Abramanations Multiply

It doesn’t matter if it premieres the resurrected Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, I won’t be going to see this film in a theater. This will be the first film in Star Trek history that I’m actually hostile about before I’ve even seen it, and one of three that I loathe ever having been created (FYI, it’s the last three) I cannot express the level of revulsion that I feel when I contemplate what kind of depraved acts will be enacted on the corpse of one my most cherished memories from another time. Better to just pretend it isn’t happening, I guess.

I did catch a “edited for television” version recently. It was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, and then some. Somehow the internet haters really failed to communicate just how ridiculous this farce of a film was. I’m not sure how this is possible, but it is. Magic blood. A Khan that isn’t South Asian. Starfleet officers engaging in conspiracies, taking the lives of their own people when they fail to submit to aggression.

That Khan failed to pervert the crew of the Enterprise in the TOS episode “Space Seed” because future man is no longer susceptible to terroristic threats of this kind is a philosophical achievement lost on the creators of nutrek and the Abramanator himself. 

The number of violations of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future are almost uncountable. They will remain uncounted by me. It was enough for me simply to confirm that the film was bad and not just bad Trek.

My apologies to the ghost of Gene Roddenberry for having witnessed this narrative of depravity.

My review for Star Trek: Into Darkness on Rotten Tomatoes

I give the film half a star on the Rotten Tomatoes 5 star rating system. I can’t rate it lower than that or I would. Having failed to keep up my end of the bargain and actually never watch the film as the first paragraph of the review goes into, I felt I had to come clean and admit to my transgression after having watched Abramation II. However, this article isn’t just about Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I haven’t been a Trek fan for quite a few years.  I quit following the show or hanging around with fans of Nutrek ages ago, not long after declaring Star Trek dead in 2009. I have no interest in being an internet hater.  I have even less interest in spending time in the presence of people who like things that I think are unforgivable violations of the intellectual property of a long-dead inspiration.

I am quite happy sitting here alone in my office. I am forced to revisit this subject because the abramanations continue, and the general movie-going population remains vacuously enamored of J.J. Abrams’ tripe. I sat down and watched Star Wars VII a few weeks ago with the Wife. We had planned on watching that film on the big screen and we missed it because it left theaters within a month of coming out, it left screens and moved to video release quicker than any other Star Wars film in history. I distinctly remember saying, when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would write and direct, that Given what George Lucas has done to Star Wars, I can hardly imagine how J.J. Abrams could fuck it up more than he has. Having now watched Star Wars VII I can honestly say I owe George Lucas an apology.

I owe George Lucas an apology because Star Wars VII is just Star Wars IV told even more poorly as a story, while millions upon millions more are spent on meaningless effects sequences.  It is a marvel to watch from an effects standpoint (much like Mad Max 4) while being almost incomprehensible from a plot and story perspective (also like Mad Max 4) And since George Lucas filmed Star Wars IV with less money and with no example to script by, I have to conclude that his is the superior intellect when contrasted with the abramanator.

It is nice to be proven wrong on occasion, even when the proof takes a few hours out of my life and a few yards out of my intestines due to the indigestion caused by stress.  Stress caused by having to watch bad filmmaking being rewarded so lavishly.

I blame LOST.

I never did do a post series write-up on that show, even though (as the link illustrates) I was quite the fan, following all the crumbs and clues and waiting for the next episode and the next season with breathless anticipation.  Until the story stopped making any sense at all, sometime during season four. I doggedly continued to catch every episode even then, and bought the DVD collections for each season, trusting that somehow it would all make sense in the end.

Except it really never did.  LOST is singularly the worst written story arc ever to be completed in a television show. It is the only show that, having gotten to the end, I really wanted all my invested time back. Not only does the story not make any sense, but the finale attempts to make every possible fan prediction about what the island was, and how the characters survived, be true simultaneously.  It is the series that best manifests the truism trying to make everyone happy is the surest way to piss everyone off.

Every season following the third season became harder and harder to watch.  Far from being the finale that ruined the show for me, it was the reliance on tropes and heuristics to ‘sort of’ move the show along to the conclusion that most of us saw coming years before the confirmatory finale; the finale which so deflated everyone’s expectations about the meaning of it all.

Why season three?  Remember the season three cliff-hanger ending? (I despise cliff-hanger season endings. Loathe them. What happens if the stars die or back out of their contracts? Just pretend the viewers weren’t left hanging?) Charlie’s big sacrifice? Didn’t mean anything.  It might have meant something if the Oceanic 6 hadn’t then gone on to… What? Go home, become helpless invalids? Fail to raise children and then return to the island? Return to the island in the past (a past that the smart guy in their midst says can’t be changed) Return to the island and be blown up by a nuclear explosion (an event that historically didn’t happen) which traps them in a time bubble. For all eternity. With people they hate as well as the friends they love.

I hate to break it to this guy, but if you have to explain what the ending meant in order for people to get it, then it really wasn’t closure of any kind, much less a good ending for a series.  The only reason people still talk about LOST is because J.J. Abrams is Hollywood gold for some inexplicable reason, and so people feel obliged to say nice things about the series that launched him to success.

I watched in disbelieving horror when Damon Lindelof was paraded out a few years back on The Nerdist, which was airing on BBC America at the time.  Damon Lindelof paraded out and held up as some kind of authority on time travel stories, horrified as I watched him taking apart what were, in my estimation, more interesting stories that used the story-telling vehicle in question.

Damon Lindelof? An authority? An authority on time travel? An authority on time travel as a storytelling vehicle? An authority on stories about things which most scientists will tell you are theoretically implausible, which is about as close to impossible as you can get a scientist to go. The mind boggles.

Let me put it this way. My reading of time travel stories and watching time travel movies, my being obsessed with the concept of time travel for as long as I can remember. My discovery of Doctor Who in 1972 on a hotel television screen in Denver, Colorado (on a channel called PBS that I’d never heard of) makes my left testicle more of an authority on time travel than Damon Lindelof or J.J. Abrams himself.  They so screwed up time travel as a story vehicle in every episode of LOST and in the Abramanation, making the story vehicle a distraction from rather than the method of telling the story that I can’t even begin to explain how they might fix it other than to tell them to go talk to actual speculative fiction writers about what they did wrong.

Which brings me to the real reason I started this post. I ran across a clip on Youtube (see, I said it was bad news) advertising an HBO series that riffs off of another movie and story that I grew up on. That would be Westworld.

This is one of those rare films I was allowed to go see as a child. What is most interesting to me looking back at it is this; Westworld and Andromeda Strain mark the beginnings of my exposure to Michael Crichton, a lifelong dance which ended with his death in 2008 and the novel State of Fear, a novel which many people mistake for non-fiction. In the middle was Jurassic Park as a high note and the poorly adapted Congo as a low note (the novel was much better than the film) it seems that his imagination has served as punctuation marks along my journey through science and speculative fiction.

I liked the original film. It is quite campy now and probably barely watchable. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t rewatched it in at least thirty years.  What I do know is that J.J. Abrams is highly touted as having a hand in the HBO series.

Westworld promo trailer courtesy of Youtube and HBO

J.J. Abrams having a hand in the series creation spells doom for the series from the outset, in my less than humble opinion.  I doubt that most people will agree with me since most people think that Star Wars VII is a good film. However, I’ll stand by this equation,

The watchability of any media offering will be in direct inverse correlation to how much actual control J.J. Abrams has over it.

Westworld could be a good series, but I won’t be holding my breath.  I won’t be able to watch it anyway until it hits Netflix or some other third party site since I don’t pay for HBO any longer.  That is one fine trailer though. Gunshots and partial nudity. Deep bass vibrations in the music to amp up the fear. Lots of famous actor cameos. It hits all the marks that advertising executives require. Just like the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond. Haven’t seen that Star Trek either, but I might watch it. I might even pay to watch it. Someone else wrote and directed it, so it might be OK as an experience. Remember, an inverse relationship to Abramanator control. The Star Trek trailer sports the Bad Robot logo, though. Not a good sign.

HBO is riding the crest of a wave that they hadn’t expected to be on.  Who would have thought that George R.R. Martin would hit it big on television, with HBO as a backer, creating the adaptation of his long running A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series which only people who live in caves without the internet won’t recognize as Game of Thrones. I am now obliged to offer an apology to George R.R. Martin as well as George Lucas. Not just because I’ve first mentioned him in this article about the dreaded Abramanations; but also because, unlike the rest of the family and probably the rest of Austin if not the entire US, I haven’t seen, read or listened to his stories. I can’t name one title of his I’ve read even though I distinctly remember sharing a table with him at an Armadillocon somewhere in the murky past.  For that, and for mentioning you here, I truly am sorry George.

But HBO is the channel riding the wave now, as AMC was riding the wave of popularity following Breaking Bad and the first few season of The Walking Dead. We’ll just have to see if AMC continues to ride the wave with the next seasons of The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul (which I like more than Breaking Bad, but my liking things is usually bad for their continued existence. Just a word of caution) After the lackluster reception for the cliffhanger ending season 6 of The Walking Dead, they’ll just have to keep their fingers crossed.

Since Westworld isn’t likely to include nuclear weapons or time travel, it is probably a safe bet to watch it. A safe bet for HBO to back it. I’d be on the lookout for the Abramanator to find some way to include those devices in the show, if I had money on the line. If he does, take your money, run and don’t look back.  You’ll thank me for it later.

Troubleshooting Windows

For the first time in a year, the Google doodle does not crash my computer. All I had to do was delete Firefox and rip out every reference to it, then delete every installed program that I couldn’t recognize. Weirdly, somewhere along the line, my persistent flash problem went away.

Typical for Windows. As the joke goes, three engineers are driving cross-country, when the car stalls and they are stranded at the side of the road.

The first engineer, a mechanical engineer, pops the hood and begins checking linkages. No luck.

The second engineer, an electrical engineer, checks the battery and alternator and starts tracing wiring. Also, no luck.

The third engineer, an MCSE certified Microsoft software engineer, opens and closes all the doors, rolls all the windows up and down and unpacks then repacks all the luggage, then gets back in the car and sits. When the other engineers ask him what he’s doing, he explains, “I reset everything, it should run now.”

Yes, it’s an old joke. Not as old as Doctor Who, but because Windows software works in inexplicable ways, I did finally get to play the 50th anniversary Dr. Who doodle game today. Yea team.

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Dr. Who Christmas Special. My First Amazon Review. A Twofer.

Let me set something straight. I love Doctor Who. I have watched every episode available from the First Hartnell to the latest Matt Smith. My cable system and PVR let me down and didn’t record this years Christmas Special, (wasn’t marked “new” apparently) so kudos to Amazon for having it available to purchase and stream (can I get a round figure on what it would cost to own all of the Doctor this way? Less than 5 figures, please) Doctor Who remains Doctor Who whether we’re talking about Hartnell’s Captain Kangaroo delivery, Pertwee’s 007 flamboyancy, Tom Baker’s charming teeth and curls, or Matt Smith doing a fair impression of Patrick Troughton’s second doctor. It’s all British, it’s all time traveling entertainment on a grand scale.

Watch this one, it’s good.

However, I write this post because, once again, I’m sent a message by Amazon asking me “how many stars I would give this show”. The same hook they use each time I purchase ANYTHING. From a song to a book to a movie that is 20 years old; to this film (which could probably benefit from a positive review) and each time I fall for the hook and wander over here, it’s demanded of me that I wax verbose on the subject of whatever it is. If I’ve purchased a single song, I cannot leave a review without writing an essay about it! That is simply ridiculous.

Please. Please, I’m begging here. Remove the requirement that essays be written for each and every product that you purchase, just so you can give an attaboy to something that deserves it, without having to struggle with wit and punctuation, and heaven forbid CAPS LOCK. Let us just give a star rating, please? At least quit pretending in your emails that a star rating is all you want.

Posted here on Amazon.

Television Midseason Debuts

Got my SciFi update from About the other day, giving me the low-down on all the new shows coming out midseason. There seem to be a lot of them. I hope this trend continues, because I’m truly tired of the rerun hell that usually abounds on television after about February.

Top of the list is one I’m going to make a point to miss. The ads for Sarah Connor Chronicles have looked so lame that not even the appearance of Summer Glau in the series will be enough to get this Firefly fan to tune in. Not even for one episode. I actually don’t need to write anything else on the subject, because the new editor over at About SciFi pretty well sums it up with this:

Is there anything left to say about Sarah and John Connor? Apparently. Not only is a fourth movie coming, but now Sarah Connor, inserted after T2, with Sarah (British actress Lena Headey) and 15-year-old John (Thomas Dekker, from Heroes) on the run from both contemporary authorities and cyborgs from the future. Watch creator Josh Friedman try to create jeopardy for characters whose complete past and future we already know! Watch the urbane Headey evoke unslakable yearning for Linda Hamilton’s angry growl and big biceps! Watch a series designed to revive a moribund franchise turn out to be completely inessential!

Don’ t believe me about the ads? Here’s one. Wish I could find the one that set me off; it was full of action and explosions, just like this one, and ended with a comment about mom fixing dinner. Sorry, just can’t suspend disbelief that far; I don’t want to risk brain damage by hitting myself in the head that hard.

There’s a reason why none of the dystopia stories seems to translate well to series television (and even seems to break down in sequel films) and it has to do with maintaining tension in the story on a week to week basis, and keeping it believable at the same time. I predict that this series will be every bit as lame as the Planet of the Apes television series was, and just as short lived.

On the other hand, I see that Jericho is up for a second season, and now I’m kicking myself for not having taken the time to watch the first. Several friends (whose opinions I trust) told me I needed to check it out when it first aired. Now I’m on the fence about coming in mid-story. I might take the time.

I doubt it, though. What with Torchwood (which I watch just for the fun of it) Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who all coming out with new shows (not to mention Ghost Hunters, Ghost Whisperer and other shows that I follow with The Wife. The fact that we watch Ghost Whisperer, Moonlight and Numb3rs has us tuned in to CBS pretty much all night Friday. Thank goodness for the PVR or I wouldn’t get to watch Stargate Atlantis and 20/20 as well) There was so much to watch last year, that I started watching both Bionic Woman and Journeyman, and had to drop them for lack of time (not to mention I just couldn’t seem to get into the shows. That goes double for Chuck. I’m sorry Adam, I just can’t go there) I’m quite glad that Heroes seems to be done for the season; I was getting near to letting that one drop off my radar as well.

The About SciFi guide left LOST off the list (I guess it’s just not SciFi enough for them) That and Stargate Atlantis are the two shows I’m really looking forward to. I have no idea how they will maintain tension on LOST (which is sort of dystopic) either. After loosing their way in the second season, and going somewhere completely unexpected in the third, I don’t even want to hazard a guess about the rest of the series. I’m just hoping it ends as well as it began.

SyFy Awards: Firefly a Winner

Even though it hasn’t been on the air in two years, Firefly took six awards in the popularly judged SyFy Genre Awards (hosted by SyFy Portal) this year.

The SciFi Channel aired three first-run episodes of the short lived series last season, qualifying the series for consideration in the awards this year. Loyal fans of the show clearly came through with support, giving it the ‘best series’ award for 2006, beating out SciFi’s own Battlestar Galactica.

The Firefly winners were:

BEST ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Nathan Fillion, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Matthew Fox, “Lost.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Adam Baldwin, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Terry O’Quinn, “Lost.”

BEST SPECIAL GUEST/Television
WINNER:
Christina Hendricks, “Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Claudia Black, “Avalon, Part 1,” Stargate SG-1

BEST EPISODE/Television
WINNER:
“Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: “Dalek,” Doctor Who

BEST Series/Television
WINNER:
Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Lost

The complete list of this years awards can be found here: http://www.syfyportal.com/news.php?id=2895

As the founder of Syfy Portal (Michael Hinman) observed “These types of wins shows how important fan bases are, and how effective they can be in fan-voted awards such as this,” “While some might question how much power these fanbases have, it is the fanbases that ultimately helps decide the fates of television shows and movies.”

The Wiki entry for a complete list and history can be found here: SyFy Genre Awards

Classic Trek Gets a Makeover

This could amount to sacrilege. They are updating the special effects for all 79 of the Classic Star Trek episodes, giving them all new computer generated effects shots.

I’m withholding judgment on this until I see the finished product. But I’m not holding my breath, either. The primitive effects are just fine with me. I don’t need my classic Enterprise to have ‘go fast’ stripes.

I’ve never seen the revised versions of the first two seasons of Red Dwarf. They went through a similar process of updating. Like Doctor Who and its ships on strings, there is something appropriate about old campy SciFi having visibly dated special effects, especially if there is an air of humor to the program.

On the other hand, I liked the revised versions of Star Wars, with the exception of the Whussification of Han Solo. So updated effects might be OK with me…

…and then there is the urge to tinker with the show. The episode “The Enterprise Incident” for example. Here’s a chance to finally put the Romulans in Romulan ships instead of the Klingon ships that were originally used. After all, why not? The Klingon Bird of Prey that is used for most of the movies and all of Next Gen owes it’s existence to the mythology that was built up around that one little slip up in Classic Trek. If the updates fix that problem, then why…?

Like I said, I’ll wait for the premiere. I’m just not holding my breath.


Read the interview over at Aint It Cool News with Mike Okuda and the rest of the crew that worked on the makeover. There’s also a Q&A over at Startrek.com and the original announcement from Paramount as well as images of the CGI models they will be using. I have to say, the ship does look gorgeous. But then, she always did.

From the announcement:

The most noticeable change will be redoing many of the special effects, created with 1960s technology, with 21st century computer-generated imagery (CGI). Upgrades include:

  • Space ship exteriors – The Enterprise, as well as other starships, will be replaced with state of the art CGI-created ships. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • Show opening – The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be redone, giving them depth and dimension for the first time.
  • Galaxy shots – All the graphics of the galaxy, so frequently seen through the viewscreen on the Enterprise’s bridge, will be redone.
  • Exteriors – The battle scenes, planets and ships from other cultures (notably the Romulan Bird of Prey and Klingon Battle Cruisers) will be updated.
  • Background scenes – Some of the iconic, yet flat, matte paintings used as backdrops for the strange, new worlds explored by the Enterprise crew will get a CGI face-lift, adding atmosphere and lighting.

The refurbished episodes also feature higher quality sound for the famous opening theme. The original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Alexander Courage, has been re-recorded in state-of-the-art digital stereo audio with an orchestra and a female singer belting out the famous vocals. A digitally remastered version of William Shatner’s classic original recording of the 38-word “Space, the final frontier…” monologue continues to open each episode.

However, when you read between the lines, there is some admission on the part of those involved in the process that there are some digital ‘fixes’ going into the regular scenes, not just the inserted FX scenes and bridge viewscreen images. Text ‘fixed’ on library screens, some of the aliens will be given ‘sparkle’…

…I’m still withholding judgement until I see it. Broadcast information can be found here. For Austin it will air on KNVA at 4:00 pm, Saturday, September 16th.