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Liz and Frank Tell You What Happened In “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Dear Everyone,

MV5BMTk2NzczOTgxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ5ODczOQ@@._V1_So. Um. Star Trek Into Darkness. Totally a movie that exists and has just recently arrived in disc form. Frank and Liz both saw it, for once — and they want to talk about it!

Liz: Frank, here’s the thing — not only have I seen this movie twice, but I have seen the opening sequence four times (due to various screening-type things). But the reason I’ve seen it twice is that I thought I was busy on opening day, then a lunch got canceled and I suddenly had an opening in my schedule. My original plan was to see it that Saturday night — I had tickets and everything — but I was SO TERRIFIED of spoilers that I decided to skip out to the movies and be on top of things. And I am glad, because I don’t think I would have gotten to Saturday without finding out which classic Trek film was being appropriated. How about you — did you go unspoiled?

Frank: Liz, first of all, I love that by the end of its first weekend you had already seen the movie two to four times. I have seen it once (but I really paid attention). And no, I was spoiled. Read the rest of this entry

Frank Tells Liz What Happened In the “Twilight Zone” Episode “Steel”

Dear Liz,

So I know you saw the new Huge Ackman vehicle Real Steel last week, and though we haven’t yet been able to discuss it in detail, I’m very pleased to hear that it was 100% pure enjoyment! (Surprising no one, really, because how could a cybernetic pugilism film from the director of Date Night be anything less?)

Anyway, I’m bummed that I couldn’t join you on the trip to the ol’ robot ring, so I’m going to try to make it up here. I figure there’s only one thing that can retroactively enhance the Real Steel experience: READING ABOUT THE SOURCE MATERIAL!

One of the many Marx toys! Have you all of them?

Liz, though I still have trouble believing it, Real Steel is not an adaptation of Rock’em Sock’em Robots. Apparently it is actually an adaptation of “Steel,” a short story by the great Richard Matheson, originally published in 1956 (eight years before Rock’em Sock’em Robots hit the shelves)! The Los Angeles Public Library system is very stingy with its back issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, so I have not been able to track down the story. Fortunately, they made it into a Twilight Zone episode! Read the rest of this entry

Frank Tells Liz What Happened In the “Smallville” Series Finale

Dear Liz,

To begin: a confession. A few weeks ago, of my own volition, I watched the series finale of Smallville.

Some background: As you know, I’m a fan of Superman. When I was small, I watched the Christopher Reeve movies religiously and regularly tuned in to the latter seasons of Super Friends. I owned Superman pajamas and wore them publicly on more than one Halloween. In college, I may have written and staged a series of short plays called The Superman Chronicles, in flagrant violation of copyright statute. (I can’t really confirm or deny that at this time.)

Also. I have a tattoo of the “S.” Sometimes I regret getting a corporate logo permanently engraved on my body, but it can’t be helped.

My senior year of college, I watched the first season of Smallville in its entirety. I came to the series with pretty low expectations, but the show actually made some really intelligent and interesting choices right off the bat. Over the course of that first season, the show gradually evolved from guilty pleasure to the brink of being actually good TV. So I tuned in to the second season quite optimistically, but I found it immediately dumb. I kept watching episodes here and there, but by the end of that second season it was clear that the slump wasn’t going to turn around any time soon, so I tuned out. Still, a part of me always wondered how this series with such a clearly established endpoint was going to round out. I guess that’s why, when I heard the show had ended, I went to the CW’s website and pulled up the final episode.

Obviously, you should keep in mind that what you are about to read is written from the perspective of a viewer who has missed well over 80 percent of the series he’s about to discuss. That said, having watched Smallville‘s finale, I can state with confidence that the series is a complete and abject failure. Read the rest of this entry

Frank Tells Liz What Happened In “My Neighbor Totoro”

Dear Liz,

First of all, thanks so much for asking me to tell you about something this week. This blog has filled my life with so much warmth and information, and your efforts to shine an edifying light on the underdeveloped corners of my pop culture soul continue to make me a better human being. I know you’re having a busy week, so the least I can do is pick up the baton for once and tell you about a Miyazaki movie.

Liz, like many of us who spent our childhoods in the 1980s, I experienced a deep, early love of cartoons. It started with the animated shorts on Sesame Street and reached its zenith with the arrival of The Muppet Babies, whose imaginative flights of fancy and media mash-ups were the highlight of my Saturday mornings. But like many of us, I gradually realized that most of the other cartoons I was devouring were totally terrible: derivative, violent toy commercials of the crudest hand-drawn sort. (For me, the breaking point was probably the day I recognized the imperialist undertones of The InHumanoids.) In many ways, the 1980s were the nadir of American animation.

Meanwhile in Japan, the 1980s were an animation renaissance, spearheaded by the formation of Studio Ghibli, the company formed by animator-auteurs Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. I’ve seen a number of Miyazaki movies, but I’ve actually never seen My Neighbor Totoro, so I’m very pleased that we’re sharing it for the first time together. Read the rest of this entry

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