Twenty years ago, today, the science fiction series Harsh Realm debuted on Fox. Created and developed by Chris Carter (The X-Files & Millenium), it starred Scott Bairstow, D.B. Sweeney, Terry O’Quinn, Rachael Hayward, Max Martini, Samantha Mathis and Sarah-Jane Redmond with Cameron K. Smith as a Republican Guard Soldier (Smith had fourth billing but, much of his acting history is uncredited) and, Vinnie as Dexter the Dog (seventh billing in the cast list). Filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, it was loosely based on the Harsh Realm comic book by James Hudnall and Andrew Paquette.
Tagline: Are you ready to play?
Harsh Realm is a virtual reality game created by the U.S. Army, programmed to minutely replicate the real world for training simulations. In the world of Harsh Realm, a small nuclear bomb is detonated in the program’s version of New York City, killing four million people and thrusting its participants into a post-apocalyptic disaster scenario. Lieutenant Tom Hobbes is unknowingly thrust into this world by his superiors with one mission: to kill “General” Omar Santiago. Along the way, he meets fellow soldiers sent into the game and alternate versions of people he knows in the real world (including Dexter, an alternate version of his real world dog). It is in this world that Hobbes must survive, defeat Santiago, save the real world and, somehow return to his real life and his fiancée, Sophie Green.
Lt. Hobbes, a young idealistic Marine who’s about to get married, is sent into a [virtual reality] war game simulation where he is to terminate a renegade General who has taken control of the program. [He] also learns that he is actually trapped in the game, along with numerous other soldiers previously sent to kill Santiago. Meanwhile, Hobbes real life fiancee investigates his disappearance with the help of a mysterious female ally with an agenda of her own.
♦ Notable director for one episode: Kim Manners (Supernatural)
♦ Notable writer for one episode: Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files)
♦ Notable composer for the series: Mark Snow (The X-Files & Starsky & Hutch)
♦ Gillian Anderson is the narrator of the Harsh Realm training video in the first episode.
♦ Thomas Hobbes is named for the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who believed in predestination and that people are inherently selfish and power-hungry.
♦ Hobbes’ dog, Dexter, is named after the protagonist from the Harsh Realm comic book series upon which the show is loosely based.
♦ Many [have] wrongly speculated that [the] widely-publicized lawsuit brought about the series’ sudden cancellation. It was actually a struggle between Carter and Fox that got the series cancelled (after nine episodes).
♦ The term “harsh realm” originates from the grunge speak hoax of 1992 […]
♦ The theme music contains samples of speeches given by Benito Mussolini.
♦ Music from artists Prodigy, White Zombie (Rob Zombie) and Moby are featured in some episodes.
Twenty years ago, today, the HBO special Bigger & Blacker, a stand-up routine by comedian Chris Rock, premiered. It was recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The, now, defunct DreamWorks Records released a DVD on July 13.
In his third HBO stand-up special, Chris Rock brings his critically acclaimed brand of social commentary-themed humor to this 1999 stand-up comedy presentation. Also released as an album, Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker features Rock on-stage extolling his razor-sharp wit and wisdom on such topics as gun control, President Clinton, homophobia, racism, black leaders and relationships.
Grammy Award (Best Comedy Album)
Twenty years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was The Matrix, a science-fiction action film starring…Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster and Joe Pantoliano. Produced by Joel Silver, it was written and directed by The Wachowskis.
[The movie] depicts a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality called the Matrix, created by thought-capable machines (artificial beings) to control humans while using their bodies as an energy source. Hacker and computer programmer, Neo, learns this truth and “is drawn into a rebellion against the machines”, which involves other people who have been freed from the Matrix.
The film is an example of the cyberpunk subgenre. The Wachowskis’ approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for Japanese animation and martial arts films and, the film’s use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema, influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions. The Matrix is known for popularizing a visual effect known as “bullet time“, in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera’s viewpoint appears to move through the scene at normal speed. The film contains numerous allusions to philosophical and religious ideas, including existentialism, Marxism, feminism, Buddhism, nihilism and postmodernism.
From Roger Ebert:
“The Matrix” is a visually dazzling cyberadventure, full of kinetic excitement but, it retreats to formula just when it’s getting interesting. It’s kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality and ends with a shoot-out. We want a leap of the imagination, not one of those obligatory climaxes with automatic weapons fire.
I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of these exercises in violence, which recycle the same tired ideas: Bad guys fire thousands of rounds but, are unable to hit the good guy. Then, it’s down to the final showdown between good and evil…a martial arts battle in which the good guy gets pounded until he’s almost dead, before he finds the inner will to fight back. Been there, seen that (although rarely done this well).
“The Matrix” did not bore me. It interested me so much, indeed, that I wanted to be challenged even more. I wanted it to follow its material to audacious conclusions, to arrive not simply at victory but, at revelation.
From Darren Aronofsky:
“I walked out of The Matrix with Jared and I was thinking, ‘What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?'” Aronofsky says. “The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured. Suddenly Philip K. Dick‘s ideas no longer seemed that fresh. Cyberpunk? Done.”
From M. Night Shyamalan:
[…] Mr. Shyamalan is not much of a cinema historian. Among the directors he admires are Peter Weir, Cameron Crowe, Alfred Hitchcock and the Wachowski Brothers. “Whatever you think of ‘The Matrix,’ every shot is there because of the passion they have! You can see they argued it out!”
♦ For the cell phone conversation scene between Neo and Morpheus in the MetaCortex office, Keanu Reeves actually climbed up the window without a stuntman, which was 34 floors up.
♦ Will Smith was approached to play Neo but, turned down the offer in order to star in Wild Wild West (1999). He later admitted that, at the time, he was “not mature enough as an actor” and that, if given the role, he “would have messed it up”. He had no regrets, saying that “Keanu was brilliant as Neo.”
♦ In an online interview when the film was first released, the Wachowskis revealed that they’d both take the Blue Pill when given Neo’s choice.
A song by an artist whose voice you love…
I covered Darius Rucker, Linda Ronstadt and Susanne Sundfor, yesterday. I’ve posted Paul Durham, Maria McKee, Emily Hackett, Pat Benatar, Sarah McLachlan, Enya, Amy Lee, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Anna Nalick, Sia, Patty Smyth, Loreena McKennitt, Kenny Loggins, Kelly Holland, Elvis and George Harrison.
Here are five more…
There are SO many Olivia songs…way too many to choose from. This song, in particular, showcases her range well. She was my hero as a teen…beautiful voice, gorgeous face, stunning hair and perfect teeth. We may not have her much longer. She is my mother’s age.
I was given a CD of her music by a friend. She is my age and such a powerhouse. She did a CMT Crossroads episode with Pat Benatar and she was an even match in range.
And, of course…Adele…
I like her squeaky voice.
This one is so cute.
Twenty years ago, today, the #1 Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Rap song was Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill. It debuted at #1, the tenth song in the chart’s history to do so and, the first début single to do so.
♥ 1999 Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best R&B Album, Best New Artist, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance & Best R&B Song
♡ 1999 American Music Awards: Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist
♡ 1999 MTV Video Music Awards (VMA): Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best R&B Video & Best Art Direction in a Video (Gideon Ponte)
♡ 1999 Soul Train Awards: Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year (Female), R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year, Best Female R&B/Soul Album & The Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video