Monday, October 21, 2013

Semper FI... my friend

It does not have the cult following that Firefly does, but those who remember this series might recall it fondly. I know I do. From September of 1995 through May of 1996, Space: Above and Beyond aired on the Fox network. It was a unique science fiction series in that it was also a war series. Even thought it was nominated for two Emmy Awards, it shared the same fate as Firefly. It was canceled by Fox after one season.

In the year 2063 a previously unknown alien civilization attacks two earth outposts in deep space and initiated a war that the combined earth forces may not be able to survive. Members of the 58th Squadron, Wild Cards, of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry are on the front line.

Sometimes they fly their SA-43 fighters, called Hammerheads, and sometimes they carry on the fight in the ground when there is a lack of ground forces because every Marine is a rifleman.

Their enemy is known only by a nickname, Chigs. It was given to them by earth forces because of their insect like features and they have no other name to call them.

Although supporting characters come in and out of the group, most lost in action, the series focuses on five members of the 58th Squadron, 1st Lieutenant and then Captain Shane Vansen, 1st Lt. Nathan West, 1st Lt. Cooper Hawks, 1st Lt. Paul Wang, 1st Lt. Vanessa Damphousse, and their commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Tyrus Cassius “T.C.” McQueen. Most of the series takes place aboard the space carrier USS Saratoga when no in the cockpits of the SA-43s or on an alien world.

Compared to other space based shows, this one had plenty of references to contemporary culture. There was music from Johnny Cash and Ramones among other things. It also tackled drug addiction and racism through the existence of the In Vitros, humans created in gestation tanks and forced into servitude. The series also had X-Files type elements that could have been explored further had there been more than one season. (It was from the creators of The X-Flies)

It’s another great show that didn’t have a chance to grow. The finale is a cliffhanger that leaves things a little bleak. Ok, it leaves things really bleak. But it was a good short rise while it lasted and it lasted long enough to get to know the characters. It’s perhaps best that Vansens’s last words in the series are “Semper FI... my friend.” 

Search YouTube for clips and episodes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dallas Comic Con: Fan Days AAR

Fan Days is one of three conventions hosted by Dallas Comic Con. For any that are intimidated by the likes Of San Diego Comic-Con something like Fan Days might be a better and less expensive option while still maintaining quality guests and panels. As a smaller convention it also has the benefit of not being overtaken by the movie studios, publishers, and game companies. The dealer floor is populated by independent dealers and you will not blow all you budget getting and autograph.

This year you could have met John Barrowman (Arrow, Torchwood, Doctor Who), Katee Sackoff (Battlestar Galactica, Longmire), Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), John Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), Grant Bowler (Defiance), and Jason David Frank (Might Morphin Power Rangers).

It was a pretty good list of celebrities. And if you paid attention you could have easily spent some time talking to Jamie Bamber at his signing table on Friday. He was not scheduled to be there and there was no line. Some lucky con attendees were able to have as much as 10 minute conversations with him, uninterrupted.

The panels were loosely moderated and felt more intimate than what you would have had a larger convention. If you had attended Michael Rosenbaum and John Heder’s panel together you would have had a special treat. It was a panel in the sense that they were in a room, at a convention, with many fans, and there was a designated place for guests to sit and speak. What actually happened is that both roamed the ballroom and stood by the mics for attendees asking questions and interacted face to face. Rosenbaum had fun sitting in people laps, walking down rows high fiving people, and taking selfies with whoever he happened to be sanding next to. Though the other panels were not as interactive, they were no less entertaining I was unable to get into John Barrowman’s panel on Sunday, but judging by the reaction of the crowd, he was in his usual panel form and made it memorable.

I have not been to Dallas Comic Con or the SciFi Expo, but Fan Days shows that this organization know how to organize a con. I guess you could say that it is not to big and not too small. It’s a good idea to pre order your tickets ahead of time to save yourself from the ticket line. Fan Days is that popular and I will likely be attending next year.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Doug Jones, Man Beneath the Masks

You have seen him but you may not have seen his face. His skill at bringing monsters and otherworldly creatures to life while buried under layers of makeup and prosthetics has given us some true movie magic in a world increasingly dominated by CGI. Doug Jones has brought some of our favorite monsters to life. He is particularly a favorite of Guiermo Del Toro when the moment calls for a real life creature. Doug was El Fauno and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth.

He is also the man beneath Abe Sapian in the Hellboy movies. Although David Hyde Pierce voiced Abe in the first film.

But he was not limited to our favorite blue paranormal investigator. In Hellboy II, Doug also brought The Chamberlain and The Angel of Death to life.

While these are his most memorable roles, he has had others. He was the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The voice of the surfer was provided by Laurence Fishburne, however. You might also recocnize him as the Ice Cream Man in Legion and as the Thin Clown in Batman Returns, one of his earliest roles. Most recently he has been lending his talent to the alien invasion series, Falling Skies on TNT where he plays the alien Cochise.

Doug has also branched out as a voice actor, voicing Abe Sapian in the animated Hellboy films, Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey, and other short and independent films.  Doug is also a spiritual man, singing in his church choir, and is an active member of the Christian group, Media Fellowship International, which works within the entertainment industry. It is no surprise that many Doug Jones roles have a spiritual element to them.
On a personal note, Doug is a great guy in person. I met him at the Geek & Sundry Lunge during San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. He stayed to talk to fans and sign autographs after the screening of Rock Jocks, in which he played Smoking Jesus.

Doug Jones is a man of many talents. We know him best for bringing our favorite creatures to life.  He is also accomplished at bringing every day characters to life. His career has covered commercials, voice overs, webisodes, music videos, theater, television, short fims, independent films, and of course, feature films. I look forward to the next memorable creature he will inhabit on film and when he can showcase his talent in a starring role in a feature film that does not require so much makeup.