Neil Armstrong talks about the moon (for a change)

Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.

But it’s rare for him to talk about it. Surprisingly, he gave a rare interview to CPA Australia about his most famous “feat”. He actually narrates the final three minutes of his moon-landing approach, and talks about a whole lot more. It’s amazing stuff and I encourage everyone to check it out.

While the likes of James Cameron and George Lucas have taken us to far off places with the use of their imagination and special-effects technologies, few can actually tell us what it’s like to step foot on another world.

Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.

ALF making the jump to the big screen?

Remember ALF?

That’s the one. The furry cat-eating alien from the planet Melmac that sounded a bit like Rodney Dangerfield and loved to say “nooo problem!” He starred in his self-titled televison show for four seasons in the 1980s that I watched religiously. Not because it was a great show, but because he was such a great character.

If it wasn’t for ALF, I would not have insisted on stopping in Oxnard during a family road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know the episode I’m talking about.

Has the time come for a cute and fuzzy alien movie? ALF creator Paul Fusco, who I believe is also the voice of ALF and puppeteer, seems to think so. At least that’s what he said during a recent interview in which he revealed he will be pitching Hollywood on an ALF movie.

ALF was always very funny. I still have my talking ALF doll and my son, who has never seen an episode of the show, thinks it’s great. What I loved about him was that he had a Jack Sparrow kind of mentality. He always talked about doing the “wrong” thing but that conscience of his always forced him to do the “right” thing in the end.

I say, Hollywood, take a chance on an ALF movie. Don’t waste time on original ideas when you already know you have something that works.

Allow me to end with a favourite quote from the Oxnard episode: “ALF! Turn the car around – stop what you’re doing - come back home!”

Avengers ensemble!

It has been a fanboy’s dream – to see an Avengers movie, or any superhero “team movie,” that does not suck.

X-Men doesn’t really count. Yes, they are a team of superheros, but they were born that way. Same goes for Fantastic Four. But imagine taking a bunch of solo superheroes and forcing them to work together – that’s the Avengers (and Justice League” for that matter).

It took years of planning to make an Avengers movie work. We got a couple of Iron Man flicks, Thor and Captain America, and The Incredible Hulk too. They were decent movies on their own but they paved the way for bringing the lot of them together in the Avengers and it worked out perfectly. Great cast, great story, great humour….GREAT MOVIE!

It’s not easy to have multiple main characters and give them all something important to do while maintaining their individuality. They are a team but they each stand out. That’s what an ensemble is. If director Joss Whedon is a Woody Allen fan, it wouldn’t surprise me. Woody is known for his ensemble casts in most of his movies. He makes each of his characters count and that was where the Avengers could have fallen.

DC/Warner Bros. - if you’re you’re watching all this carefully (and I’m pretty sure you are), you have a lot of groundwork to do before getting a great Justice League movie into theaters. My advice is do it the Marvel way – take your time and do it right.


Why the next “Star Trek” movie could be great

There is good reason to hope that Star Trek 2, the untitled sequel to the latest Star Trek movie, will be awesome. No, not because some scenes are being filmed with IMAX cameras (thought that can’t hurt). It’s Benedict Cumberbatch!

This talented actor was unknown to me until I watched the BBC series Sherlock. It’s an excellent take/update on the Holmes mythos, and Cumberbatch’s extraordinary acting talent makes it work. He is intense. Precise. Funny. Unpredictable. It’s always a pleasure to watch this show because you know you’ll get a solid two hours of television, which is rare these days.

Cumberbatch plays the villain in the new Star Trek movie, which recently finished principal photography. His role is hush hush but rumors are rampant on the Internet. I won’t repeat them here because they’re probably true and I wish I didn’t know, let alone my readers.

One of the weaknesses of the last Star Trek movie was that the villain, Nero, played by Eric Bana, was two-dimensional and uninteresting. He did nothing for me and I blame Bana for that. He was boring, as he is in most films.

When you look at the most successful Star Trek films, they each had a great villain portrayed by a great actor. Ricardo Montalban reprised the role of Khan from the original Star Trek television series in Star Trek II; Christopher Lloyd played the rogure Klingon captain Kruge in Star Trek III. Christopher Plummer was awesome as Klingon General Chang in Star Trek VI. These guys all pushed the regular cast to up their game as well.

Cumberbatch is one of those actors that can do anything. I’m trying not to raise my expectations too high for this film, but it’s hard not to after seeing what he’s capable of doing. If the next Star Trek movie is a failure, it won’t be Cumberbatch’s fault. It’s elementary.

George Takei beams on to Toronto Symphony stage

The Toronto Symphony’s “Sci-Fi Spectacular” was nothing less than its name suggests.

Yes there were people walking around in costume and Stormtrooper on patrol at Roy Thomson Hall. But it was mostly a night for “fans” to let the music of some of their favourite films take centre stage – Star Wars, Superman, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

George Takei, Hikaru Sulu of Star Trek, was in fine form as “host.” He appeared on stage almost half-way through the program. The theme of his remarks was the Vulcan edict of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

George "Sulu" Takei beams on stage with the TSO.

He spoke about how he loved Toronto for its diversity, from Little Italy to Greektown to Chinatown. He spoke about the diversity of Star Trek’s bridge crew and how it was far from the norm in 1966. At the height of the Cold War and U.S. civil rights movement, an African woman and a Russian were among the show’s main characters. At a turbulent time in Asia’s history, his Sulu character was meant to represent all Asians. He also joked that Canadians were “over-represented” given there were two on the Enterprise crew – William “Captain Kirk” Shatner and James “Scotty” Doohan.

Just when I thought I knew everything about Star Trek he told the story of how Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry came up with the name Sulu. Roddenberry didn’t want Sulu to be associated with any specific Asian country or culture. On a map of Asia, Roddenberry stumbled upon the Sulu Sea. As a body of water he decided the Sulu name would be a symbol of Asian unity as waters know no boundaries.

Takei also pointed out that Star Trek took place 300 years in the future, but it has only taken us 46 years to go from Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision to reality.

After his remarks, he was joined on stage by soprano Kristen Plumley, who sang beautifully as the TSO performed the famous theme from Star Trek by Alexander Courage.

The night was not simply a John Williams fest. We also heard the theme from Somewhere in Time, by John Barry. I must see this movie. And we heard Bernard Hermann’s theme to “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Indeed, Takei returned to the stage to recite the chilling “final speech” from the 1951 film. And of course it wouldn’t have been a sci-fi night without hearing Also sprach Zarathustra, the music made famous in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It truly was a spectacular night of sci-fi. For two hours, the audience was taken – as the title to Takei’s autobiography says - “to the stars.”