Category Archives: flash gordon

RIP Lou Scheimer

Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.

Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like “Rod Rocket.” They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.

Beginning with “The New Adventures of Superman,” they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups’ individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 “Batman” TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.

The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation’s offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of “The Brady Kids,” “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series” among many others.

Filmation delved into live-action with shows like “Isis,” “Space Academy” and Shazam.” While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.

In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.

With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He’ll be missed.

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The Hatchet Man

The Hatchet Man ~ This 1932 Warner Bros. classic, from the heart of the pre-code gangster era, has an all star cast – Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young in the leads, along with J. Carroll Naish and a pre-Ming the Merciless Charles Middleton. In fact, it may have been his performance here in Asian make-up that won him the villainous role in the “Flash Gordon” serials.

Even with the terrific cast, a script based on the popular play The Honorable Mr. Wong, and the brilliant direction of William Wellman, there is much to shame this film by today’s standards. Besides the non-code depictions of narcotics and adultery, the politically incorrect use if the word Oriental, and violence typical of this era, there’s the fact that this is the equivalent of an Asian minstrel show – the majority of the actors are whites portraying Asians.

Nevertheless, the direction and performance of the cast are exemplary. Loretta Young shines through her make-up, and we see both the hard side and the little seen soft side of Robinson. Edward G. plays the ‘hatchet man,’ the fist of justice among the tongs in Chinatown, San Francisco. While some of it is misperception, much is a tale of the old ways giving way to the new world.

When the tongs go to war, it’s not like a John Woo or Ringo Lam flick, but it does match up to the gangster films of its day, and you do get to see some fancy hatchet work. If you can get past the make-up and the stereotypes, this one’s worth watching.

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the South Jersey/Philadelphia area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ. The store celebrates its Eighth Anniversary this Saturday (the 8th of September), so come on down, there will be free stuff, prizes, Batman will be there, and everything will be on sale!

Co-hosts Ed Evans, Allison Eckel, and Glenn Walker discuss the new comics out this week in wicked high definition video, and also available on the YouTube. See it here!

Discussion featured in this week’s Special 8th Anniversary Sale Episode includes: The 8th Anniversary Sale, obscene hand gestures, Action Comics #0, two from the Batcave, two from Earth 2, Green Arrow #0, Green Lantern #0, Rotworld comics, Phantom Stranger #0, Smallville #5, Matt Fraction goes Marvel Method, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #14, Avengers Academy #36, Dark Avengers #180, First X-Men #2, Thanos Quest, Road to Oz #1 (of 6), Spawn of the Dead, Bronies unite, New Crusaders Rise of the Heroes #1, The Boys #70, Army of Darkness #5, Archer and Armstrong #2, Zenescope comics of the week, Flash Gordon Zeitgeist #6, Ed’s trades, Star Wars hats, and manga.

Also this week we have this year’s last installment of our special kids comics segment, featuring Thomas giving us the ten year old’s perspective. The discussion included: Thomas is not a Brony, the Snarked trade and The Muppets #3 by Roger Langridge, Scooby-Doo at MonsterCon, Garfield superheroes, Phineas and Ferb Magazine #12, Amelia Rules, Winx Club, the 8th Anniversary Sale, and hats galore.

Be sure to check out the fantastic All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube (don’t forget to subscribe to the channel while you’re there, and leave a comment or two on the Vidcast as well!).

And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

Don’t forget the All Things Fun! 8th Anniversary Sale Saturday!

Ted

Ted ~ The Bride and I watch Seth McFarlane’s “Family Guy” every week, and enjoy it quite a bit. That said, about every two to three weeks we have a discussion about how maybe we’re not going to watch it any more. I’m a fan of ‘cringe humor,’ which McFarlane excels at, heck, I listen to Opie and Anthony every day, but The Bride isn’t, and doesn’t. Sometimes “Family Guy” just goes too far for her.

When I first heard of Ted, McFarlane’s jump to big screens, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I knew The Bride wouldn’t be coming with me to see it. All that said, I laughed out loud at this movie. I don’t do that all that often. I did it at The Three Stooges, but before that? We’re talking maybe years.

The concept is one of a little boy with no friends who wishes his teddy bear was real, and lo and behold, the wish comes true. This is the tale of what happens when said boy, and bear, grow up. Mark Wahlberg makes a fine comedic turn as the boy, grown to drug and alcohol induced irresponsibility with his bear Ted, voiced by writer/director McFarlane. “Family Guy” alumnus Mila Kunis plays Wahlberg’s long suffering and patient girlfriend of four years. All involved are quite good.

Ted is funny, dirty, cringe worthy, and yes, believe it or not, even heartwarming. Speaking of laughing out loud, in a semi-full theater, it was only me and two women up front who were doing so. I felt a little dirty about it, but maybe everyone else was from the PTA or they just couldn’t get into the latest chick flick.

If you’re a “Family Guy” fan or if you liked movies like The Hangover or Bridesmaids, you will love Ted, recommended. And if you liked Airplane, or especially 1980’s Flash Gordon, this is must see. No ifs, ands or buts, must see.

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast for 2-15-2012

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ.

Co-hosts Ed (President’s Day Sale) Evans, Allison (Dawn of the Jedi) Eckel and Glenn (Bizarro Krypto) Walker discuss the new comics out this week in two fun video segments, in wicked high definition, and available on the YouTube. See it here!

This first segment includes discussion of the following topics: The President’s Day Saturday Sale, the Super Pets are here, Allison’s kids comics, Catwoman #6, DC Universe Presents #6 featuring the new Challengers of the Unknown, Nightwing #6, Legion of Super-Heroes #6, Supergirl #6, My Greatest Adventure #5, Batman #6, the rest of the New 52 DC Comics, and Vertigo.

The discussion continues here in segment two including: Star Trek Legion of Super-Heroes #5, Godzilla Kingdom of the Monsters #12, Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi Force Storm #1, Flash Gordon vs. Nazis, Mis-Adventures of Adam West #1, Army of Darkness #1, more from IDW including Infestation 2, Ed’s Marvels including the X-titles, Avengers and the rest of the Marvels, Ed’s trades and toys.

Be sure to check out the wild and crazy new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube.

And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

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Just a reminder, The Virtual Book Tour for THE HUNGRY HEART STORIES by Fran Metzman is featured today at Becca Butcher’s blog, and continues tomorrow on Marie Gilbert’s blog. Don’t miss it! For a full list of Blog Tour stops, go here.

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The Mercury Men

Aside from the occasional mini-series, a Saturday night Asylum movie just for laughs, and of course, “Warehouse 13,” I don’t watch all that much Syfy Network anymore. I gave “Alphas” a momentary spin but it just didn’t keep my interest.

I do however have the Syfy app on my iPhone and there were some very cool previews on there. The one I was most excited about was a black and white movie serial-ish thing called “The Mercury Men.” I couldn’t wait for this thing to air, as I would be riveted in front of my TV. Sadly as the airdate got closer, I discovered it was a webseries, not for TV. Disappointed a little, I was still excited.

So when the day came I watched each five to ten-minute installment with anticipation. It was everything I thought it would be – black and white movie serial goodness. The brainchild of writer/director Chris Preksta, The Mercury Men is a wonderful sci-fi adventure in the style of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers or any of the rayguns and rocketships serials back in the day.

When a off hours office worker is attacked by glowing men who shoot lightning from their hands and is turn saved by a cross between Indiana Jones, Buck Rogers and Airboy – the rollercoaster of action and suspense begins and doesn’t stop. Have I mentioned how much I love this?

Right now, you can see “The Mercury Men” here, or OnDemand, although I wish Syfy would just put it on the air, or better yet, make it a regular series. How about it? In the meantime, everyone else check out this great web series.

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A Tale of Two Trons

I was never that big of a fan of the original Tron, yeah, I know, blasphemy, and I have to turn in my nerd license. Other than the cool (at the time) effects and the arcade game “Discs of Tron,” which I enjoyed on an almost daily basis for hours on just a few quarters, it never really did much for me.

The thing about Tron, is that like the cyberpunk work of the legendary William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, contemporary to the flick, it’s an idea, a fictional concept, that has been washed away by reality. The world of ‘the grid’ is over, like the rocketships and rayguns of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it no longer even makes sense. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, or this sequel, mind you, it just raises the suspension of disbelief a hundredfold is all. Trust me – Gibson, Sterling, Rogers and Gordon all still rock my world in a major way – it’s just harder to do these days.

What I remember and respect most about the original Tron is its simplicity of style. A true grid world accessible and relatable to the videogames of the time was realized and endeared itself to a generation. That’s a real feat. It was visually exciting and forward-thinking for its time, and even today remains a very unique vision, separating it from much of its science fiction competition.

I also remember the music, a Journey song “Only Solutions,” that I liked – at a time when I wasn’t all that fond of Journey. Of course, life with The Bride has changed that. I like Journey and she likes comics – the concessions of love. The soundtrack however was mostly composed by the wonderful Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos), one of the first musicians to seriously work with the synthesizer as the next wave in sound. The soundtrack is memorable for that sound. Daft Punk more than does the job for the new century in the sequel. I recommend both soundtracks highly.

If 1982’s Tron posits a world called The Grid where programs compete in videogames for their users, the sequel Tron: Legacy represents a current day return to that world. Shortly after the events of the first movie, Kevin Flynn, played by Jeff Bridges, makes it big in the computer and videogame industry, and then after beginning to act erratically, disappears, leaving his son, Sam, alone.

Sam gets a page from his Dad and returns to Dad’s arcade, and in a flourish of 1980s nostalgia, punctuated by vintage videogames, Eurythmics music, as well as Journey, in a nod to this film’s predecessor, he ends up in The Grid. This is a much darker Grid, and a world that exhibits every strength today’s CGI special effects can avail. In this, the hype is true. This is the movie that 3D and IMAX were made for, it’s just a shame that not all of it is in 3D. As cool as these visuals are, the half 3D, half 2D of it damages it. All or nothing, I say.

As I said, this is a very dark film. Dark in the same way Disney’s Return to Oz was to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, so in some ways it’s not a good thing. The idea of a sequel to Tron is essentially a return to a world of wonder, a world of adventure, a world we enjoyed. This new fascist Grid, under the thumb of Flynn’s evil computer counterpart Clu is not a happy place. The problem, spoiler alert, is that even though the good guys win at the end, we never actually see anything but the bad place.

Rather than this dark vision with spectacular effects, I think I would have much rather seen a remake. It’s been almost thirty years after all, and one of the legitimate reasons to remake a film is that the special effects have gotten better – and they surely have. The Light Cycles are amazing and realistic. The Recognizers are gigantic and menacing. And Clu, wow, let me tell you about Clu. Clu is a haunting CGI effect of the younger Jeff Bridges from 1982. This ‘effect’ is both stunning and disturbing.

Cast-wise, it’s fun to see Bruce Boxleitner as Alan once again, Garret Hedlund is promising in his first major role, and Olivia Wilde is definitely someone to watch. Jeff Bridges, mostly as his older current age self, is the unfortunate weak link. He seems to channel The Dude from The Big Lebowski to the point of ridiculousness. While humorous, it pulls me completely out of the film whenever he does it. And it even ruins the strong dramatic moments like when he finally connects with his estranged son. Sorry, The Dude is one of my heroes, but he doesn’t belong in Tron.

Like Avatar, this is a film you must see for the special effects at least once. In this case, the 3D and the IMAX are worth it, even though I have railed against their cost and worth before. It seems to be doing well so I suppose a sequel is possible – maybe we’ll see more of Dillinger’s kid, which I’m sure all the Tron nerds wanted as well. Despite my reservations, Tron: Legacy is recommended, and don’t forget to check out the original too, first if possible.

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Mandrake the Magician

Mandrake the Magician is perhaps one of the first of the comic strip superheroes. Created by Lee Falk (who also created the Phantom) in 1934 and based on a real life stage magician of the same name, Mandrake was the template for the comic book magicians that proliferated in the comic books of the 1930s and 40s. Mandrake and his faithful companion Lothar adventured for decades in the comic strips, books, stage and screen. The year 1939 brought the Magician to the silver screen in a twelve-part movie serial from Columbia.

Warren Hull was a veteran of the hero business in the movie serials having also played the Green Hornet and the Spider. His Mandrake unfortunately comes off as the most dull of the three. Al Kikume, who played Lothar, is also no stranger to the heroic serials, having parts in the Captain Marvel and Nyoka ones respectively and later appearing on Superman on television. It’s kind of odd though that Lothar who was probably the first non-stereotyped African-American in comics is portrayed here by a Hawaiian. Their chemistry when it happens is a highlight, but a rare one indeed.

The plot of this serial is an old one and has been quite recycled in the genre. Scientist builds a device to benefit mankind and villain steals it to use as a weapon against the world. In this case, the villain is the Wasp, and in another old serial cliché, we have to guess from episode to episode which of our cast is really the Wasp in disguise. It has some good action and suspense, but suffers in comparison to today’s offerings and even to its contemporaries – Adventures of Captain Marvel being the best of the genre.

Much like the Phantom on Syfy, and Flash Gordon recently before that, Hollywood will soon be raping, um, sorry, I mean ‘re-imagining’ Mandrake for an upcoming production starring Hayden Christensen and Djimon Hounsou, possibly for the big screen. Yep, I’m already cringing. Should make this movie serial seem like gold though.

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The Legend of the Lone Ranger

The Legend of the Lone Ranger ~ 1981, at a time when other heroes of yesteryear were being brought back from the dead and onto the big screen, like Superman, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Little Orphan Annie – the Lone Ranger might have seemed like a natural to the folks trying to cash in, but somehow I think the project may have been cursed from the start.

Much like the very recent Sherlock Holmes, the Lone Ranger suffers a recognition problem. You might know the name but there are clearly multiple generations that have gone by without knowing what that name is about. And of course, director William A. Fraker also made the tragic mistake of all superhero movies – boring the audience to death with the unnecessary origin instead of just telling a good story. Also at the time of the film, actor Clayton Moore, who had portrayed the Ranger for decades on television and in movies was banned by the Wrather Company, owners of the character, from appearing in public as the Lone Ranger. If the film had any audience interested in seeing it, this action alone alienated them.

The string of bad luck did not end there. The young unknown hopeful-soon-to-be-superstar set to play the Lone Ranger, Klinton Spilsbury, was not only a terrible actor with bad seventies hair, but also had to have his voice dubbed throughout the film by the uncredited John Keach. He never went anywhere after this, his only acting role, and perhaps that’s a good thing. Spilsbury is probably better known as an obscure trivia answer than actually portraying the Lone Ranger.

Now that’s not to say that it’s all bad. The film has an old school 1950s-60s American western feel to it, except for the violence which alternates between excessive and over the top to fake and ridiculous (sometimes the blood is obviously strawberry jam). Christopher Lloyd does a surprising turn as villain Butch Cavendish and Jason Robards is as ever excellent in his role of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Michael Horse, also a bad actor here as Tonto, is still miles better than Spilsbury in the title part. And for the most part the movie is more Tonto than Ranger, which acting-wise was a good idea, but an epic fail for a movie about the Lone Ranger. For the record, Horse became a better actor and went on to a recurring role on “Twin Peaks” and a career doing voicework in animation.

There are too many unintentionally funny moments. One, in what should be the most dramatic and triumphant moment, where John Reid finally puts on the mask and rides off into the sunset with Tonto to the beats of the William Tell Overture, is completely ruined as they ride past the mountain where Captain Kirk fought the Gorn. I know I laughed out loud.

And forgive me, but I love the theme song “The Man in the Mask” sung by Merle Haggard with lyrics by Dean Footloose Pitchford, someone else who went on to better things. This tune is the best thing about this movie in my opinion. This one is a miss unless you’re curious or a hardcore Lone Ranger fan.

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Wednesday Comics Are Here

I love comics. Anyone who knows me knows that. We all have our hobbies, our obsessions, our passions. But how often does something happen within that interest that you are just compelled to tell everyone about it? And I mean everyone. For me, and for comics, that happened this week.

It’s called Wednesday Comics, and it came out on, duh, Wednesday. You might remember me talking about this before, a few weeks back. Then it was just an item of interest that I had not personally seen yet, only heard about and seen a few previews of. Now that I have it in my hands, I am stunned. This is the coolest thing to happen in comics (and maybe in print) in years.

This is not just the return of Sunday color adventure comics, it’s not even just the return of comics on newsprint. DC Comics has done both of those things, but they filled it with the best work they had to offer. This is amazing.

Kyle Baker’s Hawkman is stunning. Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred have recreated the Silver Age Metamorpho perfectly. The Flash is the peak of sequential storytelling. Great to see a jet age Green Lantern, it’s the era he was created for. Father and son Kuberts do Sgt. Rock, just as husband and wife Palmiotti and Conner give us a delightful take on Supergirl, Krypto and Streaky. Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook pay homage to Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant with Jack Kirby’s Kamandi just as Paul Pope does the same for Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon with his Adam Strange. It’s just beautiful.

And for those of you for whom that last paragraph means nothing, don’t worry. The best thing about Wednesday Comics is that it’s non-continuity. In English, that means it’s mainstream – it’s accessible to any readers new or old. If you’ve been reading these things forever or if you wouldn’t know a Teen Titan from Tony the Tiger, you’ll still enjoy this.

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