Friday, August 26, 2011

Doctor Who

Doctor Who returns to BBC America tomorrow night. Andfor the first time ever, I will be there.

Doctor Who was the one major sci-fi franchise I never got into. Star Wars hit me at 5 and made me a life long sci-fi fan. By 7 I was looking for more than (at that time) a single movie. And there on channel 11 was Star Trek, which I never gave up. Aliens, Predators and Terminators came in high school., the X Files, Blade Runner and the Matrix after college. Joss Whedon, Battlestar Galactica and LOST after the wedding. I even gave Babylon 5 a shot for a couple of seasons. But there was never room for the Doctor.

It was too British, too cheap, too sixties. I would stumble upon it on PBS now and then and simply wait for Monty Python's Flying Circus to come on. Every now and then I'd meet another geek and after gleefully trading Trek stories they would steer the conversation towards Doctor Who. I'd tell them I'd never seen it and watch them shrink back, disappointed.

Then in 2005 the BBC relaunched it and everyone loved it. They changed the lead and everyone loved it more. They changed the lead again and people fell blindly, madly in love with it. And they started streaming it on Netflix. I gave in.

I started with the 2005 relaunch. I watched five years of episodes in two weeks. So I was into it.

The franchise always seemed a step behind the genre zeitgeist, especially in 1996 with an aborted backdoor pilot that tried way too hard to be X Files and Deep Space Nine. Not anymore. The BBC learned how to reignite from Star Trek and how to balance fantasy, horror, character work and long arcs from Whedon and Abrams. The inherent goofiness was accepted but turned way down each season until the time Steven Moffat took over it evaporated completely. The rules were established quickly enough for me to get it and were flexible enough to allow for a wide range of stories. I liked it. A lot.

It's the ultimate nerd show. Foppy, tweedy, full of complicated pseudo science most people will never get and surprisingly non violent. Despite the fact that every episode has a monster out to eat you, even when it revolves around Shakespeare or Van Gogh, there's rarely any fighting. Lots of thinking, lots of running, very little shooting. This is a show where the hero is not the toughest, the coolest or the bravest. It's the one where he's the smartest. No wonder nerds love it so.

The show also changes tremendously based on its lead actor. It's like when a new exciting British writer takes on an established superhero comic. Christopher Eccleston felt like Grant Morrison, sci fi concepts thrown at you so fast you can't unravel them led by a frenetic soccer hooligan. David Tennant was like Paul Jenkins, still British, still far out but with the heart of a romantic and a softie at that. Matt Smith is Neil Gaiman, melancholy, desaturated, poetic, grim and written by Neil Gaiman. It's all alluring and bringing me back tomorrow night for more.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Chili Peppers!

And it's undeniably awesome. The new guitar player completely fills the void left by John Frusciuante's departure and even with a new member, the band is moving in the direction set by 2003's "By the Way" and enhanced on 2006's "Stadium Arcadium".

Final note. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the mustache is back.

Direct link.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The End of Indiana Jones Figures

I got my SDCC set. They are all pretty awesome but more importantly, they effectively end the most anticipated figure line of my life.

When I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark", Walker and I went straight to the typewriter, drafting a petition to Kenner to produce figures. We even sent them a product line with character selections and playsets. We also asked for prototypes.

A year later, when Kenner launched the line with a tv commercial, I felt a sense of victory. I didn't know at the time the deals between Lucasfilm and Kenner piggybacked this license on top of Star Wars so I felt personally responsible.

A year later it was gone. 12 figures, one playset, some mini-sets and vehicles and it disappeared from shelves. When I lost marion and Indy in the sands of Rockaway Beach, there was no hope of replacing them. Three years later, LJN bashed out an out of scale half hearted three figure line for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I still would have bought them, if I ever saw them in a single store.

In the summer of 1989, batman figures based on the Tim Burton movie had me haunting the Kay Bee in Queens Center daily. But no one picked up the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade license.

And then as reported many times on this blog, in 2007 Hasbro tried again with a comprehensive line to commemorate "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It was dead by the time the blu-ray dropped.

Yes, the factory that produced the first waves was horrible. Yes, it is clear Hasbro had no idea what would be important in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (didn't we all think the jungle cutter would be an action set piece?). When I saw the hatless, jacketless Indy with a bazooka I was told he was "screen accurate". He wasn't.

At Toy Fair 2008 I asked Daryl dePriest how they would sustain the line this time. He said he had learned from Kenner's mistakes in the 1980's. I asked what mistake. he said "there are adult collectors now". So instead of launching with four figures as they did in 1982, they launched with 20. The end result? I got 40 Indiana Jones figures instead of 12.

And now the final wave that was tooled at the time of cancellation has snuck out. It lasted through the show but sold out online in four hours.

I'd love to see it continue as a DTC line but we all know Hasbro has no infrastructure or interest for a Matty Collector type situation. I'm just glad I got everyone and they will be stored next to my Toy Biz LOTR, my Palisades Muppets and other lines I know I will never see again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Harrison Ford on Conan

It took him a long time but he learned how to kill in interviews.

He's angry at Smurfs. And who isn't?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dark Knight Rises Pic

Usually I avoid spoilers and set pics during the production of a movie but this shot is just too awesome.

Batman fighting Bane out in the street. Looks like Batman is keeping the Dark Knight costume as well. That'll save me $200 with Hot Toys.