Star Trek: The Animated Series Online

When I was a kid growing up in the eighties, in a very rural part of the country, my exposure to Star Trek was somewhat limited. I was too young to the original series that much, opting for Lost in Space reruns if they were on, instead. However, when Nickelodeon began showing reruns of Star Trek: The Animated Series
, I was very much into it.

Unlike the original series (and, for that matter, subsequent ST series), this show had very alien-looking aliens1. Though some of the stories were cribbed almost line for line from the original series, some others were new and even more fantastic than anything with live actors. My wife is a die-hard ST: The Next Generation fan and I’d venture most folks either go for the original series or TNG. The Animated Series has always been my favorite.

So I’m very excited that CBS is streaming all of the episodes on StarTrek.com.

Decent animation, good stories, and voice acting from the origonal series stars (including, the wonderful James Doohan as Arex as well as his more famous character, Scotty)

I just watched the first episode over lunch and I can’t wait to watch more with the family. Given the very different budgetary concerns of animation, where special effects are cheap but each frame costs a lot, the show has little movement in any given shot but the shots are often dramatic. In fact, rather than looking as dated as one might expect, much of the show looks like a modern flash-animated series for those very same reasons. The stories are excellent; on par with a good science fiction novel and with less techno-babble than many series in the genre suffer from2. Though

  1. I have read that part of this was Gene Rodenbury’s desire to never cover the actor’s features. He seemed to feel that a more realistic portrayal of an alien’s emotions and facial expressions was more important that make-up and prosthetics. Admirable, though there is absolutely no reason to believe that alien species would express things in the same way as us (or even have the same emotions or logic), given that pretty much no other species on Earth does.
  2. The jargon used in the first episode is actually all pretty sound science and very little of it is just science-y sounding filler.

Pandorum

I watched Pandorum over the course of a couple of days this past week1. I really hadn’t seen or read a lot about the film, other than a trailer and a very short interview with Dennis Quaid on Leno (or some evening talk show). I wasn’t really sure what to expect; but whatever I was expecting, this film wasn’t quite it.

Needless to say, this is going to be filled with spoilers. You have been warned.

This poster of Pandorum makes sense. The one with the wiring in the man’s arm does not. The latter perhaps let to some of my misplaced expectations.

The film is really like two scifi films spliced together, with only a minimal attempt and bring the stories back together at the end. This, I think, was where I felt most disappointed in the film. And I mean disappointed. I really wanted to love this movie. The acting is really quite good, I thought. Quaid gave one of his stronger performances in some time2. I really liked Ben Foster as Bower. I couldn’t help but think that he reminded of a younger Edward Nortorn; and that is a very good thing. Cam Gigandet was truly un-nerving as Gallo and one of the highlights of the movie. The remainder of the cast were strong and all of the action was believable 3.

As a technical effort, this film truly shows off the German film industry exceedingly well and credit should be given because almost all scenes employ physical sets and real actors & monsters. That’s a rarity in the age of hyper-real CG films like Avatar; and this film looks great. I’ll certainly be watching director Alvart’s other films and would love to see him write/ direct more science fiction. If any were to be set of the planet of Tanis in the 32nd century, all the better.

But at the end of the film, I felt empty. I wanted something more out of this movie that I really wanted to like. It sort of stayed with me for the past few days. Namely, what I think this movie really needed was one strong plot. Instead, it had two weak ones.

In plot A, we have the protagonist who represents sanity and humanity fighting hordes of monsters4 with a few survivors to reach a goal and return. It is pretty classic scifi/ horror/ apocalypse/ survival stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that genre and this film does a modest effort at that.

In plot B, we have a physiological thriller as we try and figure out which of two characters truly suffers from Pandorum (aka – space madness), either the good Lt. Payton or the edgy Gallo. We soon find what passes as the story’s one novel twist in this plot line. That is, that they are Tyler Durden.

Some Issues

Pandorum’s treatment of hyper-sleep for sub-light speed space travel is scifi gold and is rightly used to advance the plot (both of them, actually). From the grogginess and “mild” memory loss to the absolute gross cleaning off of hundreds of years worth of shed skin5, it all really helped to give Pandorum a bit of its own style right from the beginning. It said to me that the writer and director had thought about this and were going to show us their own vision here. It really helps to set why a lot of these events unfold and was a bit of brilliance; and I really hate to see that not play out in the end.

We see the psychological effects of deep space travel as well, in the form of the film’s namesake illness. We get a school-book explanation from Payton early on as Bower asks about him about it. Later, we seen both men seeming to suffer from some of the symptoms. However, other than some weird looks and what we can only assume are hallucinations on the part of Bower, his issues are never really explored (Payton’s & Gallo’s are pretty well explained in full, bad guy monologue style). The polarity of Bower and Payton/Gallo as humanity versus insanity really could have been better dealt with in the film’s climax. We’re left with a sense of confusion. What caused Bower to be able to overcome the illness? What struggles did he face in doing so? Simply having him shake it off seems a bit weak for the illness which so important the film was named after it. Otherwise, we could have called the movie Space Mutant Hunters.

The biggest failure in terms of story is tying the two protagonists together in some meaningful way: Payton/Gallo and the mutant hunters. Just to say that Gallo slept and the hunters evolved is like trying to assume the butterfly effect as a plot device. Sure there may have been some dominoes from one that resulted in the other, but why not give us a bit more of a concrete relationship? This would have woven the two plot lines together, instead of just licking the back of one and hoping it stays on the other.

Some Suggestions

So, what would I have done differently? I mean, after all, I’m just throwing spitballs if I don’t offer something constructive, right?

I think the reactor core should have been related to hunter mutants in a more concrete fashion. There seems to be no rational as to why they all sleep there. It may be a trite scifi convention to claim that exposure to radiation causes rapid (and often horrific, backwards) evolution, but it isn’t so commonplace that it can just be assumed (if that is even what has happened here). So, in very clear terms we should state to the viewers that the ship decided to wake Bower up specifically for his expertise with radiation leaks in reactor cores (most of the flight crew are dead, so the ship has to wake up the one specialist it has left). Unbeknown to the ship and to Bower, some of the passengers closer to the core who were woken by Gallo centuries earlier began to get sick (Pandorum!) never went back to sleep normally. They began to try to use power from the reactor core, but instead damaged it. After generations (and having been given the evolution-enhancing drugs for settlers), they devolved into the hunters we see today. They live near the reactor core as they have learned that it mutates their offspring faster, making them more effective hunters.

As I said, the hunters and Payton/Gallo need a more concrete relationship, as well. Since it is stated that Gallo tried to act like a god, why have the hunters worship him as such. Fear of him and his whims is one of the few human-like thoughts they have passed on. The reactor core room could be strewn with cave markings (as opposed to the cannibal cook’s chamber) telling this story, which serves to tip off Bower6. In fact, they could see him as the destroy of Earth since he delivered the message to their ancestors and revere him as a hunter of whole worlds. To whatever extent the hunters revere him, in the final encounter with Payton/Gallo, the hunters can be sneaking in and just when Bower thinks they’ll do in Payton/Gallo for him, they refuse to and begin advancing on Bower. This would ad a huge level of fear for the protagonists as now both the antagonists are working together. Water & ejecting in a sleep pod due to hull breach would still be an acceptable end to stopping these unstoppable villains of the story.

Also, as stated earlier, seeing the difference in how Pandorum affected both Bower and Payton would have been satisfying. It would have made it clear to us the kind of struggles that both went through but only Bower could overcome. I think if Payton (while in his right mind) had given Bower the advice which allows him to overcome bits of anxiety/ Pandorum/ space-madness; but that Payton himself doesn’t/didn’t follow when he is Gallo. This would tie the two characters together while setting their paths apart in the story.

I would also have liked to have seen the symptoms of Pandorum, specifically the vivid hallucinations aspect, play a little more prominently into the story for Bower. Clearly, the hallucinations were a major component of Payton/Gallo’s story. So why should Bower only see one such hallucination for a short period at the climax of the film? Were more of his interactions actually hallucinations; maybe even ones which he and other human survivors shared? Not to go all deus ex machina here, but what if the whole hunter problem is just a shared hallucination brought on by paranoia and hallucinations of waking crew? Perhaps Pandorum isn’t a rare illness at all, but in fact the norm when a human has been in suspended animation for centuries? Just seems like a host of missed opportunities here in terms of ways to leverage what set this story apart; all given up in favor of the mutant attack movie.

Lastly, while I appreciated the hunters, I think the at some level detracted from the strong part of the story. Too much screen time was spent on them when the truly novel elements of the story were left for us to guess at. Though it pains to me to say it, I’d have actually rather had less killer mutant hordes in this film (and I am indeed a huge fan of killer mutant hordes, to be for sure). Instead, I’d rather seen more on the internal and human/human conflicts.

This notion struck me as a laid down to sleep the evening after having finished watching Pandorum. It wasn’t the hunters that made me take that one last glace over my shoulder before going to sleep. It was the thought of Gallo creeping up behind me. That’s a great villain.

And there it is. Some of the reasons of why I felt like this movie garnered three out of five stars. I wanted to really like it, but couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that in the enormous effort to craft such a well-styled film that much of the plot elements got left in the director’s notebook or on the editing room floor. It is a good scifi film and worth the time of any fan of the genre, just the same.

Note: I haven’t done a film review on this site in quite a long time and I sincerely regret doing so. I hope to get back into that and often it is a book or film such as this – where I felt that it fell just short of being great – that motivates me to do so.

  1. It’s really not Angela’s sort of movie, so I watched it over the course of two lunch breaks. One of the perks of working from home, I suppose.
  2. Though, given that this film came out around the same time as G.I. Joe, that’s a really low personal bar. I haven’t seen Legion, but I’m also not hearing anything positive there, either.
  3. Nothing ruins fight scenes like bad wire work for me. This film has some aerial, Hong Kong style fighting and it is all done well and blends into the film.
  4. The monsters are essentially the Reavers from Firefly/Serenity with a bit of orcs from Lord of the Rings thrown in to make them seem a bit more alien. That being said, they are creepy as hell and work well.
  5. Not that I’m wanting to be overly picky here, but how could Bower have had a thick sheet of skin to pull off and only the kind of beard I grow in a few weeks. I’d have gone with a crazy beard and hair.
  6. Instead, we have Payton’s wife. A memory of a character who is never explained, nor – for that matter – is Payton. Why is Gallo in his chamber? He sort of has to be for the story and yet I don’t recall any explanation of who Payton was or why Gallo would end up there.

Eight Years and Still Suffering

It’s been eight years today since the coordinated attack on New York and Washington D.C. in which almost 3,000 people perished. Most of us have gone on with our lives; I know that feels like a lifetime ago when I recall where I was and what I was doing. However, for many of the first responders and residents in lower Manhattan, life hasn’t gone on. I watched the documentary Dust to Dust: The Health Effects of 9/11 earlier today after thinking about these people. I suppose I had the impression that ill health effects from the recovery and clean-up efforts were limited to a few individuals. If this documentary is even half true1 (and it does seem legit based on some additional reading I did today), the effects were far worse than I imagined.

Dust-to-Dust-title

It is tragic how the people that the nation — and indeed the world — lined up to thank as heroes have been treated since. The documentary lays the blame at the EPA and the Bush administration for mishandling the health issues and rushing back to a sense of normalcy (something which was not without reason; though doesn’t justify the lack of safety precautions). Once we learn about the treatment of these people who ran toward danger and worked tirelessly to help, we all get to shoulder some of that blame, too. We cannot allow people who serve the public to be treated as throw-away tools. It is entirely disrespectful to their sacrifice and it ensures that no one will step up to fill these roles for future generations. I’ve not found anything that suggest these individuals are asking for handouts. They want to be treated with the respect deserved them, those responsible for placing them in unsafe conditions to be held responsible, and to get the care they need. That’s really not asking for much, in my opinion.

So, if you can find an hour to spare, I highly recommend watching this documentary. This isn’t some left- or right-wing political agenda film. It is a intimate look at how modern America, in her rush to get back to our normal way of living, has indeed forgotten about some of those we swore we never would forget.

Incidentally, he documentary is narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. Buscemi, as it turns out, was a former New York City firefighter and returned to New York on Sept. 12 to help aid in recovery efforts for a week. Though no mention is made of this in the documentary (nor if Buscemi himself suffered in ill health effects), he clearly is in a position to help speak out about such an issue.

  1. It is sad in light of such a tragedy that I feel the need to have to include this but I want to be clear that I am not some conspiracy theorist nor am I looking for something to complain about the Bush administration. This just strikes me as a very real and ongoing problem associated with the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Terminator Salvation

I got the tip via Twitter the day prior to the film’s official release that my favorite local burger shop (Burgers ‘N Creme) was giving away free tickets to an advance screening of the movie (with a burger and fries basket — something I love for dinner, anyway!). It was part of a fund raiser for the Children’s Miracle Network and so attendees were also asked to make a small donation before the movie (again, something I was more than happy to do). Angela was cool with me going so long as I got Ainsley put to bed early. Angela’s not really a Terminator fan, so she declined a ticket with her meal and stayed home with the kids. I’ll spare everyone any further details on my sneaking out to the movies experience other that to say that I learned that this sort of thing goes on all the time (the preview screenings that is; and likely husbands sneaking out to see them). I owe Angela a night out and if I could get her and advance ticket to Harry Potter & tHBP, I’d love to.

General Review

Don’t worry; no spoilers here

Ever since I first read about this film in production, I’ve had my reservations. The director — McG (not a really big fan of professionally nicknamed people, but whatever) — wasn’t someone whom I really had much confidence in. My interest in the Terminator films (and their cultural significance) kept me reading more over the past year. I eventually decided that maybe McG does get what makes a film like this good (or, conversely, bad) and in the end I’d say he deserves credit for making a solid action scifi flick.

I know that there was a great deal of animosity towards the film and filmmakers online. Further, it’s been getting some pretty bad reviews ever since and hasn’t been a huge summer blockbuster. Frankly, I’m not really sure on what scale these statements are being made. The film stands on its own as (at least) a better-than-average action movie. The plot, while not overly complex, is far from dull. The main characters have a journey with a purpose. The special effects (both visual and audio) are top-notch. Lastly, it finds something to add to the ongoing story in the Terminator series. I’ll expand (of course), but I just wanted to point out that this is, in my opinion, the kind of film we should want more of from Hollywood.

So, my rating of four out of fiver stars that I tweeted the night I saw the film sticks. Probably even more so in light of all the undeserved flack this film seems to have generated.

This film is meant to serve as the first of a trilogy telling how John Conner — who we last saw as a homeless, jobless bum at the end of the world as we know — somehow manages to live up to the destiny his mother told him he would have: leader of the human resistance. He starts relatively small. He is well-known, if not universally liked or respected, due to his prescience 1 He feels as though he is floundering and fails to connect his current life with that he’s been told he’d lead. Enter the cast of this film, who help to connect those dots. The most important — and I hope I’m not spoiling anything as it’s been a Terminator franchise-staple since the second film — is a new Terminator version. This is done in what feels to be an original way while still recognizing the previous films.

Speaking of Terminator franchise staples, the entire concept and plot line of the films is a headache-inducing paradox. So, and let’s just get this out of the way, to complain about minor plot holes in a Terminator film really is a waste of time. It doesn’t stop me from doing it (see below), but to complain that they ruin the film is a bit far-fetched. The largest plot holes of the story were opened long before one ever got rolling (thank you, James Cameron) and as long as the characters keep the train rolling, I’m okay with it. We’re not trying to solve a murder case here; we’re just looking for some awesome robot vs. human action.

Of course, this film is both a prequel and a sequel. It tells how John Conner becomes the person we know he must be (or, else, paradox) while continuing the story of who he was in the previous couple of films. And, as it connects these to points, it is somewhat railroaded onto a linear and, at times, predictable path. But even then, the film manages to do something magical. At the very end of the film, despite knowing John Conner has to live (again, the other films would cease to exist … and my head hurts again); I still felt myself forget this fact for a few moments. The movie pulled me in enough to make me believe and that’s a cornerstone for what makes a good movie.

Some Other Bits I Liked

The movie contains loads of great homages to the series in here; particularly to the 1984 film. Lines like "Come with me if you want to live" and even "I’ll be back" are used to great (and even more impressively — subtle) effect2. They’re aren’t delivered in some sort of over-the-top fashion; but rather, they fall in with the plot and the dialog. It’s the sort of thing that could have ended up just feeling silly. Instead, the film makers and actors went to trouble to make it work.

There are many copies. And they have a plan. Skynet is a pretty smart cookie. It has near limitless CPU cycles as it has basically taken over every networked computer in 2003 (Judgment Day)3. So, this film gives us the solid impression that SkyNet spends a great deal of this time cooking up new ways to destroy humanity. It never sleeps. It never eats. It just. Keeps. Coming. Sound familiar? That’s right. The relentless onslaught that was portrayed by AS, et al. so well 25 years ago is shown to be inherited from a giant networked computer whose very existence is pretty much just that same trait. And with that much time, it’s Cyberdine division just keeps cranking out new models to try again. Like some sort of evil, soul-less Wiley Coyote.

The sound in this film is awesome. Imagine the sounds generated by an 80’s arcade machine (like Donkey Kong, for instance). Now imagine that being blasted at 180 dB from a 60 foot tall mech (aka – giant, scary robot) with a magma cannon. I know that it is just a low-frequency, clipped sine wave tone. But, the thing is it sounds terrifying and really works. The same general sound is used to great effect by many of the terminators other machines in the film.

Warning: Here be spoilers!

Arnold is back – and I mean that as in "that body-builder turned actor from the 80’s". Using a CG face of him from the 80’s was the right thing to do. Why would a machine age? Otherwise, we’d be wondering why a machine suddenly looks a quarter century older a decade before he is sent back to the past.

Some Bits I Didn’t LIke

Yep, still some spoilers here.

One huge issue that nearly had me shouting out loud is when John Connor (Bale) captures and re-wires a Moto-terminator to ride across the desert to SkyNet. Could someone please explain to me why such a machine would have handlebars for him to drive it? I’ve tried to rationalize it to myself (SkyNet copies more than it innovates and since existing motorcycles had handlebars …) but it just doesn’t work. If you’re a computer program who has any sort of efficiency concerns, you’re not going to waste effort to add handlebars on a moto-terminator in the same sense you wouldn’t waste time making reproductive organs on a T-600.

Why does the mainframe terminal screen which is making the great reveal to Marcus change faces the way it does? There is a flicker of a terminator-like skull as the faces change. The terminators are in the software, they are machines that go about doing its bidding. This felt a little silly to me; like a heavy-handed attempt to remind you of the connection between the two.

I’ve read some reviews panning Christian Bale’s performance as flat. I thought the insecurity of John Connor trying to live up to the prophecy of John Connor came across well. Further, not to say that Sam Worthington (Marcus) doesn’t put on a great performance, but his reversion to an Australian accent was a bit distracting to me. I’m not entirely sure why he couldn’t have just used his native accent throughout the film (its not as though no one in all of Southern California has a foreign accent; nor did a thick Austrian accent deter Arnold in previous films). I think in preference of a sound, consistent performance, I’d have asked the actor to have done so. There really seems to be nothing about the role that precludes it.

Summary

So, for those of you who longed to see more of that dark, desolate future world we glimpsed back in 1984 as kids where metal-skeletoned robots walked beside tanks lit by the spotlights of machine aircraft, this is a must-see. If you enjoy a solid, if linear, action movie then this is going to be your movie. I’m even going to go out on a limb and say that if you only watch one film this summer where giant robots attempt attach humans to take over our planet (and, yes, we actually have some choice in that regard), then Terminator: Salvation is going to be a little more fulfilling.

  1. Really, just reciting what his mother had always told him second-hand from his father.
  2. They wisely left out "Hasta la vista, baby" showing sound judgment that not everything should be shoehorned in
  3. Which wouldn’t have been nearly as smart as if it had waited until about now, what with our multi-core processors and widespread broadband. But, I digress …

Maybe McG Gets It After All

Speaking of summer movie thrills, I’m cautiously optimistic about Terminator: Salvation, which opens next week. Director "McG" — of Charlies Angel’s money grab remake fame " makes a good case for going with a PG-13 rating:

“It just became clear that the things that would take it to an R or an NC-17 would be: There goes the arm, and now the blood is squirting on my face,” McG said in a group interview last Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif. “That wasn’t in service of the character or the story. The elements that would have taken it to R just ended up feeling gratuitous in the editing room. There’s a topless scene with Moon Bloodgood. I was trying to echo that scene in Witness where Kelly McGillis turns and says, ‘I’m not ashamed’ to Harrison Ford. But it just felt like, ‘Oh, there’s the genre stunt of the good-looking girl taking her top off.’ And it felt counterproductive in the spirit of what we were looking to achieve on a storytelling level, so way to go.”

I am in full favor of cutting gratuitous violence and nudity if it can open the film to a wider audience, make the movie a greater success, and ensure that good science fiction gets attention it deserves.

The New Star Trek

With two kids now, finding time to go out to watch a movie is only a great challenge. Given that Angela is a long-time Trekker and that this was Mother’s day weekend, we really wanted to get out to see the new movie. We’re also big Lost fans and had really high hopes for this film.

I should point out that Angela is a big fan of Next Generation in particular. That was what she grew up on 1 whereas my first experience with Star Trek was the animated series on Nickelodeon2. I was probably always more of a Star Wars fan, myself, but we’ve come to embrace one another’s different nerd heritages in our years together. I’ve been to a Star Trek convention before with Angela and her cousin, Jonathan; and we’ve gone to see the recent films with TNG cast together. So of some of the big hit films this summer, we really were glad that we could orchestrate an afternoon of Star Trek together.

You Don’t Have to be a Fan

I honestly have no idea if JJ Abrams, et al are huge fans of Star Trek or not. It would certainly seem so but, more to the point, they are excellent story tellers. What this latest movie is is a high-action, emotional, brilliantly told story. While it most essentially boils down to a buddy-film, it really draws on loads of story elements. A favorite element of mine was that the crew of the Enterprise as we have known them are really a bunch of second-string misfits; either with authority issues or personal conflicts that would prevent them from rising to the top on their own. However, when put together their oddities feed off one another. Each character is introduced to us one at a time as the film progresses. Therefore, what started as a buddy flick about two guys now consists of a ensemble, each the audience has a special connection with. The writers knew better than to bring in more than a half-dozen characters all at once and assume the audience would just recognize them.

I had read enough on Zachory Quinto’s desire to play Spock that I had really focused my excitement on that character. I hadn’t really given more than a passing thought to Karl Urban as Bones ("Oh, he was in LotR, right?"). As it turns out, he was excellent at Dr. McCoy3. The rest of the cast did not disappoint, either. No one hammed up their roles. Instead, the actors all seemed to get the essence of the characters without resorting to just doing impressions of the actors from decades ago.

Being a Fan Doesn’t Hurt

There were plenty of references to the finer points of the Star Trek universe, though. From all the little bits like props that matched much of the style of the original series, to sound effects and music laden with heavy brass, to those wonderful prequel moments of ‘oh that’s how that came about!’ It’s those latter elements that are always the funnest for the fans, I think. They feed our sense of nostalgia for our youth and our (not always) guilty love of pop culture. With a history as long as Star Trek, a film like this could have easily begun to drown in them. However, the writers and director reached what felt like a perfect balance here. Enough of these little memory joggers to bring smiles to a fan’s face but not so many as to keep the general audience feeling their missing the joke.

So much of this film was a balancing act that is really remarkable that it plays as well as it does to such a wide audience. You wouldn’t need to have any more knowledge of Star Trek than simply having grown up in the Western hemisphere to appreciate some of the lines and visuals. Even if you weren’t a fan at all, you could appreciate some of those enough to enjoy them. And there is plenty of plain old damn-good-story to enjoy the movie even if you wouldn’t get those bits. You don’t have to appreciate any of it to understand sacrificing your life to save crew and family or to seek approval and acceptance. These plot fundamentals are what too many of the Star Trek films lacked in an effort to make them solidly Star Trek. Like all great science fiction, the best parts of the story have nothing to do with science fiction.

More to Come? I Hope So.

I am convinced this will be one of the top movies of the summer (and therefore, the entire year). Though this film succeeds at what Enterprise4 tried but ultimately couldn’t do: provide both those prequel moments while also giving a sexy, sleek new edge to what it means to be Star Trek. Many films that attempt to re-envision, re-boot, or regurgitate stories just to so with no reason for existing other than the obvious money grab. This film — much to our delight — stands on its own. Further, in so far as the story line goes it is a literal re-boot. It ends with an alternate, parallel universe as a result of the events of the film For once, time travel in Star Trek actually results in things unpredictably changing. It’s hard to argue when the most impossible part of the story actually results in a logical outcome. This certainly leaves us with some likely sequels to this prequel that aren’t the previous films. Okay, when I put it like that it still sounds like a money grab. But at least this one was enjoyable!

I can watch a lot of films more than once, but this one I could have bought another ticket for as soon as I walked out. Angela — who never likes to watch films twice; at least not in the theater — said she would love to go back again. I honestly can’t say much more than that. It really is just that much fun.

  1. I didn’t get Fox until after the show had begun and only watched occasionally until later in college.
  2. I’m still very disappointed that an Edosian has never made a re-appearance in Star Trek since.
  3. You might even say he was the real McCoy … but you really shouldn’t.
  4. I want to go on the record and say that Enterprise was probably my favorite of all the Star Trek television series. And, yes, I liked that theme song. It was one of the few I never fast-forward through on TiVo recordings.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Best description/review of the Watchmen film I’ve read yet that sums up my exact feelings:

Fully deserving of its R rating, this is a sad, violent film about sad, violent people where the only one actually saving the world is the villain. While most superhero movies are about action and drama, this one’s a straight-up tragedy and definitely not for kids. And yet it works very well, both as a movie and as an adaptation of the comic book.

Snyder is also putting out a couple of supporting films: an animated version of the sea-pirate/horror story and a live-action version of the Night Owl’s autobiography. Though some would argue a film must be judged only on what happens within the limits of it’s time-frame, I think this is more like mixed-media art or even a film triptych. Why should film be limited to its format when formats change? Holding onto limitations of a format can be worthwhile when it serves a purpose (like album art for an .mp3 file) but shouldn’t be dogma.

Live Blogging the BSG Final Season Premiere

The beginning of the end of Battlestar Galactica. Angela and I are watching:

  • Well, Earth sure a drag.
  • Hey! Hera uses the same plastic spoons as Ainsley.
  • That beach where Tyrol is having some flashback to old Earth… is that actually the beach at Stanley Park in Vancouver?
  • Well, Starbuck. I guess you’re the twelfth and final cylon. At least that sure seems to be only way this makes sense.
  • I’m so glad they’re using the creepy lost-five Cylon tune again.
  • So is there some Cylon resurrection ship/facility near Earth that Starbuck accidentally discovered?
  • Dee is going to go psyco, isn’t she? I mean she’s about to go third season Starbuck crazy, right? Tragically, yes.
  • Looks like pretty much everyone is going nuts. As if it were the end of the world or some… oh. Right.
  • I’m glad the show didn’t over use the population countdown element. They really used it sparingly, and to maximum effect.
  • Wait, Ellen, whoa!
  • Angela: “So it’s not Kara! What is she?”
  • Where’s Ellen? If there was a resurrection ship near New Caprica, would it have brought Ellen back? If not, wouldn’t she be gone forever?
  • So, is “the harbinger of death” something different all togehter?
  • We may do this again next week. If so, I’ll probably just update this post.

    Update: There is a terrific interview with Ronald D. Moore, BSG’s executive producer, that I found via Adam Savage. Here’s a quote from Moore during that interview:

    My attitude was pretty much, “Look, we’re in the last chapter here. Anyone who’s come this far and doesn’t want to watch the rest — they’re a minority at best.” People are going to want to see how this turns out. And yeah, this is a very dark chapter. This may not even be the darkest chapter.

Much More Fun Than You Might Think

So, you might have picked up that I’ve been on something of a fantasy kick lately. One thing that I’ve considered doing off and on for several years now (Okay, ever since I got out grad. school – whatever) was picking up role-playing games again. I played them a lot as a kid and loved every minute of it. They appealed to me on so many levels: tons of maps, loads of math & tables, and open ended stories.

I ended up find a group on MeetUp.org who run some 4 hour games, once a month; most of which were aimed at beginners and people getting back into the game. This sounded like a perfect fit. Saturday evening, I broke out an old Player’s Handbook and created1 a pretty basic character for myself. I was never very good at coming up with fantasy character names (I once named a rogue character Robin Stealer. Subtle, no?), but I know of a group that is great at it: Ikea. So, I named my first level, dwarf fighter after a very tasteful and modern coffee table (Ramvik, if you’re curious).

Sunday, we all drove down to Murfreesboro to the comic and games shop. I got a seat at the D&D table while Angela and Ainsley looked around briefly at some comics. They then took off to tool around the mall while my game got underway.

Now, I suppose on some level, the seven people around the table fit exactly the description of D&D players you likely have in mind right now: white males sitting indoors on a perfectly nice sunny day. However, despite that general stereotype, these were a fairly diverse lot: a grad. student, a downtown lawyer, a high school math teacher, a father and his son – who had recently gotten his dad back into gaming, and the father of a 1 1/2 year old (who seemed happy to get out of the house and play a game with adults). What’s more, they were all outgoing and fun personalities. While the game ran a bit long (even at five hours, we didn’t quite finish); a good bit of the time was spent joking around. Instead of dice and pencils, we could have just as easily had poker cards and chips in our hands.

Other than the fact that I ended up losing my voice by the end of it (as much from all the laughing as anything else), I had a really great time. So much so, I plan to make it a monthly event. Angela said she might even join in for a game in the future (by the way, there are females in the MeetUp group, just none happened to be playing this past weekend).

Oh, and the game itself? It was a fairly tough module, actually. Fortunately, we had a decent mix of a 7th level barbarian, a 3rd level cleric, a 3rd level rogue, a 1st level ranger, and two 1st level fighters (including my Swedish furniture namesake). I ended up dying at the end, but the DM allowed for the NPC cleric whom we were helping to resurrect my character out of gratitude after the fact. I think the DM felt bad since my character died on my first game and that I might not have enjoyed it. Quite to the contrary, I had had a great time and I was actually kind of glad that it wasn’t a cakewalk. I got to feel like I was working on a team trying to figure out a mystery.

As I said, I can’t wait until next time.

  1. I would have formerly said "rolled" instead of created, but there’s no rolling involved in character creation anymore – at least not in the method employed by this group.

NBC: We’ve Pretty Much Given Up

The Peacock Network was once a bastion for drama and comedy. Those days are long gone, with only a few bright spots in an otherwise abysmal line-up (Scrubs, My Name is Earl, and The Office being most of those highlights). Recently, they announced that Universal (NBC and USA Networks parent company) were moving Monk and Psych from USA to NBC, as if that was going be a good thing for those shows. Why find new shows or talent when you can just bring some up from the minor leagues? Just the other evening, we saw some commercials for four new shows this summer on NBC: all were reality/contest shows (including American Gladiator, which pretty much sucked the first go around). Now, comes an announcement that they are going to start crafting shows around sponsor’s products. Of course, that’s assuming any advertisers are even considering spending money at NBC.