Sunday, December 21, 2008

Majel Barrett, RIP

I'm a few days late with this, but I did want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Majel Barrett, better known as Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Barrett, considered by many to be the "First Lady" of Trek, was one of the few people remaining who'd been present for the creation, appearing in the very first Star Trek episode, the rejected 1965 pilot "The Cage," as Enterprise x-o Number One under Jeffrey Hunter's Captain Christopher Pike.

Though her character didn't carry over to the Shatnerized version of the show that made it to air, she did have a recurring role as Nurse Christine Chapel on the series, as well as providing the voice for the Enterprise's shipboard computer. The latter role was one that she continued to play in subsequent decades through subsequent installments of the franchise, in addition to continuing to appear onscreen. In fact, Barrett has the unique distinction of performing in every version of Star Trek to date, be it film, television, or animation.

It had been announced a few weeks ago that she would be reprising the Enterprise computer voice for the upcoming Abrams flick, giving the new film another valuable link to the past (in addition to Leonard Nimoy's reprisal of Spock), and my understanding is that she had completed her work on the film before succumbing to leukemia this past Thursday. Her voice provided a welcome sense of continuity in a franchise that literally spanned generations, and her absence in future voyages will be leave a considerable void.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Salvation Run

A lot of people strongly dislike the third Terminator movie from back in '03, though I'm not one of them. Sure, it lacked some of the wonderful symmetry in creator/director James Cameron's two films, and while it arguably overrode the "happy ending" hinted at in the second one in favor of a much darker close, I still feel that T3 stands comfortably with its predecessors, wrapping things up in a satisfying way that anticipates the future events depicted in the previous films. Plus, I figure if it was okay with the man himself, it's okay with me.

I knew better, of course, but I kinda hoped they'd leave well enough alone after that third one. Of course, that was never going to be the case, given the box office power behind the Terminator brand, and now we have two competing visions of Cameron's post-apocalyptic world. There's the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series currently airing on Fox, which I've never seen, but is either awesome or awful depending on who I talk to, and then there's the upcoming fourth film in the series, due out this summer. Still no Cameron, and this time no Schwarzenegger either, but there is a considerable draw for me in the form of Batman star Christian Bale, suiting up for his second big action franchise.

I have to admit to going through a little bit of cognitive dissonance seeing the new trailer for Terminator Salvation and saying "Hmm, not bad." While I'm impressed with Bale's presence in the film and the implied credibility he offers, it's directed by McG, who, other than the inherent douchebaggery that comes with a using a cutesy nickname as a nom-de-guerre (and just to be clear, I'm sure he's a wonderful guy), is also responsible for the two Charlie's Angels movies, which can charitably be called crimes against humanity.

I'm so confused.

Blago-a-go-go and Hannity Inanity

Well, you knew this was gonna happen.

The rightie talkers of America have taken to the air to try to try and force-fit a straight line between the pres-elect and future ex-governor Rod Blagojevich, in the hopes of tarring the former with the same dirty brush. True to form, Sean Hannity is leading the charge, after the trumped-up Bill Ayers thing worked out so well during the campaign, and he's taken to the air to lambast Obama for the potential future wrongdoings he might have committed had he entered into a political bargain with with Blagojevich. Which he didn't.

Yes, my head hurts too.

I think Sean's been spending a little too much time reading his own comic book.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Word of Warning

For anyone who, after the last eight years, may have gotten swept up in the misbegotten notion of Democrats as "good guys" and Republicans as "bad guys" comes yet another reminder of just how tenuous that distinction is, with today's story of Governor Rod Blagojevich, Dem from Illinois, arrested for -- get this -- trying to leverage Barack Obama's now-empty Senate seat for personal payola.

I left Illinois just as Blago was taking office, so I can't say I have any exposure to his governing, but I do remember quite well the cloud of corruption under which his scandal-plagued Repub predecessor, George Ryan, left office. I also remember Blagojevich's campaign pledge to root out such corruption. Clearly that didn't happen.

The flashing red light here for all of us is that Blagojevich swept into office by contrasting himself against his predecessor's failed policies and historic unpopularity. Sound familiar? I guess the point I'm making is that I hope Obama's taking diligent notes right now, because the one thing political history has taught us again and again is that it's easy to talk big when the whole process is at arm's length, but it's a whole lot harder when you're right in the thick of it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Zaki's Review: Punisher: War Zone

First thing first: Punisher: War Zone, the third attempt to craft a film franchise around Marvel Comics' skull-chested vigilante, is not a great movie. Nor is it necessarily even a good movie. What it is, however, is a pitch-perfect Punisher movie, and after the two previous go-rounds ranged from abysmal (1989's Dolph Lundgren starrer) to just mediocre (the 2004 Thomas Jane/John Travolta flick), that's more than enough.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Zaki's Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe


Oh, how I wanted to.

Before we get to my thoughts on the latest, and possibly last, iteration of the once-mighty X-Files brand, let's take a brief trip through the Wayback machine. To truly appreciate the significance of The X-Files as a pop-culture juggernaut (something that may seem difficult in hindsight) it's important to remember the time and place in which it first materialized. As dreamed up by creator Chris Carter in the fall of 1993, the exploits of FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), perpetually battling paranormal threats and government conspiracies, expertly blended police procedural and '50s paranoia for a potent mix that captured imaginations and, for a time at least, catapulted The X-Files to the top of the cultural heap.