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Cult Classics: Ulysses 31

30 Nov

ulysses 31

 

For me a cult classic is something that you have to dig for–it’s not something that everybody already knows about or talks about.   I’ve yet to hear anybody talk about this cartoon at great length, and have recently rediscovered it.   As a kid it was the sort of cartoon that was on after school that I watched because it’s on.   However, returning to this years later, the show is extremely strange.

Combine the weirdest parts of Japanese anime and French animation with Homer’s Odyssey, and put it all in space.   It’s not really a retelling of the Odyssey but more “inspired” by the story if you know what I mean.   What this adds up to is a dark space opera that has Ulysses, his son Telemachus, an alien girl, and No-no the robot, flying a ship filled with floating dead bodies through space.

The tone is almost bleak to say the least.  Each episode they encounter a planet, usually filled with desolate landscape and underpopulated, where the people there try to stop them from moving on.   The design is really strange, part star wars, but they include these alien organic elements that are really creepy.  Add to that vast scenes filled with no talking and spacey sounds (not really music) really gives this show a sense of loneliness and isolation that I’ve never seen in a cartoon before.     The writing is of the same tone as classic Doctor Who, and often comes close to quality.

There’s also a cheesy element–at one point Ulysses is trapped in a giant pinball machine, and the theme song is like someone decided the Top Gun music wasn’t enthusiastic enough, and the dubbing doesn’t really match the mouths–sometimes to the point where I wonder if what we’re hearing in English is the same as what was said in the original script at all.

Anyway, I’d highly recommend this–it’s good Saturday morning cheesy fun.

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Review: Doctor Who, Inferno

1 May

inferno

 

Inferno is one of the best classic Doctor Who episodes.  Yes, there’s a few weak points, the design of the Primords is a little bit silly, and their whole reason for being is never quite explained, but other than that you’ve got everything.  Green goo!  A drill!  Scientists running about!  A parallel universe!  The explosion of the world!  Heat Wolfman Zombies!

The writing of this is first rate, and the parallel world is fascinating to watch.  Their story is a tragedy, where everybody is so stubborn and reactive that their destruction is truly inevitable.  And that’s the funny thing–even though the story takes pains to show that the parallel world is fascist, it’s not the fascism that does them in, but their inability to stop the wheels of destruction once in motion.  The “real world” very narrowly averts the very same fate, not because the people there are any better, but because the Doctor pushes them a little harder to stop the drilling before destruction comes.

And the story is dark–people turning into zombies, the world turning to lava and ash, people knowing that death will soon come to them, zombie-like creatures roaming the apocolypse–this takes the story all the way over the edge and then some.  It’s no wonder that new Who pulls the most strongly from the Pertwee era, both because of the higher amount of action (and less talk, I love Tom Baker, but there’s an awful lot of talking in his episodes) and also the storyline that gallops through all seven episodes with almost breakneck speed.

Some things I noticed, first the amount of noise in this place–it is never quiet, whether because of the sound of the drill, alarms going off, distant explosions, everybody is constantly talking over the background noise, and it’s completely unsettling.  It sets a sort of unconscious reminder that as people talk and plan that drill is getting ever closer to beyond the crust and certain doom.    The other thing I noticed was how great this series was at hinting at things without saying things straight out–look at the end of the world and how you mostly see disjointed images of smoke, fearful faces, and rolling lava–if this show was made right now I have the feeling that they’d have to be more literal about it, and we’d lose out, because the hinting is far more evocative.

It’s a shame that Liz Shaw left after this episode, because she is terrific–her character just pushes the story to a much higher level that takes away a lot of the explaining the show usually feels like it has to do.  Unfortunately, this is why, I think, her character got packed off–I don’t think the writers always knew what to do with her–she’s far too accomplished and smart to be the woman who hands beakers to the Doctor and looks through personnel files.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Jo Grant, but her character didn’t really require the writing to be at such a high quality all the time.

The story also sat in my head long after I was finished watching it–I’m not sure why, but the thoughts about free-will and the whole group not being able to get itself together despite the fact that most of them knew what was going on was foolish just touches a nerve.

Watch it.  Forgive the effects.  You’ll be glad you did.

Doctor Who: Terror of the Autons

21 Apr

mwho3

 

I’ve been enjoying some Classic Doctor Who, John Pertwee era shows lately.  First they are so extraordinarily seventies–from the cackling Master, to the blue screen special effects, to how people react to things, it’s freakishly entertaining in such a gonzo way, it’s hard not to like it.  Second, I really like Jo Grant.  Sure, she’s  not exactly progressive, being kind of flaky-doofy, but she’s so warm and energetic, and her relationship with the doctor is so fun that I can’t help but love her.  Also, I saw her in her recent interviews and she’s just amazingly well preserved.  I don’t know if this is DNA or really good genes, but all I have to say is you go Jo grant!

Also this episode has chairs that kill, a psychopathic voodoo doll, plastic flowers that smother you, and these creepy big head robots that shoot out of their hands!   My only criticism is that it might be a little too doofy at times–I mean, why does the Master act like a rather stupid James Bond villain if he’s so smart?  I really recommend these older episodes, they are a hoot and a half.

Star Trek, The Next Generation Review, When The Bough Breaks

17 Jan

So I’ve been getting my nerd on with watching Star Trek as my during the week comfort food show.  I am really getting into its unintentional strangeness, while I really love Doctor Who, Star Trek TNG is delightfully loopy at times, and when I lower my expectations it can entertain as much as the cheesiest of movies.

So the basic plot is that the Enterprise has found the legendary planet Aldea.  When Tasha Yar asks what Aldea is, Riker practically throws up at her ignorance.  Apparently Aldea is (supposedly) a paradise planet where the people there live in a golden age.  Unfortunately the Aldeans are unable to bear children so they steal a handful of the Enterprise’s children including, of course, Wesley (who’s much older than any of the other children but no matter.)  The Aldeans follow all the rules of their computer.  Dr. Crusher finds out that it’s radiation poisoning that’s causing their issues, in the meantime the Captain sends an away team to get the kids back, the Aldeans learn their lesson and let the kids go.  The end.

I hurried through the synopses because it really doesn’t matter.  This is the children’s episode!  Where really weird children in eighties jumpsuits hang out with creepy elderly couples learning art.   Things to notice:

1.  The father and son fighting about calculus in the halls of Enterprise.  Later the father saying “the last thing I did was yell at him” and the same kid being primarily interested in NOT doing calculus and asking his new “family” if he has to do it.  (Of course not).  He rewards them with an awful dolphin sculpture, the kind you can get in some beach tourist shop in Miami.

2.  For Aldea having such a big reputation of being paradise it sure is planet of the old people.  The decorations are bland, the people all seem a little befuddled, they don’t eat much–it’s more like a big nursing home.  I’m sure it’s unbelievably hot too.

3.  What the heck is that little girl playing with?  It’s like a giant dustbunny with an eyeball hanging from it.  Did she just pull it out of a terrarium?   It looks like something my cat coughed up.

4.  Dr. Crusher mentions the Ozone layer a billion times–if this is so far into the future why does she constantly go back to earth circa 1988?  Is that like the only year she has files or something?  Also Wesley and his Gandhi lesson to the children.  It didn’t really help much, I mean the old people on that planet seem hardly concerned about children who sit quietly and entertain themselves.  I’m surprised that didn’t seal the deal.

5.  The weirdly creepy scene with the old musician and the little girl.  Pull the music from inside you—EWWWWWW.

6.  Wesley is so completely unsubtle scanning of the old lady as he and his mother have a “conversation” is really funny.  They both talk like their brains are just going SAY SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING and they aren’t paying that much attention to what it is.

TV Review: The Whitest Kids You Know

12 Jan

I have a love-hate relationship with sketch shows.  Sometimes they take risks and show some really funny material by taking advantage of not having to sit in a certain template.  Other times they get really obnoxious with their ingratiating fishing for larfs.  The Whitest Kids You Know is a little bit of both.

The biggest difference between this sketch show and others is that the sketches here tend to be a bit longer, so they stretch for 10-15 minutes rather than the normal 3-5, which is interesting considering that in this youtube era I would think the former might perform better.    There’s a definite flavor difference between the Zeitgeist hunting of SNL, or the wacky-character based skits that many other sketch shows tend to go for.  The biggest thing they remind me of is Kids in the Hall, where they have characters acting normally under increasingly bizarre circumstances.  Sometimes this is funny, and sometimes this is not.

The most tedious series of sketches that they have are the Civil War on Drugs, sending up Ken Burns while mixing in some pot humor to boot.  It might be a good idea for 3 minutes, but for 10 minute episodes that go on and on, it gets pretty tiresome pretty fast.  As for the rest, it’s pretty hit and miss, the baked beans commercials are pretty funny, as well as a sketch where a woman on a date internally wishes her date would avoid the dog poop on the menu.  All in all, it’s funny in places, but I don’t see it being particularly inspired or clever at any point.  A good show to watch if you want something somewhat funny that won’t challenge you in any way, I suppose.

Star Trek TNG review: Lonely Among Us

6 Jan

So I’ve been getting into the hilarious world of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Keep in mind, I really like the series, but I can’t deny there’s a certain amount of looniness in every single episode, and the levels of cheese are beyond knee-deep.

In this one, we have two rivaling peoples, the snake people in cashmere, vs. the dog people who really like to eat.  It’s supposed to be humorous and has absolutely nothing to do with the real plot.  Of course the snakes and the dogs hate each other and spend a lot of time plotting against each other en route to their peace conference.

In the meantime a mysterious presence is on the ship, that possess computers and people.  Basically it’s an energy entity that goes from thing to thing trying to get back home.  Whenever it’s in the ship, the ship doesn’t work.  Naturally nobody can figure out why the ship just stops functioning now and then, so of course Data decides to emulate Sherlock Holmes, because nobody’s better known to solve engine trouble like him.

Troi is my favorite character, because usually she’s not very useful, and one wonders why the captain feels like she’s helpful in any way.  She mostly says things like “I sense they’re hiding something” though never can say WHAT they are hiding.  In this one she gets to hypnotize Doctor Crusher with an ipad, and she speaks of her experience being possessed by the force.  It’s incredibly stupid and reveals almost nothing.  Oh, also, these people all have memory lapses, and they try to hide them for absolutely no reason, even the Doctor.

Also there’s a whole discussion once the Captain gets possessed of whether they should remove him from duty.  The Doctor doesn’t want to do it on psychiatric grounds, and Riker doesn’t want to do it because there’s no known threat yet.  I think we’re supposed to see this as a double bind, but the Captain turning around from a peace conference to do some mysterious research would be enough to do more than hand wring I would think.

There are things that are an absolute hoot though, like the whole crew being trapped by electricity and how it’s painfully obvious that they are waving their hands in the air at nothing.  Or the multiple reaction shots that  occur when anybody does or says anything.  And how the whole crew finds everything that Data does a hoot, while they also universally find Wesley annoying and in the way whenever he chooses to speak.

And what’s up with Wesley’s sweater anyway, did Beverly Crusher make it for him or something?  It’s this ill-fitting baggy rust orange thing that’s covered with quilting in odd parts.

In the end the Captain teleports himself out into the energy cloud, but cannot merge with it.  (It’s unclear whether the captain chose to do this, or if he kind of had to.)  When they bring him back he remembers nothing.

All in all I find the episode a moderate amount of cheesy fun, though it’s not good, by anybody’s standard, so just keep that in mind.