Posted by Adam Wills
If you’re a Monty Python fan, you know that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. But if you’re a Jewish “Terminator” fan, you know to expect a Shoah reference at some point – from the nuclear holocaust of Judgment Day (part of Skynet’s Final Solution) to the paraphrasing of a talmudic teaching in the pilot episode of the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” (“And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world”).
The most conspicuous part of “Terminator: Salvation” is the film’s allusion to the Holocaust.
During a critical point in “Salvation,” teen resistance fighter Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) is abducted and dropped into a flying cattle car packed with other people who couldn’t outrun Skynet’s behemoth Harvester robot (think: Tripods collecting people in the 2005 “War of the Worlds”). Inside the shadowy Nazi-like transport, actors dressed for a Jewish ghetto bemoan their fate. It doesn’t take long for Reese to rally his fellow captives, telling them not to give up. “You have to stay alive in your heart and in your mind,” he says.
The coup de grâce for the overwrought Holocaust references comes when the cattle car lands at a Skynet facility, which resembles a train platform outside of a concentration camp. Giant Terminators stand at the ready, like tower-dwelling SS guards, as the prisoners are marched single file toward what they expect is an unnatural end. Naturally, one of the captives makes a break for a wall, only to be gunned down.
This isn’t to say “Salvation” is hackneyed (derivative, maybe). As an addition to the “Terminator” series it falls short of “T2” and the original, but it redeems writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who penned “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”
“Salvation” is set in 2018, 14 years after Skynet becomes self-aware and begins its war on humanity. The film chronicles John Connor’s rise from foot soldier to future leader of the resistance, which is planning an all-out attack on Skynet. But the appearance of Marcus Wright, a stranger from the past whose last memory is of being on death row, adds a wrinkle to that plan. After Wright befriends Reese and watches him get dragged away by Skynet’s forces, it’s up to him to convince an untrusting Connor to work with him to save Reese, the future time-traveler who will eventually father John with Sarah Connor.
“Terminator: Salvation” is, however, two different movies – a popcorn-noshing summer action flick, in which Sam Worthington’s Marcus Wright steals the show, and a character-driven sci-fi drama along the lines of “Battlestar Galactica” that features impressive turns by Christian Bale as John Connor and Bryce Dallas Howard as his pregnant wife Kate. But somewhere between the high-octane chase sequences and Connor brooding over a future that was written for him before he was born, fans will delight in the catchphrases (“Come with me if you want to live,” “I’ll be back”), references to earlier films (Connor hot-wiring a console, just like the ATM in “T2”) and the appearance of a T-800 prototype that’s a dead-ringer for our own Governator.
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May 15, 2009 | 12:22 am
Posted by Adam Wills
Less than a year after the original discovery, the Montauk Monster is back!
Montauk-Monster.com has published a photo it claims is a new carcass that washed up on a Long Island shore more than a week ago. After shooting photos and video, site’s owner Nicky Papers says the current whereabouts of the new Montauk beastie is being kept a secret.
Nicky talked with GeekHeeb about what he saw and where things currently stand with the carcass.
On May 5, Nicky said he was contacted by a couple via e-mail who claimed to have found what they thought was a Montauk Monster. Nicky drove an hour to the site in Southhold, Long Island, where he took more than 70 photos of the carcass and shot video:
Reiterating what he wrote in his blog post, Nicky said, “It smelled like low tide and rotten garbage. It smelled like s—-. It was awful. It really was nauseating getting close.”
He said the body—about 3 feet long and 1 to 1 1/2 feet wide—was bloated and looked like it had been floating for a long time. “It really, really reminded me of what washed ashore last year,” he said.
Nicky describes viewing the carcass in terms someone might use for Halley’s Comet or floor seats at a Lakers game. “It was one of those rare and special opportunities that you only get in life one or two times,” he said.
Much like Courtney Fruin and Rachel Goldberg, who were with Jenna Hewitt when she took the original Montauk Monster photos last year, Nicky believes the creature could be from the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Distrust of the facility runs deep in the surrounding communities, and some believe the Montauk Monster is an escaped genetic experiment.
“The reason being is just because of its proximity to where these three now-documented beasts have been washed up,” he said.
Since that first discovery at the end of July 2008, two more so-called Montauk Monsters were spotted on beaches – one was a carcass found by Christina Pantalone and another was found in New London, Conn., last October that’s being called the Clapsadle Carcass.
Representatives from Plum Island could not be reached for comment. But last year, Plum Island Director Larry Barrett denied any link between the first Montauk Monster and the Homeland Security-run facility: “I can state categorically that it is not associated with the work performed at Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). PIADC serves as the Nation’s first line of defense against foreign animal diseases of livestock by identifying such diseases through diagnostic testing and by developing vaccines to protect livestock from those diseases.”
Following the first photos, consensus among experts was that the beaked creature was most likely a dead raccoon. (Despite common misconceptions, raccoons are medium-sized creatures that can grow to 3 feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds.)
After taking photos and shooting the video, Nicky said the couple bagged up Montauk Monster 4.0 and took it to their Southhold home.
“From our last conversation, they said they contacted Plum Island, they’ve contacted local papers, and it was in a cooler full of ice,” he said.
But after going public with the photo and his story last Sunday, Nicky said the couple has stopped returning his phone calls and have cut him out of the Montauk Monster loop.
“I think they got really weird once this hit the media,” he said. “They’re not responding to my calls. Honestly, I think they’re a little nervous at this point because all eyes are on them.”
May 7, 2009 | 4:00 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
“Star Trek,” the new film directed by J.J. Abrams, has been with us in one form or another since the original TV series hit the air in 1966. After the show was cancelled in 1969, there was “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” the film franchise as well as the spin-offs: “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.” This is to say nothing of the hundreds of novels that have been written, or the fan-generated episodes and stories.
Jewish themes abound in such “Trek” novels as “Well of Souls,” “The Wounded Sky” and “Spock’s World.” Biblical figures like Moses and David are mentioned explicitly while Jewish themes are intimated in the movie franchise and the various television series. But despite Jewish writers (David Gerrold, Harlan Ellison to name a few) and numerous Jewish stars (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Brent Spiner, Armin Shimerman) Jewish imagery and mentions of Jews as a people tend to be fleeting or covered up in “Trek” films and shows.
Finding individual Jewish moments in a 43-year-old goyishe sci-fi series is no easy task. But we aim to please, so without further ado here are The Top 5 Jewish Moments in “Trek”:
5. Chasids in Space
A pair of Orthodox Jews pass by a newspaper stand just before the opening credits of the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” which features the Prophets showing Capt. Benjamin Sisko a vision of 1950s New York. In the same episode, the show’s Armin Shimerman (Quark) gets to ditch his Ferengi makeup to play a left-wing Jewish writer who works at a sci-fi magazine.
4. An Unearthly Shoah
In the “Star Trek” episode “Patterns of Force,” Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (two of the original series’ three Jewish actors) dress up like Nazis to infiltrate the planet Ekos, which has adopted National Socialism as a way of bringing order to their society. The crew finds that the Ekosians have implement a Final Solution to rid their world of the neighboring Zeons. Oy!
3. Worf’s Jewish Parents
In the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Family,” Jewish actors Theodore Bikel and Georgia Brown play the kvelling adoptive parents of Klingon security officer Worf. Watch about three-quarters into this YouTube clip and you tell me Sergey and Helena Rozhenko aren’t Jews…
2. Einstein—Card Shark
In “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the android Data plays poker with several famous physicists, including Einstein (who’s won quite a tidy sum) and the real Stephen Hawking.
1. The Vulcan Salute
Leonard Nimoy had to come up with a greeting for Mr. Spock’s fellow Vulcans, so he recalled a time when he peeked during the blessing by the Kohanim. According to Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, of TrekJews.com,“The actual blessing is done with both arms held horizontally in front, at shoulder level, with hands touching, to form the Hebrew letter ‘shin.’ This stands for the Hebrew word for ‘Shaddai,’ meaning ‘Almighty [God].’ Nimoy modified this gesture into one hand held upright, making it more like a salute. So, technically, the Vulcan greeting is not the same thing as the ceremonial Jewish blessing. Still, the resemblance is close enough to evoke instant recognition among knowledgeable Jews.”
And as a bonus ... one of my favorite Jewish Trek moments on “Frasier.” Frasier reads what he thinks is a transliterated Hebrew prayer at his son’s bar mitzvah. Instead, his Jewish Trekker co-worker has accidentally written it in phonetic Klingon:
May 7, 2009 | 12:08 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
J.J. Abrams goes where no “Star Trek” director has gone before by giving fans what they’ve wanted (for nearly a decade): Kirk and Spock in Starfleet Academy. This might just make up for that whole “Enterprise” TV series debacle.
At its core “Trek” is a reboot of the 1960s television franchise. Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci pay homage to all that has come before—like a sequence plucked straight from a “Wrath of Khan” discussion, in which Kirk finds a unique solution to Spock’s unbeatable Kobayashi Maru test. But the writers also wipe the 43-year-old slate clean to begin the adventures anew by providing us with a much-needed gritty edge that “Trek” films have lacked since 1982.
This new approach is tempered with more relationship drama (something for the 20-somethings and teens raised on “The O.C.” or “The Hills,” but not “Trek”) and the kind of action-adventure sequences that make “Star Wars” films fun to watch even when they’re bad. It also sprinkles in a little Beastie Boys for good measure. As the creator of “Lost,” Abrams knows how to take science fiction and shape it into a hip, compelling work that’s accessible for mainstream audience.
What we get with “Trek” is a film that is sexy and contemporary, featuring actors who easily wrest the roles of the Enterprise crew away from the original cast without resorting to mimicry. Chris Pine’s Kirk is equally smart and arrogant, but doesn’t always get the girl or win the fight. Zachary Quinto (Sylar from “Heroes”) plays up Spock’s half-human/half-Vulcan identity confusion by running emotionally hot and cold throughout the film, including romance without the pretext of pon farr. And in this “Trek,” Kirk and Spock are rivals on a variety of levels – from the captain’s chair to the affections of a female crew member.
But for all the film’s glint and style, it leaves you wanting something more in the way of substance. The plot, as IGN’s Orlando Parfitt rightly describes it, is “a mess.” We get a two-dimensional enemy with the Romulan commander Nero (Eric Bana), whose presence is merely a device to rewrite franchise history. We also never get the sense that the Enterprise crew is ever in any real danger – well, except maybe from each other, or if they’re wearing a red shirt (or a red high-altitude jump suit).
***SPOILER ALERT BEGIN***
The plot is fairly simple, despite time-travel twists: alter-kacker Spock (Leonard Nimoy), in his continuing efforts to help his ungrateful Vulcan cousins, the Romulans, is unable to save the Romulan homeworld from being destroyed by its sun, which has gone supernova (think “Superman”). Spock inadvertently creates a singularity (read: black hole), which sucks a menacing-looking Romulan mining ship into the past – to the exact day and point in space where James T. Kirk was born – and an ensuing battle creates a parallel timeline that is similar to, but different enough from the “Star Trek” we know and love. The Romulan commander, Nero, armed with knowledge of the past and a mining ship that mysteriously has advanced weaponry but no drainage for standing water on its bridge, begins a decades-long campaign to rewrite history by destroying the Federation, planet by planet, in order to make the universe safe for Romulans. (But won’t their sun still go supernova? – No, don’t think about the plot … bad… eat your popcorn, enjoy the special effects! Oooh, look, a bar fight!) Young Kirk and Spock, meanwhile, struggle to fit in and find their niche in a timeline where they can’t stand one another. So, it’s up to alter-kacker Spock, who has also accidentally traveled back in time, to encourage Kirk to work together with his younger self to repel Nero’s illegal space-drilling-and-planetary-destruction operation.
***SPOILER ALERT ENDS***
The film’s starship and battle sequences, by Industrial Light & Magic, are nothing short of spectacular. I had reservations after seeing stills of the re-imagined Enterprise several months ago. But the ship, when in motion, comes across as a passable hybrid of the 1960s Enterprise and the film franchise version. The ship’s disparate interiors are, however, distracting—the engine room looks like an oil refinery welded to a brewery, while the bridge is so polished and shinny that it could double as a futuristic BMW showroom.
It’s easy to knock “Star Trek’s” flash over substance, but the film can be forgiven for its deficits. After all, this is the first “Trek” film that anybody could ever describe in terms of being “cool” since “Star Trek IV” (which non-fans always seem to refer to as: “You know, the one with the whales….”). Abrams has successfully moved this franchise away from the geek-oriented audience, which was already dwindling with each successive “Trek” movie, along with Paramount’s box-office receipts, and opened it up to, well, EVERYONE!
Now that the stage has been set for the next adventure and we’ve got some of the character development out of the way, let’s hope we get a worthy villain. Klingons, perhaps? And dare I dream: a “Trek” script co-written by Kurtzman, Orci and Harlan Ellison?
On a scale of “Wrath of Khan” (best) to “Final Frontier” (worst), this lands somewhere between “Search for Spock” and “Undiscovered Country.” Sit long and prosper.
Also, given that this is J.J. Abrams – be on the lookout for Easter eggs:
• Longtime Abrams friend Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”) has a voiceover cameo, yelling over a speakerphone at young Kirk who steals a joyride in an old Corvette to the strains of The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
• When Uhura orders a drink in the beginning, there’s mention of Abrams’ Slusho brand slurpee-like drink from “Alias” and “Cloverfield.”
• A tribble can be seen on the desk when we first meet Scotty.
• Kirk’s evac kit features the letters and numbers “NCC-1701-D,” the registry number of the “Next Generation” Enterprise.
May 7, 2009 | 1:59 am
Posted by Adam Wills
The Macintosh was no exception. MUGs, or Macintosh user groups, provided new users with an opportunity to speak with folk who could expand their digital horizons by suggesting fixes, tricks or software. And while these groups still exist, the Internet has taken a major bite out of their support base. Many of those participating in MUGs today are the old guard – the die-hard Mac user 1.0, who remember a day when 64K RAM was a big deal. In an era where answers and support are a few mouse clicks away, it’s proving difficult for MUGs and other user groups to attract new blood.
This turning point is the focus of “MacHEADS,” a DIYer documentary about Mac fanboys by Tel Aviv filmmakers Kobi and Ron Shely, which is currently the No. 7 documentary VOD rental on iTunes and the No. 18 VOD doc download on Amazon—not bad for a film that’s been on the charts since its release in January, but has yet to be screened at a festival or shown in a theater. The feature-length film takes us from the earliest days of the Apple Macintosh to the moment when Steve Jobs announced Apple was dropping the word “computers” from its name at MacWorld 2007. (Today, Apple has totally withdrawn from MacWorld, reaching out to the public directly through its brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, the iTunes Store and its current Get a Mac television campaign – otherwise known as PC vs. Mac.)
The Macintosh was first announced to the world on Jan 22, 1984, during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. The commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, cost $1.5 million, aired once and didn’t even feature the product (save for an illustration on the heroine’s tank top). The Mac went on sale two days later, generating an enthusiastic following across the United States.
“MacHEADS” director Kobi Shely, who grew up without a computer, didn’t encounter his first Apple product until 1997, when he saw a large post-production Mac system at an Israeli studio. Three years later, while attending Hunter College’s film school, he bought his first Mac based on a friend’s recommendation (a shiny Power Mac G4 Tower, 450mhz, with an Iomega Zip drive). He enjoyed its ease of use, but would never have described himself as a Mac fanatic.
The inspiration for “MacHEADS” came in 2006, when Kobi was shooting his short film “Intervention.” During a break, a Windows vs. Apple argument broke out among the crew, and Kobi was struck by the Mac users’ passion. He checked and found that no one had made a film about Mac fanboys/fangirls—those people who look to Steve Jobs as a kind of father figure.
Sony, Harley Davidson have their devoted followers, but Apple affects people’s lives in new, personal ways, Kobi says
Kobi and his brother, Ron, who served as the film’s co-producer and co-writer, set out to document what makes these Macheads so devoted.
“The interesting story that appealed to us is that it’s a love story between users and Apple,” Kobi said.
“There’s a feeling of belonging,” Ron Kobi said.
The brothers traveled the United States – mostly along the West Coast—shooting footage of Mac fanatics talking about their love for Apple, from the DigiBarn Computer Museum to a mammoth lineup for the first iPhone in New York. Early in the film, the brothers visit sex blogger/tech journalist Violet Blue, who confesses, “I have never knowingly slept with a Windows user.”
In the end, the Shelys sunk $150,000 of their own money into the 45-minute documentary, which blends original interviews with archival footage of Steve Jobs, The Woz and Guy Kawasaki as well as news reports and past MacWorld keynotes.
The story the brothers found is one of a changing, evolving relationship between the company and its devotees, many of whom have been boosters of the product for nearly 25 years, even during its decline in the mid-1990s.
“It was important [early on] for Apple to get feedback from the user groups, and try to have a dialogue with them to have better products and better solutions. Today Apple is more about one-way interaction,” said Ron Shely, referring to online forms and e-mail.
Both brothers insist Apple isn’t turning its back on fans by abandoning MacWorld. Instead, they say the company is focusing on a 2.0 outreach to Mac fans, especially the larger mainstream audience weaned on iPods and iMacs.
“When Apple pulled out of MacWorld, we got an e-mail from CNET asking what we thought about the move,” Kobi said. “When we looked at the film again, we kind of got our prediction right. We talked a lot about that there is Apple and there is the user group, but that they’re very separate.”
For more information about MacHEADS, which is available on DVD, visit macheadsthemovie.com.
May 6, 2009 | 7:05 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Cable-access-a-rific: Zach Galifianakis asks the tough questions every geek would like to pose to Natalie Port-man (Funny or Die)
May 1, 2009 | 6:55 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Last night’s Hollywood premier of this summer’s eagerly anticipated “Star Trek” drew a diverse crowd, from classic “Trek” stars to Heidi Klum and one of the “Girls Next Door.” Among the J-listers at Grauman’s Chinese Theater walking the black carpet (red carries a negative connotation in “Trek”): Hank Azaria, Amanda Bynes, Walter Koenig (the original Chekov), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from “Superbad”) and Seth Green, who joined the film’s MOT talent Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Winona Ryder (Amanda, Spock’s mom) and Leonard Nimoy (as an alter-kacker Spock), screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof, and, naturally, director J.J. Abrams.
“Trek” veteran George Takei (Sulu) joined Koenig and Nimoy. But Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) apparently had a conflict and William Shatner was a no-show. (Shatner called from Kentucky today to promote his new comic on KROQ’s morning show) Anthony Pascale of TrekMovie.com said that all the living actors from the original series had been invited. He added that Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis from “The Next Generation” were there, and Brent Spiner’s tweets seem to indicate he walked in late.
Stars from “Heroes” (Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka), “Lost” (Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia) and “Fringe” (Anna Torv, John Noble) turned up, along with Klum, Kristin Cavallari and Kendra Wilkinson, whose audience Abrams is courting with this sexed-up “Trek.”
Nary a Trekker was wearing a costume in the stands, but plenty were sporting studio-supplied Vulcan salute foam hands (I didn’t have the heart to tell them it’s actually a Jewish priestly blessing). The fannish among the crowd put their sci-fi pride on display when they stood and honored “Galactica” guru Ron Moore by repeatedly shouting “So say we all!”
Director J.J. Abrams popped into the overflow screening (alas, I arrived 10 minutes too late to get into the main screening), grabbed the mic and joked, “OK, everyone, let’s sing along!” (Something Dr. Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris, who was at the event, would appreciate.) Trying to get all his thoughts out, the fast-talking, New York-born director stumbled over his own words as he excitedly explained to the crowd that his take on the classic “Trek” was one he hoped die-hard fans and noobs (my word, not his) would appreciate and embrace.
I’ll be back with my take on the film...