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Movie Reviews

Series Review – Star Trek Continues

StarTrekContinuesThis will be an unusual post for me. I don’t remember the last time I reviewed a TV series. I may have done a post about Firefly years ago. I don’t watch a lot of TV, after all.

Star Trek Continues, however, is not on TV. They are fan-made webisodes. So this is a first. I watched these webisodes by hooking my computer to the TV by means of an hdmi cable. That way, we were all able to enjoy it.

Star Trek Continues is the brainchild of Vic Mignogna, who alsoSTCKirkMcCoy plays Kirk. It is unabashed fan fiction. It seeks to continue Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) as if it were never cancelled. That means being faithful to the original set, equipment, make-up and costumes. This means heavily made-up men and styles reminiscent of the 60s. Don’t expect amateur performances. These episodes are engaging and highly polished.

It has attracted a lot of attention. Christopher Doohan–the son of the original Scotty–plays, well, Scotty.  The guest starts include Lou Ferrigno (who plays a green-skinned Orion!), Michael Dorn, and former Star Trek guest stars Michael Forest and Asia DeMarcos (who, I swear, has not aged. A day). Two of the STCMcKennahSpockepisodes, the first and the third, continue (and conclude) stories that began in the original series. For those, I recommend watching the original TOS episodes first.

The series features the same iconic characters–Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Uhuru, Sulu and Chekov. It adds a new cast member, McKennah, the ships counselor, pictured with Spock, at the left.

The first episode, Pilgrim of Eternity, continues the Apollo episode, Who Mourns for Adonais? In it, Apollo is now an old STCEp3man, played by the original actor. This is the only one that I think looks just a little rough. The makeup and the costumes improve greatly from this episode, so don’t let it put you off. The set, however, looks terrific, and the story is very faithful to the original. Including a godly wreaking of havoc.

The second episode, Lolani, is, as far as I can tell, is an original story. It is about an Orion slave girl who wants to be free. Except there’s this problem of other sovereign states with their own laws, and a little thing called the Prime Directive. This is the Lou Ferrigno episode, and he doesn’t play a good guy.

The third episode, Fairest of them All, is my favorite. It continues Mirror, Mirror from the last two minutes of the original story. In that story, Kirk–in one of those numerous transporter malfunctions–switched places with an evil Kirk from an STCUhurualternate universe. This story follows Spock in that original story, as he attempts to effect change in the the Empire.

And the fourth episode will be making its debut at the Phoenix Comicon.

Star Trek Continues has been funded by Kickstarter campaigns. The current Kickstarter is in a Fully Funded status. I expect there will be future Kickstarters, as well.

I really enjoyed the first three episodes, and am looking forward to the ones that are coming next. Michael Dorn is shown among the list of guest stars, so he must be coming up soon.

To watch, go to the webside, Before you dive in, I recommend you play around a bit. There are a lot of short videos, including comparisons showing scenes that took place in both TOS and Star Trek Continues.

I’ll be interested in your comments–did you watch them, or do you not care to see it? If not, why? If you watched them, what did you think?

Quick Movie Review – The Book of Eli

Watched The Book of Eli last night. This will be a quick post because I have about10 minutes before I go to work, so no images.

I loved it. It was wonderful storytelling. It was just the way Christian fiction ought to be–get the message across without any heavy-handedness. Denzel Washington was terrific, as usual, and who ever knew that the girl who played Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis) on That 70’s Show could act so well? Gary Oldman was hardly recognizable as the villain, but he was chilling.

The Book of Eli is about a man named Eli (Washington) who feels driven to carry a book across the post-apocalyptic country. He will do anything to protect the book, including standing aside and not getting involved when a gang of thugs kills a man and rapes his wife. He ends up in a town controlled by a man named Carnegie (Oldman), who is seeking the one book that will give him the words with which he can rule the masses.

Two men want the same book–one to rule the world and the other to save it.

As I said, the storytelling was fantastic. It brings most elements that were introduced in the opening scenes full circle, just as a story ought to do. I loved the iPod. It was totally unexpected in that setting. And I keep wondering how a novelist would have portrayed the book so the surprise at the end would remain intact. In the movie, they were able to show everything up front, trusting the reader to see what they expected to see. In a novel, the novelist would have had to withhold information. It bears thinking about.

I love post-apocalyptic fiction when it is done right, and this was so done right. I highly recommend it.

The Book of Eli – IMDB

Movie Review – The Princess and the Frog

My daughter and I went to see The Princess and the Frog (IMDB page) yesterday. She loved it, but I came away slightly more critical.

The plot is fairly complicated for a Disney Princess movie. Face it, they tend to be straightforward. Anyway, Tiana is a black waitress in New Orleans who dreams of converting an old warehouse to the restaurant that her deceased father always dreamed of opening. She grew up alongside a white rich girl named Charlotte, whose father was always commissioning dresses from Tiana’s seamstress mother. Now that they are grown, Charlotte has marriage on her mind and since Prince Naveen has just arrived into town, she knows just who the lucky man should be.

Except Prince Naveen has a few character flaws, which allows him to fall into the clutches of the evil witch doctor Doctor Facilier. Who turns Naveen into a frog to get him out of the way while he uses Naveen’s blood to disguise the prince’s not-so-trusty sidekick as the prince.

In the meantime, Charlotte hires Tiana to make pastries for her masquerade, where Charlotte intends to ensnare the Prince. The amount Charlotte pays, combined with Tiana’s savings, is enough for Tiana to put a down payment on her dream warehouse. However . . . well, there’s too many to mention.

The prelude of The Princess and the Frog is touching, gentle, and visually stunning. The problem is, the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to its own opening scenes. It takes a long time before the movie reaches the point where the princess kisses the frog, and the action really doesn’t get going until that point. Unfortunately, once it does get to that point, it gets to be a bit much. There’s this long sequence where Tiana and Naveen are traveling through the swamp to get the help of Mama Odie, who practices her own magic. It was loud, frenetic, and that trumpet got to be downright annoying. My daughter and I were able to take a bathroom break without feeling like we missed anything. There’s a series of scenes where a group of hicks are after the frogs to have frog legs for dinner. Not only did it go on too long and was entirely too loud and annoying, but it was completely unnecessary to the plot. There were already birds trying to capture them, plus evil spirits sent by Doctor Facilier, so the hillbilly scene was just overdoing it.

I think all that time could have been better spent developing Prince Naveen’s character. He has a turnaround in his character, but does not ever really reach a low point that is usually necessary in order to make such a turnaround. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast had a great low point, in which he was willing to let Belle go because he loved her. Naveen just (small spoiler!) decides he loves Tiana. And then he loses most of his selfishness.

I really wish they hadn’t made Mama Odie so ugly. I mean, yikes. What is with all the ugliness in animation? Old ladies can be attractive too, you know. I know she doesn’t look too ugly in this picture, but she was. On the other hand, some of the scenes in the swamp were as beautiful as the forest scenes in Sleeping Beauty.

Once they are out of the swamp, it’s a relief. The music calms down and the plot picks up. Facilier meets his end in Disney’s usual so-evil-he-does-himself-in way, Charlotte shows great kindness, and Naveen does the right thing. The ending is clever and touching.

I liked all the princess movies, and this one is no exception. However, I think Disney tried too hard to appeal to boys as well as girls. Here is how I’d rank all the movies:

  1. Beauty and the Beast
  2. Mulan
  3. Aladdin
  4. Pocahontas
  5. The Little Mermaid
  6. Cinderella
  7. The Princess and the Frog
  8. Sleeping Beauty
  9. Snow White

Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella all suffered from a lack of plot, which they filled in with cute animal scenes or cavorting fairies. The Princess and the Frog had rather too much plot. As you can see, I tend to like the more modern Princess movies the best, even ones like Pocahontas that didn’t earn great critical acclaim (although the kiss scene was slightly too wanton for a Princess movie).

I can safely recommend it as a worthy movie to add to your Disney collection. I liked it, and I’ll probably watch it again when it comes out on DVD, but I just didn’t love it.