Sunday, January 31, 2010

Deep Space Nine Introduction

As my reviews of all Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes proved, I have the self-discipline to maintain a six month long writing project as long as a Rottweiler does not tackle me. Since the little varmint has been exiled to the yard, it looks nothing should prevent me from covering the run of Deep Space Nine uninterrupted.

Now that I have written that, watch me got laid out for a month.

I am moreethusiastic about covering DS9 than I was about TNG. It is my favorite of all the trek series. I felt that way even in the early seasons when the show dealt mostly with Bajoran/Cardassian relations and religion. It only got better as the Dominion War storyline came into play. I anticipate certain aspects of the story are going to take on a whole new meaning in the post-9/11 world, conceding the series ended its seven year run two years before the war on terror began.

One of the main themes I am going to run with is that DS9 is a conservative show. Now, I am under no illusions any of the creators of DS9 were deliberately making a conserativestatement. An hour’s worth of Google searches has confirmed has confirmed declarations of progressive allegiance by a good portion of the creative staff, including from Ronald d. Moore, who surprised me a bit. More than likely, Ds9 was a rebellion against the restrictions Gene Roddenberry forced on the writers of TNG in order to conform with his communist utopian fantasy. The opposite of said utopia is reality and since conservatism is realty, Ds9 winds up conservative by default.

If you require a more substantativeargument, I have come up with a four points I will be revisiting any number of times.

First, identity politics is taken as a given. Sisko is a captain who happens to be black, not a black captain. His race does play a factor from time to time, but it logically flows from the story. He does not have an axe to grind. Likewise, Kira is strong female character, but not a feminist. She is the first officer who just happens to be afemale, not afemale fist officer, hear her roar. There are a couple instances where Dax’s interactions take on lesbian overtones beause not all her past lives were of the same gender. Again, it is taken as a given. I will concede it is played for the fourteen year old virgins in the audience more than a mature relationship, butyou cannot have it all.

Tied into this is a more honest look at aliens than ever before. Too often, trek aliens are presented as one dimensional creatures in desperate need of enlightenment by the human run Federation. They are also thinly veiled references to some aspect of humanity offensive to progressivism.

Consider the Ferengi as the primary example. They were introduced as a critique of capitalism, with all its evil, greedy trappings. During the run of TNG, there were hardly any attempts to make them more complex or sympathetic. While they do still have buffoonish tendencies on DS9, they get a chance to be heroic on a number of occasions. The Klingons are Cardassians were similarly fleshed out in respective ways.

Second religion isrespected and defended. I daresay Ds9 is the only trek seriesto deal with religion in a fair handed manner. In the past, has been viwed as either an innocuous backdrop--the ship’s chapel in ’Balance of Terror,” Christmas is still celebrated, etc--orthe patronizingly accepted practice of alien races far beneath enlightened humanity. Granted, religion does not always come across as being on the side of the righteous, but that just plays into the realism of Ds9. I can handle an honest look at religion, for better and worse, when it isdone right.

Third, moral relativism is not the norm. Sisko is a flaed man. He will often do unethical or immoral things in the name of the greater god, but it always is for the greater good. That cannot always besaid for therest of Trek. Take Piard, for example. He hadan opportunity to use Hugh as a biological weapon to destroy the Borh Collective, thereby saving millions o lives. But he decided that as Hugh became more of a person the loger he was away from the Collective, it ecame more important to respect his individual rights rather than preserve the countless lives the Borg will destroy if they were allowed to carry on.

Consider Janeway, as well, even though I have not covered VOY. She is often prompted to do immoral acts in the name of towing the party line. In certain episodes, she is willing to allow genocide in order to prerve the integrity of the Prime Directive.

DS9 did not makea habit of pushing its characters to make such moral decisions without considering the big picture. I will not sit hereand tell you the right choice was always made, either, but moral compromises but those compromises were either made for a hiher purpose or consequences were paid. No one lucked out conveniently as wasso often done with moral compromise on TNG or VOY.

The same goes for the bad guys. The Dominion are very clearly not on the side of angels without ever falling into silly mustache twirling villainy or being explained away by cultural differences. Yet there is still a clear distinction made between the white hats and the black. The war is not just a matter of believing who is right because of what planet you live on.

Finally, there was a good sense of family. It is rare on Trek to see this. Outside of the apparently solid relationhip Kirk hadwithhis Brother George, practically everyone else has daddy issues, momy issues, strained relations with their children, or no time for families at all. On DS9, we have the Siskos, the O’Brienes, the Bashires willing to genetically alter their son to guarantee his success, and, for better or worse, mature romantic relationships for virtually every cast member. the situation stands in stark contrast to dysfunctional families serving as the Trek norm.

There will be other themes running throughout parts of DS9 I will cover as we get to them, but the above is the heart of the show. One big difference in how my reviews are going to run is that Ds9 wasa much moreeven show. It did not have a rough and tumble first couple years before rising in quality for several seasons only to come crashing down. There is good stuff in every season, including some very long stretches of intriguing story arcs. I do not foresee many dry spells asthere have been in covering TOSand TNG. But we will see starting tomorrow, no?

Blogroll Spotlight XXX

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. As usual, these are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title.

Amusing Bunni's musings liveblooged the State of the Union.

Big Feed has video evidence of Barack Obama flipping the finger to Republican House members.

Camp of the Saints has the quote of the day.

Classic Liberal has an ode to bloggers. Yes, it includes me. Mentioning me will definitely get you a link.

Daley Gator examines Keith Olbermann's list of racist code words.

Five Feet of Fury reveals the level of taxation that prompted the American Revolution. take a guess before clicking the link.

Jaded Haven talks about A Deficit of Trust.

Left Coast Rebel proves the climate chief faked glacier evidence.

MAinfo met Chuck DeVore.

Mind Numbed robot examines the entitlement mentality.

Other McCain asks if the Scott Brown phenomenon can go nationwide. I do not know, but I am curious if it will boost Mitt Romney's prospects for 2012 and whether I really want it to.

Proof Positive invites us to board the Healthcare Titanic. Proof Positive is also the blogroll Spotlight for the week.

Self-Evident truths has Andrew Klaven's latest comment on cultural perception between progressives andconservatives.

Teresamerica has Rush Limbaugh's letter to obama.

Troglopundit takes the next logical step in motivators.

Washington rebel rejoices the republic will be preserved by obama's meddling with the BCS.

Kristen Bell

When in Rome flopped at the box office, but the lovely Kristen Bell is still tops in my book.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Barack Obama Got No Post-State of the Union Bounce

Gallup still has him at 47% approval, the worst of his presidency.

If he did not get a bounce after setting his agenda for the coming year, now what? I assume by pointing his finger at everyone but himself last Wednesday while not offering up any clear policy initiatives he himself will take the lead on, he is setting everyone else to continue taking the blame for his continued failure.

Compounding the problem? Most voters think he is lying.

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around XXXIII

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

The Other McCain links to Evangeline Lilly.

The Classic Liberal links to Kaley Cuoco.

Proof Positive weighs in on Obama's use of the TOTUS in a sixth grade classroom.

ARRA NewsService weighs in on TOTUS as well.

Troglopundit disagreed with me about the Caprica pilot.

Amusing Bunni's Musings added me to a post on Obama's less than Midas touch.

The Big feed is inspired by Emmy Rossum. Who is not?

A sincere thank you to all who linked. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

Tina Fey

Friday, January 29, 2010

Caprica--"Rebirth"

As I mentioned last week, I watched the Caprica pilot back in April, so I skipped the first airing last Friday. Truth be told, my enthusiasm had waned. some readers get defensive at me saying so, but I am not a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It always struck me as a teenie bopper show. Jane Esperson’s promise Caprica Would appeal to Buffy fans had me nervous.

The second episode was penned by another Battlestar Galactica vet besides Esperson, Mark Verheiden. Verheiden wrote some of the best BSG episodes of the later seasons, such as ‘The Road Less Traveled, Crossroads, Part II,” and ’The Oath.” I appreciated they were going to hand over at least one of the tone setting early episodes to him. My faith in Verheiden was confirmed. My enthusiasm for Caprica has been piqued.

Is it a teen angst show? It probably will cover that territory quite often and my 33 year old self will probably wince uncomfortably at it. I thought Hollywood overplayed faux teen drama even when I was a teenager. But for now, I see a misunderstood monster theme rising. I am a huge fan of the Frankenstein’s monster mythology, from the original novel to Boris Karloff’s portrayal, and even a dash of the cheapo Hammer Horror films of the ’60’s. it is right up my alley.

Inexplicably to this good Calvinist, many BSG fans were upset about the Divine Plan aspect of the show’s conclusion. I am curious how they are going to react to the trinity allusions here. The misunderstood monster is part Zoe, part avatar, and part robot. Admittedly, that is not exactly the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but it does not miss it by much. Consider Zoe’s rebellious monotheism when pondering the comparison.

I can already sense how we are going to be manipulated into sympathizing with the eventual Cylon rebellion. Half the time, we see Zoe as the cold, metal machine and she is treated like oe. Other times, we view her avatar image exactly as it was at the party in the pilot. Her presence puts a human face on what will become a merciless killing machine. Can only a pretty girl effectively do that? Another question to ponder.

I liked how the background was fleshed out more. We got to see much more of society here than in the pilot. The mix of the retro, with some ’50’s style of dress, with some decidedly peculiar additions, such as polyamory relationships, help boost the notion Caprica is taking place in the past, yet is more futuristic than our society. It isa good mix george Lucas could not manage in the StarWars prequels.

The bulk of the story was about Daniel Graystone and Joseph Adama’s falling out and the aftermath of the terrorist bombing, complete with Amanda’s admission Zoe was responsible for it. Was anyone else surprised to learn Sam the mobster was Joseph’s brother? I do not recall that being made clear in the pilot, but my memory may be fuzzy on that one. Regardless, I liked “Rebirth.” I think it shows promise for the rest of the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

First Four Minutes of Lost Season Premiere

Major spoiler ahead, so beware:

Barack Obama's Growing Disinterest in the Presidency

Reading Byron York’s article speculating Barack Obama is bored with being president, I feel confident enough to say what I started kicking around halfway through the state of the union speech; Obama is not going to run for reelection. I am not indulging in wishful thinking here. There are signs.

The easiest way I can describe Obama is that he reminds me of Bush 41. The elder Bush thought he was entitled to be president because it was the next logical step in his career path, not necessarily because he wanted it. Bush 41 had little to no interest in domestic policy. His staff often had to craft domestic issues in terms of foreign policy to hold his attention. For Bush 41, the nuts and bolts of running a country were not as interesting as leaving his mark on international affairs. The economic downturn of the time probably could have been lessened had he bee more dedicated.

Flash ahead to now. Obama was running on a high during the build up to his election win. He was a novelty act people were enamored with and it appealed to his narcissism. He liked drawing hue crowds who ate up his grandiose ideas of rolling back the oceans and healing the planet. He probably believed his own hype. Whether he did or not, I do not think he was prepared for the reality of being president.

The State of the Union speech is written by presidential handlers with very little input other than the overall tone, but note what the overall tone was--he was frustrated by not being able to do everything he wanted and blamed everyone else, including his own party, for it. Remember back in the first week after the inauguration when he told Republican congressional leaders they needed to accept his policy ideas because, “I won?” He was not just talking to them. He meant everybody needs to give him what he wants.

Remember that nothing is bigger than he is. The Olympics needed to come to Chicago because that was his hometown. The fall of the Berlin Wall was inexplicably a factor in his becoming president. His potential was justification in his own mind to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. All these claims he has made without an ounce of shame. Even now, at the lowest pint of his young presidency, he tells the Democrats his presence makes landslide losses election loses like in 1994 impossible for 2010. It is always about his ego, even when the reality is to the contrary to everyone else.

Nothing bursts an ego quite like failure. Obama has not been ableto pass much of any of his agenda, he has lost the respect of most of the world’s leaders, assuming heever had it, and worse yet, is dropping in popularity. I doubt he will beable to stand it for potentially another seven years.

Democrats are getting the picture as well. Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about serving as a one term Secretary of State can be oversold as a hint she wants to challenge Obama in the primaries, but it cannot be dismissed out of hand. The party is in complete disarray at the moment because Obama, the de facto party leader, not only cannot set an agenda, but cannot honestly take any responsibility for not doing so. Look what happened when Bush 43 lost his way. The republicans could not get things together and wound up with the 72 year old, grumpy party scold as its standard bearer. Certainly the Democrats were paying attention to that.

A couple things could happen to turn things around. The economy might have a turn around, giving Obama a boost. He may be looking forward to getting back among adoring crowds so much he will mount a hopeless reelection bid with the rationale he can win people back over with his wonderfulness, but in reality it is just his ego stroking. I do not know. Narcissists need very little encouragement to think they are the center of the universe and they can never be convinced it is not true. One can only wonder whether frustration will eventually overwhelm Obama to the point the quits.

Jessica Alba

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Burn Notice--"Friendly Fire"

I was a bit under whelmed by this one. The episode was an effort to personalize sam by revealing some of his past while conveniently offering Michael a chance to ’audition’ for Gilroy. But the plot did not measure up to either task. It was ust sort of run of the mill.

Sam’s old SEAL friend Mack shows up. Turns out Sam has an ax to grind we do not get the full story on until later. Mack stole Sam’s wife years ago. He never forgave him for it, but when Mack comes looking for help catching a child trafficker, the greater good prevails.

The greater good might have prevailed, but it did not raise the episode much above average. Michael, Sam, and Fiona stage gang war in order to flush out Mack’s guy. There was nothing especially exciting about it, which is why I am puzzled this was the operation Gilroy was spying on Michael to size him up. He liked what he saw, since he and Michael appear to be in business with whatever nefarious scheme Gilroy has going.

They are setting Gilroy up to be a major psychopath who would even sell nuclear arms to terrorists for the right price. He is bad enough news Michael is playing up his sacrifice my soul for the holy cause motif from the previous episode, but kicking it up a notch. He may never get unburned after hooking up with this guy. I hope they are not hyping Gilroy up so much his actual plan is a let down. Seriously, if Michael has already hited Gilroy would sell nukes, what could top that?

But that is mostly set up for the future. The gang war story was weak, but some personal moments made an effort to buoy it. Sam does eventually forgive mack for stealing his wife while Fiona and Michael finally hook up for a night. As a surprise, he takes her to a luxury hotel for reasons other than surveillance in answer to an off hand remark she made at the beginning of the episode. Thoughtful, no?

“Friendly Fire” could have been better if the mission of the week and more meat in it. As it was, I am surprised Gilroy was impressed with Michael. It was not one of his better outings. The Sam and Mack tiff was resolved why too quickly and solely with Madeleine’s intervention. But I guess old war horses have a special bond that lets them get passed stuff like that.

Rating: ** (out of5)

Burn Notice--"A Dark Road"

I should have reviewed this last week, but I completely forgot Burn Notice was back until flipping channels early Saturday afternoon when I discovered one of the umpteen repeats. I am glad it is back. Burn Notice has just the right mix of contemporary coolness and ’80’s nostalgia.

Speaking of ’80’s nostalgia, there was a double whammy this week. Tyne Daly showed up as one of Michael’s “assets” who winds up befriended by Madeleine before she has to be blackmailed into serving Michael’s ends. I was not a Cagney & Lacy guy back in the day, but I know a number of people who were, so I can appreciate what it must have meant for them to see Daly and Sharon Gless back together again.

The conflict the situation sets up between Madeleine and Michael feels like one that is going to run through the remainder of the season. The last time around, the issue was Fiona’s belief Michael had changed too much to go back ito the spy business. He has lost much of his cold, emotionless demeanor. Obviously, he ultimately still has it, since he used Madeleine’s new friend so brutally. Yet he finally let us in on his rationale--Michael is not only an ends justifies the means kind of guy, but he thinks he is on a holy cause. People need him, so he has to sacrifice some of his soul to help them. For his mother’s sake, he righted the wrong he had done to her friend, but I am sure the overall question of who or what will Michael sacrifice for the greater will come up again.

The ’80’s nostalgia that did resonate for me was the insurance plot with its good old fashioned private eye work and elaborate car chase. How long has it been since we have seen one of those? The actual scam was not anything special, but at least it avoided the formula that often plagues Burn Notice. It is all right, considering how small a role the plot played in the episode.

We saw the beginning of the new mystery arc with Gilroy, a foreign spy who has taken an interest in Michael. We have not yet gotten enough clues to figure out his game, but I am intrigued. At the very least, we seem to be shifting away from Michael trying to get himself unburned before that plot gets too overdrawn.

Not a bad start to the season. Enjoyable, but not too monumental. I suppose the interplay between Madeleine and Michael was supposed to was supposed tug more on the heartstrings than it did for me, so other fans into their relationship may rate this one higher.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

J. D. Salinger (1919-2010)

Get ready for an avalanche of self-important intellectuals harping over how much Catcher in the Rye means to them. Someone might even shoot a celebrity to prove their point.

Here is an obituary in case you saw something special in Holden Caulfield. Lord help you if you did.

Great Moments in Progressive Racial Sensitivty

For a while there during the State of the Union speech, Chris Matthews forgot Barack Obama was black: Matthews does not clarify whether he forgot Obama was black because he agrees with Joe Biden that he is clean and articulate or with Harry Reid that Obama is light skinned without a Negro dialect.

We have at least three more years of Obama, so I am certain progressives will offer up plenty more racial insights to guide us along for the duration.

Leia at the Beach

Oh, my.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Reaction

If you did not watch the State of the Union, you missed the most self-righteous, scolding speech I have ever heard an elected official give--and I have heard John McCain speak on more than one occasion. The gist of it was that although Barack Obama ran on a platform of change, all you worthless ingrates are not helping him at all.

More specifically:

He blamed Republican for every evil of the last decade, from budget deficits and the housing bubble to torturing terrorists and that Gigli movie Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez made during the ten minutes they were an item. More recently, their obstructionist agenda has prevented him from passing his policy initiatives through Congress even though democrats have overwhelming majorities in both.

He scolded democrats for paying attention to their constituents’ concerns instead of just ramming through the holy agenda that Republicans have evidently been impenetrably obstructing. Chage is not easy or popular.

Then he announced he will force a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You could see how well that went over by the stern looks on the military brass present. They looked almost as thrilled as when Obama announced to our enemies when we will be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ah, but the class warfare hints were the best. Obama blasted the Supreme Court--right in front of them, no less--for the Citizens United decision. Obama made it clear the enemy is Wall Street, corporations, lobbyists, and pretty much anyone making $ 250,000 a year or more.

I was skeptical this morning when I heard about the proposed federal spending freeze. I am even more so now. The proposed freeze would not take effect until 2011. In the interim, Obama has proposed Spending of jobs programs, education, and probably another stimulus, considering how highly he praised the first one. The best part? The announcement was met first with dead silence, then laughter--even by Democrats.

All Obama demonstrated tonight is that he is arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic, incompetent, and unnaturally skillful at alienating everyone.

CBS to Air Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad Starring Tim Tebow

A final decision may still come down on the negative side, but for now, CBS has agreed to air a $ 2.5 million anti-abortion commercial from Focus on the Family starring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother.

Critics assert CBS is violating its longstanding policy of not airing advertisementsdurin sporting events which advocate one side or another of a controversial issue. CBS rejected an anti-Bush advertisement fro MoveOn.org in 2004 and a gay friendly message from the united Church of Christ. However, CBS feels the Focus on the Family advertisement is acceptable.

I am not naïve about this. CBS fears the lobbying power of Focus on the Family’s followers more than that of anti-abortion activists. The decision is not a change in moral character or an endorsement of the pro-life stance. It is an effort to keep Christian activists happy while hoping everyone else is too distracted by the game to worry with it.

But I am going to cast aside my cynical side for a moment and celebrate such a commercial is going to appear during the Super Bowl no matter how skeptical I am of the rationale. God uses all sorts of unusual things to work for his glory. I think abortion ought to be elevated well beyond a controversial issue. It is the taking of a human life and that ought not be a debatable issue in the first place. Hopefully, may watching the ad will think about it and come to the same conclusion.

Those critics who are snickering that of course Tebow’s mother is glad she chose life since her son is about to become n NFL multimillionaire need to examine your own black hearts. I am attempting a more positive outlook in the new year. Why do you not give it a shot, too?

The Daley Gator has a few words on the matter.

What to Expect in the State of the Union Speech Tonight

According to The Atlantic, here are Barack Obama's talking points along with my initial reactions:
(1) Non-defense, non-discretionary budget freeze.
Too little, too late, but better than nothing.
(2) Salary freeze for WH and political appointees.
Nearly irrelevant drop in the bucket.
(3) Tax cuts and credits aimed at the middle and working classes.
Obama already promised a tax cut for 95% of Americans which never materialized, so I will believe it when I see it.
(4) Education funding.
From where? Not only are we broke, but Obama is going to pledge a spending freeze.
(5) Call for Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal.
Who cares?

The gesture is meaningless anyway. All Obama has to do is sign an executive order ending the policy. he has not done it yet. This is just another way Democrats stringing homosexuals along with the promise of doing something great for them, but never delivering. It is patronizing, but it works.
(6) Call for amnesty.
Because that has worked so well in the past. Americans want tougher immigration laws and illegals deported for breaking the law. Promoting amnesty is another indicator of the Democrats' suicidal tendencies.
(7) Call for legislative attack on the financial industry.
We are a capitalist society, so naturally the president must attack the capitalists. So Obama's solution to our economic crisis is to promote class warfare? Spoken like a true socialist.

Do not expect much out of this speech.

Star Trek: Nemesis

If you want proof trek had run its course in the Rick Berman/Brannon Braga era, look no further than Star Trek: Nemesis. Seriously, if you look any further, you will have to watch episodes of ENT. That show was not fit for human consumption.

I am not fond of Nemesis. I will get to why in a minute, but I am not alone. There was a profound lack of enthusiasm for the film. It premiered on Friday, December 13th 2002 (I am not a superstitious soul, by the way) behind Jennifer Lopez’s Maid in Manhattan. It was the only trek film to not premiere at number one at the box office. It wound up the lowest grossing trek film, earning a little less than $ 44 million.

As the ultimate insult, several cast members, including LeVar Burton and Marina Sirtis, have gone on record as saying they did not like the film. Consider how tightly Paramount controls all news coming out of the trek office when considering the significance. Nevertheless, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner have all praised the film, so there must be some virtue, right?

Let me add my personal twist before answering the question. Nemesis was the first Trek film besides The Motion Picture I did not rush to see. It was released during exam time in my second year of law school. Chalk it up to my being frazzled by briefs and oral arguments, but Nemesis did not inspire the enthusiasm in me most trek did. Granted, I was also at a Christian law school in which the largely vanilla study body thought enjoying science fiction was one step below practicing witchcraft, so I had to keep my enjoyment on the down low. It was tough. Insurrection had been released on my birthday in 1998. I went to see it with a couple friends and we made a day of it. Nothing like that could ever happen at Savonarollas at regent.

Anyway, I finally watched Nemesis on DVD quietly one night on DVD. I did not like it. I wanted to like it. This was going to be the last hurrah for TNG and I wanted it to go out with a bang. But just could not pull it off. Nemesis failure comes down to three problems: continuity errors, Brent Spiner’s vanity, and logical flaws.

It is easy to name who is responsible for the continuity errors. Director Stuart Baird had never seen an episode of TNG when he agreed to direct Nemesis. Word has it he kept referring to LeVar Burton as Laverne, which may explain why Burton has publicly stated he hates the film. (Troi’s sexual assault may explain Sirtis’ frank assessment.) It is never a good thing to hand over a project with years of continuity and an army of dedicated, nitpicking fans over to someone completely unaware of what has gone before.

I am a bit more forgiving towards screenwriter John Logan. He claims to be a ardent Trek fan. At the time he was hired to write the script for Nemesis, he was coming off gladiator with Russell Crowe, which I consider one of the best movies of the decade. Baird’s biggest hit until this point had been US Marshals with Tommy Lee Jones. Not a bad movie by any stretch, but not the resume builder one would hope for in the director of a science fiction epic.

Rick Berman also took part in the script, which is never a good thing. I am not entirely certain which of Nemesis’ failings can be pinned on him, but history says it is a lot.

Brent Spiner, a good friend of Logan’s, shares writing credit. T makes sense. Yet again Data is a central part of the story just like every other TNG era film. Spiner’s creative hand makes much of data’s involvement wish fulfillment along similar lines to William Shatner in The Final Frontier. I will give Spiner some credit for understanding more characters than his own. Granted, many members of the cast were phoning in their performances here, but I do not think that was Spiner’s fault. All that said, his hammy singing of Irving Berlin, his double role as data and B4, and the clear attempt to copy the drama of Spock’s sacrifice in The Wrath of Khan I the climax all have Spiner’s ego written all over it. Data has always been my favorite character, but even I thought his role here is obnoxious.

Let us talk of continuity. There is not any. In the previous two films, the rationale for getting Worf involved have been embarrassingly flimsy. Here they do not even bother with one. He is back to serving on the Enterprise even though he is supposed to bean ambassador. Wesley is back, too, as a lieutenant. What happened to him traveling other planes of reality instead? It does not matter, I guess. Is it not also strange Lwaxana is not at her daughter’s wedding? Not that I miss the character. I am just being logical here. Where are Sela and Spock? Tomalok? This is not the Romulus we knew.

To bad Nemesis does not have a shred of logic within it. How did Shinzon get a hold of B4? How could he be so certain the Enterprise would be the ship to respond to B4’s signal? Considering the trouble they had with Lore, how did he know they would not just destroy the pieces rather than put them together?

For that matter, Shinzon himself is dumb. He was cloned from Picard. Okay, I can accept that, although it is getting incredibly implausible how special Picard supposedly is. The Romulans are disappointed with him, so they dump into slave labor as a five year old child. He winds up among a race of beings called Remans, which we have never heard of. They are also slave laborers. In spite of all this, they manage to build state of the art ship right under the Romulans’ noses and muster enough power to take over the empire. I cannot buy it. They do not have the resources or secrecy to do such a thing. I sense the Sparta us homage, but it does not work when you are talking about an interstellar empire.

While all this is going on, Picard is racing dune buggies on a desert planet while being shot at by primitives. I really cannot add anything to that.

I will say the film ends on a fairly high note. The final battle is a bit overwhelming because so much is going on at once, it is hard to focus on one thing. The space battle is drawn out and busy. The fistfight between Riker, who is really getting too old and paunchy for such a fight to be plausible, reminds me too much of Kirk and Soran battling it out. Grumpy Old Men in Space, as it were. Less time should have been spent on those two sequences and more dealing with Picard and Shizon. Maybe he would have come across as a better villain if they had. Since the dynamic between the two is not fleshed out well, I have time think about how stupid it is that Shinzon got to the lofty perch he currently enjoys..

I wish I could ay Data’s sacrifice is as meaningful as it should have been, but it just is not. Perhaps it is because the situation mirrors Spock’s effort to save his friends from Genesis so much. You cannot top that, so why try? Like I said, data is my favorite character, so I make the best effort to cut the sequence slack. But Data’s death does not resonate. I do consider the continued existence of B4 a contributing factor. It smells of a cop out--a way to bring Spiner back as another android in need of learning about human culture. It is worse than Spock injecting his soul into McCoy before doing his thing.

The TNG move franchise definitely ended on a sour note. Of all four movies, First Contact is the only one I can ever see myself voluntarily sitting through again. Even then, I am only marginally enthusiastic. I do not feel there is a great sense of finality here even though the fate of several characters is set. Why, if you are going to send beloved characters off into the sunset, do you and the movie over to a director who knows nothing about them? It is going to result inexactly what we got-- an unsatisfying movie that limps to the finish line. It is highly disappointing, but still a notch above the illogical mess that is Insurrection, but that is not saying much.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Kim Cloutier

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blanche Lincoln Opposes Reconciliation

One of my predictions for 2010 was that a red state Democrat senator was going to turn against ObamaCare the second time through. What I did not predict was the catalyst would be a Republican victory in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. But Scott Brown's victory got Blanche Lincoln's attention:
“I am opposed to and will fight against any attempts to push through changes to the Senate health insurance reform legislation by using budget reconciliation tactics that would allow the Senate to pass a package of changes to our original bill with 51 votes,” Lincoln said in a statement on Tuesday. “I have successfully fought for transparency throughout Senate deliberations on health care, and I will continue to do so.”

“I will not accept any last-minute efforts to force changes to health insurance reform issues through budget reconciliation, and neither will Arkansans. We have worked too long and too hard on this reform effort – we need to get it right,” she said.
The Arkansas Democrat is not polling any higher than 45% against any potential Republican opponent and is in serious trouble in her reelection bid. He problem stems largely for her support for cloture.

Her opposition to reconciliation may have come too little too late to do anyone much good. Reconciliation is still theoretically possible without her unless a couple other Democrats start running scared as well. Either way, the damage to credibility in Arkansas has probably already sealed Lincoln's political fate.

Barack Obama to Propose Spending Freeze

Barack Obama did not much care for the idea when John McCain proposed a spending freeze in 2008, but he has finally come around $ 1.4 trillion too late.

A federal spending freeze would be a pyrrhic victory at best for conservatives at this point, but it might show the value of fiscal discipline that has been sorely lacking over the last decade.

A decade, that is, in which conservatives who allegedly support small government controlled Congress for most of the time. Hence, my skepticism about positive results. It des not look like anyone on either side of the aisle cares much about controlling spending.

The key point to ponder is how well the spending freeze proposal is going to sit next to sit next to whatever grandiose plans to stimulate the economy, offer aid to struggling families, and reform healthcare Obama will announce in the State of the Union speech. That stuff costs money, you know.

Star Trek: Insurrection

The general rule of thumb that odd numbered treks are terrible is in full swing for Insurrection. There are so many problems with it, reviewing it is giving me horrible flashbacks to watching The Final Frontier again for that review. Unlike The Final Frontier, Insurrection’s problem is not serving as a vanity piece for William Shatner, but being a contrivance, morally hypocritical, and illogical piece of fluff. How it dud not kill the franchise is beyond me.

I should have known something was amiss by the plot description. The Federation teams with an alien race called the Son’a in order to secretly remove the population of a planet so they can exploit the rejuvenating powers of some natural radiation phenomenon. So we have Avatar a dozen years earlier. The Federation does not make it a habit to exploit the resources of other people even in a time of war, as this was. Normally, the federation would be right there preventing the Son’a from such an act, not aiding them. Right off the bat, the whole philosophy behind Trek is thrown out the window.

But Insurrection has far more fundamental flaws. The biggest of all is the darn thing makes no sense whatsoever.

First things first, I understand the need to get Worf involved. But he is on DS9 at this time serving in an important tactical role on the station at a time when it had a pivotal role I a war zone. The idea that he would leave that to be a part of a marginally important diplomatic function on the Enterprise It is a small nitpick, but the rationale for Worf’s involvement is even flimsier than that for First Contact, so it merit’s a mention.

Second--and speaking of contrivances--why is Data, the operations officer of the Federation flagship, part of a cultural observation team on some Podunk planet other than to have some excuse to involve the Enterprise? Data has demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of cultural trappings. This is definitely not his thing. If he was there for some technical assistance, I might could see it, but he is not he is an observer. It is definitely not his forte.

Third, when Data goes wild after being shot because he has gotten too close to the truth, his actions expose the Federation observer base. Said base is on a cliff directly overlooking the Ba’ku village. How did the federation manage to put it therewith no one noticing. It is cloaked, yes, but would not some change in the landmarks be noticeable? Why not put the thing miles away is case the cloak failed? They already did that once in the TNG episode, “Who Watches the Watchers?” Did they not learn anything from when it got all wee weed up then, too? Better yet, why not put it in space/ it is not like the technology is not advanced enough to pull that off.

Third, the plot data uncovers is dumb. The Federation/Son’a team is going to beam out the Ba’ku in the middle of the night when they are all asleep to a floating holodeck in order to relocate them to another world. Not everyone is going to be asleep no matter what time of the night they get beamed out. There are night owls, insomniacs, people using the bathroom, having sex, whatever. I see a slight flaw in the cunning plan.

Fourth, you will never guess where the floating holodeck is hidden. It is in a lake very close to the Ba’ku village. It is submerged in the lake even though it has displaced no water. It is also invisible, so I do not see what the point to submerging it in violation of all laws of physics is to begin with. What is even odder is the Ba’ku, who have eschewed all forms of technology, have built a complex device apparently for the sole purpose of draining the lake. Or, in movie terms, there to give the illusion there is some mystery element to the plot when it is really a straight morality tale about, I dunno. Removal of Native Americans, maybe?

Which brings me to the fifth problem--we have seen this scenario before in “Journey’s End.” The big problem there is our heroes were on the opposite side of the moral quandary in that episode. You may recall the Enterprise. Was called upon to remove some Native Americans off a planet which had been ceded to the Cardassians. Picard was ready to remove them by force, even going so far as to scold Wesley for opposing the action. Picard told him his first priority is to follow orders.

In Insurrection, Picard takes Wesley’s exact position without the slightest hint of hypocrisy or explanation about why he has changed his mind. I would even go so far as to speculate the Picard of the television series would lecture the Ba’ku about hogging the healing radiation for themselves thereby offering a chance for compromise between all parties. But here, he channels Janeway and her wet finger righteous indignation which contradicts last week’s Janeway righteous indignation.

If I wanted to be snaky, I would say Picard was not interested in helping the Native Americans, but as al about aiding white settlers, but that would be unfair. Funny, but unfair.

Sixth, Picard and his rebelling crew went about saving the Ba’ku in the stupidest possible manner. Why lead them on some long march to the caves when they could Justas easily been beamed there by the Enterprise or taken there in several trips of the captain’s yacht? because we need false drama, that is why.

Seven, say, how come these Ba’ku hardly age, therefore staying at childrearing age for centuries, yet there are not more than six hundred of them? Considering how one had the hots for Picard, they obviously enjoy nookie. Is that not strange?

Finally, why did the Son’a add a self-destruct device to their Collector? It is a device that will ensure their race’s survival. Would that not logically dictate it should have all sorts of fail safes and defenses to keep it from being destroyed? I guess the Son’a were following the general role that everything in trek must have a self-destruct.

There are all sorts of other minor continuity problems that cause cracks within the plot, but there is no pint in listing all of them. Insurrection is a poorly thought out, poorly executed action movie full of the typical cliché. Picard even quips he is getting too old for this sort of thing as he and the main bad guy battle on the Collector in the typical hero battles the villain a top a burning villain climatic scene. If I am not mistaken, I believe some of the blue screen is clearly visible behind them as they scuffle. It was just left in there. Insurrection might have made for a decent two part episode with better care given to crafting it, but as a movie, it fails miserably.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Christina Ricci

Monday, January 25, 2010

Barack Obama Cannot Address a Group of Sixth Graders Without His Teleprompter (UPDATED with Video)

I wish I could tell you this is Photoshopped, but it is not.

Barack Obama took his teleprompter to a elementary school in Falls Church, Virginia in order to address a sixth grade class. The president of the united states, whom progressives coo over for being so articulate, cannot ad lib for five minutes when talking to a bunch of sixth graders.

Think about this for a minute. The president has an army of handlers making certain every waking second of his day goes as smoothly as possible for the purpose of making him look good. Logic would dictate they would request he prepare some quickie speech he could give them that would be seemingly off the cuff and personable. You know, something that would convey authority yet be accessible to kids.

Obama’s handlers have decided that is too complicated for him. He needs the crutch of his teleprompter to keep from screwing up even so simple task.

I do not know what else I can add to that. At some point, even Obama’s most adamant supporters have to admit embarrassment in still defending him. This is not a Bush 43 malapropism. This is a man who cannot talk to sixth graders for a scant few minutes and his advisors think it is better for him to look this silly than risk him winging it!

UPDATE: Do view the comment for an Obama defender argument a six minute speech definitely requires a teleprompter and make up your own mind.

UPDATE II: here is the speech he gave.

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact is my favorite of TNG movies. Okay, that is not saying much. It is all downhill from here. But I will say this in spite of the risk of having pointy objects thrown at my head: if given a choice between watching The Wrath of Khan or First Contact again, I would choose the latter. So there is where I side on that debate.

Let me preface my review by acknowledging First Contact has the same inherent logical flaws every time travel story has. I could have mentioned it yesterday, too, but I was already beating up on Generations badly enough. When dealing with time travel stories, you just have to overlook some things for the sake of drama. If Picard could go any time and place he wanted from the nexus, why did he go back to right when Soran was about to fire his missile instead of, say, a few days prior and nab him in the hallway or something? Answer: that would not make for a good movie. Ironic, since what he did do did not make for a good movie, either, but the point is valid.

Likewise, the time travel of First Contact causes some problems. One even negates the flimsy rationale for Picard’s return to battle Soran right before the missile launch. It is never stated, but you could argue Picard did not want to go back in time too far so as not to pollute the time stream. Yet here he and his crew are cavorting around in the mid-21st century, revealing the future to Cochran and Lilly, and generally leaving their mark on one of the most pivotal events in history. So much for being inconspicuous.

Another glaring time travel problem is why the Borg think stopping first contact is the best plan. Why not go back to prehistoric times and conquer earth then? Or, since they failed in this attempt, go back in time over and over again correcting the fatal flaw in their current plan until they get it right. See/ you have to assume whoever came up with the time travel plan is extremely shortsighted in order to enjoy the movie.

Speaking of ignoring stuff, First Contact ignores all post-”Best of Both Worlds” interaction with the Borg. Picard has not recovered from the emotional damage of being assimilated six years prior. Starfleet is wary of his reaction to dealing with the Borg, so they opt to keep him as far away from Earth’s defending force as possible when another cube attacks. I think this is a much more reasonable response to Picard’s assimilation than the all is forgiven, now lead the task force against the rogue Borg that occurred subsequently to Picard’s recovery. Normally, I am a stickler for continuity, but the course correction makes more sense.

The change does make for a much different Picard than in the television series. I can appreciate some fans do not like it. In the series, Picard was unwilling to use Hugh as a genocidal weapon against the Borg even after they had done so many terrible things to him. But in First Contact--heck, in the rest of the movie series--Picard is far more cruel and reckless. He is almost psychopathic here. In the next film, he will go rogue in contradiction to the moral stance he took in “Journey’s end.” In Nemesis, he will return to being psychopathic and far out of character. But those are discussions for later.

Let me say I do not have a problem with his behavior here. As I said above, it makes sense after his ordeal. First Contact offers a rationale for his actions, excessively brutal though they may be, the later two films do not.

All that nit picking and rationalizing aside, the movie itself is quite good. It is darker and more than just about any previous Trek television episode or movie, which I think is a nice change of pace. I suspect Gene Roddenberry would have freaked, but I generally like everything in Trek that goes against his worldview. the dark tone and violence have a purpose here. It is all about the survival of humanity on the broadest level and Picard’s wounded psyche on the smallest. Compare that to how poorly Nemesis was executed; a dark tone just to be edgy and excessive violence for the sake of being violent. I can make the distinction more clear on Wednesday.

Some high points:

First, he Borg are as menacing as they were back in "The Best of Both Worlds.” It is tough following up a story that well done with another Borg invasion story, but First Contact does it well by introducing a much more claustrophobic feel. Whereas we were fretting over the inevitable assimilation of Earth on a grand scale in “The Best of Both Worlds,” it is the mindless zombie attacks of individual drones in the confined space of the Enterprise that ratchets up the attention--apart from the personal plight of Picard, of course. It is masterful that one can take essentially the same plot and make it frightening twice.

Second, the Borg Queen is a great villain. She was a necessary addition to make the Borg Collective’s comparison to an insect hive complete. Her appearance is enhanced here because it is the only appearance with true menace. Subsequentl7, the Borg became property of VOY and were overused to the point of cliché. I never really got the sense of menace out of her later appearances, even when Alice Krige reprised the role on television.

Third, Lilly. It is rare for a guest character to play such a pivotal role. It is ever rarer s ill for 24th century characters to have their condescending attitude towards people from the past thrown back at them. It is Lilly that straightens Picard out more than anything else.

Finally, Cochran. As a history buff, I enjoy learning that an historical event is not what conventional wisdom says it was. The crew fawn repeatedly over how great Cochran is going to be in the future. He is a legend, right up there with the greatest scientists ever. But the reality is he is an old, perverted drunk who does not care about making history. He just wants to be rich enough to keep himself in booze and bimbos. That just tickles my cynical tuckus.

What is bad? Not much, actually. Data turns traitor yet again, or at least appears to when seduced by the Borg Queen. His ‘betrayal’ is this unnecessarily long, drawn out process in which he even fires near misses at Cochran’s ship to prove. That seems like an enormously risky just to create false drama. I also think Worf’s involvement is awfully contrived, but not as badly as it will be in Insurrection. Yes, the Defiant was built to fight the Borg, but does it not seem strange that DS9’s big dogs would not take the ship into the fray rather than Worf and some second stringers? It has to be that way for the sake of the movie, but still…illogical. As is the idea the Vulcans never detect the Enterprise because of the moon’s gravitational pull. Yes, the moon moves the oceans and hides starships.

First Contact is the only real highlight among TNG movies. It is not a perfect film by any measure, but its flaws are not so overwhelming they ruin the experience. Heck, even the sequence in which Cochran looks at Riker and says, ’so you’re all astronauts on some kind of star trek?” does not ruin it and line prompted the first audible full audience groan I have ever heard in a theater. True story.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Heidi Montag

This is what addiction to plastic surgery buys you?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blogroll Spotlight IXXX

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. As usual, these are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title.

American Freedom has Obama Losing his mojo. Grrr, baby! Grrr. Yeah!

Amusing Bunni's Musings says everything Obama touches turns to crap.

Big Feed says Obama did not know how to properly salute our servicemen. I suspect he was previously using his middle finger.

Camp of the Saints assures us Obama is not the Antichrist.

Classic Liberal urges getting out of your comfort zone.

Daley Gator has more global warming fraud.

In a Mad, Mad, mad, Mad World has a creppy looking Spider Cat.

Jaded Haven analyzes progressive double standards.

MAinfor has Chris Matthews' smackdown of...alan Grayson?

Other McCain on youth participation in the March for life.

Proof Positive has the No Rules for for Radicals.

Skepticrats has air America's cluelessness on why it failed.

Troglopundit--Obama is just asking for it.

Star Trek: Generations

Cutting to the chase: what went wrong with Star Trek: Generations?

The reasons Star Trek: Generations falls flat are almost unmanageably numerous to list. The best way to sum it up succinctly is to say it tried to copy all the elements of Star Trek III: the Search for Spock except for the one element which made that movie decent--Spock.

Think back to my review for TSfS. I said the film had ambitious goals, but felt small, almost like a two part episode There were serious dramatic moments like the death of Kirk’s son and the destruction of the Enterprise, but the emotional impact of the losses were muted by poor writing, probably because the screenwriter came from television.

Flash ahead to Star Trek: Generations we have epic theme of finding nirvana along with the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. We also have the need to kill off the legendary James T. Kirk and destroy the 24th century era Enterprise. Along the way, Picard’s dearest family is killed, all against the backdrop of a mediocre villain aided by Klingons. The script is based on a story by Rick Berman and written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, all from television.

It is not difficult to see why history repeated itself. .Star Trek: Generations feels small. Not only is the story more suited for a two part episode of the series, it would not rank as one of the better ones. I enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s return as Spock in “Unification” more than this. If you need further confirmation about the general, bad television feel of Star Trek: Generations, then realize it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation--and lost to “All Good Things…,” the series finale thereat it.

But let me be fair. There are plenty of “small’ movies that are good. I just said yesterday Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was good in spite of its subdued feel. The real problem is the lack of emotion. The film offers up a number of what ought to be heart tugging moments; Kirk’s apparent death at the beginning, Picard’s brother and nephew’s death, Kirk and Picard’s wish fulfilment within the nexus, Kirk’s actual death, and the destruction of the Enterprise.. We do not get to absorb the emotion of any of those events before another one gets thrown at use. The story is going from point a to B to C without any enthusiasm. It shows on the actor’s faces, too.

Why should it not? The film was doomed to be that way from the beginning. Leonard Nimoy was offered a role as Spock and the chance to direct with thestiulation he had to shoot the script as is. If therreason for that stipulation was anything other than Berman’s ego, I would love for someone to tell me what it is. Nimoy refused to either appear or direct under the circumstances. He said the lines Spock was given could have been said by anyone. His appearance would have nothing more than an effort to ’get Spock in the film.” Nimoy’s instincts must be correct. Spock’s lines were given to other characters with seemingly no trouble. Creative restrictions convinced Nimoy to not direct.

You could remove Scotty and Chekov from the film, too, without losing much. They are every bit as disposable as the barely metioned Sulu and the completely ignored McCoy and Uhura. The two serve only to care about Kirk’s “death” after he isdrawn into the nexus. It is pickig nits, but I call onestrike against the sequence for Scotty being there. It causes a continuity error from “Relics” in which Scotty believes Kirk has come to rescue him from thedyson sphere when he actually witnessed Kirk’s death. “Relics” was only two years prior to Star Trek: Generations. There is no excuse for creating acontiuity error like that.

The TNG crewdes not get off any easier. Half the cast is wearing uniforms borrowed from DS9 cast members. Joathan Frakes’ in particular is horrible. He had to borrow Avery Brooks’ unforeseen though it was clearly too big for him. There wasa grumbling among the cast during the seventh season prodyction money was going to DS9 rather than financing a good send off for them. Here is your best proof thatwas not only true, but did not end when theseriesdid.

The production looks like it was flying along by theseat of its (borrowed?) pants, too. The naval ship in the holodeck was so freshly painted, Worf gets some on his uniform as he is climbing back aboard. Soran’s platform at the climax is nothing but a thin metal fire escape. I can understand Paramount’s caution with spending money on a cast previously untested at the box office, but the nickel and dime production is embassarassing.

Bits are chopped out awkwardly, as well. The most notable is a torture scene involving la Forge in which Soran injects nanotech in him order t simulate heart attacks. The deleted scene is on the DVD and I will agree it is unnecessarily gru4some. Its absence does not detract from the story. What is left in does not clarify that La Forge is being tortured at all, however, and lines by Soran and Crusher regarding ’his heart not being in it” and pulmonary damage are rendered meaningless, but not edited out.

Regardless of problems with other characters, the main focus is on Picard and Kirk. It is a dramatic convention that if you want us to care about characters, you have to make us like them, then do horrible things to them so we sympathize. It is difficult to like Picard because there is not much appealing about him. We are told everyone respects him and is loyal to a fault because of it, we just shrug and accept it. I often think others have an emotional connection to him unwarranted by his behavior, but let us say for now we like him.

When he loses his brother and nephew, he is terribly upset, but not so much by their loss as emotional connections, but because the Picard family line has ended. It is a matter of ego. So when Picard enters the nexus and his wish fulfillment is kids, we cannot believe it. We should not, either. When his son asks him to help put together one of his Christmas toys, Picard rushes him off and soon goes trotting after Kirk. That marks the end of Picard’s angst over the family line ending without offering any real resolution. What a cold fish. Or is it bad writing? Both?

The more glaring problem is with Kirk. He never connects with Picard, even when he is no loger distracted by the nexus’ fantasy fulfillment. What is his fantasy? To captain the Enterprise forever, right? No, it is to marry his lost love, Antonia. Who is Anotinia? You got me. She was created solely for the movie and is never even seen. If Kirk’s fantasy true love is never going to be seen, why not make it Carol Marcus or even Edith Keeler instead of someone we have never heard of before? Carol or Edith would resonate. We would recognize those are lost loves Kirk would like a second chance with. Instead, we are left wondering who the heck Antnia is.

That is not the best part, however. Kirk’s death does not measure up. The irony is they went back and filmed a new death scene when test audiences did not like the original. In the original Soran shoots Kirk fatally in the back. In the new, Kirk falls off the platform. It is not an improvement. It was not even fun, as Kirk’s last words sum up his life. I am left with a feeling of, “That is it?”

So is it fortunate or not that we get little time to dwell on Kirk’s death as the Enterprise is subsequently destroyed? I would like to forget both, so I do not care to dwell on the question. The original Enterprise was as much a part of TOS as any character. It was not so with TNG. There was always a sense if the ship was destroyed, the crew would just get another one and bebop right on along. So why should we care, particularly when we not only have Kirk’s death to think about, but be agry about the lsck of meaning in his passing?

The bottom line is that trek is getting rid of the two in order to give Picard the captain’s spotlight and a spiffier ship next movie. Either Kirk’s death, noer the ship’s destruction is meant to end an era so much as allow for what Berman evidently thought was bigger and better things in the future. If so, he very much had the wrong idea.

I will giveStar Trek: Generations one kudo for the comic relief of Data. His emotional issues come and go a bit too conveniently, but I laughed out loud at several points even while rewatching the film for this review. Otherwise, this thing is a dud solidifying the notion odd numbered treks are bad into the next generation.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Tina Fey

I am in a nerdy chick mood today.

Tina Fey won a SAG award last night for 30 Rock, thereby further confirming Hollywood's narcissistic need to honor television shows and movies about the production of television shows and movies.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around XXXII

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

The Daley Gator links to Mila Kunis.

The Classic Liberal links to Eva Mendes, Sarah Shah, Megan Fox, and Andi Muise.

Washington Rebel added me to his blogroll.

NASA International Space Station also added me to his blogroll.

A sincere thank you to all who linked. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

I used to consider Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country my favorite of the original cast’s movies. That tends to raise some hackles since TWoK is near universally considered the film by which all others are judged. If it is any consolation, my attitude about the film has changed over the years. It is still right up there in my book, but its flaws have become more glaring over time.

The original appeal came from me being a history buff. I enjoyed the Cold War allegory which had been missing from the five previous films, save for the laugh line of Chekov looking for nuclear weapons in TVH. It is odd, considering Klingons are present in all but one of the films. The Federation/Klingon conflict was to parallel the Americans/Soviet conflict way back in TOS.. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country makes up for it in spades with some direct lifts of Cold War incidents, such a Adlai Stevenson demanding the soviet representative to the united Nations answer him immediately rather than waiting for the translation during a heated exchange over the Cuban Missile Crisis. Enough time has passed that the Cold War stuff does not resonate for me like it once did. I have moved on to other interests.

Which leads me to dwell on other aspects of the film which did not catch my eye quite as much in the past. Under the new scrutiny, TUC does not shine as brightly as it once did.

But before I critique it, let me talk about the good stuff. The first good thing is we actually have a sixth film at all. William Shatner’s previous vanity piece was a critical and financial bomb. Were it not for trek’s 25th anniversary in 1991, TFF probably would have been the end of the franchise. But Paramount handed the project over to Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy because they hd both proven in the past they could turn in afine product on time and under budget.

Such was absolutely necessary considering the slim budget TUC was afforded. You do not have to lok too hard to recognize redecorated sets from TNG, costume errors which were never fixed, and prop markings clearly visible. The funniest of the latter is astrip of tape on a footlocker to mark the exact place where the actor was supposed to place the magnetic boots so they would stick. Frankly, the entire film is a bottle show. It often feels very small in spite of its sweeping themes.

In spite of the budget constraints, ILM was back doing the special effects. It is a fortunate thing, too. The Effects of TFF often appeared to be done on some computer nerd’s Amiga. That certainly would not have flown for the climactic space battle in TUC. Speakig of which, Gene Roddenberry jumped on the phone to his lawyer to demand the battle be severely rimmed in the final cut because he disliked the militaristic tone. Roddenberry died four days later, so his lawyer dropped the matter. I am not saying it is good Roddenberry died, but he did want to cut one of the finest moments of the film in some touchy feely peacenik fit. Some folks just cannot let go of the ’60’s.

Since my biggest gripes are going to be in regards to character moments, I have to praise one good one. Originally, Saavik was to return and be theFederation traitor, but it was decided she was too popular a character to make into a villain. Instead, the character of Valeria was created. There was not the slightest ounce of surprise the only new character on the Enterprise turned out to not be on the up and up, but at least it was not Saavik.

John Warner also gets to playa much better role here as the doomed Klingon Chancellor. The role more than makes up for his strip club ambassador role last time around.

But the character moments. Oh, mercy. The worst on screen was Kirk. We had gone through two films after the Klingons had killed his son with nary a reaction from him. That is strange, most definitely, but it could be rationalized that Kirk death with his grief privately. It may even be what he was referring to when Sybok offered to take his pain away bu the refused. He needed the pain of his son’s death as a constant reminder. But that is speculation. What we get screen is Kirk complete dismissal of the Klingon race’s need for survival because of his son’s death. Far be it from me to question how father reacts to his son’s murder. I do not have kids. But I think Kirk would not be so sweepingly bitter about the entire Klingon race because of one Klingon’s murderous actions. Kirk should be a bigger man than that.

The second character demeaned unfairly is Uhura. You would think Nichelle Nichols could not be humiliated any further after her geriatric strip tease in the previous film, but you would be wrong. She had to put her foot down twice in order to avoid saying racist lines. Oe in which she asked a Klingon if she could marry his son was cut because she refused to say it period because it cast negativity over interracial relationships. Another--the, ’Guess who is coming to dinner?” joke--was given to Walter Keonig because it was an reference to the Sidney Poitier movie movie about an interracial couple. Nichols was ignored I her complaint about the scene in which Uhura has to scour through language books in order to respond to a message in Klingon. Surely the flagship’s communications officer could speak some of the Federation’s biggest enemy’s language. A debatable point, but when you see the pigeon Klingon translation was pretty much in ebonics, Nichols’ objection is well taken.

Otherwise, TUC is a great send off for the original crew. There is an atmosphere thatan era is ending, both in the real world with the end of the Cold War and in Trek with the passing of the baton from the TOS crew to the TNG. The only real hole there is that the Enterprise which just left dry dock in TFF is already being decommissioned. Only a handful of years could have passed at most. Hat gives?

There was also a much steadier balance of humor and drama here than in either of the previous two films. Not that it did not run the risk of farce, particularly with the Shakespeare quoting Chang. At one point, McCoy quips he would pay real money to get Chang to shut up. He is saying exactly what the audience was thinking by that point.

In short, TUC is still a god movie in spite of its flaws. Nimoy and Meyer did a good job with what they had to work with. The problem for me is the film as shifted from marking Cold War into an era of peace to a bunch of old men who cannot change with the times even though the future looks brighter than the past. Take that for what is is worth. I am reaching theage where I think everything was better ten or fifteen years go myself regardless of whatever anyone else thinks, so I may be tainted by seeing my stubborn qualities represented in the characters.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Emmy Rossum

Friday, January 22, 2010

Caprica--"Pilot"

SyFy--Uggh...I cannot stand the new channel name--is airing the pilot for Caprica tonight. I reviewed the DVD back in April, if you are interested.

I am wary of prequels these days after Enterprise and George Lucas' juvenile ego trips. it is tough to make a go of it even if the project is good. How excited can you get about seeing the origin after you have already seen the end, after all?

But I am going to give Caprica a fair shake to see how well it stands up to Battlestar Galactica.. No promises on long term reviewing. If Jane Esperson turns it into Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Robots as she has hinted, I am walking.

Democrats Freak Out Over Citizens United v. FEC Ruling

I knew Democrats hated free speech, so the rationale behind the ruling was bound to be hated, but you would almost suspect the party was not subsidized by corporations and labor unions.

Check out one of the best hysterical hissy fits over the end of democracy as we know it. At least until the campaign season arrives and all those sweet, sweet corporate and lobbyist dollars begin filling Democrat coffers.

Darn you, First Amendment for allowing free institutions to financially support any candidate they want!

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I am going to assume you already know how this review is going to go. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier‘s reputation for being awful transcends Trekdom into the mainstream. It solidified the general assumption that odd numbered trek films are bad and if it were not for trek’s 25th anniversary two years later, probably would have killed the franchise. Nevertheless, I do not want to look like I am beating up on the film just because everyone else does.

Science fiction fandom is a highly insulated word. Mainstream opinion matters very little to science fiction fans. Everything will have its defenders within science fiction. Add to that the further compartmentalizing of science fiction fans into Trekkies, Warries, Wholigans, and it gets even worse. Such fans feel as though they have to appreciate the virtues of every offering within their drug of choice no matter how bad it might be overall. I can appreciate that and so am going to give TFF as fair a shake as I can. It is going to be difficult. The film is offensive to both general filmmaking conventions and trek fans alike.

Before diving into the review, let me assure you there is nothing you can say about external factors adversely affecting TFF I do not already know about. I know there was studio interference. I know there were budget problems. I know there was a Teamsters strike. They wanted Sean Connery to play Sybok, but he was filming Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. ILM was supposed to do the special effects, but they were busy with Indiana Jones, too. I have heard every defense of the film from William Shatner himself in his Star Trek Movie Memories and the commentary track. Shatner spelled out the changes he would like to have made. But all that is speculation. The movie is what it is. I have to judge it on its own merits, not what might have been.

Realistically, every problem is TFF rests solely on Shatner’s shoulders. Paramount wanted another trek sequel that would be high on comedy like the previous, since it had been the biggest hit. Shatner wanted to do a pet project about the crew searching for God, but finding the devil instead. Gene Roddenberry himself was against the idea. Surprisingly, his rationale was not his obnoxious atheism, but that he had tried that story in the past and it did not work. Shatner ignored all nay Sayers, claiming he could do his epic quest for God and have comedy. Paramount inexplicably believed him.

Am I being harsh here? I do not think so. Some combinations just do not go together. It sounds difficult to get laughs out of a search for life’s meaning. But I suppose someone with skill can combine contrary elements and make it good. For example, one imagines a movie about the Holocaust could never have any light moments. However, Roberto Benigni made a masterpiece with the bittersweet Life is Beautiful. Conversely, Jerry Lewis’ unfinished film, The Day the Clown Cried, in which the plot revolves around a clown used to keep children occupied I a Nazi death camp and eventually marching them into the gas chamber, has been considered so horrifyingly tasteless by the few executives who have see it, the movie will likely never be completed, much less released. Even talented creative types cannot always pull such combinations off.

I cannot honestly elevate Shatner motherlands of master filmmakers anyway. While he had written and directed some episode of TJ Hooker, TFF was his first feature film. His idea was too ambitious for a first time director. He did make what seemed at the time to be a smart move by hiring David Loughery as co-writer and producer. Loughery had been brought on based on the strength of his science fiction film Dreamscape. Loughery has since disavowed Dreamscape as being unrepresentative of his work. Odd, since it has been his only hit. His subsequent films have included such critical and financial failures as Passenger 57 and Money Train..

That said, I still have to blame the movie’s failure on Shatner because he demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anyone’s character but his own. The Final Frontier may appear on the surface to center on Vulcan sibling rivalry with Spock and Sybok, but it is a complete love letter to James T. Kirk at the expense of all else, including logic.

The film begins with an emaciated miner working in the desert of Nimbus III. The planet is a failed public relations project between the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans to create a symbol of intergalactic peace. A rider on a horse shows up, notices the poor gain is nothing but a ball of pain, and does so sort of voodoo on him to ease it. The little guy pledges loyalty to his new savior, who reveals himself to be Sybok. When he asks what Sybok’s quest is, he replies it is for ultimate knowledge, but for that he needs a starship. There are none on Nimbus III, but he has an idea how to lure one here.

We have already been introduced with a number of problems you can only get in a bad movie. First, Nimbus III looks like the worst place imaginable for a project of this kind. It is a barren desert surrounded by the dregs of the galaxy, none of whom appear to be Klingon or Romulan, so what is the point of calling it a unifying symbol of peace? The three races are not have people living together in peace.

Second,, Sybok’s power is ridiculous. It is made clear what he does is not mind control. He is relieving pain. One major, crippling pain in particular for each person. I am not a psychologist, but I have doubts that any one pain can completely cripple a person to the point if that pain is salved, one would pledge complete, unquestioned loyalty to his healer to the point one will drop everything in life to follow him on some foolhardy quest.

But let us say, for the sake of argument, that can happen. Would it not be easier for Sybok to go to Starfleet, use his ability on some low level clerk who can get his foot in the door of the chain of command? Surely he could eventually convince someone with authority to order a starship to take him anywhere he wants to go. Starfleet has done stupider things without having a Vulcan mystic remove anyone’s pain.

Finally, we have the most blatant lapse of illogic. If you are looking for a starship, why come to a planet where there are not any? More importantly, how did Sybok get to Nimbus III without a starship in the first place? We are not off to a roaring start here.

Forget all that for a moment, because we have to check in on the most awesome man in the universe, Kirk. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are vacationing in Yosemite. Kirk has taken in open himself to go free climbing a mountain. Free climbing is such a dangerous sport, even experienced climbers do not do it. Climbing with nothing but your fingers and feet to keep you from certain death is dumb enough, but when you are a 55 year old man who has spent his most recent years sitting behind a desk at Starfleet command, it is suicidal.

Ah, but Kirk has no problem with it. He even takes his hand off the rock in order to gesture a bit when Sock flies next to him wearing rocket boots. Kirk slips, but is rescued in the nick of time by Spock, who can inexplicably fly sideways like Superman with those boots. Kirk, just inches from certain death, quips to McCoy, “Mind if we drop in?” A fine example of what passes for comedy in TFF.

Back on Nimbus III, we are introduced to Paradise City, the capital of the planet which I am pretty sure was meant to be an homage to Mos Eisely from <Star wars, but it very out of place with what the Planet of Intergalactic Peace should be all about. We follow the Romulus ambassador as she walks into a strip club featuring a three breated dancing cat towards the back of the bar where the other two ambassadors are. Shatner was going for gritty, but having the embassy in the back of strip club is just absurd. Sybok attacks the place with his rag tag army of societal rejects, takes everyone hostage, and waits for a starship to come to the rescue. In accordance with his plan, Sybok prevents the ambassadors from sending out an SOS because that would, you know, bring a starship there and stuff.

Sybok creates a video of the hostages pleading for their safety and broadcasts it. The Federation receives it and decides to cancel Kirk’s shore leave. The Klingons receive it, too. The Romulans apparently do not give a rat’s behind because we never see or hear from them.

The first Enterprise crewman to be reactivated are Sulu and Chekov. Their first appearance in the film sets up their sole purpose for being in it in the first place--to be the butt of jokes. There has been a lot said about the animosity between Shatner and the rest of the cast which dates back to TOS. More than any other time, you see Shatner take his revenge by humiliating his costars in TFF. The first instance involves these two, who are lost near Mt. Rushmore, but are trying to hide that fact from Uhura even though she can see from space they are not actually trapped in a blinding blizzard. Walter Koenig spits out his lines with such an obvious contempt for his role, you have to feel sorry for him.

Even though it is in the early afternoon for Sulu and Chekov, it is the middle of the night for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in California. Figure that one out. They have been eating beans lathered in whiskey, which prompts the only fart joke in trek history, learn Spock cannot pronounce “marshmallow,“ and have a discussion on death. McCoy is unhappy with Kirk’s casual disregard for his own life. Kirk responds he was not worried about falling because he has always known he will die alone. Or with the emotionally distant Picard, which is probably a lot like being alone.

They are finally retrieved after singing badly and farting the night away. The Enterprise they return to is a wreck. It is part of the lame comedy that absolutely nothing works, but it is taken too far. Even the logbook, which is a separate component, is broken. Scotty is his usual grumpy self about the situation in spite of the sudden appearance of Uura’s infatuation with him. I have no clue where that came from and am glad it disappeared with the end credits.

Turns out the <Enterprise is the only ship close enough to Nimbus III to be of any use, so even if it is not ready to fl, it has to be the one to go. Remember this point for later. Kirk views the hostage video tape and the appearance of Sybok spars off recognition in spock. He describes Sybok as a mystic who was banished from Vulcan for seeking forbidden knowledge. He does not say Sybok is his brother.

McCoy reminds Kirk the Klingons will be sending a rescue ship ,too. Right on cue, we go to a ship commanded by Klaa, who is busy shooting a NASA satellite that screams when it is hit. Is it Shatner’s jab at V’Ger? It would not surprise me. Klaa learns about the hostages on Nimbus III and decides to go there in order to challenge whatever Federation ship is sent on the rescue mission. So we have a Klingon captain taking it upon himself to attack his government’s mortal enemy at the Planet of Intergalactic peace. All right.

The transporters are, of course, not working, so the Enterprise crew has to conduct the rescue the old fashioned way. Lucky for Sybok, huh? The Enterprise could have just beamed out the hostages and left otherwise. Nichelle Nichols becomes the third cast member to feel the wrath of Shatner as the 60 year old woman dances naked I order to distract a band a sentries watching out for a rescue team just in case the transporter is broken so the rescue has to be conducted the old fashioned way. I cannot add anything to that without blood splurting out of my nose.

To cut to thechase: therescue fails because the hostages have been voodooed by Sybok. Everyone gets captured among loads of remarks about how dumb the situation is. Sybok greets Spock, who still is not thrilled to see him. Sybok explains that he isaftera starship so he can go to Sha ka Ree and find God.

Stop for a moment here. I am confident Sybok has lost touch with Spock, so he has no idea his brother has just died and retrned from the dead. But if he is on aquestfor ultimate knowledge, God, and all that goodstuff, is that not something that ought to be mentioned to him? Maybe it would satisfy him? But of course no one cars about that.

Everyone escapes in a shuttlecraft just as Klaa arrives and firesat the Enterprise The shuttle flies into a barricade set up in the bay because they do not have time to use a tractor beam to haul it in. Completeing the landing is the only example of competence Sulu is allowed to exhibit the entire film. No one is injured in spite of the high speed collission in which no one iswearing a seatbelt. All right.

Kirk and Sybbk struggle over a gun I a sequence in which the blatantly obvious stuntman is hung unbelievably on blaantly obvious wiresand tossed about like Sandy Duncan playing Peter Pan It is absolutely horrible. The gun gets away from them both (It was probably humiliated to be seen with them.) and lands near Spock’s feet. He picks it up but refuses to shoot Sybok, so he, Kirk, and McCoy aresent to the brig while Sybok works his magic on the brig crew.

In the brig, McCoy gets his second line I the last thirty minutes, but is quicy hushed by Kirk. That is probably how it was during the production, too. Spock finally explains Sybok is his half brother by way of a Vulcan princess, so he could not kill him. He further explains sybok has spethis life looking for Sha Ka Ree. Heclaims it is the reason he left Vulcan although he previously said Sybok was banished from Vulcan or heresy. Take your pick. I do not care anymore. This script is horrible.

At this point, Sybokhas converted the entire bridge crew, so they have all turned on Kirk. Even the crewmembers he has not been able to work on personally. Seriously,he announces he has taken over theship and no one is the least bit upset. That is stupid enough, but consider this; a couple moviesago, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, etc were loyal enough to Kirk and Spock they were willing to steal the Enterprise and go rogue in order to bring spock’s body to Vulcan. They were risking court martial and imprisonment. now with onewave of Sybok’s hand, that loyalty is undone? It is not possible.

Furthermore, it is insulting. everyone was supposed to turn against kirk, including Spock and McCoy. Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly refused to go along with it because they could not believe their characters would ever betray Kirk Spock especially after what Kirk has done for him. It is further proof shatner lacks understanding of every character but Kirk.

Scoty breaks them out of the brig, thenlikea buffoon, cocks his head in the corridor. James Doohan and Ahatner hated each other for a long time, you know. There is another comedy sequence here involving the et boots, escaping Sulu who is ready to shoot thitherto them, and the ship essentially being skyscraper, but there is really no point indwelling on any of it.

Kirk tries to send a message to Starfleet, but he is actually jst letting Klaa know where he is, setting up the final confrontation. Before all that, Sybok discovers the three of them. He does his voodoo on McCoy and Spock. I said I would give kudos where kudos were due, so here it goes. McCoy expressed earlier in the film that he places a high value on life. Here we learn why. He euthanized his father to preserve his dignity months beforea cure was found. Had he possessed that philosophy earlier, hisfather would have survived. Honestly, it is the only bit of the film that logically follows.

Sybok wants to help Kirk, but he refuses, saying you cannot wipe away someone’s pain with the wave of a hand. That is true. It is one of the big reasons TFF is sch a bad movie. It is hilarious the writer/director will break the fourth wall and admit it on screen.

Remember earlier I said you should remember the Enterprise was sent to Nimbus III ecause it was the only ship that could get there in a reasonable amount of time? Well, the ship reaches the center of the galaxy here within afew hours, so neermind thereare no ships avaibalewithin a reasonable ditstance. There must not have been any ships available at all! It makes one wonder why Sha Ka Ree was so hardto find if it was so convenienty located.

Kirk decides if they are going to explorea new plaet, they are going to do it by the book. That means the main crewand aloopy Vulcan mystic. They go down and find nothing until some large rock formations pop up. Then they meet acreaturewho claims to be God. He demands their starship, which prompts Kirk to ask the famous question, “What does God need with a starship?” The query prompts “God” to blast kirk, at which point Sybok realizes thisain’t God. “God” gives him some lesson on egotism--Lord, Shatner wrote this. The irony, the irony!-- and becomes enraged.

Everyone manages to escape except Kirk. Wearesupposedto think he might die here, since he is alone and the Kligons are attacking the Enterprise, but it is difficult to think about that because of thescene itself. “God” was supposed to createsomerock creatures to battle Kirk, but they were so implausible, they were scrapped. We will see them eleven years later in Galaxy Quest. Instead, we get a stationary mattee panting and howling from “God” that sounds like a frustrated Yosemite Sam. “God”gets blasted by the Kligon ship, for which Spock is now the gunner thanks to the Klingon ambassador‘s orders to Klaa.

So the movie mercifully ends, but not before making Sulu and Chekov look like idiots yet again by checking out a Klingon female’s rear end. Lord, make it stop!

I assume I do not have to sum up anything here. This movie is horrible in every possible way as far as cinema, Trek, and common sense are concerned. You could remove it from Trek continuity altogether and nothing would be missing. In fact, it would probably flow better consider in the next movie deals with themes from the fourth, but not the fifth. No one would have to reconcile so many strange points, either. This is easily the worst mainstream science fiction film of the last quarter century.

Obligatory:Rating: * (out of 5)