Babylon 5 - The Lost Tales by J. Michael Straczynski
(Warner Bros. 30 October 2007 / $24.98) - Amazon.com: It'd be hard for any Babylon 5 fan not to feel a surge of emotion when President Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) returns to the space station that was the setting of one of the monumental series in television history. The Lost Tales is a new direct-to-DVD series in an anthology format, the first installment of which, subtitled "Voices in the Dark," includes two stories centering on the return of Sheridan. The first involves Colonel Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) and a crewman (Bruce Ramsay) who appears to be possessed by a demon, to the bewilderment of the priest attempting an exorcism (Alan Scarfe). The second involves Sheridan himself, who upon returning to B5 is asked to pick up a delegate from the Centauri, prince Regent Vintari (Keegan MacIntosh), who's attending the 10th anniversary celebration of the Interstellar Alliance in the place of old Centauri friend Londo Molari. What Sheridan doesn't expect is a psychic visit by techno-mage Galen (Peter Woodward) urging him to kill the boy before he becomes a dictator.
It's a treat to see Sheridan, Lochley, and Galen return from the original series (Woodward was also in the spin-off, Crusade), but The Lost Tales focuses on character-driven stories, and as such there's not a lot of action. The CGI effects are good, but sets are very limited and there are hardly any other cast members. (Sheridan even spends most of his time away from B5.) Creator-writer J. Michael Straczynski has said that if The Lost Tales succeeds, future stories might focus on Delenn or Garbibaldi. While that would be welcome, it might be even better to get a feature film (a la Serenity) that would presumably be on more of the epic scale that Babylon 5 deserves. Bonus features are 17 minutes of off-the-cuff interviews held on the set with Boxleitner and Straczynski, Scoggins and the crew, and Straczynski with Woodward; memorials to late cast members Andreas Katsulas and Richard Biggs; and Straczynski's diaries and fireside chats, in which he recounts the show's production and answers fan questions. --David Horiuchi (see review)
Fantastic Planet by René Laloux (Director)
(ACCENT CINEMA 23 October 2007 / ) - Product Description: René Laloux's mesmerising psychedelic sci-fi animated feature won the Special Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and is a landmark of European animation. Based on Stefan Wul's novel Oms en série [Oms by the Dozen], Laloux's breathtaking vision was released in France as La Planète sauvage [The Savage Planet]; in the USA as Fantastic Planet; and immediately drew comparisons to Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Planet of the Apes (both the 1968 film and Boule's 1963 novel). Today, the film can be seen to prefigure much of the work of Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) due to its palpable political and social concerns, cultivated imagination, and memorable animation techniques.
Fantastic Planet tells the story of Oms, a human-like species, kept as domesticated pets by an alien race of blue giants called Draags. The story takes place on the Draags' planet Ygam, where we follow our narrator, an Om called Terr, from infancy to adulthood. He manages to escape enslavement from a Draag learning device used to educate the savage Oms - and begins to organise an Om revolt. The imagination invested in the surreal creatures, music and sound design, and eerie landscapes, is immense and unforgettable. This release includes the early LaLoux short The Snails.
Special Features: English Language version, Original Subtitled version, photo gallery, trailer, Fantastic Laloux, the new 26 minute documentary on director Rene Laloux, short animated film Les Escargots (The Snails), an animated segment of Sean Lennon's music video for "Would I Be The One", inspired by Fantastic Planet.
DVD release date 10/23/2007
Read Rogan Marshall's review.
Ice Spiders by Tibor Takacs (Director)
(Sony Pictures 15 October 2007 / $24.96) - SYNOPSIS: Upon arriving at the remote Lost Mountain Ski Resort a group of Olympic hopefuls are thrilled to find that "Dash" Dashiell, (Patrick Muldoon, Starship Troopers), a retired Olympic skier, will be training them. Their plans are quickly halted when Dr. April Sommers (Vanessa Williams), a scientist working at a nearby government lab, frantically arrives with the shocking news that genetically- altered mega-spiders are attacking and feeding off of skiers at the resort. It's up to Dash, Dr. Sommers and resort owner Frank (Stephen J. Cannell) to stop the giant vicious spiders. With a small military squadron led by Captain Baker (Thomas Calabro, TV's "Melrose Place"), Dash and Dr. Sommers use every weapon they have at the Lost Mountain resort to save the survivors and stop the arachnid threat before they kill and eat everything in sight!
RATING: R for creature violence
CAST: Patrick Muldoon / Stephen J. Cannell / Thomas Calabro / Vanessa Williams
Producer/ Director: Tibor Takacs (see review)
Rain Falls in Grey by Radio Massacre International
(CUNEIFORM 02 October 2007 / $18.98) - Product Description: Radio Massacre International is a British trio of Steve Dinsdale (keyboards, electronics, drums), Duncan Goddard (keyboards, electronics, bass) and Gary Houghton (guitar, synthesizers). These three musicians have worked together in various configurations since they were 16 year old students in the 70's and formed R.M.I. in 1993. Their second Cuneiform release (and the band's 27th overall) is something quite different from the band's previous work. Best known for electronic space music for keyboards, electronics and guitars, here Radio Massacre have expanded greatly upon their usual sound and also use conventional rock instrumentation, adding bass and drums, to create a sincere and moving tribute to Syd Barrett, and in doing so, manage to capture some of the psychedelic magic of 1967-1968. This album features a really striking cover by Daevid Allen, which is also a hommage to Syd.
Radio Massacre International Explains:
This album is our way of saying goodbye and thanks to a genuine one-off. His passing had an unexpectedly profound effect, despite the fact that he hadn't been near a guitar in more than 30 years. It forced us to consider what an enormous influence he was, despite his space-ageascendancy and equally rapid burnout. He picked up a zippo lighter, invented glissando guitar and incorporated non-musical sounds into the context of the new psychedelic movement that had hardly had time to leave the conformity of Rhythm & Blues behind. His creation was a particularly English take on what we now call 'rock'...and for those of us engaged in experimental or space rock, the debt is enormous. (see review)
Stargate Atlantis - The Complete Second Season by
(MGM (Video & DVD) 29 October 2007 / $49.98) - Amazon.com: If Stargate Atlantis isn't the coolest sci-fi series on television, this five-disc, 20-episode box set from the second season (2005-06) offers ample evidence that it's right up there. The writing is good; the stories are intriguing, and the science part of the equation is credible enough to justify our suspension of disbelief. The characters are for the most part well-defined, and the acting, while perhaps not Emmy-caliber, is just fine. The action is exciting, the effects work impressive, the costumes and sets first-rate. But what Atlantis really has going for it is the presence of some of the baddest bad guys in the cosmos: the Wraith.
With their flowing white locks, cat-like eyes, pale, almost translucent skin, and teeth so bad they'd make the British blush, the Wraith rock. They also have a constant need to feed--on humans, of course--and are a serious threat not only to Atlantis but to the entire known universe, including good ol' Earth. And although there are occasional diversions, the producers and writers have wisely kept the focus on these implacable antagonists; in fact, the newest member of the team, one Ronon Dex (played by the dreadlocked and hunky Jason Momoa), is a "runner" who escaped the Wraith's clutches, was a fugitive for years before being found by our heroes, and specializes in dispatching the villains with cold precision. In the course of the season, via single episodes and several multi-parters, the Stargate team, commanded by Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Torri Higginson in the show's least interesting role) and led by insouciant Major John Sheppard (Joe Flanigan), with genius-neurotic Dr. Rodney McKay (David Hewlett) handling the scientific intricacies and yet another doc, Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion, affecting a Scottish brogue), overseeing medical matters, deals with the enemy on many fronts. Lt. Ford (Rainbow Sun Francks) defects after assuming Wraith-like characteristics. The team experiments with a "retrovirus" designed to turn Wraiths into humans (the results are decidedly mixed). They encounter a human who raised a Wraith female from childhood and insists she's just like us (she's not). They're captured and imprisoned on a Wraith "hive" ship. And in the final episode, the humans and the Wraiths even form an alliance of supposedly mutual convenience (the episode is a cliffhanger that awaits resolution until Season Three, but anyone who thought this "partnership" was a good idea for our side clearly hasn't been paying attention). As was the case with the Season One set, bonus materials are generous, including audio commentary (by actors, directors, and others) on every episode, various featurettes, photos, and more. Now if only there were a few Wraith interviews... --Sam Graham (see review)
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