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.”

“Total Recall” trailer elicits totall recall

The new Total Recall trailer is very cool and actually changed my mind about this movie. I think it could be good, and not simply because it was shot in Toronto last year. Here is a link to watch it.

Total Recall is a strange choice for a remake. After all, the first one came out in 1990. Was that really such a long time ago? And I think it was pretty damn good; one of Arnold’s last best action movies. What more could be done with it now?

But the trailer answers the question of why in a very clever way. It opens with lines that are, in many cases, word-for-word of the original. So as I started watching the trailer, my biggest fears were confirmed. At least that’s what I thought until the trailer takes a huge detour from the Arnold version that left me thinking there could be something to it after all. I am psyched!

Total Recall today...


...and yesterday.

Aubrey Dan a one-act show for Toronto

Aubrey Dan says his first act in Toronto is done but I can’t help but feel Dan was a one act show here.

Dan recently revealed that he would pull his theatre production empire, Dancap, out of Toronto after the current subscription season comes to an end, leaving Mirvish Productions back in control of Toronto’s big theatre scene.

Dancap was good for Toronto but it could have been better. The company brought a lot more choice for theatre-goers and tourists in the city, but quality was a problem. There were some great shows, like Avenue Q and Jersey Boys, but a lot of it was either sub-par or had played in this city in the recent past. Not that every show Mirvish brings to town is a winner either, but to really make its mark in Toronto Dancap had to bring something different every time.

Of course, Mirvish managed to shut Dancap out of the best theatres. And without great venues, Dancap suffered. Perhaps if Dancap didn’t lose the Canon, things would have turned out differently.

I admire Dan for his efforts and I think that, overall, the competition he brought to the Toronto theatre market forced others to do better. Hopefully the bar for quality will not fall back to pre-Dancap levels.

I will disagree that Dancap’s exit means Mirvish has a monopoly again. There is tons of great theatre in this city thanks to Soulpepper, Factory, Terragon, and others. They don’t reach mass audiences like Mirvish, nor should they aspire to.

“Westworld” stands test of time

Look at this face.

Yes indeed it’s Yul Brynner in the film “Westworld.” Why would this 1973 classic sci-fi thriller be the subject of a blog post in 2012? Because it was on TCM recently and I watched it last night after recording it on my PVR.

What a treat!

I hadn’t seen this film in many years. I had no idea it was Michael Crichton’s directorial debut. All I could remember was the scene near the end with the “acid.” But less than a year after my trip to Disney World, this film really hit home.

First of all, 70s sci-fi really stands out. I’m thinking The Andromeda Strain, Clockwork Orange, Omega Man, Silent Running, Soylent Green, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, (Star Trek: The Motion Picture? and of course Star Wars. It was, quite simply, a great decade for the genre. And Westworld fits right in.

Westworld is about a couple of friends that go to an amusement park called Westworld. But this park takes Disney a major step further. It’s run by robots that guests can shoot or shack up with, all for the low price of $1,000 a day. The problem is the robots malfunction and start to hurt the guests. After being “killed” twice, Yul Brynner’s gunslinger robot is out for vengeance.

I remember my Disney trip well. We had a great time, but Disney is exhausting. The tram rides from the parking lot to the entrance. The line-ups. The crowds. The money. All for fleeting thrills! Crichton, who wrote Jurassic Park years later, used the theme park setting again for his tale of rebellious dinosaurs.

Disney is mindless fun but Westworld really makes you think. It raises many questions about the morality of fun and what is acceptable for our amusement. When does a robot become a being with rights that should be respected? When do we cross the line? How far will we go for escapism? When is it unethical?

Perhaps today’s theme parks aren’t far off from what Westworld warned us about back in 1973.

Too many captains

What’s the big news for Star Trek fans? All five “captains” will appear live on stage together in London this October. William Shatner. Patrick Stewart. Avery Brooks. Kate Mulgrew. Scott Bakula. On one ticket.

It would be fun to see them all together but I can think of more important reasons to travel to London, like visiting my friend Tian and his beautiful family.

All too often, seeing stars of my favourite shows on stage is a bit of a letdown. I’ve seen William Shatner a few times and he is usually entertaining. I’d love to see Patrick Stewart because, of all the group, he’s probably the best actor, though not the best “captain.” (More on that in a moment.)

But I can’t think of any question I would want to ask Brooks, Mulgrew or Bakula related to Star Trek. For Bakula, I could think of questions about his roles in Quantum Leap, American Beauty and Desperate Housewives, but his role in Star Trek is not among my favourites. Brooks and Mulgrew really don’t deserve to share the stage with the rest.

Indeed, the thought of all of them together brings home another point: Star Trek simply overstayed its welcome on TV. The focus was on pumping out quantity over quality and the entire franchise suffered for it. I’d rather have great Star Trek on the big screen every couple of years rather than mediocre Star Trek every week on TV.

All five Star Trek captains will appear on stage together in London. A sign of too much Trek?

But I digress.

It should be obvious that Shatner and Stewart are my top two captains. Do I need to pick a favourite? They are both great actors, each in their own way. I think it comes down to which “character” I like the best – Kirk or Picard.

If I wanted to have a cup of tea and talk Shakespeare, Picard is my man.

But if I was a petty officer on the Enterprise, under which captain would I feel safer – the one with Kirk or Picard in command? Who would I rather have an ale with in the ship’s cantina? Who would I step in the way of a phaser blast to protect? Who is worth standing in line for two hours to get an $80 autograph?

Kirk wins.

Courageous artist sets fine example

Some people can find art in everyday life – like Allison Leadley.

The Toronto Star wrote a great article about her recent adventure in the streets of Toronto. What did she do? She placed two chairs on the bustling corner of Queen and Spadina then sat and waited for someone to sit down. No one did it at first, but that soon changed.

According to the story, some people sat for a few minutes while others stayed over an hour talking about…life! Of course, many others pretended that she wasn’t there at all.

An experiment? Performance art? Perhaps a little bit of both (or neither).

Performance art: don't try this at home.

If I had been on that corner the day she was there, I am pretty sure I would have been “one of those” and walked right by her without doing anything. I just wouldn’t want to draw attention to myself. That is too bad for me.

Had I the courage, I would have told her all about my blog and how much fun I am having with it. I would explain how much I enjoy writing about whatever I want within the “sophisticated fan” theme I created. I would tell her about all the surprisingly good feedback and comments from complete strangers around the world the blog has received.

Ah, the art of the everyday and mundane. Who would have thought it could be so interesting.