DATELINE: Lost in Netflix
Dr. Smith Transformed or Transgendered? Parker Posey replaces Jonathan Harris.
As the poor stepchild brother to Star Trek on TV in the 1960s, Irwin Allen’s adventure show became a kids’ favorite. It was a cartoon version sci-fi adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson.
Now, with the bandwagon long ago down the road for Star Trek, Netflix has brought back a 21st century version of Lost in Space.
We found the original amusing, at least for half the opening season. The show had a house villain in Jonathan Harris who played the cowardly, snobby, outrageous Dr. Zachary Smith. He stole every scene they put him in.
In this new version, Smith is a fake. At the end of the opening show of season 1 (will there be another?), actress Parker Posey steals a jacket with the name “Dr. Z. Smith” on it. You could not have a prissy, snooty man play the role.
Voila et voici, you have a new Smith in the form of a woman, ready to add some kind of bad guy karma to the proceedings—and not a moment too soon.
The big budget new version actually is short of special effects and presents a limited view of the future. They crash on an icy planet. Their spaceship really has only one room, and the flashbacks to the holiday scenes could have been as much 20th century as 21st.
The characters keep their names, but that’s about it. Yes, the little boy as Will Robinson may be the best throwback.
As for Dr. John and his wife Maureen: she clearly wears the pants in the family and is actually rather nasty to her husband.
You can chalk it up to a broken leg and her children in danger, danger, danger! However, we may be hard-pressed to return to the return for another episode. Nothing really grabbed us.
We missed Guy Williams who came from Zorro and June Lockhardt who was Lassie’s Mom. They were TV stars even as John and Maureen Robinson.
What a shame.
DATELINE: Oscar Goes Glug Glug!
Missing the Black Lagoon
Who would have envisioned Creature from the Black Lagoon winning Best Picture of 1954 for director Jack Arnold? Yet, the wet creature won for its director in the Shape of Water in 2018. How the world has changed into a monster mash.
Guillermo del Toro may be too full of bull with his latest movie. His Gill Man takes place on the heels of the original Creature tale, circa 1960, and likely is meant to be a homage sequel. A real sequel followed in 1955.
This amphibian man is called a ‘god’ more than once, in case you don’t understand the ending.
The film is subtly anti-American, with its sympathetic Soviet spy as one of the few likeable characters.
Of course, you have Octavia Spencer in a key role, which always elevates a movie to a higher standing. Michael Shannon has apparently cornered the market on despicable villains who are sexist, racist, and anti-disabilities. And, we always perk up when Nick Searcy (from Justified) makes an appearance.
As for the Creature, swimmingly played in a wet suit by Doug Jones, we are treated to a Fred and Ginger dance number in one dream sequence. Indeed, the film is rife with clips of old movies—from Betty Grable to the Story of Ruth.
Yes, you will find Bob Denver as Maynard and Mr. Ed as the Talking Horse in a couple of clips. No wonder this struck a nerve with aging Boomers.
Alas, the overdrawn sex scenes seemed superfluous and almost tacky to the point of meanly excluding a younger audience.
The film wants to play off the King Kong-style romance between monster and damsel, but the paws of Del Toro are around the heroine’s throat all too often.
Meant to move us with its horror fantasy, we were simply antsy.
DATELINE: Goon from the Lagoon
Master director of all genres at Universal Studios during the 1950s, Jack Arnold brought us so many low-budget classics: from the Incredible Shrinking Man to Space Children to No Name on the Bullet.
One of his most famous tales was the directorial gem, Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s supposed to be in 3-D, but you won’t know it. Film recognition may be enhanced by the odd-ball Best Picture of the Year from Oscar, called The Shape of Water. It’s more like the stolen picture of the year as The Shape of Plagiarism It’s the same movie with a bigger budget, computer effects, and less panache.
So, we wanted to see what Jack Arnold did with his movie with no budget, no big effects, and more panache than horror.
The de rigueur monster of the 1950s, the creature was actually a Gill Man, covered in scales with poorly manicured, webbed fingers. He swims like a cross between Esther Williams and Michael Phelps. And, he is photographed like a choreographed water sequence at Metro from Busby Berkley.
Arnold knew enough to bring in two stalwart 1950s leading men, Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. Carlson was always some kind of scientist with heroic demeanor, and Denning comes off as a proto-Trump businessman on expedition.
Throw in Julia Adams as a research assistant and Whit Bissell as the throwaway scientist, and you have a classic gem of a cast.
Silly plot holes may have you rolling your eyes: the underwater repellent is supposed to be knock-out drops to Gill Man, but it has no effect on the regular guys in snorkel protection mode.
Everyone goes out on a dig at night and leaves Whit Bissell to fall asleep guarding the monster. And, this scholarly scientific expedition claims not to have enough weapons to fight the Creature, though every man has a rifle.
Perhaps Arnold’s most amazing feat is that he put this film together in 75 minutes without bloody gore and with a sense of fun. Victims seem to be scratched like an encounter with one of T.S. Elliott’s cats.
No, this is not Jack Arnold’s best, but it is his most well-known movie, now more than ever.
DATELINE: The Real Westworld
In 1935 came radio’s singing cowboy star Gene Autry, ready to make the transition to the silver screen. He wound up bigger than John Wayne (at least in the money department, and sang ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ to his ever-lasting fame).
His first movie was a serial from Mascot called The Phantom Empire in which he played, no one else but, Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. His costars were irksome Frankie Darro and Dorothy Christie. It also marked his first appearance with comic cowboy Smiley Burnett.
Phantom Empire is staggering in its uniqueness. The Scientific City of Murania is buried five miles under Gene’s dude ranch and is upset by all the activity going on above their kingdom. Ancient Aliens should do an episode on this legendary city that buried itself 100,000 years ago.
Queen Tika is an autocrat at the TV screen. She may be the first person to own a giant screen—and she watches more TV action than a movie critic in his home theatre.
The serial contains cell phones, nuclear torpedoes, death rays, resuscitation machines, more robotic workers than Westworld, and everyone wears capes, including the Thunder-Guard in gas masks who ride the range on horses.
Evil archaeologists want to unearth Murania for money, not fame. They are guests at Gene’s radio ranch and plot to eliminate the singing cowboy tout suite. Worse for Autry, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christie playing it like RuPaul) wants him dead too.
Autry is put into a Lightning Death Chamber and then revived in a hyperbaric convection oven that looks like a microwave out of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Indeed, the robots bear a resemblance to Gort.
This is big budget on a small budget for effects—and it astounds at every turn, including the single express elevator that shoots up and down from the surface.
Murania seems to be the lost continent of Atlantis out West. And, the music goes from Autry’s cornpone tunes to some futuristic serial orchestral suite to convey sheer insanity.
In twelve looney episodes.
Sean Young with Body Double and Advanced CGI
If Blade Runner 2049 is any indication, Los Angeles is not going to improve any from the first Blade Runner. We believe it seems to snow much of the time.
If we are going back to the future, give us Looper. It looked like a place we’d like to visit, not this horror.
Last time we caught Ryan Gosling, he was singing and dancing in Los Angeles. This time around, he appears to be a replicant, or some derivative thereof. It’s hard to tell a Tyrell replicant robot from the latest bioengineered creatures.
Gosling is an unhappy, soulless creature. No time to sing and dance here.
There are still ‘blade runners’ hired to exterminate these illegal older versions by newer versions. What we have here is the revolutionary notion that these machines can procreate semi-humans. That inspires the new Tyrell model mogul, in Jared Leto’s odd performance.
It’s also a mess of a movie, running nearly three hours of unremitting Dickensian darkly future predictions.
You have a remarkable cast, including Robin Wright as the head cop—and appearance by Edward James Olmos in the retirement home, and Sean Young appears as her ever-young self in a cameo that must take CGI to the limits. She doesn’t look a day older than the 1982 movie. She’s now 58. Pee Wee Herman should be jealous.
Harrison Ford is around mostly for decoration because you don’t have a movie without him as Deckard, older than dirt.
If the movie doesn’t leave you comatose, you may be a replicant. If someone believed that this film would stand up to the frequent re-views like the original film did, you’d be deluded. This is not the classic, brilliant first movie. It’s a shake-your-money-maker mind-numbing sequel.
Fans of the first film paid homage by giving this one an Oscar for special effects.
Attention: All dedicated Tyler Perry fans!
Once in a blue moon, a great story comes out just made for the right star. We have found it: a science fiction murder mystery with just the right dose of laughs.
An exciting and new science-fiction murder-mystery has a great role for everybody’s favorite Madea, impresario and master of movies, Tyler Perry.
Featuring some interesting comic situations, the character of Ma Hattie, rhythm and blues singer, takes on time-traveling space aliens and assassination conspiracy buffs as she helps her niece, an FBI agent, crack the case.
Second Shadow War is a story made for Tyler Perry’s unique talents.
Long-time fan and author Ralph T. O’Neal III, co-founder of the Black Union Conservative Caucus and Booksnbars an educational program for federal inmates, has created a role made in heaven for Tyler Perry’s unique style as director and actor.
Now if only someone can get the idea to Tyler, we’d be cooking.
You can find a website on Facebook, and Instagram for the story @shadowwarseries.
DATELINE: Sci-fi, murder mystery, and romantic fantasy combined!
RECOMMENDED! A True Sequel to Rider Haggard’s She!
Now available on Amazon in both paper and e-book
Author Ralph T. O’Neal III is co-founder of BooksnBars for federal prisoners and knows something about the political and shadow government operating in the United States!
Following the characters and situations raised by the first Shadow War about the conflict between MJ-12 and the Vatican, the Second Shadow War takes on the motives and conspirators behind the Kennedy assassination. It’s a concoction of alchemy, merging three genres into something totally unusual.
Ralph T. O’Neal III has done it again, throwing the JFK’s assassination into the mix of MJ-12 conspiracies.
An evolving series, the characters repeat their roles and become enhanced with familiarity. Central character is a mysterious teenage boy who is half-human and half-space alien, the work of black ops in the federal government.
According to reviewer Mal Tempo: “If Agatha Christie and Arthur C. Clarke collaborated with H. Rider Haggard, this book would be the result.”
It is not a graphic novel, but something like it –but special, using Foto-Footnotes or illos to annotate the text.
A stunning story and a shocking conclusion! Conspiracy buffs and feminists will come alive reading this tale about She Who Must Be Obeyed, never gone from Earth and back for more.
DATELINE: Patriot Resurrection Possible
Martellus Bennett, the tight end who danced with the cheerleaders at the Super Bowl last season, and bailed out of the Patriots for Green Bay, is now available.
Is Bill Belichick interested? It may well be, based on Bill’s past history; he loves to resurrect the dead.
Martellus (Don’t Call Me Marty) Bennett has been a flop out there in Frost Bite Falls, and with no great QB (Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone) to sustain his antics, he may be ready for Tommy Time.
Poor Martellus has been bereft and without any TDs—or friends. He played seven lackluster games with the Cheese Packers. With some disagreement about his medical condition, and with a threat he will retire after eight more games, Bennett made himself available to other teams when Green Bay sent him packing.
He needs to reconnect with the Brady bunch to regain his equilibrium.
The sudden move reminds us of the strange situation with the Pittsburgh Steelers a few years back who released a certain player for the Patriots to pick up just in time for a playoff run.
Now, the dire need of another tight end could mean that Belichick is considering more reunions.
He just brought back Lazarus Brian Hoyer from the dead San Fran 49ers.
So, returning a Gronk complement from the Cheesey Green Bay team seems rather likely.
Can Danny Woodhead be far behind? Might Rob Ninkovitch come out of retirement?
Bennett, fan of sci-fi, author of a kid’s book before Julian Edelman, savant of nothing in particular, was a delight in the locker room for his teammates and a media darling.
Will Belichick take another oddball tight end to go with the masterpiece of TEs, Gronk? We hope so.
DATELINE: 1958 Gem
Playing brothers: Johnny Crawford & Michel Ray
One of the great under-appreciated directors of the 1950s is largely forgotten now, Jack Arnold. Among his best known films are Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man and No Name on the Bullet. He transcended genre.
In 1958 he tried another science fiction flick that didn’t quite win the cult following of his earlier movies. That was his interesting examination of a space alien that puts mind control on kids in The Space Children.
Mind you: this was way before sweet E.T. and monstrous Children of the Damned took over the minds of juveniles.
It helped that Arnold was fearless with child actors. He simply found the best and let them play it. In this case he used Johnny Crawford, before the Rifleman, and Michel Ray, before Lawrence of Arabia. As brothers, they are as good as the Hardy Boys.
He also cast some of the well-known character actors of the era: Raymond Bailey (of Beverly Hillbillies), Jackie Coogan (of Addams Family), and Russell Johnson (of Gilligan’s Island), as his adult problems for the kids.
Michel Ray is particularly effective with eyes that seem to presage Nick Hoult 60 years later. It’s Ray who has the ray-beam power to paralyze adults, through his alien host.
These kids are children of rocket scientists—and their mission is to sabotage their fathers’ prototype Star Wars missile program. Yes, this movie is a tad ahead of its time.
The film is subtle and not given over to the histrionics we have come to expect from puerile space movies.
Perhaps the title misled audiences: this was clearly a movie for adults to ponder, not to titillate the popcorn set.
This lost gem can be streamed on your viewing device and clocks in at 68 minutes: it’s a dreamy entertainment.