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August 30, 2007

"The only skater to win four national championships and an adult film award."

Sorry about the incredible lameness this week. We were out of town and the semester begins on Tuesday here, so the blog must suffer...but do go and check out these two links:

The list of new DVDs (natch!)

DVD Savant's excellent review of the new Robocop DVD; the review of the film is worth a read.

August 22, 2007

The TOS Podcast!

Check it out, Andy and I have done our first podcast for the episode, "This Side of Paradise." Yes, I know we're going out of order! It's geeky, dorky, and something indescribable. We had fun recording it, so I'm sure there'll be more.

Download the Podcast!

August 20, 2007

"We're gonna explode? I don't wanna explode!"

It's a rainy, slow week for new DVDs. Here's the list and here's my bit:

Broken English (2007)

The Dark Backward (1991)

Dexter: Season 1

Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: Season 2

The Ex

House, M.D. - Season Three

House of Games (1987) Criterion issues the David Mamet film.

The Milky Way (1969)

Perfect Stranger (2007)

Serenity: Collector's Edition All right Joss fans, time for a double (or triple if you want it in HD) dip for all those new features.

She (1935)

South Park: Season 10

Ugly Betty: Season 1

August 18, 2007

TOS Rewind #9: "Dagger of the Mind"

Tonight's episode: Dagger of the Mind (11/3/1966). The drink: Scotch (Glenfiddich 12 year).

Well well well, another show devoted to science gone awry. This time, the Enterprise visits an asylum run by the famous Dr. Adams. Adams has supposedly revolutionized the treatment of the criminally insane. Fair enough, he has indeed. The writers were trying to make a statement about the misuse of medicine for "legitimate" purposes. After all, the Neural Neutralizer is really a high tech lobotomizing machine. Just a causal look at the patients in the place makes this clear. There is some dialogue at the beginning of the show where clearly McCoy and Kirk clearly are having some form of debate on this topic. It sets up the show well.

When the crazed Van Gelder shows up (in a painted cardboard box), be shifts the center of the attention to his character. After all, playing a crazy man gives an awful lot of dramatic license to an actor and he takes full advantage. The potential menace of him is clear, yet the character gives you just enough to wonder if something odd is going on. The most important thing that happens in this episode is the first Vulcan mind meld between Spock and Van Gelder. Certainly one of the highlights of the episode.

Besides Van Gelder, we have the Adams character. He's pretty well played, particularly at the beginning where he's covering up the problems at the facility. Adams is slippery as well as charming. The only thing I question is how he thinks he's going to get away with using this thing long-term. Particularly after he tortures Kirk in it; it's not like no one's going to notice him either missing or being a mental case.

Other stuff: The Dr. Noel is a mixed bag for me. On one hand, she turns out to be a somewhat strong female character. For example, she sneaks into the engineering section and ends up killing one of the station security guards. On the other hand, her introduction where she tries to embarrass Kirk in the transporter room makes her seem very unprofessional. In the beginning, she just comes off as an naive ditz. However, she's actually quite attractive and has a slight wardrobe malfunction (sorry!) where you see her underwear through her uniform. Okay, so that was a sexist/objectification comment...bye bye credibility!

And now, Eric:

I’ve got iTunes playing as I start writing. Stevie wonder is singing “Sir Duke,? so it’s an auspicious beginning to tonight’s review of “Dagger of the Mind,? which is a decent original Trek episode. Upon rewatching it, however, I was struck by its similarity to “What are Little Girls Made Of.? In fact, the plot is basically the same with the exception that “Dagger of the Mind? deals with mind control, instead of life extension, via technology. I didn’t think about it until Doc and I started doing these reviews, but those two topics are common, in one form or another, not only in Trek but also science fiction in general.

One little note about this episode is that Simon Van Gelder (played by Morgan Woodward) must have a close cousin in Starfleet, because he bears a remarkable resemblance to Captain Ron Tracey of the U.S.S. Exeter. (See “The Omega Glory.?)

Another note that Doc will probably mention is that this episode features the first instance of Spock performing a “mind meld.? I seem to remember hearing, or reading, that Leonard Nimoy came up with the mind meld, but that may be apocryphal. He did invent the “V? shaped Vulcan salute, which was taken from a gesture he saw a Rabbi make, and he also suggested the Vulcan nerve pinch. But I digress—back to the episode.

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I’m not an expert on 60s culture, but there does seem to be a fascination, perhaps a preoccupation, with issues like mind control and brainwashing. I have to wonder if this isn’t due, in part at least, to a lingering fear of some of the more insidious programs of this nature that were undertaken by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II. There were movies around that time, like “The Manchurian Candidate,? that dealt with this subject, and it was also the subject of some original episodes of “The Twilight Zone? and “The Outer Limits.? In any case, the World War II connection makes sense, since Gene Roddenberry was a World War II vet. (He was a bomber pilot stationed in Europe.)

Finally, I found the “romance? between Kirk and Dr. Noel a bit ridiculous, but overall, the episode was well-acted. Morgan Woodward did a good job with Simon Van Gelder, and I liked how James Gregory kept Dr. Adams’ sinister nature from being too overt or overdone.

So, overall “Dagger of the Mind? is one of the better original Star Trek episodes.

Next time: “The Corbomite Maneuver?

August 15, 2007

TOS Rewind #8: "Miri"

Today's episode: Miri (10/27/1966). The drink: a rye Manhattan (very tasty).

When I was growing up, I used to think the episodes where they visited "alternate Earths" (yes, there was more than one) were kinda cool. Maybe I latched onto the idea of seeing our world in a different state or something. Nevertheless, it was intriguing, in a post-holocaust kinda way. Now, I understand their need to have a story that allowed the use of existing studio backlot space and costumes, but did they really need to have it be a planet that was identical to Earth? It seems a bit silly and unnecessary, considering they didn't have the time to actually explain it.

Bonk Bonk!

Once we get past that premise, the mystery of why the adult population is all dead is interesting and has some degree of suspense as the landing party begins to contract the disease. The part of Miri (Kim Darby) is well acted and the mob of small children is actually somewhat menacing at times. Check out the part where one of the kids gives Kirk a good whack with a hammer or when the kids shower Spock and the Red Shirts with rocks in an alleyway. The subplot of Miri having a crush on Kirk is kind of sweet, but could also be interpreted as icky. Shatner does attempt to make it as sensitive and un-creepy as he can, despite the obvious problem with the script. Of course, one of the funniest things in this one is where Kirk yells out, "No more BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!" Classic...and speaking of amusing things, there's the line where McCoy snarks about never having seen a worse collection of bad architecture. This almost seems a dig at the fact that they were shooting on a generic studio backlot with its inevitable collection of differing styles, like the building front that looks like a stable from a western. And this is supposedly the 1960s on this planet...right.

The writers were, besides trying to save money, attempting to interject a message about the dangers of medicine going too far to prolong human life. I find it interesting that this episode ran right after "What Are Little Girls Made Of," which also has a similar idea about using technology to cheat death. I doubt there's any real connection there; the network people probably didn't give anywhere near that much thought to what order the stories should go. In the end, while this one has its moments, it really feels compromised on a number of levels.

And now, hello Eric!

This is going to be a shorter review, primarily because “Miri? is not among my better liked original Star Trek episodes. It’s not a complete bomb—the basic story premise is interesting—but the execution leaves something to be desired.

Doc and I actually had a brief chat about this episode and agreed that a major flaw is the “duplicate Earth? plot device. Not only is it a lazy way to reduce production costs (no special efforts for art direction or special effects), but it’s also ridiculously implausible. I’m sure that if the entire (presumably infinite) universe was the search base, there would be a possibility of finding an exact duplicate of Earth somewhere. In our own galaxy, however, the odds have to be so astronomically slim that it’s, for all intents and purposes, impossible. And it’s hard to be a self-respecting viewer and accept this kind of disregard for science. That’s not to say that Star Trek hasn’t frequently played fast and loose with science, but I find this instance particularly annoying.

One thing I did like about this episode was Kim Darby’s performance— she did a convincing job despite being much too old for the role of Miri. Michael Pollard, who played Miri’s friend Jahn (the ringleader of the kids) did a good job as well. He was also too old for his role, but in both cases, their acting was good. It occurs to me, though, that one reason their performances stand out is that the rest of the acting was pretty much underwhelming.

My final complaint has to do with the relationship that was portrayed between Kirk and Miri. It appears that Kirk was using her and the fact that she had a crush on him, which would be despicable if she were a grown woman, but the fact that she was an adolescent girl makes it particularly reprehensible (and slimy). I may be misinterpreting what was portrayed, but even if that’s the case, I still found Kirk’s interaction with Miri unsavory.

But that’s enough criticism. Even Shakespeare had flops.

Next time: “Dagger of the Mind?

August 13, 2007

"This bodes some strange eruption to our state."

Greetings DVD consumers! Let's jump right in and see what we have this week:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters for DVD (2007) Yes, the movie with the terrorist ad campaign has come to DVD.

The Charlie Chan Collection, Vol. 3 Fox digs into the vaults for another round of Warner Oland Chan films: Behind That Curtain, Charlie Chan's Secret, Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo, Charlie Chan on Broadway, and The Black Camel.

Cria Cuervos (1977)

The Dark Crystal: 25th Anniversary Edition

Inland Empire (2006) David Lynch's latest.

Dynasty: Season 2

The First Films of Sam Fuller (1949-1951) Check out DVD Savan'ts review for details.

Fracture (2007)

The Fugitive: Season 1: Vol. 1

Hamlet (1996) The film that some of us have been waiting for some ten years, finally comes out of DVD for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing it again, though I know it won't be as fun as seeing it in true 70mm form.

Labyrinth Special Edition

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) Yes, starring James Cagney...seems odd, but OK!

Othello (1965, Olivier version)

Romeo and Juliet (1936)

August 6, 2007

TOS Rewind #7: "What Are Little Girls Made Of"

Tonight's show, What Are Little Girls Made Of? (10.20.1966). Tonight's drink, vodka and lemonade (sorry no real connection there).

First, Eric's review:

“What Are Little Girls Made Of?? is another original Trek episode I’ve always liked. It has a claustrophobic feeling that I find appealing, and the director did a good job of immediately conveying, and maintaining, a feeling that things aren’t quite right. In that respect, it reminds me of John Carpenter’s remake of “the Thing.? The story is also good science fiction, but it occurs to me that the theme of a civilization moving underground (by choice or due to necessity) is hardly original. It was used in other original Star Trek episodes, including the first pilot, “The Cage,? and it was originated, as far as I can tell, by H.G. Wells in his story “The Time Machine.? So what is it about living underground that appeals to science fiction writers? It provides a good way of analyzing how humans are affected by being deprived of open spaces, sunlight, and natural surroundings. And this is an interesting ponderable (given that the human race evolved under such conditions), but there must be more than that. Any ideas, John?

Anyway, another reason I like this episode is the character Ruk. He looks outlandish, maybe even campy, but Ted Cassidy did a great job with the role. Ruk is immensely old and there’s a wonderful sense of menace and mystery about him. In fact, the mysteries hinted at in this episode are probably a major reason I like it. Who were the “old ones? Ruk refers to? How long ago did they live? What were the circumstances surrounding their extermination at the hands of their android servants? (Hmm, is it just me or does that sound a bit like the new Battlestar Galactica?)

McCoy was absent, but the interaction between Kirk and Spock is great. (Shatner does a good job—no overt overacting.) What I like best is the way Kirk deduces what’s going on, and, as he’s being duplicated in android form, intuits how to tip off Spock. And Spock, of course, picks up on the clue immediately.

Now to be fair, there are several reasons that I like this episode, but there is one problem I noticed—a main plot point is that nurse Chapel is searching for her lost fiancé, whom she is still very much in love with. In production order, however, this episode comes after “The Naked Time? in which she confesses her love for Spock. So is she totally fickle, or does she just conveniently forget about loving Spock when her fiancée turns up alive?

Finally, we’re left with the idea that machines cannot have emotions and feelings as humans do. There is something special about inhabiting a human body that cannot be transferred to or duplicated in an artificial life form. (This is an issue that will be dealt with both in later episodes and in The Next Generation with Data.) I have to wonder if this isn’t a product of the zeitgeist of 60s, but I’m not an expert on 60s culture. I do know that the question of whether or not machines can be alive, or sentient, or have feelings or a consciousness like humans is a very common one in science fiction. It is interesting, however, that this episode purports that androids can’t have feelings because Gene Roddenberry created Data who obviously could feel emotions (once he had an emotion chip). Roddenberry also has said that transferring a human consciousness into an android is a viable alternative to living in a human body and that it would be possible to have sensation and feelings in such an existence. This would seem to be an inconsistency, but then again, it’s a complex issue—one science fiction is uniquely well-suited to examine. (Take that you literary snobs!)

Hi, I'm back!

I believe this episode marks the first time that Trek dealt with the robots/computers replacing humans idea. I'm sure Eric can refresh us all on the "robots are people too" canon of sci fi literature, but much of this has been at least written before. That is, the loss of "humanity" when machines become a replacement for us. Throw in a dash of good old mad scientist and mix in some drama with the TOS cast, and you have this episode. This one was better than I remember, on the whole. I think at the time, the ideas expressed must have been somewhat novel to the TV audience. The acting is decent and Kirk has finds some clever ways out of situations. Some observations:

Ted Cassidy (he also played Lurch in the TV Addams Family), who played the android Ruk, is great. He might be my favorite thing about this one. Not only is he a giant and has that growling deep voice, but the way he's made up makes him look like some freaky undead-like guy. The eyes alone do the trick.

How about that giant turntable with the paper mache' "blank" android? They really do whip them up fast (maybe Dr. Soong from TNG should have checked this place out). Speaking of Kirk's double, couldn't they have found a closer double for him? There's one scene where you see that back and it's obviously not him.

What a dramatic ending! Kirk, for the first time, convinces a machine that it needs to commit suicide (along with his girlfriend). Rinse, repeat.

Speaking of firsts, this marks the first episode where guys wearing read shirts get offed.

And finally, how about the android Andrea's (Sherry Jackson) outfit? Thus begins a long tradition of scantily-clad alien/robotic women and you can even see her nipples on this one (probably not noticed by the TV audience at the time).

Eric asked me to comment about the "aliens moving underground" theme. The only thing I can think of is the perhaps unconscious (to the writers) ideas in the 60s about the cold war and the fear of nuclear holocaust. The example that comes to mind is "Dr. Strangelove." Particularly, when they're talking about having to move the survivors underground. The cold war had a pronounced effect on many science fiction writers (obviously, Trek is loaded with examples).


This week there seems to be a bit more happening in DVDland. As always, click here for the whole list and pricing.

8 Simple Rules: Season 1

Brigitte Bardot Collection A box set featuring five of her films, new to DVD: Naughty Girl, Love on a Pillow, The Vixen, Come Dance With Me, and Two Weeks in September.

Daniel Boone: Season 5 This thing ran for five seasons?!

Disturbia (2007) Also available on Blu Ray and HD-DVD.

The Dresden Files: Season 1

Flash Gordon Saviour of the Universe Edition The camp film gets the SE treatment. DVD Savant has a great review of the disc here.

Home Improvement: Season 7

The Muppet Show: Season 2

Myrna Loy & William Powell Collection Warners puts together a pack of non-Thin Man Loy/Powell films: Manhattan Melodrama, Evelyn Prentice, Double Wedding, I Love You Again, and Love Crazy. DVD Savant reviews the set at this link.

Rome: Season 2

Roseanne: Season 8

The Simpsons: Season 10

TMNT (2007) Another classic being released on Blu Ray and HD-DVD.

Finally, be sure to go read DVD Savant's (he's had some good stuff up lately) review of the new Showgirls DVD, "It's so far beyond bad that the words 'bad movie' seem inadequate. The combined inner demons of Verhoeven and Eszterhaus seem to have created a cinematic Monster from the Id, a hateful pile of irredeemable ugliness for the growing heap of cultural garbage. I'm totally against fundamentalist watchdogs proclaiming Hollywood to be a modern Sodom in need of heavenly bolts of lightning, but I'd not like to be defending Tinseltown if this picture was introduced as evidence for the prosecution." Read the whole thing here.

August 2, 2007

TOS Rewind #6: "Mudd's Women"

Tonight's episode: Mudd's Women ( Original air date: 10-13-66). Tonight's drink: who the hell knows, something involving Sprite and watermelon Pucker. In a sense, the choice of drink, while seemingly gross and random, actually has a symbolic connection to the episode. On one hand we have the lively effervescence (the Sprite) of the Harry Mudd character. On the other hand, we have the lemon-lime flavor mixed with an over-sweet fake watermelon flavor (rendering the drink a pale pink) clash that represents the ideas in this story. When I ponder this episode, I vacillate between thinking the show is trying to make a forward-thinking social statement about drug dependency and "just being you" and thinking that it's a clumsy attempt to make the statement that beauty is only skin-deep. Oh, and along the way, reinforce conventional stereotypes about women and their role in society (in the 60s).

Or, let me steal a quote from the Star Trek website comment section: "What's not to like about an episode in which the Enterprise is taken over by an insane pimp and his three junkie whores?" Crap, I wish I'd come up with that very amusing and accurate statement about the episode (there's even a shot of his police record where it mentions psychiatric treatment). This one, in some ways, is more satisfying than Charlie X in that the cringe-inducing moments are balanced by a smattering of good acting and funny situations as the crew is knocked for a loop by their hormones, not to mention some 60s-sounding pseudo-lounge music that accompanies the women as they swing their hips down the Enterprise corridors (I also couldn't help but notice the very obvious ass camera shots -- I've recently learned that this was edited out of the syndicated TV cuts). I've always enjoyed the appropriately slimy Harry Mudd character, well played by Roger Carmel, and the Eve character actually has a small amount of development. However, too many things in this one bug me. Maybe it's the fact that some of the ideas haven't aged well.

A few other issues:

What's with Uhura wearing a yellow uniform; was she afraid of being the first red shirted character to be killed? At the end of the episode where Eve swallows the placebo drug, how does she instantly don makeup and restyle her hair (looks like she also had a facial)? For that matter, how does a drug do those things?! Yeah, yeah, I know Roddenberry was going for the idea that attractiveness is at least partially dictated by self-attitude, but because they really went overboard making the women look unattractive, the "transformation" seems really contrived, even within the context of this story. And finally, why weren't the bridge crew giving Spock a hard time about "noticing" the women? There are scenes where he certainly looks interested. Oh yeah, he only notices the "interesting qualities" of Kirk (sorry, couldn't resist!)! So, that's my take on this one. If someone wants to point out something I'm missing about this one, I'm certainly open to alternate opinions...

And here's Eric:

Original air date: 10-13-66 Today’s date: 8-2-07

I’ve always liked “Mudd’s Women,? largely, I think, due to the fact that Harcourt Fenton Mudd (dontcha love the name) is a fun character, and the late Roger C. Carmel did a great job in the role. The scenes with the male crew members going hormonal over the three women were also amusing (although I’ll bet the female crew members didn’t appreciate it). I also loved the scene where McCoy has one of the women in sickbay for an exam: “I wouldn’t trust my…judgment.? Right Doc. And I liked the fact that Kirk apologizes to Scotty for getting snapping at him. It’s little touches like these that really help flesh out characters, and it does much for making Kirk likable.

One problem I have with this episode is that it uses the “crisis with the engines that results in a race against time? plot device for the second time in the series, but it was only the fourth episode produced. It worked in story, but it was a definite harbinger of that particular plot device being badly overused. This episode also had a very noticeable (somewhat off-putting) 60s sensibility with regards to sex roles, but the story was written by Gene Roddenberry, who was known for being lecherous. And keep in mind that the distaste for 60s sexism is from a 40-years-later perspective. In 1966, the viewing audience probably didn’t bat an eye.

Finally, the moral of the story, that you can be anything you want as long as you believe in yourself, is perhaps a little too blatant, but at the same time it’s positive and life-affirming, which is sadly missing in much of our entertainment these days.

Next time: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?

August 1, 2007

"Aloha. Aloha, suckers."

Hey there everyone and welcome to another fun-filled week of DVD-ness. As usual, clicking here will get you the whole list and prices. Before I start, just a bit of news for Battlestar Galactica fans. There's been an announcement about the upcoming 4th and final season, which airs in January, as well as the two hour TV movie that will air on Sci Fi in November. For more details, check out this article.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) DVD Savant has a review of the Harryhausen film here.


The Archie Show: The Complete Series

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales

Dallas: Season 7

Everything's Gone Green

Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 Warners continues the mine their back catalog: Art of Violence, Mystery Street, Crime Wave, Decoy, Illegal, The Big Steal, They Live By Night, Side Street, Where Danger Lives, and Tension.

Firehouse Dog

Hawaii 5-O - The Second Season

Hot Fuzz


Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Season 2 And speaking of "classics"....

Finally, another Trek TOS entry should be coming soon...