Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reboot: Evil Brain from Outer Space (1965)

Intro to film
It may start with a simple idea, but the development of a serial can be more exacting than a single film project. Starting in the 1960s, Japan's film industry took off like the proverbial rocket, supported in part with highly creative pre-show serials to captivate a growing audience. Young theater goers were becoming painfully aware of western culture, and the rebuilding economy of the Land of the Rising Sun was producing respectable sci-fi flicks to bring in the crowds. Most popular were the monster movies, ala Godzilla and Mothra, but sub-genre's of alien invaders and super-heroes had their place as well, hence the Starman serials, which were later edited into a series of 9 films for US release. Our selection today is one such edit job, Evil Brain From Outer Space.

I was sent here to save you from the Zumerians - you will die if I do not kill them!

Film still
The Inside Scoop

It's 1965, and Japan is still working things out to find a national identity in the post-US occupation world. Semblances of Japanese culture have given way to westernized pop-culture, as evident in the visual shifts witnessed on screen. Sets have a decidedly European flair, and in Evil Brain, this is evident. For example, in order to access the secret lairs beneath the city streets, the agents of the evil brain must activate hidden levers attached to fountains that open secret doors. These fountains all seem to have been cast from the concrete molds of Parisian courtyards, with cavorting nymphs and floral sculptures abound. Stock footage is painfully bleak of traditional Japanese architecture, instead showcasing scenes that very well might have been shot in downtown Burbank. 

Kids screen capture
Even the plot lines, which would evolve into the classic Japanese filmography we know and love, have a serious western flair- comparably, Starman has many of the same traits and motivations as the early George Reeves Superman serials. Curious child sidekicks, brilliant doctors in peril who race diligently to find cures/weapons/communication devices, a paralyzed military that relies on the local police detective to solve the mystery - all are present in stereotypical form. This may very well have been intentional, or it simply may have been that the age-targeting genre was so pervasive it wasn't reliant on culture.

Worth Watching For...

Lobby CardThe choreography of the fight scenes could easily be noted as precursors to the well-defined-yet-choppy, short and distinct film sequences of the growing Hong Kong Kung-Fu films soon to make their way across the planet. Shots are decidedly well framed, and post-production editing contributes positively to the film's pacing. Rather than illustrate a fight scene moving awkwardly between water-tower scaffold and roof-top, the editing utilizes quick cuts, where the actors would simulate a jump in the direction of the next scene, then appear on their marks in continued struggle without missing a beat. 

Film PosterThis film was re-edited from the original serial, Super Giant #s 7, 8, and 9, and as such, some edits appear to have been left on the cutting room floor, giving the film a periodic impression of a chop-job. However, the sound mixing and audio dubs are spot on, with an original music score than contemporaries would have found admirable. The original serial was, as similar films of the period often were, marketed to the preteen after-school crowd, and as such, plot lines leave much to literary fill-in-the-blank imagination. Character development is mostly reliant on a solid knowledge of the genre, and archetype rather than individual characterizations are used to progress the story.

Evil Brain from Outer SpaceNotable Quotable

Starman: You'll be punished for all your crimes against the earth. (Pause) Doctor, don't attempt to escape!
Dr. Hishiama: If you try to stop me, I'll throw this nuclear grenade...(Throws grenade)

Critical Stats

Starman wavingEvil Brain From Outer Space (1965) was produced by the Fuji Eiga Co. and distributed by the Shintoho Film Distribution Committee. Filming locations unknown. Directed by Koreyoshi Akasaka and Teruo Ishii, starring Ken Utsui, Junko Ikeuchi, and Minoru Takada. Released in the US 1965. B/W. Run Time 78 Minutes.

This date night, drive in film has been sponsored by Blendtec Blender Coupons, and Gel V Coupons, your destination for quality and relevant coupons for your lifestyle. Check back regularly for new savings, and to simplify your life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reboot: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetLet's roll back a minute and reflect on what 1965 meant to the world. The Cold War was in full bloom, with bickering and posturing occurring on both sides of the iron curtain. Johnson was in the White House, and his pedal was to the metal with the Soviets in the race to reach the moon. Schlock film productions were criss-crossing the nation, as Americans sought release from the tensions of the world with monsters, maidens, and sci-fi adventure. So logically, what better way to move forward than to strip a Russian-made movie of it's dialogue, splice in Basil Rathbone, and call it a day? Not once, but twice! Well, two and a half times...

Our Future Is In Their Hands!

Screen captureRoger Corman purchased the rights to the 1962 Russian film, Planeta Burg, and set forth to create not one, but two separate films. In a sense, Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) and it's sister film, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, (1968) are the epitome of writing a script around stock footage. Corman simply had US director Curtis Harrington splice in original film scenes with Rathbone and Faith Domergue, better known for her leading role in This Island Earth. In some serious post-production editing, the original Russian dialogue was dubbed, then the film was packaged up and sent to unsuspecting theaters across the country. Three years later, he would remove the 1965 edits and stuff the original again with Americanized images - psychic blondes bathing on a beach.

 The Inside Scoop

Curtis Harrington as John Sebastian
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet was 'filmed' at the same time as the more legitimate Harrington creation, Queen of Blood. Though he felt Queen was good enough to add his real name to the credits, he again used footage from Planeta to flesh out the scenes. Production costs for both films are rumored to be less than $35k. As an aside, Harrington not only dubbed over the dialogue in Voyage, he also wiped clean the original actors' credits and replaced them with bogus pseudonyms.

Worth Watching For...

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Faith Domergue was a standard in the sci fi and horror circuit of Hollywood by the time Corman was making his rounds and revolutionizing the genre. Her 1955 portrayal of Dr. Ruth Adams in the iconic film, This Island Earth, marked a shift in how leading women were written into scripts. She was not the damsel in distress so much as the originator of information. In Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Harrington re-visits this role for Domergue by installing her as the voice of science - a controller in orbit trying to keep things from completely going to hell.

This film was purchased by Corman for one very good reason- it is a great visual art piece. Original director Pavel Klushantsev used sturdy special effects to bring his story to life, and the technology, though tame by today's standards, were revolutionary. One very cool robot, original costume designs, and a flying car that demonstrates realistic (sort of) physics make this worth watching. The dialogue does fall flat, as the extended scenes needed to be filled with mindless prattle. This issue would be resolved, however, in the 1968 psychic beach-bunny re-re-release.
Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetNotable Quotable

Cmdr Lockhart: ...I'll be right behind you.
Ferneau: That'll be handy if I slip.

Critical Stats

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetVoyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) was produced by Roger Corman Productions, re-worked from the original Russian production Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), from the Leningrad Studio of Popular Science Films. Original filming locations unknown, with American scenes cut in for stateside consumption. Directed by Pavel Klushansev, with US scenes directed by Curtis Harrington (film credits read John Sebastian, in homage to Bach). Starring Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Georgi Zhzhyonov, and Gennadi Vernov. US release August, 1965. Color. Run Time 74 Minutes.

This date night, drive in film has been sponsored by Spotlight Publicity, your small business media marketing solution since  2003. Please show the love and check out what the can do for you, with a free first consultation!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2016 Must See Sci Fi Movies - Release Dates and Trailers

gene kelly discord mlp
Wallpaper Love :)
Time to seriously geek out-

2016 has long been promised as the year of the Geek, and with multiple sci fi titles coming from some of the biggest studios in Hollywood scheduled to hit the big screen this year, we will not be disappointed. From original scripts, anticipated spin-offs, and big-ticket sequels, the 1% of the left coast have done their part to keep the masses entertained. But with our first two films belonging to the realms of darker discord, is Hollywood predicting the fall of the American Empire?

Superman V Batman: Dawn of Justice
Release date - (March 25)

To be honest, I'm still waiting for a Superman film that compares to the first Chris Reeve release. However, this could be a good one- the thing that troubles me is the dialogue coming from director Zack Snyder that the contest is a new concept, fabricated to fold in the Justice League to the DC film franchise. I'm sorry- did I hallucinate the Dark Knight conflict? Did Bats not drain the entire electrical resources of Suicide Slum to zap Supes? Didn't Ollie distract him with a kryptonite arrow? My apologies if my memories don't work like they used to... Also, still not an Affleck fan.

Captain America: Civil War
Release date - (April 29)

Following on the tail of the blockbuster performance of Deadpool, Marvel Comics continues it's domination of the box office by visualizing the sibling rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man, brought to a head though the majesty of re-interpretative sparkle-fresh cinemagic. Dark, painful, and sometimes catty, the expansive Marvel Universe takes it's sweet time to choose sides and pair off in the conflict project some pundits are observing as the one off competition of last months Big Blue Boy Scout and the Dark Knight match. In the end, it still comes down to the age-old question... do you prefer DC or Marvel?

X-Men: Apocalypse
Release date - (May 19)

Seen as the rail-jumping, big gamble, marketing ploy long needed in the X-Men film franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse removes Magneto as the central protagonist and looks toward the past to find an intriguing bad-guy. As a fan of the Future Days Past story line, I am hoping that Apocalypse inserts fresh air into a story line so complex, Stan Lee himself would need to be signed for a long-term contract to help make sense of it all. Once all the ducks are in place, I'm looking forward to a little time in Genosha...

Warcraft: The Beginning
Release date - (June 3)

With 70 million registered users in the World of Warcraft gaming community, even a modest showing at the box office could drive credible ticket sales for this summer release. I mean, I put my grinding hours in to get to level 80, and when the cap was lifted... never mind. With an already convoluted trailer out showing an impressive attention to game lore, it is the writing and plot structure that will make or break this pic. Azeroth from the beginning, when the Orcs spill out from the gate - it will take some creative production values to bring an audience, no matter how well versed in Blizzard's behemoth, in line with nearly 20 years of gaming lore.

Independence Day: Resurgence
Release date - (June 24)

Unfortunately, I"m not holding out much hope for this release. It'll be huge in the box office without a doubt, but I don;t see myself skipping work to see this opening day. Now, don't get me wrong- I loved ID4. Like everyone else in the audience, I stood up for an ovation at the end- it was a feel good, humanity-gathering pic with decent SFX and an OK cast. Will Smith was amazing, and that helped. Randy Quiad was fantastic, and that added weight. Everyone else... meh. It balances out in the end. This time around- it's the same aliens with the same cast, without Will Smith or Randy Quaid. Maybe when it hits Netflix...

Release date - (July 15)

I can see myself lining up for this one- though there are the haters out there, I am respecting the original film's formula of pairing SNL alumni to build the cast, as well as the obvious SFX nodding to the first series. Then there's the directing from Bridesmaids' Paul Feig to look forward to... I want a good story, with new characters... and these GBs are women? Too awesome! I see it as something fresh, new, yet paying homage to the franchise of my youth. Bring it on- and let me be able to bring my young daughters as well.

Star Trek Beyond
Release date - (July 22)

What I like most about the JJ Abrams' Star Trek films is that each can be taken on its own merit. The Roddenberry cannon is untouchable, and well known. Therefore, just as with the original series, there's no need to lay down a running story line to pull in additional titles, ala DC and Marvel's current big screen universe projects. We have Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and all our faves without the muddle of figuring out who is what and why they're there. Thank you.

Suicide Squad
Release date - (August 25)

Aside from this list's December release, no other film has me anticipating pure awesomeness like this one. I first saw the trailer during the Force Awakens previews, and my heart went all a-flutter. It's classic DC, with an amazing stand-alone potential, and the up-righting of the meaning of good and evil. Also, perhaps, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Just saying.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release date - (December 16)

It's being said that none of us will still be alive when the Star Wars train finally pulls into the station. I like that idea-  this Christmas, we are being introduced to the vehicle that will make that happen. "During the battle, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star." And so this first spin off of the 1977 Lucas mythos begins with the premise of the beginning- always a great place to start. Rogue One promises to have little to do with the Skywalker Saga, and more with the greater environment that has always existed beyond the faces in the struggle for good and evil. The Force Awakens did a wonderful job drawing in the surrounding setting and characters, but Rogue One will rely completely on the unsung heroes, bringing us the front line soldiers from Hoth. Introducing us to the scouts from Endor. Delving into the rogues of Mos Eisley- and it's about time. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Loot Crate is to Geeky Goodness as Tinder is to Boom-Chicka-Wow-Wow

monkey padawansMy apologies for the nightmare-inducing title for this post, but I find myself penning this entry while administering a practice SAT to my young monkey padawans - at this very moment, it seems most appropriate.

As it so happens every year around this time, my family and I go into discount-savings mode, looking for ways to cut expenses as the wane, slim teaching days of summer quickly approach. Our early preparations ensure the trickle of my income during break is sufficient until September rolls around once again, and as such, I begin looking at my personal expenses as the place to cut heaviest.

nintendo cart loot crateMy collections have already become streamlined, and I budget myself perhaps $100 each month toward my fixes - but this year, I'd like to take some time out to reconsider and streamline even further. I'm placing myself on a strict $50 a month fix, and that includes everything - comics, retro video games and consoles, table top games, and original art.

No one said it was going to be easy, mind you, but I think I found a way to make it through these dry and desolate times.

I have found Loot Crate, and I have found it to be good.

Yes, I know - they've been around for a while, but it takes this retro guy some time to warm up to a new concept. Hell, I only had my first Bioshock run through last month...

folding domo
Founded in 2012, Loot Crate was one of the first mail-service blind boxes to truly catch fire in their niche market - Geekdom in all of its massive, sexy, cos-play, chase card, independent artist, mega-marketed-to glory. The first crate promised a comic-con in a box, and didn't disappoint with a Gentle Giant gift card, Smash cologne, Domo-Dino key chain, and other yummy geeky swag. By 2014, Loot Crate had 200,000 regular subscribers, and as of today's rambling, boasts over 400,000.

As of yesterday, count me as one of them. 

loot crate popLast months Loot Crate was what re-connected me with my off-season geekery. My local Granite-Con is months and months away, and this option allows me to stretch my hobby moolah while gaining real value. Of course, as with all collecting, value is what the community at large places on the items at hand... the general accepted conversion is for a $19.99 crate, pop-culture-o-philes get more than $45 in return. Solid.

Last month, Loot Crate sent subscribers the 'Dead' crate, with thematic selections from Deadpool and the Walking Dead. A t-shirt comes standard in every crate, and this months was the 'no-you're-not-an-x-man-no-matter-what-you-say' himself rappelling down at the suggestion of tacos... there was a McFarlane build-a-Walking Dead character, a Walking Dead soap on a rope ear necklace, an action mini'd Q-Fig Deadpool, and the pin (a zombified loot crate box).

lootcrate feb 2016
All for $19.99. Well, $16.99 since I had a promo code. And had I signed up sooner, it would have been mine...

Yes, the links have the discount code pre-filled in for you.

You are welcome. Sign up today.

To Sign up for your very own Loot Crate, Please Click on the provided link below to save money on your first order.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Unholy Union of Video Games and Film Franchises

movie video games
Wallpaper Love!
To be honest, the gaming industry doesn't have a stellar track record with merchandising action films into successful - or even  palatable - video games.

Not exactly a world-view breaking observation, but one that needs reminding once in a while... especially with the slew of Marvel, DC, and Disney films glutting theaters these days. Each has their own series of video game toss-offs, and it would be a sin to forget the lessons of the past the next time you visit Game Stop or your local retro store.

It seems like a video game port from an action film would be a no-brainer, but often the rush to turn around and match a game release with the film premier is too tempting - crap oozes freely when just a few more dollars of development time would create something worth playing on it's own merit, not relegating a game to a collectors status as a must have for completionists and fan geeks.

For examples, let's look at retro NES titles -

Total Recall (NES) - Where game play combines a run and gun that makes it near impossible to run further than half a screen. For those who played it- how many made it past the initial earth-originating chase? I've yet to have the patience to make it to Mars, instead being jumped time and time again by that SOB hiding in the alleyway, who shoves me into the sewers. My loss I suppose, but I suspect not.

This Acclaim title truly delved the scuz from the bottom of the programming pool in order for it to be released on time. Poor coding, glitches, and confusing graphics made this game a stinker, and prompts many to suggest the lead actor had something to do with it- something as a Bambino curse but with the the Governator instead. Luckily the sweeping odoriferous stench doesn't hang on all Schwarzenegger tie-ins, but this one most certainly was the worst.

Friday the 13th (NES) -  Jason never seemed so innocuous. Zombies somehow make an appearance as the standard revolving obstacles, and a poorly-enacted 'Eye of the Beholder' style min-dungeon let's you explore simplified cabins for clues. Jason does make an appearance- not as a traditional end boss at least. The game relies on saving fellow counselors and campers before Jason can get to them, and if you cross his path, you can fight him right then and there - though, until your mission is complete, you can't actually defeat him.

Too many elements had to be crafted into this Altus developed and  LJN released game in order for it to make sense, and this detracts heavily from the classic film tale. What's interesting is that this is the game that LJN would build their media-connected titles to going forward, all of which would turn out just as poorly. Friday the 13th is a horror title, where your ultimate bad guy becomes nothing more than an annoyance. Not the Jason I grew up scared witless about, and that's where the let down truly comes in to play.

Jaws (NES) - Gorgeous cover art deceives the player in the LJN release, based on Jaws 4: The Revenge. Simple maps track simple actions, all designed as an early 'grind' system in order to build up strength to defeat Jaws itself. Gameplay requires the player to hunt smaller sea creatures, all the while looking out for the big gray meanie himself- at least, that's the selling idea.

In reality, you navigate a boat over a small stretch of water until you hit something and dive below the waves to explore. Very much a top-down navigator, with side-scroller action that goes nowhere, Jaws was another of the LJN failures in trying to capture the tension many players expected.

Home Alone (NES) - Bethesda Softworks offered LJN an opportunity to be let off the hook for creating bad film ports with their 1991 release of Home Alone.

A screen-shifting static map or the house, the basement, and the tree house require young Kevin to run - well, it's more of a locomotive strut - away from the two burglars from the title. In a 2-D platformer, with bad guys who can't jump, it's simply a matter of dropping 'booby-traps' as you run along in order to not be caught.

To win the game, the player simply runs away for 20 minutes. Can it get more boring than that?

Well, I suppose the IOC could license an Olympic Marathon simulator...

Lastly, I'd prefer not to channel the oft dredged E.T. release for the Atari 2600 at this time, or in this article's tone. It's been done to death, even to an extent that the myths surrounding the game out-shadow the gameplay itself.

No, wait - perhaps just a word or two -

In regard to Howard Scott Warshaw's E.T., it's become pop culture to trash the title. But put simply, Spielberg himself played and approved it prior to release. In fact, he demanded it, and to be honest, the game isn't that bad given the development time restricting the project from expanding further. It plays, it plays well for what it is, and though there most certainly can be some Monday morning quarterbacking concerning programming and associate nit-pickings, it still doesn't deserve the rep it has for bringing down the Atari age.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface I know, but these are the tops when it comes to my own experience (and my own collection, I might add). 

Thank you t the team from, for without whom I would have had to play these damn titles myself for the captures.

What's your most dreaded film to game port? Am I wrong in believing this? Let me know in the comments below-  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Guess the Alternate Reality Video Game

In celebration of the seasons crawling towards us, below are complied a list of the eleven most violent and engaging alternate reality video games currently in the marketplace. Rather than tell you about them, I thought it might be fun if readers could identify each of the screen captures for their own glory and prestige.

There are, of course, many more - but these are the ones most likely to end up under the Christmas tree this year. Can you identify all eleven?

All images are provided as creative commons- please feel free to share and adjust as you see fit. After all, the internet is all about community and creative expression!

Leave your answers in the comments below- good luck!