Monthly Archives: May 2008

BSG: The Last Cylon Revealed!

The preview makes it look like Roslin is the last Cylon, but is that just trailer-trickery?

Get your vote in now, before all is revealed next week! (A few names on here are pretty much out of the running now… this is an old poll with Agathon newly added as a possibility.)

[poll id=”2″]

Don’t forget to tune in to Battlestar Galactica on Friday night (as if I have to remind you).

Double Review: Narnian royalty return to take down Indiana Jones

Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I foisted my 2 kids on my parents and ran for the hills, totally taking advantage of my parents’ generosity to spend 6 straight hours at the local megaplex. The order of the day was blockbuster fantasy adventure in the form of the latest sequels to 2 successful franchises. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian won the coin toss for the opening feature, leaving Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to play us out.

It’s interesting to note that even though we had heard Caspian was great and Indy was… not so great… we had decided that if we could only get to one movie, it would be Indiana Jones. As it turns out, we didn’t have to make that choice, but it shows how much of a draw Indy can be.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian poster

It has been decades since I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. I remembered a great deal of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, when that movie came out, but I had almost zero recollection of the Prince Caspian story beyond some vague impressions. I just knew I liked it.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Narnia series is inherently Christian in its viewpoint. The first book/movie (Lion, Witch, Wardrobe) was very clear in the lion Aslan’s parallel to Jesus. This second movie is not as pointed on that matter, but the story clearly revolves around faith and trust in Aslan as the key to success in all matters – despite the character’s relatively small amount of screen time. When High King Peter draws up battle plans built under his own ego, disaster ensues. But when he plans with trust in Aslan as his driver, he succeeds. It’s not just in the big ways that tests of faith are displayed here, though; there are littler moments where some of the children must choose whether to believe that another (Lucy) has seen Aslan in the forest, and whether Lucy lets the others sway her from following Aslan’s lead. Later, the consequences of her decision to follow the others rather than Aslan are brought forward. In a short conversation, Lucy asks if the troubles they had through the movie could have been avoided if she had followed Aslan’s guidance at the beginning. Aslan states that we will never know what could have been. It’s easy to blow past that, but it’s such an important lesson – when we make mistakes, lose faith, and fail, we have to deal with the consequences of our choices. We can’t go back and change it so there is no use focusing on what might have been – we can only go forward from here and make the best of the situation.

So the movie certainly works for me as a Christian. How does it work as a fantasy-action film? Very well, thank you. This is certainly a darker entry in the series. Though hanging on to its PG rating, there is a lot of death in this movie, including an important decapitation. Action abounds! Arrows fly, swords swing, claws cut, heads roll… it’s all good. Weta does another admirable job with the effects. Though not nearly as dark as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are obvious similarities in the look – and that’s a good thing.

However, that does bring to mind a good point from a review I read:

Tragically, the biggest downfall to the fascinating world of Narnia and its engrossing inhabitants is the fact that nearly every idea has already been expended by other movies. C.S. Lewis may have crafted many of his creative elements years before Shrek or 300, but those movies beat Narnia to the big screen. Whether it’s Reepicheep, who is unappealingly similar to Shrek’s Puss In Boots, or the Telmarine infantry, whose armored masks closely resemble 300’s Immortal army, Narnia simply doesn’t feel original. It’s a shame that many viewer’s first encounter with the thaumaturgical inventions will be through the film and not the novels.

That is a shame, because this story came first by a long shot and, while still excellent, it is a bit visually reminiscent of other recent films, and I can’t deny that I noticed it.

That said, though, if you’re at all a fan of fantasy or action, you’ll like this film. It’s very well made and has superior, time-tested source material.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

You\'re going back to school!First off… that title’s way too long. So we’re off to a bad start.

Now we have to deal with the film.

Okay, Indy’s lookin’ old in these first few scenes… not sure he’ll pull it off.

Not sure I’m buying the magnetism thing. But once the action starts… he’s back! (thank you, Mr. Ford!)

Then there’s the nuclear explosion. Argh. Sooooo many problems with that.

And that’s how the rest of the movie goes for me. “Woo hoo! Excellent!” followed closely by “oh, come on… seriously?”

Despite some nice scenes and the return of everyone’s favorite Indy love interest, Marion, this is the weakest of the four movies. There are moments of cool throughout, but most of them are in the trailers – except the ants… I liked those. Even the music, while excellent, never found a signature sound like each of the previous three films. (Where was this movie’s “Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra”?)

And then there’s the basic problem of the movie: Indy’s chasing aliens. Aliens don’t belong in Indy’s world. Not acceptable. You’ve got to leave an element of the mysterious in Indy’s quests. The supernatural is never fully explained in the previous three movies… there are elements of faith woven through all three. This movie breaks that mold, and that, in the end, is what’s unforgivable about this plot. I can get past all the other stuff I didn’t like (and Lee covers most of those pretty well over at Quit Your Day Job) but once you remove the necessity of faith as a theme, you’ve lost the essence of the films (even though Indy himself would probably argue against me, faith is a major underpinning of each of his outings).

Now… having said all that, this still manages to be a fun ride of a film. If you treat it as non-canon material, you can have a great time just going along for the ride. It’s not true Indy, as far as I’m concerned, but it has enough of the elements to make it fun and exciting.

Head to Head?

Seeing these two movies back to back provided an interesting comparison opportunity. I love both franchises and wanted both to succeed. But how do they stack up against each other?

Caspian wins hands down for emotional impact and a feeling of importance – that it mattered.

Caspian wins for a grounding in its own previously established rules. Indy dropped that ball.

Caspian wins on action.

Indy, however, in a shocking decision (even to me), wins for fun. It’s simply fun to watch that team (Ford, Lucas, Spielberg) do their thing with that film. Despite my own annoyance with the plot, I still enjoyed the heck out of that thing. It’s just fun to be back in that world (even if it is a parallel universe version of it).

Go see ‘em both!

Things overheard in my house lately

“Can you tie this to my eyebrow?” [referring to a balloon]

After throwing a blanket over her own head: “POOF! She was gone.”

3-yr old: “You can’t tell me that!”
2-yr old: “Why?”
3-yr old: “You’re not a grown-up!”
2-yr old: “YES I AM!”
3-yr old: “NO YOU’RE NOT!”
2-yr old: “YES I AM!
3-yr old: “YOU’RE NOT A GROWN-UP; YOU’RE IN A BOOSTER SEAT!!
2-yr old: “What?”
3-yr old: “You’re in a booster seat. Look.”
2-yr old: “Oh.”

Star Wars: Clone Wars videos (and an Obi-Wan debate settled)

I just recently found out that two of my brothers-in-law didn’t know anything about the new Clone Wars movie or the TV series it’s setting up. This post is for them…. but there’s a nice treat at the end for those who know all the rest.

First, the basics: as I said back in August

As most people know already, there are two Star Wars TV shows in the works, one live action and one computer animated. The latter of those is much closer to completion, and it’s release is still over a year out. But on the official Star Wars website, they’ve released a trailer for the “Clone Wars” show, and it blows me away. This series looks like it will be awesome. It covers, as the name implies, the Clone Wars, which begin at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones and end in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. There was a short cartoon series run on the Cartoon Network (approximately 5 minute episodes totalling 2 hours), that covered some of that war, and this series will fill in the gaps.

Here’s the “Sneak Peek” trailer I was referring to:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/TK3JCmMN5mQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Then, in February, Lucasfilm announced that they would be releasing an animated theatrical movie to kick-off the animated TV series. At the time, I said:

To be honest, it’ll be a little weird to see an animated Star Wars on the big screen, and it’s a bit of an odd idea to launch a TV show with a theatrical pilot (though there will be a TV pilot, too), but if any franchise can pull that off, it’d be Star Wars.

The theatrical release will be on August 15th, followed by the TV debut on Cartoon Network (and TNT) in the fall.

Here’s the trailer for the movie (notice, some of the shots are the same, but there’s some cool new stuff) [edit: if the video below is “no longer available” click here to see it – embedding is apparently blocked on all versions of this one]:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/xboEibLVZPE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The thing about Jabba’s son… I’m trying not to think about it… but it looks awesome. The fluidity of the movement is amazing. Those lightsaber battles are going to be great.

The new young girl they focus on in the trailers is called Ahsoka, and she’ll be Anakin’s padawan (apprentice).

The movie premieres on August 15th. It should come as no surprise that I’ll be seeing this in the theater (it’s the last of my “essentials” group this year.)

Now… on to the Obi-Wan debate.

The best lightsaber battle ever was against Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. (For my money, it was worth sitting through Jar-Jar to get to that.) One of the frequent nitpicks of that sequence, though, is that Obi-Wan didn’t use his force speed power to quickly go through the laser gates, thereby catching up with Qui-Gon and probably preventing his death. Why wouldn’t he do that? The beginning of the movie established that particular power when they escaped from the destroyer droids. Why not use it now in this critical moment battling the Sith?

At last, we know the answer!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/t3dI-ghYimg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

That settles it for me. Totally plausible.

TV updates: 24 and Smallville (w/spoilers)

The networks released their schedules for next year this week. No surprise: Smallville and 24 are both reappearing in the schedules. However, there has been surprising news/rumors about both shows…

24

Jack is back, and as an appeasement from the long wait since last season, we get a 2-hour movie on November 23rd:

24 is also scheduled to return full time in January of 2009. (A spoiler is below.) However, to reward fans who have not seen a new episode since May of 2007, there will be a 2-hour special on 11/23. According to Kiefer Sutherland, they are scheduled to start filming in the next few weeks in south Africa.

“Set and shot on location in Africa, Jack Bauer battles an international crisis, while here at home the nation prepares for a new president on inauguration day. Taking place just a few months before the new day dawns, this story will set the stage and raise the stakes for Season Seven.”

Day/Season 7 spoiler: Tony’s back. Wait a minute… is this a sci-fi show now?

Smallville

We already knew that Kristen Kreuk and Michael Rosenbaum were leaving the show as regulars. Apparently, that fact gave Allison Mack, who plays Chloe Sullivan, the guts to try renegotiating, since that would leave her as the only regular (other than Tom Welling) to have been on since the beginning. However, it looks like those negotiations may be going poorly, and Chloe may be on her way out.

So that would leave just Clark, Lois, and Jimmy as the only regulars. Hmm…. seems like we’re really leaving Smallville behind and just going straight to Superman. I don’t know – I really like the show, but I’m really worried that it’s going to suffer greatly without Lex. I’ve heard Lana will become recurring…. and I don’t care. She’s over, as far as I’m concerned. They ran out of good stuff to do with her character a few years ago. She only really had a couple good episodes in the last few seasons. Lex is the one that’s got to come back from time to time, if you ask me. Besides….

SPOILERS FOR SMALLVILLE SEASON 7 FINALE

… what are they going to do, leave him dead under the ice, buried in his attempt to kill Clark? Obviously Clark will be back somehow, and I really hope the season premiere resolves the whole Clark/Lex fight adequately. I kind of feel like the rug was pulled out from under me for this finale, and not in a good way. This show has had some great finales, but this one just seemed a bit anti-climactic to me. We saw almost the entire end of the show in the previews! Where was the big fight? Where was the surprise? Where was the “holy cow! Who’s gonna survive this?” moment? We know Clark’s going to survive so no drama there. Lex is going to survive somehow too (to do otherwise would really be a kick in the face to the fans). Lana healed (whoopie.) and left (Yeah!), though she’s open to come back (eh.). Jimmy and Lois were never in danger. Chloe was the candidate for cliffhanger-ness, but they gave her a totally happy ending. I guess Kara is still floating out there…

…but that leaves me with another question: what was the deal where Kara/Brainiac collapsed at the end of the previous episode after Kara’s “return”. It would have worked if Brainiac were controlling her, but if it’s really Brainiac, what’s with the weak collapse, and then all powerful for the opening of this episode?

Next season’s premiere better pull out all the stops, as I assumed this finale would.

Forum update on time traveling interference with Hitler

Abyss & Apex : Fourth Quarter 2007: Wikihistory

Okay, if you’ve ever participated in an online forum or newsgroup, you’ve gotta read this mock-forum discussion of the International Association of Time Travelers.

I love this bit:

At 02:29:49, SilverFox316 wrote:
PS to SneakyPete: your Hitler paintings aren’t worth anything, schmuck, since you probably brought them directly here from 1907, which means the paint’s still fresh. Freaking n00b.

It’s not that long, and pretty funny. Click on through.

Doctor Who – The return of Gallifrey?

Doctor Who — Theories, Facts, Speculations – Slice of SciFi

Over at Slice Of Scifi, they’ve got a post (linked above) that lays out a lot of evidence gathered throughout the last 3+ seasons of the show, and comes up with this hypothesis:

Overall for the Season we will witness the return, in some form or other, of Gallifrey and learn of how the Time War really ended.

I gotta admit, that’s a real possibility, and the author lays out a decent argument. He even goes so far as to make a guess that we will see pieces of the Time War, and that the current, 10th incarnation of the Doctor has a role to play in it. Not sure I buy that, but I’m also not going to dismiss the idea out of hand. He makes a decent case for his position.

It would be a pretty cool thing to see, and it would make sense for Russell Davies to end his involvement in the show on that kind of a note (Davies is rumored to be leaving at the end of next year’s three specials, and Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor beyond that time is in question as well).

If you go through to read the article, which I recommend, be aware that there are spoilers for just about every episode from the first episode of the first season (of the reborn series) thru the fourth episode of the current season.

How to spend less on gas

10 Simple Changes That Save Gas | The Wisdom Journal

All 10 of these tips are good, and relatively easy to accomplish. Here are first five, with my own thoughts. For the rest, and the original commentary, click through the link above:

  1. Make as many right turns as possible. UPS and FedEx both think it’s important. Look into it. (Hint: less time sitting idle.)
  2. Smooth rides. Don’t floor it ’till you brake it. Smoothly accelerate and decelerate.
  3. Drive under 60, even on the interstate. This one hurts, but the facts blow me away. In fact, I’m just going to quote the Wisdom Journal directly…
  4. According to the EPA, you can assume that each 5 m.p.h. you drive over 60 m.p.h. is like paying an additional 20 to 25 cents per gallon of gas. Wow!

  5. Watch your tire pressure. I knew this already, but it’s easy to get lazy about it. 4-10% decrease in gas mileage is substantial, though!
  6. Stop for yellow lights. This goes along with #2, really.

So, check out the original article for some helpful tips (and thanks, Ron).

Movie news roundup – Sci-Fi and comics lovers, rejoice!

Lots of news and some rumors hitting the net lately… here are the best of the bunch for Sci-Fi and comics lovers:

The next Stargate SG-1 film titled Stargate: Continuum now has a July 29 DVD release date.

Marvel has announced that Iron Man 2 has been confirmed for release in 2010, in addition to a movie about Thor. Also reported: the Avengers and Captain America (with Matthew McConaughey as the lead?) in 2011.

Also announced by Marvel: an Ant Man movie, though the timeline for the film is unknown. (This is where they start to lose me… Ant Man? Seriously? I think they’re stretching to reach a mainstream audience with that one. My guess is his popularity in the Avengers movie will determine if this one really gets made.)

Iron Man, Tony Stark, will make a cameo in The Incredible Hulk.

Superman: Man of Steel will now not be delayed due to the “Justice League of America” film but is geared up for a 2009 release with Brandon Routh back as Superman.

Both Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight will run over 140 minutes. In fact, The Dark Knight may run close to three hours.

Speaking of The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan has signed on for a third Batman feature, and Christian Bale has expressed interest as well. Details of plot are even starting to circulate – apparently the film will focus on Two-Face and may introduce Robin, following the plot of the graphic novels “The Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory” for a rough outline.