Goodbye, Ol’ Chum!

He wasn’t the first on-screen Batman, nor the richest, nor the muscley-est, nor many other things. But, Adam West was perhaps the “funnest” and certainly the most inspirational for my generation. Of course, his show was well into syndication by the time I was old enough to watch. But, campy as it was, it was a favorite of this young superhero/comics fan. From all accounts, he was a really nice guy and fun to work with, too.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the memories, Caped Crusader!

 

 

 

Kurt Russell’s Best Roles

“Someone in this camp ain’t what he appears to be.” — R.J. MacReady, The Thing

“Snake Plissken”

In the past few days, I’ve come across at least four articles about Kurt Russell‘s (5’11”,b.1951) best movies, performances, etc., either in celebration of his recent birthday or initiated by his current appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I haven’t seen that movie, yet, so I can’t tell you what I thought of it or Russell’s performance. But, I thought it might be fun to look back at his career for myself and highlight my personal favorites.

Now, I wouldn’t say I am a superfan of Russell nor an aficionado of his films. But, I have seen quite a few — mostly those within the sci-fi and action/adventure genres. On the other hand, since beginning his Hollywood career as a child (1962), he has made a *lot* of movies (TV and big screen) and appeared in several TV shows, so it’s no surprise there are many roles I haven’t seen, as well. Naturally, I’ll stick to those I’ve seen….

Many of the TV series he guest-starred in as a kid/teen were cop shows and westerns, which were quite popular at the time. These included “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “The Virginian”, “Laredo”, “The Fugitive”, “Daniel Boone”, “Gunsmoke”, et al. Of course, he also showed up on “Gilligan’s Island” and “Lost in Space”. But, the earliest role I remember him from (with possible exception of ‘Jungle Boy’ on “Gilligan’s Island”) was as the young “problem student” ‘Dexter Riley’ in a series of Disney movies: The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Those were a lot of fun! Campy, but fun. I think I saw the last one at the theaters, but I must’ve watched the others when they played on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”. (He was in other Disney stuff, too.)

“Wyatt Earp”

As a big Elvis Presley fan (especially as a kid), I also enjoyed Russell in the title role of John Carpenter’s Elvis (1979). The 1980s, though, was when Russell’s career really took off, largely thanks to his working on several more projects with John Carpenter. His iconic portrayal of ‘Snake Plissken’ in Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981) — and the somewhat disappointing sequel, Escape from L.A. (1996) — made him a cult hero for many of us growing up then. The eyepatch and the attitude, set in an anarchic prison-city of the near future, made a great combination.

Russell and Carpenter followed up the next year with another modern genre classic, i.e., the remake of The Thing. The mix of horror, mystery, and action made for a great vehicle for Russell’s (and co-star Keith David’s) talents. But, it was 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China (also directed by Carpenter) where he got to showcase his comedic skills along with the action/adventure moves. This is considered by some to be a cult classic. Tequila Sunrise (1988), co-starring Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer, was a decent crime drama. But, I preferred the action-comedy Tango & Cash (1989), where Russell teamed up with Sylvester Stallone (and the gorgeous Teri Hatcher).

Another action-oriented crime drama where Russell shined was Backdraft (1991), followed by crime thriller Unlawful Entry (1992). But, it was his portrayal of Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993) that I really liked (the whole cast, really), as well as genre-fave Stargate (1994). Executive Decision was a pretty good action thriller that paired Russell with Steven Seagal (1996). Breakdown (1997) and Soldier (1998) were entertaining films that rounded out the 90s. 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001) was another fun film, featuring Russell and Kevin Costner as thieves robbing a casino during an Elvis convention — in costume, of course. Sky High (2005) was a genre highlight with Russell as a superhero teaching teens & pre-teens with powers of their own. Not long afterward, Russell returned to the horror/thriller (sub)genres as ‘Stuntman Mike’ in the “Death Proof” segment of Grindhouse (2007).

“Col. Jack O’Neil”

I have not yet seen The Art of the Steal (2013), Bone Tomahawk (2015), The Hateful Eight (2015), or Deepwater Horizon (2016). Nor have I watched The Fate of the Furious (2017), but I did see Furious 7 (2015). I thought Russell did a good job with the cool-headed, somewhat mysterious government agent and task force leader, ‘Mr. Nobody’. It’s a supporting role and one that he likely enjoys playing, especially since he gets to hang out with a fun cast.

OK, after all that, can I pick a Top 5? Honestly, it has been quite awhile since I’ve watched most of these movies. But,… if I must:

1) ‘Snake Plissken’ in Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.;
2) ‘R.J. MacReady’ in The Thing;
3) ‘Wyatt Earp’ in Tombstone;
4) ‘Colonel Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil’ in Stargate; and
5) ‘Stephen & Dennis McCaffrey’ (father & son) in Backdraft.

For nostalgic reasons, I have to make ‘Dexter Riley’ from the aforementioned Disney trilogy my #6. Honorable Mentions go to ‘Lt. Gabriel Cash’ in Tango & Cash, ‘Stuntman Mike’ in Death Proof, and, I suppose, ‘Jack Burton’ in Big Trouble in Little China.

What about you? If you want to share your favorite Kurt Russell roles/movies, feel free to do so below!

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 2 of 2

Music is often an integral part of a TV show, especially the opening theme. Last week, I shared ten of my favorite, most memorable themes from sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure series of the past few decades. As promised, this week we continue by easing our way into the 1980s and up to the present. I hope you enjoy them, especially if you’re old enough to remember watching some of these yourself.

Are we ready? Continuing in chronological order…

11) The Incredible Hulk (1978-1982)

The “Lonely Man” ending theme was particularly poignant and memorable, too.

 

12) Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)

 

13) The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983)

 

14) Knight Rider (1982-1986)

 

15) The A-Team (1983-1987)

 

16) Miami Vice (1984-1990)

 

17) Star Trek: TNG (1987-1994)

 

18) Quantum Leap (1989-1993)

 

19) The X-Files (1993-)

 

20) Game of Thrones (2011-)

 

There you have ’em! Wow, that brought back a lot of good memories, going through all of those plus several I left out! And, since I couldn’t even bring myself to stop at twenty, here are five more honorable mentions:  Return of the Saint (1978-1979), The Fall Guy (1981-1986), Airwolf (1984-1986), Babylon 5 (1994-1998), Alias (2001-2006)

Now, when am I gonna find the time to track down and binge-watch these shows again…?

Top 20 TV Theme Songs from Genre Series, part 1 of 2

I think you will agree…

Sometimes, the music in a TV series can make a good series great or a great series even better. (Or, even a bad series tolerable.) This is especially true with the opening theme, which sets the mood for what the audience is about to watch. In fact, beyond the opening and closing credits, you might only ever notice any real music during transitional shots. But, those few times can make all the difference.

In this post and the next, I want to focus on the theme music from some of my favorite shows — from stuff already in syndication during my early childhood to new stuff currently airing. My first criterion was, of course, that the series had to fall under the sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure banner that this blog is about. The theme couldn’t be taken from a movie (e.g., “The Highlander” series borrowed Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the original movie). And, the theme had to be — to my mind, at least — particularly catchy or otherwise memorable.

How many of these can you remember before playing the video clips? I have likely left out some of your favorites, but you’ll probably agree that these are among the best of genre theme songs. Moving in chronological order…

1) The Lone Ranger (1949-1957)

2) Peter Gunn (1958-1961)

3) Star Trek: TOS (1966-1969)

4) Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)

5) Batman (1966-1968)

6) Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980)

7) The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

8) Wonder Woman (1975-1979)

9) The Bionic Woman (1976-1978)

10) Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)

That was fun! Did I get to your faves, yet? I hear you humming something….

Stay tuned until next week, when we continue the nostalgia trip into the 1980s and beyond!

P.S.  Just for the record, #s 1 & 2 were before my time, and #s 3 thru 6 I only ever saw in re-runs. I’m not that old!

Bat-News

There was a small flurry of Batman-related news over the past month or so, so I thought I’d make a few comments….

“Gotham”

We have a new Ra’s al Ghul to look forward to, this time in “Gotham”. As you’ll remember, in the Nolan/Bale film trilogy, the character was played by Ken Watanabe and then Liam Neeson. More recently, Matt Nable played the quasi-immortal master assassin in several episodes of “Arrow”. While I respect the talent of all three actors, I felt those versions were… unsatisfactory. Part of it is the writers’ fault, of course, but none of them quite captured the essence of the character for me.

Siddig in GoT

The latest interpretation of the Demon’s Head will be portrayed by Alexander Siddig (5’11.75″,b.1965), most well-known for his role as Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”. (Siddig has, of course, been in many other genre productions, including Kingdom of Heaven, “24”, “Primeval”, “Game of Thrones”, etc.) This is an intriguing choice. He (a Sudanese native) is much closer in ethnicity to Ra’s al Ghul (an Egyptian) than any of the previous actors, and he has played villainous characters before. On the other hand, I’m not sure he has the proper bearing (if that’s the right term) to portray this character correctly. While projecting a certain nobility/regalness, Ra’s is also a very physical person — martial artist / swordsman and often seen bare-chested. So, if they are planning on him displaying much physicality, Siddig had better be physically fit and properly trained.

We shall see. I just hope that they get the other visual aspects right this time, too — from the sometimes Wolverine-like hair & whiskers to his distinctive style of clothes (i.e., sort of a mix of Dr. Jekyll, Doctor Strange, and Doctor Doom).

The Batman

Among the latest news about the solo The Batman movie is that Ben Affleck may be trying to bail (no pun intended) on the role, apparently due to frustrations with Batman vs. Superman‘s reviews, development hassles, and pain-in-the-butt fans. As per Johnny Brayson at Outer Places,

“[S]ources claim that Affleck and Warner Bros. are currently in talks that would see him exit the role, and though he reportedly would like to leave before The Batman, the studio is apparently trying to convince him to stay on for the standalone movie before he takes his leave.”

Assuming any of this is true, you have to wonder if it’s a play for more money.

I know that some people are still very anti-Batfleck and would love to see him leave the franchise. I was skeptical but actually appreciated his performance in BvS and would like him to stay awhile. He is already in Justice League this November, and I would prefer to see continuity with him in The Batman (2018?) and the Justice League sequel (2019). After that, though, I would like to see a reboot with a younger Bruce/Batman. (I’m putting some story ideas together, which I will post in a few weeks/months.)

The other news on this front is that Affleck abdicated the director’s chair and a replacement has been named: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Planet of the Apes franchise).

Nightwing

Among the better fan-made film shorts and web-series about superheroes is “Nightwing: The Series” (2014, 5 episodes). I only caught one or two episodes, but I thought they were pretty decent and had good fight choreography. There is also a new “The Nightwing” mini-series being filmed by another group this year. Fans of the Nightwing character who have been holding out hope for a feature film, though, may finally be getting their wish.

Just a couple weeks ago, Warner Brothers announced that they are now planning a live-action Nightwing film! It will be directed by Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie, “Robot Chicken”), with screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Accountant, The Judge). Since this is just barely getting underway, little is known. An adult Dick Grayson / Nightwing would fit with Affleck’s 40-something Bruce Wayne / Batman, but we don’t yet know if there will be an effort to connect the two.

We do know, however, that McKay’s take on the character will probably be a bit lighter, less gritty than Batman, especially the Batfleck version. As he said in a recent podcast,

“Dick Grayson didn’t come from [privilege]. Dick Grayson came from a circus family. Essentially people who aren’t rich and they are self-made. They’re entertainers. They’re gymnasts. They’re people who live hand-to-mouth and that’s something that informs him and his attitude.

He’s a fascinating guy to me, because he had all the same things happen to him [as Bruce had]…. [Y]et he remains still a brutal fighter but he’s not a playboy, he loves people dearly. Those things are why I like Dick Grayson, why I like the idea of Nightwing as a movie.”

That sounds good to me and in line with the way Grayson is usually portrayed in the comics.

Ideally, I would like to see the evolution of Dick Grayson from young, newbie-hero Robin to independent Nightwing over several years. (This would be part of those ideas I’m developing.) But, if the powers-that-be are already planning a solo film, I have a feeling that I won’t get my wish. There just isn’t time to develop the character. I’m guessing it won’t be out until 2020 or later, but whether tied to Batfleck or independent, we may not know for a while. Wherever in the current DCEU timeline it takes place, I just hope (as usual) that the writers/producers respect and draw directly from the source material. Please, comic gods, let it be a faithful and fun ride!

Tributes to Two Genre Giants

I really enjoyed Bill Paxton, and I’m gonna miss him.

Bill Paxton collage

Bill Paxton collage

In case you haven’t been keeping up on current events, Paxton passed away the other day from complications during surgery at age 61. As genre actors go, he was both beloved by fans and, I think, perhaps a bit underappreciated. His resume goes back to the mid-1970s and includes many movies and TV appearances that sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure fans, along with fans of other genres, will forever remember him for. Some roles were quite brief (e.g., one of three punks who first encounter the T-800 in The Terminator), some were significant supporting roles, and others were terrific starring roles. Good or bad, you could tell he loved his job.

Most recently, Paxton could be seen co-starring with Justin Cornwell in the new “Training Day” TV series. A couple years ago, he did a guest stint on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. I haven’t watched everything he was in, of course. But, of those I have seen, probably my top 5 Paxton roles were: Pvt. Hudson in Aliens (1986), Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), Bill Harding in Twister (1996), and, yes, “Punk Leader” from The Terminator (1984). He also appeared in Weird Science, Commando, Predator 2, Trespass, Boxing Helena, True Lies, Titanic, Mighty Joe Young (1998 remake), U-571, a couple of Spy Kids sequels, Edge of Tomorrow, and many more.

Paxton may not have been quite the household name as some of his co-stars, but among many aficionados of TV and film, he was a “big deal”. He provided a lot of entertainment to young and old, and I’ll always enjoy his work. He is gone too soon from this world, and all that is left to say is, “Thank you, sir.” Well, that and…

Game over, man. Well played.

Neil Fingleton

Neil Fingleton / Mag the Mighty

The other “giant” I’d like to pay tribute to was not nearly as well known as Paxton but was a giant of another kind. Former basketball player Neil Fingleton was known as the UK’s “tallest British-born man” at 7 feet 7.5 inches (232.5 cm) in height. He was playing professionally in an American minor league in Europe when he decided to give it up and pursue a career in showbiz.

Fingleton’s name and face may not be very familiar even to genre fans, unless perhaps you saw him on one or the other (or both) of two British TV documentaries he appeared in in 2007: “Britain’s Tallest Men” on BBC Four and “Superhuman: Giants” on ITV. The reasons are 1) at his height, there haven’t been that many roles he fit, and 2) the roles he had involved him being covered in a lot of make-up, prosthetics, and/or armor.

His credits include minor roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. In 47 Ronin, he played a Lovecraftian Samurai who fought Keanu Reeves’ character. He played the giant “Mag the Mighty” in the epic “Game of Thrones” episode “The Watchers on the Wall”. (Other GoT giants, Dongo and Wun Wun, were played by Ian Whyte (7’1″).) In 2015 he portrayed the scary Fisher King in the “Doctor Who” episode “Before the Flood”. He also did a few stunts and motion capture work for “Ultron” in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Fingleton died of heart failure this past weekend mere days after turning 36.

One last thing… I watched For the Love of Spock last week. If you haven’t already seen it and were curious, I very much recommend it. It’s a touching tribute to both the character of Spock and the man who first brought him to life, Leonard Nimoy. Certainly, it’s a must-see for Trekkies/Trekkers, and particularly for fans of the Original Series.

More Digital Inspiration

About a year-and-a-half ago, I introduced my readers to aspiring sci-fi writer Andre Davis and some of the amazing digital art that inspires his own writing. As Davis says on his “Artists” page,

“As a fan and writer of science fiction, their work stirs my imagination, and makes me long for distant futures and faraway places that exist only in my mind. Unlike authors in other genres, I can’t travel to the locations I write about to do onsite research. Concept art is the closest I’ll ever come to the fantastic, futuristic places I explore in my fiction, and I’m extremely grateful to all the wonderfully talented artists who share their work online.”

This time, I decided to share one painting from each of the artists featured (some with interviews) on that page, plus one from his “Writing Prompts” section. (Lotta cool stuff there, too!) You may recognize some of their work from various games and books. If you are a fan of any of these artists or someone else you think my readers would enjoy, please share in the comments….

"Perilous Shield" by David Demaret

“Perilous Shield” by David Demaret

 

"Long Way Home" by Christian Hecker

“Long Way Home” by Christian Hecker

 

"The Devil's Teeth" by Sebastien Hue

“The Devil’s Teeth” by Sebastien Hue

 

"Roofers of 2071" by Roman Ignatowski

“Roofers of 2071” by Roman Ignatowski

 

"Fort 23" by Jong Won Park

“Fort 23” by Jong Won Park

 

"The Ore Traders" by Pat Presley

“The Ore Traders” by Pat Presley

 

"Vikings in Space" by Leon Tukker

“Vikings in Space” by Leon Tukker

 

"Homecoming" by Marek Okon

“Homecoming” by Marek Okon

Pretty spectacular, eh?

Goodbye, Princess Leia!

“I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain.”  — Princess Leia Organa to Han Solo

princess-leia-in-action-by-alex-ross

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Pop-culture Icon, Sci-fi Legend, and Hero to many who struggle with addiction and depression.

Thanks for the memories, the humor, and the (often brutal) honesty!

leia-in-braid-white-jacket

leia-in-return-of-the-jedi-long-hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

carrie-fisher-play-difficult

Merry Christmas 2016!

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” … After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was — the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.”  — Matthew 2:1-2,9-10 (HCSB)

startrek-magi

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

happy-hanukkah-trek

If I Could Have a Superpower…

Have you ever wished you had superpowers?

Silly question. If you are reading this blog, chances are that at some point — whether in childhood or earlier today or anytime in between — you thought it would be awesome to have some superhuman ability. Superspeed like the Flash, or telepathy like Professor X, or X-ray vision like Superman/girl could all come in handy in the course of your day, whether at school or work or home or… just about anywhere. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ve also imagined patrolling your city/town/neighborhood, maybe while wearing a cool costume/uniform, using your powers for good (hopefully).

little-superheroesSuperhero geek that I am, I was thinking about this again the other day and decided to come up with my personal “Top 5” wished-for superpowers. Not some god-like abilities of destructive power or matter-energy manipulation, but more “average” powers with some sensible limitations. I also avoided things like martial arts and detective skills, since those are abilities that normal humans can gain on their own. A couple of them were easy, but the rest required a bit more thought. Here’s what I came up with:

1) Superstrength: Ever since I started reading superhero comics and watching shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man”, I wanted to be superstrong. I just thought it would be so cool to have the sort of physical strength that could not just beat up bad guys but benchpress large vehicles, rip trees out of the ground, and dig/punch my way through a mountain to save the damsel in distress — or trapped miners. Whichever. Such dreams are not uncommon for skinny, nerdy, unpopular kids like myself. (Ever wanted to teach a bully a lesson?) I’d still like to have superstrength, of course, assuming I could control it and that I wasn’t built like too much of a freak. Twisting crowbars into pretzels and stopping a speeding truck in its tracks are always impressive demonstrations, not to mention intimidating to criminals of various sorts. Yep. This is my #1 wished-for superpower.

2) Invulnerability (aka Superhuman Durability): This particular “power” often accompanies superstrength, sometimes in a rationally connected way (e.g., unusually dense organic tissues) or just ‘cuz the creator thought it would be cool/helpful. But, the two abilities don’t necessarily go together. Obviously, my preference would be to have both. On the other hand, it might be interesting to have some sort of power that granted me a measure of invulnerability — say, from bullets, knives, explosives, etc. — but without any enhanced strength. This could come in the form of an energy field surrounding my body that kicked in within nanoseconds of any ballistic type of threat. (Of course, in this instance, I’d still be vulnerable to slow, up-close attacks.) This ability would come in quite useful for search-n-rescue work, and it would minimize my budget for band-aids and stitches. (An acceptable alternative would be superhuman regenerative abilities.)

3) Flight: Right up there with superstrength, I’ve always thought it would be very cool to be able to personally fly, especially unaided by technology. Used to have actual dreams where I did, though sometimes it was more like “leap(ing) over buildings in a single bound.” Along with the actual flight ability, I would prefer to have other anatomical alterations that allow me to breathe at high speeds and altitudes, and it would be nice if I didn’t need to wear goggles to protect my eyes. Yeah, zipping around through the skies would be pretty sweet! But, as a superhero/adventurer, I would need some other abilities and/or technology to be truly effective. Also, I wouldn’t want to be limited to just moving at a few miles per hour. The faster, the better! And, speaking of fast…

04_11_superheroes_1000x10554) Superspeed: Who wouldn’t want to be able to outrace a train… or a speeding bullet (ave. 1700 mph)… or even approach the speed of light itself? Of course, along with the ability to run (or fly) at such speeds comes associated enhancements like superfast reflexes and a brain that processes information many times faster than normal. Think how many people you could save, how many crimes you could stop, how productive you could be! That’s why it is sometimes frustrating to watch “The Flash” on TV; the writers don’t take creative advantage of the character’s full abilities. (But, I don’t want to get off on a tangent about the show.) As with superstrength, it might take a little while to learn to control the speed powers and adjust to living an otherwise “normal” life, especially if my body’s natural state was no longer in sync with the rest of the world. But, if Barry Allen and Wally West can figure it out….

I’m torn between the next two, so I’m calling it a tie for #5:

5) Shapeshifting: Some people might prefer to have super-stretchy powers like Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man, since they can often “morph” into different, complex shapes. But, I would prefer something along the lines of what Martian Manhunter does. Namely, he can alter his body’s shape and features to mimic just about any person or creature, ranging in size from a fly to “enormous sizes comparable to skyscrapers”. MM is also quite adept at imitating the behavior and mannerisms of those he mimics. (I haven’t figured out how he alters his clothing, too.) This ability would prove quite useful, particularly in detective work and in going undercover, not to mention avoiding cops, press, bad guys trying to hunt me down, etc. I imagine shapeshifting could be a lot of fun at parties, too.

5) Telekinesis: A very literal example of “mind over matter”… the ability to lift, push, pull, and otherwise manipulate matter — solid, liquid, gas, maybe even plasma — via conscious, directed thought. Regardless of how one might explain such an ability, I’m sure you would agree that it would be very cool to have it. Someone once said, “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.” I think I could scare a few into thinking they were encountering a ghost or demon or something. On the other hand, it might be more satisfying to simply batter them with heavy objects while maintaining a safe distance. Either way, telekinetic abilities would be quite useful on many occasions, whether foiling the plans of a criminal overlord or pranking some jerk who used two parking spots for his sports car.

Any one of these would be amazing to have, but multiple powers would, of course, be fantastic! Not sure I’d want to risk an “origin story”, though. Unless you’re “born that way”, those can be rather painful. I’d also prefer to continue looking human, thankyouverymuch.

What about you? If you had a choice to gain one or more superhuman abilities, what would they be?