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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trek-Epic


As an ardent and fanatical Trekkie I should be ashamed that it took me so long to take in Star Trek Into Darkness. It had what every recent (not including this version’s original effort) ST movies have lacked since Wrath of Khan. For those of you who have seen it I would say, “how fitting.” For those of you who haven’t, whether Trekkie or not, what the hell are you waiting for? Go on, rent it. Are you still reading this, why aren’t you working on the opening scene yet?

This is not your grandfather’s Trek movie. It has, as did the first volume of this reboot, a more updated, modern, sleek look and feel to it. It was the best balance of action and plot I have seen in a ST movie in a long time. The latest ST films have done for the franchise what Christian Bale has accomplished with the Batman movies. Revitalized and reaffirmed the series in today’s cultural society.

Now, from some of the reviews I have perused online I see a lot of the fanatical traditionalists have ripped this movie. I have seen mentioned it is not cerebral enough over and over. I would offer in today’s more fast paced prefabbed world this is the perfect validation and vindication the ST franchise needs. My fiancée is the perfect personification of this in that she is not a Trekkie in the least, but she sat glued to the screen for the two plus hours this film ran. I looked over and saw the same Walking Dead or Homeland look in her eye. She was hooked. As the move ended all she could say was, “I liked that….a lot.”

We find Captain Kirk and crew embroiled in conspiracy upon arrival back on Earth after their initial voyage as the new crew of the Enterprise. Kirk’s rebellious nature has gotten him in trouble with Star Fleet and the powers that be have taken his command. A terrorist from within the organization sets in motion a plan to destroy Starfleet, and, because of the out of the box thinking we are used to from
Kirk, he finds himself back in the captain’s chair and charged with hunting the traitor terrorist down in the heart of a potential enemy’s territory. The intrigue build’s as more plot twists are revealed upon the prisoner’s capture.


In this author’s humble opinion this Trek movie has it all: a fast paced plot that never sags while staying true to the nature of all our hero’s personalities. The familiar endearing chemistry that was set back in the 1960's exists superbly with these new actors within these old roles. There are also several homage moments to satiate the appetite of the traditionalists. My favorite was the radiation compartment scene, but, since I am recommending this picture, this is the only spoiler I shall mention. I give Star Trek Into Darkness 4 ½ out of 5 stars.





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chronological Chaos


Today is a revisit to a thread posted on 5/14/13


Upon talking about yesterday’s blog with a co-worker earlier today the discussion took the inevitable turn all conversations about time travel do.

“I would go back to the late 1930’s,” he said proudly oblivious, “and take out Hitler before World War 2 started.”

“I would jump to tomorrow night,” another added, “and find out the winning numbers to the Powerball drawing. Then I would come back and buy a ticket.”

Which one of these scenarios is the most nobel? Before you answer that question, think on it.

Going back into the past and averting WW II is a dignified cause indeed, but, when you follow the chain of events, what would be the consequences? At the time the war broke out the US refrained from joining the confrontation for quite some time. As a nation we could not endure such a strain on a weak economy. We quickly came to the aid of the English when Germany began bombing London, but we did not gear up for battle until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December, 7th, 1941. The next day the United States declared war on Japan. It was only three days later did we declare war on Germany.

Think about that a moment. At that time Japan had a superior navy, in numbers and skill, to any other in the world. Germany was a military juggernaut with massive numbers of tanks and men. America, spurred by great feelings of nationalism, could no longer stay out of the World War. Everyone from youngsters to famous people like Elvis Presley, were signing up for the war effort. Everyone was buying up war bonds to support the cause. The nation’s economic machine switched into high gear and within a year and a half the factories across the States were churning out ships, tanks and planes unlike any industrial nation had done before in the history of the world. As one Japanese Admiral put it, “we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

We all know the results from there. Without World War 2 the United States would have never become a superpower. Not only a superpower, but we would have never gone as far into space as we have. Why do I say this? Follow the line of reasoning. After the war the US brought over Nazi Scientists in Operation Overcast to begin engineering military and scientific rocket systems. At the head of the project was Wernher von Braun, the German Scientist who developed the V-2 rocket that killed so many allies and civilians within the early part of WW2. As a result the Apollo rocket system was born out of the ashes that war.

Scientists called this the butterfly effect.  “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. The death of Hitler and the nonexistence of the world conflict would have changed the course the United States was put upon. Would the nation be the post war country it became? How would the political and economic landscape have been affected?

The thing is, and everyone of the younger generation of our society should learn from this, every action has a consequence. Today’s youth does not grasp this concept because they live in a world removed from the physicality those of us older grew up with. When we communicated, we were face to face (or ear to ear). We could not post thoughts in virtual space and reach the audience these folks do today. Not having true physical proximity to our audience injects certain bravado into some people’s attitude and the consequences become a mere oversight after all is posted and published.

I digress…

Let us revisit the co-worker who wanted to win the lottery by finding out the numbers beforehand using our Time Machine. Although his intentions seem much less scrupulous than the murderous employee who wanted to off Hitler, this man wanted to go forward in time leaving set history untainted. The consequences of this suddenly wealthy man’s trip would be far less devastating to our nation. The best part of the whole scenario is the fact that I am this coworkers newest friend.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

World War Z ip!

Last night, with a Saturday night cool front moving in, and the air heavy with moisture, me and Robin felt like forgoing hitting the town and decided to stay in and watch a movie. As rain began hitting the roof we decided on the perfect film for a cool rainy weekend night. A Zombie flick.

In World War Z Brad Pitt plays a former UN spy/investigator who has to flit across the globe in a race against the clock to find the origin of a pandemic that threatens to transform the entire race into extremely dexterous and ravenous zombies. As far as the plot goes there is nothing here that hasn't been tried over and over again throughout cinematic horror. With that being said most of these movies did not have Brad Pitt in the leading role. His believable and strong performance as Gerry Lane holds the film together as he fights to keep his family safe and find a solution to save the world from a highly aggressive zombie virus.

Action packed sequences propel the story forward at break neck dizzying speed from the opening moments of this film. It's high pace immediately puts viewers on edge AND on the edge of their seats. It's like an intense roller coaster that thrills with all the expected loops and drops infusing the body with heart pounding adrenaline....then...suddenly...it's over. Like a suicidal lemming the movie suddenly commits Hairy Carrey with a weak epilogue and plummets itself into oblivion over the side of a huge pile of dead zombies. I liken it to driving 90 miles and hour and instantly hitting an ancient deep rooted oak tree. To be fair there are clues within the story that indicate the final edit of the movie was missing a few scenes that may have fleshed out the end, but, since I am recommending this film I will
refrain from pointing them out and mentioning any spoilers.

As a science fiction/horror author I would definitely deem this movie worth watching. It is like Zombie lite, it has all the flavor the full fledged version does, but without all the calories. In conclusion I thought the movie was a lot of fun, but after an expensive dinner and a night of dancing, don't expect being invited up for a night cap.

I give this movie 3 1/2 stars out of five.  Ah hell, throw in a quarter of a star for Brad Pitts great effort. Final assessment: World War Z 3 3/4 stars.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

FAV FIVE Science Fiction VILLAINS


Because I feel a bit uninspired today's thread is a repost of one of the more popular subjects from May 20th, 2013. I hope you folks enjoy.

What are your TOP FIVE Science Fiction VILLAINS of all time?

I will get the ball rolling with my FAV FIVE list of bad boys.

5. The Daleks: When I was a pre-teen cable was not yet invented and a rag-tag pair of “rabbit ears”
provided our boat anchor of a Zennith console television with four channels. I remember one boring Sunday morning I found the network programming completely tiring for my twelve year old attention span. The fourth channel we received on our tube was PBS. There I saw this curly haired TIME LORD with an immesively long scarf battling these ALIEN ROBOTS with these terrifying spine chilling metallic voices. “EXTERMINATE!!” I was immediately hooked and have been a
DR. WHO fan ever since.

4. ARIIA: The Department of Defense’s intelligent gathering supercomputer in EAGLE EYE makes my list for a more modern-day option. Think about it, being controlled by a calculating machine contemplating the murder of the President’s entire cabinet without a shred of human feeling? Also, her power to manipulate utilizes every grid within our modern day society from traffic cams and signals, to automated cargo cranes… you are never out of her reach. That is a scary concept and makes her number four on my list of best Science Fiction Villains.

3. Victor Kruger: The movie HIGHLANDER is, in my opinion, one of the best films ever made. Its mysterious plot line was brilliant and the use of flashbacks influenced my own writing style in my latest works within The Morian Trilogy. But, the most amazing part of the movie was its extraordinarily wicked protagonist Victor Kruger. Every statement uttered by this bad guy dripped with conceit and contempt. I will never forget the scene within the church when he walked in with the safety pins adorning his neck scar. He was the devil himself in that sacred place. He made such an impact on WES CRAVEN that he named his villain in NIGHTMARE ON ELMSTREET after the HIGHLANDER villain.

2. HAL 9000: Heuristic Algorithmic in Authur C. Clarke's 2001 Space Oddessey. This computer started out innocent enough, but, by the end of the film he has to be one of the creepiest Science Fiction villains ever. That unemotional mechanized voice shot an icepick into the soul much the same way the DALEKS do. Also, that one red blaring eye was always staring and had the creepy effect of forcing the paranoia upon the screen to jump into the hearts of the audience in the darkened theater.

1. Emperor Palpatine: When you explore the scope of villains the Emperor stands out for me. His visage was ominous within my teenage mind when I first saw him in the shimmery hologram as Darth Vader kneeled before him. I believe that is why Vader fails to make my list, because, as menacing as he was at times, his leash was always held by Palpatine. Also, in the end, Darth Vader turned because he still had good in him. The Emperor was nothing but pure scheming, backstabbing and unadulterated evil.



What are your FAV FIVE villains of all time in Science Fiction?






 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dodging Doldrums


Last night after my beloved college football team lost their game me and the fiancée needed something to pull us out of the doldrums. We surfed the on demand channel and settled upon Joseph Kosinski's latest Science Fiction effort Oblivion (2013).

The year is 2077. Earth has been made uninhabitable after the planet was invaded by an alien race known as the Scavs sixty years previous. The population has been moved off planet to Saturn's moon Titan and giant machines have been tasked with sucking up Earth's ocean waters to transfer to the outer solar system and aid in terra-forming Saturn’s largest moon's atmosphere. Or, so we are made to believe…

Tom Cruise plays drone repairman Jack Harper whose job is to maintain the robotic fleet of protective sentries. He is watched over by his companion and eye in the sky Victoria who keeps Jack level headed and on task. Cruise's character is haunted by the memory of woman who, one day upon a mission in what's left of New York City, literally crash lands back into his life. From there the story plot twists and turns revealing the drone repairman's life is a well manufactured lie.

This is all I will reveal about this story driven movie plot. This film is full of breath taking futuristic technology and stunning scenery from Jack Harpers platform domicile high in Earth’s atmosphere to the ultra modern dragon fly helicopter he zips around the barren apocalyptic landscape within. Breath taking vistas were accompanied by synthesized arrangements that were reminiscent of Moon and Tron: Legacy. Science Fiction fans will love these aspects of the film. But, that being said, that is all the positive comments I can come up.

Strong plot could not make up for boring delivery. Even the insertion of the character Beech played by the indomitable Morgan Freeman could not salvage the effort. The two hour running time desperately needed more action to compel the plot. Instead the director relied on story telling which lent a lethargic grind to the movie’s pace. The bottom line is that the movie was visually stunning and worth watching, but I would not highly recommend this one to be at the top on a watch list. I found it really kind of forgettable.  I give this one Three Stars.