Episode 189: House of Cards

April 29, 2014

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“There are two kinds of spoilers. The sort of spoiler that makes you strong, or useless spoilers. The sort of spoiler that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”

Wow. House of Cards is a powerful indictment of the American political system. And that in itself raises some questions…

  1. Is it really like that on Capitol Hill?  The lobbying, sure, we all know about that, but the more subtle Machiavellary? That can’t really exist in real life, right? And yes, I just coined the noun “Machiavellary” (feel free to use it).
  2. If it’s not really a corrupt knot of tangled webs, do Americans actually believe it is?
  3. And if people don’t believe it is, then do Americans kind of wish it’s really was like that? (Better than believing your country is run by incompetent buffoons?)

As someone who lives outside of America (barely), these questions fascinate me.

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Episode 188: Meanwhile back on DS9…

April 15, 2014

Vintage Television

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our stay on Deep Space Nine. Frankly, we didn’t have much to say. It was okay, but everything else we’d recently watched seemed more interesting to talk about. More interesting, that is, until we were slapped in the face with Season 5. 

On the episode, we reference GraphTV, a site that graphically tracks the IMDB ratings of any TV series. Mandi claimed it proves Voyager is the better series. Though the numbers do bear this out, it’s not so clear cut once you begin to dig into the data.

DEEP SPACE NINE

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Episodes rated 8.5 or greater : 15
Episodes in the mean range (7.00-8.49) : 104
Episodes rated 6.5 or less : 20
Episodes rated <6.0 : 5

VOYAGER

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Episodes rated 8.5 or greater : 8
Episodes in the mean range (7.0-8.49) : 112
Episode rated 6.5 or less : 16
Episodes rated <6.0 : 2

What we see from the data is that DS9 has higher peaks and valleys than Voyager. While it boasts 7 more episodes which rated 8.5 or better, Voyager has fewer in the negative range (6.5 or less), and only 2 in the terrible episode range (<6) compared to DS9’s whopping 5. Voyager also does better within the mean range (7.0-8.49) by a count of 8 episodes, which indicates a greater consistency over the course of the series.

For my money, middle-ground consistency is is more important than exemplary episodes coupled with a greater number of teeth-gnashingly substandard ones.

It is also a matter of objective taste. Many of the highly ranked DS9 episodes, I simply do not care for. Of the three highest rated episodes (8.9) “The Visitor” is the single DS9 episode I’ve felt ranks along side the best of the Trek franchise. “Duet” was oh-kay, but ultimately forgettable (I know it has something to do with Cardassians). Remove the digital gimmickry and fan-pandering in-jokes from the third, “Trials and Tribble-ations“, and what you have it’s a pretty substandard episode. Set it as a typical away mission on a contemporary space station and I’m sure we’d find it in the <6.5 category. Of course, the whole point was Forrest Gumping TOS for ratings so… mission accomplished?

I’d also put forward that as bad as Voyager‘s lowest rated episode, “Threshold” (aka “Salamander Lovin’“) is a far more watchable episode than DS9’s abysmal “…Nor the Battle to the Strong” which, despite unfathomably being granted a 7.4 (this says a lot about DS9 fans), is hands-down the worst single episode of Trek I’ve ever witnessed.

Not captured in the data is the small question of acting ability. Though Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Beltran and Garrett Wang consistently phoned in uninspiring performances, they never made me feel sorry them as actors or human beings. The performances of Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Rosalind Choa, Cirroc Lofton and, most often, Avery Brooks consistently cause me to cringe from head to toe. Watching any episode that’s heavy on one of their characters is an endurance test where I see how long I can hover my finger over the “pause” button before I plunge it down and run from the room. 

Statistics can be twisted to benefit whichever side of an argument suits you, but in our books the advantage goes to Voyager.

Other links referenced in the episode:

Racism in Game of Throneshttp://artthreat.net/2013/06/game-of-thrones-and-racist-fantasy/

What is your Geek Rating: http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/what-level-geek-are-you


In Defense of Turtle Nostrils

April 2, 2014

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This thing (reported by Bad Ass Digest) where a fan fixed the creepy snouts from Michael Bay‘s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film has been making the rounds. Not having seen the trailer, I was in agreement. Yeah, those nostrils sure create a horrible uncanny valley feeling and the fan sure improved these Turtles. But then I watched the trailer.

And, you know, I think Bay’s redesign—so long as you’re not looking at a still photo—actually works really well. If for no other reason than in the previous live-action films the faithful-to-the-source material facial designs never really worked. In the comic and cartoon those absurdly wide mouths and not having nostrils was fine. It was a comic, it was a cartoon, suspension of disbelief was easy. Sure, they had to breathe through their mouths like, well, I guess like teenage boys, but they looked cute and goofy and fitting for a cartoon. This new take on their appearance makes them strangely more relatable. They’re hideous mutants, more-so than before, but in a kind of cutesy, charming Quazimodo way. And I can kind of believe in them.

In the old movies, let’s be honest here, the Turtles just seemed like a really, really stupid idea and looked really, really dumb.

Now, if we want to talk about potential problems revealed in the trailer (which at first viewing looked surprisingly decent) I think we can find a few things.

  1. Megan Fox as April O’Neil. She appears to be doing an okay acting job this time out but you only actually see her in flashes. I’m not sure she even says more than one or two syllables in the whole trailer. The only “acting” we see is a horrible pantomime fainting spell. Besides the obvious question of SINCE WHEN DOES APRIL O’NEIL FAINT? this gives us an indication of the level of humour we can expect. Namely a low-level but pervasive misogyny (hahaha she fainted like a weak girl hahaha) and I suspect this will be a running gag. Undoubtedly, former role-model April will be little reduced to little more than a damsel to be placed in successively more distressing rescue situations until the bound-to-be explosive finale explodes in an orgy of fireballs, heat shimmers, flying debris and sub-sonic detonation bass-drops. I also expect fart jokes (that’s fine, if you’re into that) and some homophobic digs between Turtle-bros. I hope not, but this is where’d I’d place my bets if I were a betting man.
  2. The plot appears to just be Robocop but with mutant turtles instead of a cyborg. The city is basically RoCo’s New Detroit and the Turles, just like our buddy RoCo, have been created specifically to combat the waves of crime and terrorism which plague the city. It’s not the derivative nature of this scenario that bugs me (though it does seem lazy and boring) as much as that in the original Turtle mythos our boys originated from pets lost in the sewers that got into some toxic waste. There was a nice irony that our toxic follies are what will create our mutant saviors—sort of a reverse Godzilla-effect. Also, the Turtles took it upon themselves to become our heroes instead of it being something they’re being forced into—and will supposedly struggle with in various annoying and boring angsty ways.
  3. Perhaps the worst though is that sliding down the snowy mountainside scene. I can’t help but feel this points to what will prove to be a reliance on “theme park ride” action set-pieces which are, I think everyone except Hollywood has figured out by now, never as exciting as they promise to be. Yet action film plots these days continue to be little more than the glue which holds a half-dozen of these things together. On the plus side, there’ll lots of opportunities for bathroom breaks if you (unlike me) are planning to see this in the theatre.

So far the only thing I can see that looks legitimately good about this film is the kind of creepy Turtle redesign.

 


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