7/25/09

Reinventing the Wheel


Stargate has been a successful franchise since 1997. On the other hand, Star Trek has been a successful franchise since 1969. Here's what happened to Star Trek: it took an old idea, serial westerns, and put them in a brand new environment: space. But with its lofty ideals, utopianistic predictions and impossible-to-produce technological effects it slowly slid farther and farther away from public acknowledgement. What it took to reinvigorate the franchise came just this year: a completely reinvented, yet true-to-spirit vision of the future. When Stargate SG-1 came out, it took a familiar idea, serial sci-fi, and put it in a brand new environment: present day. And it took about a decade for them to realize: "If we don't do something new, we're going to end up like Star Trek!"

In the last decade we've seen a complete turn-around in the way the public approaches science fiction. The geeks of yesterday have grown up to be the executive producers (executive producing geeks) of today and finally have the resources not only to produce the shows they want to see, but to be able to gauge what a general audience wants out of a science fiction show. This sci-fi revolution began, I think, with the reinvention of Battlestar Galactica. It's no secret that being a fan of the original BSG would have gotten you laughed at in public circles, but when you think of Battlestar Galactica today reactions range from "Oh, that's pretty cool," to "THAT'S FRAKKIN AWESOME!"

This paradigm shift has slowly but surely reached its way into pretty much every popular science fiction property. Sci-fi, while retaining its geek appeal, has become cool on levels of which the past geek culture could only dream. And now Stargate is adding its name to the list. With Stargate: Universe, Syfy is taking its longest-running franchise up to and possibly beyond the level of its most popular, Battlestar Galactica. It has familiar qualities and conventions, but it is completely reinvented and tells a completely new story in a completely new way. And not only that, but it's taking the classic Stargate approach of connecting it to modern culture through characters with whom we can actually relate.

There's absolutely nothing to hate about Stargate: Universe. At least not yet. I am as excited now as I was when I heard they were making the Star Trek movie. This teaser goes a long way toward showing us that we are in for an awesome ride. I just really hope they meet the Furlings.

7/23/09

Google Wave

Google is once again working on changing how we all use the internet. At a recent developers conference they showcased an early version of their newest masterpiece called Google Wave. I watched the first half of the 1:20:11 video coverage of the presentation and I have to say I was very impressed. Google has been hard at work creating a brand new communication protocol and they have decided to make it open source. Their stated goal is to have developers help finish this product, and then integrate it into all corners of the internet, including creating competitor browsers that use the same protocol.

The basis of this new communication protocol is the wave. The idea of a wave is a little difficult to explain but it is kind of like a threaded message board that is hosted on the internet, but that can be viewed like email, but that updates instantly like instant messaging systems. All of which can be integrated into places like webpages and blogs with full functionality. In short, its totally awesome.

After seeing the philosophy behind what Google hopes to accomplish with this new software product/protocol, I can confidently say that when they release it later this year I fully expect it to change the way everyone communicates over the internet. Email is 40 years old, chat rooms are dead, instant messaging is nothing new, and even old people now have facebook and twitter accounts, so its surely time for the next evolution in online communication. Google Wave seems to take the best features of all of these current protocols and mash them into one simple to use yet vastly superior system.

Plus, they are currently accepting applications for beta testers! Head over to the Google Wave site for the sign-up link, or to view that extremely long however very impressive presentation video.

Scott

7/20/09

On Second Thought

In this issue of On Second Thought, I will readdress the issues that plagued Harry Potter. My innitial complaint with the movie was that it didn't give me a clear ending. There were several plots that seemed to revolve around a single story that, in the end, never resolved. After talking to a few people, I now realize what that resolution should have been. And it's right there in the title of the movie!

SPOILER ALERT! If for some odd reason you haven't seen or read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, read no further!

Very little attention was given to the fact that Harry had no idea who his potions book belonged to. It was noted in the margins of the book that it was the property of "The Half-Blood Prince," and although I still haven't read the book, I am told that VAST amounts of time are given to the mystery of who this Prince is, even leading the reader to believe that it may have been Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. This is is a great plot that in the movie they just blew right over! People are already expecting Harry to go darkside with all the similarities he holds with Voldemort, that he may possibly be using Voldemort's potions book is a frightening prospect.

In the movie they toss this mystery to the side as if it's unimportant. Oh it's interesting, but it doesn't really matter because LOOK! SOMEONE'S TRYING TO KILL DUMBLEDORE! No, in reality, this plotline would have given this movie the tension and closure it needed to win a perfect score in my book. In stead, they throw the mystery away when out of NOWHERE Snape says "I'm the Half-Blood Prince!" Great. Mystery solved. Whatever. Wasn't important anyway. Wasn't important because we spent NO time on it.

I critisize the movie for this, but in reality it was entertaining enough. I just wish they would have given us the mystery of the Half-Blood Prince to focus on instead of the mystery of wether Dumbledore will die... Which half the world already knows anyway. That's my second thought on the subject. What's your opinion?



-- Post From My iPhone

7/17/09

Another Lord of the Rings Law Suit??

And this time it could put production of The Hobbit in jeopardy! Apparently, the heirs of Tolkien's properties are suing New Line for not being paid what Tolkien asked for when he sold the movie rights in 1969. If the heirs have their way, it could put an indefinite halt on production of The Hobbit until the suit is resolved and New Line could possibly even lose the movie rights.

Here's the thing about this story. I understand that Tolkien's heirs should get what they're due. They should fight for every penny they're owed. But the production of The Hobbit should not be stopped just because of this injustice. Think about it this way: the bully steals your lunch money. He's been doing this for the past couple weeks. You get by on your own sack lunches, but what you REALLY want is a hot lunch served fresh from the cafeteria. Your choices are A) tell the principal now and get two-weeks-worth of stolen lunch money back or B) tell the principal at the end of the semester and get THREE MONTHS worth of stolen lunch money back!

Listen up, Tolkien heirs! If you stop The Hobbit from being made, not only will fans release the armies of Mordor onto your doorstep, but you'll be missing out on all the money you could be making from another hugely successful Tolkien property! I'm just lookin out for you guys. Really. I want you to get all the money you can. I don't care if I see my beloved characters on the screen once more. It's really all about you getting your money. >.>

Fight for your share of the golden goose, but don't stop it from laying eggs.

7/16/09

Public Service Announcement

Think of how much trouble this could have saved Sarah Conner:


Scott

7/15/09

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter is always a fun, magical time with great characters and an engaging story. It never disappoints. The Half-Blood Prince opens as any other Potter movie does, in the land of the muggles watching Harry struggle to get through. Only this time, he seems to have a bit more confidence. He is maturing, growing since The Sorcerer's Stone. He never gets a chance to fully realize his confidence, however, as Dumbledore comes and whisks him away on a new adventure.

In many ways, this is the same Potter, all grown up. A prevailing theme is that everyone at Hogwarts is trying to find love. This search is bolstered through the discovery of a love potion which they learn how to make in Professor Slughorn's potions class (oh, yeah, his return to Hogwarts booted Snape into the Protection Against the Dark Arts class, the standard bad-guy position.) This subplot made for some interesting, hilarious and heart-felt episodes with various members of the cast.

In fact, there are several subplots in this movie that all somehow revolve around the main plot: who's trying to kill Dumbledore and will they succeed? The who is answered rather quickly, the success is interestingly measured. But I say that's the main plot only because it seems to be the only plot that comes to a satisfactory end. In many ways, even this plot circles around an even greater plot: "What is Voldemort planning, and how can we stop him?" The problem is that this plot never comes to an end.

At the  end of The Half-Blood Prince, one is left sitting in the theater wondering if that's it. The ending feels more like a commercial break than any kind of conclusion. As if the movie realizes we've been sitting in the theater for almost three hours wondering about the fate of Dumbledore and it's willing to give us an hour or two break before we come back and finish the movie. The thing is... there is no more movie. I understand the concept of it being one in a series and that it should be leaving us begging for the next one, but plenty of series movies (I can think of at least the Lord of the Rings trilogy) wrapped up their plots quite nicely in the middle of the series leaving you satisfied until the next movie came out. It can be done, and I think it ought to be. When we come to the end of the movie we finally find out what Voldemort's weakness is. It's like the climax of the story! We know how to defeat him! Hurray! End. >.> Uhh... So, we're just gonna... not defeat him, then.

Again, I understand this part of the story will be fleshed out in the next couple of movies, but you could at least give me SOME kind of closure. Even the plot against Dumbledore seems hollow and unexamined. Well executed, to be sure, but in the end... now what?

Ok, there it is; my scathing criticism of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Really, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Granted, I was following the wrong plot most of the time, but I enjoyed the ride. This has all the ingredients for a great movie, a lot of eye candy, a lot of brain candy and a lot of heart candy. If you're looking forward to this movie I dare say you will not be disappointed. Especially if you know what happens in the last book.

7/14/09

Why G.I. Joe Will Suck

Spoiler Alert: G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra is probably going to suck.

Reason 1: The makers of this film are already thinking about sequels. Just look at the full title and think to yourself, does anyone really care about an origin story? If this movie had been the pilot for the cartoon, it would have never become such an iconic show.

Reason 2: In the trailer there isn't even one shot of a member of cobra shooting blue lasers. The cartoon was nothing but cobra androids shooting blue lasers. Not that they ever hit anything, but still.

Reason 3: Accelerator suits.

Reason 4: Any part of the trailer which involves accelorator suits, i.e. Marlon Waynes inquiring exactly what they accelerate, or the part where two Joes wearing the accelerator suits dodge missles in what appears to be an audition tape for So You Think You Can Dance.

Reason 5: Channing Tatum. Best known for his role in the dance movie Step Up which may explain the previously mentioned accelerator suit scene. I think film makers only put him into guy movies as a ploy to get girlfriends to want to watch the movies too.
The following is a personal note to the producers: the one thing that would make this movie worth buying on DVD would be live action versions of the dubbed over G.I. Joe Public Service Announcements. Start thinking about it now because you'll want to film them soon... I'm not sure this movie will be in theatres for too long.
Scott

7/13/09

THERE ARE 69 LIGHTS!


You may know him as Captain Picard or Professor Xavier or maybe even Captain Ahab, Ebenezer Scrooge or Claudius. The great Patrick Stewart turns 69 today! Let us all celebrate by lighting 69 candles and trying to convince everyone that there are only 28.





Edit: I have just been informed that it's also Harrison Ford's 67th birthday! Celebrate by whipping 67 wookies!

7/12/09

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

A new day is dawning in the realm of geekdom. A new symbol of hope is rising out of the mire, the glory of its serifs shining in the morning sun and beaming a bright green light for all to see! This symbol is proud and bold! It points the way to a footnote of change, and a margin of awe. It is a placeholder for that which we know and a reminder of more things to come. BEHOLD! It shines in the heavens, a flaming beacon of familiarity! It shines down on us, its children, as five points of light beaming from a single core! The Asterisk! It comes! And with it come the hopes of a brighter future, the awe of an accomplished present and the knowledge of a jaded past!

The Green Asterisk comes, my friends! And it shines for the world to see a flurry of geeky news and opinion brought to you by the geeks themselves! They are friends! We know them! We follow their lives! Fame and glory is upon their future and we are seeing their humble beginnings!

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between reader and writer, geek consumer and geek reporter. For we are all geeks, we all have our passions. And we all have a need to share them. With friends. With us. With the Green Asterisk. Read! And Enjoy!

(Translation: Awesome stuff is ahead for the Green Asterisk! Stick around for geek news and opinion like you've never read it before!)

7/8/09

Syfy Revisited

Yesterday Syfy officially changed its name from The Sci-Fi Channel. In a previous post I mentioned how I thought this was going to be a hugely terrible idea. Here's a quote:
Basically, the head of Syfy said that after testing the name out with their demographic they felt like the kind of cool that a jerk with a Bluetooth earpiece feels when they got the results, so they went with it. Problem is: jerks with Bluetooth earpieces generally aren't geeks. And geeks are 95% of Sci-Fi's fan base. As a matter of fact he went as far to say that Sci-Fi has been associated with geeky, antisocial basement-dwellers for far too long and that their aim with this name change is to make the channel more "human-friendly." Yeah, 'cause geeks aren't human.

Ok. I understand if you want a marketable, brandable name since the term "Sci-Fi" is far too common to trademark. But you've crossed the line when you dismiss a growing, thriving subculture and tell them that you want their favorite channel to show stuff they don't like just because other people do like it. C'mon. You're basically picking your best friend last for the kickball team.
We all know that Stephen Colbert is known in the journalistic community as the journalist with titanium balls. Well, today I'm going to one-up him. That's right, America. I'm going to out-Stephen Stephen Colbert. Because, Nation, I don't have the titanium balls. I have the SARONITE BALLS to admit when I'm wrong.

Craig Engler, the SVP & GM of Digital at Syfy, has been answering all sorts of questions on his Twitter account @Syfy. And while he was busy dodging the hate from disgruntled Sci-Fi Channel fans, I had the SARONITE BALLS to ask him this hard-hitting question: "What is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?" Craig expertly responded: "42 (been waiting 4 that question!)" Ladies and gentlemen, if the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Digital at Syfy can answer that question correctly, then I am officially comfortable with the name change.

As a matter of fact, the more I look into it, the more I believe whatever jerk I originally quoted misspoke when he was talking to the media. They're not trying to ignore their geek fan base. They're trying to keep their geek base while at the same time showing everyone else that it's really not as lame as they think it is. What he was trying to say is that OTHER PEOPLE believe we are antisocial basement-dwellers and their aim is to show them that we're not. To show them exactly how awesome we are.

I saw the pilot episode of Warehouse 13 today and I totally approve. This is only one of many new and awesome things to come with their new name, new logo and new attitude. I suggest if you have Twitter that you follow @Syfy and keep up with all the awesome things going on over there. And please, don't be afraid to let go of your hate. It only gets in the way of your rage.

7/4/09

Public Enemies

After a very long thought processes involving, but not limited to, seeing the movie, forming an opinion and checking Twitter for the public's opinion, I have come to a conclusion on what I can say about Public Enemies. Here is my full and formal review:

/shrug It was alright.

Edit: Upon re-examination, I remembered I was originally going to describe the film as a perfect analogue to this tweet.

7/1/09

Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

It's rare that you can say a third sequel is better than the previous two movies. It seems for Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the first two movies were merely a set-up for this final adventure. Having seen the first two movies, when you sit down to this one you already know all the characters and you get the basic idea. These mismatched mammals are an uncommon herd. Friendship is the glue that holds them together and the two mammoths are in love. At the beginning of the movie, however, we find out the two mammoths are expecting a child. This doesn't sit well with Diego the saber-tooth who's not much for family life and is starting to feel his age. And Sid the sloth, feeling left out, takes it upon himself to adopt three dinosaur eggs. So now we have our plots: revitalize Diego and bring him back in the herd, look out for the pregnant mammoth, and rescue Sid who is captured by his dinosaur babys' mom. Also, there's Scrat. And Scratte. And their whole acorn fiasco.

That's right, there are plenty of subplots in this movie to follow. The main plot is to save Sid from the underground land of the dinosaurs, which makes it a little awkward at the end when they've finished that plot and have to wrap up all the others. Another subplot they weave into the tapestry is a completely insane one-eyed weasel voiced by the great Simon Pegg who, much like Captain Ahab, has made it his life's work to capture the Great White Dinosaur which he has named Rudy. His name is Buck and he has been living as a lone talking mammal in this world of animalistic non-talking dinosaurs for long enough to fry his brain. But at least he knows what he's doing. Right?

The most hilarious parts of the movie, I think, were the completely random ways in which they incorporated Scrat and Scratte into the main plot line. They, of course, have their own completely separate adventure to go through, but they are weaved into the main story in such a way that they almost seem like a vital part.

When the story really starts to pick up, there are huge action sequences that reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean in that there are SO MANY things going on - so many subplots and so many different characters - that it's pretty hilarious to see how they weave them all together.

I won't give any spoilers, but when Buck's subplot comes to a close, you think it's going to end up one way and you're about to groan and say "yeah, that's typical." But then it completely turns around. Very satisfying.

So, all-in-all this was a good movie, especially if you've already seen the first two. It's opening today, so don't miss it!