Archive for the ‘TV/Movies’ Category

Musings on Star Trek …

April 3, 2017

So, recently I re-watched the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m also right now re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (I’m currently on season 6). And I’ve watched the original Star Trek a number of times. And one thing that has struck me is how different my reaction to the various series are. When I watch TOS, I am always struck by just how good the series and episodes actually were. This run-through of DS9, at least in the early seasons, I felt the same way. But for TNG I didn’t feel that. Instead, I was struck by a feeling that the episodes weren’t as bad as I thought they were, which isn’t quite the same thing. I did enjoy watching TNG — even some of the first season — but again my main reaction was that I seemed to remember the episodes being worse and there being more episodes that were bad than I noticed this time around. That says something, to me, about the overall quality of the various series.

Also, this time around I’m definitely feeling that the later seasons of DS9 aren’t as interesting as the earlier ones, even though they’re still good. The reason for that, I think, is that the earlier seasons are much more focused on character, while the later ones build into the Dominion War and so are focused much more on plot. But I think that character-focused works stand up better to rewatchings than plot-focused ones do, because once you know the plot there isn’t really anything there to surprise you, and if you’ve forgotten the details of the plot you won’t notice the little details that build into the plot points that you’ve forgotten about. For characters, though, little things that you never really noticed about them come out, and come out even more when you remember details of their character progression. For example, when Doctor Bashir is told that he’s been nominated for the prestigious Carrington Award, he comes across as absolutely panicked … a fact that I had never noticed before, and one that becomes all the more important when it is revealed that he is genetically engineered and spent a lot of effort on making sure that he flew somewhat under the radar to ensure that no one ever found out. Suddenly being thrust into the spotlight had to make him feel the panic of potentially having failed at that and now being very much at risk for being found out.

Deep Space 9 was always one of my favourite of the Star Trek series, so that I’m enjoying it more than TNG is not a surprise. But TNG getting “It’s not as bad as I remember” is. If I ever watched Voyager or Enterprise, I wonder how my reactions would change to those over time …

Ghostbusters 2016: Only now at the end do we understand …

February 27, 2017

So, we’re almost seven months past the, uh, “event” that was Ghostbusters 2016, and all of the attendant drama tying in pretty much every pop culture debate around sex and race that we’ve had for the past few years. There were comments that the movie was terrible, that the movie was great, that the movie would flop, that the movie would soar and revitalize the franchise, and so on and so forth. So, with enough history behind us to judge, let’s look at how it did:

Ghostbusters grossed $128.3 million in North America and $100.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $229.1 million.[3] With a production budget of $144 million, as well as a large amount spent on marketing, the studio stated that the film would need to gross at least $300 million to break even.[74] Before the release, director Paul Feig stated “A movie like this has to at least get to like $500 million worldwide, and that’s probably low.”[75] The Hollywood Reporter estimated the film’s financial losses would be over $70 million.[74][76][77] A representative of Sony found this loss estimate to be “way off,” saying: “With multiple revenue streams […] the bottom line, even before co-financing, is not even remotely close to that number.”[74][76] According to Variety, sources familiar with the film’s financing estimate the total loss to be about $75 million, of which, due to co-financing with Village Roadshow, Sony would lose about $50 million.[78] Sony insiders have projected, along with co-financing, a total loss of about $25 million.[78] Bloomberg News estimated the film lost $58.6 million.[79] As of August 2016, sources such as Forbes and the Wall Street Journal had begun calling Ghostbusters a box office bomb.[7][80][81][82] The film’s performance contributed to Sony taking a $1 billion writedown in January 2017.[83]

Not all that well, it seems. There was originally talk about a sequel being guaranteed, and then that it was up in the air, and finally that there wouldn’t be one. Reviews, in general, were mixed. There was at least in general a sense that women reviewers rated it higher than male ones, which might still be the case. That being said, even the good reviews tended to praise the Social Justice elements and almost lament that the movie itself wasn’t that good, which might explain the gender gap: women who have always wanted to see themselves as Ghostbusters loved that part of it, while men who didn’t have that emotional connection just saw a lackluster movie. (And women who’ve always wanted to think of themselves as Ghostbusters should watch “The Real Ghostbusters” and associate with Janine).

So, for all of the discussions of it and all of the controversy … Ghostbusters 2016 turned out to be a disappointment both critically and financially. I think that the controversy hurt the financials, actually, because I know that after reading all of the debate I had no interest in seeing the movie, especially considering the defenses from the Social Justice side of how inclusive it was and how it seemed to pander to them, and while I am not a Gamergater I am clearly not them either. I imagine there are a number of people who on reading the defenses thought that it was going to be very Social Justice preachy and had no interest in going to a COMEDY of all things that was going to preach at them. That might not have been fair, but again, given what the defenders praised about it it doesn’t seem like it’s that unfair either.

At the end of the day, Feig at all and Sony went about this completely the wrong way. When they got potentially sexist push back, they embraced and fed it in, it seems, a way to generate publicity either for the Social Justice cause or for free attention and advertising. But all that that did was leave a bad taste in pretty much everyone’s mouths. Those solidly on the side of Social Justice would come out to see it anyway on defiant principle, and those on the Gamergate side would avoid it out of principle, but the people in-between — like me — would wonder why they’d even bother to go see something like that. The controversy wasn’t one of “I want to see that for myself” but instead of “Two sets of people who don’t think like I do screaming stupid things at each other”, which does not encourage people to get involved. It wasn’t the car crash, and it wasn’t the explicit sex scene. Instead, it was the author tract. Author tracts don’t get people into the seats to watch a movie.

Star Trek Memories

February 20, 2017

So, I ended up exchanging all of my Hugo Award nominee books for, essentially, the “Star Trek Memories” books by William Shatner. I enjoyed the Star Trek books far, far more than the Hugo Award nominees.

I found the second book — which discussed the Star Trek movies — to be far more engaging than the one covering the series for some reason. However, both of them were quite entertaining reads. Shatner mixes the memories parts with a number of jokes, and often jokes at his own expense. It’s hard to say how arrogant and self-centered he really was on the show, because Shatner admits to it in discussing Nichelle Nichols’ calling him out on it, but from his own recollections he denies that it was an intent to grab the limelight and more an attempt to push for the scene to be done in a way that he thought made sense, which he says that Leonard Nimoy was also pretty insistent on. He admits, though, that often those comments didn’t take into account the other actors and their positions. Which is also a bit refreshing, as Shatner doesn’t spend as much time as you might expect justifying himself and claiming that he didn’t really do or act like that; he essentially cops to it and his big defense is that he didn’t mean it the way it was taken. He’s also pretty effusive in his comments that Nichols, Koenig and Takei, for all of the problems they had with him — only Nichols and Koenig actually told him about that in their interviews — are very, very nice people … at least in part because they were generally at least polite in telling him what they were unhappy about (and Takei didn’t mention it in the interview for that book).

Shatner was also upset that Doohan didn’t even meet with him for the book.

On Star Trek V, the one that he helmed, Shatner isn’t as dismissive of the issues with the movie nor does he blame as much of the movie on the suits as I had expected from watching SF Debris’ comments on it. Yes, he laments the thin budget and that he couldn’t do what he wanted, but for the most part he recognizes changes that made sense and his discussion of how the movie could have turned out with his original idea isn’t entirely implausible. I don’t know if his idea could have worked — the explicit God/Satan angle — but from what he says and from my own viewing of the movie his ideas weren’t terrible. I think that Nimoy and Kelley were right that them abandoning him — at least permanently — didn’t make sense, but I can kinda see what he was going for. At any rate, he blames most of the issues on the various disasters, and less on, merely, the interference from the executives. And he seems rightly bothered by Bennett seemingly accepting the ideas in the hopes of talking him out of them later.

Overall, it’s an interesting read if you are in any way a fan of Star Trek.

Final Thoughts on Friday the 13th, The Series

February 13, 2017

So, after finishing Charmed, I went back to and finished Friday the 13th, The Series. And it’s interesting to watch it after watching Charmed, because they take a similar premise but explore it in different ways, with Charmed being much lighter and not having the depth in the supernatural explanations, but having much better production values and acting, while Friday the 13th has a better overall premise and in general a better grasp of the supernatural elements, but has in general fairly bad production values and acting. Chris Wiggins, who plays Jack Marshak, is generally good, but Robe, who plays Mickey, is uneven. The actor who plays Ryan is generally serviceable, and the actor who plays his replacement Johnny is okay, but mostly because he’s playing a stock character that isn’t that hard to do. The worst, though, tend to be the guest stars; some performances are good, but some are just awful. The scripts often seem awkward, as is the dialogue, but the backgrounds of the cursed objects tend to be interesting. It’s almost the anti-Charmed in a lot of ways: decent backstories for the supernatural elements, a focus on them rather than on the relationships between the leads, a very dark tone, but poor production values, dialogue, and acting.

The first two seasons are better than the third one, especially the last few episodes. Towards the end, you tended to get two types of episodes: episodes that were using the supernatural element as a framework to tell another type of story, and episodes the reveled in the evil and debauchery. As an example of the former, the episode “Jack-in-the-Box” focuses more on the mother and daughter dealing — badly — with their grief over the murder of the father, but most of it could have been done and has been done in standard dramatic series; the Jack-in-the-Box and the murders the little girl does with them are an aside to the story. For the latter, in the earlier seasons, there were more where the objects seemed to corrupt those who owned and used them, and more morally ambiguous cases, while in the later seasons for the most part those who used the items tended to be evil before getting it and just used it to fulfill their evil ends. Sure, that’s an important aspect of the show, but not to be focused on. And the last episode is about the Marquis de Sade, with Mickey writing about how charismatic he is, ramping up the focus on evil and what might well be called the prurient interest, which made the episodes less interesting to watch.

That being said, it’s was still an interesting show. I’d like to see it tried again with better production values, writing and acting, but I think it would end up more like the third season than like an improved version of the first. I might watch this series again.

Final Thoughts On Charmed

January 30, 2017

After finishing it, I pretty much stand by my initial statement: the series falls in-between Charlie’s Angels and Buffy/Angel.

Part of this reason for this is that it doesn’t seem to me that the writing is particularly good. They seemed to try to set up a lot of little plot and character threads — especially in the later seasons — and then try to wrap all of them up in the last few episodes. But there were always too many of them, and so most of the time everything just seemed rushed and not properly closed. The worst, for me, was the Season 6 finale and the start of Season 7, but even the last episode ran into this. Sure, showing Leo and Piper as grandparents was nice, but it was too short to work as a finale-defining moment for them and didn’t fit well enough into the plot — ie it didn’t do anything wrt the plot — to come across as anything other than that, and they had to quickly resolve all of the plot threads, including getting Billie to kill Christy, which then had little impact because it was both so sudden and they didn’t follow up on Billie’s obvious grief and problems from having to do that. Which they couldn’t do because the episode and series was almost over.

This, I think, is also driven by their attempts to develop the supernatural plots more than they started out doing. In the early seasons, for the most part the supernatural was the backdrop against which the personal problems of the witches were displayed and developed, but later the details of demons, warlocks, the Elders, the Avatars, and so on and so forth were explored more. While this made the show deeper, they also did indeed keep the personal problems as well, leaving all of those various issues in need of resolution, with none really being more important to the series than the others. This made for very crowded seasons.

That being said, I don’t think they could have kept that focus on the personal issues of the Charmed Ones because even with the show not having that as the sole focus their personal problems wore thin. The problem here was that they didn’t really turn those problems into personality traits, showing how them having those problems came critically from who they are, and then using those traits as plot points. Instead, they kept revisiting the problems, and so they never really evolved all that much in the series. Your mileage may vary on this point, but to me it really seemed like they kept doing the same problems over and over again.

I think the problem with Billie suffered from this repetitiveness as well. At the start, you had Phoebe in love with being a witch, Piper wanting to be normal, and Prue kinda in between. Then Paige replaced Prue and you had Paige excited about her powers, Piper still wanting to be normal, and Phoebe somewhere in between. At the point where Billie entered, she came in with the same annoying “I love my powers and love kicking demon butt!” attitude, but while Paige was trying to rein her in, it was really the same story over again — and the same lessons — in someone who wasn’t a Charmed One at all. We’d seen it all before and Billie didn’t tie as tightly to the sisters and so we didn’t even have that three-way conflict to balance it out.

The worst part, though, was all of the times that the problems in the episodes were created by the sisters abusing magic in a way that they ought to have known would cause problems because it did all the other times. Most of the time, it was their own stupidity that got them in trouble, and less the amazingly intelligent machinations of their enemies. So many problems could have been avoided by the sisters talking to each other, not casting dangerous magic, or admitting that they had when they did. It got annoying over time.

That being said, it’s definitely watchable. The plots are interesting enough to give a focus to the episodes, the characters are interesting enough to not bore, and are all pretty easy on the eyes. As I said, between Charlie’s Angels and Buffy/Angel.

First Thoughts On: Charmed

January 4, 2017

So, right at the beginning of December, right before going on vacation, I stopped into the local HMV to look for deals on TV series on DVD, and picked up a few things. I bought “Wings”, the original “Beauty and the Beast”, and the original “Ghostbusters” soundtrack. I also managed to find two things that I had been looking for for ages: the “Top Gun” soundtrack … and, as should be evident from the title, the complete series of “Charmed”.

Now, Charmed was another one of those series that I had watched parts of out of most of the seasons of the entire series, but never really sat down and completely watched. I remembered it fondly, but couldn’t find a good deal on it anywhere, or at least one where the comments didn’t say “The glue might run and ruin it so you might have to send it back”. So seeing it there for a reasonable price — about $1 an hour of entertainment if I only watched it once — made me decide that, yeah, I should get it. And I started watching it.

So what do I think of it?

As the TV Tropes page says — and I’ll spare you the link to it — the first couple of seasons were much more melodramatic. I myself thought of them as more “soap operaish”, focusing on personal drama and relationship drama and less on the details of the warlocks and demons. To be honest, it had all of the melodrama and angst of the later Buffy seasons, only more so, which could grate at times. But once they started getting into the more serious supernatural arcs, it definitely improved, even if the themes mostly stayed the same … and migrated from character to character. For example, at the end of season four the Charmed Ones get a choice of changing their destiny and deciding whether to keep their powers or live a normal life. Piper from the start railed against not having a normal life, Phoebe always thought that the powers were the most wonderful things in the world, and the new witch Paige was just entering into it. It made sense that Paige would take over the “enthusiastic” part, since she had mostly experienced the excitement and power and less of the downsides of constantly being attacked. But the person who was most adamant that they should give up their powers was … Phoebe? And Piper was the swing vote, at least initially? Sure, you can argue that as the eldest sister (now) she wasn’t comfortable arguing that aggressively … except that she didn’t have any problem doing it, oh, for the rest of the season or even the rest of the episode. It would have worked best — even given the roles of the sisters — for Piper to push for returning to a normal life, Paige for keeping them, and Phoebe being torn: remembering how much she loved the powers but also noting how much heartache not being normal has caused everyone. And it would even have made it better that, if I recall correctly, she was the one who suggested looking further into the “witch hunter”, and then her line at the end that helping someone made her feel good, while keeping Piper’s line of making it unanimous while outvoted still make as much if not more sense. About the only thing it doesn’t do is allow for Piper to be just going along with what the others wanted the whole time … but as the swing vote she wasn’t doing that anyway. At best, she was going along with whatever Phoebe wanted, which if built upon would be creating a rift for later between her and Paige, which is not really what they’d want at this point after taking the entire season healing that rift.

That being said, I think it does mostly avoid “Aesop Amnesia”, mostly because the structure of the story, at least through Season 4, is such that they don’t really learn an aesop, but instead accept things. That, for example, Piper would accept that her life is not going to be normal but continue to have the desire for a normal life isn’t really “Aesop Amnesia”, but more reflects her frustrations boiling over at not being able to have what she really wants while understanding that there’s a higher purpose that she has to put first.

All of the main actresses are attractive and the show, to be honest, really wants to highlight that, which I don’t particularly mind. I’d classify it, so far, as a smarter and deeper supernatural “Charlie’s Angels”: Attractive people doing attractive things with a plot that lets them do the attractive things and keep your attention when the attractive things aren’t as prominent, except that the plots and characters are better and build on arcs. In a sense, it fits between a show like “Charlie’s Angels” and a show like “Buffy/Angel”: the plot details and characters are more detailed and can stand on their own more than the former, but it still has fanservice as more of the main appeal than the latter as the plots aren’t that strong. But it’s still entertaining.

It’s Magic …

November 23, 2016

Dinner, it turns me upside down
Dinner, dinner, dinner
It’s like a merry go round
I see it under the midnight
All steamers and bowls
High pans with the meat a sizzlin’
A tempermental glow

Oh, think it’s time to go
Oh, I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo tonight
Oh, I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo (I’m gonna have some spoo)
I’ll check

(Oh oh it’s magic) when I eat spoo (oh oh it’s magic)
(Oh oh it’s magic) just a little magic
You know it’s true
I’m gonna have some spoo

Oh, twisted under sideways down
I know I’m getting twisted
And I can’t calm down
I see it under the midnight
Love darts in my eyes
How far can I take it?
‘Till I realize
There’s magic in my eyes

I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo tonight
I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo
(I’m gonna have some spoo) yeah, yeah, uh

(Oh oh, it’s magic)
Oh oh, when I have spoo
(Oh oh, it’s magic)
Just a little bit of the magic
Pulls me through
I’m gonna have some spoo

I’m gonna have some spoo
I’m gonna have some spoo
(I’m gonna have some spoo)
Just try, it’s magic
(Oh oh, it’s magic)
Oh oh, it’s magic
When I eat spoo (oh oh, it’s magic)

Just a little bit of magic inside of you (Oh oh, it’s magic)

Just a little bit of magic
That’s true, when I eat spoo
(Oh oh, it’s magic)
(It gotta be magic)
Your magic pulls me through
Oh oh, it’s magic
(Oh oh, it’s magic)

Why Can’t I Have Spoo?

November 16, 2016

I’ve been watching Babylon 5 and listening to The Cars lately, and it has inspired another song parody:

My dreamy lips, set in motion, flashing
Their breathless hush, poundin’ soft, lasting
Oh glossy mouth, a taste untamed, moving
Carousel, up and down
Just like spoo

Oh baby
Just one more time to touch spoo
Just one more time to eat spoo
It’s on my mind
Baby, why can’t I have spoo?
It’s breakin’ my heart in two
You know what I’m goin’ through
Oh baby, why can’t I have spoo?

Oh candy smile, all the while, glinting
Your eyes like mica, a lethal pout, hinting
(Felt the pressure)
Oh and I felt the pressure, tight and warm, softly striking
(Oh tripped and stumbled)
Oh I tripped and stumbled
I cling forever
I’ll eat tonight

Oh baby
Just one more time to touch spoo
Just one more time to eat spoo
I think I’m blind
Baby, why can’t I have spoo?
It’s breakin’ my heart in two
You know what I’m goin’ through
Uh oh baby, why can’t I have spoo?

(Baby) oh baby (why can’t I have spoo?) why can’t I have spoo?
You know what I’m goin’ through
(It’s breakin’ my heart in two)
It’s breakin’ my heart, breakin’ my heart
(Don’t know what I’m gonna do)
(You’re breakin’ my heart) breakin’ my heart
(Baby) oh baby (why can’t I have spoo?) I need spoo
(You know what I’m goin’ through)
It’s breakin’ my heart (it’s breakin’ my heart in two)
Oh baby, I need spoo so much, I need spoo, much
(Don’t know what I’m gonna do)
(You’re breakin’ my heart)
(Baby) oh baby (why can’t I have spoo?)
(You know what I’m goin’ through)

What to Watch?

November 4, 2016

So, as I’m sure you’ve all heard me mention on a number of occasions, I’m insanely busy with work right now, a situation that isn’t likely to change all that much for at least another month. Because of this, I radically reworked and simplified my schedule to try to get work, housework, and other things I want to do in, which involved relying on, for example there being sports on TV on so that I could watch them while playing a game. And then I decided that maybe doing other things in that timeslot was as if not more important, shuffling things around a bit.

At any rate, all of this schedule shuffling left me with one issue to resolve that I’ve been kicking around for at least the past two months: what should I be watching in those brief moments when I have time to watch TV? Originally, I planned to use the time to watch some things on Shomi … at which point they promptly canceled the service. But I’ve been cycling through a number of DVDs in an attempt to find something that fits, which has been … unsuccessful.

The issue is that I have to balance differing time blocks with different requirements. My current main TV watching time is from about 7 pm – 8:30 pm in the evening, and it was this that I originally planned for. I started with shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, but there’s an issue with half-hour shows: I don’t want to have to select the next episode every 20 minutes, but if I put it on “Play All” in the evening time block I end up falling asleep and ending up waking up half-way through an episode, and not really wanting to stay up later to finish it. So, “Play All” is out. Except that the other main time block is when I’m playing games, and for those cases I really want to put it on “Play All”, so that if I’m engrossed in the action in a game when the episode ends I don’t have to remember to go to the next episode. So for the evening I want to select the episodes individually, and for playing games I want it to run automatically. But if the two don’t align, I might end up with, say, an episode left on the disk when I sit down to play games, which means that I’d have only one episode to get through before being forced to get up and change the disk, which isn’t ideal. And, also, if I’m half-way through a disk the “Play All” would require me to either watch the episodes I just watched again, or else skip ahead to the episodes that I haven’t.

So, ideally, I want a selectable, hour-long show in the evening and something that I can do “Play All” on for playing games. There’s also potentially while I’m eating, but that tends to have similar requirements to the evening selection, except that my time is definitely more flexible there. Now, in the past I simply had a different DVD for my evening watching and for when I’m playing games, but that was when I had more time to watch TV than I do now. Based on my current and future work schedule, it would take me months to get through one series, let alone two. I’m likely to distract myself with something else before finishing anything. On top of that, I have vacation time coming up in December, and there I might play games a lot more than I can or will watch TV in the evening, which would mean that watching that would dominate my watching … or maybe not. Still, it’d be really nice to use the same series when my TV watching is going to be so sporadic.

I’ve tried/considered:

Yu-Gi-Oh: The duels are what’s interesting, and thus falling asleep during episodes meant that I often missed the best part.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Needed a “Play All”, which meant I fell asleep in the middle of episodes, and it wasn’t interesting enough to just watch, which is nice for the times when I don’t feel like reading anymore but don’t feel like going to sleep.

Get Smart: Fell asleep in the middle of episodes.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Doesn’t have a “Play All”.

Charlie’s Angels: Got distracted by something else. Don’t really want to have this be the only thing I’m watching for six months.

Buck Rogers: Got distracted by something else. Not as generally good as the other options.

Smallville: Nine seasons are too long.

Sliders: Could work.

Quantum Leap: Could work.

Married … With Children: Thanks, TV Tropes! But it’s a half hour show.

Angel/Buffy: No “Play All”.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: No “Play All”.

New BSG: Repeat episodes are annoying in the evening, and would shift the episode list too much.

V: Too short.

Old BSG: Too short.

Friday the 13th: The Series: Alhough I was enjoying it, I didn’t want it to be the only TV I was watching for the next few months.

Right now, considering that I was likely going to be watching this through December as well, the current choice is … Babylon 5. Because, heck, I might as well go back to my Christmas tradition, hope to get through it by the end of the year, and then figure out a new schedule when things are back to normal in January. We’ll see how this goes.

Thoughts on X-Men: Apocalypse

November 2, 2016

So, I recently watched the latest X-Men movie, and as a long-time X-Man all I can say is that I was very, very disappointed in it and it might well be the worst of the X-Men movies, at least in my opinion.

Since this is a relatively recent movie, my thoughts on it will be below the fold: