Stargate Universe new episodes

SGU returns to SyFy on a new night Tuesday September, 28 2010. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Stargate TV series. But SGU is actually somewhat better than I expected. In the absence of Battlestar Galactica, I suppose you have to take what you can get.

At the end of the previous season, commander Kiva (Rhona Mitra) of the Lucian alliance had taken control of the Destiny after a tense stalemate. Who will survive and what will be left of them?

As stated earlier, Battlestar Galactica this is not.  But … all things considered it isn’t a bad series. What ultimately ruined ‘Stargate SG1′ somehow manages to make  ‘Stargate Universe’ more interesting. That would be the combination of starships and stargates. Two technologies which would seem to be contradictory premises to base  a science fiction series on. If you have the ability go travel anywhere in the universe using the stargates why bother with an arduous journey by spacecraft?

SGU utilizes the Stargate much in the same way Starship crews from Star Trek use transporters. This ability to explore “strange new worlds” helps the cast of SGU to maintain  a sense of exploratory adventure.

Nikitia – How did CW manage to mess up hot girls with guns?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Somehow the CW has managed to fail with a new series … again. This time with Nikita. If you’re not familiar with the title, it is a re-vamped version of the French Film La Femme Nikita which was already re-made as the film Point Of No Return starring Bridgett Fonda and the TV series La Femme Nikita featuring Peta Wilson.

I didn’t think you could make a bad TV series in which Maggie Q walks around in lingerie and fires automatic weapons. That should have been a fool proof recipe for success. You really should watch the pilot episode just to see the scenes I was describing. Then you should change the channel and deny having ever watched the CW. Continue reading

“The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking

World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking’s new book The Grand Design has stirred up some controversy by stating that “it is not necessary to invoke god…” to explain the creation of the universe. Given gravity the universe may create itself dynamically.

Religious figures have countered saying that Hawking has missed the point when it comes to faith and religion. Some have said that hawking has “a skewed vision of god”. Personally, I would say that  religion has a skewed view of both God and science.

A new York Times reviewer found that Hawking’s tone in this book as “condescending” and “impenetrable”. Considering the reaction he must surely have expected, this comes as no surprise. Religious figures have an unfortunate inclination toward condescension and ineffability.  Sometimes you have to speak to people in terms they can understand.

I haven’t had a change to read the new book yet. I’ve got quite a long reading list and it will likely be several months before I get around to reading The Grand Design myself. I will however post an update when I do have the opportunity to read the book. As always your comments on the topic are welcome.

I’ve seen Jennifers Body – who hasn’t?

Last night I was bored. I mean so bored that I would have watched just about anything. What I usually do in situations of such profound boredom is look through the newest movies available on-demand. I ended up watching Jennifer’s Body which must surely count as ‘just about anything’. If you haven’t seen it  I’ll spare you the trouble. A teenage girl is abducted by a cult-obsessed band and returns as a flesh eating nymphomaniac demon. General teenage hormonal antics ensue and along the way a few people die.

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“Rec” is awesomely bad

+Rec is a 2007 Spanish language horror movie which was remade in 2008 as the English language Quarantine. The two films are remarkably similar. In both the original Spanish version and the US English version, the film follows TV reporter Angela Vidal and her camera man as they document day to day (or night to night) activities of a local fire department. A routine call goes terribly wrong when the fire department responds to an emergency call to an apartment building where neighbors have heard an elderly resident screaming and fear for her safety.

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“Damnation Alley” is awesomely bad

You know I can’t resist an awesomely bad science fiction movie. I haven’t seen this one in a few years so I thought it was about time to suffer though it reflect upon its urgent warning one more time.

Damnation Alley capitalizes on cold war era fears of global nuclear war and features both Jan-Michael Vincent(Air Wolf) and George Peppard (The A-team). Despite the fact that both of these actors were big in 80′s TV action shows, this movie isn’t as awesome as Air wolf or the A-team.

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Skyline trailer – Stephen Hawking warned us (how bad this movie would be).

There is a new trailer out for the scifi film Skyline. The basic premise is that NASA sent a message deep into space, where aliens live. And they got the message: Delicious humans still available on Earth? Yum! I don’t actually know that the aliens in this film eat people but really, what else are we good for?

Seen in the trailer are many large alien spacecraft sucking up little defenseless humans by the thousands like a cosmic vacuum cleaner. The  fictional news reports used in the film repeat that Stephen Hawking warned us something like this could happen so maybe we should just leave aliens alone ok? By the way, did you know Stephen Hawking refuses to upgrade his electronic speaking voice even though newer more natural sounding speech synthesis is available? He says the ‘primitive’ electronic voice is how people have come to know him. Its a recognizable trait that people associate with him. Anyway, When Stephen Hawking says aliens are dangerous, you listen!

I was just thinking about why hostile aliens might come to our little planet. One reason that one of my friends my only friend suggested was resources. yeah sounds plausible but then again, if you could sustain a huge population aboard spacecraft capable of crossing the seemingly endless expanse of deep space, you’ve probably got resource management all figured out.

More likely that the entire universe views humans either as vermin and will undertake great pains to exterminate us at the fist sign of infestation; or alternately, the entire universe views us as a tasty delicacy and would cross oceans of space to snack on humans.

Now go watch the trailer before the aliens come to eat us all!

“Johnny Mnemonic” is awesomely bad

Remember the movie Johnny Mnemonic? It was a low budget adaptation of a short story by William Gibson. Even with strong source material, a capable cast, and a decent screenplay this film somehow managed to fail. I guess Hollywood and the general public just didn’t get ‘cyberspace’.

The film starred Keanu Reeves as Johnny, a data courier who transports sensitive data by storing it on an implant in his brain. When he accepts a job that exceeds his data capacity, he runs the risk of brain damage due to “synaptic leakage”. Johnny  must escape numerous pursuits and download the data before it kills him.

The basic premise of this film seems kind of shaky. Johnny uses a “ram doubler” to increase his data capacity. This film was released in 1995 so most computer users would have understood data compression. Remember using Pkzip on DOS? That much is certainly plausible but the fact that the device is leaking data because it is over capacity doesn’t make any sense at all. To date we don’t have any storage media that can arbitrarily exceed its own storage capacity just because you happen to have more data than it can hold.

Perhaps in the event that the user attempts to store data in excess of the on-board storage, the device would resort to “organic storage” and write data directly to Johnny’s brain. The side effect would be that the data might mingle with the user’s own memories and cause a stroke. Now that would have been very cyberpunk.

The film used unfortunate stereotypes for recurring themes in Gibson’s books. Example? The Yakuza assassin was like a bad cartoon character. Because some of Gibson’s earlier work is set in Japan, the organized crime happens to be yakuza. The local criminal element always filters though when dealing with the underworld. Had Gibson chosen Africa, would that have been a Somali war tribe instead of the Yakuza? What kind of caricature would they make in that case? Hey at least Henry Rollins wasn’t a kangaroo in this film.

The film had really bad visual effects. Cyberspace (teh interwebz) looked a lot like Tron era Virtual reality. That’s pretty sad. Gibson describes the virtual world of cyberspace as a “consensual hallucination” and “the matrix”, which makes it sound more like um, The Matrix than a video game from the late eighties.

Lame props and cheap sets also hindered this films credibility. Paintball guns were used as futuristic firearms. Come on, Really? I’m pretty certain that in all of Gibson’s work the future of guns was never a subject of speculation. Somehow a back alley in the urban sprawl looks like the food court in a Canadian shopping mall. They could have filmed these scenes in an inexpensive back alley.

I shouldn’t be too critical. I was so happy to see Gibson’s work on the big screen that I overlooked even the most obvious faults in the film. And it did have a surprisingly good soundtrack featuring:

KMFDM, Orbital, Stabbing Westward, God Lives Underwater, Helmet, Rollins Band, and more.

Despite its low rent set design and somewhat primitive visual effects Johnny Mnemonic has become something of a cult classic in its own right. If it were on right now, I would watch it … again. If you’re bored some weekend maybe you should add this one to your Netflix queue.
William Gibson