Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Mothra & Space 1999

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, August 31, 2019 05:50pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi.

Welcome to this month's Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi where I review recent Blu-ray releases. This month we travel from the island of Japan to the depths of the universe.

Mothra, Mill Creek:
When a new hundred million dollar Godzilla reboot to hit the theaters I just assumed we'd be treated to aMothra flood of classic kaiju reissues on Blu-ray, but instead it looks like we only got this. And I'm not knocking this release. Mothra is a great movie and Mill Creek did a fantastic job on this, I just figured there would be more classic Japanese monster movie releases to coattail on the marketing for the new film. All is not lost though. It looks like Mill Creek has signed a deal with Toho and they have more releases to come. On October 15th they will release two classic kaiju Blu-ray sets: Ultraman and Ultra Q. Both of these sets are motherloads of Japanese monster movie goodness and will be the first time North America has ever seen Toho's official remastered hi-def prints of these shows. If they look as good as this new Mothra release, we are in for quite a treat.

This reasonably priced steel book edition of the film comes with both the US and original Japanese versions of the movie as well as some nice extras. This is easily the best print of Mothra that has ever been released and, while it is not flawless, the majority of the film looks gorgeous. Certain scenes like the one in the cave when Mothra's egg hatches have been cleaned up to the point where they reveal all kinds of details you could never see before. The cave is filled with mutated plants and animals that were little more than blurry shapes in the old editions. Sometimes the remastering is so good it leads to unintended effects. Now you can see better than ever before that all the special effects in the film were made with models and puppets, but the models and puppets are totally cool and amazing. Toho created many of their special effects by stacking up multiple layers of film and the new remaster sometimes exposes every scratch and piece of dust on each of these layers of film. But these are pretty minor quibbles. The bottom line is that Mothra has never looked or sounded better.

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2015 CE -- Fictions Set in 2015

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 12, 2015 10:56am | Post a Comment

When it comes to predicting the future, science-fiction has an pretty uneven track record. For every iPad or flip phone there's a dozen flying cars, anthropomorphic robot maids, or a BrainJail (where people are imprisoned for rubbish laws like downloading their feelings onto computer discs). It's now 2015 and we've made contact with no extraterrestrials, established zero extrasolar colonies, and built not one moon base. In the US we're still working on building a respectable rail network! 

Of course most of the best science-fiction isn't about guessing what they future is going to be like but sometimes, as with Brave New World, it comes frighteningly close. However, not even Aldous Huxley could have predicted listicles or Doritos Loaded and similarly, George Orwell could never dream up portmanteaus as odious as "amazeballs" or "honeydick"  for his lexicon of nightmarish doublespeak.

On the other hand, some predictions have come true. Just as Back the the Future II predicted, we do live in a world of never-ending film franchises, hoverboards, and Nike is working on a self-tying shoe for the benefit of those for whom velcro is too much work and slip-ons are just too sensical. If other works set in 2015 are as accurate, what else can we expect from the year 2015?

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Trans-Jovian Moons in Fact and Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 25, 2013 12:00pm | Post a Comment

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts about extraterrestrial worlds in fact and (mostly) fiction. There've been (or will be) posts about Callisto, Ceres, Europa, Ganymede, Io, Mars, Pluto, Titan, VenusTrans-Neptunian dwarf planets, and Asteroids. The primary reason that there haven't been more is because the more obscure the solar object, the less likely it is to have been a setting for a Science-Fiction work (and thus the less relevance to Amoeba). A secondary reason is that these posts are far less popular than my Los Angeles neighborhood, LA County community, or Orange County community posts -- but aren't moons and planets sort of the neighborhoods of our Solar System? So here I am with a round-up of several moons, the Trans-Jovian ones that appear in computer or video games, movies, TV shows and old time radio.


There are currently 163 known Trans-Jovian moons. If the definition is broadened to include Trans-Neptunian objects, Trojan Moons, and Asteroids, then there are more than 336. Not surprisingly, most of them have not been the subject of any sci-fi fantasies. 


I've long been fascinated by the satellites of the gas giants. Whereas the planets they orbit seem unlikely to be colonized, the moons seem to be much more hospitable and tantalizing. Eight of them are larger than Pluto, which was formerly categorized as a planet. Imagine looking up to a sky dominated by a massive planet. It's almost enough to give me a panic attack. 

Sunset on Titan as (panoramic composite created by Christian Waldvogel)

Today is the 357th anniversary of the discovery of the first Trans-Jovian moon (Titan) by Christiaan Huygens (25 March, 1655).Anyway, since Titan has already been the subject of a blog entry, here are the rest of the Trans-Jovian moons!



Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, with a radius that's approximately nine times that of Earth's. It is believed to have a rocky core underneath layers of liquid and gas which makes it pretty inhospitable. However, it has 62 known moons. Along with Ganymede (a satellite of Jupiter), Saturn's moon of Titan is larger than Mercury, the smallest planet in the solar system, and is the only known satellite with a dense atmosphere and stable bodies of surface liquid.

Saturn's other moons have less often captured the imagination of sci-fi creators (not counting literature, only because Amoeba's more of a music, movies and games store although there are some books!) but here's what I've got:


Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn. The world is believed to have liquid water under its icy surface that is ejected into space by cryovolcanoes. Enceladus is one of only three outer Solar System bodies where active eruptions have been observed (the other two are Io, with its sulfur volcanoes, and Triton, with its nitrogen geysers. Some of the expelled water ends up in Saturn's rings whilst some falls back to the moon's surface as snow. Snow world!

Enceladus was a setting in the Buck Rogers radio episode, "Killer Kane and Ardala on Saturn's moon." It was the site of a battle in the Terran-Neosapien War in the cartoon Exosquad. On Life After People: The Seriesthe Cassini spacecraft crashes on Enceladus and the bacteria it carries evolve into new life forms. In the Futurama episode "Cold Warriors," Enceladus is revealed to be Saturn's main "dump moon." And finally, on an episode of 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 (Space Battleship Yamato 2199), the crew of the Yamato briefly stops there and has an adventure.


Hyperion is the largest irregularly-shaped moon of Saturn, in fact, it was the first non-round moon to be discovered (in 1848 by by William Cranch BondGeorge Phillips Bond and William Lassell). Its orbit is fairly eccentric and its appearance is often compared to that of a sponge. It is believed to be composed mostly of water ice.

Level 16 of the Parallax Software game Descent takes place on there.


Mimas moon

is the smallest astronomical body that is known to be rounded in shape because of self-gravitation. Its surface area is close to that of the Earth country known as Spain. Mimas's most distinctive feature is a giant impact crater 130 kilometres across (named Herschel after the moon's discoverer, William Hershel) that gives it the appearance of the Death Star.

Mimas was a recurring location in Red Dwarf and produces the local delicacy, "Mimean Bladderfish." In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The First Duty," Mimas is where Wesley Crusher and other Starfleet cadets transport after participating in the banned Kolvoord Starburst.


Tethys moon

Tethys is mostly made of water ice -- less than 6% of the planet consists of rocky material! It is heavily cratered but its dominant characteristic is the more than 2000 km long (and 100 km wid) Ithaca Chasma. The huge graben is possibly related to the moon's largest impact crater, the 400 km across Odysseus crater.

Tethys is the setting of the bizarre, Alien cash-in Stanley Donen Saturn 3 (directed by Stanley Donen from a screeplay by Martin Amis). On Exosquad, Tethys was at one point the primary base of the Pirate Clans. Level 17 of Descent takes place there too.



Uranus high resolution planet

The less-preferred, not-very-Latin-sounding but common pronunciation of Uranus (as "yer anus") makes it a favorite planet amongst the elementary school set. It's the third largest planet in the solar system and the largest of the two so-called ice giants. Its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its revolution about the Sun. Its moons orbit in the planet's equatorial plane and are thus subject to extreme seasonal cycles, with the poles of some being plunged into continuous darkness for decades followed by equally long periods of sunlight. Like all of the gas giants, it has a set of planetary rings. Uranus has 27 known natural satellites. Its five major moons are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon.


Miranda is the smallest and innermost of Uranus's five major moons. Its surface is possibly composed primarily of water ice. Its dramatically-scarred surface is dominated by scarps, craters, coronae (which may've formed via extensional processes at the tops of diapirs) and graben formed by extensional faulting.

Level 18 of Descent takes place on Miranda. 


Oberon is the outermost major moon of the planet Uranus and the second largest and second most massive of the Uranian moons. Oberon is composed of approximately equal amounts of ice and rock --probably differentiated into a rocky core and an icy mantle which are possibly separated by a layer of liquid water. Its unnamed, highest peak is believed to be taller than Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, Earth's tallest mountains.

In the Russian film, Лунная радуга (Moonlight Rainbow), cosmonauts on Oberon are infected with a disease that gives them supernatural powers. On Doctor Who, the series "Revelation of the Daleks" introduces the Grand Order of Oberon. In the Canadian TV series, Starhunter, the episode "Cell Game" establishes that Oberon is home to a penal colony. Three levels of Descent take place on Oberon. In Reality Pump Studios' game, Earth 2160, some of the action takes place on Oberon.


Titania moon

Titania is the largest of the moons of Uranus and the eighth largest moon in the Solar System. Titania consists of approximately equal amounts of ice and rock, with an icy mantle and rocky core. As on Oberon, a layer of liquid water may be present at the core–mantle boundary. 

In Earth 2160 references are made to a destroyed prison colony on Titania.



Neptune is the eighth and most distant planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's striking blue appearance (Uranus has similar levels of methane but it more cyan than azure so there must be other factors behind its brilliant blue). Neptune frequently experiences massive anti-cyclonic storms. Neptune has thirteen known moons.


Triton moon high resolution

Triton is by far the largest (and most interesting) of Neptune's satellites, comprising more than 99.5% of all of the planet's orbiting mass. It's also the only moon massive enough to be spheroidal. In fact, its size, shape and retrograde orbit indicate that's a captured object and was once probably a dwarf planet. In fact, it's the only large moon with retrograde orbit in the Solar System. It's also one of the few geologically active moons, which accounts for its young, smooth complexion. Along with Ganymede, it's the only moon larger than the smallest planet (again, Mercury). 

And finally, Triton is the setting for level 23 of, you guessed it, 


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Fear of a black galaxy -- Black people in science-fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 11, 2013 04:52pm | Post a Comment

Photo by JD Hancock

The other day I was listening to the podcast The Auteur Cast. In discussing The Empire strikes back, one of the hosts used the character of Lando Calrissian to question why there are so few black people in science-fiction. It’s not a new question. In 1976, on the album Bicentennial Nigger, Richard Pryor observed:

“I don’t like movies when they don’t have no niggers in ‘em. I went to see, I went to see Logan’s Run, right. They had a movie of the future called Logan’s Run. Ain’t no niggers in it. I said, well white folks ain’t planning for us to be here. That’s why we gotta make movies. Then we be in the pictures.”

left to right: Guinon Bluford, Mae Jemison, Bernard Anthony Harris Jr, and Joan Higginbotham

It would be nice to say that times sure have changed in the 37 years since. There’ve been nineteen black astronauts in NASA, there’s a black president, a black attorney general and countless other black people have attained positions of power or advanced science (it's even fair to say that Neil deGrasse Tyson is a household name). But that's science-fact and in Hollywood science-fiction the future remains so white you’ve gotta wear shades.

Most space operas depict a universe populated by aliens with prosthetic alterations to their eyes and ears and in all shades of skin tone… almost invariably played by white people. If one tries to think of an alien played by a Latino, I can think of Edward James Olmos (in blue contacts) in Battlestar Galactica as Caprican (of Tauron descent) Commander Bill Adama and that’s it (OK, and Tahnee Welch in the Cocoon movies). Ricardo Montalban as Khan doesn’t count because firstly, Khan Noonien Singh was apparently supposed to be South Asian, given his title “Singh,” and a native of earth -- not an extraterrestrial. Speaking of Asian aliens – are there any besides Flash Gordon’s Ming the Merciless, emperor of the planet Mongo (obviously meant to be the face of yellow peril and who was also always played by white actors)?

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Herman Stein - Architect of the Sound of Science-Fiction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 19, 2012 07:45am | Post a Comment
Though his name isn’t widely recognized, Herman Stein was a very influential American composer. Though he composed hundreds of film scores, he was most influential in for his work within the genres of horror and science-fiction. Some of his most recognized scores were created for Creature from the black lagoon, The incredible shrinking man, It came from outer space, Love slaves of the Amazons, The Mole People, The Monolith MonstersRevenge of the Creature, and This island EarthTarantula.

Herman Stein was born 19 August, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began playing piano at the age of three and made his concert debut when he was six. Reportedly he was almost entirely self-taught, having spent many hours studying scores at his local public library.
He became a professional arranger when he was 15. In the 1930 and ‘40s he arranged for bands, including those of Blanche Calloway, Bob CrosbyCount Basie, David Rubinoff, Don RedmanFred WaringGus Haenschen, and Red Norvo. He also composed for radio programs, cartoons and commercials, as well as absolute music like 1967’s A sour suite.

During World War II he served in the army. In 1948, he moved to Los Angeles, California. There he studied with Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1949 he wrote Suite for Mario for his mentor, although it  wasn’t recorded until 2008. In 1950 he married Anita Shervin, a violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 1950 he was hired by Universal-International Studios, where the writing staff also included Hans J. Salter, William Lava, and Frank Skinner. He's said to have ultimately worked on the scores for about 200 films, usually uncredited, and often collaborating with fellow greats like Salter, Skinner and most often, a young Henry Mancini, who was hired by Universal in 1952. For the scores on which they collaborated, Stein would handle the opening titles and dramatic scenes whilst Mancini would handle the lighter moments and “Mickey Mousing.”

Stein also scored comedies, dramas and westerns such as
Abbott and Costello go to Mars, Has anybody seen my gal?,
Drums across the river, Horizons west, The intruder, Willie and Joe Back at the front as well as about half of the Ma and Pa Kettle films. He left Universal in 1958 and went on to score other films and primarily TV. One of his last film score's was for William Castle’s 1966 film, Let's kill Uncle.
For TV he composed for such series as Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, The life and legend of Wyatt Earp, Lost in space, M Squad, The time tunnelVoyage to the bottom of the sea, and Wagon train. His very last film score was for Al Adamson’s 1975 comedy western, Blazing stewardesses. After composing 1979's Mock march, he retired.

Kathleen Mayne, 1996 

Stein's wife, Anita, died in 2001. On 15 March, 2007, Stein died of congestive heart failure in his home
at the age of 91.
Dick Jacobs - Theme from Horror Movies

My introduction to him (and Hans J. Salter and William Lava, for that matter) was as a child listening to an vinyl copy of Themes from horror movies (1959) performed by Dick Jacobs and his Orchestra and quirkily narrated by voice-over actor Bob McFadden (to text written by Mort Goode). At the time I hadn’t seen any of the films whose scores were included so I’d just listen to Stein's themes, look at the posters, and let my imagination take over. Almost inevitably, once I would get around to seeing the films they usually disappointed but Stein’s themes still managed to elevate even the worst of them. 


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