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J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 12:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

So, of all the “Special Editions,” for lack of a better term, Empire was the one with the fewest changes. Apart from touching up SFX, which I have no problem with, the one major change I can recall is the insertion of all the shots of Vader getting onto his shuttle after his duel with Luke, flying in his shuttle back to his Star Destroyer, leaving his shuttle after it’s landed on the Star Destroyer, etc., etc. Ugh.

Now, as I wrote in a comment to Jammer’s ROTJ review, I believe George Lucas has a rich and wonderful imagination, and I’ll be forever grateful for these stories and worlds that are products of his imagination. But a great filmmaker, Lucas ain’t — and the addition of these shots demonstrates everything that is wrong about Lucas as a filmmaker.

Clearly, the point of highest tension in Empire is when Vader tells Luke that he’s his father, and Luke must decide how to respond to that. After Luke chooses to let go and fall down into the shaft rather than join Vader, everything else is just wrap-up. And yet, if you watch the 1980 version, this denouement is handled masterfully. The pacing, especially the use of quick wipe-cuts between Luke and Vader, is wonderful, and the pace is underscored nicely by the John Williams music. In short, this sequence manages to deal with quite a lot of story/character material in incredibly economic fashion, all while keeping things moving and, ultimately, getting the hell out of Dodge before the shock of Vader’s revelation can wear off.

If you ask me, it’s positively Casablanca-esque, which is the highest compliment I can think of to pay a movie. When you think about it, all of Casablanca is basically people standing around talking. Yet if feels so much more exciting than that. This is partly because we actually care about the people who are standing around talking. But it’s also because the camera is always moving in a way that heightens the drama, and because of a fantastic job of editing. Casablanca is a stage drama, but because of the way it’s edited, it has the pace of an action movie. Put another way, there’s absolutely no fat here. Nothing unnecessary has been left in the final product, and there isn’t a single shot that lasts longer than it needs to last. For example, there are a number of very quick shots of various characters, a second or two each at most, that last just long enough to capture a character’s reaction and tell us everything we need to know about what that character’s thinking. It’s a remarkable specimens of lean, tight filmmaking.

The same can be said of the denouement in the 1980 version of Empire. In contrast, the Special Edition’s long, looong shots of Vader getting into his shuttle, being in the shuttle, getting off the shuttle, blah blah blah, which completely ruin that pacing. And to what end? Vader is wearing a mask, so it’s not like we’re learning or feeling anything about Vader’s character that we don’t already know or feel. So the entire point of these shots is....to show more Stormtroopers? To show that Vader already had the shuttle from ROTJ back in Empire days? Who cares?

I can just see Irvin Kershner, the editor, and the entire editing team working a 20-hour day to get this absolutely perfect back in 1980....and then, twenty years later, George Lucas sitting alone in front of a computer saying, “MORE STORMTROOPERZ! MORE SPACESHIPZ!”

Again, I say: Ugh.

Sorry, rant over.
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J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

*Oops, I meant Irvin “Kershner,” not “Kushner.” Too much news intake for me — I must have Jared on the brain.
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J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 11:17am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

I loved all three of the original trilogy movies growing up as a kid in the 80s, including ROTJ. But I find that ROTJ doesn’t quite hold up to adult-level scrutiny as well as Star Wars (as I will forever call it) and Empire continue to hold up. Which is not to say that I consider it a bad movie. It remains eminently watchable in a way that, IMHO, the prequels and (Force help us) Rise of Skywalker are not. In other words, I have a lot of fun whenever I watch ROTJ, but as storytelling-on-film, it has problems — which is also approximately how I feel about Force Awakens. For me, that comes out to either 2.5 or 3 stars, depending on my mood and what I happen to be focusing on during any given viewing.

For those, like me, who are geeky enough to care about these movies enough to read message boards like this one, I highly, highly recommend the in-depth interview that IGN did with Gary Kurtz, the producer of both Star Wars and Empire, back in 2002. It’s long, but extremely interesting. You should be able to find find it by Googling “Gary Kurtz IGN interview.” It belies a lot of George Lucas’s own myth-making concerning how the Star Wars movies were made — and, make no mistake, in George’s myth, he, and he alone, was responsible for making them. Well, that’s simply not true. Feature-length movies, particularly big ones like the Star Wars movies, are community efforts. And one very important part of that community, at least during the making of the first two, was Gary Kurtz.

The Kurtz interview, first of all, contains a lot of fascinating information about how the film industry worked in the late 70s and early 80s. But it also addresses Lucas-made myth about how he had the entire trilogy, or trilogy of trilogies, or whatever, planned out from the very beginning. And it explains the original vision for ROTJ, which included the details that Kid Marine discussed in the first comment on this thread. Most importantly, the Kurtz interview explains what happened to Lucas between Empire and ROTJ. In Kurtz’s telling, Lucas became convinced that the ticket-buying public didn’t care one whit about plot or character development — that all movie audiences wanted when they went to the movies was the “roller coaster.” This is why Lucas didn’t care that he was rehashing the plot of Star Wars by introducing the Death Star II — all he cared about was making the roller coaster climax as exciting as possible (and, yes, selling toys).

Anyway, seek out the IGN/Gary Kurtz interview. It’s illuminating. More than anything, it confirmed what I thought about George Lucas after watching the prequels: That he’s a man with a rich and wonderful imagination, but who just isn’t all that great of a filmmaker — by which I mean, he doesn’t really know how to tightly execute the craft of telling an emotionally resonant story through dialogue and moving images. Ironically, I think, Lucas is the exact opposite of J.J. Abrams, who lacks any imagination whatsoever, but actually can execute the craft of making a movie. Who knows? Maybe a sequel trilogy that had flowed from Lucas’s rich imagination, but which had been executed and committed to film by J.J., would have been as good as Empire, which came out of Lucas’s imagination but was committed to film by Irving Kushner.
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J.P.
Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

This is why I always cringe a little when I hear fans say, "Make Discovery more like the Orville!" or "Bring back the episodic format!" I know what they mean when they say it, but I also know how that feedback will be interpreted by Kurtzman and his clueless acolytes. They are like a monkey's paw. Your wish will always be granted, but the result will always be a curse, and a mockery of your desires--hence, we have Star Trek: Lower Decks.

You cannot simply deconstruct Star Trek down to its constituent elements, and expect it come to life when you patch those elements back together. Star Trek will always be an abomination if the creator lacks that ineffable, crucial spark that gives things life, and that is love. There is only one man who can redeem Star Trek now, and that is Ronald D. Moore. Give him total creative control and autonomy, or forget this whole enterprise.
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J.P.
Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 9:55am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Sub Rosa

Fun test for everyone. Compare any 3 or 4-star episode of Star Trek: TNG, to a 3 or 4-star episode of Star Trek: Picard or Star Trek: Discovery. The ratings for the latter two are always grossly inflated, and do not even remotely compare to episodes with an equivalent rating, in any previous incarnation of Star Trek.

If "Sub Rosa" were an episode of Star Trek: Discovery or Star Trek: Picard, it would be a 3 or 4-star episode, easily.
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J.P
Mon, Apr 13, 2020, 9:46am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Maps and Legends

As Dr. Jurati flips through a copy of "The Complete Robot" by Isaac Asimov, we see everything wrong with this show.

The Jean-Luc Picard that we knew and loved would've marveled over the fact that a 20th-century science-fiction writer accurately predicted a future where positronic robots would live side by side with human beings--and the challenges it would bring--long before anyone had even heard of a personal computer! This exposition would elegantly explain his own sympathies for synthetic life, and the progressive outlook he maintains despite wider feelings of distrust and fear.

But instead, Picard sheepishy stammers, "I never really cared for science fiction. I guess I just didn't get it." They've reduced Picard to a closeted nerd embarrassed of a book on his own bookshelf, awkwardly trying to impress a girl by concealing his true interests.

This is not Picard. This is not Star Trek. This is a farce.
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R.J.
Wed, Mar 11, 2020, 9:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Hollow Pursuits

Can't understand all the nitpicking for such a great episode. You can tell a lot of care went into this one.

Funny thing is, the first-run trailer gave you absolutely no clue as to the real focus of the episode. (Check it out on Youtube.) Upon seeing this trailer, the plot seemed lame and I even thought about skipping Next Gen. for the week. As luck would have it, I just happened to be in front of the TV when this debuted and was blown away.

Barclay's depiction cut a little too close to home for this awkwardly shy high school student. Great acting and writing. Thought the disaster plot line was very necessary for the story. Genuinely surprised by the cause of the malfunctions and by Barclay's theory which proved to be true. Even that last scene had tricked me. Thought the episode was ending by having Barclay leave the Enterprise (going the way of so many one-off guest characters) when in fact, he was just leaving his fantasy world.

When this one comes up in reruns, I always stop and watch and think fondly of those first run viewing memories from my high school years.
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R.J.
Thu, Jul 4, 2019, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Omega Glory

So this episode was on Heroes and Icons again tonight. Baffles me how bad it is. Roddenberry is held up as a great writer / idea man and then we get this piece of crap story. And yet he had to gall to shut down others who did great things with Star Trek.

So some confusion that still bothers me:

The Exeter crew. They know the landing party that returned was infected. They know beaming back down to the planet will keep anyone infected alive. Why did they stay on the ship? Was it part of obeying the Prime Directive? Sacrifice the crew and ship rather than risk non-interference.? Couldn't they have at the very least beamed some or all of the crew to isolated parts of the planet? Why tell others who watched the log entry to beam down to the planet? And why let Captain Tracey remain on the surface? Speaking of which...

Why is Captain Tracey a petty, murderous psychopath? We were told in Court Martial that only one in a million men were fit enough to be starship captains. I also assume they have to undergo some form of psychological evaluation. Wasn't it Roddenberry who criticized FASA for portraying an unbalanced captain in their supplement Decision at Midnight? He specifically told them there were no mutinies allowed and people in Starfleet wouldn't behave like that. But we get Ronald Tracey who killed a security guard in cold blood rather than stunning him and who breaks every oath he took in Starfleet for a youth serum. Given Roddenberry's views on life and death in his Star Trek "bible" it makes no sense that he would write such a loser of an episode.
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Stevens J.
Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

I see we've crossed the line from Picard was wrong to try to attempt communication into Picard should be court martialed for trying. So much for that bright future for humanity, eh?
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J.B.
Fri, Apr 26, 2019, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: The Road Not Taken

Lots of missing potential in this one. So many routes they could have taken but it ended up feeling like a retread of "Timeless" without that episode's strong character focus and sense of urgency. Tons of plot holes too, which normally don't bother me but did here.

This was a stronger season than the first and I do hope the show gets renewed so they can continue improving.
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J.B.
Thu, Mar 21, 2019, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Lasting Impressions

It was a pleasant watch and certainly well-acted but I feel like it could have gone further into Gordon's character. As it is, it felt kinda fluffy and inconsequential.

The B-story was almost entirely predictable but it made me laugh my ass off anyway.
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J.B.
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Blood of Patriots

Good review, Jammer. Also impressed by how you pumped out three reviews in just a few days. Badass!
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J.B.
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Blood of Patriots

Yeah, I don't mind if they're mining from Star Trek as long as they put their own spin on it but more often than not, it's just a weaker version of those episodes and says nothing insightful or new about the characters. This is a very common issue with MacFarlane's scripts in particular.

(There was also some really bad dialog during the climax. What can really be done with lines like, "War is hell on both sides but this agreement can stop the killing!")
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J.B.
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Blood of Patriots

Orville goes back to the Trek well, cribbing from both TNG's "The Wounded" and Voyager's "Fair Trade." It lacks the depth of either. The episode seems to want us to care about Gordon and Orin's friendship but there's just nothing there and the latter ends up being a one-note cliche character anyway. Unfortunately, without that core working, it's hard to care about basically anything happening in the episode.

I do appreciate that Gordon is treated seriously for once and a couple of the jokes made me laugh but this feels like a major wasted opportunity given the potential story lines in play leading up to the Union/Krill peace signing.
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J.B.
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 5:01am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part II

McNeely's aping of Williams' current day action style was interesting to me if only because the composers on this show are usually aping Jerry Goldsmith instead.

(I enjoy it though. It's nice to hear music in films/television that doesn't sound like Hans Zimmer these days.)
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J.B.
Fri, Mar 1, 2019, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part II

I was disappointed by it. I was hoping they wouldn't take any predictable paths but they did and it gutted whatever drama was left. As a result, the stakes deflated and the entire space battle was just nine minutes of admittedly attractive CGI and Joel McNeely going heavy on the John Williams licks.

The Kaylons have no emotions (as has been beaten into our heads over and over again) so why did Isaac turn? It makes no sense to me. Is he different? It was mentioned that he was a later model, I guess.

(It kept going through my mind that Patrick Stewart might have helped establish some gravitas here. Dramatic acting isn't MacFarlane's strength and he was way out of his depth here.)
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J.B.
Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 11:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

I thought this was spectacular, easily the best episode of the show so far. Great visuals and Debney's score a major asset.
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J.B.
Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 12:12am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

I'm honestly in shock that they pulled this off. There were so many ways it could have gone wrong. TNG's "In Theory" covers some of the same beats but in much clunkier fashion. It was charming, funny and even made tear up a bit.

I'm pulling for those two. This is definitely the most ambitious material the show has tackled yet and I'm glad they're heading straight into it.
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J.S.
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 1:06am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Gravity

I don't normally give up on Voyager eps but I turned this one off after the nth fake spider stabbing shot, it just felt so silly, that and Lori Petty's squeaking... man :(
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Amy J.
Wed, May 30, 2018, 12:38am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Will You Take My Hand?

^.^

Over the years, I think I have seen each Star Trek captain take actions that fly right in the face of the whole "We are Starfleet" idelaism and approach. And quite frankly, GOOD FOR THEM, because the idealistic approach without some pragmatic backup almost never works, and serves to get good people killed.

I believe that Discovery actually flows nicely into STOS. Of course, when STOS was being written, no one thought to come up with an explanation as to why the Klingons and the Federation were at odds with each other ... they were portrayed as the bad guys, and the US was in the midst of the Cold War, so the portrayal worked. In Discovery, we get important backstory, even if it is a bit far-fteched (the entire Starfleet and Federation would be reduced to a handful of planets and installations, and the Klingons would be stopped from razing Earth, even given what could happen to Quo'nos ...)

So, about 20 years later, Starfleet has completed the original 12 Constitution class starships, but does not have a whole lot of "arm strength" if you will, to impose its will too much, hence the idea that the USS Enterprise is sent everywhere, to resolve all of these issues. Think about it ... during STOS, Federation territory is quite dangerous, and in a number of episodes, the Federation is interested in securing mining rights and such, things that might happen if you are trying to rebuild after a massive war.

It was good to see Starfleet not being so damn straight-laced. I am sorry, I sympathize with the Starfleet optimism, but it left them completely unprepared for when the bad guys stopped hiding behind DMZs and neutral zones, and started taking pot shots at Earth every couple years (with the release of each new movie, it seemed ...) Hell folks, it took the massacres of the Dominion War to get Starfleet to start constructing real warships, rather than glorified Galaxy class hotels.

As to Season 1 itself, most of it was serviceable, with the exception of Saru going insane on Pahvo, that episode was completely stupid. I even thought they did a decent job adding to the backstory of the Terran Empire, which always seemed to get short shrift in the rest of Trek. I love it when backstory is added in, and you can see how things might have progressed from one snippet we see to the next one.

I think that overall quality was decent, even if the JJ Trek atmosphere threw me a bit. As I said elsewhere, if Gene could have done STOS with 2018 technology, it might have looked a lot closer to what we got in Discovery, so I let that slide. (Although Enterprise did a much better job of trying to LOOK like an earlier generation of Trek.)

Following the experience of STNG, I have always given a Trek series TWO years to really evaluate it. STNG's first season was really shaky, and the second season was shanked by a writer's strike (which pushed the emergence of the Borg to the Third Season), but they were interesting enough that I caught onto it, and liked it. Perhaps this will hold true for Discovery as well. The stills and such in the official trailer look interesting.

Live Long and Prosper, All!

Amy J.
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J.B.
Wed, Feb 14, 2018, 12:54am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Will You Take My Hand?

I agree with others that "The Expanse" would make for a great reviewing project but will admit that TAS is probably more thematically appropriate.

(And I've never seen it so I could watch along with the reviews, haha.)
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J.B.
Tue, Feb 13, 2018, 6:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Will You Take My Hand?

Great review, Jammer. I guess Discovery's first season joins the very limited list of Trek seasons without any 4-star episodes.
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J.B.
Mon, Feb 12, 2018, 3:23am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Will You Take My Hand?

As far as finales go, it was pretty disappointing. Just weird that the first half of the episode was largely wasted on superfluous scenes and then, the Klingon war got wrapped up on the word of a character (L'Rell) that absolutely no one in Starfleet should be trusting.

And the appearance of the Enterprise at the end struck me as desperate fan-service (especially the use of the TOS theme in the end credits). It made me laugh instead of the effect I'm sure was desired.

There were a couple of scenes I liked, most notably Ash Tyler and Michael's goodbye, which surprised me because their relationship always struck me as being more plot convenient than something that came naturally out of the characters. But it was really sweet, performed well by both actors. And Tilly got a couple of laughs from me, even if her character seems completely different now from the more socially awkward one that we were introduced to.

So yeah. Disappointing season, overall. A couple of my friends stopped watching it but I stuck to the bitter end. I definitely won't be continuing if they can't pull season 2 together, and fast.
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J.B.
Sun, Jan 28, 2018, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: What's Past Is Prologue

My primary frustration at this point is that they've killed off the most interesting character (after making him a two-dimensional baddie). No one else left is particularly compelling, especially Burnham (and the show desperately wants us to adore her).

The show is very pretty, very flashy but it has no soul.
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J.B.
Sun, Jan 7, 2018, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Despite Yourself

It's fascinating to me how this episode dramatically improved once Tilly embraced her evil side. The first half was an utter, joyless slog.
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