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The Magicks of Megas-Tu, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

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Finally, we’ve happened upon the gem I knew would be here. “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” is absolutely insane. Someone must have dosed the water cooler at Filmation that week and as a result the entire writing and animating staff was blitzed out of their minds on LSD. For, you see, at the center of the Galaxy (outside of time and space) live a number of magical beings. One of them is Satan. And they’re all pretty cool — just misunderstood. Anyway, when you hang around them, you too get magical powers. Said powers are basically The Force from Star Wars, except your fists glow, too. Unless you get into a big fight as Kirk does at the end (when he is fighting to save Satan), in which case your whole body will glow and the background will turn into a wrapper of Fruit Stripe Gum. Oh, and the Enterprise has to relive the Salem Witch trials for a while. (And Sulu nearly beds a geisha girl.) Far out.

The Infinite Vulcan, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

No Insignia

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A planet of plant-aliens is host to a clone-happy Eugenics Wars refugee who wants to make a 10 foot tall Spock. And he does so. But turns out he only wants to help. So he gets talked out of it. . .and then they leave SuperSpock on the planet to. . .do something. I dunno. Mr. Chekov, who isn’t in the Animated Series, wrote this episode. And you thought his Russian accent was bad.

The Survivor, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

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A shapeshifting Squid-monster is on board. But he’s not as evil as he seems. Why do these things always have to happen so close to the neutral zone?

The Essence of Smooth

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

M*A*S*H (1970), Robert Altman, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

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Hasn’t held up to age well (and it sure ain’t shot well), but perhaps that works in its favor. It is so much of its time that it almost works as a study aide for the “counter-culture mindset” — and you can interpret that any way you like. The film asks that you come to it with an understanding of this mindset, and if you’ve no experience there you will be left in the dust a few times. On the surface, though, some very amusing moments (there aren’t really any jokes — well, one or two.) I still think the football sequence goes on way to long, even if it is a metaphor. And I can’t tell if the movie simply depicts sexism, or is in fact sexist itself. I’d like to think it is the former, but I suspect it is actually the latter. Did you know Bud Cort was in this movie? I must not have seen this for quite some time.

Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed, Shola Lynch, C

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

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Interesting subject, dull film.

More Tribbles, More Troubles, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

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The Tribbles are back and wackiness ensues. Amusing.

The Lorelei Signal, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Monday, February 5th, 2007

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In this episode a bunch of blonde space sirens literally coo to put the men of the Enterprise under a spell. Even Spock. Then they put these nasty headbands on them to cause them to rapidly age. It is up to Uhura (cue the wah-wah guitar) to get tough and say the day. She and Nurse Chapel lead a team of kick-ass red mini-skirt toughies to rough up the bad guys and save the day. Very entertaining.

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Face The Music

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Sunday, February 4th, 2007

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I’m having a hard time not listening to ELO’s Face The Music.

Try not to bob your head as the drums come in on “Fire On High.” Especially as you are doing dishes.

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Nowhere (1997), Gregg Araki, B

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Sunday, February 4th, 2007

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I was up all night coughing and this came on Sundance Channel. The first five minutes I was slackjawed — I couldn’t believe how awful this movie was. Then I realized the cold medicine had made my brain slow. It was satire. “Like 90210 on Acid” says the tagline, though “Frankie and Annette on Crystal Meth” might be more appropriate. Completely plotless, we meet a group of dopey Angeleno kids on their way to a big party. There are some great deadpan moments as well as some ridiculously over-the-top ones. The scenes manage to be both deviant and sweet, in the best John Waters tradition. There’s blood, drugs, aliens, suicide, vulgarity, tenderness, John Ritter and more. One thing that stunned me was just how *dated* the movie is. Who knew 1997 had its own look? Indeed: the sets, costumes, and such and such are fun.

One Of Our Planets Is Missing, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Sunday, February 4th, 2007

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I am beginning to sense the trend that I think will follow through the rest of The Animated Series. This episode is actually pretty cool — but at twenty-four minutes (or thereabouts) it just feels rushed. Plot is jammed in your face; conflicts arise, they are resolved, in comes a new conflict. There is little time to ruminate on implications and no time to allow a realistic response from the characters that we know so well from the three seasons of TOS. (Many of these animated shows are adapted scripts originally intended for the live action show.) So, in all, a somewhat disappointing enterprise. C’est la vie.

This episode is quite fun, though, in that it is about a humongous cloud that eats planets. The Enterprise enters through the mouth and, I kid you not, is searching for a way out the other end. (They get trapped in the intestines, though.) One Vulcan mind-meld (or intestines-meld) later and the problems are solved. But there is a surprising scene concerning the decisions of an inhabited planet and its attempts to select who will be ark-ed away to safety. Another example of a bit of “heavy”-ness on a Saturday Morning cartoon show. Ah, the early 70s were a strange time indeed.

Yesteryear, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

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“Yesteryear,” something of a follow-up to The City on the Edge of Forever, is a surprisingly rich episode. We get to see quite a bit of Spock’s childhood and there is classic mindfuck time-travel issues. (As with many time-travel shows, though, there is plenty of “but, waitaminute, that doesn’t make sense!”. . .but this is a cartoon and damned if I am going to worry about it or even print the contradictions here!!!) Again, it seems the humor and natural interactions between the characters has been sacrificed for plot — but maybe that is just the nature of the Filmation style of production. And who is playing young Spock? Jake Lloyd’s retarded cousin?!? Still, I won’t lie to you — I actually enjoyed watching this. I even (sigh of guilt and admission) watched it twice. (But not in a row!! And only because Ann wanted to see it!!!!)

Autumn Sonata (1978), Ingmar Bergman, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

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“Autumn Sonata” was something of an inside baseball joke at my house growing up. We were among the first on the block to get a VCR. Something of a rarity, as my family was (and still isn’t) a very techno-advanced group. But we had a VCR, a huge hulking silver machine, before your family ever heard of one. (And lucky for us the coin my parents flipped turned up heads and we went with VHS instead of Beta.) So. . .there we are. . .a family with two young children (I was, what, six?) and my father is putzing around with wires in the back of the TV. Finally (after much grunting and swearing) the machine blinks on. It works! We got the jiffy-pop going and . . .”Autumn Sonata????” What kind of crack was my mother smoking?!? I wanted to watch Herbie The Love Bug, instead I get a chamber piece about generational misunderstanding and sublimated anger!

So now it is twenty-five years later and I am an official Bergman enthusiast, but I’d never gone back and revisited this first film that, technically, I’d already seen — although all I did was fidget on the couch and whine that we weren’t watching something with a talking car. (For the record, my Father was on the same side as my sister and me.) “Autumn Sonata” is one of Bergman’s more literal films. A chamber piece — not a “filmed play” as one might mistakenly surmise. Extensive use of close-ups, elliptical memory flashes and subtle changes of light make this a definitive work of the cinema. But it is, I grant you, mostly two women (Liv Ullman and Ingrid Bergman) staying up late one night and having it out with each other over a bottle of wine. The conflicts on display are pure soap opera, but the presentation is like the Chopin prelude that each woman performs — bursting with restrained emotion.

If you don’t like Bergman you won’t like this movie. But I drank the Kool-Aid when I first saw “Wild Strawberries” in college, so there’s little hope for me.

Vera Drake (2004), Mike Leigh, B-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

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Oh, enough already.

Beyond The Farthest Star, TAS 1

Jordan | The Star Trek Project | Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

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And then it came to pass that Hoffman would begin reviewing The Animated Series. First, to answer a few questions. No, I’ve never seen any of these before. Yes, it is a little embarrassing to admit watching Saturday Morning Cartoons. How does one review these episodes? I’m not exactly sure. . .let’s just take it as it comes.

The first thing I immidiately recognize is that this is a lot less awful than it could have been. In fact, in some ways, these episodes are quite similar to “regular” Trek. They are half the length, but not dumbed-down too much. The main thing that is lacking is the humor, the humanity. I suppose in an effort to streamline things for 30 minutes, those elements were the first to get cut. What we have instead is simply plot plot plot. The benefits, though, are that the design gets kinda wild, like on the “pod starship” on this first episode.

In “Beyond The Farthest Star” the Enterprise is tricked into orbit around a dying star. There, a malevolent being (visualized as green smoke) will take over the ship. We know this because, in a surprisingly confusing red herring move, Kirk & co. first inspect a dead but highly advanced starship that is also in orbit. Soon the green-smoke being is on the Enterprise and Kirk must pretend that they would rather self-destruct (as the other ship did) than give haven to the monster.

Frankly, this episode is a little confusing. I don’t know whether this is a good thing (proving the Animated Series may not be as simplistic as I feared) or a bad thing (production was rushed and haphazard.) I will take a cautious wait-and-see approach.

The Battle of Algiers (1966), Gillo Pontecorvo, A-

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, February 2nd, 2007

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Assymetric Warfare: The Movie!

A landmark production in 1966: documentary-style sequences mixed with Soviet montage mixed with moments of Hitchcockian suspense. Who’d'a thunk this 1966 flick, ripped right from the headlines, would still feel so vital? I last saw this flick in college and, lemme tell ya, my reaction to it now was much more (what was that word?). . .nuanced.

The movie is riveting. My only minor complaint is that the attempt to seem impartial is just too half-assed. The movie is clearly in favor of the rebels, it almost feels like a weird insult to show the faces of the civilians about to blown up. There is also very little context about life in French-occupied Algeria before the early stages of the Islamist rebellion. It appears that the average citizen might’ve been okay with things (or at least disinclined to the hardcore Islamic law of the rebels) and it is only France’s brutal reaction that sparks general sympathy (sound familiar?)

The French Colonel gives a riveting speech in defense of torture. If Alberto Gonzales was to have just stood up and done the same I’d at least give him points for honesty.

Anyway, a fascinating and depressing movie. One comes away quoting Dr. Smith from Lost in Space: “We’re doomed! Dooooooooomed!”

The Mission (1986), Roland Joffé, A

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, February 2nd, 2007

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Ranking as one of the more depressing movies of all time, one potential interpretation of the film is this: You can take the high road, you can take the low road, but get in the way of power and you wind up dead.

Most notable about the film, while it heavily criticizes the establishment Church, it wears its “Christian values” right on its sleeve. The script was written by Robert Bolt, author of “A Man For All Seasons,” that masterpiece of cinema that somehow makes an action-adventure hero out of a stodgy priest who won’t recognize divorce.

The setting is a little footnote in history, a minor border realignment between Spain and Portugal in their Latin American holdings. Minor for everyone except the indigenous tribes living there, where the power switch means a shift in policy from occasional attacks from kidnapping slavers to a full-on assault. In the way, alas, are a few Jesuit missions, but Spain and Portugal unite to convince Rome to cut these suckers loose.

This all sounds very complicated and geopolitical. It isn’t. The movie is really about two men. Jeremy Irons is a glowing halo of goodness, a reedy, bearded priest stepping direct from a Velasquez painting. Robert DeNiro (it takes a few minutes to buy him as a Spaniard) a repentent slaver looking to join the Order. They each face the same crisis at the end, but come to different conclusions.

Oy, is this some heavy religious flick? No, it is actually very exciting. And it features some of the best sequences of roughing-it in the jungle since “Aguirre: The Wrath of God.” (Aguirre never had to do Catholic penance as he climbed up the side of a waterfall.)

Definitely worth seeing in a theater. I’d seen this once before — on VHS — that’s a mortal sin!

Sleepwalkers (2007), Doug Aitken, C

Jordan | Jordan Hoffman's Movie Journal | Friday, February 2nd, 2007

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This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I found “Sleepwalkers” intensely underwhelming. There I was, freezing my nards off, walking from the MoMa sculpture garden to a garbage-strewn empty lot and back again, just so open to being mesmerized. It didn’t happen. I get what they were going for, but, I mean, come on. . .the goal posts are so wide open here — do something! Walking to work? That’s the subject you choose?

Some of the shots looked nice and many of the cuts, yeah, were cool (minor differences in the five 13 minute shorts playing simultaneously) but if you are going to be this bold — if you are gonna have ads on the side of MTA buses — you have to bring the goods. Also: I’ve never seen a postal worker that looks like Chan Marshall. Check-out girl at the Food Co-op, sure, but postal worker?

And the screens weren’t even that massive! Maybe I’m just jealous because *I* want Donald Sutherland to glare in moody poses in *my* massive site-specific installation. . .but the vibe I got last night from everyone else shivering was that we were in the presence of a dud.

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