Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cannons to the left of me, cannons to the right of me

Star Trek: DS9 image Copyright 2009/2010 & a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencap from

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Criterion commentary

I found this quote in a Roger Ebert article concerning Matthew Dessem, a man who is attempting to watch every movie in the Criterion Collection catalog:

"My absolute favorite commentary track on any Criterion title so far," he said, "is the one with NASA consultant Dr. Joe Allen and asteroid consultant Ivan Bekey (as well as the cinematographer, Joe Schwartzman) talking about 'Armageddon.' It's basically two-and-a-half hours of these guys saying, over and over again, 'We told Michael Bay that this scene was completely scientifically inaccurate, but he went ahead and did it anyway'."

And that's the last Michael Bay dig for the year 2009. Here's looking to 2010, Mr. Bay!

What's in the Box?

Star Trek - "Is There In Truth No Beauty?"

A solid third season TOS effort, thanks in large part to guest star Diana Muldaur as Dr. Miranda Jones. With her ice-blue eyes and measured tone of voice she's perfect as the conflicted telepathic aide to Ambassador Kollos, a Medusan* who is one of the most unusual aliens in sci-fi. Medusans are non-corporeal lifeforms that are encased in a special container and can't be viewed with the naked humanoid eye because to do so would drive a person insane.


This episode packs a lot: we get to meet "one of the designers of the Enterprise" in Larry Marvick, we get to see all the male regulars stumble over each other while hitting on Dr. Jones, we go on another trip "where no man has gone before," Kirk gets shot down, Spock goes bananas, Dr. Jones has a personal crisis, Kirk gets to phaser his best friend, and we get some of the strangest photography of the series with the use of a fish-eye lens to convey the insanity Marvick and Spock feel after looking at Kollos.

Plus a few characters get to wear really cool red visors which they should have put on the market a long time ago for Trek fans. Maybe Ray Ban could make them.

Speaking of marketing, the Vulcan IDIC medallion makes its debut here. Gene Roddenberry's mail order company was about to put them out for sale and its appearance here would be a huge (and free) advertising gimmick for the jewelry. Allegedly it took some serious convincing to get Leonard Nimoy to wear the thing (it's unclear whether he got a piece of that action for being the IDIC pitchman).

* The one quibble with the Medusans is their name. It's beyond obvious that the name comes from the ancient Greek monster Medusa, who turned you into stone if you looked at her directly. Couldn't they have played with the name a bit so it wasn't so blatant? Oh, well....

Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. Roomba vacuum is copyright 2009 iRobot Corp. Original Roomba Cat image is copyright its respective rights holder. No infringement of these rights is intended.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pluck this Angel's wings

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Angel One”

AAARRRGGGGHHH! Who the fuck names their planet “Angel One?” That is the WORST name for a planet, let alone an episode title.

The Enterprise goes looking for the Odin, a freighter that’s been overdue for seven years. WHY is the Federation just now looking for a ship that’s been missing for SEVEN FREAKING YEARS? I’d get On*Star if that’s the best the Fed can do when you send out a distress signal.

“Federation Starship Distress, how can I assist you?”
“Is your ship in danger, sir?”
“HEEEEEELLLLPPPP! We were hit by an asteroid…spinning off course…losing oxygen fast!”
“Hold please.”

The Enterprise follows the trail to a planet improbably named Angel One, which has a matriarchal society where the women carry the clubs and do the leadin’ and protectin’ for their tiny badly-dressed menfolk, who can’t vote or express an opinion. Riker immediately gets on the leader chick Beata’s nerves, leaving Troi to do most of the negotiating.

If you can’t tell, this was a god awful 1st season episode, which has Gene Roddenberry written all over it. He loved those terrible in your face “planet where women lord it over the men” stories (OMG, I get it: it’s GENDER OR ROLE REVERSAL. How clever). I’m surprised the women didn’t have two navels since they’re twice as strong as their men…oh, wait, GR already did the two navels bit in Genesis II.

Since there was time to kill, Riker gets out his favorite “bow-chick-a-bow-bow” make out CD while wearing leader chick Beefeater’s gift: THE worst costume in the history of male costumes. It was basically a half shirt, leaving the entire left side of his hairy chest exposed. And it was a swirly, shiny fabric. And he had electrical tape on his leggings. Even Brad Pitt couldn’t pull this frock off.

It turns out the Odin survivors made it to Angel One and “integrated” with some of the local hotties, if you catch my drifting freighter. So while their leader chick Baragon was hunting them, they were being aided by her VP of Tallness who was now the common law wife of the Macgyver look-alike Odin captain. It all ended in a ham-handed We should be tolerant of strange tall men with mullets who come to our planet, get down with the local girls and teach us our “old ways” are outdated screed, which of course breaks the Prime Directive for the 852,934th time.

The B story was a strange flu (is there any other kind?) breaks out on the Enterprise and cripples her crew. Doc Crusher figures out that the flu is AIRBORNE (wow, an airborne flu - whodathunkit?) and is transmitted when you smell it. Will she come up with a vaccine in time (she should have just adapted the vaccine for the “dreaded Anchilles Fever” they got from the genie people in "Code of Honor"). Data at one point even tells her she has just 45 minutes to figure it all out before it’s too late. And so of course she does.

Jesus H. even third season episodes of the original series were never this stupid.

Star Trek is (C) 2009 and a (R) Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencaps from

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie, you are tearing me apart!

The Room (2003)

Johnny is just your average muscular, craggy/chalk-faced, heavy-lidded, long stringy-haired, often-incomprehensible, Euro-American computer and/or banking professional of some sort, who is a best friend to all (including animals). He loves Lisa and intends to marry her, but little does our hero know that she is tired of the good life he provides and starts fooling around with his best friend, Mark. Oh, and Johnny and all of his friends like to get together often and toss a football around – usually when they are standing no more than three feet apart.

Playing like some forgotten episode of The Outer Limits, with writer/director/producer/ executive producer/star/enigma Tommy Wiseau as the monster, The Room is a famous midnight movie that actually may be “the worst movie ever made.”

The story takes place in, around, and on top of Johnny’s apartment - more precisely his living room - which looks like nothing so much as one of those tacky faux home sets you see at malls and home improvement stores. For such a heavily trafficked place it doesn’t look like a home but the stage set that it is, and it has the oddest decoration scheme: a pair of odd marble columns on one side, deep red walls, a bricked up fireplace, light constantly streaming in no matter the time of day, framed photos of spoons, and apparently no locks on the front door as EVERYONE just comes in whether they live there or not. The loft bedroom above the room has the most awesome mosquito-netting you will ever see. Seriously, the World Health Organization should ask Wiseau where he got it and send it to those countries with the highest malaria rates.

This is one seriously fucked up movie. Right at the start, one character, Denny, whose “tuition” is being paid by Johnny (why this is done is never explained), shows up when Johnny and Lisa get a little amorous. Johnny tells him to scram, but Denny immediately responds that he “likes to watch” which gets no more than a laugh (or is that lauphf?) from Johnny and Lisa. He eventually leaves and Johnny and Lisa go up to his loft bedroom with the malaria nets and start to roll around when Denny suddenly jumps on the bed with them. Denny seems to have some kind of mental or emotional problem, but we’re never clear on what it is (which is a recurring motif in the movie, by that I mean the “never clear” part).

Later on, Denny is on the roof of Johnny’s place and is in trouble with a drug dealer, but he’s quickly rescued by Johnny and Mark who take the dealer downstairs. We’d never heard about this particular problem of Denny’s before, we don’t know why he owed the dealer money, what sort of drugs he was into, or what he was doing with them (using them himself, selling them to other kids, feeding them to squirrels, what?). We never see what Johnny and Mark did to the dealer after they take him off screen. And none of this is EVER brought up again in the movie.

The movie does that a lot, it starts a sub-plot then drops it. Lisa tells her mother she doesn’t love Johnny and doesn’t care about all the things he gives her. Lisa never gives a clear indication of why she loves or hates Johnny (or why she starts up with Mark). So WHY is she with Johnny? If she doesn’t care about the material things he provides - you know like that great room - then she’s not a gold digger, so WHY is she with him? (Perhaps it’s all the "muscular buttocks love" that Johnny gives her in their look-away-in-horror sex scenes.)

The Room is part movie, part myth. Wiseau, who seriously looks like he walked off the set of a cheap South American Conan the Barbarian rip-off where he played the evil king and slipped on an ill-fitting suit, is always coy about where he is originally from. He says he’s “American” but has a noticeable European-sounding accent, like he’s from a former Eastern Bloc country. He has trouble pronouncing many simple English words; he makes Jackie Chan sound like a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here’s a soundboard featuring Wiseau and others from the movie:

The actress who plays Lisa, Juliette Danielle, looks like a chubby Britney Spears celebrity impersonator (this is NOT a good thing). She has three or four embarrassing nude love scenes with Wiseau (she was 18 years old at the time and Wiseau is MUCH older) and Greg Sestero who plays Mark. I was cringing so much during these scenes I lost count; I was actually wanting her to put her clothes back on.

All the scenes on the roof of Johnny’s place, and there are several of them, are done with green screen backgrounds. Isn’t this much more expensive than simply shooting the actors on a real rooftop setting? I imagine they did this to constantly have famous San Francisco landmarks, primarily the Transamerica Pyramid, in the background at all times. The movie already features a ton of stock shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, hilly streets, and the famous cable cars. We KNOW it is set in San Francisco. We don’t need to be reminded in EVERY scene where the story is set. We’re not going to look away, then look back and suddenly wonder if we’re in Hong Kong or Kansas City. We GET that we’re in San Francisco (the movie, however, will perplex and bewilder us in OTHER ways, but what city we’re in is NOT one of them). Besides, is San Francisco so small you always see the Transamerica Pyramid no matter where you live? I doubt it. This sounds similar to how bad American films set in England incorrectly believe you can always see Big Ben in the background no matter where you are in the country.

The movie has laugh-out-loud quotable dialogue; several lines would make great t-shirt slogans, all of it unintentionally funny, for example: "Oh, hi, Mark/Lisa/Denny/Whomever" said EVERY TIME Johnny sees someone and "Lisa, you are tearing me apart!" Of course, since the movie has garnered a measure of attention and success, Wiseau states it was all done this way on purpose. (I'd love to see a lie-detector go up in flames when he says that. FFWHOOSH!)

Wiseau was the director but someone else was behind the camera (to call him a director of photography is an insult to DPs everywhere). Apparently neither of them has ever seen a movie in the over 100 year history of cinema because not one scene was ever shot correctly. Film has a language; a basic film language is “master shot, close up, two shot, over the shoulder, wide angle, pan, tracking, etc.” The film language in The Room is, “ewajjfd, sdkfjadjp, eoijoaj, sdrjlll, ncvndkj (uitoeuroi), oweoapoiueronos, ip dn.”

The Room is not a movie, it is an experience. A good kind of cinematic whiplash. NEVER watch it alone, but only with like-minded friends. Watch The Room for all the right reasons: you want to play Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Home Version.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Star Trek is (C) 2009 and a (R) trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencaps from

Theater of the Mind

Dollhouse – “Stop-Loss” and “The Attic”

The final few episodes of the season are hurtling along to the series finale. With “Stop-Loss” Victor’s contract with the Dollhouse has reached its end; he is given back his true personality, ex-soldier Anthony, and released to civilian life. But as he is slowly adjusting to his new/old life he is kidnapped by a shadowy military unit. Echo imprints Sierra with her original personality of Priya and together they race to save Victor/Anthony, while Ms. DeWitt drowns her continuing and compounding sorrows with alcohol.

In “The Attic,” Echo, Priya/Sierra and Anthony/Victor are sent to that most feared of places in the Dollhouse; the place from which no one ever returns: the Attic. Echo finds Mr. Dominic who had been sent to the Attic in season one. Echo with the help of Mr. Dominic locates Priya and Anthony and discovers the ultimate end to the Rossum technology from a surprising source.

Another satisfying pair of episodes with solid performances from all the regulars, including Eliza Dushku who seems to have tapped a reserve of some kind. Compare her performances throughout season one with these last few episodes and you will notice a significant change for the better. She’s definitely “brought it.”

Victor’s story with the Borg-like solider hive-mind was the weaker of the two episodes. They introduce this idea of linked soldiers, each one seeing all that the others see and they rush through it. I’d like to have seen more of Sierra’s reactions to living in the Dollhouse without Victor. Dichen Lachman’s work in prior episodes has been very compelling and subtle, and I wished they’d been able to spend more time with this area of the story. But they’re plotting toward a definite end and have to fill in the gaps and reveal secrets, so some things have to fall by the way side.

“The Attic,” smartly written by Maurissa Tanchareon and Jed Whedon, threw a spin on the “humans hooked into a computer story” by positing that the human brain is capable of greater computing power than the biggest supercomputer, so by linking hundreds of Attic denizens in all the Dollhouses worldwide, Rossum has a supercomputer beyond compare. (Unless Rossum has a corporate rival that is up to similar illegal/immoral hijinks - there is always a “number two” who is trying harder.)

I liked how Dollhouse was able to blend elements of sci-fi ideas from familiar sources - the Borg’s hive mind, The Matrix’s humans linked into a VR world, The Cell’s nightmare dreamscapes – and make them their own.

It’s astonishing to think that this is the same series that in season one had what I call the Charlie’s Angels episode, where Echo went undercover as a backup singer to protect a pop diva who received a death threat. The plotting, ideas and acting on display now are light-years ahead of that clunker.

Speaking of “astonishing” I’d like to give special mention to first time director John Cassady who helmed “The Attic.” For those of you who aren’t comic book fans, Cassaday is one of the “next generation” of comic book artists, famed for his realism, sense of detail and scope, who teamed with none other than Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon on a celebrated run of X-Men stories. Cassaday’s comics often flowed like movies and it’s nice to see his talents can translate to the small screen as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Klingon Honor Roll

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “A Matter of Honor”

Just a few short episodes ago we were treated to utter disappointing stories like “Loud as a Whisper” and “The Outrageous Okona,” but the show hit a solid home run with this tale where Cmdr. Riker participates in an Officer Exchange Program and serves as first officer aboard a Klingon vessel, a first for a human. And the B-Story wasn’t a lame “Data tries yoga/pudding/painting his toenails to be more human” bit, but followed an inexperienced alien exchange officer on board the Enterprise. In other words, the A and B stories had themes that overlapped!

Jonathan Frakes’ Riker really came into his own here. Riker was often stiff in the first season but Frakes found his stride here (compare his work here with 1st season’s goofy "Angel One"). Worf gives Riker some tips before he beams over in a nice show of comraderie and male bonding. Plus Worf shows he’s on his game as Chief Security Officer when he gives Riker a special locator device that he can activate in case of emergency. (This is something the captain should have on his person at all times, but of course that would cut down on the dramatic factor whenever he was abducted or captured.)

The Klingons of the ship Pagh are some of the better ones featured during the TNG era. They often went overboard with all the general rowdiness of the Klingons in future portrayals, but here they have a nice balance of smarts and kick-shit-over attitude, thanks in large part to actors Brian Thompson (who has appeared in several ST episodes) as Klag the first officer and Peter Parros as the tactical officer. The scene of them teasing Riker in their mess hall was fun, especially when they asked him if he wanted something softer or easier to eat instead of all the live wriggling Klingon chow, and Klag suggests breast milk. Also, when a couple of female Klingons express an “interest” in the human Riker, the men ask if he could “endure” them and Riker quickly replies, “One…or both?” getting huge props from the Klingons.

I thought that Klingon Capt. Kargan (Charles Collins) was a bit of a weak spot. The actor sounded like he was putting on a cartoon voice to match his makeup instead of simply acting in his normal voice, like Brian Thompson does.

The B-Story follows the catfish-like Benzite alien Ensign Mendon (John Putch) as he tries to impress Picard and the crew during his officer exchange tenure. I liked that his people follow a different protocol than our Starfleet folks (you mean EVERYONE doesn't do it the way we do?)), and that difference initially causes some friction, especially between Mendon and his immediate supervisor, Worf.

One aspect of the story that was a bit hard to swallow was Kargan’s rationale for wanting to attack the Enterprise after they found the hull-eating bacteria on the Pagh. Both Riker and Klag bring up that it makes no sense for the Enterprise to infect their ship in order to destroy it when Riker is aboard. Here's a way to give Kargan a better reason to attack: in the mess hall scene, during a discussion of Klingon honor, Klag tells Riker he is estranged from his father because his father was once captured by Romulans and then escaped, instead of dying in battle which is the Klingon ideal. Perhaps if this story concerned Capt. Kargan’s father instead, it would explain his wanting to engage the Enterprise in battle, hoping to lead him to the honorable death his father can never receive. A simple change of dialogue could have seriously justified Kargan’s actions.

This episode has a great little moment that slips by a lot of people. When Kargan takes Riker’s locator, he is quickly beamed onto the Enterprise bridge. Kargan, thinking treachery is afoot, wheels around drawing his weapon intending to shoot Picard. As he turns Worf draws a small phaser (the "cricket" returns) and shoots Kargan, while Data simultaneously steps in front of Picard to shield him from harm. Data stepping in front of Picard was such a correct thing to do: this is like a Secret Service agent shielding the President from an assassin’s bullet. I liked the fact they didn’t overly draw attention to it, which just makes it even cooler.

This episode was written by Burton Armus, Wanda Haight and Gregory Amos and directed by Rob Bowman. Awesome job, people!

Star Trek: TNG is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencaps from

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lord Flashheart where are you?

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “The Outrageous Okona”

Han Solo comes aboard the Enterprise when his hunk of junk needs some repairs. Meanwhile, the Hatfields and the ‘Coys threaten to blow up the Enterprise real good unless Picard accedes to their wishes. And for no good reason, Data tries to be a stand up comic.

Another numbskull second season episode.

Let’s look at that title: “The Outrageous Okona.” The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “outrageous” as, 1 a : exceeding the limits of what is usual b : not conventional or matter-of-fact : fantastic 2 : violent, unrestrained.

Do any of these define the flaccid portrayal of Okona (William O. Campbell)? He’s not a bad boy or a jock. He’s not a biker type. He’s just a good looking, clean cut young man (okay, he needs a shave, but he's still "clean cut"). Nothing Okona, does is particularly "outrageous." Yes, he makes a questionable space living, but he's not overbearing. Yes, he bangs half the Enterprise’s female staff, but he's got no swagger. When I think of outrageous I think of Black Adder’s Lord Flashheart (“She’s got a tongue like an electric eel, and she likes the taste of a man’s tonsils!”).

I know they were hoping for more of a rugged Harrison Ford/Han Solo-type (Okona is a space pirate), but Campbell simply isn't it. He'd make a great adult Wesley Crusher. It’s not Campbell’s fault, it’s the producers and the casting people. (Just a couple years later this same actor, as Bill Campbell, would play the clean cut Cliff Secord in The Rocketeer, one of the best fantasy action films of all time. He was perfectly cast there.)

This episode had a complete non-story. None of the Enterprise regulars was involved in any way, other than to move the plot along. You’d think that they would have at least developed an Okona/Troi romance to give the story some sort of reason for being, but all the women Okona was involved with were guest stars/extras.

The two sparring planets/families of course have a dispute with Okona – one family accuses him of getting their daughter pregnant, the other of stealing the literal family jewels. To make matters worse, for once the Enterprise is absolutely and unequivocally superior to both planets’ ships and tech. They have NOTHING to worry about, but Picard plays peacemaker anyway. He should have charged them a fee for his family counseling services (isn’t that Troi’s department anyway).

This was like a goofy new Outer Limits episode that was adapted for TNG, but they forgot to somehow, I dunno, INVOLVE THE ENTERPRISE REGULARS IN WHAT WAS GOING ON.


There’s a silly moment when Worf finds Okona in some crewchick’s quarters and Okona gives him the “s’up?” look, aka, “Do you wanna throw down?” And Worf is all, “I’d like that but Capt. Picard wants to talk with you, which would be hard for you to do if I shove my fist through your head.” This was a serious non-moment; it was comparable to Joel McHale threatening The Rock.

But the weirdest moment was when Okona and Wesley Crusher meet in the transporter. Okona mistakes Wesley for Data and from that moment on Wesley is like a school girl, all smiling and giggly at Okona. Look out, someone’s got a boy-crush (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

To add insult to all this injury, the B-story is Data trying to understand humor by going onto the holodeck and taking lessons from a mulleted Joe Piscopo. READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN. It’s silly, Data of course doesn’t “get” humor and it all leads to a Henny Youngman-type joke at the end.

Crap, but this was a terrible episode in every way, shape and form (except for seeing Teri Hatcher in spandex).

Star Trek: TNG is Copyright 2009 & a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. Bugs Bunny is Copyright 2009 and a Trademark of Warner Bros. No infringement of those rights is intended.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sign of the times

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Loud as a Whisper”

The Enterprise transports Riva, a renowned peace negotiator, to settle a dispute that has been raging for years on a remote planet. When Riva loses his ability to communicate, the mission is put in jeopardy.

What’s the sign language gesture for “stinker?”

First of all, is the Enterprise just a fancy space limo? In the first three seasons of TNG alone it is made to ferry peace negotiators or ambassadors eight times. EIGHT times! This is a Galaxy-class starship; the flagship of the Federation. Shouldn’t it be more than just an interstellar Lear jet for fat cats?

Anyway, Riva is a genetically deaf a-hole, with a “chorus” of three who are connected to him telepathically and who speak for him: a woman who is the heart, an older dude with a beret who is the scholar, and a beefy dude with a mullet who is the penis, I mean, warrior (yeah, he’s the penis). The actor who plays Riva, Howie Seago, is deaf, but I’m not going to pull any punches just because he may be handicapped. All he does for most of the role is look like a pompus jerk, glaring at Troi and slightly tilting his head this way and that as his chorus speaks for him. Not a whole lot of acting going on there. He’s got a huge head of reddish brown hair and a full beard; together with his beady eyes he looks like a Muppet of some sort.

Riva is so full of himself he blows off Picard and company’s briefing as unimportant. “It’s always about land or property” he says, so he doesn’t need to know any further details. The only details Riva cares about is what color underwear Counselor Troi is wearing. The gang beams down to the warring planet and Riva’s chorus is quickly phasered into oblivion by a distrusting and trigger happy alien, leaving the Master Mediator with his ass hanging in the breeze. Riva becomes frustrated at his inability to communicate, and Picard does something that is totally cringe-worthy: he grabs Riva by the head and, inches from his face, shouts, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” Picard shouts to a deaf man. Nice.

Then everyone remembers Data is a machine that can learn things quickly (duh), so he learns sign language and acts as translator for Riva. Riva is all whiney about losing his chorus. Picard asks him what his secret was in successful negotiations and Riva gives him this Buddhist Yoda-ism: “By turning disadvantage into advantage.” Troi slaps him back to reality by repeating those very words to him. Riva then sees the error of his ways. And THIS is a skilled, intelligent peace negotiator? It never occurred to him to turn his disadvantage into an advantage? How did he survive negotiating the Klingon treaties? How the fuck does he survive getting out of bed in the morning?

Seago really only gets to act for a few brief scenes before the episode ends, so you don’t get a sense of his true range. They spent far too much time with his chorus (I think they all just fell in love with the idea of four people walking around representing one person), and the silly scenes where Riva puts the moves on Troi. The latter is especially egregious because she never reciprocated his feelings/lust and it didn’t impact the story at all – it was the worst kind of filler.

Early in the episode they mention Riva as this great and revered negotiator who also helped in talks between the Federation and the Klingons – this guy has been at it a long time. Then we see Howie Seago, who was no more than 30 years old when this was shot, so Riva must have started out as a nine year old negotiator (what is he, Marjoe Gortner?). Between all the producers, writers and others who read this script NOBODY caught this? And why does EVERY negotiator they bring onboard have to be someone revered or exalted. How about a newbie, or someone who is just doing a friggin’ job (like 99% of us)? This is as bad as the much overused chestnut, “So and So’s exploits were required reading at the Academy.”

The warring aliens look and act like monkeys that have been run over more than a few times, the pathetic schlubs. Poor make up and costuming here (along with poor writing and directing). Riva and his chorus look like they were outfitted at the 24th century JC Penney Spring sale, with all the glaring white they are wearing. And that stupid beret on the scholar chorus member is perhaps the worst costuming decision of the entire series (and this includes the Kazon). A beret, I mean, come on!

This was a second season episode, when there was still a lot of turmoil in the writer’s room (they should have installed a revolving door). Perhaps that explains why it went so wrong on so many levels.

Star Trek: TNG is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. Garfield is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of Paws, Inc. No infringement of those rights in intended. Screencaps from

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Looking for clues

Angels & Demons (2009)

Ace symbologist Robert Langdon and his magnifying glass are back! There’s anti-matter loose in Vatican City and it’s up to Langdon and his sidekick, ace CERN physicist and science hottie Vittoria Vetra, to find and diffuse it before there’s a very, very big crater in the Pope’s living room. Oh, and btw, it looks like the Illuminati, centuries old foes of the Catholic Church and thought long vanquished, are responsabile.

Based on the titular novel that was published before The DaVinci Code, but in the movie apparently taking place after Code’s events, the Pope has died (or was he...murdered) and a successor has yet to be chosen. It is during this tense time for the world’s one billion Catholics that the Illuminati strike, stealing the anti-matter from CERN (note to scientific installations studying ridiculously dangerous substances: hire someone other than Paul Blart: Mall Cop to keep an eye on things). Langdon (Big Tom Hanks, collecting a HUGE paycheck again) is asked by the Vatican for his assistance in figuring out, well, stuff - words that are written so they can be read the same backwards and forward, secret codes and watermarks, that kinda thing.

The big bads also have kidnapped the preferiti, the four Cardinals most likely to be elected to the Papacy. Busy little beavers, ain’t they? They’re going to kill one preferiti every hour starting at 8pm. When they’re done with whacking old dudes in robes, they will blow up the anti-matter, and that's the kind of thing that always caused Star Trek’s Scotty to crap his pants.

Langdon has to drag the Swiss Guard all over Vatican City as he deciphers the clues and they try to stop the killings. (Note to the Swiss Guard: the “traditional dress” that some of you wear makes you look like Renaissance Fair rejects. Really--stripes and puffy sleeves are out. Just FYI.)

I don’t know how the novel reads but the movie plays like a sweeps episode of 24 mixed with a Catechism class, with that Freemason-type Illuminati bullstuff thrown in for spice. I enjoyed it as a sort of brainy thrill ride (it’s a good thing the action takes place over several hours one night and not over many days, which adds to the tension). Hanks is always good and he brings real humanity to Langdon. A major plus for the movie is the mixture of familiar faces such as Ewan MacGregor (the Camerlengo) and Stellan Skarsgaard (Cmdr. Richter) with little knowns (at least to U.S. auds) such as Ayelet Zurer (Vittoria) and Thure Lindhardt as Chartrand, the Swiss Guard who keeps a weary eye on Langdon as he peers through the sacred Vatican archives.

Unlike The DaVinci Code, which made the Catholic Church out to be the bad guys and attracted the ire - and simultaneous fascination - of Catholics worldwide, Angels & Demons makes the Catholic Church hierarchy the victims, so there were no calls for protests and boycotts this time around. And Hanks' Langdon is more of an agnostic with a reverence for at least the cultural, if not spiritual, history behind the Church.

This is a fun movie to watch once, but it pretty much vaporizes (like a secret message) from your consciousness once you shut off the DVD player.

Friday, December 18, 2009

OBEY! OBEY! Snow go away!

I found this crafty pic on, which was re-posted from astronomer Phil Plait's Flickr page. Mr. Plait is of course the writer of the awesome science and astronomy blog, Bad Astronomy.

You sort of expected the plunger, but what really gets me is the SHOT GLASSES as the knob-things on the Dalek's head! Genius!

photo: Copyright 2009 Phil Plait. No rights infringement is implied with this post.

X-School is in session

Director/writer Bryan Singer is returning to the X-Mansion with X-Men First Class, according to this DarkHorizons post. It's a look back at young Charles Xavier and his ally Eric Lensherr who start an exclusive school for mutant children.

I'm not jumping up and down with excitement over this. Singer passed up X-Men 3: The Last Stand for Superman Returns, resulting in TWO merely so-so movies in the process. Yes, Brett Ratner did a better job than most everyone thought he would do on X3, but that's damning the movie with faint praise. And the less said about the hugely disappointing Superman Returns, the better. Then there's Singer's Valkyrie which was good, but not great, and his X2: X-Men United was a GREAT superhero film.

So the director has some catching up to do, and some mending of filmic fences. He can do it, but he really needs to hit this one out of the park (or the cornfield for Superman fans).

But how is he going to fight off the studio execs who you KNOW will be trying to push Wolverine into this project: "We know he wasn't there at the start of the school, but he's the most popular X-Man, so find a way to put him in there!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Phantom Menace taken to task

People, you have GOT to watch this video critique of Episode I: The Phantom Menace on! The reviewer is Mike from RedLetterMedia in Wisconsin (his YouTube channel also skewers the Star Trek: TNG movies in a similar manner).

It's not the usual fanboy "George Lucas raped my childhood" baloney, but a very astute look at what is so wrong, wrong, wrong with this movie (and by extension, the rest of the Prequel Trilogy).

And to top it off, it is very funny. It's like Zach Galifiankis and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs ("it puts the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose") were spliced together.

It's in seven segments of ten minutes each. So watch a little here, a little there, but WATCH IT YOU MUST!

Every filmmaker who wants to make a fantasy film, be it space opera or superheroes or toys to movies needs to watch this and TAKE NOTES.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy 1st Anniversary!

It was one year ago today that Bad News From Outer Space started broadcasting its own special brand of insanity to the 'Verse with this post.

Thanks to all who have read and commented on this blog for the past year.

We'll try to keep our freak flag flying...even though there is no air in space.

And now a word from BNFOS's Editor in Chief/Senior Reptile in Residence:

Star Trek (C) 2009 and a (R) trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. Screencap from