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Sci-fi film faves and flops


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#35 modest

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 04:18 PM

I watched Joss Wheldon's Serenity again last night and enjoyed it better the second time around.
I got over the Wild West sets and 6-guns in space.
Some of the effects and the editing are great.
Wheldon is mad about 'fight-ballet' though; still, some of the best choreography I've seen except for Jackie Chan.


"We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence, and then - explode." :turtle:

~modest :)

#36 Boerseun

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 05:39 AM

Anybody been to see "District 9" yet? It's only debuting here in South Africa this weekend, but from what I understand it's getting rave reviews in the 'States.

Aliens in Johannesburg? Can only be good!

#37 Buffy

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 09:55 PM

...Ellison’s account managed, for me, to convey the tragedy and hilarity, along with the details, of the doing and undoing this expensive flop.

"Expensive?" OMG, you *haven't* seen it, have you?!? It honestly makes Star Trek TOS look like it had a million dollar per episode budget.

We fall into hysterics whenever we see the lime-green foam padding that they use *everywhere*....

It was so under-budgeted--shot directly on video, not film--so under-rehearsed, so filled with the worst character actors of the late 60's & early 70's (Ed Ames! Simon Oakland! And, believe it or not, Walter Koenig! Might as well have been grabbing the folks headed back from shooting guest spots on Hawaii Five-0!) , that it's hard to imagine how they could have spent less money!

The Satellite of Love had a more believable set!

It’s a pity, as Starlost sounds like a really cool idea, with just a but of improbable space-opera BS (eg: the damaged ship is doomed to crash into a star if its technically illiterate passengers can’t figure out how to fix and pilot it in time)

Sadly, yes, *could* have been good, but this was at the time in TV history when anything SciFi was relegated to low budget syndication. I've seem some of the contemporary series, which had much better budgets and show it, like Space:1999 and UFO, both of which are also bad enough to get MST3K treatment around here....

:) So, Buffy (as I'd bet nobody else reading this has seen the series), does any of the story's smarts peek out? Or is it pure MST3K fodder?

This show is proof that Harlan Ellison--who I adore, even though I'm hardly a SciFi fan--is indeed fallible. Even the opening episode or two which he wrote are horrifyingly bad. Obviously he would complain that the scripts were hacked to death, but remember, that's what he said about City on the Edge of Forever, which most folks think is still not only the best Star Trek episode ever, but really just plain good TV.

YouTube - The Starlost - Voyage of Discovery - Part 3

It was a great concept, just botched in the worst way possible!

Some critic at the time called it the "Amish Lost in Space"....

Beauty is as insubstantial as bubbles in the wind, :)
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#38 CraigD

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 09:30 AM

"Expensive?" OMG, you *haven't* seen it, have you?!? It honestly makes Star Trek TOS look like it had a million dollar per episode budget.

We fall into hysterics whenever we see the lime-green foam padding that they use *everywhere*....

Just the 10 min segment in you youtube link, Buffy. The cheese factor looks pretty close to off-the-scale, even by 1970s standards. I especially appreciate that, not content to have automatic opening doors that either whir or whoosh, the Ark’s do both, and both sounds are out-of-sync with the doors’ motion. :shrug:

After reading Ellison’s memoire in Stalking the Nightmare, my interest in actually seeing episodes of The Starlost was like rubbernecking at a gruesome highway accident – you’re not expecting art, or even pleasure, but at something so manifestly awful, you’ve just got to be a voyeur.

It was so under-budgeted--shot directly on video, not film--so under-rehearsed, so filled with the worst character actors of the late 60's & early 70's (Ed Ames! Simon Oakland! And, believe it or not, Walter Koenig! Might as well have been grabbing the folks headed back from shooting guest spots on Hawaii Five-0!) , that it's hard to imagine how they could have spent less money!

The idea that the first and only season of The Starlost was produced on an ultra-low budget, is, I think, a bit of obscure videophile myth.

According to STN, the opening segment of “Phoenix Without Ashes” (Ellison’s title) / “Voyage of Discovery” (the aired title) was, as of 1973 “the single most expensive
production ever attempted in Canada.” Getting actual numbers would, I think, be a laborious and pointless work of real historic research, but just glancing at the models and the size and detail of the sets, I’m inclined to accept Ellison’s intimations that a lot of money was heaved down this particular commercial hole. Both STN and its Wikipedia article mention Doug Trunbull’s failed attempt to develop and use his brainchild Magicam SF camera system to seamlessly integrate model and live shots in realtime, a failure that I suspect was about as expensive as the later success of ILM’s motion-control work for Star Wars, and one that rippled through the production, as it was the key technology that was to have allowed the series to have been shot using copious miniature sets which couldn’t be built full-scale in the available studio space.

This show is proof that Harlan Ellison--who I adore, even though I'm hardly a SciFi fan--is indeed fallible. Even the opening episode or two which he wrote are horrifyingly bad. Obviously he would complain that the scripts were hacked to death, but remember, that's what he said about City on the Edge of Forever, which most folks think is still not only the best Star Trek episode ever, but really just plain good TV.

Ellison is not only fallible – as a filmwriter, he’s legendary mostly for his failures (his account of the single day he worked for Disney studios, in which he unwittingly pitched a Disney character based porno to a cafeteria table of studio execs, is one of the humor gems in STN). His involvement in the writing of episode 1 of Starlost, however, requires some illumination.

For a variety of unanticipated reasons, The Starlost was produced and filmed in Canada. At that time, Canadian law required that, in order to receive financial subsidies, a large majority of writers, actors, directors, and production staff must be Canadian. This resulted in all of Ellison’s screenwriting being substantially rewritten by Norman Klenman, about whom Ellison relates the following:

But as I sat there in Los Angeles writing my script, I received a call from Mr. Klenman, who was at that moment in Vancouver. "Mr. Ellison," he said, politely enough, "this is Norman Klenman. Bill Davidson wanted me to call you about The Starlost. I've read your bible and, frankly, I find it very difficult and confusing ... I don't understand science fiction ... but if you want to train me, and pay me the top-of-the-show money the Guild just struck for, I'll be glad to take a crack at a script for you." I thanked him and said I'd get back to him when I'd saved my protagonist from peril at the end of act four.

When I walked off the show, the man they hired not only as story editor to replace me, but to rewrite my script, as well, was Norman Klenman who "don't understand science fiction."


Comparisons of Star Trek to The Starlost are, I think, instructive, as they show two radically different outcomes from roughly the same cinematographic intentions and financial investment. STrek sets, models, and actors were, as best I can surmise, less expensive than those of Starlost half a decade later. With all due reverence, the cast of STrek were no more elite actors than those of Starlost. And, six years after the first season of STrek, writers and producers understood far better, technically, how to write and produce such series.

One key difference between the two were the ambitions of their production goals. STrek mostly aimed to shoot the interior of a few rooms, and an occasional rocky planetscape with an exotic backdrop. The Starlost aimed to shoot rollicking adventures in the interior of an unknown number of 50-mile diameter domed habitats, each populated by a different human culture, and confined shots of travel through a mazework of connecting tubes filled with mysterious (to the characters) high-tech artifacts. The green foam (I’m guessing here) was meant to convey outside-the-biodomes strangeness, and should have appeared infrequently.

The ultimately decisive difference, however, was that the makers of STrek made what they had work. In short, they were competent, even brilliantly ingenious in every part of the production. For example, most trekies are familiar with the tale of the chairs on the bridge set of STrek’s starship Enterprise: after props carpenters failure to fabricate acceptable looking chairs (except the captains chair), they replaced them with chairs from a crew member’s recently redecorated kitchen (furniture in the 1960s was cool :Alien:)

The Starlost, in contrast, by most accounts, was a ship of fools and incompetents, turning time, money, and creative talent into contemptible crap.

At least it manages to amuse. One of the great genius of humankind, IMHO, is our ability, via the art of MST3Kesque viewing, to transform contemptible crap into funny crap. I just might Netflix The Starlost, season the only, after all. :hyper:

#39 sanctus

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 10:39 AM

I was really surprised by reading through this thread, mainly about 2 things: Hitchhiker's quide to the galaxy in the good ones and Event Horizon in the bad ones.

The first is just plain boring (I speak though only of the film, the book (actually the first 3 or 4) are really good.

Event Horizon, I saw it only once and tried a second time. I remember all the critics really bad when it was at the cinema (actually I remember one going like "making a few zombies walk around on a ship does not make a good movie"). It scared me really a lot, and not the violent splatter-like things (no effect on me), but the psychological fear built up, what you start to imagine in your own head...a movie which does this is a good a movie for me...
But ok, if you do not get this kind of fear I agree it is just a movie...

What i have not seen anywhere is:

Great:
Enemy Mine (just great)
Le dernier Combat (see here from 1983 with jean reno)
Avalon

Crap:
Independence Day

#40 freeztar

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 11:47 AM

Event Horizon, I saw it only once and tried a second time. I remember all the critics really bad when it was at the cinema (actually I remember one going like "making a few zombies walk around on a ship does not make a good movie"). It scared me really a lot, and not the violent splatter-like things (no effect on me), but the psychological fear built up, what you start to imagine in your own head...a movie which does this is a good a movie for me...


I agree with you about Event Horizon. It freaked me out the first time I saw it. It's definitely one of those rare movies that actually does that to me. What ruined the movie, imho, is the last 15 minutes or so where they just flash random gruesome and violent images. If they had thought of a more clever, and less cinematic ending, I would regard it as one of my favorite sci-fi films. Unfortunately, they lost major points in this category.

#41 Buffy

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 07:30 PM

...my interest in actually seeing episodes of The Starlost was like rubbernecking at a gruesome highway accident – you’re not expecting art, or even pleasure, but at something so manifestly awful, you’ve just got to be a voyeur.

Yah! :eek:

The idea that the first and only season of The Starlost was produced on an ultra-low budget, is, I think, a bit of obscure videophile myth....the opening segment of “Phoenix Without Ashes” (Ellison’s title) / “Voyage of Discovery” (the aired title) was, as of 1973 “the single most expensive production ever attempted in Canada.”

I think you do have to pay attention to the qualifier I bolded....

Although the intent may have been along the lines you described--to show something different in each of the "domes", that green foam along with the Satellite of Love-like random-plastic-parts-glued-on-plywood-and-painted-white decor that is reused everywhere is a testament to how little was actually spent on the actual production.

I can see where there are places where they might have *attempted* to do what you describe:

...Doug Trunbull’s failed attempt to develop and use his brainchild Magicam SF camera system to seamlessly integrate model and live shots in realtime...

...but it's clear that it never made it into the final post-production (if indeed there was any editing whatsoever!). There are a few green screens but they're mostly used to do simple video--like the computer ("May I be of.....assistance?" is like fingernails on the chalkboard of course and gets burned into your brain like a bad pop tune)--and the closest to this is the episode where they get "minaturized into a computer" which is pretty hilarious in hindsight, but even that is so poorly done it's hard to see where any dollars went.

They did build a few models of the inside of the domes, but these are so out of proportion and so simplistic (my daughter's 5th grade science fair project was better quality), that trying to imagine it costing much is hard to believe. Might have been done by Doug Trumbull's janitor (I'll have to ask him...he's famous now).

There's one "dome model" that puts us into hysterics though: it's in the episode about the polluted manufacturing dome, where they have that appears to be cigarette smoke being blown randomly from behind the first row of "buildings" in the model to get that "smoggy effect": so out of proportion that Gene Roddenberry would not have blessed it even to keep an episode under budget.

I really suspect that if it was truly "expensive," the money all went out the door before a single tape was recorded...

.....The green foam (I’m guessing here) was meant to convey outside-the-biodomes strangeness, and should have appeared infrequently.

No honest, it's everywhere. And its that bumpy regular square pattern foam that people used for bed pads and all sorts of other stuff for a long time, so except for being dayglo-lime-green, it just makes you think, "Hey! I got a bunch of that stuff in the closet!" Even prompted me to finally scream "Soylent Green is people!" during one of our MSTifying of one episode....

The ultimately decisive difference, however, was that the makers of STrek made what they had work. In short, they were competent, even brilliantly ingenious in every part of the production.

Yep. Cuz' Gene Roddenberry did exactly what the eulogies this week about Don Hewitt of 60 Minutes pointed out was his driving creative goal: "Tell me a story."

The Starlost, in contrast, by most accounts, was a ship of fools and incompetents, turning time, money, and creative talent into contemptible crap.

You can say that again! :)

I just might Netflix The Starlost, season the only, after all. :eek:

Oh do! You won't regret it! Or if you do, at least you'll be glad you did!

Television is a new medium. It's called a medium because nothing is well-done, :eek:
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#42 buddyzen

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 09:35 PM

District 9 i thought was pretty amazing!

#43 Boerseun

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 10:08 PM

Went and saw District 9 last night.

Although the main character is a thoroughly unpleasant prat, the Director did say that it's a movie without any protagonists.

But it did blow me away. A very novel and new take on the whole "Aliens invade Earth" genre.
I totally enjoyed it. There's lots of things in the movie that only South Africans will get, like the main character's name - van der Merwe. It's a joke - if you start a sentence saying "van der Merwe walks into a bar..." and stop right there, you'll already have the audience rolling on the floor in SA. So the "van der Merwe" joke went galactic with this movie. Pretty awesome, I say.

Like the guy said, Los Angeles and New York have been overused in alien movies. This was a very fresh change, and comes highly recommended from this end!

#44 Southtown

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 10:33 AM

Yes! I loved it. Not for people with weak stomachs, though.