Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Freaks: You're One of Us (2020)

I really have to stop doing this to myself.  I see some movie or TV show about mutants and I feel compelled to watch it.  It ends up being generic and lame and I swear off the genre until the next one comes along.  My latest attempt at punishing myself is Freaks: You're One of Us.  It follows Wendy, who thinks she’s normal.  She has a husband and a child.  She works a crappy job to pay the bills, which she’s behind on.  She wants a promotion, but she has a horrible boss.

Add to this some homeless guy named Marek who starts hanging around the diner where she works.  Marek tells Wendy to stop taking her medication, which is a little bit freaky.  How does Marek know what kind of pills she’s taking?  Marek tells Wendy that they’re not that different.  If she wants to know more, she’ll have to forgo her pills.

Lo and behold, Wendy can throw things really far, whether it be a ball or a person.  She meets Marek at an abandoned park to learn more.  He has regenerative abilities.  The government knows about those with powers and medicates them.  Her coworker, Elmar, has the ability to control electricity to some extent.  He can power a light bulb like Uncle Fester or he can shoot lightning bolts at people.

From there, the movie doesn’t really do much.  It’s not said where the powers come from, but it’s implied that they’re genetic.  There’s a secret government agency that either medicates or imprisons those with abilities.  Yes, Wendy is dangerous, but it’s not nice to force people to medicate themselves, especially when the government is lying about it.

There are issues of free will and self determination at play, but the movie doesn’t really do much with that.  Instead, it seems to go more for the cool shots of people flying through the air and arcing electricity bolts.

Wendy is the protagonist, Elmar is the antagonist and Marek is more of the reluctant moderator/trainer.  Even then, the characters aren’t particularly well developed.  We know that using these powers will come at a cost.  You’ll be ostracized and force to hide your abilities.  If you want to live on the outside, that means the pills.

Oddly enough, it seems that the pills work equally well on everyone, although I’m not clear on that.  It’s possible that the dosage or composition varies based on ability.  I know that there are those that were imprisoned.  It’s possible that the medication didn’t work on at least some of them.

Which brings me back to my earlier point:  Not much is said in the way of morality.  It’s not fair to imprison people, even when they have an alternative that means giving up so much.  That’s not much of an option, either.  Both Wendy and Elmar don’t know what the pills are or that they have powers.  It’s not clear how the government knows in Elmar’s case, but Wendy is shown to have killed someone when she was a child.

There’s so much potential.  I don’t know if this was meant to be the first part of something bigger.  It’s also possible that the script was pared back.  I feel like it was a very basic story line, almost like something someone would do as a school project.  Yes, I realize not everyone has the bankroll of DC or Marvel.  I’d recommend avoiding this one.  It ended up being a waste of 90 minutes.

IMDb link


Monday, September 21, 2020

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 16 (The Gamesters of Triskelion)

I often look at old movies and wonder how they got away with such low standards.  I realize that times change.  I also realize that budgets were often limited.  Star Trek was no exception to this.  They had censors to worry about and a network that wasn’t too fond of spending money on the show.  This led to some rather unusual episodes, at least by today’s standards.

The Gamesters of Triskelion was one of the odder episodes, looking back.  To start, Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are kidnapped while beaming down to a planet.  They find themselves on a planet where similarly abducted people are forced to compete against each other while unseen masters bet on who will win.

Meanwhile, Spock is able to quickly deduce which planet the landing party was taken to.  He debates with McCoy as to the validity of his conclusions, but sure enough, Spock is correct.  Kirk bets the fate of his crew against his freedom in a battle and wins.  It’s a bold move, to be sure, but there are still a bunch of episodes left and they’re not going to be on Triskelion.

My big complaint is that it seems way too easy.  Yeah, there’s something about an ion trail and it makes sense that there might be a cloaked ship, but that could mean anything.  It also seems unlikely that a captain would risk his crew’s freedom like that or that he’d even be given the opportunity.

It’s also said that the remaining captives will be allowed to form their own society.  There’s no talk of maybe returning the people to their home planets.  Some, like Shahna, were apparently born and raised there.  I suppose some of the population wouldn’t know where they came from.  Even if they did, they might not have anyone that knows them.  However, there might be a few.  There was at least on Andorian.  It’s conceivable that there would be some Federation citizens on the planet.

My big question is why they would abduct three bridge officers?  If some lowly ensign went missing, no one would notice.  The series killed off enough security officers.  But to take three people that the Enterprise is certain to come after?  And to make sure that someone notices?  That seems very bold, indeed.  It seems like it would be wiser to wait until the landing party was on the planet’s surface.

This is one of those episodes where, as bad is it was, it might have been nice to see what becomes of them.  It might be nice to have an episode of Star Trek: Picard or Star Trek: Discovery where someone is from Triskelion.  Then again, I’d probably be just as happy forgetting about it.

IMDb page


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Star Trek -- Season 2 Episode 15 (The Trouble with Tribbles)

Klingons pose a danger to the Federation.  While there was no open declaration of war, Klingons were hostile towards Federation colonies and Starfleet ships.  Tribbles are more of a menace.  Yes, they’re dangerous, but they’re cute and fuzzy.  Menace doesn’t sound so bad, but tribbles do two things:  Eat and make more tribbles.  And boy, do they make more tribbles.

Both tribbles and Klingons come to a head on Space Station K7.  The Enterprise has been called to protect a grain bound for Sherman's Planet, which the Federation wants to colonize.  The Klingons would rather colonize the planet themselves.  That alone would be a problem, except that one Cyrano Jones has brought a few tribbles to K7, which leads to a lot more tribbles.

The tribbles pose two problems.  The first is that they like to eat and grain is a good food source for them.  The other is that tribbles don’t like Klingons.  Tribbles are like space cats.  They’re cute and they purr.  Klingons are a warrior race.  You can see where the two parties wouldn’t like each other.

Most of the episode is Kirk being annoyed at having to guard the grain.  Once again, he has to do the bidding of some Federation undersecretary of something.  He’s got better things to do.  I always wonder if an actual military ship would be called to do this and, if so, how argumentative the captain of the ship would be.  I suppose it would be in Kirk’s job description to help the government once in a while.

There is a certain cleverness to the episode, in that the tribbles are used to expose a pair of problems.  All of the major components play well off of each other.  Everyone seems to dislike everyone else to some degree.  Even the tribbles, which are friendly, do pose a problem.

It’s definitely one of the more memorable episodes.  It was used for the basis of Deep Space Nine’s The Trouble with Tribbles and for the short trek, The Trouble with Edward.  If I had to pick a few episodes to get you started, this would be one of them.  I don’t know if it would be on everyone’s favorite list, as it is a little goofy.  Despite the seriousness, Star Trek had a very heavy camp element to it.  However, tribbles have become a point of reference within the Trek universe. 


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

I was hoping to see Bill and Ted Face the Music in theaters.  I even went and rented Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Alas, theaters in my area are closed and I’m not paying $24.99 for on-demand, so I’m going to have to wait for the DVD release.  However, that’s no reason not to review Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

A few years have passed since the first installment and the Wyld Stallyns haven’t yet saved the world.  They are, however, entered into the San Dimas Battle of the Bands, which should start them on their way.  Enter Chuck De Nomolos, former gym teacher.  He doesn’t like the utopian future of 2691.  So, he steals the time machine from Rufus with the intent of killing Bill and Ted.  Just to rub it in, De Nomolos creates two robot doppelgangers to replace them.  The ghosts of Bill and Ted have to find a way to get back and still win the battle while repairing their relationships with their respective would-be-brides-to-be.

You might think that it would be difficult enough to win the Battle of the Bands, future or no future.  Coming back to life should be even harder.  They do end up escaping hell and besting  Death in several games.  (Traditionally, you only have to beat Death at one game to get your life back, but he’s kind of a sore loser.)

So, with Death’s help, Bill and Ted put together a team and win the battle.  In fact, De Nomolos’s intervention is exactly what they need to launch their careers and attain world fame.  So, we have a causal loop.  The future is saved and everyone has a most excellent life.

There are a lot of things about this movie that I’ve come to view differently over the years.  I had always assumed that Bill and Ted were really good at games.  They’re slackers, so they’d undoubtedly want to have as much fun as possible.  It never occurred to me that Death might have been bad at games.  Sure, he’s probably had to play those games before as part of a challenge, but it’s not his main function.

I also don’t recall noticing the causal loop.  There are a few jokes about time travel, like how the use of time machines tends to benefit the good guys.  They also use it to get more time to learn how to play since they’re still horrible musicians.

The one thing that got me was the name of the character Station.  It turns out that it was actually an artifact from a script revision.  There was a deleted scene from a police station that wasn’t properly deleted.  All that was left was the word Station, which became the two alien characters.  I spent the entire movie wondering if station was some sort of slang term from the 90s that I forgot about.  (Notice how no one uses bogus any more to refer to something unbelievable.)

It’s not a great movie.  For a sequel, it’s pretty good, though.  Like the first movie, there are parts that are there mostly to move the story along.  Bill and Ted can possess people because why not?  They get sent to Hell by a layperson condemning them because Hell is where they need to be to take things seriously.  They also get to deal with their own demons.

It’s not the same movie as the first, but I wouldn’t want it to be.  It does seem like a natural continuation of the first movie, which makes me want to see the third even more.  It’s not going to be for everyone, but I do find that this movie is a little better than the average movie from that era.  The pacing is full throttle and keeps your attention all the way through.  Here’s to hoping I can get the new movie on DVD quickly.


IMDb page