Monday, December 31, 2012

COME ON OVER - SHANIA TWAIN

There is an music CD I bought strictly due to the fact that I was hearing it played so much on my office radio. I cannot remember what station I was listening to at the time (early 1999), but it must have been one of those top-40 stations; or whatever they are called.

I had my own little office back then, and I was often wrapped up in whatever work that I was inspired to do... to justify the extra rent that I had forced myself to pay. The radio was almost always on.

Admittedly I was enjoying the songs. I was well aware of Shania Twain, and repetition of her album Come on Over was paying off. The initial flurry of sales had subsided to that point, I'm sure, but now the slow-movers were the next victims.

I bought Come on Over -- second hand, yes, but I put my money down.

The super-selling album (of many millions of units) was pretty middle-of-the-road to my musically astute ears. The songs were nice in an inoffensive way; and, to me at least, they seemed to be aimed squarely at women. (And the woman in me.)

Last week I had to do some maintenance here at home; I popped in the Come on Over album. (It had not been touched by my hands in years, except to pack away in boxes during moves.) Nice songs to work to. As a matter of fact, what struck me is how uniform the songs are, for the most part. Two of the tunes seemed to blend together; I had not realized one song ended and another had started.

Blandness tends to sell a lot of units/copies. A broad appeal, not straying too much from the center line. Doesn't mean it's not good, but there is some truth to that notion.

Yes, I do like Come on Over. And I'm sure I won't wait another ten years to give it another listen.

MR. THUNDERBIRD - THE GERRY ANDERSON STORY

Decided this afternoon to review some video files that I had downloaded from Youtube, when I rediscovered a documentary titled Mr. Thunderbird - The Gerry Anderson Story. With the passing last week of Mr. Anderson, this fifty-minute program now holds even more importance and interest.

Here is Part 1...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG2x-7-d4cs

Sunday, December 30, 2012

THUNDERBIRD 1 (IS GO!)


I know this goes against the grain, the popular opinion, but my favourite Thunderbirds vehicle is not "Thunderbird 2", as much as I like that machine. My personal fave, and has been since I was a wee-one, is "Thunderbird 1". Manned by Scott Tracy, this wonderful flying machine has an English Electric look.

Back in 1993, when Thunderbirds toys were reissued by Matchbox, I picked up both TB1 and TB2.

Hmm... the more I look at Thunderbird 1, the more it looks as though it was manufactured by Mikoyan-Gurevich ("MiG") or Sukhoi. Is it possible that International Rescue bought Soviet equipment?

(The RCAF should seriously consider buying from Mikoyan or Sukhoi -- now part of United Aircraft Corporation. Forget Lockheed Martin and the F-35 "Fleabag".)

RIGHT-WING NAME-CALLING

I admit that stereotypical right-wingers interest -- okay, fascinate -- me. I'm continually amused and bemused at the hate and vitriol spewed from that group. Last week I decided to interview the man-on-the-street; in this case, a friend of mine...

ME
Why are right-wingers so angry all the time? And what's with all the name-calling and venomous insults?

FRIEND
They just feel like they're being picked on all the time.

ME
Maybe that's because they're easy to pick on....

Saturday, December 29, 2012

STATISTICAL ROUNDUP - DECEMBER 29, 2012

I love statistics. Decided to overview 'discrete hits' on my blog -- from the past week, month; and 'all time'.

Blogspot started indexing/counting stats about two and a half years ago. (Unfortunately, postings done before that implementation, started at ground level in the numbers department.)


ALL TIME

1)  Jack Layton and Olivia Chow - Starship Crewmates (April 20, 2011)
 = 3276

2)  Motown “Jackson 5” Greatest Hits (June 26, 2009)
 = 2069

3)  Disturbing Magic Roundabout Theme (April 18, 2010)
 = 1917

4)  Right-Wing Newspaper Comment Boards (Nov 6, 2011)
 = 485

5)  NHL Rink Size Matters (April 28, 2008)
 = 457

6)  R-7 - Superfine Industrial Design (May 14, 2011)
 = 434

7)  Six Million Dollar Man Coming to DVD (April 21, 2010)
 = 357

8)  N1 Rocketa - U.S.S.R. Moon Shot (May 14, 2011)
 = 315

9)  Posting Number 1000 (+1) (June 29, 2011)
 = 166

10)  CN Tower’s Edge Walk Already (June 2, 2011)
 = 146


MONTH

1)  Space: 2099? (Feb 18, 2012)
 = 70

2)  Motown “Jackson 5” Greatest Hits (June 26, 2009)
 = 69

3)  R-7 - Superfine Industrial Design (May 14, 2011)
 = 33

4)  NHL Rink Size Matters (April 28, 2008)
 = 25

5)  Star Trek Music Box - Art & Sound (Dec 1, 2012)
 = 23

6)  Jack Layton and Olivia Chow - Starship Crewmates (April 20, 2011)
 = 22

7)  Best of Barry - ‘ 32” Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Model Kit for 2012 ' - Original Posting: June 21, 2011 (Sept 11, 2012)
 = 17

8)  Sergei Korolev - Russian Rocket Man (May 14, 2011)
 = 14

9)  Right-Wing Newspaper Comment Boards (Nov 6, 2011)
 = 13

10)  N1 Rocketa - U.S.S.R. Moon Shot (May 14, 2011)
 = 12


WEEK

1)  Space: 2099? (Feb 18, 2012)
 = 31

2)  Motown “Jackson 5” Greatest Hits (June 26, 2009)
 = 14

3)  Star Trek Music Flyby (Dec 24, 2012)
 = 9

4)  Gerry Anderson Dies (Dec 27, 2012)
 = 9

5)  R-7 - Superfine Industrial Design (May 14, 2011)
 = 8

6)  Best of Barry - ‘ 32” Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Model Kit for 2012 ' - Original Posting: June 21, 2011 (Sept 11, 2012)
 = 7

7)  Star Trek Music Box - Art & Sound (Dec 1, 2012)
 = 6

8)  N1 Rocketa - U.S.S.R. Moon Shot (May 14, 2011)
 = 4

9)  Terry Gilliam on Star Wars (Aug 21, 2010)
 = 4

10)  Sergei Korolev - Russian Rocket Man (May 14, 2011)
 = 4


***
Note: When I posted a 'Best of Barry' for Space: 2099?, I effectively split the count. When you add them up, the number comes to 154 (90 + 64). By that measure, Space: 2009? would be in tenth position for the "All Time" count. Impressive considering I posted that entry just this past February.

The biggest month for my blog, in the hits department? August of 2010, with 1,999 hits.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

GERRY ANDERSON DIES

When I read the news yesterday that Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson had died, I was not surprised. I'd been thinking lately that he was getting on a bit, and it seems cosmically fashionable to have people of note pass on. Just in the last few days, Jack Klugman and Charles Durning have died.

In the last few months I have knocked off several episodes from Anderson shows, such as UFO, Captain Scarlet, and Space: 1999. My 'best of' Thunderbirds DVD is going to get a spin. (Along with UFO, Thunderbirds is the "best of" GA's television programs.)

After hearing about Gerry Anderson's passing, I immediately started drafting a story; to be titled, "Gerry Anderson - Childhood Star". I should have 'er up in the next day or so.

My friend Greg emailed me asking if I had heard. In tribute, we are both going to watch the Space: 1999 episode, "The Testament of Arkadia" (one of the best stories from that series). "Tonight, at eleven."


Obituary from Sky NEWS...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7jjdOwxUSM

Monday, December 24, 2012

STAR TREK MUSIC FLYBY


I titled this posting, "Star Trek Music Flyby", because the new La-La Land Records release of the complete music from the original Star Trek series is going to do just that... "fly by"; due to the hard, cold fact that I simply cannot afford the hefty (though not unreasonable) $224 price tag.

Disappointing, I do admit, that this Trekker cannot afford such an extensive set of superb dramatic music -- especially 17.3 hours worth.


Some last details; interesting, for those who care, links regarding the magic music box:

WQXR, a classical music station in New York City, recently aired an hour-long program on the music of the original Star Trek and the 15-CD release...
http://www.wqxr.org/#/programs/movies/2012/dec/08/

The Wall Street Journal published a story on the music of the world's greatest space show...


I am returning to Sol-3, soon. Soon: Notes on film critic/writer Mark Kermode's book, The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex - What's Wrong With Modern Movies. Also: Speaking of music, I recently spun my Shania Twain and Charlotte Church CDs; it's been a few years since I've listened to them, and I'll have some impressions to impart.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

STAR TREK MUSIC BOX - MORE SAMPLES




Here are more samples from the Star Trek music CD set from La-La Land Records...

http://www.trekcore.com/merchandise/sttos_lukaskendall.html http://www.trekcore.com/merchandise/sttos_jeffbond.html

... includes interviews with producers Lukas Kendall and Jeff Bond.


* Alexander Courage's score for "The Cage" is a standout which set the bar very high; but the cue, "Monster Illusion", is a highlight.

* Fred Steiner wrote music to make the viewer take a potentially goofy episode ("Who Mourns for Adonais?"), seriously. This score makes a lot of fans absolutely giddy... me being one of them. The composer's score for "The Corbomite Maneuver" is loaded with exotic, propulsive tension -- and very catchy.

* Speaking of "catchy": The versatile Gerald Fried wrote with his sentimental pen for "The Paradise Syndrome".  Silky-smooth melodies for a Captain's Holiday, of sorts.

* Joseph Mullendore scored just one episode for Trek, that being "The Conscience of the King", but he left a mark: mainly, a gem of a love theme. Which reminds me...

... the (original series) Star Trek composers were obviously, and continually, inspired to do their best stuff. The format of the show certainly helped, but there was something else going on. It's hard to put into words. The music ran the gamut from bombastic to sentimental; bursting with melody; light/bright, and dark; often exotic and out-worldly.

If I were trained in musicology, I would definitely take some time to study these scores, and their relationship to a great television series. Perhaps they are so essential, a vital part of that series' DNA, that it would be foolish to try and imagine Star Trek hitting such stellar heights without those scores. The right television series and composers. A textbook example of just how important music is to the motion picture experience. Required reading at the Academy....

Saturday, December 1, 2012

STAR TREK MUSIC BOX - ART & SOUND



Trust me -- the 'closet' Trekker -- to find this:  Artwork and music samples from the upcoming release -- by La-La Land Records -- of 'original series' Star Trek music... 

http://www.trekcore.com/merchandise/sttos_soundtrackintro.html
http://www.trekcore.com/merchandise/sttos_neilbulk.html


* Alexander Courage was the daddy of this show's terrific, vivid music -- including the brilliant theme; and the author of several benchmark scores of great dramatic fervour. He continued his touch with the third season episode, "The Enterprise Incident". Listen to the cue "Abberated Captain" and you know something's goin' down, even without picture: With the climactic punctuating brass and timpani you think/know, "oh sh__!" Sweet.

* Gerald Fried is one cool 'jazz' daddy. (No doubt his hipster buddies were in the orchestra: on some scores, Larry Bunker on drums!)

* George Duning wrote some of the loveliest love tunes this side of Talos IV.

* Sol Kaplan wrote scores for "The Enemy Within" (during my teen years, my fave ep) and "The Doomsday Machine". No further comment needed.

* Fred Steiner's cue, "Battle Music" (from "Elaan of Troyius"), should be renamed, "SOLD!!!" Wonderful!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

STELLAR MUSIC SCORING TO TREK



The mega CD boxed-set release containing all the music written and recorded for the original Star Trek television series, is just a couple of weeks away (on December 4th, at Space Warp)...

LA-LA LAND RECORDS PRESENTS
La-La Land Records will officially release the 15-CD "STAR TREK THE ORIGINAL SERIES SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION" on Dec 4th at 1pm (PST) on our website www.lalalandrecords.com

As announced previously, the set will be limited to 6000 Units and will be priced at $224.98
The set contains 636 tracks of astounding TREK music. With a running time of 17 hours, 18 minutes and 17 seconds.

Stay tuned for more information about this release  - and for details on a special release event to be held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA on Dec 3rd!

Monday, November 19, 2012

NOVEMBER UPDATE (2012)

Hello, Dear Reader.

Sorry about the lack of postings as of late. My life has gotten busier... in a good way. I am trying to catch up on the 'extras' -- like this blog.

I have been watching movies; a lot of documentaries:  B-29 - Frozen in Time, an episode of the superlative PBS series, NOVA; and Titanic's Final Mystery. I re-watched The People vs George Lucas, which only convinced me that G.W. Lucas is insane. I also watched Done the Impossible, a doc on "Browncoats" (Firefly fans).  They just might be the most passive-aggressive fans around.

For the second year in a row, an old friend invited me to do the "Zombie Walk" here in Toronto. For the second year in a row, I was a no-show.

Although I ignored the Toronto Sun for a few months, I've been going back to it lately... for the laughs. (Did you know that Dr Norman Bethune was a "Commie"? I did not, until I read it in the Sun... over several consecutive days.) Hey, you have to admire any "journalism" written at a Grade 3 reading level. Just don't tell them that. A friend of mine did, and they responded with ripe fury!

I had forgotten that "the world" is supposed to end on December 21st. Maybe I can squeeze in a few more blog postings....

Monday, October 15, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "CLASH OF THE TITANS - ROSENTHAL" - ORIGINAL POSTING: APRIL 1, 2010

This morning I skim-read a couple of reviews (how could I miss them) for the new Clash of the Titans film, which is a remake of an okay 1981 opus. The original was moderately budgeted but it still was no slouch in the visuals department, and featured stop-motion effects produced and directed by the legendary maestro Ray Harryhausen.

I remember when the '81 Clash hit the theatres... we knew it was coming. It was years later that I got around to watching the movie. I remember some reviewers commenting at the time that the visual effects were already 'old school' considering the great strides made in effects technology such as motion control. The effects were still effective, to me. They supported the story and enabled some instant classic moments such as the rise of the Kraken.

However, the most supportive ingredient in this Clash, and one element which is actually superb, is Laurence Rosenthal's score. It qualifies as one of those "makes the movie seem to be better than it perhaps is" works. John Barry was to do the score but his effort was tossed and Rosenthal was brought in to write a new one. By the way, the paperback book, undoubtedly already inked and cut by the publisher by the time the decision had been made to take another stab at the music, actually had Barry's name credited on the back cover; which might make the tie-in book a bit of a collector's item for those who look for that sort of thing.

Last night I decided to look on Youtube for any clips of Laurence Rosenthal's score...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT0My8Pr7bo&NR=1

Great stuff. Even away from the movie. I have the LP packed away somewhere. Bought it back when the film was released.

The new Clash is getting less than stellar reviews. More important, I would like to hear what the civilians have to say about it. If I do go to the movie house to watch, I will do so in one which is playing good ol' 2-D.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "LAND OF THE GIANTS" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MARCH 24, 2008

The worst Irwin Allen show after Lost in Space, but as I have discovered, Land of the Giants (1968 - 1970) has quite the fan following. Fox Home Video recently released the final 60s Irwin Allen show on DVD in one big box; with both seasons included. Unlike the previous releases of Allen fare, the Giants set gets the star treatment: There are lots of so-called extras. Of great appeal to the die-hard fans, this set has to be to shake off its steep sticker price. You get what you pay for. (I understand there are extras on some of the other related boxed sets but they are limited in comparison to Land of the Giants.)

The premise of Giants is as follows: The suborbital spaceship Spindrift is en route to London from New York city when it passes through a cloud and lands on a planet of giant people.

Exciting stuff.

I was living in Europe the time that Land of the Giants played on ABC in first run. As there were only two years worth of episodes, 'stripping' this series (that is Monday to Friday at 5 p.m., sort of thing) was problematic. Giants would end its run in just over two months. This is the reason why I did not see it until 1983 when CKVR ran the show late at night that summer.

After taping and watching a couple of episodes, I could readily figure out why Giants was all but forgotten. It was deadly dull! The characters were empty souls -- and essentially duplicates of the Lost in Space characters -- amongst some impressive scaled-up props and outstanding optical mattes. These qualities do not make a show, however.

Land of the Giants did have an above average Johnny Williams (by now, "John") theme tune. I remember seeing the beginning of an episode on BBC-2 in England a few years ago where I was not only reminded of the clarity inherent in the PAL television system but was also treated to a different -- and excellent -- opening title sequence and musical theme. I did not realize this series had a different opening treatment in its second year, and a super-charged one at that. You learn something every day.

I guess the producers were trying to spice up and hyper-energize the second year, figuring the audience was cold to the lack of character development and scripting in the first.

Check out the first season opening title sequence from Land of the Giants... (I love that tremolo tuba!)
http://youtube.com/watch?v=pC_FlESYtjI

Thursday, October 11, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "STAR TREK - SUPER 8 - 1978" - ORIGINAL POSTING: JUNE 16, 2010

Oh my lordy. Things run in a theme. I was on Youtube looking for Super-8 films and this came up as a hit...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvd9B2iMmfc

It is a Super-8 Star Trek short film made by a bunch of kids in Cape Cod in 1978. I have not laughed like that in ages while watching a 'movie'. The kids staged a fight sequence and it is, as far as I'm concerned, worth the price of admission. The original series had professional stuntmen and it showed, even if they did not always look like the characters they were standing in for, but, needless to say, the kids here do "their own stunts", so the illusion is perfect... and hilarious!

They were talented little buggers. And they clearly understood the source material.

The audio was added a few years ago as were a few "opticals".

Great show.


(Another effective touch is the way they use music from "The Cage", "Amok Time", and "The Doomsday Machine".)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SPACE: 1999 FAN FILM - COSMOS 1999

As a friend of mine said, "Wow!".  Back in 1979, two French (or French-Canadian?) guys, Yves Lapointe and Sylvain Labrosse, were sixteen years of age when they produced this Super-8 short film on their favourite television series, Space: 1999. I'm specifying "favourite" simply based on viewing their 13-minute homage to the much maligned 1975-1977 science fiction show. In fact, it is the second season (or "second series") that they mimicked, not the first, as many, including moi, would assume. In addition, because it was made by two people who would have seen the French-dubbed version, the title is Cosmos 1999.

All I can say is, "Enjoy!".  Watch and admire the effort (and laughs) put forth by messieurs Lapointe and Labrosse. The music cues, authentic ones from the show's second year, are used exactly the way they were on the actual series they obviously know very well.

This film makes one wonder what the filmmakers are doing today?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbjJsypbfJ0

BEST OF BARRY - "THE TIME TUNNEL" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MARCH 20, 2008


The Time Tunnel ran just one season (on ABC) back in 1966 to 1967. Because of this, unless one caught it on first air-dates then you were to hear of it only described to you; in my case, by a friend. In 1974 or abouts, he told me of The Time Tunnel and proceeded to describe an episode where "these guys", Tony and Doug, the two handsome leads of this series, end up on the Titanic just as it was about to sink. I had more than heard of the ocean liner Titanic, I was a fanatic at an early age, but I could not pull any memories from the memory bank to reward my friend's noble feat to jog my memory. I just did not remember any television based time machine other than Doctor Who's Tardis. (What my pal was describing was the pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday", starring some dude by the name of Michael Rennie.)

Eventually, I did see a couple of episodes in the mid 1980s courtesy of CKVR's summer classic television programming. I found The Time Tunnel to be boring and without much merit. Why, I asked, do Tony and Doug always end up at a time and place where some major event is happening, such as Krakatoa during the volcano incident, or the War of 1812? Why did they not end up in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, during tobacco harvest season?

I should mention that a television budget could only realize such ambitious scenarios through the use of 20th Century Fox's stock library. By duping sections from films such as The Buccaneer (1958), or The 300 Spartans (1962) the tv epic could realize its lofty goals.

Irwin Allen admitted that The Time Tunnel was his favourite of his own series'.

Check out this original promo...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFpybNImA38&NR=1

Sunday, October 7, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "THE LAST STARLOST!" - ORIGINAL POSTING: SEPTEMBER 14, 2007

Then came The Starlost. I sat on the floor cross-legged with my friend Dennis. We watched. I seem to remember that we enjoyed the experience. Maybe it was a 'fix' for two little geeks. There were some "dumb" things to be sure, such as our intrepid characters, once they broke out of Cypress Corners (their world's dome) and into the Ark, stepping on a green mat and 'flying' down the super-long corridors, courtesy of some fringey chroma-key video effects. Dennis' mom: "This is so God damned stupid!" We both ignored her. What did she know?

At a leisurely pace -- Star Trek by this point, and Dennis and I were both fans, especially after I turned him onto both the show and the James Blish novelizations, would have had an action scene or two, some funny lines and some great orchestral musical flourishes of brass and tympani, not to forget an absorbing plot -- Devon, Rachel, and Garth (Keir Dullea, Gay Rowan, and Robin Ward) explored the sterile-looking spaceship interiors. They came across what looked like a 'Tourist' help centre computer. Devon sat in the chair and an image of a hunched William Osler came on. After the computer-man noticed that someone was sitting in the chair, he would ask, "may I be of... assistance?". He wore heavy-framed glasses and flickered his eyelids a lot, especially when he was answering Devon's seemingly stupid questions. (Hey, wouldn't you ask certain questions if you came from a dome-enclosed Amish-like community headed by a semi-sober Sterling Hayden, only to break out and into a radically different environment, one without trees or inhabitants of any kind?) On one such occasion when Osler blinked in machine gun fashion, Dennis' mom exhorted, "this is God damned ridiculous!" (Her comments came across as a sort of negative laugh track.) "It is kind of silly", I'm sure I started to think at this pivotal moment. And I think a little bit of disappointment started to creep in. Dennis and I were not little kiddies... we had fully functioning 11-year-old brains. And we knew what was good; Star Trek had set the bar. (The animated Star Trek series had premiered that same year -- I know that we looked forward to that every week, and probably more than the 'video-taped show'.)

When the first show finished and that freaky theme music closed off, I'm sure Dennis and I both liked it, overall. I know that I watched most, if not all, of The Starlost's sixteen episodes. There was the one with the big bees: "Those are big bees!" The week after this one premiered, my social studies teacher, Mr. Brown, said, "did you guys see The Starlost on the weekend... the one with the bees?" I remember he smiled as he said this. Wouldn't you? Mister Chekov played a character named "Oro" in another installment... he was probably named after Oro township up near Barrie, Ontario; as I would figure out a few years later. I liked the episode "with the kids", a lot of them were about the same age I was at the time; bet you if I watched now, they look like 'babies'. I did like the twist ending of this one.

One interesting element of the show was the theme music (as I mentioned briefly above). It favoured a synthesiser and, as a melody goes, was quite memorable... very catchy and easy to mock-hum with a vocal synth sound: I'm doing it right now. See what I mean? A glass of wine just killed that. Or did the wine start it? Over and above the theme tune, the back-ground music was unique, but pedestrian. There is one piece I recall which was basically the theme but played very slowly, and with what sounded like a recorder. (A recorder has a very 'breathy' quality.) To be honest, though, the back-ground music often irritated in its droning manner. In fact, some of these back-ground cues 'showed up' on the Canadian television series, Swiss Family Robinson. The music was provided by Score Productions, a company out of New York City that wrote music -- at least its staff composers did -- for various television events, game shows, etc. It was run by a man by the name of Bob Israel, who wrote music himself along with his staff musicians. (I remember TV Guide doing an article on Israel, and his company, a couple of years later.) No doubt, the producers of The Starlost got a 'package deal' for the music. (This is very common practice in television today as it is cheap to do... just a guy and his synthesiser, and no musicians on the floor to be paid.)

The visual effects shots of the Ark were sometimes video, other times, film. The filmed versions looked as though the crew had immersed the model in a murky swimming pool and some guy was hired to swim around with a camera in hand. Due to video camera limitations at the time, there was not a lot that could be done to make miniatures look as big as what they were supposed to represent. They often looked static with perhaps a zoom done to mimic flight; this would be chroma-keyed over a fat-star background.

The Science aspect of The Starlost was sloppy or almost non existent. In the premiere, the computer-man said, "a class G solar star". Harlan Ellison says, "(it makes no sense), it's like saying, 'a big house home'."

Over the years The Starlost would occasionally play on CTV in repeats. It didn't help syndication matters that there were only sixteen episodes produced. If the show were to be 'stripped' Monday to Friday, then the whole series would be done in three weeks! What did happen, however, is that several compilation films were made. Each one would be made up of two episodes. Even then, I don't recall seeing it a lot. This is probably a good thing. When The Starlost finally hits stores on DVD, I might be tempted to revisit and relive a moment from my childhood; and imagine Dennis' mom's running commentary.

And just what the heck was that Toronto Star 'television' reviewer smoking?!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

THE ROXY THEATRE - BARRIE, ONTARIO - CINEMA TREASURES


Finished my tea and thought about a movie theatre from my past. There are a few, but one that snapped to mind was The Roxy in Barrie, Ontario (Canada).

I decided to cut to the chase and do an Internet search: The first website I checked from the search results was one called "Cinema Treasures" (www.cinematreasures.org). Not to put down the site, but I immediately noticed an error. The page dedicated to the Roxy stated that the palace closed in 1975. As Lucifer, that cosmic comedian, would sometimes tell Baltar in Battlestar Galactica, "well... not exactly". In fact, I cannot remember what year the Roxy was shuttered, but the last film I recall seeing there was Poltergeist; and that would have been June of 1982. I'm sure there was another after that one, though. (The first flick I recall seeing at that theatre was King Kong in December of 1976.)

Okay, there was a bunch in between, in a non-chronological order: Moonraker; Prophecy; Starship Invasions; Star Trek: The Motion Picture; Superman; Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Fog; Battle Beyond the Stars; The Amityville Horror; The Concorde...Airport '79; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; a lot of 'spacey' stuff, by the looks of things (it was the main house, after all). But, surprisingly enough, not Star Wars. That played across the street in the much smaller Imperial 2 (get it?).  This anomaly was probably engineered by the fact that the film playing at the Roxy in June of 1977 had already been booked months ahead of time, and, of course, as we all know, Star Wars kind of "surprised" us all... especially the exhibitors.

Back to the Roxy: It was a grand palace of a theatre. It opened in 1931, in the era of palace theatres.


"Cinema Treasures" website entry on The Roxy...
http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/3710

BEST OF BARRY - "LOST IN SPACE" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MARCH 19, 2008

Terrible show... it enjoys the largest following of the Irwin Allen Four, but that does not change the fact that Lost in Space -- which ran on CBS from 1965 to 1968 -- has to be seen to be believed. With the exception of a very few episodes, this is best skipped; or watched to believe what I say.

As a little one, however, Lost in Space had it's allure. The earliest episodes had palpable "atmosphere". The black and white cinematography by Gene Polito (son of old time cameraman, Sol) lends a credible amount of this quality. Johnny Williams's theme tune is classic and his scoring of the first handful of installments forged an identity for the show -- again, I use the word "atmosphere". (This background music, which was re-tracked throughout the program's run is easily identifiable to those of us who grew up with this aural asset.)

That was the good stuff. The bad stuff is just about everything over, under, and in between. The cast, however iconic to a degree, has nothing to do and no room to grow or develop their characters. A guy like Mark Goddard gave it his all but could only hit a wall within the 2-D framework of "Major Don West". Of course, as any Lost in Space fan will tell you, the memorable personality hooks were Doctor Zachary Smith, young Will Robinson (played by Bill Mumy), and the Robot. The banter between Dr. Smith and his "tin-plated" companion is not without charm; something you understand more as an adult viewer. (Trivia note: The Robot with No Name was designed by Robert Kinoshita of Robby the Robot fame.) But overall, Lost in Space is tough going.

It's a darn shame, really. The cast as 'actors' is not without appeal. They just don't get anything to show their wares.

My brother had me on the floor with his summation of Lost in Space: "That show is ridiculous. A typical episode would have someone like Will or Dr. Smith walk off camera right (from the encampment). The next shot would be them entering from behind a rock on screen-left; they then notice some alien thing that they never happened to notice before."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MARCH 15, 2008

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which ran on ABC from 1964 - 1968, is perhaps not only the longest title of a major television network series (a real mouthful to say), but was for years the longest running U.S. one of the science fiction/fantasy kind. It is also the first and by far the best of producer Irwin Allen's four shows. The premise or the core idea of Voyage was the adventures of the futuristic, glass nosed submarine, the Seaview. The two lead actors are Richard Basehart and David Hedison. There are a good assortment of supporting characters. The sets and equipment were from the (very successful) 1961 feature film by the same producer.

The first season was photographed in black & white and was essentially a mix of foreign/enemy agent and espionage stories. These ingredients make for a show which is far more watchable than the later (ridiculous) episodes involving werewolves, terrible toys, and general, stock ridiculousness. Voyage was shot in "color" from the second season on which seemed to point the way to more, shall we say, colourfulness.

The ironic thing is the later episodes made for more enticing viewing to the average tiny tot. (I remember being a little bored by a story that took place in Venice. My mother said, "there's not much of the submarine in this one, is there?")

Watching Voyage now makes me appreciate the fact -- again, the earlier seasons -- that it is unfairly batched with the three other Allen telefantasy series (Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants). A couple I have seen lately are superior, by any measure. The crew acted like a real sub crew would, in the first season especially. In the third and four years the crew became a bunch of buffoons... in some cases not recognizing some fiendish plotting alien who copied what an earlier alien tried to do but failed. (I have never figured out how some evil force never managed to take over the vessel, lickity split.) The scripts became so consistently bad that they were often embarrassing.

In re-sampling this series, one quality I was pleasantly reminded of was the slight romantic feeling which reared its head from time to time throughout the series. This was helped by Paul Sawtell's superb theme tune -- one of the best tv-tunes of all time, as far as I'm concerned. You really do not get a signature theme of this quality in series television anymore. Times have changed.

If there is one Irwin Allen series that you might spend an hour of your life to satisfy any curiosity, this would be the one.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - IRWIN ALLEN SHOWS - ORIGINAL POSTING: MARCH 14, 2008

We are "brought up" not only by our parents but by "the television" that we watch. One guy who brought me up -- as much as it might pain me to admit -- is producer and showman Irwin Allen (seen to the right, directing the Time Tunnel pilot episode, "Rendezvous with Yesterday").

His shows in the 1960s always seemed to be on the tube. Hardly a year went by where Allen did not have a program in the network schedule; and in syndication in later years. (In 1966, there were three of them.) They are, in order of original airdates...

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (ABC, 1964 - 1968)
Lost in Space (CBS, 1965 - 1968)
Time Tunnel (ABC, 1966 - 1967)
Land of the Giants (ABC, 1968- 1970)

Over the next few days I will recount my memories of these fine, fine programs (as SCTV's Guy Caballero would probably say).

First off, from today's adult perspective -- or as much as I have managed to mature in life -- all these series are pretty bad.

... With the exception of....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

BEDE JET - BD-5J

There is an aircraft I have to fly before I die... and after I get a private pilot's licence: A Bede BD-5J Microjet.

Observe...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38Wq8Fulsfc


Saturday, September 29, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "RIGHT-WING NEWSPAPER COMMENT BOARDS" - ORIGINAL POSTING: NOVEMBER 6, 2011

A friend got me reading the 'comment' boards on the Toronto Sun website (www.torontosun.com).  Although I will not exaggerate and claim I am always checking them out, they are interesting as some sort of sociological experiment. Or lab.

Do you want to see endless examples of bad grammar and atrocious spelling in one convenient place?  (That's not even counting the amount of "hate" you can see in one location.)

I'm the first to admit that my own scribblings on this blog are sometimes imperfect.  (When I sometimes look back at old postings, I roll my eyes and, for a few minutes, say, "I'm not cut out for this writing stuff".)  But, I produce technical errors once in a while.  Not every other sentence.

My favourite specimen? Even though there is a lot of competition, I managed to pick one. I should prefact by saying the story in particular was about our education system here in Ontario, Canada. Are you ready? Okay...

"AND GO BACK TO SCHOOL MORON!!!"


(I cannot resist... I will follow up to this in a few days.  The serious problem within the above quote, posted to Toronto Sun comment boards, is very common -- every day, in fact.  In just one fairly brief visit to today's on-line paper, I saw a few examples.  By the way, what did angry right-wingers do before newspaper comment boards came along?)

Friday, September 28, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "SPACE: 2099" - ORIGINAL POSTING: FEBRUARY 18, 2012


(Note: The original posting, which has comments, is here...
http://barrysmight.blogspot.ca/2012/02/space-2099.html )


Yesterday, a friend emailed me with the news that some crazy producers are planning to remake the 1975-77 SF television series Space: 1999, as Space: 2099.  He attached a link to the Hollywood Reporter where the stellar news was announced...
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/space-2099-television-remake-288601

I sent him an email about my feelings -- thought you'd like to read its contents, which I have included here...

I checked the link you sent me to the Hollywood Reporter. I have mixed feelings about that business plan.  There aren't enough fans of the original to carry the show to ratings success/stability.  So why use a brand name, that is hardly a brand name in the conventional sense of the term, to propel a remake of a, for the most part, not so fondly remembered series?  (When the average citizen thinks of Space: 1999, those who remember it will reminisce as "that show with the 'oi-ding... oi-ding... oi-ding'".) I can't imagine too many new fans/viewers being picked up along the way -- unless they just make a new series, with all the originality that is extant anymore.

You had a good point yesterday about the issue of the moon being blown out of Earth's orbit [the ridiculousness].  Also, the tone would be different now; and the 'tone' was one of the better things about the original show [1st season].

Remember: Most producers aren't very bright; especially the financiers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "GEORGE BUSH BABY CAKES" - ORIGINAL POSTING: APRIL 9, 2008

I thought I would have dinner in a local diner this evening... I'm glad I did. Not only was the bowl of Cheesies really good, but someone had left today's (Wednesday, April 9th) Toronto Star newspaper lying around: When I turned to page three, I saw the previous owner's graffiti..

Very funny.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"THE INVADERS" - OPENING TITLES

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOLGrXOtuwQ

THE INVADERS ARE HERE!


Info on The Invaders from Wikipedia...

"THE INVADERS" - SOME OPENING FRAME GRABS

The awesomeness that is the 1967-1968 ABC series, The Invaders.

Drama in title cards!






BEST OF BARRY - "CARRYING THE TORCH" - ORIGINAL POSTING: JANUARY 4, 2008

This past Wednesday, guest blogger Larry wrote a list of things which make no sense to him about the British Telefantasy show, Torchwood. I too wrote something in the same vein, earlier.

(I found this picture to the right: I think it's a behind the scenes look at actor John Barrowman studying the script.)

I spent too much time at the computer today, so it was only reasonable that I shut 'er off for a while and coincide this with the CBC's screening of Torchwood at 9 p.m.

Those of you who know me can only laugh at my lack of priorities.

Tonight's episode (hey, sounds like a Quinn Martin Production!), "Combat".

It is getting late; I am getting tired; and I have no desire to add too much to what Larry said the other day. If Larry watched tonight, then he probably thought the same odd thing in one pivotal scene...

Jack carries a gun as he walks through an empty warehouse looking for some incongruity when he suddenly hears a sound. He relaxes the gun for a moment while he pulls out a... flashlight! Wow, that organization -- Torchwood -- is woefully underfunded. You mean they cannot afford nightvision goggles or some similar apparatus? Besides, from a production standpoint, this would give the visual effects people a chance to do some kewl point-of-view infrared type graphics.

This show is overflowing with needless visual effects, so why stop here?

And Larry is right when he asks what some of these people do, exactly.

Just what exactly is this show trying to accomplish?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"STARSHIP INVASIONS" ON YOUTUBE

Starship Invasions, a classic, of sorts, science fiction picture from 1977 is now up on Youtube. This is the British release version; with its own title: Project Genocide. (Don't know why they changed the name -- Starship Invasions is actually a good name for the movie, in all its pulp-ishness.)

If you are interested in this sort of movie, I suggest you sit down with a big bowl of popcorn; turn the lights down a wee bit low; and smoke a joint... (Sorry, Mr. Yost.)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqpZpuNqZEo&feature=related

BEST OF BARRY - "GUEST BLOG 1: TORCHWOOD ROT" - ORIGINAL POSTING: JANUARY 2, 2008

I have decided to allow (ooh, that is so nice of you, Barry) certain people to guest blog. This is the first; a very opinionated piece by my dear and talented writer friend, Larry (see attached photo). He has written a passionate diatribe on the British science fiction television series titled Torchwood.

Larry has elected to use my last name for purposes of guest blogging... maintains a continuity, for sure.

Be sure to check out my review of Torchwood from last October 29th, in case you haven't already. Hope you enjoy both.

Barry Smight



TOP 10 REASONS TORCHWOOD IS RUBBISH

1. Doesn’t even live up to the stated premise of its introduction: “arming humanity against the future”. Haven’t seem them give humanity anything resembling weapons yet. Hell, they barely use them themselves, relying on pistols and fisticuffs.

2. In “Ghost Machine”, Gwen chases a guy for ages, through streets, up alleys, over fences, and through backyards. When she finally corners him, he asks for mercy and says he has asthma. The kind that lets you run like an Olympic athlete, apparently.

3. In the “Cyberwoman” episode, the gang release a pterodactyl to stop the Cyberwoman. They scarper, leaving the two to fight. When they return, there’s no sign of the pterodactyl. Guess it must have put itself back in its cage, eh? Good boy, Pterry!

4. “Countryside”: First we’re told the killings were being done by townsfolk mutated by energy seeping through a crack in the dimensional Rift (near Cardiff, never fully explained). At the end of the episode one of the town’s killers says he did it because it “makes him happy.” Which is it? And, if there’s no mutation going on, how the hell do the killers/cannibals run so fast and have super strength? Asthma? And if they do it because they like it, why only once every 10 years? Lots of self-control, these cannibals?

5. Torchwood is supposed to be a top secret organization of the highest level. Yet whenever they show up at sites to investigate anything, the police give them wide berth and don’t ask for I.D. of any sort. And the street cops Gwen used to work with know of her involvement. You don’t need an alien Shoddy-Writing-Detector to see how poorly thought-through this is.

6. Separate from the government? Waitaminnit...! Didn’t we see the PM in the first Doctor Who Christmas special give Torchwood a direct order to shoot down a retreating alien ship, which they followed to the letter? And if they’re separate from government, who foots the bills? Oh, right! That may have been Torchwood I or Torchwood II, neither of which are explained. Come to think of it, the function/purpose of Torchwood III (the current team) is never really explained either. Something about arming humanity…

7. Owen fucks everybody. Everybody wants to fuck Owen. We get it. Yawn. Wait, so why is he using the alien Fuck-Me device in episode one to get the girl at the bar to fuck him…?

8. In the episode “They Keep Killing Suzie”, the team is locked in their own base without power. Somehow they think to use the ISBN from a book of poetry found in Suzie’s locker as password to restart the power. And it works! WTF?! And the ISBN they use isn’t even from the book they have, it’s from a copy being read to them by policewoman who at the other end of a phone line. What if wasn’t the same edition? The puzzle logic here is puzzling, but it damn well ain’t logical. File under Housebroken Pterodactyl. Also: no manual override of any sort to get out of the base? Absolutely no way they’d construct any base that way. As a dramatic device, it’s a great comedic device.

9. Captain Jack cannot die. So what’s to care about, then? Why do they always make it appear as if he’s in danger? Are you that stupid, Viewer, that you say to yourself “oh dear, Captain Jack might be about to get killed”? If you are that dim, have I got a show for you. It’s called Torchwood.

10. In one episode, Captain Jack teaches Gwen to shoot. She’s got a pistol in her hand. He warns her not to shoot at the ceiling, because it will bring the base down. Had this been some alien super-destructor gun, it might have been a funny moment. Instead, it’s an ordinary pistol. Go on, Gwen: let’s see you collapse an fortified, underground state of the art base (one that doesn’t have manual override doors) with a pistol. I dare you.Torchwood tries so hard to be cool and cover all the bases (sex, violence, evil aliens, time travel, resurrection, zombies, etc.) that it doesn’t do anything well. An entire season has gone by and I have no idea what three of the five characters actually do in Torchwood. And don’t get me started on the camera stutter technique they use whenever there is a static shot of HQ.

Torchwood is a mess. Right up there with 24 as an example of someone’s idea of “cool” trumping good storytelling. Season two will have to make do without me watching, I’m afraid.

Until next time,

Larry Smight (no relation)

Monday, September 17, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "VINTAGE REVIEW FOR STARSHIP INVASIONS" - ORIGINAL POSTING: NOVEMBER 25, 2009

In the spring of 1977 -- April to be exact -- I visited Toronto with a friend. Our mission, which we did accept, was to tour OECA (Ontario Educational Communications Authority; now TVOntario).

My friend and I took a break and visited a shop downtown which happened to have a magazine rack, loaded with a good spread of material. One particular magazine caught my eye as on the front was a full-sized photo from Star Wars, a movie that I had just heard of a few weeks before. I bought it.

On the bus ride home I scanned this sweet new magazine; specifically, issue 7 of 'Starlog'. In addition to a run-down on Star Wars were bits and bites on various other science fiction and fantasy movies, one of which was an interesting-sounding film, shot here in Canada, by the name of Alien Encounter. I can still picture the picture affixed to the blurb: Tiiu Leek and Christopher Lee. "Christopher Lee?" The text said something about Encounter being a throwback to 50s sci-fi flicks, but with the advantage of colour photography.

A few months later, Starship Invasions, its new name, was released to a theatre near you. Considering that Star Wars hit the screens a few months earlier and had set the bar for what is expected from "space movies", Starship was fun, with some impressive visual effects. I really dug the effect of a flying saucer crashing at high speed into the First Canadian Place tower (now BMO).

A few weeks after this a friend threw down a copy of Cinema Canada Magazine onto the table where I was seated, specifically opened at the page where Starship Invasions had been reviewed. I reviewed the article and thought it was an honest summation.

Well, dear readers, for those of you who care, for your reading enjoyment above is a photocopy I made years ago of the story in question. (I found it while looking for work-related stuff a couple of weeks ago. Cripes, I have a veritable Library of Congress here at home; looks like the attic at that establishment.)


* By the way, the budget figure of one million dollars as itemized in the review is incorrect. (In addition, Douglas Trumbull supervised the visual effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not Star Wars. The reviewer meant John Dykstra.) Someone who worked as a higher-up on Starship Invasions told me that it cost just under two million to produce. Someone else told me that one pet name used by the crew during production was "Alien Turkey". On that note, Happy Thanksgiving to our dear neighbours to the south.

BEST OF BARRY - "THE INVADERS IS COMING" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MAY 19, 2008

Quinn Martin's 1960s super-cool sci-fi paranoia television series, The Invaders, is coming to DVD next Tuesday (May 27th). It was released overseas some time ago, but is only now landing here in North America.

The Invaders has one of the all time great opening narrations for a television series:

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun."


In motion... http://youtube.com/watch?v=uOLGrXOtuwQ

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "TV PARTY" - ORIGINAL POSTING: OCTOBER 25, 2007

Greg Woods lent me a copy of the documentary, TV Party (about the old television series, TV Party). I was unable to attend his ESR screening last Thursday night but wanted to see this film.

TV Party was a cable access show done out of New York City back in the late 'seventies. It ran from 1978 to, or rather, petered out in, 1982. Hosted by one Glenn O'Brien, the cable show snagged and featured some top alternative musical acts -- not hard to do when you are planted in NYC -- in addition to a lot of late night oddities.

One such oddity, as outlined in the documentary, was the 'call-in' part of any given episode. This has to be seen and heard; although anyone who has been around knows the nature of such a tradition, that is, profane callers, would not be surprised or put off by it. What does impress is the way the hosts roll with the comments, some of which are quite pointed.

While the effort was noble and genuine, I found this documentary to be more a rag tag or rough assembly of TV Party's ingredients as opposed to a nicely constructed overview and look back at what, for the time and place, was a groundbreaking television program.

There is treatment on Party's innovation, but it is perhaps the only strong and cohesive theme throughout this film.

"It is your television" is the type of call sign for any cable or community television channel and the fact is, by law, you are allowed to have access to it in order to do your own thing or speak your own voice. This provided for some experimental television; television not bound by ratings or often restrictive standards inherent in more commercial stations or networks.

Of course, those of us who worked in community television -- Disco 8 on Cable 8, anyone? -- can tell you it is never an open slate but the opportunities are there to pitch something to the controllers, nonetheless.

My big question throughout the doc was, where was the studio? The filmmakers give you absolutely no idea of the geography -- where the studio was. There is talk about certain folk hanging out on the street when the cast and crew would leave the studio but you, as a viewer, don't know where they even were; other than "the Lower East Side". (Also mentioned in the doc by one person connected with TV Party is how NYC was a different place back then; "pre-Giuliani" is how they put it.)

A simple map would have been nice; it doesn't have to be a Baedeker guide, just something.

By all means check the documentary out... it is worth seeing if you have any interest in the form of late night television. And it is good in the sense that it is about TV Party: I saw one episode of the actual show a few months ago -- again, supplied by the wonderful Greg Woods -- and it is crude in technique, rough around the edges (there are time-base problems whenever there is a camera switch), a little like water running down a hill, but always interesting and fun -- even out of its historical context.

Those of you who are into the late '70s/early '80s New York City music scene, will love it. The documentary spends a good chunk of time on the various acts, including interviews with some. (Overseas musical groups also paid a visit to the show when they were in town.)

What the documentary and the TV Party show itself make you realize is that a guy like David Letterman did not invent everything: 'Chuck the Security Guard', of the All Night Show, a live program produced here in Toronto by CFMT back in 1980-81, did a few things that Dave made famous a few years later.

It is often the underground gang who break the ground first, then dig around... and the big earth movers come in later and take all the glory.


The TV Party website is: http://tvparty.org/

Saturday, September 15, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "TORCHWOOD" - ORIGINAL POSTING: OCTOBER 29, 2007

I keep asking myself, why do I play the masochist? I don't get it. It is not as though I haven't enough to do. I heard that Torchwood is good and has a ravenous following in its homeland of Great Britain. That should have been a warning -- not the fact the following is strong in Britain of all places but the 'ravenous following' part. (I thought I did learn my lesson with the new Battlestar Galactica. Heard, too, about its following... the show is awful.)

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is playing Torchwood: Friday nights at 9 p.m.

I've now seen three episodes -- missed the opening shot -- and that completes my contract with the show. In hindsight, I have given Torchwood too many chances. Yes, it is that bad. Just what are the fans going on about?

The characters are in a nether region of appeal. Are they nice people or are they bad people just trying to do a good job for humanity? Jack, the main dude, the one of square jaw and good looks, the guy we were introduced to in a Doctor Who two part episode, is the ring leader of the Torchwood Institute. Jack is not particularly likable; rather, he is unappealing.

Torchwood, the institute, is based in Cardiff, Wales... they are to investigate alien invasions and other sorts of extraterrestrial incidents. The outfit's staff is obviously under-trained; considering they are manning such a critical operation, these people, who you would expect to be crack operatives, come across at times as digital-age Keystone Cops.

Jack is forever barking orders at them -- often during yet another light-beam-style optical effect scene -- to try to get them to behave. Why does he have to do this? Is there not some "Procedures and Protocol When You Are Working For Torchwood" book? You keep smacking them in line, Jack.

What a miserable lot.

What a mess of a show. There doesn't appear to be a vision for this one.

I've been to Cardiff... lovely place. At least it was until these clowns showed up...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "BOX OFFICE TABULATION MYTHS" - ORIGINAL POSTING: MAY 27, 2008

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/431289

The above link is regarding how much business Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did over the weekend.

You cannot escape the box office scores. They are in our faces every Monday morning -- or even Sunday afternoon! Trouble is abound, however, as the average citizen does not know how to read these numbers and is almost always impressed. (This is no fault of their 
own as studios do not want anyone to know how to read these scores.)

When you see that Bob's Shirt makes a "whopping" 80 million dollars over its opening weekend, that amount is not profit for the producing studios. Only 40 to 50 percent of that big 80 actually makes it back to them -- this is the "rentals" portion. The theatre, or "exhibitor", and the distributor, keep the rest. What we have now is approximately 35 million back in actual profits. Bob's Shirt cost 150 million to make (the "negative" cost), and 100 million was laid out for release prints and advertising (paid for by the distributor, which wants its money back), adding up to 250 million dollars. This so-called hit has made only 35 million, or so; 35 to be applied against the 250. (Interest accrued on the outstanding 250 million is also factored in as money-to-be-recovered.)

We all know that it's all down hill from here. Movies traditionally drop 30 percent, and often much more, in their second weekend of release. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that getting that 250-plus back is not an easy battle; a battle which most films ultimately lose.

Yes, movies can go on to make a lot of money on home video, but again, big costs are incurred in promoting "on DVD, next week!". It's now a whole new battle.

On Monday morning of this week, newspapers reported that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has already made its money back (as of Sunday night).

Well, no it has not...



(The Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA] claims that about 70% of all films released lose money.)




Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "DESILU" - ORIGINAL POSTING: SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

I recently reread a good book on Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, and their film/television studio, Desilu. It was only two years ago that I first read Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (written by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert). Because this book is rich in detail, it could be reread more than once... which makes it worth buying.

When reading Desilu, I was really impressed at how seriously Americans take the whole business of film and television production. As the book is about the studio as much as it is about the husband and wife team -- Ball was a talented weirdo, Arnaz was a brilliant, but often inebriated, studio executive -- the pages within have more than a few dollars and cents figures. Even without these amounts adjusted for inflation and production inflation, it is striking to the reader how much cash was put into the studio's various television pilots... back in the day when pilots were still made; before soaring production costs eventually made them go the way of the dodo bird. Most of these pilot shows didn't succeed in selling the network on a regular series, but to American producers and studio execs, monetary investment was, and is, part of the game -- or the foundation of the game. You have to spend money to make money, and you have to keep it circulating. It's an important part of the machinery. Make product, lots of it, and some people will watch. It is one big crap shoot, but boy, oh boy, you can just hear those dice a rollin'!

Here in Canada, we play Monopoly...

BEST OF BARRY - MY FAVOURITE SUPERMAN THEME - ORIGINAL POSTING: MAY 9, 2009

I'm watching the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada presentation of the NHL "quarter final" match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. As I write this it is the intermission between the 3rd and 1st overtime period. The game is tied 3 - 3 as the "Caps" tied it up with about four minutes left in 'regulation'. (The series is tied 2 games to 2 since Pittsburgh won last night.)

Just a few minutes ago, the broadcast did a little video bit accompanied by the music to the 1950's Adventures of Superman television series. It gave me chills... that only my favourite Superman theme can give me. Odd, really, as I was just thinking about that tune a couple of hours ago.

As much as I like John Williams' theme music to the 1978 Superman film, it is not my favourite. It does not give me "the chill". (Sorry, Johnny T., Leon Klatzkin is my man.)

The overtime is starting: I'm cheering for Washington.

BEST OF BARRY - "FOR WADSWORTH" - ORIGINAL POSTING: JANUARY 9, 2008

As a child of the 1960s and 1970s I watched some cool television fare; although this television does not fare well today. (I could not resist.) Good Times, Night Gallery, The Six Million Dollar Man, Gilligan's Island, The Rookies, Emergency, Lost in Space, Star Trek, and Space: 1999 were some of the shows which I would sit down for. (I cannot get over how well I've turned out considering I was constantly subjected to the acid rain intrinsic with some of the above.)

As I got older I discovered All in the Family (brilliant show), The Outer Limits, and a few others. In my teenage years I sat down long enough to catch some newly released, and superior, series such as The White Shadow and Lou Grant.

(Sorry, no Battlestar Galactica. I watched some episodes when it ran but knew it wasn't clicking. Although, it is still better than the narcissistic and plethoric "re-imagining".)

Easily one of the worst of the above was Space: 1999. It premiered in September of 1975; a time where I was easily old enough to know what worked and what did not -- over and above the subjective question. This British import was, in its first season (the second season was different, and I will get to in a moment), turgid, overly metaphysical and consistently so, often boring, and after many episodes, absolutely inconsequential. In a nutshell, perfect stuff to make you blow away all the time you think you have when you are of such a young age as I was.

Space: 1999 was known at the time for its pretty and (at times) elaborate visual effects work. The first season was scored by series creator Gerry Anderson's frequent collaborator, Barry Gray. This composer was consistently producing quality theme tunes and background music for Anderson's children's programs such as Supercar, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Those kiddie shows -- which many adults watched too -- were frequently fun even when serious, with some episodes played as comedies. This ingredient allowed composer Gray to write some disparate music: Dark, upbeat, romantic, and contemporary. When some episodes bypassed having an original score, no matter. There was always something to track in to hit the notes for whatever installment. (I should mention that I think his Thunderbirds theme is one of the best television signature pieces of all time. Barry Gray was a compositional talent.)

With Space: 1999, Gray was commissioned to score just five episodes. These more or less required the same sort of timbre or colour in the music, banking a fairly narrow reservoir of dramatic options. The episodes in question required gloomy music for the most part. This fact hurt the show... seriously (in my humble opinion).

Darkness pervaded the prairie.

It is pretty clear that what happened was no fault of Barry Gray's. He was, after all, a hired composer, as are all film composers. They write music to match an image on a screen. They are told what episodes to write music for; it is a commissioned capacity.

After the first season of Space: 1999 wrapped up, just about everybody who cared came up with a litany of what was wrong with the series. I won't go into a historical analysis of what went on other than to say that veteran American television producer Fred Freiberger (yes, that Freiberger of 3rd season Star Trek fame) was hired by the Brits to help make the show more friendly to the all important U.S. audience.

Command Centre was Command Center. (We Canadians spell in the British style, so we would also take into account the same export considerations.)

Changes were made, and some for the better (I am one of those who thinks the second season is a slight improvement on the 1st), one perhaps was most severe: The music.

When I sat down in front of the CBC for the much anticipated new stab-at-the-cat season of Space in September of 1976, I was taken aback by the total change in the opening titles department; mainly, the musical theme. What a difference. I immediately liked it. It was more rock and roll and jazz than symphonic... but it worked.

And in an episode to episode respect, it really did work. Derek Wadsworth, this creator of the new sound, provided what was really needed more than anything else for this miserable thing... Fun music.

(Wadsworth was for all intents and purposes, a rock and roller and jazz guy. He arranged music for the Rolling Stones, amongst others.)

The show's initiating concept was shite, which was the truth admitted by some all along; by those brave and realistic souls. (The moon blasting out of Earth's orbit? That is the concept behind the show? Ridiculous.)

Rock/Pop/Jazz styled music worked in outer space. Not that the mentioned types are needed to mark substandard television, it's just that they seemed to fit Space: 1999's second season so aptly.

Derek Wadsworth and Space: 1999 was a happy accident. He did not make the show a good one, but did get rid of those overcast skies.

Space just needed a little rock and roll and jazz.

BEST OF BARRY - "TORONTO NHL TEAM NUMBER TWO?" - ORIGINAL POSTING: APRIL 23, 2009

There is serious talk again of approving another Toronto area NHL (National Hockey League) team. My answer has always been "yes!"

Toronto Star...
http://www.thestar.com/sports/article/623073

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BEST OF BARRY - "TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL" - ORIGINAL POSTING: FEBRUARY 25, 2008

It was one of those nights where I had so much to do that I thought I would deal with none and just sit down and watch a movie. Went through my unwatched VHS dubs... Tales from the Gimli Hospital. Sounds like a good pick for tonight; Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin's 1988 feature. His first feature film.

After watching it tonight for the first time in a few years, I am sure it is his still his best feature film. As Maddin said years ago, Gimli feels like a film that was found in some permafrost after being forgotten or lost for years. Specifically, it is a film which would have been made, or appears to have been made, during the sound transition era: Those are for all intents and purposes the years 1928 - 1930. Indeed, to this viewer who admits having a fondness for the 'big changeover' aesthetic, Tales from the Gimli Hospital looks and sounds like the genuine article.

Maddin nailed it, as it were. For all this authenticity, the director has made an original film... with touches made by a man who is looking back in nostalgia. He has stated that this period in cinema is a favourite of his, even with, or because of, the technical and artistic problems inherent in the beast -- at least with the more conventional directors: Static camera work, primitive and often rudimentary audio mixing, and so forth. Maddin's affection and fondness of the source material shows.

Gimli was shot over a period of eighteen months; typical of very low budget filmmaking. The first cut came out to approximately 50 minutes: Too short to be a feature and too long to call a short. Maddin secured 'arts council' money to beef up the running time.

Tales from the Gimli Hospital, like almost all films which eventually claim cult status, did not explode onto the scene, but rather crept along as word of mouth spread, eventually snagging viewers like yours truly.

The first time I heard of Guy Maddin, his Gimli, and the Winnipeg Film Group, was in an article I read in the Toronto Star newspaper back in the summer of 1990.

This film group and their films sounded so exciting to me.