SyFy Promises Quality SF, Gives Us Light Space Opera Instead

SyFy, the infamous TV channel that gave us the monumental TV adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune / Dune Messiah / Children of Dune and the best SF series of all time, Battlestar Galactica, has failed to live up to our expectations ever since. Sanctuary and Warehouse 13 were nice shows to watch, albeit not as memorable as they should have been, and Eureka also had its ups and downs, although it was a good show at the end of the day. But while other channels gave us Fringe, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, SyFy was stuck at a much lower level.

The channel has promised five shows to lure back science fiction hungry audiences. Helix was a good one in the first season, but the second one was by far not as memorable. I haven’t even seen the last two episodes, choosing to play royal vegas online casino games instead. 12 Monkeys was a nice idea, but lacking the “wow” factor Terry Gilliam’s original had. The Expanse looks like something of value, but it will be a mini-series (just like Galactica was at the beginning), and it has to be very (I mean VERY) good to be picked up as a series. Childhood’s End may end up to be a treat for lovers of classic science fiction, but judging by the trailer it will only be “inspired by” the original, making it a more entertaining and possibly less philosophical than the book.

Until these two major pieces of work will be released, the channel is trying to fill the gap with two TV series which might sometime in the future become great works, but right now they are just a handful of space operas perfect for munching popcorn and downing cold ones in the evening: Dark Matter and Killjoys.

Having seen the first three episodes of Dark Matter, the only thing I have to say is “been there, done that” countless times in the past. The show has two big names behind it – Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, who gave us Stargate and Stargate: Atlantis – so it might become something of value later on. But right now it is just a collection of cliches that fail to engage, presenting its viewers with mysteries that they might not even be curious to uncover.

Killjoys has an interesting background, and has the potential to become the next Farscape, but until now it lacks that certain “je ne sais quois” that would pin me in front of the screen. It has quite a bit of action and suspense, and dark secrets in the past of one of the lead characters’ past, but so far nothing that I would truly call original. It’s like the fifth season of Andromeda mixed with a dash of Firefly (not enough by far), and has a lot of “low budget” written all over its visuals. It might become a great show if it lives long enough, but right now it’s just another lightweight summer space opera.

Hopefully this is not the best SyFy can do, otherwise us, in search of quality science fiction on TV, are doomed.

CD Review: Ace Frehley “Space Invader”

“Space Invader”
Ace Frehley
eOne
Tracks: 13

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Original Kiss guitarist and recent Rock and Roll Hall Fame inductee Ace Frehley is back with a brand new full length studio album appropriately titled “Space Invader”. The album is being released via eOne Entertainment and features 11 brand new tracks along with Frehley’s beefed up rendition of the Steve Miller Band classic “The Joker”.

Over the past few years Ace has seemed to have gone through a period of career revitalization. First was the release of “Anomaly” in 2009, which was Frehley’s first solo release in over 20 years. Shortly after that was the release of his first autobiography titled “No Regrets” and of course we all know about the controversy surrounding Kiss’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This brings us to Frehley’s newest musical offering “Space Invader”. The album takes a much grittier approach than Ace’s previous release yet is still classic Space Ace all the way.

Tracks such as “Space Invader” dominate your speakers with groovy rhythms and snappy vocal passages that are reminiscent of Frehley’s early solo works. As the album progresses Ace continues to prove that even at the age of 63 he is still more than capable of bringing rock and roll to the masses. The track “Change” was probably my most favorite off the album as it features a really big sound complimented by one of the better solos I found on the record. Another notable track worth checking out was Ace’s rendition of the Steve Miller Band song “The Joker”.

Even though I have heard countless covers of this song Frehley’s interpretation was fresh and fun making it a great summertime song to throw on at your next cook out. Both Kiss and Non-Kiss fans will want to check out this release as it’s a fun listen that has a little something for everyone.

Track Listing:
1.) Space Invader
2.) Gimme a Feelin
3.) I Wanna Hold You
4.) Change
5.) Toys
6.) Immortal Pleasures
7.) Inside the Vortex
8.) What Every Girl Wants
9.) Past the Milky Way
10.) Reckless
11.) The Joker
12.) Starship

Blu-ray Review “Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time”

Starring: David Bradley, Jessica Raine, Brian Cox, Sacha Dhawan, Lesley Manville, Jamie Glover
Director: Terry McDonough
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Run Time: 90 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

When I saw the advertisement for “An Adventure in Space and Time”, I thought it was another “Doctor Who” special or documentary, I had no idea that it was a docudrama about the origin of the show itself. The film stars David Bradley as William Hartnell, the actor who portrayed the First Doctor, along with Jessica Raine, Jamie Glover, Sacha Dhawan, Lesley Manville, Jemma Powell, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Eden and Brian Cox. The film has a certain television feel to it but I was literally in love with it from the movie it started. David Bradley is such an amazing actor and it was nice to see him take the spotlight for once and really shine. As a huge “Doctor Who” fan, I encourage everyone to see this if you are a fan of the series. It is a great story, well done and at the same time very entertaining.

Official Premise: Travel back in time to witness the dramatic birth of Doctor Who. Actor William Hartnell (David Bradley, Filch from the Harry Potter films, Game of Thrones) felt trapped by a succession of tough-guy roles. Wannabe producer Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine, Call the Midwife) was frustrated by the TV industry’s glass ceiling. Both of them were to find unlikely hope and unexpected challenges in the form of a Saturday afternoon drama, time travel and monsters! Allied with a brilliant creative team, they went on to introduce the world to the longest running science fiction series ever, currently in its 50th year and counting.

BBC Home Entertainment deliver this release as a 3-disc set Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. The Blu-ray includes the film “An Adventure in Space and Time” presented with a very impressive 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and a slew of extras. First off, we have “William Hartnell: The Original” features cast/crew talking about the actor.  “The Making of ‘An Adventure in Space and Time” is narrated by Carol Ann Ford and goes behind-the-scenes with cast/crew.  “Reconstruction: Four Sequences” has the producers talking about recreating the title shots. There are also two deleted Scenes included.

The second disc, which is a bonus DVD, is a real winner.   It includes “An Unearthly Child” from 1963, which is the original broadcast version of the very first “Doctor Who” series, in 4 episodes. It also includes the “Original Pilot of An Unearthly Child”, which shelved and never used. There is also commentary track available on both episode 1 and 4 of the original “An Unearthly Child”, as well as commentary for the 40 minute pilot. Lastly there are various theme music videos, comedy sketches and a photo gallery included. Disc three is a DVD version of “An Adventure in Space and Time” wrapping out this amazing combo pack.

DVD Review “Space Stars: The Complete Series”

Created by: Hanna-Barbera
Distributed: Warner Archive
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
DVD Release Date: October 8, 2013
Running Time: 615 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Growing up in the 80’s, I was raised quite a bit by the work of Hanna-Barbera. I watched their cartoons for my entire childhood. It didn’t matter which ones they were, if it branded the stamp of Hanna-Barbera, I was interested. Now as an adult these characters are still very relevant, thanks to Cartoon Network and Adult Swim’s animated programming like “Harvey Birdman” and “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast”. “Space Stars” was a short lived series from 1980-1981 but it holds a special place for any fan of 80’s cartoons and finally it is available for the first time on DVD as a complete series, thanks to Warner Archive.

Official Premise: As the entire world went “space action” crazy at the end of the Seventies, Hanna-Barbera reconvened its Sci-Fi superstars Space Ghost and the Herculoids for another round of adventures. Joining the sixties sci-fi faves in their interstellar battle against evil were newcomers Teen Force and Astro and the Space Mutts (yes, that Astro!). But there’s more to the story to know before you blastoff on adventures as big as the cosmos itself! Get ready to enjoy Space Stars complete with the recently-uncovered, never-before-seen “Space Science” segments restored in all their educational glory. Race! – to learn Space Magic tricks with Blip! Streak to learn Space Facts from Space Ace! Rock out to the synth wonder of the Space Mix! Solve Space Mysteries deep in space with Teen Force and join the Herculoids to crack the Space Code. They’re back – for the first time ever!

“Space Stars” consists of four cartoon segments: “Space Ghost”, “The Herculoids”, “Teen Force”, and “Astro and the Space Mutts”. “Space Ghost” and “The Herculoids” were well-known from their shows back in the 60’s but “Teen Force” and “Astro and the Space Mutts” (which features the dog from “The Jetsons”) were new shows. There were 22 episodes of “Space Ghost”, while the others all had 11 episodes. There were also 11 cross-over episodes with each of the segments combined. If you grew up watching this show then this release is a must own.

This series has been newly remastered and released on DVD together for the first time ever. TV networks like Boomerang and Cartoon has shown a few segments here and there over the years but never fully and there was never a complete DVD released either. The episodes are crisp and look great for a show over 30 years old. Besides the 66 episodes included, there are no special features included but if you are a fan of this series, I am sure that you will just be happy enough to finally have these episodes to watch and re-watch at your leisure. Warner Archive, please keep releasing great lost shows like this!

3D Blu-ray Review “IMAX: Space Junk 3D”

Actors: Don Kessler, Tom Wilkinson
Directors: Melissa R. Butts
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Run Time: 37 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

There is something about space that has always facisinated me, probably everything. For me it is the unknown that lies above us. IMAX has provided some great films about space including “Space Station 3D”. “Space Junk 3D” is a very educational title and also very entertaining. It is narrated by two time Academy Award® Nominee Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom” and “Michael Clayton”). He delivered an excellent and fun overview of this topic backed with some very impressive visuals that only an IMAX film could bring us. There is also great interviews with leading experts like Don Kessler. I have to admit, I didn’t really know much about this topic prior to watching but I am sucker for anything in space and now I find myself researching long after the 37 minute film completed, so I call that mission accomplished!

Official Premise: What Goes Up Doesn’t Always Come Down. With media headlines repeatedly warning us of debris falling from the skies, orbital debris (or “space junk”) has finally risen to the forefront of social consciousness. “Space Junk 3D”, narrated by Academy Award® Nominee Tom Wilkinson, is the first movie to explore the exponentially expanding ring of debris that threatens the safety of our planet’s orbits. Experience mind-boggling collisions, both natural and man-made. Soar the stunning depths of Meteor Crater to an unprecedented view of our increasingly crowded orbits – 22,000 miles above earth! Join foremost expert Don Kessler, the “Father of Space Junk,” guides us through the challenges we face in protecting them, forging a new age of space discovery. This is a 3D cosmic adventure like no other!

Image is releasing this film with both a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray discs. The 1080p transfer originally shot for IMAX screens looks quite amazing and is presented in high definition widescreen 1.78:1. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works very well with Tom Hambleton’s score. The special features are worth checking out as well in addition to this film. They included a behind-the-scenes “Making of” look into the film. There is an “Interview with Tom Wilkinson” included, which is a must watch. There is also a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and an extensive 3D trailer set included.

Blu-ray Review “Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (Story 51)”

Actors: Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John
Directors: Derek Martinus
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Run Time: 96 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Doctor Who” is bigger than it ever has been.  With news of the 12th doctor recently released and the upcoming 50th anniversary episode, things have never been hotter for the series. So that is a perfect time to release “Spearhead From Space (Story 51)” on Blu-ray for the first time. In fact it is the first of any classic Doctor Who episodes to be released in this format. This was the first story of Season 7 of Doctor Who and also was the first to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. We also get introduced to Caroline John as the Doctor’s new companion, Liz Shaw.  “Spearhead from Space” is a great story in the series and this is a must buy for any “Doctor Who” fan for sure. I hope that BBC has plans for future stories in this format.

Official Premise: Exile! The Time Lords have banished the newly regenerated Doctor to Earth. But the Doctor isn’t the only alien to have arrived, as a swarm of meteorites have crashed into the sleepy English countryside, bringing with them a terrible new threat to mankind. As the Nestene plan takes shape, UNIT, the Doctor and his newly appointed scientific advisor, Liz Shaw, race against time to stop humanity being replaced by a terrifying plastic facsimile race.

If you are curious as to why there isn’t more classic “Doctor Who” episodes being released on high-definition on Blu-ray, that is because “Spearhead From Space” was the first o be shot entirely on film, due to BBC strike. It was also the first classic story to be presented in full color. It has been restored from the original 16mm film elements and scanned into a beautiful high definition transfer.  It looks amazing on Blu-ray and within its original television 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The audio is also impressive with a sharp DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 track. There is also a few decent special features included on the Blu-ray including “A Dandy and a Clown”, “Carry On: The Life of Caroline John”, “Title Sequence Material” and “Restoration Comparison: Digitally Remastered Picture and Sound Quality”. So this is a well-rounded release, another solid release from BBC.

 

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Blu-ray Review “WWII From Space”

Studio: History Channel
Distributed by: Lionsgate Films
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Run Time: 94 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

There has been countless programs about WWII over the years and thanks to The History Channel they have been behind most of these. I am a sucker for these programs and a downright History buff. When I heard about viewing the events of “WWII from Space”, I have to admit I was extremely interested. I mean who isn’t curious about anything to do with space. Of course, there is nothing new here in terms of content but this special does feature some really stunning CGI mixed with historical facts, which gives us a interest look into America’s part in World War II from a new angle. A must for all History buffs.

Official Premise: WWII FROM SPACE delivers World War II in a way you’ve never experienced it before. This two-hour HISTORY special uses an all-seeing CGI eye that offers a satellite view of the conflict, allowing you to experience it in a way that places key events and tipping points in a global perspective. By re-creating groundbreaking moments that could never have been captured on camera and by illustrating the importance of simultaneity and the hidden effects of crucial incidents, HISTORY presents the war’s monumental moments in never- before-seen context. And with new information brought to the forefront, you’ll better understand how a nation ranked 19th in the world’s militaries in 1939 emerged six years later as the planet’s only atomic superpower.

History Channel delivers nothing but a stunning Blu-ray release. The 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is very sharp. This works very well with the CGI effects, I would have loved to seen them release them in 3D as they have done with some specials. I have a feeling that this could have made this even cooler. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also very impressive. It features a stronger narrative and a powerful score. There are no additional special features included with this release, but that is typical with specials like this.

 

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Richard Riehle talks about playing Santa Claus, “Office Space” and “Texas Chainsaw 3D”

Richard Riehle is best known for his cult favorite role of Tom Smykowski in “Office Space”.  He has played Santa Claus more than five times, including films like Disney’s “The Search for Santa Paws” to “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas”.  Besides comedies, he has also broke out in the horror genre with films like “Hatchet” and the upcoming “Texas Chainsaw 3D”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Richard about his amazing career to date and his love for what he does.

Mike Gencarelli: After playing roles in over 150 films and over a 100 TV series; what keep you drives and keep you inspired?
Richard Riehle: I love it because every project is a new experience and adventure. You go from playing Santa Claus one day to a serial killer the next. It offers all sorts of opportunities to try new things. Whether it is for a physical or psychological role. It is just great.

MG: Since it is the Holiday season, I have to ask what do you enjoy most about playing Santa Claus five times now, most recently in “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas”?
RR: They are all different. It ranges from “The Search for Santa Paws”, which is a family film with talking dogs, to “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas”, where I am a bong smoker [laughs]. I just love it.

MG: Can you tell us about how you got involved with “Office Space”?
RR: “Office Space” was just an amazing experience. Mike Judge spent a long time casting it, partly because he wanted a group of people that enjoyed hanging out with each other. I think that aspect really shows in the film. We got down to Austin and he told us flat out that we are going to be working some long hours but that every night he would take us out to the clubs or dinner. We just had a great time. It was a 26 day party.

MG: Can you reflect on the cult following that the film and your role Tom Smykowski has developed over the years?
RR: It has been absolutely amazing. When it first came out it wasn’t in theaters very long. We were excited about the good response it got and our work in it but we figured that it was done with. But about six months later, people were stopping me in the streets and asking me to quote the film. It just so happened at the time, I was doing a show for Fox, so I ran into Mike and he said it just came out on VHS and cable and has developed this whole new life. The most amazing part for me is that it has continued still through today. People are still quoting the film and spreading the word to their friends that haven’t seen it. It is just great.

MG: I have the “Office Space” stapler on my desk [laughs]
RR: [laughs] I will tell you a fun story about that stapler. I was at a cigar place in Beverly Hills. We were about to leave but my friend said that Sammy Hagar just called and said he was coming in and always brings a bunch of really beautiful girls. So we ordered another round and waited. Sure enough he came in with all these beautiful girls. Before we left my friend said he wanted to show me his humidor, which was right under Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. So as we were leaving two of Sammy’s girls where heading to the bathroom and they stopped me and said “Oh you were in “Office Space”, can we have an autograph?” I said “Sure” and they asked me to put down the line about the stapler. I said that actually wasn’t me and that was my buddy Stephen Root…but I was in the film. I asked them again if they still wanted an autograph and they said “Yes, please…and can you put down your line about the stapler?” [laughs].

MG: You not only just play roles comedies, you have a nice range into horror genre like “Hatchet”; what do you enjoy most about switching it up in films like that?
RR: “Hatchet” was sort of my introduction to horror. I have always enjoyed watching them but for some reason I never got cast in them. A buddy of mine, Joel Moore, was played the lead in the film and called and asked if I wanted to fill in for someone that dropped out. I told him “Of course” and that I was waiting to do one. It was just such a great and fun experience. Since you are dealing with these horrific things, it is usually one of the most fun sets to be on – horror films in general. Horror films are also shot all over, so you get to go to all sorts of strange and cool places. I did one called “Growth” and we got to shoot in Martha’s Vineyard, which was terrific and we got to explore the island, which was amazing.

MG: Tell us about your role of Farnsworth in “Texas Chainsaw 3D”?
RR: “Texas Chainsaw 3D”, which comes out January 4th, was shot in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had never been there either. We shot a bunch of it on this old munitions plant from WWII. The film is really a great idea and it works really well. They go back to the original “Texas Chainsaw” from 1974 and start from the last shot of that film with Sally jumping into the pickup truck. Leatherface goes back to his house after his dance of frustration. The local police chief shows up at the house and tries to bring him in but the family will not let him do it. A group of vigilantes show up and level the place and everyone is thought to be dead. 18 years later, the grandmother of the whole group, who is living in a mansion outside of town, dies. I play Farnsworth, her lawyer, and I have to find this girl that supposedly didn’t die during the attack and bring her back and offer her this mansion. But then of course…all hell breaks loose!

MG: Do you have a role that stands out for you’re as most memorable or challenging?
RR: I certainly love Tom Smykowski in “Office Space”. It was a wonderful experience doing it and since then it has lived on. I really like playing Carlson in “Of Mice and Men”, which was a while back. He is the guy that shoots the dog. I also did a TV series on Fox a while back called “Grounded for Life”, which was a wonderful experience as well. The thing is that it goes back to your first question; every role is so interesting and different and each with their own individual challenges. My next role is always going to be my favorite.

MG: What other projects do you have in the cards for 2013?
RR: It is hard to tell. A lot of the projects I do are these little independent films. The greatest difficulty is not so much getting them in the can, as it is finding distribution. I did this Western called “Dead Man’s Burden”, which I really liked. Clare Bowen, who is one of the leads in “Nashville” right now, is the lead in that. It was shot in New Mexico with no time and money. So that was recently shown in an LA film festival and I thought it came out really good. So keep an eye out for that one hopefully soon.

Complimentary Passes to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex screening of “Forbidden Planet” [ENDED]

For your chance to receive event passes, log on to www.GOFOBO.com/RSVP
Enter RSVP code: MEDIAMKBTC
Saturday October 13, 2012,
Kennedy Space Center, FL
Passes are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Turner Classic Movies and DIRECTV are bringing the Road to Hollywood tour to Florida in celebration of the TCM Classic Film Festival next April in Hollywood. Join TCM host Ben Mankiewicz for a free screening of FORBIDDEN PLANET on Saturday, October 13 at 7:30PM at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Come for a night under the stars – Enjoy free parking, popcorn & soda!

 

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CD Review: Municipal Waste “The Fatal Feast: Waste in Space”

Municipal Waste
“The Fatal Feast: Waste in Space”
Nuclear Blast Records
Producer: Municipal Waste
Tracks: 16

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“The Fatal Feast: Waste in Space” is the fifth album from the Richmond, VA thrash band Municipal Waste. The band consists of Tony Foresta- Vocals, Ryan Waste- Guitar/Vocals, LandPhil- Bass/Vocal and Dave White- Drums. “The Fatal Feast: Waste in Space” features 16 new tracks and is being released via Nuclear Blast Records. This album is the follow up release to the bands 2009 album “Massive Aggressive”.

Relentless and in your face thrash metal! From the opening riffs of “Repossession” to the last note of “Residential Disaster” the latest album by Municipal Waste takes hold and won’t let go. The albums sound is very reminiscent of early 80’s hardcore groups like M.O.D. and Suicidal Tendencies.

Guitarist/Vocalist Ryan Waste lays down some blistering riffs that are truly worthy of the head banging induced neck pain they will surely cause. Vocalist Tony Foresta’s straight forward guttural vocal performances energize all 16 songs while bassist Landphil and drummer Dave White provide a thunderous bass driven back line.

While tracks such as “Covered in Sick/The Barfer” and “The Monster with 21 Faces” were personal favorites all of the tracks on the album had a little something for everyone. Fans of both new and old thrash/hardcore will surely enjoy listening to Municipal Wastes “The Fatal Feast: Waste in Space”.

Track Listing:
1.) Waste in Space
2.) Repossession
3.) New Dead Masters
4.) Unholy Abductor
5.) Idiot Check
6.) Covered in Sick/The Barfer
7.) You’re Cut Off
8.) Authority Complex
9.) Standards and Practices
10.) Crushing Chest Wound
11.) The Monster with 21 Faces
12.) Jesus Freaks
13.) The Fatal Feast
14.) 12 Step Program
15.) Death Tax
16.) Residential Disaster