Saturday, January 2, 2021

Veritas;The Quest (2003)13 Episodes

  Recently, in one of those recommendation links -  you know “you like The Mummy you may like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones" type of thing, Veritas The Quest came up. I had vague recollections of this show when it came out back in 2003,  I assume that it was 2004 that it came to Australia and it promptly went to the genre wasteland of 2am airings. I may have taped some episodes – I know I definitely taped episode 7 but I couldn’t tell you much more, but I had fond memories. So I went looking for the show – there’s no official DVD release and it doesn’t appear to be on any streaming services that I can access.  I thought I might be able to find a few clips on youtube but blow me down if the entire series is there. And it was really enjoyable. The story focuses on Nikko Zond, a high school student who has been in boarding school after the death of his mother 10 years ago.  He gets expelled from his 17th school and his father Solomon Zond takes him to be home schooled by graduate student Juliet Droil, while Solomon works as a freelance archaeologist for the Veritas Foundation. Solomon’s team consists of bodyguard Victor Siminou, research assistants Calvin Banks and Maggie Hayes.  As you can imagine Nikko and Juliet quickly join the team (although it’s unclear if Juliet was already part of the team who drew the short straw or hired as the tutor and got roped into the team). I have to say the cast really impressed me. Ryan Merriman as Nikko I’d seen him previously in The Pretender as young Jarrod and Jarrod’s clone.  Alex Carter as Solomon -  Carter’s been in a lot of stuff but he was a detective on CSI I hadn’t seen Cynthia Martells (Maggie) in anything else. Eric Balfour as Calvin had also been in Haven. Colbie Smothers as Juliet – I’d completely forgotten that she had been in this before How I met your Mother, Agent Maria Hill in the MCU and as Dex in Stumptown. And the big gun at the time Arnold Vosloo as Vincent – the Mummy himself and the second Darkman, In my research I also found that the series creators Patrick Massett and John Zinman had also worked on Lara Croft Tomb Raider as screen writers. Oh yeah this was a great series with some serious action adventure credentials. The show originally aired on ABC but was cancelled after four episodes – the entire season later aired on the Syfy Channel (which was the source of the you tube episodes) The show has a bit of Jonny Quest vibe as the Veritas team travel the world with a nice mythos being built around it – that’s one of the more frustrating things I felt the show was really just starting to hit its stride with some interesting hints about what might happen in the next season.  We discover that there is a rival group DORNA that are also seeking the same artefacts with the hint that 2012 was going to be significant as several artefacts hint that there will either be the end of the world or the dawn of a new age.  Episode 7 has the team finding an Incan mummy and Vincent says “Mummies, nothing but trouble” which I do remember from back in the day had they done more like that (A later episode Nikko makes a crack that there’s always a Mummy popping up as Vincent comes in the room. )  Perhaps more of that type of meta-humour and commentary would have helped early on. I loved this show and was disappointed to see it didn’t continue,  the team works well together, there’s a nice arc for the series trying to stop the end of the world, a mystery of what happened to Nikko’s mother.  The artefacts are interesting and varied.  The characters work well off each other, Calvin and Nikko have a nice sibling rivalry going on, which plays out nicely in episode 7 as we see the pair competing to impress the ladies but as soon as they are called into action work together as a well oiled team.  While Nikko could have been annoying, I found that they balanced his character out well and he never got to the point where I was wanting to yell “shut up Nikko” at the screen.  His relationship with his father plays out nicely, with their plans for father and son time are frequently interrupted by new adventures. Look it costs nothing to check out the series on youtube It’s an enjoyable action adventure romp. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Enola Holmes (2020) Millie Bobbie Brown, Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham-Carter

So what do I think of Enola Holmes? This movie nearly needs to be viewed through several lenses. How was it as its own thing? How faithful was it to the Enola Holmes books and how faithful was it to the Sherlock Holmes Canon? I must admit I haven't read any of Nancy Stringer's books so I can't speak to that question but the others I can. How was the movie? I found it quite enjoyable Enola is an interesting heroine, and I certainly wouldn't object to more of her adventures. In several ways it reminded me of a favourite series of mine from the 90s "THe Adventures of Shirley Holmes" which featured a female relative of Sherlock Holmes solving mysteries. Shirley was the great granddaughter of Mycroft Holmes who solved mysteries in Canada where her diplomat father was stationed. (It was almost a precursor to Sherlock and Elementary) The show aired on Nickelodeon here in Australia. The difference though is that the Sherlock Holmes looms large over Enola. She and Sherlock operate in the same time and city - I'd almost prefer that Sherlock didn't appear in the next movie. It's not that I don't like Henry Cavill's Sherlock but his presence does detract from Enola's adventure. But hey give Cavill his own Sherlock Holmes film I'm down for that. In a sense it become a competition between the two siblings to solve the mystery and our expectations are that Sherlock will be the one that solves the case. This seems to be a gripe of several internet comentators that Sherlock is useless in this adventure. It's not that he's useless, he still solves the case with a different line of deduction but this movie is called ENOLA HOLMES and she has to be the one to solve the case. I'm the guy who wrote "The Family Tree of Sherlock Holmes" showing several siblings and descendants of Sherlock Holmes (for a man who enshews the fairer sex he has a lot of children) so I have no issue with a relative of Holmes having adventures and solving mysteries. I think that the production seemed to be somewhat vague as to when the movie was set - most commentators seem to think that the movie is set in 1884. There is a newspaper with that date but the opening of the movie seems to suggest that Enola was born in 1884 and this adventure took place on her 16th birthday which would be 1900. The 1900 date would fit with the motor car driven by the headmistress of the boarding school drives. Then there is a clipping implying that Sherlock worked on the Ripper murders in 1888. Which brings me to the question - how does this work within what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle established in the Sherlock Holmes stories? Oh boy where to begin with that? Let’s assume that the story is set in 1884 – they say that Sherlock works alone and he has no friends. Except that is not accurate – Sherlock has the Baker Street Irregulars. Gloria Scott has Sherlock telling Watson about his first case in 1874 and mentions his friend Victor Trevor. But while “A Study in Scarlet” was published in 1887 the story is dated by Baring Gould as 1881, and in the “Five Orange Pips” Watson states “when I look over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes Cases between the years ’82 and ‘90” to imply that we are pre Watson is just not right. Then there is Mycroft Holmes – this does the most violence against Mycroft Holmes. When we are introduced to Mycroft in “The Greek Interpreter” Sherlock tells us that Mycroft is smarter than him. In this movie we are told that Mycroft is normal and that Sherlock and Enola are the great geniuses (with the suggestion that Enola is smarter than Sherlock) And seriously are there no heavyset actors to play Mycroft? (okay this is a gripe I have with many Holmes adaptations) Look if we take Enola Holmes as its own little world it’s fine and fun but it doesn’t play well with the established Conan Doyle stories.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The New MacGyver

The Eighties was something of a Golden Age for me, we had Knight Rider, The A-Team, Airwolf, Stingray, The Equaliser, Hardcastle and McCormick, Streethawk and, of course, MacGyver. And I loved them all from ages 7- 12 you know the period you absorb the stuff you love. It may be that love is a little too uncritical but I don't care. Since then there have been shows that I’ve loved as much The Pretender, Vengeance Unlimited, Relic Hunter, The Sentinel, Bugs, Leverage, The Librarians, Arrow, The Cape, Burn Notice, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Person of Interest and I could keep going... And as is the way of things there have been attempts to revive some of these properties Knight Rider seems to get a new pilot or series every few years Knight Rider 2000, Knight Rider 2010, Team Knight Rider and Knight Rider (2008). There was an A-Team movie in 2010. Two Equaliser movies starring Denzel Washington. And I’m sure there are more to come. Which brings me to MacGyver. Richard Dean Anderson has revived the character a few times for commercials – Mastercard and Citan spring to mind.
He even appeared as MacGyver in a MacGruber skit as MacGruber’s dad.
Then there was the unaired pilot, MacGyver where a pre-Supernatural Jarod Padalecki, played Clay MacGyver the original’s nephew. This seems to be universally referred to as Young MacGyver Which brings me to the current MacGyver or NuGyver as I like to call him. The show is now at four seasons with a fifth on the way. I watch the show and my wife asked me what I thought of the show and I told her I still wasn’t sure about it. “You’ve watched how many seasons?” She asked. “Three” I said (before the fourth came out) “And you’re not sure. Riiiiiiight. Three seasons, you like it” So a little history would seem to be in order A pilot was shot in 2016, featuring a longer haired Till that was scrapped and reshot, I’m still curious about what was in that pilot (It’d be a nice special feature in one of the DVD sets – just saying) But they retooled it and reshot it and I’m not sure of the end result – many of the characters are callbacks or versions of characters from the original series which I can live with. Mac is still improvising his way out of situations and really that’s all I want but here’s the thing about the classic MacGyver – the show was about him, other characters came in and out and aside from Mac’s boss Pete Thornton there were no regular characters and a handful of recurring characters. In this iteration, Mac is part of a team. His boss was initially Patrica Thornton who was replaced by Maddie Weber, which I’m fine with (I won’t spoil why the change happened but they keep trying to hint of the same fate for Maddie which is an annoyance because I know they wouldn’t go to the same well twice). My big problem is the team and the size of it. Initially the team was Mac, Jack Dalton (Mac’s bodyguard) and Riley (a hacker) and I thought that was a bit big. Then they added Bozer, a childhood friend of Mac’s who initially didn’t know about Mac’s job at the Phoenix Foundation but soon joined the team. Then we got Samantha Cage an Australian psy ops expert but she left after one season, then Bozer’s spy school girlfriend Leanna Martin who lasted about the same time, Jack left and was replaced by Desi Nguyen and then in season 4 the Phoenix Foundation was bought by Russ Taylor.
If you think that’s a lot of characters you’d be right and the show has to give them all something to do which means that we get B plots of Bozer at spy school, Riley and the issues with her father, Jack Dalton find the guys who robbed him. Some episodes Bozer just stands there in the ready room with Maddie as the team is on a mission. I suspect that Cage and Leanna left because they had nothing to do but they keep trying to shoehorn in new regular characters. Riley’s hacking is almost as important as Mac’s improvisation and in a recent episode centred on Riley and her hacking had Mac stopping a nuclear meltdown with two jet skis relegated to a B Plot. I repeat the guy with his name in the title is relegated to a B plot doing the very thing we want him to do. And it’s not every episode but to give the characters space it means that the title character gets less space. In the next episode, Mac is out of action and Desi, Riley and Russ Taylor take on the brunt of the adventure with a showdown with the villains and a few “What would Mac dos”. Look there might be a reason why Lucas Till is taking a smaller role – I recall reading that there were on set issues which lead to health issues and I can’t begrudge him that. BUT his name is on the Title, I’m watching for MacGyver if he isn’t fairly consistently driving the A Plot then what’s the point? Knight Rider 2008 suffered from the same problem. Look, MacGyver is successful enough that it’s been renewed for a fifth season and I keep watching because of my love for the classic MacGyver but I don’t love it in the same way. It’s not MacGyver using his brains and ingenuity to save the day. Jack, or Desi, might punch the problem or Riley might hack it or Bozer, er Bozer might do something and Macgyver doesn’t feel the same. Back in the day MacGyver hated guns and when he punched someone he shook his fist afterwards because the punch hurt – it made the punch seem like a last option. Now Mac is okay with people using guns and he’s just as happy to hit someone. This a point Richard Dean Anderson made when he turned down a guest spot (I do wonder if the plan was for him to be Oversight, Mac's Dad.) I know I should judge it on it’s own merits but the producers want to trade on my nostalgia inviting the comparison. Perhaps if they called it Phoenix Foundation I wouldn’t be so hard on it. I watch the show and I may be part of the problem – the show gives me enough to remember being a boy watching the original to keep me coming back but It’s not the same. The nostalgia may give the show an extra notch or two in my ratings it’s better than Scorpion that had me hoping for some MacGyver/A Team style builds but never quite did. (A Scorpion/MacGyver crossover would have been fun) (A quick aside NuMac and Scorpion are in the same universe as NuMac crossed over with NuHawaii 5-0, who in turn crossed with NCIS LA. NCIS LA crossed with Scorpion.) There’s a story when Oasis released Wonderwall, a very 1960s Beatles inspired tune, someone asked George Harrison what he thought. George said that it would have been an average song back in the 60s but now it was a pretty good song. And that’s how I feel about NuGyver, it would have been an average show in the 80s but now it’s okay

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Code of Vengeance 1985 TV movie

So Knight Rider is quite the franchise the orignal series ran from 1982-1986 for four seasons. In 1991, we got the TV movie and failed pilot Knight Rider 2000, this was followed by the in name only Knight Rider 2010 in 1994. 1997 saw the one season Team Knight Rider and the 2008 season of Knight Rider with Justin Bruening as Michael's son driving a new KITT. But what tends to be forgotten is the short lived spinoff Code of Vengeance - In season 2 episode 21 "Mouth of the Snake" (a two part episode) had Michael and KITT meet and team up with David Dalton (Charles Taylor), martial artist and government agent. I do wonder if Glen Larson or anyone in the Knight Rider team read the Destroyer series? The intent was to spin Dalton off onto a series called "All that Glitters" where he would be paired with Joanna St John (Joanna Pettet) All that Glitters was the title given to the fourth Knight Rider novelisation, and David and Joanna are mentioned to be married in the 5th book. Reportly the netwrk felt the concept felt too close to another Larsen series "Cover Up' so the decision was made to retool the series with a pilot called "Code of Vengeance" I'll talk about the new premise when I talk about the movie. It was followed by a second TV movie Dalton: Code of Vengeance II. The show then went to series called Code of Vengeance (although I have seen it referenced as Dalton's Code of Vengeance) and it ran for a whole 2 episodes. "Rustler's Moon" and "The Last Hold Out" Recently the Youtube channel Knight Rider Historians posted first Code of Vengeance TV Movie.
So Dalton is no longer a martial artist who works for the Department of Justice, here he is a Vietnam veteran who is wandering the country in his campervan. In this movie he's in a border town in Arizona where he is gets work building a room for a single mother - the only person in town who will talk to Dalton. Dalton discovers that the woman's brother is missing and he finds the body and that there is smuggling of guns across the border. In many ways Dalton reminded me of Billy Jack, a peaceful man who can kick much ass and has intervene when there is injustice. I'm also sure that Shane was an influnce as the woman's young son becomes attached to Dalton and follows him during the final fight (I was yelling at the kid to run AWAY from the gunfire) It almost feels like a prequel to the Knight Rider episode where we see how Dalton came to the attention of DoJ but the show never got that far. Interestingly in a meta moment, one of the characters is watching Knight Rider in the movie. It's an enjoyable enough 90 min TV movie (and I don't why but the original video that Knight Historians have loaded is a studio original and has several points where it says "Insert ads here" which made me smile - even though youtube just ignored them and put ads whereever.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Goldtiger.

I am a big fan of Modesty Blaise and following through some of the series that she inspired through several generations has lead me to several interesting series – The Baroness, The Seekers, The Girl Factory, Black Swan, Conversant USA, just off the top of my head. So I am searching ebay for Modesty Blaise when Goldtiger pops up. A supposedly forgotten series from the sixties crested to rival Modesty Blaise dropped from the paper because the leads were gay. The book reprints the first story and some behind the scenes interviews. So I order the book and the damned pandemic means I have wait months for the book to arrive. It finally arrived and it's a trip. Lily Gold and her partner John Tiger are former mercenaries turned fashion designers who trouble shoot on the side their first adventure has them tracking down disappearing ships on the Thames. There's a master villain with a plot that would make a Bond Villain blush. Hench men and women who are memorable. Interspersed with the strips are behind the scenes interviews, letters and articles with the writer Louis Schaeffer and artist Antonio Barretti. The relationship between the pair is strained as the artist is crazy and prone to ignoring the scripts and inserting himself into the strip. There are portions of the strip missing and we get sketches of strips, rough outlines from the artist and an extract from the novelisation. At one point Baretti inserts himself into the narrative as what Schaeffer has written is too boring and he wants to draw Rio. The ending is so audacious and meta that I can’t even. Of course, the truth is Goldtiger was never a real strip, Baretti and Schaeffer never existed and Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton made the whole thing up and was published by 2000AD through a Kickstarter. The strip is a nice companion to the lovely Modesty Blaise strips collections that Titan books had been putting out indeed it’s almost a satire of them. Throughout are plent of wnks and nods to Modesty Blaise - the aborted Goldtiger movie had Terrance Stamp as John Tiger, Stamp had played Willie Garvin in Modesty Blaise. A letter to the editor of the paper that runs Goldtiger is written by Jim O'Donnell a reference to Jim Holdaway and Peter O'Donnell the artist and writer for Modesty Blaise. You know for all the hubbub about the characters’ sexualities there is almost nothing of it in this book – John Tiger tells a female assassin, Farina Karesh, he’s picky about what he lets people stick in him as she tries to stab him with her talons. And Lily Gold asks Anouska, the Russian Doll of death – what appears to be a large cloaked woman is actually three thin women “Where have you been all my life?” Sadly the fight between them is lost but we are told that it is as sexual as it is violent. Part of the gag is that Baretti keeps trying to revive the strip I get the feeling that I may have to reread this a few times to really get the story

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Bruce Lee against the Supermen (1975) starring Bruce Li

Aka Superdragon vs Supermen, Call me Dragon, and Meng Long Zheng Dong. I saw this movie must be 30 years ago now, I rented it from The Plains Video and the tape had "Stamp Day for Superman" Back then I knew little about The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee or Brucespoitation. I'd mostly forgotten this film until I was listening to Derrick Ferguson and Percival Constantine on the Superhero Cinephiles podcast - for fans of superhero cinema I cannot recommend it enough. They did Doctor Mordred and mentioned that they had watched it on Tubi. I downloaded the app and scroll through their catalouge and find Bruce Lee against the Supermen. So a bit of back story Bruce Lee first found fame as Kato in the Green Hornet TV series. After that show ended he moved to Hong Kong where he made a handful of films. His last full role was in Enter the Dragon, He died tragically soon after the end of filming but before the release of the film. Enter the Dragon was a major success and his earlier Hong Kong films were released in the west. But there was still hunger for more. Episodes of The Green Hornet were cobbled together as two movies "the Green Hornet" and "Fury o the Dragon" and a few minutes of footage for Bruce's final film "Game of Death" was cobbled together with outtakes from other films, footage of Lee's real funeral and some dodgy doubling. But still people wanted more and Brucespoitation was born and actor who if you squinted might be Bruce Lee were given names like Bruce Li, Bruce Le, Dragon Lee and thrown into martial arts films - basically the first mockbusters. Which brings us to this movie starring Bruce Li. I think this wants to be a Kato film. THe movie opens with bank robbers on the run and tossing the money out the window. A young couple find the money and a masked chauffeur appears and drives them to the station in a black car.
The Chauffeur who we later learn is named Kata (or Carter) then meets with The Green Hornet and they are wearing some red tights
Continuity is not a strong suit of this movie. I should mention the dialogue mentions that this is the Green Hornet at least twice. Later in the movie The Green Hornet looks like this
After getting his tights on to mention that Kata's friend Angela is traveling with her father Professor Ting. Kata goes in plain clothes to visit a friend who doesn't get name and mentions that The Green Hornet is injured. He looked fine in that scene. Professor Ting has made a mcguffin formula that the bad guys want, who just happen to be the bank robbers. Kata and his friend cause so much trouble for the gang that they hire Superman and his students. And there was Kung Fu fighting, their hands were as fast as lightning because of the undercranked camera. While Kata is fighting the supermen, the bad guys kidnap the professor and his daughter who now drive the black car that Kata was driving earlier. The now Asain looking Green Hormet is following the bad guys in a blue car. Ropes and gags appear and disappear from the hostages. Weapons appear from thin air. Look it's a cheesy Green Hornet knockoff film, with some interesting fights but this does not hang together well at all. It's a curiousity and nothing more. You can watch it for free on youtube as part of the Wu Tang Collection

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Adventureman #3 by Matthew Fraction and the Dodsons

 


So when we left Claire she had just stumbled into the family dinner.  OK there was a gap of some hours between when we saw last saw her until the dinner. It's a mystery what happened to her and one that should be solved in this installment. Let's see what Matt Fraction wrote.

The family is concerned and they race her to the Emergency Room.  Claire feels great and she can hear again (or at least partially).

When one of the cops she saw last issue is brought in injured.  He was injured in a bug attack and is losing blood.  He's AB- and Claire declares that she's multiversal blood type n and after an Adventureman flashback she gives him a transfusion of blood.

Record scratch - WHAT THE BUTTS?????

multiversal type n???  Fine, he's AB- but O- is the universal donor and can be given to anyone.  I get that they may have limited blood stocks but to make up a blood type from the whole cloth - which you don't really explain I was yanked out of the story sooooo fast.

Now I'll accept a lot in my pulp and pulp-adjacent fiction, I mean I'm the guy who wrote about a ray that causes the blood to rust (or at least appear to rust)  check out my novel Australis Incognito for more details.

But the type n blood was a step too far for me.

It may seem that I'm hard on this book and I am - I have high expectations of this story.

Back to the story, we get the information that Claire's dad may have been the Chief of Police as Claire's old partner calls him Chief.  

Then we're told that Claire appears to have grown fifteen inches (37.5 cm) but I'm not quite seeing that growth reflected in art.  (BTW the Dodson's art is gorgeous)

The MRI scan shows Claire's brain is active, really active.

And we're half way through the book and the mystery is set up and Claire can't remember what happened to her.

She goes home with her father where they along wih her son watch an Adventureman serial.  "Fair Phantom of the Lost Fortress" is the title (the other appears to be Adventures of A Dark Tomorrow)

As Claire watches she declares that she remembers.

But we leave Claire to see what is happpening with Baron and Baroness Bizarre torturing Philanda Phade - the ghost assistant of the original Adventureman.  There's several pages of Baron Bizarre talking where they are trying to release Abbathexiddion the Beast-GOd of the Ultravoid.  It ends with the Beast-God sending the Baroness to take the head of Adventureman.

The we get several pages of anecdotes and sketches about the creation of Claire's family and specifically her sisters.

I get the feeling that this comic would do better with less behind the scenes and more background, make it more like Watchmen where the back matter tells us about the classic pulp era Adventureman - excerpts from "the Great Pulp Heroes", fanzine articles about the Adventureman serials, interviews with the original pulp author, explanations about the magic pill Adventureman takes (because for all the mystery it seems obvious that Claire has taken that drug)

Pulp should be fast paced we are now three issues into the series and very little has happened.  I'm sticking with the book because it seems that we are building to something in the next issue but we need more answers and explanations of this world.