Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloween: Even More Random Commercials

Here's a Hershey's commercial from 1981. I don't recall if I ever saw it, but I was 5 that year. And come on, who's giving out the full-size candy bars on Halloween? Those people would've been neighborhood heroes!

Here's an 80s commercial for Paas Halloween Makeup Kits. I never got fancy with the makeup; I was definitely a mask kid. These always looked like fun to me, but they were oddly intimidating.

And I'll end this week's batch with this 1983 commercial for General Mills' monster cereals, because I haven't eaten breakfast yet and there's an unopened box of Franken Berry sitting on top of my fridge. Not crazy about the cityscape background. And poor Boo Berry doesn't even get to say his name!

Three more next week!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Halloween Pumpkin Bucket

We had one of these for years and years. I have no idea where it came from, but when we were kids, my sister used to carry it for trick-or-treating. I had one that was taller, but that one went by the way and then we just had this one. In the off-seasons, I used to use it as Jack Pumpkinhead's head when I would experiment with making bodies out of sticks or clothes filled with newspaper. Back in my "I wanna be a special effects guy or a Muppeteer" days.

Anyway, I wish I knew what happened to this guy, because I'd love to have him back. I know I could probably just buy a new one, but it's not really the same thing. I miss mine. You know how it is.

I also miss my McDonald's trick-or-treat buckets, but that's a whole other thing.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Three

I've been really impressed with this show so far; this season builds so well on the previous season, getting into serialized territory and really letting the characters grow and breathe. These two seasons have actually been, so far, the most enjoyable time I've ever had watching any Star Trek TV series. I'm glad Becca and I, two lifelong Trek fans, have been getting to experience this for the first time together.

1. The Search, Part I (my rating: 5 out of 5)
First, I have to say that the Defiant is an amazing ship. Very impressive, well-designed, and unlike anything we've seen from the Federation. I can't believe it's taken this long to get a real warship. I know this fictional universe has been focused instead on peaceful exploration, but between the Klingons and the Romulans and the Cardassians, it makes a lot of sense to have a warship every now and then. It's like we're seeing where the Federation has finally decided they need to toughen up with enemies like the Borg and the Dominion out there. This is an exciting, action-filled episode.

2. The Search, Part II (5/5)
And now we finally learn the truth about Odo, his people, the Dominion, and what his real purpose is. The scenes about the station provide some suspense and craziness, but it was obvious how it would all end. The real story is Odo's journey, his understanding, and his rejection of his people. And it's a very good one. It's a shame they didn't keep the Romulan character around, though. I'm always looking for them to actually do something interesting with the Romulans...

3. The House of Quark (3/5)
Not quite as much fun as I'd hoped it would be, pulling Quark into dealings with the Klingon High Council. But I do always love to see Gowron, and I like the Klingon impatience with Quark's accountancy problem-solving.

4. Equilibrium (4/5)
More information about the Trill is usually interesting. This is a nice twist on the overly familiar "Crew member goes crazy" episode. I dug how it tied in to Trill politics, such as they are, and the idea of Dax having a forgotten host is very dramatic.

5. Second Skin (3/5)
I think they wimp out on the ending a little bit on this one. The Obsidian Order and the Cardassian Dissident Movement are both interesting, but of course it turns out Kira is just being used and isn't really a Cardassian spy. Her being a spy--this fervent Bajoran patriot we've come to know--and then choosing to still be Kira anyway because that's all she really remembers would have been much more dramatic a way to go. Imagine Kira being forced to deal with actually being part of a people she holds responsible for a life of suffering. So it's not a bad episode, but the ending was a little pat and predictable for a show that is usually braver. Kira's a great enough character without it, but still...

6. The Abandoned (2/5)
I wasn't interested so much in the Jem'Hadar child or how he related to Odo as one of the Founders. They just didn't pull it off for me; it's a rather heavy-handed attempt at humanizing the inhuman enemy. I did like Mardah the Dabo girl, though. Good for you, Jake. Good for you.

7. Civil Defense (5/5)
Tense and exciting episode with O'Brien accidentally tripping a Cardassian security program that will destroy the station. It's also exciting to see Gul Dukat and Elim Garak take each other on a bit more, revealing more of the animosity between these two great, complicated characters. The only misstep, to me, is the way Gul Dukat hits on Major Kira and it's played as cute and funny instead of horrifying, which it would be to Kira--her former torturer now displaying sexual/romantic interest in her would be a nightmare. But it's a blip in a fantastic episode.

8. Meridian (1/5)
Another one of those Star Trek love stories that completely fails to grab me. Really, Star Trek? Brigadoon? Jeffrey Combs appearing on the show is the only thing I really enjoyed. Boy, everyone's in lust with Kira, aren't they?

9. Defiant (5/5)
It's really nice to see Jonathan Frakes in Star Trek again, this time as Thomas Riker, trying to steal the Defiant for the Maquis. There's a lot of tense political stuff happening in this episode, with Sisko and Dukat trying to recover the Defiant and the Obsidian Order trying to destroy it. The revelation of a potential Obsidian Order fleet is a jaw-dropping moment.

10. Fascination (1/5)
This episode is just embarrassing, with Lwaxana Troi accidentally infecting everyone with A Midsummer Night's Dream Syndrome, or something. The only high points were the color palette (bright colors for once!) and Rosalind Chao being particularly sexy.

11. Past Tense, Part I
12. Past Tense, Part II (5/5)
I thought I'd put these together, as they're a sort of feature in the middle of the season. And these episodes are just mind-blowing, putting Sisko, Bashir and Dax back in the past, a past which is now only 13 years in our future. It seems even more prescient today than it must have been in 1995; seeing the homeless forced to live in what are essentially prison camps was powerful, but beyond depressing given the current climate and even my own home situation. It's important, too, to note the difference in experiences between Bashir and Sisko (two brown-skinned men who are transported straight to the ghetto and treated like criminals) and Dax (a white-skinned woman who immediately becomes the toast of rich society). Very tense stuff, delving into the heart of human nature and our own society. Great guest actors, too, particularly Bill Smitrovich and the great Dick Miller. I think Bashir comes into his own here, too. I noticed that, after proving how capable he is here, he sort of grows up and I'm far less annoyed with him than I used to be.

13. Life Support (2/5)
Some interesting examination of the ethics of life support and whether or not keeping someone who is nearly brain dead alive is really humane, but the drama of it never quite came alive for me. Becca was mad, though, because the death of Vedek Bareil is "the death of the sexiest guy on this show."

14. Heart of Stone (5/5)
The cruelty of the Founders really comes into focus here, with Odo being put through the emotional wringer and finally confessing his obvious feelings for Kira. It's an excellent plot, very well-acted, but for some reason what touched me most was Nog's impassioned speech to Sisko about why he wants to join Starfleet. That actually moved me to a few tears. There's something about Nog that I really identify with. Good balance of two great plots.

15. Destiny (3/5)
I don't think it quite comes off for me. A lot of the stuff about the prophecy is obvious. I liked the Cardassian women, though, and I'm glad they stopped to take a look at Sisko's discomfort with being made a religious figure for the Bajorans.

16. Prophet Motive (4/5)
I always get excited to see Wallace Shawn come back as Grand Nagus Zek. And definitely, Quark is my favorite character on the show. It's interesting how it starts off as a comedy and then becomes pretty serious, with Quark in the wormhole talking to the Prophets. Quark's argument that greed is good for linear beings mostly works, I think; he makes a great case for tempered ambition.

17. Visionary (4/5)
Now that's an interesting choice; replacing O'Brien with his from-a-couple-hours-in-the-future self. This way O'Brien gets to sacrifice himself heroically and still live to save the day. It effects nothing, really, but it's a neat idea. An episode with time travel that actually works without tripping over its own continuity, and it's got some exciting visuals (such as the destruction of the station). I like the way everyone just sort of accepts the time jumps and then works with them instead of spending too much time talking about it. And John Shirley writing for Star Trek? I HAVE seen everything.

18. Distant Voices (1/5)
Ridiculous old-age makeup. Again. Get over it, Star Trek.

19. Through the Looking Glass (3/5)
I'm not sure we needed another trip to the Mirror Universe--seriously, it's getting to be easier than walking to the drugstore--but it's not a bad one. I love that Sisko gets laid twice in the Mirror Universe (once by Jadzia Dax and once by Kira) and then never mentions it back in "ours." Man takes care of business. He goes in, does his job, reconnects with his wife (kind of), and comes home in one piece. That is a commander, people. Two big problems with the resistance fighters in the Mirror Universe, though: Bashir's ridiculous hair (and overacting, again), and the appearance of Tuvok, the Shittiest Vulcan Ever.

20. Improbable Cause (5/5)
Amazing stuff. Putting Odo and Garak together is brilliant, and bringing back Enabran Tain was worth waiting for. Cardassians just fascinate me, and Tain is a cunning villain. Now we get the secret Obsidian Order fleet revealed, and seeing them team up with the Romulan Tal Shiar is the kind of surprise that just makes you know something gargantuan is coming up.

21. The Die Is Cast (5/5)
Ho. Lee. Shit. This is truly epic. It's audacious enough seeing the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order team up to launch a direct attack on the Omarion Nebula to kill the Founders themselves, but to then watch as both secret police organizations are truly and thoroughly destroyed by the Jem'Hadar is just terrifying. Seriously, how is the Federation going to be able to defend themselves at all? Then it's layered with Garak's ever-shifting loyalties, and the scene where he tortures Odo for information and the anguish it causes Garak... seriously, what a fascinating character Garak is. Just an amazing episode.

22. Explorers (5/5)
This, though, is probably my favorite episode of the third season. Just a simple father and son story, with Ben Sisko attempting to recreate the journey of ancient Bajoran star-sailors who may have reached Cardassian space. It reminded me a lot of my dad, and how much he loved Kon-Tiki and sailing and always wanted to do something like that. I hope he gets to some day. Avery Brooks is such a special actor on this show, and adding a goatee makes him seem much more comfortable and approachable. Just a lovely episode.

23. Family Business (4/5)
Sisko finally starts a tentative relationship (and with Penny Johnson, currently the chief on Castle, but she'll always be Beverly from The Larry Sanders Show to me), and we discover that Quark's mother (Andrea Martin) has the real head for business that Quark inherited. A very funny family comedy, showing us some the dilemma of Quark's character (and Rom's--the peacemaker who is starting to find his voice). And Jeffrey Combs as a Ferengi! Good stuff. Makes up for the less fun "House of Quark."

24. Shakaar (3/5)
Kai Winn is a truly dangerous character; here we see her attempts to make herself both the spiritual and political leader of Bajor, and we get a fuller picture of just how far Kira has come since the days of being a resistance fighter (and just how fragile the situation on unoccupied Bajor really is, even with the new Cardassian peace treaty). I think it's really interesting, too, to see how Sisko deals with Kai Winn. He really just deals with her because he has to; he tolerates having to be diplomatic with her, but doesn't cave in to her, doesn't pour on fake niceties, and clearly doesn't respect her. It's such a contrast to his respect and even personal like for Kai Opaka.

25. Facets (4/5)
An interesting idea for an episode, to see Jadzia get to speak with all of Dax's former hosts, embodied by her friends on the station. Avery Brooks as Joran Dax is a scary motherfucker. Odo as Curzon is a little less successful, just because we don't get to see the wise mentor that Sisko always refers to. That side of him is buried under this boisterous, fun-loving near-alcoholic who is running from himself. It's a shame we don't get to see more aspects of his character. Again, I was more interested in Nog's journey to enter Starfleet Academy. Watching Rom angrily stand up to Quark is a highlight.

26. The Adversary (4/5)
Star Trek does The Thing, but does it well. I still don't really trust Michael Eddington, the security guy; I expected he would be the Founder spy aboard the Defiant, so good red herring work on that. It's chilling to see how far the Founders are willing to go to destroy the Federation, nearly starting a war in the Alpha Quadrant. The warning "You are too late. We're everywhere" is a scary promise for the future, one that I can't wait to see combated.

Fantastic season of a fantastic show. This may be the Star Trek series I didn't know I always wanted to watch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloween: John Carpenter's The Thing: The Musical

Money Talks

So, Christopher Chaney, the Scarlett Johansson hacker, got out of jail on a $10,000 bond. I'd love to know where that came from. They let him out with a bunch of conditions, including third party custodianship and no internet access, but if convicted he could face up to 121 years in prison. The FBI and the justice system want this to be a warning that cyber-hacking is a real threat. Under normal circumstances, sure, but especially when there are celebrity boobs involved. That's why you see people get two months' probation in this country for hacking people who aren't famous, hot, and white.

I'd also like to point out that the justice system has yet to think it's important to prosecute people who commit torture of kidnapped foreign citizens.

But at least the media is completely ignoring what's happening on Wall Street and around the country, and isn't that what's really important?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Scarlett Johansson Hacker Arrested

A man in Jacksonville, FL, was arrested today for hacking into the cell phones of several actresses and posting their nude pictures online. A crime? Yes. I don't dispute that. I do find it depressing, though, that I live in a country where the sanctity of an actress' smartphone is more important to the FBI than the thousands of other daily privacy violations that occur in this country with government approval, no matter how many courts find them unconstitutional.

So police can get this guy, but Rupert Murdoch is still free to go about his business? Because if anyone other than a rich white businessman hacked into Prince William's phone, they'd probably be dead by now. I guess the Scarlett Johansson thing is more important because boobs.

Just sayin'.

(In other Murdoch news, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was caught today artificially inflating its own circulation numbers. Free market or something.)

Halloween: Movies That Go Bump in the Night

Now here's a video montage that gets across the pure joy of horror movies. Also the extreme gore, so, if that's not your thing, you've been warned.


Film Week

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

Bloody, totally engrossing film about the 1215 siege of Rochester Castle by King John. I was expecting a sort of medieval B-movie, and the film has a rough quality, but this is a surprisingly great film about the punishment King John exacted on his nobles for forcing him to sign the Magna Carta. James Purefoy--who is the real deal for this kind of movie, hands down--stars as a Templar knight who becomes involved in trying to stop John's Danish army from crossing England. Paul Giamatti's turn as John is noble and angry, and the cast is rounded out by Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Mackenzie Crook, Jason Flemyng and, to my delight, Vladimir Kulich. This is really worth sitting with if you like medieval action movies. One of the best movies I've seen from 2011, criminally underlooked. **** stars.

Overlong. George Harrison was and remains a fascinating individual, but the first two hours or so are taken up with retelling--yet again--the story of the Beatles. How many times must I hear the story of Beatles? Bad enough there's never been a definitive documentary, not even that Beatles Anthology miniseries; it's all been polished down to a series of familiar anecdotes. The second part is much more interesting. Not bad at all, but the first half is like someone telling you a story you're overly familiar with as a long preamble before getting to the point. *** stars.

I'm surprised and impressed. As a remake, it doesn't seek to outdo or distance itself from the original (superior) film, and as a modern horror flick, it completely embraces what it is. The last thing I needed was another vampire film pretending not to be a vampire film; this one knows it's a monster movie, and even though it goes for the slick action set-ups every movie goes for these days, it stays true to its origins. I dig that. Good performances all around; David Tennant is hilarious as a Peter Criss-style Vegas magician. He needs to be in a lot more movies. He's kind of riffing on his Doctor persona here, but he's fun as hell. ***1/2 stars. Much more than I expected.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Katy Perry Halloween

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season Two

This show continues to surprise, delight and compel me. Already, in its second season, I'm mentally putting Deep Space Nine on the same level as shows like Babylon 5 and Farscape... shows which, honestly, I've always considered the superiors (by far) of any Trek series. It's like they worked out most of the kinks that always held Next Generation back for me and are willing to tell more thoughtful stories about ethics and disillusionment. It's a more well-rounded picture of the future than Trek has ever had. I like it very much.

1. The Homecoming (my rating: 4 out of 5)
The biggest problem with this episode is the character of Li Nalas, the reluctant Bajoran hero that Kira rescues from a Cardassian prison camp. Once they work through what he represents vs. who he really is, it seems like there's nowhere left for the character to go. I like Kira a lot on this episode--this show really does some interesting things with her. And Frank Langella is very good (of course) as Minister Jaro. The violent dealings of Bajoran politics in the next few episodes really justifies my earlier comparisons to the 14th and 15th century papacies.

2. The Circle (5/5)
Very gripping episode. I didn't mention in my previous DS9 post, but Louise Fletcher is very good as Vedek Winn. If you want someone to play a passive-aggressive, controlling woman, you go to the woman who won an Oscar for it. There's so much going on in this episode--the coup against the Bajoran provisional government by the Circle, the plot to force the Federation out of Deep Space Nine, the secret Cardassian involvement in Bajoran inner politics, the continuing disillusionment of Kira with Bajor's ability to self-govern... they really turn her into a cynic, taking away more and more of her reasons to be optimistic and hopeful. It's something they'd never have done within the Federation on TNG. Great cliffhanger, and according to Becca, Vedek Bareil is the sexiest man on this show. I can take him or leave him.

3. The Siege (4/5)
And suddenly, Steven Weber. That was just surprising. I like the idea of the crew using guerrilla tactics to resist the Circle's attempts to take over the station; even in this situation, Bashir is still irritating. When O'Brien says "Julian" it still sounds like "asshole." The goodbye scenes are touching (I still like the friendship between Jake and Nog), and Quark is hilarious in this episode. I really think, to my great surprise, that Quark is my favorite character on this show. The military-political plot against the Bajoran provisional government comes to a satisfying close, but the death of Li Nalas isn't so satisfying. I get why he has to die and the point it makes, but after his rescue in "The Homecoming" he becomes such a nothing character that his death doesn't have much impact. Too bad.

4. Invasive Procedures (3/5)
Flawed, but gripping. I do think it was a mistake to have an episode where the station is evacuated immediately after the emotional emergency evac of the previous episode, but there's a lot of tension in this one that makes it exciting. I love John Glover as the joined Verad Dax... I liked him so much that I almost wouldn't have missed Terry Farrell if he'd just stuck around as the new Dax entirely. I think the major flaw with this episode is that Quark is responsible for endangering Jadzia's life and doesn't get punished for it at all. It's a major betrayal, far beyond just trying to make a few bucks off of a situation, and even if he didn't know Verad's real aim was to steal the Dax symbiont, I'm not sure helping to subdue Verad's Klingon henchmen was any redemption.

5. Cardassians (4/5)
If this episode illustrates anything, it's just how deep and complex Cardassian psychological warfare can be. That Gul Dukat would toy with the destiny of a Cardassian child just to humiliate a political rival is another chilling layer to a fascinating character. Also, more of Garak, which is always awesome. So he fixes the computer at the home for war orphans... tinker, tailor... soldier, spy?

6. Melora (4/5)
It's a nice attempt to look at the idea of having a handicap in the perfect Federation future. It's not entirely successful, but this is the first time Bashir's had a story arc that I felt really invested in. What I don't buy is that Bashir would be so amazed by Melora's low gravity experience. "You let me fly." They seriously don't have zero gravity training at Starfleet Academy? I mean... you're going to work in space, you think it would come up. I do like Daphne Ashbrook's performance as Melora Pazlar, and I like her final decision not to see her handicap as what defines her. Love love love the singing Klingon chef. Klingons are awesome.

7. Rules of Acquisition (3/5)
Well you can see from a mile away that Pel is a woman in disguise. It opens up a discussion on the place of women in Ferengi culture (and by extension the way we view a woman's capabilities in a business environment) that has a point but isn't presented in a very compelling way. Good to see Wallace Shawn back, and the Dosi are potentially fascinating (always great to see Brian Thompson). I'm still very interested in what's going on in the Gamma Quadrant, and the mention of the Dominion is tantalizing.

8. Necessary Evil (5/5)
At last, a glimpse of what life was like on the station under Cardassian occupation. The relationship between Odo and Kira and the way it changes here is especially interesting to me; they both were at the station under Gul Dukat's tenure, but Kira sees Odo as a collaborator. It's very brave to end this episode where it ends, with Odo's realization that Kira committed his unsolved murder years ago, and both of them unsure whether their friendship will be irrevocably damaged by that realization. Powerful stuff. Also, if I haven't mentioned it before, Gul Dukat is a fascinating character to me, and Marc Alaimo's performance in the role is astoundingly good. Never before in Star Trek have we seen this kind of character; he's capable of evil, but it's so a part of his nature and a realistic outgrowth of his life and career that he's never cartoonish. You can see the motivation for every evil thing he does, and it's almost understandable. Fascinating.

9. Second Sight (2/5)
Predictable and kind of bland. If there's one thing Star Trek doesn't do in a way I find interesting, it's love stories. I'm at least glad to have a focus on that side of Sisko, the side that's ready to accept the loss of his wife and be open to a new relationship, but the episode itself just doesn't do it for me. I do like Richard Kiley as Gideon Seyetik, though. Brash and over the top, sure, but he's got some fun and lively moments, even his death scene.

10. Sanctuary (4/5)
A complicated episode, one that comes to a bitter end and perhaps could have ended no other way. The parallel to the situation with Israel and Palestine is obvious, and laid out believably, and it's a mark of the maturity of this show that it's willing to come to such a realistically unsatisfying resolution instead of doling out a phony compromise in the last moment. We're also seeing the real power of the Dominion here, whetting my appetite to know more about them.

11. Rivals (3/5)
Not a wholly satisfying episode for a fluffy aside, but I did like Chris Sarandon quite a bit. I wish they'd bring him back, though it's my understanding that they don't. Quark is great on this episode, but the whole racquetball thing with O'Brien and Bashir doesn't do anything for me.

12. The Alternate (2/5)
Though it's nice to peel back a little more of the mystery of Odo's origin, the episode itself is pretty lazy. This feels like something a lesser show would do. Through the second half of this season, DS9 treads too close to being a "Monster of the Week" type of show.

13. Armageddon Game (4/5)
Tense as all hell. Earlier, I didn't quite buy that O'Brien and Bashir would spend time together playing racquetball. In this episode, with the two trying to survive being hunted, I think they reach the sort of understanding of each other that men find in the trenches. It decreases the level of awkwardness between the two in the future. Colm Meany and Alexander Siddig are both very good on this episode, and I love the denouement here--the idea that Keiko initiated a search and rescue of her supposedly dead husband based on her own misunderstanding. It's pretty brilliant without being one of those episodes that just leads up to a punchline.

14. Whispers (5/5)
Amazing. This episode does everything perfectly. By sticking only with O'Brien and never weaving in any subplots, the viewer is put through the same confusion and tension that O'Brien goes through, trying to figure out why everyone is acting so weird around him. It ends at just the right moment, too. This is like a Twilight Zone episode in the best possible way, and one of the best episodes of the series. Deft and very well done.

15. Paradise (4/5)
A difficult episode, one that's willing to say that the Federation model may not work for everyone. It pokes holes in the long-standing Star Trek assumption that the Federation way is the best way, and even if the episode doesn't argue it in the least frustrating way, it makes its point and introduces the idea that not everyone is happy in the Federation. I never even thought before about whether it's even possible for humans to live outside of the Federation. It's marred by a final shot that's a little heavy-handed, but it challenges a lot of notions about Gene Roddenberry's future that have previously been impossible to criticize.

16. Shadowplay (5/5)
A surprising and touching episode, one that makes some interesting points about the nature of reality and experience. It's also a step on the road for Odo, as lots more hints about the Changelings are dropped, and we also hear more about the nature of the Dominion. But the heart of this episode is the way Odo and the little girl Taya learn to relate to one another, and it's touching indeed.

17. Playing God (3/5)
It is nice to see more focus on Jadzia Dax, a character that I've still yet to really warm up to. But I was less interested in the character of Arjin, the Trill Initiate she's mentoring, and the whole situation with the pocket universe. The Cardassian voles were neat, though. And the singing Klingon chef is awesome once again. We need more of this guy. And Morn. Morn rocks.

18. Profit and Loss (5/5)
Yeah, it's Casablanca, but if you're going to steal, steal from the best. I know there's some talk about this episode that Quark is too heroic, but I think seeing that he's even capable of deep love and a willingness to sacrifice his own happiness for her wishes further removes him from the old Ferengi caricatures and makes him that much more complex. And speaking of complex, Garak is surprising and delightful in this episode. One of the highlights of this season.

19. Blood Oath (5/5)
Being very honest: I don't see me liking an episode of Deep Space Nine more than this one. I'm willing to be proved wrong, of course, but this episode is utterly fantastic. Where do I start? I love this episode bringing in the three best Klingons from the original series: Kor, Kang, and Koloth, played by the same actors, John Colicos, Michael Ansara (still with that tremendous voice), and William Campbell. I haven't said much about it, but the makeup on this series is so much better and more committed to making aliens who are utterly different than it was on TNG; Michael Westmore is taking more chances. Also great: the hair. I love the hair on the three Klingons; it reminded me of The Three Musketeers, which is perfect, because the plot reminded me of Twenty Years After. The three Klingons are enough to make this episode, but it's here that Jadzia Dax (and Terry Farrell) really comes into her own as a character, attempting to prove to the Klingons--friends of her predecessor, Curzon Dax, with whom they shared a blood oath for vengeance--that she is not only capable of joining them in their revenge, but that it's something she deeply considers her duty. It adds another layer, too, that there's serious talk about the ethic of revenge and what killing can do to someone who kills. It's another episode which confronts head-on the notion that the Federation way is not always the way of other people. There's a hint, to me, that this episode is saying that there will always be unease between allied cultures, because there will always be points of importance to one culture that will be almost impossible for the other to understand the importance of.

20. The Maquis, Part I (4/5)
Here we finally get a full picture of what this season's been hinting at regarding the Federation, its reach, and that there are humans in the Alpha Quadrant who don't consider it necessary. The notion of the demilitarized zone is interesting; sort of a Gaza Strip in the galaxy. It's also here that we see the ramifications of the treaty signed between the Cardassians and the Federation in the TNG episode "Journey's End," where some Federation colonies have been basically abandoned and left to defend themselves and their homes. Seeing the colonists involved in this kind of dispute really brings home the idea more than the uneasy Cardassian-Bajoran peace or the heavy-handed Native American allegory of "Journey's End." Extra points for Bernie Casey, who is always awesome.

21. The Maquis, Part II (5/5)
Two things really elevate this episode for me. First, it's that we see more ambiguity and complexity to Gul Dukat. Here is a being who really wants peace, but who equates peace with a certain order and who is willing to go to cold extremes to achieve it. The second thing is Sisko's "It's easy to be a saint in paradise" speech, which expresses a lot less optimism about human nature than we've ever seen before. Personally, I think it strengthens the accomplishments of the Federation; we see how much work it's taken to achieve such a utopia on Earth, and how hard it can be to maintain in the face of other cultures and outside threats. Humanity isn't perfect, but it can strive. I find the Maquis much more believable and understandable here.

22. The Wire (5/5)
This is an amazing episode for Andrew Robinson. Garak is such a rich character anyway, and here we find out that his exile from Cardassia and his life among Bajorans has filled him with so much pain that he's been using an implant to numb it. He has some fantastic scenes in this episode, and the denouement at the end--"It's all true... especially the lies"--is powerful. What a great character. I'm interested in the ramifications of the Obsidian Order. I also love Paul Dooley. This show gets fantastic guest stars.

23. Crossover (4/5)
Of all the things in the Star Trek universe to go back to, I didn't expect to see the Mirror Universe again. Interesting stuff. Mirror Sisko is downright scary, but Mirror Kira is amazingly sexy. It's a great double performance by Nana Visitor. Interesting to see what life on the station would be like if the Cardassians were still in charge (and if the Romulans had conquered Earth).

24. The Collaborator (3/5)
Some interesting debates over what exactly collaborating with the enemy means, even if it's in the name of saving people, but I just don't find Vedek Bareil all that interesting. The ideas of guilt and justice are examined as two different things, which is played for a nice ambiguity. This show doesn't take a lot of easy answers, which is impressive.

25. Tribunal (2/5)
Interesting to see the Cardassian idea of a trial, but I didn't think a whole lot of the episode. Just didn't click with me, I guess.

26. The Jem'Hadar (5/5)
Amazing. Now we see what a very real threat the Dominion is to the Federation and the Alpha Quadrant. It's amazing, too, how this starts off as a light comedy episode with Sisko and Quark camping, and then suddenly becomes a dire situation. The Jem'Hadar are genuinely scary villains, scarier even than the Borg because they're so completely aggressive. The way one ship rams and destroys the USS Odyssey, or the way one soldier simply steps through a Federation containment shield, just scared the hell out of me. In their first meeting, the Jem'Hadar, who have vowed to stop incursions into the Gamma Quadrant, seem far more advanced and undefeatable. Armin Shimerman is great in this episode, first in his comedic reactions to nature, then in the way he stands up for the Ferengi and puts the notion of their barbarism to rest, and finally in the way he discovers the Vorta spy on the station. This is really gripping, edge-of-your-seat stuff, and one hell of a way to end the season. Now we have an idea of what's out there, and we're just finding out how dangerous it could be. I can't wait to find out more about whomever the Founders are, but I have a bad feeling about how it probably ties in to Odo...

Cannot wait for more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kansas Might Decriminalize Domestic Abuse to Save Money

This country doesn't work anymore.


I was wondering when we'd finally see this. I can't wait to play it. (Of course, what I'm really hoping for is a Lego Avengers game to tie in with the movie... please?)

My 10 Favorite Vampires (Who Aren't Dracula)

As you all know, I'm very much a "vampires are bullshit" guy. I don't find them compelling or dramatically interesting. What used to be a monster has become gay best friends for cat ladies or sparkly, unthreatening dream boyfriends for emo chicks terrified of male secondary sexual characteristics. So I thought it might be interesting to do a list of non-Dracula vampires that I actually like. And... well, it wasn't, really, but here are the results.

10. Cassidy

It doesn't get mentioned as much in these days of reboots and civil wars and ultimate bullshit, but Preacher was a fantastic comic.

9. Golbat

If I could, I would put a Pokemon on every list I make.

8. Blade

Because Blade 2 is a fantastic movie. And I like the way it imagines vampires as actual monsters.

7. Sophie-Anne Leclerq

Why did you kill her off True Blood? I loved Evan Rachel Wood's performance as a vampire who was a believable sensualist.

6. Carmilla Karnstein

Ingrid Pitt's iconic performance in one of my all time favorite movies, The Vampire Lovers.

5. Jessica Hamby

Oh, Jessica... I want to do bad things with you.

4. Eric Northman

Also you.

3. Grandpa

I almost didn't include him, because he is a Dracula: Count Sam Dracula of Transylvania. But I just didn't have the heart. He's one of the earliest vampires I ever knew, and still one of the best. So I cheated. It's my list.

2. Count Von Count

My earliest vampire, and still more serious than those little Twilight shits. Also, if I could, I would put a Muppet on every list.

1. Eli

Specifically from the novel Let the Right One In. I've never read a novel about a vampire that I have loved as much as I did this one. Eli is a believable person, a creature that rediscovers its humanity, and of course that's the kind of redemptive theme I love.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Must Read of the Day

"Part of me, truthfully, doesn’t want to deal with you, Mr. Cain. I want to believe that you are on the Tea Party fringe, that your opinions really don’t matter that much, and that this is just more silly Republican cant. But the last time I thought that, we ended up with George W. Bush for eight years, which means his presidency wasn’t a fluke: someone — and I haven’t found him to confront him personally because no-​one I know will admit to voting for Bush the first time — wanted him for four more years. And the fact is, Obama has shown that it is not inconceivable that Americans will vote for a black president. Which also means you have a good chance of winning."

Brother to Brother: A Letter to Herman Cain

Read the whole letter. It is more than worth your time.

Song of the Week: "#9 Dream"

In a better world, John Lennon would have been 71 today.

Halloween: Peanuts, 1956