Skip’s Quips: It’s High Time We Get a Remake of ‘The Illustrated Man’

Blog Sketch 082813I never thought Jack Smight’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic science-fiction short story collection The Illustrated Man measured up to the standards of the book, and I lament that.

The pace was plodding, the direction was uninspired. It didn’t work, despite a fine cast that included Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

Someone should remake it.

Yes, I do believe it could be a success if redone today. The technology exists to provide the kinds of special effects needed for some of the stories, which deserve a better treatment. Steven Spielberg, methinks, would be a great fit for this kind of project. So would Peter Jackson.

I don’t know if it’s the type of thing that would appeal to directors nowadays, but the tales that have dated more than others – like the one that take place in a rain-soaked landscape on Venus – could be avoided in favor of greater stories in the collection. The entire film could focus on, say, only about four or five pieces in all and still be successful. It might make a fun project.

We need more thoughtful, perceptive sci-fi pictures in theaters today. Hollywood has mined so much already … why not go after more of the classics to improve on previous iterations? I’d watch them. So would legions of Bradbury and genre fans.

Just an idea.

Skip’s Quips: Having Another Go at ‘Conan the Barbarian’

Blog Sketch 082813Why, I asked myself last night, am I watching the original 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian again?

Isn’t once enough for this film? It doesn’t have great cinematography. Much of the acting – except for stalwarts such as James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow – is atrocious. And the special effects are pretty poor by today’s or even yesteryear’s standards.

Oh, yeah: And the blood squibs are gloppy. Really gloppy.

Well, parts of it are watchable, for some reason. I’ve read one of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, “The People of the Black Circle,” and the film stays true to the tale’s sensibilities. You know: blood, gore, lust and all that. Plus, there’s the much-lauded score by Basil Poledouris, which is somewhat bombastic but definitely works.

Then there’s the script, courtesy of director John Milius and Oliver Stone. Pretty simple stuff, but at least it’s not verbose and pretentious. I was grateful for that.

There were also a number of seemingly derivative moments that may have been “inspired” by classic films such as Kwaidan (the scene in which the wizard writes runes on Conan’s body to protect him from demons) and The Seven Samurai (the stake-adorned defense against Thulsa Doom’s cohorts). Surprisingly erudite stuff for a film such as this. I did see part of an interview a long time ago in which Milius lauded Kwaidan as being “dreamlike,” so perhaps he was mining that movie for Conan. Nevertheless, it made for strong viewing.

So all in all: kind of a sloppy film, with dull moments and some very good ones. I may end up watching it again in the future and asking myself, once more, why I’m doing so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer myself the same way.

Skip’s Quips: Watching the Fur Fly in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Blog Sketch 082813Let no one accuse me of not enjoying a bit of popular moviemaking now and then.

I did just that yesterday in Times Square during a showing of Guardians of the Galaxy, the hit sci-fi spectacular from Marvel about mismatched con-creatures battling a blue warlord who wants to take over the universe or something.

Yeah, that was about what it was about.

Honestly, part of the fun was not caring what it was about. This is a light, special effects-laden romp featuring, among others, a hulking tree-beast and a trash-talking raccoon, so you know it’s going to be snarky. Yet there was a good dose of sensible humor as well, plus a tender moment toward the end that nearly transcended the picture.

I wouldn’t say it’s a classic. Some of the flashy battle scenes moved slowly and were hard to follow … not that following them would’ve made a big difference. And I did feel the flick missed a few choice opportunities to be funnier, though the aforementioned raccoon was a splendid creation. Plus, it did feel incredibly derivative. It hadn’t exactly been where no one has gone before.

Still, it was diverting, and I enjoyed most of it. Would I see it again? Not sure. It was quite imaginative, however, and that’s a plus. In this day and age, you don’t always get that in the movies.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: When Bad Special Effects Attack

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Please don’t fault me for watching Conan the Destroyer.

It’s a horrible movie, I know. But it’s something of a guilty pleasure. And in watching it last night, I marveled at a quality I hadn’t really noticed before.

The special effects. They’re just plain awful.

Rubber suits galore. Bad animation. Welcome to the world of Conan. Where things are really cheesy.

Which is not to say that the effects are so much worse than, say, the acting, which is just as horrid. Still, you have to wonder how this stuff passed muster. It looked lousy then. It looks lousy now.

Yet I always find it on TV, for some reason. Maybe there’s a market for it.

One can always hope not.