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Tag Archive: Harlan Ellison


Review by C.J. Bunce

In that niche area of dystopian dog movies (that’s the adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and his Dog and… ?), Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs not only soars to the top of the list, it’s a great film in all sorts of categories: it’s new, yet a classic children’s story, it’s a timely political allegory, and it’s a solid movie about dogs.  We knew Anderson had a grasp on animals in his surprisingly good Fantastic Mr. Fox, but audiences will soon learn he also understands dogs and dog behavior.  The trailers don’t really prepare moviegoers for what lies ahead.  Sure, it’s about an island of exiled dogs so of course audiences are in for a bleak ride, complete with at least one dead canine, lots of dogs in peril as well as many mutilated and diseased.  Yet Isle of Dogs is surprisingly grand in scope, thought-provoking, and even heartwarming.  And epic–don’t be surprised if you start thinking about the closest Martin Scorcese or Stanley Kubrick movie while you’re glued to the screen.  Despite some witty dialogue in places from Anderson’s smart script, this is less comedy and more drama than his past efforts.

The dystopian world is better realized, bigger in scope, and yet more personal than typical futurist visions, beyond that dismal hopeless doom of Mad Max, The Postman, Escape From New York, Twelve Monkeys, Snowpiercer, Looper, Logan’s Run, and District 9.  Isle of Dogs is probably closer to WALL-E and Planet of the Apes in feel.  Isle of Dogs is gloomy and dark and bleak, but it offers a ray of hope for the future from a 12-year-old Japanese boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) and a freckle-faced, high school exchange student named Tracy from Ohio (Greta Gerwig), both out to defy an autocratic government’s ban on dogs.  That’s thanks in major part to the vivid, eye-popping world of future Japan filmed by celebrated Aardman Animations stop-motion cinematographer Tristan Oliver (A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers, Chicken Run), and the encompassing sounds from this year’s Oscar-winning composer for The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter series, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Golden Compass).  As to the stop-motion, audiences can marvel at how far Hollywood has come since the Ray Harryhausen era.  The film follows Anderson’s design choices first seen in his Fantastic Mr. Fox and only continues to add to the unbelievable magical movements carried forward by Aardman’s achievements.  And instead of a typical Romantic, programmatic score, Desplat’s best choices can be found in his use of loud, almost frightening Japanese taiko drums, Fumio Hayasaka’s haunting theme from Seven Samurai, the more celebratory bits from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije, and a simple recurring dog whistle.

Anderson offers up admirable tributes to Japanese culture and film, everywhere from costume design to modern TV reporting stylings, to Hayao Miyazaki themes and Akira Kurosawa landscapes, to traditional imagery like beautiful ukiyo-e on walls and cherry blossoms floating by at the right time.  Isle of Dogs finds a firm footing on the children’s classics shelf of your film library, alongside Roald Dahl’s Mr. Fox but also his Willy Wonka.  It also has much in common in tone with Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.  The political allegory is thick and layered, a mix of the nuanced and the obvious, a mirror reflection of society that you’d have found years ago in a Frank Capra movie.  Science is mocked, scorned, and worse.  Experts are traitorous and immigrants are exiled.  It’s also graphic in parts at a baser level, showing an animated meal from a dumpster with creepy crawlies that may make your stomach turn, plus an open chest surgery, bloody, torn body parts, and dogs with missing eyes and open wounds.

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lost-in-space-cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

lost-in-space

Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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ST-CEF03-coverSUB    star-trek-city-edge-forever-ellison-idw-cover-juan-ortiz

The background of the making of the classic Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever has been discussed over and over among Star Trek insiders and fandom.  Harlan Ellison wrote the screenplay, which was carved up so much in Ellison’s view, that over the past four decades Ellison was vocal in rejecting Gene Roddenberry’s final version that first made it to television screens on April 6, 1967.

What would the original version have looked like had Roddenberry stuck closer to the original script?  It’s the kind of thing you would have thought fan film creators would have jumped at before now, but–even better–Star Trek fans can now see The City on the Edge of Forever visually portrayed in its originally conceived form.

Woodward Edith Keeler IDW

IDW Publishing partnered the Star Trek writing team of Scott Tipton and David Tipton with the best Star Trek artist around, J.K. Woodward, and this year they adapted Ellison’s original screenplay into a five-issue comic book series that wraps this month, and will soon be released in a hardcover and trade edition.  If you think that a comic book cannot convey everything you’d want to see from the original Star Trek, then you haven’t seen the photo-real artistry of J.K. Woodward.

In fact the single biggest reason to read The City on the Edge of Forever is J.K. Woodward’s panel after panel of beautiful paintings– renderings of not just the characters but William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Joan Collins, and Grace Lee Whitney–that will have your mind’s eye believing you just watched an actual episode of the original series.

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star trek city edge forever ellison idw cover juan ortiz

Hands down J.K. Woodward is the best artist to ever take on Star Trek in the comic book medium.  His Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who Assimilation² was a stunning visual journey, and that series, reviewed here at borg.com, showcased Woodward’s superb painted panels and contained an imaginative story by David and Scott Tipton.  Tipton, Tipton, and Woodward are back this week with the long-titled Star Trek:  Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, The Original Teleplay, a five-issue limited series beginning tomorrow.  For borg.com readers we have a nine-page preview of the issue below after the break, courtesy of IDW Publishing.

The Star Trek: The Original Series episode “City on the Edge of Forever” is regarded by many (including a TV Guide poll of the “100 Best TV Episodes of All Time”) as the greatest Star Trek episode of all time, but what made it to television was a far cry from the original teleplay by noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.  Ellison’s original teleplay won both the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation as well as the Writer’s Guild of America’s Award for Most Outstanding Teleplay.

JK Woodward Enterprise from City on the Edge of Forever

The new IDW Publishing comic book mini-series, produced under the guidance of Ellison, now brings the classic story to fans like they haven’t seen it before.  Issue #1 is a blast.  Woodward’s visuals are eye-popping as usual, and the story presents its own parallel universe for those familiar with the classic TV episode.  Yeoman Rand never looked better!

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City on the Edge of Forever from IDW Publishing JK Woodward

Fans of the original Star Trek series may be excited to see the original script for Harlan Ellison’s award-winning teleplay to the classic episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” will soon be adapted into comic book form.  It will be a director’s cut of sorts, as Ellison has been vocal over the years that his original vision was better than what ended up on the screen, modified by Gene Roddenberry and at least four other writers.  Ellison published the complete script and notes in his 1996 book about the episode’s “evisceration.   Nearly fifty years later Ellison won’t let his anger rest, having filed a lawsuit in 2009 that was later settled.  Ellison is back yet again, and now fans will get to see his original work in visual form, produced by a Star Trek creative dream team.

Scott Tipton and David Tipton will adapt the Ellison teleplay to the comic script, and powerhouse Star Trek/Doctor Who Assimilation² painter/artist J.K. Woodward will provide the artwork for the story.  Juan Ortiz, whose Star Trek work we’ve reviewed here previously at borg.com, will provide the cover art in his own unique retro style.

Juan Ortiz City on the Edge of Forever poster

Trek fans really couldn’t ask for more, although considering fans count the episode among the most revered and well-crafted of the series, it may not be many fans’ first choice for an episode that could stand to be redone, or undone  for that matter (cough cough “And the Children Shall Lead,” (ahem) “The Way to Eden”, (ahem) “Spock’s Brain”).

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If you didn’t already spend Fourth of July weekend watching the Twilight Zone marathon, then you may be psyched to learn you can now watch the complete Twilight Zone on streaming Netflix.  And for the first time you can also watch on demand all the episodes ofStar Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise anytime you want, all streamed to your TV with a basic Netflix subscription.  

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will not be available for Netflix streaming until October and the Star Trek movies and Animated Series are not yet available for streaming video and have no projected streaming date.

Need some suggestions to get started on the Twilight Zone?  These are some favorites that you might have skipped over (I have skipped some of the obvious ones that get repeated play).

1. The Thirty-Fathom Grave – a sunk submarine

2. The Hunt – old man and his dog on their last hunt 

3. Little Girl Lost – striking parallels to last year’s Doctor Who plotline

4. Nothing in the Dark – Robert Redford lies wounded outside an old woman’s apartment

5.  Time Enough at Last – Burgess Meredith likes to read

6. I Shot an Arrow into the Air – stranded astronauts

7. Twenty-Two – a little Final Destination story

8. The Little People – astronaut goes a little crazy

9.  Third from the Sun – two families escape during a nuclear war

10. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? – a truck stop, and an extra guest

… and here are my top five recommendations for Star Trek: The Original Series:

1.  Balance of Terror

2.  City at the Edge of Forever

3.  A Piece of the Action

4.  The Trouble with Tribbles

5.  Space Seed 

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation:

1.  Yesterday’s Enterprise

2.  Darmok

3.  Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 and 2

4.  The Most Toys

5.  Who Watches the Watchers?

6.  First Contact

7.  The Perfect Mate

8.  Parallels

9.  Remember Me

10.  Future Imperfect

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek: Voyager:

1.  Eye of the Needle 

2.  Heroes and Demons

3.  Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2

4.  Macrocosm

5.  Gravity

6.  Shattered

7.  Blink of an Eye

8.  Timeless

9.  Tinker, Tailor, Doctor, Spy

10.  Relativity

… and here are ten of my favorite (and some of the best) episodes of Star Trek Enterprise:

1.  In a Mirror Darkly, Parts 1 and 2

2.  Acquisition

3.  Judgment

4.  Civilization

5.  Vox Sola

6.  Carpenter Street

7.  These are the Voyages…

8.  A Night in Sickbay

9.  Dead Stop

10.  Affliction

Enjoy!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com