Monday, October 29, 2018

Star Trek -- Season 1 Episode 17 (The Squire of Gothos)

Undefeatable antagonists don’t generally impress me.  In movies and TV shows, they’re difficult to write for and generally require some greater force to get rid of them.  The protagonists often have to amuse the antagonist, who could easily end any one of them.

When The Enterprise encounters a rogue planet, the find that its sole inhabitant is Trelane, who happens to have god-like powers.  He pulls Captain Kirk and Sulu off the bridge.  When a landing party goes down to the planet, they find something resembling the Earth, but from several centuries ago.  Trelane introduces himself as a retired general and the squire of the planet, hence the title.  He spends the episode entertaining himself and finding new ways to torture the crew of the ship until an intervening force rescues them.

I remember bring entertained by the episode when I first saw it.  It was the first time I had seen such an entity.  Part of the reason that it holds up to some degree is that Trelane is portrayed as being somewhat immature.  He can create food, but doesn’t consider that it’s supposed to have taste.  He fails to account for the speed of light in his observation of Earth.  He’s powerful, but not wise.  In fact, the machine he uses could easily be seen as training wheels.  Destroying the machine slows him, but doesn’t stop him completely.  (Trelane was said to be a Q in a Next Generation-era novel.  I don’t recall if any of this was addressed or not.)

I think the one saving grace of the episode was to have William Campbell play Trelane.  He’s able to do it with just the right amount of flamboyance.  He pulls off that child-like quality without appearing child-like.  According to IMDb, the part was written for Roddy McDowall.   His portrayal probably would have been similar, but I don’t know if it would have been the same.  (I don’t know if any screen tests were recorded, but it would be interesting to see how McDowall would have handled the part.)

This is probably the closest I’ve ever seen a story come to convincingly portraying a powerful being interacting with mere mortals.  Trelane doesn’t seem to have any specific ill will towards the crew of The Enterprise.  He doesn’t want anything from them other than as someone to play with.  The danger is there, but not the specific intent to harm.

This is where most stories of this type fail, in my opinion.  Humans pose no real threat to a being like Trelane, so how can they put up a fair fight?  Kirk is able to get the rest of the landing party off the planet, but he still needs the intervention of Trelane’s parents to leave the planet, himself, and to get the ship safely away from the planet.

It was still an interesting episode.  Trelane was someone who imitated without understanding.  It’s not enough to know what to do.  You actually have to know why, as well.  It’s strange that Q got to come back and Trelane didn’t.  It would have been interesting to see if Trelane had learned anything.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Why We Quit MoviePass

There was a line from The Dark Knight rises, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  If MoviePass had gone out of business still having offered it’s movie-a-day plan, it probably would have been remembered fondly.  My parents and I signed up knowing that it was unsustainable, although there was hope that some miracle would happen and the model would somehow become profitable.  Alas, MoviePass had to make so many changes to its program that it became more of an impediment to seeing movies to the point that it became almost impossible for us to go see a movie.

Some were understandable.  People were apparently using other accounts (either a friend’s account or a dummy account) to purchase concessions.  Ok.  I’ll grant that it’s a perfectly natural way to cheat the system.  Thus, photos of the ticket stub were now required.

There was also the limitation of seeing three movies a month.  I knew that there was no way I’d reasonably be able to see a movie every day, even if I could make it to the theater that often.  Still, it’s a major step down from 28-31 movies a month.  This was bound to anger a few people.  It was easy to see stuff with other people who also had MoviePass accounts when you didn’t have to worry about coordinating how many movies you had left.  If I wanted to see a movie one day and my father wanted to see one another day, it meant that my mother might be one over.  If we waited, we might find out that we wouldn’t have been able to make it to the theater on the same day anyway.

For us, the death knell for us was when MoviePasss started limiting the actual titles we could see.  When a movie was not made available for the first few weeks of its release, this was done to save money.  Hopefully, users would just buy their own tickets.  However, to have a rotating selection of films of their choosing without knowing which films we could see on any given day?  What’s the point?  There is a list now of the coming week’s movies, but it’s still difficult to plan ahead.  Plus, it’s difficult to get three people to agree on a film as it is.  Add to this the fact that you can’t see a movie twice with MoviePass and you could easily be out of options altogether.

Granted, you could purchase a ticket for one movie and see any movie you want once inside.  Since most people shut their phones off, or are at least supposed to, it’s not like MoviePass could track you or anything.  I’ve also never had someone check my ticket once inside a theater.  Still, why be bothered?

I will say that it was fun while it lasted.  I got to see 37 movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen in the theater.  Still, MoviePass could have done better.  There was never an option for concessions.  There was never a family plan.  I’m still not sure what children were supposed to do if they wanted their own account.  It does seem to have at least prompted the chains to do their own monthly plans, which may at least be a decent legacy, assuming that it lasts.  (My question is whether AMC will continue A-List after MoviePass is gone.)

When I first signed up, I would tell people that it was a great deal.  That’s because it was.  However, anyone that signed up knew that it was too good to last.  Now, it’s more of a hassle.  I’m curious to see if MoviePass will be able to turn itself around, although I’m not holding my breath.  My parents and I have quit, but at least I got to see these movies:

12 Strong
The 15:17 to Paris
American Animals
Bad Times at the El Royale
Black Panther
Darkest Hour
Deadpool 2
Death of a Nation
The Death of Stalin
Death Wish
The Equalizer 2
Game Night
Izzy Gets the Fuck Across Town
Justice League
Love Simon
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Molly's Game
Murder on the Orient Express
Ocean's 8
Operation Finale
The Post
Proud Mary
The Shape of Water
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Sorry to Bother You
The Spy Who Dumped Me
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Identical Strangers
Uncle Drew
Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

All things considered, I’m not sure what to make of the movie.  The movie starts with a man entering a hotel room and hiding a duffle bag beneath the floorboards.  (Even this one act is difficult, as he has to rearrange the furniture and move it all back when he’s done.)  We don’t know what’s in the bag yet, but it must be important.  After he finishes it all, he answers a knock at the door and is promptly shot.

Ten years later, several guests arrive at that same hotel.  Father Daniel Flynn and Darlene Sweet are the first two we meet.  Laramie Seymour Sullivan is next.  Them, Emily Summerspring.  Then there’s the clerk, Miles Miller.  He does this little routine about the hotel being on the California-Nevada border.  (For some reason, the California side costs a dollar more.)

Each of the characters has a past and most aren’t what they seem to be.  If you’ve seen the coming attractions, you know that the priest isn’t really a priest.  Even if they’re honest, they all have something to hide.  Even Miles has a past he’d like to forget.

The movie seems to be a study in contrast.  You have the hotel on the border of shady Nevada and sunny California.  Each character has a face they present and a past that they hide.  Even using Darlene Sweet and Daniel Flynn as the first two characters seems to be a choice in that he has the most to hide whereas she’s the only registered guest that never tries to hide her name.

The movie is enjoyable, but not perfect.  While watching the movie, I wasn’t really distracted by anything.  However, it was one of those movies that I started wondering about after I left the theater.  It’s not that any one aspect was lacking.  It was more that the movie never really seemed to come together.  None of the characters really seem to progress throughout the movie.

There aren’t any characters that I really hated or liked, and I find that I usually need someone to like or hate.  I can see that each character has at least one redeeming quality and at least one regret, but the movie doesn’t quite seem to make it work.  It seems like everything about the movie has to be a dichotomies.  (Some are more obvious than others.)

This is a movie you could be forgiven for not seeing in the theaters.  If you’re going to watch it, I’d recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Meet the Trumps: From Immigrant to President (2017)

I’m always looking for that one tag that will get a lot of hits.  It seems that while Donald Trump may not get me the most, I do usually garner at least one comment.  (If Trump appears in the motion picture, that comment is less than flattering.)  Meet the Trumps is about Donald Trump, as well as his father and grandfather.  I suppose that the comment section should get interesting.

We start with Friedrich Trump, who started out in Bavaria.  He did all manner of things in America, including running a brothel and selling hamburgers made from horse meat.   When he came to America, he did so without the permission of the government, nor had he completed his military service.  That meant that he couldn’t get his citizenship back.

He married in America and had Fred Trump, who took to real estate.  His big thing seemed to be getting ever last penny out of his property.  When it came to Eisenhower’s plan to build housing for troops, Fred Trump seemingly overbilled.  (When caught, he claimed that the money was resting in his account, so I think it was more than a simple markup.)

When it came time to pass the business on to Fred Trump, Jr., it became apparent that Freddie wasn’t cut out for the ruthlessness that was expected of him  I mean, he actually thought that upgrading windows was a good idea.  Who improves their properties?  Thus, the business was passed along to Donald Trump, future president of the United States of America.

This appears to be an episode of a TV show called The Passionate Eye.  It’s not particularly hard hitting.  There are no big revelations  It seems to give more of an overview of the life of the three Trumps.  There wasn’t much that really surprised me.  I didn’t know anything about the grandfather, but it doesn’t really surprise me that he wasn’t let back into Bavaria.  (I am curious about his business selling horse burgers.  Did any of the customers know where the meat came from?)

This is one of those things where fans of Trump will decry it as fake news.  Those that don’t like him will probably know much of the stuff.  It seems to show a lack of empathy running back several generations.  Take Trump’s father making money off of a government project.  Yes, that is how business is run.  It seemed to me that he was profiteering.  If you’re building for troops, it’s not the kind of thing you make excessive profit on.  It should probably be viewed as steady work rather than a cash cow.

You could probably get several documentaries out of this.  The grandfather is probably interesting enough to get his own.  There are enough housing scandals that you could probably get a short documentary on each.  This is about what I would expect from an episodic documentary.