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Star Trek: Beyond, a fitting 50th tribute

In Entertainment, Media, Movies, Opinion, Science, Technology, Uncategorized on August 8, 2016 at 9:14 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIn 2009, Paramount Pictures released “Star Trek,” a modern, big screen, retelling of the classic science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), the film offered fans an alternate beginning to the life of Captain James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine.

Abrams’ take on nearly a half-century of Trek lore angered a good portion of the fan base. In this first foray into Trekkie land, he managed to hit the delete key on some very important story canon. And, just to make the point that he could do whatever he wanted with the franchise, in the second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness, he did it again.

This time, he brought back Khan (played by “Sherlock’s” Benedict Cumberbatch), Kirk’s nemesis from the original series and again in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Since the origins of Kirk and company were altered, the Enterprise didn’t stumble upon Khan’s derelict spacecraft as it did originally, but ended up fighting him anyway thanks to a power-mad Starfleet admiral.

Once again, fans reeled. As a fan myself, my opinion is that it was a terrible film. It was a bad copy of the first Star Trek II (now that’s not confusing is it?). So where would they boldy go next? Well, fortunately, with Abrams having been snatched up by Disney to take over the Star Wars world, they needed new leadership.

When the first Abrams Trek was released, I had the privilege of reviewing it for my hometown newspaper. While I enjoyed the film, I, like many of my fellow fans, found it lacking a “Star Trek” feel. It was more action and less “human.” I could live with the alternate universe concept, after all, it’s “Star Trek” and you can do anything you want with it. But the complete disregard for the character-driven humanity that Roddenberry injected into the franchise in favor of a nauseating level of lens flare and CGI effects was a bit much for me.

Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) in Star Trek: Beyond   Photo Courtesy MovieWeb.

Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) in Star Trek: Beyond Photo Courtesy MovieWeb.

This summer, Paramount released the third in the alternate Trek series, “Star Trek: Beyond.” And, in my humble opinion as a lifelong fan, this time they got it right. Co-written by Simon Pegg, who plays “Scotty” in the films, “Beyond” offers more of what “Star Trek” is famous for – the human struggle to achieve and make a difference.

With numerous nods to the original by way of images, original series dialogue and character interactions, “Beyond” is the first in this series to make this fan actually want to see it again – and again. It’s just a fun movie. It’s “Star Trek” again, well, almost.

As good as it is, “Star Trek: Beyond” still lacks something, but we can’t have Shatner and Nimoy back on the bridge. Nor can we go home to the comfortable captain’s chairs of the 1980s feature films. But, with a fourth film already given a green light and a new TV series set for streaming video in 2017, “Star Trek” may have finally found its second wind.

I’m still in favor of J.J. keeping his director’s chair over at Lucasfilm and staying away from the Starfleet world indefinitely. He just doesn’t get it. Not that I really think he gets “Star Wars” either, but I don’t care as much about that.

To me, “Star Trek” is not space fantasy, but science fiction in the best sense. It offers a positive vision of our future and suggests that we can be better people, that humanity is worth saving and any film or TV versions from here on should perpetuate that concept

With the passing last year of Leonard Nimoy (Spock prime) and the recent tragic death of Anton Yelchin (Checkov), this film could have been a painful reminder of loss. Fortunately, “Star Trek: Beyond” is a wonderful tribute to original Enterprise crew, all of whom get a quick photographic cameo, and it’s a fitting celebration of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. I’ll be seeing it again for sure, and so should you. Live long, and prosper.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.

 

 

Why I’m done with Star Wars.

In Entertainment, Holiday, Media, Movies, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on December 28, 2015 at 9:58 am

 

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIf you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan, you’re not going to like what you’re about to read and that’s OK with me. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, you should probably stop reading right now because I will be giving away some major spoilers, and, subsequently the main reasons I’m done with the franchise.

I’ve been a lifelong Star Wars fan and it was always a part of my personal pop culture, just as it was for millions of others. But, The Force Awakens was so tragically disappointing that it has ended my interest in any future Star Wars movies with director J.J. Abrams at the helm.

In 2009, Abrams did little to endear himself to fans of CBS Paramount’s Star Trek franchise when he tossed the half-century-long story canon established by Gene Roddenberry in favor of his “alternate universe.”

IMG_4731

Gery’s 1978 Millennium Falcon toy space ship with a couple of the action figures from the 90s. Gery sold off a great portion of a vast 1970s era collection in 2005.

But, for Star Wars, I was willing to give him a chance and hold my opinions until seeing the movie. Sadly, my worst fears were realized and I simply do not understand why any true Star Wars fan likes this film.

However overblown the hype and merchandising, this “new” story is little more than a mashed up repeat of the original trilogy into one movie. At its core, The Force Awakens is the story of a wannabe Lightsaber jockey seduced by the dark side who adopts a Vader-esque breath mask and sets out to hunt down former teacher, Luke Skywalker.

His evil cohorts have build a space station (that looks like a moon) and blow up some important planets before being destroyed by a spunky pilot and his adorable robot. Does any of this seem familiar yet?

But wait, there’s more! The worst part of the story is that the bad guy is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and isn’t much more than a whining, 20-something, Darth Vader fan boy with daddy issues. He doesn’t even need the mask, popping off regularly throughout the movie!

Near the end of the film, he confronts Solo on a bridge and kills him to prove to his master how “evil” he has become. And that’s just about when I nearly walked out on this film. Killing off a beloved, long-lived character should be purposeful and respectful. Abrams’ blatant “murder” of Han Solo was anything but either. The word that comes to mind to describe it is, pointless.

As a writer, it’s hard for me to accept that a character like Solo was written to have survived everything we saw in the first three films just to be murdered in a moment of gullibility.

Rumor has it that this was the only way actor Harrison Ford would agree to return to Star Wars. If that’s the case, then the character’s death should have had meaning. But it didn’t.

Sadly, some great performances by the new cast, including the female lead, are overshadowed by the retread story line. I’m well aware that more than $1 billion in box office returns – not to mention a flurry of media praise – do not support my conclusions. But it won’t be the first time good box office returns had no real relationship to the quality of a film.

Personally, I believe this film travesty is just a way for director Abrams to leverage his control over Star Wars. He simply punched the fans in the face to reinforce that this is now his property and it will go how he wants it, fans and good writing not withstanding. But, money talks so you’re likely stuck with him for a while.

As talented as he may be, J.J. Abrams will never be a George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. No amount of lens flare will make up for the fact that he simply doesn’t care about these stories, the characters, or, more importantly, the fans.

All we can do is hope no one lets Abrams anywhere near Indiana Jones. Now excuse me, I need to go put the rest of my Star Wars collection on eBay. May the Force be with you.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

Remembering “Spock,” actor Leonard Nimoy

In Entertainment, Movies, National News, Opinion, television, Theatre, Uncategorized, World News on March 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm

DIH LOGO

In 1982, fans of the science fiction franchise, “Star Trek,” more commonly referred to as “Trekkies,” or the more accepted, “Trekkors,” took a kidney punch when Leonard Nimoy’s character of Mr. Spock died at the end of the film “Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan.” But, thanks to the miracle of science fiction, Spock was resurrected and the Starship Enterprise continued to boldly go where no man had gone before.

Sadly, fans must now face a more painful and permanent fact of life as they mourn the passing of the actor who, for nearly a half century, portrayed their favorite pointy-eared alien. Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27th at the age of 83 at his home in Los Angeles following a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

As a lifelong fan there is no way to adequately convey the sadness of losing such a talented performer whose on-screen character inspired so many. Mr. Spock, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew, were great sources, not only of entertainment, but incredible inspiration for individual achievement and social change.

spockNetwork executives originally told Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to, “get rid of the guy with the ears.” But, thanks to Mr. Nimoy’s talented development of the character,  Mr. Spock became a quintessential part of “Star Trek’s” hopeful future in which everyone worked together to eliminate hunger, pettiness and poverty.

Such a vision is still somewhat unique – and often poked fun at – in the science fiction genre, which more often paints a dark, pessimistic outlook for man and a holocaust-ravaged world of tomorrow.  But with Spock’s presence, a bright future for mankind seemed more plausible. In Spock, Mr. Nimoy created the embodiment of chaos with focus, logic with feeling, and understanding with wonder.

I have been incredibly fortunate on a couple of occasions to have had the chance to meet and speak to Mr. Nimoy, as well as see him perform. At one Star Trek anniversary convention I attended, he invited questions from the audience. He chose my raised hand from several dozen other hopefuls seated nearby and I didn’t waste the opportunity.

A bit stunned at having been selected, I stood up and managed to ask something from the original “Star Trek” pilot episode that I’d been wondering about for years. With a genuinely amused laugh, he thought for a moment and informed us that he’d never before been asked about it.

Then, he answered with a detailed, behind the scenes story and directly thanked me when he finished. I will never forget that. Naturally it was cool even to be picked out of hundreds, but I was far more privileged to have given Leonard Nimoy even a tiny moment of entertainment in return for all he’d given us.

Mr. Nimoy played Spock for the last time in the most recent “Star Trek” film, “Into Darkness,” and, although he will be most remembered for his logical alter-ego, he also performed in dozens of other movies and television programs over the years. Besides “Star Trek,” he’s probably most remembered for his time on “Mission Impossible” and, more recently, in the TV drama, “Fringe.”

Besides being a gifted actor, Mr. Nimoy was a director, poet, photographer and activist. In the “Star Trek” animated series Spock is quoted to have said, “Loss of life is to be mourned. But only if that life was wasted.” Clearly, his was certainly not wasted.

Any of us should be so lucky as to have touched even a fraction of the lives Mr. Nimoy did, and in so many positive ways. To all those mourning a loss, remember the burden will ease over time and those we lose really aren’t gone, as long as we remember them. Live long and prosper.

If you would like to know Gery’s convention question to Mr. Nimoy and what answer he gave, read the BONUS MATERIAL at the end of this article.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.

  

BONUS MATERIAL:
Question from Gery Deer to Leonard Nimoy in a talk at the Star Trek 35th Anniversary Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gery L. Deer: Mr. Nimoy, in the Star Trek pilot episode, “The Cage,” you beam down to the surface of planet Talos IV with Captain Pike and a landing party. As you walk around the planet set, you appear to be limping and I wanted to know if you could tell us why? I’ve heard people say it had something to do with your boots, or the set floor, whatever. I just wondered what the real reason was.

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer in one of the uniforms designed for Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan

Deer In Headlines author, Gery L. Deer in one of the uniforms designed for Star Trek II-The Wrath of Khan

Leonard Nimoy: (Laughing) You’ve been worried about that all of these years, why I was limping? Well, I have to say I have never been asked about that before.

(The crowd of about 1,200 in the room was really laughing at this point and applauding.)

Leonard Nimoy: Well, I’ll tell you because I really don’t want you to be troubled by this any longer. (More laughter). If you remember in the story there was some discussion about a fight that had taken place on a planet several weeks prior.

As the story goes, the Enterprise crew was ambushed and there was a battle in which crew members were killed or injured. Spock was supposed to have hurt his leg in that fight. In television and movies, you often shoot scenes and story lines out of sequence and the scenes where the fight takes place would have been in another episode to go before the events in The Cage had Star Trek had been picked up without any changes. Then you’d see Spock get hurt and know why he’s limping later. (Crowd applauds.)

Leonard Nimoy: (Nimoy, looking back again at Gery) That’s why I was limping and now you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Thank you for that question, that was really the first time anyone has ever asked me that. (Mr. Nimoy gives Gery the Vulcan salute and the crowd applauds again.)

END.

 

 

Zombies, the lamest monsters

In Books, Entertainment, Movies, Opinion, sociology, television, Uncategorized on October 20, 2014 at 11:28 am

DIH LOGOHalloween is upon us and, once again, zombie-mania continues to reign supreme. From so-called, community “Zombie Walk” events to AMC’s season premier of the “Walking Dead” boasting the highest-rated cable television show in history, Americans certainly seem to be zombie-obsessed. But why; what is it about an animated, decaying corpse that seems to capture people’s imaginations and gets them to shell out millions of dollars in search of the next big zombie fix?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word, “zombie,” has its origins in West Africa, but the concept of the animated corpse most likely comes from Haitian folklore. Legend suggests that the dead are raised by magical means to walk the earth again and do the bidding of the one who performed the revival ritual, as a sort of creepy slave.

Zombies first appeared in American popular literature as early as 1929, then shortly after, actor Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of “Dracula,” starred in the film, “White Zombie,” which introduced the familiar personification of the creature. The modern American zombie pop-culture most likely took hold after the release of George Romero’s 1968 film, “Night of the Living Dead,” although they were never actually referred to by that word in the movie.

zombiesZombies in modern tales aren’t usually created by magic, but science. Today’s authors have penned a more realistic origin for what has become known as the “zombie apocalypse.” In most current story plots, a rogue virus escapes to the population, infecting everyone and turning them into, essentially, zombies. Instead of one or two slave zombies on the loose, entire populations of walking dead murderously meander across the globe, destroying civilization as they consume the living for sustenance; right, whatever.

Really, except for the fact that they’re pretty gross to look at and can sneak up on people, as far as monsters go zombies are probably the lamest (pun intended) and least scary creatures ever dreamed up. Think about it – re-animated dead people, hobbling along with one foot dragging behind them and moving so slowly, any granny on a walker could whiz past. What’s scary about that?

These monsters have no motive for being bad and there is no end goal or desire for world domination. They’re just hungry. They wander the night, aimlessly, hoping only to happen upon a fresh brain to consume.

And would someone please explain why they even need to eat anything? They’re dead! What possible nutritional value could there be in anything for a zombie? And why are they bleeding always? Does it need to be pointed out again, they’re dead – there shouldn’t be any blood pumping.

Add to that killing them is really a piece of cake, depending on which version of zombie lore you adhere to. In the modern, “Walking Dead” style, all you need to do is smash in their heads or decapitate them or something. But, according to Haitian lore, the goal was not to destroy them but to release these poor souls from their magically-induced, wandering purgatory and there were several methods available to do that, like pouring salt on them.

In any case, zombies are just not all that intimidating compared to vampires or werewolves (ignoring the Twilight-styled, sparkling, Calvin Klein model types). And yet, inevitably, story protagonists nearly always get caught by the marauding zombies and get their brains eaten. Really, how dumb does someone in a monster movie need to be to actually get caught by a crippled, decaying dead guy?

So, here is the best possible advice for escaping zombies – run! Or, just walk fast; it’s not that hard to get away from zombies. Just be sure to sacrifice the comic relief character first, giving you extra time (not like you need it).

If for some reason the zombie gets too close, and yes, that will be because you are really, incredibly stupid, just grab the arms and pull them off – how hard can it be? They’re dead and decaying, right? Hopefully the zombie fascination will diminish soon, leaving room for even more ridiculous obsessions, like brooding, teenage werewolves. Oh wait, that’s been done already too. Oh well. Happy Halloween!
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is a production of GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. More at gerydeer.com.

 

Godzilla: King of the anti-nuclear message

In Entertainment, Environment, Movies, National News, Opinion, Politics, Science, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on May 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm

 

DIH LOGOIn 1955, the Japanese film company, Toho, Inc., introduced America to “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” The bulky, green monster terrified audiences in the marginally familiar form of an enormous T-Rex, with notable size differences, muscular body and bigger arms and all brought to life by a puppeteer in a rubbery body suit. Originally called by the Japanese word, “Gojira,” meaning “gorilla whale,” the monster was so successful he’s been a worldwide star since his first black and white appearance in Tokyo.

Uncertain how a Japanese film would fare only a decade after the end of World War II, American exhibitors insisted an “American” element be added to make the dubbed, foreign monster flick more relatable to U.S. audiences. So, who better to report on the devastation than one of the most trusted faces on television at the time, Perry Mason himself, Raymond Burr. Not included in the Japanese version, Burr played an American journalist reporting on Godzilla’s attack into a tape recorder from the safety of a nearby office building.

During the 1960s and 70s Godzilla made his way into color features where his ominous appearance was softened a bit and his character reworked a bit from a menace to more of a hero as he battled other creatures threatening Tokyo from Monster Island. His gigantic, “30-story” upright posture, signature stomp, glowing dorsal plates and fiery breath were a hit with movie goers around the world.

Gozilla's original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

Gozilla’s original appearance in Japan, 1954. He appeared in America a year later.

In 1985, Godzilla reappeared in a more serious, direct sequel to the original. Although the monster had made countless appearances in other, sillier films, like “Godzilla vs. King Kong,” and “Godzilla vs. Mothra,” this reprisal brought Godzilla back to his roots – as a devastating, uncontrollable statement on the increasing nuclear scare at the peak of the Cold War.

Although it was no longer necessary to smooth over American audiences, Raymond Burr reprised his role from the original film in a few scenes added to the U.S. release to provide continuity and attract a nostalgic audience. “Godzilla 1985,” did well at the box office and even better in the newly-minted home video market.

Fast forward a few years to 1998, when the monster was licensed by Tri-Star Pictures for an American, almost campy, version set in New York City. Studied by a worm biologist played by the likable Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off / The Producers), Godzilla takes up residence in Manhattan and is hunted by the US Military who manages to lay waste to everything except their target, even wrecking the iconic Chrysler Building. A liberally-preachy, anti-nuclear storyline and a totally computer-animated Godzilla, that didn’t look or act much like the original, completely failed to lure audiences.

Over the years, Godzilla appeared in 28 films and an American cartoon show. He even achieved the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But the origins of the character are deep in Japan’s nuclear pain and far more serious than most people might know.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Godzilla as he will look in the 2014 version.

Like the newest American incarnation set for release in May 2014, Godzilla is portrayed as a mutation directly resulting from nuclear testing, emphasizing the need to do away with these weapons. He was, essentially, the symbol of everything that can go wrong with nuclear power and weaponry.

The underlying message in the more serious Godzilla story lines is that use of nuclear weapons and power has unimaginable consequences. A mutation that can cause a giant monster with nuclear powered breath is a pretty good personification.

In any case, the new film is sticking closer to the original concept, not just in story but in the look and actions of the monster himself. He’s a rampaging beast and the addition of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, adds another level of drama to a once-campy character.

In no loss of irony, Japan is the only country in the world whose people have experienced the horrible result of nuclear devastation and America is the only country who has ever inflicted it on anyone else. It’s somehow fitting that people from both countries come together to create a fictional character that personifies the horror that can result.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business contributor to the WDTN-TV2 program, Living Dayton. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Those thrilling days of yesteryear

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Media, Movies, National News, Opinion, sociology, television, Uncategorized on July 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

DIH LOGOThe Lone Ranger first debuted in 1933 from the studios of WXYZ radio in Detroit, Michigan. Created by station owner George W. Trendle and writer Fran Striker, the character is said to have been based on the exploits of Bass Reeves, a real life federal peace officer who worked in Indian Territory during the late 1870s. Accompanied by his trusty Indian sidekick, Tonto, and themed by the thrilling rhythm of Gioachino Rossini’s operatic William Tell Overture, The Lone Ranger became an immediate success.

By the time that last surviving ranger hit the airways Wild West lore had been incredibly popular for more than two decades, particularly in dime novels, on the radio and in traveling shows. Originally aimed at children, it is estimated that more than half the audience for the program were adults, many of whom had grown up with stories about western legends like Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

Unlike his historical counterparts who clearly had bad sides to their character, The Lone Ranger would be the ultimate good guy, with a mask to both maintain his anonymity and help confound corrupt government officials as to his true nature. In order to keep continuity for the character, the original writers created a set of guidelines that established who and what The Lone Ranger is meant to be. Some of the guidelines were a little silly, but others far ahead of their time.

For example, one of the rules stated that the Ranger would never be pitted against an adversary who was not American so as to avoid criticism from minority groups. In other words, it was already practicing political correctness. Another said that he could never drink or smoke and any “saloon” scenes had to be portrayed as cafes with waiters serving food instead of bartenders pouring drinks. One of the most interesting was a rule that stated he would always use perfect grammar and diction, devoid of slang and colloquialisms.

Many people who remember those days believe that actor William Conrad, star of the 1970s P.I. show, “Cannon,” was the original voice of The Lone Ranger on radio, but that is not so. In fact, Conrad voiced another famous western lawman, Gunsmoke’s Marshall Matt Dillon.

In 1949, the show made the ultimate leap from radio to the fledgling technology known as television, with Clayton Moore donning the famous mask and Native American actor Jay Silverheels as Tonto. After eight seasons on ABC, two of which with a different actor in the lead role, the show was cancelled in 1957. A year later, a theatrical feature was released starring the TV actors in a new adventure but the demand for the masked man never quite returned to its former pitch, though a couple of other failed attempts were made to return him to both the theatre and the small screen.

In 1981, a big screen version of The Lone Ranger was met with the harshest of criticism and dismal box office receipts. The movie failed partly because it was just a bad film, but mostly because the producers sued former star, Clayton Moore, to forbid him from wearing the signature mask in public appearances. Who says there’s no such thing as bad press?

The most recent incarnation of the Masked Man hit the silver screen this summer as a tongue-in-cheek Disney flick featuring Armie Hammer as Ranger John Reid (The Lone Ranger) and Johnny Depp as his trusted Indian partner. Unfortunately the campy tone that worked so well for Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean series falls flat in this film, detracting from the nature of the characters and overshadowing the story.

Disney had the opportunity here to introduce two beloved characters of Americana to a new generation. But, instead of using the elements that made the show a success originally, they changed the formula and merely created another summer flop from a classic franchise. Hopefully, The Lone Ranger has not forever ridden off into the sunset and will get another chance to let audiences experience, “a cloud of dust and a hardy ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’”