TV Reviews: Black Mirror – USS Callister

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Note: Some slight huge plot reveals below….

What would a show about an entertainment simulation be without Jimmi Simpson?

Or a show without our little Breaking Bad henchman, Jesse Plemons.

Or the mother of all mothers, Cristin Milioti.

In a spoof, of one of my favorite sci-fi shows of all time.

Beam me right up. I’m there with a big bucket of popcorn.

Black Mirror, already a bleak, technology-warning twilight zone, opens season 4 with the USS Callister. Jesse Plemons plays a programmer that is picked on in his personal life. We watch his daily routine and genuinely feel a little bad for him. But then, the show twists and turns, and in truly Black Mirror style, he is the villain. A laughable villain, really. Maybe a step up from the red haired kid in The Incredibles.

Shut up. This isn’t a Westworld-esque type reveal. It’s difficult to really talk about the show without going past the first ten minutes. The plot of the show is what happens when you get caught in another world. Do you live by the new set of rules? Do you rebel? Do you find other way?

Our hero, Cristin Milioti, is as sweet as can be. Even with the pictures and swim time, nothing changes. There is nothing really dark about her. There is no huge choice. She is simply making the obvious decision throughout.

The more nuanced performance comes from Jesse Plemons, playing a half nerd/half mirror-mirror Captain Kirk, where men can be men, and women are disposable. We like him, then hate him, then despise him, then feel sorry for him. No other character in the show goes through such an arc.

Professional reviews discuss male echo chambers, which, if you read from my Mindhunters review, I don’t really believe. People are all a reflection of their experiences, genetic predisposition, in a disorderly world full of chaos. Wannabe academics, aka present day tv critics, might have the pulse on culture, but sometimes go to far in trying to draw parallels to everyday society. Sometimes show are messed up because its meant to be.

This show is called Black Mirror for a reason.

Everyone has secrets. Everyone has dreams. They always have, and always will.

TV Show Rating: 9.5/10 Pizza Deliveries

Movie Reviews: Star Trek Beyond

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Star Trek Beyond directed by Justin Lin

I’m going to warn you here, this is a spoilerific rant of Star Trek Beyond. If you have not seen it after 7 weeks in the theater, well … it is your fault for reading this.

What would you get if you crossed Guardians of the Galaxy with Galaxy Quest? I argue that it churns out about 75% of what this film is. It is a gargantuan attempt at attempting to ratchet up the drama a little bit more all while missing the essence of Star Trek. Much like how Star Trek Into Darkness looks silly for the third act of Wrath of Khan switcheroo with Kirk going in the engine room instead of Spock (but leaving people in suspense for 3 seconds by bringing Kirk back immediately unlike the original cliffhanger), Star Trek Beyond takes this up a notch by copying Star Trek III’s pinnacle moment of blowing up and crashing the Enterprise, except, yes, they have to resurrect it at the very end.

So VFC.

Very.

Fucking.

Convient.

You know, don’t worry about this version of Star Trek. If someone dies, they will be brought back immediately. If the ship blows up, a new one will be built in the same movie. The original series is classic, especially II-IV because of the three movie story arc. Kirk commanded a damn bird of prey in Star Trek IV. There was no marketing department saying it would be better to land the Enterprise in San Francisco so lets give Kirk a new ship at the beginning.

Then, I don’t know about you, but in all my science fiction readings, never have I read some prophecy that the Beastie Boys would be the ones to save the galaxy. Are you kidding me? Did they really pull the plot of Ghostbusters 2 out of their ass?

Talk about batshit unbelievable, and not in a good way.

This is not the direction I thought the franchise would go after a successful reboot of the series that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was fresh and new despite being a bit tropey. We all figured a reboot using space time would work because that meant there would be a  real sense of danger since the future would be unknown.

Instead, the franchise is trying to compete with the demographics of Marvel’s audience and foreign box office receipts (and easy dubbing) instead of the traditional fan.

What is the result? Each movie is doing worse in the box office and we all know what happens when returns keep diminishing for a franchise.

Another reboot.

Paramount, if you need a writer, I’m your man.

 

Movie Reviews: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock directed by Spock

In hindsight, the simplest solution to bringing back Spock from the dead was always to give him what he wanted.

To direct his very own movie.

According to many people, Star Trek is afflicted with the “odd movie” curse. The motion picture was a complete bore (besides watching Kirk fly up to the retrofit Enterprise, I can’t watch the movie). Star Trek V was bombastic (giving Shatner the keys to the kingdom only to find out he didn’t have the magic touch). Star Trek Generations was a mess (to be covered in a future blog). Star Trek III was always thrown in as a weak, odd movie, when I believe it is a tremendous film when you break it down.

Nimoy knew heart of Star Trek was the characters and put it all on the line here, before blowing up the Enterprise became a lame trope.

Admiral Kirk, fresh off his encounter with Captain Ahab Khan, reuniting with his ex-flame and his long lost son, and losing his closest friend, Spock, returns the Enterprise to space dock. It sounds a little extreme, but I think the return to space dock sequence is moving on many different levels and can be read numerous different ways. Is Kirk coming home defeated, or is this an allegory for coming home from war? Are all those people standing up to watch the damaged Enterprise in awe of the space fight that must have transpired, or in awe that they know this is Admiral James T. Kirk’s ship and he is a total badass, or know that he just beat Khan, or are they paying final tribute to a final voyage of a ship. We then learn that Spock’s life force has been transfered into McCoy and a choice is made by Kirk.

Kirk is going to steal the Enterprise (before Nicholas Cage started stealing Cars, the Declaration of Independence and the President).

He is going rogue.

The crew makes a choice to commit mutiny and face whatever consequences, in order to search for Spock. Star Trek III is more of a caper than anything else. It is different and real and the emotional impact is there because you have a 25 year relationship built up with the audience. They want Spock back just as much as the crew does.

Then we have one of my favorite scenes in the movie; Mr.Scott sabotaging the Excelsior. I love the interplay between old and new, past and present, a theme heavily covered in Star Trek II. The search and rescue is tremendous, up to the inputing the codes to self destruct the Enterprise. Here, I actually feel something when they destroy it. There is a relationship between a man and his starship. When Star Trek Generations tried the same thing with Riker (a single bird of prey destroying it), it was lame. It didn’t play up to the theme of sacrifice and getting old and risking everything that Star Trek III did. None of the new movies quite live up to the swashbuckling nature of the old series. The movies stand apart from the TV series because the characters make bold choices that they hadn’t made before and are willing to pay the price for what they believe is right. Can you imagine watching this movie back then without knowing what was about to happen next? This is storytelling and imagination without worrying about the box office and action figures and ties ins.

Overall, the movie is a solid follow up to Star Trek II, and is a good middle section of the “great Star Trek trilogy.” It isn’t as good as the Wrath of Khan or the Undiscovered Country, but I could watch this more than any of the Next Generation films and especially INTO DARKNESS … ugh.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10

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Movie Reviews: Galaxy Quest

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Galaxy Quest directed by Dean Parisot

As a huge Star Trek fan, if you ask me what my 6th favorite Trek film is, I’ll say Galaxy Quest (which isn’t too far from a poll at the official Star Trek convention that put it in 7th).  It is a straight up parody that captures the essence of sci-fi fandom and the actors that have to play up to it as their stars fade. Looking at the cast, it is a case of one of those perfect storms of casting. Tim Allen plays Capt Kirk Jason Nesmith aka Commander Taggart with an over the top ego and penchant for going shirtless. This is probably the only good film I’ve ever seen him in outside the Santa Claus films. Sigourney Weaver, someone familiar with sci-fi fandom herself, plays Gwen DeMarco who represented the T&A of the original series. Then we simply get a masterclass in overacting from the late Alan Rickman who steals the show as Alexander Dane with his reactions and frustration. The movie doesn’t quite work without him. Tony Shalhoub is also in the cast, before his fame as Monk. Sam Rockwell, before his series of many character roles (Moon is my favorite), plays the “guy who dies in one episode.”

The  movie half works because of the fans. Justin Long (before his apple guy commercials) plays the superfan with the smarts to save the day with his fanboy posse. Many of the fandom communities are built on the devotion and dedication of people to drive long distances and buy tons of merchandise and keep discussions going long after the series ends. As someone who has attended Star Trek Conventions, this is what I identified with. Instead of treating the fans as fools, it does the opposite and Galaxy Quest becomes more popular each year.

Respect the fans and they will respect you.

A recent search online reveals that there are talks of a sequel or some kind in a deal with Amazon. To me, I’m not sure if this should be done. The original stands the test of time. Imagine this, the casting was so spot on, even Rainn Wilson aka Dwight from “The Office” was cast in the film.

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I think I’ve actually discussed nothing about the plot of the film, and by intention, I’ll end this review by discussing no plot points. If you enjoy sci-fi, watch it. If you enjoy a behind the scenes look at fandom, watch it. If you want to see Tim Allen take off his shirt, well, you are a total weirdo, but watch it.

Movie Rating: 9/10 Syndication Renewals

NOW READ A REVIEW OF THE GREATEST TREK FILM OF ALL TIME

Movie Reviews: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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Star Trek II: The wrath of Khan directed by Nicholas Meyer

If you ask 95% of Star Trek fans what their favorite movie is, they will say Star Trek II. I mean, come on, this is the Star Trek movie everyone compares every new movie to, much like The Empire Strikes Back in the Star Wars universe. Why is the Wrath of Khan a masterpiece? Was it the Shatner and Montalban over-acting? (They never see face each other in the same proximity at any time). Was it the plot holes that fanboys dismiss? (Chekov wasn’t in the Space Seed episode and why is the genesis technology only trusted to a few scientists?) Was it new costumes? (Getting rid of the weird gray uniforms of the Roddenberry disaster of “The Motion Picture” and going all naval-like) Was it the scream heard around the universe? (Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan!)

I think it comes down to one thing: Nicholas Meyer. The production was mired in a movie executive quagmire of idiocy. Roddenberry was retired (thankfully). Harve Bennett came up with a bombastic version of a Khan script involving 12 face-t0-face confrontations between Kirk and Spock mirroring the original series. They also had Spock dying unceremoniously in the first act. It wasn’t until they hired Nicholas Meyer, who wrote a tight script in 12 days for no credit or pay that Star Trek changed forever (well … until Shatner got his turn directing, but that’s another story).

Meyer turned Star Trek to an adventure. Simple as that. We already loved the characters. This was Horatio Hornblower in space. All of the character building and backstory was already given. The Wrath of Khan is a story about revenge, life, sacrifice, and death. Yes, Meyer militarized Star Trek, but what do you expect? The Federation doesn’t arm their starships with photon torpedoes for no reason. Characters die. Villains are angry. People are willing to follow their leader to the very end. This is how the world works.

The film is a masterpiece and holds up to today (far superior to the hot mess/remake called Star Trek into Crapness). The story starts with the Kobayashi Maru scenario and a discussion of growing old, giving a bookend with Spocks death at the end of the film. Captain Kirk is the whale for Khan’s version of Ahab. We watch the longest and greatest space battle in Star Trek film history. The movie is epic and one of my favorite films and is the start of the 2nd greatest sci-fi trilogy of all time. (Star Wars Original Trilogy over Star Trek II, III, IV)

GUEST REVIEW: VLADAMIR KALIVCHOSKY

I do not agree with your insinuation that the great Chekov did not know about Khan. With a  helmsman of his caliber, he would have surely reviewed all the greatest adventures of James T. Kirk and studied them like a hawk. Chekov was what Starfleet called a “fast warper” and had all his boxes checked to command a Constellation Class Starship someday. If it wasn’t for backstabbing Sulu and an obvious quota system, he would have been the first Cosmonaut Russian to command something in space. I only point to the end of this fine movie when after Chekov almost vaporizes them with a phaser because of a space bug in his ear, Kirk trusts him like nothing happened and lets him drive the starship through the nebula. If that doesn’t say trust, I don’t know what is. There ain’t nobody that can go “Z minus 200 degrees” like Chekov. Nobody. 

Movie Rating: 11/10 (Off the damn charts … part of me sheds a tear when Kirk says “human” in his eulogy)

NOW READ A REVIEW OF THE 7TH GREATEST TREK FILM OF ALL TIME