Category Archives: six million dollar man

Apollo 18

Apollo 18 ~ Much like my earlier review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this movie pulls at my nostalgic heartstrings. NASA, the Apollo program, the moon landings, Skylab, Tang, all that stuff is a part of my childhood, and monumental to the 1970s. It’s worth noting that even Steve Austin was an astronaut, that’s how tied together this all is. And a movie about a mysterious Apollo 18 mission fits right in with my recent flights of nostalgia.

From the opening moments of Apollo 18 where it portends to be a found footage film, my heart sank. This type of filmmaking rarely works, and if it does, it usually falls apart at the end. Blair Witch and Chronicle are the rare exceptions to the rule. I hoped this would be as well. Just don’t think about how it is you’re watching this film. It’s apparently edited together after the fact, takes advantage of the poor video quality of the missions, and also spotlights bits of film the viewer is supposed to pay attention to. For me, that kind of ruins it. Don’t oversell, and don’t underestimate your audience.

We see lots of the cast, but sadly the film doesn’t give us enough of the astronauts for us to care about them. This probably remains the biggest fault of the film. That said, once into the premise and watching the movie, you can’t take your eyes off it. So settle in, dim the lights, and add some vodka to your Tang, you’re in for an intriguing and startling ride. Not what I expected at all. Relax and enjoy.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes ~ As a kid growing up in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes was very important to me, and probably to most kids of my generation. I remember asking to stay up to watch the movies on CBS, and their creaky continuity. I remember the lame TV show. I remember the girl across the street who got the Mego PotA treehouse for a gift. It’s instilled in my childhood, like the “Brady Bunch,” Marathon bars, and the “Six Million Dollar Man,” PotA was the 1970s.

All that said, you can imagine my disappointment with the Tim Burton remake, and especially that effed up ending swiped from a bad Kevin Smith comic book. When I heard they were making a prequel to it, my heart sank. A prequel to a bad movie is never a good idea, and besides, let’s get real, the original prequels to PotA weren’t that great either.

In truth, prequels rarely work, especially when we already know the story. Viewers might just give a pass to a prequel because it’s not going to tell them anything they didn’t already know. I already know the origins of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, you don’t need to tell me again. In most cases they aren’t even needed, and sometimes even hurt the property. Case in point – Star Wars.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes surprised me though. It hooked me first with an intriguing trailer before throwing the title at me. I wanted to see it before I even knew it was PotA. Finally, I’ve got hold of it on DVD. Let’s see if my instincts were right.

From the start, there are homages , both verbal and visual, to the original series of movies. Much like the preview, the movie itself grabbed me right away. James Franco, in less than annoying mode, is a geneticist searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s, testing on apes, and inadvertently succeeds with a chimp named Caesar that he raises himself. John Lithgow gives a wonderful performance as Franco’s afflicted father as well. Andy Serkis does his usual as does Tom (Draco Malfoy) Felton, so much for typecasting.

If you know the mythos, you can connect the dots, but there is still a strong emotional story here, not just a this-is-how-we-got-here vibe. The CGI effects make for the needed realism of the tale. While the ape masks and make-up of the original PotA were state of the art for the time, sadly now, they are just, well, ape masks and make-up. These apes look real and emote real, it’s very stunning. In fact it’s a tribute to the power of CGI done well that the scenes of Caesar and other apes are so hypnotic.

I really dug this flick. When all hell really breaks loose, and the apes begin their ‘rise,’ I was ten years old again. Yeah, it’s that good.

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The Evils of Evel Knievel

As I turn forty-five today I’m thinking of a birthday exactly thirty-five years earlier, when all I wanted in the whole wide world was the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle Set. I even remember that tongue-twister name to this day, probably from saying it so much in the weeks before my tenth birthday.

I think it was one of the few times as a kid that I was obsessed with a toy that much. Evel Knievel in the 1970s was a larger than life figure. I remember watching his jumps on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” and even listening to my AM transistor radio that Sunday afternoon for news of how his Snake River Canyon jump went. He was like a superhero, even dressed like one, but he was real. Maybe that’s where it came from.

The toy itself was pretty simple, a motorcycle, an action figure of Evel himself, and the ‘gyro-rev-booster’ that made the cycle go. It was magic in a box. The problem was, it was a ‘doll.’ And my father was dead set against me having ‘dolls.’ It was a dead stop point.

I had no dolls. Hell, I had no action figures, even though that term to my father meant doll, no matter what you called it. This was something that separated me from my friends. I couldn’t play equally with the other boys with their G.I. Joes, their Six Million Dollar Men, or ~ drool ~ their Mego Super-Heroes. It didn’t even matter that my cousin, who I was always being negatively compared to, had all those toys.

My father eventually gave in, and my tenth birthday was filled with an afternoon of enjoyment racing that stunt cycle up and down my front porch and making him jump the ramps from my SSP Demolition Derby Set. I was in heaven! My sister and her husband got me Evel’s Scramble Van that birthday, but as much as I loved them, it just wasn’t me. The van and its camping accessories were just a bit too much Barbie Dream House for me. So I guess my father really didn’t have that much to worry about.

Eventually the magic wore off. The handlebars of the stunt cycle broke off, and Evel’s hands broke off as well. Still, that was one of the best birthdays I ever had.

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The Other Side of the New Bionic Woman

I promised more on the new Bionic Woman, or more specifically on the crap going on behind the scenes. Here we go.

It’s not just a matter of a show that worked before but the new innovators choosing to ignore what made the original successful. Not that that helps. No matter how you slice it, the original series was very successful, some say better than “The Six Million Dollar Man” from which it spun off from. Not only did it outlast it but in my opinion had more memorable episodes. Remember the fembots? How about the Alex 7000? The show even won an Emmy, where her male counterpart never did. And of course it never had the controversy this new version has had.

Let’s start easy. There have been at least three pilots. One is good. Two is not bad, if the network has decided that changes in cast or plot should be made. But three? That’s a bit odd, especially considering rumor stated that this series which was developed for the SciFi Channel was so good it should be kicked upstairs to NBC. If it was sooo good, why change it?

Now let’s get deeper. The character of the Bionic Woman is iconic, especially in the gay community. It would seem, that along with fans of the original series this makes for a large starting fanbase, something needed if the series is indeed as different as it is. Why then, would you try to alienate that community?

Enter Isiah Washington:

http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=621886

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/07/AR2007090700719.html

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2007/09/will_the_gays_love_bionic_woma.html

And that’s just the tip of that iceberg. Suffice it to say that all of these elements plus what I consider to be a crappy pilot that I saw add up to a big zero for this one. I might be proved wrong, but I won’t be watching.