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Some thoughts on the movie ‘Prometheus’

Has anyone seen Ridley Scott’s new film ‘Prometheus’? I saw it last week with my nephew. There has been a hell of a lot of hype about this film, and probably for good reason. A prequel/re-imagining of ‘Alien'; after 33 years?! It sure sounded interesting.

Here are my initial impressions: Visually stunning; chuck full of religious/mythological allegory; Michael Fassbinder does an amazing job portraying David the Android!; a story that was all over the place and glaringly inconsistent; thought-provoking; confusing; supposedly intelligent characters who do really stupid things; and did I mention it was quite beautiful?

Yes, I was really hoping this would be a great film, and maybe someday it will be considered such; but for me there were just too many glaring things about it that were ridiculous or incomprehensible. One thing is certain: ‘Prometheus’ has generated an almost unprecedented amount of discussion across the Internet. I mean, it’s incredible how much this one film has stirred people up! Which is kind of cool in itself.

Everywhere I look on Science Fiction and Movie websites, people are delighted, outraged, flabbergasted by this film! They’re coming up with amazing theories on what the movie is about, and obsessing about every little detail of the convoluted storyline and its allegorical implications. I’m not going to attempt to delve into any of that (Osiris/Space Jesus) stuff, or how this movie might or might not tie into the original ‘Alien’ universe. But I will direct you to a few interesting web pages where other people do! If you have seen the film and it drove you a little nuts, too, check out the links below. (Warning: many spoilers ahead!)

PS: Since we’re talking Science Fiction, the second season of the TNT show ‘Falling Skies‘ premiered last Sunday, and it was pretty cool. I mostly like this show. It’s fun! And it looks like season 2 will be better/grittier/more interesting than the first season. And damn it; I just enjoy Noah Wyle! Check it out.

There’s not enough good Science Fiction on TV right now, besides my beloved ‘Fringe‘ (looking forward to the final season in September). There’s also a new Canadian show called ‘Continuum‘ that I enjoy.

Bye for now!

Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About

What is Going on in ‘Prometheus’?

Why Films Like ‘Prometheus’ Are Driving Me to Alcoholism

Young Indiana Jones

Not long ago I discovered that ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ TV series is available on Netflix. I remember seeing a couple of installments of this show in 2007 on Saturday mornings, and I was really impressed by what a great show it was. So I was thrilled to see it available for me and the kids to watch the entire series on Netflix. And after seeing several of the hour-and-a-half long episodes of this series, I must say I’m totally in love with this show! After a brief history, I will tell you why I love ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ so much.

George Lucas created the series that ran from 1992-1993. It was originally called ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ and aired in one hour episodes. The show got great critical acclaim and was nominated for and won several awards; but after three seasons it was canceled due to high production costs and low ratings, although I read that in Europe and other countries the series was very popular. Apparently Americans found it a little too ‘cerebral’, because, wow; along with what I consider some pretty rip-roaring adventures, this show was actually about interesting historical characters, moral dilemmas, history, art, different cultures, religion and philosophy. The purpose of this series was to educate, in an entertaining, personal way, about world history of the early twentieth century by having young Indy meeting many of the great historical figures of the time. A concept, I’m sad to say, that may be even more unappreciated in this country today than it was twenty years ago!

But then in 2007 the series was re-edited (as Mr. Lucas is so fond of doing) and re-packaged as ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones'; combining two original episodes into single 2-hour (one and a half without commercials) episodes; leaving out a lot of stuff, but making the time line of events more coherent. Over the years the series has also been shown on several different networks, including The History Channel. There were also four made-for-TV movies of Young Indy a few years later; as well as a series of novels and a Darkhorse comic book series that filled in more of Indiana’s later adventures.

But let’s get back to my mini-review. The series begins when Henry Jones Junior (Indy) is ten years old. The first series involves his father, the famous professor of Medieval History at Princeton taking his family and Indy’s tutor, Miss Seymour, traveling to England, Africa, India, Greece, Italy, China and Russia in 1910 on a whirlwind lecture tour. This was an absolutely brilliant concept for an educational series; based on an adventurous, beloved character who amazingly gets to meet dozens of historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia, young Krishnamurti and Ernest Hemingway, among many others. Later, back home, when Indy is sixteen years old he solves a mystery with the author of ‘The Hardy Boys’ daughter, meets Thomas Edison, joins Pancho Villa’s army (narrowly missing death on numerous occasions), and the last one we watched Indy is just heading off to Europe with his friend Remy to fight in World War I. Much of the later shows involve Indy’s experiences during the Great War.

Every aspect of this series is awesomely done! The production value of each episode is like watching a feature film. The filming locations are breathtaking. The actors are all incredible, not the least of which are the actors who play Indy at age 10 (Corey Carrier) and the older teenage Indiana (Sean Patrick Flanery). Lloyd Owen, who plays Indy’s father, Henry Senior, is also really wonderful. He speaks and sounds so much like Indy’s father from ‘The Last Crusade’ that when I close my eyes I actually see Sean Connery! The way he says “Junior!” is remarkable!

The series adds tremendous richness and character development to the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga and fills in a lot of backstory about the father/son relationship. In some ways I actually enjoy this series more than the original movies. They’re grounded in ‘the real world’ as opposed to the mystical craziness of the films. Actually I love the first and third Indiana Jones movies, but pretend that ‘Temple of Doom’ and ‘Crystal Skull’ never happened! ‘Temple of Doom’ got so damn dark and sadistic (I only have watched it once, when it first came out); and the last Indy film from 2008 (Nuking the Fridge, anyone?) just left me awfully disappointed. I had such high expectations! (It was nice to see Marion again). But watching this wonderful show has been a delightful experience for me, and the kids both love it! It’s entertaining, educational, emotionally moving and funny as hell at times. It shows both the lighter and darker sides of twentieth century history; the rich complexity of clashing cultures and human nature. It shows how a young boy changes through his experiences to become the man we know from the feature films.

I would highly recommend this series for young or old; as entertaining storytelling and as a great way to teach history and culture. It’s also a rich  homeschooling resource for me! I’m including some links to much more information below.

Young Indiana Jones Unofficial Home Page: A wonderfully thorough resource for all things Indy!

Adventures in Learning with Indiana Jones

The Raider.net: Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: Wikipedia

DVDPlanet: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Good prices for DVDs! Also available on Amazon and other places on-line).

Why Digg Cracks Me Up!

Hi. Just a quick observation about the world of online information. My God; there’s so much ‘information’ flying around on the internet! Opinions; breaking news; horror stories; scientific advancements; political extremists; conspiracies; the latest technological toys; the ravings of lunatics; and then we have Digg.

I don’t look at Digg every day, but this morning I happened to check it out and saw this:

Coincidence? I think not!

I would also like to share this under

The Most Bizarre Headline of the Day: Researchers create robotic rings to turn your hand into a blinking, anthropomorphic face

That is all I have to say for the moment, gentle readers. Have a nice day!

John Carter (of Mars!) Reviews

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Yesterday my son Arthur and I went to see a matinee of the Disney Studios film ‘John Carter’. I must say right off the bat: I really enjoyed this movie. And the day after viewing it, with the images and characters still bubbling around in my mind, I’d have to say that I loved it! Perhaps partly because I read the first three Barsoom novels as a teen, and this film wonderfully captured for me that nostalgia; the feel of reading the Burroughs stories for the fist time.

If you’re not familiar with ‘John Carter’, the movie, (as opposed to the rookie doctor from ‘ER’) it is director Andrew Stantons adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, ‘A Princess of Mars’. Burroughs, who also wrote the ‘Tarzan’ series, created a bunch of stories about the world of Barsoom (that we call Mars) about a hundred years ago. The first novel is about Civil War veteran John Carter who is mysteriously transported to Mars and his adventures with Dejah Thoris, Princess of the city-state of Helium.

Since the movie first came out I kept hearing about what a disappointment it is; how it didn’t make a billion dollars the very first weekend it premiered. I read a couple of reviews that said the story was incomprehensible; the acting was bad, and so on; even though the previews looked pretty darn cool to me! But Arthur wanted to see it very badly, so I went with not very great expectations. And I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie was just great fun! I actually liked the actors and how they portrayed their characters. And it was apparent to me that the filmmakers spent a lot of time and attention to detail. The scenery and special effects are gorgeous; from the ancient cities, the details of Martian airships and machinery, the costumes, to the amazing CGI creation of the four-armed, green-skinned Tharks. I think Stanton’s film did an admirable job capturing that steampunk/swashbuckling/science fiction-fantasy spirit of those Burroughs stories, while actually improving on the original (like the explanation for Carter’s transportation to Mars, and bringing in elements and characters from the second Barsoom story, ‘Gods of Mars’). I thought the pacing, the interaction of the characters (even the computer-generated ones) and the story-within-a-story was very well done. It’s got battles, action, romance! It takes itself quite seriously, but with a nice balance of humor in just the right places. And I loved the ending! Every change that was made to the movie definitely improved the overall story.

I don’t know: maybe people who didn’t like or understand the film were not familiar with the source material; or maybe they were just a lot younger than I and found elements of the story too familiar? Even though the original story is the template, along with the works of Robert E. Howard and a few other writers, for most of the Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery stories that have come out in the past century! Edgar Rice Burroughs and others inspired much of the books and films that have come after them, not the other way around! I think ‘John Carter’ is a worthy homage to the spirit and imagination of those early pioneers of imagination.

So please go see the movie while it’s still in theaters (we did not see the 3D version, and it was breathtaking). Because the ending made me really hope that they make the next movie in a proposed trilogy about John Carter of Mars. I enjoyed my time in that mythical Mars called Barsoom, and would like to explore it further. (I like to pretend that this story takes place in an alternate universe where Mars still harbors life). Also the possibility of the Therns making mischief on Earth of the 1880s could be a lot of fun!

Update: Because I received a comment on this post with links to a Facebook page and a website of people who loved ‘John Carter’ and, like me, want to see another film made in this series, I’m adding these two links: https://www.facebook.com/groups/backtobarsoom/ and http://backtobarsoom.com/.

Below I’ll leave you with some of the numerous favorable reviews that really do more justice than I have here.

http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/john_carter#.T2–z7ujHRY

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2012/03/11/4-reasons-why-john-carter-was-surprisingly-awesome/

http://blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin/john-cartermovie-review

http://www.americanprofile.com/articles/john-carter-movie-review/

Spring Movie Madness… and Science!

Can you believe the weather these days? Around Western New York it’s been in the high seventies for over a week. Most years we’ve had snow on the first day of Spring; this year we had record high temperatures; the flowers are blooming and leaves are popping out already! It never looks like this until late May around these parts. What’s going on?! We’ve been enjoying it immensely, but I’m afraid what may happen if we get snow in April!! Will it be in the nineties by May? Welcome to the future!

But right now I’ve run across a mess of movie trailers for upcoming films that are knockin’ my socks off! And I also have a couple of links to videos of my hero, Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tysonwhich I would like to share before the kids and I head out to enjoy another glorious day.

First up: Joss Whedon has made a new movie that at first looks like a horror story you’ve seem a hundred times; but which I’ve heard is something completely different and insanely original: Cabin in the Woods. Whatever Joss gets involved with, you can bet it will be thoughtful, mind-screwing fun! His other film, ‘The Avengers’ is also coming out shortly. Man, he’s a busy guy!!

There are a couple of movies debuting soon that are based on the ‘Snow White’ story. One of them; ‘Mirror, Mirror’ with Julia Roberts looks very fun. This other one looks incredibly creative and insanely cool: New ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Trailer is like Middle-earth with Dopey and Grumpy. And it stars Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, who coincidentally stars as Thor in ‘The Avengers’, and is in ‘Cabin in the Woods’.  Talk about busy!

And speaking of creative and insane; Tim Burton is at it again, this time with a comedic re-imagining of my favorite soap opera of old: ‘Dark Shadows’. It stars Johnny Depp (of course!) as the sort-of lovable vampire Barnabas Collins in some truly outrageous make-up. New Dark Shadows Trailer. At first I was pissed that they weren’t doing a ‘serious’ remake; but this take on ‘Dark Shadows’ could be a stroke of genius. And the original was often rather funny, though not intentionally.

And if you haven’t heard about Ridley Scott’s sort-of re-imagining of his classic ‘Alien’ story, ‘Prometheus’, where have you been?! I’m very excited about this flick. I give you the European trailer, which is a bit less frenetically mind-numbing than the American one. Prometheus Trailer. I’m really looking forward to seeing this!

From Science Fiction to Science; I’ll leave you with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the Voice of Scientific Discovery for a New Generation. (He’s also going to be hosting a new version of Carl Sagan’s old show ‘Cosmos’)!

The Most Astounding Fact (Neil DeGrasse Tyson) 

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking at the U.S. Senate Commerce Hearing on the Future of Our Space Program.

One last thing I’d like to add. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve started a separate blog to focus on Linux and Open Source topics. Here’s a link to it if you are interested: The Fearless Penguin.

Enjoy the weather!

More Links to Share…

I just want to share some groovy web links I’ve come across on my obsessive scouring of the internets this past week. Mostly entertainment news, and a couple about computer and tech stuff.

FIRST, TO THE ENTERTAINMENT!

I guess the titles are pretty self-exclamatory.

This one is incredibly adorable: Star Wars According to a 3 Year Old.

And this movie trailer made me squeal like a little girly-man: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3D – Official Trailer. I loved the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films; but this looks like a really cool, fresh take on the delightfully sarcastic Spider-Man we all know and loved from the old Marvel comics.

Speaking of Marvel Comics; how could I leave out the trailer for the upcoming ‘Avengers’ film that hits theaters on my birthday! ‘The Avengers’ Trailer (Official). Damn, that Loki has become an even better bad-guy than in ‘Thor’, and he reminds me so much of Brent Spiner,(Commander Data) from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ it’s just creepy!!

Then there’s this other little film about teenagers developing super telekinetic powers. I think it just came out last weekend. Sounds kind of neat! Chronicle is a superhero origin story done right.

Next we have a wild glimpse of the techno-glassy future from the Corning Glass Company. Will Smith should have been in this vid: A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day. Expanded Corning Vision.

And have you heard of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project? This is very cool, and they cost about a hundred bucks, US. One Laptop Per Child Changes Developing Nations with New Linux XO-3 Tablet . Also; here’s a kid giving a talk on TED about the horrors of our food supply in the good ‘ole USA (I’m talking to you, Monsanto! Among others…) The hand gestures got to me after a while; but the young man has some excellent points! Birke Baehr -“What’s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?”.

And I shall leave you, gentle readers, with some thoughts about GNU/Linux and my new love affair with KDE: KDE vs. Windows 7.

…and… Tony Stark gets snarky in new Avengers trailer

Oh, and one more link I must add. I heard about this wacky movie a long while back; but it looks like it’s actually coming to theaters in the next few months! This is just crazy fun!!! Iron Sky Official Theatrical Trailer

Peace.

On The Threshold

November 15, 2011 2 comments

Last week I started watching The Wonder Years on Netflix. I haven’t seen this show in about twenty years, when it first aired on television. I remember really liking it. After all, Kevin Arnold, the main character, was the same age when the show begins in 1968 as I was then (12). And though his life was a bit different from mine, it resonated so much with my own childhood; or those ‘wonder years’ between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, that watching this series was like re-living that tumultuous period of time.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine what growing up now must be like! The world of the late sixties and early seventies was so different from today, yet there certainly are many similarities! War, pollution, social inequality, political corruption, corporate control of our lives; in a way not that much has changed except technology! Our world is an exaggerated version of that period. It’s like a lot of what we feared back then has just gotten worse. Maybe the ‘Revolution’ was just postponed for another generation. Another kind of social awakening may be dawning, and maybe this time we’ll get it right? God, I hope so!

But getting back to ‘The Wonder Years, it’s been fun watching it again. And my kids are watching it with me, and they are really enjoying the show! Even my six-year-old. They get to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, the Viet Nam War, Watergate, the Apollo Program and the moon landings. But the themes of the series are also timeless, universal ones: the awkwardness of adolescence, the complexities of social interaction, sibling rivalry, young romance, and just trying to bridge that confusing chasm between childhood and maturity.

But I also realize once again what a wonderful childhood I had, despite the fact that both my parents died by the time I was 16. Those years in my life that ‘The Wonder Years’ depicts are the last years I had with my parents; and despite everything, I have so many beautiful memories to relive when I watch this TV show. With every episode I vividly reconnect with that gawky kid that I was when life was so simple and intense, and everything lay before me. Just like it is now with my own beautiful children.

I guess all we can do is try to make our kids ‘Wonder Years’ as wonderful and loving as mine were!

And finally, I’ll end with a brief poem I just scribbled down:

Half light, gray light

November morning warm despite

the drifting leaves and Winter’s coming

geese in flight and pale sun strumming

enchanted chords from deep below

arise from stillness, swell and grow.

That ageless child who stirs beneath

reaches up past joy or grief

an ancient youth; a bygone king

dreams within the heart of Spring

to fly beyond the misty avenues of time

and sing of Nature’s elemental rhyme

where birth and dying; bud and leaf

are contained within each moment brief;

the shining sword within the sheath.


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