Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Party Like it's 1966: Classic Camp Batman and Robin are Coming to Home Video in Return of the Caped Crusaders




Adam West and Burt Ward fans, rejoice: West and Ward--along with Julie Newmar--will be reprising their respective roles as Batman, Robin and Catwoman in the upcoming animated movie, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders animated movie. This movie will be released digitally on October 11 and on Blu-ray and DVD on November 1.

Many of DC's theatrical and home video releases from this year, which include Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and an animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke, have tilted toward darker, more violent fare. In contrast, Return of the Caped Crusaders goes back to the lighter, campier mood of the live-action Batman series from 1966, which is a breath of fresh air for superhero fans who appreciate the more absurd and outlandish aspects of the fantasy worlds that these characters occupy.

Not much is known about the plot of this movie, other than that it features the voice talents of three original '66 Batman cast members and will involve Batman and Robin combating a nefarious criminal campaign by Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman. I'm glad to see that this series is still getting plenty of love from the fan community. With the show's recent arrival on digital home video, '66 Batman has also been popping up in comic books, video games and high-quality merchandise. In fact, the Japanese toy company Revoltech is currently taking pre-orders for a detailed, scale-accurate replica of the '66 Batmobile that comes with two sets of Batman and Robin figures (one set standing, one set sitting).


Revoltech's '66 Batmobile replica.


Based on the previews I’ve seen so far, the only thing that doesn’t impress me is the movie's animation. While the character designs are obviously based on the actors and their costumes as they appeared in the original show, the overall quality feels underwhelming and lacks the brilliant color schemes that defined the show's comic book style. If I had the resources of Warner Bros. at my disposal, I'd ensure that this movie's animation matches the look and feel of the animation used in the '66 Batman opening credits (or, at the very least, that it matches the look and feel of the animation style of Batman: The Brave and The Bold). Furthermore, while I'm looking forward to hearing Newmar provide the voice of Catwoman again, it'd be cool to see members of Batman's rogues’ gallery that were specific to the '66 show appear in the movie. If it were up to me, there'd at least be one '66 Batman story involving a campified version of Professor Pyg teaming up with the villain Egghead in a pun-filled fight with the Dynamic Duo. Holy ham omelet, Batman!



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Takara Tomy has Rebooted the Diaclone Robot Toy Line




I can't speak for what kids are collecting these days, but adult collectors of Japanese robot toys must be having the time of their lives. The higher-end Transformers collectibles of recent years have not only spawned successful lines of third party items but they also inspired revivals of other Japanese robot toy lines from the '80s, lines such as Machine Robo and Voltron. The latest reboot is Takara Tomy's Diaclone toy line, the line that produced many of the toys that Hasbro would later re-brand as Transformers toys in the United States. Click below for more information and pictures of the cool new releases from this long-dormant line of robot toys.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Netflix's Stranger Things Celebrates the Stranger Things from the '80s




It may be 2016, but the '80s are still alive and well over at Netflix.

Netflix's latest popular series, Stranger Things, is an eight episode sci-fi thriller that is set in the mid-80s and pays tribute to many of the sci-fi thrillers of the '80s. Fans will immediately recognize similarities in the series' aesthetics, plot devices and themes to the popular works of John Carpenter, Stephen King and Steven Spielberg from that era, although Stranger Things manages to put its own compelling spin on them so that it becomes more than just a derivative knock off of superior movies and TV shows from another decade.

One aspect of Stranger Things that will stand out to people like me who grew up during the '80s is a set of geeky, Dungeons and Dragons-playing preteen characters spend the series looking for their best friend, who has been abducted by a strange, plant-like creature. I've noticed that critics and viewers specifically mention '80s movies such as E.T. and Goonies whenever they discuss this particular subplot and how it ties to the rest of the series as a whole. While this might not seem like a big deal in this day and age, with Hollywood cranking out big-budget movies based on popular young adult novels and entire cable channels devoted to pre-teen level programming, but Spielberg and his contemporaries such as Jim Henson and George Lucas inspired a trend of kid-friendly fantasy and sci-fi movies during the '80s. 

What set these films apart from other kid films from eras before or after is that they incorporated what was then considered to be cutting-edge special effects to provide a certain level of amazement and visual grandeur. In my experience, the only titles that successfully recapture the kid-level wonder of '80s cinema are Stranger Things and the 2006 3D CGI movie Monster House. (J.J. Abrams tried to recapture this mood as well in Super 8, but his approach felt like it prioritized imitation over inspiration.)

To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, click below to see a selection of movie posters that I've assembled of films from the '80s (and one or two from the '90s) that intended to draw kids to the box office by providing visual spectacles that were made just for them. Some of these films are still remembered, while others have gone on to become cult classics or to be largely forgotten; regardless, these films represent a time when kids were a primary audience for special effect-fueled flights of fancy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blast Away Hordes of Neon-Lit Robot Invaders in Vektor Wars




Even though video game graphics inch closer and closer to flawless photorealism, game developers still produce titles that faithfully follow the look and feel of 8-bit and 16-bit games from this medium's early years (e.g., Retro City Rampage, the Bit.Trip series, etc.). While I'm glad to see that the industry and its fans still appreciate older forms of video gaming, I've noticed one particular style is usually missing from most retro-themed game titles: early vector graphics, the kind that were seen in classic games from the early '80s such as Battlezone and Tempest and on the short-lived home console Vectrex. These were the first attempts by video game programmers to expand into polygon graphics, with items such as vehicles, buildings and other shapes depicted in bright, neon-colored lines against a black backdrop.

Polygon-based graphics became much more detailed in the years since, but the original minimalist vector style had a particular charm to it that other kinds of video games lack. Thankfully, the game developers at Super Icon haven't forgotten about early vector graphics and they made it the basis for Vektor Wars, a deceptively simple first-person shooter (FPS) that's available for download on Steam and as an eShop title for Wii U. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Kenner Xenomorphs Invade NECA's Alien Action Figure Line




Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, especially among horror toy collectors.

For the 10th wave in its 7-inch Alien figure line, NECA is releasing three figures based on designs that originally appeared in Kenner's Aliens toy line during the '90s. The three designs are the Queen Facehugger, the Gorilla Alien, and the Mantis Alien. Click below to read more about these designs and how NECA has once again taken something old and (for the most part) make it feel brand new.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Blair Witch Project is Getting a Second Sequel--Will it Work This Time?




Of the many, many news items that came out of this year's San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), the one that really got my attention was the preview for Blair Witch, the upcoming sequel to the 1999 "found footage" hit The Blair Witch Project. This sequel, which was directed by Adam Wingard, is slated for release in September; up until now, this sequel has flown under the horror fan radar by going under an alternate title, The Woods.

Even though it will be the third film in the franchise, Blair Witch will be a direct sequel to the first movie because of the main character's connection to a major character in the first film. The characters and events of the second film, Book of Shadows (2000), won't be involved in Blair Witch at all. Yet based on what I've seen and read about this sequel so far, it seems like it will follow the same plot beats as the first film: people go into the woods, people become trapped in the woods, people vanish in the woods. Wingard may do a great job in directing this movie, but is this the kind of story that will succeed in moving forward from what the first film started?

This post takes a look at the original Blair Witch Project, what sets it apart from other horror films even to this day, and why making a sequel to it is much harder than making a sequel for other horror films. Read on ...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Attention 3D Film Buffs: September Storm Movie Restoration Kickstarter Campaign




As a 3D film fan, I greatly admire the work of the 3D Film Archive. While the major movie studios push out both theatrical releases and Blu-rays of films that are shot on 2D and then converted into 3D during post-production, the 3D Film Archive has been involved in restorations of vintage films that were shot in 3D (both classic and obscure) in order to preserve their place in American film history. Previous Blu-ray titles that the 3D Film Archive assisted in releasing include Dragonfly Squadron (1954), Gog (1954), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) and 3D Rarities, a compilation of 3D film shorts that span from 1922 to 1962.

3D Film Archive's latest restoration effort utilizes a Kickstarter campaign to restore September Storm (1960). Not only was Storm the only American feature-length 3D movie made between Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Bubble (1966) but it was also one of the few that was produced in Stereo-Vision, a short-lived process which combined the widescreen presentation format with 3D.

According to the Kickstarter page, "SEPTEMBER STORM hasn't been seen in its intended 3-D and widescreen format since its initial theatrical release in 1960, and the surviving film elements are deteriorating. If a digital restoration of the stereoscopic anamorphic version isn't done soon, it is at risk of being lost forever. ... The 3D Film Archive has already obtained, for a limited time, the rights to restore and distribute SEPTEMBER STORM, but the hard work is still ahead of us. Both the left eye and right eye film elements will need to be digitally scanned, frame by frame. We will need to assess the level of damage to these existing elements, and determine how to best fix the images. This will require a stereoscopic re-alignment pass, left and right color restoration and matching, and clean-up of scratches and other damages to the film surface. ... (T)he 3D Film Archive already has a great track record from its previous restoration projects, and by teaming up with 3D SPACE and maintaining this work "in house" costs will be kept at a manageable level. We are confident that we will be able to produce both a 3D blu-ray master and a digital cinema package (DCP) that will look fantastic."

Click here for more details and to make a donation to preserve another piece of 3D history from an era where many 3D films have already been lost. This Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to end on August 17th, so make your donation today!