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Showing posts from July, 2012

Don't Panic! A review of the 1980s BBC TV production of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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In the late 1970s, prompted by the success of Douglas Adams' original sci-fi/comedy radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the British Broadcasting Corporation's television department commissioned him and John Lloyd to adapt it into a six-episode miniseries.

Adams, who had also worked for a while on the venerable Dr. Who TV series, had already adapted part of the radio series into a couple of novels (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) was notorious for being a procrastinator, so the project took a while in getting started.

At first, the TV version of Hitchiker's Guide was going to be an animated series, but this idea was nixed in favor of giving viewers a live-action version featuring some of the original radio series' actors, particularly Simon Jones (Arthur Dent), Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox), Stephen Moore (Marvin the Paranoid Android) and Peter Jones (voice of The Book).

Other roles from t…

"I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning!"

Francis Ford Coppola’s original 1979 version of Apocalypse Now is a dark, sardonic, surrealistic yet mesmerizing reworking of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness. Starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Fredric Forrest, Larry Fishbourne, and Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now trades Conrad’s African setting for the then-still largely unexplored (by Hollywood, anyway) jungles of Vietnam.

The film’s premise is deceptively simple. A hard-bitten, combat-weary Capt. Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is given a difficult (and highly classified) assignment: he is to travel up a long Vietnamese river on a Navy PBR (river patrol boat) to find the jungle outpost of Col. Walter Kurtz (Brando), a highly decorated and intelligent Special Forces officer who has gone "rogue" and utilizing what one senior officer describes as "unsound methods" to fight the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Willard is to locate Kurtz and "terminate (him) with extreme prejudice."…

The Missiles of October: A Book Review

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The trouble with history, particularly modern history, is that events can be interpreted and presented in different ways.

Consider, for instance, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some books, such as Jim Bishop's The Day Kennedy Was Shot and Gerald Posner's Case Closed, point the finger at Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman.

Others, such as David Lifton's Best Evidence, claim there was a vast conspiracy to shoot Kennedy in Dallas, Texas and to cover this violent coup d'etat up so Lyndon Johnson could be President and escalate the Vietnam War.

I don't believe the conspiracy theorists and they'll never get a dime from me, but nevertheless there are plenty of people who do believe Lifton and his other "there was a second gunman in the grassy knoll" compadres. By taking a fact here, adding a supposition there, and by presenting information selectively to make it fit an author's particular slant, any historical event can be revised...ev…

Writing for peanuts versus writing for decent dollars

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The Bridge on the River Kwai: A Review of David Lean's 1957 Movie

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World War II, for good or ill, has been the backdrop for hundreds – if not thousands – of movies produced by all the nations which participated in it even as it was being waged.
Of course, though “combat” films along the lines of A Walk in the Sun, Battleground, The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan often come to mind when the term World War II movie is mentioned, the genre actually straddles quite a few other film styles that aren’t restricted to movies about battles, campaigns or the hardware of the war.  Many love stories, dramas, comedies and even science fiction films have been set or partially set during World War II.
Naturally, the sheer scope of World War II – fought on three continents and involving millions of combatants – and its more or less unambiguous “good versus evil” nature resulted in the near-mythologizing of certain events by Hollywood and writers of fiction.
One of the most popular subgenres of World War II films is the “sabotage and commando raid” movie, in wh…

Positive Attitude is Key to College Success

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X

If you are a high school student in your junior or senior year and are seriously considering going to a college or university after graduation, you should start thinking about preparing yourself for the challenges of college life now instead of waiting till your first day on campus as an incoming freshman.
In addition to taking the SAT and a plethora of pre-entrance exams, choosing a major, registering for classes, applying for scholarships or financial aid and improving your study habits, you should also adopt a positive “I-want-to-be-here-and-learn” attitude about going to classes and completing your coursework. 

The expression “A positive attitude determines success in all things” sounds like a cliché or one of those aphorisms that we find in Chinese fortune cookies, but there’s a lot of truth behind it (otherwise it would not be a cliché).
If you don’t believe me, next time you happen to be in one of your high scho…

Star Wars Action Figure No. 200: Mara Jade

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Five years after the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance has driven the evil Empire into a distant corner of the galaxy. But a new danger has arisen: the last of the Emperor's warlords has devised a battle plan that could destroy the New Republic. Before the death of Palpatine, Mara Jade was the Emperor's right hand assassin. Five years later and now a successful smuggler, the last thing Mara expected was to stumble upon her former arch-enemy - Luke Skywalker. - From the package blurb, Mara Jade.

In 1991, eight years after the theatrical run of Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and eight years before the premiere of Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Bantam Spectra published Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, the first volume of Timothy Zahn's best-selling Thrawn Trilogy cycle of novels.

Though a few authors had written several novels set in George Lucas's Star Wars galaxy during a seven-year-period close to the Classic Trilogy's theatrical run (in oth…

Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Daredevils of the Desert deals with Aussie cavalrymen in 1917 Palestine

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Daredevils of the Desert
Formats Available: VHS (1999)

DVD (2007) Chapter 15: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Daredevils of the Desert (Disc 8, Volume Two – The War Years)

Written by: Frank Darabont

Directed by: Simon Wincer


Palestine: October 1917:

Having completed several intelligence-gathering assignments in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, young Indiana Jones (Sean Patrick Flanery), known to his superiors in the Belgian army as Capt. Henri Defense, has been reassigned to the Middle East to assist the Allied war effort there.
As in the African theater of operations, the Anglo-French endeavors in Arabia and Palestine are considered a “sideshow to the main show” of the battlefields in Europe; Britain wants to protect the Suez Canal and her links to India from interference by  the Central Powers, while France seeks to expend her sphere of influence in the region, aided and abetted by her British allies.
To accomplish these strategic goa…

Star Wars Silver Anniversary Figures: Swing to Freedom (Princess Leia Organa & Luke Skywalker)

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For the past 34 years or so, Kenner and Hasbro have produced many diverse lines of Star Wars figures, from the Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi production waves to the current Star Wars collection, and as toy making technology improves and more tiny details can be added, the figures themselves are much more attractive and detailed. Costume variations and weathering, accessories (such as lightsabers and blasters), even characters' faces look more detailed and less generic than their 1978-1985 counterparts.

For several years now, Hasbro has released multi-figure sets called Scene Packs, Cinema Scenes, or more colloquially, three-packs (so-called for the usual number of 3.75 inch scale figures in each box), which are assortments of action figures posed in front of a nicely printed backdrop to form a mini-diorama of specific scenes from particular Episodes. Starting in the late 1990s with such Scene Packs as Purchase of the Droids (featuring Uncle Owen, Luke Sk…

Family Guy takes on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in "Something, Something, Something Dark Side"

With the success of the 2007 Star Wars parody episode Blue Harvest, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, writer Kirker Butler, co-developer David Zuckerman and director Dominic Polcino returned to that galaxy far, far away to skewer the second entry of the Star Wars Classic Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back.

The result: Family Guy's 148th aired episode, Something Something Something Dark Side, which mixes a condensed retelling of George Lucas's Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and the sometimes tawdry humor of the animated comedy series which Fox has canceled - and renewed - twice.

As in both Blue Harvest and It's a Trap! (the concluding chapter of Laugh It Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy), Something Something Something Dark Side begins with the Griffin clan (voices of Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green and Mila Kunis) losing their electricity while watching television and paterfamilias Peter telling wife Lois, sons Chris and Stewie, daughter …

One of Australian history's tragic but inspirational episodes is the backdrop for Peter Weir's Gallipoli

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Although Mel Gibson's self-destructive behavior over the past decade or so may be ushering in a premature end to his days as a Hollywood star, there's no denying that the man has had considerable success as both an actor and filmmaker ever since he began his acting career in Australian television back in the late 1970s.

One of Gibson's earliest co-starring roles on his way to stardom was 1981's Gallipoli, Peter Weir's somber look at the experiences of Australian soldiers during World War I as they fight and suffer horrendous casualties in the disastrous Dardanelles campaign of 1915.

Weir, who wrote the story on which David Williamson's screenplay is based, doesn't set out to give the Gallipoli Campaign - which was devised by a young Winston Churchill as a way to knock Turkey out of the war and give the Allies unfettered access to the Black Sea - the traditional "recreation of a major battle" treatment a la The Longest Day or A Bridge Too Far.

Rather,…

Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock's Eye: A review of the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones TV movie

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In March of 1992, almost three years after the premiere of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and 16 years before the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, George Lucas, Amblin Entertainment, and the ABC television network attempted to create a 70-episode television series that would explore the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of the globe-trotting archaeologist/adventurer best known for being an "obtainer of rare antiquities" imbued with supernatural properties. 

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was a collection of one-hour episodes that skipped back and forth in the chronology of Indy's formative years, some featuring a very young "Junior" (Corey Carrier), with most starring Sean Patrick Flanery as Indiana Jones between the ages of 16 and 21. 

Part Indy prequel, part history lesson, this was one of the rare television projects personally overseen by Lucas, and it was intended to entertain fans of the…