2007: The Year in Review

04-Jan-08 12:19 PM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

It's time for a brief look back at 2007 — brief, because my theatergoing is not what it once was. The number of movies I saw in theaters has fluctuated wildly since a decade ago, though it seems relatively constant over the course of this millennium:

1995: 22 1996: 43 1997: 70 1998: 53
1999: 37 2000: 30 2001: 12 2002: 16
2003: 15 2004: 11 2005:  9 2006: 14

This past year was very similar to its predecessor, with me taking in 15 theatrical films. It is not the prohibitive cost that keeps me from seeing more movies: a genetic condition permits me free tickets to any movie, anytime. It's more a matter of the time investment and working around the theater's schedule, whereas I can watch as much of a DVD as I want, whenever I want. Theatergoing also has a more social element than sitting at home in my pajamas, so I'm further limited by other people's geography and availability. Add in the fact that I don't have TV service and thus am not exposed unwillingly to commercials and trailers, and it takes some other rare factor, such as brand recognition, to make me aware and interested enough to warrant seeing a film.

Of the 15 films I saw in 2007, the best were Live Free or Die Hard, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. (I'd include Star Trek: The Menagerie as a theatergoing experience, but it technically was not a movie.) All three were rock'em, sock'em good action flicks that may've relied on tried-and-true formulae, but executed with finesse and humor.

This year's most disappointing movies were Spider-Man 3, 300, The Simpsons Movie, and The Golden Compass. And downright loathsome was The Transformers, which I recently saw the RiffTrax version of. Sadly, even Mike Nelson and crew could not improve on The Transformers, as I found it even more tedious on a second runthrough. Again, each of these films was based on an existing property, which perhaps led to high and ultimately unfulfilled expectations.

Which of 2007's films did you enjoy the most or least? Did I miss any you recommend?

Uncaged

15-Nov-07 6:50 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; Comments Off on Uncaged

Poster for TOS MenagerieIt's good just the way it is — don't touch it!" is the rabid response of many classic sci-fi fans. Yet just as George Lucas revisited his Star Wars, the original Star Trek is now also being remastered. As a special promotion of that project's results, "The Menagerie", a forty-year-old two-part episode, was screened this Tuesday and Thursday nights at select theaters nationwide. I reserved my tickets five weeks ago, and this Tuesday, I finally, eagerly took my seat.

The evening opened with a brief introduction by Rod Roddenberry, who reminisced on Star Trek's genesis and his father's efforts on same before sequeing into a brief overview of the TOS remastering effort. Some of this featurette I'd already seen on StarTrek.com, yet I wished it had run longer. In hindsight, I don't know how it could've without expanding its scope to celebrate all of Star Trek — but isn't that why we were all there?

"All" wasn't as many as I expected, though: I was surprised and disappointed by how not sold out the show was. Only one person represented Starfleet in full uniform (TNG era, but so what). Nonetheless, even if they didn't wear their geekery on their shoulders, it was comforting to share the company of those discussing the finer points of Trekdom while enjoying this morsel to hold them over until next year's film release.

"The Menagerie" is a repackaging of "The Cage", a rejected first pilot for Star Trek. I'd seen "The Menagerie" before, but not recently enough to recognize exactly what special effects were changed. Whereas only a veteran of the series might pick up on minutia, the delineation between old technology and new can otherwise be garishly blunt to the uninitiated. From that latter perspective, I observed nothing out of place; all the special effects were seamless.

Plotwise, we amused ourselves by spotting various inconsistencies, back when there was no continuity to be inconsistent with, such as Spock grinning with amazement at observing the local flora. Majel Barrett, who would later play Lwaxana Troi, Nurse Chapel, and the voice of the computer on all six series, here plays the first officer — though in just one episode, she didn't have the same opportunity to develop this character. Other character moments were also fun, such as Bones' propensity for sudden and passion speeches. It capitalized for me that, despite all the marvels, wonders, and tragedies the crew of the Enterprise encountered, they never became inured with it. Perhaps, in Roddenberry's vision for humanity's future, it's that sense of wonder that propelled us to the stars, and not vice versa.

The show ended with a brief preview of the second season of TOS, remastered. It reminds me that I had spent $25 for the two of us to watch one episode — a disproportionate cost compared with getting the entire first season on HD-DVD upon its release later this month. But I'm not interested in owning this series — only in sharing and experiencing it. My life was changed when I was introduced to Star Trek on September 28th, 1987. I appreciated the opportunity to return the favor and reintroduce the franchise's origin to the man who brought it to me — and so did he:

I enjoyed going back to those days of the "first" Star Trek Enterprise actors and reflecting on just how well they did acting and especially with the technology of the times for their special effects. As I said yesterday, "Gene Rodenberry was the Galileo and Jules Verne of our era all wrapped up in one." Going where no man has gone before is always more enjoyable with a friend especially when that someone is your son.

Return to the Forbidden Planet

06-Oct-07 11:27 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 4 comments.

After a week of blogging about Star Trek: The Next Generation, you might get the impression it's my favorite of the Trek series. Even I haven't decided if that honor belongs to TNG or DS9 — but definitely not in the running is TOS.

That's not an indictment of the show's datedness or lack of quality, but more simply a lack of exposure. The Original Series' debut predates my own by a decade, and since it has the least number of episodes of any Trek series and I cancelled my TV service eight years ago, it's simply not something I have much opportunity to watch. But I love the characters and have found that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy make for much more captivating novels than any other crew (especially Voyager's — blech).

Now comes the opportunity to watch The Original Series in a way previously afforded to only The Next Generation: on the silver screen. As a promotion for the November 20th HD-DVD release of Star Trek Remastered, the updated "Menagerie", which features footage from the rejected pilot "The Cage", will be shown in 300 theaters nationwide the evening of Tuesday, November 13th. "The two-hour screening includes a special introduction by Eugene 'Rod' Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, plus an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Remastered series," says StarTrek.com, which has links to both the press release and theater listings. (Yet another tip of the hat to Dayton Ward)

"The Menagerie" is one of the few episodes I have seen of TOS, but not like this. I already have my tickets and will my calling my father shortly to introduce him to this event, just as he did me to TNG two decades ago. If you've never seen Trek before, this might be the franchise entry point you've been looking for.