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News Around the Net!

Check out this gorgeous new trailer for Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land)’s new film about Neil Armstrong, First Man:

Wow that looks spectacular!  I love movies about the space program.  This looks like it has the potential to be something special.

Here’s our first look at Shane Black’s Predator reboot:

I dunno.  I desperately want this to be good, and I have enormous faith in the amazingly talented Shane Black (who appeared in the original Predator and wrote and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, two films I adore), but this trailer isn’t giving me much reason to think this will be better than all the other bad Predator sequels we’ve gotten previously…

Here’s the latest trailer for Sony’s Venom:

Oy.  Look at all this talent and money put towards a movie that feels like a shameless attempt for Sony to make money on a character they have the rights to.  I don’t see any true creative reason to make a movie about one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains that doesn’t include Spider-Man.  I am intrigued to see Tom Hardy playing another weird-talking character, though…!

In better Spider-Man related movie news, I love this new trailer for the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:

I love that Miles Morales is getting a movie focused on him, and the animation looks fantastic.  I am very curious about this, and hoping it will be good.

Not to be ignored: this past season, The Simpsons finally did what had long been considered to be impossible, and surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running primetime scripted series in U.S. history.  Wowsers.

Jon Favreau’s live-action Star Wars TV show will be set seven years after Return of the Jedi.  I can’t wait to learn more about this project!  A Star Wars TV show, if done right could be amazing.  (And if done wrong, it could be The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles…)

Speaking of TV shows tangentially connected to huge movie series: Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show will apparently begin by following the adventures of young Aragorn.  (The Young Aragorn Chronicles??)   I have been dubious about this idea since it was announced — I feel like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies adapted Tolkein about as well as can possibly be done, so I’m not sure that going back to this well is of much interest to me.  Still, I will withhold judgment until we learn more…  I’m glad, at least, that the show won’t just be a retelling of the same events we already saw on screen in the LOTR and Hobbit films…

This is a fantastic round-table interview with a group of TV critics … [continued]

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“Of my friend, I can only say this…”

February 28th, 2015
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After reading of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, I knew I needed to watch some Star Trek.  Star Trek II was too painful to consider.  I thought about watching Trek III or Trek IV, both of which were so marvelously directed by Mr. Nimoy.  I thought about Trek VI, which is probably my favorite of all the Trek films, and which features one of Mr. Nimoy’s very best on-screen performances.  (His heartbroken delivery of the line “She does not know” absolutely kills me every time.)  But I decided what I wanted was some classic Trek, so I could see Mr. Nimoy — and the iconic character with whom he has been so indelibly associated for almost 50 years, and now will be forevermore — in his prime.

So I decided to watch “Amok Time,” from the second season of the Original Series.

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“Amok Time” is one of the most famous Trek episodes.  I’ve seen it countless times, but I hadn’t watched it for several years.  It’s astonishing how great this half-century-old TV show looks and sounds on blu-ray, and re-watching the episode I was once again impressed by the show’s boundless creativity, and the high-quality of the production across every area.  This happens to be a very sharply-written episode, filled with some of the very best and most well-known Spock lines.  (Spock’s final statement to the Vulcan Stonn is particularly wonderful: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting.  It is not logical, but it is often true.”  There is great wisdom there.)  The amount of world-building in this episode is astounding, as we make our only visit to Vulcan in the series’ run and, in so doing, learn so much about Spock and his people.  It’s all super-cool, everything from our glimpse of the elderly stateswoman T’Pau to those awesome Vulcan weapons (which Trek fans well-know are called the Ahn-woon & the Lirpa) to all the great details in (and fun, made-up Vulcan words for) all the aspects of the Vulcans’ complex mating rituals.  (Again, all true Trek fans know all about Pon Far and the Koon-ut-kal-if-fee and Plak Tow.)  This episode features one of the very best Trek scores of them all, with the incredible theme music for the Vulcan combat.  (I love how we can hear this music playing, very soft and slowly, when Spock first speaks to Kirk on the Enterprise of Pon Farr.)  The episode feels a little of-the-past in the unsettling-to-a-modern-viewer way that the Vulcan combat ritual involves the woman’s being given to the victor.  On the other hand, one can see and respect the groundbreaking-for-its-time way in which this episode presented Vulcan as a matriarchal … [continued]

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Farewell to Kenneth Mars and Len Lesser

February 18th, 2011

I wanted to acknowledge, today, the passing of two terrific comedic actors: Kenneth Mars and Len Lesser.

Kenneth Mars was a mainstay of Mel Brooks’ early films, most notably The Producers (in which he played Franz Liebkind, a Nazi whose love for the fallen Reich spurred him to write the play “Springtime for Hitler”), and Young Frankenstein (in which he played another comedic German, the one-wooden-armed Inspector Kemp).  Mr. Mars absolutely owns both of those films.  I’m particularly fond of Inspector Kemp.  I could listen to his mangled English all day.  (“Ah rrriot ees un ugly sink!”)

For more on Mr. Mars’ life and career, click here.  (And props to the New York Times for even making note of Mr. Mars’ one-time guest appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!)

Len Lesser is best known to me — and probably most American TV-watchers! — as Uncle Leo from Seinfeld.  It’s tough to overstate just how perfect his performance as Leo was — there’s a reason the Seinfeld writers kept bringing back that character!  (“They said they were sending an Asian woman!”)  But Mr. Lesser also had a long and varied career in TV and film.  His credits include The Outlaw Josey Wales and Birdman of Alcatraz.  For more on Mr. Lesser, click here.

Both men will be missed.… [continued]

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In Memoriam: Richard Winters

January 15th, 2011

I was extremely saddened to learn, right after the new year, of the death at age 92 of Richard Winters.

Anyone who has read Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers, or watched the riveting 2001 HBO mini-series of the same name, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, certainly recognizes this name.  Major Winters was the commander of Easy Company, a Parachute Infantry Regiment that was involved in a stunning number of key engagements in World War II, from the landing at Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the capturing of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.

I’ve watched Band of Brothers many times — it’s truly one of the greatest TV epics ever produced, powerful and emotionally shattering every time I see it — and I’ve always felt that Richard Winters was one of the most striking real-life characters presented in the series.  I’m not talking about Damien Lewis’ portrayal of him — though it’s a phenomenal performance, and one worthy of great praise — but of the glimpses we get of the real Richard Winters in the opening segments of each episode (and in the documentary We Stand Alone Together that aired after the mini-series was completed).  The man’s dignity and courage and heroism are astounding.  This was a true American hero, and I wonder when we’ll see his like again.… [continued]

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Farewell to Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner

November 30th, 2010

Some sad news these past few days.  On Sunday, Leslie Nielsen passed away at the age of 84.

Here’s a nice tribute to Mr. Nielsen, written by Drew over at Hitfix.  Months ago I had decided to include Airplane! as the final film in the movie marathon I’m holding with my friends next week (I’ll be writing more about this on the site next week), and that choice now has an unexpected poignancy.  But I’m looking forward to revisiting one of his greatest roles.  I’ll need to find some time to re-watch The Naked Gun some-time soon…

Then, on Monday, the news broke that Irvin Kershner had passed away at the age of 87.

Among his many other achievements, Mr. Kershner directed The Empire Strikes Back, which just might be my favorite film of all time, and certainly ranks among the movies I’ve seen the most often.  I give Mr. Kershner enormous credit, along with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, with crafting the dark, mature epic that we know Empire to be.  There’s a wonderful tribute to him over at aintitcoolnews, and I also suggest you check out this installment of Quint’s series of Behind the Scenes Pics in honor of the great Kersh.

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.… [continued]

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Good-bye to Patrick McGoohan & Ricardo Montalban

January 15th, 2009

We lost two titans this past week:  

Patrick McGoohan is best known as “Number 6” in the bizarre 1960’s British TV show The Prisoner.  McGoohan plays a British agent who, after resigning from his position, is captured and held in a bizarre village from which he cannot escape.  Much surrealism follows.  We never find out McGoohan’s character’s name — he is referred to as “Number 6” by his captors.  (Some have viewed the show to be a sort-of continuation of another TV show, Danger Man, in which McGoohan portrayed a British secret agent named John Drake.)  Although short-lived, The Prisoner has proved to be an enormous inspiration for much of the sci-fi/fantasy programming that we’ve seen on TV over the past several decades.  The New York Times obituary for Mr. McGoohan contains a nice look back at his career.

Ricardo Montalban is probably best known to the world as enigmatic Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island.  But to me he will always be William Shatner’s greatest nemesis — the brutal, Melville-quoting Khan.  Montalban appeared as Khan in only one episode of the original Star Trek series (“Space Seed”), but he memorably returned to wreak furious vengeance on Kirk and co. almost 20 years later in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Trek has never had a better villain.  Here’s a nice look back at the life and work of Mr. Montalban.

Finally, here’s an interesting piece about both men that contains a terrific excerpt from an article by legendary film critic Pauline Kael about Montalban’s iconic performance in Star Trek II.… [continued]

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“Me… I’m Gone!”

June 24th, 2008
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I remember the first time I heard a George Carlin album. It was when I was 13, spending my summers (as I always did, and still do!) at Camp Ramah in New England. Someone in my bunk had a cassette tape with a short routine: Carlin’s classic “seven words you can’t say on television.”

I laughed, and thought the bit was clever. But it was the next summer, back at camp, when I really became a Carlin devotee. Someone (was it the same kid? Or someone else? This I cannot recall) had brought another George Carlin routine on tape. This wasn’t just a bit, this was an entire hour-long album. (Years later I found out that this was the album entitled “What Am I Doing in New Jersey?”)

Something about that recording grabbed fiercly ahold of my 14-year-old mind. And I wasn’t the only one, because my entire bunk spent that whole summer listening to that album over and over again. There’s a bit in there about ways to respond to a cop if you’re pulled over for a speeding ticket that turned into a catch phrase for the bunch of us. (Carlin to the imaginary cop: “Say…aren’t you a public servant? Get me a glass of water!”) To this day I can recite fairly substantial bits of that album verbatim.

I made a copy of that tape that summer (it was probably already a copy of a copy), that I took home with me. (I remember begging my parents to play it in the car on the drive home, and then being embarassed by how raunchy it was!) I still have that tape, and every now and again I bust it out and give it a listen. I still laugh at the things I laughed at when I was 14 (“The Civil War. How can you have a Civil War? ‘Say, pardon me — BAMBAMBAMBAM!”) and also at a lot of things that I know went way over my head back then (like the lengthy bit about the Reagan Administration that kicks off the album).

Over the years I have voraciously devoured all the Carlin material I could get my hands on. I’ve got a ton of his comedy specials taped off of TV…a number of CDs, even a couple of his books. They way he could mix astounding vulgarity with brilliant insights on language and the ridiculous human capacity for bullshit always kept me coming back (even as his routines seemed to get more and more angry and less and less funny over the past ten years). He was a genius. And he was damned funny.

That cop routine from “What Am I Doing in New Jersey” ended … [continued]