Star Trek Beyond review podcast

26-Aug-16 10:40 AM by
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Last month saw the release of Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the JJ Abrams / Kelvin / Handsome universe that began with the 2009 reboot and continued in 2013 with Star Trek Into Darkness. Although I was excited for any new live-action media in the Star Trek franchise, I wasn't sure what to expect from this outing. The 2009 film was a welcome and necessary update to the formula, while the 2013 film was mired in too many weird plot devices and allusions. With a new director and scriptwriter, the latter including Simon Pegg ("Scotty"), would Star Trek Beyond prove a fitting closure to what was originally intended to be a trilogy?

Family photo at Star Trek Beyond premiere

The family that treks together!

Yes. Star Trek Beyond was utterly delightful, with a perfect mix of action and character moments. While the 2009 film may've been decried as being too heavy on action, Star Trek Beyond bookends with intense, concentrated action sequences, leaving the middle of the story to focus on pairs of characters: Kirk and Chekhov, Scotty and Jaylah, Spock and Bones, Uhura and Sulu. There was none of the stereotypes or pettiness we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness, instead allowing the characters to demonstrate genuine introspection, growth, and camaraderie.

Whereas I used this blog to dissect the previous two Star Trek films in prose, for Star Trek Beyond, I took to the air with my friend Sabriel Mastin, the only person I know who can out-recollect me on any Star Trek series. We co-opted Polygamer, my biweekly audio podcast about equality and diversity in games, to produce a bonus episode in which we reviewed and raved about the movie. Give it a listen:

On a personal note, I saw Star Trek Beyond opening weekend with the KansasFest 2016 crew. Conspicuously missing was my father, who had passed away just a few months earlier. He's the one who got me into Star Trek in the first place, and we'd seen the last six films together in theaters. It was tough to sit through this film without him… but a week later, I saw the movie again with my oldest brother and our mom, for whom this was her first theatrical Star Trek outing. Although she's not as mired in Trek lore as some, she nonetheless found the film exciting to watch and was glad she went.

There's talk of a fourth film with this crew (though sadly, without Chekhov, in memory of the late Anton Yelchin; and without Ambassador Spock, in memory of Leonard Nimoy). I'm eager to spend the intervening years continuing to bring my mom up to speed in time to better enjoy the Enterprise's next voyage!

The Science of Cinema

26-Feb-09 3:36 PM by
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While hosting some out-of-town friends last weekend, I tried to get us into the Boston Museum of Science's IMAX theater. It was sold out, which isn't all that great a shame — the movie we were going to see, Roving Mars, has been on DVD for almost two years anyway. But it did remind me that I'd previously downloaded an episode of the MoS podcast titled "Inventing the Movies" (iTunes), which is also the name a book by Scott Kirsner, who is interviewed in this podcast.

This 23-minute episode covers the same topic as that book: the inventors and technologies that have shaped Hollywood in the last century. I was intrigued by this insider's perspective on the effect various innovations have had on the industry. If you're of a younger generation, it may be unfathomable that the lack of VCRs and DVD players meant that movies used to be seen in theaters and nowhere else — once they were gone, they were gone. But Mr. Kirsner's book eschews that consumer impact to look instead at how movie studios viewed such developments as threats. For example, Thomas Edison discouraged the invention of a projector, preferring his kinetoscope, which allowed silent movies to be seen through a hole in a box, creating a solitary and unshared experience. Later, silent movies were seen as a quiet respite from the busy world that "talkies" would disrupt. Often, it was competition from other markets that urged Hollywood to accept change: Technicolor (named in 1915 for its inventor's alma mater, MIT) was not widely adopted until seen as a response to the widespread adoption of black-and-white television.

The threat of progress extends to more recent times as well. I was a Blockbuster Video employee at the advent of DVDs, which had massive ramifications for the industry. You may not remember that movies used to become available for consumer purchase 3-6 months after they were released to rental outlets. Back then, each VHS tape would initially retail for more than $100, which only commercial entities could afford, before being lowered to a more reasonable mass market price. Once movies moved from tape to disc, their reproduction became much cheaper, allowing for simultaneous release to both rental and consumer venues and eliminating the window of exclusivity formerly the domain of companies like Blockbuster.

What changes chafe today's film industry? Digital cameras and projectors have spotty adoption records, but neither significantly changes the movie-viewing experience. The most volatile aspect of movies appears to be in the delivery mechanism. YouTube, Hulu, and the like are, within and without copyright, bringing chunks of video to your computer; Netflix and the Microsoft Xbox bring feature-length content right to your television; and, in a less technical manner, Red Box adds cheap rentals to your grocery list.

The podcast packs much information into a short period, encompassing not only the founding moments mentioned above but also more recent milestones, such as TRON (which I've already written about extensively and the sequel to which I am eagerly anticipating) and Terminator 2. This teaser has moved the book to my short list. The complete history of Hollywood is, of course, yet to be written, as technology will never stop progressing to meet (and create) new needs. Where do you see movies going?

Science: It's Happening

13-Jun-08 6:05 PM by
Filed under Celebrities; 3 comments.

I subscribe to quite a few podcasts, but I consider only two to be favorites. Though neither is showbiz-related, both often intersect from the topic, as evidenced by Showbits's previous references to both Major Nelson and Scientific American.

In a timely interview, yesterday's episode of the latter's podcast (iTunes) features M. Night Shyamalan, director of The Happening, which releases today:

M. Night Shyamalan's new film, The Happening, involves an environmental backlash, the limits of reason and the beauty of math. SciAm editor George Musser discusses the film with the director. Plus, we'll test your knowledge of some recent science in the news.

It's genius for Scientific American to capitalize on this current film by giving it a science angle. The general public can always benefit from more science education, as too many theatergoers accept science fiction as science fact. Such knowledge shouldn't stop us from appreciating the artistic license Hollywood takes, as long as we recognize it at such.

For more such analysis, be sure to check out movie and television reviews of Bad Astronomy by Phil Plait, who was recently interviewed on another excellent podcast, Point of Inquiry (iTunes).

Sit Right Back and You'll Hear a Tale

10-Jan-08 8:30 AM by
Filed under Television; 2 comments.

Via Bonzer Web Sites comes TV Series Finale, a Web site that catalogs and reminisces about the conclusions of television shows, from black-and-white classics to recent cancellations. The site reports on all sorts of current events, such as DVD releases and actor updates, but most appealing are the features that focus on the final chapters of our favorite shows.

The two best finales of all time, IMHO, are Cheers and Quantum Leap, so those were the first two I looked for on this site. TV Series Finale does not have a listing for Quantum Leap, and its podcast on Cheers has scrolled off its iTunes Store archive, so I instead downloaded their audio report on another show from my youth: Gilligan's Island.

Though I'm not much a fan of audiobooks, I enjoyed this podcast. After a brief review of the origin of Gilligan's Island and the motivation behind its cancellation, the podcast's host recounted the events of not only the series finale, but also each of its made-for-TV movie sequels, as well as animated and reality TV spin-offs. The podcast closed by enumerating the activities and fates of each of the show's alumni. The detailed narrative and professional delivery was a fun trip down memory lane that offered trivia I'd never known.

The podcasts may likely be the site's best feature, as I had some trouble accessing its text. Navigation is a bit wonky; for example, if you go to the TV show index and click on Cheers, what you get is not a listing of articles specifically about the Boston pub-based show, but instead the results of a site search on keyword "cheers" — which may have little, if any, direct connection to the show in question.

But if you're looking to recall or learn the history of some classic shows, TV Series Finale's podcasts are an fun, easy, and free vehicle for doing so.

The Broadcast Goes On

11-Nov-07 5:49 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; Comments Off on The Broadcast Goes On

[Editor's note: After seeing Jack Benny in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, I did an online search and found The Jack Benny Show Podcast (link opens in iTunes). I asked a Showbits reader and historian what he thought of this rebroadcast of the 1932 radio show; his response follows.]

I am also a fan of Jack Benny and am still slowly listening through the entire run of shows that are available. I'm up to the fall of 1950, and the last show on radio was the May 22, 1955 show, before he went entirely to television. Most of them are fun to listen to, and I've certainly become a fan of the show.

The first shows are very different from the formula that he settled upon by the early 1940s, and which he continued until the end of the radio series. Also, the quality of the early shows leaves a LOT to be desired. I didn't try downloading the first podcast to see if this guy cleaned the episodes up at all, but some of them are almost unlistenable they are so bad. Not surprising, however, when you consider that what episodes we have prior to 1939 or 1940 were all recorded on home aluminum disk recorders, rather than on something better quality. Broadcasting companies didn't even feel that recording programs was of any value until the mid-1940s, and it wasn't until the late 1940s that any programs said that they were "transcribed" (recorded); almost everything on the radio was live, and any recordings that existed were done from a radio receiver.

Jack's early shows are reminiscent of the talk show format, where he did some topical humor, almost a monologue like Carson or Leno or Letterman might do today, with some skit thrown in later, and a musical number or two from the ever-present house band. With time he added cast members: Mary Livingston, his wife, was one of the first, then Don Wilson the announcer, then the band leader Phil Harris (later Bob Crosby, Bing's brother), and a tenor to sing a number during the show (first Kenny Baker and then Dennis Day). Rochester, whose real name (Eddie Anderson) was never used on the program as far as I know, came on playing bit parts in the late 1930s, and was so popular that he was added as a regular cast member and even got billing at the start of the show by the early 1940s.

As for the copyright: Apparently, due to changes in the copyright law in the mid 1970s, unless specific actions were taken to copyright a radio program, almost none of them fall under any protection today. Consequently, even shows as late as the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, which aired during the 1970s, are considered today to be in the public domain. As a result, there are thousands of radio programs out there that can be downloaded either for free or for a nominal fee, depending on the host from which they can be downloaded. There are some serious collectors and preservationists out there who offer programs that have been digitized from very good early generation recordings and have also been cleaned up; these are, of course, more expensive (as usual, you get what you pay for).

Some of the best programs I have listened to in the old time radio (OTR) realm are the dramas Escape and Suspense, which did mystery or adventure dramatizations of written short stories of the day. Also some early radio sci-fi like Dimension X and X Minus One have done radio versions of stories by Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov.

Fascinating

21-Feb-07 8:00 AM by
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FatFreeFilm, a podcast by and for directors, has an interview with Leonard Nimoy. Topics include his transition from acting to directing to photography; experiences behind the camera of Star Trek III and Three Men and a Baby; the hardship of independent film; the digital revolution; and the benefits of being typecast as a Vulcan.

I am not a filmmaker, nor do I have any aspirations to be — but I nonetheless found Mr. Nimoy's insider perspective engaging.

Call for Podcasts

16-Dec-06 1:50 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

This morning, I accepted the role of Tom, Dick, or Harry (I don't know which) in a production of Kiss Me, Kate, being performed this March by the Weston Friendly Society. Since Weston is about 48 minutes east-northeast of my current whereabouts, and rehearsals are three times a week for almost three months, I'm going to be on the road quite a bit.

Having been connived into purchasing an iPod last year, I've not taken full advantage of its podcasting capabilities. I've tried several subscriptions on a variety of subjects, but have limited myself to a few about the Apple II or video games. Are there any good ones out there that cover the film industry with news and reviews (but not so much gossip)? I realize there's a whole category for them in the iTunes Music Store — but where to begin? With your recommendations, of course. Please share!