Princess Leia Comic series — a review

Look out, galaxy, here I come!

Look out, galaxy, here I come!

Marvel Comics (a division of Disney) has produced a new comic from the Star Wars universe (which is also a division of Disney; never mind the galactic Empire, bow down before Mickey, the one true Emperor!) that features Princess Leia in her very own adventure.

And it’s about freaking time, really. I’m getting a little tired of these SF and fantasy franchises that have too many guys and too few women in the main cast. The Hobbit book fans were bitching and moaning about Evangeline Lilly’s elf character having been added to the film series, but I was really grateful to see her there, since the original story had no women characters at all.

Princess Leia’s brassiness isn’t toned down in this comic book series, which spans out over five books. Taking place right after the events of the first Star Wars film (aka A New Hope in George Lucas’ revisionist history), where the rebels are busy getting ready to bug out of the moon of Yavin shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star, Leia tries to see what she could do to help, but is only told by the higher ups of the Rebel Alliance to just chill out and take it easy.

The destruction of Leia’s home planet of Alderaan still weighs heavily on everybody’s mind–including Leia, who’s eager to do something, anything, to avoid grieving. Leia realizes there are other citizens of the doomed planet still scattered amongst the stars and when the Empire announces that it will start hunting them down, Leia decides to go out and rescue Alderaan’s Orphans on her own before the Imperials find them.

Thelma and Louise, eat yer heart out!

Thelma and Louise, eat yer heart out!

Leia joins forces with Evaan, a female rebel fighter pilot who is also from Alderaan and an avowed royalist who thinks that Leia’s new fangled ideas about treating everybody equally is just weird. I’ve read the first two issues so far, and while the first book basically sets up the story, the second gets the story rolling by taking this duo to the planet Naboo, where Leia and Evaan have a run in with some bad guys. R2-D2 is even along for the ride, which only added to the strong Star Wars vibe that resonates within this story.

It’s clear that the Disney Overlords have released this comic series in an effort to help ignite interest in the Star Wars brand just in time for their newest Star Wars film, directed by JJ Abrams, which is coming out later this year. But this is really an enjoyable comic series that focuses on a Star Wars character who could use more of the spotlight to herself. It’s also a great ‘grrl-power’ book for those of you with young daughters who’re looking for heroic and fun fantasy stories with strong women in the lead. Highly recommended, overall. –SF

Destination Inner Space — a review

They don't make them like they used to...in this case, for good reason.

They don’t make them like they used to…in this case, for good reason.

It’s the story of an underwater habitat that struggles with the discovery of alien life under the sea…alien life that may wipe out all human life on the surface of the planet! If you guessed this was James Cameron’s The Abyss, you were wrong; it’s a cheapie science fiction film that was released 23 years earlier that featured the nephew of the Creature From The Black Lagoon.

At least the monster looked like the Creech’s nephew, a more ticked off menace with a constant sneer on his face. In Destination Inner Space, the Navy sends Commander Wayne (Scott Brady) to an underwater research facility when they start getting buzzed by a USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) under the ocean. The USO turns out to be a spaceship that unleashes a sea monster with very colorful fins and a strong disposition to tear people apart. Hijinks ensue.

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille. Mr. Demille? Oh, I forgot, I ate him already....

I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille. Mr. Demille? Oh, I forgot, I ate him already….

While the movie is silly in many parts–including having the tired old ‘military vs. scientist’ trope and the raging sexism of the 1960s (“you can’t go with us; you’re just a mere woman!”). It’s actually a lot of fun for fans of cheesy flicks, with a score by Paul Dunlap, who also did the music for Angry Red Planet. The monster costume is well done–while it’s not in the same class as the Creech’s outfit, it amply serves its purpose for this low-budget flick, being bulky enough to hide the wearer’s air tank in the underwater scenes.

The cast of Destination Inner Space have kept busy. Fans of Jonny Quest will be interested to hear that actor Mike Road, who plays Maddox, the Diver With a Deep Dark Past, also voiced Race Bannon, Dr. Quest’s bodyguard on that formidable 1960s cartoon. Wende Wagner, who plays Sandra Welles here, also played Lenore “Casey” Case, Britt Reid’s secretary in The Green Hornet, another ’60s TV show that became legendary over time. Gary Merill, who plays Dr. LaSatier, was also in the Ray Harryhausen version of The Mysterious Island.

Hey, let's bring this weird thing we found back to the habitat. What harm could it do?

Hey, let’s bring this weird thing we found back to the habitat. What harm could it do?

I had never even heard of this movie until I saw it for the first time the other night on Amazon. But it was actually a company called Cheezy Flicks that first put this film out on DVD (and where Amazon got their print from). It looks like a worn 16 millimeter print, complete with bits of dust getting trapped in the projector lens (which is something I haven’t seen in years!). I have to say that in spite of its stilted, cheesy nature, I really enjoyed watching this one. It’s a fun flick that bad film fans–as well as those who are eight years old at heart–will passionately love. –SF

Doctor Who: Last Christmas — a review

Have we met before?

Have we met before?

Doctor Who’s “Last Christmas,” which is the Christmas episode for 2014, is probably one of the lesser Who stories, but it still manages to be a lot of fun nevertheless. Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) find themselves trapped at an arctic research station that has come under assault by strangely familiar aliens that latch themselves onto their victim’s faces and drink their brains as if they were cocktails. The aliens do this while placing their victims into a deep dream state, lulling them into a false sense of security until their brains, along with their lives, are gone.

Everybody relax...I'm here! Me and the elves have got this covered!

Everybody relax…I’m here! Me and the elves have got this covered!

The novelty here is that none other than Santa Claus (or Father Christmas, for those of you on the other side of the pond) himself comes to their rescue, and–as expected–Capaldi’s grouchy Doctor manages to even tick off jolly old Santa. What’s so familiar about these aliens is that they are much like the face huggers of the Alien/Aliens films, a fact that’s even brought up in the show by Professor Albert (played by Michael Troughton, the son of Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor Who, in a great bit of casting).

Where was the bike I wanted when I was eight, you wanker?

Where was the bike I wanted when I was eight, you wanker?

Despite it being derivative, “Last Christmas” manages to be very entertaining, thanks to some nice wrap up moments for a situation from the previous season for Clara, as well as the engaging performances by Capaldi, Coleman, and the great cast playing the researchers at the arctic lab. But the real treat here is Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) as Santa. Although he looks just like Santa, Frost plays him with a fun edginess that makes him a perfect foil for the Doctor. While it may not be a mind blowing extravaganza, “Last Christmas” is still a pleasant little tale that should tide fans over until the next season is released. –SF

White Bird In A Blizzard — A Review

Is that what you're wearing? Shouldn't you be bringing the battleaxe?

Is that what you’re wearing? Shouldn’t you be bringing the battleaxe?

The only reason I watched White Bird in a Blizzard was because of Eva Green (Casino Royale), whose very presence in a film can make it worth watching. Here she plays a married woman who abruptly disappears, leaving her weak-willed husband (Christopher Meloni) and rebellious teenage daughter (Shailene Woodley) behind to wonder what was it they did to tick her off. Mom had been acting a little weird in the days leading up to her disappearance, and it’s assumed that she got bored with her life and decided to leave and get another.

It's time for another episode of Law & Order: Divergent.

It’s time for another episode of Law & Order: Divergent.

While Green is as good as ever, livening up an otherwise dull film with an off the wall performance of a woman who genuinely seems lost within her own life, I was very surprised at how good Meloni and Woodley were. Meloni played Detective Elliot Stabler on Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit for what seemed like forever before leaving that series a few years back. Here he plays a henpecked husband to perfection–he’s so good, you feel sorry for the guy. Woodley is the girl of the moment, thanks to her parts in Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars. But she also does a superb job here as a conflicted young woman coming to grips with her mother’s disappearance.

What film am I making again? Is this Divergent 2: Electric Boogaloo?

What film am I making again? Is this Divergent 2: Electric Boogaloo?

But despite the great performances by a strong cast (even in the supporting roles; Thomas Jane also shines as a world-weary detective), White Bird in a Blizzard feels very unfocused; the overall tone is uneven. If it weren’t for the nudity and sexual situations, this would almost be one of those dopey mystery movies that air on the Lifetime Channel–yet it has a smartness to it that would elevate the film, if it only didn’t work so hard in sabotaging itself. Whatever suspense that slowly builds is always wasted because a potentially dramatic moment gets awkwardly defused in an anticlimactic manner. It’s a shame to see such a great cast get the rug pulled out from underneath them like this, but White Bird is still worth a watch just for the performances alone. –SF

Starflight One — a review

Adrift in space doesn't have the same ring as Lost In Space.

Adrift in space doesn’t have the same ring as Lost In Space.

Today I sat back and watched Starflight One, which is a goofy 1983 TV-movie that is also known as Starflight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land. Although it was made in the early 1980s, Starflight feels more like one of the great disaster movies of the 1970s, specifically the Airport films. Considering that Starflight’s director, Jerry Jameson–a sturdy craftsman with numerous TV and film credits to his name–also directed Airport ‘77 (the one with the sinking 747), it’s not surprising that Starflight feels more like an Airport film than anything else–but thanks mainly to its great, straight-faced cheesiness, Starflight is just as enjoyable as an unintentional comedy as the Airport films.

Listen, Fish, I'm gonna be a little late to the precinct. Yeah, I gotta help land a space plane....

Listen, Fish, I’m gonna be a little late to the precinct. Yeah, I gotta help land a space plane….

Starflight One is forced to fly into a higher flight path in order to avoid drifting space debris–which is strange, because we’ve been constantly reminded that it’s not a spaceship, so what’s it doing flying at spaceship height? Damage from the debris causes Starflight to conk out in high orbit, leaving the passengers and crew weightless. The sight of Linden and Lauren Hutton, along with the rest of the cast, trying to look as if they’re struggling in zero-g when they’re obviously just walking around, waving their arms, is one of the funniest moments in the film (take note that Hutton’s long hair, or her clothing, isn’t even floating).

Don't be nervous, my darling. Just pretend we're moving through a giant colon.

Don’t be nervous, my darling. Just pretend we’re moving through a giant colon.

With its complete ignorance of science, Starflight One is already a ’so bad it’s good’ flick of the highest order. But what makes it really appealing for children of the ’70s and ’80s is the cast, which includes screen legend Ray Milland, playing yet another rich old codger role (which was what he mainly played late in his career) as the corporate owner of the Starflight–he’s got the same imperious manner he showed in the Battlestar Galactica pilot. Another veteran of the original Battlestar series, Herbert Jefferson Jr.–who played Boomer–plays the pilot of a space shuttle trying to rescue the Starflight. And none other than Robert Englund–yes, Freddy Kruger himself, from A Nightmare on Elm Street–plays a small part here as a TV cameraman.

As Bela Lugosi would say, "Pull zee string...pull zee string!"

As Bela Lugosi would say, “Pull zee string…pull zee string!”

Featuring music by the great Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible) and visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica), this is a must see for fans of ‘70s and ‘80s SF films. When I was a kid back in the late ‘70s, I enjoyed discovering the old Flash Gordon serials, which aired on my local PBS station in the wake of the wild success of Star Wars. I enjoyed them for their sheer silliness factor, due to the fact that they were completely clueless as to what outer space was really like. Starflight One is just as much fun in that same way now. It won’t hold up to scientific scrutiny (or even basic logic), but that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable to watch. –SF

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part One–a review

What do you mean, 'where's Prim?' II thought she was with you? We didn't leave her back in District 12, did we?!

What do you mean, ‘where’s Prim?’ I thought she was with you? We didn’t leave her back in District 12, did we?!

There was a lot of hand-wringing over the fact that the third and final Hunger Games book was split into two movies–and yeah, it can definitely be seen as a money grab by the studio (now they’ve got us coming back for two more films instead of one), but while watching THG: Mockingjay Part One, I realized something: it was very good. I think the fact that the storyline got stretched out over two films was a plus, because the third film isn’t in too much of a rush, with more time to develop the characters in quiet, reflective moments.

Raise your hand if you didn't see Serena. Everybody, huh? OK, I guess I'll keep making these films, then.

Raise your hand if you didn’t see Serena. Everybody, huh? OK, I guess I’ll keep making these films, then.

Katniss, having survived another Hunger Games in Catching Fire, has been brought to the mysterious District 13, which turns out to be a beehive of rebel activity against President Snow (the always great Donald Sutherland, who really gets to provide a great, malicious villain by finally being allowed to strut his malevolent stuff). Julianne Moore is a welcome addition to the HG cast as Alma Coin, the president of District 13 who wants to use Katniss in propaganda films against the Snow regime. The embers of revolution are stirring, and Coin is eager to whip it up into a full blown fire.

I'm the bad guy...and loving it!

I’m the bad guy…and loving it!

But Katniss, ever the nonconformist, chafes under the Hollywood-like CGI sets and costumes. It’s when she goes out to the battlefield of this burgeoning civil war that the Girl On Fire really ignites; her passionate pleas to stand firm against Snow causes more backlash–and a great deal of death on both sides. Director Francis Lawrence never let’s us forget that war is a painful and grisly business, showing us unflinching footage of regular people (many of them unarmed) being mowed down by machine gun fire. Mockingjay Part One is a well-done slow-burn build up to the all out warfare to come in Part Two.

Using bow and arrows against super-modern aircraft? C'mon, Gale, what can go wrong?!

Using bow and arrows against super-modern aircraft? C’mon, Gale, what can go wrong?!

The only stumbling block was a scene that was taken from the books, where Katniss and Gale shoot down enemy hovercraft using nothing more than their bow and arrows. As goofy as Avatar was at times, at least we weren’t subjected to Stephen Lang’s hovercraft being shot down by the Na’vi’s spears. Granted, the arrows used by Katniss and Gale were explosive-tipped–but still, it was just a little hard to accept (just like how an arrow caused so much damage to a flying aircraft carrier in The Avengers), and the filmmakers should have either reworked or deleted this scene.

And here I thought I got away from Game Of Thrones to avoid danger....

And here I thought I got away from Game Of Thrones to avoid danger….

Still, despite the nit-picks, THG: Mockingjay: P1 is a solid entry in the series that manages to give every character a moment to shine, including loveable fashion-maven Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), who finds herself in the drab, coverall heaven that is District 13 (egad, how will the poor girl ever survive?). The focus of the story has wisely shifted from the Hunger Games to a larger, more epic struggle that’s been very well laid out with Part One. Bring on Part Two. –SF

Watch that landing! A crashed Viper model

Whoopsie! This ain't the landing deck of the Galactica!

Whoopsie! This ain’t the landing deck of the Galactica!

Moebius recently released a smaller version of its Viper model kit from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.

Does the collision on the insurance cover crashes in water?

Does the collision on the insurance cover crashes in water?

The original Viper model was 1/32 scale, where this one is just 1/72 scale, making it pretty small. You get two Vipers in the same box, though, which is nice.

The pilot was either picked up by a SAR bird, or swam to the nearest tropical island.

The pilot was either picked up by a SAR bird, or swam to the nearest tropical island.

I decided to pose one of my Vipers in the “crashed” position, having hit the waters of an ocean on some backwater world that’s full of water. The top fin of the Viper’s been shot off by a Cylon, which was what caused it to crash.

Too bad Vipers can't swim....

Too bad Vipers can’t swim….

I used the standard formula of Woodland Scenics Flex Paste as the base, and when that dried, I painted it blue. After the blue paint dried, I poured WS Water Effects on top to give it that shiny, watery look on the surface.

Like the Icarus in Planet of the Apes, the Viper begins its slow decent to the depths....

Like the Icarus in Planet of the Apes, the Viper begins its slow decent to the depths….

The boarder was made up of balsa wood planks. Wonder if Hot Dog (the pilot) will be allowed back in the cockpit of a Viper after this?

These mini-Vipers are available at Amazon. Just click on the picture below: