A Tall, Skinny Man in a Monster Suit

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Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is arguably one of the best pictures of the year. It has been nominated for a slew of awards including several for the film’s actors. Noticeably absent from many of these nominations is actor Doug Jones who plays the film’s gil-man.

the-shape-of-water-posterNow, one could argue that Jones did not get nominated for an acting award because he has no spoken lines in the film. However, the film’s star, Sally Hawkins, plays a girl who is mute. She has no spoken lines and yet she has been nominated for several awards including an Oscar nomination for her performance.

So why is it that Jones has not been recognized alongside Hawkins?

Here’s the thing. Doug Jones is a fantastic actor. He has collaborated with del Toro for years, starring in Mimic, as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth. He has played the Silver Surfer in 2007’s Fantastic Four sequel. He has made countless television appearances including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Strain, Arrow, The Flash, Sons of Anarchy, and Criminal minds. He is currently playing Starfleet Officer Saru in Star Trek: Discovery.

star-trek-discovery-saruThe fact is, he is in demand because of his appearance. At 6′ 4” and painfully thin, he is tailor made for appearing as strange creatures in various genre movies, but as an actor in his own right, he is also superb and very often overlooked. Honestly, if he doesn’t get an acting nomination for his work on Star Trek: Discovery, something is very wrong in Hollywood.

My point is that he has been egregiously overlooked for his performance as the amphibious creature in The Shape of Water. I suppose one could argue that the performance was a hybrid of prosthetics work, CGI and Jones, but come on! He has to convey the creatures emotions and connect with the audience just as much as Sally Hawkins had to without words. He even dances in the picture (and quite well)!

He did that admirably. Still, no Oscar nomination. Where are Doug Jones’ nomination? Where is the recognition for his amazing skills as an actor and not just as a tall skinny man in a monster suit?

The Shape of Water is still in some theaters. Go see it and marvel at Jones’ amazing performance. Or find Star Trek: Discovery on demand and watch his turn as Saru. Whatever you feel about how Star Trek has been served by that series you cannot deny that Doug Jones is one of the best things in it.

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The ‘Barely-There’ Costumes of Logan’s Run

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by Jack Mackenzie

In the year before Star Wars, a Science Fiction film made a scene with its costumes – or lack thereof!

Science Fiction films of the 1970’s weren’t exactly subtle. Beginning with the Planet of the Apes movies, a sub genre of SF cinema began to emerge which has been dubbed “Shattered Earth”. This type of film included some classics as well as some forgettable efforts.

Films like The Omega Man, THX 1138, Z.P.G., The Final Programme, Soylent Green, Phase IV, A Boy and His Dog, and The Ultimate Warrior explored dystopic visions of the future either after some sort of holocaust level disaster or in a repressive society that was designed in response to, or in order to prevent, said disaster.

In 1976 Logan’s Run was one of the last notable films of this school and it was arguably the most successful and most memorable (after the Planet of the Apes films).

The special effects, the model work and the production design all push Logan’s Run to the top of the heap of a less than reputable sub-genre of film. The story, as unsubtle as it was, caught the imagination of audiences enough to warrant a television series spin-off, if not an actual sequel. It was as successful a Science Fiction film as there could be before Star Wars came and changed the game.

But it was the costume design (or lack thereof) that really caught some people’s attention at the time.

Up until Logan’s Run costumes in Science Fiction films were generally relegated to either bulky spacesuits, formless white prison garb or elaborate outfits that featured over sized jewelry and odd helmets or other head dresses.

Logan’s Run, chose to go with a “less is more” approach. And in the case of some costumes there was a lot of emphasis on the “less”.

Bill Thomas was the costume designer for Logan’s Run. He was an Academy Award-winning designer who had over 180 credits. He designed for films like Babes in Toyland, Spartacus and The Happiest Millionaire. His approach to the costumes of Logan’s Run was to stick to fabrics and aesthetics of the time, which is why the film today seems hopelessly outdated. The film has a distinctive 1970’s feel to it.

The costumes worn by the Sandmen, the police force of the futuristic city, the ones who catch the runners, made quite an impact, despite their simplicity. A black form fitting outfit with a grey band across the chest is as minimalist as it gets for a distinctive uniform, but the outfits are striking especially when compared with the costumes worn by the rest of the cast.

Which was not much.

The costumes worn by the citizens of the City, the futuristic home of the last of humanity, all under thirty, all white, are very revealing. The “California” sensibility is redolent throughout the population (this despite the fact that much of the City scenes were filmed in Dallas, Texas). The clothing is sparse. The skirts are short. The sleeves are practically non-existant and the materials are synthetic fibers like lycra and spandex. These materials were considered “fashion forward” at the time. Satin was also used along with cotton and sheer materials.

Very sheer. And, as is usual in these kinds of films, there are no bras in the future.

Most of the costumes for the movie were modified from pieces bought in retail stores like tunic shirts and wrap dresses. Once the base outfit was chosen, costumers would sew on patches of brightly colored fabric cut into geometric shapes to make them look futuristic.

In order to make the costumes “pop” all that was needed was a light spray of adhesive and a dusting of glitter or sequins. Accessories also played a huge part in the finished product. Jewelry and belts were the perfect “finishing off” of the costumes. The bigger and more elaborate the better.

The costumes from the movie resemble a lot of the “wild” clothing that was worn in the disco clubs of the day and later became the fashion of the early 80’s, like off the shoulder tops and wide belts.
As revealing as the costumes from Logan’s Run are they were originally designed to be much more revealing. But that would have meant spending much more on makeup for exposed skin.

One outfit in particular stands out from the pack. This was worn by Jennifer Agutter who played Jessica, the female lead. It consisted of a piece of fabric which barely covers the actor’s front and back and leaves her sides exposed. All that holds the front and back pieces together is a small length of chain.

Again, there is clearly no underwear in the future.

Jenny Agutter, not surprisingly, wasn’t wild about that outfit. “Logan’s Run was fairly embarrassing,” she stated in an interview. “But I’m thrilled that I’ve been a part of it all.”


There is more to this article. Read the rest of Jack Mackenzie’s essay (and see some slightly NSFW photos) in the latest issue of Dark Worlds Quarterly. It’s available as a FREE download and it is packed with so much amazing stuff.

DOWNLOAD THE LATEST ISSUE HERE

Valerian and Laureline

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If you’re a fan of Luc Besson’s films (The Fifth Element, Lucy) or you’re just a fan of science fiction films in general, and you’ve been on Facebook recently, then you likely have come across the first trailer for Besson’s upcoming film VALERIAN.

If you haven’t, let me show it to you:

So, most people agree that the trailer is pretty mind blowing but few people know just who Valerian is. I’ve been a fan of the graphic novels that this film is based on for years, since I was in my early twenties, and that is a long, long time ago.

valerian-ambassador-int-1Back then I was a huge fan of the American comic magazine HEAVY METAL. When I learned that the US magazine was based on a French magazine, METAL HURLANT (literally Screaming Metal), I managed to find some copies of the French version as well. Along the way I learned about other French magazines including one called Pilote in whose pages the adventures of Valerian et Laureline were originally presented.

Valérian et Laureline, also known as Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent or just Valérian, is a French science fiction comics series, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.

First published in 1967, the series focused on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female colleague, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time. Valérian is a classical hero, kind-hearted, strong and brave who follows the orders of his superiors even if he feels, deep down, that it is the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, his partner Laureline combines her superior intelligence, determination and independence with sex-appeal.

Influenced by classic literary science fiction, the series mixes space opera with time travel plots.

valerian_3Christin’s scripts are noted for their humour, complexity and strongly humanist ideals while Mézières’ art is characterised by its vivid depictions of the alien worlds and species Valérian and Laureline encounter on their adventures. The series is considered a landmark in European comics and pop culture and influenced other media as well: traces of its concepts, storylines and designs can be found in many science fiction films including Star Wars and Besson’s own The Fifth Element.

valerian-and-laureline-2-the-empire-of-a-thousand-planets-paperback-l9781849180870The final installment of Valerian et Laureline was published in 2010. All of the Valérian stories have been collected in graphic novel album format, comprising some twenty-one volumes plus a short story collection and an encyclopaedia. Valérian is one of the top five biggest selling Franco-Belgian comics titles of its publisher, Dargaud.

Many of the stories have been translated into several languages, including English. The series has received recognition through a number of prestigious awards, including the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême. An animated television series, Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline, was released in 2007.

And now, Besson’s film is set to introduce the characters to the world at large. When I heard that Besson was set to tackle the subject I was skeptical, particularly with the casting of Dane DeHaaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider Man 2) .

However, the trailer looks absolutely amazing and I can see that DeHaan is not as miscast in the role as I had earlier feared (although Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad) is perfectly cast as Laureline). I can only hope that the final film lives up to the graphic novels.

Batman V Superman: Good. Bad. I’m the one with the Kryptonite.

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I know this isn’t the real Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill… they’re just plastic figures… but they look so much more life-like, don’t you think?

I recently saw Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Hoo, boy.

So, I’m late to this party. So late, in fact that I’m probably standing in an empty space amongst sad, withered party decorations on a floor covered in confetti. The last peal of revelry and laughter long since echoed away.

And there’s not much left to say that hasn’t already been said.

It’s a movie about good guys and bad guys made by filmmakers who don’t know the difference between the two.

Most of the criticism was focused on Superman. As depicted here, he really wasn’t Superman. Not the real Superman.

My beef, though, is this: Clark Kent. He wasn’t Clark Kent.

You see, Clark Kent was Smalville born and raised. I’m sure that Smallville would have instilled in him a work ethic that would make a Protestent proud. To me, Clark Kent always struck me as a hard worker, a real nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy. When Perry White aske him to cover sports, Kent would provide copy. When he was asked to cover the party at Lexcorp, he would have provided copy. Kent would have knuckled down and wrote copy.

I work at a newspaper. I’m not a reporter, but I work with reporters and the one thing that reporters have to do… have to do… is write copy. Otherwise they’re not reporters. A reporter who doen’t produce printable copy is a poseur.

So when Perry White complains to Kent that there is no copy for sports or the social pages, I call bullshit.

After all, Clark Kent is Superman. He would have produced the copy. He wouldn’t have gone off on his own, selfishly pursuing his own agenda on company time and the Daily Planet’s dime. That’s not Clark Kent.

Kent maybe isn’t a prize winning journalist. He lets Lois win all the prizes. And Lois gets away with selfish behavior because she’s Lois Lane.

Clark is the guy who turns up his sleeves and provides solid copy. He provides exactly what is required and maybe a little more. He wouldn’t let his duties as a surperhero get in the way of that.

And he would show up to work and not mope around because a lot of people got blown up because he didn’t see the bomb.

Even if he didn’t see the bomb hidden in the wheelchair, he should have done something instead of standing there and blubbering while the capitol building burned around him. He could have sucked up the explosion with his super breath, or spun a whilwind to drag the fiery explosion up and out of the building. Even if he didn’t see the bomb, he could have saved someone.

Anyone.

In fact… he’s Superman. He should have seen the bomb. Superman would have seen the bomb.

I expect Bruce Wayne to be morose and mopey. Even this Bruce Wayne, who, honestly is batshit crazy and suffering from really fucked up dreams and who needs to see a therapist real bad. His dreams are like little fantasy sequences that kind of remind me of another film that had nightmarish dream sequences – Sucker Punch. Weird, huh?

So, Superman who lets his temper get away from him, who sulks and broods like an angsty teen… no. I don’t buy that.

But I really don’t buy a Clark Kent who doesn’t put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and who doesn’t write the copy that he’s asked to. That ain’t Clark Kent.

It just ain’t.

Who is DOC SAVAGE?

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This post originally appeared at the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website, written under my pen name MD Jackson (The name I use when I write about art and other namby-pamby subjects, unlike the real manly-man topics I write about as Jack Mackenzie).

And it doesn’t get more manly that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Doc Savage!

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You may have heard the news this week that actor Dwayne Johnson (formerly the professional wrestler known as “The Rock”) has been cast as Doc Savage in an upcoming film by Shane Black.

For some of you this will be meaningless. For me this is a big deal and I can’t tell if this news is good or bad but the whole thing fills me with a sense of dread and anxiety.

First off: Who is Doc Savage?

Doc-Savage-March-1933Doc Savage was created by by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic at Street & Smith Publications. His creation was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Street & Smith’s The Shadow Magazine. Additional material was contributed by the series’ main writer, Lester Dent. In contrast to The Shadow‘s mysterious and mystic qualities, Doc Savage was conceived as a scientific super adventurer.

Clark Savage, Jr., first appeared in March 1933 in the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine. Clark Savage (or “Doc” to his friends), had no special powers, but was raised from birth by his father and other scientists to become one of the most perfect human beings in terms of strength, intelligence, and physical abilities.

804949Doc Savage set up base on the 86th floor of a world famous New York skyscraper (implied, but never outright stated, as the Empire State Building). Doc Savage fights against evil with the assistance of his five companions, Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny and Long Tom.

The Doc Savage adventure magazine debuted on newsstands in March of 1983. Although most of the adventures were written by Lester Dent, each adventure was attributed to Kenneth Robson, a Street and Smith house name. Street and Smith would go on to publish 181 issues of the magazine before it was cancelled in 1949.

docsavage_01b_bamaDoc Savage became known to more contemporary readers when Bantam Books began reprinting the individual magazine novels in 1964, this time with covers by artist James Bama that featured a bronze-haired, bronze-skinned Doc Savage with an exaggerated widows’ peak, usually wearing a torn khaki shirt and under the by-line “Kenneth Robeson”. The stories were not reprinted in chronological order as originally published, though they did begin with the first adventure, The Man of Bronze. By 1967, Bantam was publishing once a month until 1990, when all 181 original stories (plus an unpublished novel, The Red Spider) had run their course. Author Will Murray produced seven more Doc Savage novels for Bantam Books from Lester Dent’s original outlines.

For me it all began at the start of a summer vacation in 1975. My family had embarked on a long drive, my mother and father in the front and us three kids, me and my two younger brothers, in the back seat. As is typical in these situations, bickering began before long and my parents stopped the car in a nearby town to try to rectify the situation. I was given money and pointed to a used bookstore and told to go buy some comic books to read along the way.

In the front of the store was a bin containing used paperbacks which I immediately began to paw through. As I perused covers looking, no doubt, for some Star Trek books a cover leaped up at me from inside the bin.

It was a thin paperback emblazoned with the strange, vaguely flag-shaped words: Doc Savage. Above the type was another title: The Other World.

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To a ten year old kid who loved monsters, dinosaurs, heroes and action, this cover was a perfect storm. The cover art was so fantastic and yet so real! Was it a photograph? I had to squint closely at it to determine that it was a painting, but the most realistically rendered one I had ever seen! I did not know it at the time, but the cover artist was the amazing and talented James Bama, the artist whose work adorned most of the paperback reissues of the Doc Savage adventures.

SavageI purchased the paperback and spent the rest of that summer engrossed in the breathless and thrilling world of Doc Savage and his amazing crew of larger than life heroes. I was hooked. That summer, if it wasn’t Doc Savage, I wasn’t interested.

And that summer there was a lot of Doc Savage going on. 1975 was the year that Warner Brothers released the first film version of Doc Savage produced by George Pal. In the wake of that release, Marvel Comics had begun producing a monthly Doc Savage magazine featuring all-new Doc Savage adventures rendered in amazing black-and-white art by John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga. Naturally I devoured each and every issue.

RogerKastelMovieThe 1975 film, although criticized for not taking itself seriously enough, was a faithful adaptation of the characters and situations, if not the actual plot of the first novel. In 1975 Warner Brothers was obviously uncertain how to market the film to audiences. Since the 1966 Batman movie and TV series, with its campy tone and self-depreciating humor was such a success, that seemed to be the way to go. In hindsight it is clear that the attempt only succeeded in needlessly ruining what could have been a decent film.

The movie is very dated. It is clearly of it`s time (I mean the 1970`s, rather than the 1930`s in which it was set) and it featured no really big stars. The actor playing Doc, Ron Ealy, had achieved his success by starring in a television series based on Tarzan in the decade prior to this.

Now, more than 40 years later, Hollywood is about to try again. Shane Black, the director and writer of movies such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, is determined to bring the character back with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson as the iconic pulp superhero.

Will it succeed? Will it even happen? Who knows? But people will be talking about it, and if you knew nothing about Doc Savage, at least now you know a bit more than you did before.

A Matt Damon Double Bill? What Was I Thinking?

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I don’t know what possessed me to watch two Matt Damon films back to back, but that’s what I did.

I find Damon hard to take in large doses. Although I liked him fine in The Martian his appearance in Interstellar bordered on too much despite the fact that he had less screen time in that than in The Martian, so his level of “getting on my nerves” varies from film to film.

So I watched The Adjustment Bureau on Netflix. It was a film I’d never seen before and it was based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, who is one of my favorite writers and films based on his works usually appeal to me. This one did as well, despite it feeling like an episode of The Twilight Zone that went on for just too long. I liked Emily Blunt as well. I know she’s a big draw these days but I haven’t seen many of her films and in this one I found her to be engaging and watchable.

I had a very positive reaction to this film, despite finding the “magic hats” idea kind of silly. And maybe I’m not a romantic but it seems that a lot of Damon’s character’s actions were more than a little selfish. I guess I didn’t get the sense that the feelings Damon had for Blunt’s character were overwhelming. They said it, but I didn’t feel it. Nor did I get the sense that Damon’s character had a fantastic political destiny. He was liable enough, but he didn’t convey the commitment that he was supposed to have to public service. The characters say all the right catchphrases, but there is nothing backing them up.

Still, getting past that the film was likable enough and the story was interesting and it was fun watching them go through the doors and ending up someplace completely different then where they are expecting.

At it’s heart it is a chase movie. The philosophical and existential questions are secondary. It’s about lovers wanting to be together and running from those who would tear them apart. The questioning of reality and pondering the questions of destiny versus free will were thrown in but not really explored.

Is it worth a look? Sure. It’s on Netflix. Check it out.

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But then there is Elysium, also starring Matt Damon. This is an original story (and I use the word “original” very lightly) by Neil Blomkamp and starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

This film is awful. There are some pretty special effects, sure, but the film is so monumentally stupid. So Elysium is a space station… a utopia in space… a giant ring space station where the rich and powerful hoard all the best air and medical technology while all the poor people live on the dirty, polluted and stinky surface of the Earth. You can tell they are poor because of the color of their skin and their Mexican accents.

Except for Matt Damon who seems to be the only poor white person. Naturally he is going to be the one to save everyone. Except it seems that wherever he goes, violence happens, which is not only bad for him but for anyone around him as well, which is inconvenient because he’s just re connected with his childhood girlfriend and her daughter who has leukemia. (Oh, I can see where this is going)

As for Elysium itself it is run by a council but the Minister of Security, played by Jodie Foster, is a hard assed bitch who will not hesitate to shoot down ships loaded with dirty poor people who are trying to get access to the medical beds. The president makes noises about going to far, but Foster doesn’t care. She’s Anne Coulter on steroids, baby, an Armani suited villain who can’t decide if her accent in English, French or American, but that hardly matters once she starts raving about how she’s preserving the natural order of things and dripping equal amounts of contempt for the poor people of earth and also for the spoiled, rich but soft denizens of Elysium.

Okay, I could go on, but this movie is terrible. There are some pretty effects and the actual Elysium space station is breathtaking, although the lack of a ceiling is problematic. The atmosphere is just open to space. How it doesn’t bleed off into the vacuum is beyond me and is never explained.

This movie. is mostly stupid. Actually, no, it’s all stupid.

It’s on Netlfix, yeah, but… don’t. Just… don’t.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

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Hey, I’m back with another Netflix movie review!

I don’t play video games. I’m not a gamer. So what I know about HALO can be summed up as such:

It’s a video game. It features a character called Master Chief.

That’s it. That’s all I know.

So, here I am watching a movie called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn and it begins with a bunch of cadets getting their hair sheared off (somewhat reminiscent of the opening scene of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, one of my favorite films of all time) and then these cadets start talking to someone off camera like it’s  some sort of documentary,

Okay. I think I know what this is.

Then it switches to an older guy (whom I recognize as Canadian Actor Ty Olsson, who played Lt. Aaron Kelly on Battlestar Galactica) who is listening to a distress call from a ship. The ship has 1 survivor in cryo-suspension, some alien thing is trying to take over and this cgi fairy thing materializes and…

Okay, the film’s lost me. I don’t know what’s going on.

Then suddenly we’re back with the cadets and the story picks up with cadet Thomas Lasky who really doesn’t know if he wants to go to war or not. Seems his older brother was a good soldier but he died on a mission and he’s real bummed about it and he never sees his mother anymore because she’s too important.

So Lasky and his fellow cadets are in training and their squad has the lowest score because Lasky can’t stop being an arrogant prick long enough to follow orders. Plus he’s suffering from some blisters and burns and other health problems which his earnest doctor can’t seem to figure out. Lasky soldiers on, though, which is ironic considering he doesn’t seem to want to be a soldier.

If this hadn’t had HALO in the title I would have given up on this film. The young cadets were good actors and the film looked fairly impressive. I liked the cadet uniforms. I liked the way they used Simon Fraser University as a backdrop (If you saw the original Battlestar Galactica pilot you’d probably recognize it). But I didn’t like any of the characters.

So there’s this subplot about one of the characters trying to un-encrypt a top secret video of a combat mission that hints that there is “something else” out there that the soldiers are fighting. Just as soon as they discover that fact the training school is suddenly under attack.

Now the movie gets exciting with these giant aliens attacking the school and real soldiers dropping in to defend them. So now it’s a horror movie where the cadets squad is trapped in the school without any weapons trying to hide from the scary monsters who can become invisible. Okay. Now I know what kind of movie this is.

But wait! Just before an alien kills one of the cadets who shows up but Master Chief! Master Chief will save the day!

Now it’s a chase movie where Master Chief and five… oh, wait, make that four… scared cadets have to run the gauntlet of scary aliens to make it to the rendezvous point.

Whoops! Make that three cadets.

Okay. This movie is a mess. It’s boring and confusing in turns. Maybe if you play the game, or know more about the HALO universe this film would make sense. Apparently it was originally a web series. Maybe seeing it in episodes would have made more sense, but as a whole movie like this… well, it`s no Full Metal Jacket, let me tell you. It`s no Starship Troopers, either

If you are a fan of HALO this might be a good film. If you are a fan of military SF, this film is a bit of a mess.

I can`t recommend it, but if you are curious, it`s currently playing on Netflix.