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February 23, 2010

"You know what the Ph.D. stands for, don't you? Piled higher and deeper. "

I need to get going on my next Trek review so let's just hit the list for this week now:

Adam-12: Season 4

Alexander the Last (2009)

The Box (2009) Also on BD.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009) Also on BD.

The Damned United (2009) Also on BD.

Dead Snow (2009) A Norwegian film with Nazi zombies: what's not to like! Also on BD.

Eclipse Series 20 - George Bernard Shaw On Film

FlashForward: Season 1: Part 1

The Informant! (2009) Also on BD.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) Also on BD.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Motherhood (2009) Also on BD.

Night Court: Season 3

Nurse Jackie: Season 1 Also on BD.

Project Runway: Season 6

Sorority Row (2009) Also on BD.

The Universe: Season 4 Also on BD.

Wrong Side of Town (2009) Also on BD.

February 15, 2010

"I wanna grow my money, Tink, not spend it on cheese gouging!"

Let's dive right into this week's list of new stuff, such as it is.

Barnaby Jones: Season 1 (1973) Yet another crusty old nearly forgotten TV show makes it to DVD.

Black Dynamite (2008) Also on BD. Well, it's no Disco Godfather!

The Dirty Harry Collection Also on BD.

Goodfellas (20th Anniversary Edition) New on BD this week. DVD Savant has a review of it here.

The Guild: Season 3

Halo Legends (2009) Also on BD.

Hunger (2008) Also on BD.

Law Abiding Citizen (2009) Also on BD...sounds like a great companion to the Dirty Harry set!

Lola Mont├Ęs (1955) Also on BD.

Ran (1985) New to BD.

Revance (2008) Also on BD.

Women in Trouble (2009) Also on BD.

February 9, 2010

"Embers is not the forum to discuss legalities!"

I watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull again with my folks over the weekend. I still enjoy the updating of the familiar characters and find the ending quite lame, but the action sequences continue to remind me a bit too much of the earlier movies. I doubt I'll be returning to this particular sequel all that often. And no, I still haven't gotten out to see Avatar. Sheesh, even my CG movie-hating brother has seen it! We'll get to it soon and I'm sure we'll be talking about it on one of our upcoming podcasts.

So, on to this week's list:

Army Wives: Season 3

Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 1

Bad Girls of Film Noir Volume 2

Bronson (2008) Also on BD.

Couples Retreat (2009) Also on BD.

Dante's Inferno (2010) Also on BD.

Dare (2009) Also on BD.

Emma (2009, BBC)

I Hate Valentine's Day (2009) Also on BD.

King Lear (1953-TV)

A Serious Man (2009) Also on BD.

Serious Moonlight (2008) Also on BD.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) Also on BD...well it is if you don't want it from Netflix. Looks like this is one of the titles effected by the Warner-Netflix deal I heard about recently. Let's just say this again, OK movie companies? If you withhold your material from rental, people will just get it some other way. They aren't going to blow $20+ buying the disc they otherwise would have rented.

February 8, 2010

TOS Rewind #38: "The Deadly Years"

Today, a bunch of old dorks tackle The Deadly Years (12/08/1967)

Lee joined us on the podcast this time. Check it out here.

This episode, which has the amusing scene where DeForest Kelley refers to Spock as "Sponk," does have its moments even though parts of it don't hold up so well.

I think the whole "horror of aging" thing that goes on here was more effective when I was, well, younger! Today it plays as a lot more silly and full of stereotypes. The way the "aging" (they do point out that this is actually a radiation-caused condition that resembles aging) effects are portrayed in the show are quite over-the-top and almost comically stereotypical. The man they meet on the planet's surface, named "Robert Johnson," acts like an old Jewish caricature of a person we've all seen before in movies or TV. Kirk falls asleep in his chair and forgets about giving orders. McCoy gets extremely crotchety and doubles his usual drawl. Scotty practically looks undead, he's so overly made up. As usual, it's easy to pick on the makeup, but the script has the cast acting like "old people." The writer/director just went a little too far with the old age theme. The actors seem to be trying to portray their characters as they would be decades on, literally. Our physical/mental abilities decline when we get old (well most of us!) but some of the change in people is due to actually living all those years. It affects our personalities and other characteristics and I just don't buy that some kind of radiation sickness would do this, at least not to the effect that is portrayed here. The cast really do try to play it convincingly; DeForest really goes all out.

The other issue I have with this episode is the competency hearing that brings the movement of the plot to a halt. I understand the need to put Kirk on the spot, but the examples of why Kirk should be relieved have already been shown to the audience. It comes off as redundant and as a padding mechanism. The time could have been used better. The shipboard trial had also been used twice before in other episodes and feels a bit too familiar. It's an easy dramatic device they should have avoided this time.

Despite the harping I did on the characters and their "old people" acting, I did find some good character dialogue on display here. The interactions between the main characters are consistent and there is still some warmth here. This helps the episode quite a bit and also provides us with some memorable lines:

McCoy: ""I'm not a magician, Spock. Just an old country doctor."

Sponk: "Yes, as I always suspected."

The scenes with Kirk's former lover, Dr. Wallace, whose presence on board isn't really explained, seem mostly artificial with the exception of a scene where Kirk asks her whether her affection is based on pity or if she just likes old men. The bit where he asks her if she wants a "going away present" is actually pretty harsh, considering him having mere hours left to live. The best thing I read about Dr. Wallace: "Dr. Wallace's costume was made from drapes." Yep!

The Commodore Stocker character is actually not too bad here. He comes off as a sympathetic, if clueless Starfleet bureaucrat. Stocker reminds me a bit of the various military tool general characters you often saw on the MASH tv show. They wrote Stocker to be a bit less of an asshole as other Starfleet superior officers are. Sure, the scene where he sits in Kirk's chair with a deer-in-the-headlights expression is silly, but it gives the follow up scene, Kirk's return to command, all the more triumphant. Kirk is taken down many notches but he gets a super hero-esque return for the climax.

The BD copy I watched looked great, as usual. It's another time where the makeup, the old age effects this time, don't look so great on a high rez screen. There weren't many effects shots in this one, but you do get to see multiple Romulan ships instead of the recycled scenes from "Balance of Terror."


Here's Eric's review:

Upon rewatching "The Deadly Years," I found I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than I remembered. If nothing else, it is a well-done, interesting story. But I also discovered a theme I hadn't previously noticed: while advanced age may limit one's abilities, youth does not necessarily confer ability.

In our podcast, we talk about the shortcomings of this episode--mainly that the courtroom scene appears to be gratuitous filler and that the portrayal of the prematurely aged characters casts the abilities of the elderly in an unfavorable light. Both points are valid, but rather than being shortcomings, they actually support my contention.

To begin with, the courtroom scene is a consequence of the hearing called, over Spock's protest, by Commodore Stocker, the desk-bound paper-pusher with no command experience. Stocker also, subsequently, takes command of the Enterprise. This makes sense from the standpoint that he is far younger and fitter (in terms of actual physical condition) than Kirk. But the fact of the hearing takes time away from the crew's effort to find a cure for the aging effect. And when Stocker assumes command, his actions almost result in the destruction of the Enterprise. So the courtroom scene demonstrates that Stocker's relative youth does not give him the ability to command a starship (even if he does hold flag rank), and it sets up the definitive illustration of this point--his botched battle with the Romulans.

Further, it is simple fact that a person's physical and mental abilities deteriorate with advancing age. Suggesting otherwise would relegated this episode to little more than farce, so the increasing difficulties we see in the affected characters has to be shown for the premise of the story to be believable. The vindication, however, comes when it is "old" Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, rather than the comparatively youthful Dr. Wallace, who figure out how to cure the aging illness.

So "The Deadly Years" really is not an investigation of the issues the elderly face. Rather, it is a story about the fallibilities of youth told through a look at the consequences of aging.

Next time: "Obsession"

February 1, 2010

"It's as clear as a buttonhook in the well water!"

Well, February is here already. Maybe the weather will improve...nah!

I should have another Trek entry/podcast up in the next few days, for our impatient readers. You'll have fun listening to us discuss the big issues in Trek, like old age!

One quick note: a re-packaging of the complete Battlestar Galactica series is going to be released on 7/28 (BD and DVD) with smaller packaging and a lower price, for anyone (like me) who was waiting for the price to go down. Looks like the same stuff as before, but it now includes the prequel, "The Plan."

In the meantime, let's check out what the movie overlords have for us this week:

Amelia (2009) Also on BD.

Beverly Hills, 90210: Season 9

Doctor Who: The Complete Specials

Dynasty: Season 4: Vol. 2

The Godfather and Part II both available on BD separately (formally you needed to buy all three in a box set).

The House of the Devil (2009) Also on BD and...VHS (I kid you not)!

Love Happens (2009) Also on BD.

Liza's at the Palace (2009) Also on BD.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Season 6 This series has been trickling out at a slow pace. One more season to go.

Mister Ed: Season 2

Murder, She Wrote: Season 11

The Music Man (1962) New to BD. DVD Savant has a good review of the disc here. I'm definitely going to pick this one up sometime.

Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2008)

Zombieland (2009) Also on BD.