Thursday, May 24, 2018

Talkin' About....Patriotism, Why American Military Men and Women Fight, and the Flag

A few thoughts, if I may:
American military personnel do not fight for the flag of the United States of America. They might express reverence for it as a symbol of the nation they swore an oath to protect, preserve, and defend, but they don’t consciously fight for the flag per se. That conservative extremists have hijacked the notion that our troops fight for the flag is undeniable. And perhaps the rawest, most naive recruits may believe that they joined the military to defend the flag, but that’s a bill of goods that they’ve been sold.
If anything is true about the men and who fight and die, or suffer wounds, or are captured while serving their country, it is this:
They don’t consciously fight for a flag. They don’t go to battle thinking, “This is for Mom, Dad, apple pie, or democracy.” They are too scared, too caught up in the horrors of war to be thinking Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
John McCain suffered severe injuries during the Vietnam War, first as a survivor of the fire aboard the USS Forrestal, then as a prisoner of war who was not treated as such by North Vietnam. Instead, because the North Vietnamese took the position that the U.S. had not declared war on their country, any American serviceman they captured was considered to be a war criminal. Pilots who were shot down over North Vietnam were called “air pirates.” From Hanoi’s perspective, John McCain III and his fellow aviators were not considered prisoners of war, so the protections generally accorded to POWs under the Geneva Accords and international law didn’t apply to them.
McCain needs to be remembered as a hero, not so much for his political stances as a member of both houses of Congress, but as a naval officer who followed his father and his grandfather (both namesakes) into the service. I respect him more for his sacrifices as a military man than for his long career as a Republican politician.
He fought and got tortured in the call of duty…not for his country’s flag, but for other, more prosaic reasons.
What do America’s fighting men and women fight for, then? In theory, they fight because, like the Cheeto in Chief, they took an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Some cynics might say that they fight because that’s literally their job.
But when it is all said and done, they don’t fight for flag, country, Presidents, or personal glory.
They fight for their buddies, for their unit, and to come home alive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Blu-ray Box Set Review: 'Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series' (UK Import)

On September 21, 2009, Universal Studios Home Entertainment (UK) released Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series, a 20-disc Blu-ray collection that presents all four seasons of the 2003-2009 "reimagined" military science fiction television series that originally aired on the Sci-Fi (now SyFy) Channel. Based on Glen A. Larson's original Battlestar Galactica TV series that aired on ABC during the 1978-79 season, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick's was grittier, darker, and was geared for a more adult audience than its 1970s forerunner. 

The plot of Moore and Eick's re-imagined Battlestar Galactica follows the outline's of Larson's original version. In a distant corner of our galaxy, humans live in the star system of Kobol, on 12 planets they call the Colonies. The Colonials have developed faster-than-light space travel, advanced electronics, and even a race of highly intelligent robots called Cylons that serve many of their needs. 

"The Cylons Were Created by Man. They Rebelled. They Evolved. They Look and Feel Human. Some are programmed to think they are Human. There are many copies. And they have a Plan." - Season One opening title cards.
Starting with the 2003 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries and continuing with the series that followed, Battlestar Galactica chronicles the Second Cylon War and its aftermath. After the Colonials defeated the Cylons in a long and bitter war, the two sides signed an armistice and the Cylons broke all contact with their former human masters. The resulting "peace" held for many years, and the Colonies eventually decided to demobilize most of their fleet, including the aging battlestar Galactica, which is to be preserved as a museum ship. 

But the unsuspecting Colonies are doomed. Unwittingly aided by an egotistical scientist, Gaius Baltar (James Callis), Cylon operative Six (Tricia Helfer) accesses the Colonial defense computer system and tampers with it to facilitate a devastating nuclear attack against all twelve worlds in the system. Of a population that once numbered in the billions, only 50,000 men, women, and children survive the Cylon holocaust. 
The surviving humans flee their home solar system aboard a ragtag fleet of civilian spaceships, protected by the only remaining battlestar, Commander William Adama's (Edward James Olmos) Galactica and her complement of Viper fighters. Knowing that humanity won't survive in the radiation-contaminated Colonies, Adama, acting President Laura Roslin  (Mary McDonnell), Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama (Jamie Bamber), and Lt.Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) must evade lead the remnants of the Colonies out into deep space, evade the Cylon pursuers, and reach the legendary Thirteenth Colony: Earth. 
Though Moore and Eick borrowed some of the series' basic concepts from Larson's original TV show, Battlestar Galactica was a more serious, less campy tale. It tapped deeply into America's post September 11 zeitgeist and delved into such themes as religious fanaticism, the role of the military in a wartime society, the duality of human nature as portrayed not only by the Colonials but also by the Cylons, and the meaning of life after a great tragedy. 
And in contrast to Star Trek, the franchise where Ron Moore started his career as a writer and producer in the mid-1980s, Battlestar Galactica eschewed many science fiction tropes and went for a more realistic approach to its storytelling. Unlike Star Trek and the original Galactica series, the 2004-2009 series depicts space warfare without the usual laser cannon or proton/photon torpedoes. Here, the Cylons use computer viruses, infiltrator units, and nuclear warheads to destroy the Twelve Colonies, and both factions use kinetic energy weapons and missiles instead of the clich├ęd lasers seen in Star Wars and other space-war movies and TV series. 
Although Battlestar Galactica originally aired on the Sci-Fi cable channel and not a traditional over-the-air network or on syndication, it outperformed its competition on UPN, Enterprise (later known as Star Trek: Enterprise). Where the original Battlestar Galactica series and its lackluster sequel, Galactica 1980 were both canceled after only one season, good reviews, and healthy ratings allowed the Moore-Eick reboot to run for five years. 
In that time, Battlestar Galactica not only earned a loyal fan base and many critical laurels, including a Peabody Award, several Emmy nominations for writing, costume design, visual effects, and acting, and a spot in Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."  Not only that, but the series also changed the way that science-fiction shows portray the future, with less fantastical settings and a more grown-up storytelling approach. 

The 2009 Universal Studios Home Entertainment (UK) Blu-ray box set. Note the British-style age rating logo on the lower right side of the box. (C) 2009 Universal Studios Home Entertainment

The Box Set

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released several iterations of Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series since 2009. The latest one was issued in 2010, with different packaging and includes the series' first two supplementary TV movies, Razor and The Plan.  It is, at least for Amazon customers, the more expensive edition; as of this writing, the 21 Blu-ray disc (BD) set costs between $97.49 and $101.99. Those are the reduced prices; Universal Studios Home Entertainment's manufacturer suggested retail price is a whopping $169.98.

When I purchased my Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series set in 2016, I couldn't afford to pay $101.99 for a Blu-ray box set. The British import, which like the U.S. edition is region free, was, and still, is more affordable: the current price at Amazon for this box set is $47.01 plus shipping and sales taxes.  (Caveat: this box set is offered only through third-party sellers, so prices may vary.) 

What's in the Box?

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series divides the 20 BDs that contain the 2003 miniseries and the 2004-2009 series among eight plastic multi-disc cases. The series is presented thusly:

Note: Two-part episodes are presented separately, just as they aired on Sci-Fi. 

Multi-Disc Case 1:
  • Season One : Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries - Parts 1 & 2
  • Season One: 33; Water; Bastille Day; Act of Contrition; You Can't Go Home Again
Multi-Disc Case 2:
  • Season One:  Litmus; Six Degrees of Separation; Flesh and Bone; Tigh Me Up, Tie Me Down; The Hand of God
  • Season One: Colonial Day; Kobol's Last Gleaming - Parts 1 & 2
Multi-Disc Case 3: 
  • Season Two: Scattered; Valley of Darkness; Fragged; Resistance; The Farm
  • Season Two: Home, Parts 1 & 2; Final Cut; Flight of the Phoenix; Pegasus
  • Season Two: Pegasus Extended Episode; Resurrection Ship - Parts 1 & 2; Epiphanies
Multi-Disc Case 4:
  • Season Two: Black Market; Sacrifice; The Captain's Hand
  • Season Two: Downloaded; Lay Down Your Burdens - Parts 1 & 2
Multi-Disc Case 5:
  • Season Three: Occupation; Precipice; Exodus - Parts 1 & 2; Collaborators
  • Season Three: Torn; A Measure of Salvation; Hero; Unfinished Business
Multi-Disc Case 6:
  • Season Three: Taking a Break From All Your Worries; The Woman King; A Day in the Life; Dirty Hands; Maelstrom
  • Season Three: The Son Also Rises; Crossroads - Parts 1 & 2
Multi-Disc Case 7:
  • Season Four: Razor (Broadcast and Unrated Extended Editions)
  • Season Four: He That Believeth in Me; Six of One; The Ties That Bind; Escape Velocity; The Road Less Travelled
  • Season Four: Faith; Guess What's Coming to Dinner; Sine Qua Non; The Hub; Revelations
Multi-Disc Case 8:
  • Season Four: Sometimes a Great Notion; A Disquiet Follows My Soul (Original & Unaired Extended Editions); The Oath; Blood on the Scales
  • Season Four: No Exit; Deadlock; Someone to Watch Over Me; Islanded in a Stream of Stars (Original and Unaired Extended Editions)
  • Season Four: Daybreak - Parts 1, 2, & 3; Daybreak (Unaired Extended Episode)
Each disc includes a bundle of extra features, such as behind-the-scenes featurettes, quizzes, on-screen information pop-ups with facts and trivia about the series' characters, situations, and setting, audio commentary tracks, and a lot of other good stuff. 

In addition, each box set comes with a booklet that contains a brief history of Battlestar Galactica, an episode guide, and a glossary of Battlestar Galactica's military and space travel-related terminology and slang. 

The only thing this box set doesn't have that its 2010 counterpart does is the Cylon-centric TV-movie, The Plan, which aired on Sci-Fi after Universal Studios Home Entertainment made and shipped the first Blu-ray sets to retailers. 

On the whole, Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (UK Import) is a nice box set that presents 99.9% of the groundbreaking science fiction epic that gave viewers a grittier, more thought-provoking look at space wars than Glen A. Larson's original version ever could. Obviously, you'll need to get The Plan to get the remaining .01% of the show, but since the price difference between this version and its 2010 U.S. counterpart is considerable, I recommend getting the UK import set and then buying the Razor/The Plan two-BD set to complement it. 

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (UK Import) is definitely worth adding to your video library. It doesn't matter if you are a fan of the original show, a fan of this re-imagined version, or if you have not seen Battlestar Galactica at all. If you like well-written, well-acted drama and want to be provoked instead of just being entertained, this science fiction may be right for you. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Book Review: 'William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh'

Cover illustration by Nicolas Delort. (C) 2017 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)


The curtain rises on a galaxy-wide drama! New characters take the stage as Rey, Finn, BB-8, and Poe Dameron clash with Kylo Ren and the vile First Order. Star-crossed lovers reunite, a lost knight is found...and tragedy befalls the house of Solo. 

The fault, dear Brutus, is in our Starkiller...What's past is prologue! A new chapter of the Star Wars saga begins, with The Force Awakens reimagined as a stage play from the quill of William Shakespeare - featuring authentic rhyme and meter, woodcut-style illustrations, and sly asides that will delight pop culture fanatics and classic-literature lovers alike, Join the adventure in a galaxy far, far away, penned in the style of the Bard of Avon. There has been an awakening in the verse! - Dust jacket inner flap blurb, The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh

On October 3, 2017, Quirk Books, a publishing company based in Philadelphia, released Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh. This 168-page hardcover volume reimagines director J.J. Abrams' 2015 Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens as a stage play in five acts written by none other than William Shakespeare himself.

As in his six previous William Shakespeare's Star Wars adaptations, Doescher takes his cues from the movie written by J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, but presents the story of The Force Awakens in iambic pentameter, the style of writing Shakespeare used in his 36 canonical plays (comedies, histories, and tragedies).

Take for instance, the traditional "crawl" that opens every Star Wars "saga" film, written as a Prologue before Act I:


CHORUS: Luke Skywalker hath sadly disappeared,
And in his absence come most wicked foes. 
The cruel First Order hath made all affeard -
Like phoenix from the Empire's ash it grows.
They shall not rest till Skywalker is dead,
Yet others seek to rescue him from harm.
By Leia - General Organa - led, 
Th' Republic doth a brave Resistance arm.
Her brother she doth earnestly pursue, 
Thus may he help bring peace to restoration.
She sends a pilot to Jakku,
Where one old friend perchance knows Luke's location.
In time so long ago begins our play,
In yearning galaxy far, far away. 

The Force Doth Awaken begins, as the film does, on the desert world of Jakku. However, instead of the traditional pan down from the vanishing crawl to a planet or starship, Doescher's Shakespeare follows the Bard's convention of starting his first act with a monologue. In this instance, the speaker is the mysterious Lor San Tekka, an old adventurer and friend of Leia Organa who understands that without the Jedi Order, there can be no balance in the Force.

On the planet Jakku.
Enter Lor San Tekka

Alas, you do not meet a man but frowns, 

Or so it seems within our galaxy. 
For with the rise of the First Order fierce, 
The stars cast but a dim and feeble light. 
Or thus it is to one as old as I,
Who hath seen much within my span of years:
The phantom menace, which did shake each soul,
The vast clone army, which made bold attack,
The Sith's revenge upon the Jedi true,
The small but bold new hope the rebels brought,
The way the vicious Empire did strike back, 
The grand return the Jedi then did make.
Mine eyes were witness to the fair result: 
Decline and fall of the Galactic Empire.
What followed, though, did beggar all belief:
The swift destruction of the chronicles 
Wherewith the New Republic would bring calm,
Suppression of the Jedi history
And ev'ry story of their gallantry,
The rise of the most vile First Order, which,
E'en now, doth move upon my home, Jakku.
Their mighty ships I spy beyond the skies,
Like doomsday keenly waiting in the wings. 
Our galaxy doth exorcism need
From this pernicious blight upon its face.
My hope is that the brave Resistance shall
Make landing ere the cruel First Order doth. 
May it be so, else all is lost indeed.

Kylo Ren contemplates, Hamlet-like, the badly disfigured breath mask of a long-dead Sith Lord. Illustration by Nicolas Delort. (C) 2017 Quirk Books and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) 

Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awakens follows several new characters in the Star Wars saga, including:

  • REY, a maiden of Jakku
  • FN-2187/FINN, a former stormtrooper
  • POE, a pilot for the Resistance
  • BB-8, Poe's droid
  • SUPREME LEADER SNOKE, of the First Order
  • KYLO REN, a dastardly villain of the First Order
  • GENERAL HUX, of the First Order
  • CAPTAIN PHASMA, of the First Order
  • MAZ KANATA, a pirate of Takodana
Of course, like its cinematic inspiration, The Force Doth Awaken also features some old friends from the Classic Trilogy, including Han Solo, General Leia Organa, See-Threepio, Chewbacca, and Artoo-Detoo. And, as in Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the two generations of brave heroes face many trials and tribulations, including encounters with First Order TIE fighters, battles with Captain Phasma's legion of stormtroopers, vengeful gangsters, and rathars that sing and dance!

My Take

Although William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken is not really a work written in the 17th Century by poet-dramatist William Shakespeare, it has all of the basic features common to the Bard of Avon's immortal plays.

The basic plot, characters, and conflicts may come from the screenplay by J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan, but Ian Doescher, a long-time lover of all things Shakespeare, borrows the style and themes from real plays written by the legendary playwright.

The structure and tenor of William Shakespeare's The Force Doth Awaken closely resembles Henry V, one of Shakespeare's Histories. Not only because it is a play set during a time of conflict, but because some of Doescher's soliloquies, his use of the Chorus, and many of the asides and speeches deliberately echo those in Henry V. 

The Force Doth Awaken also borrows from several of the Tragedies, especially Hamlet; it's hard not to read Doescher's Star Wars Part the Seventh and not see a resemblance between the tormented Danish prince and The Force Awakens' conflicted Kylo Ren, the First Order's "dastardly villain" and a member of the star-crossed Skywalker family. Once known as Ben Solo, Kylo Ren has fallen under the influence of Dark Side user Snoke and turned against everything Han, Leia, and his Uncle Luke stand for. 

Although I'm not a devoted fan of the works of the real William Shakespeare, I enjoyed The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh. I like the way that Doescher adds layers of complexity and emotional depth to all of the characters, including the aforementioned Kylo Ren, BB-8, and even the mighty Chewbacca. (Speaking of the Wookiee, Doescher finally takes us into the heart and mind of everyone's favorite "walking carpet." For the first time in the William Shakespeare's Star Wars saga, the author translates Chewie's grunts, growls, and yips in footnotes whenever he has dialogue. And, considering how grievously a certain plot point affects Chewbacca, it's an important new wrinkle in a literary series that has been around for half a decade.) 

The Book
Quirk Books once again gives readers a nicely designed hardcover volume that looks like a well-loved and often-read book. The dust jacket features Nicolas Delort’s woodcut portrait of BB-8 in Elizabethan era garn. Delort, who also provides 20 delightful illustrations for the play, surrounds the rotund astromech with images of Poe’s X-wing fighter, the Starkiller Base, the Millennium Falcon, and Kylo Ren facing off against his new nemesis, Rey.
As a literary work, William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken is a well-written, highly-enjoyable tribute to the works of George Lucas and the greatest dramatist/poet in English literature.
Like its Star Wars Trilogy stablemates, William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken is a parody, full of humorous dialogue that begs to be read out loud. Doescher packs his play with references and homages to Star Wars, many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Henry V), and even references to, as Doescher wryly explains, “a certain Poe-t. Witty and stylish, The Force Doth Awaken is neither campy nor silly.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Movie Review: 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Directed by: Michael Curtiz and William Keighley

Written by: Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Alan Hale. Eugene Pallette

On May 14, 1938, Warner Bros. Pictures released The Adventures of Robin Hood, a Technicolor action-adventure film starring Errol Flynn, Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Alan Hale, and Eugene Pallette. Based on ancient English legends that date as far back as the 1200s, The Adventures of Robin Hood was written by Norman Reilly Raine (The Life of Emile Zola) and Seton I. Miller (Here Comes Mr. Jordan), from a story treatment by an uncredited Rowland Leigh (The Charge of the Light Brigade).

The Adventures of Robin Hood was originally assigned by producer Hal B. Wallis to director William Keighly when the project began as a vehicle for James Cagney. When Cagney didn’t take on the role of Robin Hood and was replaced by 28-year-old Errol Flynn, Keighly stayed on and began filming The Adventures of Robin Hood on September 26, 1937. However, after watching some of the early footage, Wallis thought the action scenes were too slow and lacked excitement and cinematic energy and replaced Keighly with Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz.

This decision did not please the film’s leading man; Flynn and Curtiz did not like each other much and often argued on and off the set. Nevertheless, Flynn was a professional and stayed on, giving Wallis, Curtiz, and audiences one of the best portrayals of the legendary English nobleman who challenged the regency of Prince John and “robbed from the rich and gave to the poor” during Richard the Lion Heart’s absence from England in the 1190s.

Title card: In the year of Our Lord 1191 when Richard, the Lion-Heart, set forth to drive the infidels from the Holy Land, he gave the Regency of his Kingdom to his trusted friend, Longchamps, instead of to his treacherous brother, Prince John.

Bitterly resentful, John hoped for some disaster to befall Richard so that he, with the help of the Norman barons, might seize the throne for himself. And then on a luckless day for the Saxons...

As written by Leigh, Raine, and Miller, The Adventures of Robin Hood tells the story of how Saxon noble Sir Robin of Locksley (Flynn) becomes the legendary archer-rebel Robin Hood and leads a small band of guerrillas against the corrupt rule of Prince John (Rains) and his Norman noble allies, Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone) and the High Sheriff of Nottingham (Melville Cooper).

Robin’s path from aggrieved noble to the leader of the Merry Men from Sherwood Forest begins when Much, the Miller’s Son (Herbert Mundin) kills a deer in the king’s forest preserve. Such an act is illegal and, according to the evil Sir Guy, punishable by death. Much, though, is hungry; burdened by heavy levies imposed on them by Prince John, the peasant class is unable to afford enough food to survive.  When Sir Guy and a band of knights loyal to the usurper John captures Much and sentences the poor poacher to death, Robin comes on the scene and intercedes.

From this moment on, Sir Guy and Robin are adversaries. At first, both men limit their hostilities to verbal sparring. But once Sir Robin of Locksley throws down the gauntlet at Prince John for taxing the lower classes and not paying the ransom that can save Richard the Lion-heart from the dungeon of Leopold of Austria, the duel of wits and words becomes one of swords and arrows instead.
The Adventures of Robin Hood also tells the love story of Robin and Lady Marian Fitzwalter (De Havilland). In this version of the tale, Marian is the ward of the absent Kong Richard and the object of Sir Guy’s ambitions to marry.
At first, Marian is loyal to John and disdainful toward Robin and his band of upstart rowdies. But as time passes and sees that the Prince and his retinue of Norman noblemen and disgruntled Saxon knights is more interested in deposing the rightful King, she sees Robin Hood in a different light.
Lady Marian Fitzswalter: Tell me: when you are in love, is it hard to think of anybody but one person?

Bess: Yes, indeed, m'lady, and sometimes it's a bit of trouble sleeping.

Lady Marian Fitzswalter: I know! But it's a nice kind of not sleeping!

Bess: Yes. And it affects your appetite, too. Not that I've noticed it's done that to you, 'cept when he was in the dungeon waiting to be hanged.
Lady Marian Fitzswalter: And does it make you want to be with him all the time?
Bess: Yes. And when he's with you, your legs are as weak as water. Now, tell me, m'lady: when he looks at you, do you feel a kind of pricky feeling, like goosey pimples running all up and down your spine?
Lady Marian Fitzswalter: [blushes]

Bess: Then there's not a doubt of it.
Lady Marian Fitzswalter: A doubt of what?
Robin Hood: [eavesdropping from the window] That you're in love!
Errol Flynn as Robin of Locksley, aka Robin Hood. (C) 1938 Warner Bros. Pictures. Photo Credit: Everett Collection 
The Adventures of Robin Hood was not the first film to tell the story of the legendary hero from England's Medieval era, but it became the standard by which all other Robin Hood movies made since are measured. It is a tale full of exciting action, a classic confrontation between well-defined heroes and villains, and a sweet love story added in as an extra bonus. 
My Take
Like most Baby Boomers, I first watched The Adventures of Robin Hood in over-the-air television broadcasts. In my case, it was in the early 1970s, when Miami's WCIX-TV (now WFOR) ran it either in its weeknight The Eight PM Movie show or as a weekend matinee feature in its afternoon and early evening movie line up. Most independent television stations around the country had similar programming slots, so kids growing up in different television markets/metro areas in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s probably saw The Adventures of Robin Hood the same way I did - on TV, either in color or on black-and-white TV sets, and with commercial breaks edited in. (The movie is only 102 minutes long, so it is unlikely that any scenes were deleted during the editing-for-television process.) 
But until I purchased Warner Home Video's 2008 Blu-ray disc (BD) just in time for its 80th anniversary, I don't recall ever seeing The Adventures of Robin Hood in its original uninterrupted version. (If I did catch it on Turner Classic Movies when our cable provider carried the channel in its "expanded basic" lineup, I have no memory of it.) I watched it last night, though, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. 
Now, I'm not a huge fan of movies from the Hollywood Golden Era, when the big studios cranked out one new feature film every week. I like some of the films produced between 1930 and the late 1950s, obviously, but according to the statistics chart in my "Collection" page, I don't own a lot of 1930s-produced titles. (I only own The Adventures of Robin Hood and Gone With the Wind, which together make up 0.8% of my total Blu-ray collection.) 
For some reason, though, I like The Adventures of Robin Hood. Maybe it's the witty dialogue written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller; or maybe it's the insouciance of Errol Flynn, the classic beauty of Olivia De Havilland, and the charming-yet-slimy villainy of Claude Rains that all combine on screen for a fun if sometimes campy jaunt back to a cleaned-up, glamourized version of the 12th Century. 
It's not a perfect film, of course; there is no such thing as a movie that doesn't have any errors, whether they're technical goofs in continuity or character non sequiturs, or historical, like setting the film in a year where there is no way that Richard the Lion-Heart could have been held for ransom by one of his European peers. (In 1191, the real Richard was still in the Middle East fighting in the Crusade.) 
But director Michael Curtiz, despite his personal clashes with Flynn off and on the set, does a marvelous job with the fast-paced storytelling, the well-choreographed fights and archery scenes, and a great balance between the dramatic and comic elements of the story. 
Also noteworthy is the Academy Award-winning score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, one of Hollywood's most prolific composers and a role model for contemporary film music creators, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, and Michael Giacchino. Korngold's themes include swashbuckling cues that are heard during various fights and battles, gentle romantic melodies like the Love Theme for Marion and Robin, and fanfares for both Prince John and King Richard. 
The Adventures of Robin Hood was retroactively rated PG for "adventure violence," but the mayhem is rarely bloody and there is a tongue-in-cheek vibe around the whole endeavor. The villains are never as dark as the ones seen in the Kevin Costner 1990s version, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and the back-and-forth verbal repartees are witty and delivered with savoir faire by the talented cast. Overall, despite the occasional arrow shooting, brawling, and cinematic sword play, the film is fun family fare that should please most viewers. 

Special features:

  • Commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer
  • Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies featuring vintage newsreel, musical short Freddie Rich and His Orchestra, classic cartoon Katnip Kollege, and Angels with Dirty Faces theatrical trailer
  • Welcome to Sherwood Forest: The Story of The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Glorious Technicolor: Celebrating the revered color filmmaking process
  • Outtakes
  • Robin Hood Through the Ages: Excerpts from the 1912 first screen adaptation, Douglas Fairbanks' rousing 1922 silent, and this 1938 version dubbed in German
  • A Journey to Sherwood Forest: Basil Rathbone and Erich Wolfgang Korngold home movies shot during production
  • Two classic cartoons: Rabbit Hood and Robin Hood Daffy
  • Splitting the Arrow: Historical art, costume design, scene concept drawings, cast and crew, publicity and poster galleries
  • Two vintage short subjects: Cavalcade of Archery and The Cruise of the Zaca
  • Breakdowns of 1938: Studio blooper reel
  • Audio-only bonuses: Music-only audio track showcasing the film's Oscar-winning score; The Robin Hood Radio Show; Korngold piano sessions
  • Errol Flynn trailer gallery
Blu-ray Specs:

  • Codec: VC-1 (19.45 Mbps)
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 1.37:1

  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Music: Dolby Digital Mono 

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish

  • Blu-ray Disc
  • Single disc (1 BD-50)

  • Region free

Monday, May 14, 2018

Talkin' About....Two Stupid Questions About Donald Trump

Two questions about Donald Trump on my Quora feed:

1. Should Donald Trump win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Why? What has Donald Trump done to merit the Nobel Peace Prize?
What, did I hear you say “He got the two Koreas to talk and declare that they are ending the Korean War after 65 years…”?
Although it is true that the President will get some reluctant brownie points from me for agreeing to talk to North Korea’s dictator Kim Jung Un in the not-too-distant future, I don’t believe that Trump’s name-calling and threats against North Korea were the catalyst for the thaw between the isolated Communist North and the more democratic, dynamic South.
I believe that other factors were involved in the North’s sudden decision to stop testing nuclear weapons and begin negotiations with the South.
  1. Their nuclear weapons testing ground collapsed, prompting fears of the effects of nuclear radiation and the resulting damage to the environment in a small country like North Korea. The regime will probably find another site for testing, but for now…..
  2. The South made the first peace overtures by inviting several North Korean dignitaries to the recent Winter Olympics
  3. China and Russia, North Korea’s closest benefactors, probably pressured Kim to ease tensions in Northeast Asia
So, no. Trump should not win the Nobel Peace Prize. The i’s are not dotted and the t’s are not crossed in any peace treaty yet, and the North Koreans have not publicly said if they will give up their nuclear arsenal.
For the record, I do not think that U.S. Presidents should be awarded Nobel Peace Prizes. Theodore Roosevelt received one for supposedly settling the Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth. Japan’s reaction to that treaty was, shall we say, not good. Most Japanese at the time believed that America was trying to inhibit their Imperial expansion in Asia - the Yamato people’s manifest destiny, if you will. This resentment festered and eventually exploded in 1941 with Japan’s decision to go to war with the U.S. and the subsequent attack on Pearl Harbor.
As for President Obama’s 2009 Nobel: Norway was engaging in “wishful thinking” when they decided to award the Peace Prize to a President who had intentions to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but, as we know, could not quite deliver.

Um, no. That’s not the way it works, kemosabe.
The only way that President Trump would make any royalties from a book written about him is if he published his memoirs (co-written with a professional writer a la The Art of the Deal) after his term in office ends.
He can’t, however, make any money from any book about him, though. Only the authors and publishers of those works earn the income from book sales. They did the work, not Trump.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Talkin' About....'Star Wars': or, Straightforward Answers to Silly Questions about 'Star Wars'

(C) 2015 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)
Someone asked this question on Quora recently:

How many more Star Wars movies are left to make from the original books?

My Answer: 

Star Wars is not a movie franchise that is based on a book or series of books. The Saga comprised of Episodes I-IX and its various TV and film offshoots got its start on May 25, 1977 with the release of the original Star Wars, which is also known by its 1981 alternate title, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. (Some fans use either A New Hope or ANH, but most folks just call it Star Wars.)
Now, even if you argue that a novel titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker was published in late 1976, almost six months before the film’s official premiere, you still have to remember that it was based on an earlier draft of the movie’s screenplay. (Herman Raucher did the same thing with his screenplay for Robert Mulligan’s Summer of ‘42. To build interest for the 1971 film, Raucher novelized his script and published it first; even today, many Summer of ’42 fans swear the film is based on the book. It’s not. And other writers have done this, most notably Erich Segal with Love Story.)
All of the Star Wars novels and comics, whether they are canonical or part of the old “Expanded Universe”/Legends bibliography, are derivative works set in the Star Wars universe. In most cases, novels, short story anthologies, comics, and the story-only bits of licensed Star Wars video games published after 2014 are officially part of the Star Wars story. Lucasfilm sometimes dips into the EU/Legends well and takes characters that the powers-that-be think fit well with established canon and adds them to the lore. Coruscant, the name for the capital planet of the Galactic Republic/Galactic Empire, was originally used in the EU. So were Grand Admiral Thrawn, Aayla Secura, and Quinlan Vos.
But the screenplays for The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and From His Nap (as many wags like to jokingly refer to the yet untitled Episode IX) have little to do with the EU/Legends novels. There may be a few thematic similarities, but so far the two versions of the post-Return of the Jedi universe are definitely dissimilar.

Friday, May 11, 2018

'Star Wars' Collectibles and Toys Review: Hasbro's 'Star Wars Saga' Wampa (with Ice Cave) Ultra Figure

(C) 2004 Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL)

 The bone-chilling cold is not the only danger that awaits a traveler on the Hoth plains. Despite standing over two meters in height, the Wampa ice creature is nonetheless a stealthy predator. Camouflaged by its white fur and the howling Hoth winds, a Wampa surprised Luke Skywalker while he was on patrol and dragged him to its cave as his next meal. When the Jedi freed himself, the Wampa fought him - and lost an arm in the struggle. Product blurb, Wampa (Hoth Attack)

I've been collecting Star Wars figures for 40 years, and even though my collection is far from being even close to complete, I own enough of the small action figures to know that the quality of the figures has improved over the past two and a half decades. Not only are the 21st Century Hasbro figures more detailed than their 1978-1985 Kenner Toys counterparts, but they also now include little "extras" that make them more attractive to adult collectors.

The Wampa, that carnivorous beast that menaces Luke Skywalker at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, is a fine example of how Hasbro has improved the Star Wars action figure line.
The original 1982 Wampa from Kenner's The Empire Strikes Back collection. Photo Credit: (C) 1982 Kenner Toys/Hasbro, Inc. and Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) 

Although Kenner (the original action figure manufacturer before Hasbro acquired it in the 1990s) produced a first-generation Wampa Ice Creature figure in 1982 for its The Empire Strikes Back collection, the 2004 Star Wars Saga Wampa (with Ice Cave) Ultra figure is far better. It looks exactly like the one that appears in the 1997 Special Edition of Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. 

The figure comes in a carded bubble package, complete with a hunk of raw tauntaun leg and an "ice cave" base that connects with the Luke Skywalker (Hoth Attack) action figure. This allows collectors to recreate the scenes where the young would-be Jedi Knight escapes from the Wampa's lair. The right arm detaches to simulate the effects of Luke's lightsaber, and if you examine the Wampa's facial fur, you'll see that he's not exactly a neat eater, as there are drops of blood matted onto the white fur. (Yuck!)

Although the Wampa (with Ice Cave) Ultra figure is sturdy-looking and seems durable enough, I recommend it for collectors who are interested in displaying it along with its Luke Skywalker (Hoth Attack) companion figure (sold separately).


Film Source: The Empire Strikes Back

 Year: 2004

 Assortment: Ultra Hoth

 Retail: $9.99

Weapons and Accessories:

  •  Hoth Cave
  • Tauntaun Leg
  • Removable Arm