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So a minor confession to make: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Star Trek series in its entirety before until this year.

Okay, so it’s a major confession.  I’m a Trekkie.  I grew up on Next Generation.  And I liked Deep Space Nine and Voyager when it came out.  I never did get very far into Enterprise though, and the Original Series, I’ve probably seen an episode here or there, but nothing all the way through.  But I’ve never watched every episode though, which is what one should do if they really like a show.

Some things should be corrected.


Back at Christmas last year I got a Kindle.  With the Kindle you automatically get a free month of Amazon Prime, which I’ve never had before.  After the free month it’s $80 for a year.  I didn’t know what was available – Core has one, but never got Prime since she didn’t find much she liked – but upon finding out that all of Star Trek was available for free, from TOS to Enterprise and all of the movies prior to the reboot, I was sold.  Eighty bucks for twenty-eight seasons of awesome [1]?  Sold!

So I went through all of Voyager first, in about three and a half months.  And I recalled a lot of it, almost all of it in fact.  I didn’t realize that I had watched most of the series when it originally aired, but I did.  I just had to fill in the missing pieces.  And it’s like any other serialized show: some good, some bad, all worthwhile.  The first two seasons meandered forever in Kazon space (just how much space did they cover anyway?), and the Borg, the biggest threat ever, were practically neutered by the end of the series.  There were some great episodes though, and some pretty good characters as well: Janeway was a pretty boss captain and had some tough decisions to make at times, Chekotay made for an interesting commander, and the rest of the crew were fun as well (though it kinda sucked that Kim never got promoted beyond ensign while Paris got busted out of jail, promoted, demoted, and promoted again in seven seasons).  That was probably when the show was at its best though, when it came to the characters.  Some of the plots, especially towards the end of the series were… lacking.  But all in all, it was a good series.


But enough about that.  I wasn’t sure what series I wanted to watch next, but then I came across this, and then I was sold: I was going to watch Deep Space Nine.  I tried to remember why I didn’t remember this series fondly (more on that shortly), and I even mentioned at least once or twice on Facebook that I wasn’t looking forward to tackling this.  One of my friends made mention that it gets really good from season five on (that was probably around when I stopped watching the series) while that article mentions that it gets really good from season four on, when the show really found its legs and just took off.

So I decided, “Sure, I’ll take this on next.”

And I figure, I’ll write about each season too as I get to them.  So after this long preamble, let’s begin the looking back of Deep Space Nine, season one.


This… this was a curious first season of Deep Space Nine.  The idea was interesting: put a crew on a station on the edge of Federation space, then have them find a wormhole that leads to the other side of the galaxy[2], before letting shenanigans ensue.

It wasn’t entirely successful.  All of the episodes were one-offs, which is fine (the first episode/pilot went for 91 minutes), but it didn’t get very far in terms of an overall plot.  The wormhole – such a big thing in the first episode – doesn’t get much action this season.  “Vortex” was the only episode that hinted at anything beyond just the one episode – the possibility of others like Odo – while others that dealt with the Gamma Quadrant were brief excursions and random anomalies that threatened the crew and station (telepathic beings, a hunting game, a board game, imagination beings, etc).  There were some interesting characters that did show up though: “Move Along Home” had the board game, with the visiting aliens being an interesting treat.

There were some recurring characters in TNG that showed up too: Picard was in the first episode, and Sisko was none too happy to deal with him[3], Q made an appearance (oh, add that episode to the “things that threaten the station” list), and Lwaxana Troi had a turn as well.  Out of the three, hers was the best appearance, as it expanded on her character exponentially beyond what she had, or from what I can recall, on TNG (I’ll get there eventually, don’t worry).  Odo had a great turn that episode as well – probably the best he was involved in during the first season.  Odo is a rather complex character in general too, having served both the Cardassians and the Federation as chief security officer on the station.  The moral ambiguities are amazing.

And the rest of the new characters? Well… they were mostly okay.  Some people didn’t break beyond their first introductions.  Doctor Bashir, for example, was hitting on every woman that walked by him.  He was young and naive, probably fresh out of medical school or the academy and didn’t know much of anything in regular life, so his antics were amusing, at least for a while.  They did take an interesting twist in “If Wishes Were Horses” (the imagination beings one), but he didn’t get much beyond that.

Dax is kinda bland right now, mainly because she really hasn’t done that much so far.  She has one episode, the trailer of which I’ll post below, but other than that, she’s more or less working in ops the entire time.  The Trill species does make for some interesting stories though, since the symbiote can inhabit both male and female trills.  The episode “Dax” (that trailer next) hints at some of the former lives of Dax.  It’s not exactly transgendered, but this was probably as close as any character got to being non-binary in any sci-fi series I can think of (though if people think of others, then by all means, comment away).

Major Kira was… I’m not sure, really.  She has a huge history to her before even showing up, as a freedom fighter on Bajor (much of the season revolved around how the Federation was protecting Bajor and trying to get it to join them).  As such, she spends a lot of time angry at a lot of things – mainly Cardassians – and not much else.  She does end up in the best episode of the season though, “Duets”, which, despite one or two too many twists, has some truly great moments between Kira and the arrested Cardassian, and the final scene is truly heartbreaking, and shows well how some things may never change between people.

Actually, here’s a mirrored clip of the final six minutes of the episode:

The Bajorans themselves… meh.  It’s what probably hurts the first season the most, because they’re just not very interesting.  I’m not sure if it’ll improve in the second season, but I’ll find out when I get to it.

Who else is here… O’Brien is much the same from his TNG days – grumbling about everything and everyone – though his responsibility has expanded since he has to make sure the entire station works, and a lot of times it doesn’t.  “The Forsaken”, for instance, has him yelling at the computer a lot, and it’s rather fun at times.  He’s a likable character, and fits well with the cast.

The Ferengis are a curious bunch.  I’m not a big fan of them – it’s essentially “we like females (without clothes)” and “greed is good” – but this set seem to break the mold on that a bit.  Quark is actually interesting at times, though the season spends far too much time on his shenanigans.  His nephew, Nog, is by far a most interesting character.  He doesn’t start that way – he takes on too much of the Ferengi personality – but pairing him with Jake Sisko and making him likable has made him a pretty good supporting character in the first season.

Speaking of the Siskos, the first episode pretty much set up what has to be the best relationship dynamic in the series so far, between Benjamin and Jake.  The Borg (under Locutus, hence Sisko’s dislike for Picard) killed Ben’s wife, and it could just as easily been Jake going “I hate station life why did you drag me here?”, but some of the things that do happen along the way (the station school, Jake and Nog’s friendship) help to solidify their relationship.  There’s a genuine love between father and son here, which doesn’t get explored often in a serious way in a sci-fi drama[4].

Benjamin Sisko is pretty much a badass the entire time though.  I find in every episode that he is one guy I don’t want to cross.  Case in point:

So, yes, a curious first season of Deep Space 9.  It doesn’t go anywhere, but there are a few nuggets to enjoy.[5]

[1]  Okay that’s a lie.  Not all of it was awesome.

[2] Other side of the galaxy being the Gamma Quadrant.  Voyager took place in the Delta Quadrant and were another tens of thousands of light years away from that wormhole.

[3] I never recalled Picard looking so disturbed by one man before either.

[4] The episode “Babel” is one really good example of their relationship.

[5] Episodes to recommend: “Duet”, “The Forsaken”, “Move Along Home” (just for the sheer, wacky fun of it all), “Babel”, “Dax”

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Hurrr…. urrrrgghhhhh…. chomp chomp chomp….

I could, if I really wanted to, write this whole thing in zombie speak (is that even a thing?), though everyone would probably hate me.  So, here’s a english translated zombie speak version of the review.  Or something.

World War Z is a surprisingly solid film, which is unexpected given how maligned the production was, especially with the refilming of the entire last third of the film.  It hits all the right beats, sometimes in a mechanical way, sometimes really well.  The movie starts in Philadelphia, where shit gets insane really quick.  The entire eastern seaboard falls, as well as other major urban areas where it is easy to transmit an airborne disease.  This is essentially SARS or H1N1 actualized, spreading nonstop around the globe in a matter of days or weeks.

The changes to the zombies for this film were curious.  It’s fast zombies all the way, though there’s no eating.  It’s bite and move on to the next victim.  I’m curious if this was done to at least have a better rating and a bigger possible audience (the film exploded to $200 million budget with the refilmed shots), to get better returns.  If that’s the case, then it worked, at least with an opening weekend that far surpassed studio expectations.

The zombies were ill defined at times though, between reacting to sound, but also with what they did in the third act.  The sequence in the plane, as well as the revelation of what ended up working to stop them, kind of clashed together.  That said, the element introduced in the third act was original and interesting.  It may not have been the best idea (again, going back to how ill defined the zombies were) but it worked for the film.

The non-zombie characters were good.  Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane turns into an everyman of sorts by the end, but he’s still a pretty good character.  He has his family, and his concern will always be on his family, even when he heads out to find answers about the zombies.  Mireille Enos plays Karin Lane, Gerry’s wife, and while she doesn’t do too much (she stays with the kids while Gerry is off globe trotting), she isn’t a waste.  Other characters act their parts (the Secretary General, the US Navy people, etc), though special kudos to Daniella Kertesz as Segen, who, even after surviving a zombie bite, is an absolute badass and one of the better written female characters to show up this summer[1][2].

One thing about the final third of the film: the tonal shift is intense.  The film starts huge (running through the streets of Philadelphia and Newark) and stays huge into Jerusalem, then quiets down a lot in the WHO building.  It’s not a bad thing, honestly, and probably the best part of the film (though trying to find where anything is at in the zombie-infested wing of the building detracts from that some).

So like I said, an unexpectedly solid film.  Check it out.

[1] Speaking of which, what a fucking cesspool of poorly written female characters this summer season.  It’s ranged from good-ish at best (Iron Man 3 with Pepper Potts; Man of Steel with Lois Lane, at least the first half of the film) to downright awful (Star Trek Into Darkness with Carol Marcus and, at times, Lt Uhura; Now You See Me with whoever Melanie Laurent played).  There was an NPR article that showed up a couple weeks ago that discussed the lack of female leads so far this summer (in fact, the first major wide release targeting females specifically finally comes out this weekend with the Heat).  It’s been a boys club through and through.

[1b] Also, yes, I’m going to try and see Francis Ha soon.

[2] That said, yes, Segen doesn’t say much.  I think a lot as to do with the actual acting beyond speaking (and that the character is a member of the Israeli army), and that’s what probably got me with her performance.

Welcome to the end of the world, and endless laughing pains.

This is the End is a disaster comedy (is that a new category now? disaster comedy?) starring a whole bunch of people playing themselves (well, there’s the primary cast (Rogen, Franco, Hill, Baruchel, McBride, and Robinson) and then a bunch of other people (Watson, Cera, Segel, Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, and many more) and then a few hilarious cameos (…, …, what, see this film okay?!)) when the world goes to shit.  The primary cast hole up in Franco’s house, keeping a (bad) eye on food supplies, filming sequels to films they’ve starred in, and trying to stay alive long enough for help to come.

It’s not perfect by any means.  It goes from set piece to set piece looking for something for the guys to do, and at two hours is almost entirely too long.  It makes up for it though with each set piece being genuinely funny.  Some of them were really good: coked out Michael Cera was classic, the Pineapple Express sequel was great, the Emma Watson bit worked (which could have been a disaster but was pretty damn funny), the Franco/McBride masturbation argument was fantastic, and the brief cameos at the end were insane and worth it.

The primary cast were all really good, and, in a way, playing really dickish versions of themselves.  Franco and Hill especially, though Hill was more of a diva than anything else, but it still worked.  Or are they just like that in real life?

What probably helped the film a lot was using the book of Revelations as its apocalyptic backdrop and just ran it to its logical (or illogical) end.  I haven’t read Revelations (though I probably should at some point), but my understanding of it is that it’s genuinely fucked up, and the movie plays with how fucked up that book is.  Once the survivors know what to do at towards the end (how to escape hell on earth), they try to be good, and all of them with hilarious results.

This movie is hilarious from start to finish.  Definitely see it.

Bitter Orange is the first film from graphic novelist Hope Larson.  Set in the 1920s, it stars Brie Larson (from Scott Pilgrim) as a career driven woman in Hollywood.  It also stars James Urbaniak and Brendan Hines.  This short film is really great, with sharp, snappy dialogue and an excellent color scheme (the scene in the orange grove is fantastic).  It was a bold decision to set her first film as a period piece, but Larson pulls it off wonderfully.

Here is the short film:

And, here’s a recent interview Larson did about the making of the short film:

http://badassdigest.com/2013/06/17/hope-larson-talks-about-her-new-short-film-bitter-orange/

Hopefully she’ll make more films in the future.  For the time being, I really should go and pick up her graphic novels.

Superman is back, and he’s doing… okay-ish?

[Pre-review note: I’m going to make it sound like people shouldn’t see this film.  I want people to see this film, like all films.  I want to hear/read what different people say about it, and see if there’s anything I missed, anything that needs to be expanded upon, and anything that can be agreed upon.  Besides, I’m just one guy with an opinion, right?]

This is definitely a curious film, curious in that it does certain things right and certain things poorly.  There are things I liked a lot in the film, and there are things that I found problematic and rather disturbing, and, being a Superman film, left me wondering why they did those things (and also left them unanswered).  There will be some spoiler discussion below, but I’ll also make sure to point out the big spoiler moment when I get to it.

So what does this film do right?  Let’s start with the origin, which was a very good decision to do, since the character hasn’t been updated for the big screen in years (Superman Returns connected itself to the Donner/Reeves universe), and, just as important, the push by Warner Bros to do a connected universe of films, ala Marvel and the Avengers.  It established the destruction of Krypton, Kal-el as the natural born savior of the Kryptonian race, and General Zod as the bad guy.  There were a couple cool elements established as well and in pre-release: Kryptonians, as a matter of population control, began artificially creating children for specific roles (military, scientist, etc), and, NO KRYPTON CRYSTALS.  Getting rid of that got rid of Superman’s Achilles heel, especially when the only people he fights in this film are superpowered beings like himself.

The visuals in this film were amazing.  Synder has always been a great visual director, between 300 and Watchmen (haven’t seen Legends of the Guardians or Sucker Punch, but both, again, looked really good), and he continues that here.  This is probably the best looking film to come out this year so far.  Actually, if you want a taste of what the film looks like, here’s the last trailer for the film, sponsered by Nokia:

The score was unbelievably awesome.  Hans Zimmer went all out, and it clicked with everything that was happening in the film.  It is just huge and sweeping and I want to own it.  It’s that good (actually, the Nokia trailer has a great bit of the soundtrack attached to it).

Of the performances, Russell Crowe as Jor-el was good.  Michael Shannon as General Zod was amazing (he just steals everything he’s in, doesn’t he?).  He has this simmering boil sitting just beneath the surface that’s ready to explode without warning.  Amy Adams was good with what she had as Lois Lane (note: she’s completely wasted in the second half of the film), and Henry Cavill, as the new Clark Kent/Kal-el/Superman was good, showing a decent amount of charisma and actually showing a strong bit of emotion with the character (something that Brandon Routh’s lacked).  Though there were problems that I doubt he could have rectified.

Which is what makes this film curious: what went wrong?  Let’s start with the big guy himself.  Superman’s arc is… rather flat.  It exhibits all the traits of the “rising to the call” hero trope, but there’s no drama or conflict to it.  He doesn’t refuse the call at all: instead, he realizes that it’s what he was born to do and just does it[1].  It’s honestly a weird thing to do, and because of the lack of conflict, it makes the character surprisingly flat.  To be honest, Superman has always been a kind of flat character, since he’s rather over powered at times and can take on anything while having a straight moral compass (always do good, don’t hurt anyone, etc).  It just doesn’t resonate like it should[2].

The film itself coasts along a lot.  This feels very Nolan-esque in a way, where we’re constantly given information while everything is continually happening, but without an internal conflict from Superman, there’s nothing that really propels the film forward.  It just does: Superman finds a ship with a suit, Zod shows up, fighty fight fight.  The end.

Speaking of fighty fight fight, the last hour was extremely boring at times.  Zod shows up, and then the action starts, first in Smallville, and then in Metropolis.  The best part of it was probably the split action sequence, when Superman was taking on the World Engine while humanity was trying to destroy Zod’s ship in Metropolis.  It is a well executed sequence.  Everything else though?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I got rather bored with people punching each other repeatedly, throwing each other into buildings, into cars, into trains, throwing trains on people, etc.  The movie was long (150 minutes about?), and it felt long.

And then there was the violence and destruction, which bordered on, and probably surpassed gratuitous[3].  I can understand the World Engine bit, especially with it destroying downtown Metropolis (thought it was still over the top).  What I don’t get was everything else: how casual it was for the super people to get thrown around into buildings and cars without repercussion (though, who would stop them?), including Superman?  Even in his last fight with Zod?  He’s actively participating in destroying Metropolis, even the parts that weren’t destroyed!

*MASSIVE SPOILERS COMING*

What bothered me the most though was the end to the Zod fight and its lack of resolution.  Superman killed Zod.  He had to.  Understood.  And then he screams his frustration.  Again, understood.  And then… that’s it?  Next time we see him, he’s chastising the general for spying on him (and destroys a drone like it’s no big deal)?  He’s talking to his mom about finding a job?  Shouldn’t he take a moment to resolve never to kill again unless necessary?  Shouldn’t humanity realize that they have a huge problem on their hands with a guy whole could blow up a building with a sneeze? The last ten minutes fails on so many levels simply because it doesn’t resolve anything surrounding both Superman killing Zod and humanity’s reaction to so much death and destruction.  It’s honestly confounding.

Furthermore, is this the Superman that they want to do for the 21st century? A super being that doesn’t deal with the repercussions of having tens of thousands of people killed? Of having people hide, then having a superpeople fight in your hometown instead of forcing the fight into the surrounding farmland? It’s the weirdest thing to see, having Superman’s morality clicked off while he’s fighting people and allowing everything to be destroyed around him. If there were something else done, like Zod and his super friends tossing random civilians up in the sky and having Superman go and catch them (exposing a key weakness and using it against him), then there wouldn’t be this discussion. The only time he cares, apparently, is when Lois Lane falls from the sky (twice), and when Zod’s about to vaporize a family at a train station. It’s hardly enough.

*MASSIVE SPOILERS ENDING*

This whole thing is confounding.  Again, there were good things.  There were not so good things.  I wanted this film to be great, and with the promo material they had, they sold it as great.  In the end though, it’s okay-ish to good-ish, and not the great film I think Warner Bros wanted or believed they had.  There is a sequel coming, so we’ll see if there’s any improvement coming down the line (and hopefully explore some of the problems discussed in the preceeding spoiler section).  As it stands, it’s an okay-ish film with some good parts and some rather problematic parts.

[1] Having said that, it’s better than Green Lantern, where Hal just spends most of the movie moping and whining before actually saying that he should go and save the day.  Ugh, why did this film have to ruin Ryan Reynolds for me?

[2] Maybe the conflict was “you can’t save everyone” from his father?  I dunno.  It’s honestly really weird how this call to action was set up, and I doubt I can explain it properly without breaking my brain.  If someone can explain to me what the call to action was, I’ll be thankful to them.

[3] I’m curious if Snyder went “well, I didn’t have enough death and destruction in Watchmen, so let’s multiply that by a lot!” because it definitely feels like he did.