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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Starcrash

To those of you who follow me on Tumblr, you may have seen me claim that Highlander: The Series would be the next Rewatch post, but I overestimated how quickly I could get through 6 seasons of 90’s TV. I somehow have even more respect for what my friends Mika and Tracy at LezWatch.TV do now. So, anyway, where’re back to films with an odd favorite of mine: 1978’s Starcrash!

Distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and directed by Luigi Cozzi, Starcrash has everything you could ever want: starship battles, a robot with a Texan accent, nonsensical costumes, a knockoff Jedi, a John Barry score, Christopher Plummer, and David Hasselhoff! The story follows our heroes, played by Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, as they race to stop Joe Spinell’s evil Count from unleashing a sinister weapon (which is never fully explained) on the galaxy. Their journey takes them to many different worlds, all ending in a crash between two starships, the titular Starcrash. What, you were expecting something more profound from the title? This is not a profound film. This is the kind of film you watch with your drink of choice, and thoroughly enjoy, because it’s exactly what you need right now.

Starcrash is not a great film, it has numerous easily identifiable flaws, and yet it still manages to hold itself together, and I keep coming back to watch it again and again. It is absolutely enjoyable, and I think we can all agree that enjoyable films are the best films. If you want to understand what I mean by of all that, you can stream Starcrash for free on Shout! Factory TV, or buy it on Apple TV for just $9.99.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy this not great, but also very entertaining, film. Laugher was not intended, but it is absolutely permitted.

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Stargate

Since I’ve switched Rewatch over to films for a while with my review on Charade, and since I’ve reviewed every Stargate TV series, it made sense to rewatch the film that started it all. What happens when you combine action archeology and military sci-fi? You get Stargate, a 1994 film directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader.

When the Stargate is unearthed in 1928 Giza, it remains a mystery until its code is cracked by archaeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (played by Spader). With the gate active, forming a wormhole between a similar gate across the known universe, Colonel Jack O’Neill (played by Russell) will lead a team, including Dr. Jackson, to the other side. What they discover is a world, and an adventure, beyond their wildest imaginations that I just can’t do justice with text, so please enjoy the trailer embedded below.

The whole cast is great, not just Russell and Spader. In particular, Jaye Davidason as Ra is uniquely captivating, and even French Stewart is here without being the comic relief. And the soundtrack by David Arnold, the second of his long career, ranks among my top favorite soundtracks of all time.

The story doesn’t stop with the film. While there were no film sequels, Stargate SG-1 (read the Rewatch review here) would follow as a direct TV sequel, running from 1997 to 2007. This would be followed by Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here), running from 2004 to 2009, and Stargate Universe (read the Rewatch review here), running from 2009 to 2011. That’s a total of 14 years of uninterrupted content following a single 2-hour film, not bad. I love Star Wars, and no offense to Star Trek, but Stargate spawned the greatest franchise in TV history.

You can stream Stargate for free on Amazon Video, or buy it on Apple TV for just $9.99. I hope you enjoy Stargate as much as I do, it’s a great film with an impressive legacy!

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Charade

I’ve run out of available, good, older TV series for now, so I thought it might be fun to check out some older films that I’ve enjoyed for a while. First up is Charade, a 1963 “romantic comedy mystery film” that’s not only great, it’s available entirely for free because they messed up the copyright (more on that later).

Charade follows a woman (played by Audrey Hepburn) as she unravels the mystery of her husband’s murder and a mysterious man (played by Cary Grant) who tries to help her. The quick whit and improvisation talents of Hepburn and Grant are on fully display here, it’s electric. Sometimes it feels like a scene will never end, and you won’t want it to either. And the score by Henry Mancini is captivating. It’s really hard to describe this film, but I’d suppose I’d say that the feel of classic James Bond is combined with the whit of Spider-Man, and it’s all wrapped in a charming love story. So now you’ll have to see it and provide me with a better short description.

Speaking of seeing it, this film came out at a time when including “Copyright”, “Copr.”, or the symbol “©” with the title was still required by law, and apparently someone forgot to do that. This means that the film immediately entered the public domain upon release. Oops. That may not have been great news for producer/director Stanley Donen, but it’s great news for us, because now you can stream and download Charade for free from The Internet Archive and stream it for free on Amazon Video!

Charade is a crazy fun romp, and definitely one of my favorite films. It’s a collection of things that really should have never gone together, but somehow it made them work and still managed to exceed expectations. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Comics Review Video

Batman v Superman: Accidentally Perfect?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the greatest superhero film, that honor still belongs to Logan, but through a series of odd choices and behind the scenes happenstance, it became the perfect comic book film. Now I know a lot of you probably hated this film, so please bear with me while I explain. Also, I’m referring to the Ultimate Edition (the extended cut) throughout. It restores a lot of character development, and I absolutely agree that the theatrical edition is a waste of time.

The film opens on the traditional Batman origin scene, but that’s the only origin we get throughout the film, which is kind of odd for a film that also features Superman, and introduces Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. Despite this, a lot of time has passed between that origin and the Batman in the film. It’s never explained why Wayne Manor is in ruins, or why all of the Bat-vehicles have two seats while Robin’s costume sits in memorial with “Haha, joke’s on you, Batman” scrawled on it. It’s safe to say that, despite seeing an origin for Batman, we are missing some critical backstory.

With Ben Affleck done as Batman, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see this backstory, or any further story featuring this Batman after Justice League for that matter. Similarly, though this is a sequel for Man of Steel, watching that film is definitely not a requirement. The ending of Man of Steel overlaps the beginning of Batman v Superman, this time told from Bruce Wayne’s point of view, as embedded below. Really, all you need to know is that Superman is fighting someone who’s probably just as strong as him, and people are dying because of it.

And, that’s kind of the point here, there isn’t much effort given to the backstories of these characters, and it’s not really needed either. Now if you say that sounds terrible for a film, you’re right, but this is exactly how we read comics! People who are drawn in suddenly by issue 37 on the shelves don’t rush out to buy and read issues 1 – 36, they just start with 37. “Who’s this character? I don’t know, but she looks important. Oh cool, she is important!” That’s what reading new comics is like, and this film accidentally invokes that!

Now we know that Ben Affleck is out as Batman, but it looks like Henry Cavill may be out as Superman too, which puts the whole franchise in jeopardy, so there may not be an ending, but that’s just like reading comics too! With the exception of random continuity reboots, these characters’ stories don’t end, you just stop reading them. So again, Batman v Superman has accidentally invoked the experience of reading comics.

Batman v Superman is not a great film, but by having little-to-no character backstories, and quite possibly no future prospects, it has perfectly invoked the experience of reading a comic book. In this way, it is quite possibly the perfect comic book film.

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Technology Video

The Future of the VFX Industry

Today is apparently Future Day, a day on which we’re supposed to spend some time contemplating the future. Well, nothing makes me contemplate the future more than movies, especially movies with plenty of visual effects.

Just take a moment to imagine your favorite film without visual effects. Suddenly, films like Life of Pi don’t look very inspiring without their visual effects.

lifeofpi

Despite many of our films being largely composed of visual effects shots, the visual effects industry is still paid by the studios for the job as a whole before production even begins, not for how many hours it may take to create (and repeatedly revise, if necessary) the sets, characters, and sometimes whole worlds that they create for the film. Picture for a moment, a massive hand-build set. The Director probably won’t tear down the set, re-build it, and re-shoot the scenes just because he changed his mind, as the set builders and most of the rest of the crew are paid hourly, and what seems like such a simple decision could vastly impact the film’s budget. If that set were digital, the director could easily change his mind and have everything re-done (even have the actors digitally re-positioned within the new set if necessary) free of charge and as often as he wants to, simply because the visual effects studio was paid maybe $10 million for the job as a whole, not hourly. $10 million seems like a lot of a money, but for a visual effects studio which may find itself re-building the same shot hundreds of times for an indecisive director, it’s more likely that they’ll either have to layoff staff or go into debt just to finish the film.

This is a reality that Rhythm and Hues Studios faced last year when they declared bankruptcy just two weeks after winning their second Academy Award for Life of Pi, and they aren’t the only one. Every year, more visual effects studios are shutting their doors because movie studios don’t pay to the scale of the projects. Below is the short documentary Life After Pi, which covers the problem in-depth, particularly the fate of Rhythm and Hues Studios.

As you think about the future today, think about how films with visual effects have shaped your ideas of the future, think about how the future of the VFX industry is in jeopardy if the movie studios aren’t pressured to change, and then take action. Also, if you’re near Hollywood tomorrow, join the march at the Academy Awards to show your support.