Saturday, January 26, 2008

Little Dieter Needs To Fly

Every once in a while a picture comes along that brings us back down to Earth and reality- a little non-fiction if you will.

I was prompted to dig a little deeper upon learning Christian Bale's latest project, Rescue Dawn, was based on a true story. Furthermore, Director Werner Herzog had not only directed Rescue Dawn but had earlier directed a documentary upon which the film was based, Little Dieter Needs To Fly.

Herzog is more than an ingenius filmmaker, but one who understands and captures those intimate moments of humanity. He has directed a number of fine films least of which is the fairly well known Grizzly Man. You may have heard of that one.

Few have heard of the film Little Dieter Needs To Fly, the basis for Rescue Dawn, but this is a haunting, moving film so extraordinary it's hard to believe it's real. It's also hard to believe the man, Dieter Dengler, remains the kind of quality human being he portrays for us here on film to the people around him every day.

Even more striking this man, once a prisoner of war, walks so comfortably in this life freely leaving his home open to all. Can you imagine a world where you can leave your doors unlocked? It once existed, but is slowly becoming a thing of the past, however for Dieter he has experienced the chains of imprisonment and today happily soaks up freedoms we take for granted. He is indeed a special person.

This 74 minute feature revisits the dream of German-born Dieter Dengler and his desire to become a United States pilot from the very early years of his life. His impoverished life seemed like one unimaginable challenge after another and yet he persevered. As a young boy during World War II, his family boiled wall paper and glue for sustenance. His grandfather was the only man in his hometown who stood firmly against Adolph Hitler. Life was harsh on his family and for Dieter it would only get harder. Little did he know what awaited him as a prisoner of war during Vietnam.

Dengler never wavered in his mission to become an American citizen. He came to America at 18. Vietnam came along and the story continues as Dengler became a prisoner of war under the control of the Viet Cong after being shot down over Laos. Remarkably, following starvation and torture, he escaped. He refused to sign a paper against the country that gave him his wings. The story might not touch your life, but it should your heart if you have one. He is a simple man who figures himself not a hero, but a survivor. He recounts his day to to day experience weaving a tale of courage. Herzog masterfully chronicles Dieter's life and God bless Dieter Dengler for being the quality human being he is and sharing his story. He's an inspiration.
Note: Surprisingly, the trials in Dieter's life have not hardened his heart to show love for strangers even those who once bound his legs and hands and tried to smother his spirit.

This sequence speaks to the character of a good man, one to proudly call a fellow American. I highly recommend taking time out to see Little Dieter Needs To Fly and to follow up with Rescue Dawn.
Litte Dieter Needs To Fly: A

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


So, what was your favorite Stargate SG-1 Season finale? A recent poll indicated those pesky Replicators to be a fan favorite as the ultimate enemy of SG-1.

And thus the Replicators' legacy began...

One of my choices would have to be Nemesis. This could easily be the template for what a brilliant season finale should offer. Nemesis is a brilliant closer to Season 3. Again, it is a credit to the work of writer/ director Robert Cooper and Martin Wood with their fine cast and strong effects team.

It is Jack-packed full of exciting material, builds big time on mythology and single-handedly takes SG-1 into new unknowns. This is the episode that officially introduced the enemy of the Asgard [and now Earth], the Replicators, to the Gate universe. Pure sci-fi at its best as the Replicator introduction brought forth a most worthy adversary that has reverberated throughout Stargate well into Stargate Atlantis today.

In truth, the nasty bugs were first referenced informally by Thor back in Season 3, Episode 3 [Fair Game], but are unveiled here in all their metallic splendor.

A weakened Thor has summoned the assistance of Jack O'Neill [Richard Dean Anderson] to battle the Replicators aboard his ship which is quickly being usurped of control and its precious Asgard technology into the collective Replicator intelligence. SG-1 is in full-on team and battle mode here waging all-out war with these mechanical munchers as they literally overrun Thor's ship. O'Neill receives the help of Teal'c and Carter as they attempt to keep the Replicators at bay, not die, abandon the Asgard ship just prior to Earth entry, save Thor, and stop the Replicators from landing on the planet and overruning Earth. Whew! All in a day's work folks! It's a nailbiter.

Nemesis is genre television perfection, but it's also just great storytelling. They definitely set a new standard and really took Stargate SG-1 into untapped sci-fi realms and elevated expectations.

There have been some solid season finales but this ranks as one of the top 5 for this show. It simply kicks ass!

Oh, and that cliffhanger...

You'll have to checkout Season 4 opener Small Victories to catch the rousing sequel. I will admit, the Replicators storyline is one of my personal favorites in science-fiction and maybe someday I'll take the time to draw up a fan collective of the the entire thread. Now if I could only find some sort of time dilation device to make that happen.

Nemesis: A

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Return Of Starbuck

...and now the conclusion to Galactica 1980.

The title is rich. The Return Of Starbuck is laughable for many reasons not least of which is that it misleads you to think he's returning to the Galactica. Not so.

So the question is, does it refer to a return of the glory days of Battlestar Galactica? Does Dirk Benedict [Starbuck] redirect the course of Galactica 1980?

The fact that this is the last installment in the series speaks volumes, but the answer in short is NOT A CHANCE!

I have read on ocassion this one episode alone single-handedly rights the ship and validates the purchase of Galactica 1980. I'm hear to say it does not, so save your money.

The story begins with young, miracle child Dr. Z narrating as he speaks with Commander Adama about his dream of a warrior named Starbuck. This is the backstory of Starbuck's disappearance. Following a firefight with the cylons [alongside partner Boomer], his viper is hit and he and a cylon raider crash land on an unknown, but habitable planet. The story begins well. Credit goes to Herbert Jefferson and Dirk Benedict for raising the bar of this episode's results above the rest. It's better initially, but goes south quickly for the second half. The first half is kind of like Galactica's version of Castaway.

Here's a decent scene from the first portion of the show.

Eventually, Starbuck, clearly not a rocket scientist, somehow activates one of the centurians and its companionship serves up a second half that is like a perversion of Enemy Mine [1985]. The two work together for mutual survival. Actually, it's more for Starbuck's survival since the cylon is nothing more than a walking tin can. Where is Starbuck getting food from on this desolate planet? The cylon [dubbed 'Cy' by Starbuck] departs the encampment and brings back a "wo-man" for Starbuck albeit out of thin air. Where the hell did she come from? She's also preganant! Huh? Starbuck is dubbed the father and makes the baby a cradle! WTF! You see, it goes wrong quickly. Logic flies out the window at the half-way point and it becomes just another piece of hot, steaming Galactica 1980 crap. Oh, by the way, McCord and Van Dyke apparently got their walking papers because they're nowhere to be found!

Here's a scene from this complete debacle of a second half that degraded into utter kookiness.

In the end, more cylons land and it's a shootout, but Cy stands by Starbuck's side because they are "friends." Thank God this was the last episode. Have mercy. I couldn't take another morality play of this caliber again. Starbuck assembles a spaceship out of the scrap heap of parts. Hmmm, maybe he is a rocket scientist. Starbuck launches his "wo-man" into space with their newborn baby and he remains behind to die a lonely death. That baby turns out to be stupid Dr. Z. Thankfully Larson addressed this question because it had been really gnawing at me since the beginning to find out more. Dr. Z was such a well-defined character and such a likeable addition to the cast! NOT! Stupid! Die!

More importantly, what the hell happened to Apollo? Remember him, Adama's son. Yeah, the guy who made Battlestar Galactica special. That was the series and the man that helped propel the powers that be into spawning a modern day reimagining. Fortunately, Richard Hatch saw the writing on the wall, or the lack of writing perhaps, and stayed far away from this Galactica meltdown. It's like the space version of Titanic.

Had the episode killed off Dr. Z and Cy, left the woman out, gone with a sharper script and concentrated solely on a deserted Starbuck being hunted by the cylons you may have had an entry that belonged within the classic Battlestar Galactica cannon. The bottom line, Larson lost his way or was rushed or whatever. More importantly the original cast had charm and chemistry, which explains why Dirk Benedict elevates the material here briefly. Galactica 1980 missed all of that. Benedict, as good as he is, just can't save this poorly conceived, poorly written, poorly executed show.

Worse yet for me personally, I'll never get this time back.

The Return Of Starbuck: F
Galactica 1980: F

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Galactica 1980

TV has come a long way indeed. This is embarassing stuff!

The 10 episode Galactica 1980 essentially ATTEMPTS to bring some sense of closure to the original Battlestar Galactica. Boy oh boy, does it fail miserably.

The cast includes the returning grey-bearded Lorne Greene, Herbert Jefferson Jr. [Boomer], Kent McCord [Troy aka Boxey], Barry Van Dyke [Dylan] and a stupid creation called Dr.Z [played by the kid, Oliver, on The Brady Bunch for the first three riveting episodes].

Guests include none other than the late Robert Reed [Mr. Brady- "goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Brady" fame], William Daniels [the voice of KITT in Knight Rider], Wolfman Jack [WTF!] and appearances by the little girl from the newer episodes of Little House On The Prairie [Missy Francis].

This is a space opera disaster of epic proportions that takes place mostly on low-budgeted Earth. The premise for the whole thing becomes preposterous as all of these crazy ideas sort of get tossed together. It's like someone said "What would happen if he we made space motorbikes for the colonial warriors?". It's bloody CHiPs Galactica!

Glen A Larson has clearly lost his mind.

Episode Guide:
Galactica Discovers Earth [D]: The premiere is like one big bad 'Bad'lestar nightmare. The score of old has been supplanted by a kind of hodgepodge that sounds like intergalactic CHiPs noodling. Pure cheese. Where's Jon and Ponch when you need them? McCord and Van Dyke are sent on a mission to Earth from the Galactica. Commander Adama assesses the planet is not technologically advanced enough to defend itself against a cylon invasion if the Galactica is followed there. The boys are sent to find Reed, a nuclear physicist where they pick up the token female, reporter Jamie Hamilton, for the series. McCord and Van Dyke play the whole 'fish out of water' routine as aliens on Earth on and off throughout the series and the writing fails them miserably. Terrible! At times, it's like Galactica's answer to Starky and Hutch. The whole thing is preposterous.

Galactica Discovers Earth Part II [F] The Earthbound antics continue and McCord drives a police car wishing he was still in Adam-12. He may has well have been. He plays essentially the same one-note character. Adama determines he must send McCord, Van Dyke and token female back in time to help prepare Earth. There are some NEW swirly effects and some swooshing tail effects for the vipers but NO writing talent to be found in this black hole of a series. Most of the effects shots and cylons are found in the opening credits, images clearly lifted straight from the original series. McCord and Van Dyke travel back to 1944 Nazi Germany. The exposition feels like a forced history lesson. There's no fun in this. It's a completely bizarre and boring political statement. There are so many continuity holes and farfetched scenarios it makes The A-Team seem realistic. Galactica 1980 feels less like Battlestar Galactica, less an homage to 70s television and more like a collision of show ideas. Weird stuff.

Galactica Discovers Earth Part III [F] The enthralling conclusion to the show's 3 parter. NOT! Terrible crap this stuff. Who on Earth or Caprica for that matter would have ever imagined the Galactica would find Earth, travel back in time to 1944, tangle with the Nazis, liberate the Jews from concentration camps!? Science-fiction!? No doubt, but the absolute worst and incomprehensible kind. It's a certified disaster. It's not fun to watch. My wife and I laughed most of the time making fun of it like we were the characters in Mystery Science Theatre. There's loads of stock WWII footage because the creators had no budget! Back to the future and McCord and Van Dyke are taken by the military.

The Earthly "you gotta be freakin' kiddin' me" adventures continue....

The Super Scouts [F] Four episodes into the series and finally we see cylons and not the ones in the opening credits. These cylons don't say a damn thing! The cylons attack one of the fleet's ships. A fire in space. Perfect, cut to the action footage edited out of the original series' episode Fire In Space. Fake smoke is blown onto the video image. WTF! There isn't actually smoke in the new sequences. No one is coughing or sweating. It's hysterical. McCord and Van Dyke escape to Earth again [no special effects needed except for those flying motorbikes] this time with 12 super children. To blend, all dress as cubscouts and scout masters. The delinquent space kids come down with an illness thanks to a nearby chemical plant near the lake they have camped upon. Cue the ecological message episode! Once again the colonial warriors take time from their survival mission to teach us how to care for the environment. This is a solid entry in the series! NOT! Terrible again!

I found Jon and Ponch and that cheesy CHiPs and Galactica hybrid musical noodling! This is the epitome of Galactica meets CHiPs meets Starsky & Hutch fashion. I kid you not!

The Super Scouts Part II [F] The storyline was so good it needed 2 parts. WTF! This makes Earth 2 feel like quality science fiction. Really. The episode is filled with pursuit by the military, illness and kids jumping into and over trees like Six Million Dollar Babies or, ....ummm Super Scouts. Disgusted!

Spaceball [F] McCord and Van Dyke are adrift in space after being manipulated by one of their own who is essentially the Baltar of the series. Lucky for them they get to sit this one out. Jamie takes the 12 kids to a special needs campground to playout another terrible script. This is, by all accounts, the Bad News Bears riff. The formula is applied as they need to win a baseball game for the failing kids' camp. Yes folks, only the very best in science fiction for our Galactica fans.

The Night The Cylons Landed [F] This might be more aptly titled The Night 2 Cylons Landed. Yeah, a real invasion. Actually there were like 4-5 cylons but a few died in the landing. The on-board computers even warned them that survival was unlikely, but what the hell land anyway. This is the first glimpse at the idea of Cylon evolving [clearly not too smart]; one humanoid, one centurion. They even talk in this episode. The cylons crash in New York in the hopes of transmitting a signal to their brothers in space. Meanwhile, McCord and Van Dyke are aboard a hijacked plane enroute to intercepting the cylons. What really grates the nerves is Greene's character. Commander Adama is so out of character from the original series. He's like a wuss always leaning on the advice of this ill-conceived brain child prodigy Dr.Z. Any sense of leadership he had in the classic series is out the window. He's pathetic! For God's sake grow a pair of balls, you're fucking Commander Adama! What the hell was Glen A. Larson thinking with this entire series? He should be ashamed of himself writing such tripe. Not a shining moment.

The Night The Cylons Landed Part II [F] And now "the exciting conclusion"...well, that's what they would have you believe despite the fact excitement is exactly what they forgot to put into this thing. McCord and Van Dyke attempt to locate the cylons, but not before dancing on stage to the "Goodship Lollipop" in white tuxedos and saving a boy and dog from a raging blaze. WTF!? Meanwhile the cylons are passed off as costumed partygoers on Halloween. This is nothing more than a goofy, lame-ass piece of garbage. Just stupid.

Space Croppers [F] Believe me. I was praying I could root for just one episode. The Imperious Leader makes an appearance, but I think it's nothing more than borrowed footage from the original series complete with British accent. WTF again? The cylons attack the Galactica's food supply. McCord and Van Dyke are sent to Earth in the hopes of escaping this terrible show....I mean to try and establish a food source. This time the theme is prejudice and raciscm. They help some down-on-their-luck migrant Mexican farmers. The family even gets help spreading the seed from the Super Scouts. It just keeps getting better. The farm is saved. Everyone is one big happy family with food for all and the kids have found their new home away from the special needs baseball camp. Incredulous!

The Return Of Starbuck [?] The final episode.

I'm not exactly sure why I gave the first episode a 'D', perhaps I was blinded by my own fanboy excitement in seeing Lorne Green and the Galactica again. Maybe seeing a few roaming daggits gave me hope. In hindsight, I was generous. The best thing about Galactica 1980 is the box and sleeve the DVD contents are shipped in. It's pretty and clearly the special effects budget was spent on that box. The show looks amazing on that box, so don't expect to see it in the show.

So does The Return Of Starbuck, as some fans have touted as a throwback to the charms of the original, make it worthwhile to purchase this 10 episode 20 dollar mini-DVD Set of drivel? Can Dirk Benedict single-handedly save this disaster and return some sense of self-respect to all that was right with Battlestar Galactica?

Stay tuned for our exciting conclusion...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back To The Office

Yuck....Back to the grind...

I think someone over at The Office likes Star Trek.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Beyond Loch Ness

You know I was really itching to call the title of this blog entry, Don S. Davis, What The Hell Were You Thinking? Maybe I should have. Maybe they should have called Beyond Loch Ness the same.

Looks Like Game Over for this poor fellow.

Yup! Definitely Game Over....

I know Sci-Fi Channel has to be paying these actors good money because the "spare no expense" approach is not being applied to the special effects. Granted, they weren't terrible. The key to CGI is slowing down those monster movements!!! Damn! They move way too fast. It makes creatures look rediculous. Van Helsing and Hulk both had bad CGI and when it's applied poorly it's hard to suspend our disbelief. Thats' why they both sucked!

Paul McGillion [Stargate Atlantis] has a role, a very brief one. He gets the luxury of being eaten alive by the beast in the first 5 minutes. It sets up the revenge tale as his son looks on. Don S. Davis [Stargate SG-1] is in law enforcement and attempting to navigate through some very bad dialogue [he even says "What the hell?" at one point- times are tough since SG-1 closed the gate]. People basically die and keep dying on Lake Superior, Vancouver. The kid who played Teal'c's son, Rya'c, makes an appearance too, yeah, a real brief appearance. He winds up kibble and bits for old Nessie.

For a beast that has alluded cameras and videographers for sure seems like it's looking for attention. Those baby Nessies aren't helpful either. Everyone seems to congregate at the lake and ... wah lah dinner is served! So the "Beyond" part of Beyond Loch Ness is that Plessie has been busy in the old loch of love. Don doesn't even get to collect his check in the end. The whole thing is all wet!

Look, you know things aren't good when the wife pleads with you to turn back to the football game. She called the film "one nudie scene away from Friday the 13th." That's priceless. I'm not sure, but this may have been worse than Showdown At Area 51.

Folks! Remember, the budget is injected into Stargate Atlantis and that show rocks!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Deadman Switch

Every once in a while you have to stop to appreciate and admire the singular greatness of one episode of your favorite television. Stargate SG-1 certainly had its fair share of brilliant moments as well as a solid handful of duds to boot.

I was reading Jo Storm's Approaching The Possible when she reviewed Deadman Switch from Season 3 of Stargate SG-1 as being one of her favorite "humor"-based episodes of the "genre". I couldn't agree more. Storm is certainly unafraid of critiquing the show or showering it with praise where it applies. I found myself in disagreement over a number of episodes she disliked and others she loved. Storm loved Urgo. I did not. Not a big fan of the Dom Deluise schtick as much as I LOVE his son Peter Deluise' contributions to the success of SG-1. Hathor was one I enjoyed a great deal. Storm hated it. Perhaps it's a male hormone thing, but I really dig chicks with red wigs and lipstick.

Again, with Deadman Switch we agree. Despite its apparent lacking of hot chicks, it's a fantastic science-fiction episode. It's also the quintessential hostage-taking episode within the SG-1 series. It has all of the best elements of sci-fi, but most of all it's the dialogue in this puppy. The whole thing has chemistry. I think alot of that is owed to the laser-sharp writing/directing team of Robert Cooper and Martin Wood who helm this gem.

Sam Jones [a la Flash Gordon "flash a-ahhhhhh savior of the universe" fame] guest stars and he's simply brilliant as an aged bounty hunter for hire. Showing his battle scars benefits the character as a kind of war-hardened, gun-for-hire type just looking for the next big job to survive. His next big hit is capturing SG-1 for the Goa'uld.

Richard Dean Anderson [the comedian] and Michael Shanks [the straight man] are pitch perfect and really highlight the team chemistry and humor throughout the proceedings.

It ranks as one of the best for me in Season 3 next to Pretense and Nemesis [the season finale that introduced the Replicator legacy, not surprisingly also by Cooper and Wood]. Deadman Switch is rewatchable time and again.

Deadman Switch: A -

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ah, The Office

So, the New Year is going absolutely terrific so far, of course it's only been less than a whole day. Granted I suppose I should count my blessings. Somewhere out there someone has already started the year off badly. Needless to say, I like to take my time easing into the new year before everything goes to pot!

At the moment, I am sadly paralyzed after having a few days off and now I await my inevitable fate with the arrival of the daily grind. Vacations have a funny way of doing that. It's not like a weekend where every Monday comes and it's expected and dealt with accordingly. Vacations cause a kind of 'deer in the headlights' feel. I can't explain it. I like work alright, but I like time off a whole lot more. My wife can vouch for me on that, she's always trying to get me to do work. : )

Speaking of pot or in this case 'shite', it seems fitting that the other half and I have been watching The Office, the English version. I howl at the American version. The English version is actually, well, very English. At first, I was having a hard time adjusting to the accents and quick mumbling combined with the offbeat English sense of humor, but it grew on me fast.

I was really surprised to find there were only 2 Seasons. Get this, each season is comprised of 6 bloody episodes. That's it folks, then call it a day. Can you imagine if American programming allowed for 6 episode seasons. What is up with that? It makes Jericho's greenlit partial, second season look normal by British standards. Shoot, I'll be back on sci-fi before you know it, which reminds me. If I ever get off topicit's perfectly legitimate. This blog is Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic, not Sci-Fi Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. I think I'm covered. Besides, despite being heavily Sci-Fi driven here, man or woman cannot live by science fiction alone, unless of course I was single.

Anyway, there are loads of funny bits in the English version of The Office and it's well worth checking out as it has its own loveable and eccentric cast of characters. It's easy to see where the US version was clearly influenced by set design. America's Office has the hysterical Steve Carell, a dynamic office manager in his own right, while comedian Ricky Gervais is equally brilliant. Two shows carved from the same stone that are both uniquely splendid.

As for me, I head back to the office grind too and I can tell you this, it won't be half as much fun or half as funny.