Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Star Trek (2008) Directed by: J.J. Abrams

I might have mentioned earlier (or maybe not) that my love of Star Trek had a very reluctant and rocky start in my childhood.  As a child in the 80s, there wasn’t an incredible amount of variety on television.  So many a weekend afternoon aired long marathons of Star Trek, Bruce Lee movies, etc.   My father, an avid Star Trek fan, wouldn’t miss a chance to sit and watch the episodes from the original show, and of course he was the one who introduced it to me.  I admit I wasn’t very receptive at first, but in time it grew on me, and I found myself addicted.  I’ve watched all remakes of it including Enterprise (and no, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people said it was – it’s actually one of my favorites).

Fast forward to adulthood.  I’m so thrilled that there are new, modern Star Trek movies for kids to see!  In a world that is drowning in Star Wars toys, games, movies, cartoons, etc., finally – FINALLY – they will get introduced to my world.  My husband and son are huge Star Wars fans, and of course, like any true Sci-Fi fan, I love it too.  But Star Trek will always be my favorite, and here’s some of the things you can learn if you watch Star Trek too:

 

1)       Friendly conflict is both normal and perhaps even expected. 

If you’ve ever seen Star Trek, you’ll know that the bickering that occurs between Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock is never ending.  But when the heat is on and push comes to shove, these two always have each other’s backs.  Always.  They may disagree, but they also recognize there’s a bond between them that they may deny outwardly but would never abandon.  What a perfect example of overcoming our differences when it counts!

 

2)      To be a good leader, sometimes you have to break the rules.

Let’s be honest… if Captain Kirk always followed the rules, life would be boring on the USS Enterprise.  Kirk’s cavalier way of handling things makes the show that much more exciting.  You never know if he’s going to breach protocol when dealing with a new race, or metaphorically spit in the face of his superiors with pure disobedience, but either way, he teaches us a valuable lesson.  Sometimes rules were meant to be broken, sometimes those in power don’t have our best interests in heart.  We need to be able to think outside the box and make our own decisions so we can sleep at night.

 

3)      Too much logic can be a bad thing.

I love Spock!  He’s one of my favorites.  And being only half Vulcan, we know that he does have emotions (even if he won’t admit it).  But while logic has its place – being able to keep a cool head in times of trouble, not adding more emotion to an already heated situation, etc. – it does have a downfall.  Emotions help us to relay how we feel about a particular person or situation.  While they can messy and detrimental at times, they’re needed.  They help us weigh things better.  They help people understand us better; they forge a deeper connection.  They’re a necessary evil, so to speak.

 

4)      Meet new people, make new friends, help those in need.

The main premise of Star Trek is watching the crew visit new worlds and civilizations.  Time and again they’re being exposed to new people, and they learn to communicate and help those who need it.  While we’re pretty earth bound here, we can also take time to meet new people and make new friends.  Even if it’s just being cordial to the woman in back of us in line at the grocery store, we can take a few moments to chit chat.  Might be the only interaction they get that day.  You can also help a neighbor in need.

5)      Don’t wear a red shirt when you go out exploring. (I couldn’t resist!)

All those poor crew members in their red shirts who died without us even knowing their names!  Don’t be like them.  Wear ANY other color before you venture out.

 

What else have you learned from Star Trek?  Comment below, and don’t forget to see the new Star Trek movie!

There he is... Captain Obsesso and his "prize."

Ok, I promised (or perhaps ‘warned’ is a better word) in the About SFZ section that controversial subjects will be discussed from time to time.  So I think it’s about time I get something off my chest, something that has to do with a very popular series of books and movies.  And while I believe that my point of view will be the minority, it doesn’t make it any less valid. 

That being said, I think I’m ready to move on and start discussing the topic at hand which is Twilight.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy anything about the series.  I’ll confess that the plot is pretty interesting, and I enjoy seeing how the characters somewhat develop.  Here’s the thing though – that’s where the problem lies:  in the characters (Bella and Edward specifically).

Their relationship is completely dysfunctional.  Let’s start with the age difference.  No, they’re not both teenagers.  Edward is a 200 year old vampire, and Bella is a young human teen.  Talk about a dirty old man! I don’t care if he’s trapped as a teenager forever; there’s something just very gross and creepy about him pursuing her.  Yes, yes – I remember the whole thing of him wanting to wait until they were married, but even so he shouldn’t have even been DATING her.

Here he is – the Lurker. “Oh, Bella… I can’t stop looking at you so I’m going to stare longingly at the back of your neck until you turn around again.”

Not only that, but his obsession with her is just sickening at best.  Edward follows Bella around like a stalker ready to pounce on her with a pair of sharpened knives or scissors at any moment.  In what seems like almost every scene, he is hanging on her – lurking behind her shoulder, grabbing her arm, following her around.  Come on – so not only is he a perpetual teen for life, apparently he will never show any signs of maturing at all.  Was this kind of behavior normal back when he was turned, or in 200 years has he learned absolutely NOTHING?  Or maybe that’s why he goes for teenage girls – maybe he operates on such a low level of maturity that he knows he could only pull off this type of abusive, possessive crap with someone as young and inexperienced as Bella.

 
Speaking of Bella, as if Edward’s selfish and obsessive teenage behavior wasn’t enough, we can now turn our attention toward her.

I honestly think she’s worse than he is.

Edward is selfish and controlling, yet Bella does nothing to combat that.  There’s no message of, “Hey girls, you don’t have to put up with this.”  She caters to his every will, attempting to please him all the time while trying to avoid the slightest hint of controversy.  He demands, and she delivers. 

Continuing on, I thought her plan of turning into a vampire and never seeing her family again was absolutely atrocious.  Is that what we we’re trying to teach young girls?  Hey – live a secret life with your boyfriend and don’t tell your parents because, yeah – that’s cool.   Are you kidding me?  Nothing in this movie gives girls the idea of self empowerment.  The message here is, “Do whatever you can to please your boyfriend, even if he turns on you and becomes an abusive ***hole. And when he does turn on you, it’s your fault so be sure to blame yourself. Lock yourself in your bedroom, fall into a deep depression and refuse to eat.”

This series sends some majorly messed up messages to both genders of today’s young generation.  Or maybe not. Maybe one day I can sit down with my daughter, show her these films and say to her, “This is exactly what you DON’T want. If a boy like this shows interest in you, RUN, and don’t look back.”

There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when a movie becomes a box office hit.  The people involved in the project get an idea (in my opinion it’s mostly greed- motivated) that perhaps a sequel would be a good idea.  They try to tap into what made their first movie a hit to begin with and expound on it in some way which allows for greater entertainment of audience members and more revenue, etc. etc.

However, in terms of science fiction movie sequels, I hope I’m not the only one that often feels disappointed after subjecting myself to one.  This is what happened when I first saw The Matrix and loved it:   I heard that a sequel was coming out and thought to myself, “Wow!  I can’t wait to see the continuation of this!”  Then I bought my (overly priced) movie ticket, took my seat and waited for the film to start.  What happened next though actually happens more often than not in this genre– I quickly discover that I’m utterly disappointed and left wondering how I can get the 2 hours of my life back that was wasted watching such a horrid film.

I’m not complaining about any movie in particular (that I am willing to admit that the subsequent sequels to The Matrix were terrible, the second only being slightly better than the third).  I’m just discussing the phenomenon that is sequels and how, for the most part, Hollywood rarely seems to get it right.  Is it worth giving audience members a watered down version of the original in order to bring in even more hordes of cash?  I mean, The Matrix, Ghostbusters, Men In Black, Jurassic Park and others didn’t even NEED a sequel.  They would’ve been fine if left to how they ended.

And let’s bring this to another level – how about all of the Harry Potter movies?   And Twilight?   Yes, the books have sequels but does that mean that Hollywood was obligated to make sequels of these original movies as well?  This is highly subjective.  I mean, I love all of the Underworld movies, and I’m also a big fan of the Prophecy line — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sequels were necessary.   Of course I feel they were, but there’s that subjectivity again…

Of course, there are those movies that are exceptions to this particular rule.  Could you even possibly imagine Star Wars without its ever-loved and popular sequels?  I think not.  How about Alien without Aliens, or Terminator without T2: Judgment Day?  Would the world have been a better place if these sequels had never been produced?  Arguably not.  These movies had what it takes to continue beyond the original and capture the audience’s interest.

As for a movie that could’ve (and perhaps should’ve) been continued but hasn’t thus far –The Last Airbender had continuing chapters in its anime form, and yet only one chapter made it into the box office (and it didn’t suck nearly as bad as the critics said it did).  Highly disappointing.

What magic causes some sequels to be successful while others fail?  Is it due to the writers, the producers, the cast, the FX team or is it more of a collaboration between them all that ties everything together?  I believe there’s more than likely a chemistry that comes into play; a formula which almost guarantees the success of sequels to a box office hit. I’ve come to the conclusion that (like I said earlier) it’s completely subjective.  If the movies don’t make oodles of money, no sequel is made.  If it does, then it will be stretched out to the maximum, redone ad nauseum.  Greed-motivated, as I said earlier.

I don’t know what the actual equation is, but I do hope that Hollywood figures it out soon.  Either that or they’d better learn to quit while they’re ahead and leave some original movies alone.

But that’s just my opinion… I want to hear from you.  How do you feel about all of this?  Are there movies you wish had sequels or never had them at all?  Comment below!

I remember mentioning in earlier articles that my father was a huge influence for me in terms of my love of science fiction.  I can easily recall the Sunday marathons of Star Trek in which my dad would sit almost entranced as he took each episode in.  He’d call to me, “Chris, come see this…you should watch this show.”  And I’d sigh, roll my eyes and sit down with him (even at 6-7 years old I already had a dramatic streak), but what I didn’t expect was that I would start to love the show.  I mean, I LOVED Star Trek.

But that was pretty much where I drew the line.  When Star Wars would come on, I’d run – UNLESS it was the one with the ewoks.  Boy, I loved those little furry guys so much that I’d watch Star Wars JUST so I could see the little ewoks run across the screen.  I’d sit there wishing there was some way I could own one.  Other than that, I had quite an aversion to the movies.  There perhaps was a tiny bit of curiosity inside me but I refused to satiate it.

I can tell you why too – to me (in the eyes of a child), these movies were hard-core science fiction.  At the time I didn’t like hard core sci-fi; or at least I didn’t think I did.  I liked fantasy more – dragons, unicorns, enchanted forests, etc.  Star Trek sneaked in there because there was one television in the house at that time and I was a captive audience; it grew on me not unlike a contagious fungus. Plus I enjoyed spending quality time with my father and our love of Star Trek was something that was just ours.  But Star Wars?  No way.  Too much space, too much technology, too many planets and races and people with strange names.  I wasn’t interested, and I wouldn’t be for quite some time.  Plus the bad guys were really bad.  Darth Vader made me shudder!  I was frightened of both him and the Emperor.  Chewbacca was annoying with his constant whines, C3PO bitched and complained constantly… the only one I really loved was Yoda but once he was off the screen, I was out of the room.

Fast forward to last year.  My son, who was five at the time, was becoming ever aware of the world of Star Wars.  With the inception of the Clone Wars cartoon and the creation of the Lego Star Wars series of games for the Wii, his Star Wars obsession began.  I figured since he was showing an interest, he would probably become a fan of Yoda like I was, but no – his favorite became the dreaded Darth Vader.  When he broke the news to me I remember sitting there for a few moments thinking, “His favorite is the worst enemy the Jedi have ever faced… I’ve failed as a parent in some way!”  Then I saw what was out there – Star Wars television shows and games that, while still show Darth Vader as the enemy, also present him in a light that’s not as scary as when I was a child.

The prequels that were released (yes, I did watch them and for the record I hate Jar Jar Binks with a passion) did help to explain why Darth Vader is the way he is, and who he was before his transformation into ultimate evil began.  Add to that the games and cartoons and such, and we’re presented with perhaps a somewhat friendlier looking bad guy.  Suddenly, he doesn’t seem so terrible anymore once he’s been shrunken down to Lego size.  In fact, he’s kinda cute with those little block-like legs… I can see why kids would now be drawn to him, I suppose.

So with marketing in full force, my son’s Star Wars obsession became constantly fed.  And the more he’d take in, the more he’d spew to me about it.  I’d wake up and he’d be standing over me while I’m still in bed, chatting away about Darth Vader and the Emperor, how the Jedi will never be able to escape their grasp, etc.  In the beginning I’d smile but think to myself, “Star Wars… why did it have to be Star Wars..?!  Why not Wolverine or Superman?”  It felt like torture to hear about something I had such a level of disdain toward.

But the more I’d (be forced to) listen, the more I’d realize Star Wars wasn’t so bad.  I’d sit with him and watch Clone Wars, and I couldn’t say I didn’t like it because I did.  He’d ask me for help with his Star Wars games for the Wii, and I found myself almost eager to assist – not only because I love helping my kids, but also because (dare I admit this?) I wanted a chance to play it myself!

And the obsession continues.  In fact, the other day he came up to me and with those big brown eyes looking into mine he said, “Mama, while I’m at school will you play my Lego Star Wars game and unlock Boba Fett for me, please?”  I was like, “Hell, yeah!”  So after dropping both him and his sister off, I came home and happily played until Boba Fett was his.

The more he talked about it, the more I couldn’t help but realize I’d been missing out on something all these years.  Star Wars was awesome, and I didn’t give it half a chance when I was younger.  So my interest in it started increasing and I’ve gotten to the point where I can honestly say I love Star Wars – maybe not as much as my son, but I am now a fan.  I even went and bought myself the limited edition R2D2 Droid through Verizon. R2D2 is now my favorite Star Wars characters of all time (my daughter’s favorite as well – for the record, she hated Star Wars until her little brother’s influence corrupted her as well).

So I say with pride that I am now a bona fide Star Wars fan. I love the movies (except for the one with that annoying bastard Jar Jar).  I love the games, the television show, etc.  I may not be as big a fan as my son (my wardrobe doesn’t contain anything with the logo on it), but Star Wars is now something that connects us like Star Trek did for my father and I so many years ago.  It doesn’t matter if the younger generation introduces it to the older generation; science fiction creates an undeniable bond between people.  It may lay dormant for many years, but it will always be there ready to emerge when the right connection is made.

There was no 25 year fanfare last year for a movie that even today defies traditional classification. This, to me as a film lover, is both a tragedy and an affront; an affront because this is still a movie that many people haven’t had the opportunity of seeing, and if you’re an SF film lover you owe it to yourself to see it.

So, one year after its 25th Anniversary, I want to take the time to opine about the genius that is Terry Gilliam and his stunning creation Brazil.

Gilliam is one of those fairly unique Americans who seems to get British humour, sensibilities and quirks even better that most British writers do. This may be due in part to the time he spent creating the hilarious (and ground breaking), animations for the Monty Python team. Animations both widely inventive and sometimes almost deliciously obscene.

He then shared the directing duties with Terry Jones for Pythons Holy Grail, a movie so funny it hasn’t dated one iota and with a ‘look’ that well exceeded what could have been expected from its very modest budget. I recall when I first saw it, when I wasn’t splitting my sides, I was cognisant of the creation of a visual image of what the Middle Ages probably actually looked and felt like…without the delightfully silly characters. The delicious abject squalor of the ‘bring out your dead’ scene is a prime example.

Gilliam’s next directorial outing was Jabberwocky. This time his visual creativity and stark humorous observations were given full reign. A medieval fairy story of a humble peasant (played to perfection by Michael Palin) coming to a big city to seek his fortune. A city plagued by a monster that lived in the nearby forest.

It was dark, grim, bloody, scat ridden, occasionally offensive and brutally funny. If you haven’t seen it…do! Gilliam’s visual wizardry leaps out from the screen and the excruciatingly funny script is devoured by a hugely talented cast of character actors chewing the scenery with ill concealed relish.

Time Bandits then followed – a surprise hit that gave the Studios confidence in Gilliam’s unique visions.

Then came Brazil.

A script that the studio bought, signed off on and green lit. Gilliam brought the movie in on budget and delivered exactly what was on the page. A darkly satirical horror comedy set in the near future. A world in which bureaucracy has gone mad under a brutal totalitarian regime. Indeed one of Gilliam’s possible titles for the piece was Nineteen Eighty Four and a Half, which may have worked better than Brazil which certainly confused people (me included). It actually refers the music used, but even I have to admit it was an odd choice of title.

The studio head hated it and demanded all sorts of cuts.

I could write a book about what happened next, indeed someone actually did, but suffice to say an ungodly battle ensued between Gilliam and the studio to get the movie released in a form that they were both happy with. Check out Jack Matthews outstanding Battle of Brazil for the full skinny.

The unhappy ending of the story is of a mishandled, very limited release in the US, and the unconscionable recutting by the studio of the print for a TV slot, a recut that eviscerated this starkly and deeply disturbing masterpiece and unbelievably turned it into an inoffensive love story…unconscionable behaviour.

The original movie is Gilliam at his best, weaving his eclectic visual magic and sharp pokes at the establishment in a story that encompasses comedy, torture, brutality, love, hope, dreams and Robert De Niro as a terrorist heating engineer.

Yes you did read that right…Robert De Niro as a terrorist heating engineer.

The humour is so bleak it’s occasionally almost unbearable. In this futuristic society, interrogations are carried out by a department innocuously called ‘Information Retrieval’. This is a department which routinely practices state sanctioned torture. Bureaucracy has reached such a level whereby, if one is taken in for questioning, you have to pay for your own incarceration and interrogation. As one poor guy is being strapped down to be tortured, his tormentor kindly says, “Don’t hold out for too long lad, it’ll only affect your credit rating.”

Brilliance.

If you’ve seen the non TV version you’ll know. If you haven’t you won’t.

Know what?

Know that comedy, social commentary, SF, horror, stunning visuals, satire and simply outrageously good production design come together in Brazil in a unique celebration of the genius that is Terry Gilliam.

Check it out….and tell me I’m wrong.