Archive for November, 2009

The Star Wars Holiday Special: Boring fans for 31 years

Posted in holiday, movies, pop culture, Star Wars, TV shows with tags , , , , on November 17, 2009 by Paxton

Star Wars Holiday Special

The infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired for the first time on CBS on November 17, 1978, 31 years ago today.  The Holiday Special was created as a bridge between the original Star Wars in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.  It was a way to keep Star Wars “on people’s radar”.

The Special was neither written nor directed by George Lucas.  Lucas only allowed the use of his Star Wars characters and environments.  The Special was produced by the same group that created the Brady Bunch Variety Hour (itself a famously bad variety program).  Lucasfilm does not regularly comment on it and has never officially released it on home video nor has it ever been broadcast since the initial airing in 1978.

Lucas famously said that if he had the time and a sledgehammer, he’d track down every bootleg copy and destroy it.  And trust me, there are TONS of bootleg copies of the special out there.  If you can’t find a bootleg copy for yourself, then you just aren’t looking hard enough, my friend.  You can probably watch the majority of the Special on YouTube.

Bea Arthur

Is the Special really that bad?  Yes it is.  The format is similar to variety specials that were popular in the ’70s.  The main story involves Chewie and Han as they are racing back to Chewie’s homeworld for Life Day, a generic Star Wars version of Thanksgiving.  The story goes back and forth following Chewie and Han and then following Chewie’s family (wife, son and father).   Little to no action happens when the camera is with Chewie’s family.  You may think I’m exaggerating but there is NO ACTION during Chewie’s family’s scenes.  Periodically little vignettes are inserted into the non-action like Jefferson Starship or Dianne Carroll singing a song or Bea Arthur running the cantina (image above) or Art Carney mugging for the camera.  You also get short visits with Leia and a Luke Skywalker with so much makeup on he looks like he’s about to perform Kabuki (see image below).  To be fair, Mark Hammill had just been in a car accident a few weeks prior so they were covering up massive amounts of reconstructive surgery.

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Star Trek Original Series Season 1 highlights Part II

Posted in movies, pop culture, Star Trek, TV shows, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by Paxton

Star Trek castThis is the long awaited Part II of my look back at highlights of the Season 1 of Star Trek the Original Series.  I posted Part I back in September.  However, thanks to AWESOME-tober-fest, I couldn’t get this one posted until now.

To refresh everyone’s memory, after the awesome JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek back in May, I wanted to watch the original TV show episodes again. I’d seen a few episodes in reruns, but never really sat down to watch the episodes back to back.  I wanted to see if they are as good as I remember.  And since the first two seasons were recently released on Blu-Ray, I thought it was no time like the present (Season 3 will be released on Blu-Ray December 15).

Last time I looked at three of the best episodes from the first half of Season 1 of the Original Series (Where No Man Has Gone Before, The Enemy Within and The Corbomite Maneuver).  Here are three more episodes from the middle of that season.

ST The Menagerie
The Menagerie (Part I and II) — The first and only 2 part episode in the original series’ 3 year run. This episode makes extensive use of the unaired pilot, The Cage, to tell its story. I imagine Roddenberry walked into the writer’s room and announced, “Dudes, I went on a bender of coke and whores this weekend and totally forgot to write this week’s episode.  Any ideas?”  So the writer’s cobbled together this episode using a minimum of new footage and letting the old pilot pad out the run time.  This episode is okay, but it reminds me of the ’80s sitcom device of the “flashback episode”.  The events of the pilot, within the context of this episode, are said to have happened 13 years prior when Christopher Pike was the Enterprise captain and Spock the science officer.  In the new footage, Spock hijacks Kirk’s Enterprise to bring Capt Pike (now blonde and a paraplegic due to an accident) back to Talos IV, the planet visited in the pilot. Spock gets court martialed while the Enterprise makes the journey and clips from almost the entire episode of The Cage are screened during the court proceedings.  In the older footage, Pike gets trapped on the planet Talos IV and the aliens residing there put him in a type of zoo for observation.  The aliens use holograms to make Pike feel more comfortable by making him believe he’s living a different life, even going so far as to give him a hot chick to mate with.  Pike, not being Kirk, is outraged that the aliens would try to make him comfortable with a cool, imaginary life and then also have the temerity to give him hot women in which to have copious amounts of sex so he sets out to destroy the entire observatory/zoo.  Many, many years later, in the new footage, after having become a quadriplegic, Pike is totally fine with living a fantasy life with lots of hot chicks so works with Spock to break every Federation rule and bring him there, even risking Spock’s career for his own comfort.  After seeing this episode I have no desire to watch the full pilot.  I’ve probably seen 90% of the footage anyway.  And the actor who played Pike in the pilot, Jeffery Hunter, didn’t return for The Menagerie, hence Pike being an invalid, blonde mute (it’s like they didn’t even try to make him look the same) in the new footage.

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Reviewing the Cirque Du Freak book series

Posted in books, monsters, reviews, vampires with tags , , , , on November 4, 2009 by Paxton

I decided this year to read a bunch of Frankenstein books for Halloween. I reviewed all of  these Frankenstein books during this year’s AWESOME-tober-fest (here, here and here). However, I actually read and finished all of those books at the end of August and early September.

So, to change things up, throughout September and early October I switched genres and read a few action books like Star Wars: Republic Commandos: Hard Contact by Karen Traavis, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Area 7 by Matthew Reilly.  Well, when I finished those, I still had a few weeks of October left and I wanted to read some creepy and/or scary books.  There have been a bunch of ads for the new movie The Vampire’s Assistant starring John C Reilly and I thought they looked pretty good.  I’ve had my eyes on the book series the movie was based on for a while so I decided to give the first book a try (It’s currently on Book 12 which may be the last).  So I put the first book, Cirque Du Freak:  A Living Nightmare on my Wish List and it came to me pretty quickly. So I started reading it.

CDF Living Nightmare

The movie takes it’s name from the second book, but I read somewhere that its story comes from the first three books. The first three books comprise a loose trilogy, as do each successive three books so that within the 12 book series there should be 4 trilogies. Each tied into the main story, but each having their own story arc.

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