CONSIDERING…Star Trek Vs (?) Star Wars: why “Star Trek Beyond” reminds us we need the ‘other’ franchise

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First up, a confession: I’m pretty much a flat-out, die-hard Star Trek lover. No, I don’t call myself a Trekkie or Trekker (any more than I call myself a ‘Warser’ or a ‘Blakie’), but along with shows like Dr WhoThunderbirds and possibly Space 1999Star Trek (the original series – STTOS, henceforth) was an immensely important formative influence on me personally and (though I hesitate to type it) artistically – arguably as important as the ‘Big One’ for many of my kind and generation, Star Wars: A New Hope. I love that series. And while I don’t mind Next Generation (though I came to it much later), and enjoyed Deep Space 9 and Voyager, it’s STTOS that stands head and shoulders (hell, many body lengths) above all else.

Second, regardless of what follows, remember this: I fully expect Star Trek Beyond (STB) to be a critical (excluding me and others of a similar perspective) and financial failure. Why? Well, it’s flawed in lots of ways, but mostly because it’s the most ‘Star Trek’ of the current Star Trek films (known at the ‘Kelvin’ timeline amongst fans – a reference to the ship that is destroyed in the opening of the first film, resulting in a change to the STTOS timeline), and a necessary return to the tenets that made STTOS different (not better) to Star Wars (SW), especially if the films and new series are to distinguish themselves from the tidal wave of SW movies and shows that are surging toward our shore.

Here’s why: Continue reading

REVIEW: “Stranger Things” – it’s like ’80’s Spielberg…but from the future!

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What happens if you take some of the great Hollywood adventure films of the ’80’s, and mash them up with a good dollop of Stephen King and a bit of Twilight Zone? You get Stranger Things, the new series from Netflix.

Oddly, I hadn’t been paying too much attention to this one until I saw the “Coming Soon” alert when I went into my Netflix account. I say oddly because if this show was aimed at anyone, it was aimed squarely at me. ‘Me’ in the sense of someone who:

1) Spent their teenage years in the ’80’s;

2) Watched a lot of sci-fi, and horror, and Spielberg (well, who didn’t?), and;

3) Read Stephen King (well, not me, but I watched the movies and TV series).

I watched the trailer, nodded to myself, added it to my Watch List, and waited for the alert. Finally, on July 15, the series dropped and we fired it up. And didn’t stop until it was done.

Here’s why… Continue reading

REVISITING… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: Dawn, Redux

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (henceforth BTVS) has been ‘family viewing’ for myself, my wife, and my two daughters since it first aired. Back in the days of ‘appointment TV’ we would gather around the television (well, the computer monitor, as I was illegally downloading episodes to keep up – sorry, but I do own all the DVD sets and quite a bit of merchandise, so…). Later, it was the series we would pull out every 2 years or so and watch ‘Best ofs’, or a particular season. Then, maybe 4 years ago, we stopped.

We were sated. We were more than sated, we were oozing BTVS from every pore like a family of overeaters at a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watching BTVS had become painful and a little sad.

So, when in late 2015 we decided to give it another go, from Season One to Seven, without skipping an episode, we went in tentatively, completely prepared to pull out before the end of “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, pretend nothing had happened, and move along.

However, to our surprise, it was an absolute joy again. Our BTVS hearts were emptier than we realised, and we were indeed ready to have them filled once more. There have been laughs, and tears, and there have been surprises as well, things we never felt even after so many viewings. Chief amongst them was our unexpected love of Dawn. Yup, you heard that right. Dawn. She’s actually pretty great. And before you walk away, shaking your head and muttering, “They’re lost to us.”, let me explain. Continue reading

REVIEW: “The Walking Dead” S6 PT1: an opportunity lost

So, half way through the ‘season’ (what is a season in “The Walking Dead” universe, anyway?), and it’s a case of what could have been.

“The Walking Dead” (TWD, henceforth) is at it’s best when it’s less about the terror of the undead and more about the horror of the living themselves. When the writers use the show’s milieu as a cypher to explore humanity’s inhumanity, as well as its ability to rise above, TWD moves beyond it’s genre constraints. Characters are allowed to engage with the Big Questions, and the show resonates with pathos.

So what went wrong in Season 6? Continue reading

Armada BOOK REVIEW: the difficult second novel

‘Armada’ is Ernest Cline’s long awaited second novel, following the critical and commercial success of the wonderful ‘Willy Wonka meets The Matrix’ romp, “Ready Player One” (probably my favourite book that year – henceforth ‘RP1’). It tells the story of Zack Lightman, a high school kid whose life revolves around playing video games, making pop culture references with his friends, and working in the dream teenage boy job: a video game store run by a guy who’d rather just play games than actually work. Raised by his mother after his father died in an industrial accident, Lightman lives an otherwise comfortable life in middle America – that is, until an alien space ship arrives and turns Lightman’s life upside down – or right side up, really – and he is drawn into a conspiracy of alien invasion and secret government agendas.

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Cultural sensitivity and art – part one: Glenn Rhee and “The Walking Dead”

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If upon reading the title of this post you’re asking yourself, “Who the hell is Glenn Rhee?!”, then clearly you are neither a reader nor a watcher of “The Walking Dead” (henceforth TWD) comics (in which he is known only as Glenn – that’s important) and TV show. For the purpose of this post, however, my major point of reference will be the show.

To clarify, Glenn Rhee was (I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are aware of his fate) the only Asian major character represented in this long running and popular series (was the zombie plague particularly effective against the Asian community? Hmm…). Quite possibly there have been Asian zombies (I know, I know: walkers), but for the purpose of this blog, that doesn’t count.

Now, a confession: this post isn’t really about Glenn Rhee. Rather, it’s about Glenn Rhee, and my mixed feelings about Glenn specifically, and about the racial representation in books, film and television in general, using TWD as a example…mostly because I’m likely to get more reads if I just keep saying Walking Dead, Walking Dead, Walking Dead…

Continue reading

Gender and reading…and while we’re at it, race, sexuality and the movies.

(WARNING: the following blog post contains an abundance of morally outraged italicisation)

Some time ago I made a decision related to my reading habits: I decided to rotate books based on the author’s gender (fiction and nonfiction, and including comics) – and, just to clarify, in no way restricted by biological birth.

My ‘why’ is quite simple: I am a card-carrying, unapologetic Affirmative Action acolyte. That is, I absolutely believe the only way to address in-balance across almost any field is through the adoption of quotas to ensure parity of representation and a fairer society.

Continue reading