Saturday, September 3, 2011

John Carter of Mars

With Science Fiction and Fantasy on the rise in the movie industry, I am majorly excited about John Carter of Mars. The creator and writer of John Carter was Edgar Rice Burroughs. You may know him more for another famous character known as Tarzan. It was my friend, Steve, who showed me his Burroughs collection and said I really should read the first book of the Barsoom (Mars) series. I took it home and read A Princess of Mars, where John Carter starts his adventure.

I read the first book within two days and had book two, The Gods of Mars, in my possession shortly after finishing book one. The Warlords of Mars and Thuvia of Mars were close behind. I also started reading Burroughs’ Tarzan series. He created great worlds, heroes and villains. With Burroughs, it was brawn and brains together that overcame great odds. Hooked for life, I owe Steve a big thanks.

From all indications, John Carter of Mars looks to be a good movie and looks to follow key elements of the story. John Carter is of Earth and gets transported to Mars. He is destined to save the planet. My favorite of Burrough’s creations of Barsoom is Tars Tarkas, the twelve-foot tall, four-armed, green barbarian, a definite twist on little green men. And I cannot forget about Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium. She is beautiful and tough; she is sometimes identified as the warrior princess.

Although I know and accept the fact that movies are not as good as the book and that movies take creative liscensing to change the story, I do expect a certain amount of continuity to key elements of the book to be held to when turned into the movie. So, I wait patiently to see.

With sequels and remakes, I find that John Carter of Mars, refreshing, and in the words of Tars Tarkas, “…believed it was a sign... that something new can come into this world.”

It is schedule to be released to theaters in March 9, 2012.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Star Trek Meets Monty Python

If we cannot laugh at ourselves...

I am a fan on Monty Python and the Holy Grail and a fan of Star Trek. The creators of this little video did a pretty good job editing in Star Trek clips to the music of "Camelot." Star Trek meets Monty Python So enjoy.

Since I watched this, I watched a few other YouTube videos that you may find amusing.

Star Trek as the A Team

Sexy Cyborg

Star Trek: Beam Me Up Hottie. Definitely PG-13

None of them are R with language and nudity, but they can touch on some mature humor. Some of the videos are made by two guys that post as barelypolitical and some of the videos will link you to which warehouses many videos, and the site is "Dedicated to parodying the hilarious worlds of tech, gaming and the internets."

I watched and laughed. I tested the links, so you should be set to go.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just a few words on Harry Potter

Thus completes the series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 completes the set of movies that have entertained a generation. As most know, the books are better than the movies because there is so much more in them, but the movies captured the great characters and themes.

I enjoyed all the movies. They were full of drama, humor, excitement and life. Thanks to CGI and movie technology, they were full of color, sound and pulse pounding action sequences. They were well done stories. The combination of all the elements made the Harry Potter series…magical.

Neville Longbottom is a good example of that magic. In the beginning, he had “a great deal more” of courage to stand up to his friends. He was awkward and clumsy throughout the story line. He was the definition of hope and courage, even when all was lost and everyone heard the words, “Harry Potter is dead.” He stepped forward and challenged Voldemort. Yeah, Neville… you rock!

The other theme that Heidi, my wife, points out throughout the whole series of books and movies is love. Love is what saved Harry in the beginning and what carries him through till the end. This theme, along with friendship, is depicted well in the movies and written well in the books. Love and friendship. Two things humans possess that are truly priceless and magical.

You put love and friendship and heroes into a fantastic world of magic, monsters and a mayhem of adventure, you have truly told a great family story to inspire more creativity and magic.

I am a Harry Potter fan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 SciFi/Fantasy Geek Award

And the winner is….Autumn Sherwood.

Autumn is 2011 Sura’s SciFi/Fan Geek Award winner. Not only has she provided with me with a useful Powerpoint on Greek mythology, she had given me suggestions on books and movies, discussed aspects of 2001 A Space Odyssey (including references in other films), and is a dedicated fan to the Firefly television series.

I wish Autumn well during her reign as top Geek. She assures me that she will wear the title with pride and reaffirm her geekhood any time.

It's my most favorite award I've ever gotten. I'm very proud of it,” said Autumn.

The class consisted of a brief unit of Greek Mythology, many fantasy and science fiction short stories, writing about the connections between the genres and life, episodes of the Twilight Zone, 2001 (of course), and other films including Clash of the Titans and Frequency. She enjoyed the whole spectrum.

“I loved Firefly the most,” said Autumn. “However, I just enjoyed the entire course overall. It was interesting, and there was never a dull moment.”
Spoken like a true Sura endorsed geek.

2001 A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey is a must see for anyone in the Science Fiction fan club. It takes high rank in my Sci/Fi Fantasy class. But, not that many students see the beauty of it. They do, however, see the effect on our pop culture. I say that they will see direct references in other movies, cartoon, television shows and literature. And they will see many subtle similarities in many science fiction movies that followed. Jokingly, I say that from henceforth, with every reference, they will raise a fist to the sky and take my name in vain. It set the standard, and after viewing, it will be a part of their lives for ever (insert evil teacher laugh here).

The first thing to know about 2001 A Space Odyssey is that it is just a part of a journey, the journey of mankind. It starts with the Dawn of Man and goes through to the future where man is about to step into the next era of evolution and existence. Secondly, it was a movie made with a much different purpose than most movies. It was not made to just entertain, but to make us think. Every scene and every sound had a purpose.

I shared the movie with the latest group of high school students last week. I explained that it is an allegorical film: a literal level and the symbolic level. An example would be the ballet music that plays during the first sequences of space travel. It illustrate the beauty, grace and precision of space travel. It also illustrates man's infancy in space. Stanley Kubrick (producer, director and screenwriter) and Arthur C. Clarke (author of the book and fellow screenwriter) use many colorful sequences and several powerful musical pieces to tell the story.

With everything having a purpose, students, when asked, know why there are two minutes of blank, black screen at the beginning of the movie. They understand, but do not appreciate, the lack of dialogue for the first twenty minutes of the film. They are frustrated by the slow walking, continuous breathing, and detailed aspects of space. Yet, they agree that it shows the challenges of space travel, the ‘out of our element’ motif, and the tedious precision of technology.

And there is a lot they don’t get, either. However, that’s what I like about it. It provokes discussion and supposition. It challenges them to pick at it. After we talk, I go to a website: It explains the movie. It also starts out with a quote from Kubrick says that we “are free to speculate, as you wish” about the movie. He wants everyone to take what they want from it. The website offers one interpretation.

Wait, then there’s the HAL 9000 computer. It is ranked 13th in the American Film Institutes Top 50 Villains. What makes him a villain is his impersonal logic, which is as cold as space itself. I tell my student that HAL is not evil; he does what he does because of what he calculated as the best option for success, not from malice. With is red camera eye and his mild mannered, “I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that,” the viewer is introduced to the first, truly, unemotional killer.

Yes, 2001 A Space Odyssey does come with questions and long, slow (but purposeful)  parts. Yet, with music as crucial as the scenes, a great villain, awesome congruity to actual space travel and movement, and special effects that set the standard still, this movie must be, and always be, a part of any Science Fiction collection.

By the way, just the other day, another former student contacted me after seeing a reference in a jewelry commercial and said that my parents were never married (insert evil teacher laugh again).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taking the Bus

Taking the Bus
"P-ch-h-h-h." The silver bus with the running dog came to a stop.
Herb jumped at the sound. Too many things still could go wrong, and the bus's air breaks made him jump. He twitched his head about to see if anyone noticed. People bustled about the terminal in their own pursuits; no one had time for Herb.
He sighed at the irony of his thoughts. He had to get out of town if he wanted to live, yet it bothered him that no one noticed him leaving. He chuckled quietly.
The door to the bus heading "way out of town" hissed open. Herb shuffled his feet waiting for an elderly lady to get on the bus. He felt sweaty under his wide brim hat and dark glasses. The trench coat was not helping either.
"Deep breath," he told himself.
            Once she was seated, Herb quick-stepped by and sat on the opposite side of the bus away from the busy terminal.
Others got on. The boarding eye game of looking for a seat, accidental eye contacts and trying to avoid eye contact raised Herb's heart rate.
"Let's go people!" He did not yell aloud. Instead he closed his eyes and focused. "I'm on the bus. I was not followed. They can't find me; they can't kill me. Agnes has wanted me to leave so it could be my fault that our marriage did not work. It will add to her dramatic litany of woes. She will love it; it will be my last gift to her sorry tale."
"Well, hello there young man," said the bus driver.
Herb's eyes snapped open. A porter had brought a boy on to the bus. He had a red ribbon on his front pocket. He was traveling alone, and bus security was giving him the royal and secure treatment.
The porter, the boy and the bus driver had a long chat about bus safety, the boy's destination and how the bus driver, Ted, will keep an "extra special eye" on him. Herb's blood roiled.
"Move the damn bus!" Again, he choked on his words. "Just get me far, far away, please," he thought.
Finally, the boy took his seat in the front next to the old lady. She was speaking to him and offering him a cookie.
The driver spoke over the P.A. "We are now leaving Mars Station. Once we break atmo, we will jump to the Jupiter where we have three stops before hitting The Rim with our last stop at Pluto Station."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Clash of the Titans - Revisited.

The Clash is a Bash.

Being a fan of Greek mythology, I have studied the myth-proper of Perseus. I know the liberties that Clash of the Titans (2010) took in changing the story. Yet, I really enjoyed the special effects, the story, the actors and the action sequence.

Of course, I am still a fan of Clash of the Titans (1981). It takes me back to an era of stop motion photography and the simpler times of high school. I had a group of good friends, who, like me, enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons, Science Fiction and Fantasy movies and the after-movie binges at Pinball Pete’s.

When I fist saw the previews for the 2010 version, my first thought was that Perseus went from hero to bad-ass. The ’81 version had Harry Hamlin as Perseus. He had well-styled hair and his intentions noble; he wanted to save Adromeda. The movie was a family movie. It reminded me of the Sinbad movies of the seventies.

Clash 2010 was grittier. It showed Perseus as someone who was troubled, angry and out for vengeance. He was not out to save the girl; he was out to avenge the death of his family. Sam Worthington is not “as pretty” (as my wife says) as Harry was; his hair is a really short. What was amusing was the appearance of Boobo, the mechanical owl. I did not really care for the owl’s role in 1981, so when 2010 poked fun at it, I was pleased.

I enjoyed both movies. I love classic film for there is something about the beauty of sto[-motion photography for monsters because it is an art of the time period, and I like redone versions if done with good taste to the key elements and computer aided graphics are a blast. Both movies get a thumbs up from me. It’s a Clash Bash Party.

Tron Legacy


Bring on the blue light cycles and heroes. Bring on the games. Bring on Tron: Legacy.
From watching the trailer, the special effects with CGI not only hold on to the visual and story elements from the classic 1982 movie, but they also make the Tron world more real. It looks like a digital masterpiece of a science fiction adventure.

Now, I eagerly await the release to see if the movie is as good as the trailer. Whenever a sequel is made or a story is revisited, I always want to see continuity with the story and characters. Since the storyline continues 27 years later from the time of the last movie, it is promising enough continuity with Tron, the Grid, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and a Alan (Bruce Boxleitner). I even see the laser digital device firing up as Flynn’s son sits down to find his dad.

The father/son angle caused me concern because I have seen it used many times, sometimes successfully (Star Wars, of course) and used unsuccessfully (Lost In Space, 1998).  Disney on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) does give a promising story summary. Walt Disney Pictures says, “..father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a cyber universe -- a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.” Father and son together! Two techno-geniuses going toe to toe with a hyper-dangerous world. How cool is that? And the tagline is reported to be, “The Game Has Changed.” I like the line, “Welcome to the Grid,’ myself. I am hoping for a few more good lines.

I am curious to know the villain. Dillenger was taken out, but whatever happened to MCP, the Master Control Program, which was a cross between HAL and Roman emperor hosting gladiator games. So, what twist and discovery awaits until December.

I will, of course, get out my DVD of Tron (an excellent Christmas gift from the kids coached by Heidi) and watch it.

It would be great to watch Tron in my Science Fiction and Fantasy class. This would be a great learning opportunity to watch an original story line and then see it cross over to a new generation. Unfortunately, the movie comes out after the trimester is over, so I will not be able to be able to assign a paper over it.
I’ll have to show it. And you have to rent it and see it too. It is everyone’s homework to seeTron. We will revisit Tron: Legacy on this website late December/early January. 

Even in the Grid, education is crucial to a good movie sequel.

Field of Dreams

"If you build it, he will come." 

Ray Kinsella looks about his cornfield for the source of the ghostly whisper. Angrily he stomps about challenging whoever to come out. He wants answers. Thus begins Ray's quest that takes him to Boston and Chisholm, Minnesota. In the end we learn about redemption and what heaven may be like.

Field of Dreams is a modern fantasy that shows us a man's quest once he has been contacted by Shoeless Joe Jackson from the cornfield (from beyond). These elements are prevalent in many fantasy stories, but what makes Dreams more popular to the general masses is its subtlety. Baseball players coming out of a cornfield, a place of life and growth, a symbol of American industry and vitality, makes a delicate suggestion upon reality. The farm with its large white house has grounded us, yet through Ray, played by Kevin Costner, we are easily pulled into the magic and believe. It becomes real.

We join in Ray's quest. We sit dutifully next to Ray and Terrance Mann on the first baseline of the night game at Fenway. We feel despair when Doc Graham denies his chance to play again, and we are revitalized when the rookie Graham resurfaces on a ribbon of highway. Ah, then Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) enchants us with his tribute to baseball. It is the "one constant" as America changes and grows. Baseball is a symbol "of all that is good." He tells us that we need our heroes and to hold on to our dreams. "People will come, Ray."

And in the twilight of an Iowa sun, the question "Is this heaven?" is answered quietly when he looks at the porch of the farmhouse where his wife and daughter sit on a swing.

If you have not seen this film, go rent it, sit back lazily with an ice tea and witness the enchantment. If you are fan, "go the distance" and visit the movie again. Oh, and after, go have a catch.

Clash of the Titans - The Assignment

If you came from my website, you may have noticed the picture that is a part of the link to this blog site. It is of Andromeda as she faced the sea monster that she was being sacrificed to. It is moments before Perseus, as he was passing by, swooped in and saved her. The image is of the artwork of Boris Vallejo. He did a lot of fantasy art for many book covers during the eighties and nineties. His work is colorful, sensual and incredible.

I like the image for another reason. I love the story of Perseus. And I enjoy the two Hollywood adaptations of the myth: Clash of the Titans. Both the 1981 version and the 2010 version, although they take liberties with the myth-proper, are entertaining cinema for the time they were created. They are fun, mythical romps of adventure, humor and heroism. 

If you want to take a look at the myth-proper in an understandable presentation instead of actual Greek. Go to and select "Heroes." There you can find Perseus and his link to his story. It is an easy to read, animated capsulation of the myth. And, of course, you can rent Clash of the Titans. You can choose either version or both. I won't require you to write an essay, but you can come back and post your thoughts here in this blog. 

Being a bonafide science fiction and fantasy fan and teacher (I love my job), I get to enlighten today's youth in the enjoyment of classic literature, classic films that predate CGI and modern advances in film and story telling. I try to keep the class fun yet thought provoking like you would when you are sitting around a campfire or hanging out with friends just talking about things. Some discussions may poke fun, and some may get as heated as the arguments of the boys on the Big Bang Theory. 

The written responses may have needed some more attention to grammar and punctuation, but they also told me that the students get some of what I am saying and maybe have gained some insight into my love and fascination with the genres. If they don't, they will just think I am weird, and I am okay with that too.

Why Firefly?

Pirate, cowboy and war hero; and that is just the captain of the ship on the television show named Firefly. Its run was short lived. It only has seventeen episodes, but creator Joss Whedon made a beautiful show about a former soldier just trying to make a living on the Outer Rim.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds has a crew made up of diverse characters that are also renegades, fugitives and searchers in their own right. Two contrasting crew members are Zoe, the beautiful and deadly fellow soldier that fought alongside Malcolm against the Alliance, and Wash, the peaceful, comic relief husband to Zoe. These three are quick with action and dialog. But there's more. The cast is rounded out by a “long as I get paid” mercenary named Jayne, a wayward priest, a reputable “companion and a naive yet handy mechanic. All are in search of something more. Then add in the two fugitives running from the Alliance: Simon and River.
Whedon's sci-fi creation (you might know him from "Buffy" and "Angel") is quick and serious, dynamic with action and dabbled with humor. The stories delve into the eternal quest for knowledge, independence and serenity with a quirky sauciness of rouges and renegades.

I missed the show when it was on Friday nights. It had the wrong time slot for the audience that would love it. My wife bought it when it came out on DVD. I watched it with her and fell in love with Firefly.

It does things the other science fiction shows never seem to try. No sound in space. There is not a mission or purpose; they are survivors. And look for the aliens...they are not there. The classic science fiction author of Heinlien explored that notion. Also, the culture that created may smack of a western, but listen to how the characters use foul language. The implied evolution from "the Earth that was" is intriguing; especially in the case of Inara, the companion.

And the dialog is phenomenal. The show steps out of the box for any genre. Not only do the characters swear in Chinese, they having a unique dialect. When things are good, they are “shiney.” Universe is shortened to “verse”, as in, “best ship in the verse.” As Malcolm fights a monstrous henchman, Zoe stops the others from stepping in saying, “Captain needs to do this for himself.” Malcolm, battered and fighting for his life, says, “No, I don’t!” The gang says “oh” and shoots the bad guy full of holes.

The show is truly entertaining. It is also thought provoking and dynamic. I use this show in my science fiction class and show students how it steps away from all the other science fiction shows. It is unique. And leave the class with, “That’s why, Firefly.”

"Everything I Need to Know in the 'Verse I Learned on Firefly"

Or at least, "in SciFi class." And if no SciFi class, then here. Good literature, television, and film can teach us. They can gi...