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Posted on March 26th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann




2015 Summer movie preview

Posted on March 20th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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With three movies due out it seems as if Marvel Entertainment has bought and now owns the naming rights to summer. The first of which is The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1. Really The Avengers Part 2, or is it Iron Man Part 5…, Age of Ultron has the whole team back together again battling the robotic Ulton, one of the most iconic Avengers villains. Much like with the first Avengers flick, the fate of the very Earth will hang in the balance in this film!

Except since there are two more Marvel movies out this summer and a whole slew of Marvel films scheduled for theaters all the way up until 2019, I think the fate of the Earth has already been decided in a corporate board room.

mad_max_fury_road_ver2Mr. Road Warrior himself Mad Max returns to the hellish highways of the apocalypse on May 15 in Max Max: Fury Road. This fourth outing for the character, with Tom Hardy in the title role and co-starring Charlize Theron, has Max trying to rescue a group of fellow apocalyptic travelers from the clutches of a crazed outlaw gang of motorheads.

In other words: More merry Mad Max mayhem!

A remake of the family-scarer Poltergeist is out May 22. I’m interested in this one, if just because the original 1982 film about a girl vanished into the guts of a family’s haunted house gave me the heebie-jeebies as a youngster. I mean, Poltiergeist has one of the kids in the movie being practically eaten alive by a tree one minute and terrorized by a clown doll the next. C’MON!

It helps that this new Poltergeist is being produced by Evil Dead horror auteur Sam Raimi too.

A fourth Jurassic Park movie, Jurassic World, is set to bring a little chaos to theaters June 12. While this is being billed as a sequel to the first three films from 1993 to 2001, to me Jurassic World looks to be an reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise as a whole. The trailer for this one has a slew of people visiting Jurassic Park when something goes wrong that turns loose the dinosaurs to chomp on some unsuspecting folks. Or, it’s a bigger version of Jurassic Park sans the guiding hands of Steven Spielberg.

Terminator: Genesys, the fifth film of that franchise, will “be back” in theaters July 1 with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Due to the vagaries of time travel, this time he’s joined by a young Sarah Connor (now Emilia Clarke) as the two along with Reese (now Jai Courtney) fight off a bunch of different and deadly terminators out to put an end to the Connor timeline once and for all. Or at least until the next movie.

Marvel movie #2 is Ant-Man out July 17. There’s not too much known about this one other than it stars Paul Rudd in the title role of a superhero who can turn incredibly small. But if Ant-Man follows the Marvel Mold™ of late it’s no doubt that the fate of the planet will be in Ant-Man’s teeny-tiny hands.

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A fifth Mission: Impossible movie, simply titled Mission: Impossible 5,  is out July 31. Even though I probably shouldn’t I’ve enjoyed the Mission: Impossible movies since the first one was released in ’96. Even if the missions the M:I teams have gone on over the years/sequels have gone from impossible to impossibler to “there’s no way in heck they’d be able to do any of this stuff whatsoever!”

The final Marvel movie out this summer, that’s really a Sony one, is Fantastic Four. A reboot of the Fantastic Four films from 2005 and ’07, this version looks to put a new, darker spin on the big four. Or, if it works it could be the dawn of a new age in the tone of comic book movies but if it doesn’t we might just have another Catwoman on our hands.

Premiering on TV screens before Mission: Impossible in 1964 was Man from U.N.C.L.E., the first series to take inspiration from the James Bond films to a TV series. Now a film version of U.N.C.L.E. is set to close the summer movie season August 14. This 1960s period piece seems to be equal parts Jason Bourne and Austin Powers.




Posted on March 13th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann



Robotech: The Gateway Anime

Posted on March 6th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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I was an impressionable 10 year old when the animated TV series Robotech first premiered here in 1985. Back then the TV landscape was very much different that it was today, especially with kid’s cartoons. Now, cartoons air 24/7 on a variety of specific channels and via streaming services too. But back in 1985 cartoons only really aired Saturday mornings and for a few hours after school on one or two channels.

Rick Hunter

Rick Hunter

I hate to admit it but looking back for the most part cartoons of 30 years ago weren’t very good. Until I started rewatching cartoons as an adult I thought most of the ones I used to watch as a kid were brilliant. And while I might still love say classic G.I. Joe and Transformers cartoons, the stories these two shows told were cliched and childish where even though characters were trying to kill one and other no one really got hurt and no one ever died.

That’s part of the reason Robotech is so memorable to me, why it’s so different from its contemporaries.

Robotech told one long story over 85 episodes and three different series. Characters in Robotech grew and changed and shockingly enough some actually died. Watching Robotech again today I’m amazed at just what weighty subjects the show told. It’s almost like Robotech was an adult themed show in the guise of a children’s cartoon. And the design and art of the show was like nothing I’d ever seen before outside feature film animation.

Roy Fokker

Roy Fokker

Years before computer 3D effects would make such things easy Robotech had jets that could turn into robots fighting alien ships which must’ve taken countless hours to animate by hand.

The story of Robotech is deceptively simple. On the eve of a third world war a gigantic alien spacecraft crashes onto the Earth and the governments of the world unite to explore and figure out uses for this new technology. Fast forward a few years to the launch of the SDF-1, a gigantic ship built from the wreck and tech of this ship when the aliens who lost the ship in the first place come looking for it. But when we use this new “Robotech” technology to fight back it malfunctions and sends the ship to Pluto where the survivors of the battle must fight their way through the solar system to get home.

And this was just the first series. The other two dealt with the continuation of this war into the future to a post apocalyptic end.

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To a kid who’d grown up assured via cartoons that the good guys always win and that the bad guys can always parachute out of their exploding helicopters before hitting the ground, Robotech came as a bit of a revelation. I’d never seen anything like it before and I’m not sure there’d been any show up to that point to deal with all the stuff in Robotech before.

Even so, there were only a few of us at school who were into Robotech. The show aired at the staggering early time of 6:30AM against things like the early news and the farm report. It was on so early that I used to get up, watch Robotech and go back to bed for an hour before I had to really get up for school.

Minmei

Minmei

So, at least in our area, Robotech was never as popular as the other cartoons even though there were the usual tie-in comic books, toys and action figures to go along with the series. After the original Robotech series ended that was pretty much it for Robotech for the next few years.

While Robotech is still very much outside the mainstream for people like me who grew up with the show or came to discover it later it was world changing. I don’t think after seeing Robotech I could take other cartoons that didn’t take on real-world topics like Robotech as seriously as before. Where’s the fun in watching a show like Voltron that also had gigantic robots facing off against aliens when each week’s episode was almost a mirror of what had come before when I could be watching Robotech instead?

It’s been a few years since the last time I sat down to watch episodes of Robotech and probably decades since I’ve watched the series as a whole. But if this is any indication as to how much the series meant, no, means to me whenever I play a clip of the Robotech title sequence and the synthetic violin strings start up there’s a chill of excitement that goes up my spine where I’m 10 years old again up too early to catch my favorite cartoon on TV.

More Robotech > Super-Deluxe Japanamation!

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Space Above and Beyond Review #14: Never No More

Posted on March 4th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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Original air date: February 4, 1996

The war has started to turn in our favor when the Chigs launch an experimental fighter that’s capable of wiping out entire squadrons in the blink of an eye. When the 58th are thrown into the fray looking to eliminate this threat will they be be able to take out this alien Red Baron or will they become yet another statistic?

Vansen, Damphousse and Winslow over drinks

Vansen, Damphousse and Winslow over drinks

“Never No More” is probably the best episode of Space: Above and Beyond, it’s certainly the best up to this point. While other episodes have dealt with things like the war with the Chigs and what it’s like to leave loved ones behind and sometimes see them die, “Never No More” is the first episode in the series to handle all that in one episode so succinctly.

Here, the tables are finally starting to turn and the Earth forces are beginning to make advances against the previously seemingly unbeatable Chigs. But whenever squadrons of our fighters go off to patrol around a certain planet they end up getting wiped out by a single, special, Chig ship. And even when we send scores and scores of fighters against this Chig fighter dubbed “Chiggie Von Richthofen” we’re only able to score a temporary victory over it after having suffered massive losses.

The Earth is set to mount a major new offensive against the Chigs, they think they know the location of the alien’s home planet is, but in order for it to start we first must destroy this new fighter less it continue to kill Marine pilots.

Oakes and Vansen as teens

Oakes and Vansen as teens

With “Never No More” we get a whole heck of a lot of Shane Vansen’s backstory here. This is mainly of her turning down an engagement proposal from her high school boyfriend in a flashback before the war, which with these two characters is where the real interest in this episode lies.

In flashbacks the character of Capt. John Oakes (Michael Reilly Burke) is a bright-eyed kid who’s excited to fly off to a great adventure after graduation in the Marines. But that adventure turned to something darker after the outbreak of the war and more recently with the loss of his girlfriend to this Chiggie Von Richtofen.

And Vansen, who’s been so closed up to this point with the loss of her parents as a kid, comes off as someone in “Never No More” with a bit more heart than I think anyone had expected. She’s in love with Oakes but with the realities of what’s going on around them their relationship is something different. Them being together even for a little while is some small respite from a war that’s taken so many of their friends and comrades.

Chiggie Von Richthofen - Abandon all Hope

Chiggie Von Richthofen – Abandon all Hope

“Never No More” has more gut-wrenching emotion than all the previous episodes combined. And after watching this episode when it originally aired I was never able to hear the Patsy Cline song “Never No More” the same way again.

“Never No More” also features what I’d guess is the most special effect shots of any episode of the series up to this point – even if some of those shots were cribbed from earlier episodes. There’s shots of Marine Hammerheads stalking this Chig fighter and the battles fought between them too. While these shots look a bit dated today none-the-less they were groundbreaking for the time this episode aired.

We also get a bit of the wider scope to the war here too. There’s an (I think) Israeli pilot playing cards with the 58th in one scene and in another the “Fighting Finns” who are I’m assuming Finnish pilots in another.

Grade: A+

 

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The Chigs develop a fighter that’s practically invisible to the Marines yet after the next episode they never use this again. Chig technology that could seemingly turn the war in their favor yet they only ever use it once is a common theme throughout SAaB.

 

Favorite dialog:

Capt. John Oakes in the Tun Tavern

Capt. John Oakes in the Tun Tavern

Capt. John Oakes: “He disappeared about 100 of these ago.”
On who he is now compared to as a teen when receiving death notices is a normal occurrence.

TC McQueen about Chiggie Von Richthofen: “You might as well be talking about ghosts and werewolves because there is no such thing.”

Shane Vansen: “The only certainty is now and I sure don’t believe in forever.”
Capt. John Oakes: “I hate the word you said to me that night, but I’ve come to believe them.”

TC McQueen: “You’re sending them into the dark without a light.”

Shane Vansen: “I’m so sorry that she’s not here, but I’m not sorry that I am.”

Pilot: “Sir, how do we detect it?”
TC McQueen: “When a plane in your formation goes down, you know you’re in the schoolyard.”

Commodore Ross: “Abandon all hope my ass!”

 

TC McQueen

TC McQueen

Stray observations:
Oakes girlfriend Brandt is leader of the “Soaring Hornets.”

Cooper Hawkes has no poker face.

“Never No More” takes place around February 14, 2064. Valentine’s Day.

Vansen and Oakes went to El Cajon Valley High School.

Oakes went to the Marine Corps High Intensity Survival Training on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility.

The operation the Marines are participating in at the start of the episode is “Shadow Watch.” Later they join operation “Red Baron.”




Star Wars Rebels blockade runners in action

Posted on March 3rd, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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Star Wars Rebels characters

Posted on February 27th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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Ron Cobb Alien Snark concept illustration

Posted on February 27th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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Being the Last Man on the Earth would suck

Posted on February 27th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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Fox is set to start airing the simply titled Last Man on Earth series this Sunday (3/1). Last Man on Earth stars Will Forte as the titular last man on the planet who gets to eats whatever he wants, loots fine art and searches for anyone else left alive.

Which got me thinking, while Last Man on Earth looks to take a serious/goofy take at being alone what would it really be like to be the last person on the planet?

I Am Legend

I Am Legend

We’re never really more than a phone call away from help. One call to 911 from just about anywhere in the US and the emergency services will come running. Even people on the sides of mountains trapped there after avalanches have been able to call 911 and be rescued soon afterwards.

But imagine if that was gone, that we were really and truly on our own and the last person on the Earth. There’d be no one to help us if we needed it and even worse resources that we depend on to live would slowly be depleted/perish leaving us to fend for ourselves.

Yet these ideas are very rarely used in all the various last person on the planet stories that have been popular the last half century.

Those stories take place in a mostly bloodless environment, where our male hero, and the last man is almost always a man, must fight against the elements/some sort of ghouls to survive. Where are the other 6.99 billion bodies? There NEVER around or if they are around they’re in the form of some zombie/monster.

But in reality the last man would have much more to contend with than being alone/monsters.

Quiet Earth

Quiet Earth

First all the things we take for granted like electricity and heat and food water and medicine would all eventually drain away. If there’s no one throwing switches at the electrical plant there’d be no more electricity. And while a smart person would be able to live off of whatever food stores were left after the end, fresh food would spoil almost immediately but canned food would last years and years, eventually everything left over after the end would be suspect since everything, even the stuff in cans, spoils. And eating some spoiled food can kill.

Since water only requires gravity to flow from the taps and most municipal supplies are designed to refresh a city full of people rather than just one person that would last much longer than the food. But eventually it too be it by a burst water main from a cold winter or a clogged pipe somewhere in the line and the supply would run out.

With no more supermarkets or water coming out the taps the last man would have to revert to the skills our pioneer ancestors had in growing their own food, hunting animals and digging wells. Only there’d be no one around to teach the last man things like how to stalk a deer and everything would have to be learned on the fly.

And one bad harvest could lead to starvation.

The Omega Man

The Omega Man

All of which is terrible, but is nothing when compared to what would happen if even a minor medical crisis would arise. Things today that result in taking a trip to the ER to get a shot to prevent tetanus, taking of a few pills to clear up an infection or outpatient surgery to remove an inflamed appendix would result in death to the last man. Sure, all the medicines would probably still be around after the end but I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t know what to take if I cut my finger on a rusty fence to keep tetanus at bay without consulting Google, would you?

Which is all why most last man stories take place pretty near the end of the rest of us. I Am Legend takes place a few years after the end where nature has just started to take back over while the New Zealand movie Quiet Earth starts moments after the rest of humanity sans one person has vanished. In these stories survival is still interesting, Neville’s driving a boss Mustang in I Am Legend and Zac in Quiet Earth spends time shotgunning his town when survival has yet to become desperate.

Which is how all of these last man stories would end. You can’t be on your own forever. Eventually some vital supply would run out, a sickness would take hold that’s more serious than an amateur could treat or old age would finally catch up with the hero leading to his demise. There’s no limit to the ways that our hero might meet his end.

That’s how all of the last man stories would have to end. Come to think about it, that’s how the story will probably end for the rest of us too.




The Last American

Posted on February 25th, 2015 | By: Bert Ehrmann

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With Fox set to debut their new Last Man on Earth TV series this Sunday (3/1) I wanted to look back at another last man on the Earth story that’s all but forgotten today; The Last American (1990).

Last_American_Vol_1_4This four issue comic series written by Alan Grant and John Wagner with art by Michael McMahon follows Ulysses S. Pilgrim, a US soldier placed into cryogenic hibernation on the eve of a third world war. He’s ordered to spend 20 years asleep, awaken and then venture out to the US where he’ll bring together whoever’s left and reform the United States of America.

Except that when he’s awakened by three robotic helpers and they venture outside two decades after the last bomb fell, 1999 in this story, they emerge to find, well…nothing. It’s as if someone literally burned down everything on the planet from sea to shining sea. The sky is full of dust and is a noxious red while everything else is burned to a blackened crisp.

The highways are full of blasted cars and there are skeletons everywhere of those killed in the war or whom soon died afterwards. As the story progresses, Pilgrim begins to lose his mind and starts seeing living manifestations of things like George Washington and the turtle from the Duck and Cover civil defense movies from the 1950s.

That is until the group receives a mysterious message from a bunker located nearby.

Last_American_Vol_1_2Where The Last American is different from every single last man on the Earth story that’s come before, or at least all the ones I’m aware of, is that Pilgrim really is the last America, if not the last person on the planet. He never finds anyone else and other than his three robot helpers and his imagination never gets to talk with another living soul.

In The Last American there are no gangs of motorheads blasting down freeways battling over gasoline, heroes hold up in fortresses staking vampires or groups of people who mysteriously survived the end. There is only Pilgrim.

I discovered The Last American when it was originally published and it quickly became on of my favorite comic stories – I own two sets of the series. But over the last 26 years The Last American has been all but relegated to the back bins of pop culture history. Part of this is because soon after the publication of the comic the threat of world nuclear annihilation by the US and USSR quickly diminished. While that threat still exists today it’s nothing what it was like in the 1980s when the series was written and without that threat looming overhead The Last American turns from a threatening “what if” to a relatively benign fictional footnote.

AHu71Vtp_1004141330141Also, I’m not exaggerating when I say that The Last American is one of the most depressing comic series I’ve ever read. Not only are there no other living people in the series other than Pilgrim there isn’t even much of anything that’s living period. Other than a few insects and a deformed eagle Pilgrim spots in the story there’s not much left alive after the apocalypse of The Last American.

Worse still, the last issue in the series is told from the diary of a woman stuck in a bunker after the war. She’s there as things go from bad, no power, to worse, cannibalism, as her group delves deeper and deeper into the bunker complex looking for escape

Even so the series does end on a bit of hope, even if it’s at the tiniest scale from a flame of a Zippo lighter.

The Last American might be depressing but it’s also a great story. A collected edition of The Last American is available online via ComiXology and back issues of the series are still available at comic stores and eBay.