Star Trek Continues

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startrekcontinuesBoldly Going, More or Less

Fans of Star Trek have never really been happy with the newer editions of Star Trek. We all have these fantasies where NBC doesn’t cancel Star Trek and we get another season or two of the Original Series. Star Trek Continues is a group of those kinds of fans that are imagining a fourth season of Star Trek.

There are four episodes so far and I have to admit that I like them a lot. They are very much in the meladrama format that Star Trek did so well. Tear jerking episodes that play, for the most part, on warm feelings from Star Trek episodes we’ve all seen a dozen times. I especially like Episode 4, the final little reveal was brilliant.

What have they done right? A lot. A hell of a lot. They have the sets, sounds, lighting, camera angles, and music down to a T. The costumes are dead on and for the most part, it looks and sounds like an old episode of Star Trek from those glory days of the 1960s. They have also taken the liberty of adding a few upgrades from the future of Star Trek. They have a Ship’s Counselor and a Holodeck, both the first of their kind and both welcome additions to the story.

And what have they not got quite right? Well, the actors are all off just enough to be annoying. They did a great job of finding look alikes for several of the actors. Vic Mignogna could be a stunt double of 1969’s William Shanter. He looks and move like James T. Kirk. So it comes as a horrible shock each and every time he opens his mouth. Yes, Kirk was a soft spoken fellow, but his voice wasn’t so high pitched you might mistake him for a eunuch. The actors playing McCoy and Scotty both try to give their characters a little identity, but everyone else just talks. This makes it pretty confusing whenever one of the characters makes a long speech on the ship’s intercom. You don’t always know whose supposed to be talking.

The stories are great and if the acting was just a bit better, this would be a totally brilliant show. Like Star Trek Renegades, this is a show that gets funding from Kickstarter, but the folks at Star Trek Continues are spending the money in much better ways. It’s not perfect, but it is surprisingly good for what it is. If you like Star Trek you should watch Star Trek Continues.
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Blindspot

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blindspotPrison Break with a woman.

Prison Break was a great one season show about a guy who had his entire body covered with tattoos. These would help him break his brother out of prison.  It was a prefect gimmick for one season. That show lost its way as soon as the heroes escaped.

Blindspot also looks like a great one season show. The opening bit of a naked woman being found in a gym bag is fun and creative. Soon enough we find out that the woman has no memory and that her body is covered with tattoos that are clues to future events.  She also has soon wicked combat skills.

All well and good, but how far into the future can her tattoos see? Will she be kidnapped at the end of the season and her used tats replaced with new ones? Or do the good people at NBC think the show won’t last that long, so why worry?

Blindspot looks good and I like the actors, the sets, and the music. I’m not sure I’ll like the Tattoo of The Week formula, if such holds true past the first few episodes. Shows like this often surprise me by rapidly shifting gears in midstream. This is seldom an improvement.

On the plus side, I’m all for naked tattooed women being a staple on network TV.  On the minus side, this does look a lot like Bourne, and a little of that went a long way for me. Yes, I want my heroes to win, but I want them to struggle a little bit more while they do it. I did like a scene in the pilot where the cleverly named Jane Doe steps in and stops a bit of domestic violence. I didn’t like the idea that her ‘muscle memory’ will snap into place and save her no matter what situation she finds herself in.

Blindspot looks good and I hope it lasts long enough for it to make sense.

Categories: tv review

The End of Falling Skies

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fallingskies_queenTurn out the lights, the party’s over.

spoilers

I was never a huge fan of Falling Skies. The special effects were often terrible, the stories were often hokey and silly, the acting was often a bit over the top. Falling Skies could never quite decide if it wanted to be a campy 1950s horror moive or a campy 1980s morality play. In the end, it didn’t really matter.

After five years of losing a handful of people every week, but never anyone we knew or cared about, the 2nd Massachusetts Militia drags itself into Washington DC to do battle with The Queen of the Espheni.  Like the aliens in Independence Day and Edge of Tomorrow, we find that our heroes only need to kill one alien to win the war. Well, there’s no other way they could have won.

There is one dramatic moment when a beloved character dies, but of course, this death is merely a temporary tragedy. No one we care about is going to stay dead here.

Our heroes win because they are given a weapon by a vastly superior race, but one that can’t deliver the weapon in person itself. The happy ending felt a bit silly, just as it did in Indepence Day. Yes, 99.9% of all humanity is dead, but hey, we WON!

I was a bit surprised that the final shot that zoomed out into space didn’t contain an alien armada heading our way.

Falling Skies did too good a job telling us every week that these aliens were unstoppable, but we have to fight till the end. But I knew this show wasn’t going to have the balls to let the aliens win. Killing a queen bee doesn’t kill the hive, so why would killing the queen alien kill all the other aliens? Because it had to, the show’s run was over.

And I didn’t like that whole turn to the Dark Side for Pope. He was at his best when he was cooking for the 2nd Mass and cracking jokes. His final appearance was pointless, like most of the rest of this episode, and ultimately this series.

Categories: sci fi, tv review

Selling Photos Online-Or Not So Much

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One of my Twitter Buddies asked me advice on selling photos online.

I’m a professional photographer. Taking portraits is how I pay the bills and what allows me to travel around the country. I don’t sell portraits online. I now do Shoot and Show, as the Assembly Line Portrait business calls it. I take portraits and then turn around and show the subjects proofs of their images. On a good day I sell around a thousand dollars worth of portraits.  On a bad day, a few hundred dollars worth. I’m not very good at selling. The hot shots at The Company sell a couple of thousand dollars worth of portraits a day.

I’ve read a couple of books on selling photos online. Books on Mircostock photography that tell stories of making a couple of thousand dollars from one popular image and books on fine art photography that talk about selling single prints for a thousand dollars. I have had no luck with either. I have a few images on a couple of microstock sites, I think my lifetime earnings for all of them would be under ten dollars. Plus, they are a picky bunch of bastards that won’t accept just any old image.

On the Fine Art front, the usual advice is to Find Your Tribe. Well, I haven’t found mine yet. Oh, there are two or three people who like my images and they have even bought a couple. But for the most part, my images go unnoticed and unsold.

There are also places like Redbubble where you can sell all kinds of random items with your image on them. And I do like FineArtAmerica, though I haven’t sold many prints. Much like the mircostock sites, this may be due to the fact that I don’t have a million images listed.

So I have no advice when it comes to selling images online. I’ve been on DeviantART for about ten years and sold one print. I can look back and see that some of my images are not all that great, but I do have a handful that I think are really good. But then, my opinion doesn’t really count.

A co-worker once asked me why I wasted so much time wandering around a strange city taking photos. I said that I liked it and that I hoped to sell some of the images someday. He replied in a standard professional photographer cliche: I never put a camera to my face unless someone is paying me to. He was an interesting character that didn’t last long in the Assembly Line Portrait world.

Of course, he does have a good point. It’s easier to sell something when you actually have a customer.


Star Trek Renegades

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Star Trek RenegadesFan Fiction and Kickstarter, a wicked combination.

Star Trek Renegades is a collection of older actors and very bad special effects. The big name stars here are Walter Koenig and Tim Russ, both familiar to fans of Star Trek. Sean Young and several other blasts from the past have roles as well. Time has not been kind to these people.

There is an odd production error early in the film when we see a monument to Admiral Nimoy that should have been to Admiral Spock. Or maybe it should have been to Leonard Nimoy, without any military titles.

Star Trek Renegades had a successful Kickstarter campaign that earned them around $242,000. This is a far cry from the $5,000,000 that an episode of Star Trek Enterprise cost to make ten years ago, and I thought the effects on Enterprise were pretty awful. Needless to say the makeup and effects here are just atrocious. Several characters wore nothing more than poor fitting rubber masks, though I have to admit the Cardassian looked pretty good.

The story is about some alien attacking the Federation and some other alien also attacking the Federation. There were a handful of familiar characters, but none of them were doing things we might expect them to be doing. Since this is not an official Paramount production, things like the uniforms, ships, music, and transporter effects were not the same.  The acting was good in spots, but they have very little to work with, so I can’t really blame the cast for not giving stellar performances.

There are a few space battles, a few fist fights, and one or two moments were the story works. It’s clear that Renegades is catering to whoever said they would participate in the project. It has the feel of a Universal Studios audience participation show. Minus the music, sets, and uniforms we are all familiar with.

Star Trek Renegades is pretty terrible. But then, so was The Cage and Encounter at Farpoint. I don’t even remember anything about the first episodes of Voyager and Enterprise. I don’t see this show getting past the occasional fund raising episode.
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1Q84

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www.ifyouwriteit.com reviewThe suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts. ~Willy Wonka

1Q84 is a deep novel. It has many layers. We start off following two main characters. We hear about their work, their passions, their hopes. One is a writer and there is a good deal of talk about the publishing industry. The other is an assassin, and there is a good deal of talk about who she kills and why she kills them. For such a long book, it clocks in at about a 1,000 pages, we really have only a handful of characters. At one point we change our point of view character to someone new and it’s a bit shocking. This is odd, since the book is filled with amazing and unexplainable things that feel completely commonplace.

Haruki Murakami does a great job of describing a world that is just a bit different from the normal world. Of course, being an American I have no real knowledge of Japanese history. He mentions wars and battles that I have never heard of, but I don’t know if these are things that happened here or there and I don’t suppose it matters. There are a handful of altered events that impact the story and these are gone over in some detail.

I know nothing about the Japanese countryside or life in Tokyo, but the events feel as if they could have happened anywhere. Well, except for a couple of NHK fee collectors. A freeway plays a crucial role in the story, as does a small park with a slide and a clear view of the night sky. Our two heroes get into trouble when they collide with forces beyond their understanding. Such as NHK fee collectors.

One of the funny bits is the fact that a novella in the story becomes a bestseller. The fact that it is short and easy to read seems to be part of its appeal.  At another point, however, we are told that books like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past can only be read while one is imprisoned.  It is clear that Haruki Murakami follows Prousts path more closely than that of Air Chrysalis, the short novel embedded in this much longer novel.  He also is a fan of Chekhov and The Beatles.

Book Three is the hardest to get through. Not only has fatigue set in from watching these dull and boring people do dull and boring things, but the plot still plods along at a snail’s pace. We are told every detail about these peoples lives, as if it really matters what brand of cigarette they smoke or what ingredients they put in a salad. Then there is the mondo annoying way our heroes talk. Maza and Dohta are used instead of Mother and Daughter in reference to people created by The Little People. Or maybe not created by The Little People. We never learn anything about these magical beings. At the same time, one of our main character’s is pregnant and refers to her unborn child as Little One. Does this mean she thinks it’s one of the aliens? Or faeries? Or whatever?

1Q84 was brilliant in a few spots, but just baffling in others. One of the plot elements near the end has two characters looking for each other, one of them is in hiding, but the other is living his life. Everyone can find his phone number, his work number, or track him down…except for the woman who has been looking for him for twenty years.

I listened to the audio book and came close to giving up on it a couple of times. 1Q84 really wanted to be Art and Literature. It didn’t quite make the cut for me. This is a book where reading the Cliffnotes version would be a brilliant idea.

Categories: book review

Salvage City

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salvage cityOne of the fun things about living in hotel rooms is that you get to see all kinds of random crap on TV. King of the oddball show is The Discovery Channel. There are all kinds of goofy shows here from sort of reality shows to sort of educational shows. Amish Mafia and Naked and Afraid are two recent titles that kind of boggle the mind.

Salvage City was a very short lived show. It has all of three episodes and you can watch them on YouTube. The idea here is what if American Pickers found a pile of junk, and instead of dickering with the owner, they just tossed it all in the back of the van and drove off. The heroes of Salvage City are shown to be simple looters, albeit happy and smiling ones.

I’m a photographer and a recent trend in my world is something called Urban Exploring. This is where someone breaks into an old building or an amusement park and takes photos of the decayed and ruined surroundings. Pretty much every city in the world has a few buildings that no one has used for some time. We like to call these places Abandoned, but someone still owns all of them and it is still against the law to break down the door and wander around inside. I’ve always been afraid I would fall through a floor or something.

Salvage City is interesting to watch because we see our heroes here stealing crap and making jokes about getting caught. It’s a TV show, so we can assume that they are not actually breaking into the buildings we see them breaking into. But they make it clear that this is a normal method they use to get the raw materials for the things they sell. It’s both odd and interesting.

On Storage Wars there is a woman who buys units so she can use the items inside to make ‘art.’ This is also what the guys on Salvage City do. After they steal a few items, they turn them into something new and sell them at auction. I’ve never understood this side of the business. Why would anyone buy the things these knuckleheads put together out of junk?

I have to admit that when I look at a lot of Urban Exploring photos I tend to wonder why so much stuff is left in abandoned buildings. I have never taken the next logical step and said, Wow, I think I’ll go there and load up the back of a truck. On the one hand, yeah the stuff is there for the taking, but on the other, taking it is stealing it.

A lot of people were unhappy that all they showed of Saint Louis was the abandoned and the ruined, but that’s kind of the idea. If this show had continued I could easily see them making field trips to places like Detroit and Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Places like St Louis that are a bit less than they once were. They would need a fleet of trucks for Detroit alone, half the city is abandoned.

Categories: random thoughts, tv review

Limitless

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LimitlessIt’s a popular myth that people only use ten percent of their brain’s potential.

This would make evolution look pretty bad. A big brain that never reaches its full capacity. Of course, the brain does more than remember the random crap we read online, it keeps the heart beating, reminds us when to eat, when to sleep, tells us who to flirt with, and also remembers rather a lot of random crap that we read online.

Limitless takes the idea that we only use 20% of our brain power and offers up a pill that allows us to use all of it. Take a little clear pill and all of your synapses hop to attention and instantly supply you with whatever bit of info you need at the moment. Way cool.

But no drug is perfect and one of the cute gags for the TV Show Limitless lists the many side effects, including death, that can result from the use of NZT. I somehow missed seeing this film when it came out in 2011, either that or I totally forgot it, which is a possibility.

Limitless tells the story of a loser who wants to be a novelist. He can’t pay his rent. His apartment is a mess. He looks like a homeless bum. And his current girlfriend tosses him to the curb as the story opens. Then he meets his ex-brother-in-law. A good old fashioned drug dealer who says he has something that our hero might like. He does like it. He likes it a lot.

It’s a standard science fiction trope that any loser can become rich and famous with the help of a bit of technology.  The catch is usually that someone will come along and want you to pay for that tech. In Limitless the catch is that you have to take the drug forever, else you become a dull boy with no attention span and no interest in getting a hair cut or washing your clothes.

Limitless was a cute film and I think it should make a good TV Show.  It was not a great film.

For a super genius it takes out hero a while to decide to do the obvious, reverse engineer the pill. As Limitless rolls to an end, we find that Bradley seems to be on the same path as Lucy. Using all of your brain doesn’t just make you smart, it makes you a minor god. If such were really the case, we would all be bowing low to Google.

This is a simple formula film with a few good scenes.  One of the weak spots that bothered me was when our ‘hero’ murders one of the countless women he can now instantly seduce and basically shrugs it off. He kills other people, who are admittedly bad guys, but this doesn’t seem to bother him either. In the end, it’s clear that he can see the future, but he doesn’t appear to give a damn about anything that happens. He’s an asshole who likes to use his enhanced brain to chat up wait staff in their native language.

In the end, I didn’t like Limitless. He started off as a loser, but at least he was an honest loser. He ends up being a mass murder and an egomaniac who cheats to get everything he has.

And oh, yeah, I would take NZT in a heartbeat, just as I would take Lance Armstrong’s cycling cocktail if he ever decides to sell it at CNG.

Categories: movie review, sci fi

Extinction

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www.ifyouwriteit.com reviewIce Ice Zombies Ice

In classic, post apocalypse style we open up with a group of people crowded together. Random people on buses heading for parts unknown. Then something happens. All but a tiny handful are eaten by zombies.

We flash forward about ten years and find three survivors living next door to each other. Two men and one little girl. The world is a frozen wasteland covered in white. The survivors are kind of nuts. Even though they live side by side, they appear to hate each other, or at least, one of them hates the other. They may well be the last people on earth, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop acting like two year olds.

A lot of nothing happens. The girl plays with a dog. One of the men plays records over a loudspeaker and broadcasts to any empty world. A nearby warehouse has all the food the three people will ever need. But then the unexpected happens. They are attacked by zombies. They had let their guard down, thinking all the monsters were long gone.

Extinction was not a good movie. It reminded me a lot of a frozen vampire film from a couple of years back. 30 Days of Night was also pretty pointless and silly. But if you liked that movie, you might like this one. As with most films like this, I always have to wonder why our heroes have nothing but handguns and shotguns laying around. I think I would have headed for the nearest military base and picked up a bit of heavy ordinance, just in case. Hell, I would have moved into the bunker with the weapons. Someone did that on Syfy’s Defiance.

In the end we don’t know much more than we did to start with. Maybe there are more people, maybe not. Maybe there are more zombies, maybe not. Does anyone care? Definately not.

Categories: movie review, sci fi

Minority Report

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MinorityReportIt’s been awhile since I read Philip K Dick’s story or watched Tom Cruise’s movie, but I do recall liking them both. It seems to me that the book was set in a slightly richer world. While PreCrime was kind of an experiment in the film, it appeared to be a well established fact of law enforcement in the story. I always had the feeling that every large city had its own PreCrime bureau.  And if the Precog range is a hundred miles, then there should be a set of PreCogs every hundred miles.

In Fox’s Minority Report, we catch up with one of the Precogs as he tries his hand at a bit of PreCrime. He’s not having much luck, since he is the weakest of the three Precogs. While his brother and sister would get the full image and names and places, he just gets flashes. This means he needs some help. Which is how he ends up working with a policewoman. Together they track down people who are planning on committing crimes.

The Tv Show has lifted many of the best elements of Steven Spielberg’s film. The way Tom Cruise conducted the flow of data on a giant curved video screen and the way the Pregon could see just enough of the future to warn Tom to wait a few seconds before moving. Of course, the real drama of Minority Report saw the corruption of PreCrime and how it could be abused by those in positions of power. The hallmark of all Philip K Dick stories is the helplessness of his heroes as they struggle against insurmountable odds.

Fox’s Minority Report looks very good. Great special effects. Good looking actors. Based on the work of Philip K Dick and Steven Spielberg. If The Fox Broadcasting Company follows its usual pattern, this means the show will be canceled a few weeks after its premier.

Minority Report is not perfect. It’s basically a standard issue cop show with a special talent element. Much like Bones, Castle, and a couple of short lived shows from last year, Forever and Backstrom. It also has a lot of the look and feel of Almost Human, a pretty good sci-fi show that ended before it could find its footing.

If FOX could renew the Last Man on Earth, maybe Minority Report has a shot.

Categories: sci fi, tv review