Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bond. James Bond.

And now, for no apparent reason, some random James Bond stuff...

Worst James Bond movie ever: Moonraker.

Who thought a movie where the main villain wants to destroy the Earth and start a new society on the moon was a good idea? They even brought back Jaws for an encore performance... and lasers galore. If you want a good spy movie set in space, try the second Austin Powers movie instead (at least it knew it wasn't serious!)

Worst (or is it the best?) Bond title ever: Octopussy.

Do I really need to say more? :)

Best James Bond ever: Daniel Craig.

After seeing Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace again recently, I've concluded Craig's depiction of Bond is the most interesting and compelling interpretation, well, ever (I grew up during the Roger Moore era, so yeah...)  Of course honorable mention must also go to Sean Connery because...y'know, he's Sean Connery (and he originated the role).

Worst James Bond ever: Roger Moore.
He was an okay actor but he got all the really cheesy scripts (as mentioned above). The Moore era really is best forgotten.

Best Bond theme ever: Hard to call... I always loved A View to a Kill by Duran Duran but really there's been a lot of great ones out there. Die Another Day by Madonna, The Living Daylights (one of the dumber titles for a Bond movie out there) by A-Ha isn't bad... Live and Let Die by Wings...Another Way to Die by Jack Whyte and Alicia Keyes... even Skyfall (by Adele) ain't bad.

Celebrate 50 years of Ian Fleming's James Bond 007 with Skyfall, which opens in theatres November 9th everywhere. Don't miss it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Story excerpt...

A proof-of-concept, if you will, for the George Washington: Zombie Dawn story. Perhaps more will follow at some future date. Perhaps not. Time will tell! :)

Comments are welcome, as always. 

A Classic in the making?

In the tradition of literary classics such as "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", "FDR: Nazi Kraken" and "Bill Clinton: DEA Supernatural", comes an awe-inspiring new tale of presidential greatness....


1776. A group of men struggle and yearn to build a wondrous new republic. A place where all can be free to think and act as they please, subservient to no crown or foreign power. Where all men are brothers and all enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


The chosen steward of this bold utopia is a seasoned soldier and statesman named George Washington. A beacon of trust and dignity among the founding fathers and beloved by his fellow men.

Despite his valor and charisma, trouble pursues the valiant hero. Washington and his wife Martha are weathering rough seas in their own relationship. Their only child is dead, drowned in a terrible accident that neither could have foreseen but which now threatens to tear them apart.


After years of war and struggles to keep the people united, all his efforts may be for naught as his brother in-law Thomas Jefferson commits a terrible atrocity against the embattled Cherokee people when he takes their Princess, the famed Sacagawea, as his bride. Her father, Chief Crazy Horse, will not take this grievous insult to his people and plots the ultimate revenge–he will raise the dead to destroy the fledgling nation and free his people of the menace he perceives.

And just how is the rival British-affiliated nation of Canada involved in the conspiracy to destroy the United States? Washington is uncertain but he knows their Prime Minister, a terrifying man named Pierre Trudeau, is corrupt and desperately craves the power Washington himself wields.

Can Washington survive the maelstrom of dark supernatural power leveled at him? Or will his dream of a united people be torn asunder.

Experience the secret, not-so-true tale behind an American icon!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Something to Believe In...

    Religion is a divisive issue. Is there a Supreme Being that created us all? Or did life just evolve somehow? The idea of offering penance to a deity has been around as long as man has existed.
    Over the past two thousand years many terrible things have been done in the name of God. People of other faiths have been oppressed, persecuted and even murdered. Children have been molested, the weak minded have been lead about to and fro by men who use God to have their own way. It has not even stopped to this day and age.
    Is Religion fundamentally bad? Is it wrong to have faith in an all powerful Creator? It’s a decision we all must come to in our own time and our own way. If that spiritual need is present in your heart, or alternatively absent, then you should do whatever you feel is right for you.
    Stripping away the politics of the matter, a system of belief where people attempt to better themselves is not fundamentally bad. Can anyone really say teaching people to love one another is a bad thing? Tolerance, understanding and love are things we need more of in this world as well an ability to step into another’s shoes and see their perspective, whether or not we ultimately agree with it.
    Beliefs are an important aspect of a person’s character. Even more so in fiction. While I can know someone in real life and not be clear on their every defining character belief it would be death for a writer not to expound upon these qualities within the confines of a fictional tale. A character with no beliefs is hollow and inaccessible to the reader. 
    Often, writers don’t give characters actual religious beliefs. Either because they’re atheists themselves or perhaps they don’t feel like putting up with the hassle that will inevitably bring when a reader who disagrees with that point of view assimilates the material and protests. Primarily being a SF writer myself I haven’t ventured much into the territory myself, more often because it doesn’t seem like it really matters to the character in the circumstances presented.
    If a character believes in God–or doesn’t–it can be an effective story tool, assuming the writer had the competency to make it interesting and relevant in-context to the character’s world view or journey within the story. Simply portraying a character as a redneck hick because of his religious views, or contrarily as a godless liberal, is sloppy writing and demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding of the fundamentals of character building. People are not stereotypes and a character cannot afford to be either.
    To demonstrate, take Star Trek V. The main antagonist, Sybok, embarks on a journey to find the Vulcan paradise Sha-ka-ree. There, he hopes to meet God himself and learn the meaning of existence. It’s a terrible movie but does manage to effectively use a character’s religious drive to compel him toward his ultimate goal in life. Imagine what a well written story could do with something like that.
    Beliefs are important. No matter where a character gets them, they define their very existence. Whether from religion, a good parent or a role model, a character learns to be a good person. To trust in strangers, offer help to those in need and spread love around. Conversely, the same can be said for negative tendencies–a character learned to be cruel and inhumane, to take from the weak and spread misery. Our life experiences help define our beliefs and make us who we are.
    Of course, a character has to learn and grow in context of the tale a writer is telling too. If a character doesn’t learn or change from their experiences, what is the impetus of the story? Certainly, Star Wars is about the good guys versus the bad guys on the surface level. But on a deeper level, it’s also about Luke Skywalker moving from the role of a subservient adolescent to the role of a man and assuming all the responsibilities that being the last of the Jedi encompasses.
(I am aware, of course, that one can tell a story where the character learns nothing. But the more satisfying visceral stories always have some element of change to them. Something the reader/viewer can take from the tale, even if it does end up being a relatively straight forward concept such as maturity).
    Religion and belief can also be effective in a story when it comes to the examination of whether people are inherently good or evil. Are we born a certain way or do we learn behavior along the way? Perhaps it’s a mixture of the two? If we are born a certain way, inclined to good or cursed with evil, why is that so and can we do anything to fight nature. Are we free willed or destined to a certain path... If we are born neutral, why do men ever incline their nature toward doing bad? Is it malice or self interest? The possibilities are endless and interesting in a capable writer’s hands.
    The best tales are reflections of real life. Tales of good and evil. Of belief that motivated a character to make one of two choices along their life path. Whether they brought hope to the oppressed or pain and misery to others. Whether they can, or even should, stray from whatever path they have chosen and the end results of doing, or not doing, so.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Continuity Cop...

    Everyone likes their fiction to make sense, no matter what form it takes. For the most part, it does. Writer, artists, film makers, etc. go out of their way to make their plot and whatever points they’re trying to make understandable to their audience. Badly written fiction can fly in the face of this, as can projects rushed out before someone’s considered the idea carefully or if someone’s not properly edited it.
    There’s continuity that matters and continuity that doesn’t. Ridley Scott’s recent production Prometheus is set in the same universe as his seminal work, Alien. For the most part it works as it is but there is one glaring continuity issue that goes unexplained... in the original film, the Space Jockey as it’s known, is around twenty feet tall. The Engineers/Space Jockeys in Prometheus seem to all be around eight feet tall. This is necessary for them to be comparable to the humans in the film in the practical sense but the size discrepancy is never addressed in-story. Is it just a retcon–a this-is-how-it-is-now-deal-with-it situation or is there some reason they’re smaller that was cut from the theatrical edit (we know at least twenty minutes were trimmed from the film). We might assume that since they have a mastery of genetic engineering that there is some reason for it–but at best all we can do is make assumptions. Try to fill in the blanks with our own logic rather then know for certain what the film makers intended (if anything).
    The discrepancy in this instance matters to me. Even if it were a simple line or two, it should be addressed somewhere. Taken together, this compromises internal story logic within the two films overall. It’s comparable to having a character act completely different between two acts of a story with no explanation given. It stands out and it shouldn’t.
    There is also continuity that doesn’t matter. Sometimes it can be a challenge deciding which is which and it always falls to personal perspective on a given concept. 
    Certain movies I tend to ignore in my own universe. Nothing after Aliens exists, as far as I’m concerned (Alien 3 is basically a rehash of the first and it’s story is depressing. I do concede the film is well produced and visually pleasing but I hate the story. Alien Resurrection is pointless and the less said about the Alien vs. Predator movies, the better). I also don’t care for Die Hard 4, Star Trek Generations, Robocop 2 and 3 or the Abrams Star Trek film.
    A great example of when continuity doesn’t matter is the Transformers concept. Even from the get-go, the original Generation One concept contradicted itself. The comic went one way and the cartoon its own. The cartoon was more widely seen and established a lot of the beloved character types the fans know and love today (monotone Soundwave, dumb Grimlock, treacherous Starscream, etc.) The comic was better written generally though, and many of its stories still stand up well even today (while the cartoon plots are dated in many instances). Both featured essentially the same characters in the same overall set-up but didn’t follow each other’s stories or internal continuity (it would have been a difficult feat but not impossible).
    The UK comic, which was in effect a third continuity (featuring the US comic’s stories and also stories that happened between issues of that comic but which may or may not have counted to the US comic continuity) tried following a loose cartoon continuity by acknowledging the events of the 2005 based Transformers: The Movie and even having some of its character time travel back and forth to the present. It was a cool idea but it ended up making things even more complicated in the final analysis as things that happened before the movie chronologically had to be retconned out–theoretically–in order for the future-set movie to happen and still make sense as it originally did. The Transmasters UK fan club of the nineties tried to do a comic and set about explaining how the Generation One comic, Generation Two comic and TF:TM could have all occurred in the same continuity (in my opinion they were so focused on the continuity fixes it interfered with trying to tell a good story in their fan comics/text stories of the time).
    To me, Transformers exist in several sub-sets. Instead of trying to make it all work together, I accept that the G1 cartoon and comic were two different continuities. End of story. The Marvel UK comic was it’s own thing, which related to the US one but was not the same “Universe” per se. With the advent of the recent Regeneration One comic, I now see Marvel’s comic as Marvel US G1 comic; Marvel UK G1 comic; Marvel G2 comic, which continues the G1 US comic; and also, Regeneration One comic that continues the Marvel G1 US comic in a different continuity all together. It sounds confusing but trying to reconcile all this contradictory information so it can work together sensibly is more effort then it’s really worth.
    I feel like I can enjoy a story, regardless of whether or not it fits with everything that’s come before. IDW’s recent Autocracy comic tells a new origin for Optimus Prime and the start of his personal battle against Megatron. It’s a great tale and I accept it for what it is. But there have been other tellings of his origin and I like those too for different reasons. I can’t accept Autocracy as the one and only definitive telling. It’s a good story and a good interpretation but I can leave room for other versions, if they end up telling a worthy tale. I don’t have to try and figure out how it all fits together in my personal universe or shun one for another. And like with the earlier examples, if I hate something (Star Trek Generations) I can completely ignore it or pretend it happened in an alternate interpretation.        
    This even appears to be happening in official media at times. Notice that Lance Henriksen played Charles Weyland in Alien vs. Predator while Guy Pearce played Peter Weyland in Prometheus. It is possible that one is the ancestor of the other. But AvP was released in 2004 and was presumably more or less the present time. Prometheus has its Weyland giving a TED speech (in a viral video. Does that count as really happening in this instance?) that takes place in 2023. They could be related but AvP 2 implies that the Yutani Corporation already exists in the present as well. It seems like Prometheus is ignoring the AvP movies all together and doing its own thing (which is fine with me. I hated the AvP movies).
    Will the Before Watchmen comics count in comic fans minds as really happening? DC Comics is counting on them being accepted but many despise the very idea of their existence. Watchmen is beloved by many–if people despise the idea of prequels they don’t have to accept them as part of the “real” story if they chose not to. The reverse also applies.
    Taking this a step further, we define our reality through our perspective. We gather information from varied sources then act on it. We can decide what’s important in life, be it something as trivial as fiction or even more important matters (it seems like that’s what certain political parties excel in. Not always a good thing but true despite it). One man can see himself as outgoing while others interpret him as shy. A person can be seen as a jerk by some but a saint by others. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Perhaps both are depending on the circumstances.
    As long as a story is good, I’ll like it. Continuity be damned. It may fit my idea of the “real” way it happened or it may not. In the end, it has to entertain me above all else. If it doesn’t then the rest is irrelevant.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Never Trust a Lannister...

    I’ve sat through two entire seasons of the TV show Game of Thrones now. The budget per episode is apparently six million dollars and it translates well to the screen. Every set, every costume and any requisite special effects are flawless looking. You feel like you’re really there watching real people do real things.
    The acting is also excellent and believable (given the fantastic environment in which these characters exist in). Every actor feels like they are that character and that they were born to play that role.
    And yet...
    I don’t love the show. I think it’s because all of the characters are presented as amoral entities. Each one is selfish and opportunistic. Many are outright evil and those who aren’t are presented as naive to worldly ways. Arya isn’t that selfish, for example, but treated as naive. So is Tyrion, despite his worldliness. So was Neddard Stark and also Daenerys Targaryen.
    The show seems to be a part of the more recent belief that viewers want more realism in their characters. Realism, in this case, seems to translate to the characters being selfish and overtly grey in their beliefs. Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica series started this trend and it continues to flourish in Game of Thrones.
    It is unrealistic to expect all of the characters in a story to be extremely heroic and selfless. Life isn’t like that and neither are people.
    But then, this isn’t real life, is it?
    I’m all for realistic acting characters in stories. Having said that, though, I do enjoy having a character who is selfless and heroic. Someone who is the moral compass of their group. Someone who stays true to their humanity no matter what. Not that all the characters need be that way but if nobody is, it gets depressing. I guess I’m arguing for the continuation of variety in my fictional characters. I want some immoral selfish ones, some noble heroic ones, some clear villains, some lost souls, etc. After all, nobody likes chicken for every meal so why should they only prefer one type of personality for their fictional characters either?
    We need heroes in our stories. We need to be reminded that we can take the moral high road in life and not always slump to the lowest common denominator. We need someone to avenge the injured woman, protect the helpless children and stand for right. There are some people like that in real life too incidentally. Human nature is inclined to justice and we want to see someone represent this quality in our fiction. Stories where nobody does–or where they’re automatically punished for trying to do the right thing are no more realistic then stories where good always wins no matter what.
    Stories where evil–or, in this case, selfish behavior–always dominate are depressing in the end. If one’s noble intentions are always thwarted, why even try? The hero might as well pack up his tights and cape and go home. Forget fighting the evil Nazis–even if they do lose, someone else will just pick up the evil baton and crush our spirits somewhere down the line.
    There are some stories I’ve seen that were written so badly that you do feel like cheering for the bad guys, of course. The good guys are cloying and right to the point of being smarmy. They can’t even hope to comprehend their antagonists point of view (which is generally bad–unless, you wrote the story to be ironic). But if evil always triumphs and hope is always crushed it makes wonder why we even bothered embarking on the journey of the story to begin with.

    Life can be depressing enough at times. I want my escapist fantasy to reflect a feeling of hope and good fortune. Something not always represented by reality. If my fantasy is drab and depressing to the exclusion of all other things then there’s no true escape. No hope for a better tomorrow.
    Give me a happy ending more often then not. Give me hope, give me light triumphing over darkness. Remind me that hard work and good intentions bear rich fruit. Tell darkness it must beware the light.
    A happy ending makes us feel like a kid again. When magic was real and we believed good would triumph in the end. We all need that feeling, especially as adults when we’ve see the depths of depravity people can sink to in real life.
    Don’t go polluting my fantasy with your grittiness and reality. Leave me with my hope and belief that people can still be good at heart despite their flaws. Anyone can lose faith. It takes a real master to build and maintain it in people.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of Noble Knights and Redheaded Stepchildren...

    I recently saw a trailer for a PIXAR movie called Brave. It’s about a Scottish princess with long flowing red hair. She’s a young lass, fiery tempered, skilled with a bow and a free spirit, determined to make her own destiny in life. When her mother determines to marry her off to a worthy young man she will have none of that.
    This character, let’s call her Merida, is the embodiment of the redhead archetype. The much beloved, fiery tempered woman who’s spirit yearns for freedom despite the circumstances life has chosen to throw in her path. Perhaps she doesn’t feel she fits in with the others around her, content to carry on as they do, oblivious to their own fate and circumstance. In a sense, the redheaded woman persona is a representation of many women, hoping to pursue their own path in life, unhindered by society or social convention.
    I’ve always loved the archetype and what it represents. The thought of a strong, sexy independent woman who lets nothing stand in her way. Who lives her life by her passions and wits, unburdened and uninhibited. Who wouldn’t find that attractive?
(On a side-note: Many of my early stories–many of which will, hopefully, never see the light of day–featured redheaded female love interests and characters. Eventually, as my writing matured, I started to grow out of that phase).
    Another archetype I’ve loved is that of the noble warrior knight. The endearing hero. Nothing shakes his resolve, nothing stops his pursuit of justice. He lives and breaths the very essence of all that is good and right in the world. When the chips are down, when darkness rules the very earth itself, he is the unflappable, unstoppable instrument of light that will repel evil, banish it and destroy it utterly.
    Of course it’s nonsense. The knights of history were mere soldiers, some likely better then others. All dispatched to wage war in the name of their king or other nobility. Every single one of them ultimately a killer. Goodness of spirit didn’t really enter the equation when they engaged in combat. Certainly most of them didn’t stop to question the ethics of what they were doing nor did it stay their hand as they killed their enemy. They were in a position of kill or be killed and they did what they felt they had to, given the circumstances.
    This is to say nothing of the ones who were immoral or psychopathic, murdering, raping and plundering as they pleased. The enemy being nothing then so much garbage for them to do with as they desired. Many commanders and kings doubtlessly looked the other way as long as their will was ultimately carried out.
    Likewise, hair color does not truly determine spirit. The vast majority of the world’s population has black or some type of dark hair. Certainly the most audacious and free spirited among humanity were anything but redheaded (a tiny minority of humanity, genetically speaking). The first redheaded girl I remember encountering was a ditz, if I may be perfectly honest. Not free spirited nor independent and certainly not a deep thinker.
    Still, the fantasy persists in light of reality. But perhaps that’s not a terrible thing, all things being equal.
    The redhead archetype, as mentioned earlier, promotes independence and willpower in girls (and boys too), even if on a subconscious level. The message of making your own way in life and not settling for second-best is advice that everyone can take to heart. It’s become somewhat trite in popular media but it should never be marginalized. If everyone in life settled for what they got, society would’ve never gotten anywhere ever.
    As for the noble knight, and indeed, heroic archetypes in general, we need them to teach our children to stand up for what’s right when they see injustice in life. If someone’s disadvantaged in some way, someone should give them a hand. Be it a donation at the food bank or extreme examples, like stopping crimes in progress because we have the means to do so. Children, and even adults, need role models. We need to be taught (and sometimes reminded) that doing the right thing is the correct thing. Evil men triumph when good men do nothing. Taking it a step further, are we still good men if we do nothing?
    The common thread here is to have the will power to fight for things in life. To fight for your own destiny in life and to fight to live your life free from harm and wickedness. The true pursuit of freedom in one’s life is a fight we must all undertake and never relent on, lest others decide to steer us in other directions for their own pursuits. All of us must be able to experience true freedom in our lives and know the inner peace that comes with it.
    Then, and only then, can we come to truly live our lives instead of just going through the motions...


Monday, April 23, 2012

A new short...

I wrote this up last night/today... It reads like a Harlequin Romance novel or something. :) Basically, my idea was to start a story with "It was a dark and stormy night" and this woman on her balcony. The rest of it was just made up to support that.
   Give it a read and let me know what you think. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Worthy Cause...

    The trailer for the movie Cabin In The Woods shows an eagle flying majestically through the air–until it crashes into a force field and disintegrates.
    Today, it’s that eagle. Last month, John Carter slew several monsters in the arena with his superhuman strength. Another time, it was the Tauntaun in Empire Strikes Back dying at Han Solo’s hands as he sliced it open with a light saber. The liberty loving Autobots kill dozens of indigenous Sharkticons on Quintessa in that show’s original animated movie. Remember that Reek Obi-wan put down in Attack of the Clones with his light saber?
    It’s amazing in an era where we’ve made so many strides towards tolerance and equality that flagrant animal abuse from imaginary means is still tolerated. Indeed, many people cheered when John Carter slew the beasts opposing him.
    Who speaks for these beasts, real and imagined, when they are put down by futuristic weapons? Does anyone truly care about their plight? Is it just another symptom of where we as a society have gone terribly wrong when we can’t find it in our hearts to love these virtual beasts enough to put an end to their virtual deaths?
    As if mocking humanity’s innate ability to care for the imaginary, toy store and comic shops are supplied with ample light saber toys, Phaser replicas, Nerf guns and licensed pretend swords. Cruelly, unjustly, priming our very children to grow to love tools of pretend mass destruction. When your children have grown to the right age, will they still care for cgi animals? Will they love the Rancor or the Muppets as I did when I was a kid? Or will their first instinct be to put down Miss Piggy with what they deem justifiable force?
    We have strict gun laws but there’s simply no consideration for pretend weapons. Granted, the United States has had enough sense to ban toy guns that look realistic but their solution only goes so far. With access to futuristic and unrealistic looking toy guns, toy swords and so on, children are still free to indulge in imagining taking out pretend prey.
    Is popular entertainment to blame, with its unwholesome images? Could the Government do more then it has? Or is the problem simply that parents aren’t doing a good enough job? Perhaps their own morals concerning real and imaginary animals have been allowed to degrade over time? Perhaps they’ve forgotten the lesson their own parents and grandparents learned from films such as Bambi (oh, Bambi. How you suffered when your mother was taken from you at so young and tender an age! How can people forget your agony so easily?)
    For every film such as Spielberg’s E.T., the Extra-terrestrial, there are counter-films such as Aliens and Starship Troopers. Films where alien life forms are murdered wholesale by futuristic artillery. Generations have been brainwashed to have little or no consideration for the imaginary beast.
    The only viable solution seems to be to get people to change their attitudes–to make them care again. Watch more wholesome films (like last year’s film, Rise Of The Planet of the Apes, showed a man who loved his genetically enhanced ape like a child. Sure, the apes eventually break out and cause all manor of havoc, but the message is correct. Don’t mistreat cgi simians in your care). Last year’s The Muppets also seems to have been received positively by film going audiences.
    Perhaps starting a day of action to raise awareness could also be a turning point in this important battle. The International Day to Raise Awareness About Protecting Imaginary Animals from Imaginary Weapons (or IDTRAAPIAFIW Day for short).
    Start your children earlier. Buy them a teddy bear or maybe a plush Gungan. Make a donation in their name to the Imaginary Animal Protection Fund. Raise them up, teach them the morally correct thing to do is love pretend critters and watch them never waiver in their love, even as adults.
    Is it too late to turn back the clock? Have we gone too far? This writer believes the answer is a resounding “no”. Attitudes change all the time. All it really takes it one brave voice to stand up and defy the crowd. One voice can affect positive change. One voice can make all the difference in the world when there is an injustice to be addressed. I urge you to be that voice. Stand up. Say “no” to cruelty against imaginary animals by imaginary weapons. Change the world so we all might have a better tomorrow.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Final Frontier...

    It was the summer of 1984. It was raining but otherwise warm when my mother and I arrived at the Famous Players theater in Londonderry Mall. It was my second time there (the first time having been when I saw Return of the Jedi). We were there to see Star Trek III. My first ever Star Trek movie and a giant leap into a much larger universe.
    After Star Wars had ended I wanted a new space movie to follow. Star Trek had been around for a long time and didn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Plus it looked cool enough–the commercial for the movie looked epic (heck, the Starship Enterprise even blew up in it!)
    I was seriously into Star Trek from that point onward all the way until the original crew were retired in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. I’ve also followed the other iterations of the concept, from Next Generation through to Enterprise.
    Each has had their ups and downs. But the Original Series was always my favorite. By the time of Voyager and the earlier episodes of Enterprise, Star Trek had gotten formulaic and bland. The original show had its weak points as well but how could one not love Captain Kirk’s daring, never say die attitude? He was also a ladies man (but really, who wasn’t in the sixties? Every protagonist was cut from the same cloth back then).
    Kirk was passionate, thoughtful and a man of action. If something was wrong in the world he would stop at nothing to fix it, prime directive be damned! Spock was his voice of reason while McCoy was his conscience. The other characters were mostly there to support them while not being well defined (how many episodes were Sulu and Chekov interchangeable? Uhura didn’t really do much and Scotty was there to operate the transporter or save the day with the engines at the last minute).
    Flash forward to 2009. Paramount decides to get JJ Abrams to reboot Star Trek with the original characters. I saw it when it came out and wasn’t impressed. Over time I’ve seen parts of the movie again on television and my thoughts have further crystallized on exactly what I didn’t like about it. 

The Concept

    Paramount knew there were millions of Star Trek fans out there and while they wanted to dump the large contradictory back story they also...sort of didn’t. Instead of starting with a complete blank slate they decided to keep some of it after all. At least long enough to use it as a launch pad to explain the new continuity.
    Sci-fi fans are used to time travel (Star Trek is as guilty as any other concept of utilizing it) and they’ve also seen parallel universes/alternate timelines (see Abrams/Orci/Kurtzman’s Fringe) before so they decided to go that direction.
    A better approach would’ve been to just start with a clean slate. Introduce the characters and initiate the story. By trying to hedge their bets the original timeline–the source of all the original Star Trek stories (except Enterprise, which happens before the change)–is essentially nullified. Orci and Kurtzman did damage control with the fans, attempting to explain that the original time line still exists somewhere. Regardless, if all future ST stories take place in this new time line that detail is irrelevant either way.
    Also, the whole time travel gimmick occupies a lot of the movie. We have the original Spock come back in time and also Nero, the Romulan antagonist. This necessitates molding the entire story around the idea and thus, having to explain it. At the very least, they could have cut Spock Prime out of it and just had Nero and his ship come back in time. Same back story otherwise: a catastrophe destroys his Romulus in the future and the Federation didn’t save it for whatever reason so he came back in time to get revenge. This could have simplified matters somewhat and allowed for more character development and plot in the present instead of needing to work Spock Prime in there somehow.

The Story

    Conceptually, a story about their first voyage together wasn’t the worst idea ever (there has been some books that pursued that idea previously but this was the first official attempt to do so). With a new cast in a new continuity this seemed like a logical place to start.
    The script as filmed strikes me as lazy writing. Granted, this was hardly the first ever movie with a script that someone hacked out with little real work on the plot and it won’t be the last. Still, they could have tried harder to make the story better.
    Thanks to the convenient time travel, we can account for all of the significant events of the film. Kirk is born and leads a rough life? Check. The villain’s existence? Check. Kirk’s understanding (along with the audience) of what’s really going on? Check. No effort was needed in making the story work beyond the simple gimmick.
    Imagine a story where Nero comes back in time with no older Spock and does what he does anyway. He attacks Vulcan (without having to figure out how Spock Prime could’ve seen Vulcan being destroyed from the ice planet he was on). Instead of Spock launching Kirk out of the ship and onto the ice planet (a decision which makes no sense in the story, by the way. Why doesn’t he just throw Kirk in the brig?) Spock could be a bit less of a cranky character (like he’s supposed to be) and if he objects to Kirk’s presence, they could reason it out. Perhaps Kirk could even convince him of his worth somehow–after all, both of them lost parents to Nero’s interference. Both feel like they don’t quite belong. They already have something in common. Replace the film’s third act with some challenge that is less contrived and more interesting while helping us relate to the characters and the over-arcing plot then follow through as in the end of the original movie. Perhaps they need to figure out how to destroy the Narada? Or track it and destroy it. My point being that the story would’ve benefitted from a revised third act not involving the clumsy time travel element with Spock Prime that conveniently helps the story make sense to Kirk and audience.
    Another issue I have with the movie is that near the end Kirk offers Nero a chance to surrender (for no apparent reason, after all Nero’s done to them). When Nero refuses, Kirk blasts his ship to bits. What was the point of this? Nero’s ship was slipping into a black hole at that point anyway and it seems malicious–or at the very least, contradictory–of Kirk to do this. Why not have had Kirk do one or the other? Either get back on Enterprise and finish the Narada off or offer to rescue Nero (and if he refuses, as he will, warp out of there). It strikes me as more poor writing.
    I also found some of the little details annoying. In one instance, the film states that Red Matter was going to destroy the entire “Galaxy”. They actually meant “Star System” in this instance but apparently the writers are so stupid they don’t understand the difference. Now, I agree that not all sci-fi has to be hard sci-fi (that is, one hundred percent scientifically accurate according to what is generally accepted or theorized) but at least try to get simple details right. A star system is a star (or stars) with satellite planets around it (like our sun and its eight planets) and the galaxy is all stars in a large group with potentially thousands of planets. This error reminds me of Abrams Mission Impossible 3 where characters get implanted with a bomb that will explode. Their solution is to artificially stop their hearts then get them restarted. No more threat from the bomb. Problem? Nobody in the story bothers to explain why this technique works at all! It just does. Deal with it. Sloppy writing when an easy sentence or two would’ve helped make sense of the whole thing. Likewise, understand the difference between words when you write something and help avoid making the astute viewer think you’re a total idiot. 
    Another detail that seemed pointless was having Leonard Nimoy read the whole “Space, the final frontier...” speech near the end of the film. We’re trying to reboot the franchise, make it hip and modern, but we still decide to keep something in there that is most definitely trying to appeal to fans nostalgia. Why not just drop it all together? At the very least, make Chris Pine read it so it truly passes the torch to the new guys instead of getting Nimoy to do it.

Sights and Sound

    The new cast was a mixed bag. Chris Pine is a pretty boy but it’s unclear how good of an actor he truly is. The script didn’t force him to emote all that much and neither have any of his subsequent film roles. If future installments only rely on his running and arguing with Spock, acting skill won’t matter too much. (One can argue William Shatner wasn’t much an actor either but he did have a Shakespearean acting background and brought enough of his own eccentricity to the role to make Kirk interesting and fun. Currently, I don’t see any comparable thing in Chris Pine).
    Zachary Quinto is Spock. Previously he played the evil Sylar on Heroes. He was cast as Spock because he was white and had black hair apparently. Yes, he can do detached emotion as an actor but I’m not certain I see him as the only option who could possibly play Spock.
    Karl Urban seemed to do an impression of Deforest Kelly playing McCoy rather then trying to be the character himself. Zoe Saldana as Uhura plays her as a sassy black woman (which is better then Nichelle Nichols passive Uhura in the original series). Uhura, in any instance by any actor, is played as a stereotypical black woman. If she can get more character development I might be able to appreciate her as a real character. The same goes for Chekhov and Sulu. They mostly existed as 2D characters with the odd bit of life brought to them by their respective actors (in both TOS and this newer version). They need to be more developed in general. Simon Pegg didn’t strike me as a logical choice for Scotty but in retrospect, he can act and bring charm and warmth to the character so perhaps he is a good choice after all.
    The musical score by Michael Giacchino was decent for the most part. Not really memorable but suitable for the most part. The only part I really didn’t care for was the original series reprise in the end credits. I never found that music very good in the first place (especially compared to what came later from the likes of Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner) and didn’t need to see a modern reprise of it (also, the theme is repeated several times in the end credits for some reason which makes it even more annoying). Giacchino’s score, like many modern soundtracks, doesn’t raise the bar the way all of the 80s movies did. Goldsmith, Horner and Eidelman all produced amazing memorable scores while this one is merely adequate.

The Undiscovered Country

    Star Trek has long since stopped being a cult fan favorite show and turned into a franchise (I hate that term but it’s true). The product is now being aimed at a younger audience with attention issues. The new product is great for that target demographic but not so good for people who enjoyed some of the depth the original had. Like with many things of its time (comics come to mind), Star Trek had characters who grew from younger incarnations into older seasoned characters in their respective films and that was great. But being a corporate product that can never be allowed to end (like comics), it’s now been rebooted for the younger set with stuff they assume that audience wants to see.
    As I write this, the sequel is being filmed. Let us hope it is a vast improvement over the first film. With a clear story and characters we care about it’s still possible this newest incarnation might be worth viewing.

Discusted about bad speling? Me to!

What is it with people's spelling skills? I can remember even back in High School when many of my peers couldn't spell all that well. My English teacher actually started doing spelling quizzes at the time (many of the students scoffed--even though they averaged between fifty and seventy percent generally on those tests). Of course, I went to a school with a lot of stupid people. That particular High School's method of getting students was accepting anyone--overflow from full schools, below average students, etc. Anything to fulfill their student quota. To be blunt, they were not all rocket scientists in the making.

   Years on, I notice many people online still can't spell worth a damn. Even accounting for internet abbreviations and the mess that is texting-speak it seems people have great difficulty spelling the simplest of words. Granted, we all have our occasional flubs. Nobody's perfect--for all my high and mighty talk here even I screw up sometimes.
   Still I wish people would double-check their spelling before posting things online. A recent blog I read had comments by someone who was "discusted" by criminals seemingly getting away with crimes due to poor rulings by judges. "Discusted"? Really? Are you that dumb?
    Another thing I can't stand is when people write things like "he went there to." Some people have always had problems with the difference between "to" and "too" but you'd assume they at least try to learn it. It's "he went there too" or "I'm going to the store". I don't know why they can't seem to get it straight but it really is annoying.
   I also wonder if some of text-speak's origins came from teenagers texting one another and not being able to spell a word properly so they just started slurring words on purpose to cover it up. Yes, they do it for speed and convenience but I do recall at least some of my peers as a teenager using lots of inappropriate spelling (and this was long before texting existed). Some teens do it for fun but I think others really don't know how to spell certain words correctly.
   Ironically, I hate "Spelling Nazis". Despite what some people might think, you don't have to nitpick everyone's spelling or grammar mistakes. If you're a professional editor, then fine. But to do so while someone's trying to make a point about something is rude and annoying (you probably wouldn't do that in real life to someone you're having a casual conversation with so why would you do it online?) I say this because I used to be on a group where this spelling dictator found it necessary to undermine any point one was making by nitpicking at some stupid thing or the other (while apparently not devoting any thought processes to the actual point at hand).
   An argument can be destroyed by lousy spelling. This is a fact. Reminding someone what an idiot they are (in your opinion) because they spelled something wrong will only piss them off and resolve nothing (other then to demonstrate what an ass the spelling nazi truly is).
   Both teachers and people need to try harder. Teachers need to impart better spelling skills in people. To make them care about their spelling skills. But those same people need to understand that good spelling is important in life. Good spelling makes you seem more literate and more intelligent. It is no less important then good math skills, good speaking skills or skill at anything else.
   I also wonder if spelling mistakes are often made by people in a rush. I know it happens to me sometimes (especially skipping a word in a rush to finish a sentence or paragraph). Spell checking programs exist for a reason, people! Use them often and proudly. You have the time and it can make all the difference in the world. Learn how to spell (or re-learn if needed) and make sure people realize you are as smart as you really are. Because you are smart (and handsome too!) It's time the world realized that.

Rampant Environmentalism...

(Note: This was originally posted March 26/10 obviously. I've changed blogs since then hence the date it was posted reads 2012 instead. The message is the important part though). 

Tomorrow, March 27, 2010, is Earth Hour. A time where everyone can turn out their lights for an hour to symbolize their commitment to protecting Mother Earth. Why, even corporations are getting in on the act. The largest theater chain in Canada, Cineplex supports Earth Day. How? I don't know exactly. Their website doesn't elaborate. A quick check of their movie listings indicates they're still playing movies tomorrow night (which consumes power, btw). A local radio station is celebrating Earth Hour by only playing accoustic or "unplugged" songs for that hour. Nice! I mean, sure, they could've turned off their station for the hour and saved actual power but I guess this pointless display is something too.
   Green chic is the latest thing in society. Charging Carbon Credits for travel (even though the money doesn't really do anything to help the environment); charging five cents a plastic bag (even though plastic bags can be made to biodegrade now the stores much prefer to stick it to you in the name of being green instead). As far as business seems to be concerned, going green is an excuse to take you for more money and use your guilt over the environment to coerce you into going along with it.
   I do love this planet and I do think we should be making positive strides towards trying to protect our world from self destruction. But I think we should be making real strides--instead of charging for bags, why not order only biodegradable plastic ones? Those who still want cloth bags can purchase them and feel secure about making their contribution--why must we be charged for plastic instead? And if bags are so destructive, why do North Americans insist on wasting trees and paper by using toilet paper? I don't see anyone rushing to invent a new way to use the toilet (it sounds trivial but imagine how much paper is wasted every year by being flushed away). We're all still using gasoline powered cars (although, they are slowly getting hybrids out there so the automobile industry isn't completely irresponsible about their own complicity). What about flagrant urban sprawl? Do we really need to destroy perfectly good wildlife habitat because Joe Average is too lazy to build a new house in an existing area of the city?
   Symbolism isn't what it used to be. Instead of sitting in the dark for an hour like an idiot, why don't you try something useful to help conserve the environment. Get power reducing lights, more energy efficient appliances... simply turn your lights out when you're not going to be in the room for an extended period. Truly being Green is easy enough--and much more satisfying then a token day to satisfy your guilty conscience over not doing things you should be.