Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Longest Day

So I've been trying to do the math. Let's see here.

Sun came up in Nice, France this morning at 5:30AM. Got on a flight to Amsterdam. The sun was climbing higher and higher into the sky when I landed at 8:00AM. Then, when I got onto another plane to fly to Dallas (for another shoot), the sun continued to move with us across the length of the globe. That flight? Almost 11 hours long. The longest flight I have ever been on.

So, take that into account along with the fact that it is just getting dark now in Texas. This means that I'm looking at a day of sunshine that lasted twenty two hours. Twenty two hours since I witnessed night.

Simply. Incredible.

I've had a chance to sort of recollect on my trip now that I'm back in the States, and of course, I couldn't help but look over the winners from the Cannes Film Festival. Here's a brief list for those who haven't heard:

1) Palme d'Or - Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon"
2) The Grand Prix - Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet"
3) Jury Prize - (joint winners) Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank" and Park Chan-wook's "Thirst"
4) Best Actress - Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist"
5) Best Actor - Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds"
6) Best Director - Brillante Mendoza for "Kinatay"
7) Best Screenplay - Lou Ye for "Spring Fever"
8) Best Short - "Arena"

Hmmm. Well, now it sucks even more than I missed seeing Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" by just three people! I completely support the choice of Christoph Waltz, and though I didn't see "Thirst," a vampire film made by Park Chank-wook sounds rather interesting.

And as for "Arena," a short film that I had placed low on my list of favorites, I'm not really sure what to say. Guess it's safe to say that I simply do not understand what the judges see or think when they're picking the winners.

Overall, I will admit that the Cannes Film Festival likes to pick films because they usually have some element that makes people talk about them. Cannes wants to be talked about, and so even if a movie isn't the best but features something taboo, it still might find its way into the festival. And with all the films I saw, that seemed to be case, whether it was the violence, the sex, the absurdity, or just the plain absolute weirdness. This isn't to say that the films I saw weren't quality (because most of them were), but that the festival is also looking for that little something extra even if it means that the film sacrifices some quality.

But you need to remember that a film festival is a money-making endeavor like any other, and a film that has a lot of press (which may not be so good BUT has THAT scene in it) will garner many festival participants and interest from sponsors. It just makes sense for them to pick films of this nature.

And with that, I close the book on this years 62nd Cannes Film Festival. I've traded out my wineries and red carpets for strip malls and name brands. So although I loved traveling abroad, I must admit it feels good to be home.

But give me a week and I might feel differently.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Inglorious Basterds

(Look at me all clean and spiffy at the screening yesterday in the Grand Lumière.)

When last you saw me, I was lamenting the fact that I was going to be unable to see "Inglorious Basterds," directed by Quentin Tarantino at the Cannes Film Festival this year. This made me sad, as it seemed like this movie was blatantly meant to be shown at Cannes (and for all intents and purposes was Tarantino's original objective.) So when I found out there was to be an early Sunday morning reprise of this film, I jumped at the chance to see it! But it was unlikely I'd get to go due to traveling across the hills and mountains of France to our next destination, Châteauneyf-du-Pape, for three days of shooting.

But sometimes, things change.

And sometimes, when things change, dreams come true.

That said, this morning, I became one of the lucky many to see "Inglorious Basterds" (actually spelled that way) at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. And believe me, it lives up to the hype, as many of Tarantino's films usually do.

Some of you may already know the story, or at least, think you know the story, but there is much more here than meets the eye. Granted, the film is still very Tarantinian, built around lingering scenes of tense dialogue, brutal violence, and the occasional laugh here and there, but there's more than just the Basterds the title refers to. Along with Brad Pitt commanding an elite squad of eight Jewish Americans into Nazi-occupied Europe to collect "scalps," you also have the story of Shosana, wonderfully portrayed by actress Mélanie Laurent, who owns a theatre in France and is put on the spot when forced to have a Nazi-night in which Goebbels himself wants to showcase his newest filmic masterpiece. Not quite what you were expecting, right?

Well, in this case, surprise is a good thing as this plot combined with that of the Basterds and how they fit together in the end is well done. For once, I actually found myself wanting to fast forward through the long conversations to find out how the story would resolve itself, and resolve itself it does. Again, I won't give anything away, but rest assured when I say that World War II will never be the same again.

So leave "Death Proof" behind. Forget the wishy washy conversation between the group of women in the bar at the beginning of that film. Just forget it exists and pretend that Tarantino came right to this film after "Kill Bill." The tension in the conversations is as tangible as a piece of apple tart, and just as tasty. Even the smallest things in a scene have the weight of an anvil, given that you know how Tarantino is prone to quick acts of relentless violence. I found myself smiling on more than one occasion even though I knew I should have been horrified by what I was watching.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Tarantino is breaking any truly new ground here. Hell, I'm more than happy to point out when a filmmaker falls flat (see "Death Proof" above), but in this case, Tarantino is back and does what he does best.

And as I mentioned above, the screening had a special significance being seen in France. Although I won't give anything away and am simply paraphrasing because I don't have the film in front of me, there is a moment in the film between Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt) and Bridget von Hammersmark (played by Diane Kruger.) She questions if he knows any German, and he replies in his southern accent, "No." Frustrated, she asks, "Do you know any other languages other than the god awful English you Americans speak?" And he again replies, "Nope." The audience at Cannes laughed heartily at this moment, which seemed almost perfectly placed for the audience at this film festival. There is sometimes a feeling in the air that Americans don't try to speak French at Cannes (or in general) because they know they don't have to. It's a quiet tension you sometimes pick up on, and this moment in the film sort of brings it to light.

But we all laughed over this, and continued the bonding process by hating Nazis together.

In conclusion, the film is well worth seeing. Tarantino isn't afraid to make you laugh at insane death and mayhem and then throw it back in your face again. It's shocking at times, vulgar at others, and a joy to watch, if only for the great acting by the ensemble cast, including Eli Roth, Mike Myers, Julia Dreyfus, and Christoph Waltz as SS Colonel Hans Landa, a bad guy you simply LOVE to hate. Seriously. Hate that guy. (Just found out that Waltz won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance with a possible Oscar nod down the line. Nice!)

And with that, I am finally off to wine making country. I'm leaving the city behind for a much simpler life, filled with incredible food, no traffic, and did I mention the wine?

Coming up soon, I'll be posting some more pics from Cannes in addition to giving my closing thoughts on the rest of the awards given out today. And then hopefully at some point, I'll see "Terminator: Salvation."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Courts Métrages en Compétition

With my final night of Cannes coming to a close, here are my thoughts on the nine short films presented this afternoon at the Bruñel, as promised.

Each short was fifteen minutes or less, screened one after another, with anywhere from 10-30 seconds between each one in which the house lights were briefly raised. For ease, I will place them here in the order of my most favorite to my least favorite.

But before I do, some overall thoughts. The nine shorts came from all around the world, presenting a combination of genres, techniques, and personalities. However, what I did notice is that many of the films dealt with loss. In three instances, the loss of a parent, whether through divorce or death. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I was hoping for a few more optimistic pieces, with maybe a love story or just some laughter. There were comedic parts here and there, but honestly, only one out of the bunch really made me joyfully laugh and at the end, smile. And that was my favorite:

1) The Six Dollar Fifty Man - Out of New Zealand comes the story of eight-year old Andy and his belief that he is a superhero. Real life bullies attempt to scare him out of his make-believe world, but in the end, the viewer is treated to nourishment rather than punishment as sometimes the world isn't nearly as dark as it seems. A real joy that covers a wide range of emotions and fantastic acting from young Oscar Vandy-Connor.

2) L'Homme À La Gordini (The Man in the Blue Gordini) - The only animation in the shorts festival, this piece from France really showcases just where animation can take us when sometimes live action cannot. In this case, an imaginary suburb in which the norm is for everyone to wear only the color orange, and get this, only wear shirts (no pants.) So the animation is more than happy to show off the lower half of all subjects in an attempt to make it seem even more absurd when a masked hero appears to start giving out BLUE PANTS, bringing about rebellion and revolution!

3) Rumbo A Peor (Worstward Ho) - From Barcelona comes this short film without any dialogue. Would it have benefitted with some? No, I don't think so. The story is simple enough. Two men outfitted in football-tricot travel awkwardly together through what seems like a swamp. They act like two nervous animals, who then come upon a beautiful woman at a crossroads. At first, they are shy, but soon, they warm up to her and insist that she join them. It's simple, sweet, and although I admit that I don't entirely understand it, I think it's worth seeing. It feels like the setup to a really good joke, but without the punchline. Maybe LIFE is the punchline. Huh.

4) Missen (Missing) - Out of the Netherlands comes the story of a mother and her 7-year old daugther. From the opening shot, we can see that the daughter is the true caretaker in this relationship, although on this day, her mother insists that she take her to school. What follows is a heartwarming look at a single parent relationship, strongly expressed through the intimacy of the camera work. What I liked about this film is that it didn't try to be more than what it was, and I can appreciate that.

5) After Tomorrow - The only psychological suspense piece of the festival builds the tension well, starting off with the main character seemingly trapped, screaming "Help me!" Although most will mention the "twist" ending, I thought it was touching and worked well whether or not you can see it coming (which I did not.) Produced by Wilder Films in London, the film is the story of James, a man who has returned to the village to see his estranged wife, but finds himself locked in by the sinister owner of the house he's staying at.

6) Klussums (Silence) - From Latvia comes the most experimental film of the bunch, loosely telling the story of why there should be silence in a museum. The opening shot is incredible, featuring a woman as she walks away from the camera up a suburban street, somehow setting off car alarm after car alarm as she continues to do nothing more than step one foot in front of the other. The continuous one shot cranes up, capturing the whole mess as people exit from their homes and apartments to see what is what. The rest of the film doesn't quite live up to this image for me, but does have some fine sound design.

7) Arena - A moment in the life of Mauro, a man under house arrest who tattooes from his apartment for money. When he is confronted by a group of kids who look to rob him, he is forced to either find retribution by becoming that which is he trying to escape, or rather, by putting himself above it all. Paced strangely, the point of this film isn't so much the details, but the choices we all make. Didn't really do it for me.

8) Lars og Peter (Lars and Peter) - There wasn't a whole lot of subtley to this film from Denmark, really looking to establish and then break down the innocent 9-year-old Lars. He looks to bring his family together, but the loss of his mother drives his father to drinking and violence, while his brother, Peter, shows no real signs of life. Both boys begin imitating their father, and in the end, no one is happy. Especially me.

9) Ciao Mama - As much as I'd like to say that I find something redeeming in this Croation film about a daughter who attempts everything she can think of to keep her mother from abandoning her, I really can't. Again, this feels like a short that wanted to be so much more, and thus the action and dialogue seem forced. I don't like any of the characters, and the cinema verité camera work that is meant to illicit a more lifelike response from the audience only drives you mad when you can't see what's actually going on in the frame.

And that about does it! I don't know if anyone here will ever actually see any of these shorts, but the first two are definitely worth your time, with the next few worth seeing if you find them to be somewhat up your alley.

Although I'm leaving first thing in the morning, I wish I could somehow see the reprise of "Inglorious Bastards" at 9AM, but it looks like I may have to wait until August like everyone else. Thanks for reading.

My Trip to the Grand Lumière

The day started early for me this morning, at roughly 4AM, or at least, that's what it must have felt like to my body, which still has an internal clock set to the East Coast of the United States. That being said, I've done pretty well thus far with handling this time difference. (Speaking of which, next time I come to Europe without a working cell phone, be sure to get a WRIST WATCH.)

Today brought two exciting screenings. The first was my triumphant march up the red carpet into the Grand Lumière to see Isabel Coixet's film "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo." The second was a full screening of the nine selected shorts in competition this year. Very enlightening to a filmmaker who specializes in shorts (thus far.)

The Grand Lumiere is massive. With 2300 seats, it's easily the largest stage of the festival, and for good reason. This is where the Premieres take place, so don't be surprised to see actors, directors, producers, and other celebrities show up to walk the red carpet. So there I was bumping elbows with the true movie making elite!

Well, maybe not.

Did I happen to mention my screening was at noon? For the early screenings at the Lumière, men aren't even required to wear tuxes. So, in a black jacket, tie, and slacks, I presented myself as more dressed up than most there. I might have even felt a little overdressed.

But I digress.

My invitation put me in the balcony, but that was fine as the screen is quite large. The film featured the story of Ryu, a fragile woman who works nights in the Tokyo fishmarket when not taking jobs as a hit-woman. She falls in love with a man by the name of David, who happens to be her next target. David's love in life, Midori, has recently committed suicide, and her father blames David for her death. For this, her father wants to see David dead.

Another layer is added in the form of a narrator. The entire story is narrated from the perspective of a sound engineer Ryu meets and befriends before she is contracted to kill David. He tells the tale, which only happens to be as much as Ryu allowed him to know. The audience is privy to both his side of the story and the way it actually happened, making it a strange structure to choose as I'm not entirely sure it really enriched it or not.

I don't believe my knowledge of Japanese cinema is well-versed enough to truly tackle this film, so I'll rely on my gut instincts. The film seems to be concentrate on two major issues: 1) the role of women in Japanese society, and 2) what is and is not permitted in Japanese culture.

(Again, I will try to keep this a spoiler free review, but keep in mind that some things are more or less already known going into this film.)

The two major female characters in the film, Ryu and Midori, are miserable in their lives. Midori's suicide is never truly explained, though her father, Mr. Nagaro, blames her lover. It is also known that Mr. Nagaro's business employee, Ishida, may be to blame, as he also secretly loved Midori and she knew it. Midori's only answer to all of this seemed to be to kill herself. Ryu, on the other hand, is a killer who faces those she's killed everyday. With bouts of insomnia, she can't force the spirits from her mind, and cleans their gravestones (literally) every Sunday. For some reason, she sees herself only as an instrument, a weapon, not allowing herself the luxury of love, friendship, or true happiness.

At least, not until she meets David.

With this new relationship, Ryu discovers things about her that she has seemingly never known before. Throughout a number of sexual sequences that take place in a seedy hotel made up of pleasure rooms, we see Ryu wake up out of her state of despair as she and David share experiences that some would probably not be so comfortable watching. Personally, I had no problem with it, but there were a number of gasps from the audience during these scenes.

It is through these two contrasting female characters that we develop an understanding of what the director is hoping to achieve, all the while taking on Japanese stereotypes. For example, Mr Nagara, an aging Japanese business man, grows very emotional about the death of his daughter as the film progresses, instead of remaining stoic, which is generally more acceptable in the society.

Overall, the film wasn't my favorite, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy the pacing and the editing. I had hoped that we would have been treated to more audio treats (with the film being narrated by a sound engineer), but sadly, we learn more about wines and less about audio throughout the telling (David is a wine seller.) I do commend Rinko Kikuchi's portrayal of Ryu, but Sergi Lopez (David) never drew my compassion, which sadly makes him a somewhat unlikeable character though I do believe we're meant to feel for him.

Phew! I wrote a lot more on that than I thought I would. Chew on that for a while and I'll prep my thoughts on the nine short films in my next blog coming later tonight!

Friday, May 22, 2009

At the Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is unlike Sundance in SO many ways. And since that's the only other major festival I have to compare it to, I naturally do so in my attempts to synthesize and absorb that which is all around me.

First and foremost, Cannes is HUGE. Not to say that Sundance is small, but there's no doubt that this entire city is alight with the love and passion of filmmaking, including the marina, the clubs, the bars, the restaurants, the theatres, and so much more. Second is the most obvious: the weather. It's been between 70 and 75 here for the most part, which is pretty comfy when you think about the ski weather of the January-based Park City festivals. And thirdly, there's no doubt that this festival is much more international. During my brief stay here thus far, I have easily heard over, from what I can tell, fifteen different languages spoken in my vincinity. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. Luckily, most of the city speaks English as a second language, which helps my poor French skills. (Although I took five years of French in high school, I maybe remember only 10% of it overall.)

The festival this year represents some really great work from around the world, with notable films including "Inglorious Bastards" (directed by Quentin Tarantino), "Up" (directed by Pete Doctor), "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (directed by Terry Gilliam), and of course, the highly anticipated "Drag Me to Hell" (directed by Sam Raimi.)

Now, one of the crappy things about coming in for only the last weekend of the festival is that you miss out on many films you may never see otherwise. I missed seeing Michael Haneke's newest feature "The White Ribbon" (by only three people!), Chan-Wook Park's venture into horror, "Bak-Jwi" (translated as "Thirst"), and Lars Von Trier's newest controversal film, "Antichrist." This being the case, I decided that when tonight presented me the opportunity to see "Drag Me to Hell" on the big screen, I would NOT pass it up. So, I waited in line for two hours, and afterwards, the only words I could think were:

Best. Decision. Ever.

(What follows is a spolier-free review, so rest assured that each and every scare will be as fresh for you as it was for me.)

For a PG-13 film, I am amazed with how much Raimi gets away with. There's no nudity and very little foul language, but the scares and the gore are both there to be feasted upon. The movie is relentless, with Raimi echoing back to his "Evil Dead" days, making sure each scare is bigger and bolder than the one before. Throw in the fact that the speakers in the Salle du 60 (where I saw the film) literally MOVED my seat (I sat in the very front row) because they were SO loud, it was an experience NOT to be missed.

So is this the rebirth of horror? No. This film isn't trying to be the next big thing. Sam Raimi knows his roots and doesn't deviate too far from the tree. So what he tries to do throughout the film (and succeeds) is show you things you've never seen before in a horror film, each time, making you go, "Oh God! Really?!" Alison Lohman does a solid job as Christine Brown, though doesn't really get to show off her skills as a horror screen actor until the final act. Justin Long is also good in the film as Christine's boyfriend, but isn't really given much to work with.

My only criticisms would be 1) there are three times in which CG is used in the film and I found it pretty distracting, especially when there are other times in the film when practicals are used and look great (or if they are CG, they are really REALLY well done), and 2) the dialogue is a little weak at times. Now, I realize that dialogue isn't exactly the Raimis' strong point, but there are times when things feel a little forced as exposition. Do these two distract from the experience? Honestly, no, but these are simply issues that could have made for an even stronger entry into the horror category.

So go see it next Friday, May 29th, and show Raimi and movie producers that good horror films deserve a spot during the summer blockbuster season! Seriously, go now and buy your tickets in advance. I'll wait.

The only other film I got to see today in its entirity is "A Town Called Panic," a belgium stop-motion animation feature based on a successful cult animated series of the same name. I'll spend more time on that another day, however, as I've got to get some sleep. I have a noon-time screening tomorrow at the Grand Lumiere (RED CARPET) of "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" (directed by Isabel Coixet.) They generally want you to wear tuxes, but since I left mine at the cleaners, I'll go with the next best thing. And if that still doesn't work, I'll beat up a guy and take his.

Bon soir everyone! Stay tuned for photos, more reviews, and my contuing misadventures in France.

To Boldly Go...

**Originally written on Wednesday, May 20th**

So I'm currently sitting in the Delta Terminal of Logan Airport in Boston, MA - a lovely terminal that features a beautiful view of the city, electrical outlets throughout the space, and optional wifi. I know, not exactly rare this day and age, but feels a few steps up compared to the Delta Terminal at JFK, which is where my journey began this morning.

But as you may have guessed, I have not reached my final destination yet, for I am on my way to the Cannes Film Festival in France. Shocked as I am? I don't blame you. The surprise trip came up a few weeks ago when Fredric King, owner of Fountainhead Films, approached me with the idea of going to garner support and funding for a feature we are producing together entitled, "Small Talker." At first, it seemed an unlikely trip, but then, he was able to line up some work for us out there as well, meaning we'll spend a few days at the Festival, and then a few days shooting at some of the loveliest wineries France has to offer.

I wonder if my excitement and nervousness come across in my words, for I am both of those and then some. Why? Well, this is actually my first trip out of North America. I've never flown out of the confines of America (having only driven to Toronto once for Wrestlemania XVII), and going now, twenty eight years of my life behind me, is a bit daunting, but quite possibly one of the most exciting things I will ever do.

I was fortunate enough to go to the Slamdance Film Festival a few years ago in support of Fountainhead Film's ego doc, "B.I.K.E." As both an Associate Producer and Additional Editor of the film, I was happy to support it in the midst of the chilly Utah winter. But Cannes presents a whole new ball game. The stakes are higher, the stage is larger, and damn, it's France!

I really have no idea what to expect, but I do know that I will go without any expectations upon myself or my journey. With an open mind, I boldly go where I have never gone before. Guess you have to go to France before you can go to space, right?

Stay tuned for more updates.

PS - Special thanks to those whose love and support has been paramount as I've been prepping for this trip over the past few weeks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Like this Ship!

So I saw the "Star Trek" reboot this weekend, as did many others, bringing the film's weekend gross to roughly $75M. Not too shabby and easily on course to overtake the Trek franchise's highest grossing film up to this point, "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."

I don't believe I had as many mixed feelings as other hard core Trekkies, and here's why: It's a damn good movie. Trek cannon aside, the film is fast-paced, action-packed, with great action sequences and comedic moments that keep you riveted and having a good time. The 2+ hour movie flew by, leaving me wanting more from this new crew of Abercrombie and Fitch models.

The film is not without its flaws, however, but for some reason, I'm willing to overlook most of them. Is it because my expectations were so low? Maybe. Is it possibly because the highlights certainly wash out the lowlights? Probably. Is it because I found myself distracted by the vast use of lens flares in the future?? Does anyone know how to use a sun screen on cameras in the future?!

But the question is always asked: Is it a good Star Trek film? And inevitably, the answer is Yes. JJ Abrams and team have not only taken the qualities which have made Trek thrive in the past and fleshed them out as fresh again, or at least, in a way that was never conceived on the big screen. But they've also expanded it to mean so much more. The Original Series (or TOS as it is sometimes referred), like the first six movies featuring the original cast, centered on the humanity of the crew to overcome obstacles. Faced with countless dangers in space, the crew of the Enterprise always managed a solution, even if it may have danced in a grey area a little bit.

Of course, the new film didn't really dance in the grey area as it simply wanted to create a kickass sci-fi movie with a great cast of characters that also find a way to overcome obstacles. And just like TOS, the fact that the crew is made up of an Asian, a Russian, an African American, and a Vulcan doesn't seem to matter, nor should it. The fact that they work together well (or don't work together well, as sometimes is the case) doesn't depend on their respective cultures or skin color. They work together well because they all have a desire to do their best. They have committed themselves to the cause of space exploration, to boldy go where no one has gone before. Gene Roddenberry would have been proud, I do believe.


And that's what's really important. It shouldn't matter that the cannon was affected, because I don't believe Roddenberry was concentrating on making sure that the way the warp drive worked was consistant (the Enterprise did once achieve going over Warp 10, which as we all know nowadays, is quite impossible) or figuring out exactly what klingons should and should not look like.

But don't get me wrong. This film sort of feels like a cop out. It's a Postmodern Star Trek, taking elements we all know and love and re-positioning them to create something completely new. But, at least they had the decency to make sure to tie it back into the original rather than simply "rebooting" it as has been done with so many franchises already. I appreciate the respect they gave to us, the Trekkies.

So what can we expect from the next two films that will inevitably get made? Well, with the Trek cannon more or less up for grabs, I wouldnt' be surprised to see every fan boy already sitting in front of his computer, writing up every idea from bringing back the infamous Harry Mudd to Trelane, the Squire of Gothos, but doing it differently than TOS. And why not? You've got every liberty in the world. My thoughts? There will be more than enough time for upcoming Trek references, but they need to forge ahead with new missions of the USS Enterprise. Don't dwell on what's already been done, deconstructing and reconstructing a past which is already so rich. Do new things with these new charcters. Let's explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilzations. Let's not simply whitewash the past just because we can.


So if some of you are not as familiar with TOS, but are looking for a primer, here's a few of my favorite episodes in no particular order:

1) Balance of Terror - Technically, one of Starfleet's earliest encounters with Romulans. Great back and forth between Kirk and the Captain of the Romulan Vessel.

2) The Doomsday Machine - Fantastic episode showcasing one of my favorite Kirk lines, "Not with my ship you don't!"

3) Amok Time - This episode explores the relationship between Spock and his home planet Vulcan, and subsequently, Spock and Kirk as well.

4) The Corbomite Maneuver - Fantastic episode with a great ending. What do you do when you run out of options?

5) A Taste of Armageddon - Two worlds are raging an intergalactic war ... waged by computers?! An episode with an idea that still scares me.

6) The City on the Edge of Forever - Time Travel? Star Trek? NEVER. Probably known as one of the most famous episodes, The City on the Edge of Forever takes Kirk, Spock, and McCoy back to Nazi Germany...

7) The Trouble with Tribbles - Even though the Tribbles are considered lighter fare, this episodes deals with an incident from our favorite baddies, the Klingons! (who just so happen to look like humans with goatees)

8) Arena - This episode pits Kirk one on one with a Gorn, a terrifying lizard-life humanoid with a taste for human blood - but all is not what it seems.

9) The Naked Time - Featuring some great performances, the crew lets out their inner inhibitions!

10) A Piece of the Action - You've always wanted to see Kirk and Spock dressed as gangsters, right? Well, then this is the episode for you!

So that about does it! I promise you that not every post will be about Trek, though if "Terminator: Salvation" sucks, I may go back to it. Can't promise anything.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Human Adventure is Just Beginning

With only four days until the arrival of JJ Abrams "Star Trek," it seemed fitting to start my first blog with a line from the original "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." I can't be sure if that's a quote verbatim, but I imagined it would be close enough for my purposes and the purposes of the many (oh so many) readers I have.

Over the past six months, I have gone from sick to my stomach at the thought of this film, to somewhat tolerant, to vaguely interested, to thoroughly invested, to "Let me see it already!" Although Abrams has been quoted as not being a Trek fan growing up, I keep hearing the right things come out of the production. Sure, they may rewrite some of the cannon. And sure, there will be plenty of liberties taken. But maybe, just maybe, "Star Trek" had become so burdened with trying to stick to the cannon that it had found itself trapped in the corner of a room it started painting on the wrong end.

The options in a case like that are only two: 1) wait for the paint to dry and then finish up the remaining portion of the room, or 2) forget this room and let's just paint another room in the house, learning from our mistakes. I honestly don't believe that the first option would have come for years. It was twenty years between the inception of the Original Series and "The Next Generation," and that only came out because of a very successful set of movies.

Would I have been willing to wait twenty years to see the rebirth of "Star Trek"? I guess that depends. I grew up on "The Next Generation," and I remember how worried my Dad was that they were simply going to ruin it. And lo and behold, they created the show that revitalized the entire franchise! Do we have another franchise maker on our hands? Is a television show possible?

I will say that nothing is impossible, and with this set of actors already signed on for three films, it seems like we may boldly be going for another many years to come. And so I will go into this with an open mind, but unwilling to forget about the past. "Star Trek" was optimistic about the future of mankind in a time when people were protesting in the streets, a young charismatic president had been assassinated, and war was everywhere. At a time like this, I think we need all the "Star Trek" we can get, whether it's by the book or not.

"First star to the left, then straight on til morning..."