Star Trek Warps to DVD

17-Nov-09 10:38 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Star Trek, JJ Abrams' successful relaunch of Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future, hits DVD today. Here's the trailer:

The movie is available in three physical editions: one-disc standard definition, two-disc standard definition, and three-disc high-definition. With wise shopping (and the previous sentence's links), you can find these formats for $10, $20, and $20, respectively. The standard def one-disc format has just the movie and gag reel, whereas the two-disc edition includes nine deleted scenes (with Klingons!), several featurettes, and a digital copy of the film you can put on your computer or mobile device. Many more features are exclusive to Blu-ray — which, despite being a higher-capacity format, needs three discs to hold it all. (Apparently the higher resolution of Blu-ray requires the digital edition to have its own dedicated disc!)

You can also download the film from iTunes for $15 standard definition and $20 HD. iTunes' online rental option won't be available until December 16, though Amazon has it now for $4.

No matter what format you get, this film is sure to be the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season — or, if you can't wait for Santa, then share it with the family next week on American Thanksgiving. Though if you don't think you'd like the film at any time of year, then RiffTrax's audio commentary will be available this Thursday.

I've been to the movies 389 times in the last 15 years. Of all those films, a few were worth seeing twice, but Star Trek is the only movie I've seen three times in theaters. I can't wait until home video lets me add even more repeat showings to my record!

Enterprise Rising

30-Sep-09 7:49 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Remember the scene in Star Trek XI when the Enterprise hides within the atmosphere Saturn's largest moon, only to majestically emerge out of its cloudy skies like a breaching submarine?

Okay, so some artistic license was taken with those visuals, as astronomer Phil Plait (a self-professed Trekkie) describes — but it was still immensely cool. Now, Diamond Sky Productions, a "small company devoted … to the scientific, as well as artful, use of planetary imagery and computer graphics", has made available for download some extremely high-resolution images depicting that scene:


Star Trek XI: Enterprise Rising

To boldly rise out of implausible starscapes ...


These pictures, originally courtesy Cinefex magazine, are just a few of the gorgeous intergalactic images to arise from Gene Roddenberry's universe. For others, check out the "Ships of the Line" 2010 wall calendar, or even the latest Star Trek trade paperbacks, like Open Secrets.

Benny Hill: The Next Generation

10-Aug-09 2:15 PM by
Filed under Films, Humor, Star Trek; leave a comment.

There are all sorts of ways to remix existing media: you can turn movie trailers into TV shows, or change a film's genre, or simply add a humorous audio commentary. All these require work and creativity. But what do you do if you have neither?

Why, you use the Benny Hillifier, of course!

Younger theatergoers may not know the name Benny Hill, but they'll recognize the tune and style of the show that ran on the BBC for twenty years. The Benny Hillifier applies that same theme to any YouTube video: just submit the URL, click "Go", and watch as it replaces the audio track of your chosen video with "Yakety Sax". The video can optionally be sped up to double-time, though the site states that "Speeding up is broken for now".

Fortunately, back when the site was fully functional, I slaved to find the best videos to Benny Hillify. Half the fun is seeing familiar media in a new context, so of course I turned to the vast library of Star Trek material. First, the new movie's trailer:

Notice the crashing car is a recurring theme between this video and the actual Benny Hill credits. Who knew the BBC had such a subtle but indeniable influence on Gene Roddenberry's universe?

What about Data? If any Star Trek character is inclined to unintentional humor, it's our white and nerdy android. Let's Benny Hillify a familiar clip:

This trick is applicable to other franchises, of course. The plot of The Matrix may be laughable, but the excellently choreographed fight scenes are not. So let's bring them down to a more consistent level:

What are your favorite clips to Benny Hillify? Or do you prefer the site's similar instant drama, instant tragedy, or all-purpose dubbing tools? Share your efforts here!

Hat tip to Bill Corbett!

The Profits and Prophets of Star Trek

26-May-09 7:53 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Moviegoers have voted with their wallets: Star Trek is awesome. JJ Abrams' reboot of Gene Roddenberry's universe has been raking in the dough over the last three weekends. Box Office Prophets reports on the opening weekend:

… young Kirk and friends did blow the cover off the box office with an opening weekend take of $72.5 million, plus another $4 million from pre-midnight Thursday showings, which gives the movie a running total of $76.5 million so far. … The debut is huge for this franchise, as the opening frame is more than the combined total of the last three films' opening weekends (Nemesis — $18.5 million opening, Insurrection — $22.1 million opening, First Contact — $30.7 million opening). The debut throws out the trend of Star Trek films opening between $14 million and $23 million, when removing the top and bottom score. The average opening for Star Trek is about $19 million with all films included… The 2009 Star Trek outgrossed the last film (2002's Nemesis finished with only $43.3 million in domestic box office) in two days.

In its second week, Star Trek was second at the box office, where the "sci-fi staple earned an impressive $43 million, falling only 43% from its $75.2 million debut." It fell to third place over Memorial Day Weekend, ending with $183.5 million. Its fourth weekend will surely put it over $200 million. Previously, the Star Trek film with the highest domestic gross, and the only one to break $100 million, was The Voyage Home at $109.7 million; the film with the highest total gross (foreign and domestic) was First Contact, at $146 million.

Though it was agony a year ago to receive the announcement that this film was delayed from its original release date of Christmas 2008, it seems Paramount knew what it was doing. Star Trek is an excellent summer blockbuster, and I'm relieved the distributors showed faith in the franchise to position it to capitalize on the season. But it's not just my own hopes that were realized; earlier this month, my local newspaper reported:

While promoting an appearance at the Boston Super Megafest back in November, Jonathan Frakes (aka Commander William T. Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation) said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the new take on Star Trek. So are many area Trekkers who have been faithful to the 40-year-plus phenomenon.

This is a good article, and author Craig S. Semon has done well in representing geek culture at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. However, as you may recall, I too was at the Super Megafest and remember Mr. Semon being in the same audience I was for Mr. Frakes' session. My recollection of the occasion is a bit different, as I reported back in November:

[Jonathan Frakes] asked our opinion of the new Star Trek movie. I offered "cautiously optimistic", to which he replied, "I feel the same, except for the 'cautiously' part."

It was therefore not Commander William Riker, but Blogger Ken Gagne, that Mr. Semon was quoting. (It's possible the quotation was based on a separate but similar occasion for which I was not present — but unlikely.)

But I'll let this misquotation go. Not only do we share a common goal — the success of Star Trek — but if I'm going to put words in someone's mouth, it might as well be someone out of this world.

Do Sci-Fi Films Get Advanced Tech Right?

11-May-09 2:47 PM by
Filed under Films, Star Trek; 1 comment.

Summer is a popular season not just for blockbuster films, but also for highly technical ones. Last year featured Batman and Iron Man, and their associated gadgetry, while the previous summer marked the 25th anniversary of Tron. My employer's sister publication, PC World, recently capitalized on this seasonal trend with an article blandly titled "Five movies starring computers". Showbits contributor and former co-worker GeneD. and I felt we could could compile our intimate knowledge of the genre into something better than a brief and unthematic list of 20-year-old movies. Since our outlet would be Computerworld — "The voice of IT management" — we chose a correspondingly relevant thesis: how sci-fi movies predict the development of technology, and whether reality is approaching or diverging from that future. We further categorized our topic into six specific kinds of technology: artificial intelligence; genetic engineering; virtual reality; cybersecurity; surveillance; and military.

GeneD. and I each tackled three of the six sections (can you tell which are mine?). We collaborated on the introduction and conclusion, I arranged it all into a cohesive whole, and editors Val and Barbara applied some insightful packaging, including the "At the movies/In reality" contrast. GeneD. and I are both pretty pleased with the final article, "Do sci-fi films get advanced tech right?", feeling it hits upon a variety of significant sci-fi films without requiring a previous knowledge of the more esoteric ones.

Though the article and the new Star Trek movie came out the same day, our piece isn't really about the science of Star Trek. Unfortunately, the flood of such analyses timed to coincide with the film's release made it difficult for our story to stand out. But if those are your druthers, there are plenty of great articles that focus specifically on Gene Roddenberry's pseudoscience, including "4 Star Trek technologies that are almost here (and 3 that are really far off)", as well as Phil Plait's review of the scientific accuracy of the new film.

If you like science fiction and technology, I think you'll enjoy our Computerworld article. What other genres of films (such as James Bond and his gadgets) or science (like space exploration) do you think would make for a similarly interesting read? Point us in the direction of our next article, and we'll see what we can do!

A New Star Trek for a New Generation

08-May-09 6:32 PM by
Filed under Reviews, Star Trek; 6 comments.

My father with his oldest and youngest sons

My father with his oldest and youngest sons

After years of cautious optimism, this is the week we've long lived and prospered for: the return of Star Trek to the silver screen. Much has changed in the seven years since the last film, including the cancellation of the TV series Enterprise, marking not only the end of a continuous 18-year run for the franchise on the small screen, but also a changing of the guard. A familiar cadre of talent had run Star Trek for decades — into the ground, some would say. The 2009 film, directed and produced by J.J. Abrams and starring mostly unknowns, could either invigorate or distort Star Trek. With my father (who introduced me to the show in 1987) and my oldest brother, we were there for last night's premiere. How did we — dedicated and casual Star Trek fans, young and old — react?

I'll answer for me: The first ten minutes had me in tears. That isn't hyperbole or dramatic effect; it's literal truth. This action-packed opening sequence is so tragic, yet so heroic; and what it does to the Star Trek universe is terrible, yet also elegant and necessary. This film is both a prequel and a reboot, documenting the first voyage of Kirk, Spock, and company — but it's not the same ship and crew we remember from 1966. There are differences, both subtle and profound, which the opening sequence makes possible, thus giving the creative team the leeway they need to make something both fresh and familiar.

Fans will find much to like here, such as in nods to Trek lore that don't feel forced, be it the death of a character or Chekov's accent. But there's more going on here than in the details, such as the recasting of the iconic crew. I found it surprisingly easy to accept fresh faces in roles that we've long identified with particular actors, and these newcomers' performances are mostly true to the characters as originally written, without being mockeries. Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty each get notable scenes; Bones and Uhura, a bit more. But this adventure is really about the young, brash Spock and Kirk. These aren't the older, wiser Starfleet officers we're accustomed to, yet I can imagine Chris Pine's Kirk acting and reacting just as William Shatner's Kirk would've under these circumstances.

(more…)

Looking Back on the Future of Star Trek

14-Mar-09 2:43 PM by
Filed under Star Trek, Trailers; leave a comment.

This week, the Star Trek franchise turned exactly 42.5 years old. Despite being a not particularly noteworthy milestone, I used the occasion to finally watch the show's 40th anniversary special. The special, hosted by Leonard Nimoy, aired on the History Channel in February 2007 and will be included in next month's release of TOS Season 1 on Blu-Ray. Though the primary purpose of the documentary is to showcase the then-recently-concluded Christie's auction of thousands of Star Trek props, it also features several stars of the franchise's first four shows reflecting on their roles. I found the most striking observation came from Kate Mulgrew: "I don't know a lot of doctors and lawyers who watch doctors and lawyers shows — but almost every scientist I've ever known loved Star Trek." It's a sentiment consistent with the need to have shows like Star Trek on the air.

The franchise's 726 episodes and ten movies are condensed into this other 40th anniversary tribute, which for some reason was uploaded to YouTube just last week. The video — set to one of my favorite instrumental pieces, the orchestral suite from "The Inner Light" — is a brief visual tour of the entire history of Star Trek's two-hundred-year history. Considering how many characters there are to fit into the montage's seven-minute length, you'll forgive the editor if he transitions from one character to the next a bit too swiftly.

I was moved by how familiar I found each of these characters, and how glad I was to see them again. But then, I shouldn't be surprised: Star Trek was on the air consistently for 18 years, making it a constant companion for roughly two-thirds of my life. You could argue it was just a TV show (in which case I wonder what you're doing reading this blog), but every day without a Trek seems dark, as the program represents a hope for humanity.

With the cancellation of Enterprise, television has been without a Star Trek for four years. Now we stand on the cusp of a new Star Trek film — the first one in seven years, the longest span between any two Star Trek movies ever. This movie has the potential to reenergize the franchise and bring it back not only to the public consciousness, but to the television screen. It will be a long time before we can effectively measure the film's success and impact — but it will be only two months before we will have the full feature to judge, and not just this trailer:

(Hat tip to Dayton Ward)

Super Bowl Trailers

02-Feb-09 12:13 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 2 comments.

So I guess there was some sort of game on television last night, and it was supposed to be a big deal. Or something. I must've missed whatever it was — but when I woke up the next day, I found a bounty of newly-released movie trailers. Let's take a look at a few of the geekier ones.

First up is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Though I'm encouraged to see one of my favorite actors, Dennis Quaid, the team he's leading does not have much chance to shine in this particular trailer. We see too little of the colorful heroes and villains like Snake Eyes (played by Ray Park) or Destro that made the cartoon so memorable.

Next up is the return of G.I. Joe's Eighties contemporaries, those robots in disguise, in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Readers to Showbits will recall that I absolutely loathed the original film, and nothing in the sequel's trailer indicates a departure from that model — though the scope of the new robots piques my interest:

Finally, there's yet another adaptation of a television show, this one a live-action series from the mid-Seventies: The Land of the Lost. With few exceptions, almost anything Will Ferrell stars in is going to be a silly spoof, and this film looks to be true to that trend. Though the original series could definitely be described as campy, it was no Gilligan's Island, which this version appears to be:

The above movies are just three of the many upcoming films being adapted from television shows. Other trailers that debuted yesterday and are now available online include a mix of new and old: