Giraud, who was also known by the name Moebius, passed away in Paris, France on Friday night (09Mar12) after a battle with cancer.
He began his career as an illustrator in the advertising industry, but went on to create a number of famous comic book characters, including French creation Lieutenant Blueberry and a collaboration with Marvel boss Stan Lee on the Silver Surfer.
Giraud also worked on storyboards for a number of science fiction films and helped create the look of Sir Ridley Scott's Alien and 1982's Tron, as well as The Abyss, The Fifth Element, Willow and Masters of the Universe.
Today, an otherwise mundane Tuesday in September, is a momentous day for fans of science fiction. Why? Because The Twilight Zone: Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray. And it is a glorious set to behold.
I could ramble on about how pristine the new high-definition transfer is (recordings that are over 40 years old should not look this good, yet somehow each episode has been immaculately conserved and eased into HD) or how the meticulous folks at Image Entertainment packed this set with a sinful amount of special features (it has some 19 new commentaries, a host of period-specific footage about the success of the show, the unaired pilot, and a whole lot more), but instead of just reviewing the Blu-ray, I'd rather take a closer look at what I feel is the lasting legacy of The Twilight Zone: the writing.
Sure, The Twilight Zone's anthology format (which it popularized but certainly didn't pioneer) influenced a host of similar shows, the most obvious being The Outer Limits, and eventually films as well, but the format would have been nothing without its outstanding staff of writers. Series creator Rod Serling wrote the bulk of the show's episodes, but he's never had any qualms about giving credit to the people who most influenced him. Old science fiction masters along the lines of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury all had their hand - some more directly than others - in cultivating the kind of stories that Serling liked to tell. And it's those specific kind of stories that would go on to define the series.
We've all heard the phrase "It's like a Twilight Zone episode," but what does that really mean? Because the show's more memorable episodes - ones like "Time Enough at Last," about a man who only wants to spend his life reading books, and "The Eye of the Beholder," about a freak-of-nature woman who is undergoing plastic surgery to look more like everyone else around her - all featured a last-minute surprise, the comparison is often made whenever something even vaguely sci-fi has a twist ending. Such a comparison is selling the show short, though. The Twilight Zone wasn't about writing for a twist; it was about exploring how mankind's latent nature will inherently always get it in trouble.
Unlike a number of science fiction properties, be them books or movies, The Twilight Zone didn't have a grudge against actual science. Its stories weren't about how investigating new frontiers or pushing the limits of human knowledge will bring about the end of the human race. No, Serling's goal was always to tell stories about man becoming undone as a result of his own insecurities - not because he was meddling in things he shouldn't have - which is why he always turned to source material that was more speculation than condemnation.
Obviously there are a variety of science fiction stories, but the most common to film and television is the foreboding warning to mankind that its ignorance about that which it experiments on will get it killed. That's not the most common species to The Twilight Zone, however. The Twilight Zone was predominantly about mankind's own lack of restraint, about the toxicity of the me-first mindset. And that particular strain of sci-fi is sadly becoming extinct.
Doom-and-gloom scenarios are all the rage these days, which is a natural reflection of our nation falling out of love with science. It's no longer valued and revered the same way it was when The Twilight Zone was still alive, and that is due in no small part to the fact that the literary science fiction masters are no longer the rock stars they used to be. People like Matheson, Bradbury and Serling are no longer welcome in our fiction. And it's not just TV or movies but magazines as well - one would be amazed how many Twilight Zone episodes were adapted from short stories that were initially published in Playboy. Sure, every now and then Hollywood reaches back to its collected works to pull out something for modernization, but the modernization always ends up being a complete cannibalization of the soul of the original story.
Big-budget films like I Am Legend and The Day the Earth Stood Still have become all about the spectacle. All studios care about now are scenarios, not stories. They want to reanimate the skeleton, not the body and mind, and the result is invariably a pale wraith of what once was. Hey! Man's greed getting in the way of the goal? That sounds like the end of a Twilight Zone episode...
While the original 1950s sci-fi cult classic pointed to the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war in a timely manner this The Day the Earth Stood Still is just a rehash. Do we really need Keanu Reeves to tell us how we’ve messed up the planet? In any case he plays Klaatu an alien being inside a human body who comes to Earth in a giant sphere to “talk” to our world leaders about our destructive behavior. In fact he’s the deciding factor on whether to destroy the human race in order to preserve Earth OR give us another chance. Of course no one is going to let Klaatu speak to the U.N. which leaves the alien no other choice. Until that is he joins up with a pretty scientist (Jennifer Connelly) and her stepson (Jaden Smith) and sees just exactly how warm and fuzzy humans can be. Oy. It might be too late though since Klaatu’s giant robot friend (“Gort” in the original) is already gearing up for his mission to kill and destroy. At least casting Keanu Reeves was a smart move. Klaatu’s lack of emotion and few words is right up the actor’s alley; he makes it look soooo easy. Connelly on the other hand is making the same mistake she did when she starred in Hulk -- playing a brilliant scientist of some kind who is inevitably wasted onscreen. Jaden Smith is kind of an impertinent little snot through most of the movie who wants Klaatu dead but suddenly changes his mind just at the right moment. And then there’s Kathy Bates as the Secretary of Defense who stonewalls Klaatu’s request to meet the world leaders. She nearly ruins the whole thing! It’s not that The Day the Earth Stood Still is a poorly made film. Director Scott Derrickson sets the right tone and aptly applies the state-of-the-art special effects when it’s needed -- especially when the robot starts to work his particular destructive mojo by unleashing millions of tiny mechanical bugs who eat through everything. The main problem with this remake is bad timing. The original was creepy and quiet and menacing with its alien takeover theme in a way moviegoers had never experienced in 1951; it hit a chord which has carried it through its cult status. But to redo it now when we’ve seen the same kind of movie done in so many better ways doesn’t make any sense. In trying to keep to the original’s spirit this Day comes off as derivative unimaginative and tedious. Should have left it alone folks.
September 16, 2004 12:22pm EST
In 1930s New York Chronicle investigative reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets a lead on a story she's been covering about prominent scientists from around the world who are mysteriously disappearing. When Manhattan is attacked by giant robots Polly reluctantly seeks the help of an old flame ace aviator Captain Joseph Sullivan aka Sky Captain (Jude Law) to get the scoop and find out who's behind these strange events and discovers an Oppenheimer-type science man named Dr. Totenkopf has abducted the scientists in a mad bid to build a doomsday device to annihilate what he believes to be an already damned human race. Assisted by Captain Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie) who runs a secret mobile airstrip thousands of feet in the air Sky Captain and Polly head out to stop Totenkopf and save mankind. How could such a visually dazzling film where the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of three dashing Hollywood stars be so ... unexciting? Much stronger storylines could have evolved from supporting players Dex Sky's right-hand man (Giovanni Ribisi) and especially daredevil Franky and her amphibious squadron all of which are used too sparingly throughout the film.
Paltrow in the lead role of Polly completely captures the witty rapid-fire dialogue of the era immortalized by Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. But while her performance is nearly flawless Polly's self-centeredness turns the would-be heroine into an antagonist; it's hard to like a character who can't put humanity's needs before her own career ambitions. Polly's rabble-rouser persona should bring some exciting tension between her character and Sky Captain's Boy Scout guise but it doesn't--in fact there's a complete lack of chemistry between the two leads. But Law's performance as Sky Captain brilliantly matches Paltrow's as the actor encompasses the new-yet-old type of movie hero one more suave than macho. Less platonic however is the on-screen relationship between Law's Sky and Jolie's Franky. The script's purposefully ambiguous take on the characters' history adds spice to the film's otherwise bland relationships. It's too bad Jolie's performance probably the highlight of the film isn't brought more to the forefront. Ribisi injects some light comedy to the heavy story and Omid Djalili impresses as Kaji a friend of Sky Captain's who helps them during a leg of their journey to find Totenkopf. To their tremendous credit all the cast members delivered seamless performances especially considering all their scenes were shot in one room using a blue screen.
The production behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is what this film is really all about. Based on a six-minute test reel created on his home Mac writer/director Kerry Conran was able to nab studio backing and secure major names--not shabby for one's feature debut. The final product delivers too--a retro sci-fi picture where nearly everything onscreen except for the actors was painstakingly computer generated in post-production. It's amazing how the actors blend flawlessly into the film's animatic backdrops. Every shot makes the most of its visual effects and the film has a dark and dramatic comic book feel a sort of Gotham meets War of the Worlds. Conrad pays homage to literary masters such as H.G. Wells New York's 1939 World's Fair and films including The Wizard of Oz: Sky Captain tracks down Totenkopf like Dorothy searched for her sorcerer and although they are not in Kansas and there is no yellow brick road there is a mysterious genius hiding behind the curtain. But unlike Wizard of Oz Sky Captain doesn't hold its momentum. There's a chase scene for example that goes on way longer than it should have and an overly weighted storyline about Polly and Sky Captain's defunct love affair. Did he cheat on her when they were together years ago? Did she sabotage his airplane? Who cares! Luckily the ending somewhat redeems the story thanks to a couple of surprising little twists.
The tagline reads "The wives of Stepford have a secret " and boy do they ever. Of course Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) a former tough-as-nails television network president doesn't know the secret. Not yet anyway. She just thinks she's moving to the peaceful upper-class suburbs of Stepford Connecticut with her attentive husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two adorable children--to try to recover from a nervous breakdown after being summarily dismissed from her high-powered job. What Joanna finds instead is a group of eerie '50s-type perfect housewives lead by the ultra-coiffed Claire Wellington (Glenn Close) who tend to their beautiful spacious homes excel at crafts and cater to their geeky husbands' every whim. The women's behavior is more than a little odd to Joanna even if Walter thinks it's all very quaint as he rushes off to join the other men folk at the Stepford Men's Association lead by Claire's manly husband Mike (Christopher Walken). Luckily Joanne isn't entirely alone in her suspicions discovering allies in recent transplants Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler) a frumpy best-selling author and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart) a gay-and-proud-of-it architect. Together they try to unravel the mysterious of Stepford while also managing to learn how to make the perfect Christmas ornament from a pine cone.
Stepford Wives employs a stellar cast. The over-exposed Kidman finally gets to loosen up a bit after such downers as The Hours Cold Mountain and Dogville and has fun with Joanna. Her bitchy TV executive is particularly comical as it is realistic especially when she's spouting off ideas on how to turn a tragedy into "real" television. Honestly the Oscar-winning actress can do just about anything--but it may be time for her to take a vacation. As Joanna's husband Broderick is spot-on as the mousy Walter who eventually shows some backbone (of course he does). Close and Walken also have their roles down er perfectly as the masterminds of their own little version of heaven. But the real standouts are Midler as the caustic Bobbie and Broadway actor Bart as Roger who provokes the biggest laughs from the audience with his flare for the flamboyant. Yes it may be a tad stereotypical but he sells it girlfriend. Even country singer Faith Hill tries her hand at the whole acting thing making an appearance as one of the Stepford wives--come on she certainly looks the part doesn't she?
Trouble brewed on The Stepford Wives set. Director Frank Oz (In & Out) apparently had difficulties with producers over the direction of the film (which veers completely away from the suspenseful original) as well as run-ins with co-stars Midler and Walken--and the end product reflects it. Stepford is muddled and savvy moviegoers will no doubt scrutinize the film's glaring flaws especially the whole "robot" component (are they actual robots or what?) and the over-the-top maybe-you'll-guess-it twist at the end. But Stepford's intentional ribbing of social mores and quest for perfection comes shining through thanks to Paul Rudnick's campy script. There are more than a few hysterical scenes including one where Joanna Bobbie and Roger sneak into one of the Stepford houses and after hearing a particularly vigorous lovemaking session between perfect wife #34 and her husband Roger runs up the stairs because he's "got to get some of that" or the scene where Claire talks about the great things to make at Christmas while Bobbie throws out her own clever ideas on what to do with pine cones. The important thing is Stepford Wives doesn't take itself seriously--well not really--and neither should anyone else.
Episode 1. A Clean Escape (Pilot)
(AIR DATE 08/04/2007)
Set in the future, psychiatrist Dr. Deanna Evans must help her patient recover his memory so she can learn the secret he holds.
Episode 2. The Awakening
(AIR DATE 08/11/2007)
A U.S. military specialist is called up from retirement to investigate after soldiers outside Baghdad discover a mysterious casualty... one they can't even identify as human. As he and his team try to identify the "corpse," others begin to appear, making him wonder whether the fallen creatures are emissaries from another world.
Episode 3. Jerry Was a Man
(AIR DATE 08/18/2007)
The world's 7th richest woman, Martha Van Vogel, goes shopping for a few new genetically-engineered creatures for her menagerie. But her world is thrown into chaos when she befriends an anthropoid slated for "liquidation" and determines to take him home . . . even though his creator has other plans.
Episode 4. The Discarded
(AIR DATE 08/25/2007)
Minorities are sent away and left to drift in outer space forever, but they make a pact in hope of being offered refuge on Earth.