Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek

I watched the latest Star Trek last night and naturally had to give my review, as there just aren’t enough reviews of it on the Internet.

Good Things:

The plot was decent and easy to follow, I was kind of worried about that after seeing “Lost” and “Brisco County Jr” but it was less convoluted than some of the other Trek movies.

Action scenes, lots of them. Some of the Trek movies seem to forget that Star Trek is a Sci-Fi Action series and try to be a Sci-Fi Drama. This one did not make that mistake.

The Villain: Nero had a legitimate reason for being a prick, and going after young Kirk and Spock. Star Trek needs dramatic Villains in order for the heroes to “give it their all” with Nero you could see the reason for him being an evil bastard unlike some of the Star Trek villains whose reasons for being a villain were pretty lame. See my post on the 10 lamest Star Trek villains.

Eric Bana played it a lot lower key than any other Star Trek villain, I’m not sure if I like that, on the one hand it made it more believable like someone whose rage has so overwhelmed them that they dare not voice it out loud, but I have to wonder if it would have made it more Star Trekish if he played it all out over-dramatic like Malcolm McDowell, or if it would have made it cartoonish. I guess we’ll never know.

How it fits in the Trek Continuum; it doesn’t. They made sure to say over and over time travel destroyed the old Trek Continuum (It was Trek and JJ Abrams, it had to have time travel).

Casting: When I read who the cast was my first reaction was, “You’re kidding me right?” Then I read in some review how the cast really tried to imitate the originals and I thought “Oh no, I don’t want to see them do bad imitations of the originals.” So my expectations on the cast was pretty low.

Luckily the actors really tried to make the characters they were playing their own, with only a couple points of reference to the originals. The only exception was Kirk who had absolutely no Shat what so ever, but that was sort of explained in the plot.

What I didn’t like about it.

Camera Work from Hell: If done right a moving camera with quick edits can really add to the feeling of action. Abrams decided that he would get the crew from MTV Jams to film and put in more edits than an entire episode of “Lost” into a 30 second scene. And that was just when crewmembers were walking down the corridor, when heavy action scenes came up it really got confusing.

Nostalgia (Present Day) to cover lack of imagination:
The scene of Kirk racing in the Corvette was better than Picard four wheeling on an alien planet (That was just totally out of place) but still a more futurish way of showing that young Kirk was a trouble-maker wouldn’t be hard to pull off.

Characters talking over each other:
It was meant to show conflict, but it really made all of them seem ruder than I would stand for in real life, and in Star Trek I’ve gotten used to everyone being more polite than the present. They will destroy the galaxy to get what they want, but they won’t be impolite about it.

Overall, I liked the newest addition to Star Trek and hope they make a few sequels based on it. It wasn’t “Wrath of Khan” or “First Contact” but at least it wasn’t “TMP” or “Insurrection”.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A new twist to reality TV shows.

Ever since Survivor first aired dozens of “Reality TV” shows have sprung up using the same formula; Contestants are placed in to two teams and made to compete, the losing team has to vote off one of their members. The teams get narrowed down until they merge and start competing individually.

The drama in these shows comes in watching the group decide how to vote. It was a great concept when Survivor first did it but it has been repeated so many times that it is now just putting new faces into the same roles. All the “Reality TV” shows have tried to throw little twists into the game to add variety but none have tried to change the basic formula so the psychology remains the same, which is why these shows have gotten stale.

A new twist to these shows would be to add a forfeit vote. Any member could forfeit their vote at the cost of half their earnings. If every member on the team forfeits their vote no one gets sent home that week.

In the extreme example if there are 18 contestants divided into teams of 9 and one team totally dominated the other for the first 8 challenges before they merged and they all voted to forfeit each time, the winning team’s members would be competing for $1,000,000 and the losing team’s members would take home $7,875 if someone from that team won. If the first person voted off once they merged was from the winning team they would take home $2,000 but if they were from the losing team they’d make a whopping $15.62.

Of course it would never come to that, human nature wouldn’t allow 9 individuals to sacrifice a fortune in order to save someone they just met, but it would add a little spice in the otherwise boring middle section of the game.

When a team is down to four, it would be in everyone’s best interest to all forfeit the vote and still have numbers to compete for the $500,000. But if one sneaky bastard decided to vote off his biggest competitor on his team he would gain an advantage in cutting down the number of competitors he would be going up against in the individual rounds.

Throwing this curve in would really make the people who say, “I’m not here for the money just the experience” have a chance to show the world if they really mean it.

There would also be some great moments when everyone tells every one else that they will forfeit and no one does, and everyone votes individually showing people their true rankings in the team.

If a “Reality TV” show were to add this twist, it would throw in a whole new level to the stale formula for a couple of seasons, until it got stale as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Better off Ted

I don’t get a lot of the new “comedy” shows on TV. I’ve tried to sit through “The Office” and “30 Rock” and was left with the feeling of what the heck did I just watch. I could see the set up to jokes, I could see where the joke was supposed to be placed, but the “jokes” just seemed never to arrive.

So when “Better off Ted” came on after “Scrubs” I groaned, thinking it would be another humorless comedy.

Then I watched the set-up. A guy in charge of the research and development department at a huge corporation. I thought cool, that’s my idea of a dream job (Yes I’m a geek) all the benefits of being a mad scientist without having to do the hard work.

Then they introduced “the kid”. Kids in comedies are really a hit or miss thing. It is very easy for a kid’s performance to be technically perfect, but fall completely flat. The actress they got was spot on and delivered a great performance and was given just enough airtime to shine without getting annoying.

Then came the love triangle. Portia de Rossi was fantastic as the emotionless boss. She played the unsocial and unapproachable woman so well it comes off sexy as hell. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Andrea Anders does a good job as the quirky Linda. It’s a tough role being quirky without being all out insane, right now I think she (and the writers) are playing it a little too safe and not letting the character really let loose, but if the network lets the show continue I’m sure they can have a great deal of fun with her character and Anders does show the potential to run with it.

The researchers Lem and Phil have great chemistry right off the bat, you really get the feeling that these two have worked together so long that they have that weird non-gay long-term relationship that develops between people who have to spend years together.

Altogether I love this new show, I haven’t wanted a comedy show to succeed this much since I first saw “Scrubs”.

Unfortunately, my batting average for comedies is pretty bad. Almost every new show that I like gets canceled immediately. Hopefully this will change once ABC sees that “Better off Ted” has the full support of the vast “Project Savior” blog network behind it.

“Better off Ted” airs Wed 8:30 EST on ABC.

Monday, April 6, 2009

24 Day 8. A look at what’s in store for Jack Bauer next season.

Spoiler Alert

Since 2001 the writers of Fox’s 24 have been giving us bigger and more elaborate conspiracies that Jack needs to stop within one day; Season 8 will be no exception.

In season 8 Jack must deal with eco-terrorists who have taken over the Federal Reserve with the help rogue penguins disguised as NBA players. The penguins demand that all man-made CO2 emissions must end or they will convert the economy from being based on the US Dollar to being based on pilot fish.

President Allison Taylor is told by her cabinet that if she doesn’t take strong action she could lose the election to her rival, the war-hawk Governor Saddam Hitler Bush. She reluctantly decides that if the penguins can’t be defeated she will launch a nuclear strike against Antarctica, even though the resulting melt off will flood most coastal cities.

Meanwhile Jack has learned that the Chinese government secretly revived both his ex-wife and former co-worker Nina, they performed a brain swap and put Nina’s brain into Jack’s ex-wife’s body. Nina then became Audrey Raines’ nurse and is holding her hostage.

Jack manages to free Audrey and stop the rogue penguins with the help of Former President Abraham Lincoln who survived the John Wilkes Booth’s assassination attempt and has been secretly working for the CIA as an undercover agent posing as a Japanese Businessman.

Only after he foils these two plots does Jack find out that this was all a diversion to keep government agents from stopping the evil plot by the Atheist-Gay alliance to allow everyone to have Civil Unions.

Jack must fight against that in the second episode.