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Posts tagged as “Sith Park”

Star Trek – (Not Really A) Spoiler Review

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If you can't think of anything nice to say---

No, seriously, Star Trek was very entertaining, with some extremely strong performances, great cameos, lots of eye candy and a surprisingly good motivation for the reboot which makes J.J. Abrams's changes to the traditional Star Trek storyline actually pretty logical. Beyond that, the retold story of how the Star Trek crew met gives their relationships unexpected heft, depth and even tenderness.

Neither fanboys nor fans of movies should be disappointed in this rejuvenation of the traditional Star Trek franchise, and I heartily recommend that you all see it.

So, go see it, and when you come back we can talk about what I did and didn't like about the reboot.

No, seriously, go see it. I'll still be here when you get back. Go.

-the Centaur

-o-\_== @ warp factor 100

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While it lasts ... Star Trek 11 has a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes:

(Picture used under fair use thingy, all rights reserved Paramount and Rotten Tomatoes, yada yada.) I'm sure this will drop once a broader selection of reviewers tackles it, but here's hoping.

-the Centaur
P.S. I'm officially in my blackout period for Star Trek, so don't tell me anything else, I already know too damn much, unless they move the opening to May 7 at 7pm or something.

I want to say something snarky about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…

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... but I'm not.  I really respect what Messrs. Ford, Spielberg and Lucas pulled off and I really enjoyed it, so I shouldn't say anything bad.  And as a couple of friends pointed out, they worked hard to make the movie accurate: they used the 48-star flag as was flying over America at the time of the movie; they used period-appropriate villains (Communists) and monsters (aliens) and I've even heard that they used shots more typical of a 50's B-movie.


A friend who hates a lot of modern movies described the 48-star flag bit as "the only good thing in the film, if it can be called that."  A lot of us made fun of him saying, of course he'll hate the movie ... but when The Last Crusade came out, he hated that movie right away, whereas I was lulled into enjoying it for at least 15 minutes - and that movie has aged very badly (more like milk than cheese, no offense to Messrs. Ford, Spielberg and Lucas).

On some fundamental level, I can take Raiders of the Lost Ark seriously ... and the rest of the movies, I can't.  And I don't think it's just "saw it when I was young" or any such nonsense ... I will argue that the on-call troupe of swinging monkeys that appear in Crystal Skull are somehow goofier than anything that showed up in Raiders, and that cheapened the movie without aiding it.   In fact Crystal Skull has oodles of the same X-marks-the-spot goofiness that makes Last Crusade so embarrassing to watch.

But at least it was a *pretty* movie and was nowhere near as astonishingly gawdawfully craptacular as the Temple of Dumb. And I had a lot of fun, and there are scenes in it which I will probably remember for the rest of my life, particularly the "this is how they should have done it in the Mummy Returns" ending.

But, I recall the snark I made before seeing Kingdom: "Wouldn't it be nice if they made another Indiana Jones movie? Cause they haven't made one yet." At this point, I tend to think, yes, at this point they have now indeed made a second Indiana Jones movie, and I'm glad. Maybe 15 minutes from now, I will go over to my buddy's side and think they still haven't.

Or maybe not. After all, I'm the guy who saw Phantom Menace 10 times in the theater, so what do I know from bad?
-the Centaur

Serenity Crashing to Earth

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Well, Serenity has lost half its take:

Serenity rustled up $5.4 million in its second weekend for a 10-day tally of $18 million. The $39 million space western's 47 percent drop was precipitous but solid for the genre—such similar pictures as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and The Chronicles of Riddick each had greater falls. However, they were generating much more business, and, at its current pace, Serenity is aiming for a final haul of around $28 million.

Did none of the (other) browncoats wish to see it more than once?

The Lesson of Serenity Valley: You CAN Stop the Signal

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Well, Browncoats, time to admit it: we've lost another battle.

Despite a huge grassroots marketing campaign, in which I and every other rabid fan donned our browncoats and begged, borrowed and cajoled all our friends into the theaters to see Serenity, Joss Whedon's attempt to resurrect his failed TV series Firefly, it nonetheless got off to a dismal start, earning just over ten million dollars in its first weekend of release. Universal Studios, to their credit, claims not to be disappointed: "The fan base turned out ... over $10 million is a lot of business for a niche appeal picture, and I think the ancilliary will be spectacular." But honest fans know better: Serenity failed to change the course of last week's critically panned Flightplan as it led box-office receipts back to the slump after September's hopeful rise.

Now, I don't know the future; it's certainly possible that Serenity could become a sleeper hit, make back its money, and convince Universal Studios to give it its fan-desired and possibly-deserved sequel. But I have to face the facts: Serenity didn't break a record. It didn't break number one. In fact, it didn't even really help the box office, which went into a slump. And all I keep hearing ringing in my ears is something I never heard spoken aloud: a snark from a reviewer of Serenity, mystified by the reception the fans gave the movie:

Suffering through, I mean watching SERENITY is like starting at the 84th episode of a convoluted and silly sci-fi soap opera. Sure, fans of Joss Whedon's cancelled TV show "Firefly," upon which this movie is based, are certain to love it. Our packed audience of rabid fans burst into thunderous applause when the words "Feature Presentation" came on the screen. Various characters from the series got similar but smaller accolades. As a non-fan, it made me appreciate the wisdom of TV executives who aborted the show.

Emphasis mine.

So, time to hang up the Browncoat, review the losses of the war, and rethink things. Clearly, science fiction and fantasy can survive on screen. Star Trek, Doctor Who and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were all resurrected. Despite everything working against it, Babylon 5 survived, spawned a sequel, and several TV movies. Even children's books like Harry Potter made it to the screen, in increasingly successful segments. How, how do they do it? I don't pretend to know. All I do know is that it's possible for an indie filmmaker to graduate from ultra-low-budget fare like Evil Dead and Bad Taste to films like the record-setting Spiderman (Sam Raimi) and the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson).

And that it's possible for indie filmmaker George Lucas to go on from American Graffiti and THX-1138 to create the beloved classic Star Wars, a saga that will be told and retold a long, long time from now in galaxies far, far away.

Who's your master now, Joss?

-the Centaur
P.S. Remember, while you're falling into that airshaft, that loss of a hand is only temporary: all you need to do is invest in a new sharp black wardrobe and rebuild your lightsaber and you can not only get back in the game, but ultimately win (though your chances of redeeming Lucas are dubious). In the meantime, your friends will be waiting for you on the sanctuary moon, standing in line for your next picture with a Browncoat on over our Wookie suits.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is Redeemed

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Ok. Sith made 50 million in its first day, and by now almost 1 in 10 Americans have seen it, so we can proceed without spoiling anything for anyone:

At last, Obi-Wan Kenobi gets to kick ass.

For almost the entire Star Wars saga, Obi-Wan gets pantsed by everyone he encounters. Sure, he lops off arms in bar-room brawls, bats blaster ricochets into legions of droids, and even kills Darth Maul, but outside that, put him toe-to-toe with a Jedi or trained bounty hunter and he falls to pieces. In the Phantom Menace, he's basically a young punk who can't even keep his lightsaber charged - Qui-Gon carries him through the whole movie until whacked by Maul, which apparently energizes the young Kenobi enough for him to pull his weight. But by Attack of the Clones Obi-Wan had devolved into a pompous, dismissive arrogant twat that Anakin carried through the whole movie.

Now, don't get me wrong - I thought it was stone cold of him to leap through that window onto a fleeing assassin droid to try to track it back to its master, and thought he held his own pretty good against Jango Fett while being fired on by an entire starship. But one of my good buddies put it best: in the end, he loses just about every fight. The bounty hunter picks him off at a quarter mile, after which he's rescued by Anakin. Then baby-faced Boba Fett gives him the Slave II smackdown. Finally he gets schooled by Count Dracula - excuse me, Dooko - only to get saved by, yes, you guessed it, Anakin - who in Attack of the Clones can't pull his weight either, requiring a Muppet-ex-machina save by Master Kermit - excuse me, Yoda - and his newly energized CGI powers.

Now, Sith starts off the same way. While he does well against legions of the can't-shoot-straight stork droids, Obi-Wan still can't fly, gets re-schooled by Dooku and then literally carried out by Anakin. But almost immediately he starts showing signs of maturity. He credits Anakin for his hard work and derring-do, rather than smacking him down, tries to help him cope with the Jedi council's duplicitous ways, and ultimately flat-out tells Anakin how much he admires him before hurling himself into the forefront of the war.

Where. He. Kicks. Ass.

Unlike the reckless Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan is shown to think carefully about his moves, even the boldest of them: leaping straight down into an enemy army to call out Grievous. For the entire rest of the movie, Obi-Wan out-fights, out-thinks and out-plans all of his foes, smacking down Grevious' troops, slicing up Grevious himself, and even outwitting his own clone troopers when they turn on him. In the final climactic battle with the newly minted Darth Vader, Obi-Wan excellently plays above his weight, staying toe-to-toe with someone More Powerful Than Any Jedi while at the same time constantly manipulating the battlefield to his advantage. Like Darth Maul luring Qui-Gon before him, it's Obi-Wan that lures Anakin out onto catwalks and platforms where his sheer power can no longer help him; it's Obi-Wan that keeps an eye out for lava around them, and it's Obi-Wan who maneuvers himself out of danger, always with an eye for Anakin's sword as he's doing so. In contrast, Anakin whacks away at Obi-Wan like he's trying to cut down a tree, and is constantly suprised when he finds himself dodging lava or trying to escape from a sinking platform while Obi-Wan is waving at him from the high ground.

At first I was disappointed that Obi-Wan had to use the terrain to defeat Anakin - as the same friend said earlier, the cool thing about the fight between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul is that Maul didn't throw sand in his eyes or make him slip on a banana peel: Qui-Gon just got beat by a superior opponent. But upon reflection, that's the point. Obi-Wan saw how Qui-Gon went down, and knew how he took Darth Maul out with Maul standing on the same high ground he now held over Anakin. He had experience. He distilled it into wisdom. And when Anakin came a-chopping, Obi-Wan held him, thought him off, and struck him down.

Anakin never really had a chance. When he intoned, "This is the end for you, my master," and leapt over Obi-Wan onto the platform, Obi-Wan could easily have nailed him in the back. Then when he landed, he stumbles, and Obi-Wan actually waited for him to get his footing and to bring the battle back to him, rather than press the advantage.

In reality, Obi-Wan was stringing him along - because he couldn't bear to kill hisfriend. But in the end, he did what needed to be done.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my hero.
And you kick ass.

-the Centaur

And The Force Struck Me Like a Physical Blow

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I saw Sith at midnight on Thursday, and while I decided to wait to comment on the *content* of the movie to avoid spoiling it for anyone, I find I cannot remain silent about the *effect* it had on me.

I enjoyed Sith, recognizing both strengths and weaknesses. Some moments we'd waited twenty years for: other, unexpected moments gave the original trilogy new resonance. But the real effect came the next day. My whole body felt like I had taken a physical blow. I was tremulous, hearing lightsabers and blasters echo through my head. Minor comments by characters stayed with me again and again, and my senses were finely tuned towards commentary by others around me who had seen it. Now, a day and a half later, I still hear the sabers clashing.

In short: George Lucas's patented sensory overload worked. The force was strong with this one.

The Day “Star Wars” Beat “Star Trek”

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Now, at last, after decades, we know the truth:

Obi Wan Kenobi can kick Captain Kirk's ass.

Speaking as a long-time Star Trek fan, the evidence is unavoidable. After almost 2 continuous decades on the airwaves, Star Trek finally bowed out last Friday with the season finale of Enterprise. And tonight, after almost three decades, a rejuvenated Star Wars brings its *latest* trilogy to a close with a flourish, just as new TV series, games and countless comics spring to life.

It's not that Star Trek and Star Wars were ever *really* in competition. As I see it, Star Trek laid the groundwork for the particular brand of space fantasy that George Lucas later capitalized on and perfected in his myth-making Star Wars franchise, just as Star Trek rejuvenated itself with a movie franchise after Star Wars changed the rules for movie blockbusters ... and just as the current Star Wars TV show owes its roots to a renaissance of science fiction television that began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. But this give-and-take, while it made the careers of new science-fiction auteurs like Whedon and Strazynski possible, cannot sustain itself forever; and now, Star Trek has petered out.

Not that I don't expect Star Trek to be reborn eventually. Doctor Who was resurrected, after all, as was Hitchhiker's, Lord of the Rings and even Star Wars itself (not to mention Batman, Superman and a host of older properties ... even House of Wax is a remake of a remake). But I think it will take some time for Trek to find its way again. Why?

Certainly NOT for the reasons that the fanboys will pop forth with on their latest self-serving conspiracy theory sites and blogs:

"They violated too much continuity" --- oh, grow up. Star Trek has been self-INconsistent since the first handful of episodes and that's not going to change now. The writers are telling stories, the best they can, and care about the continuity a hell of a lot more than you do --- after all, they made the career decisions that made it possible for them to be writers on Star Trek, and you're still stuck in your parent's basements.

"They had too much time travel" --- oh, shut up. Time travel has been one of the strongest elements of the new Star Trek over its last twenty years and if you're complaining about it, you obviously haven't been watching it, at least not as a fan. And if you were watching it not as a fan --- that is, watching in the hope it would fail --- then just shut the fuck up.

"Rick Berman is the spawn of Satan" --- well, maybe you have a point. I've heard some pretty bad stories about Mr. Berman from people who would know. But every artistic and technical success that I can think of off the top of my head had some quirky overbearing figure at the top --- The Macintosh's Steve Jobs, Star Wars' George Lucas, Titanic's James Cameron --- who makes bad decisions from time to time, but makes up for it with his incredible vision of what's possible to be achieved and his skill at pulling it off.

In the end what the fans think they like --- like continuity between episodes, as was tried with the Klingon arcs of the Next Generation and in the 3rd season of Enterprise --- end up repelling viewers. I think the real problem with Star Trek is purely pragmatic --- they did it too long, too consistently without enough of a break to rejuvenate themselves.

Say what you want about Lucas, but he works his ass off to make each and every Star Wars movie and learns after each one. Star Trek, in contrast, seems to have been caught on the endless network treadmill. It was on the wrong network in the wrong time slot with too much competition. It's blunders were big ones --- a controversial theme song, a captain miscast (or an actor misused) --- and when it changed, it changed too slowly. The third and fourth seasons of Enterprise were some of the strongest Trek since the final few seasons of Deep Space Nine, but by then the audience was draining, the show moved to a bad timeslot.

It's the curse of science fiction television: for a show to get really good, it has to have a free hand to maintain an audience. Farscape worked not just because it worked, but also because the Sci Fi Channel could fire-hose fans with entire seasons over a weekend (where I got hooked) rather than squeezed in one night a week. Stargate worked because it could find its legs on Showtime, rather than die in the network shuffle. And Firefly worked, even though it got shuffled off the network coil, primarily because the DVD was cheap enough for fans to buy it and spread the word by word of mouth, rather than try to choke down the ridiculous hundred-buck bricks you see for other series. And somehow I think the straitjacket of network TV had to have a chilling effect on the creators of Trek that perhaps made them a little too slow on the draw to make the dramatic choices they ultimately did ... too late.

So, Trek will return. But let's hope that when it does return, it returns to a place that lets it have the flexibility it needs to make it a success.

Until then, there's always Star Wars --- coming soon 8pm Eastern, 9 Central.

Take a walk on the Darth Side

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Hey! Vader's got a blog! Some highlights:

Have I mentioned before that I am surrounded by idiots? Let me cut to chase and just tell you up front: the rebels got away. All of them ... My elite squadron of StarDestroyers proved itself utterly incapable of a securing a single unescorted freighter travelling less than the speed of light.

I mean, come on. I've seen drills that were more challenging.

...You try to be an effective manager, you weed out the bad apples like the late Admiral Ozzel -- only to find that an insidious culture of incompetence has somehow transformed your deadly pan-galactic armada into a fleet of spaceballs...

Do you want to know what the worst part is? My left leg is still on the fritz. Whose trachea do you have to crush with your mind to get a little service around here?

I can only say BWAH HA HA HAAAA! Oh. Ha. Whew ... where's my spleen?

-the Centaur

Perhaps I was too hasty…

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... for others who just saw "Drek Captain and the World of Stupidity" questioned whether I was seeing the same movie they were. I can't answer that; all I can say is that what I was watching was the moment visual style finally vanquished intellectual substance. Perhaps I was too hasty. Certainly the movie was visually imaginative.

But I guess after September 11 I want a little realism in my escapism: I think wonderful tales told of heroes who save the day for all the little people who can only sit back and do nothing end up with the little people who did nothing ending up dead.

Because there are no heroes.
If you want to save the world, stand up and do it yourself.

Resident Evil 2: Aqualitylapse

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I and my old high school buddy William just came back from seeing "Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse".

And while there were many things I enjoyed about the movie, and even think it had the skeleton of an interesting plot, both William and I had the same reaction.

Simultaneously, we *tried* to excuse its suckitude by dissing it as a "B" movie, but immediately realized it was at best a "C" movie.

"Aliens vs. Predator", how we miss thee.

The Alternate Phantom Menace

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Somewhere in an alternative universe, there is a version of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace starring Haley Joel Osment as Anakin and Robin Williams as Jar Jar.

And it rocks.

In that universe, George Lucas broke his hip just before filming began and handed the directorial task to his good friend Steven Spielberg. Busy with his own projects, Spielberg hired M. Night Shalayman to smooth out some problems in the script, and Shalayman in turn introduced Spielberg to Osment, starting a collaboration that would later continue in Spielberg's critically acclaimed movies Artificial Intelligence in 2001 and Harry Potter in 2003.

The real turning point in the production was the hiring of Robin Williams to replace Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks. Spielberg was reluctant to replace another of Lucas' chosen cast but after repeated attempts to tone down the character, Best's creative differences with Spielberg reached the breaking point and he quit the production. Almost simultaneously, Lucas suggested Williams to Spielberg for some role after seeing him perform at a charity fundraiser at Skywalker Ranch, and Williams heartily agreed.

The completed film was two and a half hours long and made over seven hundred million dollars in its domestic release. Lucas, Spielberg and Williams threw their marketing weight and star power behind the film, but it was Olsment's Oscar-winning portrayal of Anakin Skywalker that generated real audience buzz. Fleshing out a role already greatly expanded by Shalayman, Olsment brought quiet dignity and heartrending pain to the boy who would be Vader, and became the youngest winner of the Oscar for Best Actor.

While Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace would go on to win nine academy awards, the biggest upset of Oscar night was Robin Williams' shutout for his portrayal of Jar Jar Binks. Acting largely from an improvised script, Williams brought both gravity and humor to the role of the exiled Gungan warrior --- providing a much-needed element of comedy in Spielberg's often grave treatment of the fall of Naboo --- and later proved the perfect foil for Olsment's tortured Anakin in his moving death scene at the hands of Darth Maul. However, since the physical appearance of Williams' character was computer generated, he was technically shut out of the category of Best Supporting Actor, despite the extensive write-in campaign on the part of the Academy voters.

After recuperating, Lucas returned to the executive producer role on the Star Wars saga. Despite his injury, he had remained intimately involved with the production of the movie and was pleased with the final outcome, despite his initial resistance to changes made by Spielberg and Shalayman. Shalayman and Spielberg both attempted to bow out of the saga, reluctant to continue without the magic of Williams nor Olsment, who could not realistically return in later sequels. However, after intense personal lobbying Lucas convinced both Shalayman and Spielberg to return to the project, and work on the sequels began in earnest.

Episodes II and III are being filmed back to back in Tunisia and England as we speak. However, despite the critical buzz already being generated about the project and the remarkable collaboration of the three directors, there is little doubt that the Star Wars creative team will be hard pressed to top Jar Jar's poignant death scene in Anakin's arms. As Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn watched helplessly on, young Skywalker is first touched by death as Jar Jar utters words that echo later in the series:

"Remember, Ani. Inna Force, I be with you always."

-The Centaur
Renaissance Engineer