Archives for June, 2012
Mimoco, makers of the MIMOBOT® line of designer USB flash drives and MIMOMICRO™ card readers, has announced the release of Star Wars MIMOBOT Series 8 featuring iconic characters from Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The eighth series in the Star Wars MIMOBOT collection includes Jabba the Hutt, Slave Leia, Jedi Luke, Admiral Ackbar, and Biker Scout.
“We’re over the forest moon of Endor with this latest in our series of Star Wars MIMOBOT flash drives. It’s one of our best yet with a little something for every fan”, says Scott Seraydarian, Director of Media at Mimoco. “There’s cute, there’s sexy; there are heroes, villains, and even sluglike gangsters. Series 8 continues the tradition of bringing our favorite Star Wars characters to the world of designer personal tech.”
These little flash drives are some of our favorite gadgets here at CineGeek and they just get cooler with every release. Check out the images below:
This episode is crammed with 80′s news so the 80′s love and hate is in full swing! It’s Spider-man talk, arcade death, Ready Player One Book talk, and talk and talk and talk…..
That’s right but if you stop and think about it having the home of the Lord of the Rings films represented at SDC by their department of tourism isn’t such a huge stretch. They are actually there to give away a pretty nifty prize. Here are the details:
The New Zealand department of Tourism will be giving away a trip of a lifetime to Middle Earth to one lucky fanboy –including tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington, New Zealand.
In association with Weta and Air New Zealand, the journey to Middle Earth for the winner and a companion will include:
• 6 day trip for two to New Zealand – www.newzealand.com
• Round-trip flights on Air New Zealand – http://www.airnewzealand.com
• VIP tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set – http://www.hobbitontours.com/
• Visit the Weta Cave and meet the artists from Weta Workshop – http://www.wetanz.com/
• See movie set locations in Queenstown – http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/
• PLUS – two tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in Wellington on 28 November, 2012-06-13 –
Fans can enter to win exclusively at the Weta booth at Comic-Con San Diego.
Created by Russell T. Davies
Starring Elisabeth Sladen, Daniel Anthony, Anjli Mohindra, and Sinead Michael
After the passing of Sarah Jane star Elisabeth Sladen, her final episodes are released.
The Sarah Jane Adventures is a kid-friendly sci-fi mystery series based in the universe of the popular British sci-fi show Doctor Who. It stars one of the Doctor’s former companions – Sarah Jane Smith – who, as a reporter, investigates alien happenings on Earth with her gaggle of teenagers along the way.
While Doctor Who tends to be geared for the entire family in general, The Sarah Jane Adventures is specifically targeted to children, something you would see state-side on Nickelodeon, for example. The kids in the series are as important of parts, if not more so, than Sarah Jane herself. Most of the action and suspense centers around them, and as one would expect in children’s programming, they never feel to be truly in danger. Sure, aliens are constantly threatening to destroy the Earth, but no one is ever about to be directly murdered. There is always the sense that everything is going to be OK in the end, and that the characters may even learn a lesson or two, mostly about friendship through adversity and change. It is what it is, and it’s good at it.
The format of the show is each episode forming half of a two-part complete story. This season has three stories, six episodes total clocking less than three hours – “Sky,” “The Curse of Clyde Langer,” and “The Man Who Never Was.” This season is markedly shorter than previous ones due to the unfortunate death of Sarah Jane’s actor – Elisabeth Sladen – in spring of 2011, during a production break. These last three stories were aired the following fall.
The new season starts out introducing a new adopted child for Sarah Jane – Sky Smith (Sinead Michael), replacing Sarah Jane’s son Luke (Tommy Knight), who leaves for college at the end of season 4. The first two stories deal with aliens causing harm to the Earth (such as the Batman/Predator mix creature in “Sky”), but “The Man Who Never Was” takes a more interesting approach with humans causing harm to the aliens. The middle story – “The Curse of Clyde Langer” – loses out in the fear of alien threat department, but it’s probably the most poignant by dealing with issues of homelessness and being outcast by society.
Luke returns for the third story “The Man Who Never Was,” which works out well, as it sadly being the last story with Sladen’s passing, both of Sarah Jane’s kids got to be together at the end. Unfortunately, one can’t have more Sarah Jane Adventures without Sarah Jane, but even with some loose ends, the series finale felt fulfilling and complete.
This fifth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures is a fun and wholesome kids’ sci-fi drama that teaches children to see and appreciate the wonder of our world, and that’s a good thing to teach. Parents and adults in general can appreciate the series, but they probably won’t be grabbed by it. This season is also light on connections to its originator Doctor Who, which may let Whovians down but is probably best for newer, younger viewers lacking that deep history.
The Video and Audio
The show comes in 16×9 widescreen and stereo audio. Some of the costuming and special effects came across well, but generally the video and audio were unremarkable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The set comes with only one extra: a half-hour tribute to Elisabeth Sladen titled “Goodbye Bannerman Road – Remembering Elisabeth Sladen.” It includes news segments covering Sladen’s passing, as well as interviews with script editor Gary Russell and actors Daniel Anthony (Clyde), Anjli Mohindra (Rani), and Matt Smith (the eleventh Doctor). The interviews convey the impact Sladen had on those who worked with her and those who watched her over the decades. After that though, there’s nothing else. Given the feeling from the tribute, one could assume the crew felt that the tribute is the important thing, and I can see that.
Overall (Not an Average)
On the face of the release, being so short with so few episodes and extras, this fifth season is enjoyable enough to visit with the kids but maybe not buying and repeating. Considering that this is the end of a decent children’s show and the last work of the beloved Elisabeth Sladen, it’s definitely a must see for long-time Sarah Jane fans.
The Series 7/10
The Video and Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May
Produced by Andy Wilman
When we were young we dreamed of growing up and loosing the shackles that bound us. Nobody to tell us when to go to bed, nobody to tell us what we could or couldn’t eat, nobody to tell us who we had to spend time with, of course it was an empty dream. Rules, responsibility, reputation chain us down sure as any parent. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we could grow up and everything was truly as free as we had ever dreamed. That’s the dream that is Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are the three kids whose Mother never called them home for dinner. They never had to leave the playground. Their toys just got faster, more powerful and more expensive.
Top Gear is a fantasy. The three presenters use and abuse beautiful luxury and performance automobiles that most of us could never afford. They pretend to actually review the cars and occasionally will argue spiritedly about the virtues and shortcomings of this car over that but at the end of the day it’s just a glorious excuse to take some of the most lusted after automobiles on the market and cane them mercilessly around their test track. Occasionally they will pick three examples of a market segment, for example three exotic supercars that aren’t a Ferrari 458 and embark on a road trip, in this example it was a trip across Italy in episode one. Now all of this zipping around the track and beautiful real estate may eventually pale so the boys are smart enough to break it up a little bit. Just to keep them in touch with the rest of the world they will invite a celebrity on the show to chat and to take a lap around the track in a feature they cleverly call Star in a Reasonable Priced Car. This season the stars include Matt LeBlanc, Ryan Reynolds, Michael Fassbender, Matt Smith, Slash and Kimi Raikkonen.
The producer Andy Wilman is a pretty savvy guy, he knows that if all the boys ever did was thrash expensive hardware and hobnob with celebrities nobody would be able to watch them after two or three episodes. So the show conspires to keep the boys humble. For every supercar jaunt across Italy there will be a challenge pitting the boys scrounging skills, automotive judgment and sometimes their fabrication skills to the test. This season the challenges include fabricating viable off road mobility scooters for fewer than twenty five hundred pounds which is probably around five thousand dollars give or take a few grand. They also see if they can go racing for less expense that golfing.
But to really keep the boys grounded every season or so there will be a Top Gear Special. Season eighteen is one of those seasons. In the very first episode the boys all go to India, in an effort to bolster trade between the India and the UK. Clarkson, Hammond and May set across the sub continent in a Jaguar XKS, Mini Cooper, and a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and trunks full of English products to show off. Now that may sound like the three are just up to their usual hijinks but these are all twenty year old cars well past their prime. They travel from Mumbai, to Jaipur, and on through Dehli on their way to the India/China border without causing a major diplomatic crisis, well there was a complaint from the Indian High Commission but I wouldn’t consider that a major diplomatic crises.
Through all of the pantomime and pathos the show has its own distinctive look. The heavy use of graduated filters and not so subtle vignetting make footage from the show instantly recognizable. Even if you don’t have petrol, that’s what they call gas across the pond, on the brain the variety of the camera work and the editing make the track sequences fresh and interesting even considering that this is the eighteenth season of a show where sixty percent of the footage is of cars going around a track or down a road. Of course any show that runs this long is going to have slumps and Top Gear is not immune. Season Eighteen is not the best season ever but it’s a good solid season. Three or four seasons ago the show seemed to lose its track a bit and was on the verge of becoming a caricature of itself, but the last two seasons have proved that they have moved past that and have found the restraint to keep the show from just going completely over the top.
The video is presented in widescreen and looks great for a DVD, though it’s a bit disappointing after seeing Season 17 on Blu-Ray. Besides some very subtle aliasing I never noticed any digital or compression artifacts.
The audio presented in stereo in English only, there are English subtitles. It gets the job done. The mix is professional and there are no issues or problems it just doesn’t pop like the video.
The Packaging and Bonus Features:
The three disc set comes in a single width DVD case. The artwork is appropriate and consistent with the other releases in the series. There is a good bit of extra material, but unless you just love the SIRPC segments then the extras are a little flat. There is behind the scenes footage for all of the guests as they are out on the track, there is the season previews and some outtakes from the season, but the heart of the extras is the extra footage of the Stars that they put in the Reasonably Priced Car. Would at least a commentary of the India Special be asking too much? Last and possibly least is the first episode of the second season of Top Gear America which to be honest does not suck, and actually shows some promise, but it just seems weak after watching a whole season of the original show.
Overall (not an average) 8/10
I’ve always been a gear head so Top Gear is like Nirvana for me, actually that’s not true they would have to get a couple of orders of magnitude more technical for it to be true automotive Nirvana, but what’s truly awesome about Top Gear is it’s wide appeal. Even non car people can get a glimmer of my obsession by checking out Clarkson, Hammond and May’s antics.
The Show: 9/10
The Video: 7/10
The Audio: 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features: 6/10
Overall (not and average): 8/10
Ok so we talk MS tablets, Mac sucky, Wanted 2, Cap’s costume, and oh we unplug the video stream for a minute accidentally!
Diamond Select Toys has a line of little action figures called minimates. In case you didn’t know, minimates are sort of an evolution of an idea started by Lego. Minimates feature more detail than Lego characters and they have a unique and striking art style.
DST has released a new series of Minimates to coincide with the big Marvel Comics juggernaut film The Avengers. Each pack features two minimates designed from the movie characters. We received Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Maria Hill, and a bevy of the alien villains. Yes there are several key characters still missing from the movie but they are surely on the way in future waves of releases.
The level of detail on these little guys is pretty amazing as they actually resemble their feature film counterparts. Now, their faces aren’t necessarily similar to those of the actors because the faces are part of the unique art style of these little toys. Their uniforms and accessories on the other hand are similar. Maria Hill gets a gun, Cap and Thor have their preferred weapons, Hulk has multiple heads for levels of anger, and Iron Man not only gets a fire trail to go under his boot jets but he also has a replaceable head that features Tony Starks face and he even has a hair piece to put on his head so he can go half helmet or no helmet at all. Each of the aliens feature weapons as well. Finally in each two pack there’s a clear base to slip under a character’s foot to allow for a dynamic stance when you display him.
All of these tiny accessories seem like a ton of fun and they offer a lot of variety for displaying the figures but they are also extremely tiny and really too easy to lose. If you’re a stickler for keeping all of the accessories for your action figures you’re going to have to come up with a secure place to store all of the little bits when you aren’t using them.
These guys are just too much fun. They manage to perfectly mix the super hero goodness of Marvel Comics with the humor that the creators have so expertly been able to infuse in all of their minimates. Setting these guys up in epic battles on your shelf or desk is just pure fun. I don’t see these as toys that kids would play with as much as that older fans would set up on their desk for a little levity in their day.
The figures are all also pretty highly articulated. There is movement at the knee, at the wrist, the elbow, and the head. While this articulation allows for a higher level of detail in displaying the pieces than you might expect for this kind of toy it also makes them a bit fragile. The left leg of my Iron Man for example falls off at the drop of a hat and Cap’s arm tends to slip off too easily too. Depending on where you have these displayed if one of these parts drops off you may lose that part too easily. Again, these aren’t necessarily meant as action figures to be played with though. Once you have them set up in a display you like they are pretty good at holding that position and looking really cool. The paint is well done and the faces are designed to be a lot of fun. Overall, flaws aside, good stuff.
Avengers Minimates are just perfect for the fan with limited space, in an office for example. The little details like Thor’s hammer and Cap’s shield are fantastic and the humorous design is just pure fun. These are not toys that look cool on a shelf pristine in their boxes! Take these little guys out and set them up somewhere immediately!
Overall (Not an average) 8/10
The Toys 9/10
The Build 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Written by: James F. Broderick
Think all the action in the horror genre is taking place at the Cineplex this summer? With all due respect to those whose lives revolve around the weekend’s latest big-screen release, I’d like to suggest an alternative activity—and one that will make your time spent sitting in the dark in multi-hued 3-D glasses even more satisfying.
As a lover of horror films myself, I’ve found that reading certain books can enhance the experience and enjoyment of immersing one’s self in a cinematic scream-fest. (And, for younger readers who might be coming across this, I feel compelled to point out that books are—or at least used to be—considered a valuable entertainment all by themselves.) So here’s a handful of books that are worthy of every horror fan’s time—submitted, like Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone prologues, for your approval. (A more comprehensive critique of some classic horror-related novels is available in my book Now A Terrifying Motion Picture!)
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. If you think you know the Frankenstein story because you’ve seen the 1931 classic starring Boris Karloff, you (like the Creature in the story) are in for quite a shock. Although Frankenstein has been brought to the big screen countless times (with his next big bow anticipated in the upcoming film I, Frankenstein), few cinematic incarnations can match the book’s depth of thought, lyricism, or just plain weirdness. Shelley was only 18 when she came up with the story of a creature brought to life in a lab. Little did she know that she would be setting loose a monster that would haunt the public’s imaginations for the next two centuries. Rediscover her original spark of creativity—it’s positively electrifying.
Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus. The recent blockbuster Prometheus draws its inspiration in part from the original mythic tale of a Titan who angered the gods by stealing fire and giving it to mankind. The story, whose origins stretch back to antiquity, is credited to the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, whose dramatic instincts are matched only by his audience’s appetite for gruesomeness. The play makes an unlikely progenitor of today’s action-adventure flicks—Prometheus spends the entire play chained to a mountain, except for the end when he plunges into a chasm. For such a brutal and sadistic set-piece, the work is surprisingly cerebral—and you get bonus points for spending your summer reading something off the “Great Works” bookshelf.
The Serpent and the Rainbow, by Wade Davis. All the chatter about the “Zombie Apocalypse” might just be obscuring the fact that real-life zombies actually exist—or so argues Davis, an ethno-botanist from Harvard University who went to Haiti to investigate reports of real-life zombification. What he uncovered in his 1985 book remains shocking and grimly compelling today, a dark and devious world of vengeance, voodoo, and black magic. The book—a serious scientific study—became the basis of Wes Craven’s film of the same name (which exchanged Davis’ sobriety for a more saleable silliness). The movie is well made and good, scary fun, but after its release Davis disavowed it as so much Hollywood nonsense. Both are worth a look, but it’s the book’s grisly revelations that are worth resurrecting in the privacy of your reading room.
We Can Remember it for You Wholesale, by Philip K. Dick. This short story, which first appeared in the April 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, was the basis of both the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi romp Total Recall and this summer’s upcoming remake, starring Colin Farrell. Philip K. Dick had a unique style and vision, and though his writing has always had its detractors (flat characters, cliché-riddled prose, plot holes you could drive a hovercraft through), there are few writers whose feverish imaginations and darkly comic cosmos are so much fun to inhabit. “Wholesale” deals with the shadowlands between memory and actuality, with a central character who is either wildly heroic and fearless or a milquetoast clerk who dreams of nothing more brazen than talking back to his domineering wife. For all its brevity, there are puzzles aplenty.
The Jaws Log—30th Anniversary Edition, by Carl Gottlieb. Sharks have been around since pre-historic times but the summer blockbuster is a modern phenomenon, originating in the Summer of 1975 with Steven Spielberg’s jarring adaptation of Peter Benchley’s beach-read-from-hell, Jaws. The film became a national phenomenon and went on to become the highest grossing film of its time. It remains one of the greatest movies ever made. Gottlieb, who collaborated on the screenplay, takes the reader behind the scenes—and under the water—in a book with as many twists and turns as the shark at the center of the story. Fans of the film will have newfound respect for Spielberg’s genius and movie lovers in general will leave Gottlieb’s treatise wondering how any movie ever gets made when there are so many moving parts that threaten to derail a film’s production. The Jaws Log proves the old adage that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.
James F. Broderick is an associate professor of English and journalism at New Jersey City University in Jersey City. His most recent book is Now a Terrifying Motion Picture!:
Twenty-Five Classic Works of Horror Adapted from Book to Film. He lives in Glen Ridge, NJ.
We are constantly at war with ports, cables, and adapters here at CineGeek whether we’re setting up our system for live video displays at conventions or running video and images on an LCD for the video stream of our weekly webcast. There are always issues to contend with. So, when I cracked open the Accel UltaV to put it through its paces I hoped it would offer up at least one solution.
The Ultra AV adapts the display port found on most Mac computers to DVI Single Link or Dual Link displays and projectors. The packaging claims 10.8 GB throughput and 330MHZ maximum pixel clock rate for full support of 120hz 3D displays. So, obviously I was excited to put it through the paces. I connected the device from My Mac Pro laptop to a Vizio 120hz LCD and right out of the box the device just rocked. Overall image quality is outstanding, colors are as perfectly reproduced as possible from the Mac to the Vizio, and there was no delay, artifacting or other issues. Set up was also fast and painless which is a particularly great thing. We ran some 3D content through the adapter from the PC to the Vizio and sure enough the adapter handled that heavy load just fantastically. The image was smooth and the 3D was unaffected by going through the adapter at all.
We connected the Mac Pro via the adapter to a Proxima projector with similar results. We were able to get the resolution all the way up to the promised setting of2560X1600 at 60hz. At that high of a resolution things became a little jittery but taking the settings back down to a normal resolution put us right back on track. Now, the device is totally usable maxed out it just felt a little too stutter for our taste. This issue will likely vary from computer to computer and display to display though.
The device does require power but Accel smartly decided to provide a usb connection for that so no wall wart is required. The Mac Pro actually has a mini display port, which was also solved by the package because Accel provides an adapter to take the standard display port down to mini. The Ultra Av does all it promises in a simple and easy to use package. What’s to complain about?
So, the build quality on this device is really surprising. The Ultra AV is meant for road work. If you deal with projectors and displays and you travel this little adapter will take the beating. The body is made of metal and the cables and connections are heavy duty. The connectors are locking and they offer a really tight fit so they won’t be slipping out when you turn the laptop during a presentation. The only minor complaint I have here is that if you find yourself using both a standard display port and a mini display port you’ll have to keep up with the adapter they provide separately as it is not connected to the device in any way when you aren’t using it.
The UltrAV is a problem solver and it’s well built and easy to use. It grabs power from the USB connector so there’s no wall plug required and it comes with an adapter that takes the device from standard to mini display port. The device is meant for a very niche task so not everyone needs it but if you require this sort of adapter then you’ll find this to be a lifesaver.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Gadget 9.5/10
The Build Quality 9/10
Overall (Not an average) 9/10
This nearly 2 hour episode covers a lot of ground! We argue about Prometheus! We hate on Green Lantern! We love DC aminated! We mourn the death of film! and and hour and a half more!
Released by: Swann
Swann is a company that, based on what’s on their website, focuses on security gear and some spy gear. So it was a little confusing to see them at Toy Fair this year back in February promoting RC helicopters. They provided us with a couple of demo units and based on the time we spent with the little devices this company is on to something cool, with some small issues.
We tried out two different helicopters, on very small sort of base model one and a larger one with a built in HD video camera. These indoor choppers are based on Swann’s proprietary six axis gyro system for flight and the package tells you it’s a really simple concept to learn. Honestly that’s not all together true. It actually takes tons of practice to get a grip on just how to fly these little devices. Now with that said once you do get a feel for the system the level of control is extremely surprising and a ton of fun.
Lifting off requires a slow steady rise in power until the chopper lifts off and then a consistent level of power keeps the chopper afloat. Once you’re hovering it’s time to start moving. The biggest thing to remember is that the controls are to be manipulated subtly. A little direction means a big change for the chopper. There’s a real art to flying these things and once you finally do master it you can pull of some truly amazing maneuvers. The representative that was flying them at Toy Fair had an incredible level of control over the chopper and he was literally landing it in his hand. After seeing his abilities I knew that you could really have some fun with the choppers with practice.
This leads me to the biggest problem with both choppers; battery life. You generally get around 8 minutes of flight time per full charge of the battery, that’s right 8 minutes. During the learning phases this limited flight time can be literally infuriating. It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to recharge the battery too. I can only imagine that hobbyist would have to own several batteries per chopper. At times you have to adjust the trim settings on the chopper which has to do with how the chopper interprets commands from the remote. Often this can take a full minute of your 8 minutes of flight time.
Also these are indoor choppers only. You can fly them outside but there has to be absolutely no wind, not even a breeze because these little motors aren’t meant to stand up to the outside elements. The chopper with the HD camera is a tougher chopper to deal with simply due to its size. You have to fly it inside but the space has to be a fairly large one because the sheer size of the device requires plenty of room to get off the ground. By the way, don’t expect blu-ray quality HD video from the little camera. By HD they mean that the footage meets the minimum standards for HD video but much of great quality HD comes from the quality of the camera lens and the sensor. This is a budget minded device so these elements of the camera are closer to the minimum side but the video is a ton of fun and it is easy to enjoy when played back on an HD TV or computer.
Once you’ve jumped the hurdles or battery life and the learning curve these little guys are just pure fun.
The build quality on these little choppers is misleading. Holding them in your hand you might think that they are delicate little devices but after you’ve crashed them a bunch of times it becomes apparent that these things can really take a beating. The package for both choppers contains extra chopper blades just in case you snap one of them but I crashed both choppers more times than I can count and I never broke one. So the design is quite clever as they are minimalist to keep them super light but what is there is well built.
The tenderest part of the choppers is the battery. If you leave one on the charger for too long you’ll kill the battery. I plugged one in to charge and fell asleep. The next morning the battery was dead and would never work again. I thought we were beyond these sorts of issues with rechargeable batteries….
It may sound like I’m complaining a lot about these choppers and I am. It’s only because when the stars align and you’re doing everything right they are just a ton of fun. Swann has successfully brought a hobby that was previously out of bounds for the mainstream because of price and technical know how to the masses. Overall they’ve simplified the learning process and brought us a well-built but affordable device. The flight time truly kills me though. Just when it’s getting fun the battery always dies. I’m hoping to keep an eye on additional releases from then to see how their products evolve. Find yourself a roomy indoor space and give one of these little guys a try!
The Device 8/10
The Build Quality 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
Written by: John Scalzi
Published by: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
Love it, hate it, take it or leave it there is no doubt that Star Trek has had a huge impact on contemporary culture. So much so, that I would give fifty fifty odds that my Mom knows what a redshirt is. So what happens when the redshirts start to notice? What happens when the redshirts decide they don’t want to die?
And Mom if I’m wrong, a short explanation of redshirts; in nearly every episode of Star Trek there would be some reason for Kirk, Bones, and Spock or some combination of the three to beam down to an idyllic alien world that actually turns out to be a hostile death trap where something horrible will happen to ramp up the drama of the plotline. Of course nothing could happen to the stars of the show so there would usually be some ensign, part of whose uniform consists of a redshirt, who would beam down with them and inevitably he or she would be killed by a plant, turned into dust, have all of the salt sucked out of their body, or something else just as horrific and often vaguely ridiculous would happen to them.
Andrew Dahl is fresh out of the Academy and about to embark on his first cruise aboard the Universal Union Intrepid, the flagship of the fleet. While waiting to board he runs into a few other new crew members of the Intrepid. There is the spunky Maia Duvall, the rich Jimmy Hanson, the opportunistic Finn, that’s his name not his nationality, and Hester. They all have rather interesting backgrounds, well except for Hester he sort of comes into his own later on. As the four settle into their new duties aboard the Intrepid they all notice some rather peculiar behavior from the other crew members. For instance everyone tends to avoid the senior crew, and they do a really good job of it. It’s almost as if they could sense beforehand when the Captain or First Officer would turn up. The scarcity of more experienced crew members means that there is plenty of opportunity for the newest four to participate in the away teams. On the missions groundside and to the miscellaneous space station things get even weirder. The normally at least competent senior officers make fatally rash decisions and the more experienced crew members harbor some very strange superstitions about who will die or survive away missions. As fellow redshirts succumb to ice sharks, giant flesh eating ground worms, harpoon wielding maintenance robots and exploding heads the four figure out that away missions are near suicide and understand all too well why the rest of the crew works so hard to avoid the senior officers. Andrew is not content to just go along and hide from the Captain and First Officer for the entire cruise. He decides to actually do something, or try to do something about the peculiar circumstances on the Intrepid. Remember Laslo Hollyfeld from Real Genius, the hermit like character that lived in Mitch’s closet and won all of the sweepstakes? Well Intrepid has a kind of tragic Laslo haunting it who may have some answers if Andrew can only track him down.
John Scalzi is not the first to mess around with the concept of redshirts, remember Sam Rockwell’s character in Galaxy Quest for one example, but nobody’s ever fleshed out the concept as thoroughly as this. The writing is witty, the characters likable and the plot line unfolds much as you would expect, to a point. About halfway through the story starts to veer into uncharted territory, the story gets less comical and more thought provoking, by the end of the novel it’s downright touching. This is a smart book, which I guess it has to be. If you base a whole book on a cliché you have to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, people will be looking, examining even. What looks at first to be just a fun read shifts into some rather interesting philosophical territory, but Scalzi manages to get deep without bogging down the narrative. Even at its heaviest the text is still light and easy flowing if that makes sense. I went from laughing to crying without quite noticing it. Redshirts exceeds expectations, it’s even inspirational. Of course that may be partially because it was five o’clock in the morning when I finished it and I had to be up in another two hours. I didn’t intend to read the whole thing when I noticed it pop up in my Kindle around one thirty last night, couldn’t sleep, but once I got rolling I wasn’t going to stop. Which I guess is a recommendation in itself.
John Carter is the disaster that the rumors had led us to believe. Check out our review for our complete thoughts on the film. The disaster had to have come from the marketing of the movie because after watching the film there’s no reason it shouldn’t have been a much greater success. It will probably find its legs on home video starting this week. Disney has provided us the below interview with the films star to celebrate the new blu-ray release:
What was it like to work on John Carter?
Working on this movie was incredibly demanding, but it was also incredibly rewarding. I had tons of action scenes in the movie and it was exhausting because I had long, very physical days for four months straight. However, it was all worth it.
How would you describe your average day on the set of John Carter?
In the beginning, I’d start training at 4.30am in the morning before going to work on set all day and way into the night. Sometimes I’d get home at 10pm – but I’d be doing this all week. It was tough, but it was also fun. I feel like I had to put all of that energy into my character to portray what John Carter is like as a person because he’s a hero and a warrior. It’s amazing to see everything come to life in the finished film.
What went through your mind when you saw the finished movie for the first time?
I thought it was awesome! It’s tough to watch myself on the screen – but I’m very proud of this movie. I’m also proud of the movie’s director, Andrew Stanton. I’m proud of [co-star] Lynn Collins and everyone that’s been part of the movie. We’ve had so many great actors involved in the project, from Willem Dafoe to Dominic West, as well as an incredible crew and stunt team.
What was it like to work alongside Willem Dafoe?
I love Willem. He’s such a great guy. Listen, I’ve worked with lesser actors that have bigger egos. He is amazing.
What did you learn from him during your John Carter experience?
I learned that Willem Dafoe is a professional through and through. He was really committed to the project and he spent a lot of time on set even if he didn’t need to be there. I think that’s why he’s had such a great career. He makes anything he’s in better.
Do you hope people will say the same thing about you one day?
Definitely. I very much hope so. For me, it’s all about the work. I won’t be remembered for the magazine covers or the fame. Hopefully, I’ll be remembered by the work I’ve put in.
What do you think of your character’s costumes in John Carter?
I have about 15 different costumes in the movie, but people seem to comment a lot on the outfits where my character doesn’t wear too much. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the role, so I was fine with everything they gave me to wear. The wardrobe was great.
Do you feel flattered by the female fan attention you receive?
Sure, it’s very flattering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great – but I don’t want to be remembered for the guy who takes his top off. I want to be remembered for playing a great role.
Did you have to adhere to a special diet in order to stay in shape for the role?
I had a very strict diet because the role was extremely physical, but I love the power you can have over your body and how you can manipulate it with nutrition. I’ve studied nutrition in the past because I wanted to become a nutritionist for kids. If I wasn’t an actor, that’s definitely what I’d like to be doing.
Why did you want to become a nutritionist for children?
Why kids? Because I love kids. I guess it’s that simple.
Are you conscious about what you eat?
I usually eat quite healthily – but at times I’m the first guy to hose down a pizza. I’m also a big breakfast guy. I love food. I’m always dining out and feasting on the good stuff.
John Carter is based on a series on sci-fi books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Did you read the books before you started work on the movie?
I did. When I started prepping for the role, I didn’t have the script, so I used the books to get into character and to find out about the guy I was going to play.
Would you recommend the books?
I like the books without a doubt. If you’re into epic stories, you’ll love the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
What books did you read when you were a teenager?
I didn’t read too many novels when I was 13. I was outside playing hockey and having fun.
What were you like as a teenager?
I had a very typical Canadian upbringing. I spent a lot of time playing hockey and heading outside with my friends. I didn’t have any video games and I didn’t hang out in front of the TV too much. I was outside using my imagination.
Why did you decide to become an actor?
When I was younger, I wanted to become a professional hockey player – but a knee injury stopped that dream. I enjoyed acting, so I thought I’d give it a go. However, I didn’t just move to Hollywood and immediately become a star. I had to work hard. I was homeless in LA and New York along the way – but thankfully all the hard work eventually paid off.
How do you keep your feet on the ground after being thrust into the spotlight in John Carter?
I guess it helps that I don’t live in Hollywood. I live in Texas where I have a very different life. I don’t go out in LA, I don’t date an actress and I don’t foresee me doing that in the future. I feel like I’ve got my feet on the ground and they are not going anywhere.
Will you ever move back to Hollywood?
I’m not sure about that because I’m very happy in Texas. Being out of LA makes you see a lot clearer. A lot of my friends are non-actors, so that helps a lot, and the actors that I am friends with, they’re very similar to what direction I’m going on as well. They are more about the work than about celebrity. I like that.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors that want to follow in your footsteps?
I would say, “Man, you’ve got to go for it.” Don’t be denied and never be outworked. This is a tough industry, but you can make it if you try hard.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willam Dafoe
John Carter has become universally known as the biggest f@*k up of the 2012 movie season. It cost $250 million to make and market and it barely made an impression at the box office. At first blush it appeared that this film good or bad should have made a killing at the box office because for much of its run there was no similar competition but it just never found the audience. At the end of the day the problems stem from Disney more than the movie directly. The marketing was just messy. The ads and trailers never did a good job of selling the film in the way it needed to be sold. I’m sure there are a number of other problems that played a part in the film’s demise also. After seeing the film it’s hard to argue that the creators didn’t put every bit of their budget on screen though. The question remains, is the movie any good?
John Carter is based on a classic series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Carter appeared as a lead character in the first Burroughs novel, later retitled, A Princess of Mars. He then appeared in subsequent volumes of the series, most prominently in The Gods of Mars (2nd in series), The Warlord of Mars ( 3rd in series), Swords of Mars (8th in series), Llana of Gathol (10th in series) and the final installment John Carter of Mars (11th in the series) . The movie has apparently been in the works for at least the last 20 years and for various reasons, mostly technology related, just never got made. It took a team that included the director of Iron Man producing and the director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo directing to get studio confidence in the project. When Disney finally did take on the project they gave the film a wide birth to grow with plenty of talent and money too.
The film tells the story of a John Carter, a Civil war vet devastated by loss and lacking a cause in his life that accidentally finds himself transported to Mars, a dying planet but not a lifeless one. On Mars he’s incredibly powerful and inadvertently falls into a war between factions; one bent on taking over what is left of the planet and the other bent on saving it. This film utilizes state of the art technology to craft and epic science fiction opera that feels so very classic. John carter is a true evolution of those black and white shorts that showed before features in the early days of film. There have been other similar and better films such as Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Arc. While John Carter doesn’t compare with those films in quality of story it does fit in the same space as those films. John Carter is more of a cross between Dune and Flash Gordon, minus all of the spoofing and campiness of Flash Gordon.
The story of John Carter at its most base is a simple and well-worn fish out of water story with many typical themes and elements including romance and a man that doesn’t want to fight anymore but his heart makes him constantly do the right thing. There are some clever twists here and there and these twists are also where the problems begin. The twists in the story muddy the waters and make the film a little tough to follow in a few places. One more pass on the script would probably have solved these issues. Another problem is that the entire film sits on the shoulders of its lead, Tyler Kitsch. As much as the director wants to sell Kitsch it just doesn’t work. While Kitsch isn’t bad he’s just not charismatic enough to carry a film of this scope. Hopefully Andrew Stanton has learned his lesson with Kitsch because John carter flopped and now it appears that his follow up film Battleship, in which he again cast Kitsch, is flopping like a fish out of water at the box office. Lynn Collins on the other hand owns the screen for what little she has to do. Willam Dafoe is also quite good although he’s heard and not seen.
John Carter’s story is messy for sure and the middle feels like the whole thing might just collapse under the weight of it all but once that hump is crossed the film is back to being fun again. The visuals are a true spectacle to behold on a big TV too. It’s definitely no classic but it’s no Ishtar either. See it; you might be surprised that you’ll have a good time.
The widescreen images literally pop on screen from this blu-ray. Colors are dynamic and gorgeous and black levels are mostly nice and inky with little loss of detail. Some of the special fx look just a little edgy in some shots but overall everything is a true spectacle as it was meant to be.
The audio presentation is immersive throughout the film with the massive fight scenes in particular offering lots of surround use. There are some instances where the dialogue was just a little buried and tough to hear but overall everything is loud and clear.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two disc set comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with good but not amazing cover art. Wouldn’t it have been great if the art resembled some of those classic book covers from which these stories sprung? Just an idea….
There’s actually a nice set of supplements here. The feature best being an extensive featurette covering a day of shooting with behind the scenes footage, interviews, and even catering. This documentary truly offers up a feeling of what it was like making this film, good stuff. There is other cast and crew interviews and even a look at the long process of finally getting the film made after so many failed attempts. There are also deleted scenes and a gag reel that actually isn’t all that funny. Some of the most entertaining parts of the bonus footage are the quotes from the writer of the original novel discussing his career and books.
The blu-ray also includes Disney’s iPad app syncing so that you can look at information on your I device as the movie plays. It’s kind of neat stuff but not something worth doing more than once. I was looking for a digital copy and a 3-D copy from this set too but none are included. There may be a deluxe set that includes those items but we weren’t sent that one for review.
John Carter isn’t as good as it should be but it’s much better than you are probably expecting. Give it a go. You’ll probably have a great time.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7.5/10
Overall (not an average) 7.5/10
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler
Shakespeare’s story about societal strife and class warfare, with an introverted soldier stuck in the middle, comes to home video. All thanks to Voldermort.
In this modern retelling of the Shakespearean play, the infamous Roman soldier Caius Martius Coriolanus defeats all of Rome’s enemies and moves up the political ranks of the government through no effort of his own. Whereas the high-ranking, privileged class sees an icon, the downtrodden common people see an oppressor who bears no love towards them. They cast him out of Rome and into the welcoming arms of both Rome’s and Coriolanus’ greatest enemy – Tullus Aufidius and the Volscian army.
This is the story of a guy who just can’t catch a break. Coriolanus isn’t especially a nice guy, but everyone is trying to make him out to be something he’s not, be it a hero, a political idol, or a tyrannical demon. Really, he’s a really good soldier with poor social skills. He’s great on the battlefield with his men, which is probably the most thrilling scenes of the film, but forcing him to take any sort of political position where he must deal with all types of people is the mistake that leads to this tragedy.
The film is the directorial debut of renowned actor/He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Ralph Fiennes, who also stars as the titular Coriolanus. As his first go-around, he does a great job. Everyone knows what to do. Everything is shot and cut well. It’s a well-put-together film. The story fits well in modern day, supplanting the ancient Roman/Volscian political strife into an urban warfare environment more reminiscent of Middle Eastern or ‘90s eastern European struggles.
The cast does a great job, especially Fiennes, Gerard Butler (Coriolanus’ frenemy Aufidius), Brian Cox (the senator and number one Coriolanus cheerleader Menenius), and Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus’ controlling mother Virgilia). Even those whose characters felt underused, as with Jessica Chastain’s Volumnia (Coriolanus’ wife), still bring emotion to the character. Plus it’s always impressive to see actors effortlessly recite Shakespearean dialog, which also happens to be what I think the film’s biggest weakness is.
If you find actual Shakespearean dialog impenetrable, then you’re out of luck here. Despite taking place in modern times, almost the entire dialog is lifted straight from the original play or written to match. I’m not a fan of Shakespearean dialog, as I find it wordy. Some of the lines do add an impressive theatricality, especially to the main battle scene. Still, most of the time, it’s a struggle to translate in your head as the film continues (watching with subtitles helps a bit). The dialog also probably makes the film longer than it would have been otherwise; as I’m sure the two-hour run time could have been an hour and a half with contemporary and to the point dialog.
The more I think back on the story after it’s had time to sink in, the more I remember fondly and respect it. Yet dredging through that dense, but expertly delivered, dialog takes away some of the joy of watching as it feels more like homework.
The Blu-Ray presents the film in 1080p high-definition, 2.35:1 widescreen. The film is well shot. Everything is clean and clear, without compromising the grungy look of the war-torn urban landscape.
The audio track comes in 5.1 DTSHD-MA. Unfortunately the audio for the dialog is on the quiet side, which with the dense verbosity led me to watch the film with subtitles on. Also unfortunately, a particularly large explosion in the film is a good bit louder, so I’m sure you can imagine the surprise when it occurred with my volume already turned high just to hear what everyone is saying. My neighbors probably heard it too.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This set comes with a making-of documentary and directorial commentary, as well as a DVD copy of the film. The making-of is only five minutes, playing mere lip service to what looks to be more interesting effort that went into this. I wish it were a more fulfilled feature.
The directorial commentary, however, does an excellent job taking you through the film and explaining everything you need to know (especially if the dialog didn’t). If you do watch the movie, I recommend watching it with the commentary after.
Overall (Not an Average)
This isn’t really an easy watch, but I think the story is compelling enough to make it worth it. Shakespeare’s original play is shown here to be just as relevant today, even if his own dialog isn’t. For anyone who enjoys Shakespeare or is studying it (or teaching a class and need something action-filled to get the students’ attention), Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus is a worthwhile watch to work through.
The Film 7/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10