Blog Directory CineVerse: January 2010

"Little Miss Sunshine" coming to Oak Lawn Library

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library, in its lower level meeting room, will be showing the following film, free of charge: Little Miss Sunshine (2006) -- Wednesday, January 27 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. -- In this offbeat comedy, a family takes a cross-country trip in an old, run-down VW bus to get their seven-year-old daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant. Starring Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell. Rated: R for some language. 101 min.


Star Wars vs Star Trek: The Klingons strike back

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Star Wars vs Star Trek: The Klingons strike back

by Erik J. Martin

Note: This is part two of a two-part article; part one posted last week.

In a head-to-head grudge match between the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” franchises, its interesting to consider which series has had a greater impact on popular culture.

While “Star Wars” might have made a bigger splash in America's malls, schoolyards and cineplexes, “Star Trek” has left its mark on society in more substantive ways.

"During the Cold War, with people hiding in bomb shelters and preparing to be blown up, Gene Roddenberry was there with “Star Trek” telling us, 'Yes, there will be a future, and it will be a good future,'" said Ann Crispin, who has written novels for Bantam's “Star Wars” series as well as Pocket Books' “Star Trek” line. "He was a big risk taker. He could comment on the Vietnam War and the relationship between men and women through his science fiction. He was vastly ahead of his time."

Trek broke new ground for American television by giving highly visible roles to an Asian (George Takei) and an African American (Nichelle Nichols) and promoting the idea that humanity would one day overcome racial prejudice. How potent was this message of multicultural harmony? When Nichols considered leaving the show, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked her out of it.

Scientists, researchers and inventors have also turned to Trek for inspiration. Kirk and company's hand-held communicators predated cellular phones by decades. And Kirk and Spock were talking to their ship's computer long before voice-recognition software was possible. Weapons labs are now working on phaser-like hand-held weapons, and physicians are currently testing radar-based scanners along the lines of Dr. McCoy's medical tricorder.

"NASA engineers don't look to “Star Wars” for the future they'd like to create. They look to “Star Trek”," said Jeff Greenwald, author of “Future Perfect: How “Star Trek” Conquered Planet Earth.” "A lot of people in the science and technology fields have cited “Star Trek” as their influence."

Greenwald points out another edge Trek has over Wars in the cultural impact face-off:

It was first. "[Trek] is the first contemporary myth we've ever had," he said. "It mirrors the growth of the American consciousness from the Camelot days of the '60s to the high-tech, Webbed-out days of the '90s."


“Star Trek” vs “Star Wars”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Star Trek vs Star Wars: Which franchise has had a greater cultural impact?

by Erik J. Martin

Note: This is part one of a two-part article that will be continued next week.

Ask yourself: How many kids do you know who asked for a U.S.S. Enterprise playset for Christmas? How many of your young cousins or nieces or nephews while away their afternoons with their Benjamin Sisko and Kathryn Janeway action figures? Do you know of a single fifth-grader who would feel safe going to school wearing a "Spock Lives!" or "Beam me up, Scotty" T-shirt?

Now go to your local Toys "R" Us and check out the long, overflowing aisles of “Star Wars” toys. Head over to the JC Penney and rifle through rack after rack of Darth Vader T-shirts.

It's plain to see: For an entire generation, “Star Wars” is cool, “Star Trek” is not. And that's nothing new. “Star Wars” has always been the slick, Han Solo-ish charmer able to win over young and old alike with good looks, a strong sense of humor and general dynamism. “Star Trek”, on the other hand, has a less suave, more Spocklike personality-aloof, cerebral, even nerdy, I would argue.

James Gunn, director of the Center of the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, said the Wars saga appeals to a broader audience than Trek because its storyline is more straightforward and archetypal. “Star Wars” at its core is a simple fairy tale," said Gunn, who is also a respected SF novelist. "It's a story about a princess abducted by an evil magician and the heroes who rescue her from the dark castle."

That kind of uncomplicated good against-evil storytelling explains why younger viewers in particular can't resist Wars.

"You generally see a lot more younger fans into “Star Wars” than “Star Trek”," said Alice Bentley, former owner of Chicago's The Stars Our Destination science-fiction bookstore. "There's a greater age range among Wars fans because it appeals to all ages, even though the Trek franchise is older."

That broader appeal made “Star Wars” an ambassador for sci-fi cinema in the late '70s and early '80s. While the studios always viewed Trek as a fringe phenomenon not worth emulating, Wars convinced Hollywood's decision-makers that audiences were clamoring for big, loud special-effects spectaculars.

“‘Star Wars”' success in 1977 changed movies radically and was responsible for wholesale changes in the entire film industry," former Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Wilmington told me. "Without ‘Star Wars,’ you wouldn't have had people investing in the first ‘Star Trek’ movie."

According to Wilmington, George Lucas' trilogy (and, to a lesser degree, the “Star Trek” franchise) "made science fiction more attractive to investors and inspired a boon in special effects computer technology."

Next week: The Klingons strike back


Forecast calls for "Meatballs"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library, in its lower level meeting room, will be showing the following film, free of charge: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) -- Monday, January 18 at 2 p.m. -- In this animated, family comedy, inventor Flint Lockwood creates a machine that turns water into food.  As a result, his city’s weather is made of things like pizza, pancakes, and, of course, meatballs. Based on the book by Judi and Ron Barrett. Rated: PG. 90 min.


Our new poll needs your vote!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

You may have missed the memo from a week ago, but we have a new poll up and running on our Website that needs your vote. For January, CineVerse asks the question, who is the greatest movie actress of them all--Bette Davis? Kate Hepburn? Meryl Streep? You be the judge. Vote now in our new CineVerse poll, featured on the left sidebar of our home page.


Meet the Thin Man

He's a rarity in this age of obesity and fast food joints, but at one time "The Thin Man" reigned supreme at the box office. Join us on Wed., Jan. 13 for "The Thin Man" (1934), the first film in the popular series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.


More on Platoon

Friday, January 8, 2010

If you enjoyed "Platoon" and want to learn more about this seminal war movie, click here to read our "Reflections" handout on the film. 

If you'd like to listen to a recorded podcast of our CineVerse discussion of "Platoon," click here.


It's "Eight Below" at the Oak Lawn Library

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library, in its lower level meeting room, will be showing the following film, free of charge: "Eight Below" (2006) -- Tuesday, January 12 at 10 a.m. In this heartwarming live-action Disney film, a brutal snow storm forces two Antarctic explorers to leave a team of sled dogs behind to fend for their own survival. As the dogs cope with harsh conditions, their guide must find a way to return and rescue them. Starring Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood and Jason Biggs. Rated: PG. 120 min.


Remember Y2K? Nah, we didn't think so

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hard to believe it's really been 10 years, but a little over a decade ago at this time, people all over the world were panicking about the potential Armageddon called "The Millennium Bug." Yes, Y2K paranoia struck deep in our cultural consciousness in late December 1999, but it proved all for naught, as airplanes didn't fall out of the sky after all, toasters didn't turn on their masters and computers across the globe clicked over into the new calendar without a hitch.

Back in those latter days of '99, I had myself a sweet little gig where I got paid to write about a different Y2K topic every week a la a column called "Surviving 2000." One of the wackiest writeups I filed for that particular post was a piece about a proposed action/suspense movie with the Millennium Bug as the villain. Here is a reprint of that article:

The best Y2K movie you’ll never see

by Erik J. Martin

In early silent films, the thwarted black-robed and handlebar mustachioed villain would pantomime the familiar phrase, “Curses -- Foiled Again!” Fast forward to 1999 when they make the millennium bug the movie villain and you’ll get the hero uttering the cliched line instead.

Guess that’s what happens when you try to make a solid action/adventure film depicting the end of the world a la the Y2K bug. The curse of the two-digit-deficiency inevitably strikes, and before you know it, your film is foiled right in the middle of production. So much for the best Y2K blockbuster you’ll never see.

No, “Y2K: The Movie,” starring Chris (Robin in the Batman movies) O’Donnell, didn’t bite the dust because its movie cameras and editing bays succumbed to the Y2K glitch. Like thousands of businesses that are sure to reap the wrath of Y2K noncompliance next year for starting their Year 2000 efforts so late, the Warner Brothers movie was doomed from the start because of poor planning. In short, O’Donnell – who co-penned the screenplay -- pulled the plug on the project earlier this year because it was pushed back to a February 2000 release due to production delays. Talk about your anti-climactic Armageddon flicks.

O’Donnell was set to play – you guessed it – a computer programmer who must try to save the world from being shut down by that dastardly digital demon of a computer virus, the Year 2000 problem. The actor consulted with Y2K gurus Peter De Jager and Ed Yardeni in the making of the movie and "utilized all the experts on logistics and possibilities of the potential computer glitch," he was reported as saying. Too bad he didn’t consult with his calendar more closely. Principal photography wasn’t scheduled to begin until May 1999. After all the reshoots, focus group viewings and amended endings that Hollywood would have demanded, the film might have been more aptly titled Y2-Late: The Musical.

You just knew that Tinseltown –so bankrupt of ideas that they’re attempting to remake Planet of the Apes and turn cartoon character Dudley Do-Right into a live action comedy -- would jump all over the chance to bring Y2-chaos to the big screen and try to cash in on the paranoia. But they couldn’t even get their dates right. And so we’ll never get to see O’Donnell as the fearless good guy hacker swinging between skyscrapers on computer cable lines, battling possessed date-defunct VCRs and fighting for his life in a lightsabre duel with evil cash-depleted ATMs run amok (would’ve sold me on a trough of popcorn and a gallon of syrupy movie-lobby grade Coke). We’ll never get to hear the Kenny Loggins theme song “Danger Digits” on Top-40 radio. We’ll never get to buy our kids the Happy Meal packed with a plastic finger puppet C.O.S.M.O.–the sidekick computer who might have fought alongside O’Donnell in the movie and thrilled kiddie audiences everywhere.

But fear not, hype-happy consumers of all things hooey from Hollywood. You’ll still be satiated with your fair share of end-of-the-world films before 1999 is spent: Ah-nold Schwarzenegger himself will appear in the Armageddon-ish “End as a World,” and Winona Ryder will try to halt the ride of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in “Lost Souls.” You can always count on a couple of doomsday meteor movies being thrown in the mix. And other studios and networks may yet be vying to vex our senses with still more Y2K disaster films. (Hey, if they can air three different made-for-TV movies about Amy Fisher within the same week, we’re bound to see at least one or two Y2K “Movie of the Weak – er, Week” attempts on network television, right?).

Look up the title “Y2K” on the omnipresent Internet Movie Database (, and you’ll get a vague listing for a film set to be released this year co-starring Louis Gossett Jr. and Malcolm McDowell and set with the JFK-quote tagline, "Man Holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish...all forms of life." Guess that Year 2000 problem is more lethal than we thought.

One widely circulated report hints at a Y2K-related film possibly being made about a Boeing 747 bitten by the millennium bug and crashing into the Empire State Building (honest -- I wouldn’t make this stuff up). No word yet, however, on whether the bug looks like a giant winged centipede that breathes fire like Godzilla or if the mysterious mammoth insect from another millennium faces off against everyone’s favorite gargantuan green lizard in the sequel to that oh-so-unforgettable1998 version of “Godzilla.”

I can see the billboards now: “Y2K: It’s buildup is as big as this bus.”


Teens beam up for high adventure

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Oak Lawn Library, in its lower level meeting room, will be showing the following film, free of charge: FOR TEENS ONLY -- GRADES 6-10 -- Star Trek (2009) -- Wednesday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. -- A chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members. Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence. 127 min.


A harrowing portrait of Vietnam

Sunday, January 3, 2010

CineVerse will kick off 2010 with a harrowing portrait of the Vietnam War in the form of Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning 1986 film "Platoon," set for Wed., Jan. 6. Be forewarned that this movie depicts disturbing scenes of graphic violence and intense battle sequences. To learn more about "Platoon", click here.


Best films of the past decade

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ask anybody who knows me and they'll tell you I'm a sucker for lists that rank things. Love reading them, love making them. So it's only fitting that, with the turn of a new year and a new decade, I get a little self indulgent and commit to pixel my rankings for the greatest flicks of the past 10 clicks. Print this out and use it to line the bottom of your birdcage, if you will, but here goes:

Erik Martin's top 10 of the 2000s

10. Amelie (click on the title for more info)

Runners up (in no particular order):
  • Amores Perros
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Up in the Air
  • Sin City
  • Memento
  • The Pianist
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Monsters Inc.
  • About Schmidt
  • Inglourious Basterds
I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two worthy mentions here, but that pretty much sums up the creme de la creme in film for me in the 2000s (or are they more appropriately called "the oughts"? Whatever.). Feel free to post comments to this post with your top favorites of the last decade. And happy New Year!


A new year and a new poll

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, fellow film lovers! With the turning of the calendar comes a new poll for a new month. For January, CineVerse asks the question, who is the greatest movie actress of them all--Bette Davis? Kate Hepburn? Meryl Streep? You be the judge. Vote now in our new CineVerse poll, featured on the left sidebar of our home page.

In case you were curious as to the results of December's poll, "It's a Wonderful Life" is still the most wonderful Christmas movie of all time, receiving 50% of the vote; "Miracle on 34th Street," "A Christmas Story," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," "The Bishop's Wife" and "Holiday Inn" each garnered 10% of the vote.


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