Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't hate me because I'm a schoolteacher with summers off

The Sci-Fi Channel Dune adaptations. I have watched them before. I have read the Frank Herbert novels. I have read the first one twice. I love the series. I am now reading the fourth book, God Emperor of Dune. These adaptations are wonderful to me, a fan of the series. However, those that don't know the series or haven't read the books probably won't get into it. I can't imagine these converting new fans, just establishing older fans.
Children of Dune actually incorporates material from both Dune Messiah, a novella really as it is not very long at all, and Children of Dune. This one, even more than the first one would more or less confuse anybody that is not a fan. But I like 'em.
I love Jackie Chan. This is bad kung fu at its baddest.
I almost didn't watch this movie due to the sophomoric title alone, Balls of Fury. But I enjoyed it. It was funny, not laugh-out-loud, but good for a snicker. Concept neat--whole premise just kind of neat. Worth watching.
We turned this off after about 15 minutes. Meet the Spartans was horrid. We rented it because Morgan liked that Epic Movie and other stuff that she had watched with her friend. However, that unfortunately is the age bracket this movie is hitting. It's middle school humor. They spend five minutes kicking the judges of American Idol and Britney Spears into the Pit of Death. That's funny? He has to fight and get sat on by a giant penguin? The crude humor was horrible, not funny. If this got better, I am not sorry we turned it off. This is the crap that most movie studios are peddling on the movie consumers now.
An older, decent Star Trek novel. Star Trek: Devil World by Gordon Eklund 1979. This could easily have been an episode of the old series. Little devil creatures on a planet ruled by something else. Kirk has to take a beautiful lady in to save her father marooned there. Kirk falls in love while trying to figure out the mystery. Good old Trek.

I like good old 1940s detective movies. I discovered the Dick Tracy movies on my Detective movie 10-pack that I got recently. Great stuff. I could see myself going to the movies and beng entranced int he 40s. Proves you don't have to have a huge budget to have a decent movie.

The Thieves of Heaven by Richard Doetsch. Extremely slow in the beginning, but it really picked up and became a good thriller. Great characterization drives it, even though I don't think it needed almost 100 pages to express the husband's devotion to the wife. That was the long part. Once you got past that, it was really good. Great history too--you feel like you really know the places visited, like the Vatican.

And I just finished a top-notch H.P. Lovecraft novelette, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. First rate supernatural horror. Man, is Lovecraft good. I have never read such good mood-pieces. Better than Edgar Allan Poe, I swear, and I love Poe. It can be read online here:

I absolutely loved this movie. I have enjoyed all the Rocky movies but this one was really good. Maybe it has something to do with getting older and mattering. I really liked this one. I tell you, Sylvester Stallone has a way with good characterization. I honestly think all the characters, even side characters, were taken care of extremely well. I found myself on the edge of my seat during the fight sequence because this one could have gone any way, like a real fight. I loved this flick.
Great bad kung fu! You have to love kung fu kids! You have to love a climax that has the hero kicking the bad guy up a rope. Phenomenal choreography, the real reason to watch kung fu. Almost like watching a superhero comic book.

Star Trek episodes

Season one, episode 29 (remember, this numbering is from the website I am watching them on)

"Operation--Annihilate!" Kirk's brother Sam is dead. He's a research biologist whose planet of Deneva was on the route of some kind of space plague, like locusts. Kirk has a nephew named Peter Kirk. Amazingly, no one dies while Kirk is in command of the situation.

Season one, episode 13 "The Conscience of the King" Even though that title is a reference to Hamlet the play produced at the beginning is Macbeth but we won't go there because they did mention that they would produce Hamlet for the Enterprise, but I digress. This was a great episode with a fantastic twist at the end. This was the episode that directly ties in with that book The Lost Years by Dillard that I read a few months ago. It has that Lt. Kevin Riley that was so prominent in the book, as he escaped the terror of Kodos on Tarsus IV. (Don't ask--it takes me longer to explain than just admitting I am a geek and getting on with it.) Kirk's friend Tom Layton dies but isn't his fault. Kirk must catch Kodos in the act, much like Hamlet. Great episode.

Season one, episode 21 "The Return of the Archons" Classic Trek. A dystopian society in which Kirk must go against the Prime Directive to battle what is right. Kirk says the Prime Directive "refers to a living, growing culture--do you think this one is?" Especially enlightening in that I just watched The Next Generation episode entitled "Justice" where Picard must violate the Prime Directive over what is right--remember Wesley falling into the flowerbed and being sentenced to death? In "The Return of the Archons" no one dies, the lieutenant that was absorbed by the machine comes back safe and sound after the final conflict. One puzzling aspect is that they never completely explained "the Red Hour" unless it was simply a release for the enslaved people of the planet.

Season one, episode 4 "The Naked Time" Another space virus. It's amazing how that is very often the answer to many Star Trek episodes--a space virus. It is hard sometimes to remember that this being one of the early episodes, that they have to go through these space viruses. It is amazing how they mention undergoing "decontamination" after visiting a starbase where everybody died mysteriously, trying to find the cause. Wouldn't decontamination be standard procedure? It would be after the first one I ever encountered as a starship captain. Anyway, this one has 3D chess, and 3D checkers too! Lt. Kevin Riley is featured again. One crewman dies, Joe Something, the idiot that took off his glove at the contaminated starbase and ended up infecting everybody. This episode also sees a crying Spock because of the virus. Also, this episode features what appears to me, the first formula for a time warp--is it the same one the crew use again in Star Trek IV to save the whales? This is also the direct precursor episode to The Next Generation season one episode "The Naked Now" in which Data and Tasha Yar get cozy with each other--somehow proving to people that Data was "fully functional." (Why anybody needed to know that is beyond me.)

I jumped around a bit and also watched Season 3 episode 9 "The Tholian Web" No deaths occur. Kirk is trapped in interphase in a space suit out in the middle of nowhere as the Enterprise is trapped in a Tholian net. Strange, but good. This is one where a novel would have been better to expose these Tholians as the viewer knows absolutely nothing about them.

Season 3, episode 11 "Wink of an Eye" Fantastic episode about hyperaccelerated aliens that try to take over Enterprise. (Although there are many plot failings, including the fact that if they are so fast, why it takes so long for them to do anything.) One red-shirted crewman, Compton, disappears and we find out that cell damage kills him. Hilariously, Kirk is hyperaccelerated and then has hyperaccelerated sex with the alien whose sole purpose is to seduce him. This is the crux of the issue with me, an episode where Kirk and the Enterprise should have easily been finished--if they had not hyperaccelerated Kirk, if they had simply waited until they had taken over the ship, there would have been nobody to interfere. This is, then, simply stupid aliens. I wish this concept could be revisited in one of the Star Trek novels by a decent writer. I think it would be neat to revisit this entire episode and take away some of the stupid mistakes that the aliens make and rewrite it.

Season 2, episode 10 "Journey to Babel" featuring Spock's father Sarek, one of my favorite Trek characters. Fabulous episode with all sorts of Trek aliens that also introduces us to Spock's mother. You gotta love an episode with Andorians, those blue aliens, and especially fake Andorians with communicators in the antenna. No crew member dies.

Season 1, episode 5 "The Enemy Within" Complete with a dog with a horn as an alien species! This is the one where Kirk is split in a transporter accident into aggressive Kirk and benevolent Kirk. Did this episode ever mention why, when the transporter fails and Sulu and crew are marooned on the -100 degree freezing planet, that they couldn't use a shuttle to go and rescue them? Luckily, only the dog dies. PETA would be pissed.

Season 3, episode 20 "The Way to Eden" By far, the worst Star Trek episode ever. And I mean ever. Hippies sing and dance and take over the Enterprise in quite possibly the easiest ship takeover ever. This episode is sour simply for the singing and sit-ins, and Spock jamming with his space-harp thing, being one with the hippies, saying "I reach you." It would have been like Wesley Crusher wearing grunge clothes. Absolutely horrible episode. No deaths in this one except Dr. Severin who took over the Enterprise and died on the planet Eden after eating poison fruit. Was this episode a precursor to Star Trek V? I shudder.

Season 1, episode 3 "Where No Man Has Gone Before" Another one of those omnipotent-forces Trek episodes that Roddenberry enjoyed so much as one of the crewmen, a Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell gets possessed by some kind of energy that turns him into a god-like creature. Interesting tidbits in this episode: the Enterprise tries to break the edge of the galaxy; early Spock where he must say, "irritating--one of your human emotions"; Spock talks about "one of [his] ancestors" marrying an Earth woman, not his mother, as Kirk defeats him at 3D chess; no opening credit dialogue, you know, the "Space--the final frontier" shpiel; there's no Doctor McCoy yet; the tombstone says "James R. Kirk" and not James T(iberius) Kirk. Spock reports casualties of 9 dead as they hit the galaxy's edge, so that's nine more to add to Kirk's total. The fascinating part of this episode is the fact that Kirk and Spock pretty much condemn Mitchell to exile and death by marooning him on a planet--a precursor to Kahn? I also see that Mitchell, with his powers, could easily come back to haunt Kirk, worthy of a novel if you ask me.

Season 1, episode 7 "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Nurse Chapel's long lost fiance is found, amazingly right where he was supposed to be the whole time of his five-year absence. Two, count 'em two, red-shirted crewman die quite unimportantly in this episode, Rayburn and Matthews. One falls into a bottomless pit! Good episode with a neat twist. Also, definitely one of the episodes that lay the groundwork for The Next Generation to have Riker lead Away Teams and not the Captain himself.

Comics read during this time period:

Super Powers (Vol. 1, DC, 1984) #3

The Brave and the Bold (DC, 1979) #151--gotta love a comic that stars Batman and the Flash in "The Disco of Death"

Deathstroke the Terminator (DC) #6-10, including the "City of Assassins" storyline with Batman. Issue #10 has Deathstroke and the new female Vigilante get their asses kicked by a random street gang, then they go home and have sex.

New Gods (DC, 1989) #1-4. This is a series that intrigues me because of the ramifications with Darkseid. Kirby was on the top of his game when he created this world of his.

Star Trek (DC, 1989) #3, 4. I will read anything by amazing author Peter David. No matter what he has written, I have loved it. I am even thinking of picking up his novel set in the Alien Nation universe simply because his name is on it. I loved #3--Kirk transports the Klingon photon torpedoes to impact behind the Klingon ship. Awesome.

DC Universe #0 (2008) Sometimes it takes a scorecard to keep this friggin' DC Universe straight. If this is supposed to be a jumping-on point, I am still confused, and I am a comic book geek. I still long for the days of the comic books that had words in them. They used to explain what the hell was going on, who was who, what happened before, even if it appeared in a boring text box. I long for the days of the writing style of Chris Claremont from the 80s X-Men comics. He tended to repeat, almost verbatim, origin text boxes and super-power info but it was absolutely necessary. I think that anybody could have picked up an Uncanny X-Men from the 80s and know what was going on without 50+ years of history. Any issue, even in the middle of a storyline. I want that back! I want words in my comics! Pick up one of those Marvel Essential books or the DC paperbacks of reprints. There were words.

Conan the Adventurer #1 (Marvel, 1994) One of the 100 comics I picked up at the little Bloomington comic convention I went to on Father's Day (100 comics for $40!). I love Conan.

Superman #297 (DC, 1976)

Flash #278 (DC, 1979) Have I mentioned how much I love 1970s DC comics?

Fury of Firestorm #32 (DC, 1984) with the Phantom Stranger, one of my favorites.

Superman #45 (DC, 1990)

Conan Classic #2 (Marvel, 1994) reprint of a 1971 Roy Thomas story

Jenna Jameson's Shadow Hunter #0, 1 (Virgin Comics, 2008) I tell you, if I had not gotten these sent to me for free from Virgin to promote on, I would be ashamed if I had bought these. Besides the great covers, absolutely bad.

The Expendable One, Volume 2: The Boob Versus the Boobs (2007 Viper Comics trade paperback--one of those nice small trades) and yes, that is a double entendre in the title as the immortal hero that can hack off limbs and get shot in the head and still be all right has to fight killer robots with feminine bodies. Jason M. Burns, the writer, writes very good dialogue, just like Kevin Smith, but the plot here is hopelessly shallow and stupid.

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