Star Trek: Picard (2020) Shines with First Stellar Episode

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Anyone who truly knows me understands that I’ve been a lifelong Trekkie. One of my earliest memories is of watching Captain Kirk battle the Greek god Apollo circa 1970 at the age of 3. In the fall of 1987, eager for anything new from Star Trek, I cautiously watched the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was instantly hooked. There were some rough episodes in those first two seasons but nothing would match my excitement and anticipation during the summer of 1990 as I waited to see what happened with Captain Picard and the Borg. So, when CBS announced a new series with Patrick Stewart, I was immediately intrigued but also very weary. After all, this was the same company that produced Star Trek: Discovery, a series I’ve come to enjoy for what it is but I did not want them to change anything about Jean-Luc Picard. Now, after watching the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, I can say my fears are gone and replaced with complete joy.

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For starters, this series is not a reboot nor is simply an eighth season of Next Generation. It picks up nearly 20 years after the events of the last movie, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002). It also acknowledges the events from the opening moments of Star Trek (2009), the movie which introduced us to the infamous Kelvin timeline. However, it is still the universe of Next Generation, the Prime universe as some call it. Romulus has indeed been destroyed but rather than focusing on the altered timeline, it shows us what happened in the timeline we’ve all come to love since we first watched Captain Kirk playing chess with Mr. Spock in the opening moments of Where No Man Has Gone Before (1966). However, the Federation and Starfleet have changed in ways that will continue to unfold over the course of the next nine episodes. It’s a reflection of the world around us, something Star Trek has always been about when it was at its best.

Visually, the first episode was stunning. The scenes of the Picard vineyards are reminiscent of when we last saw them in the fall of 1990 in the episode Family. However, they’ve been expanded for this new high definition widescreen world we now live in. I loved the simple scenes of an older Picard walking around with his cane and his new Number One, an absolutely adorable Pitbull that serves as both protector and companion. Picard is not the same man we last saw because nearly 20 years have passed. Events have changed him and, as he states in one scene, he’s been a man waiting to die. But mystery and adventure come knocking on the door. With that, a spark of life has been ignited in the retired Admiral that will set him on course for the answers he seeks in forthcoming episodes.

“Sitting here, all these years. Nursing my offended dignity. Writing books of history people prefer to forget. I never asked anything of myself, at all. I haven’t been living, I’ve been waiting to die.”

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The crew behind Star Trek: Picard got everything right in this first episode, from the music of Jeff Russo to the never-ending references to the past of Next Generation. The opening moments of the Enterprise D and Blue Skies playing in the background as we see Picard and Data on Ten Forward will warm any Trekkies heart. You can’t help but get emotional. As the opening theme plays, you hear the subtle flute channeling the music of The Inner Light, one of the best episodes of any Star Trek series. I know that Patrick Stewart’s guiding hand has played a huge part in the creation of this series. They didn’t rewrite the universe and by setting it in the future, they’ve avoided the problems that Star Trek: Discovery has faced throughout its first two seasons. They’ve chosen to move forward with new ideas without forgetting what made us all love Next Generation in the first place. It left me smiling and feeling like that younger version of me in 1987. It’s similar yet different in all of the right ways. It hasn’t forgotten what Star Trek is truly about.

Having just finished revisiting the entire series and four theatrical films on Blu-ray, I can honestly say they haven’t skipped a beat. While I’ve come to enjoy Discovery, there was always something missing and a little off, even in the vastly improved second season. Here, with just one episode, Star Trek: Picard has succeeded in a way that’s been missing since the era of Next Generation ended. This is my Star Trek and it has left me wanting more. I highly recommend it for Trekkies who have been nostalgic for the past. We’re all 20 years older, a little wiser, and a little slower but with the same fire and passion that was simply waiting to be reignited. Welcome back Jean-Luc. You’re the hero the Star Trek universe has been waiting for. This is my Star Trek.

All images copyrighted by CBS.

Dread Media – Doctor Sleep (2019)

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This week on episode 646 of the Dread Media Podcast, I take a look at the recent adaptation of a Stephen King novel, Doctor Sleep (2019). Personally, I think it deserved a lot more love than it got at the box office and I explore some of the reasons why I think it didn’t have more success.

As always, tell ’em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!

Classic Horrors Club – Happy New Yorga!

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As my partner-in-crime Jeff Owens put it, this month’s episode of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast is guaranteed to not be a “miasma of putrid decay!” That’s because it’s time to celebrate Happy New Yorga with episode 39! This month, we’re taking a look at Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and The Return of Count Yorga (1971).

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We’d also appreciate if you’d give us an honest rating on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud. Thank you!

You can find Jeff at Classic Horrors Club, DC Comics Guy or his new site, The Reaction Shot!

2019 – The Year in Review

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2019 has ended and it really was a great year in regards to the films I watched. Karla and I attended the Kansas Silent Festival, Silents in the Cathedral, an amazing presentation of the original Phantom of the Opera (1925) at the Kauffman Center and numerous Cinema a Go-Go events at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. I also attended Monster Bash in Mars, Pennsylvania with my podcasting partner-in-crime Jeff Owens. Sadly, Karla and I were unable to attend the Christopher R. Mihm film premiere for Queen of Snakes but we’ll be in attendance for the upcoming April premiere of The Beast Walks Among Us.

Now, let’s kick things off with a look at those 2019 statistics.

How many films did I watch in 2019?

Action: 6
Animated: 44
Comedy: 50
Documentary: 19
Drama: 18
Fantasy/Horror/Sci-Fi: 230
Musical: 18
Mystery/Thriller: 14
War/Western: 5

Total films watched: 404

Movies Watched in a Movie Theater: 46 (23 new and 23 old) – This is down from last year, mostly from being a little pickier about what films we watched in a theater.

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Now, it’s time for the official best-of-the-best and worst-of-the-worst. As with any list, they’re subjective to my viewing experience and mood at the time. I’ll provide thoughts on some of the films, others will just speak for themselves.

Top Ten Movies Seen in a Movie Theater
1. Avengers: Endgame – Very satisfying, gave me everything I was expecting
2. 1917 – Wonderfully made film, highly recommended
3. Stan and Ollie – A very loving tribute to Laurel and Hardy, very well acted
4. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – Not what I was expecting but really enjoyable, Tom Hanks was amazing
5. Spider-Man: Far from Home – Lots of fun, Tom Holland is great as Spidey per usual
6. Toy Story 4 – Woody and Buzz ride off into the sunset with another heartwarming classic
7. Midway – Deserves more love than it got, everything I wanted in this type of film
8. Shazam! – So much fun, left me wanting more of this lighthearted hero
9. Doctor Sleep – Another film that deserves more love than it got
10. Godzilla, King of the Monsters – Lots of fun, much better screen time balance for the monsters

Note: Unfortunately, we both got sick right before Christmas, so as of Dec. 31, I still have not seen Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. We have tickets to see it the first weekend of 2020.

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Honorable Mention: Monkey’s Paw (1933) – I had the opportunity to watch this long-lost film at Monster Bash. It’s in rough shape but amazing that it exists at all.

Additional Thoughts: I know a lot of people loved Joker and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I saw both but neither really did it for me. Tarantino’s latest was good but not one of his best. Joker was a well-made film but Joaquin Phoenix seemed to be acting for the sake of acting. It was definitely dark and, honestly, I just didn’t enjoy it.

Worst Movies Seen in a Movie Theater

1. Us – I know a lot of people enjoyed this one but it just didn’t resonate with me. There were simply too many plot holes that I couldn’t move beyond.

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Top Ten Movies Seen on Home Media for the First Time

1. Laura (1944) – One of Vincent Price’s best films!
2. The Seventh Seal (1957) – After years of seeing bits and pieces, I finally watched it all the way through. Tune in to a future episode of the Diecast Movie Review podcast for my thoughts.
3. The Verdict (1946) – Wonderful film-noir with the legendary Peter Lorre.
4. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – I know, how could I have never seen this classic?
5. What We Left Behind (2019) – A simply wonderful tribute to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and our names are in the credits as backers!
6. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
7. South Pacific (1958) – Another musical classic I somehow missed!
8. On the Basis of Sex (2018)
9. Mary, Queen of Scots (2018)
10. Science Fair (2018)

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Worst Movies Seen on Home Media for the First Time

1. A Christmas Carol (2019) – Way too dark and without redemption
2. Street Trash (1987) – Thank you Joe Bob!
3. Willard (2003) – Lacked the charm of the original
4. Blood Harvest (1987) – Thank you again, Joe Bob!
5. Banana Splits Movie (2019) – Who thought this was a good idea?

Looking ahead to 2020, I’m excited for more fun flicks from Marvel, the latest James Bond adventure, Wonder Woman 1984, Top Gun Maverick (even though I’m expecting a train wreck) and Godzilla vs. Kong, just to name a few.

Karla and I are looking at diving into the classic Godzilla films (courtesy of that amazing Criterion Collection) and the Zatoichi series (also on Criterion). We’re also going to dive into the world of Sherlock Holmes.

In 2019, one of the most entertaining things we did was to watch all of the Marx Brothers films and cover them for the blog over the summer. We’re talking about doing the same in 2020 with Laurel and Hardy.

Jeff and I will continue to offer up our monthly dose of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast. I’ll also continue to contribute to the Dread Media podcast, as well as my monthly Kansas City Crypt on the Mihmiverse Monthly Audiocast.

Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for your ongoing support! Here’s to an amazing 2020!

Countdown to Christmas – A Christmas Carol (1939)

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The Christmas season is never complete without listening to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Lionel Barrymore played Scrooge on the radio from 1934 to 1953 on a variety of different programs. In those 20 years, he only missed playing the role twice. In 1936, when his wife died, and in 1938, when he voluntarily stepped down.

He was considered for MGM’s film adaptation but he was forced to decline the offer due to his back problems that would eventually leave him in a wheelchair. He recommended Reginald Owens for the role and decided to skip playing it on the radio that year so as not to take away anything from his friends performance on the big screen.

He returned to the air the following year on Campbell Playhouse and it’s that 1939 performance that is considered to be his best.  Here, he worked with Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre Players in a classic presentation. I first discovered this in 1989 while living in Paris, Texas. A local radio station played it on Christmas Eve as part of a sponsorship from the local Campbell’s factory. It is amazing and highly recommended.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Kansas City Cinephile and the Monster Movie Kid!

Countdown to Christmas – A Christmas Carol (1941)

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There are countless filmed versions of A Christmas Carol, as well as numerous old time radio adaptations. However, this past year, I discovered a “new” version from 1941 starring Hollywood actor Ronald Colman.

The production featured a full cast with a score by Victor Young and sounds like a long lost radio program. In reality, it was originally released by Decca Records as a four-record 78-RPM set. When it was eventually released on 33-RPM, it was abbreviated to fit one side of the record. That version was also later released on CD. Despite the slightly shorter version, the tale still manages to maintain all of the key elements in an incredibly well-done fashion.

In a year where we were “treated” with a new televised version that comes across more like a lump of coal, I was glad to listen to this lost classic for the very first time. I recommend it, so grab a glass of smoking bishop and enjoy A Christmas Carol from 1941 starring Ronald Colman as Ebenezer Scrooge!

Countdown to Christmas – Old Time Radio Christmas Thrillers

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Comedy isn’t the only genre of old time radio classics that will help you get into the holiday spirit. There are plenty of mysteries and crime thrillers that are just as creepy as the ghost of Christmas past.

So here are a few suggestions that will help you relive the days of yesteryear or, if you are lucky, introduce you to a whole new world from the past.

Suspense

Dragnet

The Shadow

The Shadow is one of my all-time favorites. Just as sure as crime doesn’t pay, it didn’t take the holidays off either. Here are two great Christmas tales, both starring Bill Johnstone.