Category Archives: william shatner

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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Fanboys

Fanboys ~ Four Star Wars fans travel cross-country and have adventures on a quest to see Episode 1 before anyone else – the dream of one of them who’s terminally ill. This is a road picture plain and simple, chockfull of wonderful cameos like Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner, Harry Knowles and a particularly hilarious one by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes. Chris Marquette, late of “Joan of Arcadia,” is also good here.

While it’s respectful and infinitely knowledgeable of the genre, unlike previous mockumentaries like Trekkies, it doesn’t seem to know that it’s own title is somewhat derogatory in itself. Behind the scenes horror stories aside, and there are many, this is a fun homage to Star Wars and the entire genre.

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Juliette Lickless

In most cases when a celebrity actor or actress chooses to move into the music field, it ends in disaster. Witness Russell Crowe and Billy Bob Thornton for recent examples. It’s true. For each mildly successful John Tesh and Shaun Cassidy there are more than two dozen William Shatners, Steven Seagals and Don Johnsons. Bad voodoo. Just don’t do it.

However, after watching the film Blueberry, known in the States unfortunately as Renegade, a friend turned me on to the singing talents of Juliette Lewis who sings momentarily in the flick. For me, I thought she was a one note (pun unintended) actress, but was impressed with her here. Hearing she had a couple albums out, I checked into them, and I was very surprised.

Juliette is a rocker, hardcore old school rocker, the likes of which we really haven’t heard on the music scene since Queens of the Stone Age. Her three albums as Juliette & The Licks are awesome. Juliette’s energy is frenetic and reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger, or Candy Slice come to life. Yeah, remember Gilda Radner’s Patti Smith-esque punk rocker from the classic “Saturday Night Live?” This is her in the flesh.

So impressed with this energy I hunted down the tunage immediately and now look forward to many hours of rockin’ enjoyment with my iPod Shuffle. The problem of course is that nothing lasts forever, especially if it’s good. At the start of the new year Juliette announced a new band, the New Romantiques, a new tour, a new (and unsatisfying) sound, an album to drop in September and even a new website.

The good news is that she’ll be returning to the States on this tour and be opening for old favorites The Pretenders and new favorite Cat Power. Maybe she’ll do some of her old stuff. If so, guaranteed to be quite a show.

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Quickies 5-18-2009

The Explosive Generation ~ It’s interesting to watch and review a William Shatner flick from 1961 in the midst of the current Star Trek buzz, and doubly interesting that he turned down a role in the new Trek yet he’s in this. I guess he couldn’t be picky back then. How times have changed. In this cautionary tale about coming of age, sex education and pre-protest student protests, Bill plays the ‘cool teacher.’ You know, the one who usually gets fired for teaching the wrong thing or ends up having an affair with a student – yeah, he’s that guy, only without the affair. Look for a slightly grown up Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed, a babyfaced Beau Bridges and Stafford Repp, Chief O’Hara from “Batman” playing a cop sans Irish accent. And engaging if predictable hour and a half.

Tropic Thunder ~ Wow, was this flick 90% hype or what? Except for the hilarious fake movie previews at the beginning and a few moments of just over-the-top wrong humor, I found this to be tedious and downright boring for the most parts. Yes, I said boring – a damned hard thing to be with gunfire and explosions every couple of minutes, but they pulled it off somehow. Horrendous.

Gamers ~ This one’s very narrowcast, but hilarious if you get the references. It’s a mockumentary about a roleplaying group who’s about to break the world’s record for most hours played, and has videotaped every gaming session. William Katt, Kelly LeBrock and Beverly D’Angelo make hilarious cameos. This is Spinal Tap for gamers, but might go right over the heads of anyone who’s never played. You’ll never look at clown porn, paintball or horse breeding the same way again. Highly recommended for those who indulge.

Special ~ Not only is this 2006 Michael Rapaport vehicle just an embarrassment in general but it’s also the same insult for the superhero and independent film genres as well. It might have flown well as a five-minute “SNL” skit but otherwise this is crap. Avoid.

Chariots of the Gods ~ In the 1970s this was something special or at least something to talk about with your friends. In the decades since, Erich von Daniken has been revealed to be a charlatan and it leaves this ‘documentary’ based on his books as a ridiculous leftover. An amusing relic that still runs as slow as it did when it was relevant.

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Star Trek – The New Frontier

Star Trek ~ There are numerous reasons why a major entertainment franchise would be rebooted. Perhaps it’s been forgotten a generation ago. Maybe the last film in the series did comparatively horrible at the box office to previous entries. Perhaps the last television attempt was on a flailing network and was badly promoted – and in some cases dissed by supposed fans of the franchise. For Star Trek, coming up on its 43rd anniversary, can count all of those reasons and more for its current reboot in theatres in just a week or so.

The powers that be have brought in J.J. Abrams, of “Alias,” “Lost” and Cloverfield to helm this eleven Trek film, with an all-new cast in a prequel/sequel/reimagining/reboot (yes, it is all of those things) to the original TV series. Trailers have brought nothing but controversy for Trek fans and interest in viewers with no Trek in their past. Surely, this flick will be a rite of passage.

Before I go any further, be warned that this is a spoiler-rich review. I saw the film nearly two weeks ago and have been trying to write a spoilerless review. It’s just not possible to do, and address the things I want to address – so if you continue reading, consider yourself warned.

The flick begins with a bang, and the rollercoaster hardly stops from there on, which is a marked difference from Trek. The Treks before this have seemed pretentiously talky, so much so that is considered to be the way it should be – a point made by Trekkies when they haven’t liked films with ‘too much action,’ like Nemesis, the last movie in the series that may have helped kill the franchise. And that’s a point I’d like to bring up to the hardcore ‘fans’ out there – Paramount did not nearly kill the franchise – you did by not supporting it. I think this is the main reason this new film was made for the mainstream younger audience -and not those hardcore fans- to save the franchise.

And that’s not to say that this new film is not for the fans. The writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, have taken great care to keep continuity and canon high on their priority list – despite the time travel alternate divergence mindgames that go on. They not only play by the rules, but they also get to play by theirs as well. There are moments, little nods, like the red shirt phenomenon, Admiral Archer’s beagle, Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru, Sulu’s fencing, McCoy’s signature catchphrases, and the timelost old Spock doing to young Scotty what the timelost old Scotty himself does to a young 20th century engineer in The Voyage Home, that are just brilliant. And although they are brief, I love the scenes of Kirk and Spock as boys. Beautiful, just beautiful.

The cast is near perfect. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, but twenty minutes into the flick I had forgotten about the original cast and was seeing the new faces as the characters. Chris Pine plays William Shatner as Kirk (rather than just William Shatner, which probably would have been disastrous) just as Zachary Quinto does Nimoy as Spock. Each though brings their own flavor to the part – a bit of James Dean for young Kirk and an alien outsider vibe to young Spock. Karl Urban is the perfect McCoy. That particular bit of inspired casting is a gift from God. I may have to wonder if DeForrest Kelley is his father, it’s so close.

The rest of the cast is rounded out well with the always entertaining Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho doing a wonderful intimidating impression of George Takei doing Sulu in the original series, as opposed to Takei’s more satiric take of recent years thanks to his coming out and participation with the Howard Stern programs, and the highlight of the cast has got to be Zoe Saldana as Uhura – finally claiming the spotlight the character should have had decades ago. Zoe is an actress to watch for the future.

Conversely, Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov, is quite annoying, and one of the lowlights of the film. I have to wonder however if this is on purpose. If memory serves when the Beatle-esque character first appeared in the second season of the original series many fans hated him just as they did that other ratings bump Seven-of-Nine decades later in “Voyager.” Maybe we’re supposed to hate him?

It should be noted that it’s not all wine and roses though. Along with Chekov there were other elements that didn’t win me over. Star Wars is alive an well in the film. Things like the great Tatooine-ish bar scene and fight in which Uhura is introduced and Kirk looking at the Academy training center shaped like a starship work well, but it goes too far in the Hoth scene with Cloverfield’s cousin – thankfully it’s a brief departure. I also didn’t care much for Kirk’s allergy, but again, very brief. I’m torn by the slug scene. is it a rip-off or an homage to the similar scene in Wrath of Khan?

The special effects are great. I like the new warp effect but no so keen on the new transporter effect. The music is amazing. Much like the powerful score of Tyler Bates in Watchmen, the music of Michael Giacchino more than makes this movie as great as it is. He dabbles in Philip Glass, brings on the Akira Ifukube, and even retunes a bit of the original Alexander Courage. I can’t say enough about this score, other than I bought it, and for a soundtrack for me, that’s saying a lot.

All that said, I think this new Star Trek will not only reignite the franchise, but will be the first summer blockbuster of the year, if not the summer blockbuster of the year. It’s fresh, it’s accessible, and it’s exciting. And Trekkies will hate it.

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Too Much Free Time?

Really, Bill? Come on, man, George’s wedding was more than a few months ago. Why are you still fuming? Priceline and “Boston Legal” not keeping you busy enough?

Quickies 7-12-2008

The Ruins ~ Adapted by Scott B. Smith from his own novel, for a change, at this is supposedly a horror flick that might have some of the same bite as its book. The previews for The Ruins gave me the willies just seeing less than a minute of it, and as I watched the DVD I hoped I hadn’t seen it all. Well, I hadn’t seen it all, but I did guess most of it. And my original thoughts on the writing proved wrong as for whatever reason the author chose to change around a few characters and their names and fates. It has a few good scares, not counting Shawn Ashmore with a perm, and is quite graphic and gory, genuinely hard to watch in a few places – but just an average horror outing, nothing special.

Camp Rock ~ I have nothing against Disney trying to bottle lightning again in the High School Musical vein, except when it seems packaged and formulaic. Other than being an average Disney Channel movie, and an obvious vehicle for the Jonas Brothers, the biggest sin of this flick is its painful similarity to HSM in plot, characters and tone. Sometimes lightning just doesn’t strike twice. Harmless and entertaining, but it’s no High School Musical. Nice to see Julie Brown again though.

Don’t Worry We’ll Think of a Title ~ Written and produced by Morey Amsterdam and starring the lesser half of the old “Dick Van Dyke Show” suffers from a feeling that it would have been a bad 1940s soundstage comedy when in reality it was made in 1966. An early scene features Moe Howard staring January Jones right in the breasts. That’s about as funny as it gets, and that wasn’t in the script. I think, if I had been fourteen when I first saw this, I would have been in stitches. A case of mistaken identity, lots of classic cameos and one liner set-up after one liner set-up make this mediocre flick sometimes painful to watch. It would have been a great sketch but not a whole movie.


The Devil’s Rain ~ If you’re not a horror fan, most folks when they think of this flick will remember it’s John Travolta’s first film, but then gain, it’s nothing to get excited about because he’s barely in it. As far as acting goes, this is a great flick for seeing William Shatner and Ernest Borgnine overact, and to see some of Keenan Wynn and Tom Skerritt’s more embarrassing performances. Also look for Ida Lupino in one of her last roles. Eddie Albert is there, as is real father of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey. Other than the above The Devil’s Rain is actually an above average devil worship B-movie for the time. Sone of the things that kick it up a level are things like the credit sequence featuring art by Hieronymus Bosch and the aforementioned LaVey as a ‘technical advisor.’ Good and scary popcorn movie for a Friday night with the lights out.

Showtime

“COPS” FROM HELL

A Review of “Showtime”

Copyright 2002 Glenn Walker

“Cops” on the Fox Network is one of my favorite shows, I rarely miss it, even in syndication. It literally began the reality television rage we’re currently in and still can’t be beat by its competition. The show is an endless source of entertainment, any given episode will have family fights, drunks and fun in trailer parks that’ll make your home life seem tame. Who can forget the singing homeless woman who thinks she’s married to the cop? The attempted suicide who wants to bring his houseplants along in the ambulance? The masturbating transvestite trucker? Or, my fave, the vampire purse snatch victim with the childhood photos?

Showtime wants to be “Cops” soooo bad.

It’s a buddy cop movie in the vein of a Lethal Weapon or a Stakeout with the added bonus of a television camera crew following them around. Robert DeNiro plays a wannabe Dirty Harry who is hooked up with aspiring actor/cop Eddie Murphy. Rene Russo is the television producer out to make a hit TV series out of this. It’s like rehab for actors who can’t pick a good script.

Speaking of the script, it’s co-written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the duo behind the WB’s hit series “Smallville.” There’s no hint of that talent here in Showtime.

DeNiro must’ve taken quite a financial hit when his Tribeca offices were destroyed in the World Trade Center disaster to be taking roles like this. Murphy, who has never been known for his ability to pick appropriate roles, ends up playing the same character he plays in all his films – Eddie Murphy (dude should’ve stuck to stand-up). And Rene Russo? Rene Russo made The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (also with DeNiro), nothing more need be said.

We do get a few good scenes with William Shatner playing himself trying to teach the cops how to look better on camera a la “T.J. Hooker” but that’s about it. Not worth the rental.

Reprinted from Project: Popcorn at:
http://www.whitevioletpictures.com/popcorn