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September 30, 2008

"Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy."

Another week, another batch of new DVDs and Blu-Ray.

Adam 12: Season 2

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

Iron Man (2008) Available in basic 1 disc, 2 disc SE, or Blu-Ray. DVD Savant has a good review of the flick/disc here.

My Name Is Earl: Season 3

My Three Sons: Season 1: Vol. 1 One of the classic conservative family sitcoms. It ran for 12 seasons (!) and starred Fred MacMurray. Fred really could act well (just watch him in his Billy Wilder films), but seemed to mostly do the nice guy/father roles on TV or live-action Disney films. One of the interesting things about this show was Fred's contract: they had to shoot all his scenes for the entire season first. Quite the deal. I doubt the show suffered much from this kind of production.

Sports Night: The Complete Series 10th Anniversary Edition A second DVD release for the Sorkin series. The original DVD set was featureless; this one throws in a bunch of new bonus material, some of it good, according to the reviews.

September 22, 2008

"America isn't ready for the real me."

Before I begin, I thought I'd share something.

I am a bit of a packrat (NO WAY!). One of the things I seem to still have sitting around the house is a pile of old A/V magazines: Stereophile and its spinoff, UltimateAV (formally Stereophile Guide to Home Theater). I've been skimming through them a bit lately; here are a few tidbits that caught my attention.

From an issue in 2000:

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab had just gone out of business. Their major retail distributor had just gone kaput and couldn't pay their debts. This dragged the otherwise healthy MoFi down with it (sounds somewhat like our current financial situation). MoFi is back in business; the resurrected company already has out-of-print releases.

There was much talk about the impact that DVD Jon's breaking of DVD encryption would have on the impending launch of the DVD-Audio format. Jon's work is everywhere now and DVD-Audio is dead and buried.

The RCA brand was relaunched by Thompson . Their notable products: Satellite TV receivers (now made only by the satellite providers) and a "promising" new mp3 player. No one had yet heard of this thing called the iPod.

Quite a lot of article and reader letter space was devoted to how audio dealers will deal with this thing called E-Commerce. Those that didn't are probably long gone.

UltimateAV from 2003:

The big DVD news: the Indiana Jones films are coming to DVD (remember that DVD has been around since 1997). This year marked a re-release of the films on DVD and with a few exceptions, the big sought-after movie titles are out on ye olde DVD.

Disney launched, with much fanfare in the A/V press, Moviebeam, a pay-per-view service that used a proprietary box that downloaded movies over the air. Disney dumped it a couple of years ago and it's since been shuttered.

One of the big equipment reviews in the magazine was of a Sony 34 inch HDTV (ca. $3,000) using a CRT. Yes, a 3k tube TV. Sure, CRTs can deliver very good pictures (I still use them), but that size and that amount of money; it seems quaint.

It's all old stuff now, but it wasn't that long ago. Blu-Ray wasn't even on the horizon, let alone the format war that's been fought and won.

Okay, back to the present...and this week's list of new DVDs/Blu-Rays.

Affair in Trinidad (1952)

The Anderson Tapes (1971) DVD Savant reviews this one here.

Boston Legal: Season 4

Cashmere Mafia: The Complete Series

Desception (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

The Garment Jungle (1957) DVD Savant takes a look at this one here.

The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Giftset This is one of those re-dos that's probably worthwhile. The films (yes, all three) have been restored with the help of restoration heavyweight Robert Harris. By all accounts, the films look fabulous. The Blu-Ray versions apparently nail the look these films had in their original release. DVD Savant has a good review of them here. I'll be buying this, no doubt (even if I never watch Part III).

L.A. Confidential This was an early release on the DVD format and was one of the first movies I bought when I got my first player. It's a great movie and now there's an improved special edition of it. I'm sure I'll be getting the Blu-Ray version at some point.

Leatherheads (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

Run, Fat Boy, Run (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

Sex and the City: The Movie Also on Blu-Ray.

This American Life: Season 1

Two and a Half Men: Season 4

September 16, 2008

TOS Rewind #21: "Space Seed"

This time we tackle:



Space Seed (02-16-1967)

We have a podcast for this one featuring Eric, Rob, Andy, and myself (and my, do we go on!). Download the Podcast

I'll let Eric start us out:

“Space Seed� is a truly classic Trek episode that ranks in my top ten of favorites. It’s a great, original story that’s free of any overt campiness. And with the exception of a couple of flaws, it works beautifully.

As I noted in my last review, “Return of the Archons� was one of many Kirk vs. machine episodes. And while it was an excellent example of that kind of episode, it’s refreshing to get away from that premise. And “Space Seed� does this beautifully--it’s Kirk vs. man (or superman). The essence of the story is Kirk’s conflict with a genetically engineered villain from the late 20th century named Khan, who is awakened from suspended animation and tries to take over the Enterprise. Kirk and company win, just barely, thanks to the loyalty and ingenuity of the crew and Kirk’s physical stamina.

Come to think of it, “Space Seed� is actually Kirk vs. Science (rather than Kirk vs. man), since it was genetic engineering that produced Khan. He is cited as being the product of eugenics (or selective breeding), which interestingly was how Hitler attempted to create his “Aryan� race. Eugenics is basically a form of genetic engineering that weeds out undesirable traits and emphasizes other traits through carefully controlled breeding. It does not involve any direct manipulation of DNA as later Star Trek series have suggested. Anyway, it was apparently effective enough to produce a large number of these supermen (and women) in the late 20th century, which led to the Eugenics War of the 1990s.

I have often wondered why Roddenberry signed off on the Eugenics War. It obviously contradicts actual history. Maybe it was a backhanded condemnation of Hitler’s insidious “master race� ideas? I suppose one could write it off as an example of the parallel universe idea, but I prefer to look at it as a fictional alternate history. In any case, given that the episode was written in 1966, it’s a forgivable flaw.

A not-so-forgivable flaw, however, is the portrayal of Marla McGivers, the crewmember who initially helps Kahn in his bid to seize control of the Enterprise. She is mesmerized and seduced by Kahn in about as much time as it’s taken me to write this sentence. She abandons all of her Starfleet training and her sense of morality and ethics, with only token protests, simply because Khan is a charismatic beefcake. As a man, I find this offensive, so I can’t imagine how insulting it is to women.

Still, despite its flaws, “Space Seed� is a great episode. It manages to accomplish a kind of time travel, without having to fall back on any tired tricks or ridiculous pseudoscience. Marc Daniel’s directing is top notch, and the acting is uniformly excellent, especially Ricardo Montalban as Khan. The character is well-written to begin with, and Montalban does a superb job bringing him to life. Khan is perhaps the best villain in the Star Trek universe.
Which leads to one of the main reasons this episode is near and dear to me—it was the basis for the second Star Trek movie: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,� Hands down, this is the best of the movies. It takes place fifteen years after the events in “Space Seed� and answers the implicit question at the end of the episode, after Kirk has exiled Khan and his comrades to a primitive, uninhabited world. Spock says: “It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and learn what crop had sprung from the seed you planted today.�


And the drink today: White Russian.

I have little doubt that most Trek watchers would agree that this is one of the best of the run. Even without its connection to Star Trek II, it stands as a classic of the series.

The familiar crew dynamic is present as usual, though Kirk (thanks to Rob for reminding me of this) is downright snippy with people on the bridge at the beginning of the episode. However, the elements that make this one shine are the "improved human" ideas in the story and Khan himself.

Eric did a good review of the concept of the eugenics war as portrayed here and while it may not have been new to science fiction as a concept, it must have been pretty fresh for television. It really is humanity vs. science, though it did occur to me that this is a bit about humanity vs. humanity. Spock says that superior ability breeds superior ambition. This is about science, but I'm glad something was written in the show to mention how humanity itself adapts along with changes in its abilities. "We offered the world ORDER!" Indeed...

Khan is the closest thing TOS has to a supervillain. He's physically tough and quite intelligent (though he suffers from the unfortunate tendency to monologue his adversaries, like many of his kind); a good match for Kirk. It is of course difficult to imagine anyone but Ricardo Montalban playing Khan. He so thoroughly inhabits the role that you forget he's supposed to be a guy of Indian-descent. His swagger, charm, and forceful delivery of his lines just kicks ass. Truly, no one aside from Shatner chewed the scenery with as much aplomb in the world of Trek.

As we discussed in the podcast, the character of McGivers was the one weak link in the episode. Her character is so weak and easily seduced that it comes off as insulting and sexist. I don't know if I buy the way that Khan takes her back at the end of the episode after she's betrayed him. She's awfully quick to change allegiances. But, this really doesn't spoil anything for me or make the episode fully hold up as a TOS classic.

Next time: “A Taste of Armageddon�

September 15, 2008

"Pancakes are love."

Here we go, another week of new DVDs and Blu-Rays. And, there's another Star Trek blog/podcast on the way for you to look out for/avoid.

88 Minutes Also on Blu-Ray.

An American in Paris (1951) A new 2 DVD special edition.

The Busby Collection, Vol. 2

Chuck: Season 1

Dirty Sexy Money: Season 1

The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)

La Ronde (1950)

The Love Guru Also on Blu-Ray.

Pushing Daisies: Season 1

Speed Racer Also on Blu-Ray.

Torchwood: Season 2 Bloody Torchwood!

Tortured (2008)

September 8, 2008

"You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once."

I didn't get to the blog last week: it was the first week of classes and things were thick. Here's the list of new stuff from last week. I didn't notice anything earthshattering, but you might want to check it out. This week's list can be found here.

Slate has an interesting article on the movies that many Netflix subscribers tend to leave sitting at home unwatched. Check it out here.

DVD Savant has a good article up about DVD menus: a good summary of all the annoying things on DVDs. It can be found here.

Baby Mama (2008) Also on Blu-Ray.

The Big Lebowski - 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Another re-release of this one. It's a favorite of mine, but new bonuses aren't going to cut it for me. No Blu-Ray as of yet.

Cool Hand Luke: Deluxe Edition Also on Blu-Ray.

The Fall (2006) Also on Blu-Ray.

The Forbidden Kingdom Also on Blu-Ray.

How The West Was Won (1962) A new transfer that apparently looks much better than the previous DVD. The Blu-Ray version has the film presented in both conventional widescreen (really wide: 2.89:1) and Smilebox formats. The movie isn't that great, but it's quite the visual spectacle and is getting rave reviews on HD for its picture/sound quality.

Medium: Season 4

Smallville: Season 7 Also on Blu-Ray.

Ugly Betty: Season 2