Thursday, December 11, 2014

TV Review: Star Wars Rebels

Because I am secretly 12 years old in a 38-year-old body, I watch an inappropriate amount of the Disney XD channel. The Phineas and Ferb Star Wars Crossover got me hooked on that delightful little formulaic gem, while in recent days I've enjoyed a cartoon that needs none of my hype: Star Wars Rebels.

Think of SW:R as a dumbed-down Firefly for kids, but then again there are lots of times I hate using my vaunted brain and just want brightly coloured people and toys to run in circles and explode.

Plus I think executive producer Dave Filoni and Co. could do a lot worse than the highly creative Ralph McQuarrie art design for the setting: 5-years before Star Wars: A New Hope. Did I ever mention that I'm fond of Star Wars?

The tramp freighter Ghost is mobile home to a small assortment of brightly coloured space wizards who "redistribute" weapons and adorable Wookie slaves in opposition to the oppressive laws of the Evil Galactic Empire. Please do not pirate the DVDs.

My favourite episode of those aired so far was "Droids in Distress" by Greg "Snapper Carr" Weisman, producer and former writer on Kim Possible. It had some of everything: humour, lasers, great voice cast, appealing animation, Anthony "Never Not C-3PO" Daniels, and the robot bus driver from my favourite Disney attraction; Star Tours.

Anyway, since you're not already over-saturated with TV, you might like it. If you're twelve. Or slightly older.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comic Review: Bitch Planet issue #1

Am I woman enough for Bitch Planet?

Well, I DO love sci-fi, Kelly Sue (Captain Marvel) DeConnick, and big naked ladies. So... Issue #1... Win!

What's it all about? An abusive patriarchy on Earth is exiling females to an
exo planet for "Non Compliance". Kind of "Orange is the New Black Hole".
Also, this is a reality show, maybe? Anyway, it's a heckuvan intriguing start.

If it's not clear from the incendiary title, this Image Comic is for mature readers, but they let ME have one for Three-Fiddy anyway! Valentine De Landro's art is stark and striking for a grim-looking future setting.

It's a weird sort of exodus, these outcast gals into the big black. Radicals and killers, volunteers (!?!) and, from context, very likely enthusiastic clerical errors. Who put this madness together... and why? "Caged and Enraged!" blares the cover. Is it all about grindhouse and the male gaze, or is it possible one might be better off getting light years away from the Planet of the Dicks?

Penny Rolle and Kamai Kogo are exciting protagonists, there is much mystery in the set-up, and one of the douchebag dudes pulling the strings is named Schiti. Tee hee! Can't wait to see what's brewing next month. A crossover title for the feminist and the discount old pervert alike. Make mine bitchy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

TV Review: Roughnecks Starship Troopers Chronicles

Ask not what your late '90's CGI military SF series can do for YOU...

Engaged in the obsessive goal of reading and watching everything Robert Heinlein spawned (even peripherally), I was excited to find "Roughnecks Starship Troopers Chronicles" on DVD at the used bookstore Wee Book Inn. And I finally finished watching it today, only 15 years late to the battlefront. One season with a gluttonous 36 episodes- not counting a whopping FOUR clip shows. Sweet Christmas, talk about overkill!

Entrenched in day 43 of the Interstellar Bug War, the space marines of SICON have seized and maintained a firm hold on Uncanny Valley. Seen here is psi-talented trooper Carl Jenkins, overcome with childlike glee...

Oh, my mistake, that's a Cybernetic Humanoid Assault System, or CHAS. This robot character was featured in the best episode of the series- "Of Flesh and Steel", making the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of all Non-Bug-Kind...

No, sorry, right the first time. THIS is CHAS. That dead-eyed hobgoblin up there was Carl, all right.

Stiff, wooden, creatures from hell (and their foes, the bugs of Klendathu) battle across simulated ice, "water", jungle, and desert with all the sex and violence available to the impressionable North American youth of 1999 at 6 AM on a Saturday.

But, to its credit, this series is actually the first Starship Troopers product to fulfill my twisted desire for chronological completeness by finally mentioning that (in this flat little dimension at least) Rico and chums signed up to stomp arachnids in 2078. If only this trivia made the series better. O.K., so the campaigns have their moments... usually taken word-for-word from the first movie.

Wee Book will get this one back... if they are unwary enough to take it! Final Score from best to worst: ST the movie, ST: Invasion, ST the book, ST3, ST2, and, in fairness, I haven't found the eighties era anime adaptation yet, but it CAN'T possibly be worse than ST2.

The best I can say is that all the folks behind this forgettable, humourless toon were probably killing themselves making so much with so little. "Reboot" had it beat all hollow, but for someone with helmet-mounted nostalgia goggles on, it's probably fine... in teeny, tiny, firefry-sized doses.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: The Callahan Chronicals

Based on how often I post here, you'd think I had stopped reading and taken up some other hobby... such as drinking to excess. Incorrect!

The Thanksgiving season makes me thankful for the love of my life and the finest friends I could ask for. Without them I'd surely turn to boozy self-medication, which I'd otherwise regard as a deeply mistaken approach to problem solving.

Spider Robinson presents a sci-fi version of the place where everybody knows your name. Even if your name is Txffu Mpwfs, the world-destroying cyborg from the short story "The Guy With The Eyes". This weekend I finished the short-story collection of Mr. Robinson's: 'The Callahan Chronicals'. (I love the wrap-around cover! (Shown Here) It turns out there are only 6 characters I can't name on it. Five if the cat reaching for the cash is Pixel from Heinlein's 'The Cat Who Walks Through Walls'.)

Mr. Robinson is previously known to me peripherally as the guy who co-wrote 'Variable Star' with Robert Heinlein's ghost. Long-time readers of my blog will know that book very nearly topped the list of my favourite books of the noughties. My manager Chris gets a great big thank-you for loaning me some of Mr. Robinson's earliest books and magazines (including early printings of the Hugo winning Telempath and Stardancer stories). But Spider Robinson is arguably most famous for Callahan's Place, which spawned great fan love online as the Interwebs were first being spun, and that love continues today. The Place is the kindest, most psychologically sympathetic bar you've ever heard of. At Callahan's the wretched and the weird discover 'shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased'. I appreciate the bad jokes and the good intentions. This is some darn fine writing. I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Oh, and if you have just under 4 minutes, here's Author/Music Man Spider Robinson performing his own The Drunkard's Song.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: STAR WARS A New Dawn

So! The Disney Corporation swallowed the Star Wars and Marvel film franchises whole- and all I got was this Darth Vader digital watch. But what else can I do? NOT watch all the stuff I like? There's every probability that the good folks at Disney can throw money and talent at things until they're good again. (Speaking of which, I don't remember why I didn't like Disney in the first place- ever seen 'Phineas and Ferb'? It's pretty great.)

Where was I? Yes. I had a great time watching 'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' and I have every expectation that I'll enjoy 'Star Wars: Rebels' this October. To that end, I borrowed 'Star Wars: A New Dawn' as a preview. This novel features an Evil Empire getting a foothold and beginning to seriously creep people out (about 8 years after Palpatine took the reins and everybody seemed o.k. with it- except for all those Jedi jerks he shot in the back to preserve the peace).

Hera Syndulla is a clever woman with a plan to put things right, and Kanan Jarrus is a tough guy who would rather nobody noticed him (just in case tough guys raised in religions starting with "J" are still being singled out as rancor chow). With the aid of a disgruntled Imperial snoop called Zaluna (a Sullustan who's easily my favourite character here), they team up with a paranoid explosives expert to break Murdock out of the asylum again and stop the crazy murdering middle-management cyborg Vidian before he shatters a moon in the name of efficiency.

Much praise to author John Jackson Miller. To be completely candid, I enjoyed Miller's 'Kenobi' more but the difference between 5 stars and 4 stars is only the difference between 'awesome' and 'really good'.

Also I see on his website that Mr. Miller wrote a Star Trek book, I should really check that out sometime, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO Engines of War

Aww, yeah! I've been looking forward to a novel about the Last Great Time War since I first heard of it in 2005. What's the Last Great Time War, you ask? This probably isn't the blog for you! But, in a nutshell, it's the fictional many-fronted final genocidal planet-cracking time-warping battle to extinction between the mighty Time Lords and the hate-spewing Daleks.

Now with John Hurt!

I pre-ordered this book the very minute I saw the cover back in July. It arrived Monday. And I finished it just now. It takes place "4 centuries" into the Time War, one century into the unofficial ninth life of the Time Lord "renegade" formerly known as The Doctor, and shortly before the TV episode "The Day of The Doctor".

It's the story of Cinder, a girl from planet Moldox, a beautiful world fallen long since beneath the hovering heels of the cyborg Daleks. And it's the story of the choices of the crusty old alien Cinder teams up with to prevent the alternative reality mutants known as Skaro Degradations from their latest scheme to erase all other forms of life. With his own people willing to go to appalling lengths to end the war, our hero has no moral high ground and only his feelings to guide him. Especially his crustiness.

Author George Mann has a real ear for the dialogue of Doctor Who, and a ripping good action yarn it turned out to be. No complaints from me- this is a story with a cannon made out of moons!

So read it already!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tales of Trenzalore

Despite the cool cast and premise I don't have it in me to pay much further attention to SyFy's "Battledogs", so instead you get a semi-spoilery book review of "Tales of Trenzalore: The Eleventh Doctor's Last Stand". Aren't you lucky?

I'm actually MOST excited about the "Eighth" Season of Doctor Who which premiered two days ago... but you may not have seen it yet. Thus... this.

It's four short stories about the town called Christmas on the planet Trenzalore: a low-tech land of perpetual snow and darkness with pleasant inhabitants. (Not unlike Canada, really.) Trenzalore has been under siege for nine centuries, yet remains steadfastly defended from alien invaders by an alien invader called the Doctor.

Each anecdote is worthwhile, quick jaunts in the impossible life of the 1500-year-old Time Lord forced by conscience and circumstance to defend everyone with his wits. In these specific cases, defending them with the added hobbling of a wooden leg, encroaching bodily decrepitude, and a Truth Field that demands total honesty.

Justin Richard's 'Let it Snow' provides a heart-warming story of frozen Martians and avalanche. 'The Dreaming' by Mark Morris offers the mental menace of the Mara. Paul Finch brings an explosive tale of tundra and plastic bullies in 'Strangers in The Outland'. My favourite was 'An Apple A Day' by George Mann. It features the carnivorous avocado known as the Krynoid, whose origin story 'The Seeds of Doom' from 1976 was, for me, most memorably horrifying.

Second item of good news for me: George Mann is the author of 'Engines of War', a Doctor Who novel I ordered a month ago sight unseen. I'm pretty much bound to love it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

38th Birthday- All The Present I Need

Life is so full of hurry and hustle 
Sometimes I think it's passing us by 
The days are like hours, hours like minutes 
I'm caught up in it till I look in your eyes 
And to my surprise I find there is a heaven 
Timeless and real, making me feel 
Free and alive 

You touch me, you kiss me, and time has no meaning 
I'm on a rocket to some other zone 
Baby, you thrill me - whatever you're doing 
Don't think of stopping until we are light-years away 
All alone, cause I want to keep this 
Treasure for my very own 
Your talent for love 

Lyrics by Lorraine Feather (?)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P. Robin Williams

Alien, madman, genie, father, robot, drunken sailor, clown, human wreckage, king of the moon.

When my wife told me last night that we lost Robin Williams, the news felt like a quick punch in the chest.

He's been in our entertainment lives since we first became mesmerized by dancing colours on screens. He was the soul of my 52nd & 89th favourite movies (Disney's Aladdin & Bicentennial Man). As a dramatic actor, he showed me about being human. As a comic, he taught us that everything was mockable- "Humour. Ark! Ark! What a concept."

We're going to miss him, and this is going to hurt for a while. Shazbot.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

I've been looking forward to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie all year. and yesterday I found nothing to disappoint! High praise, really, whenever I get my hopes up about such events they tend to collapse pretty easily. (I'm looking at you, Disney's John Carter. Not literally looking at you, that would require watching you again.)

The characters are splendid. Our villains are creeps of the first order, our heroes are a fun bunch of ne'er-do-wells, who deep, deep, DEEP down, would rather be Er-Do-Wells. Excellent renderings & voices of the horrible/adorable Groot and Rocket (first seen in broad Xandarian triple-daylight) make it very easy to buy into their brand of hyper-reality. Drax, Gamora, and Star-Lord are awesome, just totally spot-on. This is very much the sort of all-outer-space all-the-time action I was wishing for with the live-action Green Lantern movie. (I don't want every comment I make to be bashing something else, but GOTG has quickly become one of my hundred favourites. Sorry, Speed Racer, my former #100, you're probably back on the second-stringers list...)

The sense of humour, way-groovy soundtrack, and whiz-bang big-badda-booms make for an utterly ideal summer flick to enjoy with friends. A cynical heart in just the right place. Maybe you should see it twice before you buy the Blu-Ray! Just sayin'.

I'd like to think the takeaway here is twofold: "Nobody is 100% a dick." and "Life's giving us a chance to give a shit."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Movie Review: Project Moonbase on DVD (MST3K Experiment #109)

Where does the time go? Consider: as I finish out my 37th year on this wacky globe, it seems all too brief a span, yet 37 years was long enough to turn a cutting edge science fiction film of 1953 into the Mystery Science Theater 3000 mockery fodder of 1990. I'm speaking, of course, of Project Moonbase.

I watched several DVDs this weekend while my wife was on holiday before starting her new job. This was one of them! Yes, dear followers, in the distant future year of 1970, women have jobs too! Yet as America's brave men reach out for the moon, so do they also reach out to spank any gals who might imagine themselves beyond their station! Space station, that is!

Outer Space is treacherous, unknown territory, so everyone should don Head Condoms and summer shorts for protection. Please, no walking on the walls. In case of Foreign Spies, be advised that they may be spotted by their ignorance of rudimentary baseball trivia and feeble combat skills.

And when it comes to ladies, they may be colonels in the space force, pilot risky and expensive vehicles, and even be addressed as 'Madame President'- but woe betide us all if they should carry higher rank, engage in sex without marriage, or dare to bravely dream beyond their limits.

The screenplay is partly credited to Robert A. Heinlein, so I partly know who to blame for the lecturing and condescension. And the sense of adventure! This is hilariously outdated but it's still fun on a bun. Not least from the quips of Joel & the Bots.

It was a mildly interesting confluence of events in that I am reading all of Heinlein's novels (3 and a half to go!) and watching DVDs hoping to reduce my collection in my regularly scheduled bookstore trading event with my pal Bookmonkey. Perhaps a form of recycling... in that you can have my copy of this movie if Wee Book Inn chooses to take it off my hands.

Even if they don't, it's good news for everyone- America hasn't got a woman president or a base on the moon but we've all learned so much about... uh... I forget where I was going with this. Gender Equality? Science? Anyway, good news for me- my wife has a job again.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TV Review: Sliders Seasons 1-5 on Netflix

If there was ever a need for a blog post demonstrating an appalling waste of the precious gift of life- here it is!

What? You've never heard of Sliders? The brilliantly conceived Tracy Tormé SF series of 1995 that collapsed like a disused wormhole into the David Peckinpah crap-fest of 1999? Well, you don't have to watch it! Not like I had to.


Just like settling back into a nice, harmless Netflix obsession, when you step into a wormhole in search of scientific discovery, you take a mighty big risk. Wanna be guillotined on live TV by Donny Most? 'Cause that's one of hundreds of terrible icky ends you might come to... and no one from your home world will ever find out!

SPOILERS! First of all- don't watch it. Like the poorly-explained mental mystics who appear all too often in this series... Heed My Warning! If you must... stop after Season 1. Seriously. It doesn't get better. Cheesier, cheaper, more heartbreaking. Never better. If you JUST CAN'T STOP... please save your sanity with the hilarious reviews on Earth Prime

Season 1- Has excellent ideas, comedy, jeopardy, adventure... and gets you very attached to a haphazard little family who are all about to die horribly, without purpose, and usually offscreen. 

Season 2- Shark. Jumped. Network interference making a hash of continuty and reason. 
Season 3- Utter madnessSeason 3 actually cost a human life (stunt performer Ken Steadman) for a tepid stew of '90's film pastiche. 
Season 4- Starts to show purpose and promise again... pisses it all away in the last three episodes. 
Season 5- When the original cast is all replaced- that's when the magic happens!

My mistake was treating it as alternate history SF when suddenly telepathy, dragons, and sorcery crop up. And just as I'm thinking "Fantasy's good too..." very quickly explosions replace any coherent thought at all! Just as I'm thinking "Well, I like explosions..." they can't really afford that! So it's down to horror. Horror of war, horror of alien nazis, horror of being lost and losing your mind. The pompous voice of Professor Max (John Rhys-Awesome) Arturo silenced by Roger Daltry. Wade (Sabrina The Teenage Lloyd) Welles sentenced by sadistic (I guess you'd call them) "writers" to an ape-man "breeding camp" (the only fate worse than season 3 itself). Quinn (Adorable Kid from "My Secret Identity") Mallory is somehow sort-of-but-not-really fused with another actor or something mumble mumble and ends his life literally just trailing off like this sentence. Last and Least poor Colin (My Brother was in "The Invisible Kid"!) Mallory- Nobody Knows! Best case scenario: amiable Amish guy was "spread like a very fine jam across an infinite number of universes". 

And just as you're thinking "At least I kind of like horror..." there's the indignity. It's just not working at all. What a lot of these parallel worlds have in common is soul-crushing boredom. In the last episode I'm staring at a handful of people I never liked (Boobs McGee, Shrugging "Science" Girl, and Hazy Von Hair Gel) while watching Rembrandt ("Better Than The Material") Brown slide into an unresolved cliffhanger to be mourned forever. A catastrophic level of sloppy, disjointed, implausible storytelling with no sense of follow through. But Quinn took his shirt off a lot!

Guest appearances from Mark Allen Shepherd, Conner Trineer, Tommy Chong, Jerry Doyle, and Peter Jurasik cannot save it. A couple of gems like "Worldkiller", "New Gods For Old" and MAAAYBE "Requiem" are all I can recommend after Arturo's death (which was where I was once forced to stop watching by circumstance and must now admit I was better off.)

Maybe it's a waste of the potential, but if I had sliding technology my fantasy would be to see a world where "Sliders" was actually well executed!

Now, if you'll excuse me- Netflix is infinitely deep & I must start shotgunning Hercules and Xena.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

TV Review: Star Wars Clone Wars

'Star Wars The Clone Wars' ran from Oct 2008 to March 2013, and last week I finished re-watching it from the beginning so I could enjoy the "Netflix Exclusive" Season 6 "The Lost Missions" in context. Should I start a review with a spoiler? It's awesome. You may now fall over dead from Not Surprised!

The animation is absolutely beautiful, and to the extent that I understand such things, the editing and direction are splendid. Within the constraints of the programme, the writing is usually very good. Specifically, the stories are vignettes sandwiched between the known events of Star Wars Episode II and Episode III (and possibly also between the wipes in the 15th MINUTE of Genndy Tartakovsky's 2003-2005 Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume 2). (ALL of which I loved and will brook no complaints about, no matter how reasonable those complaints may be.)  Very few things in life transport me back to childhood quite like Star Wars, and that's a special pleasure.

The regular voice cast are appealing (special mention: Matt Lanter since he's the best prequel Anakin actor yet) but the guest performer highlights included luminaries such as Clancy Brown, Jim Cummings, Greg Cipes, Phil LaMarr, Jon Favreau, Seth Green, Michael York, Katee Sackhoff, Tim Curry, Simon Pegg, and David Tennant. Also, for authenticity: Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Daniel Logan, Mark Hamill, and Liam Neeson. (They were not hurting in the vocal department.)

One complaint I've heard is that it's kid stuff. (This is completely true. Kid stuff tends to be awesome!) I feel like it manages to offer plenty of shades of meaning, but then again the villains have names like Cad Bane. Or, for colour, Dooku and Durd. (Something smells stinkowiff...)

Lok Durd is a voluminous slimy alien voiced by the effervescent George Takei. "You are now under the protection of the Separatist Alliance," Durd intones at a cuddly old monkey-man. "I congratulate you on your good fortune." Followed, inevitably by "Ransack this dung heap!"

I can't give much credence to the idea that "utterly disposable" armies of clones on one side and droids on the other means there's no-one to care about! Ridiculous! To the programme's credit I not only felt sorry for many of the "heroic" clones- but even now and then for the "evil" droids. Still, apart from the cannon fodder, there's a galaxy of other characters to adore and despise. Only YOU will know how to feel about Sy Snootles after this...

I'm probably the wrong gender to comment, but I will say that the series had better roles for females (i.e. Ventress, Tano, and Offee- seen above) than any previous Star Wars, and that Katie Lucas is a much better writer than the nepotism would first suggest.

Picking a favourite episode has proven impossible. In general, seasons 2 and 4 were strongest and season 6 perhaps the most uneven, but Yoda fans will be richly rewarded in the final arc ("Voices/Destiny/Sacrifice") for slogging through a couple of episodes about banking deregulation. (Seriously? For kids!)

So, at last, some highly arbitrary special mentions: Favourite Ship Battle: "Shadow of Malevolence". Favourite Jar Jar Story: "Bombad Jedi". Favourite Hot Mess: Ziro the Hutt's Mama. Favourite cameo from '80's Nelvanna cartoon "Droids": R2-KT. Favourite Monster of Mass Destruction: the Zillo Beast. Story Arc With The Least Pay-Off: Darth Maul's Resurrection. (I know he's cool- but to what END? Most adorable youngling in "The Gathering": Gungi. Most Futile Death: three-way tie: Gregor/Tarpals/Fives.

Disney will get their chance, and no doubt their efforts in "Rebels" and Episode VII will be the best that ever was! We'll soon see. Always in motion is the future...