Tagged: Galaxy Quest

John Ostrander: Double Your Pleasure

Once upon a time, most movie theaters showed more than a single feature. For the price of your ticket, you’d get two movies, maybe a cartoon, sometimes a featurette. You got good value for your money in those days especially at second or third run theaters or revival houses. This was in the days before DVD, Blu-Ray, or even VHS.

In fact, for a long time, the movie studios only got one bite of the apple. Oh, a few movies might show up again; Disney did a good job of bringing classics out of their vaults. When the movies were sold to show on TV, that would also generate some revenue but nothing like today when a major part of the money made by films comes from Blu-Ray and DVD sales. (Aside: I wonder how true that will remain with Netflix and Hulu, et al.)

The first time I saw Casablanca was in a movie theater in an inspired double feature with Play It Again, Sam – the Woody Allen vehicle in which Casablanca plays a big part. Most of the double features I remember weren’t so brilliantly paired although even these days you would get a coupling whose titles together were suggestive. For example, I recently saw a photo of a marquee that has Annie and Satan’s Daughter on it.

There was a pairing that still haunts my nightmares. I was in a play out of the Guthrie Theater that toured the upper Midwest hitting small towns in states like North and South Dakota (both of which seemed entirely made up of small towns) and I, with my fellow travelers, were desperate to catch a movie on our days off. The same double bill followed me for weeks – The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again and The Amityville Horror, both of which scored a minus 10 on my must-see list.

These days, we can make up our own double or even triple feature. Some are obvious such as the Bourne movies, but I like it when there are more imaginative pairings like the aforementioned Casablanca/Play It Again, Sam duet.

For example, we recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy (which is rapidly becoming my favorite Marvel movie) and then watched Galaxy Quest which, if you don’t know it, sends up Star Trek and its fans while, at the same time, being a homage to them. Both are quite funny, well cast and acted, have some surprisingly serious moments, and both even have a death that is surprising and moving. If I wanted to make it a triple feature, I would add Serenity, Joss Whedon’s continuance and completion of what he began in the TV series, Firefly. Like the other two, Serenity is a space opera that uses a lot of humor. The three have similarities in tone and attitude that play off each other well.

Another pairing that I stumbled upon was My Neighbor Totoro and Lilo and Stitch. Both are animated features; the first is the masterpiece from Japanese animator Hidao Miyazaki and the latter is from Disney (although, interesting aside, Totoro was distributed in the U.S. by Disney). Both deal with family and have a younger sister/older sister dynamic at their heart. Totoro is, admittedly, gentler and lower keyed than Lilo and Stitch but both show a lot of heart. And Totoro has the Cat-bus!

There are two lesser-known Irish films that work well together – Waking Ned Devine (one of my all time favorite films) and Rat. The latter you may not know but it’s a dark comedy starring Pete Postlethwaite and Imelda Staunton. I cannot briefly describe it to you but I do recommend it. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it is to mine.

There are lots of other double and triple features I could think of but odds are you could, too. If you think of any, speak up. You may know some that I don’t. In the meantime, as Ebert and Siskel used to say, I’ll see you at the movies.


John Ostrander: Old Star Trek Tech

Capt KirkI’m a Star Trek fan. Not a rabid fan, but a fan. I‘ve at least sampled all the shows and some I liked better than others. I’ve seen all the films and some I really liked; the first Trek film – not so much. I even enjoyed the two most recent films although I have a nephew who may disown me for saying so.

I’m not a big tech sort of guy (just ask ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman) but I do have a major tech gripe with the series. The original communicators very much influenced the design of cel phones – mine still flips open, thank you very much, and I don’t know how many times I’ve asked Scotty to beam me out of some situations. Unfortunately, all the communicators are good for is audio. No video. Star Trek is set in our future. My antiquated Trekfone can take pictures. We have cel phones that can take movies. ST communicators cannot.

You would think that having video capability would be valuable for away teams stepping foot on new planets and meeting new civilizations. Their space ships have sensors that can pick up life forms on planets below or peer long distances into space and throw up the image on the bridge’s screen but they can’t do video from the planet surface to the ship orbiting overhead. Here today we can get video to and from the International Space Station. Our probes can throw back images from distant planets.

I understand why that had to happen that way in the Original Series. The show didn’t have the CGI or the budget to make it work. Why not update the tech in the later series? Why not in the movies, especially the most recent ones?

They have teleporters, for cryin’ out loud. Figuring out how to get video from planet surface to an orbiting ship is harder than disassembling someone’s atoms, beaming them somewhere and re-assembling them? Seriously?

Are they keeping to the audio-only rule because that’s the way it’s always been? They’ve already alienated the hardcore Trek fans with the re-boot; are the fans going to get more cheesed off because now the communicators can send pictures? Are they afraid all the ST characters are going to start doing selfies? Although I could see Kirk doing an Anthony Weiner with his.

Why does this bug me? Because, in my book, it’s a failure of imagination.

I remember a great scene in Galaxy Quest (one of the best non-ST Star Trek films ever made). IMDB does the pocket synopsis this way: “The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.” Their fake TV ship has been lovingly created by a race of aliens who believe the TV episodes (which have found their way into outer space) to be a “historical record.”

In one scene, Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver have to get to the manual off switch for the self destruct button and are confronted with a corridor of large pistons slamming together from side to side and up and down at an alarming speed. Weaver’s character balks; there’s no reason for those chompers to be there. Allen says it’s because it was in an episode. Weaver screams, “That scene was badly written!” She snarls that those writers should have been shot; this always makes me giggle.

That’s my point. The aliens put the banging pistons in the corridor not because they make any sense but because they were there before. Same problem with the communicators for me: they don’t make any sense.

The early communicators were way ahead of their time and that’s part of what Star Trek tech has always done – inspired us and given us a sense of wonder, of possibilities. That stimulates the imagination. Communicators shouldn’t be able to do less than our cel phones; they should be able to do more.

The stories should also be more than re-makes of past stories. Tell us new ones. Take us boldly to where we’ve never been before.