Monday, May 20, 2019

After Porn Ends 3 (2018)

A few years ago, I came across a documentary called After Porn Ends.  It was a pretty good documentary about people’s lives after they were porn stars.  Some had done well; others hadn’t.  They even did a sequel that followed up pretty nicely.  When I saw a spike in hits on both reviews, I realized that they must have come out with a third installment.   I checked Netflix and it turned out I was correct.

The premise is the same.  There are a lot of people (mostly women) that had been in front of the camera for years.  They tell what it’s like not doing that any more.  Christy Canyon has a radio program on SiriusXM.  Priya Rai is now a cage fighter.  Jenna Presley found Jesus.  The outcomes are usually different, although it would seem many got into the business for the same reason:  Money.  (Tera Patrick was studying to become a nurse until she realized that she could make more playing one on TV, so to speak.)

The movie doesn’t seem like it’s repeating anything from the previous installments, although the franchise does seem to be losing steam.  This one wasn’t quite as interesting.  The stories are new, but not necessarily more interesting  than those from before.  There’s also not the same variety as before.  In the first movie, most of the outcomes were less than desirable.  Actors found it difficult to move on.  In the second movie, many of the actors had found some life after lust.

The previous movies found a way to present the actors as people.  Yes, many of the actors shown here found something else to do.  I didn’t necessarily feel happy or sad about it.  Here, it’s more like actors recalling stories of their glory days.  It’s not said if any of the experiences are typical.  (Is turning to religion common among former adult stars?  I don’t know.)

As you might expect, there are a lot of explicit images.  After all, it is a movie dealing with adult topics.  Many of the stories are happy.  The only really sad one was Bonnie Rotten.  She didn’t have a great upbringing and had difficulty getting into the industry because of her tattoos.

I’m really not certain that a fourth installment is called for.  I spent a while debating over whether or not I wanted to watch this one.  I eventually gave in and watched.  I think if a fourth one is released, I’d probably pass on it.  It would have to pull off something entirely new to catch my attention.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 4 (The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry)

I recently realized that my local library has the first season of Star Trek: Discovery on DVD, thereby allowing me to bypass paying for CBS All Access to watch the show.  I just got the second DVD, so I’d like to review this episode before watching the next few episodes.  The episodes so far would seem to flow more evenly from one to the next, so this will allow me to keep the storylines straight.

This one starts shortly after the previous episode.  Michael Burnham has just come back from the Discovery’s sister ship, the Glenn, with useful technology and a tardigrade-like creature who has been dubbed Ripper.  She and Commander Landry are tasked with figuring out how to weaponize Ripper so that the crew might defeat the Klingons.  After all, Ripper took on a bunch of Klingons alone, as well as giving the away team a run for their money.

Burnham does make a major discovery:  Ripper has some sort of symbiotic relationship with the spores.  He’s also not that aggressive when not provoked.  All of Ripper’s actions thus far have been in self defense.  Furthermore, it would appear that Ripper can help navigate the ship for long jumps.  Discovery can use the spores for shorter jumps with some degree of accuracy.  To do the math for longer jumps requires some sort of supercomputer.

It’s not clear exactly what Ripper does or how Ripper knows where to go.  It’s not possible to communicate with the large creature, although the large creature does appear to be in pain when the drive is in use.  Captain Lorca uses Ripper to get to a colony that mines 40% of the Federation’s dilithium to protect it from a Klingon attack, so some discomfort isn’t his concern.  In fact, Burnham seems to be the only one who does show any sort of concern, ethical or otherwise.  She’s able to demonstrate that there’s no threat.

The ethics of using an alien creature without consent really isn’t dealt with in this episode.  The entire thing seemed a little too convenient.  I’m assuming that Ripper was trained by the crew of the Glenn.  Much like Star Trek’s The Devil in the Dark, it’s possible that a Vulcan was able to mind meld with Ripper to communicate what was going on.

So much is still unknown about Ripper.  Part of me feels like I’m missing something.  Maybe this will be explained in later episodes. I expect someone to leave a comment, “Didn’t you see when someone said X?”  I feel like the episode could have used a little more exposition.  It’s too bad for Ripper that his one advocate is someone who’s already on shaky ground with the rest of the crew.  However, this would be a very good reason for eventually discontinuing the use of the spore drive.

I definitely want to watch the next four episodes.  Maybe I’ll find a few of my answers.  At this point, though, I’m only expecting more questions.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 (Context Is for Kings)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was dark, but it was still Star Trek.  It showed that things weren’t always rosy in the idealistic Federation or Starfleet.  Being so far from the center of Federation space had implications.  Rules were stretched.  Sometimes, people did things they weren’t proud of.  But, it was still Starfleet.

Discovery started out dark, but seems to be coming around to something that looks like Star Trek.  It’s been six months since Michael Burnham turned against her captain and got her old ship destroyed.  She’s since been court-martialed and sent to prison.  While being transferred to another facility, her ship runs into trouble and is aided by the USS Discovery.  Burnham and her fellow prisoners are brought aboard temporarily.

Burnham finds several of her former crewmates are now serving on the Discovery, including Saru, who got promoted from science officer to Captain Lorca’s first officer.  Saru would be more than happy to help Burnham…get right back on that shuttle.  For the time being, he’ll have to settle for being polite to her.  He realizes that whatever else she might have been, she’s now someone who can’t be fully trusted.

Still, Lorca has a plan for Burnham.  That plan includes sending her to the Discovery’s sister ship, the Glenn, to retrieve classified technology.  When the away team arrives, they find the ship damaged and the crew badly mutilated.  Add to that Klingons that were viciously attacked by something.  The team gets what they need and discover the mysterious creature, which is resistant to phaser fire.  The crew makes it back to the Discovery.  The episode ends with Lorca offering Burnham a place on the ship, telling her what the secret project really is.  Oh, and it also turns out that he somehow got the vicious creature onboard.

I will admit that the show is getting more to the point where my questions aren’t as pressing.  The creature looks like a giant tardigrade, which is unusual, but I suppose not impossible.  Given that so many alien species look eerily human, it’s easy to imagine that a microscopic Earth-bound creature might be the template for a large creature of unknown origin.

Also, it’s revealed that the secret project is a new method of navigation that allows the ship to go anywhere instantaneously.  One might wonder why none of the other series had this technology.  That’s what Star Trek does.  One thing I remember from Star Trek: Voyager is lots of one-off technology.  (Voyager even had a species that had a personal cloaking device, if you can believe it.)  This aspect of the series is actually the most believable.

The one thing that gets me is that Burnham, who is usually quiet and logical (and is now more so after six months in prison) is given Cadet Sylvia Tilly as a roommate.  Tilly is a Chatty Cathy.  When she says that she talks when nervous, she’s not kidding.  I suppose that there’s a certain irony in this.  The one person that will actually talk to Burnham won’t…stop…talking!

I am kind of wondering what this black alert is.  It seems unnecessary.  Isn’t it enough to have red alert and yellow alert?  I guess I’ll find out what that is eventually.  (I just got the second DVD of the first season from the library.  Please explain if you can keep it spoiler free.)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 5 (The Apple)

The Enterprise went through a lot of security officers during it’s run.  I’ve often wondered if Starfleet ever asked why.  After all, new officers were being assigned to the ship and a death would certainly generate a report.  This was the second episode in recent memory to feature four security officers being killed.  I imagine some poor recruit getting his first assignment only to cry uncontrollably at the fact that it’s The Enterprise.  (“All this effort to get into Starfleet and this is what I get?  I’m too young to die!”)  To be fair, the crew did encounter a dangerous planet and Captain Kirk does wrestle with the loss of crewmembers.  However, there were a lot of deaths on the show.

In this episode, the crew comes upon a planet with a small tribe of people who are ruled by a computer named Vaal.  The people feed Vaal and, in return, Vaal makes the rain come down and the fruit grow.  Kirk and McCoy immediately realize that this is a stagnant society.  They don’t grow or learn or build.  All the people do is feed Vaal.  Spock, being the voice of reason, points out that it works.  It’s not humanity’s ideal society, but the people are happy and want for nothing.  Who are they to interfere with that?

Well, leave it to the writers to force the issue.  The ship is being dragged down towards the planet surface.  If Kirk doesn’t destroy Vaal, the crew will die.  It’s been said that the crew accepts this if it’s in service of The Prime Directive.  You don’t interfere with the natural development of a culture, even if it means your life.  But is it really interfering with a culture if there is no real culture to speak of?  Maybe, but the death of the crew would lead to a really short second season.  And I don’t imagine Kirk wants to be stranded on a planet where light rocks could explode under your feet.

It’s not clear how a small group of child-like immortals developed in such a way that they came under the care of a computer beyond their capacity to build.  It’s possible that they were left there by a more-advanced civilization.  Maybe it was a sort of daycare that was abandoned.  I suppose of all the possible questions, it’s not the worst to have.  It would, at least, make for an interesting novel or fan movie.

I’m also not sure why Vaal has it in for the crew of the Enterprise.  I’m assuming that the ship falling towards the planet was unintentional.  Vaal could just as easily have shot down the ship or sent the ship away.  It would appear that whoever wrote the episode was concerned more with the issues and immanent danger.  (I know.  This describes most of the Star Trek episodes.)  I suppose it at least makes for an interesting moral debate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 4 (Mirror, Mirror)

The idea of an alternate history is nothing new.  Several novels were published in the 19th century.  The Man in the High Castle had been published in 1962.  Mirror, Mirror isn’t even Star Trek’s first take on the concept.  City on the Edge of Forever and The Alternate Factor both used alternate timelines in their plot.

Here, a transporter accident sends Kirk, Scotty, McCoy and Uhura into a universe where The Federation, or at least Earth, is overtly imperialistic.  The Empire takes by force what The Federation would negotiate for.  In fact, Kirk had been negotiating with the Halkans for dilithium crystals when an ion storm hit. 

Kirk’s alternate was instructed to destroy Halkan cities if they don’t cooperate, which puts Kirk in a difficult position.  He doesn’t want to level cities, but can’t avoid it without raising suspicion.  The four crewmembers are able to get back at the last minute with some help from the alternate Spock, who agrees to try to change the Terran Empire.

Part of the reason the episode works is that it does what it sets out to do.  There’s very little filler or exposition.  The only real exposition would be at the end, where Kirk has to drag it out when they have only minutes to spare.  It shows what an alternate to The Federation might be.  As Spock points out at the end, the alternate isn’t really that different.  Kirk is able to refrain from many of his baser instincts whereas the other Kirk has no real incentive to do so.

It would have been interesting to explore that universe a little more during The Original Series.  It’s not clear if all of The Enterprise’s missions were the same.  I would like to see how Khan or Harry Mudd fit into that universe.  Fortunately, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise did visit The Mirror Universe, so we do get to see what happened because of Spock’s decision.

Only two things really bothered me about the episode.  First, how is it that all of the same characters exist in both universes?  I suppose, given an infinite number of timelines, that there would be one that’s at least similar to ours.  There’s probably one with an Enterprise that has an entirely different crew.  There may be one where Vulcans or Andorians weren‘t space-faring.

The other thing was that Kirk and the others beamed into their alternates’ clothing.  Not only that, they beamed back into their own clothing when they got back to their own universe.  It’s a concession necessary to help them blend in to The Mirror Universe, I know.  It’s still a little odd.

Overall, it’s a pretty good episode.  I’m glad that the plot was at least used in several of the spin-off series.  The Original Series wasn’t particularly good with continuity, so anything is welcome.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 2 (Battle at the Binary Stars)

I’d like to think that there’s a plan.  Not to life, necessarily.  I think life, in general, is random.  When it comes to episodic television, though, I’d like to think that there’s a plan.  With Star Trek: Discovery, it’s not clear what that plan is, yet.  The Klingons look totally different.  They have cloaking devices.  Spock has a foster sister we didn’t know about.  Oh, and Spock’s foster sister has apparently just started a war with the Klingons.

Michael Burnham is the foster sister and she did kill one a Klingon, although it’s probable that they were looking for a fight.  There’s this new wannabe Klingon leader, T'Kuvma, who wants to unite the houses by picking a fight with The Federation.   If not Burnham, it would have been someone else.

The fact that she was correct is irrelevant, even when lots of other Klingon and Starfleet ships show up.  Her plan was to shoot first, which Starfleet doesn’t do.  Aside from which, she also tried to mutiny, which lands her in the brig.  She escapes and does help the Captain try to take T’Kuvma alive, but that ends in failure, too.  Both T’Kuvma and Captain Georgiou die.  Burnham ends up stripped of rank and court-martialed.

This was the second part of the pilot story.  It’s enough to make your head spin, especially if you’ve watched all the previous incarnations.  As I mentioned for the first part, it’s a huge franchise, with all the TV shows, movies and books.  A few things aren’t clear, like how Burnham got her spot as first officer or why the Klingons look the way they do.

I felt that the episode was kind of weak.  Part one was the setup and part two was basically one big battle scene.  Sure, it’s an epic battle and all, but we’re getting mostly the story of how Burnham came to be on the U.S.S. Shenzhou.  (Two episodes in and we haven’t even heard from the U.S.S. Discovery yet.)

The episode ends with Burnham utterly defeated.  She has no rank or position, despite a promising career.  Even if she gets out of her life sentence, which she does, she’s the executive officer that mutinied and got her commanding officer killed.  She’s not going to have a lot of friends.

I have the first disc of Season One from the library, with a hold on the second disc.  Given that I’ve watched all of the life-action series and movies, I feel like I have great expectations for this series.  I know people wondered about Worf, given that he looked so different from the original Klingons.  I am willing to give Discovery a shot.  I can only hope that it doesn’t disappoint.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 1 (The Vulcan Hello)

Star Trek has an interesting history.  The Original Series was apparently not popular enough to get a fourth season, but it just made it to the point where the reruns could be syndicated.  The Next Generation was syndicated, which gave us seven seasons.  Then, came Deep Space Nine and Voyager, the latter of which was the flagship of UPN.  UPN didn’t last long after Voyager went off the air, but we did get Star Trek: Enterprise, which was set before The Original Series.  There were also the movies, which were a mixed bag.  Then, we got that movie reboot, which I’m still not fond of.

So, here we are with Star Trek: Discovery, which is supposed to be this big thing for CBS All Access.  Except, I’m not going to let CBS use my love of Star Trek to get me to fork over money for yet another streaming service.  I refuse to.  Fortunately, by local library has the first season on DVD.  Thus, I can watch the show and not pay for it.  Having watched the first two episodes so far, I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m not entirely satisfied with what I’ve seen so far.

The episode starts with Captain Philippa Georgiou and First Officer Michael Burnham bringing water to a dry, pre-warp culture without being seen by the inhabitants.  They manage to beam off the planet after a successful mission.  Cut to a damaged communications relay.  It appears the big hole in the middle of it was deliberate.  Not only that, but there’s a Klingon ship hiding in the asteroid field.

These aren’t the original Klingons that Kirk had to deal with.  They have ridges and no hair.  They’re the exact opposite of the first Klingons.  I have no explanation for this.  I’m assuming it will be explained later on.  Anyway, the leader of this ship wants to declare war on The Federation so that he might unite the houses under one rule.  It is a powerful ship and he does have a cloaking device, which I’m assuming will also be explained later on.

Georgiou wants to hold off on attacking.  Starfleet doesn’t fire first.  However, Burnham is in contact with her foster father, Sarek, who advises her to attack first.  Georgiou declines her first officer’s advice, prompting her to act illogically and take the captain out with a Vulcan neck pinch.  Before Burnham can attack, Georgiou recovers and relieves Burnham of duty.  We’re left with a cliffhanger, not knowing what the Klingons will do next.

I have a few issues with the series so far, and we‘re not even 50 minutes into it.  It seems like the show was written by people that had never seen Star Trek before.  It’s as if everyone took a look at various Wikipedia articles and just decided they could wing it.  I’ve already mentioned two issues with the Klingons.  It also seems like the Shenzhou was given a first officer that didn’t have much training.  (If I’m interpreting correctly, it seems like Sarek got her the job rather than having her work her way through the ranks.)

If CBS wanted hard-core fans to buy into the service and support the show, you’d think the writers would try a little harder for continuity.  To be fair, the first season of The Original Series was all over the place, but we’re talking about a franchise that’s fifty years old.  This is the sixth live-action series.  I’d think they’d have their act together.

I think anyone who watched most of the previous series will take issue with the pilot.  I am hopeful.  Each of the other series took a while to get going.  Even the movies seemed to alternate between hit and miss.  There are so many issues with this episode, but I am willing to give the series a chance.  It did get a second season and will apparently get a third.  I will admit that there are ways my issues could be satisfactorily resolved.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Tim Goodman always wanted to be a Pokémon trainer.  Apparently, not everyone is cut out to do that.  The Pokéman has to want it.  So, Tim became an insurance salesman.  It’s not a bad career, but there is a sense that Tim gave up on his dream.  We’re reminded of that when his father, Harry, goes missing.  Tim is called to Ryme City, where Harry was a detective.  Inside a room meant for Tim is a bead with a pair of distinctive yellow ears at its head.

Moments after seeing those ears, Tim hears a crash in his father’s apartment.  Armed only with a stapler, Tim confronts a Pikachu.  Specifically, it’s his father’s Pokémon partner.  The thing is that this Pikachu can talk.  Both are confused, as all Tim should hear is, “Pika Pika.”  Everyone else does.  So, why not Tim?  It could be genetic.  It could be that purple gas Tim accidentally inhaled moments earlier.  Detective Pikachu has amnesia, so answers aren’t forthcoming.

Both decide to team up, as they have the same objective:  Find Harry Goodman.  Detective Pikachu would also like to recover his memory.  Since Pikachu lost his memory right around the time Harry went missing, but that should work itself out as a result of their investigation.  The two meet Lucy Stevens along the way, who’s an intern at a news organization.  She’d love to break a big story, but seems to be relegated to getting coffee.  It’s perfect because Tim needs a local to help him out.

I don’t want to give too much away, mostly because there was so much about the movie that I didn’t see coming.  I know this is based on a video game, which I haven’t played.  The world of Pokémon is relatively unknown to me, so I was able to come to the movie fresh.  (I suspect that this is a good thing most of the time.)

I will say that the relationship between Detective Pikachu and Tim was great.  This is no small feat considering that one of them is animated.  The expressiveness on Pikachu’s face was great.  The coming attractions show you this pretty well.  The characters look emotive.  They look like you might meet one of them walking down the street.   The effect is seamless.  Justice Smith reacts as if Pikachu were actually standing there, about to hit him with that big yellow tail.  Even a minor breakdown in this dynamic would break the illusion.

It’s difficult to say who the movie is for, probably because it has to play to such a large group of people.  This is the latest installment in the Pokémon franchise.  It’s the first predominately live-action film for Pokémon, but there have been animated movies, an animated TV show, manga, video and mobile games and a CCG.  I think there is an element targeted at younger demographic, but Pokémon was introduced in 1995.  There are going to be members of the audience that were members of that demographic 20 years ago.

Then, there are also going to be people like me that got excited by the coming attractions.  It may not have been an overly meaningful or deep movie, but it did keep my attention.  I don’t know that I could see a direct sequel coming out of this movie, but I could see other in-universe features coming about.  I’m curious to see what those would look like.