Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"No! Try not!"

My wife Karli and I have a long-standing weekday habit: my alarm goes off half an hour earlier than hers, at which point I get up, make tea, and feed Jaq the Cat. When her alarm does go off, I come back to bed and we cuddle for fifteen minutes, she takes a couple of sips of my morning tea, we talk about how we slept, and she tells me about noteworthy dreams from her night of slumber.  Apparently people find this to be cute and charming - be that as it may, it's what we do.  Sometimes Jaq the Cat joins us to say good morning, or not, up to him.

This morning was no exception - 6:30 arrived, I trotted down the hall to the bedroom, and climbed back into bed.  As a groggy Karli struggled with the covers, she muttered, "There is no try, just varying degrees of 'do' - that's how that line should have been written."

And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce Jedi Master Karli.  When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.

- Sid

Sunday, December 8, 2019


I had some time on my own at home yesterday, and decided to do a bit of research.  Wired had run an article on free streaming services, and I was curious to see if any of them were worth what they were charging.

Sorry to say, Plex didn't impress, Sony Crackle isn't available in Canada, and Vudu had more things for rent or sale than for free.  And then I hit Tubi, a free commercial-driven site.

As you'd expect, when I'm presented with any sort of media library, the first thing I do is to look at the science fiction section. And, as I sort of expected from a free service, there were a lot of movies that I had never heard of: knock-offs, cheap copies, and outright failures.

But as I looked through the content, I realized that there was actually a surprisingly high level of gems amid the dross - well, if not gems, at least things with a bit of sparkle to them.

I first noticed that there was a Marvel animated movie, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow - it's generally accepted that Disney+ is going to eventually be the only streaming service featuring Marvel content, so I was pleased to see something here, even if it was only a straight-to-DVD production.

As I went on, I found more and more titles that jumped off the screen at me: an HD version of Battle Beyond the Stars, which I just referenced recently in my posting about science fiction Westerns; cult classic Hell Comes to Frogtown, an important part of the late WWF wrestler Rompin' Roddy Piper's acting career (he's better known for They Live!, but you have to start somewhere); Ex Machina, which seemed a long way from home in this odd mix of movies; an HD quality transfer of 1957 stop-motion monster classic 20 Million Miles to Earth - in fact, there were a lot of somewhat camp 50s science fiction films, including Devil Girl From Mars from 1955, I guarantee that Netflix™ doesn't have that one.  And I'm looking forward to Doomed! the Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four, a documentary look at the 1994 Fantastic Four movie by the famous B-movie producer which never made it to commercial release.

There were also more serious classics, such as The Day of the Triffids (in an average quality transfer, I'm starting to wonder if they just can't find a 35mm copy anywhere) and The Last Man on Earth, with Vincent Price, which is the first film adaptation of I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.

There were game-inspired creations like Dead Space: Downfall, and Dragon Age Redemption from 2011, starring geek goddess Felicia Day as Tallis the elf assassin; legendary bad movies like Star Crash from 1979, and Abraxas Guardian of the Universe (with Jesse Ventura - sorry, Roddy Piper is a better actor); and The Dinosaur Experiment, whose poster art we've already discussed; along with vintage Elvira Movie Macabre and Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes taking a sarcastic look at even more bad movies.

The TV section offered the entire collection of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson Supermarionation™ programs, starting with the cartoonish Supercar, Fireball XL5*, Stingray, whose opening line of "Anything can happen in the next 30 minutes!", I still quote now and then, to the bemusement of people around me; Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons, and Joe-90.  Not surprisingly, it also included Space 1999, another Anderson creation; the 1966-1971 Dark Shadows series, The Dresden Files, Space Precinct, 3rd Rock from the Sun (admittedly just Season 1, as far as I could tell), the award-winning Tin Man miniseries (a 2007 re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz with Zooey Deschanel), the British Robin of Sherwood series from the 80s that I loved, One Step Beyond - my god, Tracker, with Adrian Paul, has anyone else reading this even heard of Tracker? Patrick McGoohan -  The Prisoner!  A wide range of old school anime, including Robotech Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Genesis Climber Mospeada in Japanese - with subtitles, thank heaven. The Black Scorpion series - fine, they can't all be winners...

It was like browsing through a single fan's slightly eccentric TV and movie collection (which it may well be, it's not hard to imagine putting an individual in charge of a specific section of a site like this.)  

I just kept finding things - A Boy and His Dog, based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name; 1978 conspiracy classic Capricorn 1, and 2009 conspiracy classic Moon; Russian superhero movie Guardians, Hellboy animated feature Sword of Storms, with Ron Perlman doing the voice work for Hellboy; a Terry Gilliam movie called Tideland that I'd never heard of; the unfortunate 2009 adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's classic A Princess of Mars, with ex-porn star Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris, the titular princess; Cloverfield, that's unexpected; Under the Skin, with Scarlett Johanssen - ha, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, from 1940?  Really?  And good quality, too!

The movie section featured over 450 movies - and the icing on the cake? Plan 9 from Outer Space, which I would hope needs no introduction.  A mediocre digital transfer, but it's the thought that counts for things like this.

To wrap it all up, Tubi would be a fascinating opportunity even if they wanted money for it.  On that basis, a commercial every now and then seems a small price to pay.

- Sid
*  At some point in my childhood, a British relative sent me a toy version of the spaceship from Fireball XL5, complete with jet cycles and crew.  No kidding, there is one for sale on eBay right now for $26,525.36 CAD - it's a shame that I didn't just leave it in the box all those years ago.

Thursday, December 5, 2019