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May 27, 2008

"My career is on a toboggan run of failure at the moment."

There's a chat transcript up with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro about the upcoming Hobbit film (currently in pre-production). Check it out here.

A pretty slow week, DVD-wise...check the whole thing out here:

The Air That I Breathe (2007)

Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Darfur Now (2007)

Grace is Gone (2007)

Gunsmoke: Season 2: Vol. 2

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Vol. 2

Lipstick Jungle: Season 1

Rambo (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

Rawhide: Season 3: Vol. 1

The Thief of Bagdad (1940, Criterion DVD). DVD Savant has a good review of this one here.

The Walker (2007)

May 19, 2008

"I have re-mastered the art of handling hecklers."

Here we go with another round 'o new DVDs:

Charles in Charge: Season 3 ?!?!?!?!?!

Company (2007, PBS)

Cranford (2007, BBC)

The Flock

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: Season 4

The Muppet Show: Season 3

National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) Hey kids, did you know there's a stairway at Mt. Rushmore that leads over the hill to Sylvan Lake?!?! The things you learn in a dumb Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Also on Blu Ray.

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)

Penn & Teller - Bullsh*t! - The Complete Fifth Season

Square Pegs - The Complete Series

May 18, 2008

TOS Rewind #17: "Arena"

Sorry about the long hiatus on Trek. For some reason, I've been out of the mood to do them, but am still determined so I'm going to write a very short entry and move along. Eric may have more to say here, but I have to get something out there and move along to the next episode, even if this one gets somewhat short shrift. So, we have Arena (1/19/1967). I don't remember what I was drinking, alas.

This episode does have a serious point to make, but it always gets a laugh out of me due to the low-budget alien. The Gorn looks a lot like some "Creature From The Black Lagoon" retread and it seems hard to believe these guys, who stagger around like...well, like a dude in a stiff rubber suit, can get much of anything done, let alone build spaceships. Okay, so I'm being a poop about the poor gravely-voiced Gorn, but it seems pretty silly. Then again, to be fair, I have to give Trek a shred of credit for trying something other than a regular human with a ridged forehead or funky costume.

"Arena" is one of those episodes where a superior alien race decides to teach us war-like humans a lesson (not to mention those other creeps we're fighting). The aliens seem to have equal contempt for both groups as they're willing to kill everyone aboard the losing ship. They claim that this is in the interest of peace. I'm not sure how this will ensure the peace, but whatever. Of course, I conclude from the end of this episode that Kirk and co. now at least know why the Earth colony was being attacked.

In the end, what we remember is the big fight between Kirk and the Gorn at that ever-so-useful piece of California real estate. The Gorn is clever, making that snare that almost kills Kirk, but Kirk makes a gun out of a bamboo tube and some conveniently available sulfur and coal. Clever humans!

See, wasn't that "merciful and quick"?!

Gene Roddenberry once said that Star Trek works by presenting an entertaining story, and while audience’s guard is down, slipping in a heavy idea or two. And since it’s all couched in science fiction, it’s easier to get the commentary on current events (and the human condition in general) past the network censors.

“Arena? is a good example of this pattern. Kirk, thanks to a highly advanced race, finds himself on a uninhabited planet squared off against the captain of an alien ship that attacked a Federation colony. This other captain is from a race called the Gorn, which has always looked to me like some kind of evolved dinosaur. (And let’s get the criticism of the Gorn suit and makeup out of the way now--yes, it’s laughably fake, but it was the mid-60s and they were on a shoestring budget.) Anyway, this is an interesting comparison given the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise (4th season) that featured a CGI Gorn that looked much like a velociraptor from “Jurassic Park.? Of course, if Kirk had been doing unarmed battle with that Gorn, he would’ve been bloody scraps in about thirty seconds.

But I digress, the good captain does survive. One minor complaint is that the “gunpowder? he concocts shouldn’t have worked. And if it had, his improvised cannon probably would’ve blown up in his face and killed him. Still, this is a good Kirk episode—he’s clever, tough, and in the end, noble. And the story itself is good. There’s lots of action and suspense, and it introduces two new interesting races: the Metrons and the Gorn.

So “Arena? is an entertaining story, but where are Roddenberry’s heavy ideas? Actually, it’s not hard to identify them. One is the familiar Star Trek theme that an enemy, or a perceived enemy, is rarely pure evil and often, once understood, is not actually an enemy. The other idea is also familiar to Trek and is demonstrated by Kirk at the end of the episode. He spares the life of the Gorn captain and by doing so, shows that mercy can overcome the human instinct for revenge; it just takes the ability to reason and a conscious intention not to give in to anger.

Next time: “Tomorrow is Yesterday?

May 13, 2008

"I told you to stop beatin' them drums!"

Before I get started, I wanted to say that the Star Trek review project hasn't been abandoned. We should be back with another installment verrrrry soon!

Another week, another round of new DVDs:

The Big Trail (1930)

Drawn Together: Season 3

The Fire Within (1963)

There are three Sinatra DVD sets being released this week, presumably to coincide with this being the 10th anniversary of his death. I've never quite gotten the whole "death anniversary" thing. It reeks of something made up by a marketing department. But good news for Sinatra fans as the sets contain some new-to-DVD titles and are aggressively priced.

Frank Sinatra - The Early Years Collection

The Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly Collection

Frank Sinatra - The Golden Years Collection

The Great Debaters (2007)

Indiana Jones Adventure Collection A reissue of the first three films, a real shocker! It looks like there are a few new bonuses thrown in, but I can't imagine why you'd re-purchase them for that. No word on a Blu-Ray version, though many expect the new Indy film will get a HD release before the end of the year. The one positive thing here is that you can finally buy the films individually (hence skipping Temple of Doom).

The Lovers (1958)

Man of the West (1958) Another Anthony Mann western gets a DVD release. I caught this one on TCM a while back and liked it. It's a dark, complex character piece for a Western and has a lot in common with Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World New this week on Blu-Ray. This is one of those titles I am going to go rent when I get a Blu player. It's such beautiful film, visually, that I really want to see how it looks in hi def.

Mission: Impossible Season 4

The Rat Patrol: The Complete Series

Saturday Night Live: The Complete Third Season

Stargate Infinity: The Complete Series

May 5, 2008

"Increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around!"

Spring has finally arrived here in MN and while I'm grateful for the end of the cold, I find myself in denial about Summer being so close...yes, it's May.

So let's see what the entertainment overlords have for us this week:

The 4400: Season 4

Bella (2006)

Bewitched: Season 6

Crossing Jordan: Season 1

First Sunday (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

I'm Not There (2007)

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996) This was released in the late 1990s on DVD but has been out of print for so long that it almost qualifies as a new-to-DVD release. The lack of any extras makes me think the delay had to do with legal, rather than technical or talent-related issues.

P.S. I Love You (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

Twister: Special Edition (1996) If, for some strange reason, you've wanted to own this on DVD and haven't bought it, here's an updated DVD. Also being released on Blu-Ray (they're finally releasing the "classics" on Blu!).