Limitless – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Limitless was a 2011 movie starring Bradley Cooper.  The movie is about Eddie Morra, a young man in New York City struggling to write a novel.  On the day we meet him, he is dumped by his girlfriend and is trying to fend off his literary agent.  Eddie has blown through the advance he was paid for the book but so far hasn’t written a single word of the book.

By coincidence Eddie meets his former brother in law who used to be a drug dealer but alleges that now he markets a legal pharmaceutical called NZT that alters brain chemistry in a way that turns the user into a super genius for a day.  Although reluctant to use it Eddie tries it and it is everything promised.  He writes half his novel in a few hours and finds himself able to navigate his real-world problems, like his angry landlady, effortlessly and successfully.

He goes back to his brother in law to get more of the drug but after going to perform some gopher errands for him Eddie finds his brother in law shot to death in his living room and the apartment ransacked.  Eddie calls the police but spends the ensuing arrival time finding and taking the large supply of NZT that the killer had missed.

Now Eddie harnesses his abilities by becoming a securities trader.  But he needs capital to get going so he borrows $100,000 from a frightening Russian mafioso.  Eddie quickly makes several million dollars and comes to the attention of a Wall Street giant, Carl Van Loon played by Robert De Niro, who gives him the opportunity to become a major financial player.  But now he starts running into the side effects of NZT.  Continued use encourages neglect of the body such as forgetting to eat for days and overuse of the pills leads to violent impulsive actions.  And as he finds out from his ex-wife withdrawal from the drug can be fatal or at least permanently debilitating.

The climax of the story combines crises combining the Russian gangster, Eddie’s work with Van Loon and the NYPD.

The science fiction element of the story is restricted to the unbelievable effects of NZT.  In fact, the story reminds me of a decidedly non-science fiction story that I saw long ago.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Tom Cruise’s first big hit “Risky Business.”  We have a man taking a dangerous chance to change his life and dealing with the consequences of that decision.  Of course, this story is much darker but the resemblance occurred to me.  While I think the story is a little over the top, especially with respect to the Russian gangster portion of the story, I thought it was pretty good.  If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 8 – Miri

So, the set-up is the Enterprise hears a Morse Code distress signal out in space (somehow) and follows it back to a planet that is identical to Earth.  The landing party includes Kirk, Spock, Bones and, for no explicable reason, Yeoman Janice Rand.  I’ve got to stop here for a moment, and comment on the fact that even though we’re only a quarter of the way through season one it should be noted that finding themselves on a planet that inexplicably resembles Earth and responding to a distress signal, which implies danger, the Chief Medical Officer, the First Officer and the Captain are being sent down into an unknown and possibly lethal emergency.  But at least they brought the pretty girl with them for back up.  Okay, end of rant.

The upshot is that a virus that was meant to bestow practically endless longevity to the whole population instead killed everyone but the prepubescent children.  Three hundred years later the Enterprise crew finds the “children” still young but terrified of grownups that they call grups.  Apparently, the dying adults went crazy and attacked everything in their path as they were dying.  The children call themselves “onlies” but as each of the older children eventually reaches puberty the disease covers him in hideous sores, rapidly ages him, drives him mad and kills him.  The Enterprise landing party is infected immediately and has a week to find the cure before they will die on the planet quarantined from the Enterprise.  Only Spock is immune because of his green blood.

They find a teenage girl named Miri, played by True Grit actress Kim Darby, who has a crush on Kirk and in typical Kirk fashion he creepily smirks as she moons over him.  It’s pretty bad.  The other onlies are a weird collection of random children and stunted former child actors, one of whom, Michael J. Pollard, was closing in on thirty years of age.  The actor who played Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” John Megna, is in the cast as a supposedly little kid but he was fifteen years old and although he was still extremely short his head had grown disproportionately so his appearance was truly disconcerting.  Anyway, the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for the onlies doesn’t happen because they are creepy and vicious and weird looking.

The kids steal the communicators from the landing party and this hampers the search for a cure.  Kirk, Bones and Janice begin to show signs of the disease and they become extremely short tempered with each other.  One particularly embarrassing scene has Janice Rand pulling back the collar of her blouse to show a sore on her chest and then admitting to Kirk that she has always wanted him to notice her legs but now they were disfigured with sores.  Careful Janice, those kinds of things can’t be unsaid and Kirk doesn’t forget.

Finally, Kirk gets Miri to bring him to the onlies.  She adds her voice to his story that they are all in danger.  At first the onlies attack him and beat him with large crescent wrenches and odd-looking clubs.  Kirk makes some of his patented looks of pain.  But eventually he convinces them to return the communicators and trust the Enterprise crew to help them.

Meanwhile Bones throws caution to the wind and injects himself with the vaccine.  He immediately keels over and we have to wait as his unconscious body slowly fights off the virus and the sores on his face mercifully disappear.

As an epilogue Janice tells Kirk that Miri really was in love with him and he agrees but gives a creepy leering smile which probably should have been reported to the FBI’s Pervert Investigation Unit for evaluation.

Okay, so the scene where the onlies beat up Kirk is kind of funny and Janice’s comment about her legs is wonderfully embarrassing but other than that, meh.

Let’s rate it 5//5.  Right in the middle on both axes.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 7 – What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Here we are at episode seven of Season One and certain trends are already appearing.  Hopefully this will allow me to formulate a number of postulates as I did with the Twilight Zone.  For instance, whenever Kirk is replicated either by transporter mishap or incursion into an alternate universe or by action of a mad scientist hilarity is bound to ensue.

And such is the case in this episode.  The Enterprise is sent to a frigid ice world to locate Dr. Roger Korby who is not only the Louis Pasteur of archaeological medicine but is also Nurse Chapel’s fiancé.  In fact, mention of Korby’s preeminence as a scientist elicits the first utterance of the dreaded phrase, “his textbook was required reading at the Academy.”  Now we’re never told why a military officer needs to be versed in archeological medicine and in fact we never really find out what the hell archeological medicine is.  Anyway, by the fact that Nurse Chapel is his fiancée we know this guy is a loser.

When they reach orbit Korby communicates to them that they are to only send Captain Kirk down alone.  But when he finds out the that Chapel is aboard; he allows that she should join the captain.  We find out that Korby is really a robot with Korby’s mind implanted in it.  He is assisted by other humaniform robots who were created by a robot that was left by the “Old Ones.”  This robot is named Ruk and is played by Ted Cassidy who was Lurch on the original Addams Family show from the 1960s.

Korby’s evil plan is to substitute robots for humans throughout the galaxy and allow them to assume control and thus bring forth a logical new civilization.  Of course, it swiftly devolves into a murder spree wherein red shirt after red shirt is killed by Ruk.  To put this plan into action Korby duplicates Kirk with a twin robot.

And here the hilarity ensues.  Kirk is naked on a spinning table with only a metal console hiding his nethers.  The other side of the table has a sort of formless dummy that is the future home of Kirk’s mind in Robot Kirk.  As his mind is being copied into the Robot Kirk, Meat Kirk keeps repeating over and over, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference!”  Meat Kirk is implanting this racial hatred in the mind of Robot Kirk to tip Spock off that Meat Kirk had been replaced.  We are treated to the Kirks verbally with sparring with each other.  I’ll have to say Robot Kirk seemed to get the better of it.

One of the robots is Andrea.  She is a very attractive young woman wearing a form fitting and meager outfit that improves the show substantially.  Nurse Chapel’s reaction to Andrea’s relation to Roger Korby is very entertaining.  When he assures Chapel that Andrea is just a robot and there cannot be any question of an emotional attachment Nurse Chapel does not appear either convinced or comforted by the story.  Later on, Meat Kirk is able to overcome Andrea’s lack of emotional or sexual capability by vigorous kissing.  She is somehow transformed into a woman and when later on Robot Kirk refuses her romantic advances, mistaking him for Meat Kirk and resenting his refusal, she disintegrates Robot Kirk with a phaser.

Finally, when it is revealed to Nurse Chapel that Roger is a robot and she rejects him for not being human.  He despairs.  And when Andrea then turns her romantic attention to Roger and kisses him Roger triggers the phaser and disintegrates himself and Andrea together.  So sad.

Okay, this is a lot of stuff.  Nurse Chapel is one of the really awful parts of Star Trek.  She always has some horrific hairdo or wig, she’s kind of homely and she’s a terrible actress whose character is always annoying.  But when she’s jealous of Andrea and angry at Roger it’s kind of hilarious.

Kirk has one pretty good shoulder roll in the episode and Ruk does pick Kirk up and pins him on the top of a wall at one point.  And passionate Meat Kirk grappling with Andrea and reprogramming her with his Kirk lust is funny.  And when she disintegrates Robot Kirk for spurning her that was funny too.  But all in all, naked Kirk spinning around at two hundred rpm is probably the highlight of the show.

As a story it’s passingly interesting.  Robert Bloch, the writer of Psycho wrote this episode so it’s not completely boring.  In terms of mockery this is one of the best.  For those two measures of the value of the show I will institute a binary marking scale and to give it a pseudoscientific aura I’ll use numbers instead of letters.  In each case the value is out of a possible 10.  This is a 5//9.
 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Joker – Todd Philips

The movie, Joker, could be easily dismissed as an attempt to extend on the successful formula established by Christopher Nolan in his turn at the Batman franchise, launched in 2005. But beyond the constant “dark” refrain, not enough was said about Nolan’s reformulation of the DC comic book character. When Tim Burton in 1989 first attempted to bring the character to film his movie temperament and the last shreds of maturity that remained in American popular culture required that he make it in its essence, comic. It’s true he leavened the film with instances of “adult” gravity, but no more than in his other comic book movies.

But Nolan did something that it took the success of the ‘80s and ‘90’s Batman movies to make possible, play Batman straight. By 2005 struck upon the formula for converting the comic book into a “serious” movie by making the films “dark”, thereby removing the tongue from Batman’s cheek. Nolan took the comic out of the comic book hero and the films became blockbusters. I suspect they did for the same reason space movies from 2001 to Star Wars were also so successful. The baby boomers and later Gen X-ers had a choice between the narcissistic atavism of their peers or withdrawal. The comic book fans were always outsiders so it was easy to choose withdrawal, and so they did, in droves. What has been truly remarkable was that most of the rest of America follow along, in even bigger droves.

But what does it mean to movies and America to make comic book movies without the comic? One might say that comic books, at least of the super hero variety, always played straight. They were more like the serial genre fiction that anticipated both the “soaps” and the novel. Fair enough, but the illustrations, primitive graphics and primary colors, were a comic proscenium, perhaps helping to suspend disbelief for the comic book reader, but not his sense of humor. Theatrical movies have no such proscenium, they have long been understood to be psychological, subconscious, in their effect. They do not afford the comic book distance, the healthy separation. We needed Burton’s fantasy gloss to create distance from the film. But Nolan’s success argues that this view was wrong, or at least obsolete, that audiences yearned for the Dark Knight’s subconscious payload, unmediated by winks at the camera.

Todd Phillips’ new contribution to the franchise, Joker, suggests that we might still need the winks. The movie attempts to use psychological clichés and bathos to establish a “natural” backstory to the one-dimensional villain. The attempt exposes the naiveté behind Nolan’s original reformulation. What is a joker, can one have a backstory? Lear’s fool never needed one. Jokers are allegorical place holders for dramatic elements like plot and action, even fate, but never character. They are anti-characters, devices, not anti-heroes. Ah, but Phillips would counter, I wrote Borat and most people thought he was real. Isn’t character fluid? Yes, it is fluid but not superficial. But what about the epics, they were full of the very same placeholders? Wasn’t Hephaestus allegorical? The answer is Hephaestus may be a myth and allegorical to us, indistinguishable from a joker, but to the Greeks he was a god.

Is Joker a god, is Batman or Thor, to us? The mind reels. So, Phillips may have wasted much of his runtime trying to pose Joachim Phoenix’s anorexic torso to evoke St. Sabastian and paint the decay of ‘70’s New York in renaissance yellows and gold. The adolescent retreat in the face of adulthood beaten by the American movie going public, however, is not a Christian martyrdom. Phillips’ attempt to tell Joker’s story as such is the latest landing in the vertiginous descent of American society into an arrested underworld. Must we now analyze the cardboard cutouts populating our comic book movies first as patients, to remove any moral question of their actions, then as victims, to instead apply a moral test to “society” and finally as martyrs, to establish our newly reconstructed deities? Foucault would be proud. This mental ritual has become so routinized by academic and political rehearsal the director seems unaware of its emptiness.

And that can be the only verdict reached for Nolan’s vision and Phillips’ realization. Empty. This explains the need to go to further lengths, to go darker, with each successive relaunch. The writers, producers and directors, even the actors, know they must work harder each cycle to pump up the crowd and distract from the inevitable descent. But by trying to make serious our comic book carnival posters, the Hollywood hucksters have drained the fun from their movies, and our laughs on the rollercoaster.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 6 – Mudd’s Women

This episode is notable in that it introduces the character Harcourt Fenton (Harry) Mudd who returns in the much more enjoyable later episode “I, Mudd.”

The Enterprise detects a transport ship that is travelling without its identity beacon.  Pursuing it into an asteroid belt The Enterprise is forced to overload its own engines while protecting the transport ship from destruction.  Harry Mudd and his cargo of three women destined to be sold as wives to rich lonely miners are transported onto the enterprise just before the smaller ship is destroyed by an asteroid.

The women are repeatedly described as incredibly beautiful (meh) and have an hypnotic effect on the male crew.  Interestingly, other than Uhura we don’t see any of the female crew members during the episode.  The Enterprise is crippled by the destruction of its lithium crystals (apparently the term di-lithium crystals was coined later in the series) during the asteroid belt maneuver and the ship must head to a planet where lithium crystals are mined to replace them.  Mudd finds out about this and communicates with the miners and they cook up a scheme whereby the miners will refuse to provide Kirk with the crystals unless he allows Mudd and his women to go to the planet’s surface for a meet and greet with the miners.

Things move forward on the plan but one of the women, Eve, is disgusted with the whole plan because of their guilty secret.  The women are only artificially beautiful.  They take a drug that makes them attractive.  If they stop taking it, they become homely.  Anyway, the miners find out about the secret and become angry but then we see that Eve becomes beautiful again due to the placebo effect of thinking she took the drug.  Now she’s beautiful because she’s self-confident.  And the miners are happy again because she has a heart of gold.

Mudd is taken back on the Enterprise where he will be put on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Federation and the Enterprise is back to just having Yeoman Rand to maintain their hormonal balance.

Other than the slightly amusing acting of Mudd and the revealing costumes of the three women the only scene that I found engaging is when Eve and her miner are shown in bickering domesticity.  She makes him breakfast and they spar about the value of female versus male housekeeping.  I detected a spark of honesty in the portrayal which is highly unusual in anything Star Trekian.

But that’s it.  Watching Bones, Scotty and Kirk salivate and gape at the women wears thin very quickly and cannot manage to fill out the hour while Mudd enacts his brilliant scheme.  Kirk doesn’t do any shoulder roles or pontificate about life.  It’s not very good.   This episode is sub-par on both a conventional dramatic scale and with respect to Shatnerific bad acting.

 

 

 

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion

After reviving ourselves again with refreshments we estimated that we had time for one last course before exhaustion would set in.  Almost at random we selected Mudd’s Women.  It was a mistake.  What we thought we were going to watch was the episode called I, Mudd.  This one is about Mudd selling women that he artificially beautifies with a drug.  It’s boring and meaningless. At the end the women are seen to be beautiful without the drug because they’re self-confident.  Yeah sure, and I’m Brad Pitt.

Anyway, this poor episode angered the delegates and disrupted the complacency that the massive junk food binge had produced.  We set to work repairing the situation with mass quantities of supplies.  Once we had re-established our equilibrium, we decided to quickly bring the ShatnerKhan to a rapid close.  But we did ramble on about what we had learned and vowed less poisonous food at ShatnerKhan 2.

So, what did we learn?

  • William Shatner is indeed a demigod of bad acting. Series television, made-for-tv movies, big studio major motion pictures, even minor awards ceremonies; none of them are proof against his patented lousy acting skills.  He is a ham for all seasons.
  • As lousy an actor as Shatner is, he is definitively the best part of the original Star Trek series. His character possesses almost the only heroic characteristics to be found on the show.  The rest of them are even bigger weirdos and losers than he is.
  • Shatner actually seems to be a decent comic actor. He is able to perform self-deprecating routines quite skillfully.  We decided not to hold this against him.
  • Much more study will be needed and a much higher grade of food supplies will be needed for future ShatnerKhan events. I personally advocated for deli, others spoke of Thai food and barbecue.  These questions will be sorted out in committee.

But all agreed that ShatnerKhan 1 was a roaring success both academically and gastronomically.

All hail William Shatner, long may you endure as a shining beacon of terrible acting.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 1

 

 

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 5 – The Enemy Within

As I delve deeper and deeper into Season One, I find myself amazed at just how much awful acting there is.  Whereas in most Star Trek episodes just one Jim Kirk is enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite for bad acting but in “The Enemy Within” we get two!  A malfunction of the transporter causes anything sent through to be divided into polar opposites.  A dog with a horn on his head and a really fake looking fur coat is split into a calm docile version and a rabid psycho version.  And when Kirk goes through the machine, he becomes polar opposite twins too.

And this pair of Kirks is very special indeed.  One of them is Castrated Kirk.  The transporter has neutered him.  He is indecisive, confused and unmanned.  He is constantly reminded by Spock that his Evil side is responsible for his ability to command the ship and therefore Good Kirk while intelligent and principled is unfit to run the ship, a capon and a big loser.  Spock really rubs it in.  It seems like he’s angling for the job.

The other Kirk is Satyr Kirk.  He attempts to rape Yeoman Rand.  I suspect given time he might have humped the entire female crew.  He berates Bones and orders him to hand over the Saurian Brandy which he wanders around swigging from the bottle.  And he beats up various members of the crew whenever the chance offers itself.  Later on, when he takes the Helm, he orders the crew to abandon Sulu and the landing party to their frozen deaths.  This did actually endear him to me.  I think they should have given him a chance.  I liked his instincts.

Watching Shatner portray the complementary fragments of Kirk is a thing of grotesque beauty.  The feral lascivious leer of Evil Kirk is wonderfully overdone.  The fretful womanish whining of Good Kirk is annoying and pathetic.

As a secondary pleasure in the episode, due to the malfunctioning transporter, the landing party is trapped on the planet as the temperature heads down into negative triple digits so we get to watch Sulu slowly freezing to death.  Very satisfying.

The climactic scene for each of our demi-heroes comes when Good and Evil Kirk have their showdown on the Bridge.  When Evil Kirk submits to Good Kirk’s leadership he cries out in a panicked voice, “I want to liiiive, I want to liiive!”  Pure schmaltz, marvelous.  Then as both Kirks are standing on the transporter plate waiting to see if the transporter can meld them back into a composite of bad acting, Good Kirk is supporting unconscious Evil Kirk and just before the mechanism is activated Good Kirk hugs his Evil half in a loving embrace.  It’s quite nauseating.  Truly wonderful.

Obviously, this is a Star Trek must-see episode.  Seeing the two polar opposite Kirks you realize that up until this episode, Shatner has been restraining his acting style.  We get to see Shatner unbound and it’s not pretty.  But it’s important for us to know his true range.  It’s good to know that there is more Shatner in there if it’s needed.  Well done Bill, well done.

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review – The Terminator and Terminator Dark Fate

It is interesting to me to consider the new movie as part of two bookends to James Cameron’s strange career, while providing some comment on the evolving image that Linda Hamilton has presented in media and the almost unchanging one of Arnold.

When he made The Terminator, James Cameron had not done any of the films that built the industry position he holds today. He was a special effects guy that wrote a typical sci-fi screenplay about a murderous robot. But “The Terminator” somehow had a strangely enduring effect on American culture. The screenplay had all the stock components, with a few slight twists that would become Cameron trademarks like transforming female characters into alternate heroes. Otherwise it included the typical murderous, apocalyptic future so common, perhaps even central, to all science fiction, the obligatory arrested love interest, and a commendable combination of live action and classic stop motion animation right out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But this movie resonated with all kinds of segments, many without much taste for either conventional action or science fiction. And Cameron made both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton actual cultural icons. It’s easy to argue that neither of them surpassed their roles in the film, with Arnold literally milking it for billions in ticket sales and a governorship and Hamilton clearly chewed up by hers. How do we account for this? Can we see something in the two stars’ comparative destinies and did Dark Fate provide any clues?

The character of Sarah and the actress Linda Hamilton were perfectly matched to project the most innocuous presence, never rising above cute, until the cyborg is blasting a shotgun at her. We meet Linda working an adolescent fast food job and then going to a movie. In parallel a housewife mistaken for her is executed in her home and her roommate and boyfriend, beaten to death in her apartment. This balancing of extremes continues as her protector, Reese, and the cyborg finally meet shooting at each other in a bar over Linda’ head. The scene in a new wave disco called New Noir is one of the few that warrants the otherwise overused slow motion. While the “new wave” music plays and the young yuppies sway, the cyberpunk uncoils again from behind the bar, laser and machine guns in hand. Thus, begins the carnage. We see Sarah innocently look blandly at the camera with a red laser site on her head, about to be terminated when Reese uncorks his own assault, ending the scene by blasting the cyborg through a plate glass window.

When he rises, Michael Myers-like, Reese and Sarah alternately flee and shoot at the bot in every possible venue until Sarah/Linda is told that she is the mother of the future resistance, a legendary warrior whose son will defeat the future. She cries out for us all, “What”? The chase scene ends when the terminator drives straight into a brick wall with the cops chasing both of them.  Suddenly, Linda finally becoming partially aware of her surroundings and knows to grab Reese as he reaches for his shotgun to confront the cops. She yells, “No Reese, No, they’ll kill you”, in a voice we don’t hear again until she is does some terminating of her own.

Arnold gets the opposite treatment. We meet him emerging in a spherical electric storm naked in a crouch and watch him straighten up into the Hulk. He then walks through the park to murder and kill some punk rockers for their clothes, thus, cyberpunk. He is a comic figure We see his ass; he reads visual algorithms to select pre-coded responses like, “Fuck You, Asshole” in what became America’s definition of a slightly fascistic cyber/Germanic voice. His hair gets cropped and he wears cool ray bands to hide the eyeball he plucks out. He looks like Brando on his bike. Best of all, because he is a robot, he is not morally responsible for any of this, so we can enjoy his antics. This is no trivial accomplishment; Cameron creates a character Arnold will play for the next three or four decades. Remorseless, brutally violent, but cool and funny.

So, by the movie’s end, when Sarah punches the steel press on his steel skull, and he takes a last look straight into the camera, as if winking, with his laser red eye shining as the press crushes it dark, Sarah has gone from cute to terminator, and Arnold, the reverse.  Society, however, won’t let Linda be a terminator, but Arnold can be anything. He’s a protector, then he’s Danny DeVito’s genetically perfect twin, JL Curtis’ lucky husband, Sharon Stone’s even luckier boyfriend, a predator’s predator, a Kennedy, a Governor, even an expendable, and finally a terminator husband/father in Dark Fate. In the subsequent films, she will become a Rambet, permanently.

But a Rambet is denied even the righteous orgies of violence Stallone formulated for John Rambo. Sarah must become the separatist feminist, gaunt, cut, unsmiling, long suffering, ideologically pure. Most importantly, she is always angry. She invented the Hollywood version of the resting bitch face. She’s pissed about the apocalypse and having to bear the messiah and she’s going to do something about it. This may make for good doctrine, but it’s a bad career choice. It’s a classic Hollywood scam, make a “feminist” sci-fi cyberpunk movie that destroys the female lead’s career. Message, stick to cute.

That’s why The Terminator was so memorable and the rest, I don’t remember. Because at the end of the film with Linda Hamilton driving off into the stormy Mexican desert with her revolver, dog and headband, Sarah is still cute. There was still a Soviet Union. The apocalypse was coming, as it really is for all of us, but she came through the realization, as we all can. Later all this is revised as her ideology requires. We can’t be left with our faith, only her ideology. And therein lies the rub for Linda and even Arnold when it comes to the rest of their lives till Dark Fate.

I read that James Cameron, after years without contact, reached out to Linda Hamilton, his former wife, to ask her to make a new sequel. She claims that it took her years away from the industry living in Louisiana to finally build a stable life in a community away from Hollywood with real connections. But, for some reason, could it be money, she agreed to play Sarah again. The results are exactly as you would expect; it’s a disaster. Arnold’s body is gone, and his face looks like a parkinsonian mask. Linda’s voice sounds like she speaking through a tracheotomy. Now, with the right screenplay and if there had been no other sequels, these physical transformations could have made for interesting material. But given their respective ideological “careers” there was no way out. They went through the joyless, soulless motions until time, thankfully, ran out and Arnold was dead and burned next to the latest, multicultural terminator.

We had to suffer it all in Dark Fate. A tanned wrinkled, aging second wave feminist Sarah croaking out lines like “they want your womb”. A dumpy, younger, millennial feminist protector constantly signaling her sacrificial virtue. A Mexican virgin 2.0 screaming about her right to choose. Finally, a constantly transitioning multicultural killer cyborg. An identity maelstrom. I came to the conclusion that both Arnold and Linda got screwed by their roles, although Arnold a little more lucratively. They are left having lived out the superficial script written for them by Cameron. His hollow successes after The Terminator, with the exception of Aliens, have condemned him to the same lucrative irrelevance. It’s fitting that the Avengers franchise, sourced from dime store children’s comic books, is eclipsing his pretentious achievements, Titanic and Avatar. Stan Lee must be rolling in his grave.

So, looking at two films separated by 35 years, and two actors with seemingly opposite careers that ended in the same place, and the director responsible for the whole mess, what can we say about any of this. Only that the tenuous string that used to barely connect what passes as popular culture to at least a modicum of genuine craft has, over the course of one director’s career, entirely disappeared, leaving in its wake a trail of cultural victim/collaborators in various states of wealth and debasement. And nothing whatsoever for us.

 

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 3

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 2

 

As stated at the end of the last post we settled on Star Trek episode “Space Seed” as our next course.  And there it all was!  Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner battling to settle the question of who could chew up the scenery faster.  Khan proves to be an even more persuasive lady’s man than Kirk.  He convinces a lady scientist to turn traitor to the Enterprise and assist Khan in taking over the ship.  Of course, the most absurd part of the story is that Kirk provides Khan with the ship’s technical manuals that allow him to figure out how to selectively flood most of the Enterprise with knock out gas.  Could there be any logical reason to provide a known megalomaniac with the details of these most sensitive technical secrets of the ship?  Of course not.  While he was at it, he might as well have given Khan his social security number and his bank account PIN.

There is a great scene near the end where Kirk and Khan are fighting mano a mano.  Khan starts out by snatching away Kirk’s phaser and twists it in half with his bare hands.  Kirk gets tossed around like a rag doll but at the critical juncture he grabs hold of a solid metal bar and clonks Khan over the head a few times with it and shows that even a super-strong super-genius should go for the quick kill instead of ending up having the tables turned on him like some kind of super villain in a James Bond movie.

Watching the final scene where Khan and his colony agree to be exiled on a world of their own is of course ironic.  We know that in the future the Wrath of Khan is awaiting Kirk and the rest of the crew.  This was discussed heatedly.  What should have been done.  Should Khan have been handed over to a re-education camp.  Should Kirk have checked to see if Ceti Alpha was a stable star that would permanently support a colony?  Should such dangerous genetically superior individuals have been liquidated, for the safety of all humanity?  What, precisely, was rich Corinthian leather?  The answers to all of these were debated endlessly and then abandoned because we got hungry again.

But certain things were agreed on.  Kirk and Khan are both hounds and neither Shatner nor Montalban believed in understated performances.  And these two things were linked with the fact that this is one of the most popular episodes of the series.  Shatner and Montalban are over the top ham actors.  The characters they are playing are out of a comic book.  But they are fun.  They are motivated by the things that men are interested in; women, adventure, honor.  This makes them about a trillion times more fun and interesting than Spock or Picard or any of the other “futuristic” characters.  Shatner taking shoulder rolls and bouncing around under pretend Khan pummeling is laughable and sophomoric but it’s still the best thing Star Trek had in this episode.

So this is the revelation.  Kirk is the best part of the show because he provides the only example of a normal man doing normal manly things.  He doesn’t do them well or convincingly but he’s all there is.  So we gave one cheer for James Tiberius Kirk and took some time out to eat some more food.

You may think that there was an inordinate amount of time taken away from the proceedings of ShatnerKhan to eat junk food.  You would be correct.  The plain truth is that all the delegates there were taking the opportunity to eat types and amounts of food that their wives would normally prevent.  In many ways it was almost as if ShatnerKhan was an excuse to pig out.  Once again, you would be correct.  But we justified this by pointing out that Shatner himself always looked like he could lose about thirty pounds and we perceived something heroic in men of a certain age throwing caution and wifely warnings to the wind and seizing the day and the Dorito (as it were).

In the final post we will look at the concluding viewing content and then our final thoughts on ShatnerKhan 1 and the prospects for later editions.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 4 – The Naked Time

This episode leaves me very conflicted.  Because of the enormous amount of awful acting by a plethora of characters this should be and is a highly rated episode on the mockery index.  But having to sit through it is challenging.  There really is a limit to how much insipid tv you can watch before your skin starts to crawl.

Let’s dispose of the plot, such as it is, first and then look over this train wreck.  The Enterprise has been sent to Psi 2000, a planet whose star has “gone dark” and is now apparently collapsing in on itself from the cold.  They are tasked with rescuing a crew of four scientists that, for some inexplicable reason, were left in a highly dangerous and unstable environment and after the rescue they are to observe the collapse of the planet at extremely close range in a highly unstable and dangerous orbit.  Sure.

Spock and Lt. Joe Tormolen (hint, hint, dead man walking) beam down to the surface in isolation suits and find that the scientists seem to have died violently from the effects of insanity.  Tormolen’s nose is itchy so of course he takes off his glove and immediately becomes infected with what ever strange infection killed off the scientists.  Tormolen spreads the infection to the ship and for the rest of the episode the whole cast except McCoy engage in random acts of imbecility that somewhat mimic drunkenness.  Of course, the ship ends up in great danger of crashing into the unstable planet and a last minute “Hail Mary” by Spock and Scotty saves the ship but hurls the ship three days back into the past and then the show ends.  That’s not much of a plot.

Okay, so this is kind of a stupid plot but what is truly notable is how many creepy behaviors are on view by the crew.  Sulu takes off his shirt and swash buckles around the ship menacing the crew with a fencing sword.  Nurse Chapel starts whining at Spock declaring her empathy and love for his poor neglected emotional life as a half-Vulcan.  She even starts pawing at him and infects him whereupon he also starts blubbering and whining about how sad he was as a child.  Spock infects Kirk during a fist fight and then Kirk starts describing his unrequited love for the Enterprise.  All in all, it’s a nauseating spectacle but Spock and Nurse Chapel crying together and then Spock crying by himself in his cabin has got to be the low point.  It has to be seen to be believed.

There is an important scientific moment.  When the shut down engines won’t be available soon enough to save the ship if a normal start up is used, Kirk orders Scotty to engage in a full power restart, to which Scotty exclaims apoplectically, “ye canna mix matter and anti-matter cold!”  I fully expected him to preface it with an exclamation like, “Are ye daft man?”

Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Chapel was Gene Roddenberry’s main squeeze and soon to be wife.  But she is just such an annoying character that she comes close to making the episode unwatchable.  The hair style or wig she has in this episode is weird and off-putting.  The hair on the back of her head is dark and the front is grey and the whole thing is sort of swirled around.  It looks like something went terribly wrong during the hair and make-up prep.

So, my verdict is this is a must see because of just how heinous the acting is.  But at the same time make sure you aren’t in a weakened state during the viewing.  It will lower your vitality and it’s entirely possible you will break out in hives.  And it is completely out of the question for the mentally unstable.