Sunday, June 28, 2015

Time Travel Time #12: Back to the Future

Sooner or later, I was obliged to acknowledge Robert Zemeckis' "Back to the Future" for "Time Travel Time", but considering its vast popularity, what more could be said on the subject? 

On the other hand, like so many iconic sagas, its fame eclipses its significance to the point where it's sometimes taken for granted. This inspired me to consider what's made the trilogy so endearing for many of us and what caught the public's fancy when the initial chapter premiered thirty years ago.

It should be noted that thematically, "Back to the Future" isn't exclusive to the hows and whys of time travel, but then, what worthy time-travel tale is? Thanks to Zemeckis and Bob Gale's scripts, the adventure is touched by something deep enough, rich enough to overshadow its "Time Machine" derivation. Alas, it's sit-com trimmings might obscure this on occasion, but as in the case of any traditional, wholesome weekly series, the essential nature of the family (including the friends adopted as such) characterizes the yarn. (In fact, Huey Lewis and the News' "Power of Love" covers not only the boyfriend/girlfriend motif, but the impact of any loved one on one's life.) 

Now, I'm not referencing "family" (and its associated values) in the pretentious way either side of the political aisle does, nor in the way certain radial advocates would, where an anything-goes philosophy stands in lieu of decency. (I dread to think how the implied "incest" concept might be handled if the film were remade today.) "Back to the Future" is more basic and honest than that, and its influence stems from a fundamental, ongoing struggle: that of a close-knit group pitted against antagonists who wish to satisfy their selfish whims. 

The initial film defines this theory best, its premise hinging on how Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels in time from 1985 to 1955 to help his mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and his sheepish dad, George (Crispin Glover) form a bond which, in turn, will ensure his existence. Individuals stand in the way of that bond, generally offering discouragement, like Principal Strickland (James Tolkan), who refers to both father and son as slackers, but none so much as a bully named Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), whose persistent presence will spell trouble for the McFlys through several time frames. 

Doc Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) is the catalyst in Marty's escapade, leading the young man to occupy a refashioned DeLorean, which Doc has equipped with a time-tripping flux capacitor. Marty, in fact, scoots back in time to evade the Libyan terrorists who assassinate Doc. This event makes Marty's '55 visit more intricate, for in addition to uniting his parents, he must also zoom back to his point of '85 departure (or at least as near to such as possible) to save Doc: cleverly enough, with the help of his friend's '50s counterpart. 

We can infer that Marty was meant to impact the past to fortify the present, which in turn will spawn a positive future for those he loves, including his wife-to-be, Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells, and starting in the initial sequel, Elisabeth Shue). The endeavor's steps appear predestined through insinuations and subtle circumstance. The bullies can't win; Marty's diligence, regardless of the temporal sector, seems to guarantee that. 

Though Marty is the saga's hero, George is, perhaps, its most identifiable character. Like his son, he's a humble guy who deserves better than he's been dealt. His talent, grace and charm must be nurtured, so he can rise to the occasion and marry Lorraine. In a flip on an old theme, its now the son who shows the father the way. By making his dad see his worth, Marty further perpetuates (and strengthens) the McFly chain.

This concept also filters through the follow-ups. For example, in the second installment, we're bolted to a high-tech, parallel 2015. It's now Marty Jr. and Biff's obnoxious grandson, Griff, who are at odds, with the stakes running high that Marty Jr. will end up in jail. Matters then take an even more upsetting turn, resulting in another jaunt back in time and the formation of yet another alternate track. 

Biff remains present throughout these sprints, but due to a series of unforeseen turns (and thanks to a particular sports almanac), ends up married to Marty's mom. Our old villain becomes, in fact, a seedy "It's a Wonderful Life" Mr. Potter surrogate, who's got money aplenty, but no compassion to share, especially when it comes to the McFlys. Of course, this gives Marty the incentive to challenge the status quo. 

In the third installment, we swing to the rootin' tootin', steampunked American West, where "blacksmith" Doc finds preordained love with Miss Clara Clayton (Mary "Time After Time" Steenburgen), but he must also face Biff's great grandfather, Buford, who's likely to shoot him dead over an alleged debt, potentially scrambling the time continuum all over again. With Doc on the verge of sowing the seeds of his own legacy (albeit in a most unexpected time frame), it's the McFly pride that once more paves the way for a better day, both for his namesake (which this time includes his great-great grandparents) and the budding Browns. 

Through each comically complex chapter, to some extent or another, the family thread zigzags to a promising culmination. It's, therefore, the perpetuation of collective good and the resulting principle of sticking up for oneself (i.e., championing one's lineage) that overrides the daunting obstacles. Peel away the action and slapstick, and that's what "Back to the Future" is all about: keeping family and friends free to be all they can be. The naysayers have no right to squash that--and won't--for even the greatest ripples in time can't diminish the indomitable family flow, and yes, it's this idea that sustains "Back to the Future" and will continue to mount its popularity over the years. 

The nice thing is, we don't need to go through the arduous task of time travel to appreciate its message. As many of us have discovered, we only have to slip a "Back to the Future" disc into a player, let Alan Silvestri's stirring score fill our ears and know that a prosperous place awaits, as long as we embrace a good-hearted stance and support those we hold near and dear. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015


RIP Patrick Macnee...

You made John Steed one of my favorite heroes and "The Avengers" one of my favorite television shows. In each of your portrayals, you redefined the term "suave". I am forever grateful for your influence and gracious presence. God bless...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Collectible Time #29: Dragon Pre-painted Guardians of the Galaxy Models (Rocket Raccoon, Groot and Star-lord)

I'm on a huge "Guardians of the Galaxy" kick, thanks to Z&Z Hobbies' offerings of the Dragon pre-painted, resin character kits. 

The detail on these is beyond what the photos convey, and the figures need only minor attachment. (There are also unassembled, vinyl versions that one can buy, for those of higher modeling skills.)

Anyway, there's the ever popular Rocket Racoon, who stands 7" and comes with a wee Groot figure (not included in the vinyl edition).

As one can see above, the packaging is delicately done and the illustrated slipcase quite striking.

There's also a 9" Groot, accompanied by a Rocket figure. Dig the superb detail on this duo; so nice and craggy, particularly on Groot!

And then there's the main man himself...Peter Quill: aka, Star-Lord. 

This 8" figure comes with interchangeable heads: one masked; the other in pure, Chris Pratt form.

To spice up the set, I also nailed the 5" Little Groot: a nifty companion piece to the Dancing/Musical Groot I showcased in Collectible Time #20. 

Supposedly, these limited-edition pieces were rendered via 3D technology to capture the characters' utmost likenesses. The models (whether in raw or pre-painted form) aren't cheap, but to die-hard "Guardians" fans, they're a godsend: at present, the best one's apt to locate.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Collectible Time #28: Gary Shipman Captain Marvel/Shazam! and Rocketeer Prints, plus Funko Rocketeer figure

Landed a trio of new superhero additions for my collection: two of which are Gary Shipman art pieces...

The first entry is a sizzling 11" x 17" tribute to Captain Marvel--the original Captain "Shazam!" Marvel, that is. 

DC recently renamed the "big, red cheese"(a derogatory label, incidentally, coined by his adversary, Dr. Sivana) as the incantation used by Billy Batson to conjure the mighty one. Nonetheless, whether one calls him by is original (true) name or the Gomer Pyle exclamation, Shipman's homage is both electrifying and colorful, invoking not only the imaginative, decades-enduring myth, but the Tom Tyler movie serial and the '70s Saturday morning, live-action show. Indeed...Shazam!!!

Next in line are two pieces based on Dave Steven's spectacular tribute to Rocketman...the Rocketeer!!!

The first is a 11" x 17" Shipman print, championing Cliff Secord, the man with the amazing jetpack. As one can see, Shipman's design ignites the sheet with sleek, Art-Deco gusto. 

Nifty, eh? (BTW: the color scheme of the actual print rivals the above significantly, with lovely shades of golden brown and smoky gray.)

Shortly after obtaining the print, I came across (as fate so graciously dictated) the Funko 3 3/4" Rocketeer action figure at Barnes & Noble. The packaging features a cropped image of the '91 Disney movie poster. This particular Funko figure is more intricate than others in its vast pop-cultural series, featuring an attachable helmet and jetpack.  

As respected as Captain Marvel and the Rocketeer are, they still could benefit from renewed interest. I should hope these commendable representations will help promote that deserving elevation. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Collection Recommendation #3: Korg 70,000 B.C.

"Neanderthal Man left no written records of his history, just some tools and burial mounds. This story is based upon the assumptions and theories drawn from those artifacts. It might have happened in 70,000 B.C..."

Such is Burgess Meredith's unpretentious disclaimer that closed each half-hour episode of "Korg: 70,000 B.C.": a 1974 -'75 Hanna Barbera, live-action, Saturday morning television series. It was created and produced by Fred Freiberger, co-writer of "Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and a producer on "Star Trek", "Space: 1999", "Wild, Wild West" and "The Six Million Dollar Man".

Recently, TCM Archives released the entire 16-episode run of "Korg", and for those who remember the series, this is a real treat, in that it remains unique among children's programming. 

"Korg" stars Jim Malinda in the lead; Bill Ewing as his resourceful brother, Bok; Naomi Pollack as Korg's mate, Mara; and their children: Christopher Mann as older brother, Tane; Charles Morteo as younger brother, Tor; and Janelle Pransky as their little sister, Ree.

Malinda and Ewing are generally the focus, each giving memorable performances, but all participants are top-notch, creating a credible family whose earnest members truly care and look out for one another: far more the Waltons than the Flintstones, one might say. Still, their naivete can't be denied, and it leads to a number of educational, tense and touching scenarios.

Some episodes deal with the basic ins and outs of life, such as "Trapped", "The Beach People"; and "Ree's Wolf": the latter a tender, coming-of-age tale. Others, such as "Eclipse of the Sun", "The Exile" and "Magic Claws" play upon superstition and the overcoming of psychological hindrance."The Hill People", on the other hand, is a prehistoric variation of Helen of Troy, with the episode's guest counterpart doing something the mythological maiden never dared do: thwart a burgeoning war. 

With the proper push (and perhaps a bigger budget), "Korg" would have played well during early prime time, since adults generally seemed to like it as much as children. By today's standards, however, I'm not so sure youngsters would appreciate or tolerate the series' sense of rough adventure, particularly if their interest lies in such mollified fare as "Minions". 

This is a shame, since the series' concept has much to offer. For those who watched it during the '70s, its content will still be appreciated (along with its now-available-via-Ebay tie-ins: a King Seeley lunchbox, Milton Bradley board game and Charlton Comics series); for those who missed the brief phenomenon, you now have the chance to fill the void. 

I can only hope some open-minded executive might take note and give "Korg" (or something like it) another crack. Lord knows we need a show of such anthropological depth these days, for kids and adults alike. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cinema Retro: Issue #32 (2015)

I want to give a nod to the latest issue of Cinema Retro. Alas, it's been hit-and-miss with my catching past issues, but I lucked out and found #32, Vol 11: a treat for any Dino De Laurentiis fan.

It includes in-depth articles on two Dino productions: "King Kong '76", by Ray Morton (author of the book, "King Kong: The History of an Icon..."), and "Orca: the Killer Whale", by Ernie Magnotta. 

Morton's Kong segment presents an honest, thorough assessment of John Guillermin's controversial remake, detailing how the epic retelling came to be and how ill-fated, competing projects helped shape it. (Part II will follow in Issue #33, dipping deeper into the actual filming.)

Magnotta's Orca review offers a refreshing view at what some of us consider the best of the "Jaws" inspirations. Sure, Joe Dante's "Piranha" may get loads of deserving accolades, but when it comes to poignancy and depth of character, Michael Anderson's adventure knocks it out of the park. Besides, the movie gives us one of Richard Harris' finest performances.

The issue also includes a look at Tom Gries' "100 Rifles", written by contributor Howard Hughes, which features several, stunning Raquel Welch stills, plus many other fascinating perspectives on films from the '60s/'70s.

Grab a copy while you can at your local Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I saw Jurassic World...

May I be frank with you, folks? When it comes to an impeccable dinosaur trilogy, I find Eugene Lourie's "Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "The Giant Behemoth" and "Gorgo" to be as good as it gets. Yep, I'm that kind of old-school guy. 

Now, with that being said, I can still admit to appreciating the three, prior "Jurassic Park" movies (and Michael Crichton's original novel), except that...well, unlike other dino flicks of past, the "Jurassic" movies are bogged down with loads of kid-filler: that is, whiny children who get in the way of what should be exclusive, adult-vs-dino turmoil. As such, of the original three, I'm more at ease with Joe Johnston's "Jurassic III", since its youthful distraction is limited, the story tighter, and yeah, I realize I'm the odd-man-out there, but it is what it is. 

So, what's my take on director Colin Trevorrow's "Jurassic World"? I'm cool with fact, more than cool. Like the third chapter, this one's free of superfluous, kiddie shenanigans, even though youngsters do appear. There are two, in fact: brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) Mitchell. 

It's Chris ("Guardians of the Galaxy") Pratt, however, as raptor-trainer Owen Grady, an ex-Naval officer, who keeps them in check, his focus (and the story's) falling upon his creatures: Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo. Grady's intrepid presence is a big reason why this chapter clicks, and once the movie gets rolling (and boy, does it ever when Grady finally seized the spotlight), it's rather like "Indy Jones on Dino Island": a pretty inspired idea, if I may say so myself.  

To further truncate any whiny interference, supporting come-and-go characters nicely fill the gaps, without ever clouding matters with garrulous tangents, with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) acting a prevailing presence among them. She's both park manager and aunt to the Mitchell boys, initially a staunch supporter of the attraction, but becomes as frightened and disenchanted by the dinosaur mayhem as her nephews. Fortunately, she never turns into a screaming ninny in the process.

"Jurassic World" also presents a solid, human antagonist: security-head Vic Hoskins, portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio, who just scored high as Kingpin in Netflix's "Daredevil". Alas, Hoskins motive is annoyingly predictable: to analyze the park specimens for possible military possibilities ( least "Godzilla '14" put a positive spin on our Navy). Nevertheless, Hoskins' myopic view of the dinosaurs contrasts well with Grady's Tarzan-tinged persona. 

The real reason the film succeeds, however, is Trevorrow, whose direction isn't only snappy, but he deserves a big pat on the back for contributing to the unpretentious script (co-written with Rick Jaffe, Derek Connolly and Amanda Silver). Its overall execution smoothly extrapolates the other sequels and even probes a tad deeper into the consequences of specialized genetics and its resulting calamity. 

The sharp-witted Indominus Rex, for example, perfectly embodies that age-old idea of "man should not tamper with what he does not understand", but wisely keeps the ferocity and fun upfront, as opposed to layering it with unnecessary, environmental gibberish. 

For what it's worth, "Jurassic IV" was to have dealt with genetically engineered saurian soldiers: a clever concept that would have taken the franchise in a most refreshing direction. It makes one wonder if this film isn't a warm up for such reconsideration (as Hoskins presence insinuates), or if we can expect a similar take a couple years down the line. Only time will tell. Still, the reptiles' sharpened wit makes their rampages all the more nail-biting, particularly when the Indominus Rex enters the park structures, touching upon the prehistoric-vs-modern-world tradition. (In the end, though, the moment pales in comparison to any Kong city spree.)

Though "Jurassic World" is certainly fulfilling in its progressive momentum, I'm still be more inclined to choose "Valley of Gwangi" or "Land Unknown" for some future rainy afternoon. Sorry, but even the best CGI (and this one's a veritable stand-out, in that regard) will never capture the sense of wonder I find in my childhood favorites. All the same, I give this latest effort credit for at least making a valiant attempt at recapturing that good ol' joy. This make "Jurassic World" the closest in the franchise yet to hit such sentimental rekindling. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Just learned of Sir Christopher Lee's passing. I'm rather numb to say the least.

I (and his massive fan base) will certainly savor his many characterizations. His legend will live on in his movies, his performances to be enjoyed for generations to come.

Collectible Time #27: 31" Luke and Han in Stormtrooper Guise

Came across these two, jumbo (31" tall) "Star Wars" figures at Toys"R"Us Express: a tad overpriced, in my opinion, but in that I hadn't seen them available in person before (and didn't felt so compelled to mail-order them), I boldly made the move.

In essence, Luke and Han are similar, representing the "Episode IV: A New Hope" sequence where our heroic rebels disguise themselves as Stormtroopers: a famous moment, yes, but also a clever stunt on Creative Designs' part to save a few bucks. After all, it's really just the heads of Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford planted on an already used body sculpt.

I'd have preferred representations reflecting the characters as otherwise featured, but oh, well, one can't have every wish fulfilled. All the same, these are fetching in size and will complement my other jumbo "Star Wars" pieces: the classic Stormtrooper, the orange and blue trimmed Clone Troopers and of course, the meanacing Dark Vader!!!