Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Remembering Robotech, Part II

I first saw Robotech when it debuted on afternoon syndication in 1985, and it arrived on the scene at roughly the same time as other popular Japanese robot imports. While Voltron and Transformers were evoking memories of similar 70s era Japanese toys such as Shogun Warriors and Micronauts, Robotech’s method of serialized storytelling was very much like Star Blazers (or Space Cruiser Yamato as it’s known in Japan), another anime series that had a brief run on American airwaves in the early 1980s. Read on . . . 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Remembering Robotech, Part I

I heard a few days ago that anime importer extraordinaire Carl Macek recently passed away from a heart attack at the relatively young age of 59. If you look at Macek’s career in total, he brought a wide selection of Japanese anime titles stateside through the distribution of English dubs. Macek has also been the source of considerable controversy within the anime community, because some felt that his English dubs somehow diminished the creative integrity of the original Japanese work (if you’re an anal-retentive anime fan to the point of requiring medication, this is a major no-no), while others felt that Macek’s efforts were integral to nurturing the anime market in the US. Thus, the work with which Macek is most commonly associated, his pet project named Robotech, has incurred both repeated accolades and vengeful fatwas from anime fans of all stripes. Read on . . .

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Myths and Monsters in Motion

I went to see the re-make (or alternate adaptation?) of Clash of the Titans the other weekend. The film is enjoyable in its own right, with a decent script, a solid cast, and good direction by Louis Leterrier (who did a great job with 2008's The Incredible Hulk, in my opinion). However, because of its name and virtually identical approach to the ancient Greek myth of Perseus, it inevitably invites comparisons to the 1981 Clash of the Titans film, the last film where stop motion special effects legend Ray Harryhausen created the mythic monsters. This post isn't a review that compares the movies; instead, it is a reflection on the stop motion style of special effects in the context of modern movie making technology that uses Clash of the Titans as a central example. Read on . . .

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Judging a VHS Tape by its Cover

When the video rental business finally made it to my town in the mid-80s, several pre-existing business tried to get in on the act, including a small, now-defunct electronics shop and the local convenience store. But the video rental place that won the battle of the boob tube was a new place called K&K. Unlike its local competitors, K&K lasted for almost two decades, until its inability to keep up with the transition to the DVD format finally drove it out of business. I can't say for sure exactly why K&K stayed in business for so long, but I suspect that much of it had to do with its willingness to stock its shelves with just about anything--especially in its early days and in the genre of horror, which brings me to the subject of this post.

Sure, K&K stuffed plenty of cheap, obscure exploitation titles in between the more well-known, bigger-budgeted, theatrically-released titles--there seemed to be no end of Rambo, Conan the Barbarian, Death Wish, Mad Max, Animal House and Enter the Dragon rip-offs. Yet the most obvious examples of video selections that no one heard of and appeared to be made on a shoe-string budget were in the horror section, which was located at the back of the store. Unlike the other genres, many of the horror movie boxes were bigger than regular VHS boxes, and the covers were some of the most lurid things I have ever seen; imagine several rows of these sorts of boxes lined up together across a wall and you have yourself a graphic display of horror imagery that was like no other. Adding to the visual impact of this display was K&K itself: Not only were the owners really into taxidermy, with various stuffed animals and animal heads mounted throughout the store, but K&K was located outside of town along a small, backwoods road, a perfect setting for an obscure, low-budget horror film--say, Video Dead 2?

I've long had a greater appreciation of movie posters that are painted than those that are more photorealistic. Even if the film itself is average, below average, or abosolutely unwatchable, a creatively painted movie poster is a work of art in my opinion. Apparently, my opinion is not unique--almost all of these big box horror videos featured painted covers, as if to compensate for their obscure, budget-impaired titles. (In fact, of the makers of these films put half as much effort into their filmmaking skills as they did in the VHS cover art, their films might actually be worth watching.) Read on . . .

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Eight Legged Freak of Lego

It's two great tastes that taste great together: Legos and big monster bugs. This lovely giant spider was built by Lego hobbyist Jason Ruff (a.k.a. Doctor Mobius) for the Battlebugs Creepy Crawlers Build Challenge. Go to Ruff's Flickr page to see more pictures so you can appreciate the full detail of this creepy-crawly creation--Ruff even went to the trouble of covering the spider with Lego levers to provide the creature with 'hair'. Now, all this guy needs to add is two Lego jets with spring-loaded missles, a Lego mini-figure of a disfigured mad scientist, a couple of Lego mini-figure police, army soldiers and cows, and a two-story Lego house so the huge Lego spider can peep through a second story window at a Lego mini-figure that looks like a young Mara Corday, and he'd have the perfect Lego play set for the classic big bug movie Tarantula (1955). Sadly, it'll never happen. Such a missed opportunity, especially since a Lego play set for Them! (1954) would be really awesome too.