Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie Night 27 March

As an experiment I'm going to blog about our movie night.

The Final Viewing Program:

Cleopatra 2525: Hel and High Water Parts 1 and 2
The Secret Service: Mayday, Mayday
The Giant Claw
High Society

Okay, so lets jump straight in:

Cleopatra 2525

Hel and High Water was the two part season finale, which means we've finally watched all of season one Cleopatra 2525. If you aren't familiar with the show, the introduction will give you some insight into this cleavage-lead, underground-set, action sci-fi series.

Standard episodes are American TV half-hours (23 minutes including intro and credits) so once you've included something scary to make Cleopatra scream, Cleopatra talking about the 21st Century, one or other of the characters running into someone either from their past or who they quickly bond with, and the regulation 2 fights doesn't leave a hell of a lot of time for telling a story. This two-parter allowed a more extended storyline, but from my notes it seems that wasn't what was mostly on our minds:

Why have they changed costumes suddenly?
Sarge has shiny breasts; Cleo's are more matt.
Check the credits for the breast-wrangler.
I missed Creegan - oh but I got a nice picture of an arse. (Creegan and Victoria Pratt's arse appear at 38 seconds in the video above. For "context" see this clip; noone seems to have any Creegan fan videos which I for one find shocking. Also, the theme song is based on this 1969 hit by Zager and Evans)

The Secret Service

Also from 1969, Mayday, Mayday appears to be the penultimate episode of The Secret Service (which unlike Cleopatra 2525 didn't get picked up for a second season). Father Stanley Unwin is a middle-aged Model-T driving priest who moonlights as a spy, or more specifically a counter-spy stopping various foreigners and criminal from doing bad stuff to British commercial interests. This Gerry Anderson series mixed puppets and live action. Trailer:

So anyway, the usual things happen; Father Stanley Unwin's first response is to shrink Matthew, he uses Stanley Unwinese (a made up language demonstrated in this scene from a Carry On film) to get out of difficult situations, his Model T Ford, Gabriel drives across Westminster bridge and B.I.S.H.O.P (British Intelligence Service Headquarters Operation Priest) gives them an unlikely task. In this case to safeguard an Arab Sheikh who has sold an oil concession to the British government. So to be unobtrusive about it, they assign a priest to join his entourage. Notes:

Obviously the previously unknown Christian Arab Kingdom of Muldavia
Exploding Teddy Bear!

The Giant Claw

It's like an old-fashioned cinema program; a serial, a cartoon, we must have missed the newsreel and now the B feature, often a Western, or, in this case, a 1957 monster movie. I can't possibly explain it better than the trailer:

I'll note here that this film's use of anti-matter and their way of penetrating the anti-matter shield using mesons bonded to hydrogen atoms ("mesic-atoms") injured me to the depths of my Nuclear and Particle Physics courses.

Ouch. Anyway I'll note that the flirting between the hero and the female lead (who is a mathematician; when the bird turns up and their crew for the airplane which will fire (shudder) "mesic-atoms" is short a calculator, she fills in; as I noted, in the fifties, calculator was a job, not a machine) uses baseball metaphors, which may explain our reaction in the first note:

Mitch MacAffee reaches first base
Flocks of Weather Balloons

Also, here are some scribbled down and inaccurate transcripts of some of the dialogue:

You keep your shirt on, I'll put my pants on
Declare it Top Secret! Inform all commands!
I admire your spunk - you keep climbing on our backs

High Society

Finally from the year before The Giant Claw[1], our main feature, a musical romantic comedy with Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong (playing himself). Frankly I've spent too long on this already, so here's the first trailer I came across.

And from our notes:

Bing Crosby sings a love song to his ex-wife's kid sister??
They're making promises with their fingers crossed !!?!
Who does want flashy flunkies everywhere? [2]
Captain Trump - flatulent cardsharp superhero
"Why don't we go for a swim in the moonlight?" - Jim's response "Why don't we swim in the pool instead?"
Bing and Frank are singing together!
Bing and Frank have danced into a ballroom arm in arm!
Bing just punched Frank on the chin!

So, that was movie night. This is the blog post. Here's a link to a playlist of all the Youtube videos, in case my attempt to put a player below doesn't work. If you were there and want to add to, or argue with the details, feel free; if you weren't and want to get involved anyway, please do so. Thank you, and good night.

[1] So conceivably they may have shared a bill before.
[2] Jim missed that this was a love song and so didn't realise these two were together. Still, from the notes I suspect I wasn't doing too much better.

Sci-Fi Channel - Impingeing on my Eyeballs again (Part 2).

Well in the last post I talked about Sci-Fi Channel monster movies but somehow left out my conclusion: just like bog-standard old-style monster movies but with the script, camerawork, acting and general intelligence turned up a notch, and the special effects turned up four or five notches. Now though, on the basis of two episodes, I'm going to ask why the new Flash Gordon series[1] fails.

Is it that Flash (1980), previously a pilot in training and quarterback for the New York Jets, is now a local marathon champion who has a workshop at the back of his Mum's house? Probably not. Although this implies that there will be less brawling and flying and more running and fiddling with equipment, that's still a show I can be interested in. Flash has gone from a super-heroic figure to look up to and aspire to and is now an everyman[2] (just like you!) thrust into a crazy world.

Is the change in threat and motivation the problem? Ming isn't trying to destroy the world, he just wants to get his hands on that thing with all knowledge; Flash isn't trying to save the world, he wants to find out what happened to his father. On balance, I don't see a difficulty. The world is still in danger (as Zarkov demonstrates) simply from too much inter-dimensional travel. You can't have Ming trying to destroy the world every week, and every week Flash thwarting him. Or rather you can, but we've seen how successful that is in the 1930s version. Other threats, problems and motivations are needed to make the show last.

So is the problem Ming? Yes, I rather think it is; Ming, and the lack of imagination and craziness that Ming and Mongo should have. Ming as a clean-shaven guy with hair, in a black tunic, having created a hydraulic empire and acting like a smooth corporate fascist; Mongo being mostly oddly lit fields and woods and the city looking... well just not gonzo enough. Yes, that's what's wrong with it. It's not Flash Gordon without Ming the Merciless looking and being exotic and fascinating and just plain bonkers.

[1] Paul notes that it is the only show to ever get no stars from SFX magazine.
[2] Or since he's a twenty-something who lives with his Mum, what Sci-Fi think is their typical viewer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sci-Fi Channel - Impingeing on my Eyeballs again.

Every now and again I find myself watching a monster movie of the week on the Sci-Fi channel. They all have a similar plot - a creature of some sort is unleashed and a motley group of characters are 1. trapped in the same general area with it; 2.have to band to together to figure out what's going on; and 3. destroy it, while having a few poignant deaths. Notable ones (meaning, in this case, films I remember) include Manticore, in which a Babylonian sorcerer unleashes a manticore onto American-occupied Iraq and Commander Choqote and his squad and some journalists have to defeat it and Reign of Gargoyles, which has Nazis (re)animate gargoyles in northern France, forcing down an American bomber crew who team up with the French Resistance to defeat them.

Anyway, I note in this vein Mammoth, which has as it's monster a Mammoth[1]. This was what first attracted me to the film; Mammoths aren't hoary overused monsters, so there's a chance that someone creative could have slipped some interesting ideas into the film. Anyway, the Mammoth becomes a monster as it's it's an alien-possessed soul-sucking zombie Mammoth. Which chases Summer Glau, who is sadly wasted in this film. With all respect to Ms Glau, who displays as much acting skill as the part of scientist's daughter being chased by a Mammoth allows, there are probably twenty actresses I can think of who could have done as good a job. The film didn't play to her strengths; it's as though she was included to increase the films appeal to Summer Glau fans[2].

But enough of the Sci-Fi channel's triumphs[3]; Tomorrow I will take a look at one of their failures.

[1] Paul did not finish watching Mammoth, but if you're familiar with the monster-movie genre I won't be spoiling it for you.
[2] Yes, the cast list was the second thing that attracted me to the film, and the only name I recognised was Summer Glau.
[3] Heh heh heh

Conversation in the Pub Last Night

Girl on Barstool: I turned round and there was this huge guy behind me

Girl's Mate: Yeah he's really big

Girl on Barstool: I wonder if he's got a really big knob

Yes, that's me they were talking about. I'm aware that, being six and a half feet tall, people sometimes speculate whether my penis is in proportion to the rest of me. I'd prefer it if they discussed it out of earshot; more generally I would point out that just because you have your back to someone doesn't mean they can't hear you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Internet: You're Doing It Wrong

It's been brought to my attention that Stan, until Tuesday, was unaware of the internet phenomenon known as "lolcats". It's a little surprising that a man this techie is unfamiliar with the concept of putting funny and badly written captions onto pictures of cats and then posting them on the internet. I mean what next? Maybe he hasn't even heard of rickrolling.

Also, what the hell did he think was going on in this cartoon?

Anyway, for your education and amusement some lolcat sites:

The Original: LOLcats.
The Awesome: Ur Doing it Rong
My Favourite For Not Very Good Reasons: I Can Haz Cheezburger?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dressing Up and Superheroes; a Games Post

A friend of mine had a complaint that all his video games were boy-oriented. He riposted by stating that there weren't a lot of games about dressing up, talking about knitting and looking after babies.

It's clear that he has never heard of a thing I like to call "the internet".

Point in question: I note the site Dress Up Games, which has more online flash dress up games than you can shake a very large stick at.

(In addition I'm aware of several places on the internet where you can talk about knitting, but not being part of that scene will not recommend any of them).

But talking, as we were, about costumes and games, there's a superhero-themed puzzle game called Spandex Force that you play for an hours free trial. It's not greatly interesting, except that you get to chose the colours for your superhero when you start playing. Want to know what the Black Bustier (who's secret identity has inevitably turned out to be Virginia LaBust) looks like? Choose black for the main costume body and basically you're there.

I would open a competition to name the sidekick or partner of Black Bustier, but frankly I don't want to know. Although the comments are open.

As ever, be cautious when downloading stuff off the internet.