Sunday, October 6, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness Blueray disc release

         The movie itself is a four star mixture of top-notch Trek and mind numbing explosive effects.  If you like the modern superhero movies by Marvel and DC you should enjoy ST: Into Darkness for the heroism and drama.  If you’re an avid Trekkie (or one who slipped over to the supposedly more respectable term Trekkers) you’re likely to hate it or love it, or both at the same time.  In my mind, a disc at home is they way to see this movie, as you can pause and have time to take it all in.  There is a lot to take in!

The missing star for the actual movie is because true trek does not revolve around terrorism and evil vs. good, it’s about adventure, discovery, and hope, with of course unexpected hazards along the way for all the action and suspense anyone could want.  The heart and soul of Trek has always been the characters, and they are well written and very well acted, and true to their characters.  It felt like real Trek in the character moments, and that, in the end was what mattered most to me.  The techie trekkies and some other hard core fans tend to rate it poorly; there are some strange discrepancies in well known start trek technology.  A ship hidden underwater instead of in orbit, warp speed much superior to what the Enterprise has in a human-made ship, for example.

The 2013 Blueray release set including DVD and digital copy found on Amazon  rates only three stars because of how the special features are made available, with poor advertising. They listed some documentaries, "and lots more," but failed to have "lots more" on the disc. The most important features, in my mind, were omitted. There are no bloopers, no deleted scenes, and no directors/writers commentary!  However, after reading reviews on I found out that if you load the iTunes digital copy instead of just the Ultraviolet one, (or load both, it's surprisingly possible to use the code twice, once at Ultraviolet, once and iTunes) you also get "iTunes extras" available for load at the same time. I haven't finished loading yet because it's a huge more than 6G download and I don't have unlimited internet. I'll have to wait for next month so I don't pay extra on my internet bill to download it. Not convenient! I would much prefer they put it on the disc in the first place. If they don't put it on the disc, they should at least make it clear that more extras are available with the iTunes, but not the Ultraviolet download. What a mess of confusion and lack of communication. Perhaps they decided after the discs were released to add on extras with the digital download from the discs? It looks like I will be downloading the directors commentary, one of the main things I was missing. I had heard previously that commentary must be bought separately on iTunes, and other features were put exclusively on other physical releases at retail outlets. So to get all the extra material one must trade and share or buy multiple releases (unless the iTunes extras download included everything that wasn't already on the disc, I'll try to find out and post a future update). What were they thinking!! I want to be able to buy one neat, nice disc sets with everything on it!! It's cruel and unusual punishment for the fans to have extra material made that is withheld on each disc set for marketing purposes. There are numerous articles on this topic, easily found on the internet, along with streams of angry comments from frustrated fans. It's a challenge just to find out exactly what extra material is where, to try to collect it all. The people who planned this are either sadistic or idiotic. I'm angry on behalf of people who want the DVD instead of the Blueray but still want extra material, as the extras are only on the Bluerays.  It seems there is no disc anywhere that has everything on it. 
One other point is that on my system, with using the speakers that came on the Sony HDTV, the voices are hard to hear any time there's background music or explosions (which is most of the time). I use the subtitles a lot. Other reviewers have said the sound is great.
The digital copy has to be downloaded, but once you set up the accounts you need, Ultra Violet plus Flixter, or iTunes, it works. The instructions and process could be made more clear and convenient for how to load the digital copy. The Ultra Violet is a good idea, allowing each member of a family separate access, on-line streaming and storage. You can't loose the copy like you can with other brands if your computer crashes.
There are numerous excellent articles on the extra material issue, along with streams of angry comments from frustrated fans. as a useful list of where one can find the assorted extras.  Some have said they will boycott all the releases, but if you're not doing that, this is a highly enjoyable movie with a true trek feel at times, lots of action and beautiful or dramatic artwork.  On disc is a great way to see this movie so you can pause and appreciate it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Dizzying

non-spoiler review by Wendy Gamble

     From the opening dash through a dazzling crimson forest to the downfall of the destructive but complex foe, Star Trek: Into darkness keeps you suspended in space, oblivious to reality around you.  My two teens next to me didn’t notice I left for five agonising minutes, my spouse thought I was back in two, things were moving so fast.  There’s no doubt it was an action packed extravaganza of special effects and stunning imagery.  The familiar yet freshly mysterious characters were given some room to grow, bringing touching and funny moments.  However, the pacing was off, the plot not ideal, the characterisation good but incomplete.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review of Star Trek Into Darkness Poster

I don't plan to buy this, though I expect it will be collectable. I appreciate the work and the art is well done, but an image of nothing but rubble is not my idea of wall art. The symbolism of the hole in the shape of the insignia is perhaps clever but I didn't notice until I read about it, and connecting the logo officers wear (to explore and bring peace) to destruction, is not, in my opinion, apprpriate symbolism for Star Trek. The whole atmosphere of the poster is wrong for Trek. I want to see the heroic characters, beautiful space scenes, not carnage and horror.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Search for Sock

             Jimmy stuck his head under his bed, desperate to find his friend’s cat Ra.  The animal had been entrusted to him, and he didn’t seem to be anywhere.  Figuring his charge had slipped out of the house, he threw off his housecoat, grabbed pants from the floor, and started dressing.  When he opened his top drawer, however, all he saw was one single sock.  “How did that happen?” He wondered.  He was sure there had been two left after he’d taken out yesterday’s pair.  A cold fear went through him.  His mom would kill him, if he didn’t find it.  His dad had been a big star, and they used to have more socks and shirts than he could count, but a horrible man had shot him.  After that big bang, his universe had been a whole new thing.

             Slipping out of the house so his mom wouldn’t ask questions, he headed off on his search.  His left foot kept rubbing uncomfortably on the inside of his shoe, but he soldiered on.  The cat was nowhere to be seen.  Disheartened, he approached his old neighbour, who was eyeing him from his garden. 

             “Mr. McCoy, have you seen my friend’s cat Ra?”

             The man shook his head wisely.  “No, those are not easy to find.  You’ll need transportation to search far from home.”

             Jimmy nodded miserably, and slumped down against the garage wall.  He kept picturing the car keys hanging just inside the kitchen door.  He knew what he had to do; he was twelve, he could handle it.

             After checking through the window that his Mom wasn’t in the kitchen, he plucked the keys off the wall and sneaked into the garage.  The mechanical door stuck, so the car scraped against it with a painful screech.  He’d probably be grounded forever after this, but he couldn’t disappoint his friend.  Then he’d have to find that sock...

             Before he knew it, Jimmy had travelled so far the traffic was getting thick and complicated.  Busy staring out the side window for Ra, he didn’t notice he was heading straight for a garbage recycle truck.  At a honk, he slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.  He veered so only the empty passenger’s side was smashed.  The cans the men were dumping popped open, and out came Ra!  He’d got him back from the recycler!  Running over to pick him up, he stopped, astounded.  There, hanging out of Ra’s mouth, was his missing sock.

             The police were arriving, and calling his mom, and he knew he was in big trouble – but all he could think was, “Well, at least I found my sock, with my friend’s cat Ra.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 Universal’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, one of the “Islands of Adventure,” in Orlando, Florida, has some impressive features, but felt like a teaser to me.  It must also be an impressive money maker for them, with the plethora of goods for sale at every corner you turn.  After a quick tour, I was dismayed the whole place could be covered in a few hours, if you don’t count time waiting in line for attractions.  I was surprised there were only three rides, probably because my family and I had been imaging all the possible ones there could be.  There was the Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster, a basic one not too scary for most, a leg-dangling dragon chase loop-the-loop coaster that was quite exciting, and the main 3D attraction in the castle, moving cars in sync with video so you felt like you were really there.  We had imagined also, a spinning ride that dangled us from broomsticks, just behind bludgers, a large ride with carousel-like up and down and around motion with whomping willow branches weaving in and out around us, a carousel with elaborately painted hippogriff, dragons, brooms, thestrals, and a few stationary horseless carriages …  We could imagine an interactive museum atmosphere to the place, with buttons to push, clothes to try on, a buffet set up like the Hogwarts feast, and more.  In reality, we had a lot of fun, saw beautiful things, but I was left with the feeling I’d spent money to go into a park the main purpose of which was to sell things to us in shops, not to bring us a magical experience.

  When you enter the park, you can imagine you just hopped off a convincing replica of the Hogwarts train engine, steaming on a track.  It would have been nicer if you could travel on it, but it was fun to see.  You found yourself in Hogsmeade, but not quite a proper one.  The whole of Ollivander’s shop must have been flue powdered over from Diagon Alley.  Impressive height, though, to the shelves of wands, which were intricate and beautiful.  After a long line, we saw a demo of a wand choosing a boy, pretty much copied from the movie as if the boy were Harry, not individualised at all.  Of course then they encouraged him to follow the wand to the check-out counter!

A number of stores in “Hogsmeade,” which was basically a street, were just fronts, not open for going into.  They were fun to look at, with things like a screeching, moving mandrake in the window (that no one succumbed to).  Though it’s not “realistic,” it was really fun having moaning Myrtle carrying on in restrooms lined with sooty lamps and stained old stone in the Hogsmeade strip.  The guys had her screeching piped in too, I assume to be fair to the men and so we wouldn’t  have guys walking into the girls’ room all the time to hear her.

You could hardly move in Honeydukes candy store, or the other shops.  There was a colourful and tempting array of sweets to drool over, but the crowds, lines, and huge prices discouraged us from spending much.  They wanted ten dollars for one (beautifully packaged) chocolate frog with a card inside.  The whole Potter park was packed, with huge lines for everything.  I didn’t find the Zonko’s joke shop as fun as I could imagine it being.  Mostly there seemed to be cheap plastic made-in-China versions of things like snitches and sneakoscopes, and some standards such as whoopee cushions.  There was something labelled as the telescopes that punch people but we couldn’t try them out, since it was a real store instead of a museum-like place of exploration, to see what Harry and his friends could buy.

Luckily we’d forked out for special “Express” tickets, which allowed us to enterer a short line that turned a seventy-five min wait into fifteen min.  We had a lot more rides and saved headaches.  It couldn’t be used on the main attraction, which was in the Hogwarts castle, but our tickets let us take advantage of early admission to get into it before the main crowds arrived.  The only way to tour the whole castle was while you were in line for the main ride, so you had to move with the line instead of being able to stop and admire something.  You can’t just wander into the castle and have a leisurely look around, finding rooms and crevices and surprises, as with a museum, which I found disappointing, but there were elaborate and beautiful things to see.  A real looking Dumbledore and the three main characters talked to us.  They seemed to look right at us.  There were beautifully reproduced statues, including the one that should carry one to Dumbledore’s office.  The place did look like the real Hogwarts except for all the chains and posts herding us through on one path.  The moving staircases were omitted.  We thought there should be an on-site hotel made to look like the house dormitories though, halls we could wander into, things to find and play with.

We had a nice “feast” platter in the three broomsticks, tasty chicken, veggies and potato.  Since there was a wait for tables we didn’t go back into line to get desert there.  We found four pm a good time to go in for a meal with not too much wait.  It was a must-do experience for us, but our only meal in the business of the Potter park.  We braved a vendor line several times for pumpkin juice and butter beer.  The juice had a spicy apple cider flavour to it, and was quite pleasant.  The butter beer was available either frozen or cold.  The frozen was similar to a slushy with butterscotch cream on top, refreshing on a hot day.  The cold version instantly tasted like root beer, and the carbonation was more obvious.  It was an interesting blend of the soda classic with butterscotch, with a nice layer of foamy flavour on top.

            The other islands in the park weren’t nearly as packed, luckily, so we had a lot of fun in our four days.  Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the popularity of the Potter area, it really didn’t seem built for the numbers.   What was there was really good, but we could imagine so much more.

I was dismayed that our castle guides thought we were muggles, not new magic students.  Still, we wouldn’t have missed the chance to have a face to face with Harry as he led us on a flying broom chase above the castle, and see dementors and skeletons, pop up before our eyes.  It was possible for a few moments at a time to suspend our disbelief and just be in the magic.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Real Space Portals; Blurring Science and Scifi

   Imagine chucking trash into a portal to the sun to burn it up (hence losing the material to Earth, but thats another story), sending beacons into space to contact aliens, mining minerals using robots sent through portals...the possibilities are endless and exciting.
   With science sounding like science fiction more and more often, it's a challenge for authors to keep up!  Perhaps I should go back and edit my space novel nearing completion, switching out some of the space elevator transportation with portals.  Will people already writing about portals be classed as writers of science-based drama by the time they publish? 
   The lines are blurring, able to reach out through space even as they're written.

About Me

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I studied microbiology/genetics, then shifted to the more purely creative fields of writing and painting. I’m passionate about my work, currently an ambitious Science Fiction drama, as well as reading, karate, horses, cats, gardening, creative cooking, and my family.