Star Trek: The Animated Series Round-Up: Episodes Five Through Ten

startrekheaderSix more episodes down in my quest to watch all of the animated episodes of Star Trek.  And it feels like this half-dozen episodes contain a lot of sequels and call backs to classic Star Trek.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to a bit of an exposition dump in certain installments.

One thing I’ve noticed in watching these episodes is that they’re lean and mean when it comes to the storyline.  With half the running time of original series installments, there is no time for side tangents, filler or padding.   This set also includes an episode I have vague memories of watching on a  Saturday morning growing up and thinking it was interesting.  At this time, my awareness of Star Trek came mostly from ads on the back of comic books for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and from the series of Power Records that were out at the time.*

* I think a whole post on the Power Records series could be coming in the near future since those really helped cement my early interest in all things Trek.

And so, here are my thoughts on the next six installments of animated Trek.

(more…)

A Trip Down (Comic Book) Memory Lane

Spider-Man: Mark of the Tarantula

Dropping by the local comic shop these days, it’s easy to criticize the work currently being done as “not quite up to par with the good old days when I was reading.”

That is, of course, until you get hold of a run of comics from your “good old days” and you realize that those comics weren’t exactly setting the world on fire either.

That’s pretty much the case with this collection of eight issues from the early ’80′s run of The Amazing Spider-Man. I had a few scattered issues from the various Spider-Man titles up to this point, but somehow it was these issues that I was able to collect and read in consecutive order. Looking back at the covers alone, I’m shocked my family a)purchased and b)let me read the issues collected here.

Many may complain the comics today are unduly violent or filled with graphic imagery. But I defy you to find a current cover that features Spider-Man taking on a giantnormous man-turned spider whose mouth is dripping with venom and the title of “Death Knell” in big bold letters across the cover.

236-_Death-Knell_

Putting aside my fond memories of this run of comics and the fact that I read them umpteen times in my pre-teen and early teenage years (often imaging how the stories might be transformed into an animated version on my television screen), I’ve got to say that this run of stories isn’t necessarily what you’d refer to as a classic run (that was yet to come in the next run of issues which introduced the Hobgoblin) but I’ll still admit I enjoyed visiting them again all these years later. The main thread tying these issues together is the corrupt Brand corporation. The company is up to no good and the Daily Bugle is determined to bring their dark deeds and experiments to the light of day.

(more…)

How I Met Your Mother — Thoughts on the Finale

Very few serialized shows have their end game mapped out before the first episode airs. Oh sure, we were told the Cylons had a plan in Battlestar Galactica and it was only when Lost was given a finish line that the show was able to stop treading water and really begin moving toward answers*. In my memory I can think of only two shows that probably had the finish line in sight before the first episode was aired — one was Babylon Five, where the final hour of the show was written before the series took off and then there’s How I Met Your Mother — a series that had its final moments dictated by the name of the show.

Of the two, one of them was successful in sticking the landing and giving us a finale that offered closure and wasn’t a complete mess. And it wasn’t the series that concluded its nine year run last night.

*It’s debatable whether we got them or not. But that’s another post for another time.

How I Met Your Mother always had an end game in mind. The show was the journey of Ted Mosbey to meet the mother of his children. In the pilot, many of us assumed that it would be Robin. But instead, the producers pulled the rug out from under us and told us that Robin wasn’t the mother, but was instead “Aunt Robin.” At the time, I recall a friend saying that meant he never needed to watch the show again because the twist “was stupid” and it was a “waste of time” since Robin wasn’t the mother.

(more…)

Star Trek: The Animated Series Round-Up: The First Four Episodes

startrekheaderThese days there’s a lot of Star Trek out there.   At last count, there were over 700 episodes from the various series plus a dozen movies.*

*If you add in the fan-made productions, it only increases the number.

I guess you could say that if you’re a Star Trek fan, you have a lot to choose from.   Given the size of the buffet, it’s easy to get caught up in only going back for your favorite course again and again — in my case, this would be the original (and still the best) Star Trek.   Even within the original three year run, there are  certain runs that I’m more familiar with or re-visit more often than others.**  And as with an smorguboard, there are going to be some areas that you neglect, don’t visit or maybe overlook.

**To combat this, I did a re-watch of the third season a few years ago and found I enjoyed it.

One of those blind spots in my Star Trek fandom is the Animated Series.   I’ve seen a sampling of episodes in repeats and from picking up the commercial VHS releases on clearance back in the day.  And like the completist that I am, I’ve purchased the DVD set and have it sitting on my shelf with the rest of episodic Trek.   When it first came out, I had every intention of watching the entire run, though that quickly got sidetracked.

I’ve read a smattering of the Alan Dean Foster adaptations of the episodes and found them a bit more satisfying than than the actual episodes themselves.

And so, I’ve had this gap in my Trek fandom for a while now.

Enter the Mission Log Podcast, which for the past year and a half has been turning a critical eye to every episode of the original series and determining the morals, messages and meanings as well as looking at whether or not the episodes stand the test of time.    With the original series in the books, the podcast has turned to looking at the animated series and it’s given me a good excuse to sit down and finally take in the animated series.

So far, we’re two Mission Logs into the lookback at animated Trek and four episodes into the animated run.

And, of course, I’ve got a few thoughts on things.

(more…)

Thoughts on “The After”

The AfterThe more non X-Files output I see from Chris Carter, the more convinced I become that the influential series succeeded not because of him, but because of the talented crop of writers he surrounded himself with.

That feeling is only underscored by Carter’s latest attempt to get back into the television game with the Amazon Pilot, The After.

A group of disparate, but very cliched, people are all brought together one fateful day in Los Angeles when something happens that throws society and the world into chaos. Exactly what happened will probably be the focus of the series, should it get a pick-up, though at this point I’m not sure how much faith I have in Carter to resolve the issue or answer the questions in an interesting or timely fashion.

The show might be helped if this group of gathered survivors weren’t a walking, talking set of cliches. We have the French actress who isn’t getting the parts she wants, the jerk of a lawyer and his younger girlfriend, a guy dressed up in a clown suit, a police officer and an African-American convict who proclaims his innocence to everyone who will listen. Oh and there’s an Irish guy who likes to drink and swears — a lot.

Of course, it feels like everyone in this pilot swears a great deal. In many ways, The After feels like its following the early-season Torchwood model of being “adult” — more swearing and gratuitous nudity. If this goes to a series, hopefully Carter will realize that being adult and having the freedom that the Amazon model could give him allows him to explore some more complex, adult themes like Torchwood finally got to with its superlative “Children of Earth” arc.

Having Carter involved with the project is a double-edged sword. Part of me is reluctant to want to commit to the series based on memories of just how badly The X-Files fumbled things in later seasons. But I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have watched this pilot or kept going with it to the end of things had it not been for my fond memories of the early seasons of The X-Files.

If The After is to go to series, it might be helped by giving it a limited run or a specified number of episodes in which to tell its story. As we saw with Lost, having an end-date can help the arc storytelling and prevents creators from having to tread water and instead give the audience the answers they want or at least allow them to feel like things are building toward a conclusion.

Thoughts on Bosch

boschJust as they did last year, Amazon is allowing the audience to decide which of several new pilots will go to series.  But unlike last year, this time around there were two pilots that immediately caught my eye and I added to my “to watch” list sooner rather than later.

The first is Chris Carter’s new series The After and the other Bosch, which is based on the best-selling mystery series by Michael Connelly.

I had some free time this afternoon and enough time to watch one of the two series.  After much debating, I decided to go with Bosch first.

First of all, I will admit that I’m a big fan of Connelly”s mysteries and the Bosch novels in particular.  So, I had some fairly high hopes and expectations heading into the series.

And while it did take me a few minutes to reconcile how the various actors involved in the series differed from my own mental casting (for some reason, my mental image of Bosch is closer to Ron Pearlman), overall I like what I’ve seen so far.

The series has a couple of things going for it right up front.  First is that Connelly is involved as a producer — he even co-wrote the pilot episode.  In addition, some of the creative team in front of and behind the camera gave us The Wire, which I’ve heard nothing but great things about and is on my bucket list of TV shows to watch when time permits.

As the pilot begins, Bosch is stuck in court, facing charges in a civil trial related to a perp that he took out two years before.   While Bosch was exonerated by Los Angeles police department, he’s still facing civil penalties from the family of the man who was shot.   Bosch is going a bit stir crazy being stuck in court all day and pulled off regular duty rotation — so much so that he trades Laker tickets to a couple of guys on the force to cover their weekend shift.

While doing this, Bosch uncovers a case of a child’s bones buried in the hills.   Bosch manipulates the system and his partner, Jerry Edgar, to stay on the case while he’s in court facing trial.

As an introduction to the universe of all things Harry Bosch, the pilot works extremely well. And while I’ll readily admit that Titus Weliver wasn’t the actor I had mentally cast as Bosch, it only took a few minutes for me to get past this and to really like Weliver in the role.  The series has softened Bosch a bit — in the books, he’s a bit of jerk to people — so that we’ll at least root for him as a hero, or possibly an anti-hero.

I’ve read that should the pilot get ordered to series, it will follow Connelly’s “City of Bones” as the backbone of the season.  Interestingly, I believe this is next in line of the Bosch novels I haven’t ready yet and it’s sitting on my to-be-read pile.  It may have to make a move up the pile a bit since the mystery intrigued me enough that I wanted to know more once the fifty or so minutes has finished streaming to my set.

As for the rest of Bosch’s world, it’s all there — from his love of jazz to his taste in food and liquor.  There are also several familiar faces from the novels that crop up.

So far, I’m sold.  If Amazon decides to move forward on this one, I’ll watch.  And given that Bosch has a good sized catalog of books, this is a show that has ample material for a long and fascinating run.

Movie Thoughts: Now You See Me (2013)

nowyouseemeFinally got around to seeing Now You See Me over the weekend.  I’d heard positive buzz on the movie when it was in theaters last summer, but missed it during the theatrical run.

Watching the movie on DVD, I had some thoughts on it and how I think that while it’s got some interesting piece, they don’t necessarily all come together in the final reel.

But in order to discuss that, I’ll have to include SPOILERS.  So, if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know the twists, please stop reading now.

(more…)