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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Music Makes A Difference

Those that know me are aware that I am a Trekkie, having been exposed to Star Trek at an early age. My favorite movie is, in fact, Star Trek The Motion Picture, with its wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score. And that brings me to the point of this post, music in Star Trek movies.

It's no secret that my least favorite of the original cast movies (1 thru 6), is Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home. As I am currently nearing the end of a project where I read the movie novelization and then watch the film, I have seen Star Treks 4 & 5 very recently, and I can tell you that music is a big part, and I mean a BIG part, of why I put 4 so far down the list, even below the often lambasted Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier.

You see, the music in a movie either sets or enhances the mood. That, more than anything else, tells you what you are supposed to be feeling while watching the action. What happens in ST4, however, is the music undercuts any feeling of tension and makes it a goofy comedy. Beyond the opening theme sounding like a Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie, there are several points where the viewer could be on the edge of their seat, worrying if something bad was going to happen. The music, however, might as well be Yakety Sax for all the drama it conveys.

The worst example that I can think of is when Chekov is being chased after escaping custody on the aircraft carrier, There are several twists and turns and he ends up severely injured after a huge fall. This should be full of drama, with the audience not knowing whether or not he'll get away and then being shocked when he's hurt. Instead, it feels like he should be running next to Benny Hill.

That's not to say I dislike Leonard Rosenman's work. The man did a great job on Fantastic Voyage, Beneath The Planet of the Apes, and even Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings. This time, though, I'm afraid that it was a dud.

On the other side of the coin, however, is Star Trek 5. Plagued by budget and special effects problems, I still much prefer to watch this movie than ST4, and there is one major reason for that: Jerry Goldsmith. That's right, the amazing composer from Star Trek The Motion Picture, who redefined what Star Trek music was supposed to sound like, came back for this movie. His use of music does everything it's supposed to, amplifying the mood so that some of the rough edges are glossed over.

If James Horner had agreed to return, and finish the trilogy, or Leonard Nimoy had gotten Goldsmith one movie earlier, I probably wouldn't have as big of a problem with ST4. As it stands, though, it's my least favorite of the first 6, by a wide margin.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

What If ... Wesley Crusher

Listening to Next Generation's First Generation, I hear about Wesley Crusher quite a bit, and that got me to thinking. In the show, Wesley is made an "Acting Ensign" until he can go to Starfleet Academy and earn the rank himself. This gives him duties and responsibilities on the Enterprise, while he's supposed to be learning.

What if, though, instead of being made an Acting Ensign (which is a made-up officer) he just enlisted? I'm sure that Picard would have enough pull with the Admiralty to make sure than an enlisted Wesley would be assigned to the Enterprise, if the issue is that he wants to stay on the ship rather than follow his mother. So he'd have to go to boot camp, but then he'd be an actual member of Starfleet rather than a cosplayer.

If he wanted to be an officer later on, he could always go to Officer Candidate School (aka OCS), but at the very least he would get the experience of working on the ship. First hand experience at the lowest level might have changed how his character arc went. He might have left Starfleet earlier, having figured out that it was not for him. Or, on the other hand, he might have worked through whatever issues that he had and become a model crewman/officer.

I think one of the main issues that people have with the character, beyond the "wunderkind" aspect, is that he was just handed a position and rank over nothing more than Picard's guilt at the death of Jack Crusher. If he had been shown as having to earn it, over the course of multiple seasons, then many people might have not had the adverse reaction to him. I know that it would have improved my opinion, but then I'm the guy that wants to see an ensemble cast that goes all through the hierarchy, a la Hill Street Blues. Watching the high end operations of the bridge being contrast with Wesley and Chief O'Brein dealing with maintenance issues would have made for more enjoyable viewing, at least where I'm concerned.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The MCU Killed Star Wars

Controversial opinion time: The Marvel Cinematic Universe killed Star Wars, at least the sequel movies.

I think that the major issue with the Sequel Trilogy (Episodes 7, 8, and 9) is the fact that they aren't cohesive. The Force Awakens set some stuff up, The Last Jedi took that set-up and twisted some things around, and then The Rise Of Skywalker threw out a good amount of what was done in TLJ. Love them, hate them, or have a more nuanced opinion on them, you have to admit that there's some major inconsistency there and it makes the movies poorer for it.

The reason for this, in my opinion as a complete outsider, is that Disney saw what was going well over at Marvel Studios and decided to be hands off with the production. The problem is that Kathleen Kennedy, while a great executive, was also being a bit too hands off as well, letting the directors run each film as they saw fit. Over at Marvel you have Kevin Feige who takes a more active hand in the movies. Directors can do pretty much what they want, but are given constraints to work within. Since there's a connected universe, MCU movies have to hit certain beats and set up things for down the road. If JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson we're told that they had to get the story from Point A to Point B, and that the character arcs had been, in a broad sense, worked out ahead of time then I think people would have a much better opinion of the Sequel Trilogy.

Another thing that, at least for me, really brought down the new movies was over saturation, which I also blame the MCU for. You see, the Marvel movies, while all set in the same universe, are all over the place as far as genre goes. Iron Man is an action/adventure with a good dose of comedy, The First Avenger is a period piece, Ant Man is a heist movie, etc. Star Wars is space fantasy, maybe with a few things bolted on, but that's basically it. Multiple MCU movies coming out in a year works, because all of them have a different flavor. A new Star Wars movie coming out every year, and sometimes after only 6 months, is the same thing over and over. That really can wear people out.

Maybe I'm in "get off my lawn mode", but I remember when a new Star Wars movie was special, an event to be looked forward to. Even the Prequels, which I still like less than the Disney movies, only came out once every 3 years. That was long enough to digest what had come before and make up theories about what was coming out. Of course, I still haven't seen Captain Marvel, Endgame, or Far From Home, so it's not just Star Wars that I have the issue with. While I understand the business need for Disney to get back it's investment (which, as a stockholder, I'm thankful for), there's something to be said for holding off and letting the audience breath a bit. I think the declining box office has as much to do with the audience saying, "What, ANOTHER Star Wars movie?" as the "no one steering the ship" story issues.

Your mileage may vary, but that's how I see it. A bit of a firmer hand at Lucasfilm and more downtime between films can only help Star Wars. And that's not to say that you can't have new content. The Mandalorian, Resistance, and the last season of Clone Wars has shown that people will still watch new Star Wars, let's just give the movies a chance to be special again.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Book Recommendation - I Am C-3PO

Last night I finished reading I Am C-3PO by, you guessed it, Anthony Daniels. If, like me, you are a member of Generation Star Wars, then I would highly recommend this book. It's a series of stories that goes, mostly, in chronological order about Mr. Daniels experiences in being a part of the Star Wars Saga. One of the more eye-opening things is just how hard it was to be in the original Threepio suit, as it was made of fiberglass and not just heavy, but painful, to wear.

There's a good deal of behind the scenes in how movies were and are made. Going from fully realized sets to 90% green screen and back seems like a very interesting journey, with good and bad points to each. That's the kind of stuff that I'm really interested in, but then I'm the guy that has watched all of the extra materials on all of the Lord of the Rings DVD's (much to my wife's consternation).


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection

I recently finished reading Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection, which is the comic book version of the original Star Blazers. As a HUGE fan of the anime, I really wanted to read this and, on one level I'm glad I did. On another, not so much.

You see, the manga was being developed in parallel with the anime, and it shows. If you read this without having seen the original show, then you'd have quite a few moments where you'd say, "Wait, where did THAT come from?" One of the most jarring is that, at the end of the first part, two ships leave Iscandar after the Yamato does. The first is Captain Harlock (who is a cyborg space pirate always covered in a shroud) and the second is believed to contain Starsha and Mamoru Kodai (aka Alex Wildstar for us Americans). The odd part there is that the last time we saw Mamoru was in the battle of Pluto where his ship was destroyed. There's no trip to Titan in the manga, where the crew find's Mamoru's ship in the anime, and there's pretty much nothing shown on Iscandar. So this revelation really comes out of nowhere.

I'm sorry to say it, but this collection is more "tell but don't show". Many of the iconic scenes from the anime are either missing all together, or are mentioned as "We'll tell you about that when we get back" and then never mentioned again. The story also isn't complete. Yes, the Earth is saved, but then the second arc featuring the Comet Empire is severely abridged and doesn't even have a conclusion.

I'm sorry to say that I can only recommend this to people who are already Star Blazers fans, and then only as a curiosity. Personally, I think it's telling that it only took me 3 nights of reading before bed to finish a 644 page manga.

Now, to finish on a high note, here's the opening theme to Star Blazers 2199:

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Must Watch Movies

There are a few movies that I simply HAVE to re-watch every so often. It isn't an every year thing, but more like if I haven't seen them for awhile my brain starts to drop hints that I need to pull out the disk soon.

The first of these should be no surprise to anyone that knows me (or has read this blog, or listened to my podcasts), and that is "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."

This is not only my favorite Star Trek movie, it's one of my favorite movies of all time. I've said it before, but this is the only true science fiction story out of all of the movies, and the further we get away from 1979, the less and less Star Trek movies seem to be concerned with being sci-fi. The more recent entries on the series want to be action movies more than deal with any thinking (unless they're just poorly rehashing Star Trek 2).


The next movie that I just the itch to re-watch quite often is "Star Wars". Much like with Star Trek, this is the first movie to come out and it is also my favorite. Not only is is a good adventure story (which is what Star Wars should be), but it is also self contained. You don't need to have seen anything else to get a full, satisfying story out of this one. Unfortunately, that can't be said about the rest of the entries in the franchise.

Oh, and as long as we're on the subject, my preferred version is the original, which you can find in very high quality if you do a search for "Team Negative 1". It's a BIG file, but worth it IMHO.


As you might guess, the last movie that I'm going to talk about today is also science fiction and comes from the late 1970's, and that would be "The Black Hole". (And just typing the title has the John Barry score starting in my head.) This is much more of a "hard sci-fi" story, than Star Trek, but it still has it's fantastic elements (like being able to sit and watch a black hole). The major thing about the story is the ambiguous ending, which leads to more questions than answers and makes you think (there's that word again).

You can read more about my thoughts on this movie from my rediscovery of it 5 years ago.




There are a few more movies that I like to re-watch more often than others, like "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "A Night to Remember", but I don't feel the NEED to watch them like I do these three. I think it's telling that I have watched all three of these movies at least once since we moved to Florida in July.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Watching Anime As A Parent

Dressing like an anime character? Yup, she's obsessed.
It's interesting watching anime with my 11 year-old daughter. There are some times when I have to explain references or point out things that she wouldn't know (like what the heck was going on in an episode of Maid-Sama that we watched where they told the story (kind of) of Momotaro). The more fascinating bits are just how INTO the shows she gets. He most recent obsession is My Hero Academia, to the point that she spent some of her own money at Hot Topic to buy some accessories from the show.

She also spends a good amount of time that she's allowed to be on the computer watching various videos about her favorite shows. She wants to learn as much about them as possible, but I'm still trying to encourage her not to look up spoilers, as it might "spoil" the upcoming episodes (hence the name). Still, I'm happy that she has something that she can geek-out on and she also has several friends at school that share her interests, so it's great for her.

I still have to watch some of the shows before she does, though. Anime has a tendency to get into some areas that someone her age shouldn't watch. (I told her, for example, that there exists another anime about Momotaro, but there's no way I'm letting her watch Momo Kyun Sword just yet.) I'm looking forward to how her watching habits may or may not change as she approaches high school. As someone who seems to have inherited my "I don't give a damn about what others think" personality trait, she might just go more otaku on me, and I think I'm alright with that.