Saturday, July 02, 2011

Star Trek, Season Three

Can you believe it's been an entire year?

Last summer, Becca and I started doing a rewatch of Star Trek (Season One, Season Two), because I had never actually seen every single episode of the original series. We loved the first two seasons, but got hung up in the third with some pretty terrible, pretty boring episodes. We decided to take a brief break to watch some other things and go back to it, and that was pretty much last August. So, since Netflix started streaming the series yesterday, we got back on track and, as of this very day, I have finally seen every episode of Star Trek.


It's a mixed blessing.

1. Spock's Brain (my rating 2/5)
This tremendously stupid episode is the first clear signal that this season is going to go light on science fiction and just do whatever the hell it feels like. Watching Spock tromp about with his brain gone is just saddening. Here we go. And a lot of what comes up later in the season is even worse.

2. The Enterprise Incident (3/5)
God bless her, DC Fontana tries with this episode. She gives us another interesting female character in the Romulan commander, but it's disheartening that they can't even bother to name her. Also, Kirk as a Romulan is just silly. I like the scenes between Spock and the Romulan Commander; I notice it's the women writers who are more interested in exploring Spock's dual natures. Any time they really go into that territory, I'm fascinated.

3. The Paradise Syndrome (1/5)
Ugh. Kirk among the natives. A deeply, deeply stupid riff on The Man Who Would Be King, with a little of James Michener's Hawaii thrown in. Someone--I forget who now--asks perhaps the dumbest question of any Trek episode. Remarking on the similarities of the planet to Earth, someone asks what the odds are of a world so parallel to Earth developing out in the galaxy? Uh, on THIS show? Seems like 1 in 3. And Shatner is really off his leash in this one, overacting like mad.

4. And the Children Shall Lead (1/5)
Because creepy kids = science fiction, apparently.

5. Is There in Truth No Beauty? (4/5)
A very good Spock episode, and the establishment of one of my favorite concepts in all of Star Trek, the Vulcan IDIC. I know it was really only created so Gene Roddenberry could sell some more merchandise, but aside from that mercenary aspect, it's quite a nice philosophy.

6. Spectre of the Gun (1/5)
I was just waiting for Melvarrr to show up in this one. Pretty lame.

7. Day of the Dove (4/5)
I like the Klingons in this episode; as I've said before, my enjoyment of them is rather mixed, but Michael Ansara makes a great Klingon, and watching the two crews battle it out is pretty dramatic. Walter Koenig needs to rein it in a little in this one, but he's nowhere near as annoying this season as in the second.

8. For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky (2/5)
There's a great science fiction idea in here with the potential (literal) collision of two civilizations, but I don't think the episode pulls it off.

9. The Tholian Web (3/5)
Another day, another abandoned derelict... not a bad episode, actually, but the plotlines are starting to feel pretty recycled. I know that's because of budget cuts in anticipation of cancellation, but it also doesn't feel like they're really doing they best they can with what they have left.

10. Plato's Stepchildren (3/5)
There's a really good episode here that gets a little too bogged down in silliness and Shatner's overacting. There's so much here that's strong--particularly the performance of Michael Dunn as Alexander, the only Platonian without telekinesis--that it's a shame so damn much of the episode is devoted to the weird, uncomfortable, psychosexual torture and humiliation of the cast.

11. Wink of an Eye (1/5)
And this is the point where the bad episodes start to get tedious. Also, Nimoy is snippy. What's been going on behind the scenes, exactly? He seems to hate his lines and sharing the screen with Shatner. And Shatner, for his part, has been out of control with his overacting.

12. The Empath (1/5)
Predictable, tedious, and poorly acted. All of those close-ups of Gem, the empath, were really irritating after a while. And the score, though pretty at first, is relentless.

13. Elaan of Troyius (3/5)
Quite good for the first half; Elaan is a character we haven't seen on Trek before--imperious, even bratty, and very sure of herself. She's an interesting antidote to the usual Trek babe. But then Kirk gets especially crazy about disciplining her, and he kind of breaks all ethics to bring this girl under his heel. They obviously wanted to do a Taming of the Shrew-in-space episode, but Kirk really goes out of his way to just do whatever the fuck he wants instead of acting like a captain. This episode is pretty racist, too--the Asian dragon lady becomes the Asian submissive to the white man--but I don't think that's a conscious decision. Elaan could be played by an actress of any race and the episode would still be as incredibly sexist as it already is. France Nuyen is electric in the role, though, and I really liked Jay Robinson.

14. Whom Gods Destroy (2/5)
Well, I like Yvonne Craig as an Orion girl. She's really good on this episode. She's the only one whose crazy overacting works. The rest is a battle between Shatner and Steve Ihnat to see who can overact the loudest. Shatner needs a freaking leash.

15. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (4/5)
How was Frank Gorshin not on every show ever? Every time I see him in something, I'm impressed by how good he is. One of the few very good episodes this season, willing to go bleak, though an invisible spaceship figuring in the plot is a clear indicator of how low the budget is now.

16. The Mark of Gideon (2/5)
Everything going on here with Captain Kirk is pure tedium, but it bumps up a point for all of the verbal back-and-forth negotiating between Spock and the Gideon High Council.

17. That Which Survives (1/5)
18. The Lights of Zetar (1/5)
Tedious. TEDIOUS. And hammy. By this point it feels like no one really gives a shit about making a decent show anymore. They're just running out the clock.

19. Requiem for Methuselah (2/5)
This one starts out really interesting and then sort of loses itself in more pabulum about Kirk falling in love with yet another girl in space. Only this time he basically loves her to death, which is odd and mildly offensive.

20. The Way to Eden (2/5)
The space hippies feel gimmicky, and I couldn't care less about Chekov's romance, but this goes up an extra point for Charles Napier. I love that man.

21. The Cloud Minders (2/5)
Another one that starts out strong and gets tedious. And I agree with what David Gerrold said about this episode being ethically sketchy; it's basically about making the less privileged workers happy but, importantly, keeping them workers. Humoring the labor, I guess. So much potential wasted, and I really liked both of the women here, and the stuff with Spock.

22. The Savage Curtain (3/5)
The loopiest thing I've ever seen on Star Trek: Abraham Lincoln floating on an easy chair in space. Sure, why not? I liked some bits of this episode, especially Surak. And even Lincoln is kind of cool, despite the actor's makeup getting progressively worse. The Excalbian alien is neat, too. A really solid try.

23. All Our Yesterdays (5/5)
I loved this one. This is the real standout from Season Three. I'd never seen this one before today, and I really loved the romance between Spock and Mariette Hartley, and the exploration of the character dynamic between Spock and McCoy. This is really sensitively-written, character-driven science fiction. It made sitting through this trial of a season worth it.

24. Turnabout Intruder (1/5)
Ugh. Show got canceled one episode too late. An offensive episode, too, about "the indignity of being a woman." Watching Shatner ham it up with what he thinks is a feminine performance... what a spectacle of awfulness.

And there it is. Not a winner by any means, but some good stuff in there. And now I've finally seen every episode of the original series, and it's on to The Next Generation!

Happy 51st Birthday, Julia Montgomery, Wherever You Are!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Let the Right One In

Based on someone's recommendation, and having liked both film versions, I decided to sit and read the original novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.


It's a fantastic book. Well-written (and well-translated), very breezy in style and quick to read. At the same time, very compelling and engrossing. It tells the same story as the film, but with many more points of view from interconnecting characters with clear motivations. There is a lot more here than in either film version.

The story, at its heart, is about a bullied, scared boy named Oskar who meets a strange and confident girl named Eli. As they grow closer, the strange Eli becomes more normal and the scared Oskar becomes more courageous and sure of himself. But their friendship develops among a series of murders and under a shroud of Cold War paranoia (it takes place in 1980). In this setting, Oskar is bullied within, quite literally, an inch of his life.

This is the same story as the films, but what Lindqvist does in his novel is to develop other viewpoints. Hakan, the older man who lives with Eli and kills for her because of his love for her; Staffan, the policeman investigating the murders and who is clashing with his new girlfriend's sullen teenage son Tommy, who is one of Oskar's only friends; and a group of drinking buddies who begin disappearing and whose lives are changed forever when they encounter the supernatural.

It's no great revelation now that Eli is a vampire. What's interesting for me--as someone who thinks vampires are bullshit in fiction--is how Lindqvist imagines some of the biological aspects of vampirism. He imagines it as an infection that grows a second, separate consciousness that places survival above all other concerns. There's an AIDS allegory that's inescapable given the time period of the novel and Eli's desire not to infect Oskar--and, of course, given the biggest revelation about Eli (not kept in the film, also written by Lindqvist).

I'm honestly surprised--and gladdened--by what got cut out of the adaptation. A lot of more obviously horror flick aspects were left behind in order to concentrate on what really makes this story special, which is the relationship that develops between Eli and Oskar as two outcasts who instinctively desire to protect each other, even if it means harming others.

I highly recommend this one, if I can fool myself into believing people are interested in my recommendations.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cherie Currie Time

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rare Ollie Johnston Pencil Test

An early 1940s animation of a Fred Moore girl. All too short, but beautiful stuff, via Andreas Deja's new blog. In other important news, Disney animator Andreas Deja has a blog!

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.


THE ROOMMATE (2011)
They never make these things crazy and trashy enough. This redux of Single White Female should be much, much more over-the-top and insane. Instead it's a pretty predictable, thin story about a college girl (Leighton Meester) who becomes obsessed with her roommate (Minka Kelly, bland and boring--what does Leighton bother to see in her?) and starts acting kind of nuts about it. This is another one of those movies Becca and I were basically rewriting while we were watching it. Also, not nearly enough Aly Michalka (which could be true of any movie) and Cam Gigandet, no matter how much you mumble and squint and smirk, you will never be James Franco. Or likable. *1/2 stars.

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (2011)
Easily my least favorite of the animated DC Universe movies. Part of me thinks, honestly, that I was probably never going to like it as much as any of the others. The comic book All-Star Superman is one of my favorite comic book stories of all time. It's very special, something I put up there with Bone and Gon and the early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man in my pantheon of wonderful comic books. I think I went into it with an open mind, and I think they probably made the right choices as to what to cut and what to keep in (the comic book was very episodic; Jimmy Olsen loses out and I missed Krypto, but I like what they kept), but it was so solemn and lifeless that I just never warmed up to it. It's well-animated, very anime style, but even for a movie about Superman dying it's funereal. Batman would watch this and ask everyone to lighten up a little. Too much fatalism, not enough life. Let's see a few glimpses of what he and the world are losing here instead of going through the motions. Also, James Denton as Superman is as boring as James Denton in everything. **1/2 stars.

BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD (2010)
I wonder if I enjoyed this flick more than All-Star Superman because I don't give two shits about Jason Todd. I'm a little tired of the unrelenting darkness of Batman and his hypocritical crusade of breaking the law in order to protect it, but I enjoyed the action here. Not in the same league as Justice League: The New Frontier, but good. *** stars.

THE GOOD SON (1993)
Ridiculous, overly serious movie with Elijah Wood grieving the death of his mother while trying to stop the crazy, psychopathic violence of his cousin Macauley Culkin. This movie is trashy in the extreme, so of course I enjoyed it. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone or watch it ever again, but it was so silly and insane that I had fun. Sometimes you want Taco Bell instead of food, you know? ** stars.

Our Junk Our Destination

John emailed me this interesting article about the International Space Station and all of the garbage we've left floating around the planet in the last half-century of ever-more-tentative excursions into the great beyond. And he summed it up with the perfect comment:

"Our exploration of space is like the guy who never went to sea to explore foreign lands but often goes to the beach to litter the shore with his bottles, food wrappers and shit."


I couldn't agree more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Song of the Week: "Perform This Way"

It's always nice when "Weird Al" has a new single. I can't say the special effects in this video are Al's best, but it still cracks me up.

Spoilery Game of Thrones Note

Can I just say that I'm really surprised and impressed that the world of A Song of Ice and Fire fans seemed to collectively, unconsciously decide not to spoil Ned Stark's death for the viewing audience who hadn't read the book? Maybe we were all curious to see how they would react--I know I was, because I was waiting for (and got) that WTF phone call from my Mom.


Let's keep this unofficial policy going with this show!

Sunday Hottie 334

DEBORAH ANN WOLL

I Can't Take the World Seriously Anymore

There's an interesting article here at the Washington Post about what we can learn from Sweden and their swift and total economic recovery from the Great Recession. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of looking in the comments, and it's not long before the first tea-infused lunatic shows up making weird points.


First, Teatard erroneously claims that Sweden would have collapsed without the US Fed "propping up" the Swedish banks, which is just all kinds of inaccurate. He willfully ignores one of the most important details in the article, which is that after their 1992 economic collapse (a collapse which actually held banks responsible, as we should have done here instead of simply making them bigger and more powerful), the Swedish government made it a priority to always have a budget surplus to weather another crisis.

Next Teatard basically claims the recovery doesn't count, or something, because the Swedish economy is "slightly smaller than Ohio." He goes on to explain in a follow-up comment that the Swedish economy is not as complex as ours. I wish someone had asked him to explain the financial situation in Greece, then, which is smaller than Sweden yet teetering on the edge of total insolvency. And as for complexity, there's a lot more social welfare in Sweden than there is here in America, and yet Sweden has completely recovered from Economic Clusterfuck '08.

Also, they aren't fighting an unending series of pointless, unwinnable, sometimes illegal and unconstitutional wars.

Teatard's remaining points are about the Swedish population, including that it is "completely homogeneous in terms of its racial composition."

So... you're not actually making economic points, you're just an asshole.

Seriously, what does that even mean? And how far back in the past are we that racial theories have a place in a discussion on the economy?