Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pop Quiz

Friday, January 20, 2012

Star Trek: Voyager, Season Six

This season was something of a return to the meh. Now that it's found a formula that works, the show has pretty much locked itself into it and decided to not really build a lot on the characters. I can't comment on Enterprise, not really having watched it yet (I saw a couple of episodes a decade ago), but Voyager is my least favorite series so far. I know I've been spoiled by Deep Space Nine, but I don't think that's really biasing my opinion here. Too often, Voyager frustrates me with the directions it steadfastly refuses to go in. What we have this season is a show that's found a groove and kind of figured, you know, why bother getting out of it?

1. Equinox, Part II (my rating: 3 out of 5)
After the great set-up of the previous episode, this one just kind of doesn't go anywhere. John Savage is good, so is Titus Welliver, but what's the point here? It just happens, and then it's over. And we take aboard new crewmembers that we never hear from or speak of again.

2. Survival Instinct (3/5)
Kind of a meandering episode for such a decent premise, that former members of the Borg Collective try to force Seven to completely sever their link. All of the stuff about how the link was severed--including Seven's earlier severing while still a drone, which she alluded to as her first moment of panic in the previous season--is interesting. And I like the outcome, how the former Borg would choose to live a few brief moments as individuals rather than survive linked to the Collective. Nice to see a Voyager episode come out on the side of autonomy.

3. Barge of the Dead (1/5)
Frustrating! I appreciate that Ronald D. Moore, during his very brief tenure on the series, wanted to explore the Klingons even more. The problem here is that B'Elanna Torres is a shitty character and a shitty Klingon, and this self-loathing conflict about being half-Klingon is only brought up when it's convenient to build an entire plot about it. I would love to explore more of Klingon mythology, and the Klingons are really good (particularly Eric Pierpont, from Alien Nation, as the legendary boatman Kortar), but this episode doesn't connect. Too bad. It's a real disappointment. Tuvok is also a badass on this one. (I decided to go to Memory Alpha and look up the notes on this episode, and Moore's original concept for this as a DS9 episode focusing on Martok and his son, and Worf meeting his father Mogh in Sto-Vo-Kor, is tremendous. Kind of like a scene from a Klingon version of The Odyssey. If only...)

4. Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy (3/5)
Interesting idea; I like the Doctor imagining himself as the Emergency Command Hologram. The Doctor's always fun. I also think the idea of the Hierarchy being able to see into perceptions is kind of interesting, even though it doesn't quite pay off. This episode is more interested in doing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but it's cute.

5. Alice (1/5)
Tom Paris salvages an alien shuttlecraft which is, um, haunted or something by an alien presence that manifests itself as a sexy woman. Equally as silly as that episode of Happy Days where Fonzie buys a wrecked car from 1957 and it's haunted by the ghost of the girl who used to own it.

6. Riddles (4/5)
This is a nice episode in the occasionally ongoing arc between Tuvok and Neelix. It seems like an easy go-to when you have a Vulcan main character--have him in a situation where his character becomes completely different. But what the writers add that really works here is the way Tuvok, stripped of his logic and no longer holding his feelings back, becomes fast friends with Neelix, takes an interest in "frivolous" activities, and becomes reluctant to go back to his earlier state. I like the scene where Neelix convinces Tuvok to undergo the medical process to overcome the neurological damage he suffered even though he admits that he likes Tuvok better the way he is now. "This ship needs its tactical officer, and I wouldn't be a very good friend if I denied them that just so you'd be nicer to me." Sweet coda, too.

7. Dragon's Teeth (4/5)
This is the kind of episode the show should be aiming for more often; less weird space anomalies, and more using the first contact with different societies to examine our own societal ethics and mores. The dilemma over the reawakening of the Vaadwaur (a potentially interesting race we've yet to see again) and helping them rearm is something I'd like to have seen explored more reasonably, but it's still an exciting, tense episode.

8. One Small Step (1/5)
I've got to be honest with you, I don't even remember this episode.

9. The Voyager Conspiracy (1/5)
Ugh. A conspiracy aboard the Voyager would be far too interesting a direction for this show to go in, so instead we get silly conspiracy nonsense that seems to be there just to show that Seven places too much faith in her own intelligence. What?

10. Pathfinder (4/5)
I didn't really welcome the return of Barclay being accused of holo-addiction, but I did like that Barclay returned and managed to save the day. Dwight Schultz is in top form, as always, and it's kind of neat to see Deanna Troi again. I'd almost rather watch a show about the Pathfinder Project.

11. Fair Haven (1/5)
Okay, which staffer saw The Quiet Man recently? Tom Paris creates a twee Oirish village and Janeway falls in love with a hologram and cat ladies put down their knitting to recover from their sudden orgasm. Terrible.

12. Blink of an Eye (5/5)
Excellent episode; the kind of science fiction I want to see more of from this show. I want to like this show more than I do. The potential is there, it just doesn't try. It was a nice surprise, too, because when I saw the description of this episode--the Voyager finds a planet that experiences time at a much faster rate--I expected to hate it, to have a lot of maudlin sentiment, and to see more horrible old age makeup--but this episode was really special. We see the ship get stuck in the planet's faster orbit (excellent special effects, which is why it's the frontspiece on this post) during its civilization's Stone Age, and they develop all the way to space travel with Voyager constantly in its sky. Myths and legends develop around it, but the attempts of the ship to break the planet's orbit threaten to pull its tectonic plates apart. Great appearance by Daniel Dae Kim as an astronaut from the planet's surface. Just a wonderful episode.

13. Virtuoso (3/5)
Aliens who have never heard music are fascinated by the Doctor's singing. Pretty much what you'd expect. Plus Paul Williams. Paul Williams is always welcome.

14. Memorial (1/5)
This is one of those episodes that makes me wonder if Rockne S. O'Bannon was watching and taking notes. As with so many things on this show, Farscape later did it better.

15. Tsunkatse (4/5)
Predictable, but I like the Rock and I was overjoyed to see Jeffrey Combs on an episode. I wonder if "tsunkatse" is alien for "gymkata," since this is pretty much the Enter the Dragon 80s rip-off movie episode.

16. Collective (3/5)
The whole "Children of Borg" idea is kind of interesting.

17. Spirit Folk (1/5)
Back to Oireland. Cat lady episode, totally skippable. Totally a rip-off of the TNG episode "Ship in a Bottle," without the charm.

18. Ashes to Ashes (2/5)
What makes this episode is the presence of Kim Rhodes. I just love her. Here she plays a deceased crewmember who has been resurrected and adopted by an interesting race called the Kobali. Some of the ethical conflict is actually quite compelling, but you know how it's going to end just by reading this description, and it just sucks that they take the time to introduce this neat character played by a charming actress who is a potential love interest for Harry when you know that the franchise status quo dictates she'll be gone by the end of the episode. Kim Rhodes has more charm and vibrancy than any actor on this show not named Robert Picardo.

19. Child's Play (3/5)
They're starting to pay off the Children of Borg already, and Icheb is the most interesting of them. The plot twist of his parents genetically engineering him with a pathogen that will infect and kill the Borg when he's assimilated is a fascinating one.

20. Good Shepherd (1/5)
An attempt to do a "Lower Decks" episode, but I just didn't care about any of the characters.

21. Live Fast and Prosper (1/5)
The con artists impersonating Janeway and Tuvok aren't even good at being con artists.

22. Muse (1/5)
Torres blah blah blah. Eminently skippable.

23. Fury (1/5)
I'm just going to say this episode never existed. They actually go to the trouble of bringing back Kes, only to have her angry and trying to destroy Voyager, and then a lot of stupid, whiny garbage happens with time travel, and it's just absolutely shitty. First you dump Kes, now you try to ruin her. Fuck you.

24. Life Line (5/5)
A nice, relatively quiet episode where the Doctor travels to the Alpha Quadrant to help treat Dr. Zimmerman and work out his father issues. More Barclay, more Troi, and Robert Picardo acting opposite Robert Picardo. Lots of fun and a sweet ending.

25. The Haunting of Deck Twelve (4/5)
I like how this episode is played as a ghost story, but gives us some insight into a non-humanoid species, which is the kind of thing I want to see more of. Ethan Phillips is very good on this one. It's too bad we don't get as much Neelix anymore, but the same can be said of a lot of characters. Harry Kim is just fading out of my memory, and did Chakotay even do anything this season? And where is Naomi? She's barely on this season.

26. Unimatrix Zero (3/5)
This episode is sort of half-science fiction, half-cat lady. I do like seeing the Borg Queen back, and the concept of Unimatrix Zero as a place where the consciousness of drones meet as individuals is neat, but the focus on Seven's old romance is kind of dull, and the cliffhanger feels like a retread of "The Best of Both Worlds." So... kind of meh, but okay. Jeri Ryan carries it.

One more season to go. And then one more series to go.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

War and Piss

Alright, look... it's not cool to piss on a corpse. But I get the rage. I get where it comes from. I've never fought in a war, so I don't know how soldiers let of steam and, I guess, excess bodily fluids. But, you know, neither do a lot of people. Frankly, I find the outcry against this pretty hysterical. I mean, is it disrespectful? Yeah, it is. I assume that's the entire point.

I think the whole debate over who should apologize and what constitutes a criminal act just shows us how fucked up war is. Are we not fighting a war in a genteel and polite enough fashion?

"See those guys over there? Those mongrels hate you and hate your freedom and want to murder you. So murder the shit out of them first! But for chrissakes, don't desecrate the bodies!"

Seriously? We train these people to put themselves in the line of fire of people who we train them to think of as enemies, and then we're surprised when they don't respect those enemies? This is war, not kindergarten.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Film Week

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

Beautifully shot film about a boy in the Alps who loses his mother and resents his stepmother. Melodramatic, but in the best way of silent films. Actually shot in the Alps, and the scenery is breathtaking. At one point, it basically becomes a character in the film. Excellent. **** stars.

For Lifetime. So, you know. * star. Incredibly amusing how it thinks that bullying started with cell phones.

Incredibly ridiculous Lifetime movie about high school students who become hookers. Takes the dumbest possible turns, but, I guess, it surprised me in doing so. Still, * star.

ANGELA (1995)
Rough, compelling movie about a young girl and her little sister growing up in a new home in the rural South while their mother (Anna Thomson at her most Marilyn) sort of mentally deteriorates. Rebecca Miller wrote and directed. Like I said, rough--so many visible boom microphones--but compelling. *** stars.

One of the best movies of 2011. George Clooney plays a real estate developer who lives in Hawaii and whose wife is dying in a coma from a boating accident. While trying to keep his family together and working out a deal to sell his family's land, Clooney enlists the aid of his older daughter (Shailene Woodley, who it turns out is quite good when you get her away from that awful Secret Life show) in discovering the identity of the man his wife was preparing to leave him for. Thoroughly engrossing and well-written; Alexander Payne has a gift for characterization, and has once again made a compelling and emotional film. Probably my favorite of his so far, with About Schmidt a close second. **** stars.

Excellent Jamaican crime thriller about a reggae singer (Jimmy Cliff) who has to turn to marijuana dealing to make it. Violent as hell, with an incredible soundtrack. Another flick I feel like it took me way, way too long to see. A little hard getting into, but once you're there, damn. ***1/2 stars.

High school girl who thinks she's too good for her Midwestern hometown and wants to make sure everyone knows it grows up to write a movie about a high school girl who thinks she's too good for her Midwestern town and wants to make sure everyone knows it. Diablo Cody completely fails at introspection with this movie about an author of young adult romance books (Charlize Theron) who goes back to her hometown to try and steal her old boyfriend away from his new wife. Dripping with condescension and a total lack of self-awareness. Charlize Theron is a good actress, but there's no anchor for her here; the character's not funny or sympathetic, and fails at being some kind of satirical point about how there are certain people who never learn the lessons they need to learn. Patton Oswalt is nice, but this movie's a chore. ** stars.

Monday, January 16, 2012


The Tonight Show, 8 February 1968, via.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Song of the Week: "Try to Remember"

I just could not get this song out of my mind this morning. It's from The Fantasticks, of course, but the first time I ever heard it was on an Ed Ames album (which I have on CD now) and on a Harry Belafonte album (which I also have on CD now). This is Jerry Orbach in 1960.