Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country!

“Captain’s log, stardate 9529.1: This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man…where no one…has gone before.”

Far out in space, the U.S.S. Excelsior commanded by Captain Hikaru Sulu observes the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis. This is followed by a request for aid from the Klingon Empire when it’s learned that the moon’s obliteration has contaminated the atmosphere of the Klingon home world, threatening all life on the planet within fifty years. Unable to combat the ecological disaster on their own, the Klingons have come, hat in hand in the form of Chancellor Gorkon, leader of the Klingon High Council, who proposes a peace between the Federation and the Empire.

Dispatched to escort Gorkon to Earth to meet with the Federation President, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise soon find themselves caught up in a conspiracy when the chancellor is murdered aboard his own ship. The Enterprise crew is implicated in the assassination, and Kirk and Dr. McCoy tried in a Klingon court and sentenced to imprisonment on a remote Klingon penal colony. Spock and the rest of the crew must now race against time to expose the conspiracy and prove Kirk and McCoy’s innocence, before assassins can strike once again at an upcoming peace summit.

And hilarity ensues.

Released on December 6th, 1991, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country marked the final time the entire cast of the original Star Trek series would appear together on screen*. The film brought to a close one of the more remarkable resurrections and evolutions of an entertainment property, from cancelled 1960s television series to full-blown multi-media franchise. Its release concluded a year marked by celebration and mourning, highlighted by the observance of Star Trek‘s 25th anniversary as well as the death of original series creator Gene Roddenberry.

Developed by Leonard Nimoy and director Nicholas Meyer, the story was conceived as a way to bid farewell to Captain Kirk and his crew, clearing the decks for the eventual promotion of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the big screen. This proved to be accurate not just in real life but also within the fictional construct of the Star Trek mythos, as the film depicts the thawing of relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. This leads to an uneasy alliance between the two interstellar powers which eventually allows for the presence of a Klingon, Lieutenant Worf, on the bridge of the Galaxy-class U.S.S. Enterprise nearly eighty years after the events of this story. Indeed, that bit of progress was even foretold in “Errand of Mercy,” a first-season episode of the original series in 1967, in which the alien Organians predict that the Federation and Empire would one day work together as friends.

Pretty cool, huh?

In addition to making sure each of the main cast has at least one moment to shine at key points throughout the film, Star Trek VI also boasts an impressive guest cast including David Warner (Time After Time, Tron, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), a pre-Sex and the City Kim Cattrall, a post-Robocop Kurtwood Smith, Brock Peters reprising his role of Admiral Cartwright from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (and who would later portray Joseph Sisko, father to Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and the late, great Christopher Plummer.

It also has what I still rank as my favorite teaser trailer of any Star Trek movie ever:

Though Star Trek VI marks the end of adventures with the original Enterprise crew, we would later see Scotty appear in “Relics,” a sixth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Sulu would appear in a third-season episode of Star Trek: Voyager, “Flashback.” And we can’t overlook “Trials and Tribble-ations,” where the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine insert themselves into the events of the classic original series episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Archival footage of Leonard Nimoy as Spock also appears in 2020’s third-season Star Trek: Discovery episode “Unification III.” That episode is itself a sequel of sorts to two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Unification,” broadcast in 1991 prior to Star Trek VI‘s release.

On the big screen, Scotty, Chekov, and Captain Kirk in particular would factor into the events of 1994’s Star Trek Generations, which would cement the passing of the baton to Jean-Luc Picard and his Next Generation crew. Fifteen years later, Leonard Nimoy would reprise his role of Spock and help to usher in a full-on reimagining of Kirk and the gang for 2009’s Star Trek reboot film. His final on-screen performance was as Spock in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

Still, Star Trek VI ends up being somewhat bittersweet. Though my fellow fans and I were happy to see our heroes in action once more, I also knew even as the end credits rolled and the theater lights came up that Star Trek–the Star Trek I grew up with, at any rate–was over. There would be more adventures in the Final Frontier, of course, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was saying goodbye to old friends for the final time. The last scene of the film, with Kirk reading his log entry as the Enterprise sails away before the cast “signs their names” across the screen and the music builds to a rousing rendition of the original Star Trek fanfare, is still something to watch.

It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s still a worthy sign-off for lifelong friends, celebrating the end of an era (of sorts) for those of us who love this stuff.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek VI.

* in addition to the DS9 episode, the other notable exception is a photograph of the cast inserted into a brief yet touching scene from Star Trek Beyond, released in 2016 to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Heartbreak Ridge!

The Marines are looking for a few good men. Unfortunately…you ain’t it.”

Holy crap! Heartbreak Ridge, the 1986 film starring and directed by Clint Eastwood, turns 35 today.

After all of these years, this film remains one of my guilty pleasure flicks, possessing two things I can never have enough of: movies about Marines, and movies featuring Clint Eastwood. As much a fan as I am of Eastwood the actor, it’s Clint the director who’s also given me a healthy number of films I enjoy revisiting. I started to really take notice of his directorial talents with 1985’s Pale Rider, which for me signaled a shift in my appreciation of the man as a filmmaker. At some point several years ago, I realized the older Clint was getting, the more inclined I was to like a movie he was in. That went double if he was directing. Of course, he’s directed a few in which he did not appear, and those usually have been worth checking out, too. Indeed, this past year has seen a sharp increase in my desire to watch Western films and sample more Western fiction, and Eastwood’s contributions to that particular genre have been well-represented during my various revisitations.

Meanwhile, there’s this not at-all Western, Heartbreak Ridge.

It’s a familiar formula: A hard-assed, battle-tested veteran is put in charge of a group of malcontents or otherwise underperforming troops and has to whip them into shape before they head off to combat. Of course they hate him at first, doing their best to side-step or undermine the salty vet’s efforts until he finally earns their respect and they come together as a cohesive unit just in time for the bullets to start flying.

In this case it’s Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, a grizzled Marine who’s this close to being sent out to pasture, having nearly reached mandatory retirement. Before he was a Marine, Highway served in the Army during the Korean War, and awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic action during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

As for the movie? The plot is pretty simple: In 1983, Highway is a decorated, battle-tested warrior without a war to fight. Rather than ride quietly off into the sunset and retirement, he opts for a transfer back to a combat unit; in this case, a Force Recon battalion attached to the 2nd Marine Division. It’s the unit in which Highway served many years earlier, so it’s a bit of a homecoming. The battalion sergeant major is a familiar face, a buddy with whom Highway served going back to Korea. The recon platoon Highway is tasked with leading is another matter, filled as it is with a bunch of slacking loafers who’ve been allowed to lapse into a state of utter shambles thanks to Highway’s inept and ambivalent predecessor. Highway’s task: make the young Marines combat ready, with their first test coming as President Reagan sends troops to Grenada.

Gunny Highway, getting to know the troops.

I have a few fond memories of this movie. When it was filmed in the spring and summer of 1986, several scenes were shot at Camp Pendleton, California (which stood in for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina), and at the time I was a lowly private first class stationed there. I got to see some of these scenes being filmed, though unlike other Marines I didn’t get to serve as an extra in the background or anything like that. One scene in particular near the movie’s beginning shows Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway walking across a collection of amphibious landing vehicles, which are/were a sort of outdoor museum showing the evolution of such craft. That area was just a couple of hundred yards from the barracks building where I was living at that time.

In a later scene when Highway steps outside and salutes the flag as it’s lowered for evening colors? That was the headquarters for the 1st Marine Division (standing in for the 2nd Marine Division, in this case). Several of the training areas shown in different scenes where Highway is getting his men into shape? Been there, done those.

One of the other memories which sticks out about the film is how roundly disavowed it was by pretty much anyone high up in the Marine Corps chain of command. Upon seeing an advance screening of the film, Marine officials denounced it, even going so far as to issue directives prohibiting Marines from going to the theater in uniform to see it. According to them, Eastwood’s portrayal of Highway–a rude, crude, throwback “salty vet,” forged in the fires of combat from Korea to Vietnam–was not in keeping with the image the Corps wished to convey as being commonplace among its ranks.

I’m pretty sure none of the folks raising objections ever met my drill instructors, or any seasoned senior enlisted Marine. At that point in my young career, the upper enlisted ranks still teemed with Vietnam vets, and most of them were like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” upon hearing about the condemnation of Eastwood’s Gunny Highway. I distinctly remember an editorial cartoon from the local newspaper showing a Marine general covering the eyes of a young private to prevent him from seeing Eastwood’s grizzled image.

None of this stopped me and my friends from hauling ass to town from the base on a Friday night to check out the flick for ourselves, of course.

(Yes, I’m keenly aware that I am, of course, 35 years older than I was that night. I’m choosing not to dwell on that right now, thanks very much.)

This isn’t to say the film isn’t without its problems. There are several inaccuracies of varying degrees, most of which will not bother “regular” viewers one whit. The notion of a Force Recon platoon harboring so many completely useless losers for longer than one day is something that’s hard to swallow, of course. As arrogant and super-confident as Marines can be so far as their being the “best of the best of the best” and all that jazz (It’s true, you know.), Force Recon Marines occupy their own level of badassery with even fewer peers. In the unlikely event a couple of shitheads infiltrated the ranks, you can be sure the rest of the platoon would see to such “deficiencies” in short order.

That Highway could unleash live ammo over the heads of his Marines during a training exercise isn’t out of the question, but just doing it without clearance from four or five different links in the chain of command is a tad unrealistic. Also, there’s very little chance anyone would talk to a Medal of Honor winner the way Highway’s commanding officer treats him during the course of the film. Okay, it could happen, but my money’s on the MoH winner stomping a new mudhole in the other guy’s ass and then walking it dry. Come to think of it, how does a supply weenie get put in charge of a combat battalion in the first place?

Anyway….

Despite these and a few other flaws, Heartbreak Ridge has its share of good moments, most of them involving Eastwood. As is the case with almost all of his films, Eastwood himself is always great to watch. His gruff, war-weary Tom Highway is pretty convincing, at least to me. Several of the other characters tread a bit too close to the line of caricature, but even then the performances by actors such as Mario Van Peebles, Boyd Gaines, Everett McGill, Marsha Mason, and so on are pretty solid. The story also suffers from a couple of logistical hurdles, in that the “Heartbreak Ridge” battle that gives the film its title (and where Highway earns the Medal of Honor for his actions) was actually an engagement involving the Army rather than the Marines. The script solves this problem by having Highway in the Army during the Korean War, then changing to the Marines at some point after that conflict. The Army also handled most of the heavy lifting in Grenada, though Marine elements also were involved.

Why the weirdness? Well, the script as originally written featured Highway as a Soldier, with the action taking place at an Army base and leading up to Grenada. When the Army expressed reservations and declined to offer their support–technical or otherwise–for the film’s production, Eastwood and his people took the screenplay to the Marine Corps, who were all about this thing…until seeing that aforementioned advance screening.

So, yeah. It plays fast and loose with historical fact and Marines in general. Eastwood is – to put it kindly – a “throwback” to what is largely (but not completely) an outdated old-school military stereotype, something far more obvious today than when during the film’s original release. On the other hand, I’d argue there are, among a certain generation of those who’ve served in uniform during the past two decades, individuals who’ve since come to know if not become themselves a more modern version of the uncouth, no-nonsense hard-charger whose methods don’t count for much with dinner parties and recruiting films but represent just the sort of warfighter you want by your side when shit gets real.

With all due respect, sir, you’re beginning to bore the hell out of me.

Happy anniversary, Gunny Highway!

Happy 70th Anniversary, “Superman and the Mole Men!”

There are actually a couple of geek milestones being observed today. Getting more notice among my friends and colleagues is the 58th anniversary of the initial airing of “An Unearthly Child,” the first-ever episode of the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who, broadcast on November 23, 1963 and starring William Hartnell as the first of what is now thirteen (and counting!) “official” incarnations of the venerable time-travelling Doctor…plus one more if you count John Hurt’s self-exiled “War Doctor,” and another one if we consider Jo Martin’s “Fugitive Doctor.” Oh, and plus yet another one if you count Peter Cushing’s outings in a pair of theatrical releases).

And I do count all of those.

Meanwhile, I’m going to back you up several more years to this day in 1951, which brought with it the premiere in theaters of Superman and the Mole Men. Already a staple of comics and radio by this point as well as the movie serials starring Kirk Alyn, this “full-length” feature film introduced audiences to actor George Reeves as the Man of Steel and paved the way for a whole new era of Superman stories.

Though serving as something of a trial run for the weekly Adventures of Superman television series which would premiere the following year, Superman and the Mole Men features very few of the trappings which ultimately would become commonplace on the show. George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman and Phyllis Coates as reporter Lois Lane are the only familiar characters.

The iconic series opening sequence is absent, of course, as is anything resembling the equally memorable theme music. A brief bit at the beginning introduces us to Superman, including a shot of Reeves in costume and standing before a waving American flag which would end up being used in the TV show’s opening. That’s all the exposition we get, though, before we’re hip deep into the “action” as the story unfolds, taking place at an oil field on the outskirts of a small town called Silby. There, the “world’s deepest oil well” has broken through to the subterranean world of the “Mole Men,” who naturally come up to have a look around and see who’s been partying with the music cranked up too loud.

Kent and Lane, sent by the Daily Planet to cover the event of the well having reached its milestone depth, get caught up in the craziness as the local townspeople freak out over the presence of the Mole Men in their midst. They’re organizing with torches and pitchforks to hunt down the little guys, and only Superman can stand in their way. Duhn duhn DUH!!!!!

(Trivia: some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on from this movie and even some filming sequences were recreated in 2006’s Hollywoodland, the pseudo-historical retelling of the investigation into George Reeves’ death in 1959.)

As a standalone film, Superman and the Mole Men really isn’t all that great. It was produced on a very low budget, which is pretty evident in just about everything from the obvious back-lot exteriors to very little in the way of flying or other “super stunts.” Still, its nostalgic value comes from being Reeves’ first turn in the cape and tights, a role which he would make his own in the years to come. However, there’s still a bit to enjoy here. First, I love, love, love black and white TV and movies, and this flick does look pretty darned good.

Next, this movie, like the first two seasons of the ensuing television series (also filmed in B&W), was played straight and aimed at an adult audience, rather than harboring any of the near-camp/kid-friendly tone which would become more prevalent beginning with the series’ third season. Despite the story’s subject matter, there’s still a feel of great old-school mystery/crime drama at work here. The focus is more on Clark Kent (with Lois Lane’s able assistance) delving into the mystery, only to switch to his Superman persona when circumstances require it. That approach would continue into the first year of the series, only to have the balance shift a little more toward “tights and flights” with each successive season.

Phyllis Coates, the actress who portrays Lois Lane in the film, would reprise the role in the TV series’ first season. When she was unavailable to continue with the second season, Noel Neill replaced her, returning to the role she had first performed in the Kirk Alyn Superman serials. Though Neill is the Lois Lane people think of most often when considering George Reeves’ Superman, I’ve always preferred Coates’ take on the character. Of course, it would’ve been nice if they’d given either actress more to do than be the damsel in distress for Superman to rescue.

Superman and the Mole Men would be cut in half to serve as the two-part episode “The Unknown People” to finish out the TV show’s first season, though the original version is included as a special feature on the first-season DVD set. I’d only ever seen the story in its two-part format before picking up the set, so being able to watch the theatrical version was something of a treat.

Although Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the Man of Steel is the definitive screen Superman for me, George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman series are a couple of those fondly remembered bits from my childhood, as the show ran regularly in syndication when I was growing up. After all, he’s the one I portrayed when I tied a towel around my neck and took a leap over a tall building down the stairs in my house.

Happy Anniversary, Superman and the Mole Men!

70 years ago was The Day the Earth Stood Still.

“I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.”

Klaatu, taking “F*ck Around and Find Out” interstellar.

Today, September 18th, 2021 (if you’re counting its New York City premiere; September 20th if you mean opening across the U.S.), marks the 70th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite films, The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. Though I’m of course too young to have seen it in theaters, I watched it numerous times when I was a kid, whenever it ran on my local TV station’s Saturday afternoon SF/horror movie double feature. When home video became accessible even to poor bastards like me, TDTESS was one of the first films I acquired on VHS, and later LaserDisc and eventually DVD and (finally?) Blu-ray. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched it, and thanks to a local theater owner here in Kansas City, I was finally able to watch a pristine print of the film on a big theater screen several years ago.

(We pause to recall fangasms…..everybody good? Okay. Moving on….)

Continue reading “70 years ago was The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

Happy Judgment Day!

Roses are Red
Violets Are Blue
Humanity’s toast
Suck on my big fat CPU.

Love, Skynet.                                             

Celebrating the 24th anniversary of the fall of humanity and the rise of the machines.

Judgment Day: August 29th, 1997. Sunblock optional.

Here’s hoping you can get out, enjoy it, and maybe take advantage of all the sales!

Your one-way ticket to midnight is 40 years old!

A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.”

Holy crap.

Heavy Metal is 40 years old today.

I’m not talking about the music genre, which is even older; I mean Heavy Metal, the animated movie based on the self-styled “adult illustrated fantasy magazine (itself based on the French magazine Métal Hurlant),” which premiered in theaters on August 7th, 1981. Unless you’ve been living on an asteroid or suspended in cryogenic freeze lo these many years, you’ve at least heard of this movie, and are even likely familiar with at least one image associated with the film. Check it, yo:

The summer of 1981 was pretty good for movies, especially if you were a 14-year old boy like I was. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Escape From New York, Clash of the Titans and For Your Eyes Only to name but a few were all in theaters, and this was back in the days when movies where “HELD OVER!” for weeks upon weeks, so long as they brought in decent coin. So, it was with no small amount of curiosity that my friends and I, after ostensibly purchasing tickets to see Indiana Jones do his thing for the seventh or eighth time, instead took advantage of lax theater oversight and snuck our way into our first R-rated cartoon.

Dayton, his young, impressionable eyes opened.

Sorry, Mom.

And so it went: A mysterious green orb brought back to Earth from deep space proceeds to tell its tale of how evil it is to the young daughter of the astronaut who brought it home. As for the astronaut? Well, he did bring the thing home, so that was his ass. The orb, which refers to itself as the “Loc-Nar,” reveals its story to the girl (and us) through a series of vignettes, each set in different a time period and/or on a distant world, with tons of violence, bad language, and gratuitous animated nudity…and all of it set to a first-rate musical score courtesy of legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, along with what is arguably one of the most KICK-ASS collections of rock music ever to be lumped together under a “movie soundtrack” banner.

Ivan Reitman (as in Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters and…yes…Kindergarten Cop), co-produced the film, which features stories written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) as well as frequent Heavy Metal magazine contributors Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben. The voice talents of folks like John Candy, Harold Ramis, John Vernon and Eugene Levy add to the fun. The animation, much of which was derived by “rotoscoping,” or drawing animated figures by tracing over filmed live-action footage of actors, has its ups and downs, though a lot of it looks pretty dated when compared to modern efforts and even some earlier animated features. Still, it does have a distinctive style which remains recognizable.

One of the folks waiting for a crashed bomber’s pilot in “B-17”.

To be honest, Heavy Metal isn’t that great a flick. I mean, we got a huge kick out of it back then, and I’ve watched it however many times during the intervening years, but it’s not a masterpiece. I enjoy many of its components individually more so than the resulting entire package. Regardless of what I might think, there’s no denying it’s a cult classic, with no small amount of charm doing its best to mask the flaws contained therein.

That’s not to say I think it’s a bad movie. It’s cheesy fun, and while it appealed more to 14-year old me than 54-year old me, I still have a soft spot for a couple of the segments (“Captain Sternn” and “B-17,” for those keeping score). What I remember most, and still love to this day, is the music. Holy shit, what a line-up! Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, and even Journey and Grand Funk Railroad, just to name the ones off the top of my head. I must have gone through a half-dozen copies of the soundtrack on cassette (Remember those?), and waited for years for the damned thing to be made available on CD. Same with the Bernstein score.

Dayton and Kevin, during their future careers as intergalactic space truckers.

As for the movie itself, I unabashedly admit I own it on Blu-ray, along with its lesser sequel, Heavy Metal 2000 (on DVD, natch). I’ve also followed the magazine off and on across the years, up to and including recent issues from its current iteration, and some of their spin-off comics projects have also caught my eye here and there.

There have been rumblings off and on in recent years about some kind of new animated Heavy Metal film project. While that hasn’t yet happened, HM’s had its fingers in a few other screened projects. First, there was Métal Hurlant Chronicles, a French-Belgian anthology series which took its name from the original magazine. After airing in Europe beginning in the fall of 2012, its two seasons made their way to the U.S. in 2014 and showed up on the Syfy network.

Elsewhere, Kevin Eastman, at the time the owner and publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, co-produced War of the Worlds: Goliath, a 2014 animated steampunk sequel to H.G. Wells’ original novelThe War of the Worlds. Uh…they had me at War of the Worlds. Anyway, Eastman made sure the magazine promoted the film in the run-up to its release, including featuring several tie-in stories released culminating in a “War of the Worlds special” issue. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the film’s novelization, written as it was by friend and fellow word pusher Adam Whitlatch.

Most recently, there’s the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which premiered in 2019 and is basically a reimagining of an idea for a Heavy Metal movie series developed by David Fincher and Tim Miller. LD+R has produced 26 episodes to date across two seasons, with a third season of eight episodes slated for 2022.

So, you know: feel free to check out all of that stuff. You know you want to. You can’t refuse. “If you refuse, you die; she dies…everybody dies!”

:: Ahem. ::

Anyway, Happy 40th Birthday, Heavy Metal the movie.

Hey! 2021 is a big movie “birthday year!”

As something of a movie nerd, I’m usually aware when favorite films celebrate “milestone” birthdays (or anniversaries, if you will). This past weekend, I yammered a bit about Top Gun on the occasion of its 35th birthday, as it was released on May 16th, 1986. Back in April, I found time to wax nostalgic about the classic science fiction film The Thing From Another World, turning 70 this year after being released on April 7th, 1951. I think anyone who’s spent any amount of time here knows I’m pretty reliable so far as remembering things like the various Star Trek films, but there are plenty of other favorites, like the original Alien or Superman movies to name just a couple of prominent examples.

(I also remember to take note of favorite television series, too. This is especially true of older series from days gone yet I still remember with fondness. Alien Nation, M*A*S*H, Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999, and so many others.)

2021 seems to be a banner year for celebrating movie milestone birthdays. I’m not just talking about old black n’ white flicks, though a few of those are marking anniversaries of distinction this year, as well. I don’t even mean to stop with movies I saw first run in a theater as a kid or even a young(er) adult, in many cases before the age of home video and all that jazz. We’re deep into that era, progressing from video tapes, LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs to streaming video, all of which have for more than thirty years allowed us to revisit fondly-remembered films any time we feel like it. However, none of that equals the thrill of my young eyes being glued to one of those giant movie screens all those years ago as the lights dimmed and the music started to ramp up. Even today, with so many options at my fingertips, there are still films – old and new – I want to see on that giant movie screen, just as their creators intended.

So, what have we got? Well, here’s a sampling of what’s still to come in 2021:

On Friday, May 21st, Escape from the Planet of the Apes – the third in the “classic series” of Apes films, turns 50. YOU READ THAT RIGHT.

Celebrating its 40th birthday on Saturday, May 22nd, is Outland, Sean Connery’s low-key, even underrated “High Noon in Space” riff, which opened in 1981. Still one of my favorite 1980s science fiction films.

Also on May 22nd but celebrating its 25th birthday after being released in 1996 is the first Mission: Impossible movie. As I write this, Tom Cruise and company are working to finish that series’ seventh film, with an eighth already waiting in the pre-production wings.

Thelma & Louise. Don’t call them names on the CB radio.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Thelma & Louise embarking on their infamous road trip, which began on May 24th, 1991. On that same date, Ron Howard brought to us is wonderful drama about firefighters, Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell and William Baldwin, and Robert De Niro.

Sweet hat, amirite?

Those are just the things I’ve got for the remainder of May. June and July will bring a whole truckload more, as we remember our first encounters with Ferris Bueller, Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, and Indiana Jones on the occasion of their respective “milestone” anniversaries. We’ll also say “Welcome Back!” to Ellen Ripley, James Bond, and (he says, grudgingly) Robin Hood for similar reasons. And that’s just for starters.

Don’t worry, TV friends. I haven’t forgotten you! On television, May 23rd will mark the 20th anniversary of the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, which saw Voyager and its crew make their triumphant return to Earth on this date in 2001.

2021 is also “important” for remembering our first meetings with Jack Bauer, Captain Jonathan Archer, and – if you want to reach even farther back – Colt Seavers, the unknown stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.

Jack, Jonathan, and Colt….all celebrating milestone “birthdays” in 2021.

I don’t know that I’ll get to individual entries for most or even several of these. I guess it’ll all come down to time available, but I’ll try my best because these sorts of look-backs are fun, and 2021 is a banner year for me and my fellow movie nerds. When it’s not making me feel old, of course. While I ponder that notion, feel free to throw your personal favorites into the comments section.

You! Down in front! The movie’s starting!

Talk to me, Goose! Top Gun is 35!

“I gotta send somebody from this squadron to Miramar. I gotta do something here. I still can’t believe it. I gotta give you your dream shot. I’m gonna send you up against the best. You two characters are going to Top Gun. For five weeks, you’re gonna fly against the best fighter pilots in the world. You were number two, Cougar was number one. Cougar lost it, turned in his wings. You guys are number one. But you remember one thing. You screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.”

May 16, 1986: the United States Navy is gifted with what might still rank as its best-ever recruiting film. That’s right, elipsing such classics as McHale’s Navy, The Hunt for Red October, and even Down Periscope.

Continue reading “Talk to me, Goose! Top Gun is 35!”

Happy 70th Anniversary to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD!

It creeps… It crawls… It strikes without warning!

A group of scientists and military officers at a remote Arctic outpost near the North Pole discover a mysterious craft buried in ice. They also find a body, similarly entombed, and excavate it from its frozen grave.

And — as things tend to do in stories of this sort — everything goes straight to Hell, for what they have discovered is not a human or indeed like anything on Earth. Instead, what they’ve found is….

Following premieres in Cincinnati and Dayton as well as Washington, D.C., The Thing from Another World stomped its way onto theater screens across the United States on April 7th, 1951, seventy years ago today. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Lederer, loosely adapting John W. Campbell, Jr.’s seminal 1938 novella Who Goes There? (originally published as a 12-capter serial in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction under Campbell’s pen name, Don A. Stuart).

Continue reading “Happy 70th Anniversary to THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD!”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is 65!

It started…for me, it started…last Thursday, in response to an urgent message from my nurse, I hurried home from a medical convention I’d been attending. At first glance, everything looked the same. It wasn’t. Something evil had taken possession of the town.…”

Dr. Miles Bennell is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Continue reading “Invasion of the Body Snatchers is 65!”