Saturday, June 27, 2009

19 Again

I don't think Nicolas Cage looked this young even when he was that young.

That Nic was de-aged and incidentally made to resemble a Star Trek: The Next Generation-era Will Wheaton in the ad for the upcoming DVD of the recent film Knowing was ridiculously obvious. I can only speculate it was done because it was thought teens probably won't impulse-buy a movie featuring someone old enough to be their father. This image really amounts to false advertising and falls in line with my assertion that if someone has to misrepresent the product to make a sale, then the product isn't worth buying. That the ad appeared in comic books presumably for the young adult market makes Knowing even that much more telling.

This image accompanied another similar ad for the film Push, which features for the most part hot, young attractive people. The comparison between the two images of young and old characters probably made the marketing guys twitch a bit.

Advertisement for upcoming DVD release of the 2009 movie Knowing, from various comic books released this week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Last Dinosaur

Once you get past the hilariously awful opening scene there's a tune performed by song stylist Nancy Wilson to be heard. It is likewise terrible 70s cheese but that is not due to any fault of Nancy, who was professional enough to make sure she put some of her wild talent into even the poorest source material. A canceled United States theatrical release, The Last Dinosaur was edited down for the time allotted by the network and premiered as an ABC television movie in February of 1977.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Once you go Dvorak you never go back

Weird Tales - The Unusual Romance of Ferdinand Pratt (September 1940).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Zombie With the Electronic Brain

I don't know how this specimen of the shambling dead got a sentient, all-powerful Silver Age thinking machine fused to its noggin, but I can't imagine it is now much of a threat to humanity (unless the computer is Atomic, that is). Zombies are slow enough as it is and the Electronic Brain must surely interfere with being all bitey.

Body Identified As Missing Park Ranger

For the uninitiated, the Land of the Lost was a children's television show that debuted in 1974 that in 2009 had a bad movie made from it. The show was about the adventures of a family trapped in a pocket universe full of dinosaurs, rednecks, ape-men and humanoid, predatory lizards called Sleestak. As they searched for a way home the main characters of Rick Marshall, Will and Holly struggled to survive against their environment, aggressive aliens and other denizens who wished them harm. The humans and Enik, the evolved and time-lost leader of the hostile Sleestak, often worked at cross purposes as each wittingly or otherwise sabotaged the efforts of the other to return to their respective worlds.

In one early episode Enik manages to create a portal into the human world and reveals it to Rick Marshall. The portal was useless to the exiles, however, as it opened into a region at an altitude high above the Earth and could not be shifted to ground level. Rick bemoaned the fact that had they parachutes the entire family could have gone home at that time. A recurring plot device of the series would be the Marshall family (usually the bickering kids) screwing around in the Pylons trying to find a way home, typically meeting with disastrous results culminating in a fine lesson learned by all.

The start of Season Three finds a change to the cast of the show. Having not learned anything about haphazardly messing around with the pylons in the previous two seasons, Rick Marshall is gone. By accidentally opening a passage to Earth, Rick is pulled and thrown violently through the portal, spinning out of the Land of the Lost and into the air high above the Grand Canyon. Tragically, as is evident in accompanying video, the background image seen through the portal was similar to the one shown by Enik to Rick previously, depicting a distant horizon far, far beneath the portal. 

I mocked up the article below because I imagined what the sad, terrible fate of Rick Marshall would have been, sans parachute, when he emerged like a ballistic shell from a warp in space into his world with nothing but the mile-deep chasm of the Grand Canyon below him.

Click to make tabloid sized!

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm just here for the Sleestaks

Spoiler Alert! There are none. If you have seen the trailers then you have already seen the 'best' the 2009 film The Land of the Lost has to offer.

Since I am such a big fanatic of the original 1970s Land of the Lost television show I know that several people are expecting some angry, unhinged rant about the new movie along lines familiar to those who visit Star Trek forums regarding the reboot film. Other than a few humorous and not so serious gags aside I'm going to have to disappoint. As a fan of science fiction I know what I wanted to see in a LotL movie and the recent entry that opened this week to nearly universally poor reviews and a flat box office was definitely not it.

Simply put, it was not a very good film.

One of the creative problems barring success when adapting television shows to the cinema is the limitations of the broadcast format. Even the shortest story arc can be contained within a short time span of a half hour to an hour because their is a certain freedom to long form story telling that will gradually reveal over weeks. Some shows adapt easily to the big screen and the limited amount of time in which to tell a story and some do not. Star Trek was able to carry that television sensibility to the theaters with some success. There was enough interest from the existing audience of fans to keep the franchise afloat. Recently, faced with the reality of audience indifference the Trek brand was forced to retool the concept and and discard the television format, breathing new life into the Star Trek universe.

The original 1970s children's television show The Land of the Lost is one of those shows that was admittedly limited by the realities of television. However in spite of the Saturday morning budget and inexpensive special effects what made the show somewhat of a success and a small cult favorite were the stories.

The original series always played the science fiction elements as straight and even with the primitive green screen effects and sometimes over-the-top acting it worked, mainly due to the series being high-concept and high budget in spirit if nothing else. This is what the 2009 big screen treatment of The Land of the Lost is missing. In the attempt to distance the product from its "cheesy" origins and start over the film was retooled. However unlike Star Trek the re-imagined Land of the Lost will not share in the critical and financial success of the Roddenberry creation. The Land of the Lost is something of a squandered opportunity. Most films plan for at least a sequel or at most a trilogy over several years exploiting the desire of the audience to see more of the characters or events they care about. This is what brings people back to a television show week after week (and what proves troublesome when giving a serialized show the cinema treatment). The Land of the Lost franchise as it was presented in 2009 will very likely not create many financial opportunities in the future.

The story is particularly troublesome as while it is not complex, it may have been too much for the Director to handle. Often during the film often a character will say or do something in the beginning of a scene which is abandoned halfway through or forgotten about in the next sentence. It is particularly glaringly obvious during the Library of Skulls scene and may have a lot to do with the alleged comedy bits, notably focusing on Will Ferrell. Primarily, what was a problem was the mediocre comedic direction taken by the film. Had the Land of the Lost remained closer to its children's television origins and scared the pants off of the audience then it could have had the opportunity to spawn at least a sequel. There is ample proof that "Hard SF" can be successful at the box office, Star Trek and Batman being two recent examples. What is exceptionally disappointing is that under the right direction Will Ferrell has shown he can act a serious part, as he did a fine dramatic though absurdist role in Stranger Than Fiction. Like Adam Sandler and many other comedians they do their best work when their star power is reigned in and the film does not depend upon their one-liners or wacky facial expressions to carry it.

With a movie that is all about inter-dimensional travel many of the special effects were uninspired. This may have been an intentional homage to the limited budget sets and effects of the 1970s show but it seems odd that the production design would go that way when everything else about the film attempted some creative distance from the source material. There are plenty of references to the original series but they came off as trying too hard and like the humor felt forced into the scenes.

Visually the Sleestak are pretty much the main reason to even see the film or for that matter to watch the original show. Their back story was sad and inspired, another element of the serious tone of the original series that the film discarded. The giant, humanoid predatory lizards were upgraded and the charm of the 1970s series was not abandoned and they have a few new creepy features courtesy of improved prosthetic technology and CGI. Were it not for the frightening reveal of the rows of dentata this movie could have been aimed at more of a family audience with greater success, much like Journey to the Center of the Earth. One of the clues that the film would be a flop was that no action figures were released to any stores in my area and that is a sign that marketing and retailers have little confidence in the success of the film translating into store sales. Another is the lame attempt to create a new catch-phrase in the public consciousness by forcing a stupid joke down our throats by using a familiar daytime talk show host.

It isn't even that what made the film a failure is that it went with a comedic approach though it is clear I would have preferred the more serious style of Science Fiction. Any script whether it be dramatic, surreal or full of toilet jokes could be a critical and financial success if it was good and well-executed. Doctor Who and Red Dwarf are excellent entries in that style. The 2009 Land of the Lost movie is just bad and a very poor effort. It appears clear that the entire production was tailored for whatever Will Ferrell thought would work in a skit. But rejected SNL vignettes do not a movie make.

Look for the DVD to be out on the store shelves by August if not by the end of July. The original ending to the film including the cameos by Kathy Coleman and Wesley Eure that ended up being discarded in the final cut should be included in the release.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Spider-Band on the Run

The image to the left is a hat tip to Bully and his pal John for the most recent books I received from him published by the fine peoples at Fanatagraphics.

One of Bully's fun features is the Separated at Birth series, where he shows us the comic book covers that were inspired by various other sources. He doesn't editorialize them and lets the reader decide what was homage or swipe. I knocked this together showing the similarities between the 1973 Wings album Band on the Run to the Marvel Treasury Edition #18 reprint collection. Make sure you check out all of Bully's Separated At Birth series, including his coverage of the great John Byrne' homages of the great John Byrne.

Connective Tissue by Bob Fingerman and You'll Never Know by C. Tyler: The illustrated novel Connective Tissue looks like Bob Fingerman's take on Naked Lunch and You'll Never Know is an autobiographical story of a family. Bob Fingerman is currently making waves at Dark Horse Comics. They are both on the pile to read next.

The Brinkley Girls: I need to adjust my tin foil hat because I think my deepest thoughts are being broadcast to Bully and John. How else could he know to send me this? The Brinkley Girls is exactly the kind of book I enjoy and it is full of great art from a bygone era. Nell Brinkley is an artist and illustrator who became a sensation for her full page artistic narratives and she and her work became iconic of the American Flapper era. Colorful, romantic and finely detailed art was her trademark style. In little time her creations (based upon herself, it seems) supplanted the Gibson Girls and became popular enough to have the Ziegfeld Follies use her work as a theme in the shows. The image of the Brinkley Girl also became a standard of fashion as the Brinkley characters were far more fun and open then the rather staid Gibson Girls. The business side of the Nell Brinkley output is also a story of marketing a good product and tying it in to popular culture media to great success.

You can get The Brinkley Girls: The Best of Nell Brinkley's Cartoons 1913-1940 at Fantagraphics.

Thanks, guys!

Who Stalks Ann?

An entire generation of young girls thought this type of image was romantic. Boys learned how to behave partly from their exposure of things like this in the media. Pop-culture is not a How To guide.

Young Miss (September 1946).

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dinosaurs Cavort

Here's an interesting short article about stop-motion model animation from Starlog #8 (September 1977) featuring the work done on the 1974 series Land of the Lost.

Four days left to the premiere of the 2009 big screen treatment. I am as filled with dread as I am interest.

Click the slideshow below to take you to the photo set or toggle the full screen button to read the article.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I could be wrong

...And pterodactyls could fly out of my butt. I guess I'll find out in about 5 days.

It all makes sense now

Noticed this for the first time today in the credits for Season 3 of the 70s television show Land of the Lost.

The actor who portrayed the troublesome leader of the militant and hostile Sleestak in Land of the Lost is named Jon Locke. On the show LOST the likewise problematic new leader of the Others is named John Locke.


Sure. I think the final season will be one big reveal culminating in the Marshall family leading the survivors home.

South of Pulitzer

Nugget (February 1956).