Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Once Upon A Time, A Junkman Had A Dream..."

Man, this poster promised so much and wound up a waste of great promotional artwork. Typical.

With no homework to do and an itch to watch something instead of aimlessly tool about cyberspace, I popped in a borrowed DVD of Explorers the other night. I think I saw this once or twice on cable when I was in high school, and seeing it again years later hasn't changed my opinion of it at all, for better and for worse.

The first half of Explorers is completely charming (and somehow nostalgic) as we follow around a trio of misfit early teens (including a cherubic Ethan Hawke and a hilariously nerdy River Phoenix) who have literally dreamed up a way to create a spherical force field that moves according to commands input into an Apple computer. Following some experiments with their discovery, the boys realize that this force field can also be used to fly them around their hometown (and beyond), so they quickly set about building a kind of exploration vessel cobbled together from junkyard materials (namely, a discarded Tilt-A-Whirl car) to achieve this end.

After such a heartfelt and engaging first hour, however, we seem to switch movies in a hurry as the young adventurers set their sights on extraterrestrial destinations. This is not to say I found the idea silly (I know I would have been all for the idea if I were one of them), but it was how the second half of the movie plays out that feels so jarring and ultimately disappointing as we are reduced to watching a lot of silliness by way of upright Cootie bugs in hokey rubber suits. It's doubly frustrating that director Joe Dante had his heart in the right place on Earth, but was so desperate to avoid something that felt like E.T. or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, that the only way out of Explorers was to goof off and hope that cheap laughs would save the day.

The Vulture has landed!
Another fragment of childhood that Explorers made me think of was the old TV movie/series Salvage 1. I really want to see this original movie again now that I've been poking around on the 'net for a bit (including this splendid fan website), and I remember being pretty taken by it as a nine year old ... despite the starring role of Andy Griffith, of all people.

What brought Salvage 1 to mind was the strikingly similar plot idea of fashioning a spacecraft from junk, only for a very different reason (to grab all the discarded crap sitting around the moon from the old Apollo missions). Looking again at the website, it looks like Salvage 1 might hold up about as well as, say, Galactica 1980, though who knows? If nothing else, I'm pretty sure the end was nowhere near as farcical as Explorers. Hopefully, I'll find out again sometime soon (hint hint, Dave M.).

NP Cocteau Twins Lullabies To Violaine Volume 2: Singles And Extended Plays 1993-1996

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