Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The costume for Yvaine, the fallen star in Stardust.

Costume designer Sammy Sheldon designed the "fallen star" costume. Sheldon struggled initially with how the costume should appear: Sparkly, like a star? Or more molten, now that she's come to Earth? Sheldon settled on a more shiny, molten look. At first, they tried a crystalline fabric to make it look as if Yvaine was wearing a liquid garment, but they ended up with an much older standy: Silk satin. They just cut and draped it so that it fell easily to the ground.

To make the garment fit with the rest of the film (which looks like 1800s England), Sheldon decided that it shouldn't have any fastenings. That way, the audience couldn't identify it with a specific time-period. However, sleves, shoulders, and folds and draping of the lower dress were given a Renaissance feel to keep the period flavor.

A metal grey dye was chosen to make Yvaine look like she was merging with the rock.

Actress Claire Danes had to keep her weight EXACTLY steady for three months. The dress was nearly form-fitting, and it was designed as a one-piece to avoid fastenings. So when she put the dress on, it slipped over her head and HAD HAD HAD to fit her perfectly.

Have a cuppa...

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... Nobuhiko Ushiba was Japanese Ambassador to the United States from 1970 to 1973, during which time the U.S. "shocked" Japan twice -- once by normalizing relations with China, and again by devaluing the dollar?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Are you among those who HATED HATED HATED the Santa Claus uniforms that came with Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (WOK) because they did away with the electronic tummy packs?

I fail to see the problem with the WOK uniforms: They are almost the same as those used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP). No, really.

Nicholas Meyer instructed costume designer Robert Fletcher that (a) he wanted a naval look to all Starfleet costumes, and (b) that the officer uniforms should look specifically like those in the 1937 Ronald Colman film The Prisoner of Zenda.

Because the budget for costumes in the WOK was even lower than that for TMP, Fletcher re-used the existing uniforms. You'll notice in a side-by-side comparison that the cut of the front panel is identical: All that Fletcher's staff did was add superficial trim from the neck to the right shoulder, and then down the right seam to "indicate" where the uniform could open.

Director Nicholas Meyer then asked that the uniform actually open. This is because an open flap which reveals white fabric will bounce light back up into the actor's face -- allowing far moe subtle facial expressions to "read" on film when the bridge is dark.

To achieve this effect, Fletcher cut open the TMP uniform from the neck to the right shoulder, and inserted a panel beneath it to hide the actor's skin. The right-side seam of the TMP uniform was then opened. Trim was added from the neck along the new seam, and down the right-hand seam to create the impression of a jacket.

Fletcher added a row of small button snaps to the inner part of the trim to keep the uniform flap closed. When these showed up clearly on test footage, Fletcher found some silver chain. Three links of the chain were then sewed by hand to the costume to hide the buttons.

A small change was then made to the lower hem of the uniform. Instead of a U-shaped lower hem that fell in front of the crotch, Fletcher cut the lower uniform horizontal and raised it so that it looked less like a smock or apron and more like a jacket.

The epaulet over the right shoulder was extended and insignia added. The braid on both TMP sleeves was removed, and a new white band with new insignia added to the left sleeve.

Interestingly Fletcher had designed those TMP uniforms -- and hated them as much as anyone else. They were bland and did not stand out against backgrounds. But to save money, they had to re-use thosee existing uniforms. So they did tests with various kinds of dye to see what colors the fabrics would take, and what those colors looked like. Three colors worked out well: blue-grey, gold, and dark red. None of the colors were anything that a traditional dye-master would use (because they mixed with the existing dye in the fabrics). This pleased the costuming crew, as it made the uniforms look "futuristic" (or at least abnormal enough for people to notice).

The high, tight, stiff collars from the TMP uniforms were initially dyed black for WOK. However, this look shitty, so they were jettisoned. Producer Robert Sallin suggested a more turtleneck approach. The staff decided on a collar that used something called "trapunto". Little tube-like areas were outlined with thread in the collar, and then a hollow needle was used to shoot thread into the area to fill it.

New "hero" costumes were made for the seven "Star Trek" stars, as well as Kirstie Alley and Paul Winfield. But they weren't any different in design from the alterations made to the existing TMP uniforms.

So I'm always confused when people lambaste the WOK uniforms. They are, essentially, the same cut and fabric as the TMP uniforms, just with trim, an open shoulder, and a dye-job. (Like any creaky old thing, it needed a dye job!)

There is a Facebook group called "Women Composting". I swear to god, this is what I thought of when I learned about it.

Women who are into composting, and are composting other women.

Nicholas D'Agosto is a 35-year-old American actor. He is of Italian and Dutch descent, and was born in Omaha, Nebraska.

He was 19 when he got a bit part in the indie film Election, and the following year appeared mostly shirtless in the gay comedy Psycho Beach Party. His really good looks led him to get a number of guest-starring roles on a lot of high-ratings television series, although his next big role wasn't until he was cast as the recurring character West Rosen on Heores in 2007. By now, he was 27, and aging out of teen roles.

His last big teeny-bopper role was the lead in the teen comedy Fired Up!, about male cheerleaders. He appeared shirtless in a huge number of scenes, showing off his sculpted, muscular, somewhat hairy body.

He showed up in the really rotten Final Destination 5 in 2011, and basically stopped acting in film since all he got were high school/college kid roles. As a 31-year-old, those just weren't appropropriate any more.

He then got a co-starring role on Masters of Sex in 2013. His big claim to fame right now is as young District Attorney Harvey Dent in Gotham, which is a recurring role.

I know this seems obscure, but whenever Rond Vidar showed up in the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, I loved it.

Universo was one of the Legion's earliest enemies. He possessed innate, immensely powerful hypnotic powers which were augmented even further by a "Hypno Stone". He is actually a former Green Lantern, who attempted to see the Dawn of Time. This is a mega-massive-huge no-no. When the Maltusian scientist Krona attempted to do so billions of years ago, he created the Multi-Verse and unleashed massive amounts of evil. Universo's attempt to do so was stopped before it could do any damaged, and he was stripped of his power ring. He then tried to use his hypno-powers to accomplish his goals using the Legion's Time Bubbles.

Rond Vidar is Universo's son, and immune to Universo's hypno-powers. Rond concealed his true heritage for many years, as Green Lanterns were barred from Earth following Universo's treachery.

Rond is one of the most brilliant temporal researchers the galaxy has ever known -- more so that T.O. Morrow, more so than Rip Hunter, more so than Brainiac 5, more so than the Time Trapper. He was just 20 years old when he invented the Time Cube (the first practical and replicable time-traveling device), and he later invented the Time Beacon (which made time travel immensely safer). Rond appeared periodically in the Legion comic book, usually introducing some new time-related gadget that helped the Legion overcome some problem.

Brainiac 5 was never shown to be in love with anyone, too "brainy" to be worried about romance. But his friendship with Rond Vidar was shown to be a big-time bromance, and was occasionally used for comic relief (as neither was homosexual -- at least, at that time -- and neither had the slightest interest in sex or a relationship).

The Guardians of the Universe later recruited Rond to be a covert Green Lantern, and gave him his father's Lantern ring.

Unfortunately, in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (August 2008 to September 2009), Rond Vidar's tale came to an end.

DC Comics was rebooting its entire comic universe YET AGAIN.... The Legion's backstory had become unglued in all sorts of ways due to the endless reboots that DC Comics engaged in between 1985 and 2005. This was an attempt to solve that problem.

Some years earlier, the Clark Kent of "our" world (Earth Prime) was taken into the world of Earth-1 (where all the comic book heroes live). He went insane after coming to believe that "other" Superboys had usurped the fame due him. He was then locked in a "paradise dimension", but eventually freed himself by "pounding on the walls of reality" (something fans snicker at to this day). He was later cast back through time and believed lost...

But now, in Legion of 3 Worlds, the Legion's greatest foe -- the Time Trapper -- retrieves Superboy-Prime and sends him to then 31st century. He's (typically) enraged to learn of his minimal impact on history. He breaks the Legion's enemies out of prison, and creates a new version of the Legion of Super-Villains in a bid to destroy the Legion. The villains travel to Sorcerers' World to recruit Mordru.

Mordru the Merciless, the greatest wizard of all time, throughout the universe, had some time ago captured the Naltorian sorceress known as the White Witch (she's Dream Girl's sister). Rond revealed himself to be a Green Lantern, and led a group of Legionnaires to Sorcerers' World to rescue her. When they arrived, they encountered Superboy-Prime and his gang. Rond attempted to hold off Prime and the others while the rest of the Legionnaires fled back to Earth to gather more members. Rond was defeated by Prime and Saturn Queen, who interfered with Rond's ability to operate his ring. Universo demanded his ring back; when Rond refused, Superboy-Prime brutally murdered him.

Superman travels from the 20th to the 31st century to assist the Legion against the villains. Brainiac 5 then recruits the immortal Sodam Yat (the last Guardian of the Universe) to help battle Prime. He also has Starboy (sent to the 20th century years ago, and now the mentally ill hero known as Starman) to retrieve Conner Kent's* body and place it in a Kryptonian healing chamber in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Brainiac 5 then summons the Legions of parallel Universe-247 and paralle Universe-Prime to fight against the Legion of Super-Villains. Brainiac 5 then uses Flash's Cosmic Treadmill (retrieved from the 20th century) to resurrect cousin Bart Allen (Kid Flash) from within the Speed Force.

As the army of heroes battle Superboy-Prime, Brainiac 5 travels to the Fortress of Solitude in the 31st century -- where he retrieves a now-living Conner Kent. Conner attacks his murderer, Superboy-Prime.

Inexplicably, the Time Trapper kidnaps three Legionnaires in the midst of battle. He reveals himself to be Superboy-Prime. He's knocked out, and taken back to Earth where Superboy-Prime punches his elder self. This causes both villains to wink out of existence.

The Universe-Prime Legion returns home. The Universe-247 Legion discovers its universe was destroyed during the Final Crisis, and decides to stay in our universe to scour the galaxy for other time-lost heroes. Superman returns to the 21st century with Conner Kent and Kid Flash.

Meanwhile, a powerless Superboy-Prime wakes up on the reborn Earth-Prime and is reunited with his parents and his girlfriend Lori, who are all horrified by what he has become.

Rond's body was taken to Oa, where he was cremated by Sodam Yat.

Brainiac 5 later reveals that of all the many friends he's had over the years who've died, Rond's death -- by far -- hurt him most of all. Even more than the death of Supergirl, whom Brainiac had loved.

* - It's too hard to explain. But in the wake of the 1992 story "The Death of Superman", a clone was created using DNA taken from Lex Luthor and Superman. He has limited Kryptonian powers (like invulnerabilty), but most of his powers are telekinetic -- and merely mimic Superman's super-speed, super-strength, super-senses, flight, etc. When he learns he's not Superboy, he starts calling himself "Kon-El" instead; the Kents decide to harbor him, and call him "Conner Kent", claiming he is Clark's cousin. Superboy-Prime murders him during the early events of the Final Crisis.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I always liked Lucas "Snapper" Carr.

In the late 1960s, the editor of DC Comics told the writers of Justice League of America to add a hip, cool young character to the team...something "the kids" could relate to. That ended up being Snapper. He got his nickname from his habit of snapping his fingers like some jive-talking, yippie-lovin', beatnik coolio. It was embarrassing. He saved the League from Starro the Conqueror in their very first adventure, and was made an honorary member of the JLA. He was also their mascot. In the early 1970s, Snapper was even more of an embarrassment, and the writers allowed The Joker to trick him into betraying the location of the JLA's secret hideout in Rhode Island.

Snapper disappeared...............

All that was before my time. I didn't start reading Justice League of America until 1976. I was 11 years old.

But -- wow! -- what a run Snapper Carr had just after I started reading the comic! In Justice League of America #140 (March 1977), a long story arc began which eventually brought down Snapper Carr for good. The Manhunters return, seeking to arrest Green Lantern for destroying a planet. They turn out to be corrupt (GL didn't destroy a planet, they faked that), and are defeated by the JLA. Mark Shaw, the Earthly representative of the Manhunters, quits the intergalactic police group.

In Justice League of America #142 (May 1977), the world's radio waves form a sentient being called The Construct. He seems easily defeated by Elongated Man, Atom, and Aquaman. But he returns in the next issue, even more powerful -- and the Injustice Society returns as well! In a major plot twist, the Injustice Society satellite is destroyed. The JLA is helped by Mark Shaw, now acting as the superhero named The Privateer.

In Justice League of America #144 (July 1977), Green Arrow learns of the secret origin of the Justice League as they fight off Commander Blanx and the White Martians. This issue radically alters the League's history, and introduces an extremely large number of supporting characters who hadn't been seen in DC Comics in decades: the Blackhawk Squadron, the Challengers of the Unknown, Congo Bill and Congorilla, Rip Hunter, Plastic Man, Roy Raymond and Rex the Wonder Dog, Adam Strange, and Vigilante.

After a one-off villain attacks the JLA in Justice League of America #145 (August 1977), Construct returns again in Justice League of America #146 (September 1977) and begins his long association as the arch-nemesis of Red Tornado.

Mordru the Merciless appears for a SUPERB two-issue run alongside the Demons Three (Abnegazer, Rath, and Ghast) as the JLA and JSA team up for the first time with the Legion of Super-Heroes in Justice League of America #147 (October 1977) and #148 (November 1977).

Another one-off battle, this time against the ineffectual Doctor Light, occurs in Justice League of America #149 (December 1977). Not only does the Privateer return, but so does Snapper Carr. And so does a new villain -- the Star Tsar, a man with the power to draw on starlight in order to power his energy blasts, invulnerability, super-strength, and ability to generate explosions. The battle continues in Justice League of America #150 (January 1978) -- which features the return of The Key -- one of the JLA's deadliest foes!!!!!! This is a villain the League has never been able to defeat, just stymie.

As the battle comes to a conclusion, the Star Tsar is revealed to be none other than Snapper himself -- having betrayed the League a SECOND time (this time on purpose).

Yes, Snapper got a mega-hot, ripped, muscular body in his years away from the Justice League. I mean, masturbatory hot.

DC Comics tried to rehabilitate Snapper in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He got experimented on by the aliens known as the Dominators, and was accidentally given the power to teleport by snapping his fingers. He worked with the Omega Men for a while, and then formed his own group of Dominator-experiments, named the Blasters. In due time, the aliens known as Khunds captured him and cut off his hands -- depriving him of his ability to teleport. He was rescued by L.E.G.I.O.N. (an intergalactic super-hero police force) and his hands were regrown by Vril Dox/Brainiac 2. But he still couldn't teleport.

Snapper became an advisor of sorts to various superheroes, including Hourman and Young Justice. He's still a hipster, and he still has that mega-hot, mega-muscled body of a porn star. During the "Final Crisis" events in 2006, he was revealed to have been a high-level member of Checkmate, an international group of law enforcement officers who monitor all metahumans and aliens on Earth. He'd apparently not been a member long. He became a member in 2005 when Batman's intelligent satellite, Brother Eye, and the former JLA advisor-turned-villain Maxwell Lord tried to use the OMACs to wipe out metahumans.

At the end of "Final Crisis", we see Snapper again -- although now he's a low-level Checkmate operative (with no explanation of why his level changed) and he has his teleportation powers back (and ther'es no explanation of that, either). Snapper engages in a series of minor missions to sabotage Darkseid's installations on Earth and to locate heroes who've managed to avoid being taken over by the Anti-Life Equation. In his last mission, he saves the Wonder Woman villain Cheetah. Cheetah is so happy, she rips his clothes off and has wild, passionate sex with him for a night and a day.

Unfortunately, Snapper loses his teleportation powers due to Darkseid's interference. The last time we see him, he's running into battle against Darkseid's foes with Mister Miracle. (One assumes he survives.)

I started reading JLA about 1975, so my first introduction to Snapper was that great Mark Shaw/Privateer/Star Tsar/The Key run from 1977 to 1978. Not only was the story good, but the artwork was SUPERB.

Snapper was one of those people who were incredibly campy and goofy, a leftover from the 1960s that DC Comics wanted to get rid of, permanently. These characters often got killed off or turned into villains. In Snapper's case, it was a super story and I totally got hooked on Snapper Carr!

Giving him teleportation powers and all that stuff seemed silly and stupid. And, at first, I thought that making him into a Singles movie reject (as if somehow grunge still lived) was inane. But he's continued to grow on me, and his immense immaturity and lucklessness as a character -- along with his complete ignorance of how hot his body is now -- are endearing, I find.

Dean Winters happens to be one of my favorite actors. I first saw him on the HBO prison drama Oz. But he made one of my all-time favorite TV series, in one of my all-time favorite episodes............................

The episode was "The Curse of Frank Black", the sixth episode of the second season of Millennium. This Halloween-themed episode, written by showrunners Glen Morgan and James Wong, aired on October 31, 1997.

* * * * * * * *

The series is about Frank Black, a former FBI agent who has a psychic gift that allows him to see flashing images of what the killer saw. He had a massive nervous breakdown some years ago and left the bureau. He and his social worker wife, Catherine, have since had a little girl, Jordan, and moved to Seattle. Frank now acts as a consultant with various law enforcement agencies. A group of former FBI agents, convinced society is getting too sick to survive, have banded together as The Millennium Group to both try to hold back the onrush of evil as well as keep together a remnant of society during what they believe will be a worldwide disaster when the new millennium begins. Frank joins The Millennium Group. Although he doesn't share their Christian end-times philosophy, he increasingly comes to believe that some evil force -- a demonic force -- is stalking him.

The set-up: Serial killer Lucy Butler murdered Frank's friend, Seattle Police Detective Bob Bletcher, late in season one -- hanging his corpse from a nail in Frank's basement. Butler escape. Frank's wife was then kidnapped by a serial killer and his assistant (really, the man controlling him) at the end of season one. Frank tracked the killer down and killed him at the start of season two. It was ruled self-defense, but Catherine and Frank have separated. Catherine is living with her mother in Seattle, while Frank has taken up residence in a rented home -- leaving "The Yellow House" (their dream home) empty.

* * * * * * * *

On Halloween, Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) is carving a jack-o'-lantern while preparing to take his daughter Jordan (Brittany Tiplady) trick-or-treating. The candle he uses cost $2.68. The matches he uses come from the 268 Club. Seeing a note to himself ("Jordan - trick or treating - 6 to 8 pm") Frank blows out the candle, and leaves. But the candle flickers back to life...

As they trick-or-treat, Jordan (who shares a little of Frank's psychic powers) becomes frightened of a house (number 268), telling Frank it is haunted. Frank momentarily sees a demon sitting in an upstairs window. But he blinks..... and it is gone. Frank remembers an incident from his childhood, back in 1946 when he was five years old. His older friends dare him to knock the door of a man named Crocell (Dean Winters), a World War II vet who is allegedly a pedophile and insane. When the frightened Frank knocks and asks for a trick-or-treat, Crocell pulls him inside and says, "Give me a trick, I'll find a treat for you." Crocell explains that Halloween is the one night of the year when ghosts walk among the living. Trick-or-treating is supposed to remind us of these ghosts. Crocell, overcome with survivor's guilt, wants to speak with the friends he lost in the war. But little Frank avers that "there's no such thing as ghosts."

Flash-forward to the present: Frank has dropped Jordan off at her mother's, and is headed home. The mileage on his SUV reads "268000". Suddenly, Frank's portable CD player starts blinking "268" and will only play "Little Demon" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Finally, the car breaks down.

Frank walks along the lonely, foggy street, seeking help. He passes two 'tween boy s out trick-or-treating -- one is dressed as a football player with the number 26 on his back, the other dressed as hockey player with the number 8 on his back. They pass by Frank without acknowledging his pleas for help. Frank sees some kids egging a house and rushes to stop them. They leave behind a half-empty carton of eggs. Frank realizes he's in front of the Yellow House. He goes inside to phone for help, and overhears some teenagers gathered in the basement. The boys are trying to scare the girls, and one tells the story of Bletcher's murder. Black scares the youths off, then sits in his basement and wishes Bob were still alive. In a flashback, a teenaged Frank watches the police leave the Crocell house with a body. The other boys make up extreme stories about how Crocell died, but Frank's psychic gift tells him that Crocell committed suicide.

Back in the present, Frank leaves the Yellow House. Angry at how his life is turning out, he picks up the egg carton discarded by the teenagers and throws the remaining eggs at the house's windows. One egg hits the main window, leaving behind an eerie, demonic image in the yolk...

Frank gets back in his SUV, and discovers it now works just fine. He drives home, where heleafs through the day's mail. Every piece of mail comes from an organization with the acronym "ACTS", and every one has the numbers "268" somehow in the address or on the envelope. Frank also notices that the candle in the jack-o-lantern never went out, and now it has completely melted and run out through the mouth of the pumpkin like blood.

Frank turns on the TV, and watches some news. The sports scores all involve the numbers "268" and every team or league has the letters "ACTS" in them. Suspicioius, Frank turns off the TV. It turns on again -- showing a laughing devil puppet from the 1933 film The Mascot (aka The Devil's Ball). Frank turns the TV off, and it turns on again. He has to remove the remote control's batteries to stop the television from turning on again.

The doorbell rings. Frank forgot to turn off the house's burglar alarm, and the security company -- Allied Central Total Security -- is investigating. Frank assures the men that he's fine. As they leave, he notices that their license plate reads "ACTS 268".

Something is very wrong.... Frank looks up a Bible verse: Acts 26:8. It reads, "Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?"

Frank scoffs, and goes to bed. As he sleeps, a thunderstorm passes by. His alarm clocks blinks "268".

Frank wakes, and hears something moving in his attic. Going up there, he sees Crocell's ghost sitting at one end of the empty space, dressed as he was in 1946, smoking a cigarette. Crocell says he's been "sent back" to warn Frank to stop his work with The Millennium Group, or else something so evil and so vicious will come after him, his wife, and his child that he will wish he had never been born. Crocell warns Frank that what lies ahead is loneliness and suicide; he himself threw dog shit at his own house. He warns Frank to mind his own business.

Frank turns away, as if to go back downstairs. Then he looks back, adn begins to ask Crocell a question. But the ghost is gone. Only the smoke from the cigarette is still in the air.

The following day, Black returns to the Yellow House with a bucket, soap, and sponge. He turns on an outdoor faucet, and cleans up the eggs he had thrown at his own house. He sees the demonic image in the egg yolk, but does not pause as he lavishes soap on the glass. As he wipes down the window, he glimpses a demon inside the house. The soap drips over the image. He pauses, and continues wiping. The figure is gone. Frank continues his work: He won't mind his own business.

Winters' few minutes of screen time is ASTONISHINGLY GOOD. His monologue in the attic is nothing short of outstanding. SUPERB. WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!