Friday, December 2, 2022

The Lone Ranger Museum in Mount Carmel, Illinois

Earlier this year a friend of mine and I spent a week traveling through the state of Illinois and stopped over in Mount Carmel, the hometown of Brace Beemer, known to millions as radio's Lone Ranger. The museum is worth checking out if you are a fan of the masked rider of the plains, with collectibles, memorabilia and historical artifacts on display. 

The display is located in the Wabash County Museum at 320 Market Street. A mock studio shows Fred Foy and Brace Beemer holding a Lone Ranger radio script. A saddle owned by Brace Beemer, authenticated by his family, is on display. There is a fascinating display case of memorabilia owned by radio announcer Fred Foy. Young children can use plungers to replicate the horse hoofs of Silver just as the sound men accomplished on the radio program. The casting call board from the original studios of WXYZ is on display just as you walk through the door. Over 1,500 items related to The Lone Ranger are available for display, rotated on a regular basis to ensure every visit will have something different.

Most unique is the entrance to the exhibit, where you walk through the original door from the Maccabees building at radio station WXYZ, in Detroit. 













We spent more than two hours at the museum, not just reviewing the numerous items on display, and timeline along the wall, but also looking over some of the items that were not on display. A die-hard fan like myself had to see everything -- even if some of the collectibles were not on display for the general public. The curator was awesome is granting my friends and I the privilege.

If you want to financially support the museum, you can buy a Lone Ranger mug, key chain, clock, lunchbox, Christmas tree ornament, trinket box and much more. The link is provided below. (Disclaimer: yes, my Lone Ranger book is available for sale through this link. I donated the books to the museum and am in no way making a profit for the sale.)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

RESIDENT EVIL: The Television Series

Two months ago Netflix brought us a new TV series, Resident Evil, based on a series of popular video games that in turn launched a series of horror movies beginning in 2002. I would like to state right off the bat that I never played the video game (I rarely play any video games) and the 2002 movie starring Milla Jovovich is on my top five must-see zombie movies ever made. (Among those five, in case you are curious, is 28 Days Later, the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, and the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead.) The movie was so good that it gave me reason to watch the five sequels that followed it – with each movie getting more convoluted and confusing. 

So when Netflix pays for a series of eight hour-long episodes based on the game, I wanted to check it out. 

This version of Resident Evil follows two timelines: one leading up to the moment a deadly virus caused a global apocalypse, and one that picks up 14 years following those events. Here we follow Jade Wesker at two critical points in her life. As a teenager in the year 2022, where she and her twin sister Billie follow their father Albert Wesker to his work in the town of New Raccoon City, a burgeoning community run by the infamous Umbrella Corporation that is attempting to erase its connection to any of the disastrous events of its past. And through these eight episodes we bounce back and forth fourteen years later, set in 2036, where an adult Jade has a family of her own, and she is one of only a few hundred million people on Earth who managed to survive an apocalyptic zombie outbreak. As she is hunted by both the legions of the undead and foot soldiers from the Umbrella Corporation, Jade must uncover the mysteries of her family legacy and how all of it is connected to the survival—or the destruction—of the human race.

 


The television series is not meant to maintain continuity with the motion-pictures, but it certainly makes reference to the events of the first two movies in the franchise. And, like the movies, the T-virus not only re-animates the dead but mutates from host to host and ultimately goes out of control, creating various creatures. 

 

In an era where zombie movies and television programs have become fashionable, Resident Evil has the problem of standing out from the rest of the pack. Every program seems to be a variation-on-a-theme, with most avoiding the popular Walking Dead program that set a standard. Personally, I found the Resident Evil program to be above average both in budget and storyline. The program gave you a few mysteries that ultimately, over time, was answered. The special effects were well done. The premise was grounded enough to ensure the worst is yet to come but isolation always breeds fear in horror pictures. If I had any complaint, it was that this series really needed closure so that a second season – if there is going to be a second season – presented a new storyline in the Resident Evil universe and not just a cliffhanger to keep you wondering what happens next. With so many scripted programs produced these days, I find myself appreciating “limited series” (self-contained mini-series) more, and long continuous story arcs less. Keeping track later of when the next season of any program that never yet concluded is starting to become troublesome.

 

Interesting enough, I question whether this new program is not without irony. It seems fans of the franchise – or zombie/horror programs in general – who have access to the Internet are using this series to voice their opinions… and not always in a good way. It used to be that you could google a television program or movie and find some information about it including reviews. Today it seems a standard google search not only brought up a few reviews from television critics, but postings (with theories) questioning whether Netflix would even produce a second season, one person citing an entire blog entry to “worst programs ever” and other such negativity that I wonder if those people are not zombies themselves. (On Facebook it has become more prominent to see negativity posted instead of positivity.) So I guess this particular virus is now spreading on the Internet in general. if any new television program is going to be subjected to this type of trolling, I question if any new television program will ever have a chance.

 

I, for one, hope Netflix produces a second season. But alas, this was not meant to be. It was recently announced a second season was cancelled. Darn shame.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (Movie Review)

It has been two years since the passing of Chadwick Boseman and our hearts haven't been the same since. Following up with the 2018 movie, Black Panther, and his appearance in The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: End Game, one had to question how Marvel Studios would continue telling the saga without replacing him for another actor. The studio said it would be disrespectful to have another actor play the role. As emphasized in the final episode if She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Marvel Studios decided to move forward with emotional story telling and avoid the pitfalls that became far too recurring in their movies. No longer would there be super soldier serums and heroes and villains with daddy issues. And with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel took a daring chance with a story that ten years ago would never have been dramatized in a super hero movie... and as a result, hit the bullseye.

Here, the country of Wakanda momentarily mourns for the passing of T'Challa, the rightful ruler of Wakanda, also known as The Black Panther, and takes time to celebrate all that he left behind. But the primary focus is on the principal players in the film, and those directly connected to the life of T'Challa, as they grieve each in their own way. Shuri, his sister, is the last to grieve, instead choosing to retreat to her laboratory in the hopes of saving many more lives through science and technology -- for which she was unable to do and failed in her attempt to save her brother from a fatal illness. While the rest of the world is sympathetic to the plight of the country, they nonetheless are concerned about the unauthorized use of Vibranium for weapons, and the country's insistence on protecting the valuable resource. When the underwater resident known as Prince Namor, also known to comic book fans as Sub-Mariner, starts to wreck havoc on the surface world, Wakanda is the prime suspect. Here, Shuri and her mother, Queen Ramonda, must wage war against the underwater citizens led by the vile Namor, while holding their own. It is during the climatic battle that the meaning of life is found not through violence, but through the grief Shuri has for her brother's untimely death. 

Along the way, another Marvel superhero is introduced: Siri, who also known as Iron Heart. And, once again, the villainous Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, also known to comic book fans as Madame Hydra, continues to either recruit a new superhero or eliminate a pawn off the board, leading us to what will ultimately become a major problem in a future Marvel movie. Tenoch Huerta is perfect for the role of Sub-Mariner, but the film's true star is Angela Bassett who delivers a powerhouse performances that is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The good folks at Marvel Studios are not afraid to try something different. Like most of their movies, this sequel does not follow the same formula applied in the former entry, offering us a totally new story. In this case, an emotional tale led by a superb soundtrack that emphasizes the mood of each scene. This is why Marvel continues to dominate the box office. Daring storytelling that emphasizes rebirth through love, loss and forgiveness. 

Summed up, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (along with Prey and Top Gun: Maverick) is one of the top three movies of the year. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

LIGHTYEAR is a Nod to Classic Science-Fiction

It is evident that Angus MacLane, the director of Pixar’s 
Lightyear, is a fan of science-fiction. Even more so for Flash GordonBuck Rogers and Star Trek, which was evident when my wife and I recently went to the local drive-in to watch a double feature. (The other film was Marvel’s Thor: God of Thunder.)  

Lightyear tells the story of young astronaut Buzz Lightyear, who, after being marooned on a hostile planet with his commander and crew, tries to find a way back home while confronting a threat to the universe's safety. The concept of a human Buzz Lightyear, who exists in a fictional universe (within another fictional universe) is explained in the very opening of the picture.

 

Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger in Star Command, and his commanding officer and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne, explore the habitable planet, T'Kani Prime. They are forced to retreat to their exploration vessel after discovering that the planet hosts hostile lifeforms. Buzz damages the vessel during the retreat, forcing the crew to evacuate in order to conduct repairs and continue their journey.  

 

One year later, the crew have constructed a nascent colony along with the necessary infrastructure to conduct repairs. Buzz volunteers to test hyperspace fuel, a key component of the repairs. However, after a four-minute test, he finds that time dilation is possible. More importantly, he finds himself working with a rag tag team of misfits as they combat the Zyclops robots, led by the mysterious Zurg.

 

If you are a fan of the old Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon adventure serials, this is the type of movie that best resembles the nostalgic flavor – with a dash of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in for good measure. The foggy forest scene was a nod to the Star Wars franchise, an obvious scene provides a nod to The Black Hole (1979), and evading capture under the floor in vent shafts reproduced a scene from Aliens. Add a temporal paradox, hypersace travel and colonial defense forces, and you have a fun film.

 

To be fair, this was not a great film, nor is it a bad film. In an era where science-fiction movies released theatrically are dominated with Star Wars and superheroes, this one is a welcome change of pace. The movie settles for being a rather conventional origin story instead of reaching for the stars, but this gorgeously animated adventure accomplishes a mission of straightforward fun.