DUST, Code 8, and Miami Vice

Are any of you familiar with DUST? I discovered it the other day, when I came across this short video, based on a Dark Horse comic.

“Number 13”

According to its YouTube channel (which I have now subscribed to),

“DUST is the first multi-platform destination for binge watchable sci-fi. We feature science fiction short films and other content from emerging filmmakers with stunning visual effects, captivating plots and complex character explorations. Robots, aliens, space exploration, technology, and human experience are all a part of DUST.”

Sounds pretty cool! In fact, I’ve watched four more and they were all quite interesting and well done. Some very creative and talented filmmakers out there! I just hope I have time to watch more in the future. There’s a website, and you can subscribe to the newsletter and watch the videos from there, if you don’t want to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

I came across another short film, this one by cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell, who I am sure you are familiar with from “Arrow”, “Flash”, and other genre productions. This is a project they put together with a couple friends and got crowdfunded. The setting is “a world where 4% of the population are born with some type of supernatural ability. Instead of being billionaire superheroes, most ‘specials’ live in poverty and resort to crime, forcing the police to become more militarized.”

Follow this link to the short…

Via an Indiegogo campaign, they were able to fund a full-length movie which began production on June 1st, 2017. The movie’s plot involves “Conner Reed (Robbie Amell) [as] a powerful young man who is struggling to pay for his ailing mother’s medical treatment. To earn money, he joins a lucrative criminal world [through] Garrett (Stephen Amell), who works for a drug lord (Greg Bryk).”

They promise “robots, superpowers, and a ton of badass action.” You can find out more about it at code8.com. Current estimated release date won’t be until 2018, possibly that December.

In other news,… it looks like “Miami Vice” may get another reboot, this time on TV. Vin Diesel’s One Race Television production company (working under a deal with Universal TV) has teamed with Chris Morgan Productions to develop the new series for NBC. (Morgan wrote six of the “Fast & Furious” films.) As per Variety,

“Peter Macmanus will write the script, based on the original series. While executive producers haven’t been set, it’s more than likely Macmanus, Morgan, and Diesel will all serve as EPs, along with more staffers from One Race TV and Chris Morgan Prods….”

There have been many reboots in recent years, some good (e.g., “Hawaii Five-O” and “MacGyver” series) and some disappointing (e.g., Miami Vice and The Dukes of Hazard films). And more are on the way (e.g., “S.W.A.T.”). I have mixed feelings about the studios mining so much old material, especially when they rarely retain the quality or charm of the originals. And then they cancel good, new stuff (e.g., “Almost Human”, “A.P.B.”)!

The original “Crockett & Tubbs”

As for this particular effort, I’m not sure we know enough to hazard a guess at what it might be like. On the one hand, having action veterans Diesel and Morgan at the helm is a good sign. On the other hand, the original “Miami Vice” was an iconic, groundbreaking show, with an amazing cast and tone that will be quite difficult to match. I mean, realistically, how can you ever find another Crockett & Tubbs with the chemistry and easy coolness of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, or equal the quiet steeliness of ‘Lt. Castillo’ as portrayed by Edward James Olmos? Plus, much of the original’s identity is wrapped up in the music, fashion, and zeitgeist of the ’80s, such that I wonder if they’ll need to set the new series in the ’80s, too, just to give it a fighting chance.

At this point, I guess I’ll just say that I am curious and hopeful that they can at least put forth a decent product, even if they can’t quite capture the feel of the original.

P.S.  Here’s a fun article — especially for those of us old enough to remember watching the show — re some “Miami Vice” guest stars: “20 Huge Stars You Didn’t Know Were On Miami Vice”.

P.P.S.  There is a connection between the latter two items, btw. Sung Kang, who you will remember from a few of Diesel’s F&F movies, appears in Code 8.

My Top 8 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies

Arnold Schwarzenegger — aka “Ahnuld” — just turned 70 years old! Can you believe it?!

Ahnuld posing for *Sabotage*

For a man who is thick on accent and light on acting talent (though both have improved over time), Ahnuld has amassed an impressive number of movies over the past 40 years or so. He is one of the biggest action-movie icons of all time, not to mention a favorite of comedians and impressionists, and his success shows what big muscles, snappy one-liners, a handful of memorable roles, and a lot of hard work and ambition can earn you in Hollywood. Plus, he has that Ahnuld charisma. Despite his faults, he seems like a decent chap, too.

I wouldn’t say I’m his hugest fan, but I *do* like him and have seen (and mostly enjoyed) many of his films. So, I thought it might be fun to come up with a list of my favorites and share them with you. Sort of like what I did with Kurt Russell, but with a little less emphasis on the roles specifically and more on each movie as a whole. I limited myself to those that he (co-)stars in (as opposed to small supporting roles or bit parts).

You will notice that there aren’t any comedies on my list. This simply isn’t Ahnuld’s strong suit. I mean, he has some of the best one-liners in his action movies, but his “comedic stylings” just aren’t enough to carry a movie. If pressed to pick one comedy, I’d go with Twins, in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito. Certainly it was better than Junior (also paired with DeVito), Kindergarten Cop, or Jingle All the Way. (I never saw The Villain (1979), aka Cactus Jack, but I understand it wasn’t so great, either.) I hope the upcoming sequel, Triplets, which adds Eddie Murphy to the mix, will be reasonably entertaining and not rely on too much crude humor or stupidity.

You’ll also notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have either of the Conan movies (or Red Sonja) on my list, either. His first starring role was as Hercules in New York (1970), but the Conan role 12 years later was his first success as an action movie star. For some people, especially those who followed him as a bodybuilder, too, the Conan flicks are “classics”. Personally, I never got too much into the ’80s swords-n-sorcery subgenre (with a few exceptions), even those with a comic book tie-in. Another sequel, The Legend of Conan, has been announced, which will bring Ahnuld back into the title role. Do we really want to see a septuagenarian Conan fighting monsters and barbarian hordes? Hmmm, as long as he’s in decent shape, maybe…

OK, my Top 8 in chronological order…

The Terminator (1984): Any Ahnuld fan has to put this film in any Top X list. I mean, this is the one role that launched him to superstar status. Of course, visionary writer/director James Cameron and the rest of the cast — including Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Winfield, et al. — were also instrumental in creating this amazing sci-fi/action film. But, it was Ahnuld’s portrayal of the time-traveling, cyborg juggernaut that helped to define this movie. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role that would have had nearly the impact. (I have, however, tried re-casting it with a more current crop of stars, much as I recently did for Predator.) There were so many great, memorable scenes! Ahnuld’s Austrian accent wasn’t much of an issue, either, since the Terminator didn’t say much. And, of course, “Ah’ll be back.” has become such an iconic quote that everyone one knows it’s Ahnuld, even if they aren’t sure which movie it’s from.

Commando (1985): I wrote many months ago that I’d like to see a sequel to this film. Ahnuld played Col. John Matrix, a “retired elite Black Ops Commando [who] launches a one man war against a group of South American criminals who have kidnapped his daughter.” Co-starring Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Alyssa Milano, et al., this was the kind of story that makes you root for the hero to “get the girl” and show the baddies that he’s one guy they definitely should *not* have messed with. He brutally punches, snaps, stabs, slices, shoots, and blows up the bad guys in order to find and rescue his young daughter. Violent? That’s an understatement. Plenty of clever (or silly) one-liners, too. (Fun Fact: One of the writers was Jeph Loeb, who went on to write tons of comics and write/produce things like “Smallville”, “Lost”, “Heroes”, and many Marvel productions.)

Predator (1987): In a lot of ways, I suppose Major “Dutch” Schaefer could have been called Col. John Matrix. They are both muscle-bound, highly-skilled commando leaders trying to survive extremely difficult situations against deadly foes. (Kinda like a certain “John J. Rambo”.) This was another iconic film in the sci-fi/action subgenre, and one in which Ahnuld got to fire big guns, smoke big stogies, and show off his big muscles. Some pretty good quotes, too. (For example, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”, “Get to the chopper!”, and “You are one ugly m____rf____r.”) Great cast, cool concept, and Ahnuld gets to match wits, weapons, and muscles with a monstrous alien trophy hunter. What’s not to like?

The Running Man (1987): This one might surprise you, since it isn’t one of Ahnuld’s better known films. But, it sticks in my mind for at least two reasons. First, it’s one of those stories where the protagonist has to fight his way through a number of individual opponents to survive, but this time it’s a deadly game show. Second, the main villain of the piece is played by the original host of the “Family Feud” (1976-1985), Richard Dawson. (I don’t know who thought of that bit of casting, but Dawson actually did a decent job of it.) Maria Conchita Alonso and Yaphet Kotto are in it, too. The costumed and specially-armed foes Ahnuld’s character has to fight are Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka), Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Dynamo (Erland van Lidth), Fireball (Jim Brown), and Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Fun, fun, fun!

Total Recall (1990): I never read the original short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, but I very much enjoyed the first big-screen adaptation, Total Recall. (The 2012 remake? Not so much, though it was OK.) Ahnuld’s ‘Douglas Quaid’ is just some working-class guy who suddenly gets his world turned upside-down, not knowing what’s real and what’s implanted memory. The answers seem to lie on Mars, so off he goes! The near-future looks a lot like today — a mix of shiny and grimy, pretty and nasty — but with some mutated humans and some cool tech thrown in. (You need to overlook a scientific impossibility or two, though.) Nice combination of sci-fi, action, and mystery/thriller, with a terrific supporting cast (i.e., Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside). You can just watch it for the action or ponder the deeper, moral & existential questions raised. A real rollercoaster ride and definitely worth the time, imo.

Ahnuld and Jamie Lee in *True Lies*

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Ahnuld returns as another T-800, but this time one who is programmed to keep the target of another Terminator alive. Very similar yet different from the first one, the film was one of those rare sequels that is arguably as good as its predecessor. (Some might even say better. Not me. But some.) Of course, Robert Patrick’s portrayal as the nigh-unstoppable, liquid-metal T-1000 was a breakout role for him. But, it was still Ahnuld’s (and Linda Hamilton’s) movie. Lots of great action and suspense, along with some humor. Overall, a great movie, sequel or not.

P.S. Can you believe that Edward Furlong, who played young John Connor, just turned 40?!

True Lies (1994): I’m not exactly a fan of Tom Arnold, but he did a fair job here. I like Jamie Lee Curtis OK, and she made a surprisingly good wife for Ahnuld’s secret agent, ‘Harry Tasker’. Throw in Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku, and even Charlton Heston, and you have a pretty solid supporting cast. Harry has to track down stolen nuclear weapons that are in the hands of fanatic terrorists, while also trying to keep his wife out of danger and still maintain his civilian identity. Loads of action and hilarity ensue, of course, and Ahnuld does well as a globe-hopping secret agent. It feels like a cross between James Bond and a classic Disney caper. Fun for all! (Well, maybe not youngsters.)

Eraser (1996): “A Witness Protection specialist becomes suspicious of his co-workers when dealing with a case involving high-tech weapons.” That specialist is Ahnuld… or, rather, U.S. Marshal John ‘The Eraser’ Kruger, who starts out thinking his only worry is his latest assignment — i.e., the relocation of ‘Lee Cullen’, played by Vanessa Williams. Poor Kruger ends up going on the run with Lee, as they try to avoid being captured or killed by some misguided and/or corrupt Marshals and other law enforcement. In addition to Ahnuld and Williams, you have James Caan, James Coburn, James Cromwell, Robert Pastorelli, Danny Nucci, Mark Rolston, John Slattery, et al. It’s another terrific group supporting Ahnuld and making for a gripping, pulse-pounding action/drama/mystery movie. (Oh, and that alligator scene…!) Two thumbs up!

Of Ahnuld’s more recent films, as of this writing I have not yet seen Escape Plan (2013) (with Stallone), Sabotage (2014), Maggie (2015), or Aftermath (2017). I need to add them to my movie queue, I suppose. Who knows? Maybe after watching them, I’ll be able to round out my Top 10….

What are your favorite Ahnuld movies and why?

Check ‘Em Out!: Entertainment Tropes and a Sci-Fi Museum

Hey!

I wanted to tell you briefly about a couple of websites I recently came across that you might also enjoy.

TV Tropes

As the Welcome statement on the site states, “Merriam-Webster defines trope as a ‘figure of speech.’ For creative writer types, tropes are more about conveying a concept to the audience without needing to spell out all the details.” However, it is online Merriam-Webster’s second definition that is more appropriate here: “a common or overused theme or device : cliché”.

The site, which is no longer limited to TV shows, is all about those plot devices, themes, stereotypes, etc., that frequently show up in various large- and small-screen productions. These tropes and subtropes are given names — e.g., “Book Dumb”, “Let’s Split Up, Gang”, “Lampshading”, or “Rule of Sean Connery” — and then various movies, TV series, and characters are described using these (sub)tropes. (It’s a little bit hard to describe unless you go there.) As you read descriptions of the (sub)tropes, you’ll be saying to yourself, “Oh, yeah, like when…” multiple times. You can browse by genre, media, narrative, topical tropes, or other categories.

In addition to being an “authority” site (sort of), it is also a community. For example, members can go to the “Trope Finder” page to ask fellow-members things like “Do we have this one?” and “What’s the trope about…?” The “You Know That Show…” page is for when you’re trying to remember the name of a show/movie that just escapes you. So, you can try describing it to the community and hope that someone else can identify it for you. Similar pages include “Ask the Tropers”, “Browse TV Tropes”, and “Trope Launch Pad”.

I’m not sure how much I’d actually use this site on a regular basis, but it might be handy to have access for when I do need a research assist. How about you?

Museum of Science Fiction

Did you know there was a Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, D.C.? Well, there isn’t… not yet, at least. The group that runs the site (which I assume is legit) is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that has been seeking talent and funding since 2013 to make the museum a reality.

Their initial team of 38 volunteers made “significant progress on everything from curatorial aspects such as gallery design and visitor experience to the non-profit management areas of development, project management, education, information technology, public relations, marketing, finance, accounting, and legal compliance.” From there, the first step was to develop “a 3,000-square-foot preview museum where we can test exhibit concepts and new interactive technologies to share a real-time look into this grassroots effort.”

As per the “Preview Museum” page,

“By starting with a small preview museum, doors can open sooner and set the stage for completing the full-scale facility within five years. During this time, the Museum will annually change out the exhibits, stories, and educational content to highlight the best achievements in science fiction and its continuing impact on our culture.

The Preview Museum’s architectural design is modular and highly portable to allow for easy relocation to other cities (such as New York or Los Angeles). After its tour, the Preview Museum will be added as a wing to the full-scale facility….

Our mission is to create a center of gravity where art and science are powered by imagination. Science fiction is the story of humanity: who we were, who we are, and who we dream to be. The Museum will present this story through displays, interactivity, and programs in ways that excite, educate, entertain, and create a new generation of dreamers.”

Meanwhile, they have (co-)sponsored various competitions (e.g., the “Deep Ocean Research and Robotics Competition”) and two annual “Escape Velocity” events — i.e., “a micro-futuristic world’s fair designed to promote STEAM education within the context of science fiction.” They also continue to add content to the museum web-site, and in Jan. 2016 launched the MoSF Journal of Science Fiction, which includes both researched academic articles and short, reflective essays.

If you are curious about the journal’s content, follow the link. Also, here is the Table of Contents for the first issue:

  • Reflecting on Science Fiction, Monica Louzon
  • Biogenetics, The Nation, and Globalization in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Critical Dystopias, Derrick King
  • Gods of War Toke While Riding a Vimana: Hindu Gods in Three Indian Science Fiction Novels, Sami Ahmad Khan
  • Loving the Other in Science Fiction by Women, Karma Waltonen
  • Paul’s Empire: Imperialism and Assemblage Theory in Frank Herbert’s Dune, Amanda M Rudd

As of this writing, three issues have been published (see pic for #3), and they are downloadable for free in PDF format.

I don’t know when I’ll have time to look at this more, especially the journal (though I downloaded all 3 issues), but it all looks & sounds pretty cool to me!

Transhuman Immortal

[Note: The following was originally published as “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” on my ‘A View from the Right’ blog, but the source and subject matter fall under “science-fiction” (for now). So, I thought you all might appreciate it, as well.]

This blogpost is probably not about what you think it’s about.

Based on the title — a phrase variously attributed to Thomas Paine, George S. Patton, Laurence J. Peter, and “Anonymous” –, one would most likely think it is about leadership in general, or maybe with a business/entrepreneurship or military emphasis. It’s not. The title is from a chapter in the science-fiction novel Transhuman by Ben Bova, and the subject is about the human lifespan and the potential impact of medical/genetic technology that would greatly increase our longevity. In context, then, the title refers to the scientific and political/economic aspects to such a development, but also the societal changes overall. (I guess there is a business aspect, too, come to think of it.)

Many people like to dream about how great it would be if they lived a couple hundred years or more instead of mere decades — preferably in good health, of course. But, we don’t often think through what the effects on modern society might be. It’s an intriguing topic, and I thought that Bova (via his characters) hit on some interesting points. Not every area that would be affected, of course, but some. I considered trying to summarize it all, but it works much better as played out between the characters. So, I decided to cite (with minor edits) some of the conversation from the book. Hope you find it interesting….


SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Rossov snarled…. Shaking his head, Rossov said, “I don’t think you understand what you’ve let loose. Curing cancer. All sorts of people living past a hundred. It’s a disaster.”

“It’s a revolution,” said Luke. “What the hell are you so spooled up about? This is the best news the human race has had since… since Watson and Crick unraveled DNA.”

Rossov moaned. “Death rate going down. Lifetimes doubling. That’s a disaster, Abramson! A f_____ disaster!”

Genuinely puzzled, Luke asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’ve ruined Social Security. We’re already going broke with Medicare. And the whole insurance industry, too. You’ve wrecked the American economy.”

“Bull____.”

Jabbing a finger at Luke, Rossov insisted, “The economy can’t survive having a nation full of centenarians! It’ll break the bank.”

Luke felt growing anger simmering inside him. These chowderheads don’t understand, he realized. They don’t understand anything at all.

He rose slowly to his feet. “You just don’t get it, do you? You can’t stop this. You can’t put a cork in scientific knowledge. What I’ve done is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the knowledge, the power, to transform the human race.”

“And ruin the country.”

Change the country. Change the world.” Luke started to pace across the office, but his ankle flared and he sank back onto his chair. Still, he continued. “We’re going to be able to extend human life spans indefinitely, sooner or later. Prevent genetic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Stem cell therapies will repair failing hearts, rebuild nerves and any other tissue that’s been damaged, regrow limbs that have been lost –“

“By killing fetuses,” Rossov growled.

Luke waved the thought away. “We don’t need fetal stem cells. We can take stem cells from your own body. Or regress skin cells to become stem cells.”

“I’ve read reports on that,” said Colonel Dennis.

Turning in his chair to face Rossov squarely, Luke said, “You think we’re going to have a country full of pathetic, creaking old geezers. Well, that’s wrong. Look at me! I’ll be seventy-five in a couple of months, but somatically — physically — I’m like a forty-year-old. And I’m going to stay this way for a long time.”

“That’s the f_____ problem,” Rossov muttered. “Millions of people living to a hundred and more….”

“It’s not a problem,” Luke countered. “We’re entering a new era…. What I’m telling you is that people will be healthy and vigorous all their lives. So they live to be a hundred and fifty, two hundred, so what? They won’t need Social Security or Medicare. They’ll be working, going back to school, starting new careers for themselves.”

Fisk’s eyes narrowed. “They’ll continue to be consumers.”

“Damned right,” said Luke. “They’ll continue to buy cars, homes, take vacation, overseas trips–“

“Have babies,” said the colonel.

“You just don’t understand,” Rossov repeated. “You think your transhumans are going to give up their Social Security benefits, their Medicare, their pensions just because they’re feeling spry and healthy? In your dreams! This is going to destroy the economy.”

“No,” Luke replied. “It’s going to change the economy. And you politicians are going to have to make some real changes to Social Security and Medicare and the rest.”

“Change them? That’s impossible. Political suicide.”

“Then we’re going to have to find political leaders who can make it possible.”

Rossov glared at him.

“Besides,” Luke went on, “this isn’t going to happen all at once. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. You won’t start to see any major effects for another five, ten years.” …

Luke pointed out, “I’m not the only one working in this area. Sure, I’m ahead of all the others, but sooner or later some bright researcher would hit on the same idea. You can’t control everybody. You can’t stop people from thinking, learning.”

Rossov muttered, “And you can’t drop a bombshell like this without dislocating the economy. We’re having a tough enough time keeping Social Security and Medicare properly funded. Now…” He sank his head into his hands.

“Now,” Luke took up, “you’re going to have to get those egomaniacs in Washington to do the jobs they were elected to do. You’ve got at least five years to do it, maybe ten. Instead of trying to stop this transformation, get to work and prepare for it.”

“You’ve never tried to work with the Congress,” Rossov moaned. “You’ve never tried to move the bureaucracy.”

Luke snapped, “Then get out of the way, buster, because the change is coming, whether you like it or not.” …

Rossov looked dubious, but Fisk went on grandly. “Transhumans. It’s exciting. People staying young, vigorous past a hundred. Active.” [To Luke, he said,] “You’re still under contract to me, you know.” … Fisk’s tentative smile widened into a happy grin.

“So you peddle your fountain of youth to the masses,” Rossov growled.

“That’s right,” said Fisk. “And you start getting the government ready for the changes that are coming.” …

“What choice do I have?” Rossov said bleakly.

“No choice at all,” said Luke. “The change is coming. Either you take credit for it and try to lead the country or you’ll get rolled under by it.”

“It’s impossible,” Rossov muttered. “You have no idea how impossible it is.”

Luke shook his head at him. “Listen, pal, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Rossov isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character in the novel, but I had to chuckle sympathetically at his frustration in this scene. Not only does he need to come around to a new way of thinking, but as the White House’s representative, he needs to get the President on board and then will likely be tasked with getting entrenched politicians, lobbyists, and Washington bureaucrats to wake up to the new reality, too. Poor guy!

This excerpt only briefly touched on matters such as ethics and responsible science. (For example, just because a thing can be done does not mean is should be done.) The book examines some of these questions a bit more but also raises others. There are also the very practical matters of how to implement the life-sustaining treatments going forward, especially since there will be limited supplies, great expense, a variety of reactions by the populace, etc. Quite a complicated mess, both ethically and practically, if you ask me. And figuring out the answers is “way above my pay grade”, though I might return to the topic at some point.

Meantime, give the book a try, whydontcha? It’s a pretty good read — or, listen on audiobook (as I did).

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.