Baseball and sci-fi

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It may be the great American past time, but it doesn’t always lend itself to science fiction. Normally when you think of sports in sci-fi it’s well some sort of a twisted version of a more violent sport. You know something lethal or potentially so. I guess that says the writers of those films didn’t have a great view of humanity although there always been an audience for violent games. With that last part in mind there doesn’t seem to be place for baseball in the sci-fi realm unless time travel is involved or they just take parts of the sport and use it in a different way. Maybe the games slow pace and generally non-violent action doesn’t lend itself to the genre. Whatever the case I was able to scrape up enough baseball oriented episodes this week and there is still one more coming up on Saturday.

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1980’s science fiction action films

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So it’s 1980’s sci-fi action film week here at my blog with two reviews down and two more to come. Having been born in 1970 I was growing up in the 80 and spent my teens in that decade so I watched a lot of films. I was already into science fiction by the time the 80’s rolled. Sci-fi films from other decades certainly had action, but the action genre got bigger and more spectacular plus even more over the top in the 80’s. Other genres like sci-fi caught on to that trend and brought some of those elements into science fiction films. Films like Predator, Road Warrior, Escape from New York and many others had sci-fi elements like future dystopias, aliens and other ideas as the heart of their plot. Yet brute force, weapons and explosions became important means to solve these situations. The best films of this style managed a certain balance between plot, action and some type of thinking to accomplish getting past the hurdle of the story. However like any other decade there were film makers with less money and less ideas that wanted to cash in so we got a lot of cheaper copies through out the decade too. That can be fun to an extent. Any of you that are of a certain age may recall going to a video store between say 1985 and 1992 strolling over to the sci-fi section and seeing these colorful boxes of films that immediately came across as being “inspired” by the Road Warrior, Escape from New York, The Terminator and others. These films may not have had anyone you ever heard of it but some of them had some decent action and others were just what you’d expect them to be. The 1980’s was far from a perfect decade for this type of film, but many of those films were fun and there are certainly some classics from that time as well.

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The Raiders of Atlantis

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1983

Christopher Connelly as Mike a Vietnam Vet turned baddie who eventually turns good again sort of. He was perhaps best known for his role in Peyton Place. He was in a lot of tv shows and films in the 70’s and 80’s. He died from cancer at just 48 in 1988.

Tony King as Mohammed/Washington-Mike’s friend and partner in crime. King breifly played for the Buffalo Bills in the late 60’s He was in a few films including Shaft and The toy, but eventually got into the security business.

There’s a bunch of other people running around shooting and getting blown up.

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What’s this about? A bunch on nonsense goes on and eventually poof part of Atlantis pops up. Hey these guys appear to have seen The Warriors, The Road Warrior and Escape from New york because they are all rough, semi-punk rip you up gang type people. Our normal people are outnumbered and quickly find themselves fighting for their lives. Kapow go the explosions and krakakrakskraka go the guns because it’s an 80’s action film. The mean group seem to get killed quickly but they don’t care because they are descended from people from Atlantis and they are determined to rule over commoners from Miami and other places like that. The bad guy’s leader appears to be wearing something that looks like a cross between a fishbowl and a dollar store mask. Lots of people die, very few live and a bubble goes back over Atlantis in the end. Roll the credits.

The negatives-The story is thin and really it’s far more an action film than a sci-fi film. Originality is not this film’s strong point.

The positives-I hope you have not fled yet because although this film gets a lot of crap it has a lot of strong points. If you like 80’s action then there is a lot to like here. The main characters are likable enough. The action is non-stop as they just keep going from one crazy scene to another. This island Atlantis sure has lots of weapons and everything blows up or catches on fire very easily which all leads to a lot of fun. The stunt work is quite decent as well. People get set on fire quite often. Guys jump from a helicoptor onto a moving bus with ease and a couple of guys take some 15 feet dives into shallow water. Too many people dismiss this film quickly, but if you like 80’s action then it’s worth a shot. The director was Ruggero Deodato who is most known for Cannibal Holocaust (which I have never seen), but many of his films have a following so Raiders does have a cult following in some circles and it’s easy to see why.

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Let’s just hang out here until an evil gang shows up.

Science fiction films in the 1970’s

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Hey, quick name a science fiction film made in the 1970’s. I bet most of you said Star Wars, maybe a few of you said Close Encounters of the third kind. Perhaps one of you comic book die hards said Superman and maybe one of you more horror leaning people said Alien. If you try to convince me that you said Rollerball or Soylent Green or Silent Running then you’re lying and you took your time to be different or you’re just weird like that. The point is that Star Wars and Close Encounters are likely the most known sci-fi films of the decade. Yet since both hit in 1977 that was towards the end of the decade. The kind of films that dominated the time from 1970-1976 varied in format from space travel to future versions of earth, but many of them had a negative feel and the dystopian themes (see look those dry old college course did come in handy later on) dominated sci-fi films for years. Actually I think it began in the late 60’s with the Planet of the apes having a definite impact on sci-fi movies because of it’s success. So suddenly film writer and makers were looking for sci-fi novels to adapt where man screwed up his future. I am not saying this to sound negative at all because there were some fins sci-fi films between that 1968-1976 era including the Apes films, Logan’s Run, The Omega Man, the ones named above and quite a few more. It was a good run. Then came Star Wars with it’s battles and signs of creating a better tomorrow. Suddenly being positive in sci-fi, having heroes who could make a difference and space operas were big again. It didn’t change everything as films like Alien, Capricorn One and the Invasion of the body snatchers remake are examples of films that followed Star Wars that had negative conspiracy themes. However the dystopian films were certainly knocked down for a while. At least until Mad Max and Road Warrior popped up and a bunch of cheap film makers in the 1980’s tried churning out cars and desert post apocaliptic hooey. That’s a story for another day. The point is that unlike say the 1950’s where sci-fi stayed on majot course for the decade the 1970’s saw a major shift in 1977. Whether it’s good or bad depends on your view. I think there were good films of both styles during the decade and bad ones too. Both styles have been done in in the decades since. Not a perfect decade at all but probably one of my favorites for science fiction.

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Slipstream

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1989
Who’s in this?
Bill Paxton as Matt Owens. A shaggy haired cross between a surfer and a cowboy in attitude who is part conman and part adventurer I guess. Poor Paxton is the main character but gets billed behind Hamill and Peck in the credits. Once you witness his “acting” you will think he should have been bumped further down the list.
Bob Peck as Byron a fugitive who wears a suit. After a while you’ll guess the truth about him before it’s revealed.
Mark Hamill as lawmen Will Tasker. Ironic isn’t it that not long after this Hamill’s Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford would play a fugitive in a very good film while here Hamill is going after a fugitive in a shitty movie.
Kitty Aldridge as Belitski. Hamill’s partner who can’t decide if she’s tough as nails or totally in need of a man.
Susan Leong as Abigail who falls for Byron.
Other notable people who are in this film-
F. Murray Abraham and Ben Kingsley both got roped into small parts in this film.
Then in one scene Paxton returns home to get some gear and goes past some friends all sitting in a bubbling pool. You will recognize one of the people in the scene cause holy Hagrid in a hot tub it’s a fairly young clean shaven Robbie Coltrane. He later gets rubbed out by Hamill and his partner in perhaps the worst futuristic shootout ever.

What’s this about? I’m going to try and make this short for you because it was long and tedious for me. In the future man has damaged the earth and created a giant powerful group of winds called the slipstream. Unfortunately we don’t see a whole lot of this idea. Instead we just follow a bunch of chowder heads flying after each other in planes and annoying everyone they run into. Hamill and Paxton are full of hot air in this film, but the slipstream itself only comes into play in a few parts. So Byron is wanted for murder and Tasker and Belitski grab him. Then Paxton comes in and spouts off rotten pick-up lines and lame dialog all over the place. It’s like the writers of this film picked up unused dialog from the most clichéd 80’s films they could find and just shoved in where they could in between the “plot”. Paxton sees dollar signs and steals Byron from Hamill and his partner . Then he goes off in his plane travelling along the slipstream or just so the film makers can pad this film with some great views of locations from the sky. Now we get into a long stretch of nothingness that just floated around taking up time. Byron is revealed as a healer. Hamill is a heartless, obsessed killer and a terrible freaking actor. Paxton stumbles around spouting off stuff like “you’re the kind of guy who gets out of the shower to take a piss” and “who made you a doctor-the grim reaper?”. Oh, my I half expected him to say “dude” or “chief” when he talked too. I guess the shaggy hair and the hard rock and AOR that came on didn’t exactly convince me this was a future setting either. Eventually we learn that Byron is an…….android, but you likely guessed that 20 minutes before Hamill reveals it. I guess we should have known he was because who else could hear Paxton spout off that crap and keep a straight face? So Matt starts to be friends with Byron. Byron takes up with a red haired woman who leads them to an underground place occupied by educated people of culture. This group is lead by F. Murray Abraham who does more than everybody else in this film with the few lines he was given and he has to be thinking “ how did I end up in a film like this?”. Hamill shows up determined to get Byron this time because they aren’t going to make a joker out of him, get it Joker oh nevermind. So Byron’s new girlfriend gets killed by Hamill and the android who doesn’t even have yellow eyes goes after Tasker because he’s mad as heck and this film is in sore need of some action. He even jumps into the airplane with Tasker trying to kill him. Man if he’d been this aggressive with those Raptors he may have made it to a sequel. Back to this film I think Red Leader calls in with some orders, wait yet another wrong film. Byron is unsure about killing or so it seems for a second and then SMASH the plane goes into a mountainside like a Wile E. Coyote in a failed roadrunner quest. Tasker likely turned to little bits, but Byron walks away with just scorch marks. He gets a new set of duds he and Matt say good bye. Matt and Belitski are now friendly so they take off in a plane and go past some hot air balloons because Matt had mentioned at some point his dream was to run balloons so blah,blah,blah. Game over, man and role the credits.
Stats-
Number of bad lines Paxton spits out- 95% of them
Number of human size kites that Byron is strapped to for determining if God likes him or not (seriously)- 1
Number of bath toys that shirtless Robbie Coltrane plays with in the hot tub-two I think
The negatives? Paxton and Hamill seemed determined to prove who was the worse actor. I’m still still not sure who won, but it sure wasn’t anyone who watched this. The movie starts out with some promise but falls apart quickly.
The positives? This was filmed in Turkey and the locations are fantastic and they make fairly good use of them as well. The planes, costumes and weapons were all good enough. F. Murray Abraham has a tiny role at the end with gobbledygook to say and still delivers it like he means it 110%.
Who should see this? This film has some fans but Hamill being a sort of sci-fi film is probably the main reason people give this a chance. If you are a fan of his you may want to check it out once just don’t expect much.

Ten, well okay Eleven 1950’s sci-fi films that you should see

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I tried to make this be ten, but had to expand it slightly. If there are other films from the decade that you like a lot feel free to add them on in the comments section. Here you go.

The Creature from the black lagoon-Maybe falls into the horror genre as much as sci-fi. Due to the fact that there are scientists present I count it  as a sci-fi film. Definitely a great and original beast plus I like that he comes from our world like he is rather than being from beyond or created by accident.

Forbidden Planet-Oh, yes. This film is remembered for Robbie the robot and other technology, but the story goes beyond just monsters. We see that sci-fi on film can have a story about human reactions but tie in fantastic elements as well.

The day the earth stood still-Funny that maybe the best 50’s “invasion” film was about beings from beyond that were not hostile yet we humans still couldn’t quite grasp that concept.

Earth vs. the flying saucers-Invaders from space, black and white and Ray Harrhausen effects. What else could you ask for?

Them!-Giant creatures of all kinds showed up in the 50’s. Tarantula and the Deadly Mantis are also fine examples, but I’m going with Them! because the acting was so strong and those ants were creeeeeeepy.

Invasion of the body snatchers-This is 50’s paranoia at it’s finest. Don’t go to sleep, don’t trust anyone, don’t stay in the same place-keep moving!

The Incredible shrinking man-Just as the title says, but the script, acting and effects help it to be so much more than just another sci-fi movie.

Godzilla-Well of course. Not just a monster flick even though pretty much all of Big G’s films after this were. A statement on the bomb plus tons of destruction.

It! the terror from beyond space-A crew on a space ship is being stalked by an alien beast from another world while returning from a mission. Hey, that sounds like Alien! Yep, only the spaces are more confined in this one and John Hurt isn’t in it wearing a big diaper.

20 million miles to earth-Not all giant creatures start out giant. This Ray Harryhausen creation grew and then caused great panic among the masses.

I married a monster from outer space-Don’t be scared off by the title. This is kind of like Invasion of the body snatchers only with more of a physical threat and the aliens are cocky too. This one will get a review here at some point.

Sci-fi in the 1950’s

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Well, not everyone in the 1950’s was paranoid, but the media and some events did have people on edge. I think that movie companies took advantage of that paranoia by making movies about invaders from other planets as well as nature and science experiments going wild while creating giant and/or radioactive beasts to terrorize Washington DC, London, Tokyo or wherever. The 50’s saw an explosion of sci-fi films varying from space exploration to giant monsters and everything in between.  Like with anything once filmmakers and anyone with a few bucks and a camera thought they should get their piece of the pie so you get a huge variation in quality of films when you look at the product of the decade as a whole. The far out and negative type films far outweighed the thoughtful ones. There were plenty of thrills in sci-fi of this decade, but for real sci-fi concepts in the 50’s there was much more of that going in books than there was at your local drive-in. However that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great decade for the movie genre. Just the opposite, it was very good. It also showed that there was interest in space and monsters created by science which was promising in the long run. Even though you may think of the 50’s when you hear “B movie” there was still plenty of creativity going into a number of these films. Quantity didn’t always mean quality, but there sure were a ton of sci-fi flicks. So many that I am still  trying to see them all.

*What do you think of 50’s sci-fi films?

**What are some of your favorite sci-fi films of that decade?

Dr. Who???

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Wait a minute, why has this jackass put questions marks behind the name of such a beloved, long running character? Is he questions the merits of this character? No is he unclear as to who this character is? No, I have been aware of the Doctor since I was around 12. That may only leave that he has never seen an epsiode of Dr. Who? Bing, bing, bing we have a winner. So many Doctors on the show over the years yet I have not seen one second of any of them. However, I did a see a Doctor Who. This one….

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Yes, I saw the two Doctor Who movies with Peter Cushing. The ones most Doctor Who fans hate. I saw them on VHS maybe 12 years ago and my only reason for wanting to see them was because of Peter Cushing. Now if you are a fan don’t get in a huff and think I am stomping on the Doctor without giving him a chance. Doctor Who was never on any channel I got as a kid, but I knew who he was from brief mentions in Starlog and other sci-fi magazines back in the 80’s. On occasion I’d see some of Dr. Who novels at my local used book store. I’d consider buying one but was hoping to see the show first yet that never happened. Time went by, Doctors changed and now it was the late 90’s. I saw some VHS tapes of Dr. Who for decent prices in catalogs. I considered it, but it was like two hours for $15 and I knew if I liked it I’d want to see more and that was too steep to see a lot so I skipped on it. Now we are to recent years. My library has recent Dr. Who DVDs in. I pick them up and consider checking them out. Hey, they’re free, but again I hesitate because-

A-What if it sucks? Then I may judge the whole franchise on these because I don’t have easy access to other Doctor Who episodes.

B-I’ve gone 42 years without see this show so am I really missing out?

Those thoughts bring us to today. So here I sit feeling kind of indifferent towards this show but also a bit curious about if I am misisng out.

Feel free to add thoughts, suggestions, ideas or throw insults, rocks or whatever you got should you feel the need.

The Starlost Sunday-Coming soon

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So I am going to buckle down and commit to a weekly segment that I’ll officially start next week, but I wanted to share some background about it first. Starting next week I am going to review one episode of the 70’s show the Starlost every Sunday. Now I never saw this show when it was on. In fact in the pre-internet days of old I only knew of it’s existence through a couple of pictures in issues of Starlog.  It was released on DVD a few years ago, but it was going for around forty bucks which was too rich for my blood, but this past Spring it went down around thirteen bucks so I picked it up. Now I knew that it had a reputation of being let’s say not the best sci-fi show ever made so my expectations were not high. Indeed it has it’s problems (more to follow), but there was some real potential there in a number of episodes. Now I have only seen each episode once so as I start this segment it will only be my second viewing of the episodes and for this segment I will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each episode. Plus maybe I’ll focus in on what could have been improved upon or expanded on in each episode. My goal here is not to criticize the show although I will be honest in that category, but rather to find the creative sparks in the show as well. Some of you may be saying “what is this Starlost show that you are babbling on about?” Fair enough, I’m old so maybe not everyone knows about it. The Starlost was a Canadian produced show that was designed by Harlan Ellsion. The show was CTV in 1973 and syndicated to local stations here in the states. Harlan Ellison would disown the show before the first episode even aired do to disagreements over the show. The plot revolves around three young people who live in a simple world, but they soon discover their world is really a dome that is one of many domes in a giant spaceship that is out of control. They spend the episodes trying to figure out to get the ship back on course and usually they enter other domes and deal with various people and societies in those domes. The criticisms on this show normally include wooden acting, cheap sets, limited special effects and scripts that could have been better. All of the above do happen, but I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss this show because there were some elements that worked too and that’s what I hope to focus on in this weekly segment. Now I have to clear my mind (no, it’s that hard for me to do) and watch the debut episode this week with the goal of doing a review next Sunday.

Growing up in the 1970’s part 2-Science fiction or what the frack was I thinking?

Since I shared a little about how my fascination with monsters the other day I should probably tell a little about how I first got into sci-fi as well so you know where I’m coming from once I get into some reviews and more stories. My brother is six years older and me and was a huge comic book fan and to far lesser extent liked some sci-fi growing up. So I have probably have him to than for some of my early influences. I have the slightest of memories of seeing the oh too short lived 1974 Planet of the apes TV series. After that I definely remember my brother was a fairly regular watcher of the Six Million Dollar man and the Bionic Woman as well as the super hero TV adaption of the Hulk and Wonder Woman. I know that I watched all of those with him and enjoyed them well enough. There also some Saturday morning memories of the live action shows Space Academy, Jason of Star Command, Shazam and Isis. Somehow I missed out on Ark II back then. I liked those shows but about as much as I liked all the other cartoons and shows I took in. As I said in my previous post we didn’t go the movies back then. So in 1977 when a lot of other kids my ages were exposed to sci-fi via Star Wars the best I could do was look at the Star Wars trading cards the other kids in second grade had. I wouldn’t see Star Wars until it came on TV some six years later and by that point I was in full-on Trekkie mode. However it still had impact on me in 77-78 by other routes. My brother bought the comic book adaption and have memories of a day in the winter when school was closed where made a tend out of blanets in our room, got potato chips and hot chocolate into the tent and my brother read the comic book adaption of Star Wars to me. While he’d already instilled a love of super hero comics into me these comics had me even more excited. I never had any toys of Star Wars back then because I think my parents thought they were too expensive and maybe they were. However I remember on my birthday in the Spring of 1978 my neighbor ( a co-worker of my dad’s) bought me a Star Wars shirt with R2-D2 and C-3PO on it. Even though I only knew them from comics and brief glimpses on commercials I was still in awe of that shirt and probably wore it until it fell apart or I could no longer squeeze into it. Those were probably the early sparks that had me revved up to eb a sci-fi/space fan, but my interest would grow even stronger during the the 1978-1979. If you are guessing that the Star Wars Holiday special from 1978 was a factor then you are right. Forget about the fact that almost no one thinks this was any good and that everyone involved with it wants to forget about it. I was 8 and didn’t get to Star Wars in the theater, but here were these characters coming to the small screen. I’ m sure I loved it back then despite it’s problems. I remember very little about it now and have not seen it since, but I know I was thrilled to see it then. However the show that would make an even greater impact that television season was Battlestar Gallactica. Yes, I know some Staw Wars fans sneer and dismiss it as a copy. To me that year Gallactica was the show that opened my mind to sci-fi. Later I would know it to be a flawed show, but a show with real potential that really deserved another year on the air. Back then it was the ships, the uniforms and the characters that had me glued to the screen every week. I am sure that I had to beg my dad to let me see it because he was no fan of space shows, but he let me watch it. I have memories of begging for Battlestar toys, but they were too expensive. I do remember my parents giving in and letting me get a Battlestar photostory book from one of those Scholastic order forms through school. I remember looking at it feverishly on the bus with any other kids who were interested. Battlestar still holds a special to me even now because it sparked that interest that I have had ever since. I’ll stop rattling on for now because other tales of my early interests and more involved thoughts and views on Battlestar may pop up in other upcoming posts.