as to make them turn and fight a final apocalyptic battle rather than be picked off one by one.

I'm really unhappy with that reinterpretation, but I can't see what other conclusion I can come to given what the Imperious Leader says. Still, at least it explains how they managed to fight off the Cylons by the skin of their teeth every episode.

Final thought goes to LeMat, who recorded this on the Whiteboard:
We nearly came a cropper with that one

My rating: Zero Rounds (for destroying my childhood memories of Apollo and Starbuck's heroism, it's a knife fight)

[1] If we believe Wikipedia, Donald Bellisario, then working with Glen A Larson, took the time-travel-of-the-week idea and turned it into Quantum Leap.
[2] Unless this is Texas, and water law hasn't moved on since it was used to drive conflict in one of many Westerns.
[3] Need a snappier name for that.

Bad Sci-Fi, Classic Sci-Fi

Last week John Scalzi's SciFi Movie column for AMC talked about why so many classic Sci-Fi films are actually bad films. Being limited to 800 words he barely scratches the surface (he expands some thoughts in the comments, and doesn't answer one question with the response "What? Tell you now and waste a whole potential column? Madness!", so hopefully he will come back to this theme). Which begs the question, is our focus on bad sci-fi in this blog and our viewing a reaction to the high levels of badness in the classics of the genre, or are we just so-bad-it's-good weirdos?

The crotchetyoldfan, who, not entirely coincidentally, is behind the Classic Science Fiction Channel my last post was about[1], talks about this column and SF films he's watched three times on his blog. If nothing else, there's several films I'd like to see and several more I'd like to see again I got from this.

Additionally, there's a point he touches on in passing, which is that the movie business marketing label "Sci-Fi" doesn't make a film SF. Related is the question that came up last week, namely is Hellboy a Superhero movie? An associate, who we may or may not be referring to as LeMat in these posts, said yes. The question is, if it wasn't from a comic book would it still be? (Of course if it wasn't from a comic book, the film would almost certainly have been very different).

Anyway, enough talking about talking about bad sci-fi - this afternoon I hope to get back to just talking about bad sci-fi.

[1] I'm clearing out my things to blog about list, so I can review the first two episodes of Crime Traveller before tomorrow's movie night.

The Classic Science Fiction Channel

So via Wil Wheaton and Boing Boing, John Scalzi's pimping thread[1] and our own comments I'm pointing out The Classic Science Fiction Channel website. Down the linked page is the creator's screed. Here's an excerpt:

I've been very disappointed by the so-called SciFi Channel since its inception. Like many others, I believed that I'd be able to tune in and regularly catch repeats of classic shows, great classic movies, some SF oriented 'made-for' content (coverage of conventions, literature, authors, etc) and maybe some original movies or series, carefully chosen to insure the preservation of the genre and treat it in a positive, perhaps even marginally experimental, way.

You can probably guess that's not what I got.

In the UK it's not as bad as the US where this guy is based. Indeed one of our associates[2], not a big SF fan, was introduced to Heroes by the SciFi Channel and leaped to it's defence. I have every intention of watching, reviewing, and, to a limited extent, enjoying SciFi's monster-of-the-week movies.

Here's the idea behind The Classic Science Fiction Channel - don't like what regular TV is giving you? Create your own virtual internet channel. Some of the stuff is on Hulu which doesn't let you look at it if you're outside the US (boo, hiss). Some of it is stuff that Heckler has already spent his hard earned pennies[3] on (a quick glance suggests that this very nearly corresponds with the Hulu stuff. Hooray!). Worse still, we have a pile of DVD's as tall as Heckler[4] to watch already, so getting on to this will take a while, not to mention that we'll have to ramp up our technical skills to make things on the computer appear on the big screen.

Nevertheless I heartily endorse The Classic Science Fiction Channel, which will get the Heckler & Kochk Seal of Approval™ and appear on our blogroll once I get around to setting it up.

[1] It's not as smutty as it sounds.
[2] Heckler, we should come up with a system for nicknaming other people. I note that this Wikipedia page may be of assistance.
[3] No, literally.
[4] 37 inches from muzzle to butt plate, since you ask.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Movie Night: 13/06/08

Last night it was movie night on Heckler's big screen. Here's the notes from the Whiteboard as it happened[1]:

From before we started
Drink all of S___ & V___'s booze.

From Battlestar Galactica 1980: Sharecroppers
If I wanted crude artistic expression I'd watch your acting [Barry] Van Dyke
Your frustration, hurt and disappointment are shared by J___ and I
Are you suggesting some sort of Michael Bolton - Barry Van Dyke hair off?!
Adama is trapped in a 70s disco and can't get out!
We nearly came a cropper with that one

From our main feature Ghost Rider
See those Blackhawks? They're down!

From Crime Traveller: Death in the Family (actual lines from the show)
Power surge in the photon generator![2]
Don't worry - it was just a light testicular blow.

Down at the bottom of the white board
Hector Alonzo
Misplaced apostrophe's

Proper reviews on these later.

[1] I've anonymized some names of real people
[2] Which I translated as "we need to change the lightbulb".

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Iron Man

So: Iron Man[1]. Being in that part of the Venn diagram where movies, comic books and Sci-Fi meet, this film has been much discussed in those parts of the internet I frequent. At Sci-Fi Weekly Wil McCarthy used his regular the-science-in-science-fiction column to discuss Iron Man back in April. (He gives the science a C-). More problematically, on another board someone noted that the film uses a trope known in the link as "What these people need is a honky"[2]. I note in addition that the invaluable Jim Henley has discovered some other concerns about having a rich white capitalist as a hero (his own excellent review is here).

So with all this informed commentary, what do Heckler and Kochk have to offer? What is our raison d'etre? Where is our unique selling point? Very well:

1. Theme Song. Iron Man doesn't have a theme song, which is why I came up with this one:

Iron Ma-an
He's the man,
the man with the Midas touch
An iron touch
Such a cold finger
Beckons you
Into his den of gin
But don't go in!

Sung to the tune of Goldfinger, preferably by Dame Shirley Bassey.[3]

Tim Walters responded to this with:

Iron Man, Iron Man
Does whatever an iron can
Presses shirts, any size
Sends them back Martinized
Yeah, yeah, there goes the Iron Man

To this tune, I'm assuming.

Of course the 60s Iron Man cartoon had a theme song - why didn't they try and incorporate it into the the film?

2. A Bad Joke whispered during the film:

"Is Tony Stark being ironic?"
"No, I think he gets Pepper to do his shirts for him"

3. I can confidently state that the terrorist group Ten Rings is familiar with neither Norse myth nor the A-Team. Anyone who was would know better than to lock an engineering genius in a warehouse with all the equipment needed to convert agricultural machinary into a cabbage firing bazooka in a cave and tell him to build weapons.

As for Norse myth, I'm pretty familiar with the Lay of Volund[4], and have even been known to tell a stripped down version around campfires, and the only way the references could be more obvious is if one of the terrorists had wandered in and said "Weyland Smith Hannibal Smith Tony Stark, this cunning weapon you're building for us isn't your revenge is it? It won't allow you to fly away on Swan's wings afterwards will it? Okay carry on."

Final Score: 8 rounds (I can't think of anyway to link the number 8 back to the film. Sorry.)

[1] Or as we refer to him "Gold-Titanium Alloy Man"

[2] Stark goes out to Afghanistan, has a moment of personal growth, escapes, and then comes back to defend the people. I note in mitigation that this is only part of Stark's story, rather than being the entire narrative.
[3] Potential Iron Man/ James Bond crossover - Gold-Titaniumalloyfinger with the sequel The Man with the Gold-Titanium Alloy Gun
[4] It's been out for at least 1100 years, so you've only yourself to blame if this is a spoiler for you. Here's Auden's translation.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Tin Man

Tin Man is a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. What it isn't is a straightforward adaption of the book[1], or the film[2], or even the other film[3]. DG, a feisty 21st century waitress, finds herself in the Outer Zone or O.Z. She meets a variety of companions including Glitch, who has had half his brain removed; Cain, a cop (known as tin men for the tin star they carry), who has been trapped in a metal coffin for years watching a hologram of his wife and son being killed and is consequently fairly heartless; and Raw, a hairy psychic who is generally afraid of stuff, as you might be if you'd been stuck in a dungeon and had your psychic essence sucked out of your head with a tube.

Oz, which was a bit clockpunk, has moved on into the 21st century and become the O.Z. and seems to have gone through steampunk and out the other side into a post-steampunk apocalypse (see this trailer). This, as you might expect, is due to DG's evil sister Azkadellia usurping the throne. She's planning to destroy the O.Z. during the double eclipse, but there's just one thing in her way; she need the emerald.

So anyway, the problems; the O.Z. looks a bit too much like every other Sci-Fi planet or fantasy land, for the obvious reason; it's shot in British Columbia like every Sci-Fi planet or fantasy land. Raw doesn't seem to have character arc to get back his courage (I may have missed this; it's over 5 hours of film). DG's father's name is Ahamo (Omaha backwards), but Zooey Deschanel pronounces this amusingly (as shown in this video).

Things that may or may not be problems: All the knowing nods to the book and the film ("Have a heart Cain", "Lions?" "Tigers?" "Bears!" "Oh my!" etc.) The full on love of Cain (he may be the title character, but does he have to be a hero at everything?). DG always happening to turn up in the right place at the right time (This is based on a kid's fantasy, but still).

Good stuff: When it looks good, it looks really good. The technology looks like it has the clockwork stuff from the books in it's DNA. DG has been prepared for the O.Z. by her father's stories so doesn't spend the entire time trying to go home, and is smart and sassy. Cain's gun, which solves several early problems lets them down. Cain is a real Gunslinger[4]. DG's relationship with Azkadellia gets more and more complicated as it goes on. It's three parts, so we aren't over cliffhangered; it's not crammed into 2 hours which would have been tragic, or stretched into 13 or 22 hours, which would probably have turned it into setting and problem of the week rather than having all the parts moving at once. And the flying monkeys are tattooed on Azkadellia's chest.

Final Score: Seven rounds (2 for each part, and 1 for the finale)

All the videos in one Oztastic player here:

[1] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L Frank Baum, 1900. Being out of copyright it is available from Project Gutenberg for free.
[2] The Wizard of Oz (1939, Dir:Victor Fleming) This is the famous musical with Judy Garland as Dorothy. Here's the trailer, which, I note, has several blatant lies in the voiceover. (Not the claim to Widescreen - that's true)
[3] Or other films as it turns out. Here's a couple you may or may not know of:

The Wiz (1978, Dir: Sidney Lumet) This is also a musical but has all different songs to the Wizard of Oz, and an all black cast including Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as the Wiz. No really and truely. It looks like someone has put the whole thing on Youtube, but I'm just going to link to this song Ease on Down the Road.

Return to Oz (1985, Dir: Walter Murch) Some suggest that this production was something to do with the preventing the expiration of the film rights, others suggest it was just the whole thing of Disney losing it's way in the mid-80s. Either way, here's the trailer. Note that there is a Scissor Sisters song of the same name, based on the Oz books, while at the same time being a remembrance of friends lost to drug abuse; it's an album track and doesn't have an official video, so here's a Doctor Who/Rose fan video with it as a soundtrack.

There's a list of other adaptions on the Wikipedia The Wizard of Oz (adaptions) page which does not half give the lie to the claim in the trailer to the 1939 film that " one has dared the towering task of giving life and reality to the land of Oz and it's people"; I count 5 attempts to put it on film, one of which failed. Also first published 1900, film in 1939; that's 4 generations of children?

[4] Inspired a little by Stephen King's Dark Tower series?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Heckler has missed his first deadline, and, if we'd actually discussed the blogging schedule of Heckler and Kochk before he'd gone on his emergency holiday to Turkey, he'd be on course to miss the second (in case you were wondering it's my intention to propose one update per blogger per week). So let's talk about things the two of us haven't seen together, and he probably hasn't seen at all.

Like much big screen serious Sci-Fi, Sunshine[1] (2007, Dir:Danny Boyle, Trailer[2]) is very silly, but looks fantastic. That's the gist of this Strange Horizons review by Adam Roberts, which I agree with almost entirely, so you might as well ignore me and read that instead. To take an example that isn't in that review, when there's a fire in the oxygen garden on their spacecraft, they flush it with oxygen to burn it out! I don't know, do they think they're the Human Torch, to whom every problem is a barbecue? Nevertheless the full sequence looks amazing.

Event Horizon takes the metaphor that Faster Than Light (FTL) travel leads to madness and chaos and takes it literally. There are scenes in Sunshine that hark back to Event Horizon (a deserted ship, people going mad), but a clearer influence is 2001: a Space Odyssey[3], in this case suggesting that the closer we get to the Unconquered Sun, the closer we get to God, which will inevitably drive some people mad.

Well blimey. Three films reviewed, two of them with religious themes. Still there's a difference in the way characters are brought to belief in Sunshine and The Reaping. In The Reaping God smites and creates flashy miracles, the sort of thing that the most hardened unbeliever wouldn't be able to ignore[4]. In Sunshine, it's the mystery and the luminous numinousity[5] of the Sun that brings people to the conclusion that we aren't just fall out from an uncaring supernova ("are we just spacedust?" I think is how they refer to it).

But I've probably talked about God in films enough. Next, let's see what the Sci Fi channel have done to a children's classic. There can't be any religion in a children's classic, can there? Can there?

Final score: 7 rounds (One for each of the crew, but lets Cillian Murphy survive to safeguard the future of the human race)

All 3 of the videos linked to in one handy playlist player below.

[1] Not to be confused with Little Miss Sunshine (a fine comedy) or The Sunshine Boys (which I haven't seen), both films that were on Sky the night I saw Sunshine.
[2] There's currently six different trailers in the first seven on this page (the number 6 spot has been taken by a Little Miss Sunshine Trailer) so if you're feeling up for a bit of trailer action go there and watch.
[3] With an homage to the famous airlock scene; I'll note that this film subscribes to the theory that the only good decrompession is an explosive decompression.
[4] A true sceptic (and I'm looking at one of you in particular here) might still entertain the alien or psychic powers theory, but the biblical god theory would be my leading candidate.
[5] Yes the entire point of this review is to get this phrase onto your screen (or "numinous luminosity"). That and the Human Torch joke.