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Star Trek Voyager: The Eternal Tide

This Star Trek Voyager novel, The Eternal Tide, is one I’d been dreading.

To my huge shock, I’ve found myself quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Star Trek Voyager novels (click here for my review of Full Circle, here for my review of Unworthy, and here for my review of Children of the Storm).  I never much liked Voyager the TV show, but I’ve been intrigued by this series of novels, moving the Voyager characters beyond the universe-shaking events of David Mack’s epic novel trilogy Star Trek Destiny from several years back.  These Voyager novels by Kirsten Beyer have had a great mix of strong characters (Ms. Beyer has fleshed out the characters far more than they ever were on the TV show, and thankfully she has moved them all beyond the eternal-status-quo they were trapped in on the show) and some great new sci-fi stories and new concepts for alien species.  As opposed to the continuing series of post-finale Next Gen and Deep Space Nine novels, which have been written by a rotating series of authors, it’s interesting that Ms. Beyer has apparently been given full control (for now, at least) of the Voyager corner of the Trek universe.  Having one author write this series has given it a tight continuity and cohesiveness that has been particularly enjoyable for me, now, reading these books one after the other.

But while I’ve enjoyed the previous three Voyager books, I was not looking forward to this one.  Why?  Because of Kathryn Janeway’s face staring out at me from the book’s cover.

I adored the decision made, in Peter David’s Next Gen novel Before Dishonor (one of the books leading up to the big Destiny crossover) to kill off Captain Janeway.  It was a shocking move, one I did not see coming, and it was a thrilling raising-of-the-stakes as the threat of the Borg grew in anticipation of the massive Borg invasion of the Alpha Quadrant that occurred in Destiny.  More than that, the manner of Janeway’s death — her arrogance allowing her to wind up assimilated by the Borg Queen — seemed to me a support of everything I’d ever disliked about the Janeway character.

One of many reasons why I never took to Voyager was the character of Captain Janeway.  I like Kate Mulgrew.  She’s a great actress, and clearly capable of terrific work (just look at how amazing she is on Orange is the New Black).  So Ms. Mulgrew wasn’t the problem.  Nor did I have any issue with a female being the lead of a Star Trek series.  I love plenty of female-centric shows and movies, and the strong … [continued]

 

Is a TV-show adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s wonderful comic-book series Powers finally going to happen?  This project has been developed for YEARS, most recently at FX, but now it seems there’s a 10-episode order from Sony Pictures TV for Playstation, whatever the heck that means.  Powers is a phenomenal comic about cops in a world of super-heroes (click here for my detailed thoughts on the series) and, if done right, this could be a fantastic TV show.  I hope this actually comes together.

Is the new 24 twelve-episode mini-series going to be more like seasons 1-2 of 24 (good) or seasons 3-8 of 24 (not-so-good)?  Dunno.  Nice to see this first trailer, though there’s not much here to get me excited, just yet:

We also, at last, have our first glimpse at the long-in-the-works Sin City sequel.  The trailer is good but not great.  Here too, I need a little more to really get me excited.  I desperately want this movie to be good, but I think the time for a sequel may have passed.  Crossing my fingers on this one.

Each year, when I read about Paleyfest, I am insanely jealous and wish I could go to all of the panels.  Here’s a phenomenal rundown of the Parks and Recreation panel.  This is required reading for fans of Parks and Rec.  Lord I love that show. I can’t believe it’s survived cancellation as many times as it has, and it was just renewed for another season!

So, they’re really truly going ahead with Ghostbusters 3?  Without the participation of Bill Murray?  With Harold Ramis having just recently passed away?  With Ivan Reitman now saying he WON’T return to direct the film?  You know, for years and years I wanted this movie to happen, despite the huge risk that, so many years later, it’d be impossible to recapture the alchemy and make a film that was any good.  But now I’ve really soured on the whole idea.  Is it in any way conceivable that a Ghostbusters 3 could be any good?  Not to me.  This lengthy interview with Ivan Reitman is a fascinating look at the process behind this eons-in-development sequel, but I just think it’s a totally misguided notion.

Now, Brad Bird working to develop The Incredibles 2?  That is a sequel I can get behind!!!  I would love to see that come together.

I am absolutely tickled at the idea of Marvel Studios moving to a pattern in which they’d release one new movie each quarter.  That is an awesome dream!

Then there’s Fox, who still owns the rights to several Marvel series, including … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: Children of the Storm

I never much liked Star Trek: Voyager.  It was always by far my least-favorite of the Trek TV shows.  However, I’m quite enjoying Kirsten Beyer’s post-finale series of Voyager novels.  (Click here for my review of Full Circle, and here for my review of Unworthy.)

It’s interesting that Pocket Books has given one single author, Kirsten Beyer, sole control over these Voyager novels for now.  The post-finale Deep Space Nine series, as well as the post-Nemesis Next Generation series, have all been guided by multiple authors working in collaboration.  It’s an interesting choice to give one author control over the Voyager books, and so far I am enjoying the tight continuity and consistency having a single author, with a single voice, gives to this series of books.

Children of the Storm picks up immediately following the events of Unworthy.  Eden Afsarah has replaced Willem Batiste as Fleet Admiral, allowing Chakotay to resume command of Voyager.  The Voyager fleet of nine starships is proceeding on their mission of exploration of the Delta Quadrant.  Their first order of business: to follow up on Captain Dax and the Aventine’s brief encounter (chronicled in David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy) with a mysterious race called the Children of the Storm that was apparently able to defeat the Borg.  (When Dax and the Aventine used one of the Borg’s transwarp conduits to journey briefly into the Delta Quadrant, they encountered an enormous field of wreckage from hundreds of Borg vessels, apparently destroyed somehow by the Children of the Storm.)  Unfortunately, the Voyager fleet’s return to this area of space does not go well.  The xenophobic Children of the Storm destroy one of the fleet’s vessels, capture another, and wreak havoc on a third.  This leave Voyager and the rest of the fleet in disarray, struggling to determine how to proceed.

The set-up for this series of Voyager novels is that Voyager isn’t returning to the Delta Quadrant alone, but rather with a fleet of nine vessels.  One of my favorite aspects of Children of the Storm is the way Ms. Beyer began to explore the different ships of the fleet, and the different characters on those vessels.  Over the course of this novel, we get to know several of these new ships in-depth.  There’s the U.S.S. Demeter and its captain, Liam O’Donnell, a brilliant academic who leaves most of the business of actually running the ship to his XO, Lieutenant Commander Fife.  That arrangement works well until the Demeter gets captured and the two men disagree strongly on how to proceed, with Captain O’Donnell certain that a scientific solution can be found to their predicament, while Lt. … [continued]

 

Star Trek Voyager: Unworthy

In my opinion, Star Trek: Voyager was by far the weakest of the Star Trek TV series.  I felt that the show never lived up to its premise (of the difficulties one lone starship would face, all on their own eighty thousand light-years from home), and even more disappointingly, I felt there was almost zero character development over the course of the series’ seven years.  (You could watch a first season episode and then watch a seventh season episode and see little to no difference in the dynamics of the characters.)  I watched Voyager all the way through its seven years, but there are hardly any episodes I have ever re-watched.  (Whereas I have seen every episode of the Original Series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine many, many times… and I have even watched Enterprise through a few times over the years.)

Pocket Books has published some Voyager novels over the years, but I never bought any of them until Kirsten Beyer’s Full Circle in 2009.  (Click here for my original review.)  I am not sure what prompted me to buy a Voyager book.  Maybe the gorgeous cover image (Voyager has never looked so good!).  More likely I was excited to read any book picking up the pieces after David Mack’s incredible trilogy Star Trek: Destiny, a story that chronicled the long-feared Borg invasion of Federation space and all of the catastrophes that followed.  I was eager to see what happened to all of the Trek characters following Destiny, and I think I was also very interested in reading about the Voyager crew’s reactions to the death of Janeway (brutally killed off by Peter David in his TNG book Before Dishonor).

To my surprise, I loved Full Circle.  Kirsten Beyer’s lengthy book spanned several years of Trek continuity, catching up the Voyager crew with the events of the past few years of TNG novels.  I enjoyed the character arcs given to each member of the Voyager ensemble.  I felt that I got to know and care about the Voyager crew in this book far more than I ever did in the TV series.  Full Circle ended with Voyager leading a fleet of nine starships on a mission back to the Delta Quadrant, hoping to confirm what had happened to the Borg following the events of Destiny.  I was excited to see what happend next.

But then, though I bought the next several Voyager novels written by Ms. Beyer, I never read them.  I think that as the months went on, though I remembered enjoying Full Circle, my over-all dislike for Star Trek: Voyager reared its head, and I just never found myself interested … [continued]

 

First up, a big thank-you to everyone who has backed the kickstarter for the Jewish Comix Anthology!  This 250-page hardcover will feature the work of 47 Jewish artists, including Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, Joe Kubert… and me!  There’s only a week left to back the project, so please click here to get in on this!  There are some great backer rewards, including a just-added opportunity to own some original Motion Pictures cartoons by yours truly!  That’s right!  Would you like to own the original version of one of these three cartoons…?

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Click here to view the kickstarter and purchase those cartoons!  Thanks everyone!

OK, moving on… I have watched this trailer a LOT.  I have an excited feeling that this movie is going to take the world by storm.  (I hope so!!)

Oh man I can’t wait for this:

And this!  (It’s always apey-est just before the dawn…)

As if that Guardians of the Galaxy trailer I posted above wasn’t cool enough, they’ve also just released a new poster with a phenomenal tag-line.

Speaking of super-hero film news, Fox made some headlines recently with the announcement of the cast of their new Fantastic Four film.  I for one am crossing my fingers.  I have always loved the FF and nothing would make me happier than an amazing Fantastic Four movie.  But the casting seems to be rather off the mark.  I don’t mind Johnny Storm being black.  Michael B. Jordan is an awesome actor, I am happy he is in the movie.  And he seems like the only one of these four actors who feels like the right “fit” for his character — in this case the young, brash, fun-loving Johnny.  I am more worked up by skinny Jamie Bell being cast as Ben Grimm!!  And I like Miles Teller, he was phenomenal in The Spectacular Now (click here for my review), but he is WAY too young for Reed Richards.  In fact, ALL of these actors are too young, the FF should all be 30-somethings not 20-somethings.  I hope they have something good up their sleeves, but this casting doesn’t seem to indicate they plan on being too faithful to the comic book characters.  (At least, not the original FF.  Marvel comics’ “Ultimate” universe, created a decade-or-so ago, featured a teenaged FF.  But while there have been some great Ultimate universe stories, I was never that taken by that interpretation of the FF.)  And in a world where Marvel Studios exists, where they have been making amazing Marvel movies that are VERY faithful to the comics, I have little patience for another bad Fox-made FF movie.  Well, hope … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Peaceable Kingdoms

Since the summer, Pocket Books has been publishing an interconnected five-novel Star Trek series, “The Fall,” which has brought to a head many of the story-lines that have been running through the Trek novels for the past several years.  ”The Fall” began with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), in which a terrible tragedy pushed the galaxy once again to the brink of interstellar war.  The story continued with The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review), a novel that brought together Captain Picard and the Cardassian Garak, a wonderfully unexpected combination of characters.  In David Mack’s spectacular A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review), the Andorian fertility crisis (a story-line that began at the very start of the post-finale DS9 relaunch, a decade and a half ago) came to the head as Julian Bashir’s Starfleet career came to an end (at least for now!).  Then, in the fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice (click here for my review), William Riker was recalled to Earth and promoted to Admiral, only to discover an enemy at the very heart of the Federation.

At the end of The Poisoned Chalice, I was left wondering whether these stories would be resolved in the fifth and final novel, Dayton Ward’s Peaceable Kingdoms.  Was this entire five-book series just a set-up for future stories to come?  Well, yes, in a way — the end of Peaceable Kingdoms certainly sets the stage for many more stories to be told in the Trek universe of novels.  But I was very pleased by the way in which Peaceable Kingdoms brought a definitive resolution to many of the story-lines that have been running through “The Fall.”

Over the course of the past few novels, we’ve read references to the Enterprise’s mission to Ferenginar (where apparently representatives from The Typhon Pact have been attempting to convince the Ferengi to break their alliance with the Khitomer Accord Powers and instead align with them).  I wondered if that would be the focus of this final novel, but the Enterprise’s business with the Ferengi represents only the very beginning of this tale.  This book picks up directly from the end of The Poisoned Chalice, with Riker and his allies attempting to root out the enemy they have discovered in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.

As the novel progresses, we follow many different characters across the quadrant.  The race to the election for President of the Federation is in its final days, and we spend some time exploring the politics of the situation as … [continued]

 

Star Trek Lives Part 1: “Lolani”

February 12th, 2014
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Forget the dismal Star Trek Into Darkness.  It’s a great time to be a Star Trek fan.  This week sees the release of not one but two full-length, completely fan-made episodes of “Classic” Kirk/Spock/McCoy Star Trek.  First up: the second episode of Star Trek Continues, “Lolani.”

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I have written a lot on this site about the extraordinary fan-made series Star Trek: Phase II, a group of dedicated and talented Trek fans who have set out to create a fourth season of classic Trek episodes, releasing about one full-length hour-long episode a year.  They released an episode last month, the Klingon-centric “Kitumba” (click here for my review), and, impressively, they have another episode coming out in just a few days.  Meanwhile, last year, another group began working to create their own full-length episodes of Classic Trek, called Star Trek Continues.  Their first episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity,” was great (click here for my review), and just a few days ago they released their second episode: “Lolani.”

I enjoyed “Pilgrim of Eternity,” but this second episode is even better.  What is consistent are the stupendous production values.  This fifty-minute episode looks and sounds exactly like an episode of Classic Star Trek, and I mean exactly.  The costumes, the props, the sets — it is extraordinary how the men and women of Star Trek Continues have replicated the look and feel of the original 1960′s Star Trek.  There is no a single off-moment that I could spot, not a single prop or set that looked wrong to me.  And the visual effects, supervised by Daren Dochterman (who worked on the fantastic Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture a decade ago), are absolutely gorgeous.  These visual effects are WAY BETTER than anything seen on the Original Series, and also superior in my opinion to the “official” Star Trek: Remastered project overseen by CBS several years ago.  What’s particularly great about the visual effects is that, while the CGI shots are much better than any of the primitive model-work used in the Original Series, the effects maintain the “feel” of those original effects shots.  These effects look like exactly what the special effects artists of the Original Series would have created had they had the technology.  The Enterprise looks and moves exactly the way she should.  I was bowled over by the beauty of those shots.

In this episode, “Lolani,” the Enterprise comes across an adrift Tellarite vessel.  Its four-person crew is dead, with only an Orion slave girl named Lolani still alive on-board.  While the Enterprise crew investigates what happened, Lolani is brought on board.  She very quickly requests asylum in the Federation, fearing a return to … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Poisoned Chalice

The latest series of Star Trek novels, subtitled “The Fall,” roars on with the fourth of five books, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice.  “The Fall” started off strong with David R. George III’s Deep Space Nine-centric Revelation and Dust (click here for my review), and built with the terrific The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (click here for my review) and David Mack’s equally terrific A Ceremony of Losses (click here for my review).

Now, in the spectacular fourth book, James Swallow’s The Poisoned Chalice, everything starts to come together.  This novel was billed as focusing on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and indeed it does, but I was thrilled by how this book pulled together story-threads from the previous three novels and moved the larger story dramatically forward.

Following the tragic events that occurred during the dedication ceremony of the new Deep Space Nine, the Titan’s mission of deep-space exploration has been cut short, and Captain Riker’s ship has been recalled to Earth.  Upon arriving home, Riker is called before an array of admirals.  But while he fears reprisals from his handling of the Andorian situation (in Michael A. Martin’s Titan novel Fallen Godsclick here for my review), instead he is offered a promotion to admiral.  To my surprise, Riker accepts!

It is soon revealed that Starfleet Admiral Akaar (a frequent recurring character in the last decade or so of Trek novels) has been growing more and more concerned with the actions of Federation President pro tempare Ishan Anjar, particularly in light of the events that took place at Andoria (in the previous novel, A Ceremony of Losses).  He wants someone he can trust helping him navigate the increasingly treacherous political waters, and so he tapped Riker.

This of course over-turns the whole dynamic of the Titan series, and I was thrilled that Riker’s promotion to admiral and his new Earth-bound post still stands at the end of this book.  What that means for future Titan novels I don’t know, but I love seeing these stories move forward and the characters’ lives change.

In the meantime, this leads to a thrilling story in The Poisoned Chalice as Riker and a small cadre of allies work to determine what exactly is going on in the highest echelons of power in the Federation.  As the novel unfolds, we follow several connected stories.  Now on Earth with her husband, Deanna Troi has accepted a temporary post in the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, and her first assignment winds up being trying to resolve a tense diplomatic standoff between the Andorian diplomatic contingent and President Anjar, … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Nemesis

February 5th, 2014
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I love movie soundtracks.  And I love Star Trek.  So these past few years have been fantastic, as we have gradually seen, for the first time ever, the release of the complete, unedited soundtracks for every single one of the Star Trek films.  With the recent release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the pre-J.J.Abrams-reboot Star Trek films, every Trek film’s complete score has been released.  (With the exception of the most recent film, Star Trek Into Darkness.  But I am trying to forget that dreadful film was ever made, so I’m not counting it.)

After listening to, and thoroughly enjoying, many of the previous Trek complete soundtrack releases, I often went back and re-watched the film whose soundtrack had just been released.  Usually listening to the soundtrack made me eager to re-watch the film.  I knew that would not be the case, though, with Star Trek: Nemesis.  That absolutely dreadful, abysmal film is by far my least favorite of all the Star Trek films (Into Darkness included).  (Click here to read my ranking of all the Star Trek films, from worst to best!)

I have only seen Star Trek: Nemesis two times (first in theatres, and then again when it came out on DVD, as I had to verify that the film really was as horrible as my first impression had indicated), and I have no plans to watch the film again any time soon.  But I was excited for the release of Jerry Goldsmith’s score.  Even before getting the various Trek scores on CD, I knew most of those scores very, very well.  One of the best aspects of the Trek films have been their fantastic scores.  But because I had only seen Nemesis twice, its score was very unfamiliar to me.  I had no recollection of what any of the main musical themes of the film were.  So I was eager to get the CD and get to know this score a little better.

Quite a number of fantastic composers have worked on the Trek films over the years.  My favorite remains James Horner, whose scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III are genius-level magnificent.  But it’s impossible to deny the extraordinary contributions to Trek music of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.  Mr. Goldsmith established the musical sound of the Trek movies with his rich, bombastic score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  (Click here for my detailed thoughts on TMP’s score.)  His main theme for TMP was later adopted as the theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  So it’s appropriate that Mr. Goldsmith returned to the Trek universe to … [continued]

 

And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2013 list!  I hope you all enjoyed the rest of my lists.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Movies of 2013, and here for part two and here for part three.  Click here for part one of The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013, and here for part two.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013, and here for part two.

And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top Ten DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013:

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Had I seen this film in 2012 when it was released, it surely would have made it onto my Best Movies of 2012 list.  Since I missed including this touching, heartbreaking film on that list last year, I sort of had to find a way to cheat and include it on one of my Best of 2013 lists!  This film has stuck with me deeply since I saw it.  It’s surely one of the greatest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, masterfully adapted for the screen by Steven Chbosky, based on his own novel of the same name (which I now desperately need to read).  Each one of the kids in the film is portrayed by a phenomenal actor/actress: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, and a score of others, not to mention some great adults in supporting roles such as Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh.  No child should have to go through what Charlie has to go through in this story, but should god forbid that happen, I hope he/she is blessed with friends as wonderful as Sam, Patrick, and their gang.  And while I referred to “cheating” a moment ago by including this film on this DVD list, the blu-ray is in fact phenomenal, with some great behind-the-scenes stuff and two magnificent commentaries, one by Mr. Chbosky alone and one by Chbosky and all the kids.  (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 & The Flashpoint Paradox These two direct-to-DVD animated DCU projects were both very strong.  At the start of the year we got the second half of the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns.  Published in 1986, this dark, psychological tale is the seminal “Last Batman Story,” in which an aged Bruce Wayne once again dons the cape and cowl in an attempt to reclaim a Gotham City without hope.  Mr. Miller’s work has been heavily mined for inspiration by … [continued]

 

Star Trek Phase II: Kitumba

January 6th, 2014
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Star Trek lives!  I have written before on this site about the wonderful Star Trek fan-made series, Star Trek: Phase II.  Taking their series title from the name of the proposed second Star Trek TV series of the seventies (which was eventually abandoned in favor of a big-screen resurrection called Star Trek: The Motion Picture), this dedicated group of fans have taken it upon themselves to produce episodes of the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek TV series.  Releasing about one full-length episode a year, this series has been getting better and better with each installment.  This doesn’t look like any other fan-made effort I have ever encountered.  If you were to flash by a Phase II episode on your TV, you’d have no reason to suspect this wasn’t an official, professionally-made Star Trek episode.

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After years of anticipation by Phase II fans (this episode was originally filmed several years ago, though various production problems have apparently kept it from being completed until now), the series has released its eighth episode: “Kitumba.”  In this episode, the rising tensions with the Klingon Empire are threatening to lead to war.  Though the Organians brokered an uneasy truce between the Federation and the Klingons (in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”), those powerful aliens appear to have vanished (indeed, they would never again appear in any future Trek series or episode), and so the war between the Federation and the Klingons that they stopped now threatens to erupt again.  To avert catastrophe, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent on a possible suicide mission to Qo’noS, the Klingons’ home planet, in a desperate attempt to broker a peace.  Their only hope for success lies in an unlikely ally — Ksia, a Klingon defector who was a former teacher of the “Kitumba,” the young Klingon emperor.  Until the boy comes of age, power is held by a Regent, Malkthon, and Ksia believes it is Malkthon who is beating the drums of war, and he hopes that Kirk can convince the Kitumba to put a halt to the war before it begins.

The idea of James T. Kirk visiting the Klingon homeworld is a juicy notion.  (In the Original Series, we never saw the Klingon homeworld.  It wouldn’t be until the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the Trek shows would show us Qo’noS and begin fleshing out the Klingon people and culture.  Kirk did visit Qo’noS, in less than ideal circumstances, as a prisoner in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was made after those early Next Gen episodes.  But the idea of seeing young Kirk in his prime on a mission to the Klingon homeworld is a great … [continued]

 

In one of my earliest posts on the site, I wrote my own follow-up to the famous Comics Journal article “Martin Wagner Owes Me Fifty Bucks,” in which I listed several comic book series that remained tragically never-completed by their authors.  At the top of the list was David Lapham’s magnificent series Stray Bullets.  This independently published, black-and-white comic book blew me away as a teenager.  I still think it stands as a magnificent achievement, which makes the fact that the series stopped publication in the middle of a story tragically painful.  Mr. Lapham is still working in the comic book industry, and for years and years I have been hoping that he would some-day return to this series and complete his story.  It looks like that day has finally arrived, as Image Comics has listed Stray Bullets on their publication schedule for March, 2014.  I hope this is real!!!

Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com has listed his Ten Most Disappointing Films of 2013, and at the top of his list is Star Trek Into Darkness.  What Mr. Faraci wrote about the film so perfectly sums up my feelings that I don’t think I ever need to write another word about that terribly disappointing film.  Here is Mr. Faraci:

This isn’t technically a ranked list, but I saved this for last on purpose. There were many months leading up to Star Trek Into Darkness that allowed me to roll with the movie’s punch, but even still this broiling heap of nonsense left me deeply despondant. JJ Abrams had totally proven me wrong with Star Trek 2009, a movie that while not great was filled with heart and adventure and managed to work despite extraordinary script flaws. Star Trek Into Darkness brought back both the cast who made the first film live and the script flaws that almost sank it, except this time the script flaws were not going to get upstaged. Into Darkness is dumb, it’s complicated for no reason, it features reveals that are meaningless to the plot and it pisses away Star Trek‘s most name-brand villain in a plotline that disrespects hardcore fans while being meaningless to the coveted new audience. Star Trek Into Darkness is a movie so bad that it fails on almost every conceivable level, including mewling fan service. This isn’t the worst film of the year… but it’s without a doubt the film that squanders the most talent, money and good will. 

Amen.  (If you’re interested, here’s my review of Star Trek Into Darkness.)

Love this trailer for Christopher Nolan’s new film, Interstellar.  I don’t have a clue what the film is about, and that’s just the way I want … [continued]

 

Star Trek: A Ceremony of Losses

In Revelations and Dust, book one of Pocket Books’ ongoing Star Trek novel crossover series, “The Fall,” the opening of the new, Federation-designed DS9 was marred by a shocking murder.  Then, book two, The Crimson Shadow, chronicled upheaval on Cardassia as the greatest challenge to their new democratic government emerged.

And so we have arrived at book 3, David Mack’s A Ceremony of Losses.  Julian Bashir, still reeling from the events of Revelations and Dust, is contacted by his old friend and colleague, the Andorian Shar.  Shar was a character introduced at the very beginning of Pocket Books’ post-finale series of DS9 novels, in S.D. Perry’s Avatar.  It seems that the reproductive crisis affecting Andor — a story-line that has been running through the novels ever since those early DS9 relaunch books from back in 2001 — is reaching a tipping point.  If a solution to the fertility problems affecting the majority of Andorians is not found within the year, it will spell extinction for the Andorian people.  Shar believes that the solution lies in the Shedai meta-genome, an incredibly-complex piece of alien DNA found by Starfleet a hundred years ago, but classified at the highest level for fear the genome could be used to create terrible weapons.  (This is a story-point from the Original Series era “Vanguard” series of Trek novels, and it was brought into the 24th-century-set Trek novels in the “Typhon Pact” novel Paths of Disharmony, in which the Andorians’ discovery that Starfleet had been hiding this information led to an upheaval in the Federation.)  Julian is drawn to help the Andorians, but doing so would involve his accessing the classified Shedai information, which would be a crime of treason against the Federation.

A Ceremony of Losses is an excellent book, one that not only presents one of our heroes with a meaty moral dilemma, but that also, in the book’s second half, turns into an edge-of-your-seat thriller as Bashir races against the clock, and against enemies on all sides, even those who were once his friends and colleagues, to do what he feels is right and try to save the Andorian people.

I was particularly excited that A Ceremony of Losses finally brings some resolution to the story of Andor’s fertility crisis, a story that has been running through the Trek books since 2001.  That’s a heck of a long time for that story-line to have been hanging, and I was thrilled to see this issue finally addressed head-on in this novel.  It’s also great to see Shar finally front-and-center again.  He got a lot of focus in the early re-launched DS9 books, but after 2004′s Andor story in Worlds of Deep [continued]

 

This is fantastic: The Seinfeld reunion episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm season #7, edited together.  Enjoy!

This is a great site that lists the various actors and actresses who played multiple characters in different Bond films.  Great fun for the Bond fans out there!

Speaking of Bond, there was BIG NEWS last month that the James Bond movie producers and MGM have finally ended the nearly fifty-year-long legal battle with Kevin McClory, the co-writer of Thunderball.  I’ve known about this rights conflict before, of course (it’s what led to another studio being able to make the competing Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that was released the same year as Octopussy), but what I didn’t realize was that this rights situation was what was preventing MGMN’s bond films from using Bloefeld or SPECTRE.  My reviews of the Daniel Craig Bond films have been lamenting the absence of those two classic villains, and I am overjoyed at the idea that now the way is open for Bloefeld to be revealed as the head of Quantum, and/or for Quantum to be revealed as a branch of SPECTRE.  I desperately hope the next Bond film walks through this now-open door!!

Hey, comic book fans: I’ve recently discovered two comic-book-related tumblrs that I am now obsessed with.  First is John Byrne Draws, which is chock-full of absolutely gorgeous scans of Mr. Byrne’s original art from the decades that he has been working in the industry.  There was a long, long time during which John Byrne was my very favorite comic book artist (and writer!), so this was a real treat.  Then there is comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis’ tumblr, which is a showcase for two things: 1) amazing, extraordinary scans of classic comic book art from across the decades — work by many different artists from many different eras, being linked only by being some of the finest comic book art ever drawn, and 2) Bendis’ incredibly open, honest, funny and insightful Q & As with his fans.  Both aspects of the tumblr are equally valuable — together, they’re an irresistible time-suck for me.

This is a fun article on 10 parts of the Indiana Jones films that bother the writer.  I hugely agree with numbers 4 and 5.  (Don’t worry, the article only focuses on the original Indy trilogy, rightly ignoring The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

This Star Trek reference-laden conversation between a Netflix employee and a customer is apparently real, and it is amazing.

This is a great article on two of my very favorite novels: Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.  Oh man do I love those two … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Crimson Shadow

As a humongous fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I am delighted by how central the DS9 storylines and characters have become to the continuing, interconnected series of Star Trek novels, in particular this new five-book crossover series, “The Fall.”

In the first installment, David R. George III’s Revelation and Dust, Starfleet finally brought on-line the new, Federation-designed and built DS9.  The celebration, though, was marked by terrible tragedy, an event that threatened to spill the tentative peace in the Alpha Quadrant back over into brutal interstellar war.  In the middle of the book, Cardassian Castellan (the head of their government) Rakena Garan was forced to depart DS9, in order to return home to deal with unrest back on Cardassian Prime.  She then dropped out of the book.  Una McCormack’s magnificent The Crimson Shadow picks up the story from there.

Ms. McCormack has become the go-to writer in Pocket Books’ stable of Trek writers when it comes to dealing with Cardassians.  One of her first major pieces of writing for Pocket Books was the Cardassian novella The Lotus Flower, in Worlds of Deep Space Nine back in 2004.  That was a terrific story, and ever since then most of Ms. McCormack’s works have focused on Cardassians, in particular her phenomenal novel The Never-Ending Sacrifice.

Like that book, The Crimson Shadow draws its title from a Cardassian novel mentioned on DS9 (and kudos again to Ms. McCormack for that wonderful little bit of continuity).  It’s hard to believe, but this book is actually set ten years following the series finale of DS9.  I knew that the Trek series of books was moving forward in time — that’ one of my favorite things about Pocket’s Trek novels from the past decade-plus, how they have fearlessly moved the over-all story forward beyond the finales of the 24th century-set Trek TV shows.  But I hadn’t quite realized how much time had passed in the books.

The Crimson Shadow is an engaging study of what has been happening on Cardassia in the previous ten years, following the defeat of the Dominion (and their final, great purge that laid waste to most of the planet and killed hundreds of millions of Cardassians).  With Federation aid, the Cardassians have slowly been rebuilding, both the physical structures of their cities (buildings, roads, etc.) and their very society.  Cardassia has been struggling with democracy, an entirely new concept for its citizens who had been ruled by the military for so long.  The road has been rocky, and Ms. McCormack’s story doesn’t gloss over the difficulties this new experiment in democratic self-government represents, nor does she cheat and give us overly-easy answers in the end.

The focus of … [continued]

 

This is fantastic: Tom Hiddleston (who played Loki in both Thor movies and The Avengers) doing a phneomenal impression of Owen Wilson, had Owen been cast as Loki.  Check this out.

West Wing fans!  Did you see this clip of Allison Janney performing The Jackal on The Arsenio Hall Show?  This is an obscure reference, but one that any die-hard West Wing fan will appreciate:

This blog from Kevin Smith gives an intriguing update on his fast-developed, absolutely bonkers weird-sounding new movie, Tusk.  Click here for even more info.  Despite being an enormous fan of Kevin Smith, I still haven’t seen Red State.  I want to see it, for sure, since I can’t imagine not having seen one of Mr. Smith’s films, but it just doesn’t interest me that much.  So far, I am bummed to say that Tusk is trending the same way, but it’s such a loony concept that I am intrigued.  It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

This is a great short little retrospective of Jim Henson’s life and work.  I very much want to read Brian Jay Jones’ biography of Jim Henson, it sounds like a really fascinating book.

OK, this is a very geeky link, but I loved this.  An enterprising photoshopper has created images showing how awesome the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast would have looked in Original Series uniforms.  So great.

There are a lot of stories cropping up about behind-the-scenes issues on the pre-production of Star Wars: Episode VII.  Seems Disney is pushing for that 2015 release date, come hell or high water.  More info here.  I hope it’s all just talk.  I don’t have much hope that I will ever again in my lifetime see a great Star Wars film, but that little ember of hope does still exist, deep inside me.  Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe!

Chris Claremont is, I would argue, single-handedly responsible for the incredible popularity of the X-Men today.  Mr. Claremont wrote The Uncanny X-Men comic book, and a truck-load of spinoffs and mini-series and annuals and other special events, for a jaw-dropping seventeen years, from the ’70s into the ’90s.  (In one of the great injustices of the medium’s history, he was sort of pushed off of the series when his work began to be overshadowed by the popularity of the superstar artists working at Marvel in those days.)  A new documentary about his career — focusing on that incredible seventeen year run on the X-Men — has just been released, and I am dying to see it.  This is a fantastic article about a recent screening of the film, followed by a Q & A [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan: Fallen Gods

Star Trek: Titan has been a continuing series of novels, for the past several years, chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker, following the events of the final Next Gen movie, Nemesis, and Riker’s finally accepting a captaincy of his own.  I have very much enjoyed the books in the series, not only for their development of the characters of Riker and Troi but also for their focus on telling stories focused on adventure and exploration, and the development of new alien races and scientific concepts.  The series has also been a big part of most of the major multi-novel stories of the past few years, from the Borg invasion of David Mack’s Star Trek: Destiny trilogy (click here for my review) to the recent “Typhon Pact” story-lines.  I have loved the way that the last several years’ worth of Trek novels have woven together into an incredible tapestry, freed from having to maintain the status quo of the TV shows or movies, and the Titan series has been a huge part of that.

The Titan book series was begun by Michael A. Martin, along with co-writer Andy Mangels, and after several years and several books written by other authors, I was excited for Michael A. Martin to return to the series with the latest novel, Fallen Gods.  But I will also admit to a little trepidation.  Together, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have written some of my very favorite Trek novels, including that first Titan novel, Taking Wing (click here for my review) and their magnificent Captain Sulu epic Excelsior: Forged in Fire (click here for my review), a story that shed light on the backstory of Dax and Kor, Kang, and Koloth (the three great Klingons from the Original Series whose connection to Dax was the focus of the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”).  Their recent Enterprise series of novels, chronicling the post-finale adventures of Jonathan Archer & his crew, and finally telling the story of the Romulan War (an often-hinted-at piece of Star Trek back-story) started off strong but ultimately fizzled out and ended up as a big disappointment to me.  Possibly this is because mid-series their writing partnership seems to have broken up.  Mr. Martin finished the Romulan War series by himself, and I did not feel the same magic was there.

To my relief, Fallen Gods is far superior to those “Romulan War” novels.  It’s a very solid book, and a compelling new Titan adventure.  I will say, though, that the first half is far stronger than the second half, and there was a lot that frustrated me in that second half.  I’ll get into more details … [continued]

 

Josh Relishes Listening to the New Collection of Music From Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!

October 23rd, 2013
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Following last year’s release of the terrific collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was flabbergasted to hear of the release of a similar collection of music from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  DS9 is my very favorite of the Trek TV shows, but it also feels like the most niche of the Trek series, in stark contrast to the more popular, mainstream Next Gen.  That we got such an awesome collection of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation was amazing.  To get a similar collection of music from Deep Space Nine?  Unbelievable!!

This four-CD collection is everything I could have hoped for and more.  The first three discs follow a similar patten as did the Next Gen CD set.  Disc one contains the work of Dennis McCarthy, disc two contains the work of Jay Chattaway, and disc three contains selections from a variety of guest composers who scored episodes over the course of the series’ run.  (As they did for Next Gen, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway scored the vast majority of Deep Space Nine’s episodes, regularly alternating episodes.)  The fourth disc is an extra cherry on top of this already delicious sundae — extensive music from three very popular episodes: the James Bond parody “Our Man Bashir”; the Classic Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” crossover episode in honor of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, “Trials and Tribble-ations”; and the series finale “What You Leave Behind.”

This CD set is magnificent, a must-have for every DS9 fan out there.  I still can’t believe this thing exists!  The track selection is spectacular, as the producers drew a wide variety of music from episodes from throughout the series’ seven-season run.  All the classic bits of score that I could have wanted from my favorite DS9 episodes are contained on this set.

Disc One: Dennis McCarthy – In an interesting choice, just as Mr. McCarthy’s disc on the Next Gen collection began with a surprisingly long excerpt from a lame season one episode, so to does Mr. McCarthy’s DS9 disc, in this case from the first season episode “The Storyteller.”  That’s not a great episode, but the score is actually quite good!  I LOVE how Mr. McCarthy wove the main DS9 theme into his scores for those early episodes.  The season one finale, “In the Hands of the Prophets,” has some great suspense music for the climactic sequence in which O’Brien races to stop an assassin headed towards the Promenade, and I was delighted to see that piece of music included.  We get to hear some great action music from the season two three-part premiere (in tracks 8 and 9, “The Circle”) and also for the great … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation — Soundtrack Collection!

October 16th, 2013
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I have been loving the steady release, over the past several years, of the complete soundtracks for almost all of the Star Trek films.  It is incredible to be able to listen to those wonderful Trek soundtracks in their complete and un-edited form.

As a reminder that Star Trek has had just as robust a musical history on TV as on the big screen, we have the amazing three-CD set of music from Star Trek: The Next Generation, released last year by La-La Land Records.  What an amazing collection!  I have been loving listening to it, and I’ve been meaning to write about it here on the site for months.

The first two discs on the set are focused on two of the three men who scored the vast majority of Next Gen episodes: Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway.  For the fifth through seventh seasons of the show, these two men alternated episodes.  With only one or two exceptions, they scored every episode.  For the first four years of the show, Mr. McCarthy alternated episodes with another terrific conductor, Ron Jones.  Mr. Jones’ music is not represented on this CD collection, probably because of the extraordinary, unprecedented, enormous collection a few years back of The Ron Jones Project, a fourteen-CD collection of every single piece of music Mr. Jones wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation.  You read that right, fourteen CDs.  It’s crazy.

So anyways, the first two discs of this set focus on the music of Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Chattaway, while the third and final disc focuses on the work of some of the show’s guest composers (two of whom, have gone on to major success in the movies).

This collection is really terrific, an extraordinary collection of great music from this great TV show.  It’s an extensive collection of tracks, drawn from throughout the series’ seven-season run.  They really covered all the bases of the best of music from the run of the show.  It is hard to think of an episode whose music stands out that isn’t represented on this collection.

Disc One: Dennis McCarthy – Mr. McCarthy has been one of the most defining musical voices of the modern incarnations of Star Trek on TV.  He scored more hours of Star Trek than any other single composer, working on all of the Star Trek spin-off shows from Next Generation to Enterprise.  (He also scored the Next Gen crew’s big-screen debut, Generations.)  Mr. McCarthy’s disc begins in a somewhat surprising fashion, with a lengthy series of excerpts from his score from the pretty lousy first-season episode “Haven.”  I am not quite sure why the producers decided to include such a large amount of … [continued]

 

Want to loose an hour of your life?  Spend some time reading through the comments section of this article that poses the question: what is the single best episode of any genre TV show ever?  I don’t agree with all the responses, of course, but I agree with a LOT of ‘em… and they all make me want to devote the next year of my life to go-ing back and re-watching all of my favorite sci-fi shows…!!

Can you believe The Simpsons is entering its 25th season???  That is just insane!  Here is a great interview with current Simpsons show-runner Al Jean.  I have about two years’ worth of Simpsons episodes sitting unwatched in my Tivo queue.  I still love The Simpsons but somewhere along the line I just lost my eagerness to see the new episodes as they aired each week… and now it’s been many, many months since I have watched one of the latest episodes.  It’s hard for me to believe this has happened!  Maybe this will get me excited for the show again: the news that Guillermo del Toro directed the opening couch gag segment of this year’s Treehouse of Horror episode, that aired last night.  Cool.  I haven’t watched the episode yet, but it just might be time to dip into my queue and check it out!  Click here to watch the entire opening segment, and to hear more from Guillermo del Toro about creating that elaborate sequence.

This is interesting: Pixar’s in-development film The Good Dinosaur has had its release date pushed back by A YEAR AND A HALF.  Wow.   That means that 2014 will be the first year without a new Pixar film since 2005.  On the one hand, I am pleased to see a major studio taking the time to get a movie done right, rather than rushing to meet a release date.  On the other hand, while I don’t know the full story, I feel badly for the original director, Bob Peterson, who was removed off the film he had helped to create and develop.

From J.W. Rinzler’s upcoming book The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, io9 has collected a fascinating (oops, wrong Star franchise) list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Return of the Jedi.  This is a must-read for all Star Wars fans.  Speaking of Star Wars and i09, I also love their list of the 9 least-competent Jedi.  I don’t know anything about the expanded universe characters, but they’re certainly right on the money about Qui-Gon Jin.  (And Ben Kenobi.  And Yoda.  And Luke.)

I’ve been very critical of Star Trek Into Darkness on this site.  … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Insurrection

October 4th, 2013
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With the recent release of the complete score for Star Trek: Insurrection, we are very close to having available the complete scores of every single Star Trek film.  I have been gobbling up these CD releases!  As happened with the releases of the scores for Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: First Contact, after I listened to the Insurrection score a few times, I was compelled to go back and watch the film again, for the first time in several years.  I wrote in detail about my thoughts regarding Star Trek Insurrection just the other day, so let’s dive into my reaction to the score!

Star Trek Insurrection was scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek: First Contact.  While I wouldn’t count his score for Insurrection among my favorite of the Star Trek scores (I would certainly rank all of the scores for Star Trek II-VI above it, and probably also Mr. Goldsmith’s score for the previous film, Star Trek: First Contact), listening to the complete score on CD I was surprised by how strong a score it is.  As with Star Trek V (and possibly also Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as First Contact), the score is better than the movie.

Here are some of the outstanding tracks on the CD:

Track 1: “Ba’ku village” — Mr. Goldsmith begins his score for Insurrection just as he did all three of the Next Gen films that he scored: with two soundings of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek fanfare.  Between the two soundings of the fanfare, Mr. Goldsmith wove in his main theme for the film, in this case the pastoral Ba’ku theme.  Following a little bombast over the Star Trek: Insurrection title, Mr. Goldsmith’s score then does what no other Trek film’s opening music did.  Rather than exciting bombast (or even the lighter but still fast-moving music from Howard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV), Mr. Goldsmith gives us a lovely, melodic theme for the peaceful Ba’ku.  As a viewer, I still think it’s probably a mis-step, a less-than-exciting way to begin a big-screen sci-fi adventure.  But when considered purely on a musical basis, I was stunned listening to the CD by how much I loved Mr. Goldsmith’s beautiful Ba’ku theme!  I have found myself constantly humming this music over the past few weeks!  It’s a gorgeous piece of music, just lovely.

Tracks 2-4 contain some fun, fast-paced action music.  I enjoy how Mr. Goldsmith weaves his Insurrection theme into the music, and we also get a brief reprise of his Klingon theme (which Mr. … [continued]

 

From the DVD Shelf: Star Trek: Insurrection

September 27th, 2013
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I recently picked up Crescendo Record’s release of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek: Insurrection.  I’ll have thoughts to share on that soundtrack soon, but after listening to the CD several times I decided it was high time to re-watch Insurrection, a film I hadn’t seen for several years.

Star Trek: Insurrection is the third of the four movies made with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The Enterprise is drawn into a region of space nicknamed the Briar Patch (due to the stellar phenomena that makes travel in the region treacherous), because Data — on assignment on a planet within the Briar Patch — has apparently gone rogue and attacked a Starfleet research team.  It it turns out that Data has uncovered an ugly truth about the Starfleet mission in the Briar Patch.  Although officially sanctioned by the Federation Council and supervised by an admiral on-sight, the Starfleet team — working with some local thugs called the Son’a — plans to forcibly remove a peaceful people called the Ba’ku from their planet, so that they can harvest the incredible rejuvenating power of the metaphasic radiation found within the planet’s rings.  Picard and his crew take up arms to stop them.

Insurrection is generally considered one of the worst of the Star Trek films (and it definitely was near the bottom of my list when I recently ranked all the Star Trek films from worst to best), but there really isn’t anything all that awful about Insurrection.  The film’s biggest crime is that it is a trifle, a fairly light, low-key adventure.  Had Insurrection been a two-part episode of the Next Generation TV show, I think we would consider it very solid.  But this trite little adventure is not at all what Trek fans like me were looking for in a big-screen movie.  When we were only getting a new adventure every few years — and considering that, although the studio seemed supportive of the Trek franchise, there was no guarantee that they’d get to produce movies indefinitely (indeed, the lukewarm business that Insurrection did nearly derailed the Next Gen movie franshcise completely) — fans wanted their Trek movie installments to be BIG, IMPORTANT stories that felt worthy of the big-screen canvass.  These adventures needed to depict critical moments in the lives of our characters, and also hopefully be a story with an epic scale and, you know, the fate of the galaxy at issue.

Insurrection is none of those things.  It’s a very small scale, low-significance adventure.  The whole thing is a big mis-step, seemingly right from its initial conception.

It’s a shame, because coming off of the success of Star Trek: First Contact, the Next [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: Rise of the Federation

I thought the post-finale series of Star Trek: Enterprise books was finished.

Written exclusively by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin (and, in the later books, by Mr. Martin solo), this post-finale Enterprise series had gotten off to a great start.  They cleverly undid the stupid, pointless death of Trip in the Enterprise finale (while also beautifully unravelling many of the continuity gaffes from that poorly-made finale).  Then they began a multi-book story-line to finally tell the untold story of the Earth-Romulan War.  But what began so promisingly quickly unravelled, and I felt the last two books fell off significantly in quality.  At the end of the last book, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm (click here for my review), the last few chapters seemed designed to serve as a quick finale to the Enterprise story as a whole, with the ship decommissioned and her former crew scattered to the winds.  It seemed clear to me that this story was over.

And yet here we are, just a year later, with a new Enterprise novel that seems poised to be the start of a new series of post-finale Enterprise stories: Christopher L. Bennettt’s Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures.  (There are a lot of colons in that title.  I frankly wasn’t sure how to type it out.  But it seems to be that Enterprise: Rise of the Federation is the new title of this series, with A Choice of Futures being the title of this particular installment.)

This novel is set after the events of Mr. Mangels and Mr. Martin’s books, and it is very much in-continuity with those stories.  This new book meshes seamlessly with those books (and, indeed, Mr. Bennett makes some great choices to begin unravelling some of the problems with where the narrative had been left at the end of those books), but you definitely don’t have to have read those books to enjoy A Choice of Futures.  It is very successful as a new beginning for these post-finale Enterprise stories.

There are two main story-lines in the novel, both of which cleverly highlight the questions the newly-formed United Federation of Planets must face.  In one story, a Federation starship, the U.S.S. Essex, is negotiating with different factions on the planet Sauria (as in Saurian brandy — nice nod to the Original Series there) for trading rights to minerals on their planet.  As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the involvement of these Federation officers has dramatically affected the balance of power among the indigenous peoples of the planet.  Should the Federation have stronger guidelines in terms of what they can or cannot do when contacting people … [continued]

 

This is an old clip (it’s from 2012), but I just saw it for the first time and loved it: a revival of “Who’s on First” with Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, and Jerry Seinfeld!

This made me laugh a LOT.  Ladies and gentlemen:  Good Will Batman.

This is an interesting article on the production of season two of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, a show I find enjoyable though frustrating.  (I was fascinated to learn the reason that season two only ran nine episodes, rather than ten.)

Bill Hunt runs one of my very favorite web-sites out there, The Digital Bits.  He recently wrote a phenomenal editorial calling Paramount to task for their terrible treatment of the Star Trek films on DVD/blu-ray, specifically the disappointing blu-ray release of Into Darkness (in which Paramount created all sorts of special features for the movie but, instead of putting them all on the blu-ray, released individual featurettes to different vendors to be exclusive material just for them… making it impossible for Trek fans to get all of this material unless they wanted to go out and buy eight different copies of the blu-ray, each from a different vendor).  I agree 100% with everything Mr. Hunt wrote.  Well done.

Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, Devin Faraci at Badassdigest has written a brilliant evisceration of the film and a disturbing analysis of how co-screenwriter Bob Orci’s conspiracy “Truther” theories about 9/11 made it into the film’s story-line.  The idea that those sorts of nonsensical ideas about 9/11 made it into any big-budget blockbuster would be concerning, and the thought that these notions are a part of a Star Trek film — a series justly known for its progressive, liberal tackling of modern-day issues — is hugely upsetting to me.

This is a terrific interview with the show-runners of the new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen.  This husband and wife pairing can be overshadowed by Jed’s more-famous brother Joss (who is executive-producing the show), but I have loved their work on Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Maurissa KILLS on the musical commentary track!), and even some terrific Terminator comic books they wrote for Dark Horse comics a year or two ago.  I have a lot of faith in their talents.  I hope all the ingredients come together for this to be a great TV show.

Can this be true?  The blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s The Heat (click here for my review) features a commentary track by the original MST3K guys??  Well, I am definitely buying that blu-ray now!!

So… the new Robocop is a Cylon??

So…R.I.P. Futurama… again.  In honor of the show’s recent cancellation … [continued]

 

Josh Ranks the Star Trek Movies — Part 2!

September 16th, 2013
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On Wednesday I began ranking the Star Trek films, from worst to best.  Here is the rest of my list, numbers 4-1.  These are, by far, my favorite Star Trek films.  These films are not only head and shoulders above the seven other Trek films in quality, but all four of them rank among my very favorite films, period.  Here we go:

4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – Until J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot, I believe Star Trek IV was not only the most successful Star Trek film, it was also the one most well-known and liked by non-fans.  (The latter went hand-in-hand with the former, obviously!)  While I prefer the intensity of Star Trek II and III, it is undeniable how much fun the lighter Star Trek IV is.  Particularly in the decades since, when we have seen how badly the other two light/funny Star Trek films (Star Trek V and Insurrection) have stumbled, the success of Star Trek IV is even more impressive.  There is no question that the film is a joyous romp, with a lot of big laughs.  Even more impressive is that this comedic adventure is wedded not only to a film with real stakes — both physical and emotional — for our characters, but also that like the best episodes of the original series, this was a story with a strong message (in this case, about environmentalism).  The script is incredibly tight, with even throwaway lines (like Spock’s comment “judging by the pollution content of the Earth’s atmosphere, we appear to have arrived in the latter part of the twentieth century”) being so sharp and funny.  There are great moments for the entire ensemble cast (something many of the Trek films have struggled with), and one classic moment after another.  Also impressive: despite being designed to appeal to a wider audience than the usual Star Trek film, the movie is steeped in Trek lore.  Not only does the film take the time to explore the repercussions of the events of the previous film (with the terrific “there will be no peace as long as Kirk lives!” scene in the Federation Council, something we’d never before seen), but we get the return of Sarek, Amanda, and Saavik (albeit only briefly, my biggest regret with the film).  (I wrote a lot more about Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home here.)

3. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – I think this is the most under-rated of all the Star Trek films.  I adore Star Trek III!  It’s a terrific adventure, and a terrific continuation of everything that was great about Star Trek II.  I love how of-a-piece … [continued]

 

Josh Ranks the Star Trek Movies From Worst to Best

September 11th, 2013
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Quite a lot of websites picked up the story of how, at a recent Star Trek convention, fans ranked the twelve Trek films from worst to best.  Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci wrote a terrific piece on the ranking, sharing his thoughts on all the films.  It’s a hoot to read, and well worth your time.  There were a few things out of wack in the fan ranking (Star Trek: First Contact is better than The Undiscovered Country??  Madness!!) but for the most part it’s a decent ranking of the films.

Here is my personal ranking of the Trek films, from worst to best:

12. Star Trek: Nemesis a heartbreaking disappointment, all the more so because this wound up being the final Next Generation film.  I have often lamented on this site how often great stories (be they movies, TV shows, books, comics, etc.) fail to get a proper ending.  (With exhibit A being The X-Files.  Sigh.)  I think it is a huge shame that Star Trek: The Next Generation, a hugely popular and successful TV show, didn’t ever get the dignified wrap-up it deserved.  Instead, we got this mess, a misguided attempt to remake The Wrath of Khan (seriously, the last 30 minutes of this flick is almost an exact duplication of the ending of Wrath of Khan).  The whole story about faux-brothers (Picard/Shinzon, Data/B-4) was ill-conceived.  Shinzon as a clone of Picard never made any sense (and though Tom Hardy has proven to be a magnificent actor, Shinzon is a whiny brat and a terrible villain) and the imbecilic B-4 was a dumb retread of the Data-Lore stories that had already been done on The Next Gen series.  The plot was stupid (what was the point of that crazy dune-buggy chase early in the film?  Just who were the aliens shooting at Picard and co.??) and most of the ensemble was wasted (Dr. Crusher had zero to do, and the mind-rape of Troi was just terrible).  Add the pointless death of Data on top and you get the worst Trek film, by a wide margin.

11. Star Trek Into Darkness What was I just saying about misguided attempts to remake The Wrath of Khan?  After the flawed but fun 2009 Star Trek reboot, this was a big bucket of cold water on the heads of Star Trek fans.  A stupid, stupid script (I defy you to explain to me why Khan does anything he does in this film.  Why does he go to the Klingon home-world?  Why does he put his frozen friends into torpedoes?  Why does he let himself get captured by Kirk and then sits and does nothing while Admiral Marcus almost … [continued]

 

Star Trek Revelation and Dust

I have written often on this site about Pocket Books’ spectacular series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels, that continued the story of the characters from that great TV show (the best of the Star Trek series, in my opinion), beyond the series finale.  There were about a dozen novels published between 2001 and 2005, and they basically formed an eighth season of the show.  Together they were a spectacular series of books, brilliantly continuing many of the story-lines and character arcs from the series while also weaving in many rich new characters and stories.  But after a while, the series seemed to hit something of a snag, and several years passed without any new DS9 adventures.  In 2008, David Mack wrote his phenomenal Destiny trilogy of novels (click here for my original review), which featured characters from all the 24th century-set Trek shows (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  That was an amazing story, and it lead to several more phenomenal novels that explored the Trek universe following the destructive events of Destiny.

I loved all those books, but I was a little sad to see the lack of DS9-centered novels.  Then came the “Typhon Pact” series from two years ago.  That crossover was pleasingly Deep Space Nine centered, with two of the books, David Mack’s Zero-Sum Game (click here for my review) and David R. George III Rough Beasts of Empire (click here for my review) focused on DS9 characters and story-lines.  Those books were followed by last summer’s duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, also written by David R. George III.  Those two novels were also published under the “Typhon Pact” heading, but they were unquestionably Deep Space Nine stories, as Mr. George masterfully pulled together countless DS9 story-lines that had been dangling — some of them for years — while also moving forward the political “Typhon Pact” story-line, in which the Federation found itself threatened with a new alliance of many of its deadliest enemies.  I loved those books when I read them last summer (click here for my review), and this past summer, I re-read Rough Beasts of Empire followed by those two books, and I found myself even more impressed by the rich, compelling Deep Space Nine story-line that David R. George III had written.

Very recently, Mr. George’s latest Star Trek novel was published: Revelation and Dust.  Like his previous books, this new novel did not appear with a Deep Space Nine heading on the cover.  Instead, this book was labeled Star Trek: The Fall, kicking off a new five-book series, with each book written by a … [continued]

 

Ben Affleck is Batman? And Other News Around the Net

So Ben Affleck will be playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel (currently titled Superman vs Batman).  How about that?  I have very mixed feelings about this announcement, but this isn’t coming from a place of being an Affleck hater.  Quite the contrary, I have been a fan of Mr. Affleck since the beginning of his career (I’m talking School Ties days!).  I’ve always enjoyed his work.  I think he’s a terrific actor, equally adept at playing comedy or drama.  I’ve always thought so, but what really made me a fan of Mr. Affleck was listening to his candid and hysterical participation in the commentary tracks for Kevin Smith’s early films, specifically Mallrats and Chasing Amy.  Mr. Affleck is OK in Mallrats and superb in Chasing Amy, but he is so funny, so genuine and so likable on the commentary tracks that I was solidified as a huge fan of his.  When considering Mr. Affleck as a superhero, one must of course consider Daredevil.  I am in the minority here but I am a big fan of that film.  I think it’s great, a nice serious take on the Daredevil character, and I thought Mr. Affleck was terrific in the title role.  I have always been bummed we never got a sequel (particularly since the narrative was positioned, at the end of the film, for a sequel to take on the classic Frank Miller Daredevil story-line “Born Again,” which I would KILL to someday see on a movie screen).

So why am I having a hard time imagining Mr. Affleck playing Batman?  To be honest, I’m not sure.  It might be that he is just too big a name for the role.  He’s a great actor, but not necessarily the type who vanishes into his different roles.  I am wondering if he as Ben Affleck is too well known to portray this character — will be be able to see Batman when watching him, rather than Ben Affleck?  Or is the issue that I have always found him to be a very likable performer — might he be TOO likable to portray Batman, a very grim character?

I am dubious, but on the other hand I am pleased that Warner Brothers are shooting high and looking to assemble a high-profile cast for the Superman sequel.  We’ll all see how it turns out on July 17, 2015…

In other news:

This could be one of my favorite articles I’ve ever read on-line: Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com on How Lost and The X-Files Are Exactly Like All His Failed Relationships.  So funny, and his analysis of those two shows that both collapsed in the ninth inning is … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

New production video for The Hobbit!  Yay!

Do you have $275 burning a hole in your pocket?  Then why not consider buying yourself (or me!) a print of Drew Struzan’s gorgeous Dark Tower painting (originally featured in Frank Darabont’s vastly underrated adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist)?

Star Trek geek red alert!  This is an outstanding, in-depth article about the special effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including a focus on the brilliant redesign of the USS Enterprise for that film (which still stands, in my mind, as the definitive version of the Enterprise).

Speaking of Star Trek, this is an interesting — albeit completely wrong-headed — defense of Star Trek: Voyager.  The writer is correct in lamenting the complete absence on TV these days of the type of optimistic, humanistic sci-fi that Star Trek embodied.  And he is also correct in praising the strong female characters of Voyager, and the way that, on the show, “female authority was assumed and unquestioned.”  That’s still a surprisingly forward-thinking and not-all-that-common point of view for a mainstream TV show.  Unfortunately, I wish Voyager was actually the groundbreaking show that writer remembers.  I’m afraid to say that Voyager was derivative and boring, a show that totally failed to follow through on any aspect of its strong premise, instead presenting us with rehashed, watered down versions of Trek stories we’d seen done before, and far better.  It’s the worst of the Trek series by quite a wide margin, in my opinion.

Boy, I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it a decade or two ago, but the more I learn of Orson Scott Card’s political views, the more disappointed I become.  Meredith Borders at badassdigest.com has written a concise and powerful evisceration of Mr. Card’s most recent anti-gay rights statement, and I think it’s worth a read.

As a weirdly connected follow-up piece, allow me to recommend this spotlight on the life of Conrad Veidt.  I didn’t think I knew who he was, until I ready the article and realized that I did (and I bet you do too, if you’ve ever seen Casablanca), but I didn’t know about his incredible life.  Very cool short article.

Nothing particularly revelatory in this first teaser poster for Captain America 2 I’m excited that they will be adapting Ed Brubaker’s fantastic Winter Soldier storyline — I hope they don’t stray too far from his original story.  We’ll see.

Oh, I love this possible premise for a sequel to This is the End!  I can’t imagine we’ll ever actually see that, but if they made that movie I’d be there.

Let’s end with the most awesome thing I have seen … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier (Part Three)

I have been having a great time diving back into Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier series of novels.  Click here for my overview of the series, and here for my thoughts on several of Mr. David’s most recent New Frontier novels.  Having caught up with the New Frontier story, I was eager to move on and read the two most recent books that I had not yet read: Treason and Blind Man’s Bluff.

Treason – One of the earliest New Frontier story-lines involved the unlikely relationship between the hermat Burgoyne 172 and the Vulcan Dr. Selar.  That romance immediately turned sour, sadly, and in the background of the last decade-plus worth of New Frontier books we have seen the tension between the two characters.  Finally, with Treason, the Burgoyne/Selar story returns to the forefront.  Dr. Selar has become increasingly isolated and bitter due to her inability to solve the health situation of her son with Burgoyne.  The young Xy has been developing at an incredible rate, so that now at age four he is already an adult and the science officer on board the Excalibur.  But Selar knows that his rapid aging will soon, inevitably, lead to his death.  As her logic begins to crumble over her increasing rage at the hand fate has dealt her, Selar abandons the Excalibur in a desperate attempt to find a cure for her son.

Meanwhile, Robin Lefler has fled the New Thallonian Protectorate with her young baby, seeking shelter on board the Excalibur.  Captain Calhoun has granted her asylum, but things become rather more complicated when the spirit of Robin’s dead husband, Si Cwan, seems to inhabit and take control of Si Cwan’s sister, Kalinda, and Dr. Selar kidnaps Robin’s child, for reasons unknown.  This begins a frantic chase across the galaxy to a thought-to-be-uninhabited world, where the Excalibur and their sister ship, the Trident, will encounter a powerful new foe.

After a little shakiness with Missing in Action, Treason is a confident return to form for Mr. David.  I am loving the return to focus, in these recent New Frontier novels, on several of the side characters and sub-plots that have been in the background for the past decade-or-more of books.  The character-arcs of supporting players like Selar, Burgoyne, Xyon, Moke, etc. are compelling and very enjoyable.  The novel itself is tense and fast-paced, and as usual with Mr. David I found myself enjoyably clueless as to where the story was going.  I am not wild about the name of the new race of villains, The D’myurj (just say it out loud and perhaps you’ll see why this particular new alien race’s name was a little too on-the-nose … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier (Part Two)

As I wrote about earlier this week, I have recently re-immersed myself in Peter David’s terrific Star Trek: New Frontier novels!

Stone and Anvil – This novel, published back in 2003, is one of my very favorite of Mr. David’s New Frontier novels.  It proved to be a wonderful culmination of the New Frontier story at the time, wrapping up a number of long-running story-lines while also bringing the series back full circle to tell the story of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun’s days at Starfleet Academy and his original romance with Elizabeth Shelby.  The book jumps back and forth between the two stories, with one chapter being set “Now” and the next being set “Then” (I always love the fun ways Mr. David structures the chapter headings in his books) and the strength of the novel is that each of the two stories is equally strong and compelling.  I never found myself, reading one of the story-lines, wishing that I was back in the other story.

In the present day, the book picks right up from the minute the brutal cliffhanger of the previous book, Gods Above, had ended: with Calhoun and Shelby discovering the brutally murdered body of Lieutenant Gleau in one of the ship’s turbolifts.  Gleau is a Selelvian (a race created by Mr. David) and over the previous few books Mr. David had been weaving a fascinating though unpleasant story in which Lieutenant M’Ress (one of two characters from Star Trek: The Animated Series that Mr. David has incorporated into New Frontier) felt that Gleau was using his race’s heretofore unknown mental powers in order to seduce her and then, when she turned down his advances, mentally torture her.  Of course, M’Ress is the first suspect when Gleau is found murdered, but the investigation quickly turns to another character, Ensign Janos, a huge, bestial, but fiercely intelligent character introduced by Mr. David several New Frontier novels back.  Mr. David has kept Janos’ background shrouded in mystery, though hints have been given that he is a Mugatu (one of the iconic alien monsters from the Original Series, seen in “A Private Little War”).  In Stone and Anvil we finally get Janos’ true story, and, well, it doesn’t end well.

Meanwhile, the very first New Frontier book had introduced us to the notion that Calhoun and Shelby (newly assigned as his first officer back in that first New Frontier adventure) had had a romance that had turned sour somewhere back in their past.  In the flashback chapters of Stone and Anvil, we finally get to see how they met, fell into a romance, and how that romance ended with their going their separate ways.  It’s a pretty sweet story, … [continued]

 

Returning to Star Trek: New Frontier

About twenty years ago, I started reading the Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books.  At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the air, probably in the second or third season.  There were no other spin-off shows, and only four Trek movies.  I’d seen those four movies many, many times, and the new episodes of Next Gen weren’t enough to satiate my cravings.

When I discovered the novels, I was delighted.  Not only was there a big backlog of new Star Trek adventures to discover (each of which took me a lot longer to consume than an hour-long TV episode) but a new book was published almost every month.  As I recall, at the time the books alternated: one month there would be a classic Star Trek adventure (featuring Kirk/Spock/McCoy), and the next month a new Next Gen adventure (with Picard, etc.).

I enjoyed all of the books, but quickly there was one author whose work stood out to me.  One author who, when I saw his name on the cover, I knew to be excited because his name was a guarantee of a particularly entertaining book.  This author was Peter David.

Some of those Next Gen books that Peter David wrote back in the late eighties/early nineties remain my very favorite Star Trek books ever written.  There was Q-in-Law, in which Mr. David brilliantly combined Next Gen’s two most popular guest-star characters, Q and Lwaxana Troi, in a hilarious romp that was so much funnier and sexier and fun-filled than even the best Trek episode.  There was Imzadi — still considered by many to be the very best of the Trek novels — which not only told the story of Will Riker and Deanna Troi’s love-affair on Betazed, years before they would meet again on the Enterprise D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” but which also wove a terrifying alternate-universe story in which a premature end to that relationship lead to catastrophic consequences.  Then there was Vendetta — my personal favorite Trek novel — in which Mr. David told what still, twenty years later, stands to me as the ultimate Borg story.  Set just about a year after the events of “The Best of Both Worlds,” in which Captain Picard was assimilated and one Borg cube nearly succeeded in destroying Earth, the Borg return to Federation space, this time with three cubes.  It’s a ferocious, epic-scale but also deeply personal story that has never been topped by any of the canonical on-screen Borg stories we have seen in the twenty years since “The Best of Both Worlds.”

After writing so many great Next Gen books, in the early nineties Mr. David created his own spin-off series … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Continues… (Part II)

Last week I wrote about the first two books in Pocket Books’ re-launch of the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel series, set after the final canonical on-screen Next Gen adventure, the (truly terrible) film Star Trek: Nemesis.  Here are my thoughts on books two and three of that re-launch!

Before Dishonor – when the early books in the TNG relaunch were originally announced, I was especially excited because it seemed that Pocket Books had assigned some of their best heavy-hitters as authors of the first wave of books.  Some of the very best long-time Trek authors (Michael Jan Friedman, J.M. Dillard, and Peter David) were being mixed with some of the very best of the newer Trek authors (Keith R.A. DeCandido and Christopher L. Bennett).  I was particularly excited for Peter David’s book, as Mr. David has always been one of my very favorite Star Trek authors.  (I mentioned in my last post that his magnificent Borg novel, Vendetta, might be my very favorite Star Trek novel of all time.). So I was very eager to read Mr. David’s book in this new TNG series.

Unfortunately, like the books that preceded it, Before Dishonor is rather a mixed bag.  There is a lot that I love about it.  As always, Mr. David’s prose is fantastic, very funny and very compelling.  I love that aspects of the book’s story are intended as a direct sequel to the events of Vendetta.  (Not only do we return to the great idea that the planet-killer seen in the Original Series episode “The Doomsday Machine” was originally designed as a weapon against the Borg, but the book also refences the storyline in Vendetta in which Geordi tried and failed to restore a rescued Borg woman to her individuality.  (It’s a story that is very similar in essence to what would, years later, be told on Voyager with Seven of Nine, just with a much less happy ending.  By the way, I have heard Peter David say that people at Paramount originally nixed his idea because they insisted that there was no such thing as female Borg, a ludicrous idea that Mr. David humorously references in this book.)  I love that Mr. David involved Spock in the story.  And I love love love the very controversial fate given to Admiral Janeway.  I could rant for days on how poorly Janeway was characterized on Star Trek: Voyager.  I love the idea of a woman captain, but I felt that Janeway as written was unbelievably arrogant and blindly stubborn.  I love that in this book her hubris finally catches up to her.  I know that Voyager fans were upset, but I loved it.

So what doesn’t … [continued]

 

Star Trek Continues!

Well, Star Trek Into Darkness was a disaster (click here for my full review), but luckily there are still a lot of incredibly devoted, creative Star Trek fans all over the world keeping the fandom of Star Trek alive.

I have written a lot on this site about the amazing fan-produced episodes Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages).  Over the past decade, they have been producing incredible full-length Star Trek episodes, intended to be the fourth season that never was of Star Trek the Original Series, featuring the continuing adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the crew of the Enterprise.  These Phase II episodes haven’t been perfect, but boy have I been impressed with the extraordinarily high quality of their productions — with amazing special effects, costumes, sets, lighting, and props, these episodes really look and feel like professionally produced episodes of Star Trek, and each episode seems to get better and better.  (Here are links to my reviews of their last two episodes: 2011′s Enemy: Starfleet! and 2012′s The Child.)

Last year, another group of Trek fans, made up of several who had been associated with Phase II, as well as several associated with another series of Trek fan-made films, Star Trek Farragut, announced their intention to produce their own new series of Star Trek episodes entitled Star Trek Continues.  As with Phase II, Star Trek Continues was announced as an attempt to realize the never-made fourth season of the original Star Trek series, featuring new full-length Star Trek episodes featuring Kirk and co.

After releasing three short vignettes (of varying quality — I loved the first one that picked up seconds after the last shot of what turned out to be the final classic Trek episode, “Turnabout Intruder,” but I was not wowed by the other two), Star Trek Continues has released its first full-length episode, “Pilgrim of Eternity.”  It is fantastic.  (Watch it here!)

First of all, let me say that I am suitably impressed with how quickly the Star Trek Continues folks were able to produce and release this episode!  I am loathe to criticize the wonderful Phase II productions, but there are episodes that they shot (and fans like me started reading about and anticipating) YEARS ago that still have not been completed and released.  Yet Star Trek Continues produced and released this episode in less than a year.  That’s fantastic — I really hope they are able to keep up that pace!!

“Pilgrim of Eternity” picks up the story from the original series Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” in which the Enterprise crew encountered what appeared to be the Greek god Apollo on … [continued]

 

First of all: Arrested Development.  Sadly for me, life has intervened and, despite my years-long anticipation, I have not yet seen a single second of the new Netflix season.  But rest assured, friends, that very shortly I will be devouring these new episodes and I will be back here, of course, with my detailed thoughts.  Hopefully very soon!!

This will take some time to read, but boy is it worth it: the Onion A.V. Club’s in-depth, career-spanning interview with comedian Patton Oswalt.

I wasn’t nearly as in love with Skyfall as the rest of the world seemed to be (click here for my original review), but I am excited by the news that, contrary to reports from late last year, Sam Mendes just might return to direct the next Bond film.  I hope that happens.  No let’s bring back QUANTUM and make them a real, SPECTRE-like threat to Bond!

This is hilarious and I have never loved George Takei more.  Click here to see Mr. Takei’s written responses to various bigoted anti-gay marriage protesters.

Speaking of Star Trek, I love this piece about a non-Star Trek fan who discovered Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  I still feel strongly that the under-loved Deep Space Nine is the strongest of the Star Trek series.  Sigh.  I miss the days of great new Star Trek on TV every week…!

Still speaking of Star Trek, this is a fantastic piece that dissects crazy, ill-advised efforts that J.J. Abrams went to in order to mislead folks (OK, flat-out lie) about the identity of the character Benedict Cumberbatch was playing in Star Trek Into Darkness.  I was tremendously disappointed by the Trek sequel (click here for my review) and this article supports and further fleshes out many of the points I made in my review.

I posted the first teaser for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t think I ever posted the longer, three-minute version.  Check it out.

Same goes for this deliriously huge trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s new film Pacific Rim.  This was released a few weeks ago already, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a look:

I lamented the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars a few weeks ago, so I am happy to see that many of that show’s key creative players are involved in a new, in-the-works Star Wars animated project, set between Episodes III and IV.  I still feel terribly disappointed that the Clone Wars story was cut off unfinished.  Dare I hope that this new series will resurrect some unfinished story-threads and characters from the Clone Wars series…?

I’ll leave … [continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Continues… (Part I)

As readers of this site clearly know, I am something of a Star Trek fan.  Grin!  Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading the various Star Trek novels published by Pocket Books, but over the past decade I have found the Trek books to be particularly enjoyable, and they have become my main avenue for consuming new Star Trek adventures.  Ever since the flop of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2003 and the cancellation of Enterprise in 2004, Star Trek novels have been pretty much the only way to enjoy new Star Trek stories!  Luckily, without having to worry any longer about having to maintain consistency with continuing TV series, the authors of the Star Trek novels have had the freedom to move their stories forward, shaking up the status quo in exciting ways.  The one-two-punch of a) that newfound fearlessness in breaking free of the old status quo of the TV series, allowing the characters to grow and change, while b) also establishing a very tight inter-book continuity between the novels, with characters and story lines continuing from book to book, has made the Trek book series particularly enjoyable to me.  I don’t read every new Star Trek book that is published, but I probably read six to eight new Trek books each year, and taken as a whole they form an enormous tapestry, an epic continuing adventure.  I love sagas.  I love them in any form, be they books (like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, or Frank Herbert’s Dune, or JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) or comic books (like Chris Claremont’s two-decade run writing X-Men from the late seventies into the nineties) or TV shows (like The X-Files, or Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica) or movies (the Planet of the Apes series, the Star Wars films, etc.).  One of the things I love about official, televised Star Trek is that aspect of the Trek universe being a cohesive whole, an expansive, ever-expanding saga.  Now, more than ever, that is also true of the Trek books.

Over the last several years, I have enjoyed writing about the various Star Trek novels I have read.  Recently, I decided to go back and re-read some of the old Trek books that I really enjoyed, such as as Excelsior: Forged in Fire and some of The Lost Era books (Serpents Among the Ruins and The Art of the Impossible).  I had fun doing that, so I then decided to go back and re-read some of the earlier books in the relaunch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new adventures of Captain Picard and his crew following the events depicted in Star Trek: Nemesis.  My recollection was … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17th, 2013
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I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot (click here for my review), though not nearly as much as most of the rest of the world seemed to.  I loved seeing Star Trek brought to life, finally, under the big-budget it always deserved, and I was incredibly impressed by how successful they were at recasting the iconic roles, something which I had believed to be impossible.  But the script was a mess, full of plot holes you could fly a Constitution class starship through.

Star Trek Into Darkness is more of the same.  The film is gorgeous to look at, epic in scale and realized with extraordinary skill and craftsmanship.  The cast is terrific, every single member of the ensemble is great, and getting to once again watch Spock and Bones bicker and a million other little moments of interaction between the members of the classic Enterprise crew is a delight.

Sadly though, this film’s story is even more nonsensical than the previous film’s was.  It’s catastrophically bad.  Star Trek Into Darkness is not only hugely inconsistent with Star Trek canon (even when you take into account the “alternate universe” setting of his rebooted film series), but it is also inconsistent with it’s own story-telling and narrative logic.  Even when you forget all previously established Star Trek lore, and only consider this film’s story on it’s own, it is wildly inconsistent and contradictory.

I am not going to reveal every beat of the movie in this review, but I will be heavy with SPOILERS as I dig deep into the film’s problems.  So if you’re going to see Star Trek Into Darkness, I suggest you hold off on reading this review until you’ve seen the film, then come back here and we can see where we agree or disagree.

The film’s opening sequence encapsulates much of what works and what fails in J.J. Abrams’ two Star Trek films.  The Enterprise crew is attempting to contain a volcano explosion that threatens to wipe out the pre-industrial inhabitants of an alien planet.  Things go wrong immediately, with Spock trapped inside the active volcano while Kirk and McCoy are being chased by the angry natives.  Things quickly build to a classic Prime Directive conundrum in which the only way to save Spock is to break the Prime Directive and reveal the existence of the Enterprise to the natives.  This is an extraordinary sequence, as beautifully realized a Star Trek action scene as I have ever seen.  It’s incredibly fast-paced, as we bounce between the Kirk/McCoy chase scene to action inside the volcano with Spock and Sulu/Uhura on an Enterprise shuttlecraft.  The visual effects are gorgeous, the action and suspense are compelling, … [continued]

 

Josh Enjoys “The Best of Both Worlds” on the Big Screen!

In a very cool effort to promote the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, Paramount/CBS/Fathom Events have held a few events screening some of the newly-remastered episodes on the big screen, in select theatres around the country.  I wasn’t excited by the two season one episodes they chose to screen last year, and while I wanted to see the two season two episodes shown in the fall, I wasn’t free the night of the screening.  But when they announced a few months back that they would be screening the two parts of “The Best of Both Worlds,” edited together into a movie-length presentation, I made damn well sure to arrange my schedule so that I could be there.  This past Wednesday night, I was delighted to join fellow Trek fans in enjoying one of the high-points of televised Star Trek, gorgeously presented on the big screen.

Part one of “The Best of Both Worlds” was the moment when Star Trek: The Next Generation exploded.  Star Trek had never before done a season-ending cliffhanger, and while some shows certainly had before (the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” being one of the most well-known examples), those sorts of cliffhangers where no where near as ubiquitous back in 1991 as they were today.

After two shaky seasons, in its third year Star Trek: The Next Generation really came into its own.  Under the hand of new show-runner Michael Piller (who deserves almost all of the credit for the lasting success of Next Gen) and a group of phenomenal new writers, many of whom would go on to extraordinarily successful careers in Trek and elsewhere (Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Ira Steven Behr, Rene Echevarria, Naren Shankar, and more), suddenly The Next Generation transformed itself into a confident, ambitious sci-fi series.  Season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation is arguably the best season of a Star Trek show ever.  (In fact, back in one of my very first blog posts for this site, I sang the praises of Next Gen season three!)  There is not a clunker in the bunch, and many of the very best Next Gen episodes come from this season.  There’s “Sins of the Father,” in which we visit the Klingon homeworld for the first time as Worf returns to challenge the accusation that his dead father committed treason.  There’s “The Offspring,” the heart-wrenching story of Data’s failed attempt to build an android child for himself.  There’s “Deja Q,” in which Q becomes mortal.  There’s “The Defector,” a phenomenal Cold War-type tale of a possible Romulan defector.  There’s “Hollow Pursuits,” the episode that introduces the wonderfully flawed, holodeck-addicted Lieutenant Barclay.  There’s “Sarek,” in which Spock’s father appears and … [continued]

 

The great Dick Cavett has a phenomenal piece up at nytimes.com on all of the recent Tonight Show silliness.  This is definitely worth a read.

Also worth your time: the moving words of tribute posted at AICN in remembrance of the great Roger Ebert.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE these Arrested Development posters!!  May 26th just cannot come soon enough!

And speaking of things I love love love — this trailer for Man of Steel:

That is just spectacular, action-packed and emotionally rich.  Kevin Costner’s delivery of the line “you are my son” just kills me.  If the film delivers on half of the promise of this trailer, we are in for a hell of a ride this summer.

And here is the final full Star Trek Into Dark Knight (I mean, Into Darkness) trailer:

That’s a very solid trailer, showing us more than we saw before though still keeping most of the film’s major plot points under wraps.  We still don’t know if Bennedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan or not, which frustrates me but I guess we’ll all know for sure pretty soon!  I am also interested to see how they undo all the damage we see poor old Enterprise taking in this trailer.  Are we already going to see a refit-Enterprise in this rebooted film series?  (That actually gives me hope that the next Trek film will see fit to bring the design of the Enterprise back a little closer to the classic original or, even better, to the refit-Enterprise of the first six Trek movies, which to me still stands as one of the most gorgeous space-ship designs ever, far superior to the bulky monstrosity of the Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ films.  We’ll see…!)

I always get excited when an original sci-fi film (not an adaptation, not a sequel or prequel or re-imagining) is released, and Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium — his follow-up to the phenomenal District 9 — looks absolutely dynamite.  Take a peek:

Here’s a terrific Q & A with Ronald D. Moore, a long-time Star Trek writer (he was a key creative force on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and the creator/show-runner of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.  (Part two of the Q & A is here.)  Mr. Moore has been absent from television for too long now, I hope the series he is working on for Sy-Fy comes together.

This is a great behind-the-scenes pic from Ridley Scott’s original Alien.  And these are also great, showing off the gorgeous model-work used to bring the refit U.S.S. Enterprise (still the greatest of all the Enterprise designs) to life in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.[continued]

 

Star Trek: Allegiance in Exile

I have really enjoyed all of the Star Trek novels written by David R. George III.  Just a few weeks ago, I heaped enormous praise upon his “Lost Era” novel, Serpents Among the Ruins, that depicted “The Tomed Incident” and a story of the Enterprise B.  I also really loved his recent two-part Deep Space Nine-centric “Typhon Pact” duology, Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn.  So I was eager to read Mr. George’s new novel, an adventure set during the original five-year mission of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise.

Allegiance in Exile is a very interesting, unusually structured Star Trek novel.  The book doesn’t just depict one adventure.  Instead, it is set over the course of the entire fifth and final year of the five-year mission. I really enjoyed that approach, as it allows Mr. George to tell a more expansive story than I had expected.

On the other hand, I had a hard time shaking the continuity implications of this novel taking up the full final year of the five-year mission.  Even before reading this book, I always found it hard to imagine that the events of all of the 79 original Star Trek episodes could have happened during the span of the five-year mission.  The Enterprise crew would have been on a new adventure in an entirely new and different region of space practically every week!  Wouldn’t there have been travel-time between adventures, not to mention time to prep for each new mission, and to repair the ship after each time they ran into trouble?  And that’s just thinking about the 79 aired original Star Trek episodes, not to mention all of the other books and comic books that depicted countless additional adventures set during the five-year mission.  It definitely stretches the imagination to think that all of those events could have happened within the span of five years.

But Allegiance in Exile muddies those waters even further, because this novel suggests that the final year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission was spent mapping a particular region of unexplored space.  That is logical, and it also makes sense that, rather than having a new adventure every few days, that weeks or even months might pass between new adventures with new alien life-forms.  That is the scenario as presented in Allegiance in Exile, in which year five of the five-year mission passes fairly uneventfully, with only a few adventures every few months (adventures depicted in the book, and which wind up connecting as Kirk and his crew attempt to solve a mystery).  That means that all of the other adventures of the five-year mission didn’t just happen during the course of five years, but rather during … [continued]

 

“I Will Walk Over Your Cold Corpses” — New Trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness

March 21st, 2013
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So… ok then!  A new international trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness just dropped this morning, full of new footage.  It’s available in HD here — click on “International Trailer — UK.”

Like all the glimpses we’ve gotten so far of Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s a very solid trailer.  This is big-budget, visually stunning Star Trek.  (For the zillionth time, I wish the “Classic” Trek films I so cherish had had half of the budget that J.J. Abrams and his team have been given by Paramount.)  And while I know that some are tiring of the “grim and gritty” tone prevalent in a lot of our fantasy/super-hero/sci-fi films ever since the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I have no objection to my Star Trek being intense and serious.

But, that being said, am I the only one getting a little bit of a worrisome vibe from these Trek trailers?  I am intrigued by the terrorism angle, but a) it seems a little behind the times, as sci-fi/fantasy adventures like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and the aforementioned Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight have already so effectively explored terrorist and post 9-11 anxiety, and b) I feel like Star Trek stories should be set primarily in outer space, not on Earth.  Now, obviously, I haven’t seen the movie, so maybe there is plenty of outer-space adventure in this new Trek film.  (I have heard that some of the action will be set on the Klingon homeworld.  So that should be interesting.  Though here again, I have some worries as I have heard rumors that the chase scene — in which we see Kirk piloting a shuttle through a tight spot — is set on Chronos, but neither the ship nor the city architecture looks at all Klingon to me.  But we’ll see.)

Interesting to see Peter Weller finally make an appearance in these trailers.  To this point we’ve had no idea what role he would be playing — guess it’s a Starfleet admiral.  OK then.

Still no confirmation as to whether Benedict Cumberbatch is or isn’t playing Khan.  His character seems from the trailer to have been a Starfleet agent or officer, which doesn’t square with Khan… though he does seem to display some super-heroic powers (possibly consistent with Khan’s genetically-engineered super-strength and endurance).  I don’t get this cat-and-mouse game Mr. Abrams is playing with the fans.  If Khan is indeed in this film, as rumored, wouldn’t you think they’d want to get people excited for the return of this classic Trek villain?

I didn’t need the cheesecake shot of Carol Marcus in her underwear.

Nice visual effects extravaganza at the end.  This could be an example of a trailer … [continued]

 

This high school-set Game of Thrones parody, School of Thrones, is fantastic.  Worth it for the awesome opening credits alone.

I often wax poetic about my love for the great, much-missed The Larry Sanders Show.  My buddy Ethan e-mailed me this link to a terrific interview with Jeffrey Tambor (who played Hank “Hey Now!” Kingsley), filled with stories about his work on the show.  A great read.

Louis C.K. has a new stand-up special on HBO in April.  Love this trailer:

I must say I am shocked that, despite the BIG success of 2007′s The Simpsons Movie (I can’t believe it was that long ago, already!), they are not working on another one.  That’s a shame.

I have spent a long time looking at this awesome infographic that lays out the entire backwards-and-forwards structure of Christopher Nolan’s fantastic film Memento.  Wild.

I was VERY excited to read that an extended cut has recently been discovered of “The Wounded” and several other episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I hope some of this footage eventually makes it onto the blu-rays!  I LOVED the extended cut of “The Measure of a Man” on the season 2 blu-ray, and I would kill to see some more extended cuts of episodes in the future…  And “The Wounded” is one of my favorite TNG episodes!  (I love O’Brien!)

Speaking of Trek, a new teaser trailer was released a few weeks ago:

Solid trailer.  God I hope this movie doesn’t let me down.

Speaking of trailers — I still can’t believe they really made a movie of the deliriously unhinged, profane comic book Kick Ass.  And now they’ve made a sequel?  This new red-band trailer is great.  The kids have grown up, but this could still work.  (Though holy cow, how huge is Aaron Taylor-Johnson — who plays the titular geek kid turned super-hero, Kick Ass — now??  It’s weird to see puny Dave Lizewski so pumped.)  I LOVE that they used Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s super-villain name from the comics!  And Jim Carrey is in this???  This movie is going to be crazy.  I can’t wait.

I’ve never seen Veronica Mars, but if this is true that a Kickstarter campaign has successfully lead to the show’s revival as a movie, that is super-cool.  I am all for the rescue of fan-favorite, cult properties.  Serenity 2, anyone??  (No, says Joss Whedon.  Sigh!!)

Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) is masterminding a new show for HBO?  Yes, please!

Hmmm… are there any other HBO shows coming up that I’m looking forward to?  Oh, yeah, there is one:

[continued]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 3): The Art of the Impossible (2328-2346)

After re-reading Excelsior: Forged in Fire (the story of how Hikaru Sulu became the captain of the USS Excelsior, as well as the backstory behind Kor, Kang, and Koloth’s connection with Dax as seen in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath”) and Serpents Among the Ruins (the story of “The Tomed Incident” with the Romulans, and the end of Captain John Harriman’s command of the USS Enterprise B), I was eager to continue reading the next adventure of “The Lost Era” (the years between Captain Kirk’s final adventure in Star Trek: Generations and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation).  I remember loving the next book in Pocket Books’ “Lost Era” series of novels, The Art of the Impossible, by Keith R.A. DeCandido, when I first read it about a decade ago, and I was excited to read it again.

The novel is every bit as spectacular as I remembered it being, a real highlight of Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek books.  As opposed to the other novels of the “Lost Era” series, this novel doesn’t take place during one specific year — instead, it spans eighteen years.  I commented that the previous “Lost Era” book, Serpents Among the Ruins, dug deeply into geeky Star Trek lore.  Well, the event that forms the basis of this novel is even more obscure than the Tomed Incident and the Treaty of Algeron that were depicted in Serpents.  The Art of the Impossible depicts the Betreka Nebula Incident.  This event was only mentioned once, in a jokey (but very memorable!) exchange from the fourth season premiere of Deep Space Nine, “The Way of the Warrior.”  After getting beaten up by some Klingons, the Cardassian Garak remarks that he has no idea why the Klingons might not like him.  Doctor Bashir reminds Garak of something called the Betreka Nebula Incident.  ”A minor skirmish,” Garak scoffs.  ”That lasted eighteen years!” Dr. Bashir replies.  The whole thing is just a joke, for the punchline of Garak being so dismissive of some sort of conflict that lasted almost two decades, and it’s never mentioned again.

But in this novel, author Keith R.A. DeCandido takes that one little line of dialogue and expands it into an epic tale of interstellar intrigue, weaving together characters and references from across all of the many Star Trek series into a phenomenally entertaining novel.  A small conflict between a Cardassian ship and Klingon ship over the rights to the salvage of a crashed vessel on a planet in unclaimed space threatens to turn into a shooting war.  Diplomat Curzon Dax is brought in to mediate the conflict.  Drawing upon Federation history, and the technique the Organians used to mediate … [continued]

 

Awesome new Iron Man 3 Trailer & News Around the Net!

I am absolutely loving this new Iron Man 3 trailer:

This movie looks fantastic from what we have seen so far.  I love seeing Tony really challenged.  I love the idea of connecting this film to the Avengers not by featuring other super-heroic characters, but by exploring the psychological ramifications of what Tony went through in that film.  I love what we have seen of Ben Kinglsey’s interpretation of the Mandarin as a media-savvy terrorist.  I love the teases of what looks to be some great action set-pieces.  It’s Shane Black working again with Robert Downey Jr.  I am in.

I am intrigued by this announcement of The X-Files Season 10 in comic-book form.  And I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Faraci’s statement that the time is ripe for an X-Files revival.  I posted a lament when the date for the alien invasion came and went a few months ago, with no sign of the massive X-Files third movie I had been hoping for.  I would love to see that remedied someday, before all the actors get too old.  A man can hope…

I am always too busy over the summer to watch The Daily Show, a fact which eased my initial dismay when reading this announcement that Jon Stewart is taking 12 weeks off from the show to direct a film.  What’s particularly fascinating is that Mr. Stewart isn’t planning on directing a comedy, but rather an adaptation (that he has written) of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival.  The book was written by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy, and tells the true story of the detention and torture of Mr. Bahari, a BBC journalist, for 118 days in Iran.  Viewers of The Daily Show might recall Mr. Bahari, as he appeared on the show both before and after his ordeal.  One of the pieces of evidence used against him by the Iranians, who accused him of being a spy, was a previous comic appearance he had made on The Daily Show.

The fact that Warner Brothers seems to have no idea what to do with all of the DC Universe super-hero franchises they own, exhibited by their inability to get a Justice League movie off the ground, would be hilarious if it wasn’t so disappointing to folks like me who would love to see a whole slew of kick-ass DC movies.  Here’s hoping Zack Snyder’s Superman film doesn’t disappoint.  Going back to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale seems like a desperation move to me.  Though I would rather see Christian Bale back in the bat-suit than Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as had been rumored. Look, I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt … [continued]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 2): Serpents Among The Ruins (2311)

Well over a year ago, I re-read The Sundered, the first book in the Lost Years six-book series, published by Pocket Books about a decade ago, that set out to depict events of the “lost” seventy years or so between the last on-screen adventure of Captain Kirk and co. (the launch of the Enterprise B in Star Trek: Generations) and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with the launch of the Enterprise D in the series’ pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”).  After re-reading The Sundered, I had intended to go on and re-read the next several books in the Lost Years series, which I had remembered loving.  But I never got around to it!  Last month, though, after re-reading the Captain Sulu adventure Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire, which was also set during those “Lost Years,” I decided to move on and re-read the Lost Years Book Two: Serpents Among The Ruins, written by David R. George III.

As with Forged in Fire, this novel is absolutely phenomenal, an exceedingly well-writen, epic saga that weaves together numerous strands of Star Trek history, hints and pieces drawn from many different sources from among the different Trek movies and TV shows, to create a sprawling, exciting adventure.  This novel, even more than Forged in Fire, is drenched in Star Trek lore.  This is exceedingly geeky stuff (and I love it!), as the novel draws upon a few very minor lines of dialogue from a couple of TNG episodes (“The Neutral Zone,” “The Defector,” and “The Pegasus” of something called “The Tomed Incident” and “The Treaty of Algeron” (which made the use in the Federation of a cloaking device illegal, and was the Federation’s last formal contact with the Romulans for almost almost a century) and creates from those two events a huge story.

The novel centers on John Harriman, Captain of the Enterprise B.  Peter David’s novel, The Captain’s Daughter, did a great job of rehabilitating Captain Harriman from his cartoonish, borderline idiotic depiction in Star Trek: Generations, and this novel builds strongly on that work (and indeed references it several times).  David R. George presents us in this novel with the strong captain that Harriman should always have been — a man deserving of captaining the Federation’s flagship, now a seasoned veteran, right smack in the middle of a flashpoint of conflict between the Fedeation and the Romulans, a conflict that, by the time of the events in this novel (2311, eighteen years after the events of Star Trek: Generations), has been boiling for years.  The novel also focuses on another member of the Enterprise B’s crew — Demora Sulu.  No longer the ensign … [continued]

 

At last!  Our first glimpse at footage from Game of Thrones season three!

This is a very funny article: Six Horrible Aftermaths Implied by Movies with Happy Endings.

Here is a terrific, in-depth interview with the show-runner of the phenomenal Parks and Recreation, Mike Schur.  It’s no coincidence that the first half-hour of last week’s Parks and Rec double-episode felt like it could have been a series finale — that’s because it was designed to have served as such, had NBC not ordered nine additional episodes for this season.

Kristen Wiig will be appearing in the new episodes of Arrested Development??  And she is playing a young version of Lucille Bluth?  Brilliant!!

I just wrote about Layer Cake the other day, and I am excited that Matthew Vaughn — who also directed Kick Ass (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review) – in addition to producing the next X-Men film (the adaptation of the seminal Days of Future Past that will be directed by Bryan Singer, returning at last to the franchise he began) has also signed on to produce Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four film (which will thankfully be a total reboot, scrapping the two lame films directed by Tim Story).  I love that crazy comic book writer Mark Millar (who wrote the comic book Kick Ass, which Mr. Vaughn directed as a film) will be overseeing Fox’s upcoming super-hero films (X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) and I really love that his frequent collaborator Mr. Vaughn also seems to be stepping into a larger supervisory role.  It’s obvious that Fox is attempting to shamelessly imitate the success of Marvel Studio’s crossover Avengers film, but if it results in more great super-hero films for us, then I have no problem with that!

Speaking of Bryan Singer’s upcoming X-Men film, Days of Future Past, I really hope he’s serious about fixing what Brett Ratner did to the franchise in the catastrophically disappointing X3.  If they’re playing around with time-travel and alternate timelines, this is a golden opportunity to at long-last course-correct this franchise back to what worked in the first two X-Men films.  I home Mr. Singer can pull it off.

Sticking with super-hero movie news for a second, this is an interesting comparison of the Spidey-Suit in this past summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the far superior, re-designed look for the sequel.  (And I agree with the author of that post — MY cooler of haterade for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man ALSO runs deep!  Here’s hoping the sequel is better.)

And here is an AWESOME look at Ben Kingsley in Iron Man 3!  I … [continued]

 

Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire

Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have, together, written some of my very favorite Star Trek novels (such as Taking Wing, the excellent attempt to pick up the narrative pieces left by the train-wrech that was Star Trek Nemesis that also launched the Titan series of novels, chronicling William T. Riker’s first command) and some of my least favorite (such as The Red King, their follow-up to Taking Wing, and the Kobayashi Maru/Romulan War series of novels that began with such promise but ultimately disappointed).  But one of their very best novels –if not THE best — was their 2008 novel Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire.

Set mostly in the year 2289/2290, several years before the events of Star Trek VI, Forged in Fire tells the story behind the events of the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath.”  That awesome episode brought together, for the first time, the three most well-known Klingon characters from the Original Series, amazingly played by the three original actors: Kang (Michael Ansara), Kor (John Colicos), and Koloth (William Campbell).  That episode revealed that the three Klingon warriors, along with Jadzia Dax’s forebearer, Curzon Dax, had decades ago sworn a blood oath to avenge the deaths of the three Klingons’ first-born sons (one of whom was Dax’s god-son) at the hands of a brigand known as the Albino.  Forged in Fire fills in the backstory behind that event.  In this book we see how the Klingons first crossed swords with the Albino, and how it came to be that a young Federation diplomat became so close to a group of Klingons that one of them eventually named him godfather to his first-born son.

Why did I decide to re-read Forged in Fire now?  Actually, I wanted to re-read it ever since re-reading the first The Lost Era novel, The Sundered, which also featured Captain Sulu and the USS Excelsior, and was also written by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels.  But life got in the way, and I hadn’t gotten to it until now.  But what a delight it was to re-read this terrific book!

Forged in Fire is gloriously drenched in Star Trek continuity.  I love how cleverly the authors fleshed out the vague hints of back-story    given in “Blood Oath” into an enormous tapestry, an epic asventure spanning many years (the dense novel cleverly hops all about in time) that turns out to depict a critical event in the history of the Federation’s relationship with the Klingon Empire, setting the stage for the rapprochement that would arrive following the events of Star Trek VI.

I love getting to spend time with Kor, Kang, and Koloth.  … [continued]

 

From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews Star Trek: Generations (1994)

February 13th, 2013
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Well, a few months ago I reviewed the newly-released complete soundtrack to Star Trek: First Contact, and that immediately made me want to go back and re-watch the film, which I did.  After reviewing the soundtrack to Star Trek: Generations last month, I had the same compulsion!  It was fun to go back and re-watch Star Trek: Generations.

First of all, let me say that I cannot believe that this movie is already almost twenty years old.  That is insane!!

It’s all the more disappointing to consider that almost two decades have passed since the release of Generations because I feel, looking back on it, that the powers-that-be totally screwed up the Next Generation film series, and what began with such promise really fizzled out.  The Next Gen gang never got their truly great big-screen adventure.  I wrote in my soundtrack review that I think that Star Trek: Generations – flawed though it most certainly is — just might be the best of the four Next Gen films.  Perhaps First Contact is better (that film is far more action-packed and intense, though it too is chock-full of problems), but certainly I think the hour-long middle-section of Star Trek Generations – the section after the Enterprise B prologue and before Picard enters the Nexus — is the best representation of the Next Generation TV show on the big screen.  First Contact is fun, but it doesn’t really reflect the tone or style of the Next Generation TV show (not to mention the fact that with a whole new Enterprise, new sets, and new uniforms, it LOOKS very different).  But that middle hour of Star Trek: Generations is Next Gen realized on the big screen in a glorious way, full of exciting new twists and flourishes but very faithful to the TV show, and I love it.

OK, buckle up, let’s dive into my analysis.

The film gets off to a terrific start with a 20-25-minute prologue set at the christening and launch of the Enterprise B. Although I never thought it was necessary for the first Next Gen film to in any way cross over with or even acknowledge Classic Trek adventures — after seven successful years on TV, I felt Next Gen could more than handle its own feature film all on its own — I absolutely love this lengthy prologue section on board the Enterprise B. First of all, it;’s very cool to finally see the “missing” Enterprise realized on-screen.  The Enterprise A was in Star Trek IV-VI, the Enterprise D was the Enterprise of The Next Generation, and we saw the Enterprise C in the classic Next Gen time-travel episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”  So we’d never … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: Generations

February 6th, 2013
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Star Trek: Generations is a film that has really grown on me over the years, to the point where I might argue today that it’s the best of the four Next Generation movies.  Despite the film’s Kirk/Picard crossover aspect (which makes the film an epilogue to the Classic Trek adventures as much as it is a kick-off to the Next Generation film series), the middle hour-plus of Generations feels like the best big-screen representation of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV show that I loved so much as a kid.

The score for Star Trek: Generations was composed and conducted by Dennis McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy was one of the Next Generation’s main composers for much of its TV run (according to the liner notes, Mr. McCarthy has scored more hours of the modern-day Star Trek TV series than any other composer), and he was tapped to score the series’ first feature film.

I think Mr. McCarthy did terrific work, and that the score for Star Trek: Generations is vastly under-rated.  OK, it surely doesn’t rival the very best of the Trek movie scores: Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, James Horner’s magnificent work on Star Trek II & III (which I think are two of the very best film scores of all time), or Cliff Eidelman’s haunting, somber music from Star Trek VI. But the score for Generations is nonetheless terrific, far more subtle and complex than many film scores, and possessing some wonderful new themes and some terrific action cues.

Here are some of my favorite tracks from the complete soundtrack:

Track 1: “Main Title” — In a wonderfully unexpected move, Mr. McCarthy forgoes the tradition from all the previous Star Trek films (and so many other movies) of presenting the film’s main theme or themes in a bombastic march at the opening of the film.  Mr. McCarthy holds this for much later.  Instead, here at the opening of the film, he presents us with a quiet, melodic, mysterious melody that gently builds as we see a mysterious object tumble through space.  The track builds to a triumphant crescendo and an ebullient presentation of Alexander Courage’s classic Star Trek theme when the about-to-be-launched Enterprise B is revealed.  It’s a wonderful moment, one of my favorite beats in the movie, and a terrific beginning to the film.  From the liner notes: “‘I insisted on that,’ McCarthy says of the Courage theme… ‘I wanted it to be the payoff, both of the champagne bottle hitting and then the end where Picard is standing on the top of the mountain [at the end of the film]… When it’s the big ships taking off, boy, I want … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Sad news that actor Robert F. Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, has passed away.  Close your eyes, Joe.

In another piece of sad news, writer Peter David recently suffered a stroke.  Mr. David is a prolific author of novels and comic books, and I have been loving his work for well over twenty years.  His run on DC Comics’ Star Trek series in the eighties is one of the things that got me into comics, and I still think those comics rank among the very best Star Trek stories ever told, in any format.  He’s written a number of Trek novels, as well, with Q-in-Law (with the inspired pairing of Q and Lwaxana Troi) and Vendetta (the best Borg story ever told, and what I so wanted First Contact to be) being my favorites.  For any fellow fans of Mr. David out there, here is how you can help.

In my review of Django Unchained, I compared Quentin Tarantino’s film to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.  A recent “behind the scenes pic of the day” at aintitcoolnews featured a wonderful shot from Blazing Saddles, and if you’re looking to waste some time, I encourage you to scroll down and read that article’s really fun talkback section, which is filled with quote after quote from that spectacular film.  (Puts me in the mood to pop Blazing Saddles into my DVD player right now…!)

Speaking of Django, apparently there is a teensy tiny connection between Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction.  OK then.

Trekcore has posted an extraordinarily in-depth seven-part interview with Roger Meyer Burnett, one-half of the duo responsible for the wonderful special features on the new Star Trek: The Next Generation blu-ray sets.  Here is part one.  Mr. Meyer is absolutely correct in that, until now, the Star Trek films and TV shows on DVD/blu-ray have NEVER had the type of quality special features that they deserve.  The feature-length documentaries on the TNG season 1 and 2 blu-ray sets are a big part of why they scored so high on my list of the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012.  They are amazing, and interesting and informative even for a long-term, hard-core Trek fan like myself.  This interview with Mr. Burnett is phenomenal, and will be of interest to all Trek fans out there.  GREAT WORK, Trekcore guys!

With the return of Arrested Development inching ever closer, some great new info has been coming out about the new season.  I CAN’T WAIT!!!  ”One giant 700-minute Arrested Debelopment”???   Bring it!

Speaking of the return of beloved TV shows… a Bored to Death movie???  PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN!!!

Here are some nice [continued]

 

And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2012 list!  I hope you enjoyed the rest of my lists.  You can follow these links to see my Top 15 Movies of 2012: click here for part one, here for part two, and here for part three.  Click here for part one of my Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2012, and here for part two.  And finally, you can click here for part one of my Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2012, and here for part two.

And now, my final list: the Top 10 DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2012!

10. Great documentaries for not-so-great films: Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises Both of these films disappointed me when I saw them.  The Dark Knight is an extremely well-made film and a great super-hero epic, but it’s a big let-down after the magnificence that was The Dark Knight.  And Prometheus was just a catastrophe.  Nevertheless, the blu-rays of both films contained terrific feature-length documentaries.  Prometheus’ special features are particularly compelling — the 220-minute documentary “Furious Gods: The Making of Prometheus” (directed by Charles de Lauzirika) is extraordinary.  Is it crazy to be so interested in the behind-the-scenes stories of two films that ultimately disappointed me?  Maybe, but I loved these glimpses behind the curtains.

9. Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea-Bagging in the UK Every few years, Kevin Smith releases a DVD collection of some of his Q&A  sessions, and I always gobble them up.  None have topped the original An Evening With Kevin Smith DVD from 2002, but Mr. Smith’s skill as a spinner-of-yarns is unparalleled, and I adore listening to his lengthy, raunchy, hilarious answers to the audience’s questions about his life, his film-making, and all sorts of other details of his personal life.  (I even saw Mr. Smith live, in Boston, a few years ago!)  This latest DVD is a recording of some of the “Smodcast” podcasts that Mr. Smith recorded with his “hetero life-mate” Jason Mewes, on tour in England.  These shows are nowhere near as great as some of the previous Q&A DVDs — I like Jason Mewes, but I think Mr. Smith is much funnier solo — but these shows are still a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the frank, friendly interplay between Mr. Smith and Mr. Mewes.

8. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 – This animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal comic book from 1986 is one of the best of Bruce Timm’s recent direct-to-DVD animated films.  With solid (though not spectacular) animation and a phenomenal voice cast, I was very impressed … [continued]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 3: The Body Electric

I loved The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” and I was a little more lukewarm on book 2, Silent Weapons.  Book 1 dug deeply into Star Trek lore, bringing Data and his creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, back front-and-center in the continuing Star Trek story.  The book followed up on many ideas begun in Jeffrey Lang’s novel from a decade ago, Immortal Coil, a story that referenced almost every single previous incident in Star Trek involving an android or any other kind of machine life, and that introduced the idea of a galaxy-spanning Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence.  Book 2 shifted the focus to the continuing Typhon Pact story-line, and the tense, ongoing cold war between the Federation and this new enemy alliance.

In book 3, The Body Electric, David Mack returns his focus to Data and the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence.  Building directly on story-lines begun in Immortal Coil (which really should be considered book one of this four-novel story), we see that Data is still attempting to track down the Immortal (the man known as Flint, from the original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”), because Flint has discovered the ability to repair android brains following a cascade failure.  That is what caused the death of Data’s android “daughter,” Lal (from the third season Next Gen episode “The Offspring”), and Data is convinced that the Immortal can bring Lal back to life.  With the Immortal captured by a violent offshoot of the Fellowship of Artificial Intelligence, Data has no choice but to allow himself to be captured, too, with the hope that he can free the Immortal.  While in their custody, he discovers the android woman, Rhea McAdams, with whom he fell in love (back in Immortal Coil), is also being held by these androids.  Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher has discovered an awful enemy feared by the Travelers — a planet-sized machine wreaking havoc at the center of the galaxy.  With entire solar systems being destroyed every minute, he appeals to his old allies aboard the Starship Enterprise to try to help him avert destruction on a galactic scale.

As always, Mr. Mack spins a ripping yarn.  (Though I will comment that his tremendous skill with maintaining tension seemed to fail him at a few points, in my opinion.  The early part of the book establishes that the machine is literally destroying whole solar systems every minute, yet as the book unfolded over the day or two that the Enterprise was dealing with the problem, I often felt that things were moving at a surprisingly slow pace considering any second it could be Earth being demolished.  For example, after bringing the … [continued]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 2: Silent Weapons

I really enjoyed The Persistence of Memory, the first book in David Mack’s new Star Trek trilogy, “Cold Equations,” so I was very excited to move on to book two.  In Silent Weapons, Captain Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise find themselves entangled in a complex web of politics between the Federation and the Typhon Pact, the new alliance of many of the Federation’s enemies.  Federation President Bacco is engaged in a secret meeting on Orion with representatives of the Gorn Hegemony, members of the Typhon Pact.  A peace treaty between the two powers would drive a wedge amongst the Typhon Pact powers, but are the Gorn negotiating in good faith, or are they attempting to lure the Federation and Starfleet into a trap of some sort?  The already complicated situation is worsened when the peace talks are disrupted by an attempted attack by a Soong-type android.

In writing about book 1: The Persistence of Memory, I commented that while the book was set firmly in the continuity of Pocket Books’ 24th-century-set Star Trek novels, most of which have been dealing with the advent of the Typhon Pact and its repercussions on the Federation, I enjoyed that the book wasn’t focused on the Typhon Pact.  The novel didn’t have the “Typhon Pact” subtitle, it had the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” heading, and with good reason — the book delved deeply into Next Generation story-lines, focusing on trying up many dangling plot-lines concerning the seemingly-deceased Data and his cyberneticist “father”, the also-seemingly-deceased Dr. Noonien Soong.

Book 2, however, is very much a “Typhon Pact” novel.  While Data and Soong-type androids factor into the plot, they are not nearly as significant elements of the story as I had expected.  Instead, this book is really focused on the politics of the Typhon Pact situation — especially as concerns the Gorn and the Breen — and Federation President Nanietta Bacco’s attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the rising tension.  Silent Weapons is also very much a mystery novel, as Captain Picard and President Bacco attempt to sort out a byzantine scheme before their enemies can get the better of them.

Ever since his fantastic DS9 novel Warpath, I have always been impressed by Mr. Mack’s ability to build tension, and there’s a terrific sequence about mid-way through the novel in which it becomes increasingly clear that something really bad is going to happen at the peace talks.  The fifty-or-so pages leading up to the event are, together, probably my favorite part of the whole novel — it’s a real white-nuckle sequence.  And, when things do come to ahead, we see that once again Mr. Mack is pretty brutal … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Immortal Coil

The Persistence of Memory, book 1 of David Mack’s so-far-great new Star Trek trilogy, Cold Equations, made repeated reference to events in a previous Star Trek novel: Jeffrey Lang’s 2002 book, Immortal Coil. Before continuing on to read book two of Mr. Mack’s trilogy, I decided to track down and read Mr. Lang’s book.  I am glad I did, because it is fantastic.

Set after the events of Star Trek: First Contact and during the time of conflict with the Dominion as told in the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine, the story of Immortal Coil focuses on Data, still struggling to adapt to the emotions given to him by the emotion chip installed into his system during the events of Star Trek: Generations. At the start of the novel, Dr. Soong’s wife (and Data’s metaphorical mother), Juliana Tainer (introduced in the Next Generation episode “Inheritance” and played by Fionnula Flanagan, so memorable to fans of Waking Ned Devine and Lost) has died.  This forces Data to confront the hard truth that he will likely outlive every one of his friends and ship-mates.  The prospect of seeing them all die, one by one, dooming him to an unending life of loneliness sends Data into an emotional crisis, one he finds himself ill-equipped to handle.  Meanwhile, it turns out that Commander Bruce Maddox (introduced in the classic second season Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man”) has been continuing to work on creating another Soong-type android.  Partnering with the genius Emil Vaslovik and Reg Barclay (I love Barclay!), Commander Maddox has all but succeeded — until his lab is destroyed, Maddox is left in a coma, and their android prototype is stolen.  What follows is a terrific adventure/mystery, as Data seeks to uncover the truth about the android prototype, along the way learning far more than he ever suspected about machine-life in the galaxy as well as the past of his creator/father, Noonien Soong.

Immortal Coil is an absolutely marvelous book.  The book is deeply immersed in Star Trek continuity, but also totally compelling as a story in its own right.  In addition to picking up on myriad dangling story threads from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mr. Lang’s story directly deals with the events from two classic Trek episodes: “What Are Little Girls Made Of” and “Requiem for Methusaleh.”  On top of that, Mr. Lang cunningly connects just about every example of machine-life ever seen in Star Trek, from the Exocomps from the Next Gen episode “The Quality of Life” to Norman from the Classic Trek episode “I, Mudd”  to, in one of my favorite moments in the book, the M-5 computer from “The Ultimate Computer.”  It’s … [continued]

 

Have you seen the fake Arrested Development shows that have been popping up around Netflix?  (Mock Trial with J. Reinhold, anyone?)  Brilliant!!

I have long ago lost all faith in M. Night Shyamalan, but my goodness this trailer for his new sci-fi film, After Earth, looks terrific:

“Fear is the mind-killer.”  Heh heh.

Here’s a trailer for the new end-of-the-world comedy, This is the End, featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a heck of a lot of other very funny people (Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, and more), apparently all playing themselves:

In a similar end-of-the-world vein, here’s the first photo from Simon Pegg’s The World’s End, re-teaming him with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz).

Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey are dueling Las Vegas magicians?  And the film also stars Steve Buscemi and Alan Arkin?  OK, I’m in!  Here’s the trailer for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone:

Well, I wrote about the first one-minute “announcement” teaser for the new Star Trek film, Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, I mean, Into Darkness), and I wrote about the nine-minute IMAX preview that was shown before The Hobbit. But I didn’t write about the first full official teaser trailer that was released a week or so ago:

That’s because there’s not that much more to say.  There’s not much in here that’s too terribly different than what we saw in the announcement teaser.  It’ll be interesting to see the full context of Pike’s ominous declaration that “there’s not an ounce of humility” in Kirk.  Pike was Kirk’s biggest champion in the first film, and while I agree that the Kirk we saw in that film DIDN’T have an ounce of humility in him — he thought he was the smartest/toughest guy in the room at the beginning of the film and all the way through — it’ll be interesting to see how/why Pike changes his view.  I hope this results in some growth and mellowing for this version of Kirk.  The Captain Kirk I remember was definitely an alpha male, but that didn’t often tip over into outright arrogance.

Boy, for five seasons of Lost I thought Damon Lindeloff was the MAN.  Then came that last season of Lost. And Prometheus. And so I think it’s good news that he will not be returning to script the Prometheus sequel (if that ever actually gets made).

I’ve got lots and lots of new movie reviews coming soon, my friends!  See you back here soon!… [continued]

 

Josh Has Seen the First Nine Minutes of the New Star Trek Film!

December 19th, 2012

As excited as I was to see The Hobbit this past weekend, I was equally excited to take a gander at the first nine minutes of J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek sequel, being released this summer!  Certain IMAX showings of The Hobbit had the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness attached at the beginning, and, no surprise, I made sure to catch one of those showings.

Without ruining anything for anyone, a brief description:  The sequence opens playfully, with the same “binging” Star Trek sound effect that opened the 2009 Star Trek film, but this time the sound doesn’t herald a starship in space but rather something much more mundane.  The next two minutes had me wondering whether this really was the Star Trek clip, as we see a husband and wife visiting a sick child in a (rather futuristic) hospital.  It is here that we get a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character.  Of course, when he is asked “who are you?”, we don’t get an answer — instead, we cut away to Kirk and Bones in jeopardy on an alien planet.  The rest of the nine minutes is an extremely fast-paced, frenetic sequence in which Kirk and Bones use themselves as bait to lure a group of primitive aliens away from an about-to-erupt volcano, while Spock dives into the volcano itself in an attempt to use some sort of Starfleet doohickey to de-activate the volcano and rescue the primitives.  Of course, things immediately go wrong, and the sequence builds to a classic Prime Directive choice, a Star Trek II-esque no-win scenario.  The clip ends on a vicious cliffhanger.  It’s going to be a LONG wait until we get to see what happens!!

Overall the footage was fantastic.  Visually it was stunning, made all the more-so on a huge IMAX screen.  As a long-time Star Trek fan I am giddy at seeing Star Trek adventures told on a broad canvas, with a BIG budget.  (Most of the classic Trek films were made on shockingly low budgets.)  There are some fantastic shots in this sequence, and I found it impossible to tell where the sets and costumes ended and the CGI began, which is just as it should be.  The sequence is gorgeous, it’s intense, and it’s fun, which is exactly the tone that Mr. Abrams and co. struck so well in their first Trek film.

My worry is that we’re going to see in this film the type of carelessness in the script that I felt plagued the 2009 Star Trek film.  That film sacrificed science for “cool,” and as I argued back in my initial review, the over-all plot was filled with holes.  Trek[continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Well, I had less-than-happy things to say last week about the teaser posters for Star Trek into Dark Knight (ahem, Into Darkness) and Man of Steel. But both films have shut me up for now by unveiling pretty awesome teaser trailers, first Trek and now Man of Steel:

http://youtu.be/KVu3gS7iJu4

That’s a pretty fantastic trailer.  I’m not wild about having to sit through Superman’s origin yet again, but so far it looks like it’s being presented with class, and with some new imagery.  I am a bit surprised that this Zack Snyder Superman trailer is so light on action.  I had assumed that the reason to hire Zack Snyder to direct your Superman picture would be so it’d be chock-full of great super-hero/super-villain punch-em-ups.  But so far both trailers for Man of Steel have struck the same reverential tone as Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. I loved Superman Returns (I know, I am the only one) so this doesn’t bother me, it’s just a bit surprising.

Here’s another awesome trailer, for Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited next film.  It seems to be about giant monsters fighting giant robots.  I am there.

I am not a huge kaiju fan, but I did grow up watching Tranzor Z on American TV (a Japanese cartoon about a huge robot piloted by a young boy who controlled the robot from a control-ship in the robot’s head) so I’m down with the whole people-controlling-huge-robots-to-fight-evil sub-genre.  And with del Toro at the helm, I think we’re assured of some spectacular action and weirdness.

Here’s another interesting trailer, for Oblivion:

OK, Tom Cruise is playing Wall-E and Morgan Freeman is playing Morpheus, but that could be interesting.  Original sci-fi = good.  From the director of Tron: Legacy = worrisome.  We’ll see…

With The Hobbit so close I can taste it, here’s a great article on the ways in which J.R.R. Tolkien pulled a George Lucas and ret-conned his original version of The Hobbit after writing The Lord of the Rings.

Sticking with Peter Jackson for a moment, this is very pleasant news that he is still planning on directing a second Tintin film!  (The plan was always that Steven Spielberg would direct the first film with Peter Jackson producing, and then they would swap roles for the second film.  But with Mr. Jackson working on The Hobbit for the past few years, I had thought that plan had been abandoned.  I loved the first Tintin so I’d be delighted to see a sequel…!)

Someone made a bookshelf shaped like the Guardian of Forever??  Why is this not in my home right now???

That’s all for me today, my friends.  Sorry the Skyfall cartoons have been a bit … [continued]

 

Benedict Cumberbatch + Star Trek = Great

December 6th, 2012
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Awesome:

Want more?  Fast-forward to the very end of the Japanese trailer to see two seconds of extra footage, mimicking an ICONIC MOMENT from the FIRST Star Trek II from 1982…

[continued]

 

Star Trek Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory

David Mack’s 2006 DS9 novel Warpath made me a fan of the author’s forever (boy, I can’t believe that novel is almost a decade old!) and his epic 2008 trilogy Star Trek: Destiny (click here for my review) surely proved Mr. Mack to be one of the finest Trek authors working today.  That status-quo toppling trilogy has set the shape for all the Star Trek novel stories that have followed, as various authors (including Mr. Mack himself, in the novel Zero Sum Game) have set about to explore the wonderful chaos left in the wake of Destiny. The news of a new trilogy of Star Trek novels written by Mr. Mack had me very excited, and I am pleased to report that the first book in this new trilogy, The Persistence of Memory, is absolutely stellar. (I will refer to this novel as The Persistence of Memory, rather than its incredibly wordy actual title, which seems to be Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations Book 1: The Persistence of Memory. Sheeesh!!)

Set four years after the events of the final “official” on-screen adventure of Captain Picard and co., the dreadful movie Star Trek: Nemesis, Mr. Mack’s main purpose with this new novel seems to be to make right one of the worst mis-steps of that film, and let me say, it’s about damn time. (More details in the spoiler section, below!)

Most of the recent 24th century-set Star Trek novels (such as David R. George’s magnificent Deep Space Nine-centric duology Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn, and Una McCormack’s recent Brinkmanship) have been focused on the story of The Typhon Pact, the new interstellar alliance of several of the Federation’s fiercest alien enemies (the Romulans, the Breen, the Tholians, etc.).   Intestingly enough, David Mack’s new trilogy appears not bearing the “Typhon Pact” sub-header, but rather that of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” While Persistence of Memory certainly moves forward the story of these post-Nemesis Star Trek novels, and the book does deal heavily with a Typhon Pact race, the Breen, I loved that this novel really was focused on the cast and story-lines from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

We get to spend some excellent time with Captain Picard, Geordi, and Worf in specific, as well as with several introduced-in-the-novels members of the Enterprise E’s command team. (With Will Riker and Deanna Troi off on their own ship and series of novels, Titan, Data dead as of Star Trek: Nemesis, and Wesley off exploring the universe as a traveller as per one of the final episodes of Next Gen’s TV run, they did need some new characters!)

And boy, … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship

Pocket Books continues to weave a tight continuity between their Star Trek novels, particularly those set in the post-Nemesis time-frame.  For the past year or so, all of these new 24th century novels have fallen under the “Typhon Pact” banner, named for the new alliance of bad-guys that threatens the Federation.  It’s neat to see a new, long-term, serious threat to our heroes being developed, and I’ve really enjoyed how liberally all of the Typhon Pact books have mixed characters from the various Star Trek series.  After David R. George III’s absolutely spectacular DS9-focused duology Plagues of Night and Seize the Dawn (click here for my review), I was eager to read the next installment in this continuing Star Trek saga.

In Una McCormack’s new novel Brinkmanship, the Typhon Pact’s Tzenkethi Coalition (who were so memorably developed in the afore-mentioned David R. George III’s Typhon Pact novel Rough Beasts of Empire click here for my review of that book) again step into center stage.  When they form an alliance with the (created-for-the-novel) Venette Convention to lease bases near the borders of the Federation, the Cardassians, and the Ferengi (newly allied as a result of the end of Seize the Dawn), the three allied nations immediately suspect that the Tzenkethi plan to militarize the bases to use against them.  So they launch a diplomatic initiative to convince the Venette to ally themselves with the Federation and its allies, rather than with the Typhon Pact.  When that fails, and the Tzenkethi send ships to deliver supplies (supplies that might be weapons) to their newly-leased starbases, the Federation demands the ships be halted before they can arrive at the bases, or there will be war.

It didn’t take me long to realize that Brinkmanship was Una McCormick’s Star Trek version of Thirteen Days, the famous story of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  It’s a clever parallel, and the idea of a cold-war story set in the Star Trek universe has a lot of potency.  (Certainly several classic Original Series adventures had strong Cold War parallels — I’m thinking of “Balance of Terror” in particular — and of course the final adventure of Kirk & co. in Star Trek VI was all about the post-Cold War world.)  I did feel that Ms. McCormack hit that nail a little more on the head than she needed to, as a slightly subtler approach might have worked better in my mind.  (When one character declares that the Tzenkethi must “turn those ships around!” I thought that was a bit too on-the-nose.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Ms. McCormack’s previous Star Trek novels, Hollow Men and the terrific Cardassian story The Never-Ending Sacrifice (click [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

November 5th, 2012
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Star Trek and movie-soundtrack fans have been spoiled over the last few years, as we’ve seen the complete, unedited scores from almost every single Star Trek film released to CD.  I have previously written about James Horner’s score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Leonard Rosenman’s score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Jerry Goldsmith (again)’s score for Star Trek: First Contact, and Michael Giacchino’s score for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek.

A few months ago saw the release of a third Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek soundtrack on CD — his first project for the franchise: the complete score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was groundbreaking, filled with themes that are now iconically associated with the series.  First and foremost, of course, is his main theme.  Heard over the opening credits (and throughout the film, most notably during the minutes-long introduction of the newly-refitted Enterprise), this theme was later re-purposed as the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Mr. Goldsmith used it extensively in all of his future Star Trek scores (including Star Trek V and the last three Next Gen films: First Contact, Insurrection, and Nemesis).

Running a close second in terms of iconic staying power is Mr. Goldsmith’s beloved Klingon theme, which was also introduced in TMP. We hear it right away, in the film’s opening sequence (in which three Klingon warships are destroyed by V’Ger).  The CD’s liner notes describe the theme as a “repeating open-fifth figure… [that] establishes an aggressive, tribal atmosphere for the warlike characters.”

For the most part, each Star Trek film has had a distinct musical identity, and each composer has created new themes.  James Horner created his own Klingon theme (which I happen to love) for Star Trek III, and Jerry Golsmith’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was different than James Horner’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek II, which was different than Cliff Eidelman’s Vulcan/Spock theme for Star Trek VI, which was different that Michael Giacchino’s Vulcan/Spock theme for 2009′s Star Trek. But Jerry Goldsmith’s main Star Trek theme, and his Klingon music, both “stuck” in a powerful way.  That Klingon theme was heard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and also recurred in the other Trek TV shows and future films.  (Mr. Goldsmith certainly had a hand in that, as he used that Klingon theme prominently in his scores for Star Trek V and Star Trek: First Contact.)

Listening to the complete score for Star [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Arrested Development lives!!  This photo of Buster from the upcoming new episodes (I’m hearing Spring 2013?) really made me laugh.

Rumblings of a Dr. Horrible sequel continue to, well, rumble.  Could this actually become a reality next year?  Hoping hoping hoping.

Yeahbutwha?  The star of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series will be the killed-off-in-The Avengers Agent Phil Coulson??  I love Clark Gregg and love the idea of him headlining a new Marvel Universe TV show, but how is this possible?  Does this mean the S.H.I.E.L.D. show is set in the past?  Very curious…

This is a fascinating article by screenwriter Jon Spaihts on his original ideas for Prometheus, back when the film was without-question an Alien prequel.  (Mr. Spaihts apparently wrote five drafts of the film, before handing it over to Damon Lindelof for further revisions into the film that was actually shot.)  Hindsight is of course twenty-twenty, but boy Mr. Spaiht’s ideas as he describes them sound far superior to the film we actually got.

I love the idea that Emily Blunt (originally in the running to play the Black Widow in Iron Man 2, and I must say I think she would have been FAR better casting that Scarlett Johansson) is rumored to now be up for a role in Avengers 2. I hope this happens.

I am fascinated by the massive HD remastering project necessary for the release of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray.  (I loved the sample disc, though I haven’t yet shelled out for the complete season one, released a few months ago.)  Because Next Gen was edited on videotape, each individual has had to be re-edited from the original film negatives — the scale of the endeavor just boggles my mind.  Trekcore has posted a fantastic interview with the re-mastering team.  Here also is an interview with the CBS producers overseeing the project.

Speaking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, last month marked the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Next Gen. Here is a fantastic interview with Ronald D. Moore (one of the key writers for Next Gen and then Deep Space Nine, and of course also the creator and show-runner of the re-launched Battlestar Galactica) on the occasion of Next Gen’s 25th anniversary.

Back in 1990, fans went crazy when they noticed an Alien skull hanging as a trophy in the Predator’s ship in Predator 2. Here is a much less-cool sort of inter-sci-fi-movie crossover.  (Well, the idea does have a crazy sort of inspiration, I guess, but the problem is it just doesn’t really make any sense…)

Edgar Wright, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg’s third film together (after … [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm

The latest Star Trek: Enterprise novel, The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm, brings to a conclusion the finally-told story of the Earth-Romulan war that lead to the founding of the United Federation of Planets, and also serves as a finale to the series of five Star Trek: Enterprise novels written by Michael A. Martin (the first three of which were co-written by Andy Mangels).  I have recently written about the last two of those books: Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review) and The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (click here for my review).

To Brave the Storm is a frustrating novel.  There is a lot about the book that I really enjoyed.  It’s a very fast-paced read.  The story is exciting and gripping, and I tore through the book’s pages at rapid speed.  There are none of the digressions I complained about in Beneath the Raptor’s Wings (such as the lengthy chapters dealing with the two news-reporters Gannet Brooks and Keisha Naquase).  The story is galaxy-spanning, with the stakes extremely high: nothing short of the survival of Earth and the human species itself as the Romulans’ assault intensifies and the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance formed between humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites in the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise) shatters.  I love how epic the story is in scope, and I appreciated that the book takes place over the span of over five years.  That gives the Earth-Romulan war a believable scale.  I’m glad this mysterious, much-discussed conflict in Earth’s past wasn’t depicted as having been resolved in just a few weeks.

On the other-hand, To Brave the Storm feels in many ways like the cliffs-notes version of what should have been a much-lengthier saga.  I read that this book was originally planned to have been books 2 and 3 of a Romulan War trilogy, but that for reasons unknown those last two books wound up being compressed into one novel.  It certainly feels that way.  There’s a lot of plot in the book, but little time spent fleshing out the characters of the story and how the galactic events effect them — which should, of  course, be at the heart of any good story.  Why don’t we get a single scene of Captain Archer’s grief at the disappearance of his former lover Captain Erika Hernandez and the Columbia (an event — key to the trilogy Star Trek: Destiny — that seems like it happened right at the end of the events of the previous book, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing)? Why don’t we get to see Hoshi Sato’s reaction to serving on Enterprise during wartime, something which she said in … [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing

After re-reading Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels’ Star Trek: Enterprise novel Kobayashi Maru (click here for my review), I started right into Michael A. Martin’s follow-up novel The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing.  This is the first book of a duology chronicling the events of the Romulan War, a momentous event in Earth’s history referred to in the Original Series but never actually depicted on-screen.  In the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, fans grew excited that the show seemed to be planting the seeds of that conflict, but the show was cancelled before they ever got to actually show it.  Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels are here to pick up those tantalizing story threads.

Whereas Kobayashi Maru was mostly build-up, Beneath the Raptor’s Wing is “the good stuff,” so it’s not surprising that I felt this was a slightly stronger novel than the previous.  I’m not sure why Mr. Martin is no longer writing with Andy Mangels (with whom he had partnered on numerous previous Star Trek books).  When I saw Mr. Martin’s name alone on the book’s cover, I worried there would be a noticeable change in style, but I was pleased that this book flowed very smoothly from the previous novel.

As the novel opens, the newly-formed Coalition of Planets (the alliance between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar) is being forced to deal with a threat to all their worlds.  The Romulans’ involvement in the attacks on their ships (under the guise of the Coalition planets attacking each other, because the Romulans had discovered a way to remotely take control of Coalition ships and use them to attack others, as seen in Kobayashi Maru) has been revealed, and the coalition is now embroiled in a shooting war with their unseen enemies.  Unfortunately, they still have no way to defeat the Romulans’ telecapture weapon, so the Coalition finds themselves defeated at every turn by the Romulans, who are able to turn the Coalition’s own starships into weapons against them.

Beneath the Raptor’s Wing takes place over a full year.  I like how the novel is stretched over a much longer time-period than Kobayashi Maru was — it helps give an epic feel to the dramatic interstellar events being depicted.  I also appreciated how one of my major complaints about Kobayashi Maru seems to have been addressed.  (In my review of that previous book, I commented that all of the planets in the story — Earth, Vulcan, Chronos, etc. — seemed way too close together, with Archer and Enterprise able to zip from one center-of-government to another in just days, whereas I would have expected … [continued]

 

Did you enjoy the new Hobbit trailer I posted last week?  If you haven’t seen them, here are all of the other alternate endings to that trailer.

Uh oh.  Looks like Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt has dropped out of work on the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apparently because Fox is rushing the film to meet the release date the studio had chosen.  This is not a good sign.

This past weekend, on the eve of Treme’s season 3 premiere came the good news/bad news that HBO had renewed the show for a fourth and final season (four seasons was apparently David Simon’s ideal length for the run of the show), albeit a shortened season.  The exact length of this shortened fourth season, what Mr. Simon refers to as “season 3.5,” is TBD.  I’m bummed the show couldn’t swing a full final season, but I’m thrilled that HBO is at least giving Mr. Simon and his team some episodes to bring their television masterpiece to a conclusion of their choosing.

Well,  now I know why Robot Chicken did a DC Comics special this year, rather than a fourth Star Wars one.  It’s because Seth Green and many of the rest of the Robot Chicken gang are working on a whole new Star Wars parody show, Star Wars Detours. This first trailer is funny, though I’m not sure why this is a whole new show and not just more Robot Chicken…

Speaking of Star Wars, it looks like Episode II and Episode III will be getting a 3-D theatrical re-release in 2013.  I sat out the Episode I re-release (I must admit I was a little tempted, but that film is just so bad I couldn’t see spending the money, even though I was curious about the look of the 3-D), and I’m not that much more interested in seeing Episode II. But seeing Episode III back on the big screen, and in 3-D?  That just might have my ticket.  But I am really waiting to see if they re-release the Original Trilogy.  Any excuse to see those films on the big screen again is exciting for me, no matter how much new digital fiddling Mr. Lucas and his minions have done…

This is an interesting list of the Top 5 Best-Acted Moments in a Steven Spielberg Film.  I definitely agree with numbers 5, 4, and 1, not so sure about 3 and 2…

I was already interested in Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, and this interview with Robert Smigel and Albert Brooks, both of whom are appearing in the film, has … [continued]

 

Star Trek Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru

The last of the Star Trek TV series, Star Trek: Enterprise, was over-all a disappointment but the biggest tragedy of the show was that it was cancelled just as it was starting to get good.  The series left a number of plot-threads unresolved.  Luckily, the authors of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels have taken it upon themselves to pick up and resolve those dangling threads in a very entertaining fashion.  Christopher L. Bennett resolved the Temporal Cold War story-line (that had been an aspect of Enterprise since the show’s very first episode) in his novel Watching the Clock (click here for my review).  That novel was set in the 24th century, but Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels have been, in a series of novels, continuing the adventures of Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 in the 22nd century, depicting the adventures we might have seen had the show gotten a fifth season.

In their novels Last Full Measure (which I haven’t read) The Good that Men Do (which I did read, and really enjoyed) and in Kobayashi Maru, which I have just re-read, Mr. Martin and Mr. Mangels have set about to do several praiseworthy things.  First of all, they have ret-conned the ridiculous, stupid death of Trip, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, that was seen in the series’ final episode “These Are the Voyages”.  Second, they have focused in on the story-line begun in the show’s fourth and final season of the first, tentative steps towards the formation of the United Federation of Planets with the creation of a new coalition between Earth, Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar.  I was fascinated by that story-line in the show, and in these novels Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels dig deeply into the politics and struggles of this burgeoning interstellar alliance.  Lastly, with Kobayashi Maru in particular, they have begun telling the story that fans of Enterprise always hoped the show would eventually get to: the Romulan War hinted at in the Original Series.

I had read Kobayashi Maru when it was originally published a few years ago, but I hadn’t yet gotten to the two “Romulan War” novels written by Mr. Martin (no longer collaborating with Mr. Mangels, I’m not sure why).  Before reading those two books, I decided to go back and re-read Kobayashi Maru. It’s a solid though not quite spectacular novel.

My favorite aspect of the book is its focus on interstellar politics.  I love the glimpses we get into the discussions and debates between the ambassadors of the various Coalition planets, as well as the struggles and disagreements between the leaders of each individual world.  I love that Mr. Martin … [continued]

 

Can We Talk About This Terrible Star Trek Sequel Title?

September 10th, 2012

So the new Star Trek film is going to be called Star Trek Into Darkness.

Really?  That’s not a joke?

Ho boy, that is a bad title.  I respect them from trying to shy away from the “Star Trek colon title” model that the Trek sequels had been following for a while now (Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, etc.).  But making the words Star Trek be the first words in a phrase as a sort of pun is just silly.  It makes the title into a lame joke, which seems like the opposite intent when one of the four words of the title is “darkness,” which seems to indicate a shift into a more serious tone.  (I suppose that “darkness” could also refer to space, making Star Trek Into Darkness a sort of parallel to Gene Roddenberry’s famous original concept of the show as a “Wagon Train to the stars.”  But a) that seems like I’m giving the title way more merit than it deserves, and b) it still sounds silly, and making the title of one’s big-budget action-adventure film into a dumb joke cannot be what the filmmakers really wanted to do.)

So what approach should the Trek filmmakers have taken with the title for their sequel?  They couldn’t just go with numbers, since there already is a pretty famous movie called Star Trek II. Besides, numbering one’s sequels gets lame quickly.  Since audiences have been conditioned to expect diminishing quality with sequels, surely the Trek filmmakers didn’t want to start down another countdown to the inevitably lame Star Trek 5.

I love what Chris Nolan’s Batman films did, creating different titles for each film rather than a numbered series. The Dark Knight is a pretty perfect sequel title, since it is not only an iconic phrase very recognizable as belonging to Batman (as is The Man of Steel, the title for the latest Superman film, and a title of which I wholeheartedly approve), but also one that is given great thematic weight due to the events of the film.  When the end credits roll, you’re given a whole new perspective on the title.  It’s pretty perfect.  (Sadly, I don’t have quite the same amount of praise for the title of film 3, the lazily-named The Dark Knight Rises. I think it’s too similar a title to film 2, I think it has a much sillier and superficial connection to the story, and I think it was a cruel what-might-have-been tease to fans like me who would have really preferred a more direct adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – a title that would have worked perfectly coming after a film … [continued]

 

Resistance is Futile (and Chocolatey!)

August 24th, 2012

Check out this cake in the shape of a Borg cube.

Fantastic.  (Full story is here!)… [continued]

 

Dueling Star Trek Fan Films!

I’ve written lots about my enjoyment of the Star Trek fan film series Phase II. At a rate of about one new episode a year, the Phase II gang have been releasing extraordinarily well-made new episodes of the original Star Trek. The idea is that they’re creating the fourth season of the show that we never got because of it’s cancellation in 1979.  Phase II apparently has about four episodes still in their production pipeline (filmed but not yet edited and released), but they’ve been making a lot of noise about a new direction the series will be taking after the release of the next three episodes.  Fans of the fan-series got a jumping-ahead tease of that new direction with their just-released vignette, “Boldly Going”:

The early going of this new vignette is quite slow, and feels more like something made for Phase II’s production team, rather than its fans (since several of the Enterprise crew-members being mourned are actual Phase II participants who recently passed away).  Still, I love the look of the newly-refitted Enterprise, a cross between the Original Series design and that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (Creating a hybrid version of the Enterprise was an idea that the Phase II team had floated several years ago, and then abandoned.  I guess they changed their minds!  I think the idea of this hybrid half-refit Enterprise is a bit of a kooky notion, since it seems clear to me that TMP suggested that the Big E had just been through a complete refit and redesign, but I can go with it.)  I ADORED the transition from Original Series music to James Horner’s wonderful Star Trek II heroic theme.  I was THRILLED to see the CGI realization of Arex, a character from Star Trek: The Animated Series. And I loved the transition between James Cawley’s narration to seeing Phase II’s new actor playing James T. Kirk, Brian Gross.  I am far from sold on Mr. Gross’ performance (his voice is so high, it seemed very un-Kirk to me), but we’ll see how he grows into the role in future episodes.  It’s nice to get a little dose of Phase II, though I eagerly anticipate their next full episode, the Klingon-focused “Kitumba.”

Meanwhile, a new fan series has emerged that is also setting out to create a fourth season for The Original Series.  It’s called Star Trek Continues, and features several actors and behind-the-scenes folks formerly associated with Phase II. They’ve just released their first short film:

Star Trek Continues from Star Trek Continues on Vimeo.

I think it’s super-cool that they begin by recreating the final shots of the final Original Trek episode: “Turnabout Intruder.”  … [continued]

 

Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History

I really loved Christopher L. Bennett’s first Department of Temporal Investigations novel (click here for my review) that fleshed out the Federation’s timeline-policing agency, first seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibbble-ations,”  so I was excited to see the release of a follow-up novel: Forgotten History.

This new book is a sequel, but really it’s a prequel, as the novel focuses on the origins of the DTI.  I love Mr. Bennett’s enthusiasm for asking the logical follow-up questions to aspects of the Star Trek shows.  In this case, Mr. Bennett was clearly intrigued by the idea of how an agency like the DTI (which was used for mostly comic effect in “Trials and Tribble-ations”) might have come to be, and this wildly entertaining new novel is his attempt to answer that question.

One of the DTI agents comments, early in the book, that the beginning of most time-travel stories somehow always seems to wind up back with James T. Kirk.  The origin of the DTI is no exception.  In the early part of the novel, probably my favorite part of the book, Mr. Bennett retells aspects of various Original Series episodes that involved time travel.  In the book, we see how Kirk’s early misadventures through time planted the seed for the necessity for a time-policing agency.  But more interestingly than that, I loved how, in re-telling the stories from those Classic Trek episodes, Mr. Bennett found a way to explain away the ridiculous fake-science and inconsistencies of every single one of those early time-travel episodes.

It’s an extraordinarily fascinating and entertaining feat, and I really delighted in reading Mr. Bennett’s explanation for why, for instance, Spock might have lost his emotional control when traveling back in time through the Atavachron in the episode “All Our Yesterdays.”  (The explanation given in the episode, that Spock had traveled back to before the time when Vulcans had mastered their emotions, hence he could no longer control his emotions, was totally ridiculous.)  Or, for another example, Mr. Bennett’s explaining of the opening of the episode (“Tomorrow is Yesterday”) which begins with the Enterprise having (seemingly with no effort) traveled back in time to the 1960′s to observe a pivotal moment of Earth’s history.  I also loved his willingness to address the totally-unexplained appearance of a duplicate Earth in “Miri” (a plot point that I still find unbelievable that it wasn’t really explained or much-discussed in that episode) or the Earth-like planet seen in “The Omega Glory” (in which the United States of America and the people’s Republic of China apparently formed just like they did on our planet, only thousands of years in the past)…

Forgotten History,[continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Plagues of Night & Raise the Dawn

After far, far too long a hiatus, the Deep Space Nine saga has come roaring back to the forefront of the Star Trek literary universe with David R. George’s magnificent, epic duo of novels: Star Trek: Typhon Pact Plagues of Night and Raise the Dawn.

It was the post-DS9 finale series of Star Trek novels that drew me back into the world of Star Trek novels well over a decade ago.  I have written many words on this site praising the extraordinary series of post-finale novels that picked up on the many story-threads and character arcs left hanging by the end of the television series (in my opinion the greatest of the Trek television series).  I have also written about how frustrated I have been by the way the DS9 series of novels has floundered in the years after David Mack’s fantastic 2006 novel Warpath.  We got a few short, sub-par DS9 novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Keyclick here for my review), a great DS9 novel that was fairly disconnected by the main stories of the post-finale series (Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice –  click here for my review), and several novels set years later that featured some DS9 characters but felt separate from the main DS9 storyline (I’m thinking of Ezri Dax’s story-line in the Destiny three-parter — click here for my review — and the two recent Typhon Pact novels Zero Sum Gameclick here for my review — and Rough Beasts of Empire — click here for my review).  Rough Beasts, in particular, was a great novel and featured several meaty DS9-centric story-lines, but because all of those novels were set several years after where the DS9 series of books had left off, they felt weirdly disconnected from the DS9 saga I’d been following for so many years.  It was cool seeing DS9 characters involved in this new major series-spanning Star Trek story-line (the emergence of the Typhon Pact as a major new interstellar alliance threatening the Federation), but still somehow unsatisfying to me as a fan of Deep Space Nine.

Finally, though, FINALLY, the DS9 saga has returned in full force.  David R. George’s duology isn’t given the Deep Space Nine sub-header — the two books are instead both labeled as Star Trek: Typhon Pact novels.  This is appropriate, as these two novels connect and move forward the stories begun in last summer’s four-book Typhon Pact series.  Just like those novels, this duology features characters from many of the Star Trek series, both the different TV shows and the various series of novels from the past decade-or-so.  But make no mistake, Plagues of Night and … [continued]

 

From the DVD Shelf: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

After enjoying the newly-released complete soundtrack to Star Trek: First Contact, I decided to re-watch the film itself.  Star Trek: First Contact terribly disappointed me when it was first released (I can’t believe that was over fifteen ago!!).  It’s grown on me in the years since, and I think it’s probably the strongest of the Next Gen films.  (Which indicates the low quality, over-all, of the four Next Gen films.  What a tragic failure of a film franchise.  But I digress.)

When First Contact was originally announced, I was overjoyed.  A big-screen feature film focusing on the Borg seemed to promise the type of epic confrontation with that great group of villains that we’d never gotten to see on the small screen.  (After the amazing two-parter, “The Best of Both Worlds,” we only got a few more glimpses of the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and they always seemed disappointingly small-scale.)  But now, at last, we’d be getting a great Federation-versus-the-Borg story that I’d always wanted to see.  (Something on-screen to match the amazing Federation-versus-the-Borg story I’d already read, in Peter David’s magnificent Star Trek novel Vendetta.)

But that’s not at all what we got with First Contact. Yes, there’s a big battle with the Borg, but it’s just two-minutes long and is quickly dispensed with at the very start of the film.  Instead, the film turns into a time travel story, in which the defeated Borg try to destroy humanity by traveling back in time and disrupting the beginning of humanity’s journey to the stars and the eventual founding of the Federation: Zephram Cochrane’s first warp-flight.

Not only is that a pretty naked attempt on the part of the producers to smush together two previously-popular Star Trek story-devices, the Borg and time-travel, but it is totally contrary to the whole idea of the Borg.  The Borg are great villains because they are merciless and unstoppable.  They don’t strategize, they don’t scheme, they just roll over you like a bulldozer.  If one Borg cube is destroyed, they wouldn’t then use a time-travel plot to destroy humans.  They’d just come back with another cube, and another, and another, until the humans are defeated.

So the whole story of First Contact never made any sense to me, and always seemed like a big-cop out to the fact that, as created, the Borg really were pretty unstoppable bad-guys.

If I can put that aside, which is hard to do, there’s a lot to enjoy about First Contact. There are some great sequences of mounting terror as the Borg gradually assimilate the Enterprise, and I love the idea of the familiar Enterprise turning into a dangerous house of horrors.  (Those … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack of Star Trek: First Contact

There have been some very exciting Star Trek soundtrack releases over the past few months!  Recently I have written about the complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  I also recently picked up GNP Crescendo’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact, composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith.  I think that First Contact has the strongest score of all the Next Generation movies (with Generations coming in a close second), so I was very excited to finally have the complete soundtrack on CD.

First Contact is Jerry Goldsmith’s third of five Star Trek film scores.  He inaugurated the Trek film series with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and then returned with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Click here for my thoughts on Mr. Goldman’s score for Star Trek V.)  Before First Contact, Jerry Goldsmith had never written music for The Next Generation, although actually in a way he had, since his main title music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was used as the opening credits music for all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. According to the wonderful-as-usual liner notes (by Jeff Bond & John Takis), Rick Berman, who oversaw all of the 24th century-set Star Trek TV shows as well as the four Next Gen movies, got connected with Jerry Goldsmith when Mr. Berman hired Goldsmith to compose the main title music for Star Trek: Voyager. Though Mr. Goldsmith had often proven to be too expensive for the low-budgeted Star Trek films, Mr. Berman and director Jonathan Frakes were set on bringing Mr. Goldsmith in to score their film.  According to the liner notes, Jonathan Frakes recalled that “They made sure there was a line item in the budget to pay Jerry’s fee — that was part of the original budget of First Contact and I remember that specifically.  That was how strongly Rick felt about it and I certainly shared that feeling.”

Thank goodness for that, because much of the flavor of First Contact is given to the film by the rich and epic score by Jerry Goldsmith, who was assisted by his son Joel in the score’s creation.  Though I enjoy the heroic bombast of Mr. Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek V, I tend to find myself more drawn to the darker Trek scores such as James Horner’s work on Star Trek II (probably my very favorite Star Trek score) and Star Trek III, and Cliff Eidelman’s score for Star Trek VI. What’s so wonderful about Mr. Goldsmith’s work on First Contact is that it weaves together the epic and the ominous, the dark and … [continued]

 

In Praise of KHHHAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!

June 15th, 2012

Earlier this month, the Alamo Drafthouse held an event I wish desperately I could’ve been at: as part of their Summer of 1982 series of events, they screened a 35 mm print of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  (This past June 4th was the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Khan — can you believe that??)  One of the writers for Badassdigest.com, Meredith Borders, had never seen Wrath of Khan before attending that screening.  She’s written a marvelous love-letter to the film that encapsulates all of the reason why Khan is not only my favorite Star Trek film, but one of my all-time favorite films.  (It’s definitely in my top five.)  Here’s an excerpt:

I saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the first time last weekend…. It was a tremendous way to experience this movie for the first time, and I feel incredibly lucky. And holy shit, you guys. That movie destroyed me.

Here’s the thing: the only Star Trek material I’d ever seen before Khan was the J.J. Abrams movie which I quite liked. I knew these characters by their names and actors, but certainly not by who they are or what they represent. And I thought I didn’t care. So many people had recommended this film to me in the past, but none of them said the one thing I needed to hear to be convinced:

It doesn’t matter if you know anything about the Star Trek universe. The Wrath of Khan is an extraordinary movie on its own.

Well, now I know.

Here’s more from Meredith:

The action is stunning, and the effects are imaginative and aesthetically pleasing despite a limited budget. The plot is so brilliantly structured; each of the several acts builds and climaxes and resolves before seamlessly transitioning into the next act, and I was riveted until the very end. There is no fat on this movie. Every scene, every line feels crucial. But not only crucial for character development or plot advancement – every moment is entertaining. That balance of enthralling yet necessary is almost impossible to manage, and I cannot believe how well the writers and director accomplished it.

She has so much more to say, you should really click here to read her whole piece.

I have written about Star Trek II quite a lot on this site.  Click here and here for my thoughts on the film’s blu-ray release.  Click here for my series of cartoons having fun with Wrath of Khan.

Or, better yet, just go watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and experience one of the great action-adventure movies ever made, never mind the Star Trek label.  That’s … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Yes, this really is an enormous oil painting depicting The Death of Jennifer Sisko at Wolf 359.  Love it.

I’ve really been loving the first season of Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls. For anyone out there who is similarly digging this weird, funny show, allow me to direct you to this fabulous in-depth interview with Ms. Dunham and her fellow show-runner Jenni Konner.

I agree with pretty much every selection on this list of 15 superheroes who deserve a great reboot.  I’d have the Fantastic Four as number one on  my personal list.

Speaking of super-heroes: this is old, but somehow I just recently stumbled across this wonderful depiction of Peter Dinklage as Wolverine.  Genius.

Parks and Recreation is my favorite comedy on TV right now.  The show just wrapped up a great fourth season, and I’m pleased it was renewed for a (short) season 5.  Here’s a great interview with show-runner Mike Schur on season 4.

I think it’s super-cool that, to promote the upcoming release of season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation on blu-ray, they’re screening two season 1 episodes in theaters around the country.  I love that idea, and I wish it was something studios did a lot more of.  But why oh why did they choose to show “Datalore” and “Where No One Has Gone Before”???  Urgh, those are two very weak episodes.  Ordinarily I would jump at this sort of thing, but I don’t think I’m that interested in seeing those two episodes.  Two bad.  (For the record, if we’re picking first season Next Gen episodes — which is tough, because that first season is VERY rough — I’d have gone with “Hide and Q” and “Conspiracy.”)

Here is a terrific post from Devin at badassdigest.com on how to Take Back  the Nerd: Five Ways to be a Good Fan.  It’s a great piece, and I agree 100%.… [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of my very favorite of the Star Trek films.  (Possibly my very favorite — depending on my mood, sometimes I consider it better than The Wrath of Khan, other times a close second.  Click here to witness my waxing poetic about the greatness of Star Trek VI!) One of my favorite aspects of the film — and a subtle but critically important key to its greatness — is the marvelous score by Cliff Eidelman.  I was thrilled that Intrada recently released the complete score on CD.

Director Nick Meyer is responsible, pretty much single-handedly, for a huge percentage of the greatness of the Star Trek film series.  He wrote and directed Star Trek II, co-wrote Star Trek IV, and co-wrote and directed Star Trek VI. Time and again, Mr. Meyer demonstrated an unswerving ability to make just the right decisions where the Star Trek films were concerned.  His choice of Cliff Eidelman as the composer for Star Trek VI is just one example.

Poor Mr. Meyer had quite a few difficulties pulling off Star Trek VI for the minuscule budget offered by the studio (thirty million dollars, an astoundingly low sum for a sci-fi epic and the exact same amount that the ugly, small-scale Star Trek V had been made for two years previously).  In his memoir, The View From the Bridge (click here for my review of that wonderful book), Mr. Meyer recounted his difficulty in finding a composer who could work for the small amount of money he had available to pay.  ”I continued to exhaust myself trying to find ways to skin the cat.  I could not afford Jerry Goldsmith to write our score; I couldn’t even afford James Horner, who had risen in prominence (and price) in the years since The Wrath of Khan.” (Mr. Meyer had hired a young James Horner to compose the score for Star Trek II, because the budget had been slashed on that sequel and he couldn’t afford to bring back Jerry Goldsmith, who had scored Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Deja vu all over again.)

Luckily, Mr. Meyer was able to connect with another talented young composer, Cliff Eidelman (who was 28 years old at the time).  The two agreed on a key creative choice — that it would be fruitless to try to equal the dramatic bombast of the previous Star Trek films’ scores, and that, furthermore, such an approach wouldn’t suit the dark, somber story being told in Star Trek VI. In his fantastic (as usual) liner notes for the complete score CD, Jeff Bond notes: “From its opening bars, Eidelman’s music for Star Trek VI exhibits … [continued]

 

Josh Reviews the Newly-Released Complete Soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I’ve been really enjoying the releases, over the past few years, of the complete soundtracks for the original Star Trek films.  (Click here for my review of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, here for my review of Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and here for my review of Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek.)  Recently, Intrada released Leonard Rosenman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Cliff Eidelman’s complete soundtrack for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I’ll be back here soon with my thoughts on Trek VI — for now, let’s dive into Mr. Rosenman’s wonderful score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

After James Horner’s glorious scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III, director Leonard Nimoy and composer Leonard Rosenman decided to go in a totally different direction for the soundtrack of Trek IV. To fit the lighthearted film, Mr. Rosenman produced an equally lighthearted, joyous score.

It’s a score that is unique among the Star Trek films for many ways.  There are not a lot of different themes for all the different characters, as we hear in the scores of the other films (by James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and Cliff Eidelman).  There’s no main love theme and no real “bad guy” theme (though there is an ominous motive used for the Probe).  The score is also incredibly short.  This complete version of the score clocks in at 40 minutes and 5 seconds long, and it includes several minutes of music that Mr. Rosenman wrote but that were not included in the finished film.  Much of Star Trek IV plays without any score at all — after the crew of the Enterprise arrive in San Francisco, there’s no music whatsoever until Chekov’s run across the flight deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise aircraft carrier.  It’s funny, I’ve watched Star Trek IV countless times and it’s never ever occurred to me that there is so little scoring in the film.  It’s a testament to the skill and craft with which Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Rosenman spotted the music for the film, and a perfect example that sometimes a little really does go a long way.

We hear a triumphant rendition of Mr. Rosenman’s main theme for the film in the disc’s first track: “Logo/Main title.”  I absolutely love the soaring, ringing main theme for this film — it sets the perfect tone of fun-filled adventure.  The liner notes describe the music as “upbeat, heraldic, and heroic,” which I think sums up the main theme perfectly.  It’s totally different from the nautical … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

If you’ve ever watched an enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation, then you must read this short blog post by Wil Wheaton about his e-mail exchange with a former Next Gen castmate.  So funny!!

Speaking of Wil Wheaton, this behind-the-scenes pic from Stand By Me is wonderful.  Makes me want to go re-watch that spectacular film right now.

I am counting the minutes until The Avengers opens.  For all the Marvel Zombies out there, this interview with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige is full of intriguing hints at the next few years of the Marvel movie universe.  It’s a good read.  Also a good read:  this Q & A with Joss Whedon on reddit.

So, they’re really making a sequel to the 1988 film Twins? And Eddie Murphy will play the newly-discovered third sibling to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito?  This is a joke, right?  That can’t possibly be real, right??

The Dude abides.

I had quite a lot to say about Disney’s adaptation of John Carter.  (Click here for my review.)  I enjoyed the film far more than the horrible reviews and terrible box-office performance would suggest, but the film had some serious problems.  I cited the senseless withholding of the tragedy in John Carter’s past until late in the film as an example.  It would have FAR strengthened the story and the character had the audience UNDERSTOOD the reasons for John Carter’s behavior right from the beginning.  Well, FILM CRITIC HULK over on badassdigest.com had a similar reaction, and he wrote a magnificent (albeit LENGTHY) dissection of John Carter’s story problems that focuses on precisely that example.  It’s a great piece about film screen-writing and narrative, and is well worth a look.

My buddy Rabbi Ethan Linden has written a great review of The Hunger Games film, which you can check out here.  My review will be posted on Friday!

Does Mel Gibson want to Kill Machete?  The Sin City sequel, A Dame to Kill For, is finally actually happening??  Please don’t let me down, Robert Rodriguez!!

I really dug the “Franchise Me” (from CHUD.com) look back at the four Lethal Weapon films that just wrapped up.  These articles are fantastic.  Boy, I loved those Lethal Weapon films as a kid, but I haven’t seen them in years.  I just haven’t had any real interest in re-watching them.  Mel Gibson’s recent shenanigans haven’t helped.  But reading those articles makes me wonder whether I’d still like those films if I watched them today…

A remake of Total Recall? Really?  This trailer actually looks surprisingly OK, but it’s hard for me to imagine this is going to wind up being … [continued]

 

Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Star Trek: Phase II’s Latest Episode: “The Child”

April 11th, 2012
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Here in the long winter of our many-years-without-new-Star Trek TV shows or movies, James Cawley and his magnificent band of fellow Star Trek fans are keeping the Trek flame alive.  As I’ve written about beforeStar Trek: Phase II is a completely fan-made series (no one gets paid for any of their work) attempting to create, one episode at a time, the fourth season of the original Star Trek show.  The production releases about one full-length episode a year, and they’ve just been getting better and better, to the point where if you stumbled across an episode of Phase II on TV late at night, you could absolutely believe it was a real Star Trek episode.  The production quality is that amazing.

Phase II has just released their seventh full-length episode: “The Child.”  (Watch it here or here!)  This episode was written and directed by Jon Povill, and it has a fascinating history.  The story was initially developed by Mr. Povill back in the 70′s for the aborted Star Trek: Phase II television series.  (That series-that-never-was, from which this fan series draws its name, was intended to be a second Star Trek series starring Kirk and co.  The proposed TV show was eventually abandoned in favor of the idea of making Star Trek: The Motion Picture.)  Mr. Povill’s story for “The Child” was eventually used by Star Trek: The Next Generation. That version, which was credited to writers Jason Summers, Jon Povill, and Maurice Hurley, was Next Gen’s second season premiere.  It’s a pretty lousy episode, and apparently Mr. Povill was (rightly) unhappy with how his original story was realized.  Two decades later, he hooked up with the Phase II crew to bring something much closer to his original vision to light.

Although I’m always tremendously excited by the prospect of the release of a new Phase II episode, I can’t say that I was all that much anticipating “The Child.”  The Next Gen version was so lame.  It wasn’t a story I was excited to revisit.  Well, I am happy to report that “The Child” is another phenomenally entertaining episode from the Phase II gang.  It’s not my favorite of the Phase II episodes, but it’s marvelously well-done and FAR more watchable than the professionally-made Next Gen version.

It’s neat to see the Phase II crew tackling so many different kinds of episodes.  Their previous episode, “Enemy: Starfleet!” was a fast-paced action adventure.  ”The Child” is something else entirely, a much slower character study and sci-fi mystery.  But I wasn’t at all bored — no, I was quite taken by the episode.  The main story (in which the Enterprise’s Deltan officer, Lt.

[continued]

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Level

March 5th, 2012
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I own every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD.  So does that make me a sucker for purchasing Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Level, a three-episode sampler blu-ray disc of the series’ conversion to high definition?  Well, probably.  But I just couldn’t resist checking out the series’ much-ballyhooed blu-ray high-definition upgrade.  And I was not disappointed!!

Some back-story: Many wondered whether Star Trek: The Next Generation would ever see a blu-ray release, and if it did, what sort of a mess it would look like.  Because while the show was shot on film (which of course contains the resolution necessary to look dynamite on blu-ray), Next Gen was edited on video and the special effects were created on video in standard-def.  To up-convert that standard-definition footage would most likely look, well, probably pretty darn dismal.  So CBS and Paramount have decided to take a radically unprecedented step.

A team lead by Michael and Denise Okuda (vidual effects geniuses who have been involved with Star Trek since all the way back to “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Next Gen) have gone back to the original film elements (which, thank heavens, have all been preserved and meticulously archived by Paramount) to re-edit all of the episodes from the ground up and re-composite every single one of the visual effects sequences (every outer-space shot, every transporter beam, every phaser, etc. etc. etc.) in high definition.  The amount of work that will be needed to do that for each and every one of the 176 episodes of Next Gen is mind-boggling.  (For more information on this process, click here for a great interview with Michael and Denise Okuda or here for a detailed blog entry by Michael Okuda.)

Trek fans know that The Original Series was already released on blu-ray a few years back.  That was apparently a much easier job because the episodes were shot on film and edited on film, meaning that the completed, edited episodes could then be scanned at high-def for the blu-ray release.  (That’s in contrast to Next Gen that was edited on VIDEO and so the actual episodes only existed in standard-def.)  Before the blu-ray release, the Okudas were also involved in a project to upgrade the Original Series episodes with new, snazzy CGI effects.  (These revamped episodes were shown in syndication for about a year, before the blu-ray release.)

For that project, the Okudas and their team had carte blanche to create entirely new visual effects.  So whereas an episode from 1967 might have used the same stock shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise five times, for the revamped versions those shots would be replaced with five new, … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

I’ve gotta open with Alan Moore’s article about his feelings on the Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta (his brilliant comic book series, published in 1982) is now being used by protesters of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.  The piece is a fascinating read (and if any of you haven’t read the brilliant V for Vendetta, do so immediately!!  The film adaption is OK, but the original graphic novel is genius.).

Alan Sepinwall on Hitfix posted an article in honor of The Simpsons’ 500th episode (a ludicrously incredible milestone) asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons episode.  The article currently has nine pages of comments and is still going strong.  You’ve got to read them — it’s a wonderful trip back down through memory lane, remembering classic Simpsons episodes.  By the way, my pick?  ”Homer the Heretic” (in which Homer decides not to go to church and winds up having the best day of his life, then starts his own religion, then finds himself trapped in a fire from which he must be rescued by his friends of other faiths, “be they Christian, Jewish, or… miscellaneous.”  ”Hindu!  There are seven hundred million of us!”).

And if you’re looking to kill any MORE time, check out Mr. Sepinwall’s follow-up post asking fans to pick their favorite Simpsons quote: “Pick Only One Favorite Simpsons Quote? That’s unpossible!” That article has NINETEEN pages of comments and they’re all so much fun to read through.  My favorite Simpsons quote?  ”Man alive!  There are men alive in here!”

Capone at AICN has posted the start of a fascinating interview with David Wain.  I am very excited for his new film, Wanderlust, starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.  Here’s the red-band trailer and here’s the green-band trailer.  They’re quite different and both are very, very funny.  (I especially love the green band trailer for including lots and lots of Party Down’s Ken Marino, who co-wrote the film with Mr. Wain.)

If you have eight minutes and forty-two seconds to spare, I encourage you to check out this video montage of Nic Cage’s 100 greatest quotes.

I’ve been watching this slightly-extended version of The Avengers’ Super Bowl spot a LOT lately.  I REALLY hope this movie is good!  In all of these trailers it still looks pretty small-scale to me, which has me worried… and I think the new versions of both Thor’s and Captain America’s costumes both seem a little more “costumey” and less real than the versions in their individual films.  Still, it’s nice to finally see a glimpse of the extra-terrestrial bad-guys (please let them be Skrulls please let them be Skrulls) and that circular pan of all the heroes … [continued]

 

Star Trek Mirror Universe: Rise Like Lions

February 22nd, 2012
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Now that’s what I’m talking about!!  I just finished reading David Mack’s novel Rise Like Lions, the phenomenal, long-awaited conclusion to the Mirror Universe storyline begun back in the second-season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued in several terrific Star Trek novels which have been published in the last half-decade or so.

But let’s back up.  Back in 2006, David Mack wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Warpath. It was a magnificent novel, a fast-paced, rip-snorting adventure yarn that really shook up the post-finale DS9 literary universe Pocket Books had been crafting.  It was one of the best Star Trek novels I’d ever read.

And also one of the most frustrating.

A huge chunk of the novel was a depiction of some-sort of alternate-world dream of the near-death Kira Nerys.  It was hinted, at the end, that this was a vision given to Nerys by the Prophets, and at the time I loved this oblique glimpse at what story-lines were lying ahead in the Deep Space Nine world.  As the years have gone bye, though, that glimpse given in Warpath has grown more and more frustrating to me, as those story-lines have not yet been continued.  Warpath is also notable for its absolutely brutal cliffhanger ending.  At the time, I was delighted by the boldness of the ending, but here again that delight eventually grew to frustration as the months and eventually years passed and no new DS9 novel ever appeared.  (The cliffhanger was eventually resolved in Olivia Wood’s 2008 & 2009 novels Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key.)

But the reason I’m bringing up Warpath is because of the other twist found in the novel’s closing pages.  As the events reached their climax, suddenly the story we were following shifted direction, and for a few pages we were taken back into the Mirror Universe and witnessed the death of a major character.

I’m not sure whether this was all planned before Warpath or not, but the next few years gave us several new Pocket Book Star Trek novels that explored the Mirror Universe.  There was the excellent duology Glass Empires and Obsidian Alliances (click here for my review), each of which contained three novellas which explored the history of the Mirror Universe, from the time of Enterprise to the days immediately after the first crossover (in the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror”), to the post-DS9 finale time-period.  That duology was followed by a short-story collection called Shards and Shadows (click here for my review), which further explored the back-story of the Mirror Universe.  The key story, to me, in all of those novels was David Mack’s novella The Sorrows [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Let’s kick the day off with a wonderful analysis on AICN about Why Star Trek II Works So Well.  The piece is a wonderful love-letter to Star Trek II (which happens to be one of my very favorite films of all time), and it’s a very thoughtful analysis of why the film is so ridiculously awesome, even thirty years later.  (THIRTY years!  That’s crazy, right??)

Speaking of Star Trek, I’m starting to get excited about the high-def upgrade of Next Gen for blu-ray.  This before/after comparison video is pretty staggering.  (Follow the site’s advice and expand the video to full screen, so you can get the full effect.)  If Farpoint looks that good, I can’t wait for the later seasons.  (And Deep Space Nine!!!)

Did you know there was an alternative, rejected main song for Quantum of Solace? And it was sung by Shirley Bassey??  Give this a listen:

That is a fun case of cinematic might-have-been.  ”Where is the solace that I crave?”  That makes me laugh and laugh.

I love movie posters.  I have quite a few hanging in my home!  So I really enjoyed this look at the top ten movie posters of 2011.

Speaking of cinematic might-have beens… I enjoyed the first six-episode season of The Walking Dead, but for some reason all of the season two episodes are still sitting unwatched in my DVR.  Maybe show-runner Frank Darabont’s outster the news of all the apparent behind-the-scenes turmoil has cooled my interest.  This detailed letter from Mr. Darabont to AICN reveals a major story that Mr. Darabont was planning that will now never come to be, and it’s a damn shame.

Is there a possibility that there might actually be a Party Down movie???  I highly doubt it, but man would that be great.  Click here for my reviews of season one and season two of this brilliant, tragically cancelled-before-its-time TV show.… [continued]

 

Star Trek: Cast No Shadow

December 28th, 2011
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In the new novel by James Swallow, seven years have passed since the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Klingons and the Federation have begun to take their first, tentative steps towards a lasting peace.  However, there still exist many, on both sides of the Neutral Zone, who have no interest in seeing peace emerge between these two intergalactic powers.  When a series of devastating terrorist attacks wreak havoc across Klingon space, it seems that the last surviving member of the Chang/Cartwright conspiracy may hold the clue to unravelling the identity of the terrorists:  Valeris, formerly of Starfleet, now in prison with little possibility of parole.

I adore Star Trek VI, so right away this novel had my interest piqued.  The years immediately following the final adventure of the original Enterprise haven’t been that well mined , so I really enjoyed this look at how the Klingon/Federation political situation progressed following the ending of Trek VI. Mr. Swallow digs deeply into the Star Trek mythos to present a compelling tale of intergalactic espionage that addresses several meaty story threads left hanging by Trek VI.

The focus on Valeris is long overdue.  Though it wasn’t all that risky of the makers of Star Trek VI to make the one new character be the traitor, Nick Meyer’s sharp script and Kim Cattrall’s tart performance combined to create a very memorable character.  I enjoyed having the chance, reading Cast No Shadow, to peel back some of the layers of this enigmatic Vulcan.  It’s fascinating (ha ha) to dig into Valeris’ point of view, and I enjoyed the novel’s periodic flashbacks into Valeris’ history.   We learn how and why she became involved in Admiral Cartwright’s conspiracy, and in the devastating final flashback, we uncover the source of her un-Vulcan-like enmity for the Klingons.

Although he is featured extremely prominently on the cover, Spock is not that central to the novel’s story.  This was a big disappointment to me.  I assume that Mr. Swallow cannot control the content of his book’s cover art, but when I pick up a novel with Spock and Valeris on the cover, I assume that the novel is going to focus on the relationship between Spock and Valeris!  While their contentious relationship is addressed, it is not at all the novel’s focus.

Instead, in addition to telling Valeris’ story, the novel also focuses on the tale of a young Elias Vaughn’s first mission in the field.  Devoted fans of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels of course know that Vaughn, a created-for-the-novels character, was a key player in the post-finale Deep Space Nine novels.  Several Trek novels, over the years, have explored the long-lived Vaughn’s early history … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Check out this sneak peek at Game of Thrones season two!  AARRGH, I can’t believe we have to wait until September!  (But I’m intrigued by the rumor that seasons 3 and 4 will shoot back-to-back and will comprise a two-season adaptation of the third book, A Storm of Swords.)

Speaking of waiting, looks like Star Trek 2 (or whatever they’re gonna call it) finally has a release date: May 17, 2013.  That’s a long four years after the 2009 release of the first (or eleventh, depending on how you’re counting) film (which was itself delayed from its originally scheduled release in December, 2008).  Here’s hoping the film is good after such a long wait, and that Paramount can get the third (or thirteenth!) film rolling with a little less down-time…

While we’re on the subject of Star Trek, check out these fascinating early-draft versions of the famous “space… the final frontier” opening monologue.

I love Devin Faraci’s recent piece on the increasingly crazy Frank Miller.  Click here to read The Devin’s Advocate: Frank Miler is an Asshole, but I Still Like His Work.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Interesting the hear that David Simon feels that four seasons is his ideal length for Treme.  God, I love that show.  Season three is definitely happening, so I really hope HBO give sMr. Simon and his team their desired fourth and final season.

There’s a new trailer out for John Carter (of Mars).  I wish I was more excited about this film.  The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous, but I am really not loving the glimpses we’ve seen of Taylor Kirsch so far in the lead role.  Maybe I am letting bad feelings from his appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as Gambit) get to me.  Or maybe it’s that Disney’s butchering of the title (it should be called John Carter OF MARS!!!) that has me uneasy.  We’ll see.  I’m crossing my fingers big-time on this one.

Speaking of movies coming out this spring, Joss Whedon’s film Cabin in the Woods looks like it’s finally, FINALLY getting released after sitting on the shelf for two years.  Love the new poster.  I don’t really know anything about this film other than the fact that Joss Whedon directed it, but that’s enough to get my butt in the theatre.  (UPDATE:  A trailer was just released and now that I’ve watched it I know MORE about this film than I wish I did!!  BEWARE SPOILERS, and watch at your own peril.)

And speaking of movie adaptations that I should be anticipating but aren’t (I’m referring back to John Carter (of Mars), now, not Cabin in the Woods!), comes word that the [continued]

 

Star Trek Myriad Universes: Shattered Light

November 25th, 2011
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A few years ago, Pocket Books released a terrific two-book series entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. (Read my review here!)  Each book featured three novellas, each written by a different author, and each featuring a fascinating “what-if” tale set in a different era of the Star Trek universe.  These were stories set in alternate universes, in which the events of Star Trek’s history (as depicted in all of the movies and TV shows) unfolded differently.  That two-book series was phenomenal, containing some of my very favorite Star Trek stories from all of Pocket Books’ novels.  So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that a new Myriad Universe collection, once again featuring three novellas, was being released last year.  It took me longer than I thought to get to reading the book (I’m a busy guy!), but I finally was able to read it last month.  While this new collection, Shattered Light, isn’t quite the home-run that the original two books were, it’s still a supremely entertaining series of stories.

The Embrace of Cold Architects, by David R. George III — In this universe, William Riker, in command of the Enterprise following Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg and transformation into Locutus, is able to defeat the Borg by using the Enterprise’s deflector array to destroy the attacking cube, killing Captain Picard and all the Borg on-board.  That’s a dramatic hook for the story, but the novella’s focus is actually on another change: that Data’s attempt to create a daughter, Lal (which we saw in the TNG third season episode “The Offpsring”) was delayed by several months, so that shortly after Lal’s creation, Data found his creator, the cybernetics genius Dr. Noonien Soong (as seen in the early fourth season TNG episode “Brothers”).  Dr. Soong is able to prevent the cascade failure in Lal’s positronics brain, thus saving her life.  But as we saw in “The Offspring,” many in Starfleet grow worried by the presence of a second android on-board the Enterprise, and an Admiral from the Daystrom institute (an advanced Starfleet research facility) begins pressuring Captain Riker to remove Lal from the Enterprise and bring her to their facility.  I think David R. George III is one of the very best authors working on Star Trek novels these days, so I was really excited for his contribution to this collection.  And The Embrace of Cold Architects starts out quite strongly, as we follow the ripple effects of Lal’s presence — and Picard’s loss — through the events of the early fourth season of The Next Generation. But, ultimately, this novella wound up being my least favorite story in the collection.  It ends incredibly abruptly, … [continued]

 

The Next Generation of The Next Generation

October 4th, 2011

Sign me up.… [continued]

 

Star Trek is 45 Years Old!

September 8th, 2011

It’s difficult for me to believe, but Star Trek is 45 years old!  On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.”

In celebration of Star Trek‘s 45th anniversary, I’m posting again this terrific video that was actually created for the 40th anniversary back in 2006.  It’s a look back at the history of Trek

Nothing’s wild, and the sky’s the limit…… [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Click here for a wonderful look at the films of the Coen Brothers.  This fellow re-watched all of the Coen Brothers’ films (which sounds like a wonderfully fun project, by the way), and writes about his impressions of their body of work.  It’s an impressive article, and I love his assessment of the Coens’ wonderful characters, who “verge on caricature yet have a vivid particularity that makes them hard to forget and easy to return to.”  That’s a good a description as I have ever seen!

I love this look at Six Comedians We Wish Would Return to Stand-Up!  I wholeheartedly agree.  (There are some wonderful video clips embedded in that article.)

Motivational posters inspired by The Wire?  Awesome.  (This piece on badassdigest.com selects some of the best.)

This fascinating oral history of the very short-lived Dana Carvey Show makes me want to track down those episodes and watch them immediately.

I am a big, big fan of Dave Sim’s sprawling comic book epic Cerebus, the unprecedented “300 issue limited series.”  It gets pretty crazy (and, at times, pretty unreadable) near the end (I am a subscriber to the theory that Dave Sim went insane while working on his magnum opus), but the vast swaths of the story that are good are REALLY REALLY GOOD, some of the finest comic books ever created.  It’s fun to see some writers giving Cerebus some much-deserved attention these days.  Click here for a lengthy excerpt from the Comics Journal’s recent look back at the series, and I also am really enjoying the series of pieces running at comicbookresources.com, written by a writer who is reading through the complete epic for the first time.  Click here for part one, and here for the even stronger part two.  Although I personally choose to believe that the Cerebus story ends on the final page of Rick’s Story, I appreciate this author’s debunking the commonly-held notion that the last hundred issues of Cerebus are entirely without merit.  He writes, and I agree, that it’s only in the series’ final stretch of issues — Dave Sim’s bizarre exegesis of the Torah — when the comic really becomes unreadable.

This is a great piece by A. O. Scott of the New York Times about three summer 2011 movies worth debating.  I’m sad to say I haven’t seem any of them yet, but this wonderful article reinforces the desire I already felt to try to track all three films down as soon as possible.  (The fact that I haven’t seen Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life but I have seen Cowboys and Aliens makes me feel a little sad inside.)

Can [continued]

 

Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock

When Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons, it left several story-lines hanging.  Many Star Trek fans, myself included, had been hoping that Enterprise would one-day chronicle the events of the Romulan War hinted at in episodes of the Original Series.  (And, indeed, several episodes from Enterprise’s fourth and final season hinted that the show might indeed be heading in that direction.)  Fortunately, Michael A. Martin (along with, on the first novel, Andy Mangels) has been telling the story of the Romulan War in a series of Star Trek novels.  (Click here for my review of the first novel in that series, Kobayashi Maru, and I’ll have reviews of the other two novels in the series coming soon.)

But there was an even bigger story-line left painfully unresolved at the end of Star Trek: Enterprise. Ever since the show’s pilot episode, “Broken Bow,” we’d been hearing about a mysterious Temporal Cold War, apparently being fought throughout time by time-travelers from the future.  Factions of this Temporal Cold War were repeatedly seen to be interfering in events of Captain Archer’s time, but to what end was never clear.  We saw some apparently heroic characters (Daniels, who appeared to be from a future Starfleet), and apparently villainous characters, such as the mysterious figure glimpsed throughout the series whose identity was never revealed (leading to his being nicknamed “Future Guy” by many fans).  I write “apparently” since various episodes offered sometimes contradictory information as to who was really trying to do what.  (At one point Future guy helped Captain Archer, and at other times Daniels appeared to be less than totally truthful.)

I have been waiting for the Star Trek novels to address this enormous dangling story-line, and I am very pleased to report that Christopher L. Bennett has done so with gusto in his latest novel Star Trek Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock.  (It’s a lengthy, sort of confusing title, but I gather that the hope is that there will be future installments of novels, under the Department of Temporal Investigations heading.  I join in this hope!)

The Department of Temporal Investigations is, of course, an agency seen in only one single Star Trek episode: the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tibble-ations,” in which Sisko & co. accidentally travel back in time to the events of the Classic Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  In that episode, we were introduced to DTI agents Lucsly and Dulmur, who were sent to investigate the time-travel events on behalf of their department, which was the Starfleet agency tasked with protecting the integrity of the time-line.  Agents Lucsly and Dulmur didn’t have a lot of screen-time, but they … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Troublesome Minds

Last spring I wrote a very positive review of the latest Star Trek: Phase Two episode, Enemy: Starfleet!, which was written by Dave Galanter.  (If there are any Star Trek fans reading this who have not yet watched this awesome completely fan-made episode, you should do so immediately!)  After reading the review, Mr. Galanter was kind enough to drop me a line.  In the course of our e-mail exchange, he asked if I had read his latest Star Trek novel: Troublesome Minds. I admitted that I had not.  Though I’d purchased it about a year ago, I kept putting aside this stand-alone adventure, set during the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C or D)’s original five-year mission, in favor of the Trek novels that were pushing the Star Trek story forward with adventures set following the events of the 24th century-set movies and TV shows.

But after that e-mail exchange, I decided that I should really find the time to give Troublesome Minds a read.  I’m really glad I did, because it’s a ripping Star Trek yarn and a really great novel.

In his e-mails to me, Mr. Galanter described Troublesome Minds as the Star Trek episode he’d always wanted to write.  That’s a great description of the novel.  I could totally see it as an episode.  (And damn, would it make a GREAT Phase Two episode!  Are you listening, Phase Two folks??)  The story is a completely stand-alone adventure, unburdened by any involvement with long-running story-lines.  It requires no detailed knowledge of other Star Trek novels or adventures.  It’s just a fun, fast-paced piece of speculative fiction, with some great sci-fi concepts, tough moral dilemmas for Kirk & co., and some tense action.  As I said, it would have made a terrific episode!

Captain Kirk and the Starship Enterprise respond to a distress call and rescue the life of an alien named Berlis, whose ship was about to be destroyed.  This simple act of kindness turns incredibly complicated, however, when it is discovered that Berlis belongs to a race of powerful telepaths known as the Isitri.  Every several generations, an Isitri emerges whose telepathy is so powerful that, without intending to do so, he/she can control the minds of every other Isitri he/she comes in contact with, thus mentally enslaving an entire race until that Troublesome Mind dies or is killed.  Berlis is just such a mind.  Will Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew follow the wishes of the Isitri ruling council, and murder the man they just saved?  Or will they allow him to return home, and thus enslave an entire planet for a generation?

It’s a wonderfully inventive, thorny sci-fi dilemma that Mr. Galanter has … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Paths of Disharmony

Although I was a bit lukewarm on the first two novels in the four-book Star Trek crossover series, Typhon Pact, I loved the third installment (Rough Beasts of Empire, by David R. George III), and having just read the fourth and final installment, Paths of Disharmony, I am pleased to report that Dayton Ward stuck the landing. I thought this novel was a terrific Next Generation book in its own right, and also a compelling finale to this four-novel series.

Although I have complained, repeatedly, over the past few years about the dearth of new Deep Space Nine novels, I was thrilled by how DS9-centric this Typhon Pact series has been.  The first novel focused on Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir, the third novel focused on Benjamin Sisko, and in Paths of Disharmony I was thrilled to discover that we were finally returning to the story-thread that was so-prominent in the early post-finale DS9 novels: the reproductive problems afflicting Andorian society (with fewer and fewer Andorian children being born each year), and the personal journey of young Andorian Starfleet officer Thirishar Ch’Thane.

It’s been many long years since Shar has appeared in a Star Trek novel (I believe his last appearance — certainly his last PROMINENT appearance — was in Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Andor: Paradigm, by Heather Jarman, from back in 2004).  In the timeline of the Trek novels, it has been four years since the events of Paradigm. Shar has been working on Andor, and the need to solve his people’s reproductive crisis has only been exacerbated by the planet-wide destruction wreaked by the Borg during their invasion of Federation Space (in the series Star Trek: Destiny).

In this new novel, Andor’s story intersects with that of the growing Typhon Pact storyline.  Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise E are sent to Andor to help ensure security for a conference of scientists working to solve the Andorian reproductive crisis.  But Andor is still reeling from the havoc caused by the Borg attack, and the population is in turmoil over the various scientific solutions being proposed in order to attempt to solve their reproductive issues.  Anti-Federation sentiment and anti-alien hatred collide with fears over scientific tinkering with the Andorian genetic code leading to the possible eradication of everything that makes Andorians, as a species, unique, and though the current Andorian Presider (their top governmental official) hopes that the conference will help spark a scientific breakthrough, the gathering also has the potential to turn into a flashpoint for violence.

In addition to complaining about the dearth of recent DS9 novels, I have also written repeatedly about how I felt the … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

I have had to reevaluate my opinion of Adam Carolla after listening to his marvelous interview (well-over an hour long) with the great Albert Brooks.  This is a MUST-LISTEN, friends.

Attorney General Eric Holder has challenged David Simon to produce a sixth season of The Wire??  That is awesome.

This expose on the dramatically underlit images found at many big-chain Boston-area movie theaters is very frustrating to read.  Every time I read about an amazing theatre chain like the Alamo Drafthouse, I wish there were better movie theatres in my area.

I need to own this poster.

This is a great article about when to show Star Wars to one’s kids.  I’m going to face this dilemma in a few years!  The follow-up piece is great, too: when to show the Indiana Jones films to one’s kids!

Io9 has weighed in on the 10 Best Star Trek Episodes.  It’s an interesting list.  I’m thrilled by how well-represented Deep Space Nine is, but having an episode of Voyager on the list really nullifies any credence the writer might have.  And “The Void” of all episodes?  Decent, but I could name about a hundred Trek episodes from the other series that are superior.  For my own list of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time, click here.

I am very excited by the report that the phenomenal comic book series 100 Bullets just might become a TV show on Showtime100 Bullets is one of the finest comic book series of recent memory.  Click here for my thoughts on the series.  Now, I’m not holding my breath for this proposed TV show to actually happen, but damn would it be cool…

In my review of Super 8 last week, I mentioned that I felt the monster in the film (directed by J.J. Abrams) was quite similar to the monster from Cloverfield (produced by J.J. Abrams).  Don’t agree with me?  Then check this out.  Case closed, I think!… [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire

Now this is more what I’m talking about!  David R. George III’s new Star Trek novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is by far the strongest installment in the Typhon Pact series so far, and one of the best Trek books I’ve read in years.

This third Typhon Pact novel only enhanced the comment I made in my review of the second book, Seize the Fire by Michael A. Martin: that this Typhon Pact series was not turning out to be at all what I had expected.  Since the idea of the Typhon Pact — an alliance made up of most of the United Federation of Planet’s major adversaries — was established a few years ago in A Singular Destiny by Keith R.A. DeCandido and Losing the Peace by William Leisner, I had assumed that this four-novel Typhon Pact series would now tell the story of the Pact’s confrontation with the Federation.

But having read three of the four books of the series, it hasn’t turned out that way at all.  The novels haven’t been about a conflict between the new Typhon Pact and the United Federation of Planets.  (The Typhon Pact was locked in an interstellar cold war with the Federation at the start of the series, and remain exactly in the same place here at the end of book three.)  Rather, the first three novels have focused on the character arcs of various characters from across the Star Trek series (Julian Bashir, William Riker, Spock, and Benjamin Sisko) while also exploring the cultures of the various Typhon Pact races.

It’s certainly not the fault of the authors that I had different (though I think reasonable) expectations for what the series would be.  And, indeed, I don’t mind at all that the novels have been more about character and world-building.  My complaints are more that the first two novels in the series were not all that exciting.  But while I was somewhat lukewarm about both Zero Sum Game and Seize the Fire, this third novel, Rough Beasts of Empire, is a real winner.

First of all, I was very pleasantly surprised that, despite the Typhon Pact label on the book’s cover, this novel is actually the meatiest Deep Space Nine focused novel to have been published in YEARS, and easily the best DS9 novel since David Mack’s Warpath from back in 2006.  (I did love Una McCormack’s The Never-Ending Sacrifice, but that novel didn’t advance any of the main DS9 story-lines — which was also a complaint I had about Zero Sum Game which, despite featuring Dr. Bashir and Ezri Dax, in my opinion frustratingly skirted all of the big lingering DS9 stories.)  But … [continued]

 

Josh Enjoys the Release of Jerry Goldsmith’s Complete Score for Star Trek V!

As a big fan of Star Trek and of movie soundtracks, I’m starting to get spoiled.  In the last few years we’ve seen the release, on lovely new CD sets, of the complete versions of James Horner’s amazing scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III (click here for my review), as well as Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abram’s Star Trek (click here for my review).  Then, a few months ago, Jerry Goldsmith’s complete score for Star Trek V was released on a double-CD set.

Jerry Goldsmith was one of the finest film composers who ever lived.  He composed the scores for a veritable boatload of famous, successful films, including Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Alien, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Hoosiers, and so many more.  Star Trek V marked Mr. Goldsmith’s return to the world of Star Trek — he had composed the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture – and Mr. Goldsmith would go on to score three of the four Next Gen movies (Dennis McCarthy scored Star Trek: Generations).

Say what you will about the quality of Star Trek V (and I’ll say that I think it pretty much stinks), Mr. Goldsmith composed a terrific score.  It’s rousing and heroic and a great return to classic Star Trek adventuring.  ”Return” is an interesting word, as Mr. Goldsmith’s work for Star Trek V would mark something of a turning point for Star Trek, musically.  Mr. Goldsmith composed a number of iconic themes for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including the main title theme (which was then used as the main theme for the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his theme for the Klingons.  But James Horner’s scores for Trek II and III didn’t utilize any of Mr. Goldsmith’s material.  Instead, Mr. Horner composed his own themes for Kirk and the Enterprise, and he also wrote his own themes for the Klingons when they appeared in Star Trek III. But now in Star Trek V, Mr. Horner returned to his music from The Motion Picture, and (with the exception of Cliff Eidelman’s wonderfully dark, ominous music for Star Trek VI) those themes would come to define Star Trek musically for many years to come.  Whenever you heard a Klingon musical theme playing over an appearance by the bumpy-headed warriors in a future Trek TV show or movie, they never used James Horner’s theme — they’d always use Mr. Goldsmith’s.

Now, personally, I prefer James Horner’s scores for Star Trek II and III over Mr. Goldsmith’s work in Star Trek V.  I’m not a musician, but as a fan I have always found Mr. … [continued]

 

Star Trek Typhon Pact: Seize the Fire

I’m finally ready to catch back up with this year’s four-book series of crossover Star Trek novels from Pocket Books: The Typhon Pact.  This series represents the latest installments in Pocket Books’ exciting efforts from the past few years to push the 24th century Star Trek adventures forward past their last on-screen appearances (the movie Star Trek: Nemesis and the ending of Deep Space Nine and Voyager).  In Keith R.A. DeCandido’s excellent 2009 novel A Singular Destiny (read my review here), we learned that a number of the Federation’s deadliest enemies — the Romulans, the Tholians, the Gorn, the Breen, and others — had banded together to form a new interstellar alliance called the Typhon Pact.  This was obviously going to lead to trouble for our heroes, particularly with the Federation still reeling from the decimation wrought by the Borg invasion (chronicled in David Mack’s also-excellent 2008 trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destinyread my review here).  The new Typhon Pact series focuses on characters from many of the different Star Trek series, and explores the repercussions of the creation of this new alliance.

Book one of the series, Zero Sum Game, was DS9-centric.  It followed Julian Bashir and Ezri Dax (who now commands her own starship, the USS Aventine) on a mission to infiltrate the Breen.  (You can read my review of Zero Sum Game here.)  After a few months away, I’ve finally found the time to move on to book two of the series: Seize the Fire,which is written by Michael A. Martin.  This novel shifts the focus to Captain Riker and the crew of the USS Titan, and explores the society of the Gorn.

At the start of the novel, a terrible natural disaster completely destroys Sazssgerrn, the only planet in the Gorn Hegemony on which their warrior caste were able to lay their eggs.  While the Gorn political structure struggles to find a solution to this species-threatening problem, several radiation-damaged Gorn warriors who survived the planetary catastrophe begin forming their own mad plans for the future of their race.  When they discover a massive, ancient structure that appears capable of terraforming an entire world in an instant — just like the long-lost Genesis technology could — they appear to have found the instrument by which to achieve their plans.  Unfortunately, in eco-sculpting an entire planet, this device would also completely destroy any life already existing on that world.  When the Gorn attempt to test this new device on the inhabited planet of Hranrar, only Captain Riker and the USS Titan appear to stand in the way of the annihilation of the millions of Hranrarii.… [continued]

 

Star Trek: Unspoken Truth

Some of the earliest Star Trek books I ever read as a kid were written by Margaret Wander Bonanno (one of these days I really have to go back and re-read Strangers from the Sky to see if I still like it as much as I did back then).  After the mess with the novel Probe (which is a fascinating and horrifying tale — head to Margaret Wander Bonanno’s web-site and click on “Probe: The Novel I didn’t Write: The Whole Story” on the right-hand side of the page for all the gory details), though, Ms. Bonanno was unable to continue writing Trek novels.  Thankfully, a decade later, editor Marco Palmieri (a phenomenal editor of the Star Trek line who was sadly fired himself a few years ago) brought her back into the fold.  Her first new novel, Catalyst of Sorrows, was OK, but her next book — an exploration of the life of the Christopher Pike called Burning Dreams — was phenomenal.  When I heard that she was working on a new novel that would explore what happened to Lt. Saavik after her brief appearance in Star Trek IV, I was very excited.

The main story of Star Trek: Unspoken Truth is set in the days following the events of Star Trek IV.  But the novel continually jumps around in time, allowing us to get glimpses of Saavik’s terrible childhood spent on the Romulan outpost nicknamed Hellguard, her early days on Vulcan (after having been rescued from Hellguard by a young Spock), her time at Starfleet Academy, and the events of Star Trek II-IV.  I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative wove in and out of familiar moments from those three films.  In particular, Ms. Bonanno makes a real meal out of Saavik’s one brief scene in Star Trek IV. That scene in the movie has always disappointed me.  While I was glad she at least got that one moment (even though the creators of the Trek films had clearly decided to jettison the character), it always struck me as a poor finish to the rich character who had received so much on-screen time and development during Star Trek II and III. Ms. Bonanno really fleshes out what was going on in that scene, what Saavik was thinking, why she blurted out that comment about David Marcus, and more.  Her writing really redeemed that scene for me in a wonderful way.

Much of Unspoken Truth — particularly the first half of the novel — is made up of short scenes.  I found this story-telling style to be quite engaging.  Through an accretion of vignettes, Ms. Bonanno is able to build in our minds … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Following up on my review of Source Code, which I posted yesterday, click here for a wonderfully spot-on assessment of all of the myriad problems with the film’s ending.  It’s a sweet ending that felt right when I walked out of the theatre, but like the rest of the film, if you think about it for more than five minutes, it totally falls apart.

Here’s a very funny trailer for 30 Minutes of Less.  I love the idea of Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari as buddies.  I’m looking forward to this one.

Here’s another trailer — this is for the very low-budget indie sci-fi movie Another Earth.  I don’t know anything about this film, but my curiosity is piqued.  It’s always interesting to see sci-fi elements mixed with drama (rather than action).

This is awesome.  Lucasfilm Animation’s new building is shaped like a Jawa Sandcrawler.

It’s really happening!  The Avengers has begun filming!!  Here’s what Joss Whedon had to say on the matter.  Funny as always.  Boy, The Avengers is happening, The Hobbit is happening… this is all very exciting!  Now if we could just get the next James Bond film into production, then I’d be over the moon.

I’ve written before about how I think the way some people defend bad movies by saying “oh, it’s not a movie you’re supposed to think about” is incredibly stupid.  Here’s a well-reasoned support of my opinion.

This is a beautiful article but it also made me kind of sad.  No matter how much we might try to read all the books we want to read, or watch all the films we want to see, or listen to all the music we want to listen to, the simple mathematical truth is that we’re all going to miss almost everything.

I’ve always thought that the next Star Trek TV show needs to move the story forward (the same way Next Gen did after the original Star Trek), not backwards.  Apparently I’m not alone in that thinking.  Trekmovie.com has put together a fascinating piece on the pitch for a new Star Trek TV show that Bryan Singer, Chris McQuarrie, and Robert Meyer Burnett put together in 2005-06 put never actually presented to Paramount.  I would have watched that show!

This is a great defense by Nordling of AICN on the experience of seeing movies theatrically.  I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I wish there were theatres like the Alamo Drafthouse here in Boston.  It kills me to go to a movie and have people talking on their cell phones or texting or doing other annoying things that distract from actually watching the movie.

Finally, … [continued]

 

Star Trek Lives! Josh Reviews Enemy: Starfleet!

April 25th, 2011
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After a long, long, looooong wait, a new full-length episode of Star Trek: Phase II has been released on-line.  It’s called Enemy: Starfleet! and it is dynamite.  Watch it here! If you’re any sort of fan of Star Trek, this is well-worth your time.

I’ve written before (here and here) about the amazing fan-produced series Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages).  Masterminded by James Cawley, this series (created and produced top-to-bottom by people who love Star Trek, working for no money whatsoever) is an attempt to create a fourth season of the classic Star Trek series (which was famously cancelled after three seasons), continuing the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the gang.  This isn’t a reboot like J.J. Abrams’ movie, or any sort of modernization of the classic Trek concept.  No, this is a loving attempt to replicate the look and feel of the 1960′s sets, costumes, music, etc., and to create full-length episodes that look and feel and sound like they really could have been episodes from a fourth season of the original Star Trek!

In that attempt, James Cawley and his incredible group of collaborators have been astoundingly successful.  The production values of these episodes (Enemy: Starfleet! is the sixth episode created, not counting the series’ original pilot) have improved by leaps and bounds with each new installment, to the point now that they are simply jaw-droppingly amazing.  Every aspect of what one sees on-screen is flawless.  The look of the bridge.  The sound effect when someone opens their communicator or fires a phaser.  The music.  The costumes (both the Starfleet uniforms worn by the Enterprise crew as well as the attire of the guest-stars).  The attention to detail is astounding.  Take a look at Peter Kirk’s quarters, for instance, and be dazzled by the United Federation of Planets emblem on his bed-spread, or the familiar-looking bottle seen on the shelf behind his bed.

In many respects, Enemy: Starfleet! looks even BETTER than the original Trek ever did.  The visual effects, for instance, are amazing — a universe more advanced than what was possible in the 1960′s.  But what’s really neat is that, while the effects are much more elaborate and far cooler than anything seen in an original Trek episode, all of the effects still feel RIGHT.  They integrate organically with the rest of the episode.  A large reason for that is because, even if we’re now able to see things we never could before, all of the details are correct.  The Enterprise moves just the way it should (even as we’re getting to see the old girl engage in far-more spectacular outer-space combat than we’ve ever seen … [continued]

 

Happy 80th Birthday William Shatner! It’s the THIRD annual Talk Like William Shatner Day!

WOW — Happy 80th birthday, William Shatner!

For the last two years, now, talented voice-actor Maurice LaMarche has spearheaded International Talk Like William Shatner Day, in honor of the Shat’s birthday!  Click here for his first video from 2009 in which he unleashes his phenomenal Shatner impression (“saboTAGE”), and here for last year’s video accompanied by the hilarious Kevin Pollak, who also does a phenomenal Shatner impresson.

This year, Mr. LaMarche partnered with the fine folks at TrekMovie.com to run a contest for the best fan Shatner impersonation.  Here is Mr. LaMarche’s video.  It’s not quite as good as the last two years’ videos, since he spends most of the time assessing his favorite fan videos (and also, the video is weirdly out-of-sync), but we still get some great Shat right at the beginning.

Click here to check out all the rest of the fan winners on TrekMovie.com.[continued]

 

Star Trek: The Sorrows of Empire

December 17th, 2010
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David Mack’s novella The Sorrows of Empire appeared in the Star Trek: Mirror Universe anthology Glass Empires back in 2007.  It was the highlight of the anthology, and one of my favorite pieces of Star Trek fiction in recent memory.  (Read my review of Glass Empires here.)  Last year, Mr. Mack expanded his story to a full-length novel, and it is a real winner.

The Sorrows of Empire is set entirely in the Mirror Universe introduced in the Classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror,” and picks up very shortly after the events of that episode.  The Spock of the Mirror Universe has been swayed by his mind-meld with “our” universe’s Dr. McCoy (in which Mirror Spock gained a glimpse of a United Federation of Planets made up of worlds peacefully joined towards their common benefit) as well as by his final encounter with Captain Kirk (in which Kirk argued that the tyrannical Mirror Universe Terran Empire was doomed to eventual collapse, and so Spock’s continued loyalty to that empire was wasteful and illogical).  So Spock decides to murder the Mirror Kirk and assume command of the I.S.S. Enterprise, but this is merely the first step in a much greater plan to eventually seize control of the Empire itself and begin to introduce reason and Democracy into the structure of the Empire’s society.  But even that is merely the beginning of a much bolder, long-term plan that by which Spock would attempt to reshape the galaxy.

I love Mr. Mack’s conceit of casting Spock as the Harry Sheldon of the Mirror Universe.  The first Deep Space Nine Mirror Universe episode, “Crossover,” painted Mirror Spock as a fool whose reforms lead to the weaking of the Terran Empire and its eventual conquest by a Klingon/Cardassian alliance.  But Mr. Mack’s story completely reinvents and redeems the Spock character as one who knew that his actions would eventually lead to the Terran Empire’s collapse and the brutal subjugation of Humans and Vulcans.  But Spock’s careful actions would ensure that this would not be the end of their civilization — quite the contray, he saw that this was the only way to transition the galaxy to a much more benevolent, long-lived societal structure, and he carefully planted the seeds to ensure this ultimate outcome.  Spock is presented here as the ultimate tactician — always prepared for his adversaries’ moves, and thinking decades and even centuries ahead into the future.  It’s a wonderfully compelling and heroic depiction of this familiar character.

The novel also sets up Marlena Moreau, the “Captain’s woman” introduced in “Mirror, Mirror” as an equally compelling partner in Spock’s ambitious undertaking.  I love that she is presented as truly being … [continued]

 

EZ Viewing: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The second film in my EZ Viewing movie marathon is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country!

I respect J.J. Abrams for what he accomplished with his Star Trek reboot.  (Click here for my review.)  I enjoyed the flick, and am thrilled that Trek is exciting and “cool” again.  But THIS — Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country — is my kind of Star Trek: dark, sophisticated, and adult.  This vies with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the position of my favorite Star Trek film, depending on my mood.

An ecological disaster on the Klingon homeworld leads them to make the first gesture of peace towards the United Federation of Planets, their bitter enemies for so many decades.  Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are sent to escort the Klingon chancellor to a peace conference on Earth, but a brutal assassination sends the two galactic super-powers once again hurtling towards war.

Star Trek VI is a serious, dark film.  Yes, there is some action/adventure to be had, but for the most part it’s a rather somber film.  The film is brave in presenting our hero, Captain Kirk, in a pretty unsympathetic light: Kirk is still filled with anger at the death of his son at the hands of the Klingons (in Star Trek III), and is shown to be remarkably cold and callous at the prospect of the terrible fate about to befall their empire.  “Let them die,” he quietly tells a shocked (and disappointed) Spock, early in the film.  I love this portrayal of Kirk – it’s a very human depiction of this heroic character, and it gives Kirk a real journey to go on over the course of the film that has nothing to do with warping across the galaxy.  It’s a potent, emotional core to the film.

Trek VI has an incredibly smart, literate script.  The film is filled with references to literature and history.  Some of those are obvious (such as the Shakespeare-spouting Klingon villain, General Chang) while others are much more subtle.  (One of my favorite moments is when, during Kirk and McCoy’s trial on the Klingon homeworld, General Chang angrily shouts at them “Don’t wait for the translation!  Answer me now!”  This, of course, is a nod to Adlai Stevenson’s speech to the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis.)  Even the film’s title, I probably don’t need to point out to you, is a reference to a famous line in Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech.  The film’s central story – the prospect of peace between long-time enemy super-powers, and what that means for the “Cold Warriors” so used to hating their enemies – was inspired by the … [continued]

 

The View From The Bridge

November 29th, 2010
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In the introduction to my review of Time After Time, I wrote that the true reason for the supposed Star Trek odd-numbered movie curse (the phenomenon in which the even-numbered classic Star Trek films seem to be of a far higher quality than the odd-numbered ones) is because of the coincidence that Star Treks II, IV, and VI are the three films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer.  Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I have long-held Mr. Meyer in great esteem.  Even years ago, when I first learned of his roles as writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (by far my two favorite Star Trek films — and that stands to this day) and as a writer of Star Trek IV (Mr. Meyer wrote all of the 1986-set portions of the film, while Harve Bennett wrote the framing sequences set in the 23rd century), it was clear to me that Mr. Meyer’s was one of the key creative voices behind GOOD Star Trek.

What little I knew of Mr. Meyer himself (mostly from interviews I had seen or read — including his lengthy comments in William Shatner’s much-underrated chronicle of the making of the six classic Star Trek films, Star Trek Movie Memories* — and also from his terrific commentary tracks on the special edition DVDs of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI) supported the conclusions that I had drawn from his work: namely, that Mr. Meyer was a bright, erudite fellow whose ideas about Star Trek, and about quality movie-making as a whole, quite mirrored my own.

That opinion was further supported by Mr. Meyer’s wonderful memoir: The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood.  This is a fascinating chronicle of Mr. Meyer’s years in the business, and it’s of interest to anyone fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood works and how movies do (and don’t) get made, and of course of particular interest to anyone curious for tons of behind-the-scenes info on the making of the Star Trek films.

Mr. Meyer has an honest, hunorous writing style in evidence right from page one.  In these sorts of memoirs, I often find the early chapters (devoted to the subject’s youth) to be deadly boring.  As a reader I’m usually eager to get to “the good stuff” — that is, the subject’s adult work and achievements that were the reasons I picked up the memoir to begin with.  However, in this book, a) Mr. Meyer is bright enough to know what we’re really interested in, and so keeps those early chapters brief, and b) posesses such … [continued]

 

Will Ferrell Sings the Star Trek Theme Song!

November 6th, 2010

This is a must-watch, my friends.  Thank me later.

[continued]

 

Jon Stewart and the Corbomite Maneuver!

October 30th, 2010
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Best part of today’s Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear)?  Why that would be Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s reference to The Corbomite Maneuver!!

Long-time Trekkies like myself know, of course, that The Corbomite Maneuver is a classic episode of the original Star Trek series.  Check out this clip:

Note Uhura’s gold uniform, which Stewart and Colbert mentioned.  Well played, sirs!… [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Quint over at AICN has posted an amazing, career-spanning interview with the extraordinarily talented Drew Struzan.  Mr. Struzan has illustrated many of the most iconic movie posters of the last several decades — posters I’m sure you’d recognize for all of the Indiana Jones films, the Star Wars films, the Back to the Future films, and so many more.  The man is an incredible talent.  I have already ordered my copy of The Art of Drew Struzan, and I can’t wait for it to arrive!

The AICN seaman has also been posting a really fun series called The Behind the Scenes Pic of the Day that is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already been following it.  Maybe you’ll want to start with this one that has done far worse than kill you, he’s hurt you, and he wishes to go on hurting you.  Heh — fits right in with my current run of cartoons!!

A fun animation test for the abandoned Roger Rabbit 2 project, from 1998, has recently surfaced on-line.  Worth checking out.

This recent brief interview with Joss Whedon, discussing his work on the upcoming Avengers film, has been making the rounds of the net but it’s worth reading if you haven’t seen it yet.  I love Mr. Whedon’s comment that “I would like to put these actors in a room and just make Glengarry Glen Ross.”  Boy would I happily pay to see that!!

This is an interesting list of the 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies of all time, as voted for by readers of Empire magazine.  There are some weird choices (I think the terrible fourth entries in the Die Hard and Indiana Jones series would disqualify those as trilogies — and what the hell is the Star Wars prequel trilogy doing on that list???) but it’s a fun read.

So actor Robert Wuhl, who once played a sports agent on the TV show Arliss, is now hosting an actual sports radio show?  That’s pretty funny.

I love this:

[continued]

 

No Bloody A, B, C, or D

September 30th, 2010

I am a big, big fan of the Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendars.  I was checking out some on-line Ship of the Line images the other day and came across this magnificent creation by Doug Drexler, entitled “No Bloody A, B, C, or D.”  (The title, of course, is taken from Scotty’s line in the TNG episode “Relics.”)  Gorgeous.

drexler_sotl_2010_r02sm

Click here for a full-screen version.

Here’s another awe-inspiring image of the Big E.  Why couldn’t the Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film have looked more like this??

2011sotl_deg_r02sm

Click here for a full-screen version.

Moving forward along the Trek time-line, check out this amazing depiction of the Enterprise-D by long-time Trek concept artist/illustrator Andrew Probert.  (He’s the man who designed the refit-Enterprise from the Star Trek films, as well as the Enterprise-D from The Next Generation.)

st_ships_interior_01sm

Click here for a full-screen version.

Cool stuff.… [continued]

 

Josh Gives a Listen to Michael Giacchino’s Complete Score to Star Trek (2009)!

September 22nd, 2010
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Not long after the release of James Horner’s complete score for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (which I reviewed here), Varese Sarabande released Michael Giacchino’s complete score for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009).

I have been a big fan of Michael Giacchino for years now.  I love his TV work (for Lost, Alias, etc.), and I think his score for The Incredibles is one of the most perfect film scores ever crafted.  So I was very excited by the news, back in 2009, that he’d be scoring J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek relaunch. I have mixed feelings about the finished film, and I can’t say that I was totally in love with the score either.  Still, when news of this CD release reached me, I was excited by the prospect of experiencing Mr. Giacchino’s score on its own.

Sadly, as I listened to this double-CD set, I felt as luke-warm about the score as I had when first experiencing it with the finished film.  Mr. Giacchino is a terrific composer, there is no doubt, and he’s certainly created a fast-paced, energetic score.  But it all feels a little bland to me.  There aren’t a lot of distinct, dramatic themes for the viewer/listener to hold on to (as there were, for example, in James Horner’s phenomenal scores for Star Trek II and Star Trek III).

Mr. Giacchino did create a dynamic new main Star Trek/Kirk theme.  This music (which plays over the opening titles, and which builds to strong crescendos as the film progresses and young James Kirk begins to become the man he is destined to be) is pretty great – it’s eminently memorable, and provides a strong back-bone for much of the film’s action sequences.  Mr. Giacchino also created a lovely, quiet new Spock/Vulcan theme.  It’s hard to out-do Mr. Horner’s iconic Spock/Vulcan music, but I quite enjoyed Mr. Giacchino’s take on this material.

Other than those two themes, though, I found most of the rest of the score to be – while pleasant to listen to – rather generic.  I was particularly disappointed by the lack of the famous Alexander Courage Star Trek theme from the score.  Mr. Giacchino makes us wait all the way to the end credits until we get to hear any of those familiar themes.  True, when that moment comes, we get a wonderfully rocking re-orchestration of the full classic Star Trek TV theme (presented on this CD set on disc two, tracks 15 “To Boldly Go” and 16 “End Credits”).  But there were so many moments during the film – such as Kirk and McCoy’s first glimpse of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Kirk’s first … [continued]

 

Star Trek is 44 Years Old!

September 8th, 2010

On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap.”  In celebration of Star Trek‘s 44th anniversary, here’s a wonderful video (that was actually created for the 40th anniversary in 2006):

Pretty great, huh?  (I LOVE the orchestral suite from “The Inner Light,” and I’m not embarrassed to admit that it gets played regularly on my ipod.)  Bravo to the fellow who created this retrospective.  And happy birthday to Star Trek! I eagerly await the next adventure.… [continued]

 

Josh Relishes the New Release of James Horner’s Complete Score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock!

September 8th, 2010
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The fine folks at Retrograde and Film Score have followed up last year’s release of James Horner’s complete score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Mr. Horner’s complete score to Star Trek III: The Search For Spock.  Since I am a) an enormous Star Trek fan, and b) very into film scores, I immediately snapped up this two-CD set when it came out at the beginning of the summer.

 

I think James Horner’s scores for Treks II and III stand as two of the finest film scores ever made, and this new complete presentation is phenomenal.  Just as Star Trek III continues the story begun in II, so too does Mr. Horner’s score reprise many of the key musical themes that he originated in Trek II.  Most notably, the rousing Enterprise theme, as well as the somber Spock theme, form a key back-bone to the Star Trek III score. 

 

There are a lot of new musical motifs created for the Star Trek III score as well, the most significant being the percussion-based music for the Klingons.  I love Horner’s Klingons theme and wish that it had been used more in future Trek films and TV shows.  (The Trek productions that came after favored, instead, Jerry Goldsmith’s Klingons theme which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That’s a terrific musical theme as well, but I do have a soft spot for Horner’s Trek III Klingons music.)

 

Mr. Horner’s score for Star Trek III is filled with iconic musical moments that have always thrilled me when I watch the film.  These are moments when the music is so wonderfully distinct and evocative that, when listening to the score, I can clearly see the images from the film in my mind.  These moments powerfully demonstrate the critical role that effective film scoring can play in creating an iconic scene or image in a movie.

 

My favorite moments from the score include the bit at the end of track one, “Prologue and Main Title,” in which the opening credits end and Kirk’s Captain’s Log entry begins.  Horner’s melancholy cue (played on celli, according to the liner notes), perfectly establishes the somber, dark place in which we find our characters at the start of this film.  Speaking of melancholy, I also adore the moment found half-way through track two, “Klingons,” when the film cuts away from our introduction to Kruge and we see the Enterprise’s approach to spacedock.  There’s a powerful moment in the sequence, in which we see Janice Rand (in a cameo appearance) shake her head sadly as she looks out from the spacedock windows to see the terribly damaged Enterprise.  Mr. Horner’s music for … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

If you’re a member of facebook, check out this list (compiled by a key contributor to The Digital Bits, my favorite DVD/blu-ray-related web-site) of films that he’s still waiting to be released on DVD.  It’s a hoot.  While I’m discussing the Digital Bits, here’s something cool: In anticipation of the upcoming release of all four Alien films on blu-ray, they have posted an extensive look at the making of Fox’s amazing Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set from a few years back.  This was originally published in the book The Digital Bits: Insider’s Guide to DVD.  Since all of this material will appear on the blu-ray set, this is well-worth a read, if you’re a fan of these films.

The deleted scene from Return of the Jedi that was shown at Star Wars Celebration V has been taken down from youtube, but as of this writing it can still be seen here, so check it out.  It’s a cool moment showing Luke’s constructing his new lightsaber, and Vader trying to speak to his son through the force.

Speaking of Star Wars, I have waxed poetical many times on this site about the magnificence of Adywan’s e-edit/restoration of Star Wars: A New Hope.  (I am sick of referring to it as Episode IV.)  Here is a phenomenal visual guide to over 500 of the changes/fixes that Adywan has made.  If you have any way of getting your hands on this film (and fanedit.org is a good place to start), then do so immediately.

This is an interesting article about a new book about the Bond films: The Man With the Golden Touch: How the Bond Films Conquered the World. This is a book I need to read!  By the way, I don’t agree with the author of the article’s closing thought that the recent films have been entirely without artistic merit.  I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace, but didn’t think it was a complete catastrophe.  I also am not nearly so down as that writer on Pierce Brosnan.  I love Brosnan as Bond.  He was just in some bad Bond films.  (His first two were strong, but his last two — The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day — were TERRIBLE.)  But I don’t blame Brosnan for what went wrong in those films.  It’s a shame that MGM’s financial woes have put a halt to the series for now.  But James Bond Will Return.  Someday, I guess.

There’s a nice defense of Tom Cruise by Nick Nunziata over on CHUD, and I must say I agree wholeheartedly.  Speaking of CHUD, I was very sorry to read of Devin Faraci’s [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book Six): Synthesis

It’s taken me a few months longer than I had originally planned, but after completing James Swallow’s novel Synthesis, I am finally caught up with Pocket Books’ Titan series, which chronicles the post-Nemesis adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his new command, the U.S.S. Titan.

Continuing to explore uncharted space far beyond the borders of the United Federation of Planets, the Titan enters an area of severe spatial disruption. Finding evidence of a terrible battle, they find only one survivor: what appears to be a sentient computer from a race of artificial intelligences. Captain Riker offers to help, and tries to learn more about the mysterious enemy that the machines have apparently been fighting for centuries. But he is met with hostility and mistrust from the A.I.s – and then he too is forced to wonder if it is possible to trust the machines when the actions of the one they rescued (who identifies himself as SecondGen White-Blue) cause the main computer of the Titan itself to become sentient! Making matters even more awkward, the computer chooses as it’s avatar form an image from Will Riker’s past – the woman named Minuet.

The authors of the Titan series have really been living up to the series’ mandate of creating new species and new cultures for the Titan crew to encounter, rather than relying on familiar alien races. Mr. Swallow does an excellent job at presenting us with this look at a society of A.I.s – their history, how their society functions, and more. Mr. Swallow also continues to explore and richen the many faces of the Titan crew. I’ve been very pleased at the book-to-book continuity, and have enjoyed watching the development of the Titan characters (many of whom were created for this series of novels). This, more than anything else, is what leaves me eager for further Titan adventures.

There some instances in this novel, though, where I felt Mr. Swallow stumbled a bit. There were a few places where I felt his prose was a bit awkward (a reference to Serenity, in which a Titan character utters the phrase, “I’m a leaf on the wind,” felt particularly out of place to me). And after the complex world-building of previous Titan author Christopher Bennett, our investigation of the machine culture presented in this novel felt a bit superficial.

What was most disappointing to me was the use (or lack thereof) of Minuet. It seemed totally random to me that the newly-sentient Titan would choose this image – out of all of the billions of images in the ship’s computer – to take as it’s form. And … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book Five): Under a Torrent Sea

Author Christopher Bennett returns to the Star Trek: Titan series of novels (chronicling the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the diverse inter-species crew of his new command, the deep-space exploration ship Titan) with the fifth installment in the series, Under a Torrent Sea.  (Click here for my review of book four, Sword of Damocles.)

The Titan crew discovers a water planet that, despite apparently having no land masses whatsoever, seems to contain sentient life.  Titan‘s navigator, Aili Lavena, takes the lead in the investigation of this strange new world (which the Titan crew quickly nicknames Droplet), since she comes from a water planet and is fully comfortable exploring Droplet’s oceans without the aid of a shuttlecraft or environmental suit.  Guess what, things go wrong, and she soon finds herself stranded on the planet along with the injured Captain Riker.

Following on the heels of book four’s investigation into the background and character of Bajoran science officer Jaza Najem, Under a Torrent Sea provides us with a similarly detailed look at another Titan crew-member, the Selkie Ensign Lavena.  It’s great fun to read along as these novels explore these fascinating created-for-the-novels characters, while also continuing to throw lots of new wrinkles towards the from-the-TV-shows characters like Riker and Troi, and even the Elaysian Melora Pazlar (who appeared in one second season Deep Space Nine episode).

What I enjoy most about the novels written by Christopher Bennett is the time and space that he devotes to fully investigating and exploring the alien societies that he creates.  His previous Titan novel featured his extrapolations about the workings of an entire society of space-faring Cosmozoans, while Under a Torrent Sea contains a wealth of details about the conditions on a water-planet and the type of life that might be found there.  Of course this is all science fiction, but Mr. Bennett has clearly devoted time and attention to researching the scientific underpinnings of his story.   This brings his novel closer to speculative fiction than it is to pure fantasy, and enhances the engaging nature of the story being told.

All of this wouldn’t amount to much if he didn’t have a strong story to tell within that framework, and as always Mr. Bennett does not disappoint on that score.  I really enjoyed getting to know Ensign Lavena over the course of the novel and (spoiler alert!!) I was pleased that she wasn’t written out of the series at the end of the book, the way the focus of the previous novel was!  The strength of this main story keeps the book moving along at a quick pace.  It may be why I found myself enjoying this … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book 4): Sword of Damocles

It’s been a bit of a while since my last review of a novel in Pocket Books’ Star Trek: Titan series, chronicling the post-Star Trek: Nemesis adventures of Captain William Riker and his new command.  After reading the first four novels when they were originally released, earlier this year I realized that I had fallen behind on the series.  Since a few years had passed since the series began (the novels have been published at a rate of about one or two a year), I decided to go back and re-read the first four novels before moving on to the fifth and sixth installments (which were published this year).  However, after finishing book three, Orion’s Hounds, I got a bit distracted by my project to re-read all of Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey series, and various other things.  But now I’m back in the saddle!

Entering a region of space never-before explored by manned Federation starships, the Titan encounters the planet Orisha, whose denizens have been menaced for centuries by a celestial phenomenon that they call “the Eye” which periodically wreaks havoc on their planet.  Many Orishans worship “the Eye” as a deity, one which sits in judgment of their society and regularly punishes them for their sins.  As the Titan crew attempt to investigate this phenomenal, things (predictably) go awry and the landing party is separated from the Titan and presumed dead.

Far from being deceased, the landing party find themselves stranded on the surface of a planet Orisha that seems much different from the planet they had observed from orbit.  As the crew (both on the planet and back on Titan) attempt to extricate themselves from the situation in which they have become enmeshed, they must struggle with aspects of the Prime Directive while also confronting questions about fate and destiny.

Sword of Damocles, written by Geoffrey Thorne, is another strong, enjoyable installment in this series of novels.  I’ve been pleased by how well the different authors have been able to maintain consistency in the voices of the many new-to-the-novels characters that make up the diverse Titan crew.  Mr. Thorne has a terrific grasp on the characters, giving each of them a distinct personality even as he weaves scores of alien Titan crew-members in and out of the narrative.  It was nice to see several members of the Titan crew — such as science specialist Jaza Najem, chief engineer Dr. Xin Ra-Havreii, and head of Stellar Cartography Melora Pazlar — get a lot of attention in the story, though I must confess some disappointment (small spoiler alert!) that one intriguing character was written out of the series by the novel’s conclusion, just when … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

There’s a great article about Mel Brooks up at Boston.com, because his musical Young Frankenstein is coming to Boston for a two-week run.  I was disappointed by Young Frankenstein when I saw it on broadway, but this brief piece about one of our comedic legends is worth a read.

Here’s a fascinating article about the many different versions of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  I’m a big fan of this groundbreaking film, and I’d love to see the newly-restored 147-minute version.

One of my very favorite web-sites, thedigitalbits.com, has posted a very informative interview with DVD Producer Michael Pellerin.  Mr. Pellerin has been involved with the DVD releases of The Lord of the Rings since the very beginning, and he has some fascinating comments on the recent blu-ray release of the trilogy as well as the material that Peter Jackson has been saving for the eventual ultimate blu-ray super-duper box set.  (Can’t wait for that!)

Speaking of Peter Jackson and The Lord of the RingsDecember 2012 needs to hurry up and get here already!!!

Artist Ron Miller has created a series of breathtaking images entitled the Eight Wonders of the Solar System.  Gorgeous.

I am starting to believe that Ridley Scott is actually going to make the Alien prequel that has been rumored for years.  Mr. Scott spills a lot of beans in this interview with MTV, although it was the folks at HitFix that revealed that he’s actually planning to create TWO prequels.  OK, color me cautiously intrigued.  I’m excited to see Ridley Scott return to the Alien universe for the first time since 1979, though as a rule I think prequels are stupid.

Here’s a great profile of comic book genius Jeff Smith.  Bone is one of the masterpieces of the medium (if you haven’t read it — you really must), and I’m really digging his new series Rasl.

Star Trek geeks: check out this incredible opening movie from the 2009 FedCon Science Fiction Convention.  This gorgeous 4-minute short film, created by Tobias Richter, features an action-packed sequence featuring the U.S.S. Kelvin & redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise from J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film.  Pretty awesome stuff.  (Though I still hate the redesigned Enterprise…)

Speaking of Star Trek, I am giddy with excitement over the next batch of episodes in the phenomenal fan-film series Star Trek: Phase II.  (I’ve written before about Phase II here, and here is my review of one of their recent episodes, “Blood and Fire.”)  There’s a great series of teases for these upcoming episodes up at Trekmovie.com, including the revelation that these mad geniuses are planning on including Arex (the … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Titan (Book 3): Orion’s Hounds

Today I’m continuing my look at Pocket Books’ series of Star Trek: Titan novels, chronicling the post-Nemesis adventures of newly-minted Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan.  (Click here for my review of Book 1: Taking Wing, and here for my review of Book 2: The Red King.)  While authors Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin wrote those first two books, with the third novel in the series, Orion’s Hounds, they hand things off to Christopher L. Bennett.

The basic premise of the Titan series is that, following the cataclysmic events of the Dominion War and the other crises that followed, Starfleet has decided to attempt to return to its basic principles of peaceful exploration.  As such, they have commissioned the creation of a new class of starships, the Luna class, designed for deep-space exploration.  Will Riker commands the Titan, one of those new Luna class vessels, and he and his crew have been sent on a mission beyond the boundaries of the Federation (specifically towards the Gum Nebula, one of the largest astronomical landmarks in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy) to attempt to seek out new life and new civilizations.

As they travel into unexplored space, Deanna Troi and the other telepaths on board Titan find their minds touched by powerful consciousnesses that, while alien, nevertheless, feel somehow familiar to Troi.  The reason for that familiarity is soon made clear as the Titan discovers that the telepathic contact originated from a school of “star-jellies” — the same type of beautiful (and enormous) space-faring creatures that the U.S.S. Enterprise-D first encountered in the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint.”

However, along with the star-jellies in their natural habitat, Titan also encounters the Pa’haquel, a species that hunts the star-jellies as well as many of the other space-dwelling life-forms found in that part of the galaxy.  The Pa’haquel are actually able to manipulate the dead corpses of the jellies, turning them into their own ships in which they’re able to live and which they use as vehicles for their hunts.  Riker, along with many members of his crew, are horrified by the actions of the Pa’haquel, but as per Starfleet regulations they are reluctant to interfere in the culture of an alien race.

Of course, events (which I won’t spoil here) soon force their hand, and a member of the Titan crew commits an act that dramatically upsets the balance between the Pa’haquel and the star-jellies.  The repercussions of that event makes plain to the Titan crew that things aren’t quite so simple as Star-jellies=good and Pa’haquel=bad, and they discover that their actions have caused … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book 2): The Red King

After being catapulted clear of the Milky Way galaxy at the end of Taking Wing (The first Star Trek Titan novel — read my review here), Captain William T. Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan find themselves in the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies.  This area of space also happens to be the home of the Neyel, the mysterious race of aliens with centuries-old ties to humanity first introduced in the novel The Sundered (read my review here).

While Taking Wing was focused on introducing Riker’s new ship and its extraordinarily varied interspecies crew, as well as wrapping up a number of dangling story-threads left by the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, The Red King (written by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin) is more of what the Titan series was billed to be: a story of exploration, in which Riker and his crew encounter strange new worlds and new life forms.  At the same time, The Red King is a direct sequel to both Taking Wing and The Sundered, as Riker and his crew work to locate Romulan commander Donatra’s missing fleet, figure out how to return to Federation space, and unravel the mystery of a terrible new threat to Neyel space.  (Readers, meanwhile, get to learn about what has happened to the Neyel since we last met them 100 years earlier during Captain Sulu’s time in The Sundered.)

My recollection was that The Red King was my least favorite of the Titan series, but in re-reading the novel I found quite a lot to enjoy.  Mangels & Martin have a nice, easy-to-read writing style that I always find very engaging.  The Red King is a fast-paced yarn, and it continues the exploration of the unique natures and backstories of the members of Titan’s diverse inter-species crew that was begun in the previous installment.  Most interestingly to me, we finally learn the details of the event that caused the thirty-years-and-counting rift between Starfleet Admiral Leonard James Akaar and Lt. Tuvok (who had been close friends aboard the Excelsior during the events of The Sundered).

But the novel does have some weaknesses.  Primarily, the emerging sentient protouniverse that is destabilizing space in the Small Magellanic Cloud doesn’t really present that compelling a scientific mystery (the Titan crew seem to figure out what’s going on pretty quickly) nor that compelling a challenge/adversary.  As a result, the novel sometimes seems to be without a central narrative thrust.  Riker’s crew comes up with a plan to contain the protouniverse about halfway through the novel, meaning that the whole second half of the book is without any real twists.  Oh, … [continued]

 

Star Trek The Lost Era (Book 1): The Sundered (2298)

February 26th, 2010
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Back in 2003-2004, Pocket Books released a terrific series of novels entitled The Lost Era that chronicled the approximately seventy-five years between Captain Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generations and the launch of the Enterprise-D in “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series when it was initially released, and I’ve been wanting to re-read these novels for several years now.  Since the cliffhanger at the end of Taking Wing (the first novel in Pocket Book’s Star Trek Titan series — read my review here — following the exploits of Captain William T. Riker’s new ship) referred directly to the events of the first Lost Era novel, The Sundered, I decided to go back and re-read that novel before proceeding on to Titan book 2, The Red King.

Set in 2298, five years after Star Trek: Generations, The Sundered presents us with an adventure of Captain Sulu and the U.S.S. Excelsior.  Star Trek VI introduced the idea that former U.S.S. Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu had been promoted to captain of the Excelsior, and The Sundered picks up his story as the veteran master of that vessel.  Also aboard the Excelsior are several familiar faces: Pavel Chekov is Sulu’s first officer, Janice Rand is his communications officer, and Christine Chapel is his chief medical officer.  As established in the Voyager episode “Flashback,” the young Vulcan Tuvok is also on-board, though struggling to deal with the illogical nature of all of the non-Vulcans in Starfleet.  We also learn that a young Leonard James Akaar (born in the Original Series episode “Friday’s Child” and re-introduced in the last several years of Star Trek novels as a stern elderly admiral in the post-Nemesis Next Gen era) is on board as well, and had at the time a close friendship with Tuvok.

At the risk of repeating what I have written in previous Trek novel reviews ad nauseum, I am continually delighted by the interconnectedness of the last decade’s worth of Pocket Book’s Trek novels.  Though set almost a hundred years earlier, The Sundered fits in perfectly with the current batch of post-Nemesis Next Gen novels and with the new Titan series, providing a number of interesting pieces of backstory for characters featured in those other novels.  (It of course helps that The Sundered was written by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels, who also wrote the first two Titan novels, Taking Wing and The Red King.)

I haven’t even mentioned the main thrust of The Sundereds story yet.  Tenuous peace talks with the violent, xenophobic Tholians (enigmatic aliens first introduced in the classic Original Series … [continued]

 

Star Trek Titan (Book 1): Taking Wing

February 5th, 2010
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I’ve written a lot on this site about Pocket Books’ series of post-finale Deep Space Nine novels, as well as the series of post-Nemesis Next Generation novels.  But I haven’t made much mention of another top-notch series of novels that has been a big part of Pocket Books’ exciting efforts to move the Star Trek universe forward: the continuing adventures of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan.

There have been six Titan novels published so far, with more on the way.  Before beginning the latest novel (set after the cataclysmic events of David Mack’s Destiny trilogy, which I reviewed here), I decided to go back and re-read the series in its entirety.  Over the next few weeks (hopefully it will be weeks, and not months!) I’ll be bringing you my thoughts on all the novels in the series.

Today, we’ll start with Taking Wing, the novel that kicked everything off, by Michael A. Martin and Andy Mangels.

After almost a decade of near-constant conflict with alien races such as the Borg, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and, of course, the Dominion, it seems that the United Federation of Planets has finally returned to a state of peace.  As such, Starfleet decides to return to its central mission of peaceful exploration and commissions the construction of a new class of starships, the Luna class, to be sent out into the unexplored regions of the galaxy to seek out new life and new civilizations.

Newly-promoted Captain William Riker (whose promotion to captaincy was one of the only decent story-points to be found in the final Next Gen film, Star Trek: Nemesis) is filled with excitement for this new mission of exploration, and he sets out to assemble the most biologically and culturally diverse crew in Starfleet history.  (More on the Titan’s crew in just a moment.)  Unfortunately, the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (in which the clone Shinzon led a Reman plot to murder the Romulan Praetor and every member of the Senate and usurp control of the Romulan Empire for himself, before he too perished in conflict with the U.S.S. Enterprise) have left the Romulan Empire fractured and in chaos.  Titan‘s mission of exploration is postponed so that Riker and his crew can travel to Romulus in the hopes of mediating some sort of power-sharing agreement and stave off a catastrophic civil war.

Taking Wing is an absolutely phenomenal novel — probably the strongest of the Titan series, and one of my favorite Trek novels from the past several years.  I really loved the Romulan storyline.  I enjoyed the way Mr. Martin & Mr. Mangels picked up the pieces from Nemesis — they … [continued]

 

Let the Best of 2009 lists continue!  I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.

Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!

First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list?  Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets.  Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.)  But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.

10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes.  It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life.  It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults.  The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.  It’s pretty astounding.  This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features.  Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set.  (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.)  (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)

9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]

 

Still More Great Comic Books!

November 18th, 2009
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In addition to highlighting some of the very best comic book series that are out there (click here to read about 100 Bullets or here to read about Planetary) I’ve also been having fun writing about some of the great books that I’ve been following on a monthly basis (or semi-monthly basis, as the case may be) when I make my weekly visits to the comic book shop.  Click here to read about books like Incognito, Kick-Ass, and The Nightly News, and here to read about books like Hellboy, Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, The Dark Tower, and Batman: Streets of Gotham.

What else have I been reading?

Detective Comics — I am all for female heroes in my comic books (as well as TV shows and movies, for that matter) but generally I tend to think that female versions of male super-heroes (She-Hulk, Supergirl, etc.) are pretty lame.  So when I read that Detective Comics was going to start focusing on the newly-introduced character of Batwoman, I was less than overwhelmed.  However, when I heard that Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III were the creators coming on board the title, I quickly changed my tune and decided to sample the series.  Boy I’m glad I did, because the first five issues of their run have been terrific.  Mr. Rucka is spinning a taught, tense mystery/adventure story (something at which he excels), and Mr. Williams III’s art is absolutely jaw-dropping.  I’m baffled as to how exactly he produces the art I’m seeing before me (and surely colorist Dave Stewart is a key player), but it seems to be a constant mix of different media and styles, presented in wonderfully eccentric panel layouts (no simple panel grids to be found here).  Each page is truly a work of art.  Really wonderful.

Star Trek Romulans: Schism — The very first time, as a kid, that I paid any notice to the names of the creators behind the comic books I was reading was because I noticed that there was one guy whose work I was enjoying way more than anyone else’s.  That was John Byrne.  He was the first artist I really followed, and I made it my business to track down back-issues of his famous work (his lengthy runs on Uncanny X-Men and Fantastic Four) as well as his less-famous work (Alpha Flight, Namor, etc.).  About the time that he was writing and illustrating the magnificent series John Byrne’s Next Men, I was convinced that he was the greatest comic book creator of the time.  Lately, Mr. Byrne seems to have fallen somewhat out of favor within the industry — he’s a name I … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

OK, so this is about the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of — Star Wars fans worldwide are uniting on a project to re-make the original film (A New Hope), 15 seconds at a time.  Fans can claim individual 15 second moments of the film, recreate them in whatever for they desire (re-enactments, animation, etc.), and then the whole thing will ultimately be strung together.  Wild.  Click here for all the details on Star Wars Uncut, or just watch this bizarre trailer below!

Star Wars: Uncut Trailer from Casey Pugh on Vimeo.

After watching Julie & Julia with my wife Steph recently (you can read my review of the film here)  I was interested in learning more about Julie Powell, so I tracked down her Julie/Julia Project blog and her current blog (since she ended the Julie/Julia Project blog in 2003, with only one additional post in 2004 after Julia Childs’ death).  Both blogs were  fun to read through after having seen the film.

Not a week goes by, it seems, that I don’t read about Ridley Scott being attached to yet another movie-in-development.  I’m not the only one who’s noticed, it seems.  Check out this helpful guide: Know Your Ridley Scott Projects That Will Probably Never Happen.

I am an enormous Beatles fanatic.  Thus it is really painful for me that I have not yet had an opportunity to sample the newly remastered versions of all of the Beatles albums that were released last month.  Scorekeeper from AICN’s detailed run-down of each Beatles album, and how the new versions match up against the original CD releases from 1987, has only further whetted my appetite.

CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) has been running a ridiculously entertaining series of posts entitled “Bad For Us, Worse For Them.”  What is it about?  Let me quote from their intro: This is a list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy, brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a mark.  The whole list is fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see that Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan merited inclusion.

Here’s a great piece from DVDActive.com (one of my favorite DVD/Blu-Ray web-sites) that calmly and methodically dissects everything wrong with … [continued]

 

EZ Viewing IV: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Run, Lola, Run

October 29th, 2009
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The fourth film that we showed at this year’s EZ Viewing movie-marathon was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and we wrapped up the evening with Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run).

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – We screened Star Trek II two years ago at EZ Viewing II (the year I highlighted my favorite movie sequels) and Star Trek III last year, so how could I not complete the mid-series trilogy by including Star Trek IV in this year’s EZ Viewing??

Following Kirk and crew’s mutiny and theft of the Enterprise in Star Trek III in their attempt to find and revive Spock, the opening of Star Trek IV finds Kirk and Co. still stranded on Vulcan, preparing to face the consequences of their actions. The Enterprise has been destroyed, and they don’t know if they have careers in Starfleet to return to. Spock is alive, but struggling to fully piece together his memories and personality. But the gang is spurred into action when a mysterious alien probe threatens all life on Earth, seeking a species of whales that has long-since been extinct.

Star Trek IV was, until this year’s new film by J.J. Abrams, the most financially successful of all the Star Trek movies. And it was by far the most popular outside of hard-core Trek fandom. If you’ve seen only one Star Trek film, this is probably the one you’ve seen. There are a number of reasons for that, I think. This is a much more accessible film than most of the other Star Trek movies. Much of the story takes place on Earth (in what was the present day when the film was released back in 1986). There’s a pretty simple (but still compelling) hook to the story – go back in time to find humpback whales – that I think is easier for general audiences to grasp than a lot of sci-fi elements of aliens, politics, etc.

The environmental message, I think, also enabled this film to be successful with a broader-than-usual audience. Many of the episodes of the original series dealt with difficult issues (such as racism, class struggles, involvement in foreign countries, etc.) – sometimes subtly, sometimes not. But the allegorical nature of classic Trek was sort of abandoned by the film series (not entirely mistakenly, in my opinion) in favor of more exciting action/adventure. Star Trek IV, though, gets back to those sorts of ideas, and that added a depth to this particular endeavor (bet you thought I was gonna say enterprise) that captured people’s attention.

Finally, Star Trek IV is by far the lightest, in tone, of all the Trek films, and I think people found … [continued]

 

Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Never-Ending Sacrifice

October 23rd, 2009
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My faith in the continuing DS9 saga is restored!

Last week I week I wrote about my disappointment with how the spectacular DS9 novel series has sort-of petered out over the past few years, but after reading the other DS9 novel published this year, Una McCormack’s spectacular The Never-Ending Sacrifice, I am again reminded about just how amazing this series can be.

The Never-Ending Sacrifice is a sequel, of sorts, to the intriguing second-season DS9 episode “Cardassians.”  In that episode, an elderly Bajoran man arrives on the station with his adoptive son, Rugal, a Cardassian child who was left behind when the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ended.  Allegations emerge that the Bajorans are raising Rugal to hate his own kind, and when his actual father arrives on the station, relieved that the son he believed dead still lives, the Cardassian government demands that Commander Sisko turn the boy over to them.  It’s a complex episode that fleshes out a lot of the show’s back-story — including a look at what went on during the Cardassian occupation and the reasons for their withdrawal (indeed, this was the episode that revealed that the Cardassians’ name for the station was Terok Nor), as well as a lot more about the deceitful web of Cardassian politics (including more information than we’d learned at that time about Garak and Dukat) and how life on Bajor was proceeding after the Cardassian withdrawal.  Despite all those great qualities, though, I was always troubled by the ending of the episode.  After all that build-up, Sisko’s decision is revealed in the closing moments in a simplistic commander’s log (it’s as if the writers just ran out of time and realized that they had to end the episode), and I couldn’t believe that Sisko actually decided to take the boy from his adoptive parents, with whom Rugal had expressed a clear desire to stay.

It was an episode that demanded a follow-up, but none ever came during the seven-year run of the show.  Luckily, Una McCormack has stepped in to fill that void.  The Never-Ending Sacrifice follows the life of Rugal from the moment he was taken by his Cardassian father-by-blood, Kotan Pa’Dar, back to Cardassia Prime, all the way through the tumultuous events of the series and through the post-finale series of novels as well.  Ms. McCormack has masterfully woven together the intimate story of Rugal’s young life with the epic tale of the rise and fall of Cardassia.

Both aspects of the story are extraordinarily compelling.  Rugal is an interesting protagonist.  Following the events of the episode “Cardassians,” I expected him to be depicted as an angry, hateful young man because of his forced separation … [continued]

 

The Deep Space Nine Saga Continues…

October 16th, 2009
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Deep Space Nine remains, by an order of magnitude, my favorite of the Star Trek series.  Not surprisingly, then, it was the terrific DS9 relaunch of novels set after the series finale (which I wrote about in depth here) that rekindled my interest in (and love for) Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels.

But after the publication of David Mack’s phenomenal novel Warpath in April, 2006, the DS9 relaunch series hit something of a snag.  Warpath ended on a brutal cliffhanger, bur for whatever reason the next installment in the series, Fearful Symmetry, wasn’t scheduled to be published until a year later.  Unfortunately, it was actually over TWO years until that next novel was finally published (written by Olivia Woods, a different author than the one originally announced) in July, 2008.  Fearful Symmetry wound up being one of the shortest DS9 novels published (in the relaunch series, at least), and then we all had to wait still another year for the next novel: The Soul Key, also written by Olivia Woods, released this past August.

Such a long a wait put a lot of pressure on The Soul Key.  Things were exacerbated even more (in my mind, at least), when, a few months ago, Pocket Books released their schedule of novels for 2010.  Only one DS9 novel was included, and according to the description it will be set several years after the events of the entire DS9 relaunch series of novels, so that it can be a part of next year’s “Typhon Pact” Next Gen crossover story.  That sounds like a cool novel, but one that will be much more about the post-Destiny Next Gen stories as opposed to all of the DS9-centric stories of the DS9 relaunch.  So it might be another two years at least before more actual DS9 proper novels are published.  All of that means that Ms. Woods’ two novels (Fearful Symmetry and The Soul Key) could conceivably be the only new DS9 relaunch stories published for FIVE years.

That means that The Soul Key would have to be really magnificent to live up to all of the expectation placed upon it.  Sadly, it is not.

Although not as short as Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key is still a fairly short novel — and it feels even shorter than it actually is.  That might be because, while there is a lot of PLOT covered in this novel (we do, at last, get some resolution to several of the story-lines that have been running through the past several DS9 novels, which means the last several YEARS of my life), there doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Losing the Peace

September 18th, 2009
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The post-Nemesis Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures continue in the latest excellent novel from Pocket Books, Losing the Peace, by William Leisner.

Following the calamitous destruction that the Borg have wrought throughout the Federation in David Mack’s terrific Destiny trilogy (see my review here), Starfleet’s exploration programs are all put on hold as every surviving starship is called upon to help pick up the pieces.  Whole planets have been destroyed, leaving countless displaced survivors stranded across space.  The surviving Federation worlds quickly find themselves overwhelmed by an enormous flood of refugees who have lost everything, and dramatic shortages of food and materiel strike everywhere.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise bounce about the quadrant, attempting to help where they can and put out whatever “fires” they might come across, but the enormous problems facing the Federation seem much larger than anything that can be addressed by one lone starship.  Meanwhile, Picard’s command crew (many of whom are new faces who have been introduced in Pocket Books’ post-Nemesis novels) each must face personal struggles as they try to come to grips with the tragedies they have survived.

Losing the Peace may be a unique Star Trek novel in that there is no villain.  There is no alien threat to be overcome, no unique science-fiction mystery to be solved.  Rather, the problems that beset Picard & co. this time are of a much more mundane — though no less perilous — nature.  It would have been easy for Mr. Leisner to have added in some sort of more traditional antagonist — an alien race trying to take advantage of the chaos in the Federation, or something like that — and he is to be commended for avoiding that somewhat obvious way to add drama to the story.  Instead, Mr. Leisner takes the time to draw the reader into a variety of much smaller-scale dramas taking place amongst Picard’s crew and all around the devastated Alpha Quadrant.  These aren’t “fate of the universe” stories of a galactic scale — they’re very “human” tales.  One might think that could make for a rather dull Star Trek novel.  Quite the contrary — I thoroughly enjoyed this very realistic take on what the Federation would logically be facing following the galactic upheavals that took place in Destiny, and all of the “small” stories to be found in Losing the Peace accumulate into a tense novel in which the Federation seems to be in far greater peril than it ever has been before.

I was also pleased at how well Mr. Leisner was able to characterize both the familiar Next Gen characters who appear (Picard, Beverly, Worf, … [continued]

 

“Can I cook, or can’t I?” Josh continues his look at the new Blu-Ray release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

July 24th, 2009
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When I purchased a Blu-Ray player last year, I promised myself that I wouldn’t go out and re-purchase all the great movies that I own on DVD when they’re released on Blu-Ray.  This has been an easy promise to keep, mostly because DVDs played in my Blu-Ray player look FANTASTIC.

But when I read about the new restoration being done to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (one of my absolute favorite films — just take a look back at Wednesday’s post if you don’t believe me) for it’s release on Blu-Ray, I had to take the plunge.

I must admit, somewhat sheepishly, that this is actually the THIRD time I have bought a copy of Star Trek II.  I held off on buying the original bare-bones DVD release from 2000, preferring instead to buy the two-disc “Special Collector’s Edition” when it was released in 2002.  Unfortunately, while I enjoyed all the special features on that DVD, the version of the film included was a new Director’s Cut.  It was neat to see some additional scenes (which I hadn’t seen for years and years, ever since catching an extended TV version of the film in a hotel room once as a kid), but many of the additions were clunky and disruptive to the pitch-perfect pace of the theatrical film.  So of course I went out and picked up a copy of that first bare-bones DVD, so I could have the theatrical version to watch.

So what did I think of this new version?  Was it worth paying to own The Wrath of Khan for a third time?

Absolutely.  The movie looks FANTASTIC on Blu-Ray.  The colors are bright and vibrant (check out the main viewscreen graphics during the opening Kobayashi Maru sequence, for example), and the dark backgrounds and shadows in many of the scenes (this is a DARK movie!) are deep and rich.  The sound is terrific — the dialogue is all crystal-clear, and James Horner’s magnificent scores (one of the best movie scores EVER) is given a lot of weight and heft.

I am not an expert in things like film grain or other aspects of the restoration of old movies, but let me give you one example that, for me, highlights the excellent work done to clean up this film for its Blu-Ray release.  In every home video release of Star Trek II that I have ever seen (including both DVDs that I own), there has always been some distracting dirt or grain or something over the scene of the Enterprise leaving drydock.  There’s one shot in particular — a view of the Enterprise from behind, in which the Big E’s nacelle fills most of … [continued]

 

“KHAAAAANNNN!!!!” Josh relishes the new Blu-Ray release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!!

July 22nd, 2009
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I’m a big Star Trek fan.

OK, that’s probably an enormous understatement.

There has been a LOT of Trek released over the years, and while there have been some missteps (I’m looking at you, Star Trek: Nemesis), there is so much of it that I love so dearly.  The antics and new, big ideas of the original series.  The space-opera writ large of the six original Trek movies.  The serious and cerebral Star Trek: The Next Generation (which is the series I grew up on).  The dense, dark, and sophisticated Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (especially seasons 4-7).  I can even find some things to enjoy in Star Trek: Enterprise (particularly in the final two seasons).

But for me, when I think of Star Trek, I think of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This is the pinnacle of what Star Trek can and should be.  This is the masterpiece that I keep hoping will someday be re-captured by a new Trek adventure.  (J.J. Abrams’ new film came the closest any new Trek has come in almost 20 years, but his film is still but a shadow of Khan.)

Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t know the plot?  In the Original Series episode “Space Seed,” Captain James T. Kirk accidentally revived the charismatic megalomaniac, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), and 70 of his followers, all genetically enhanced supermen who had conquered a quarter of planet Earth centuries ago during the 1990s and then put themselves into cryogenic freeze when their empire fell.Khan tried to seize the Enterprise in an attempt to restore his empire, and when he failed, Kirk marooned him and his crew on the deserted planet Ceti Alpha VI.  Now, 15 years later, Khan and what’s left of his people manage to capture another ship (the ill-fated U.S.S. Reliant) and attempt to take lethal revenge on the now Admiral Kirk.

Why it’s great:Allow me to quote liberally from the sadly-now-defunct web-site dvdjournal.com’s review of Star Trek II on DVD: “Thank the heavens for The Wrath of Khan, which saved Star Trek from itself.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture was an artistic and dramatic failure.  Nonetheless, the box office tallies were strong, so Paramount gambled on the notion that another film could amortize the first’s enormous cost overruns and prove that the studio really did have a cash cow on its hands.  After all, in show business a movie doesn’t have to be good as long as it’s profitable.But lo and behold, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was good. Really, really good.  Twenty years, seven movies, and four franchise TV series later, reasoned consensus still regards it as … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Here’s a fascinating/hilarious article assessing the Ghostbusters‘ Risky Business Plan.  Those of you in finance, take note!  And, speaking of Ghostbusters, here’s a link to 50 Reasons Why Ghostbusters Just Might Be The Greatest Film of All Time.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles show-runner Josh Friedman has a lengthy, funny, and sort-of-sad assessment of the cancellation of his show that is worth checking out.

Here’s an interesting piece about the Seven Director’s Cuts That You Didn’t Realize That You Wanted.   I DEFINITELY would love to see an alternate cut of The Fountain!

I loved this article about the 10 Most Polarizing Films of the Last Decade.  I strongly disagree with some of his opinions (I really enjoyed both Watchmen and Fahrenheit 9/11, while I had absolutely no patience for Eyes Wide Shut), but I was THRILLED to find someone other than me who loves the criminally underrated Vanilla Sky!!  Follow the link and join the debate.

Here’s another great list: The fine folks at DVDActive.com (one of my favorite DVD-related web-sites) have put together their list of the 10 Franchises That Deserve Better.  It’s a great read, and I am in full agreement with most of their choices.

Did you happen to catch William Shatner’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien last month?  Check out the clip on Trekmovie.com.  It’s worth watching for the insanity of the last 30 seconds.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you back here on Monday!… [continued]

 

Josh Reviews Star Trek: Voyager “Full Circle”

I can’t believe I actually purchased a book with Star Trek: Voyager in the title!  (For those of you just tuning in, despite my intense love for Star Trek, I have a rather large amount of disdain for Voyager, the most boring and uninspired of the Trek series.)  And even more than that — I can’t believe I liked it!!

Pocket Books has published Star Trek: Voyager novels before (though not for several years).  So what prompted me to pick this one up?

Following David Mack’s magnificent three-book Destiny series (which I reviewed here) that involved characters from all of the 24th century Trek TV shows (Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager) and wreaked an enormous amount of havoc within the established Trek universe, I have been chomping at the bit to see where the story goes from here.  Keith R.A. DeCandidio’s excellent novel A Singular Destiny was the first follow-up (reviewed here), and two subsequent novels have been released over the past few months: Over a Torrent Sea, by Christopher L. Bennett (which explores the ramifications of the events of Destiny on Captain William Riker and his crew on the U.S.S. Titan, and which I’ll be reviewing here soon), and Kirsten Beyer’s Voyager novel, Full Circle, which bridges the gap between the series finale of Voyager (and the handful of Voyager novels that Pocket books released soon after) and the events of Destiny.

Full Circle is a lengthy book (clocking in at 561 pages) that really feels like two books combined into one.  (That is not a complaint.)  The bulk of the first half of the novel follows up on a storyline begun in the latter days of the Voyager series: the idea that a sect of Klingons has become convinced that Miral, the daughter of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, is the Kuvah’magh, the long-predicted Klingon savior.  Upon Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant, B’Elanna takes sanctuary with Miral at the Klingon monastery on Boreth, where she seeks to discover the truth behind the prophecies of the Kuvah’magh.  Of course, it isn’t long before Miral is kidnapped and Torres, and the rest of the crew of Voyager, find themselves swept up in a Klingon feud that is thousands of years old.

The second half of the novel jumps back in forth in time over the course of the next few years, catching the Voyager story-lines up with the events of the last few years worth of Trek novels that culminated in Destiny.  Voyager is home, and back on active duty with Starfleet in the Alpha Quadrant.  But none of the crew has had an easy time re-adjusting … [continued]

 

After “All Good Things” — Josh continues his review of The Sky’s the Limit!

July 10th, 2009
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Yesterday I began reviewing a collection of short-stories entitled The Sky’s the Limit, which was part of Pocket Books’ 20th anniversary salute to Star Trek: The Next Generation.   In my last post, I reviewed the stories set during the run of the Next Gen TV show.  Today I’ll turn my attention to the stories set after “All Good Things,” Next Gen‘s series finale.

‘Twould Ring the Bells of Heaven, by Amy Sisson — Set soon after the events of “All Good Things,” this tale finds Deanna Troi leading an away team assigned to help a group of scientists studying the ring system of a planet nicknamed Heaven.  There are some interesting scientific notions mixed into the story, which I enjoyed, and a nice sci-fi mystery.  It was a good idea to focus on Counselor Troi at this point in Next Gen‘s history, as she began stepping into more of a leadership role among the Enterprise’s command structure.

Friends with the Sparrows, by Christopher L. Bennett — The classic Next Gen episode “Darmok” introduced us to the Children of Tama, a race of aliens who speak only in metaphor.  With this story, Mr. Bennett really dives into many of the fascinating questions that a consideration of that episode would bring: How do the Tamarians teach their vocabulary to their children?  How do they communicate technical information?  How do they convey to one another the full stories behind their myths in the first place?  It’s hard to avoid asking those questions after having watched “Darmok” a few times, and I was tickled by Mr. Bennett’s attempts to provide answers and flesh out Tamarian culture.  This story also focuses on Data’s struggles with his emotion chip (from Star Trek: Generations).  That aspect of the story is a quite a leap beyond what we saw of Data in that film, but nonetheless works when you consider how many more challenges Data must have had to struggle with (beyond what we saw in Generations) in terms of adjusting to his newfound emotions.  (I should also mention that this story contains the best line in the entire collection: “Mirab-his-sails-unfurled factor what, sir?”  Brilliant.)

Suicide Note, by Geoff Trowbridge — After the Federation’s alliance with the Romulan Empire (to fight against the Dominion, as depicted in the later seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Captain Picard is finally in a position to fulfill a promise made long before.  In the excellent third-season episode “The Defector” (one of the first scripts by Ronald D. Moore), Romulan Admiral Jarok defects to the Federation in an effort to prevent the outbreak of war.  When he discovers that he … [continued]

 

Twenty Years of Next Gen!! Josh Reviews The Sky’s The Limit

July 8th, 2009
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2007 was, believe it or not, the TWENTIETH anniversary of the launch of the very first Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” is terribly clunky when looked at today, but as a kid watching that very first episode I was blown away, and hooked for life.

During 2007, Pocket Books released a number of great novels celebrating Next Gen‘s 20th anniversary, but one that I missed was a short-story anthology called The Sky’s The Limit.  I’m glad that I have remedied my oversight, because this collection is a delight.  The fourteen stories are presented chronologically, spanning the years between a time immediately before “Encounter at Farpoint,” and the time immediately after the last Next Gen feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis.

Meet with Triumph and Disaster, by Michael Schuster & Steve Mollmann — As Starfleet prepares for the launch of the Enterprise-D, the man who supervised her construction, Captain Thomas Halloway, is faced with a momentous choice.  One of the shortest stories in the collection, it’s a great introduction to the era of Next Gen, and a delightful fleshing out of a man only glimpsed very briefly in one episode.

Acts of Compassion, by Dayton ward & Kevin Dilmore — Beverly Crusher and Tasha Yar are tasked with seeing to the safe return of three Starfleet Officers who were captured in Cardassian territory.  Needless to say, the mission hits a few bumps along the way.  I was glad to see that Tasha was not ignored by the authors contributing to this anthology, and I really enjoyed this glimpse at the relationship between these two women.  I can’t think of any first-season episodes that gave us much information about how Tasha and Beverly interacted, but Ward & Dilmore do a great job in conveying the very different ways that these two officers viewed the world.

Redshift, by Richard C. White — Set during Next Gen‘s second season, this story focuses on the early days aboard the Enterprise of new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katherine Pulaski.  Pulaski was an interesting character who, I feel, was done a disservice by the writers when she vanished off the show at the end of that season.  It’s nice to see her character fleshed out here, and White creates a crackling adventure scenario that keeps the story moving.

Among the Clouds, by Scott Pearson –A mishap in the lower stratosphere of a Jovian planet sends Geordi LaForge plummeting down through the clouds of ammonia ice to his certain death.  The story moves at a rapid pace, bouncing back and forth between the events that lead to Geordi’s situation and … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Click here for a terrific three-essay series that delves into the first three Indiana Jones films.  These are all really well-written pieces, filled to the brim with love for the cinematic adventures of Dr. Jones.

Clever tourists wrecking the world one monument at a time.  Don’t think — just follow that link.  You won’t regret it.

Click here for a fascinating list of the twenty best non-fiction books for people who think they hate to read non-fiction.  I need to get on this, having only read two of the items on this list!

I’m not exactly recommending this lengthy essay, because I disagree with it wildly, but it’s sort of bizarrely fascinating two see two individuals who really don’t seem to like Star Trek at all go on an enormous length about it as they revisit the first six Trek films.  (Well, one of the two authors seems to be a fan, but he doesn’t seem to put up much of a fight whenever the other one bashes the series.)

Speaking of Trek, here is a link to a lengthy, fascinating Q & A that’s been going on over at Trekmovie.com between Star Trek screenwriters Bob Orci & Alex Kurtzman and a number of fans who, like me, had lots of questions about elements of the new movie’s plots.  I really respect Mr. Orci for engaging with the fans in this way — though I feel most of his responses are pretty flimsy.  Check it out and see what you think.  (UPDATE:  Still MORE Q & A with Mr. Orci & Mr. Kurtzman can be found here!)

It’s pretty obvious that the new Star Trek movie was pretty heavily influenced by the action and dynamism of Star Wars.  But have you considered just how deep those similarities run?  Shocking!  (And hysterical.)

Let’s close with three intriguing trailers: Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Junior, the bizarre-looking Nine and (can you believe it?) Toy Story 3.

That should keep you all good and busy until tomorrow!  See you back here then!… [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Big dumb summer movie trailer alert!  It’s the new trailer for Transformers 2, filled with lots of robot smashing action, and the new trailer for G.I. Joe, filled with Ninjas and, um, Eiffel Tower smashing action!  Sigh.  Hard to believe these two iconic and beloved cartoons of my youth are both now big-budget blockbuster movies coming out this summer.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were both really awesome?  Isn’t it sort of sad to know that they definitely won’t be?

For a peek at a movie that might actually be good, click here to check out District 9, the new sci-fi flick directed by Neill Blomkamp and executive produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of The Rings).  Color me intrigued.

Keeping up with the trailers, here‘s a glimpse at the new film from Francis Ford Coppola, Tetro.  I never saw his last film, the critically-demolished Youth Without Youth, but this looks really interesting.  It’s a new film from Francis Ford Coppola!  Of course it looks interesting!

Did you know that Robert Rodriguez is working on a new Predator film??  If it happens, it’ll be called Predators (in a clever nod to James Cameron’s sequel to Alien, entitled Aliens).  Check out the tantalizing details here.  I need to see this movie RIGHT NOW.

So it’s been ten years since The Phantom Menace, huh?  Here’s an interesting look back.  I agree with this fellow’s thoughts about the two Phantom Menace trailers (among the finest trailers ever crafted), but I certainly don’t think anywhere nearly as highly of that dreadful turd of a movie as he does.  (You can read my memories of first seeing Episode I in theatres here, and my thoughts on the movie looking back almost a decade later here.)

Did you not have enough Star Trek content here on the site for the past two weeks?  Then check out this great piece from the Onion A.V. Club: “Space Racism is Bad and 17 Other Not-So-Subtle Lessons Learned From Star Trek.”  If you’ve never seen it before, you MUST scroll down to the clip of William Shatner’s Kirk reading the Preamble to U.S. Constitution in selection #12, from the absurd Trek episode The Omega Glory.  ”WE… the… PEOPLE… not written for thekingsorthechiefsortherichorthepowerful but for ALLTHEPEOPLE!”  Classic Shatnerian magnificence. 

Since seeing J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, I’ve been enjoying reading all the different reactions on-line and in the press.  I always enjoy Alexandra DuPont’s film reviews when they appear (not often enough to suit me) on aintitcoolnews.com, and her take on the new film is well worth your time.  (I remember well … [continued]

 

Death in the Shadow of New Life — Josh reviews J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek!

It’s been a long road.  After walking disgustedly out of the opening weekend screening of the catastrophically terrible Star Trek: Nemesis back in December, 2002, I knew that Trek was at a low point.  It seemed uncertain what, if any, future the franchise had after the release of that bomb and the subsequent cancellation of the last Trek TV show, Enterprise.  Then, about 3 years ago, word came that a new Trek film was in the works.  Gradually news began to leak out, some very exciting, some rather worrying, and I soaked up every tidbit with great anticipation, some nervousness, and extremely high hopes that one day Star Trek could be great again.  A few hours ago, I watched the result of J.J. Abrams and his team’s efforts: the simply-titled Star Trek.

Abrams and his brain-trust — consisting of Damon Lindeloff (one of the top minds behind Lost) and screen-writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman — dared to do what no man has done before: to re-cast the iconic roles of the Original Series characters.  As everyone knows by now, instead of creating new characters and situations and moving the Star Trek universe forward beyond the adventures of Picard-Sisko-Janeway-etc., they decided to go back and tell an Original Series story, with new actors playing younger versions of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and all the other familiar characters.  This was an incredibly risky move.  While similiar “how it all began” prequels such as Batman Begins and Casino Royale worked well, audiences had already become accustomed to seeing lots of different actors take on the roles of Batman and James Bond.  But could someone other than William Shatner play Kirk?  Could someone other than Leonard Nimoy play Spock?

Although sadly this film fails in some powerfully annoying ways (more on that in a few moments), I am happy to report that, in this respect — that is, in regards to the viability of rebooting and recasting Star Trek — the film succeeds magnificently.  Bravo to the choice of talented actors selected to be the new command team of the Enterprise — there is not a weak link in the bunch.  None of the actors resorts to mimicry, and yet they all, somehow, truly manage to embody their characters!

Let’s start with Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk.  He’s got the swagger, he’s got the arrogance, and yet he’s able to also convey a tremendous likability.  You can see that this is a man that others will follow.  The film doesn’t shy away from the “lady-killer” aspects of Kirk’s persona, but Pine never crosses the line into camp or, on the other hand, into boorishness.  Rather, there’s terrific fun to had … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Myriad Universes

Star Trek fever continues here at MotionPicturesComics.com!  Did you miss my list of the Top Twenty Episodes of Star Trek?  Then check it out!  Previously this week I’ve written about Pocket Books’ excellent two-book Star Trek: Mirror Universe series, as well as their follow-up Mirror Universe collection “Shards and Shadows.”

Based, I presume, on the success of the two-book Mirror Universe series in 2007, this past summer Pocket Books released a similarly formatted two-book collection (each containing three novellas, just like the Mirror Universe volumes) entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. While all six Mirror Universe novellas charted the future-history of that one particular parallel universe, Myriad Universes contains six stories that are each set in entirely different alternate universes.  These aren’t return visits to alternate pasts or futures that we saw in any of the Trek TV shows — these are all completely new creations of the authors involved.  As with the Mirror Universe stories, these tales are all fantastic fun.

Volume I: “Infinity’s Prism”

A Less Perfect Union, by William Leisner — In the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, as Earth took its first tentative steps towards uniting with the nearby alien races it had once feared and hated (the Vulcans, the Andorians, the Tellarites) to form what would one-day become the United Federation of Planets, a xenophobic hate-group called Terra Prime began gaining influence and followers on Earth.  In this story, we are introduced to a United Earth where the followers of Terra Prime convinced Earth’s government to reject the nascent interstellar alliance and instead expel all aliens from the planet.  Nearly a hundred years later, Captain Christopher Pike, in command of the U.E.S.S. Enterprise, comes across a distress signal from an old Earth vessel that has apparently crash-landed on a distant planet called Talos.  Astute readers will immediately recognize the story of the original Star Trek pilot, The Cage.  Unfortunately, things go a little differently for the United Earth Starship in this reality than they did in our familiar version of the story.  Captain Pike, along with several members of Earth’s government, begins to realize that the time may finally have come for Earth to once again reach out to its neighbors in the galaxy… and the one surviving member of Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise might be the key.  From the brilliant first chapter, which tells a so-familiar yet so-different version of the famous opening scenes of The Cage, right up through the parallel version of the Babel Conference (originally told in the great Classic Trek episode “Journey to Babel”) which forms the bulk of this novella, this is a marvelous story.  It is emotional, intense and, at the same … [continued]

 

Continuing Adventures in the Mirror Universe

Yesterday I discussed the two terrific collections of Star Trek: Mirror Universe novellas, “Glass Empires” and “Obsidian Alliances.”  I commented that my only real complaint was that so many of the stories ended on cliffhangers that seemed to beg for further tales to be told.

I still sense that there’s a lot more to the Mirror Universe story that we have yet to see, but for now I have to be content with Pocket Books’ recent follow-up, “Shards and Shadows.”  Rather than a collection of novellas, “Shards and Shadows” contains twelve short stories written by a “who’s-who” of great Trek authors and spanning hundreds of years of Mirror Universe future-history.

Nobunaga, by Dave Stern — Continuing the story begun in the Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” and the novella Age of the Empress, this story follows the sad final days of Charles “Trip” Tucker.  His body has been broken and his mind scrambled by too many years working in close proximity to the dangerous energies produced by starship warp engines.  But beyond the pain of dying, Trip is tortured by scattered memories of something he can’t quite recall.  Was he involved in a plan by Empress Sato to construct a second ship like the miraculous 23rd century Starship Defiant?  If he was, what happened, and why can’t he remember?  Dave Stern’s story is a great mind-bender of a fractured narrative.  It also hints at what happened to the character re-introduced in the final pages of Age of the Empress, but I am still left wanting to know more about that character’s full story!  Hopefully some-day soon…

Ill Winds, by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore — A story of the Mirror Universe Robert April (commander of the Enterprise before Christopher Pike and James T. Kirk).  April and his crew aboard the I.S.S. Constellation are sent to investigate the rumors of a new super-weapon being constructed by the Klingons, but which crew will prove to be the more ruthless?  A great, brutal ending fits right in with the Mirror Universe.

The Greater Good, by Margaret Wander Bonanno — It’s the tale of how James T. Kirk gains command of the Starship Enterprise, how he meets Marlena Moreau and how he gains possession of the powerful Tantalus Device (a key plot device in the very first Mirror Universe episode, Classic Trek’s “Mirror Mirror”).  It’s one of the most well-written stories in the collection, gripping and fast-paced.  At the same time, it’s a little disappointing in that it all seems a little too, well, easy.  Kirk just happens to find the Tantalus Device?  I’d have hoped for a more epic story about his acquisition of that amazing and mysterious … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Mirror Universe

One of the most delightful surprises about the last few years of Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels (about which I have waxed poetic here, here, and here) has been the way the writers and editors have fleshed out the Mirror Universe.

This concept was first introduced in the Classic Trek episode “Mirror Mirror,” written by Jerome Bixby.  A transporter accident throws Kirk, Bones, Scotty, and Uhura into an alternate universe where the beneficent United Federation of Planets has been replaced by a vicious, evil Terran empire populated by darker versions of all the familiar Trek characters.  Year later, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine explored the idea further through a series of episodes (“Crossover,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “Shattered Mirror,” “Resurrection,” and “The Emperor’s New Cloak”) in which we discovered that the Terran Empire had been conquered by an even more brutal alliance of Klingons and Cardassians.  Finally, the two-part Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly” gave viewers a look at the origins of the dark Terran Empire.

That’s quite a number of Mirror Universe episodes that I just listed, but the Star Trek authors and editors at Pocket Books clearly felt that there was a lot more that could be done to flesh out the Mirror Universe, and thank goodness for that!  The Mirror Universe has played a large role in the recent Deep Space Nine novels, but it was really pushed into the limelight with the two-part series Star Trek: Mirror Universe, each of which contained three novellas by some of Pocket Books’ best Trek authors.

Volume I: Glass Empires

Age of the Empress, by Mike Sussman with Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore — This story picks up moments after the end of Enterprise‘s “In a Mirror, Darkly,” with the newly-crowned Empress Sato in command of the fearsome 23rd century Starship Defiant.  It’s not long, though, before her rule is threatened by enemies from without (a band of rebels with whom T’pol has gotten involved) and within (a coup organized by Sato’s consort, the Andorian Shran).  The tale is just as much of an action-packed romp as the two Enterprise episodes were, although it fails to answer my biggest question that was left hanging by those episodes, which is what happened, ultimately, to the Starship Defiant?

The Sorrows of Empire, by David Mack — The highlight of the series.  Spock’s exposure to “our” universe’s Captain Kirk (in the original Trek Mirror Universe episode) has convinced him that the Terran empire is illogical and must be replaced by a kinder, more just society.  Mack’s tale unfolds over the decades that follow, as we watch Spock’s eminently logical plan unfold, step by step.  In … [continued]

 

The Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek — Part IV!

May 1st, 2009
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At last!  The conclusion to my list of the Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek!  Click here for numbers 20-16, here for numbers 15-11, and here for numbers 10-6.

5.  Cause and Effect (ST:TNG season 5, episode 18) — The Enterprise blows up.  Over and over again.  What a great idea for an episode!  This is a classic Next Gen spatial anomaly mystery/mind-bender, as the Enterprise gets caught in a temporal loop in which the ship meets with terrible catastrophe over and over again.  I know some people find this episode to be boring (it basically depicts the same events, five times), but I absolutely adore the way subtle differences start to emerge with each repetition, as the crew slowly realizes what is happening to them and try to come up with some sort of way out.  From the intense opening tease (where the Enterprise is annihilated right in the middle of Picard’s desperate cry for all hands to abandon ship) right up through the end (with Kelsey Grammer — Frasier!! — guest starring as the unfortunate Captain Morgan Bateson), this is one of my very favorite hours of Trek.

4.  The Inner Light (ST:TNG season 5, episode 25) — Captain Picard is struck by a beam from an alien probe and awakens on an alien world.  As months and then years pass, Picard eventually gives up hope of escape or rescue and settles into a life with the friendly people of that planet.  Right away it is made clear to the viewer that all of this is happening only in Picard’s mind (as there are occasional cut-backs to the Enterprise crew, trying to awaken their Captain, in which we can see that only minutes are passing for them while years pass for Picard).  While there is a mystery aspect to the episode as the viewers wonder what exactly is going on, the real focus is on the wonderful, touching story of Picard finding for himself the peaceful family life that his devotion to Starfleet has always prevented him from having.  In the end, Picard comes to realize that the probe contains the records and memories of an alien culture that has long-since been wiped out by a terrible natural disaster.  The people who Picard (and we) have come to love — his friends, his wife, his children, and his grand-children — are all long-since dead.  It is a sad, haunting episode, and one that has colored the character of Picard ever since.  The mournful flute melody that Picard learns, and that plays over the final moments of the episode, is one of my favorite musical motifs of the show, and a not-to-be-overlooked key to this … [continued]

 

The Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek — Part III!

April 30th, 2009
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My list of the Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek continues!  Click here for numbers 20-16, and here for numbers 15-11.

10. All Good Things (ST:TNG season 7, episode 25) — The two-hour series finale of Next Gen is not just a phenomenal finale but also one of the greatest episodes of the series.  Picard finds himself moving back and forth through time, bouncing between the present day, a time just before he took command of the Enterprise D (in the series premiere, Encounter at Farpoint), and 25 years in the future.  It’s fascinating to take a look back at the show’s early days (the mimicry of the costumes from that first season is particularly fun, as is the reappearance of deceased security officer Tasha Yar), but it’s the peek at the future of the Next Gen crew that, I think, really captured the fans’ imaginations.  A wonderful reappearance by Q further strengthens the “full circle” connections to the show’s premiere.  The episode boasts some terrific visual effects and a wonderful sci-fi paradox mystery makes the whole enterprise (sorry, couldn’t resist) truly compelling.  Finally, there is the magnificent last scene, which ends the show and the series on a perfect note.  The sky’s the limit, indeed.

9. Sarek (ST:TNG season 3, episode 23) — In its early years, the Next Gen writers strove to avoid any mention of characters or storylines from the Original Series in an effort to make sure this new show could stand on its own.  But fans were delighted when, in this third season episode, Mark Leonard reprised his role as Spock’s father Sarek.  That guest appearance alone would make the episode a winner, but it’s shot into the stratosphere by a terrific storyline about Sarek being affected by an Alzheimer’s-like disease that begins to weaken his mental controls, and by the absolutely amazing performances by Mark Leonard and Patrick Stewart.  Stewart’s monologue (after Picard has mind-melded with Sarek and is being affected by the ragingly intense emotions that the elderly Vulcan has kept bottled up for almost two centuries) as the camera slowly circles around his face and Picard is pummeled by a roller-coaster of rage and grief is absolutely magnificent.  My favorite moment:  Picard/Sarek’s one subdued, lonely cry for his estranged son: “Spock.”

8. The City on the Edge of Forever (Star Trek season 1, episode 29) — One of the most well-known episodes of Star Trek, and for good reason.  Harlan Ellison wrote the script for this, one of the most powerful and moving episodes of the original (or really ANY) Trek series, one that is also filled with a lot of terrific, unique sci-fi ideas.  The … [continued]

 

The Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek — Part II!

April 29th, 2009
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Yesterday I began listing the Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek.  (Click here for numbers 20-16).  Let’s continue, shall we?

15. Treachery, Faith, and the Great River (ST:DS9 season 7, episode 6) — The title of this episode sums up everything that DS9 was about — character, faith, and politics.  It’s a small episode, with little of galactic import happening, and yet it is a critical episode nonetheless.  A familiar Vorta offers Odo important information about the Dominion in exchange for Odo’s protection if he defects, and back on the station Nog utilizes all of his Ferengi wiles to help Chief O’Brien track down the equipment he needs to repair the Defiant despite shortages caused by the war.  In this seemingly minor episode, we learn an enormous amount about the cultures, history, and beliefs of the Ferengi and the Vorta, as well as so much about many of DS9′s regular characters.

14. The Measure of a Man (ST:TNG season 2, episode 9) –Not only is this one of the few watchable episodes from Next Gen‘s first two seasons, it is also (as you can see by its inclusion on this list) one of the finest Trek episodes ever crafted.  A Starfleet scientist wants to disassemble Data in order to learn how his positronic brain works, in order for Starfleet to construct more androids like him.  When Data refuses to submit, he is ordered to do so.  What follows is an emotional, thought-provoking examination of what makes someone a sentient being. Is Data a man, or is he a piece of property?  Witness tour-de-force performances by Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart as well as Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan (in one of the best Picard-Guinan scenes of the entire series).

13. The Way of the Warrior (ST:DS9 season 4, episode 1) — After three somewhat uneven seasons, DS9 reinvented itself with this amazing two hour episode that turned the show around and set the stage for the ground-breaking storytelling of seasons 4-7.  The Klingons send an enormous task force into the Bajoran sector, ostensibly to help defend against the Dominion.  But several troubling incidents make clear to Captain Sisko that the Klingons have a hidden agenda.  In order to help him ferret out the truth, Starfleet assigns Worf (without a posting after the destruction of the Enterprise D in Star Trek: Generations) to DS9.  Worf’s discovery tears apart the Federation-Klingon alliance (which had been a centerpiece of the 24th century Trek shows), and leads to what was by far the best sci-fi action sequence ever televised at that time (and still one of the greatest today) in which the Klingon fleet brutally attacks the … [continued]

 

The Twenty Greatest Episodes of Star Trek

April 28th, 2009
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I have watched a lot of Star Trek in my day.  A LOT of Star Trek.  And quite a lot of it was pretty damn good!  Here’s what I feel is the best of the best.  (Hmm, no episodes of Voyager or Enterprise to be found on this list…!)

20. Unification Part I (ST:TNG season 5, episode 7) — A high-ranking official of the United Federation of Planets is believed to have defected to the Romulans, and Captain Picard is sent after him.  The individual in question?  Ambassador Spock.  Having Leonard Nimoy reprise his role in this Next Gen two-parter was an astounding moment, something the fans never thought would happen.  But as great as all the Spock-Picard-Data stuff is in part II, I’ve chosen part I (in which Spock only actually appears at the very end) for the brilliance of its gripping build-up in Picard’s, ahem, search for Spock.  My favorite moment?  The late great Mark Leonard’s show-stopping scene as Spock’s father Sarek, at death’s door and suffering from a debilitating neurological disease, who delivers a monologue that is one of the most powerful and emotionally devastating things I have ever seen on television.

19. Rocks and Shoals (ST:DS9 season 6, episode 2) — In the middle of the Dominion War arc, Sisko and his crew have commandeered an enemy Jem’Hadar warship behind enemy lines.  In the exciting opening moments of the episode, they are shot down on a desolate planet.  But a small group of Jem’Hadar have crashed on that planet with them.  The focus of this episode isn’t on the action — it’s on a fascinating exploration of the Jem’Hadar.  Phil Morris (most famous as Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld) is fantastic as the central Jem’Hadar character.  (“Then we will hold this world for the Dominion.  Until we die.”)  But what really gets this episode onto this list is it’s cold, tragic ending.

18. Penumbra (ST:DS9 season 7, episode 17) — Deep Space Nine’s “final chapter” (the last nine episodes of the show’s final series) begins with this engaging installment, in which so many long-running character story-lines and plot developments begin to weave together for the show’s denouement.  Worf is lost in the Badlands after a Klingon attack group is destroyed by the Jem’Hadar, and Ezri Dax sets off on a desperate mission to find him.  The female changeling in charge of the Dominion’s forces in the Alpha Quadrant begins to succumb to the plague that has stricken the Great Link.  A weary Damar sinks further into a daze of alcoholism, but is spurred into action by a visit from Gul Dukat.  And Captain Sisko finally proposes to Kassidy Yates, although a … [continued]

 

Hailing Frequencies Open!

April 27th, 2009

On May 15th, 2005, the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise (entitled “These Are the Voyages”) was broadcast.  Thus began the longest drought without any new official Star Trek movies or TV episodes since Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing way back in September, 1987.  

And that drought comes to an end next week, on Friday, May 8th!

In anticipation, I have all sorts of fun Star Trek-related content to share with you here at MotionPicturesComics.com.  New updates will be posted pretty much DAILY between now and May 8th.  That’s right, daily, so check back often!  

(And for you non-Star Trek fans out there, don’t worry, it won’t be ONLY Trek content here for the next two weeks!  I also have a bunch of DVD reviews coming for some terrific films that I have seen recently, including the phenomenal documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.)

To whet your appetites, I hope you enjoy this little fan-made video (which I first saw posted at aintitcoolnews last week):

[continued]

 

Josh has read the Star Trek movie prequel comic, Countdown!

April 17th, 2009
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IDW has published a four-issue prequel to J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek movie called Countdown.  I picked up the four issues, but decided right away that I would wait to read them until after seeing the new movie.  I didn’t want to be spoiled about any of the film’s story-lines, and frankly I didn’t have great expectations for the quality of the comic series.  (I have seen quite a lot of movie “tie-in” material — books, comics, etc. — for all sorts of big-name movies of the past decade or so, and most of them have been pretty wretched.)

So what changed my mind?  Well, I’ve been reading pretty rapturous reviews of Countdown on-line over the past few months.  People really seemed to be digging the series, which raised my excitement level.  And as my own anticipation of the new Trek film has grown over the past months and weeks as the release of the film inched ever closer, I found myself looking quite eagerly at the four issues of Countdown sitting in my “to-read” pile of comics.  I also realized that, while I have for the most part been successful in avoiding major spoilers about the film, my repeated viewings of the trailers, in addition to everything that I have read about the film for the two years that has been in-the-making, have certainly meant that I have a pretty good basic idea about the film’s storyline, and where/how it branches off from established Trek continuity.  I didn’t think the comic would reveal anything I didn’t already know, it’d just hopefully connect the dots a little bit more for me.

And so I took the plunge and read through the series.

And I am pleased to report that it is very, very excellent!

Story credit for Countdown is given to Roberto Orci & Robert Kurtzman, the writers of J.J. Abrams’ Trek film.  I don’t know exactly who is responsible for what in this comic, between Orci & Kurtzman and the credited writers, Mike Johnson & Tim Jones, but based on what I read here I am very, very encouraged about the upcoming movie.  My biggest fear about the film is that it has been made by people who didn’t really know and love Star Trek, and thus has abandoned too much of established Trek continuity that is important to the fans who have invested in this universe for over 40 years now.  But Countdown was clearly written by people who really love Trek, and who are steeped in its lore.

OK, I’m going to avoid any MAJOR spoilers as I proceed, both for what I know about the upcoming Trek film and for the Countdown series … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Let’s begin the day by my pointing your attention to two great pieces recently from The Onion A.V. Club: this article about 25 great albums that work best when listened to from start to finish, and a spirited defense of the recent seasons of The Simpsons that lists 10 episodes from the past 5 seasons that stand among the series’ best.

If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to watch the new trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new movie Bruno.  For a little more detail on some of the sequences that you get glimpses of in the trailer, click here for a terrific write-up of the 25 minutes of footage that screened a few weeks ago at SXSW, the theatre-owners convention.  How is he able to still fool people with this stuff after all the publicity that surrounded Borat?

I am not a big fan of Broadway musicals.  That is putting it mildly.  So I’m not exactly doing cartwheels at the news that there is a Spider-Man musical in the works.  And I was completely befuddled to read that they’re working on a musical based on Groundhog Day!  What a bizarre notion.

By the way, speaking of Spider-Man, has director Sam Raimi admitted what was immediately apparent to discerning movie-goers about an hour into the film — that Spider-Man 3 was just terrible?  Well, sort-of.  Click here to read his interesting comments.  Since a Spider-Man 4 seems inevitable, this gives me a smidgen of hope that perhaps we will see a return to the high quality of the first two Spidey films.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Harlan Ellison is a brilliant Sci-Fi author.  He’s also responsible for one of the finest hours of Star Trek ever committed to film: the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  He is now suing Paramount and the WGA.  You have got to read his hilarious press release all the way to the end.

So there’s going to be a James Bond museum?  And I thought Christmas only came once a year.

Finally, did you know that some people are getting all bent out of shape about a Chuck Jones Looney Tunes print that parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper?  Well, they are.  In these troubled times, aren’t there more important things that we should be worrying about?  Like the enormous size of the nacelles on the U.S.S. Enterprise in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie??… [continued]

 

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek has screened in Austin, Texas!

April 7th, 2009

This is unbearably cool.

I’ve been reading for weeks now about a special screening this week of a pristine new print of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX.  Seeing the magnificence of Khan on the big screen would be awesome enough, but the screening was also scheduled to include 10 minutes of footage from J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film.  

But in one of the coolest bait-and-switches in history, apparently just 5 or so minutes into last night’s screening they swapped out Khan to show J.J. ABRAMS’ NEW STAR TREK FILM IN ITS ENTIRETY!!!

How wild is that??  I am literally beside myself with envy.

Click here for a spoiler-free review of the flick.  This is a VERY POSITIVE review, which is very encouraging!

Click here to read a fun break-down of exactly what went down at the Khan screening, including the surprise appearance of a very illustrious guest.  (I’ll warn you, though t,hat I stopped reading this piece once the description of the actual film begins because it was getting a tad too spoilery for me.)

But wait!  That’s not enough detail, you say?  How about some video?

Finally, in the interest of keeping our expectations in check, click here to read the thoughts of someone who enjoyed the film but wasn’t quite so head-over-heels in love with it.  (This is fairly spoiler-free, but I still sort of skipped through it to avoid reading too much about the film.)

I can’t believe it’s still a MONTH away…!… [continued]

 

Family Guy’s Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion!

familyguynextgencast

I’d been reading about it for months now, so I was very pleased to watch this Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven,” which featured the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The episode opens with the Griffin clan attending a Star Trek convention at the Quahog Convention Center.  Unfortunately, this leads to a number of very obvious “Star Trek fans are hapless geek” jokes, which was a little disappointing.  In all of the interviews leading up to this episode’s release that I have seen and read, Seth McFarlane and his team seem to genuinely be big fans of Star Trek.  There have been a lot of Trek references and jokes (and Next Gen references in particular) on Family Guy even before this episode, many of them quite obscure references that could only be dreamed up by serious fans.  (My favorite was the ending of the “Stewie Kills Lois” cliffhanger, with ended with the words “to be continued” reproduced in the exact same font, with the exact same music, as the end of Next Gen‘s season three-ending cliffhanger “The Best of Both Worlds.”  How many people in the world got that joke??  Me, I loved it.)  Anyways, all of that made it a bit of a let-down to see the writers go for the easy, lazy jokes at the expense of Trek fans in these opening minutes.

Things pick up from there, however, when Stewie — angry that he didn’t get to ask a question of the assembled Trek cast members — constructs a working transporter in his room and beams in the entire Next Gen cast, so that they can spend the day together.  The cast are portrayed as amicable but with about the intelligence of a kid Stewie’s age.  This leads to some fantastic scenes in which Stewie attempts to corral the hapless gaggle of actors into a trip to a fast food joint and a bowling alley.  There are some funny Trek jokes (such as Stewie’s immediate execution of Denise Crosby, whose character Tasha Yar bought it during Next Gen‘s first season; the revelation of what Levar Burton really sees through that visor of his; and Stewie’s inability to properly pronounce Wil Wheaton’s name) mixed with the usual Family Guy style of random lunacy (Patrick Stewart’s refusal to remove his loafers at the bowling alley; Michael Dorn’s insistence on ordering a McDLT).  

The other story-line of the episode, in which Meg finds God after watching Kirk Cameron on TV when she’s home sick with the mumps, sounds like a funny idea but in execution I found it to be a bit slow.  I kept waiting … [continued]

 

News Around the Net!

Have you seen this?  Jon Hamm (Mad Men) plays Lex Luthor in this short from Funnyordie.com, asking for bailout money for Luthorcorp.  Genius!

Out-there director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) is making a film of Maurice Sendak’s beloved childrens’ book, Where The Wild Things Are?  What an insane, inspired notion.  Check out this wondrous trailer.  This is a movie I need to see.

Speaking of trailers I really want to see, I didn’t know anything whatsoever about Sam Mendes’ (American Beauty) new film, Away We Go, before I saw this new trailer (mentioned at the Motion Captured blog over on HitFix.com).  It stars John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) and Maya Rudolph (from SNL), and now that I’ve seen the trailer I am very excited for this film!  

I love this new poster for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie.  I need this in my home.

Speaking of Trek, there’s been some interesting pieces posted on-line lately about the use of Bryan Tyler’s magnificent score for Children of Dune in the trailers for the new Star Trek film.  This article summarizes the confusion nicely.  I am fascinated by this stuff.  Tyler’s score was also used extensively in the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I loved both of the Sci-Fi channel’s Dune mini-series, and it tickles me to hear snippets of the score being used all over the place these days!

Come back here tomorrow to read my thoughts on a terrific older film from director Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone!… [continued]

 

Star Trek: A Singular Destiny

In movies, in TV shows, in books, and in comic books, a big cataclysmic event is always a lot of fun.  But it only becomes meaningful and worthwhile if that big event leads to great new, interesting stories about the aftermath of whatever has happened.  

Did something BIG and DRAMATIC happen in some show’s season finale or season premiere?  Well, great!  But is everything back to normal in the very next episode?  Or are the repercussions of the exciting event explored in the episodes that followed?  Since, as you can tell from the headline, we’re talking about Star Trek today, let me give a Trek example: “The Best of Both Worlds” is possibly the high-point of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  (As anyone reading this article is probably aware, it’s an amazing, action-packed two-parter in which Captain Picard is assimilated by the Borg.)  But, for me, an enormous part of what made that event so great is the episode that follows, “Home,” in which we explore Picard’s attempt to recover from the intensely traumatic event that he went through.

David Mack’s trilogy of novels, Star Trek: Destiny, (which I reviewed here) was an incredibly exciting, ambitious story that left the established Star Trek universe in chaos.  I enjoyed Destiny thoroughly, but I was even more excited about that story’s follow-up: A Singular Destiny, written by Keith R.A. DeCandido.  That many of Mr. DeCandido’s books rank among my favorites of the recent Trek novels certainly added to my anticipation, but mostly I was just excited to see what sorts of new, exciting stories the Trek authors would be able to tell in this brave new post-Destiny world.

I am happy to report that A Singular Destiny is a terrific read, and that this new novel continues to contain all of the elements that I have so throughly enjoyed in so many of Pocket Books’ recent Star Trek novels.

As the book begins, we are introduced to a new character: Professor Sonek Pran.  Once a valued advisor to a series of Presidents of the United Federation of Planets, he has fallen out of favor and settled into a life of teaching University students on Mars.  But he is called back to service to help with the diplomatic situation within what’s left of the fractured Romulan empire (the result of the events of Star Trek: Nemesis as well novels such as Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman and Taking Wing by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels).  Needless to say, what seems like an isolated incident turns out to be only a small piece of a larger, galaxy-wide puzzle.  Before long, Professor Pran (and the readers!) have … [continued]

 

International Talk Like William Shatner Day!

Did you know that this past Sunday, March 22, was International Talk Like William Shatner Day?  Let the incredibly talented voice-artist Maurice LaMarche (the voice of The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, numerous characters on Futurama, and an incredibly long list of other credits) tell you all about it!

 

Have you ever heard Kevin Pollak do his famous impersonation of William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk?  BEHOLD!

[continued]

 

“And the two grand ladies made their escape together” — Josh’s Favorite TV Series Finales, Part II!

The great Battlestar Galactica saga comes to an end, tomorrow.  I am trying to be brave!  In preparation, I have been thinking about some of my favorite series finales.  Click here to see numbers 10-6.

5.  Arrested Development — “Development, Arrested” — Cut down before its time, creator Mitch Hurwitz and co. at least had enough notice to be able to craft a fantastic finale.  Structured to echo the events of the pilot (I love it when series finales bring things full circle like that), it’s another momentous party-boat ride for the Bluth Clan.  Young George Michael confronts his feelings about his cousin Maeby (Michael: “How long has this been going on?”  George Michael: “I don’t know… about 53 weeks?”).  Lindsay stresses about getting older (“I’m going to be 40 in three years!”  Michael:  ”You know, being twins, our birthdays are pretty close to one another…”).  Tobias… well, remains Tobias (“Perhaps I should call the hot cops and tell them to come up with something more nautically themed.  Hot Sailors.  Better yet, hot se–” Michael, interrupting: “I like hot sailors!”  Tobias: “Me too.”).  And many, many long-running jokes are revisited (“Ann.” — “Her?”  – “That was a freebie” — “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake” — “Annyong!”)  You might have noticed yesterday in part 1 of this list that I focused a lot on the final scene as the true measure of a series finale’s worth.  No surprise, the geniuses behind this show bring it all home in a note-perfect epilogue, in which Maeby attempts to sell the Bluth family story to Ron Howard (who was, of course, the narrator of the show for its entire run).  Says Howard: “I don’t see this as a series.  Maybe… a movie?”  We can only hope!!

4.  The Wire — “-30-” – As the fifth and final season of The Wire unfolded, I was petrified as to what would happen, in the end, to all of the beloved, damaged characters on this take-no-prisoners show.  Would ANYONE get a happy ending?? Somehow this finale managed to bring proper closure to almost every member of this amazing, one-of-a-kind sprawling ensemble cast.  Without breaking from the tough, down-beat tone of the series, I still felt throughly satisfied with where everyone wound up — quite a feat.  This episode is filled with all of the intensity and emotion that made this series such a powerhouse.  In particular, the Irish wake for one of our good friends was a profoundly effecting scene.  And the final montage of life in Baltimore?  Phenomenal.  Makes one want to watch the entire series through again.

3.  Quantum Leap — “Mirror Image” – To be honest, while I really enjoy Quantum Leap[continued]

 

“Sorry, we’re closed” — Josh’s Favorite TV Series Finales!

As I prepare for this weekend’s series finale of Battlestar Galactica (and contemplate life without that brilliant show, one of the greatest of the last two decades), I’ve been thinking about some of the great series finales of the recent past.  Here are some of my favorites, counting down from ten!

10.  Cheers — “One For the Road” – Diane Chambers (Shelly Long) returns in an attempt to re-kindle her romance with Sam (Ted Danson) in this extra-long finale.  To be honest, it’s been years since I’ve seen this one, but my recollection is of really enjoying it.  Bringing back Shelly Long, who was pretty much the star of the show (along with Danson) for the first half of its run, was a brilliant idea.  And the final scene is perfect — Sam waving away a customer while saying “sorry, we’re closed.”  Sniff!

9.  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — “What You Leave Behind” — I am giving props here to the entire 10-hour, 9-episode “final chapter” of this, the greatest of the Star Trek series.  The show finally becomes what it has always flirted with: a true serial, as seven seasons worth of storylines come to fruition over the course of this magnificent final epic run of episodes.  The Dominion War escalates, a secret section of Starfleet’s complicity in attempted genocide is revealed, and Captain Benjamin Sisko must finally fulfill his destiny as Emissary of the Prophets (a story thread begun in the series’ pilot episode). The show was notable for its enormous cast of recurring characters, and everyone gets his/her due here (with quite a number of popular characters meeting their demise!).  The show gets bumped down a bit on my list because the actual final two-hour episode isn’t quite as great as the episodes leading up to it (it looks like they used up their special effects budget, as one of the major battle sequences is composed almost entirely of recycled footage, something that eagle-eyed fans like me noticed).  Still, the melancholy tone (so unusual for a Trek series) and the sad, final shot of Jake Sisko looking out the window for his lost father as the camera pulls back and the station slowly fades away into the blackness of space is just perfection.

8.  Justice League Unlimited – “Destroyer” — Classic DC Comics villain Darkseid launches a full-scale invasion of Earth, and even the combined might of practically every character (hero & villain) who ever appeared on this amazing animated show are powerless to stop him.  In an epic battle atop the ruins of the Daily Planet building, Superman ultimately falls before the might of Darkseid.  (That sequence, by the way, is a showcase for the … [continued]

 

“That was another lifetime!” — Josh is blown away by the new Star Trek trailer!

March 11th, 2009

So, showing in front of Watchmen in many theatres across America right now is a new trailer for J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek movie.

Holy shit!

 

You can also check it out in glorious Quicktime here.

You can never be certain, from a trailer, just how good the actual movie will be.  (Remember that stunningly awesome first trailer for Star Wars: Episode I?)  But HOLY COW that trailer was awesome!!  

I have actually been quite impressed with every trailer for J.J.’s new Trek film that I have seen so far, even that short teaser with Leonard Nimoy’s voice-over that was attached to the release of Cloverfield way back in January, 2008.  Even so, while I have been very, very excited by the prospect of a new Trek movie on the horizon — particularly one masterminded by as high-quality a talent as J.J. Abrams, and with the backing of such a substantial budget from Paramount — I have remained quite dubious about the project.

First of all, I find prequels to be, for the most part, pretty dumb.  I’d rather see the Trek story moving FORWARD.  (Maybe it’s time to jump the story ahead by another 100 years or so past the time-span of Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager.  I’ve always sort of thought of Star Trek as being like Asimov’s Foundation novels, which spanned thousands of years.  I wouldn’t mind if every decade of so the folks behind Star Trek put aside everything that had come before and moved the story even further into the future, thus creating new characters, conflicts, and situations for new movies or TV shows.  But anyways…)

So, OK, I don’t really like prequels.  But, if you’re going to do a prequel, it seems to me that you are obligated to be faithful to the already-established continuity.  And, to put it mildly, from what I have seen the makers of this new Trek film are doing no such thing.  The glimpses we’ve gotten of the bridge of the Enterprise look nothing like the classic bridge design — as many on-line commentators have remarked, it looks more like an apple store!  I have already whined in-depth about the re-design of the Enterprise exterior.  And where is Kirk’s best-friend Gary Mitchell?  The Enterprise was constructed on Earth?  Did the entire Enterprise command crew all go to the academy together?  Ridiculous.  I could go on.

But.

But!!

How friggin’ cool was that trailer???  Spectacular.  There is some phenomenally gorgeous imagery in the trailer (the shots of Vulcan, of Starfleet Academy, and of course all of the fast-paced starship combat).  The new actors continue to impress me with the way they look, feel and sound remarkably like the … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Of Gods and Men

March 6th, 2009
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In case you haven’t figured this out by now, I am an enormous Star Trek fan.  But I have lamented before on this site that, for a number of years now, there haven’t been any new Star Trek TV shows or movies to entertain me.  (And frankly, I wasn’t that wild about the last two Trek movies OR the last two Trek TV series, so it’s been even LONGER since I was able to enjoy any consistently GREAT official, live-action Trek.)  However, I have been really digging Pocket Books’ recent Star Trek novel releases (just recently I reviewed the spectacular trilogy Star Trek: Destiny)… and there has been some UN-official Trek product out there to enjoy, as well, like the terrific fan series Star Trek: Phase II (which I discussed here, and I reviewed its most recent episode, “Blood and Fire” Pt. I, here).  

Today I’d like to discuss another notable Star Trek fan production, albeit one with a pretty remarkable pedigree — Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.

Inspired by the success and near-professional quality of Star Trek: Phase 2, director Tim Russ (who played Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager) and his team have assembled a group of film professionals to produce this feature-length project (which was originally released on-line in three 30-minute installments).  In front of the camera, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men stars a rather remarkable assemblage of former Star Trek actors: Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Alan Ruck (Captain John Harriman of the Enterprise B from Star Trek: Generations), Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), J.G. Hertzler (Martok from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim from Star Trek: Voyager), Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager), Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Chase Masterson (Leeta from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and many others.  

A number of the above actors (like Koenig, Nichols, and Ruck) reprise their roles from the shows, while others play entirely new characters (Hertzler, Wang, Lofton, Masterson, etc.).  Either way, one of the great joys of this film is getting to see this terrific group of actors again on screen, interacting with one another and a lot of other familiar faces from the different Trek series.  Special props to actor Gary Graham, who has played a variety of roles on the different Trek series (most notably Vulcan Ambassador Soval on Enterprise) for his dynamic turn as Chekov’s partner Ragnar — it’s a small role, but it’s one of the most compelling performances of the film.

But without question the stars of the film are Koenig, Nichols, and Ruck, and … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Destiny

February 18th, 2009
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A few months ago I wrote about some of the exciting Star Trek fiction that Pocket Books has released over the past several years, picking up story-lines left hanging by the now off-the-air 24th century Trek series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).  The over-all quality of these books has been terrific, and I have really been enjoying the sense of a coherent, connected universe that the novels have created.  Story-lines from one novel lead into the next, characters are growing and changing in ways they seldom did on the TV shows that needed to preserve the status quo from week-to-week, and there’s been a strong sense of the over-all narrative moving forward towards something really exciting.

That something exciting is Star Trek: Destiny, the three-novel series by David Mack that serves as a sort-of “season finale” for all of the Trek novels released recently.  Multiple characters from all of the Trek series, as well as a variety of new characters that have been introduced and developed in the novels, converge in this enormous storyline.

Half a decade after the end of the Dominion War, Captain Dax of the U.S.S. Aventine has discovered in the Gamma Quadrant the wreckage of Earth’s second Warp 5 starship, the U.S.S. Columbia NX-02, lost for centuries.  (The Columbia and its Captain, Erika Hernandez, were a big part of the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.)  Meanwhile, the moment the Federation has long dreaded has arrived:  The Borg have launched a full-scale invasion of Federation territory, with hundreds of cubes.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise attempt to lead the remains of Starfleet in a last-ditch effort to protect the core systems and somehow halt the Borg advance, but as world after world falls, their struggle becomes increasingly hopeless.  

Destiny is an ambitious, far-reaching story that tells several (interconnected) tales simultaneously.  We follow Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as they fight to find some way to defeat the Borg, as they have so many times in the past.  Meanwhile, far outside of Federation space on a mission of deep-space exploration, the hopelessness of Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan at being too far away to help their friends and family is compounded when they find themselves in an impossible situation, trapped by the highly advanced species called the Caeliar.  This long-lived race is connected to the mystery of the Columbia, which Dax and the Aventine are investigating in the Gamma Quadrant.  (And, not surprising, both stories are connected to the Borg’s invasion of the Federation — although what IS surprising is the remarkable nature of … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Haven’t done one of these in a while…

Here’s some of the fun stuff floating around the interwebs these days:

The Simpsons has moved to HD!  This has apparently necessitated a change in the show’s iconic opening credits sequence, which has remained constant for 19 years.  (Can you believe it’s been that long??)  Fear not, fans, the new credits sequence is quite spectacular.  It follows the general pattern of the old opening, bringing us through Springfield — from Bart writing on the blackboard to Homer working in the plant to Lisa in band class to Marge shopping with Maggie, etc etc.  But there are a LOT of great new gags, and new appearances by many of the popular characters who weren’t around when the show originally launched (Groundskeeper Willie, Otto, Ralph Wiggum, Pattie & Selma, Sideshow Bob, Apu and his Octuplets, and many more).  And the new animation is terrific.  If you missed yesterday’s episode, check out the new opening by clicking here.  Note that the couch gag is, of course, just this week’s version — that ending joke will continue to change every week.  By the way, after watching this clip, do you find yourself missing Bleeding Gums Murphy?  (He’s one of the characters Bart used to skateboard past, who has now been removed.)  Don’t worry, he’s still there!  Check out the pictures on the wall behind the kids in Lisa’s band class…

Just like the year when there were two asteroid-hitting-the-earth movies (Deep Impact and Armageddon) or the year when there were two volcano movies (Dante’s Peak and Volcano), this year there are two Mall Cop flicks coming out.  Perhaps you, like me, chose to pass on Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James.  But you might still be interested in Seth Rogen’s much, much darker take on the idea.  Click here to see a trailer for Observe and Report.

Speaking of trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s let’s-go-kill-some-Nazis flick Inglourious Basterds (yes, that is how the title is spelled) has a teaser trailer that was just released.  Click here to check it out.

Is Joaquin Phoenix melting down before our eyes, or is this all some kind of hoax for the documentary that Casey Affleck is apparently filming about Phoenix’s attempt at a rap career?  I have no idea, but click here to watch his truly bizarre appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, and judge for yourself.

If you’re a Watchmen fan who is chomping at the bit for the movie to be released (Match 6th is coming!!), then you definitely need to click here to watch the teaser for the Tales of the Black Freighter direct-to-DVD release. 

Finally, I … [continued]

 

Star Trek: Phase 2

February 6th, 2009
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Back on September 9th I wrote about Star Trek: Phase 2, by far the most interesting of the many fan-made Star Trek projects that have sprung up over the past few years, in the absence of any new official Star Trek material on TV or at the movies.  The goal of Phase 2 is to create the fourth season of the Original Series (which was cancelled at the end of its third season).  Each installment of Phase 2 (there have been five episodes so far, counting their “pilot”) is an hour in length, and what is astounding about the endeavor (betcha thought I’d say enterprise) is the degree of professionalism involved in the production.  While the episodes don’t QUITE look like actual broadcast-able Star Trek episodes, they come pretty damn close.

The fifth episode was just released on-line:  ”Blood and Fire Part I.”  This is the first installment of the series’ first two-part episode.  The episode opens with a fierce battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon warship.  Although the Klingons are ultimately defeated, the Big E sustains Star Trek II level damage.  However, before the Enterprise can return to a starbase to be repaired, they receive a distress call from another Starfleet vessel, the USS Copernicus, which appears to be locked on course directly into a dying star.  When Spock leads an away team over to the Copernicus to try to figure out what happened to the ship and its crew, they soon find themselves in quite a lot of jeopardy.  ”Blood and and Fire” also re-introduces us to Captain Kirk’s young nephew Peter (introduced in one episode of the Original Series, “Operation — Annihilate!”), who has transfered over to the Enterprise to be closer to his husband-to-be, who is already an Enterprise officer.

“Blood and Fire” was written and directed by David Gerrold, who is only the lastest industry professional (and someone involved with the production of the original Star Trek) to have gotten involved with this fan-made series.  Mr. Gerrold was a key writer for the Original Series, and he wrote what many consider to be one of the finest Original Series episodes ever produced: “The Trouble With Tribbles.”  This story, “Blood and Fire,” was actually written by Mr. Gerrold for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was never produced.  (According to the Phase 2 web-site, the episode was shelved because of its mention of a gay crewman on the Enterprise.)  Mr. Gerrold re-worked the story for Phase 2.

Over-all, “Blood and Fire Part I” is another winner from the Phase 2 team.  The production values are incredible.  The sets, the costumes, the make-up, the lighting — everything looks just … [continued]

 

Quantum of Solace, Watchmen, and Star Trek!

November 17th, 2008
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So Steph and I caught Quantum of Solace on Friday — What a fun time in a theatre!

The showing started off with several exciting trailers for some of the big blockbusters that will be arriving in the spring.  Quite a few of them didn’t interest me, such as Angels & Demons, the Da Vinci Code sequel (or is it a prequel?).  But there were two that sure as heck did.

 

That was the new trailer for Watchmen.  (See a larger version here.)  Watchmen is the beloved graphic novel (called by Time Magazine one of the 100 greatest novels of all time) that was published by DC Comics in 1986.  The first trailer was just imagery, whereas in this trailer we get to see some plot and a goodly amount of dialogue, giving us a slightly better idea about how these characters are being brought to life.  And so far, so good.  The trailer sells the movie on its simplest level — that of a murder mystery.  (Costumed “heroes” are being picked off, one by one — but by whom??)  That’s probably a wise choice, but I do hope that there winds up being a lot more to the movie than just that — I want the film to capture some of the complexity of the graphic novel.  

(Much more than just a whodunnit, Watchmen is a fascinating deconstruction of our modern superhero myths, asking how the modern world would be changed if superheroes really existed, and what would the people who chose to put on garish costumes and go out and fight crime really be like?  The plot is intricate, and the character arcs consist of brutal psychological realism.  Visually it is a tour-de-force, utilizing symbolism, recurring visual motifs & parallel structure to connect disparate scenes and ideas.  I could go on and on about Watchmen…. and I’m sure I will in a future post as the movie approaches!  Suffice to say, I am a bit nervous and VERY excited to see the finished film in March.)

Then there was this:

[UPDATED -- Click HERE to view a crystal clear official version of the trailer that just became available, or check out the shaky bootleg below.]

First of all, props to the Paramount marketing department because they totally fooled me.  I had read on-line that the first full trailer (there was a teaser released last Spring) would be shown with Quantum of Solace, and so I was watching carefully for it.  But when this trailer came up, starting with a kid racing a car through a desert, I thought “oh well, that’s not it, maybe the next one.”  It wasn’t until the kid said … [continued]

 

J.J. Abrams’ new Starship Enterprise design revealed — oh, the pain!

November 13th, 2008
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I seem to be alternating between manic euphoria over the impending arrival of J.J. Abrams’ big-screen big-budget Star Trek relaunch/reboot/whatever, and tremendous pessimism that a film trying to re-cast the iconic roles of Kirk, Spock, etc., can’t possibly be good.

On the euphoric side of town, I have been breathlessly counting the days until the arrival of the first big trailer, which will be premiering this weekend.  And most of the cast pictures that were revealed last month were very encouraging.  (See my blog post from October 16th.)

Then Paramount released to Entertainment Weekly the design for the new Starship Enterprise.

Uh oh.

OK, so between the original Star Trek series from the ’60s, the movies, and all the subsequent TV show spin-offs, there have been a heck of a lot of different Enterprise designs out there.  My favorite is the one from all the original Trek movies (Star Trek: The Motion Picture through Star Trek VI.)

This is known in Trek parlance as the “refit” Enterprise, as it looks quite a bit snazzier than the Enterprise as seen in the original series.  

The reality is that the producers of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, quite rightly so, felt that the simple design of the original TV Enterprise wouldn’t hold up on the big screen.  The explanation given in the movie for the new look of the Enterprise is that the ship has been in drydock for two years, getting re-fitted with the latest tech.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but since the refit design is so magnificent people seemed to go with it.  

So that brings us to J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie.  Although the plot is still a tightly-kept secret, it seems to be the story of Kirk and the gang getting together as young officers, before they were on the Enterprise… or perhaps very early on in their adventures on the Enterprise.  In other words, it appears to be some sort of prequel to the events of the original Star Trek television series of the ’60s.  That would indicate that the Enterprise seen in the movie should look something like the second Enterprise pic found above.

Well, instead it looks like this:

Now, look, I need to hold back my judgement until seeing the ship in motion.  I remember seeing the first pictures of the X-Men in costume from way before the first X-Men movie came out… and seeing that first picture of Tobey Maguire in his Spider-Man costume… and both times thinking “oh my god, that looks horrible.”  And yet, in both examples, in the actual movie I thought the costumes looked just fine.  So one really shouldn’t … [continued]

 

Beam Me Up!

October 16th, 2008
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Holy cow!  Paramount has FINALLY released some stills from J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek re-launch/re-boot/re-make whatever the heck it is!

Above is a shot of most of the crew.  From left to right, its Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scott, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, John Cho as Mr. Sulu and Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura.  For a larger version, click here.  This is a really exciting shot, as the actors all look great.  I love those uniforms!  They really capture the “vibe” of the colorful uniforms from the Original Series, while not looking ridiculous.  

Click here to see a great shot of Spock getting all “Vulcan death grip” on someone (is that Kirk?).  Cue the Amok Time music!  (Let me say again that those uniforms look great.  You can really see the textures in this shot.)

Or click here to see a shot of Kirk and McCoy on the bridge of the Enterprise!  This is probably the most controversial shot, as while the bridge looks cool it doesn’t bear a lot of resemblance to the classic Enterprise bridge from the Original Series.  It is more similar to the sleeker, white and gray bridge of the Enterprise from the movies… although this version is a lot funkier.

OR click here to see the villainous Romulan, played by Eric Bana.  (Note that you can clearly see his pointed ears, which were absent from the first head-shot that was released last summer.)

Or click here to see… I don’t know what, exactly.  Looks like Kirk crash-landed on some sort of icy something.  (Is that some sort of escape-pod?  It is labeled NCC 1701…)

Or, finally, you can click here to see the U.S.S. Kelvin running into some trouble.  (Don’t know what this ship is or how it figures into the plot, and I’m happy not knowing for now.)  They are still not letting us see a full-on shot of what a Constitution class starship (like, of course, the U.S.S. Enterprise) is going to look like in this movie, but from this picture the exterior seems to be more similar to the Enterprise from the movies than that of the Original Series (because of the look of the hull plating, and the lettering).  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Great stuff!!  Now when will we get to see a full trailer???… [continued]

 

The New Frontier

September 9th, 2008
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OK, this is my last posting having to do with Star Trek for a while — I promise!

But yesterday — believe it or not — marked the 42nd anniversary of the airing of the first episode of the original Star Trek series.  On September 8th, 1966, NBC aired “The Man Trap.”

Its a shame there’s no new Star Trek on TV these days to mark the anniversary.  But last week I spent a while talking about all the great Star Trek fiction that’s out there to be enjoyed.  Today I must add a post-script that novels haven’t been the only source of great new Star Trek recently.  The past few years have seen an explosion of Star Trek fan films across the web.  Now, a great many of these are very, very amateurish.  But there’s one that rises above the rest, and its called Star Trek: Phase II.  (The series began life as Star Trek: New Voyages).

This series is an attempt at creating a fourth season of the original Star Trek.  (The original series famously only lasted for three seasons — 79 episodes — before being cancelled.)  This is a very serious effort to produce complete, one hour (really approx. 45 minute) episodes that try to capture as close as possible the feel of 1960′s Star Trek.  (So far they have produced four episodes.)  And I must say, they get very close!  There is an extraordinary attention to detail in these productions — in the sets, the costumes, the make-up, and the visual effects.  You can tell that this is a true labor of love for everyone involved in its creation. 

What also sets this fan-film series apart from other efforts is that it has attracted the participation of a lot of industry professionals, as well as people who have been involved with official Star Trek work in the past.  Most notably, Walter Koenig (Checkov) and George Takei (Sulu) have each appeared in the series!  And not just in little wink-wink cameo roles — both have had major starring roles.  Mr. Koenig appeared in the series’ second episode, “To Serve All My Days,” an episode scripted with D.C. Fontana (who was one of the key writers for the original series).  That appearance was followed by Mr. Takei’s role in the third episode, “World Enough and Time.”  

Is the series something that looks like it could air on television?  Well, not quite.  But there is so much love on display here that its impossible to fault the series for an occasional shot or moment that seems off.  The writing is terrific and the visual effects are a LOT of fun.  (I particularly enjoyed the … [continued]

 

Beyond the Final Frontier — Part II

September 5th, 2008
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In addition to the great series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels that I discussed yesterday, Pocket Books has really stepped up their game across the board.  They have released a number of marvelous novels in the past few years dealing with ALL the different series in the Star Trek franchise.  With few exceptions, they all have the same great things going for them that the DS9 books do — tight continuity from novel to novel, strong character arcs, and terrific attention to detail in terms of picking up old plotlines from long-ago episodes of the different Trek shows, or in taking minor characters from old episodes and bringing them back in unexpected and fun ways.  I have never seen the Trek UNIVERSE treated so much like a cohesive universe before — where things that happen in one novel, or that happened in older episodes of the series, aren’t just forgotten about.  Rather, the consequences and repercussions of those actions are explored… and characters that might have been one-dimensional in the past are fleshed-out and deepened.

For example, Ensign Ro was a well-loved character introduced in season five of the Next Generation.  And yet, after her initial introduction we never learned a whole heck of a lot about her, other than that she was tough and didn’t much like authority figures.  But she has been magnificently fleshed out in the DS9 books, where she has had to struggle to figure out where she belongs as Bajor begins the process of becoming a member world of the Federation.  Will she return to Starfleet, an organization in which she has failed twice?  Will she remain on Bajor, a planet and cultural heritage she rejected and fled from in her youth?  There’s a lot of interesting drama to be had there.  Here’s another interesting example: In the second season of Deep Space Nine, there was an episode in which it looked like Bajor was going to renounce its partnership with the Federation, and a team of Bajoran officers attempted to capture the station.  The leader of those officers was a Bajoran general named Krim.  He only appeared in that one episode, but I always thought the actor made a great impression — he was a memorable character, one who was tough and extraordinarily loyal to his home planet of Bajor, but also calm, rational, and open-minded.  Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought he was a great character, because the Trek novel writers have brought back Krim in the role of Bajor’s first representative to the Federation Council.  The character has played a major role in the “Bajor” novella from the Worlds of Deep Space Nine series, … [continued]

 

Beyond the Final Frontier

September 4th, 2008
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The other day I mentioned here that there hasn’t been any truly great Star Trek around since Deep Space Nine went off the air back in 1999.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Believe it or not, in the past few years, Pocket Book has put together a terrific line of Star Trek fiction.  You heard me right!

I have found most novels based on sci-fi TV shows or movies to be, as a rule, disappointing.  Most are saddled with the restrictions of having to adhere to the continuity of the show or movie being written about.  In other words, nothing of great significance can happen to any of the characters, because they need to be in the exact same place at the end of the book as they were in the beginning.  Well, that takes a lot of the fun out of the story!  I’ve been reading Pocket Books’ Star Trek novels since I was a kid.  Even though I got a lot of enjoyment out of the books back in the day, I quickly recognized that most of the books followed the same basic framework: the Enterprise (either Kirk’s or Picard’s) visits a new planet, has an adventure, and then our heroes head on their merry way.  There were several authors who spun some terrific Star Trek tales within that framework (Peter David being one of my favorites), but after a number of years of reading those novels I eventually drifted away.

But over the past few years, with no new Star Trek TV series or movies on the horizon (and the more recent development of J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie looking like its going to be some sort of reboot in its own continuity), Pocket Books’ editors and authors have been free to move the 24th century Star Trek characters forward in exciting and unexpected ways.  Suddenly, characters from the different series can interact… old familiar characters head in dramatically different directions (some are even — gasp! — killed off!)… new characters are introduced and developed… in short, lots of exciting things happen, and the over-all Star Trek story is moved forward.  Even more exciting to me is the CONTINUITY that now exists between the Star Trek novels!  As I have written about before on this site, I LOVE continuity in my entertainment (be it in TV shows, comics, etc.)  This continuity in the Star Trek novels is delightful, as each book now has significance — with one leading into the next — and with plot twists now having weight and repercussions.  Of something happens in one novel, that is reflected in the storyline of the next novel!  And all the novels begin with a … [continued]

 

Familiar Faces

September 3rd, 2008
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Its always fun to be watching an old episode of a favorite TV show and spot a great guest star actor you’d never realized was there before.  This happened twice to me recently.  

I was watching an old episode from the first season of The X-Files called “Shapes.”  Its about cowboys, Indians, and werewolves.  Its a decent first season episode — solid, but nothing spectacular.  But, even though I’d seen this episode a few times before, I was startled to notice that one of the cowboys was played by Donnelly Rhodes, none other than Doc Cottle on Battlestar Galactica!  He looked totally different — in this X-Files episode he was all decked out in cowboy gear, with grey whiskers — but that gravelly voice was unmistakable.

The same thing happened only a day later.  I was watching an old Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode called “Shakaar.”  It’s a third season episode that introduces us to several of Kira’s old chums from the Bajoran resistance movement (including their leader, Shakaar).  In the course of this episode, Kira and her old mates wind up taking up arms again, and find themselves pursued by other Bajorans — lead by a tough general named Lenaris Holem.  Now, I’ve seen this episode many many times before — but not since having devoured all five seasons of The Wire last year.  And so it was with delight that I realized that General Lenaris was played by John Doman — Rawls himself!  (According to imdb, its one of his earliest film credits.)

Who knew?… [continued]

 

The Greatest Generation

I have been (and always shall be) a die-hard Star Trek Fan. But this past decade has been a rough time to be a Star Trek Fan. The last two Star Trek TV series have been terrible (Star Trek: Voyager) and mediocre (Star Trek: Enterprise). The last two Star Trek movies have been mediocre (1998′s Star Trek: Insurrection) and terrible (2002′s Star Trek: Nemesis). There is a new hope (ahem) on the horizon with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek

relaunch scheduled for next summer, but that’s a long ways away.

These days Star Trek seems to be, in many ways, dead dead dead. My
sci-fi passions are fueled by other shows like the amazing Battlestar Galactica and the late lamented Firefly. But this past weekend, while working on a variety of illustration projects, I popped my DVD set of Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 into my player. And while drawing and painting away, I proceeded to tear through the entire season. What a magnificent season of science-fiction, and of television period. My goodness I had forgotten.

These episodes originally aired in 1989-90. This was a groundbreaking season for Next Gen. For the first two years, the show had struggled to find its footing. It was popular, but the quality of the episodes were wildly uneven. The writing staff went through constant upheavals. But in Season 3, a talented writer named Michael Piller took over as the show-runner, and proceded to do two important things. One, he re-focused the show on the CHARACTERS. Two, he brought on board a number of incredibly talented writers who would proceed to guide the Star Trek franchise for many successful years to come. These include Ronald D. Moore (who, post-Trek, would go on to create and run the new Battlestar Galactica), Rene Echevarria (The 4400), Jeri Taylor, Brannon Bragga, and many others.

What’s incredible about Next Gen‘s season 3, looking back on it, is just how well it holds up today (as opposed to, say, season 1, which today I find to be pretty much unwatchable). Here are just a sampling of the greatness of this season:

Yesterday’s Enterprise — The Enterprise C travels to the future and accidentally changes history, creating a tme-line where the Federation and the Klingons are locked in bitter, unending war. And Tasha Yar dies again. Time travel has become a much over-used TV sci-fi device, but this dark tale is one of the best.

The Offspring — The android Data takes it upon himself to create a child. Haunting and poignant, its a classic.

Deja Q — The omnipotent Q loses his powers and … [continued]

 

News Around the Net

Every now and then a great, cancelled-before-its-time TV show earns a magical second chance. My favorite recent example of this is the staggeringly underrated Futurama. This wonderfully bizarre and hysterical show, created by Matt Groening, was cancelled back in 2005, but it was revived last year for four direct-to-DVD movies. The first, Bender’s Big Score, came out this past November. The second, The Beast With a Billion Backs, is nearly upon us. Check out the trailer:

http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36905

If you don’t know what the twist of the story is going to be from the DVD’s title, the last line of the trailer spells things out pretty clearly.

In other news, the creator of the Pringles can died last month, and was buried in…oh yes, a Pringles can. Could I make that up?

http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/983051,pring060208.article

Finally, in sad news, Alexander Courage died last week. He was a tremendously talented film composer and arranger…but his most famous work was probably writing the theme to the original Star Trek series. There aren’t too many pieces of music more iconic. What a giant. More information on his life and work can be found here:

http://trekmovie.com/2008/05/28/star-trek-composer-alexander-courage-dead-at-88/#more-2013

That’s all for me for today!… [continued]