Thursday, June 7, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

Oh Star Wars, I think I've finally figured you out. You have a drinking problem. If you drink sensibly, and in moderation, you can be the life of the party! But sometimes, you get drunk on your own power and just do dumb things, like pretending you can fly through space, or visiting some casino planet for no reason. There was that one time you were telling people you got your powers from midichlorians (whatever that is), and told everyone to call you Jar Jar. When you get like this, we're eager to call you a cab and send you home. Sometimes, we don't even know who you are.

Well, looks like your at it again, Star Wars. You should still be recovering from your Last Jedi hangover. Did you hear what your friends and neighbors were saying about you? Do you really want to hit the bottle again so soon? Fine, let's talk about what you did this time *le sigh*

Many fans have given up on the series, feeling that Disney has destroyed the franchise. Personally, I've felt more "Luke Warm" than Luke Skywalker, but I continue to endure, occasionally seeing things I do like, (e.g., Rogue One). 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a movie we never asked for, and never expected. Most of the fans wanted an Obi-Wan story, or Darth Maul story, or *gasp* a Knights of the Old Republic story. But here we are... the origin of Han Solo. 

While we don't get to see his birth, or childhood escapades, we do get to see him meet Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, the Millennium Falcon, and of course, watch him maneuver through the Kessel Run.

Despite the discouraging behind the scenes reports, director Ron Howard managed to put together a mostly enjoyable experience. If George Lucas were allowed to give his honest opinion without fans losing their minds, I think he would give it a big thumbs up. There is a fantastic speeder chase scene in the beginning which really feels like an homage to their mutual connection, 1973's American Graffiti.

Howard also gave us some beautiful shots of the Falcon, which will make any die-hard fan all giddy with excitement. I really enjoyed the instant connection Han had with, what would eventually be his ship. The scenes with him piloting around, quickly flipping switches, felt very natural, like he was truly connected.

The father and son writing team of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, put together a decent story, giving us a bit more depth into the life of Han Solo. He doesn't start out as the scruffy looking nerf-herder we know and love. They made it clear in the beginning that he's nearly polar opposite, with lines like, "I've got a good feeling about this...", and wearing a white vest with a black shirt. They give us genuine character development, letting him grow into who he'll eventually become, through the experiences in this movie.

My biggest concern was Alden Ehrenreich. I didn't know if I would be able to accept him as Han Solo, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. In fact, the entire cast had good chemistry, which really helped me accept this as a Star Wars Story. The standout for me was Donald Glover. He exuded every bit of charm and charisma you would expect from Lando. I wanted to see a lot more of him. Although I'm not sure how I feel about the Will I Am haircut...

And there were a few other uncomfortable moments.

Some of the dialogue felt a bit cheap. Lines like, "Are they morons?", "No, we're not morons.". *cringe*

As well as,"Your name is Chewbacca?? I'm not going to say that every time, I'll have to shorten it!". Really?? Is Chewbacca that difficult to say?

I noticed some of the scenes also looked a bit monochromatic. As much as I appreciate Ron Howard for allowing us to see the action without quick shaky edits, there were places that felt like an overall color filter washed everything out. A few scenes had life to it, but many times, it seemed to favor a one-color look. Even blaster fire was all amber. Maybe they just wanted to match the movie poster?

Seriously, are they aware of the vast array of colors available when you make a movie poster???


So did this movie need to be made? Not at all! Could we have waited another year before it's release? Absolutely! But if you ever appreciated Star Wars, you might really enjoy Solo. From the new Disney era of the franchise, Rogue One is still my favorite, but this one gets a comfortable second place spot. 

And one last thing...

I can't believe we have to say this, but if you hated this movie, or any of the characters in it, (or any movie for that matter), do NOT abuse the actor!! They didn't write the character, and most likely, didn't write the movie.

This is Kelly Marie Tran. She was Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

This sweet girl was excited about having a big break in a Star Wars movie. Sadly, she has taken a lot of abuse from "fans" who hated her character. If you harass someone for being in a movie you don't like, you're not a fan. You're a bully, and a disgusting human being.


May the Force be with the rest of you civilized people,

Monday, April 30, 2018

Avengers Infinity War Review

(Non Spoiler Review)


Oh, you want more? Okay, let's put everything into perspective.

Ten years ago, Marvel had an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they can become something more. It began with The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man in 2008. It continued with Captain America, and Thor, culminating into one awesome movie called Marvel's Avengers in 2012.

But they didn't stop there! That was only "Phase One".

They added a few sequels, plus other classic comic book characters to the line-up, from Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Spider-man and eventually going into space to add my personal favorite, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Between the amazing cast, many genius directors, and of course epic writing, the real hero, Producer Kevin Feige, continued to understand what comic fans want from a super hero movie, with very few missteps.

So before going to see the newest Avengers movie, Infinity War, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you like comic book/superhero movies?
2. Have you seen (and enjoyed) MOST of the Marvel movies from the last decade?

If you answer "no" to these questions... seriously, why the hell are you here???

I can only imagine you just wanted to read my goofy comments, because Infinity War is definitely NOT for you. It's a sequel, based on a long running series of movies. You don't necessarily have to watch them all to understand what's going on, but you should have some background into this universe before just blindly purchasing a ticket. And if this isn't your thing, that's fine. Please go see a Rom-com and stay out of my theater. I Feel Pretty is playing, or even Super Troopers 2, if you're into that sort of thing.

But for the rest of us... of course you'll love Infinity War!

It's not an exaggeration to call this movie 'epic'. Between the fantastic visuals featuring many different worlds, amazing characters, and and a well crafted story, Marvel Studios once again, gave us some impressive bang for our theater bucks.

Okay in fairness, I won't say this is the BEST Marvel movie ever. And going in, I did feel a bit 'meh' by the idea. There has been a lot of super hero movies in the last few years, and not all of them have been good. Some (misguided?) people are talking about "Super Hero Fatigue", because they can't imagine any need to make another one. To me, that's a ridiculous concept, because I'll always appreciate a new super hero movie. But I do think a lot of the marketing gets exhausting, and we are definitely getting unnecessarily overwhelmed by the hype. It would be easy for any studio to show one trailer 6 months before release date, without any other advertising, and they would still break box office records through word of nerd mouth.

And for myself, I've always preferred solo comic stories. Maybe a group ensemble is too much for my tiny brain to grasp. Even theatrically, I want one hero to focus on, because with so many characters, I can't imagine a director successfully telling a well balanced story.

But just as Joss Whedon did with the first two Avengers movies, the Russo Brothers figured out how to make a movie that fans could appreciate.

For the most part, they stuck with the Marvel formula, which admittedly consists of a LOT of CGI, and some jokes that felt a bit forced. Although I still did LOL a few times.

But if I can nitpick a moment, a few cosmetic things did bother me. And no, I'm not talking about Black Widow's blonde hair, (although that did feel somewhat irksome). I'm talking about the idea of Thor's short hair, and Captain America growing a beard. Are they turning into the same person??? They seem to be losing their identity.

And with Bucky's new beard, what happens if he decides to cut his hair?

I was also very underwhelmed with Hulk/Banner's involvement in the story. I've been a Hulk fan for many years, so I was disappointed with his portrayal. His particular story just didn't make any sense to me based on what I know of his character.

But everyone else seemed to be at the peak of their ability. Of course there were a lot of characters to follow, but the core of this movie was Thanos. Can I say Josh Brolin 'killed it'? We've seen him in the background for several previous movies, so it was great to see him finally step up and give quite a bit of depth to this character.

And one thing I normally look for in a movie, is heart. After ten years of getting to know these characters, plus many more decades of their legacy to appreciate, I can say there is plenty of things to get emotionally attached to. They've earned our love and respect. We do care about what happens to them. We genuinely care about who lives and who... dies.

Okay, not really a spoiler, because if you're familiar with the comic this is based on, you know some of the heroes die in this battle. I haven't read it (yet) but my extreme nerdy friends tell me there are some changes in the theatrical version, so don't go into this thinking you know what will happen. But also keep in mind, in the world of comic books, dead doesn't always mean dead.

However in the real world, there is one thing that could ultimately destroy Earth's Mightiest Heroes: Contract Negotiations. Some of the actors have chosen not to renew. Even though there are many sequels currently in production for the next few years, there could still be a few changes to the universe planned.

So for the most part, Infinity War is pretty awesome, and a lot of fun, but it's also the darkest in tone of all the Marvel movies.

"...But Deeesher, where does this rank with all the other Marvel movies???"
My friends and I are always trying to rate Marvel movies from favorite to least favorite since they began in 2008, so to help you understand things from my perspective, I'd like to present my personal ranking (my reviews clickable if I wrote one):

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
2. Avengers (2012)
3. Iron Man (2008)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 (2017)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
7. Civil War (2016)
8. Infinity War (2018)
9. Ant-Man (2015)
10. Thor Ragnarok (2017)
11. Black Panther
12. Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)
13. Thor The Dark World (2013)
14. Avengers Age of Ultron (2015)
15. Doctor Strange (2016)
16. Iron Man 2 (2010)
17. The Incredible Hulk (2008) (my edit)
*DISCLAIMER - As a fan of the Hulk, I enjoyed this movie, however I felt there was some unnecessarily sappy moments. Many great scenes were also deleted that I would have kept. So I created a version that felt better in many ways. Although I still think Liv Tyler was a poor casting choice for Betty, my edit improved many other aspects of this movie.

18. Thor (2011)
19. Iron Man 3 (2013)

I seriously hope this is on the blu-ray as a deleted scene...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Lost in Space 2018 Review

In the not too distant future of 1997, earth suffers from massive overpopulation. Powerful governments around the world race to finalize a mission colonizing a beautiful new world near Alpha Centauri. Many governments would do anything to ensure they were the first to reach that new world... including sabotage.

This is the premise of the original 1965 series, Lost in Space, developed by the legendary Irwin Allen. The Robinson family was chosen, because they were the best, of the best, of the best... with honors (Sir!). But the catalyst of the show, and one reason for it's longevity, was Dr. Smith and the Robot.

Most people remember the goofy banter between Smith and the Robot, but originally, they were just scary and evil.

Before the tone of the series changed, Dr. Smith was a military Colonel, helping prepare the crew for the long voyage into space. He was also in contact with 'someone' who promised him a lot of money to ensure the Jupiter 2 never makes it to their destination. So while the crew is in suspended animation, Smith reprograms the environmental robot to destroy key components on the ship, eight hours after launch. Unfortunately for him, he's trapped on board at lift off and must wake the crew to convince them to send him back home. But with his additional weight added to the ship, they already begin going off course, and head directly into an asteroid field. Once this is corrected, the Robot becomes active and causes even more damage, making everyone... LOST... IN.... SPACE... SPACE... SPACE...!

Jonathan Harris, who played Smith, became bored with the character after a few episodes, so he decided to make him a bit more cowardly and foolish. Eventually, the Robot developed a personality, making many episodes a lot more family friendly. Of course, this helped cement their place in television history but... I liked the evil versions more.

So ends our education in television sci-fi history. And now, let's flash forward to 2018, when Netflix reboots...
*Obligatory reboot rant*
...Ugh. Just stop!

In fairness, I really have no problem rebooting this show. I think the original idea is still viable, and with just a few modern tweaks, it could be fantastic. Netflix has produced a lot of great shows (please watch Netflix original series, Altered Carbon, and Series of Unfortunate Events!!), so it's easy to see this being a huge success... if they do it right. And after binge-watching all ten episodes of the new Lost in Space, I have a lot of mixed feelings.

As with any reboot, I have to ask Hollywood producers, if you don't like the core concept, why are you doing a reboot??? 

I've also said, if you make changes, they should be good changes. And there are some good changes. But some incredibly unnecessary changes as well. It felt like there were three different mindsets working on this show. One group gets it. The other two don't.

The good news is, the tone of the show feels right. Often, reboots take a serious concept, and frustratingly try to make it a comedy (21 Jump Street, Starsky and Hutch, Land of the Lost etc). Of course there's also a concern of making it just dark and depressing (Fantastic Four 2015). Fortunately, Netflix gave Lost in Space the right balance between action, drama and a decent sense of humor. There is plenty of tension, but it's not so serious that it's afraid to make a silly comment occasionally.

I also really loved the cast! As a general rule, I hate kids (...get off my lawn!). And kid actors can be really annoying. But the Robinsons genuinely felt like a family. The chemistry between all the characters seemed authentic. There was plenty of love/hate moments and I could accept them as the super genius family, with all the issues that it entails.

Well... most of it I accepted. I'm not sure why they would choose to have the father estranged, and then join them on this mission. What was wrong with having a good family unit? Is it so impossible to believe? I'm not expecting their relationship to be perfect, but it's just an odd concept to grasp that he would suddenly rejoin the family on this mission.

And maybe I'm being nitpicky here, but every time I saw him, all I could think of was Stan Against Evil:
He did have some nice heroic and fatherly moments so I could overlook it... mostly.

"...But Deeesher, what about Major Don West??"
Oh I haven't forgotten him, but maybe the writers did. Originally, West was the good looking, ace pilot of the Jupiter 2. And once again well cast, but no longer a Major. Now he's just a smuggler with plenty of charisma and charm. He's basically Space Han Solo.

Which brings us finally to Dr. Smith and The Robot.

Well, the Robot is definitely scary, and Smith is once again evil. The relationship between Will and The Robot feels authentic, and even Smith is appropriately creepy, but that's where the similarities from the original series end. Without giving anything away, I'll just say the Robot is not their reprogrammed environmental robot, and Smith is definitely not a military doctor paid to sabotage the mission by an evil government agency.

Why the changes??? 

Of course the original series had plenty of silly stories that just would never work, so I do appreciate a few updates. But the changes they made are completely unnecessary.

And looking at it objectively, if I ignore the original story, they made a few other decisions in this series that I hated. For example:
- Stop showing us breadcrumbs scenes from the past and just give us linear storytelling please!
- Stop having dramatic reaction shots that quickly cut away before showing us what they're seeing!!
- Stop the unnecessary lens flares!!
- Stop putting modern music in our futuristic science fiction show!!!

*le sigh*
Despite those bits of stupidity, it is an enjoyable show. I think it will be successful, and I think people will like it. Maybe the purists will be frustrated, but if you keep an open mind, you can still appreciate a new, decent sci-fi series with elements of Lost in Space.

And yes, every time I saw one of those eye rolling writing decisions, a little voice inside my head said...


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.


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....


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)

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.

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.

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...


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.

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:
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:

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:
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:

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,

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).


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.

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,