Saturday, December 10, 2016
Note: I'm going to talk about HBO's 2016 series, Westworld, as a whole. If you're avoiding spoilers, this is not the place for you.
There's a great deal to like about the 10 episodes of HBO's sci-fi series, Westworld. It's been interesting to find out how many people haven't seen the original Westworld film by Michael Crichton - a name which is pobably just an echo to Millennials but which was a hosuehold name through the 1990's. I'll cop to having not seen (or don't remember seeing) Futureworld (1976) or the TV series Beyond Westworld (1980).
I am sure the original 1973 film felt like futureshock at the time, or maybe sci-fi silliness to many. The first time I watched it back before high school, which would have been the late 1980's, 70's hair-stylings aside, it seemed to work very well as a thriller, even if it didn't seem to run deep with the complexities of Blade Runner or other AI films. Well into the 1980's, our relationship with technology and computers wasn't as everyday as it's become, and fiction treated computers a bit like the genie's lamp right up through the late 1990's.
What the movie does that still holds up is create an adult theme park that is both impossible, yet seems like something that people would be up for whether we want to admit it or not if the wild success of Las Vegas is any indication. It's a world of sex and violence with only the most minor of repercussions as one fulfills fantasies and indulges whims in a familiar place, but one separated enough from our own day-to-day that you'd lose your bearings. And steeped in the inherent violence of the filmic west, it's a world in which you'd be more likely to shoot first and question later.
In many ways, the entire point of this movie is to show how Charles Xavier lost his hair. I mean, they had to do it sometime, so why not at the two-hour, ten minute mark of a very, very long movie where nothing really works very well?
I got into superhero comics when I was about 11 or 12, right about the time of the Mutant Massacre storyline in X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants. Of the literally 10's of 1000's of comics I've read, the comics I read in that first year or two are pretty well burned into my brain. Just before I got into comics, the villain Apocalypse made his first appearance in X-Factor, and would show up again to exploit the injured Warren Worthington III, aka: Angel, and make him into the 1980's requisite "Wolverine of the group" when he returned to X-Factor. I actually really liked those comics.
The movie is set in it's own version of events, but that isn't so much a bug as a feature. While it's not the worst movie I've ever seen, it's just so weighed down with characters and not-terribly-interesting plot developments and a runtime it doesn't earn, it's hard to get excited about the movie.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn has merged with The Infinite.
Truly one of the giants of the 20th Century, John Glenn was part of the Mercury 7, America's first manned spaceflight program. He had served as a Marine in two wars and as a test pilot and would remain a Marine while working with NASA. He would become one of the most famous names in space exploration before continuing in public service as a US Senator, elected in 1974. He would leave the Senate in 1999.
As an astronaut, Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet, orbiting the Earth 3 times before plunking down in the Atlantic, proving Americans were on a par with the astounding Russian space program, and setting the stage for the Gemini and Apollo missions.
As a kid, thanks in part to the film The Right Stuff, we spoke the names John Glenn and Chuck Yeager with reverence. These were the guys who lived the lives we dreamed of but didn't even aspire to. Even in college when I'd hear Glenn was associated with some political decisions I didn't agree with, you still said "well, man, he's John Glenn. I assume he knows what he's doing."
How the man was not elected President, I will never know. Bad timing in the Reagan-era, I guess.
In the Fall of 1998, I was recently graduated from college and running a distance learning broadcast studio at the University of Texas. News came down that NASA was sending Glenn back into space to test the rigors of space flight against the physiology of older adults. Whatever the excuse, man, it was amazing to see Glenn back in the suit, showing America how it could be done. I talked the instructor who was teaching at the time of the launch to let me pipe in a broadcast of the take-off, mostly because I wanted to see it, but he must have wanted to see it, too, because I watched it on my monitors while the space shuttle took off on the screens up in the classroom. No one said a word until they were safely out of the atmosphere.
Glenn lived to the age of 95. We will not see his like again in my lifetime.
Godspeed, good sir.
From the outstanding film The Right Stuff, played here by the always excellent Ed Harris:
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Season 2 of Supergirl moved to The CW network, which was already home to DC's Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and iZombie, and the move has been nothing but good for the series, so far as I can tell. Whatever dictates Season 1 had upon it as a show on a major network, moving to the less-major CW Network has meant the show feels less like it's bucking TV formulas and now it's matching The Flash for melding DC lore with crafting it's own mythology and character arcs.
This season I've enjoyed the shake-up and escape from CatCo, especially if Cat Grant isn't even going to be around and the far more fulfilling role for Win. And, hey, Kara isn't being defined by which boy she'll pick, which is kind of remarkable on TV. While Alex's "coming out" storyline felt a bit rushed, crammed in there in-between cyborgs and fiery aliens, alien fight clubs and whatnot, it's interesting to see the show stake it's claim on big-tent "Supergirl is for everyone" and just move forward without turning the show into a melodrama we all have to slog through.
In fact, the CW shows are pretty remarkably good at not doing the things that TV has traditionally done that drove me crazy - namely: have have characters keep secrets from people they otherwise trust when keeping a secret makes literally no sense and drag it out over whole seasons of a show or until they just forget to resolve the storyline.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
No lie, Jimmy Stewart is one of my favorite actors of all time. I've thought the guy was brilliant since high school when I caught Harvey on VHS. The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is a bit of pre-war brilliance on Stewart's part, working from a pretty great script under a renowned director and with an excellent cast working as a team.
It's true the movie is steeped in social constructs of the early 20th Century, and so may be dated in too many ways for many viewers, but I tend to think the conflicts and humor of the movie transcends those qualities. It's not a sweeping, amazing movie, but it is a good movie for putting on during the Yuletide Season for you and your sweet woogums.
Editor's Note (12/5/2016): Sometimes we sort of half-watch a movie while we're on our computer, and sometimes we aren't paying correct attention. This has, from time to time, meant that we've totally misunderstood plot-points, found movies unengaging, etc...
I was a bit embarrassed to learn from someone via twitter that, despite the fact I thought Christopher Lee was in this movie, he is not. Which is weird. I like Christopher Lee. I know who he is. And I thought it extremely odd he was so lightly used in this film (see below). Which puts me in a bit of a position. What did I watch?
The actor in question is Mike Raven, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Lee, especially in facial hair. I'm now genuinely feeling like I did not give the movie a fair chance and may need to give it a whirl again to reconsider. When I am wrong, I am wrong, and I try to be open to that idea, especially when I'm so rudely dismissive to a film, book, what-have-you.
Thanks to Judy Jarvis for the correction.
So, I hated this movie.
I was grabbing a few movies at Vulcan and was looking for Vampire Circus (which they literally only had on VHS, so...) or another Ingrid Pitt movie in their Hammer section and saw they had this sequel, and figured "ah, what the hell. Why not?" And, why not?, indeed.
I'd argue Lust for a Vampire (1971) is boring, overly long, devoid of even psychological drama, has dull leads, and is a poor successor to it's predecessor, The Vampire Lovers. That movie was based on a novel with a few centuries under its belt, and, yeah, this was a fresh story about the same vampire coming back to life and being put in a girls' school. But they replaced Ingrid Pitt as the lead character, which I was willing to accept, and forgot to not just write scene after boring scene where nothing happens.
So, Lust for a Vampire (1971), has some goofy love story where an author falls for Carmilla and so maneuvers his way into teaching at her girls' school where... I dunno. It doesn't matter. Even the sex scenes are awkward and boring, and the vampire scenes don't really exist. Just turning over bodies to see puncture wounds. AND, unbelievably, it features Christopher Lee and he's basically in a supporting role anyone could have filled in. Maybe he was just hanging around?