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[Editor's Note: Today we combine our recent space/invasion theme here at LFM, and Steve Greaves' 'Loving the Cold War Lifestyle' series, with a brief look back - and forward - at the classic British TV show "UFO."]

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By Steve Greaves. Fans of the Supermarionation series Thunderbirds and the live-action Space:1999 alike will be intrigued to know that Gerry Anderson’s influential British TV series UFO is currently on track for a Hollywood summer tentpole updating. [See the opening titles of the original series above.]  Producer Robert Evans and British network ITV are slated to team up on the project, which will find the year 2020 as the new backdrop for the business of SHADO – the crafty organization that combats alien invasion threats from on high with an arsenal of labs, gizmos, purple wigs and cool vehicles that traverse every frontier.  Here is the new film’s website.

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Scenes from the original British TV series "UFO."

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Anderson himself was appalled by the miserable remake of his fantastic Thunderbirds franchise, as would be anyone who saw it, but the rumor is that he’s optimistic about the new UFO getting off the ground in style. The original series, which ran for just one season in 1972 in the US, was ahead of its time – especially for TV – and was notable for its special effects, art direction and vehicle design. Perhaps the most important legacy of UFO is that it directly influenced the look and approach to the better-known and more widely enduring Space:1999, which was Anderson’s series that ran from 1975-77 and starred Martin Landau.

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Now, one key factor sure to be absent from any new UFO launch that anchored the many other-worlds of Gerry Anderson is the music of Barry Gray. Gray scored or wrote themes for virtually all of Anderson’s shows from the puppeteering days forward, including Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Supercar, Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun, Thunderbirds, and – of course - UFO and Space:1999. The groovy, jaunty flavor of Gray’s music was part of what made these shows something fun and exciting to tune into, not to mention that his themes are among the catchiest in this universe or beyond. One listen to the head-bobbing Joe 90 theme will set you straight [see here and here].

Posted on July 11th, 2010 at 12:11pm.

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The ultimate 60s sex farce.

[Editor's Note: those of us here at LFM love the 'Cold War lifestyle' - the spies, the bikinis, the shiny orbiting satellites and dry martinis.  We return today to an occasional series from LFM contributor Steve Greaves, "Loving the Cold War Lifestyle," that takes us back to that altogether tastier, less politically-correct era.]

By Steve Greaves.

“What about Ruth?”

“Ruth who?”

“Ruth, your wife.”

“Oh.”

This recurring joke and banter like it would probably win a regular Joe today a new level of intimacy with the old rolling pin – that is, if wives still packed rolling pins. Welcome to the world of 1967’s A Guide for the Married Man (see the trailer here), a sharp-looking, box-office-winning and cleverly-written comedy that hasn’t been on DVD for long and might be easy to overlook. And overlooking it would be a shame.

This vintage sex farce finds Walter Matthau playing Paul, a suburban Every Husband of the nuclear era. An investment counselor by day, the man who has it all is nonetheless lacking a certain something come night: namely, variety. Gorgeous Inger Stevens is a dream wife, which makes Matthau’s eventual wanderlust that much more poignant (and inane). Mid 60’s superstar Robert Morse is perfect as Matthau’s lascivious pal Ed, who steps up to coach his new protege on the finer points of straying “the right way,” i.e., so as not to get caught and to otherwise protect the feelings of one’s betrothed. This simple “educational” device sets up a romp that allows for plenty of hilarious sequences between the two, but also for a parade of cameos wherein great comedy stars of the era enact episodes of other chaps’ successes or failures, recounted by Morse for illustrative purposes.  I can’t think of another film like this one in terms of the format, though one could make a case that it relates to period English comedies like Bedazzled, or even confessionals like Alfie that share the device of ongoing “how to” tutorials. Continue reading »

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LFM’s Steve Greaves reviews the award-winning web series satire about the fictional, 70’s progressive rock band, “Gemini Rising.”

By Steve Greaves. Before there were hair bands, there were hairy bands. Yes, the heather was high and across the mythic plains there were hairy, sensitive barbarians in hordes of typically five, but growing in might at times to numbers almost unimaginable. Few live to bear witness. Quite often the drummer would don an afro though he be of the Celtic dynasty.

There are niches within niches, and Koldcast.com’s web TV series Gemini Rising picks up the musk of a very specific kind of band at a very specific juncture in popular (or not) music culture. For a while in the early 70’s, after the Summer of Love sounds had burned out and UK and NY punk were not yet kicking, there was a lot of soul-searching and cosmic exploration informing the kinds of themes and approaches to being a “rock” band.  Much of what emerged at that time was amorphous, exploratory, meandering, melodramatic and self-indulgent schlock.  It is to rock what “fusion” is to jazz – i.e., technically impressive, but virtually hook-free and generally leaves you in a worse mood than before.

The term coined was Progressive Rock, and while there are many, many great songs and bands in the genre when it began through today, one has to laugh at the inherent ridiculousness of the original trappings: grown men in tights and scarves singing operatically and emoting in a quasi-Shakespearian manner about wizards and astrology.  It was one big hairy Renaissance Pleasure Faire and an aural gateway to the ages for those willing to explore the far edge of listenability.

Before there were hair bands, there were hairy bands.

Allrighty then Shackleton, let’s talk bands. Experience the nerdy wrath of names like Uriah Heep, Marillion, Pendragon, Hawkwind, Elf and Rainbow (Ronnie James Dio is a movement unto himself too vast to explore here, all you need to know is he’s slain many a hydraulic dragon in as many middle-earthly bands, and is a powerful elvine singer who also fronted Black Sabbath post-Ozzy Ozbourne).

The common thing about bands amid this subterranean niche in “hardish” rock is not so much what they are but that what they’re not: not hard enough to be metal.  Not catchy enough to be pop.  Not light enough to be jazz.  Too noisy to be opera.  These are broad strokes to draw admittedly, but this is the kaleidoscopic point of entry into fully grasping the modest genius of Gemini Rising.

While there is a surprising amount of variety among episodes in the series, what holds it all together is the lack of anything much ever really happening.  Like their own music and that of their “contemporaries” cited previously, the act never really lands because the band itself is never grounded and always in juvenile crisis. As a caricature, Gemini Rising is the spawn of other “rock mockumentary” bands that are perpetually stuck in a rut even when opportunities to show off their cosmosonic magic arise … anywhere from within recording studios, to the Gong Show-styled Larry LaMay variety hour – and all guaranteed to bring a yellow and orange glow to your 14-inch Zenith.

Comparisons to This is Spinal Tap and Bad News are a given anytime a hard “rock mock” shows up, but the idea is again fresh and the large, funny and clearly dedicated cast and varied settings put an original and enthusiastic spin on the typical flailing band situations. The genius is in being so confidently loose within a sub-genre that can only be recreated through the pains of extreme specificity.  The look and feel of the people, the places and the music videos and media within the environment are spot on.  Lead singer Robert Mckenzie is perfectly cast in east coast actor and Syrrah vocalist Righteous Jolly, who sounds not unlike the formidable Geoff Tate of neo-prog metal icon, Queensryche.

The sheer dumpiness of the era and the fringes of the midwest and rustbelt provide plenty of deadpan juxtapositions, as well as a textural approach to the film that flatters its efforts – nay, its quest to be vintage ‘74 in flavor. Fake hairs on the projector, low lighting, and other distressed effects add to the smutty visual character of the series. Clever use of graphics and exacting font choices complete the whole wood-paneled non-spectacle. You’ll be craving a Tab and a stick of Big Red in no time.

Shot on a shoestring or merely made to look that way, the expansive cast and at times spacious outdoor locations (“We’re going to bring birds into the studio?” “That goose is an artist!”) go a long way to make this production feel bigger than it is.  Part of the charm of this effort is that the “young underdog band” is mirrored to an extent by the obvious “let’s put on a show” ethic of everyone involved, a sort of lo-fi equilibrium between the filmmakers and the subject matter that allows for enough discipline to stage something inventive and funny without taking itself too seriously in the process.  Overthinking this material would suck the spontaneous life right out of it. All in all this is a great example of the kind of fun, affordable, collaborative art filmmakers can actually create and get seen today with little more than talent and imagination.

Highlights include the extra episode “Amphibian Liberation Army” (the star of whom is an activist who goes by the handle “Che Johnson”) and song performances including “Lady of the Lake” and “Star Child.” A good place to start your zodiacal rock odyssey is the Gemini Rising trailer above.

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[Editor's Note: those of us here at LFM tend to love the 'Cold War lifestyle' - the spies, the bikinis, the shiny orbiting satellites and dry martinis.  This is the first of an occasional series from LFM contributor Steve Greaves taking us back to that altogether tastier era.]

By Steve Greaves. Your mission, should you accept to view it:

“A Kiss From Tokyo”, Theatrical Trailer (1964) – Yuki 7 dashes around the world in hot pursuit of the tantalizingly tricky Diamond Eye, who is stealing parts and plans and leaving behind a path of murdered scientists in her quest to build a missile inside her volcanic lair …

OK, it’s not really from 1964, but is in fact vintage today.

I had the pleasure of seeing this faux-trailer and meeting Yuki 7 creator and artist Kevin Dart late last year. His work and more from the Fleet Street Scandal art duo opened at the very ginchy Nucleus Gallery in not-too-scenic Alhambra, CA.

As a lover of all things mid-century and of spy-dom in particular, what can I say about the Yuki 7 trailer?  It’s stylistically satisfying at every level.  Hits all the vital notes needed to evoke the world of Bond and far beyond.

The Japanese elements throughout all the Yuki 7 art make for an ultra-hip edge, since so much film and design of that period was reflected in Asian cop and spy films, which often out-did more accessible American and British spy fare in terms of cheesy melodrama, space-age sets and generally self-conscious kitsch factor – call it the Gojira quotient.

Japanese G-men in boxy sedans and construction-helmeted henchmen guarding missile silos abounded then – as they do here – in the savvy Mr. Dart’s (along with co-director Stephane Coedel) motion picture equivalent of his devastatingly cool Yuki 7 film posters … all of which are for fictitious action-girl spy films I would watch if they existed.

‘64 is the perfect year to tie this concept to, when brims were extra stingy and the whole cold war spy phenomenon was just beginning to gel as it’s own entertainment genre – separate and distinct from earlier gumshoe and cop fare that lacked the visual possibilities afforded by easy international travel by jet and the booming space age.

So check the ‘trailer’ out above … I can’t wait for the sequel.

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LFM is Almost Here!

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May 182010

The new Libertas Film Magazine (LFM) is almost here!  LFM is a new on-line film magazine focusing on the idea of freedom as expressed in movies and popular culture.

LFM celebrates the democratizing of film. Talented, free-thinking artists from America and around the world are currently using digital technology to make films that celebrate freedom and the individual.  LFM will feature the best of these independent and foreign films – and occasionally even Hollywood films – that promote the ideas and values vital to the future of democratic civilization.

Stayed tuned for the launch of LFM on May 19th, 2010! The independent film world will never be the same. LFM is the new voice for freedom in movies and popular culture. Join us each day … and free your mind.

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