Star Trek Into Darkness!

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Star Trek Into Darkness is the twelfth Star Trek movie, and the second that features the recast original crew of the Enterprise in their alternate reality.  J.J. Abrams was once again the director of this film, but can it live up to the hype following the last film? Not quite, but it is still pretty darn good.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is forced to brake the Prime Directive of not interfering with primitive cultures to save Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) from a volcano, and has his command taken away from him, but only to get it back again to go after the terrorist John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch).  That is about as much of the story as I can tell you without spoiling anything, and trying not spoil things is also why it will be hard for me to explain why this movie wasn’t as good as the last one, but I will do my best.

The main problem I have with this movie is that script makes us believe that a very dumb chain of events happened to kick off the plot of this movie, and you don’t get see how dumb they are until the end of the film, and this seems to be something that writer Damon Lindelof struggles with since he was charged with the same offence with Prometheus.  But he did get the character interaction right.

Despite the lens flares, I think J.J. Abrams does a great job directing this film, and he keeps the pace up so you never get to sit and think about the dumbness of Lindelof’s script until after the movie is over, and everything looks and feels great.

The actors once again prove that they were selected to fill their roles well.  The swagger of Chris Pine as Jim Kirk, the irritating logic of Quinto as Spock, and the bromance they develop is great.  Karl Urban is excellent as the Bones we have all come to know and love, and they way the crew interacts with one another is pitch perfect.  Cumberbatch as the villain does his job, but I wish they the would have used him better.

I liked this movie, and without a doubt Star Trek, and Star Trek Into Darkness are the best back to back Star Trek movies yet, but I wish in the four years it took to bring this movie to theaters that they would have tightened up the story a bit, but as it is it is still well worth watching.

Visit Westworld!

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Westworld is a 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton.  It is considered a Sci-Fi classic and the precursor to Jurassic Park.  It is the first film to use computer generated imagery, so I decided to give it a watch, and I am glad that I did.

In the future the Delos Corporation has developed life like androids, and they made amusement parks where you can interact with them: Romeworld, Medievalworld, and Westworld.  The movie obviously takes place in the titular Westworld, but it shows flashes of the other lands, and the concept is that you can do whatever your heart desires in Westworld.  Get in a bar fight, have a shoot out, become an outlaw, or anything else western, but since you will be killing and punching robots no one will get hurt.  Sadly for James Brolin and Richard Benjamin they get there just in time for the parks to start acting up, and a visit from android Yul Brynner does not go as planned.

The movie works so well because you kind of want the bad things to happen to the characters because they are doing such bad things to the robots, but at the same time it forces you to root for the humans because they are trapped in a terrifying situation beyond their control.

An interesting point the movie mentions, in almost a throwaway sentence, is that they cannot figure out what is wrong with the robots since they were designed by other robots, and in real life that is a point we may get to in our lifetime.  It is slightly scary to think about.

I had never seen a movie directed by the author Michael Crichton before (because it turns out that Westworld is the only one), but he does a good job of framing the action.  He films the fantasy fight scenes and the real ones differently.  The way he focuses in on the humans and lets us see their terror adds great tension to the movie versus the zoomed out ‘fun’ fantasy fights the guests delight in.

The actors, especially Yul Brynner, do great jobs with their roles.  The way Brynner looks so lifelike when delivering his programmed lines, but then the way he turns in to an expressionless killing machine when the time comes is chilling.

This a good movie and it is streaming on Amazon Prime.  It is no wonder they are thinking of remaking it, but I think the original was pretty darn good, and worth the watch.

What Type of TV Should You Buy?

There are a lot of TV choices to choose from, and people have asked me what type of TV they should buy so here is my handy guide.

LCD

People seem to think there is a difference between LCD and LED, but the only difference is that LED adds a backlight to give you a better contrast ratio, and make it easier to view in light rooms, but as far as picture quality goes there isn’t a difference for the most part, so if you have a dark room and there is a good deal on a LCD it is not a bad choice.  These make great monitors because you are up close to them and you do not need the back light, but the sharp pixels mean you get great font display.

Edge Lit LED

Edge lit LED is just as it sounds.  It shoots the light from the sides of the TV to brighten it.  What is nice about edge lit is that it makes the TV much thinner, but what you have to look out for is the ‘halo’ effect.  If you are watching dark films or TV it can sometimes look like there is ring around your TV, but that is just the back light beaming in and not being uniform.  Gamers like LEDs because they have sharp pixels, but since they are further back from them they like the brighter screen.

Back/Grid Lit LED

Back Lit and Grid Lit are the same thing, and they shoot the light from the back of the TV to give you a more uniform light and color, so that is better, but your TV will be thicker to provide the space for the lights.

Plasma

Plasma has made a comeback in the last couple of years, and that is because you get the best true picture out of a plasma, and they also don’t have the ‘soap opera effect’ where it makes you movies look a little too real.  That is because of the way that they make their pixels, but they usually have glass screens so they have refection issues, and they are not as bright as an LED so the room needs to be a little darker. For the same reason they do not have the ‘soap opera effect’ is also the same reason they do not make good monitors, since the pixels are not as sharp.

3D/4K/UHD

For now, I would say that 3D is a gimmick and only get it if your TV comes with it.  Do not seek it out.  The same goes for 4K/UHD.  The extra resolution is great but there is nothing made for the 4K spec to watch.

So What to Buy

It depends on what you want.  Are you going to hook your computer up to it and use it as a monitor? Probably an LCD.  You going to play a lot of video games? Probably an LED, but I would get a back lit one.  You want the best picture for your movies and sports? Probably a Plasma, but all TVs have gotten much better so usually you will get one and be happy with it.

MST3K forced to watch Hamlet!

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My wife was at bunko last night, and that means I got to watch a little MST3K.  I decided that I would watch one with a little culture and watch Hamlet.  It is a 1961 made for German TV version that has been dubbed, and it is as bad as it sounds.

If you don’t know the plot to Hamlet, shame on you, but here it is.  The dead King visits his son, and says “Dude! Like your uncle killed me with ear poison, and then married his sister! You should kill him back!”  Hamlet is like “that is probably true but I should check by staging a play first.”  His uncle hates the play proving that he killed the king, so Hamlet kills his girlfriend’s dad, which makes sense.  This causes his girlfriend go crazy and drown.  Then her brother is like “Hamlet you a such a jerk!”  Hamlet’s uncle is like “you should kill him with the poisoned sword because I like to kill people with poison”, so he does, but not before Hamlet kills him with the same sword, and his mom dinks some poison his uncle made for him, and then he kills his uncle with the sword too, so poisonings all around!

The takeaway here is that if you are going to take revenge do not kill your girlfriend’s dad, and if you find my plot inaccurate, good.

This version of The Bard’s Hamlet was awful.  There are two sets, and it is extremely slow moving, and it makes you feel bad for German TV viewers.  The Bots and Mike are uneven in this movie, and I think that is because they don’t want to make fun of Shakespeare’s dialog, and so that just left them with the sets and the bad acting, and there was a lot to go on there, but I had hoped for funnier.

It was still pretty funny, but they went for long periods of time without making a joke, but when they did make their joke it usually landed, but there are better MST3K episodes to watch.

Back to the Begining of Star Trek!

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Star Trek is the 2009 reboot for the Star Trek series by J.J. Abrams.  This movie was the response to the bomb that was Star Trek: Nemesis.  It worked.  The movie made more than $385 million worldwide, making it the biggest film in the franchise, and Paramount responded by locking down the director and the actors for two more movies after it.

They cleverly made this movie in an alternate universe that Spock creates when trying to stop a super nova from destroying the galaxy, but not before it destroys the Romulan home world.  A Romulan Nero comes through the black hole that Spock makes and ends up coming to the past and kills Kirks father, and it forever alters time.  Kirk grows up a troubled child, but still ends up in Star Fleet Academy.  He is forced on to the Enterprise when Nero destroys the Volcan home world as retribution.  Kirk and the rest of the crew must stop him before he destroys Earth as well.

A lot of Star Trek Fans don’t like this movie because they made it too commercial and actiony, but I think they just focused on making a great film, and they did.  This movie is easily one of the better Star Trek movies ever made, and it is in my top three: First ContactWrath of Kahn, and Star Trek.

I loved how they focused on what makes Spock tick in this movie.  You get to see him from two points of view in this movie.  When he is young and brash, and when he is old and wise.  It was a very smart way to bridge the two universes, and it is just good to see Leonard Nimoy in anything.  They do also show how Kirk’s life was different, but not quite as drastically.

The new cast they got was great.  I think everybody did their jobs well, and they filled their storied rolls as best as could be hoped for, and I have to admit that lately I have kind of a man crush on Karl Urban.  He is in everything I like these days, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Dredd for starters, so I hope he continues to do work that I approve of.

J.J. Abrams does a good job as director, and he shows us what a Star Trek movie should have been all the time, by showing us stuff they never could have done on a TV set.  Sure his lens flare does get a little annoying, but if it means good movies I can deal with it.

I hope they keep up the good work with Star Trek Into Darkness because it is good to have Star Trek around even if it has changed a little, but things have to change to survive.