Review – It’s Not a Small World After All… (“Tomorrowland”)

There have been no less than six movies based on Disneyland rides and/or attractions, and with the exception of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, they’ve all had a smidgen of success.
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Told in flashback as a video narrative to the audience, we see the intertwining lives of two super-smart kids: Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson as a child; grown-up George Clooney in the present) and teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson). Clever young Frank builds a jet pack out of an old Electro-Lux vacuum and shows it off at the ’64 N.Y. World’s Fair, only to have his invention idea shot down by rude judge, David Nix (Hugh Laurie).

But a cute freckled-faced English 12-year-old girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy), tells him he’s got the ‘right stuff’ and gives him a special “T” pin which helps him get whisked away to Tomorrowland, an inter-dimensional world next to ours that houses all the best and brightest thinkers, scholars, artists, and inventors. And yes, Space Mountain is there in the distance! Nice! We then cut away to present-day Casey, and her failed attempts to keep her father’s (C.W. singer Tim McGraw) engineering job at NASA by sabotage. She’s given the same “T” pin, but only a 2-minute glimpse into Tomorrowland’s world. Fascinated, she seeks another pin, but runs afoul of two crazy shop owners (Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key – very funny) who have enough Disney, Star Wars, and Iron Giant memorabilia to sink a Star Destroyer.

She’s saved by Athena and off they go to find older Frank, who was banished from Tomorrowland for his irrational views. But nasty killer robots are after all of them, so Frank, Athena, and Casey have to teleport themselves to France’s Eiffel Tower. Why? That’s where an old 19th Century rocket is hidden to blast them away to Tomorrowland, of course! But the brilliant and clean Tomorrowland that Casey saw is gone and replaced by ruins and shattered spires. Governor Nix has taken over and means to wipe out the Earth by letting us naturally kill ourselves by greed, pollution, and war… all in about 59 days. Yikes!

Can Casey and her penchant for figuring things out stop this insidious plan? Will Frank snap out of his grand-mal funk and help out? And how come Athena never ages? For writers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof, it sure takes a looooong time to get there, that’s for sure. Bird has written some brilliant movies (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), but this ponderous and messy sci-fi wanna-be hiccups along with heavy-handed environmental messages and misplaced sentimental moments. Yes, you get the whiz-bang steam-punkish future-tech gizmo’s that are super-neat to see and the requisite harrowing escapes from the bad guys, but it’s all wrapped inside a dull blanket that never finds its footing.

There’s copious amounts of eye-candy in small amount of Tomorrowland’s world of glistening glass buildings and computers, I only wished the movie had stayed longer in that world. Looking at the actors, you’ll find that Clooney plays it JPG (just plain grumpy) which gets really old really fast, Laurie sticks around for his paycheck, while Robertson shines as the befuddled teen who’s trying to figure stuff out. The real star here is young Cassidy, who has beautiful expressive eyes and a remarkable acting poise. This British kid’s going places, for sure.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

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Talk about your tie-in’s! If Disneyland can make a movie based on a theme park land, then Universal Pictures can make a movie based on a TV series they’re going to air later on. Sneaky bastards!

Yes, it’s a very silly, but nonetheless engaging Star Trek wanna-be series/movie starring Gil Gerard as U.S. astronaut William “Buck” Rogers. This likable, sarcastic, and witty ladies man is accidentally frozen in space during a routine mission in 1979 for a whopping 504 years, until he’s thawed out by the evil Draconians. Boo! Hiss! Their leader, the sultry and beautiful Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley), has the hots for Buck (naturally) and wants him to join their side, since they’re secretly going to take over the Earth.

Buck refuses her over-the-top sexual advances and is sent packing to Earth, but with a hidden homing beacon placed in his ship to gather intel on their defenses. On Earth, Buck is met in New Chicago (there was catastrophic world nuclear war, of course) by Earth’s military and no-nonsense Col. Wilma Deering (Erin Gray). She shows Buck the future of his new world, all-new buildings, technology, and two new friends: Twiki the robot (Felix Silla inside a metal suit with the great Mel Blanc voicing) and Dr. Theopolis, an A.I. computer.

But that homing device is found and Buck is suspected on being a Draconian spy. Wanting to clear his name, Buck convinces Wilma to set up a meeting with Ardala and her henchman, Kane (Henry Silva) to prove his innocence and get vital information about what they’re up to. The trap is set, Buck finds the critical info he needs, there’s a big space battle, and the Earth is saved from peril, thanks to Buck Rogers! Ardala and her minions fly away, cursing Buck Rogers, and vowing revenge in the future… that is, on the upcoming TV series!

Which they did from 1979 to 1981. Naturally, in the series the hard-core Col. Deering eventually falls for Buck and becomes his love interest (like you didn’t see that coming), and the annoying Twiki, whose penchant for saying,”Beedy beedy beedy beedy, way to go, Buck”, became the show’s catch-phrase. In 1981 the show got re-tooled with Buck going “on the road” with his friends, as they went on a star trek to find the lost colonies of Earth. They also added Thom Christopher as Hawk, a half-man/ half-bird creature who joins Buck as his new sidekick and legendary Wilford Hyde-White as the doddering old Dr. Goodfellow. 

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