Counter-Clock World” (1967) starts with a healthy dose of vintage Philip K. Dick absurdism, as an old woman pleads to be freed from her coffin in a cemetery. In this future of 1998, aging (and some other things) go in reverse. And indeed, the sometimes delightful, sometimes over-the-top insanity of this world defines much of the novel.
Like he would later do for Hollywood with “State and Main” (2000), writer David Mamet lovingly pokes fun at the art of the stage in “A Life in the Theatre,” a 1993 TNT movie based on his 1977 play. Jack Lemmon is magnetic as Robert, an aging community theater thespian, and Matthew Broderick is mostly a sounding board as the up-and-coming John, who is starting to get calls to work in film.
The “Fantastic Four” franchise steps it up a notch for “Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007), which many superhero genre observers point to as 1) the best “Fantastic Four” movie and 2) evidence that the “Fantastic Four” franchise is pretty darn weak, if this is the best entry. The titular Oscar-statuette-looking demigod, performed by genre regular Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne, has pathos: He must create craters in the Earth to destroy it, because it’s what he was made to do by his planet-eating creator, Galactus. But he doesn’t like doing it.
Mistakenly, I had it my head that Max and Liz – aside from a few brief stretches where they are apart — are a couple throughout the three-season run of “Roswell.” On this rewatch, I was surprised to realize they are split up through the entire 21-episode run of Season 2 (2000-01, WB). Yet this season illustrates why I had the mistaken impression, and why “Roswell” is a special show.
Of all the movies not yet released on 4K with Atmos, “Twister” (1996) is perhaps the most shameful oversight. It’s wall-to-wall action and tension and delightfully drawn storm chasers, and the special effects totally hold up two decades later. Co-produced by Steven Spielberg and co-written by Michael Crichton, “Twister” is from the era when the word “blockbuster” had some cachet, when people would keep such movies on their radar throughout the summer, enjoying them on a packed opening weekend or in the dollar theater months later.
It says something about the sheer number of TV shows that are made nowadays that a show set in the “Batman” universe can sneak onto the air. But that’s the case with “Pennyworth” (Sundays on Epix), in which “Gotham” creators Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon give us the backstory of Batman’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
The aspect I most remembered from my first read of “Ubik” (1969) is the inventive, chilling and comforting notion that people exist in a “half-life” for several years after they die, so we can continue to talk to and say goodbye our loved ones at our leisure. But on this re-read I realized that covers like 10 percent of the fascinating ideas in this Philip K. Dick book that made me think of “The Matrix,” “The Langoliers” and various “Which of these two realities is real?” stories, including the “Buffy” episode “Normal Again” (Season 6, episode 17).
The Amazon Prime description for “Lansky” (1999) includes “notorious,” “gambling,” “bootlegging,” “racketeering” and “murder,” but the film – written by David Mamet and directed by John McNaughton for HBO – paints a warm picture of mob boss Meyer Lansky (1902-83). Along with a treasure of a performance by Richard Dreyfuss, “Lansky” is driven by the intrinsic fascination of someone who is a normal family man and skilled businessman, but who is targeted by the U.S. federal government and hated by a percentage of the populace.
It’s perhaps strange that “Blade” (1998) became the first successful big-screen enterprise for Marvel Comics, considering that he’s not one of the A-list superheroes, and the saga’s blood and violence target a niche audience rather than a mass audience. On the other hand, similar to how Marvel tested the waters with “The Punisher” (1989), it makes sense to start cautiously before launching A-listers like the X-Men (who hit cinemas in 2000).
July 21, 1969, had the moon landing. Fifty years later, July 21, 2019, had everyone talking about a batch of movies and TV shows that are – with the exception of “Black Widow” – well over a year away. NASA conquered the moon, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe has conquered the Earth, as the Phase Four announcement at Comic-Con proved. Here are my thoughts on these five movies and five TV shows, along with “Go Bananas” Levels on a 10-point scale: