Oh we got trouble, right here on the Frontier... Look, I am trying to remain optimistic about The Last Starfighter reboot, folks. But can it fly without Professor Harold Hill?
The fact that this movie has never had a sequel defies Hollywood physics, since the Nick Castle sci-fi adventure attained cult status and was a seminal film for many of us nerds who grew up in the 1980s. It was Cretaceous-era CGI, it had snarky dialogue and teenagers who weren’t spoiled rich suburban kids dealing with such trials as prom - many of us could relate to Alex Rogan’s frustration at being unable to afford college and fears of being trapped in the trailer park forever.
But what really made Last Starfighter fly, pardon the expression, was Robert Preston as a cosmic Music Man, shamelessly riffing off his own iconic performance as the lovable con man with a smartass grin and terrific patter.
It didn’t precisely lose money - it cost $14 million and made $28 million. Reviews were tepidly warm, but the fondness we ‘80s kids have for it has grown over the years. There was a novelization, comic, and briefly, an off-Broadway musical (shudder). There was not a video game, which also defies Hollywood physics - one was developed, but never released.
A sequel was promised in 2008, and fell into development hell. Lorimar Pictures’ demise in 1992 complicated the rights, with Universal and Warner Bros. at odds on who has the right to remakes vs. sequels. A TV reboot was promised in 2015, which also disappeared unseen.
Now Rogue One’s screenwriter is working with the original Last Starfighter screenwriter on a reboot. Concept art only, but this one seems to have some groundwork laid.
But… Seth Rogen as Centauri? I’m not sold on that. Lance Guest is still working, though he’s never had a role as big as Alex since. (I’d love to see Wil Wheaton as a human bad guy; he was an extra as a kid in the trailer park, and I’ve seen him do villain on Criminal Minds.)
Look. We try to stay sanguine about reboots and remakes and sequels to beloved icons because they can’t change the good stuff. As Stephen King says, “The book is there on the shelf. They can’t change a word.” I can enjoy the hell out of the first two Mummy movies and still maintain the third does not exist.
But when you wait this long for something… you want it to be awesome. You want it to hit out of the park, because otherwise it feels like empty nostalgia: this sequel/remake was created solely to suck money out of your pockets because all we did was slap the title of your favorite on it with a Roman numeral. We waited many years for Independence Day - another one whose lack of a sequel defied Hollywood physics - and look what we got: a mishmash of a script and a yawner of an alien invasion, which takes some doing.
We know there are more reboots coming - the latest is a “modern take” on A League of Their Own, which is still set during WWII so I’m not sure how modern it can be - and some might actually be good updates, like the pending Fahrenheit 451 starring Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan (see Trailer Park, below).
So I’m hoping that the writers remember what made Last Starfighter one of our favorites. And while we sadly cannot bring back Robert Preston, we will need something or someone that iconic to bring life to the new one, and defend the Frontier from Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada.
• Ouch. The premise, script, and even the details of the crime and investigation from a 2009 episode of Bones appear to have been lifted and used in the third episode of Instinct, a CBS crime show that just barely got started. The episode’s writer is Christopher Ambrose, who worked on Bones for three years.. but did not write the episode he’s accused of plagiarizing. Stay tuned...
• Writers: Please note that Amazon is apparently removing erotic novels from rankings because… well, reasons. Maybe because sex sells better than anything else, and Amazon doesn’t mind making gazillions off those sales but doesn’t want to look like it’s selling sex. Or maybe because they don’t actually know the difference between erotica and romance and love stories. Or, if you believe them, it was “inadvertent.” No word yet on whether the authors who were de-listed into the “no-rank dungeon” have been restored. As the Vice piece points out, there is almost literally no way to make a living as a romance or erotica novelist without Amazon, so what they do affects the livelihoods of thousands of writers.
• Black Panther is now the top-grossing superhero movie of all time in the U.S., so rock on Wakanda! It’s also the top-grossing film of 2018 by far at $656.9 million (second is Peter Rabbit, way in the distance with $112 million, and Fifty Shades Freed with $100 million, and can we fix that, please?). It did not bust the record for weeks at the top - that’s still Titanic in the modern era with 17 weeks. That’s just domestic gross, of course, because Hollywood seems to think only American dollars are worth anything. Worldwide gross going into its seventh week is $1.28 billion-with-a-B.
For all-time domestic gross, it’s No. 4; for all-time worldwide, it’s No. 10. Now those latter numbers don’t mean as much because they’re not adjusted for inflation; but when you adjust for inflation, it’s at No. 34 and climbing. It’s passed Ghostbusters, Independence Day, Cleopatra and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. But it has a long way to go to catch the all-time top-five champs of adjusted gross: Titanic, E.T., The Sound of Music, Star Wars and Gone With the Wind. (I love Box Office Mojo.)
• David Bischoff, science fiction and television writer who authored more than 80 books, including tie-ins for Aliens, Farscape, Star Trek: The Next Generation and WarGames. He wrote several episodes of TNG as well, and taught creative writing at Seton Hill University.
• Chicago Fire actress DuShon Monique Brown, at age 49. Before becoming an actress, she was a crisis counselor at high school, and had a masters degree in counseling and a backround in social work. She was a Chicago native who grew up on the South Side, and worked for a long time on the Chicago stage before her TV breaks. The cause of death was not released.
• Steven Bochco, 74, creator of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue and a few other shows you might have heard of. Known as the writer who redefined the television drama, he opened doors for realistic portrayals of law enforcement and arc storytelling with a visual style and language that resonated with viewers. “Police detectives did not solve crimes in a single episode, and they had flaws just like the bad guys,” wrote the New York Times. “They drank, swore and had messy personal lives- provocative portrayals that caused some episodes to carry ‘explicit warnings,’ scared off some advertisers and led some network affiliates to refuse to broadcast episodes.” He had lawyers wrestling with issues like capital punishment and AIDS, nudity and racist language among cops, the first R-rated show on network television, and gave us thoughtful, serious entertainment that also made us think. Remember what that was like?
• Fahrenheit 451, with Michael B. Jordan as the lead “firefighter” in Ray Bradbury’s dystopic terror. (I wonder how they’re going to address the ebook issue?) “Knowledge is a dangerous thing…”
• I don’t often share trailers for TV shows, but ABC’s The Crossing intrigues me. The “people from another time/space/dimension show up in a small town” has been done a lot, but this one looks nifty. Also: the sheriff does yoga. Hee.
• I have issues with the sociological basis of the Purge movies, but setting that aside, the latest round is about The First Purge. It delves into how this came about in the first place - and stars Marisa Tomei. While some of the Purge movies have descended into nothing but violence-porn, this one actually seems to address some of the more serious issues behind the concept, such as income disparity (the poor have no protection while the rich hide behind million-dollar security systems) and hopefully the ludicrousness of the idea that human violence just needs an outlet to be eliminated. We’ll see…
Coming This Weekend
• A Quiet Place, the one about the family that has to stay in total silence or be hunted by big nasty beasties. Starring Emily Blunt, among others.
• Blockers, to which you’re not supposed to add “cock” despite the obviousness of the poster. Premise: “Three parents try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night.” Hilarious. (Note: sarcasm font enabled.)
• The Miracle Season, quasi-fact-based sports feel-good about a girls’ volleyball team striving for a championship after one of them dies.
• Chappaquiddick is supposedly in limited release, but it’s playing now in local theaters, so I guess we’re “limited.” I was somewhat skeptical of this, but then the Boston Globe wrote this review - and they’re very familiar with the Kennedy mystique, so I’d trust them over some others.
Ready Player One, Acrimony, I Can Only Imagine, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Sherlock Gnomes, Love Simon, Tomb Raider, A Wrinkle in Time, Paul: Apostle of Christ. And, of course, BLACK PANTHER.
We’ll be seeing A Quiet Place, so look for reviews next week - along with Ready Player One, if life doesn’t intervene. Have a nice one!