Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

"...This is not going to go the way you think!" 
                                             - Luke Skywalker


This comment from the trailer for the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, accurately summarizes the entire experience.


Since the release of The Force Awakens in 2015, a million and one fanboy/fangirls have posted their theories about what might happen in the next episode. I had my own theories, good or bad, that I posted here. But in the words of director/writer Rian Johnson, your Snoke theory sucks.

So with such high expectations for the saga, will anything truly satisfy everyone?

As with all things in the world today, this movie has definitely polarized fans. From comments like, "...this is the best Star Wars movie ever!", to "...this is the worst Star Wars movie ever!", it seems everyone has very strong opinions about the newest chapter in the saga.

Star Wars has become so painfully mainstream, it's as if it's ingrained into our DNA. We all have an idea of what Star Wars should be. So, can anyone really look at it objectively? Well, I'm going to see if I can let go of my feelings and try to review it fairly.

Ha! Everyone knows, there is no try! 

For this review, I'm going to break it down in two parts: Non-Spoiler, and Spoiler. The first half being non-spoiler, and don't worry, I'll give you plenty of warning before delving into the spoiler half.

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

Creator of the Star Wars universe, George Lucas, had an outline for the final trilogy in the series. But, for some reason, Disney threw out his notes and decided to do their own thing. The Last Jedi, was written and directed by Rian Johnson, but the origins of the current story arc, including characters, came from Episode VII, The Force Awakens, which was written and directed by JJ Abrams. And, as you may know, I'm not such a big fan of JJ Abrams.

"...but Deeesher, JJ Abrams rebooted and saved Star Trek AND Star Wars!"

Seriously, a couple of trained monkeys could have rebooted those titles, because they are popular franchises with an enormous built-in fan base. They were guaranteed to be box office hits. But "Successful" does not necessarily mean "Good".

Prior to Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan taking over the script for The Force Awakens, it was originally being written by Michael Arndt. He had some great concepts, and I highly recommend the book, The Art of The Force Awakens. In it, you will find rough drafts for the movie he was writing, as well as plenty of concept designs for the environments and characters before Abrams took over. I would have loved to have seen that movie!

But Abrams did take over, and for the most part, he played it safe, rehashing a lot of concepts from the original 1977 Star Wars A New Hope. He also created some new characters that were not so inspiring to me. Sorry, but I never really liked Rey, Finn or Poe. I don't find anything appealing about them at all. They didn't feel so heroic, and I had zero emotional connections with anything they did. You could replace them with blocks of wood, and I would have been equally as entertained.

"...oh Deeesher, you're just stuck in the past and only like old things!"

Ha! First, I'm only in my twenties (as far as you know), and I LOVED Star Wars Rogue One from 2016! I thought Jyn Erso, Chirrut, Baze, and Krennic were fantastic characters! I even loved K-2S0. I also really recommend watching the animated series The Clone Wars. The first couple seasons were a bit kid friendly, but later on, they had some great episodes, and some genuinely Interesting characters. So putting things in perspective, I just want something that will inspire and excite my tiny brain. And going into The Last Jedi, I really hoped these new characters would step up their game and add a bit more from the previous movie.

I'll even admit to liking BB-8 from The Force Awakens. I also like Snoke, and I guess I'm curious about Kylo Ren, and now finally we get... Luke Skywalker!

So, The Last Jedi continues their stories, and throws even more new people at us... which I didn't care about either. 

Fortunately, BB-8 was still awesome. Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren were, interesting, and I really wanted to follow them through the movie. The other characters just seem to push the story along. I will even go so far to say I really hated Poe's actions. Isn't he supposed to be a hero?? Why am I hating nearly everything he does? Shouldn't I be cheering for the heroes?

And as for Luke, I've read that some people complained about how he was portrayed here, but I didn't have any problem with it. His actions and behavior, for the most part, made sense to me. Of course I wish things would have gone differently, but I didn't write it.

And how was the writing?

Well, there was a lot of it. Two hours and thirty-two minutes is too long. Whatever happened to 'leave them wanting more'? It felt like the Netflix Marvel shows, where they give you thirteen episodes, but you would have been happy with nine or ten. The story moved along nicely, but I think it would have been more exciting if they had cut out a lot of unnecessary moments. A two hour Star Wars movie would have been fine with most fans. Dare I say, an hour and a half would have felt nice?

Fortunately for us, director Rian Johnson knows how to direct a movie. I could see the action, and there was some sweet emotional moments as well. I also appreciated the dialogue and it had a good sense of humor.

I can't say I hated The Last Jedi. But I won't say it was awesome either. Mostly, I had problems with some of the writing decisions. I prefer it over The Force Awakens, but the original trilogy still did it best. 

And, as controversial as this might be... I like Porgs!



And now, to properly dissect my review in half, I present to you a truncated picture of Supreme Leader Snoke, before going into Spoiler territory....






 **********SPOILERS**********

Okay, I was being kind for my 'general audiences' review, but there were a few writing decisions that really pissed me off, and there were a couple things I really appreciated. Going through the list:

1. Snoke. Seriously?? That's it?? What an incredibly anti-climatic conclusion to a character being built up as the ultimate power in the universe. I sincerely hope he manages to sew himself back together for the next movie, because if he's dead... lame! Oh Snoke, we hardly knew ye. I mean seriously, he just happened to be the guy to take over the First Order and mysteriously influence Kylo Ren... only to die before the final chapter?  Ugh...

2. Phasma. Possibly a bigger joke than Boba Fett's ending. Never have they built up such a powerful important character, only to have her be tossed in the trash compactor in the first movie then easily defeated in The Last Jedi. If she somehow survived to come back in the next movie, the only way to redeem herself, is if she takes over the entire galaxy. Are they really trying to promote strong female characters?? Because she's been beaten down and lost every time she's been on screen.

3. Space Leia. In the words of Han Solo... That's not how the Force works! I'm not sold on the idea of her holding her breath and flying through the vacuum of space to safety. I would have preferred a moment where someone goes to shoot her, and she raises her hand to block the bolt like Vader has in the past. Of course, I think there are any number of different ways to show she had learned some Force abilities, but this wasn't it.

4. Force Astral Projection. Some people had a problem with this. But I'll reluctantly give it a pass, moreso than floating through space anyway. Although, I would have preferred if Luke had shown up for a real battle. If he reluctantly left his home for one last fight, and let Kylo Ren kill him ala Ben Kenobi, that would have been a very powerful and poetic ending. But as it was, he looked cool, and I didn't mind it, mostly because his dying at the twin sunset was a powerful emotional scene for me.

5. Luke, Leia, and R2. Speaking of powerful emotional moments, seeing these characters meet each other, got me right in the feels. Oh... I have something in my eye...

6. Finn. I really expected him to sacrifice himself into the big cannon at the end, because he could have died a hero and I would have felt something for him. But... nope. Still don't care and he'll be back again for the next movie to do... something... I guess.

7. Yoda. This was maybe my favorite part. Yoda proves he is still wisest of them all, and I really enjoyed this a lot. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I didn't completely hate the movie.
 
8. Rey. I'm going to say it now... Kylo Ren lied to her. Her parents weren't 'nobody'. I still think she is a clone of someone, and I'm hoping it was Palpatine. We'll see.

That's it for now, nerds. Until 2019, when we discuss, Episode XI: The (Something) of the (Something)
Deeesher

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Star Trek Continues Review

Before I begin my review of Star Trek Continues, I have to ask, have any of you ever heard of Star Wars? Yes? Some of you. How about Doctor Who? A few more, good. I'm asking, because I need to explain something about continuity.

CONTINUITY
The unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

Star Wars recently released Rogue One (2016). And despite being filmed nearly forty years apart, fans could almost seamlessly edit the end of that movie to the beginning of the original 1977 Star Wars. It works because the director, writers, and producers understood the importance of franchise continuity.

And if you're familiar with Doctor Who, which began in 1963, you'll see over fifty years of (relatively) continuous story telling. Okay, in all fairness, after so many episodes, there are occasionally some glitches. But for the most part, current episodes still reference things that occurred to characters decades ago. They keep things somewhat consistent, because they have a lot of respect for the source material.

Star Trek, which began in 1966, was created by the Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry. He envisioned a fantastic future for humanity, with a United Federation of Planets, exploring the stars, and all the possibilities that it would entail. Written, for the most part, by real science fiction authors, then tweaked (for better or worse) by DC Fontana and/or Roddenberry himself, (and if you believe the rumors, William Shatner as well). 


The show wasn't about "pew pew" or explosions. It was about imagination. Sure there were occasionally phaser fights, hand-to-hand (or ship-to-ship) combat, and plenty of dramatic tension, but for the most part, it was inspiring. Today's scientists and NASA engineers will often tell you how they were encouraged to begin their careers thanks to things they saw in Star Trek. Even I started my career in audio, partially because the faders in the transporter room looked like faders on a recording console. Roddenberry invented an amazing universe, giving us a unique and creative way to think way outside the box. With stories about traveling back in time to fall in love with a woman destined to die, or trying to defeat an indestructible Planet Killing Machine headed towards a heavily populated sector of space, we got a chance to boldly go.... 

Check out this top ten list for an idea of some of the more popular episodes:


Personally, I would have made Doomsday Machine number one, and maybe added/changed some of their choices, but you get the idea about the brilliant writing involved.

Sadly, this series was cancelled after three seasons. And as you can imagine, millions of fans cried out, and began an epic letter writing campaign to the network. So mighty was the demand for it's return, that an animated series was created a couple years later. And amid sheer volumes of support at sci-fi conventions, all our dreams came true when Paramount finally released Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. Well, in all honesty, maybe it wasn't everything we wanted. It was... okay. I wouldn't consider this movie to be a great representation of the series, but some elements were there, and it was nice to see the adventure continue. We would have to wait another couple years before the sheer awesomeness of Wrath of Khan hits theaters, which is still one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

Since then, the entire Trek franchise has had varying degrees of success. Some incarnations I enjoy more than others. And in my humble opinion, successful does not necessarily mean 'good'

Speaking of 'not necessarily good', here is me and my crew at Megacon in Orlando, 2017
The most important thing to take away from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was the re-introduction of characters we loved. We felt satisfied knowing those characters, and the universe that contained them, survived the end of the five year mission. Their lives changed, but what happened that led to those changes? Kirk took a promotion and a desk job, Spock returned to Vulcan, and McCoy went back to being a good ole country doctor.

Yet still fans wondered, how the series would have ended when the Enterprise finally returned to spacedock. What events occurred to make our favorite characters change their lives so drastically? *Dramatic music swell before commercial break*

Meanwhile, on modern-day earth, Al Gore invented the internet (allegedly)! And as computer and video technology grew, fanboys and fangirls suddenly were able to create their own versions of favorite shows, and share them with the rest of the world. Fan films have become so popular, that even  Lucasfilm has an annual awards ceremony celebrating independent Star Wars films (check it out here).

And as you can imagine, Star Trek is no exception! Um... well, actually they are the exception. Recently, Paramount became so annoyed by fan films (partly because they were good?), they had a legal ruling about what was allowed. Check out the official rules here. Fortunately for us, there were plenty of versions of Trek Fan Films that were already online or in development prior to that court decision.

And now, enter Star Trek super-fan Vic Mignogna

Mostly known for his voiceover work, Vic has over 250 acting credits listed on his IMDB page. And like many of us, he grew up watching Star Trek, having the same questions about the end of the series. But unlike most of us, he has the money, skills, resources, and a lot of talented friends, willing to donate their time and efforts to answering those questions.

So in 2013, Vic began his own ongoing mission, to create an eleven episode adventure, and finally continue the Original Series, giving fans much needed closure on what happened next. 

One of the episodes for Star Trek Continues, recreates the ending scene from the original series, Mirror Mirror. Someone posted the comparison video.

On the surface, Star Trek Continues makes a flawless connection to the 1960's episodes. Between the sets, sound effects, music cues, simplistic effects, props, pacing and even the editing is identical to what was originally aired on television five decades ago. The attention to detail is outstanding, showing how much everyone involved appreciates this show and loves what it did. If you could take one of Vic's episodes back in time and show it to someone, they would be convinced it was a new unaired episode of Star Trek, with different actors. 

And, admittedly it does take a moment to get used to different actors playing your favorite characters. As much as Vic can appear very Kirk-y, you have to accept that it's not William Shatner. You have to overlook that, it's not really Nimoy, or Kelley, or Doohan... oh wait, that IS Doohan! Scotty, is quite accurately played by his very own son, Christopher Doohan.

And this is another area where Star Trek Continues truly shines. Traditionally, acting in fan films is rated, 'good enough'. But by the grace of Landru, not only is the main cast pretty freakin' good, we get to see some sci-fi legends as well. Between John de Lancie, Erin Gray, Lou Ferrigno, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Daniel Logan, Colin Baker, Gigi Edgley, Anne Lockhart... and yes, even Rod Roddenberry himself, son of Gene, have appeared in episodes! 

But with so many special guest stars, I don't want to take away from what the main cast does. Of course Vic channels his inner Kirk so well, it's very easy to convince yourself, it really is Shatner. And after a few minutes, you learn to accept everyone without question, as they quickly endear themselves to us, making us care about each member of the crew. 

"...But Deeesher, how is the writing???"
Some that know me say I can be rather picky. I'm never looking for a big budget, I'm just looking for the heart and soul of what came before. Whether it's Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, comic book characters, or Star Trek, I want a good story from someone who gets the universe it's based on. With Star Trek, I imagine it could be an alternate reality, because already, it seems we are on a different path. Obviously there was no Eugenics War in the 90s, and most of our cell phones are a mix of communicator and tricorder. Maybe we are in the Mirror universe??? But following the path of the original series, at the risk of repeating myself, once again, Vic and his crew nailed it! 

I'll even go further to say that the episodes, Fairest of Them All, What Ships Are For, Pilgrim of Eternity, as well as the two-part finale, To Boldly Go, are some of my favorite Star Trek episodes ever. I put off watching the finale, because I really didn't want this series to end.

But sadly, it did end. And like Star Wars Rogue One, you can watch the finale, and easily transition into Star Trek: The Motion Picture without missing a beat. Too bad it's not considered canon.

CANON
A collection or list of sacred books (or shows) accepted as genuine. 


That's right, since Star Trek Continues is a non-profit 'fan film', not produced by Paramount Pictures, it is not officially considered part of the Star Trek universe. If only Gene Roddenberry were here to weigh in on this series...

Oh but wait, his son, Rod Roddenberry had some thoughts after attending a screening at Las Vegas in 2014:
"I do have to say, and I said this after 'Lolani', I'm pretty damn sure my dad would consider this canon. The fact that you do stories that mean something, that have depth, that make us all think a little bit, I really think he would applaud you guys, and I applaud you guys. And, as far as I am concerned, it is canon. So thank you."

And mic drop...

I was fortunate to meet Vic at a convention a couple years ago for an autograph. When I brought him the picture to sign, his eyes lit up and he said proudly, "Now that's what I'm talking about...!" For the next few minutes we discussed Star Trek, and how much I appreciated everything he was doing. He was very cool, and maybe one of my favorite celebrity interactions, because he didn't seem like a 'celebrity'. We were just a couple of squeeing fanboys talking about our favorite show. 




Truly, you, and everyone involved in this series, have earned your place among the stars.
Oh... I have something in my eye...

Deeesher

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Deeesher's Wacky Star Wars Theories!

A long time ago, here on Earth, Star Wars was just stupid fun. You could go to the theater, shut off your brain, and watch pretty explosions as good battled against evil. We got to see a simple story unfold about a boy and his lightsaber, a smuggler and his Wookiee, a Princess and her 'tude, and a big scary bad guy with a breathing problem. We enjoyed Episode IV: A New Hope, without a care in the world, or a question to be answered. We just wanted to see the next episode, because we loved it! 

But that was before the dark times. Before the... Abrams-verse.

After the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we have more mysteries than we can throw an Ewok at. Today, there are a million Youtube videos and blogs, showcasing every insane theory under Twin Suns. Debating the possibilities seems to rival the discussion people had during the television series, Lost. And we all know how satisfied people were with that conclusion. I wonder who created that show...?

Well, like most of you, I have a couple of brains, and I like to use them to think of stupid crap. And since we are a few months away from Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, I thought I'd share some of my ideas with you now, so I can say "HA!", in your face when I'm proven to be right. Or I can laugh about how I was joking, and/or the writers are clueless, if by some astronomical chance I'm wrong.

*Disclaimer:
I have no clue. Seriously. I don't work for Disney, or Lucas. I have not seen a script, or anything remotely leaked. I don't even think I know anyone who is working on this franchise. Well... unless you count the time a few years ago when I met Mark Hamill and he was hitting on my girlfriend. In his defense, I don't think he knew I was there. But when Luke Skywalker is hitting on your girlfriend, you let him!


So, I don't consider any of this spoilers, unless you take my word as law. But this is the internet, and nobody believes a word of it these days.

So with that, I give you...

Theory 1:
WHO IS REY
Rey is... Nobody! 

Okay, I'm not standing behind this 100%, but I love the idea! How awesome would it be, if everyone in the Star Wars universe was NOT related to everyone else??

Maybe Rey was training with Luke as a child for the simple fact that she was strong in the force. Ben (Kylo Ren) was impressed with her powers, so he either wanted to take her for his own apprentice to the Dark Side... or he just wanted to kill her. And sensing the danger, Luke protected her and quickly hid her on Jakku, instead of Tatooine, (because seriously, what kind of madman would leave a kid on Tatooine??), where he then wiped her memories. This could also explain why she quickly has a lot of Force powers, without any apparent training. It was natural for her to recall things she learned before being left on Jakku.  It could also explain why Kylo Ren is so obsessed with her, (other than the fact that he's never had a real girlfriend).

But seriously, can Jedi erase your memories? I'm not quite ready to buy that.

So, if the writers have half a brain, the best theory I heard was, Rey is a clone of... someone. Most likely she is a clone of Palpatine, or Vader. Her "clone pod' was opened earlier than it should have been on Jakku, leaving her with no memories, because she was born in a tube and released before adulthood. This could explain her natural predilection to the Force. And yes, I know Vader and Palpatine were dudes. But what better way to hide yourself and fool your enemies than to get rid of that pesky Y chromosome?

Theory 2:
KYLO REN

Okay, we all know who he is, so no real theory there. But why is he soooo obsessed with the Dark Side? Sure, maybe he loves his Grandpa, and his Snoke Machine, but I think there has to be more.

My theory: His Mask. 

Before going into detail, let me take you back to a time when George Lucas sold the rights to Disney. One of the first decrees from the Mouse, was that multiple books in the series, were no longer canon. Millions of voices cried out, as some of our favorite characters were silenced forever, (I'll miss you most of all Mara Jade!). However, there were many aspects of the Star Wars Universe that were never addressed... including The Old Republic.

Enter Darth Revan.

Revan first appeared in a Bioware game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic in 2003. The game took place several thousand years before Luke Skywalker, but the character of Revan and events during that timeline have become fan favorites. Currently, there is a very successful online game, called Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) featuring stories from that era.

I think Disney likes that. And I think they want to connect it.

I believe, there was a time when Kylo Ren was looking for Jedi (or Sith) relics, and he found one: Revan's Mask. In the SWTOR games, this is a popular quest item for Sith, because of it's power in the dark side of the Force. This could be heavily influencing Kylo Ren and directing his actions. Yes, I'm aware it doesn't look exactly alike, but people have repeatedly called out Kylo Ren saying he looks like Revan. And who knows, being the son of Han Solo, maybe Kylo Ren made some 'personal modifications'

I can hear you rolling your eyes at me already, but I have other reasons for this idea...

1. The Mask has weight to it. Every time he puts it down, there is a heavy thud. This reminds me of the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. Every time the ring was dropped, it had the same distinct thud because of it's power. Plus, notice how the camera seems to focus ominously on his mask when he puts it down.

2. Han Solo says, "Take off that mask. You don't need it." Maybe he knew the power and influence it had over him?

3. Kylo Ren says, "I'm being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain.". Revan was known to have been 'split in two', having power in both Dark side and Light sides of the Force.

And yes, I can already hearing you screaming at me, "...but Deeesher, in the new trailer, we see Kylo Ren's helmet was destroyed, and according to legend, it's impossible to destroy Revan's Mask!".
And to you, I say...
Symbolism! Or a vision? Something he must do? A nightmare perhaps?  Hmmm...
 
So, is it possible Snoke is aware of the power in the mask, and is using this to push him. Maybe Snoke gave him the mask because he felt... inadequate?

Which brings me to...

Theory 3:
WHO IS SUPREME LEADER SNOKE
Remember folks, these are my wacky theories, and this is one of my wackiest! 

I've heard people guessing this could be Palpatine, or even Darth Plagueis, (Palpatine's Master). Of course we could go back to my original theory about Rey, and Snoke is also nobody. Perhaps he is simply a new character and we are looking too deeply (for some reason) in our desperate attempt to make a connection where one doesn't exist. 

But I prefer to look a bit deeper.

I'm sure many of you recall Yoda's introduction. He was no Jedi Master. He was just a goofy little green swamp creature trying to steal food from Luke.

I have a similar feeling about Snoke. Maybe he isn't so giant as he appears in his hologram. And maybe he appears quite harmless in reality, carefully pulling strings in plain sight. Maybe, like Palpatine, he is pretending to be on the side of good, but in reality, he is putting things into motion to get exactly what he wants.

And, as some new toys seem to suggest, perhaps he is really a she...   
 
 That's right... Maz Kanata is Supreme Leader Snoke

People have said that Snoke is not a Force user. Maz has said she is not a Force user, but she knows about it. She had Luke's lightsaber. 

And before you freak out, I present to you... 

Exhibit A:




 Does it seem so crazy now? Holograms can add several feet to someone, and as any woman will tell you, the right makeup can hide many blemishes.
  
Speaking of insane, this brings me to my final point...

Theory 4:
LUKE SKYWALKER

I'm just going to say it... I think Luke is bat-shit crazy.

Originally, I was thinking it would be awesome if Luke was actually Snoke. I liked the idea of him turning Dark side and guiding things from the shadows. Many people believe that Luke actually did turn Dark side at the end of Return of the Jedi. He had plenty of reasons. And now, feeling the overwhelming responsibility of teaching a whole New Order of Jedi, one day he just snapped, wore a silly disguise, called up Kylo Ren on a hologram, called himself Snoke, and decided to use him to wipe out all the potential new Jedi, because he didn't want to run the risk of them destroying the galaxy.

As interesting as that idea might seem, I have heard in The Last Jedi, Luke actually does sound quite insane. I thought it would be awesome if Rey was walking past a cave, hearing him laugh like the Joker. Then she enters the cave, and sees only Luke, who denies anyone else being there.

Then I had a sudden realization...

What if Luke has been talking to himself for decades! 
No Force Ghost Ben, Yoda or Anakin, and his madness only made him think they were there guiding him! 

"...But Deeesher, how can you say this?!?" 
Well, has anyone else seen these Force Ghosts?

If you recall, during Empire Strikes Back, Luke was attacked by a Snow creature (Wampa), which he escaped from, only to wander through the freezing cold, barely alive. During his delirium, he suddenly 'saw' a vision of Ben, telling him to go to the Dagobah system. But what if it was all in his mind?

And while on Dagobah, I think Luke did a lot of training, and became more powerful with the Force... but was there really Yoda teaching him, or was it all in his mind?  After everything Luke has been through, it's not too difficult to imagine that he may have completely snapped.

Okay, I admit, some of these might be what you would call... Fringe Theories, (get it? Fringe?). But I sincerely would love to see the writers doing something unique and unexpected. My instinct is, they will write to the lowest common denominator, and not take any risks. They want to make a movie for the fans, so they aren't going to try to come up with anything too mind-blowing.

I would love to see Rey turn Dark Side, and Kylo Ren turn Light Side for some reason or other, so we could mix things up a bit. And of course, it would be nice to see Luke being heroic, but it's also conceivable that he is quite a broken man by now. 

Realistically, I'm just a clueless idiot, and maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. In the end, I just want a movie that's fun, exciting, maybe a bit dramatic, without too many quick edits, and well lit, so I can follow the action.

Maybe I ask the impossible...
And that is why I fail,
Deeesher

Monday, September 25, 2017

Star Trek Discovery Review

I try to keep an open mind when watching new shows or movies based on something already established. I try to put all my personal bias to the side and look at what is presented, judging it accordingly. Often, I've felt pessimistic about something that eventually impresses me. Some of you may recall my apprehension about the first Avengers movie. I said there is no way it could work. But today, I consider Avengers to be one of my favorite movies. I also had a lot of doubts about the new Wonder Woman, but was pleasantly surprised. And of course, I love the 1970's television version of The Incredible Hulk, even though the comic book version is a lot different conceptually. I can enjoy it, because the core of it is still there, and everything around it is well written.

So with that said, I recently posted my feelings of dread regarding the new Star Trek Discovery series for CBS, (read all about it here). I really hoped I would be wrong. Unfortunately, it seems I was right.

As many fans of Star Wars will tell you, some incarnations of an established series are better than others. I feel the same way about Star Trek. Some of them I love, and some are very cringe-worthy. I'm a big fan of The Original Series (TOS) from the late 60's. This was Gene Roddenberry's vision, mixed with script editor DC Fontana's tweaks originating from genuine science fiction writers unique stories (David Gerrold, Normal Spinrad, Harlan Ellison). My personal favorite episodes are Doomsday Machine, Amok Time, City on the Edge of Forever, Trouble with Tribbles, Where No Man Has Gone Before, This Side of Paradise, Space Seed, Corbomite Maneuver, Piece of the Action, Galileo 7, Man Trap, The Naked Time, Squire of Gothos, Arena, Tomorrow is Yesterday,
Mirror Mirror, Assignment Earth, Tholian Web, Wink of an Eye, The Mark of Gideon, and All Our Yesterdays


To be clear, there are some TOS episodes that I NEVER want to see again. I would prefer Star Wars prequels to re-watching some of those episodes. 1979's Star Trek the Motion Picture is also painful on some levels, but then Wrath of Khan is quite nearly perfection.

I will even say, season one of Star Trek The Next Generation originally bothered me to the point that I stopped watching it. But they eventually found their space legs, and had many good episodes. But it still had plenty of not-so-great episodes littered throughout.

When Star Trek is good, there is a perfect balance of intelligent story telling, action, suspense, and some drama involving interesting characters. And, just like Star Wars fans, (dare I say also Doctor Who fans?), we want continuity. Star Wars seamlessly blended Rogue One, which was made in 2016, with the original 1977 Star Wars A New Hope. Doctor Who has plenty of aliens and tech that were created in the 1960's, and uses them effectively in current stories. Why can't we do this with Star Trek???

Okay, I get it, the original Star Trek series had a very low budget, and technology has come a long way since the 60's. But you can take those original concepts and design a universe around it, giving things a more modern look. You could keep the integrity of what was originally designed only updated. But it seems Star Trek Discovery threw out the entire book and started from scratch.

What went wrong?  Let's take a moment and dissect the first two episodes of this Denebian Slime Devil, known as Star Trek Discovery, (aka STD).

Warning: SPOILERS

1. Klingons. Why are we changing the look of Klingons again?? Why do they sound like they all have cotton stuffed in their mouth??? Why do we have to read 15 minutes (or more?) of subtitles?? I have no problem reading subtitles but seriously...? Sure it's an alien species and I don't expect them to speak English. But can we maybe spend a bit more time with the Federation, where everything is universally translated. I also recall one Star Trek movie, brilliantly began with the Klingonese, but creatively merged it to English, so you could understand them, but also knew they were still speaking their own language.

Yes, these are all Klingons.
 These are Daleks from 1963, and 2010
 Here is Darth Vader from 1977, and 2016
You see where I'm going with this...

2. Due to the popularity of Star Wars, let's begin our story on Jakku.

And why can't the ship detect you in a sandstorm, but they can see your footprints?

3. Uniforms. What is seriously wrong with the Federation that they have to change their uniforms every four or five years? I'm so confused...

This series is supposed to take place ten years prior to the events in TOS. With that being said, this is how the Federation should look.

4. In the future, the only light available in space will be from your console, and of course the overly used lens flares.

5. So... the Federation has hologram technology now?? And conveniently it gives you a 360 view so you can see who is behind you.

6. VULCAN WOMEN DO NOT HAVE THE BOWL HAIRCUT! Yes, I had a problem with this in many other versions of Star Trek.

7. A Vulcan Hello? The most peaceful race in the galaxy would never fire first. Highly illogical.

8. Vulcan nerve pinch. Vulcans are stronger than humans. This was established long ago. How do they do a nerve pinch? I thought humans could never learn this due to their physiology. But, taking a leap of faith that a human could learn, in this first episode, the moment was so fast and ambiguous that I barely caught it. There was no establishing moment of her learning it. People unfamiliar with the technique would be extremely confused. But again, for her to mutiny like this, and expect the crew to obey is also highly illogical for someone who spent so much time training on Vulcan.

9. PHASERS DO NOT GO PEW PEW!! 
This is a phaser:

10. What moronic command decisions says, "Let's beam over our two highest ranking officers to take on the entire Klingon ship by themselves!" I can understand if one of them wanted to go, but the other should stay on the bridge. Realistically, even IF the two command officers were to beam over to an enemy vessel, they would take a team of red shirts. Oh, wait, blue lens flare shirts?  Either way, this was guaranteed to fail.

There were plenty of other cringe-worthy and/or eye-rolling moments, but I think you get the idea. The writers either don't care about fans, or they have no idea what Star Trek really is.

Currently, I'm enjoying The Orville, which is conceptually, more like Star Trek than anything else I've seen in some time. Yes, it's got a comedic edge to it, but after three episodes, the overall stories are very well developed, and thoughtfully crafted. Creator of the series is Seth MacFarlane, is a big fan of Star Trek. He gets it. So he put together a universe based on those concepts, and it's pretty cool.

I also recommend the Youtube series, Star Trek Continues, created by Vic Mignogna. He's also a big fan of TOS, and quite literally begins his series where the original series ended. The look is very 60's, which could be good or bad, but the stories are nicely put together and fall in line with what Roddenberry originally had in mind.

If you've never seen any version of Star Trek before, maybe the pretty lights and big explosions will pull you into Star Trek Discovery. But for many reasons, this isn't really Star Trek. It's just STD, and you really should have yourself checked.

Boldly Reviewing,
Deeesher

Sunday, August 13, 2017

America - Here's What You're Saying

Oh internet, we have such a love/hate relationship with you. So much information is available, and yet the status quo seems to be spreading misinformation and insulting strangers.

I hate the whole Left vs Right thing, but it seems the divide is getting greater every day. I would think common sense would rule out, and everyone could come together and just rally against hate. But I don't think anyone really knows who to hate or why. It seems everyone just wants to choose the lowest common denominator: Insulting strangers online.

We will NEVER agree on everything. There will never be 100% approval on any policy, or law that is passed, but there are some things in the world people need to start accepting, like it or not. And after recent events in Charlottesville Virginia, we need to figure this out sooner, rather than later.

So maybe we can all agree, nobody wants violence. Maybe in movies or video games, violence can be fun and often therapeutic. But in the real world, beating someone, destroying property, or running them over with a car is something that NOBODY wants. Seriously. ISIS and North Korea are sitting back and laughing as we prove what morons we really are by destroying ourselves. Does anyone remember: Divided we fall. And we are falling pretty hard lately.

So according to SOMEONE, there are "many sides". Both the left and right know this is pretty ludicrous. There is ONE side. Hate. But who hates who, and why so much?

After reading many (too many?) comments/insults from strangers online, I want to try to put both views into perspective. And like MANY of you, I am extremely unqualified to talk about any of this. But based on all I've read recently, let's look at the players involved in what will soon be known as our newest Civil War.
Civil War II: The Fight for Stupidity.

Nazis. I can't believe I'm actually saying this. Yes, Nazis. I'm sure you've seen the memes that call them out for being extremely un-American, and not patriotic. Yes, the entire world fought against them. That's why it was called WORLD War II. They were fascists. They believed in racial superiority, and enjoyed torturing and killing Jews. Today, we enjoy fighting against them in video games and movies. It's fun!

So what causes someone to legitimately accept this philosophy in America???

Well, they say they are NOT the same. They want control of America, not genocide. They call themselves NEO-Nazis. But in the end, it IS White Supremacy.  The new KKK.

The events in Charlottesville began because a group called the Unite the Right (aka Alt-Right), wanted to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee. He was a general in the Confederate army during the first Civil War in America. His statue has been residing in "Lee Park" for some time now, and recently, they've decided to remove it. Oh and it's not called Lee Park anymore. Now it's Emancipation Park.

Why the change? Well, one reason is because the Confederate army had no problem with slavery. So the idea of having a General from that army honored so predominately in a public place, is quite disturbing if you've experienced racism in your life. Imagine how you might feel if for example your family was forcibly brought to the US as slaves long ago. Getting rid of this type of references in the US seems like a lot of common sense behavior. Sure we can study about them in history, and I think that's great. But having their statues on display could be uncomfortable for many people.

But wait...! Some people are offended about removing his statue! Apparently, they feel it is a matter of important history! They want to be proud, and and don't want to erase the past, and will tell you this is NOT about hate.

So, instead of just shrugging quietly at home and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, they protest. Instead of trying to actually see things from another perspective, or trying to show any form of human compassion or empathy, they complain. They raise their Wal-Mart bought tiki torches high and cry about how oppressed they are and how they feel their rights are suddenly being taken from them. It's almost as if to say their white privilege is not important anymore. Suddenly, they feel the same thing that minorities in the US have felt for hundreds of years. And they can't take it. Weird.

For most sane people, this behavior is pretty disgusting. Nazis (or Neo-Nazis, or White Supremacy, or KKK) is the bottom of the food chain and this type of bigotry is not only ludicrous, it's nauseating.  America is (supposedly) a land of freedom, for all races and religions... remember?

So people protest the protestors. Anti-protestors. Also called Antifa. The "Left".

Antifa is the newest way to say Anti-fascist. Someone who is against fascists. 

FASCISM:
A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Yikes. That pretty much goes against the entire idea of a democratic society. But to be clear, I think America has become an Oligarchy. But that's a topic for another day.

So yes, being Antifa doesn't seem like such a bad thing, does it?

Well...

Here's where it gets fuzzy.

Let's look a bit deeper, and talk about a group called Black Lives Matter (BLM). Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about a LOT of police brutality/killing of unarmed black men in the last few years. In every incident, there is a lengthy trial for the police involved. And in every case, the police are found not guilty. So BLM was started to make a strong statement about this type of unfair treatment towards the black community. They want to clearly point a finger at the racism that still happens in America.

For some reason, the "Right" doesn't get it. They say ALL Lives Matter. And most recently, they are bold (and clueless) enough to say WHITE Lives Matter. It's like they just don't get it. And honestly... they don't. They don't feel the same racism or oppression that many in this country have felt for so long.

According to the "Right", they say BLM is a violent group! They have some knowledge of them rioting violently, and in every police incident (according to them), they have been resisting arrest, so the police were justified in their deadly actions (instead of... I don't know, subduing someone without killing them).

And the Alt-Right says the same thing about the incident in Charlottesville. "We were protesting peacefully, until Antifa and BLM arrived, because they hate first Amendment Free Speech so much!".

I've already seen things that said the driver that killed and injured many by slamming his car into the crowd, was apparently scared because of the Antifa attacking his car violently.

But I've also seen posted that he considers himself to proudly be Neo-Nazi. 

So who threw the first punch?

Was it Antifa/BLM for violently opposing free speech because they don't like what you're saying and it's "fun" to punch a Nazi?

Was it White Supremacists because they have an extremely violent history against others when they don't like something and think they should control it all?

Was it NRA for putting out a video clearly saying that "if you don't like us, we will fight against you"?

Was it the guy online insulting strangers, who enjoys calling someone a "Libtard", or "Snowflake", or idiot, or any list of other common insults I've read?

Was it some idiot wannabe politician separating us and them, having rallys about you can punch them in the face if they disagree with you? 

Does it matter who's fault it is anymore?

This is America 2017. I don't want to get into the politics of it all, but I'm sure everyone can easily see that also has a big influence over how people are feeling. We do need leaders who can bring us together, and not talk about us and them and "many sides".

I encourage EVERYONE to actually read these comments from both sides. It can be painful sometimes. But the moment you start insulting someone, you have no defense. Pay attention. Use common sense. Have some empathy. Educate yourself. Research things before posting/sharing. And when you have nothing else... accept they could be correct. Because the moment you start lashing out at strangers, they stop listening to you, which just builds more hate. You aren't educating them. At that point, YOU are part of the problem.

Good luck and stay safe out there kids,
Deeesher

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ocasek and I - or Why I Like The Cars (the band)

This may come as a shock to some of you, but in the not so distant past, a variety in music was not always readily available to people.  I should also note that in those days, music was also known to be more creative, skillful, and melodic... but that's a topic for another day.

Yes, in a time prior to the internets, there was no such thing as Spotify, Pandora, YouTubes or satellite radio.  We had to listen to music the old fashioned way:  FM radio.  And as modern historians will tell you, this was broadcast by cavemen playing stone records with a pterodactyl beak, (which is incidentally how the term 'rock music' was coined).

There was also a definite correlation between the the size of your town and your listening choices.  In smaller mid-western areas, too much variety, or anything new and different was often considered "devil music", and just not allowed.

One particular small town in northern Indiana is called Nappanee (current population about 6,500).  This is where my story begins.  The nearest radio station was in South Bend, Indiana.  So for popular music, I had one choice.  Some might say it was a 'Top 40' station, but it was more like Top 20.  I do recall a rival radio station became available later, but in the end, they played the same songs so everyone would just switch back and forth.  There was one other choice, but I never hung out with 'those type of kids'.  

I was aware of bands like The Cars, and I remembering hearing Shake It Up, Just What I Needed, Let's Go, Drive, and You Might Think often.  Their other songs were (probably) too extreme for regular rotation on my radio station.  No, I don't think I'm exaggerating.

The simple conclusion to this story would be, as a nerdy guy, I should instantly gravitate towards nerdy bands like The Cars.  But at that time, I just didn't care about them.  I was more obsessed with my movie soundtracks, like Ghostbusters, Fright Night, Breakin' 2, and Star Wars.  I was also into Sheena Easton, post Prince influence, mostly because she was hot.

But as with all great life changing experiences, suddenly there was this girl...

Before getting a license and a car, (or friends with a car), I took the bus home after school.  Normally it was uneventful, but on one particular day, there was an extra passenger.  She had a very nice smile, and I thought she was very pretty.  She sat alone, across from me, and I had no idea who she was.  Due to my extreme nerd status, I never socialized with anyone outside of my very small circle of friends, so I had no idea where she came from.

And because she was new, different, and alone on the bus, the other kids decided to pick on her, because as you know, kids can often be mean and stupid.  I felt bad for her and wanted to protect her, but a nerdy guy like me just wasn't brave enough to get them to stop.  I did however feel chivalrous enough to make an encouraging comment to her when the bus stopped at my house.  I said something like, "Oh they're just jealous...", or "They're mean because they really like you", or some other lame, innocent thing, knowing that I would probably never see her again.

At this point, maybe you're thinking I'm a hero and this story is soooo cute.  And maybe it would be sweet if it ended here.  But surprisingly, I did start seeing this girl in the hallways of my school regularly.  Never in person, just from afar.  I discovered she was in the same grade as me, but we didn't share any of the same classes.  I never saw her on the bus, because most likely, she had friends or family that would drive her home.

I need to remind you, I was lame.  I was insecure.  I really was clueless, uncool and girls just freaked me out because I had no idea how to talk to any of them.  It also didn't help when I learned she had a boyfriend, although I sincerely doubt I would have been brave enough to approach her even if she didn't.

So yes, looking back now, I know I had a very unhealthy infatuation.  It wasn't even unrequited love, because I didn't know anything about her.  Fortunately, I did get over her and soon after, grew out of it.
The End.

"...But Deeesher, what about The Cars!?!?"

Oh, that's right!!

During one particularly forlorn evening, while switching back and forth between my two radio stations, I heard a new song:
Why Can't I Have You, by The Cars from the album Heartbeat City.  

Holy crap, Ric wrote that song for me! 

Okay, maybe he didn't write it specifically with my situation in mind, but he most definitely understood my anguish.  I had to listen to this song often, because it helped soothe my (imagined) pain.  I listened to this song daily.  Hourly... continually.  It somehow helped me focus on the rest of my life, because my feelings were actually put to words and music.

Eventually, the cassette copy I made from the radio with slight static and a DJ talking over the intro wasn't good enough.  I had to have the absolute best quality of this song, so I bought the album Heartbeat City (aka cassette).  I don't think I listened to anything else from the album except that one song.  I mean, Drive was mildly acceptable but that's it.  And, I will go so far to say, I kind of disliked You Might Think.  Sure the video was cool, but ugh... what silly music!

Fast forward a few months... (yikes, was it a year??), and I did get mildly brave enough to talk to a few other girls.  I remember talking to one girl I was sort of interested in, and she said something silly like, "The rest of the album is pretty good too!  I like Stranger Eyes".  So from her advice, I stepped outside my comfort zone and listened to the rest of the album.  Suddenly, I realized she was right!  There actually were a lot of other good songs here!  ...Except You Might Think, of course.

Then I got curious about other Cars songs, and I remember talking to a radio DJ one morning and saying, "Do you have that one song by The Cars, something about 'ribbons in her hair...?", because I always liked that lyric.  They easily identified it as Just What I Needed, which I suddenly really enjoyed also.  So I thought, I should buy their debut album too, because maybe it has some other good songs on it.  That was when I discovered It's All Mixed Up, which seemed to sum up my general frustration about any typical girl... because they were still weird and mysterious to me.

Then I had to get Candy-O because... duh, the Vargas girl on the cover is hot!  Are you sensing a theme here?  My obsession had switched from this girl on the bus, to this band.  I had to have it all!

After getting the studio albums, I ordered the solo albums.  I loved Beatitude and This Side of Paradise from Ric Ocasek, because he wrote all The Cars songs, so it all had a familiar vibe to them.  Later I bought Change No Change from Elliot Easton, Niagra Falls from Greg Hawkes, and The Lace from Benjamin Orr, but wasn't so impressed, because the song writing wasn't quite the same.  Eventually, I managed to find a company that sold bootleg recordings, and bought a few live Cars concerts, as well as the original and rare Milkwood album (1972 Ric and Ben acoustic).

Somehow, I was fortunate to find another girl who was also quite obsessed with The Cars.  We spent quite a bit of time together, and she gave me a much needed musical education.  She would play songs for me all the time from other bands that I never heard before in my sheltered small town life.

Me: "This sounds great, who is this??"
Her:"That's a band called The Doors!"
Me: "This is awesome, what is this??"
Her: "That's a band called The Who!"

Me: "This is amazing, who is this??"
Her: "That's David Bowie!"

...etc

I had no idea there was so much awesome music in the world!  So within a year or two, I overloaded in classic rock music, that was all new to me.  I even got brave enough to listen to the local "devil music" station, which I learned was actually an AOR station, meaning they played a bit of everything new and old.

The next life changing moment for me came with the release of Door to Door in 1987.  No, I'm not talking about having a real girlfriend at the time, nor am I talking about the first speeding ticket I got on the way to their Indianapolis concert.  And I'm definitely not talking about the pain of hearing about the breakup of The Cars soon after.

I'm talking about how Ric produced this album, and how a picture of him mixing over a console was maybe one of the most inspiring moments I ever had in my life.

This awesome image meant the world to me, and I wanted to know what every button and knob did.  I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I discovered there are actual schools that teach music production, and if I could have left home that night to start studying, I would have.

I found a school in Ft Lauderdale, Florida and eagerly signed up for it.  Well, there were schools a bit closer in Chicago, or even Atlanta, but... I sort of liked the idea of living near the beach and seeing hot girls in bikinis daily.  Looking back, I think I went to the beach only a handful of times while I lived there.

Studio work seemed to come very natural to me while studying.  I soon found out, it is in fact easy to fool with the sound.  My goal was to one day work with Ric in the studio... or at the very least, win a Grammy award for producer of the year.

My first few years in the studio will always be the best of times, and the worst of times.  I was often broke and frustrated, but through amazing luck and many long hours/days/nights/weeks, I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic, talented people.  Many of those people are still very good friends today.  I am very proud of some of the stuff I did in my early days, and I cringe thinking about other parts of it.

While studying engineering, one of my instructors, who wound up also being one of my best friends, was Eddie Mashal.  He had Grammys for his work with The Eagles on Hotel California.  He also recorded their followup album, The Long Run, and worked with many other great classic rock artists, but he never did work with anyone from The Cars.  However, Eddie was quite a nerdy guy like me, so we had a lot of great conversations about music, recording, as well as comic books, movies and television shows.  He was a fantastic mentor for me, not just in the studio, but in life too.  Sadly, he passed away a few years ago, and I miss him every day.  I wrote a bit of a eulogy to him here if you're curious.
  
So, I never did get a chance to work with Ric, despite my efforts.  I also never got my Grammy award, but that's fine.  I did however, get to work regularly in one of the top five studios in Miami, which happened to have the exact same model of recording console Ric was working on in the picture.

I guess in the end, you could say I got just what I needed.

EPILOGUE:  I'm still not a huge fan of You Might Think, but I've learned to appreciate it a bit more.  And girls still freak me out, and I still don't how to talk to them.

Deeesher

Friday, June 30, 2017

Twin Peaks Season 3 Mid-Season Review

I completely missed season one of Twin Peaks when it originally aired.  For sake of argument, we'll just say I was too young, (don't question it, just accept it).  But the unique power and popularity of this 1990 series could be felt pre-internet buzz.  So prior to the season two premiere, I was curious enough to watch the hour long recap of the first season, explaining all the characters and strange nuances of this small northwestern town.  

And to clarify, it is a small town of 5,120 residence, despite what the welcome sign says at the opening credits.  Apparently, the network preferred a bigger city, prompting creators to add another digit to the population.  Later they justified it by saying the sign has a typo.  Which seems accurate in this unusual town.

So, what I learned from this recap, is there are three elements to Twin Peaks:
1.  A silly part
2.  A mysterious part
3.  A weird part

All of which I love, so I was sold!

I became even more invested watching the intro of season two, with Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) laying on the ground after being shot, talking to himself about the experience... and then suddenly a giant appeared to give him some cryptic clues.

I instantly became a huge fan, re-watching episodes repeatedly, buying magazines about the show (Wrapped in Plastic), getting all the soundtracks, and purchasing several books, including Laura Palmer's Secret Diary, and The Autobiography of Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes (which I highly recommend!).

So yes, I'd call myself a fan.

And now, based on a passing comment in season one during a dream sequence, David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, revive the series twenty-five (ish) years later.

Before diving into season three, I wanted to re-watch the first two seasons, as well as the prequel movie, just to remind myself what It was all about.

I'm glad I did because I made some interesting discoveries. 

Season one is still awesome!  Eight episodes, each one with strange interesting characters, moving the story forward. 

Season two, is not so good.  Of course there's still plenty to love.  But with twenty-two episodes, they had a lot of space to fill.  Often it seemed they had no idea where to go with the story, or what to do with so many characters.

It's interesting to note however, other than creating the show, David Lynch only directed and co-wrote a few episodes.  Mark Frost seemed more involved in writing the series, but mostly they were dependent on a random group of other writers and directors.

So I'm curious, did these other contributors make the show more cohesive?  Dare I say... common? 

Season two started strong, and held up for about nine episodes. But what followed may have been too "mundane" for fans to accept, which resulted in it's eventual cancellation.  Fortunately the finale returned to it's weird roots, and left us all wanting more.  But everything prior to the powerful conclusion felt like it was dragging it's feet, not the jazzy shuffling little person we grew to love.

Soon after the series ended, we did get the theatrical release of the prequel, Fire Walk With Me.  But maybe audiences weren't quite ready to accept Lynch in all his freaky glory. It was booed at Cannes Film Festival, (although currently it's showing 61% on Rotten Tomatoes).  So with such a poor reception, and bad box office returns, the studio cancelled any plans for a sequel.

But maybe in the crazy, mixed up world of 2017, we are finally ready for David Lynch's visual insanity.  But more importantly, as eager as fans are to return, does Lynch want to revisit the town of Twin Peaks?

Well, midway through season three, I have good news and bad news.  There are moments that will put a big smile on your face.  But there are many more moments that will make you question your own sanity, or consider the real possibility that someone might have actually drugged you before the episode began.

Kyle MacLachlan is still an important part of the show, although after so much time has passed and considering his experiences, he's not the same Special Agent Dale Cooper we knew and loved.  And don't expect to see much involvement with other regular cast members.  Many appear as brief (obligatory?) cameos, and seem completely unnecessary to the plot.  But for me, seeing some of those legacy characters appear were the best moments so far. 

It also feels as if the town of Twin Peaks itself is a cameo, since we spend so little time there.  Most of the show takes place everywhere from South Dakota, New York, New Mexico and of course 'the other place' (Black Lodge?).  Is it still Twin Peaks if during an hour long episode, we only spend five minutes in the sheriff's office, and another few minutes in the Roadhouse for a musical interlude?

Which brings me to another great aspect of the series: The music.  I do love the music they chose for season three, but don't expect the same jazzy/industrial orchestra as before.  Many scenes have no music, or at most an eerie music bed, where you might expect something to play.  It's as if Lynch holds back just letting the scene speak for itself.  But later, we get a great band with a full performance in the local biker bar.  It's different, but still good. 

I wouldn't say you should lower your expectations, but simply change them.  If you love David Lynch, and enjoy feeling like your brain is being bombarded by radiation while on acid, you will like season three.

You still get all three elements, (silly, mysterious, and weird), but maybe the balance feels off for me.  Too much weird.  I can appreciate the visuals, but I'm always looking for a story.  I never want to watch a twenty minute Youtube video explaining what I just watched, (which I've had to do).

It feels like Lynch/Frost are dropping breadcrumbs for me to enjoy each episode.  I do like many aspects of it, (great cameos, all the disturbing and unique visuals, and of course the music), and of course I'm eager to know where the story is going.  But maybe it just feels like I'm a drug addict, wanting more and more, and then after each episode, I'm filled with regret.  
 
Does this mean I've 'peaked' too soon?
Deeesher