2013-12-17

Lies, Damned Lies, and Farmer's Markets

The sign you're about to see is an actual sign actually put up at a food vendor in Edmonton's Strathcona Farmer's Market:


If you need it explained to you how horribly wrong this sign is, you may just be stupid enough to buy lots of stuff at urban farmer's markets.

2013-12-14

Ass out of context

2013-12-09

Some human beauty from Santa Monica & Venice Beach

With it being cold and miserable, what better time to admire the finer things in life?

Presenting "Honey on the Avenue", "Honeys on the Pier", "Honey on a stool", and "Bimbo Photoshoot"

2013-11-15

STAY BAD FOR EKBLAD

As I type this, the Oilers are losing 3-1 with just under a minute left in the game. Another tough loss for the NHL's second-worst worst team [thanks Buffalo, try to stop beating teams other than the Leafs! -ed], the Oilers have now lost 5 in a row, their record officially becomes worse than the 4-14 Eskimos were this season, and Dubnyk against gave up three or more goals in a game. (TSN kept charitably giving Dubby a break saying the defense let him down: having enviro-idiot Andrew Ferrance treat his goaltender like a top lends credit to that theory).

It wasn't all negative: for about 5 minutes in the 2nd period the Oilers played like a team that actually gave two shits about this "hockey thing" that they are paid to play. Nail Yakupov scored, making his asshole agent happy and preventing the Oilers from becoming the first team since 1927 to be shutout in 4 consecutive home games. (212 minutes, apparently. Back in the 20s they never kept much track of these things, and Justin Schultz scored with about 2 minutes left in the Washington game a couple weeks back, so it's hard to know specifically how this home shutout streak ranks precisely in league history)

Yet the negatives, as they are, continue to pile up: more lacklustre scoring by the "explosive Oilers offense" that every season preview writer kept promising, the great Moscovian Hope got shellacked in Oklahoma City today, and Ryan Smyth continues to have the hand-eye coordination of Michael J. Fox. Yakupov gets a goal and instantly draws a stupid 4-minute penalty: players are still lazily skating around the ice, there's no urgency by this team on almost every play, and I probably should mention that since I started typing the Oilers have, indeed, gotten around to officially losing the game. Meanwhile...well, if you read Grantland you should know that they charitably don't call this the most depressing CapGeek page day after day only out of mercy.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I haven't attended any Oilers games in person lately. In fact, I know exactly which game I went to last: Oilers vs. Pittsburgh, January 14th 2010. The Oilers were winning 2-0 after two periods, and then Crosby stood on his head and knocked us to the dirt. That was the game, that was the precise game when the fans realized that the season was over, and the only course of action available was to tank completely and gun for the first overall draft pick. This was 2010, and Tyler Seguin was a top-scoring centreman who might save the team. But the other guy had the more appropriate name.

"Fall for Hall" was born that night, and I was there. The Oilers did indeed fall to a lowly 27 wins on the season, picked Taylor Hall first overall, and have had two more #1 picks and a #6 pick since. Hall, RNH, Yakupov...and I've never seen any of them play live. That was the year I started the rule: If the Oilers are over .500 on New Year's Day, I'll go see a game. They weren't over .500 on January 1st 2011 (they made a push that year but fell short), and then tanked in March/April and got another #1 pick in RNH. January 1st 2012 they sure weren't over .500 again, and cruised to an easy #1 pick in Yakupov. January 1st 2013 the entire league had yet to play a game...which means they weren't over .500 and I won't be buying Oilers tickets in 2013.

Remember the good old days of this franchise? Forget Gretzky and Messier and Fuhr. Forget Pronger and Peca and Roloson. Hell, forget Todd Marchant scoring in OT in 1997, and Janne Niinma and Jason Smith and Mike Grier. Remember the good old days of January 2010 when we hadn't been a lock to be last place in the NHL yet? It's the midway point of November and we've written off the season. With 21 games to go, for the Oilers to get me to buy any tickets between January 1st and December 31st 2014, they will need to go 17-4 in their next 21 games of the year. Stick a fork in this disaster, they're done.

RNH didn't have a good chanting name, but "Fail for Nail" caught on a couple years back. In the half-season they played last year, the Oilers couldn't compete in the suck prize with teams like Colorado and Florida, but now we're right back into the stink of things: poised to be contending for that number one pick in the draft come June.

It's a weak draft, just the Oilers luck, with no clear standout like Yakupov to choose from. The November 2nd snapshot of rankings is available (from an Oilers blog, natch), and Sam Reinhart still tops the list, with Leon Draisaitl, Haydn Fleury, and Willie Nylander still holding down the top-10 rankings they've been holding for 4 months now. But remember last year when overall #1 consensus Seth Jones fell to 2nd place in the rankings with a week to go? There's some room to move here, and one name that really stands out. I've never seen him play hockey, can't name his team, and have no idea if he'd be a good fit in the Oilers dressing room (or even if he'd be a candidate to play right away). But he's perfect for the Oilers franchise this year. Why? Because of the chants.

So join with me Oilers fans who didn't read the post's title, and let's all begin practising our mocking cheers now:

STAY BAD FOR EKBLAD!

2013-10-20

William Aberhart + Love of Sodomy = Don Iveson

Tomorrow is election day in Edmonton, and while polls seem to indicate a majority of Edmontonians are actually interested in voting for Don Iveson the Coward, the only poll that matters is the one on October 21st.

So before you go in there, read in the socialist coward's own words how much money he plans on spending:

I will introduce a new program called “Council’s 2%,” a goal for Council to work with city staff year-round to find $20 million in value annually. It’s incentive to continuously innovate and embrace ideas —such as switching to LED streetlights or smart bus passes — that improve performance at a lower cost. This should yield approximately $80 million over the next four term that we can invest in new infrastructure and maintenance.
One of the hardest things about watching people endorsing idiotic far-left policies today is realizing how few of the lessons from Yes, Minister were ever actually learned. A program vowing to "reduce expenses by $20 million" will probably burn though close to $600,000 before unveiling $1.3 million in savings...over a decade...assuming every hair-brained back-of-the-envelope assumption holds water. We've been seeing this for decades kids, Iveson's just peddling you the same old snake oil Don Getty convinced your pappy to buy.

But don't just turn to your father's generation, your great-grandfather was snookered once by this sort of salesman too.
I believe we must also look toward the future and begin to phase away our city’s over-reliance on property taxes. Property taxes are regressive; they don’t grow directly with our economy and sometimes they even punish those on fixed incomes and people who are unexpectedly unemployed. We need new and fairer ways to charge Edmontonians for the services that local government provides.
Of all the reasons to get pissed off at property taxes, talking about them being "regressive" is the biggest yawn-fest of all. The real problem with property taxes, of course, is that they aren't regressive enough. As a result, the number of people who pay significant amounts of property tax (or worse, are even aware they are paying property taxes on the property they rent or otherwise utilize) are very small compared to the large masses of young hipsters and university leftists who vote for screwballs like Iveson or Mandel. This means that Iveson can promise these people the moon and count on their votes: while throwing away (mostly, one presumes, to Diotte) the group who actually has to pay for all this nonsense.


Of course, Iveson The Coward says he has a different way, a better way. First though, I've talked about how the coward lies about the "infrastructure deficit", but it's worth noting what he tries to pull over your eyes here:
In the long term, we, and all Canadian cities, must evolve how local governments charge for important services and infrastructure.

Right now, cities are responsible for 60% of all public infrastructure in this country, while receiving only 8% of the total tax revenue.
The first thing that comes to mind is that Don Iveson the worthless coward, not happy with boosting your property tax bill by 256%, is hoping to get the chance to do the same to the other forms of tax that you pay the province and Ottawa as well! A socialist talking about tax hikes is nothing new, but how brazenly he makes it sound like there's all this free tax money waiting to be scooped up by his fellow idiots on city council astounds me. That money is already been misspent by the province and the feds asshole, they don't need your help misspending it on Boyle Street Coop.

Secondly, Yellowbelly presents a pretty brutal false dichotomy here: 60% of public infrastructure better not be requiring anywhere close to 8% of total public taxation, not when taxes are also stuck paying for your healthcare, your education, and a few dozen other things that I don't think various levels of government should be in, but Iveson the Coward does. Of the public infrastructure the City of Edmonton is responsible for, a good chunk of it is things like city parks which shouldn't be costing an arm and a leg to run (if it is, then lucky bastard has the first candidate for his 2% savings plan). As for the rest of that, it leads into my third point...

...Thirdly, whining about how much public infrastructure the City of Edmonton is responsible for would carry a lot more weight if it wasn't for the fact that the City of Edmonton, with socialist idiots like Mandel and Cowardly Don Iveson leading the charge, are wasting metric shit-tons of taxpayer money building infrastructure that the private sector should be forking over the tab for. From overpriced rec centres to ugly redesigns of art galleries to free hockey arenas for billionaires, the Mandel tenure has featured the money-grubbing little slumlord signing on council sycophants like Iveson to blow through hundreds of millions of dollars -- which would sure cover a lot of infrastructure upkeep -- building things either Edmontonians don't want or things that they do want but have been convinced it's the job of city council to pay for.
Any revenue source you can think of is better than property taxes. The ongoing City Charter discussions are a window of opportunity to raise this issue with the province. This is something I plan to work closely with the mayor of Calgary on.
Yippie. If elected mayor, socialist extremist Chickenshit will team up with the extremist socialist mayor of Calgary to convince the extremist socialist premier to give them more money. More money that this same premier has already shown she:
a) has no problem wasting on her own
b) has a funny habit of promising but then never paying.

Diotte has been talking fairly consistently about wanting user fees to be the better medium by which city services are run, and it's important to note that unlike Iveson's scheme there's a great costing mechanism introduced that, while not an actual free market, simulates it a lot more than Iveson sneaking up to Red Redford for a bunch of quid pro quo.

So other than the ever-so-clever scheme of just begging other levels of government for more money, what does Iveson have up his cowardly sleeves? Well, not a whole lot. He's just going to find funding somewhere, somehow. As I said earlier, this was the nonsense touted by William Aberhart decades ago: there was a "new way" that just needed to be found, there was a way to overrule basic economics and have all the money in the world to build as many areanas as we have billionaires uninterested in running their wildly popular losing hockey teams without feeder money from taxation. You just have to elect me, and I'll find it, I promise.

For those who's grasp of history comes from public schools, I'll fill in the blanks for you: there was (and is) no magical funding for these sources. There is no "better way". There is government services, which hopefully are as few services as possible pared down to the absolute minimum in order to minimize the impact of their funding, which comes from taxation. By it's nature, taxation creates a system where the haves (the producers, in the Charles Adler sense of the term) are the ones putting in the money, while the takers (against, courtesy Adler) are...well, taking it out.

Don Iveson is a coward, a twit, and he's firmly on the side of the takers. In Aberhart's case, when the Supreme Court and the feds (and the King!) smacked down his ridiculous ideas, he still tried them out on a smaller scale: he wasted tax dollars in an economy that definitely didn't need any more inefficiencies popping up unexpectedly in expensive and ultimately counter-productive social welfare. His one enduring legacy is Alberta Treasury Branches, which only survived by basically becoming a private bank...but not before inefficiently messing with the economy a time or two in the following years. Why look at that, one even involved giving money to the owner of Edmonton's hockey team. Finally, the Manning Centre for Democracy had to ride to Aberhart's rescue: Preston's father Ernest ended up running the province in a way that marked a steep departure from the Aberhart "free tax money to the poor".

One hopes we don't need Preston or one of his sons to ride to the rescue and rid us of Don Iveson. And at least Bible Bill Aberhart never allied himself with the sick antihumanist lifestyle of faggots:
Mayor Mandel was a passionate supporter of LBGTQ communities and the Pride festival, and as mayor, I would continue in his footsteps. Whether it’s by participating in the Mayor’s Pride brunch or marshalling the Pride Parade, I would be there with bells on.
On Monday October 21st, you can strike a blow against the takers and keep Iveson out of the mayor's chair. Seeing how he's allied with actual takers (in the sodomistic sense), there's no shortage of reasons to vote against him.

2013-10-14

Don Iveson and the infrastructure lie

207%.

That's what the property tax percentage increase has been in Edmonton since 1996, the last year that the city held property taxes at 0. When you consider that before the 4-year 0% era (where Edmonton was in a recession and didn't have the labour and input costs that they have today, which Don Iveson the Coward always throws forward when trying to justify his high-tax socialist plans) the property taxes were in the 4.5% to 6.5% (annual) range, since the building of the new City Hall, City Hall has increased your tax bill by a whopping 256%.

Why is this interesting? Well, as stated before, one of the reasons the Coward Don Iveson tries explaining why your property taxes need to increase further, and why his crew can't possibly do what was possible in the 90s and hold property tax rates steady, is that Edmonton has a so-called infrastructure deficit. You see, apparently the entire time we've been increasing taxes, we haven't been increasing them enough to do the maintenance that apparently is desperately required in this city.

This is, of course, why your tax rates have gone up. It has nothing to do with financial mismanagement, oh no siree Bob. All those roads torn up and rebuilt just to be re-rebuilt again a year or two later? That extra maintenance that was the reason your taxes went up before were still inexplicably insufficient to continue funding infrastructure enhancements today.

The quick question, one may ask somewhat cheekily, is why then the likes of Iveson the Slum-Building Coward are so anxious to waste even more tax dollars building expensive and unnecessary infrastructure in the first place? Why, instead of building an expensive facade onto the art museum which will now need to be maintained with expensive tax hikes in the future, didn't we just sell the damned thing and get it off our books? Why did we build Tallus Balls that will need to be polished so their unseen surfaces continue to gleam? Why are we building a billionaire a hockey arena because the one we have now, which seems to manage just fine and be funded in part by a nonprofit, isn't downtown enough?

Regardless, all you have to think of is the 256% that property taxes have gone up since 1989. In Iveson's vision of Edmonton, this is a pathetically small increase that doesn't properly fund his grandiose future infrastructure needs.

This better not be yours.

2013-09-24

"So you won a silly week's long event where the prize was one, single good max'd card and all it took you was a mortgage payment?"

Why I'm never going to be anything better than top 10,000 in Transformers Legends

2013-08-28

2013 Edmonton Fringe Review: Sigmund Freud's Last Session

As World War II began to dawn, Britain was tensed on the verge of war. Air raid sirens were installed throughout the land, the citizens implored to carry gas masks, and children sent out to the countryside to reduce the civilian impact on mass bombings of cities. During this same time the legendary psychologist Sigmund Freud (with help from HG Wells, Princess Bonaparte, and a Nazi official sympathetic to scientific causes) at great cost and near ruin was able to escape Austria to reside in North London. Here, his daughter Anna re-created his Vienna consulting room and allowed Freud to resume his work. Unfortunately, he only had 15 more months of life left in him.

In Sigmund Freud's Last Session, in the dying days of his life Freud calls on famous author and Oxford professor Clive Staples Lewis to come visit him and discuss a matter weighing heavily on Freud's mind: how a well respected intellectual like CS Lewis could be a famously regarded atheist one day, and an impassioned believer the next. This premise is a fictionalized sort of representation of what the PBS program about the two arguments side-by-side would be if the men actually encountered each other. As they discuss each others lives, take brief turns psychoanalyzing each other, and endure the shocks of the news broadcasts from the early days of the German invasion of Poland, they spar on matters of religious faith and the paths that drove each man to his unassailable position.

Both actors are well suited for their parts, but Randy Ritz's Freud steals the show and leaves Michael Peng looking a little weak as CS Lewis as a result. It also helps for Ritz that he so well embodies the Sigmund Freud we all know in our collective consciousness. The collective awareness of the personality of CS Lewis isn't nearly so strong, so it's harder to get a read on the character: particularly when Lewis is perhaps too often left in the role of the straight man to play off the much more robust and narrative-driving character of Sigmund Freud. "There's no escaping this, is there?" Lewis asks at one point while pointing at the (never once used) couch, during a particularly biting attack by Freud about his relationship with Jane Moore. There isn't, and while Freud gets most of the best lines and the funniest jokes, CS Lewis is the one who gets the philosophizing. It may just be because so much of Freud's attacks on religion are the same worn-out tropes that Stephen Fry has been falling into lately, the kind that Lewis so gently mocks with his note that "science doesn't know for sure what killed the dinosaurs, but I don't get angry when they give their theories". Stephen Fry, please pick up the white courtesy phone and prepare to lay down while some doctor examines what's going on in your head.

The play moves along fairly well, though the segues between the various avenues of exploration can get a little thin at times. The authors of the play had worn out the discussion on one point and wanted to move onto another, but couldn't find an organic way to get there. Once or twice was forgivable, but it was a recurring problem throughout the work. The frantic action events in the play (the false alarm air raid alert, the insistence of Freud that Lewis pull out his prosthetic) also seem quite unnatural, and remind you that you are in a fictional world.

Still, the play is well crafted and moves along well, with the weighty subject matter never becoming too preachy one side or the other, and as promised early on by CS Lewis, Freud had to argue against Christianity being argued from a rationalist perspective, not being allowed to fall into the tropes Fry and his ilk are always so guilty of. There's a little too much of the "oh and then let me tell you something about MY life..." that was a problem in last year's Woodsworth vs Mackenzie King play as well. Not all of us have to tailor our philosophies around specific events in our lives -- even if Sigmund Freud wishes it to be true.

The only other negative that could be said about this play is, well, Freud himself. He's something of an overplayed trope of fiction and while he certainly makes for strong subject matter, there are other well known figures who could parlay with CS Lewis.

Regardless, it's an excellent play worth seeing, and being a Fringe Holdover this year even though the Fringe may be over, you can still go take in this work.

2013-08-26

From Fringe With Love: the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival

(this post is "sticky" until August 26th. Scroll down for new content)


It's that time of year again! The 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival begins today, with a celebration of James Bond (again!), a newly redesigned venue (that I've already peed in), and a wide selection of interesting shows indoor and out from around the world.

As always, Third Edge of the Sword will be at the Fringe for most if not all of the next 11 days, with regular dispatches both here and on Twitter to help you have the best possible Fringe-going experience. This post will be your one-stop portal for the rest of From Fringe With Love, with links here to everything posted on any non-Twitter medium (though I may do a nice tweet wrap-up near the end, stay tuned). And finally, of course, as we have done every year from Third Edge of the Sword World Headquarters in Adelaide, Australia there is only one rule:

No fags.

Apocalypse Saskatchewan review

Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz review

Death is Bullshit! review

Moscow Stations review

My analysis of problems with the newly redesigned Fringe grounds.

One Man Lord of the Rings and One Man Star Wars review

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl review

2013-08-24

2013 Edmonton Fringe Review: Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

In order to pay her crippling student loans, Joanie Little ("there's nothing Little about me!") works in an independent coffee shop in downtown Toronto (the first sign you're in a fictional universe is that of course all downtown Toronto has is Starbucks and Second Cups duking it out for the last scraps of caffeine-junkied folks in the world's worst city), and dreams of something bigger. A huge fan of Jane Goodall, Joanie decides that she'll endure the mists of vapour being spit on her from outraged customers ("seriously, soy and lactose-free are the same thing!"), and try to document her life in the jungle of King and Simcoe.

For the most part the show works well, playwright Rebecca Perry carries her character effortlessly (this is one of the dreaded semi-autobiographicals, so sadly no points to be awarded here) and the style, where she part sings and cleans shop while telling the story of her life passing by and the characters that inhabit her world, is breezy and easy to sit through. Perry's style is part Felicia Day, part Rose McGowan, and part Meg Ryan and as she talks about the events that happen to her, we're drawn quite effectively into her story.

If there's a problem with Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, it's that she's not really the driving force in her own narrative. Too often things just happen, and she's there to witness them. This might have worked, particularly with the Jane Goodall analogy, if the analogy had made an appearance at any time during the middle of the play: it was at the beginning, and at the end, and then not much else. Sure Joanie worked on her journal, but if she wanted to study the Toronto gorillas properly we needed to be given that experience. As such, we're enjoying the story but at the end wishing there was a little more meat: kind of like the breakfast snacks sold at high-end coffee shops, come to think of it.

Perry plays the parts of those around her mostly though coffee mugs with the relevant faces on them, from her airy boss to his entitled brother: and the love interest in the last third of the play is appropriately enough Michelangelo's David (played against Venus de Milo): a granite symbol of the man of Joanie's dreams, but almost as motionless as her life narrative seems. Marco is his name, and he flirts with her through notes in the tip jar. His departure at the end seems to mark...the end of the adventure? Sadly, a little epilogue wraps up the ending that should have been experienced, and we see more of this fictional universe where Marco moves to Vancouver and marries a "beautiful environmental consultant" (which don't exist).

With a soundtrack featuring soft-guitar coffeeshop versions of hits like Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk or Zing Go the Strings of My Heart, Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl is an enjoyable light romp that will definitely entice you into a fun hour of light comedy, wishing you could have spent a little more time in it.

2013-08-23

2013 Edmonton Fringe Review: One Man Star Wars and One Man Lord of the Rings

Twelve years ago Prince George, British Columbia native Charlie Ross began performing One Man Star Wars shows, and the Edmonton Fringe was one of his top destinations. A dozen years -- and a license from George Lucas -- later, he's still doing it, and a decade ago he added Lord of the Rings to his repertoire.

This year he's doing both at the same festival, alternating night by night. I attended both the Sunday LotR and Monday SW (only one of them abbreviates well) showings, and might as well just review them in tandem.

The first thing to say right out at the beginning is that One Man Lord of the Rings (OMLOTR from now on) is better than One Man Star Wars Trilogy (OMSWT). As Ross freely admits, his Gollum is better than his Yoda and his Gandalf is better than his Obi Wan.

It's not just in the characterizations though: OMLOTR is a tighter performance, both more technically proficient (despite, or perhaps because of his long history doing OMSWT Ross seems often bored or unfamiliar with the material, typically making far more mistakes and breaking character far more often) and being better drafted story-wise (not surprising here with Lord of the Rings being something he watched entirely in his adult life, not coloured by childhood devotion to the source material). It begins with the exposition that would be explained to you if only you had bothered to read the books. Ross is wonderful as he goes from Frodo to Gandalf to Bilbo to Gandalf, moving his body up and down so seamlessly you almost forget there isn't a second actor up there. The pastoral energy in the first movie is captured perfectly, and by the time Aragorn has joined us at the Council of Elrond you're right there in with the story. Equally chilling is his portrayal of the death of Boromir, playing both the shooting and receiving of the arrows to the chest with awesome precision. Oddly, his portrayal of the Witch King versus Frodo isn't nearly as effective, but its hard to say exactly why. Once the Fellowship is on its journey and we've all enjoyed a good Matrix joke at Hugo Weaving's expense we switch to his powerful reproduction of the death of Gandalf (the Grey) and the opening scenes of the Two Towers.

Here is where Gollum makes his appearance, and Ross' version is very impressive. You can watch it on the YouTubes if you like. It's good that Gollum arrives, because that and his excellent portrayal of Aragorn discovering the hobbits survived the Rohirrim's assault on the Orc band is what helps you get through the Two Towers portion that drags quite a bit (as indeed the movie does).

As the combat starts increasing in OMLOTR it becomes quickly apparent where one of the problems inherent to OMSWT arises: in OMLOTR Ross is playing Orcs battling Hobbits and Men and Elves and Dwarves with some Fangorn and cave trolls thrown in. All of these creatures, its worth noting, have 2 arms and 2 legs and a head and a torso. Charlie Ross has these as well, so during the various fights and combat scenes you're able to see him performing as the actors (digital or 100% analog) did in the movies. In OMSWT Ross has to break out his "4 years of mime school" to play Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Death Stars, Ion Cannons, AT-AT walkers, AT-ST walkers, the Millenium Falcn, droids, and speeders. You realize how much of the original Star Wars especially was told through special effects: the X-wings attacking the Death Star is a long stretch where no humans move around: they sit in pilots chairs while their vehicles do battle, and Ross has to represent them while humming the music.

OMSWT is also is impacted by the fact that Luke is a bit of a whiner, and Ross decides to really overplay that aspect of his character. The problem you may realize is that Luke is the main character, and that means that we get to experience whiny Luke in large chunks throughout the show. Add in the (on Monday, at least) technical difficulties and the fact that too many of the jokes in OMSWT take you out of the narrative, and it makes the older work suffer in comparison with the newer one. OMSWT has its strengths too, to be sure. Oddly enough few of them occur in the first movie and not many more during Empire, it's during Return of the Jedi that the work finally gets its legs and becomes a fine work in its own right. Ross's Jabba the Hutt really brought the crowd alive, and his Emperor, while not on par with a certain 74 minute YouTube star's, is very good. By the time Jedi rolls around the story is going gangbusters well.

Both shows, it must be said, are actually worthless if you haven't seen the source material. In a way the big weakness of the shows is that the casual fan of each ("I think I watched Lord of the Rings" or "I haven't watched Star Wars in 10 years") is also going to get very little out of the play. Do you really remember in detail Gandalf's confrontation with King Theoden if you only saw the movie once in theatres? How often do you need to re-watch Star Wars to appreciate Ross simulating the canyon run from A New Hope? If you aren't really a big fan of each franchise, you probably should stay away. If you are, though, these shows are for you! If you can see both starting with OMSWT then do so, if you can see both with OMLOTR first that's your second option, OMLOTR alone your third, and OMSWT the fourth.

Oh, and spoilers: incest. A brother and a sister kind of make out.

Final word: If you get this picture then get your ass to One Man Star Wars and One Man Lord of the Rings

2013-08-21

Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: The Festival Grounds

This review isn't going to be about a play, but instead something far more intrinsic to the Fringe experience: the grounds.

As noted on Twitter, a large number of Fringe Festivalers don't actually see (or indeed know about) any plays. Don't ask me how they don't know: you'd think the 30 people an hour pushing playbills into their hands would constitute a sign. Be that as it may, for the vast majority of people who "check out the Fringe" they don't know that you have to avoid 172,000 plays starring that sodomistic lunatic Darren Hagin, or that you can change the name of the Catalyst to C103 but you can't make it even remotely bearable for an audience and wait isn't theatre the only thing they do there?

For these people, the grounds are the Fringe Festival, and making the grounds a positive experience for the people is the best way to keep them there long enough to maybe notice the big red bunkers selling tickets all over the place. Oh come on, you haven't noticed that? How about all the giant "venue" towers in front of those doors? Why are you people so clueless?

Anyways, getting back to the grounds: this year they kind of suck. The Fringe app promised me awesome newly designed grounds. The main beer tent is larger! New locations for the stages and busker shows! Every one of the changes they did is worse! Hooray.

I wrote last year about the curious lack of food trucks at the Fringe grounds. Well, the geniuses in the know took my advice to heart, because this year the grounds have fewer food trucks than last year! For those who didn't do the math, that means this year there are in fact zero.

Okay so Next Act is next door, but there are lots of food trucks in this city, n'est pas? And none of them setup on the grounds? Along Calgary Trail north of 83rd avenue is a vendor line, a perfect place to put a row of food trucks. Instead we have the same burger place that usually was by the beer gardens, the taco in a bag place that used to be between the hippie beads and the beer gardens, and then more places where hippies are selling beads and paintings and tshirts with bicycles and accessory scarves with bicycles. No food trucks. Is this the food truck people making this call, or the Fringe grounds people? Anybody?

Also oddly lacking is the Churros hut that was next to the south beer gardens, a topic which we're going to get to soon. At Heritage Festival this was bizarrely the busiest "country" of them all, the Churros hut. It's a personal thing, but I didn't get anything there since in 2 weeks it would be sitting next to my beloved beer gardens at the Fringe. Now its nowhere to be found. I don't get this. New Asian village is still on-site, next to the north beer gardens, which is decent enough, but I do miss the Greek truck that was there. In the old space occupied by New Asian Village is...well, nothing. Anybody noticing a theme here?

There is a couple bright spots: there's a German deli (to replace the missing Italian sandwich place) and a place that sells a variety of meat-enabled poutines. The infamous falafel hut with donair poutine, the hit of the 2012 festival, is still there. There are apparently expanded grounds at Faculte St. Jean, which may have some of our missing vendors (I'll report on that later in the week). But that's about it for the good news.

Two years ago there was a "sustainable carnival" in the north half of the grounds. I liked this, it gave me the hope that like the Edinburgh Fringe our festival was geared to supplant and take over the major festival (K-Days) it was created in response to. Now for 2 consecutive years it hasn't been there at all. Instead this year we have the "ATB Community Lounge". They don't sell beer (or, almost always, anything) there, so guess how many people use it. Yeah, probably pretty close to zero. Zero performers are also using the "performers only rest area" south of the main beer gardens which I promise you I'm getting to. The back parking lot of Knox Church isn't available this year either, which gives even more empty unused space on the north grounds. The street along Armoury is deserted from end-to-end, there isn't even an alternate stage up there this year. It looks, from all practical purposes, that the fringe grounds are shrinking.

I wish I'd taken a picture to illustrate this, and I might later in the week for posterity's sake, but was there any reason to have a collapsible set of grandstand seating pointing at absolutely nothing in front of Knox Church? And then have a busker spot right next door? The design of the grounds this year looks like something done by focus group, or perhaps in the interests of fostering greater diversity they had the autistic kid who was the subject of that nasty letter this week do the layout.

And now...to the beer gardens. The north gardens are going great, they have nicely matured to what we would like them to be, though I wouldn't mind the north fence going further out and/or incorporating a couple food trucks. New Asian Village is accessible from within the beer gardens which is nice. The "wine gardens" have been slightly expanded, but not to fill where New Asian Village used to be, and now they have no food options. If you're stuck with a wine drinker, you need this to be better.

We all need the main beer gardens to be kickass, and this year they aren't. The beer gardens have been expanded, now going all the way to the edge of the parking lot alongside Gazebo Park (and yes I know that's not its name). The fence is expanded a bit north too, now that the aforementioned burger joint has been pushed back to 104th street. You'd think this was good. It is not so good. For one thing, the extra beer gardens space doesn't really provide any more seating: there's a huge empty space west of the edge of the tables and east of the fence that doesn't get used for anything other than a single garbage can (garbage being garbage, if you have a can there's no receptacle for you but I just throw everything in there so it doesn't bother me that much). The table layout isn't as crowded in years past, but I don't think there are much for extra seats, and the close proximity to hot chicks was more of a feature than a bug anyways (they may disagree in the comments with bra photos iff they like). What did we lose? Well, food for one thing: the burgers may have been iffy at the place next door, but at least we could eat without leaving the drink behind. Sending individuals off on food errands doesn't exactly add to the party atmosphere. And if we the beer garden patrons lost much but gained little, we fared far better off than everybody else.

As a result of the beer garden expansion, the north-south traffic is now a massive bottleneck, especially during or just after a show on the main stage (and hey, that's almost all the time!). To make matters worse, if you're walking north the beer garden entrance is right there, so the security is busy telling asian women with baby carriages that they have to go around. It cuts off a natural pathway and is always going to be insanely crowded. Move the entrance to the east or north side of the beer gardens please! We don't have to worry about people finding the entrance. There's Grasshopper in there, we'll smell it out, don't worry. I've spent $200 on beer tickets in 4 days on the grounds, I am highly motivated to somehow navigate my way to that countertop where they always assume I don't know you need tickets which is getting patently ridiculous at this point.

I don't yet have all the answers on how to fix the Fringe grounds, but they are very very very broken, and this can help explain why. Step one, put the main beer gardens back to normal next year. Holy shit.

2013-08-20

Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: Moscow Stations


Moscow Stations is the legendary Fringe play based on Moscow-Petushki, which you can buy here in book form. The play itself is, from what I can gather, fairly faithful to the spoken word frantic style of the book. The play itself is famously tied to the granddaddy festival of the fringe in Edinburgh Scotland, and I figured it was worth checking out.

Yes, and no. The play opens up splendously with Clayton Jevne coming out to talk about wandering the streets of Moscow unable to see the Kremlin. If you've never been to the city, by the way, it's quite the feat: only about 3 different subway stations drop you off near Red Square, and if like our protagonist you've ever wandered along the Moskva you really have to try very very hard not to find yourself at its imposing walls wondering how many cameras are watching you at this very moment but still probably fewer than if you were in Westminister. Vanya, however, has managed to do this. He's an employed alcoholic in the Soviet Union of the 70s, the kind of chilling social structure that the infamous 99% would find themselves committing emo-suicide if they lived in even as they demand identical government policies. He was fired from his State job for publishing tongue-in-cheek individualist reports (about staff alcohol consumption), and finds himself aimless wandering around with a suitcase full of hooch and a dream in his heart.

Vanya, you see, is in love. His love, and their love-child, live in Petushki where Vanya visits every Friday. On this particular day, Vanya is very excited to see his lover for the 13th Friday. Thirteen Fridays barely put Vanya's girlfriend into the second trimester, which instantly makes you think either this drunken fool is paying penance for a one-night stand a couple years earlier, or maybe these Ruskies aren't quite as good at math as they're cracked up to be. Vanya tells of his troubles in the morning, those horrible hours before bars open but after the sun has voskres, where the mere suggestion that he might like a drink gets him thrown violently out of cafes. Fortunately for Jevne, his character has a preference for clear liquors that can be replaced on stage by water: the actor is quite clearly not Russian but does put a slight hint of slavic into his slurred accent. But while Vanya cannot ever see the Kremlin (so wait, he never went to St. Basil's either?) he is very adept at finding his way to Kursk train station, where he begins his happy journey to Petushki and his love(s?). It's also where we the audience start to lose the play.

Vanya tells tales of his refusal to pay the conductor, and instead tricking his comrade into forgetting to ask for a ticket by telling tales of world history. He references a lot of classic mythological literature, a bit of Russian but certainly not entirely, and delights the conductor in a manner that we the audience quickly tire of. By the time he starts getting into Petushki district, unfortunately, you've been having too much difficulty following along and the mind starts to wander. Somehow Vanya misses his stop, and/or gets off and then back on a southbound train to Moscow. Fortunately this doesn't mark the halfway point, and once he's back in Moscow the play gets enough of its energy back to take you to the final confrontation with agents of the state (in the book, thugs) who somehow seize upon poor Vanya and chase him to -- the Kremlin -- where he meets his ever-so-Russian demise.

This is a great play while Vanya tells of his drunken memories of criss-crossing the streets and recalling the drinks he must have had or wishes to have, and his faithful reproduction of the book's opening chapters is impressive. Unfortunately Vanya also goes through "History of the World, Part I" and the Soviets wouldn't accept Jews in Space.

Final word: Moscow Stations is a beautifully tragic tale of woe, a classic fringe theatre play that you probably should see, and a great portrayal of alcoholism. But don't have a drink before you go in, or you'll fall asleep long before Petushki.

Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: Death is Bullshit!

Death is Bullshit! is, quite simply, a quick little tale of how a retarded asshole slacker meets his demise. Now don't get mad at me (yet) for spoilers, this is covered right in the synopsis of the play.

The play opens with the lead character telling stand-up in the afterlife. For those who don't know, it's a little something called framing: the website that does sarcastic Enterprise reviews highlights the episodes that use this device, it's worth reading the bits on all of them:

framing episodes should be saved for something really special. In both of these cases, it wasn't necessary, and the fact that it was implemented was clearly to falsely jack up the suspense because the episodes couldn't hold its own.

That sort of covers this play, as you're waiting to see how the lead character, Skye ("they call me 'Skype' because I'm always on call") bites it. In the synopsis he's described as a lawyer, it's clear from the play that he has certainly not passed the bar, so we'll call him a legal secretary to be kind. He's a fan of 80s wrestling, smoking pot, and comedy. Unfortunately not only does he not possess any comedic talents, or any legal talents, he's also a horrible person socially as well. He plays games where he imagines having sex with random passengers on the bus, apparently doesn't notice when he's talking about people right in front of them (okay, I'll disgress on here in possibly the longest parenthetical aside in history: at one point Skye is on the bus with a girl who he had just finished spending an hour talking to earlier in the day, and cajoled into having him be an attendee at a benefit, and he decides to do a stand up routine about "the game" with her on the bus while she's right there and then when she confronts him he doesn't know who she is and seemed surprised that she could hear him, which really from any sort of storytelling point of view made no sense at all since we saw this same trick being used to apparently highlight his stand-up bits he was telling after he died, which as we all know he did right from the start), and has no qualms hitting on a girl as she's in distress and he's talking with her in a business setting.

Skye's sister (twin, though that's not particularly important) Beth is a real honest-to-God lawyer, though she seems to have gotten her own law firm or maybe taken over her fathers while in her late 20s? (The firm is "O'Brien-O'Brien-O'Brien") She's also in a bizarre sexual relationship (which may or may not be love?) with Trent, who is Skye's roommate and best friend. Skye's idiocy is on full display as he can't figure out why his sister is always over visiting and then sleeping on Trent's floor rather than in her brother's room. At later points of the play, even while they are engaged in what I guess is supposed to be hilariously kinky sex but is uncomfortably difficult to follow along even before Trent's character gets full-frontal on us (and oh long-time readers will be wondering, the women don't show so much as inner thigh here), Skye can't figure out what's going on around him. He falls on his nonexistent comedy to think they're doing some weird prank on each other, or maybe him.

Much of the relatively successful...not so much funny, but interesting to watch...aspects of the play are that Trent apparently is the founder of a company making crappy products advertised during infomercials (for those wondering about this review's URL). Beth and Trent do their own advertisements, and the parody of the style of these ads works well and again is at least interesting to watch. They probably should have tried to stick a couple more in, even if only the last one had any connection to the story.

The least successful parts all come featuring...I forget what the play called her, so I'll call her Alison. If you know what her character's name was, I suggest you forget that fact and just call her Alison in your head too. She's a prospective client for the law firm, but Beth (and all other lawyers in town) realize she's a toxic client not worth their time: her father was driving drunk without insurance and struck another vehicle killing the parents of the young family contained within. The family is suing Alison's dad, who must be related to Ricky Richardson since he's not in jail. Alison wants Beth to take the case, and Beth wants Skye to do his job, which is apparently be such an unprofessional ass that the client leaves. I'm not entirely sure this is a successful business strategy in the age of the internet, which presumably this play takes place in seeing how they reference smoking laws, where disgruntled clients can post a Google review and even the clients Beth wants may come across the horribly unprofessional guy passing himself off as a manager and then being a tool. Alison's character exists here only to push the plot forward, she's played much more straight and demure and not over-the-top until the end so she always stands out as not fitting in. She's apparently cool with Skye doing "comedy" at a benefit her family held to raise money for the victims of her father, even when this comedy was all about DVDA, seeing how even after that and the bus incident she still came back to his place. As the play reaches its end, Alison finally goes over the top, robbing Trent and Skye and then stabbing Skye for being a prick, getting into a fight with Beth, and then ultimately setting in motion the, oh, spoiler alert everybody, scroll down to the next bold to avoid...

...

...

...stabbing of every single character (herself included), causing them all to die and be reunited (to everybody's delight but Alison's) in Skye's afterlife of endless crowds interested in standup comedy.

...

...

...

okay you can all tune back in now.

Death is Bullshit is a series of fairly disjointed bits requiring us to find the horrible lead character either likable enough to handle despite his flaws, or horrible enough we want to see him fail. The actor is relatively likable Scott Malone but his delivery of Skye is so cavalier that he can't force you into one of the two required categories for the play to succeed. Too many segments seem to involve the writer Chris Cook to showcase his acting talents as Trent by having Trent like to pretend to be various weird celebrities being interviewed by Skye's Jimmy Kimmel (flip a coin on which one is less deserving of a big US network talk show). The play tries very hard to be zany, but it just has too many scenes either painful to watch or not interesting enough to sustain.

Final word: There are probably stand-up shows at this year's fringe with a less engaging plot and less funny jokes, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should sit in the hot C103 for this plotted attempt at theatre sports.

2013-08-19

Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz


Edmonton's finally getting its "new arena" that HBK Sports assures us we need immediately because our old arena -- built by a certain HBK Sports -- is a collapsing pile of shit despite being about a third of the age of Wrigley Field and three thousandths the age of the Sphinx. Some people are happy, some people are angry, some people are creative.

I'm not sure which category the minds behind Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz fall into, but I'm pretty sure its not the last one.

The play opens up as Daryl Katz is working on his Edmonton promotional video -- yes, DK himself exists as a character. Not just a one-note gag either, but one of the primary characters of the piece. He's got his roughly banal corporate-approved promotional video, the one you'll remember as how his bottom-placed team kept talking optimistically about the future. This leads us into a set of skits apparently taking light-hearted pokes at our city. At the end of each skit, you'll realize the joke (or on special occasion, jokes) that they wanted to tell, and then think in awe how long it took them to set it up.

Take the skit about a snotty Toronto art critic coming to see an art exhibit at the Alberta Toilet-Shaped-Deathtra--oh, that's an art gallery you say? Who knew? Anyways, the only way the critic could be lured into the Edmonton backwater is a chance to meet the elusive artist. Unfortunately the artist himself never was contacted or agreed to do this, so the art critic is about to be disappointed. In a gag straight out of Three's Company, or at least out of Three's a Crowd based on its execution, a homeless drunk gets past security, and in a panic the curator tries passing him off as the artist. The ruse is horribly easy to see through, but the critic literally doesn't see through it until just before the end, where the most realistic part of the switcheroo is taking place. The end joke is of course that the drunk really was the artist, and there's a really good arts graduate bit that would have been far more funny if this situation hadn't been going on for eight cringe-inducing minutes beforehand.

The skit where Katz' videographer and his wife have to host their snobby relations from Calgary who aren't impressed by the Talus Balls or the proposed beach at Hawreluk Park falls prey to the same problems. There are a few good gags of one-upmanship between the cities but most of the jokes aren't that funny (with one exception) and the shrill unprofessional delivery makes you hope that somebody from a cool city like Seattle or Calcutta shows up and smacks both of them around. It just keeps going on, with a bit of forced characterization thrown in (its not an analogy if you don't tie it into anything, guys), for a few jokes.

Even that seems a plus compared to the scene where Daryl Katz has to get a prostate exam. You're forced to sit threw the silly circumstance (he apparently "has to" get it because he's switching his health insurance provider which I'm sure is a concern for lots of billionaires who own their own goddamned chain of pharmacies), and watch as he tries to bribe his way out of the exam before a female nurse enthusiastically shoves her finger up his ass. Beyond the fact that the gag falls flat in front of an audience half of whom probably enjoy sticking things up their ass to begin with, it's a surprisingly mean-spirited and empty scene. The only enjoyment we're supposed to get out of this is that we watch a guy a lot of us probably don't like being humiliated in front of an audience (in the sense, I suppose, that prostate exams are extremely humiliating even though millions of men willingly sign up for them because they save our fucking lives). There isn't really a joke there, you're just supposed to like seeing a guy get his comeuppance.

Where the play really goes off the rails, and trust me the above skits were pretty off to begin with, is when the Stephen Mandel character appears. Unlike DK, whom the playwrights had no difficulty trashing, they couldn't find a single thing unkind to say about the sleazy little Jewish slumlord who blows taxpayer money on white elephant projects in order to help his buddies in the property development sector, and who has a temper shorter than the nose on somebody-other-than-his face. Mandel gets such a smooth ride in this play that President Monkey would watch this with Chris Matthews and ask him why he couldn't say such nice things as this. All Mandel gets used for is to be the setup for a lot of lame puns ("handlebars", "Mandeltory") and the briefest of -- I think? -- rips on this Make Something Edmonton campaign. I'm not sure if this play received grant money from the program (which, if so, should kill the funding for it immediately), or just thought it was awesome, or thought that it was a silly name for something they were otherwise in favour for. Instead they name-drop the program regularly and then grin at the audience. When Kevin Smith does this, we at least get the decency of something relatively straightforward where its not open to about 600 different interpretations, and the author's voice appears at some point in the production.

Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz features a couple of quickly forgettable musical numbers, uninspiring rips and gentle nudges on the city, and just for fun some anti-Diotte and pro-useless coward Don Iveson propaganda. They even manage to fit in a "Ralph Klein throws money at homeless people" joke which not only reminds us that for liberals the entire Klein era begins and ends on that day where he merely yelled at a guy for somehow still being homeless while taking advantage of provincial programs Ralph paid for, but also was highly inappropriate because RALPH KLEIN TOTALLY DIED THIS YEAR. Martok came close to heckling at that point.

We missed our chance, but you haven't missed yours. You too can go to this play and yell out "TOO SOON!" when they try passing off a third rate Ralph Klein joke as witty humour. It would probably be the most fun any attendee of this work has all fringe.

Final word: You won't love Love, Hate, and Daryl Katz but you'll probably hate it, and you'll definitely katz it. I don't even know what that means.

2013-08-18

Edmonton 2013 Fringe Review: Apocalypse Saskatchewan

Apocalypse Saskatchewan is the story of how three old retirees in small town Saskatchewan cope with a zombie outbreak.

Sorry, I was maybe a little loose with the facts there, that sentence was basically a synopsis of the line in your fringe program. Apocalypse Saskatchewan is actually about three confused old men who sit in a coffee shop, deliver the same 10-15 lines of dialogue over and over again, and try to make it look like there's a plot when there really isn't.

Apocalypse Saskatchewan [hey fringe authors, can you please make plays with words that aren't so easy to misspell? This review is my own personal apocalypse. -ed] opens in a small town coffee shop as Cliff and Bill sit talking about how quiet things are, the weather, etc. etc. It's your very typical small town small talk, and it seems like the talk about how the town is slowly dying and things are even slower than usual is the setup for a stealth zombie apocalypse plot.

Spoilers: it isn't, and there isn't. When sort-of-wheelchair-bound Charlie shows up the plot gets underway, as the story weaves the mysterious explosion at Charlie's house, a new superbug hitting Toronto, weird slow-moving kids, and the decline of the town together to...no, sorry, this is what the playwrights thought again. None of these things ever happened. Well, okay, the story referenced them, but there wasn't much in the way of a tie-in. First Charlie thinks the Middle Eastern gas employee did some terrorism -- one of the few good lines, when he learns the guy was actually born in Canada, he says "it's that home grown terrorism. I mean, he did terrorism to my home -- then thinks the Germans are trying to kill him because of his past in WWII. Cliff just blames the government for everything, and in what you'd like to think is a nod to Bush Derangement Syndrome but really is just lazy writing he blames them for both being incompetent and simultaneously chillingly well run. Bill literally does nothing in this play but say that when he was mayor none of these bad things happened. No, I'm serious, I think that's his entire dialogue.

When the guys finally realize the house explosion was caused by the same Toronto zombie-creating superbug that zombie-king Lloyd Robertson was trying to warn them about (no, don't ask, it'll just make your brain hurt), they spring into action, fortifying the Winchester -- well no, the coffee shop, but you should probably all know what I'm talking about -- and planning their bold move to drive through town clearing out all the zombies. They try a bit of slapstick here which doesn't really work, and ends the next morning as Cliff's daughter, who owns the coffee shop, comes in to scream at them for being ridiculous and for making a mess of her shop.

The premise for this play sounded promising -- The Waking Dead meets Corner Gas -- but the execution was brutal. The actor who played Cliff was really good, looking and sounding sort of Gordon Pincent-y. Charlie did some good acting, but the actor flubbed a huge number of his lines. Bill and the girl were probably okay, but were given so little of quality to work with its really hard to make a judgement call.

Having a zombie apocalypse striking a dying rural town while the old men who drink coffee all day watch and react to the happenstance would have been a really cool setup, but instead we never got that. We got late-run Friends style jokes, where we're just supposed to hear the catchphrases and fill in the rest, one good performance and one passable performance and two roles where you couldn't tell, and a script that had no tension, no focus, and no real creativity.

Finally, a few things that struck me. First off, what's with the Saskatchewan love for Stephane Dion? This play has a whole segment devoted to him, and then he's prominently on the wall in the Shit Saskatchewinians Say video. That really makes no sense whatsoever. Secondly, when it turns out Charlie has a history of accidentally blowing things up, and Clifford has a history of screwing things up, why on earth would any of these three assume the zombie hordes based on insanely flimsy evidence and knowing their own history like this? It would be like me claiming to my family and friends that I was slashed on the palm in a bar fight. I don't get in many bar fights. I do have a bad habit of playing with knives and cutting my hand. This play ended up being as if I got everybody I know in a frenzy over finding the asshole who slashed my hand. Finally, why are these three guys so in the know about zombies anyways? The zombie craze is literally less than a decade old. Night of the Living Dead was in 1968, meaning that a 70-something today would have been already in his mid-to-late-20s when that movie came out, and in his 40 when Dawn of the Dead came out -- not exactly the prime demographic for picking up the cultural significance.

Final word: You'd probably have more fun actually just sitting in a small-town coffee shop.

2013-08-15

Post #2000 Baby!


Eight years in, Third Edge of the Sword continuing as your one-stop shop for all your internettin' needs.

2013-07-03

I knew it!


It all makes perfect sense now...

2013-06-16

"He tasks me, and I shall have him. I'll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom and round perdition's flames before I give him up!"


This movie begins with Spock literally flaming.

I wasn't a huge fan of 2009's Star Trek reboot, as I'm sure I have mentioned once or twice on this blog [the subject actually hasn't come up -ed]. As a fun aside, count how many times during that film a character literally holds onto an edge by their fingertips after almost falling off. Here's a hint, it happens to James T. Kirk three times alone. I actually never saw it in regular theatres, catching it in the cheap cinemas which may not even exist anymore. This one I saw opening weekend in all of its 3-D glory. I should have written this right away and saved you all the horrors of actually watching it as well. Sorry about that.

The first thing to note about Star Trek Into Darkness is that there's a fine line between paying a loving homage and blatently ripping off. For example, Star Trek Nemesis thought it was paying loving homage to The Wrath of Khan but in reality had slid across that line into blatent ripoff. When I saw Nemesis on opening weekend, while Shinzon watched the Enterprise back off while unfurling his ship's superweapon I cried out in my best Ricardo Montalban "No...you can't get away...from hell's heart I stab at thee. For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee". The audience exploded in laughter, realizing at that moment why they had felt this moment oddly familiar.

Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't just rip off Wrath of Khan, there are so many lines from that film in this one that I watched the credits at the end wondering if Nicolas Meyer received a writing credit for the screenplay. [he didn't, by the way. Nicolas, call Third Edge of the Sword World Headquarters for any assistance you may require on legal advice. -ed] I suppose the first spoiler we should drop here is that Khan himself is actually in the movie.

I had wondered about that one actually, about 6 minutes after watching Star Trek 2009 and finally coming to grips with the massive disgusting continuity destruction it enabled for this wacky high-energy rendition I wondered how, if at all, they would bring Khan into the franchise. Part of me idly wondered if they'd actually blow their Khan load (calm down, Zachary Quinto, I didn't mean that literally) on the second movie. I instantly discounted that silly possibility however as surely they wouldn't be so desperate for a strong villain so quickly. Yep, they were.

But I want to deal with the Khan bit a little later. Let's go back to FaggotSpock and his flaming volcano adventure. Basically this is supposed to be the wacky escapades of our lovable crew as they save a primitive culture from a volcano without violating the Prime Directive. In the big exciting conclusion, NCC-1701 rises up from beheath the waves and...no, I'm serious. That actually happened. Not only is this Enterprise apparently capable of atmospheric flight but also able to maneuver around underwater even though its made explicit by Scotty that this isn't something she was designed for. Did it have propellers or something? There was a pretty decent original Trek novel where the NCC-1701 visited a waterworld and they had to use a special shuttlecraft that had been designed for both atmospheric and submersible actions, and then when something bad happened to the shuttle and they were paralyzed you got the dramatic tension that's only possible with the assumption starships can't float. You don't even have to go back to the novels: remember All Tomorrow's Yesterdays? That original episode where the Enterprise ended up in 1969 Earth and had trouble getting out of the atmosphere?

In the end, Kirk sacrifices the Prime Directive to save FaggotSpock, who they gets all prissy at him for doing so. Apparently FaggotSpock had come to terms with his impending death (they did show him in the volcano getting very zen) and was totally willing to die to preserve the Prime Directive. FaggotSpock goes ahead and puts this in his report, which gets Kirk in a shitload of trouble since the Captain's Log sort of lied. Kirk gets smacked down to first officer under Pike, Robert April is still nowhere to be found, and FaggotSpock gets reassigned. Kirk apparently got too arrogant, didn't learn his lessons, etc. etc. etc. For those following along the scorecard at home, in Wrath of Khan this moment didn't occur until Khan opened fire at point-blank range with the Enterprise shields down and killed Scotty's nephew exposing his ignorance and forcing him to come to terms with his failings.

Then we switch to futuristic London where they still drive cars and 1 Edmonton Place isn't nearly so impressive alongside its other supertall buildings. The black guy from Doctor Who, looking almost exactly like the black guy from seaQuest (Ford, the second in command who was later in Day Break, not the sort of black guy from the second season when the DeLouise family took over and ruined the show) is crying as his daughter has some sort of terminal disease. A mysterious man who later turns out to be Khan apparently has a miracle cure that will save her life. In a teary-eyed scene we don't at first understand a weird cloudy chemical is put into her IV (I think its the same substance that Mystique put into Cerebro in the first X-Men movie to incapacitate Xavier) and she recovers. Next we see that black guy from Not seaQuest is in Starfleet, as he's wearing a Starfleet uniform and can I just complain about this too? You see, in the Original Series each starship had its own insignia: the 3-pointed star that was later the design of the NextGen communicator badges was the insignia for the NCC-1701, which after the legendary exploits of Kirk was made into the fleet-wide insignia sometime between the II-III-IV trilogy and Star Trek V. Yet in this movie, its already fleet-wide. Was Kirk (who just got demoted) really so legendary by this point? Anyways, a crying black guy from Doctor Who is still crying as he sends an email (I have coworkers who bring me to tears when I *read* their emails, but this is new to me) and then blows up the underground complex. Nearby, Khan smiles.

An emergency meeting of captains is called: Khan is going by some boring name like John Smith (though that may be Doctor Who's name) but apparently everybody knows who he is: black guy from Doctor Who fingered him as the villain in that email (seriously Quinto, calm down) and now a gung ho Admiral from the Deep South (in honour of the great Peter Weller I will avoid any bad jokes about Robocop or Buckaroo Bonzai, even though both movies photon torpedo the living shit of this one out of the water) is anxious to bring him to justice for the murder of Starfleet employees working in this records storage depository in one of the world's most expensive cities. It's not clear at this point if money has been eliminated in the Star Trek universe but you'd think this sort of facility is awfully expensive to maintain. They've been scanning for warp signatures so they know that Khan's still in the area, and they found security footage from the London attack showing him comandeering an atmospheric cutter at the scene. He's on Earth, and the resources of 8 starships are apparently of value beyond any other resource because those are the only people at this meeting. FaggotSpock's logic is failing to analyze the situation properly and Kirk keeps asking about the case Khan's carrying that nobody else seems too worked up about. Suddenly Kirk reminds them all that they're in San Fransisco and that along with giving FaggotSpock a way to get over the icky of touching Uhura the city also now contains 8 top-notch Starfleet captains as per emergency protocols. Was the attack on a mere records storage house perhaps to make this meeting take place so that....and in movie logic of course this thought literally occurs simultaneous with the attack from Khan, who's using the cutter's not-beam weapons and not-torpedoes to attack the facility. They call for emergency response teams to come around in their own cutters to take Khan down and apparently forget that they all have starships in orbit. I mean what is Scotty, who is presumably on the bridge of the Enterprise right now, doing? Even if he's not monitoring his captain it's not like Kirk didn't have a communicator. Pike did too by the way, but oh yeah Pike has totally died just after having a heart-to-heart talk with Kirk in a bar in a scene that only existed to setup his death so I didn't cover it. Kirk uses a very very big hose to bring Khan down (okay, Quinto, get the fuck out of this room you're getting annoying) but slowly enough for the cold angry stare between the two men as the cutter loses engine power and Khan disappears in a shimmering transporter effect.

Cut to another meeting room and now Angry Southern Admiral is really pissed, and gives Kirk the real story. This John Smith guy they've been talking about wasn't just some random Starfleet officer turned unexpectedly evil, he was a brilliant tactician and specialist who was working in Section 31, which is by the way what was underground in London rather than a mundane records storage system. It now makes even less sense to build this in London rather than Winnipeg, by the way. Also, this is typically when most people think its sort of cool that Section 31 got brought into this universe: Section 31 was the source of a few plotted episodes of Deep Space Nine as a shady dark side to Starfleet that used Odo to infect the founders with a horrible virus to bring them all down and wasn't afraid to kill Federation citizens as necessary to advance their goals. So was it kind of cool that Deep Space Nine got brought into this universe? No, not really: Section 31 also was featured in an episode of Enterprise, which means that yet again we are reminded that Enterprise continuity -- that horrible horrible show that Trek fans like to pretend doesn't exist -- is still 100% valid in this universe. Admiral Archer still had a stupid dog to banish Scotty with and Section 31 is around. Thanks for the kick to the face, JJ Abrams. Anyways, Admiral Marcus (the angry Southern guy) has been able to trace Khan's transport to a remote area of Kronos, the Klingon homeworld. He used Scotty's transwarp transporter from the first movie (2009, not 1979) to beam into this deserted area of the planet where the Klingons don't go at all for reasons we're never told that probably make no sense. They have either detected his lifesign or know that they will be able to detect his lifesign, and since he's the only possible person in this area that the Klingons never ever ever ever ever go to then some of the Section 31 technology he was working on can be used to kill him. The Enterprise is ordered to take a shitload of super-powerful long-range torpedoes which can be used to discretely blow up a giant section of the Klingon homeworld without being pinned on Starfleet, and fire them from the border of Klingon space where certainly they are in no danger of being noticed. Pace the Mitchell and Webb skit about Princess Diana, the Klingons are notoriously slapdash about their own borders. I mean they only send 47 ships to blow up Nero just one movie ago. A dozen movies and a lifetime ago they sent 3 cruisers to blow up a nebula that had wandered into their space without permission. They attacked a Voyager space probe with such ferocity that a piece of worn out old metal literally cried out in pain. They send two battleships to take out Captain Beverly Picard's medical ship, and three battleships to punish old Admiral Janeway for screwing them over on a business deal. These are tough hombres!

On the Enterprise, Kirk has to fire Scotty after he refuses to allow the torpoedoes on board. Apparently the drive system of these weapons is classified and Starfleet wants them on the ship with no questions asked. I don't see why Kirk doesn't just get Admiral Marcus to send Scotty exactly enough information to placate him and be done with this. Surely Section 31 had planned at some point to put these torpedoes on starships, non? This would be part of the basic setup, non? The various Trek series have shown us that on the whole Chief Engineers tend to be pretty picky about this sort of thing. Silly move, Section 31. Had you done this, well, I won't spoil it for the readers but you're totally the skip to the end crowd so you know what I'm talking about. Naughty naughty, Section 31.

We're also introduced to a sexy British blonde girl who's a weapons expert who's also interested in scanning the torpedoes and monitoring Scotty's reactions to them. She acts very suspiciously in front of both FaggotSpock and Kirk. She's hot, so guess which one of them doesn't want her on the ship and starts a secret investigation into her? Anyways the Enterprise warps to the border of Klingon space and oh shit they got sabotage and the engines aren't working. They're close to where they wanted to be so they get on with the mission and make Chekov, who at this point in the original series is striking out with girls under the shadow of Landru, pretend he's an engineer and fix the problem which nobody seems to think is sabotage even though its pretty obviously sabotage. FaggotSpock appeals to Kirk to not follow these orders, as they are more George W. Bush (pbuh) than Gene Roddenberry. At the last minute Kirk agrees, and decides to take a confiscated mining shuttle to Kronos with a strike team to capture Khan and bring him to justice. This mining shuttle was probably confiscated from Harry Mudd as I'm sure we'll learn in a deleted scene when this comes out on DVD. Not to completely piss on the orders of the extremely angry Admiral who gave Kirk his command back, Kirk orders Sulu to take the conn and use the long-range torpedoes as Plan B. Make Khan think Sulu's the captain and totally serious (like what happened with Chekov in Star Trek V) while Kirk's strike team gets to work. As Kirk flies to Kronos Sulu gets on the horn to Khan using his fake name and orders him to surrender to the incoming strike force.

As Kirk's shuttle reaches the Klingon homeworld, they begin searching for Khan in this deserted area of Kronos where the Klingons are guaranteed to never ever ever be because they never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever go there. Naturally, they get fired upon by a Klingon warship which Uhura says "must be a random patrol". I don't really mean to harp on this too much but the whole gag is that this is supposed to be a deserted area of the homeworld where the only lifesign detectable from 30 sectors away is the John Smith guy they're after. I mean if this premise doesn't hold up -- which it as of now doesn't -- this whole plot doesn't really make any sense. "We'll fire a shitload of torpedoes at this guy and kill him without angering the Klingons who may or may not have a random patrol in the area totally killed by these torpedoes." And you thought the Nero plot from the last movie was stupid. Okay, you were right, it was actually way more stupid than this one -- so far. Stay tuned.

Kirk is forced to land by this patrol, and rather than come out guns blazing and have about 6 dozen Klingons totally murder him and his people they send Uhura out to talk with them. She confronts the Klingons and says that they are after a murderous criminal who is hiding out in the ruins. There are ruins by the way. If there's a cultural significance to why Klingons outside of random patrols comprised of 5 warships never set foot in here that's never explained. It could be too dangerous to live because of radiation or some shit, but Health and Safety regulations don't really seem like the Klingon's oeuvre. While the Klingons have a little harmless choke-play with Uhura here (Sabretooth's with Storm in the first X-Men was way hotter, by the way), FaggotSpock and Kirk hold off on starting the firefight when the Klingon playing with Uhura gets shot in the head by Khan. Khan starts going all Jason Bourne with laserguns on the Klingons, basically slaughtering all of them single-handedly without getting hit himself. Oh, and also taking down some of Kirk's security team in the process. As he and Kirk fight one-on-one suddenly Khan asks how many long-range torpedoes Sulu has at his disposal (both Quinto and Takei are whining like hungry puppies outside on this one, by the way). When Kirk gives 71 or 73 or some number close to 70 but less than 80 as the answer, he apparently wins Star Trek Price is Right because Khan immediately surrenders to them. Kirk places him under arrest for the murders of the Starfleet personnel and then does the classic "and this is for Captain Pike" punchout move. He does it about 9 more times until he's exhausted by Khan's failure to fall down (or, indeed, flinch). At the time, we in the audience still don't know why.

Back on the Enterprise, McCoy takes some blood samples from this guy to see what makes him big and strong. Khan tells Kirk to open up a torpedo and get a big surprise. Oh, and my name is Khan, in a moment that's supposed to mean more to the audience than to the characters. This is a little something we call not entirely good movie making. Too much of this movie is inside baseball, and this isn't the first one of these to happen -- though it is the first of these for the audience to be aware of, if that makes sense. There was some insider stuff earlier too that will become clear later. FaggotSpock finds it interesting that both the blonde British chick and Khan want to see inside the torpedoes, and goes to confront her as Kirk is given weird coordinates by Khan.

Kirk calls Scotty long-distance at the pub (where else?) and cajoles him into going to check out the coordinates that Khan had suggested. Meanwhile FaggotSpock has looked into this pretty blonde lab technician and found that she lied about her name: she used her mother's maiden name for the purposes of gaining access to the ship, but her actual last name is the same as her father: Carol Marcus. Why this blonde Marcus has a very very very British accent, and her father has a very very very Southern accent, and why Bibi Beech God rest her soul didn't have either of these two accents is really never explained. And it should be, dammit! Anyways since it's time to start ripping off Nick Meyer movies, Bones and Marcus beam to a remote planet to perform surgery on a torpedo. It does almost blow up while eating McCoy's hand but Carole disables it in time. I'll call her Carole to distinguish her from her father who's still in this picture by the way and is about to become the bad guy. They get the torpedo open and discover a cryogenic tube inside. It's of course one of Khan's men. If I go back and rewatch Space Seed will the number of torpedoes plus one be the number of cryo tubes the Enterprise originally discovered*? Now we know why Khan wanted to surrender: his beloved fellow supermen were too important to be blowed up good. Admiral Marcus apparently did this as an insurance policy to ensure Khan's cooperation. Hey, did anybody notice how that totally didn't work and he blew up Section 31 anyways? Wouldn't this have been a good time for Kirk to fire the torpedoes for shits and giggles? They confront Khan again, and he kind of guesses that they've been sabotaged on the border of Klingon space in order to be killed and keep the mission secret. How does Khan know this? Well, he probably could have guessed a sizable part of it seeing how he's the smartest man on the ship at this point. I'm not entirely sure that in this universe FaggotSpock is even second place, but he decides to call the New Vulcan colony in what you're sure they aren't going to do but they totally are going to. If you're lucky enough not to have guessed this I'll be quiet for now and let you enjoy your blissful time. I'm jealous, you bastard. I'm going to love rubbing it in when you find out how horrible this schlock is.

* [by the way, in Space Seed there were 84 supermen put into the Botany Bay, but only 72 of them including Khan survived at the time they were found by the Enterprise. -ed]

Scotty by the way has found the coordinates are some weird construction facility going on around Jupiter. I was really really hoping for him to stumble upon a black obelisk but I guess that's just too much to ask. He follows some shuttles inside the massive hollowed out asteroid to find something impressive inside. It's totally the super-powerful dreadnought classed warship that Marcus and Section 31 have been developing in secret. Khan and Carole are helping Kirk fill in the blanks: Marcus wants a war with the Klingons, so he's build the dreadnought and the long-range torpedoes to achieve this goal: have Kirk fire the torpedoes at the Klingon homeworld, infuriate them into war (wait, so these weren't stealth untraceable torpedoes as promised earlier but fake stealth ones that just before they explode do some sort of Porky the Pig routine revealing the Federation just bombed your ass? Every time you sneeze the premise of this movie changed), and then use the dreadnought to kick their asses (like Nero did 3 years ago? Why didn't Marcus think to take more immediate action? And how long has it been between the 2009 movie and Into Darkness anyways?) Of course, the Federation would need to be pissed off at the Klingons too, so why not sabotage the Enterprise engines so she could carry out the mission and then be a target for the Klingon counterattack? Makes almost sense. Of course, Kirk went and captured Khan rather than the Predator Drone strike which seems to have ruined the plans. Now that Marcus knows that Khan is still alive and that he's been rappin' with James T. about Life, The Universe, and Everything the plans have gone from ruined to trashed. Hey, maybe sending that report to Starfleet wasn't such a bright idea.

The Dreadnought drops out of warp and threatens Kirk, who punches it into warp and thinks he's safe. Unfortunately, Marcus has been developing an Ultrawarp and can catch up! For those following along, the Star Trek Roleplaying Game named Ultrawarp as what the Enterprise-D is capable of reaching (the game assumed that "transwarp" was achieved with the Excelsior class while canon claims the transwarp experiments failed by the Excelsior was given standard warp drive and brought into service, which frankly makes slightly less sense). The phrase "ultrawarp" has never been used in anything canon -- and I guess it still hasn't, since we won't count this movie.

The approaching dreadnought immediately starts firing everything its got at the Enterprise (including phasers while at warp, just to piss me off), which gets blown up pretty damned good pretty damned fast. JJ Abrams sure doesn't want to show us a deflector field special effect does he? Come to think of it, I think the only movie to show us this was Generations, and it was a pretty cool looking effect. I have that still at home in poster form, as it happens. Carole phones her Daddy to let him know that she's still on the Enterprise. With his beloved daughter on the ship there's no way he'll destroy them. Did you know that transporters exist in the Star Trek universe? Apparently Carole forgot, this only bought a couple minutes since Carole was beamed over to the dreadnought bridge for a bit of daddy slapping.

With the Enterprise crippled and Admiral Marcus ready to deliver the kill strike, a mysterious power failure on-board the dreadnought saves the day. Scotty's on board Captain, and he's taken them down for about 10 minutes. After that though they'll reroute the systems around him and there won't be a second chance. Oh, and he could use a rescue as well. Kirk immediately springs into action, grabs Khan out of the brig and they suit up to do a high-speed EVA stunt to travel over to the opposing ship and take them down. Kirk and Khan do the cool adrenaline action bit where they fly over through a debris field to the other ship, save Scotty from the mean security guy who caught him, and start their move through the dreadnought. Kirk and Scotty lose Khan for a moment, and Kirk orders Scotty to stun Khan as soon as they've taken the bridge: he's smart enough to know that Khan's not participating in this stunt for fun. They do take the bridge, Scotty does stun Khan, but he's got one eye still open gripping his pillow tight: they forgot that he's a superman who can survive a hit like that. As Kirk and Marcus verbally spar over intergalactic politics and probably offend the folks over at The Onion, FaggotSpock gets a hold of New Vulcan. Are you ready for this shit? Yeah, he called up Leonard Nimoy. FaggotSpock and RealSpock have a chitchat. FaggotSpock asks for a cheat code on the Khan file, and RealSpock suddenly goes into the cliched bit of crap about "you know that I have vowed never to give you knowledge about what I know about the future....but for Khan I'll make an exception" and then goes into a brief bit about how the Enterprise was finally able to defeat him but at a great cost. Part of me wants to think that in one of the horrible Trek novels Shatner wrote the Borg were somehow able to revive Khan, but let's just hope this isn't true and maybe the universe will smile on us. This Khan, of course isn't a ball of molecules floating around the Mutara sector but laying on the opposing bridge pretending to be asleep. Admiral Marcus never thought to suggest a few extra stuns to make sure he's down? Marcus knew what Khan was capable of, not that it helped him. In an instant Khan is up, disables Kirk and Scotty and Carole, murders Carole's dad by skull-crushing him, and then beats Kirk up a bit more and gets on the horn to FaggotSpock. He wants his torpedo-encrusted crew returned to him. FaggotSpock totally complies, only the torpedoes get delivered to the cargo bay and explode seconds later, disabling the dreadnought and letting Kirk/Scotty/Carole get rescued back to the ship.

Oh, by the way, the Enterprise is now in near-earth orbit for reasons that again make no sense if you think about them. Not that not thinking about them helps them make sense, it just wouldn't be SERIOUS SHIT if Earth herself wasn't in peril. You know, like it was in The Wrath of Khan, the most boring and unpopular movie of the entire franchise. So the Enterprise is beaten and battered -- I think Khan launched an attack somewhere around his negotiations with FaggotSpock, I really can't be sure -- and falling into Earth's atmosphere. It's okay, they can survive planetary entry and...wait, now they can't? Like at all? Well I guess they are pretty beaten up. The problem is in the engine room: Kirk and Scotty get there to find that the giant aligning rods aren't aligning. They need to be aligned, but nobody can get into that room as its radiated to shit. Kirk punches out Scotty and goes in anyways, knowing that he's on a suicide mission. For those following along at home, this is Spock in the engine room putting the little crystals into the light machine emiting all the smoke in Wrath of Khan. Kirk has to do a lot of running and climbing up thinks that were made for running (the gravity is getting wonky), and finally kicks the aligning things until they align again, giving the Enterprise the power to climb out of the atmosphere. FaggotSpock phones down to give Scotty a big thank you kiss, but instead hears McCoy: "You'd better get down here. Better...hurry". I swear to God at this point during the movie the James Horner score started playing in my head. You know the scene: intercuts of the Genesis Planet forming while Kirk slides down staircases. Eventually FaggotSpock gets to the engine room, and gets told by Scotty that he can't open the door or he'll flood the whole compartment with radiation. "But he'll die." protesteth the faggot. "Sir, he's dead already." Yes, I wasn't kidding about earlier, Nicholas Meyer, call my editor and get to work on some legal action buddy. Your dialogue is extensively verbatem in this movie. FaggotSpock and Kirk get to chat a bit while looking on as the other dies. The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few, etc. etc. There's a decent bit of arc here: FaggotSpock couldn't understand or appreciate what Kirk did for him earlier in the movie and now he does, getting emotional and understanding the deep comraderie involved. In fact, FaggotSpock gets so emotional he cries out loudly to the sky.... "KKKKHHHHHHAAAAAANNNNNNNNN!!!!!"

And as the audience realizes they've been had (and Nick Meyer walks out of the theatre to go call a lawyer, we hope), the dreadnought goes sailing past the Enterprise: Khan's still alive, his ship still has power, and when he swings around he means to deprive you of your life. But the "you" here is San Fransisco which he smashes the dreadnought into at high speed, murdering a few more Starfleet officers and a disco band featuring a guy dressed as a Starfleet officer along with guys dressed as a cowboy and a fireman. FaggotSpock, in the best of Star Trek tradition, beams down to stop him. Could Khan really survive such a crash? FaggotSpock is aware that he's in a movie and uses this movie logic on Uhura to convince her he has to go down. Aren't we all glad we kicked Quinto out of the room at this point? FaggotSpock beams down, does the evil eye gaze at Khan, and Khan takes off. FaggotSpock, in what is the real Star Trek tradition, runs after him.

A brief foray on the subject of running. Star Trek was originally a thinly veiled jogging ad disguised as a science fiction television series. Some of the most classic original series episodes feature a shitload of running, most notably the classic "Shore Leave" where random Enteprise crewmembers would discover something amazing or suffer some sort of peril and cry out, to have Kirk and Spock and whoever is with them coming running after them. The running was featured in several other episodes as well, The Paradise Syndrome being another example coming to mind. In the later series, this sort of fell by the wayside. That TNG episode where Wesley Crusher was going to be executed for crashing a forbidden velvet rope featured a lot of running, but after that they really toned things down. It's sort of a shame really, and it was nice in this movie to see FaggotSpock doing a lot of classic Star Trek style running...though naturally in this movie he runs like a girl.

He does a bunch of Mario Bros style jumps and leaps and climbs to eventually get into the flying transport that Khan is in: it looks like these things are just flying around under their own power, like the garbage disposal droids in that one Firefly episode where Nathan Fillon runs around naked, and Khan is jumping between them to escape FaggotSpock. But it doesn't work, and the enraged half Vulcan is there punching Khan back and forth, both of them losing their phasers at some point. Things aren't going well for FaggotSpock, he's being told by Uhura they need to capture Khan alive. Why? Oh, sorry, I'll digress.

Remember: James T. Kirk is dead. He died in the intense radiation of the engine room. But also remember that this movie is totally ripping off The Wrath of Khan: in that movie, Spock was killed in the engine room of the Enterprise saving the ship from Khan's evil plan. Scotty was knocked out trying to stop him, he and Kirk had an emotional goodbye scene across some plexiglass where they talked about their friendship and how the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, then Spock's coffin got fired into space. In the next movie, we learn that the coffin landed on the Genesis planet, David Marcus used protomatter in the Genesis experiments without consulting with his doctor (or his Mom, which in this case was the same shtick), and that as a result Spock's body was brought back to life...meanwhile his mind was alive and well in Doctor McCoy who had been mind-melded to remember Spock's katra, which they go back to Vulcan and resurrect with his body. Spock's Mom was played by a much less famous actress than Winona Ryder, whatevs. The key thing to remember her is that Spock was brought back to life from the Genesis Effect. They don't have a Genesis torpedo in this movie, so obviously this ending won't work. But they can't kill of James T. Kirk can they? No of course not.

Hey, remember earlier on in this review when I mentioned that McCoy took Khan's blood sample, in the hope of figuring out what made him into a superman? Well, I hadn't mentioned it at the time, but he put the platelets from that blood into a dead tribble. I didn't mention it because the moment I saw it I realized that somebody would die later on and it would be used to save them. Then Kirk "died". So Khan's blood is going to save Kirk. As FaggotSpock is running after Khan, McCoy sits dejected in sickbay over Kirk's death...as the tribble comes back to life. He throws Kirk into one of the statis units from Khan's 71 or 73 dead friends (killing somebody in the process, I assume. Joaquin, probably) and tells Uhura that they need Khan captured alive to drain his blood and save Kirk. So now we come back to where we were before, FaggotSpock having to capture Khan rather than kill him.

Problem is, Khan's a genetically enhanced superman with years of combat training honed in the 1990s Eugenics Wars (another topic that this movie, along with the horrible 1996 time travel episode of Voyager that introduced The Doctor's mobile emitter, sort of skimmed over), and this gives him the edge in a fight against FaggotSpock's fight techniques which involves a lot of limp wristed slaps and tickle fights. So Khan is totally beating his ass, and not in the way that Cumberbatch and Quinto did in the trailers after these scene was finished. In comes Uhura to save the day. She helps fight Khan, and she brought a phaser which along with a Vulcan nerve pinch weakened Khan to the point where he's down on the ground, and FaggotSpock keeps punching him in the face over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Uhura screams that FaggotSpock can't give into his human urge for revenge, and they need Khan alive to save Kirk's life.

The next thing we see of course is Kirk waking up in bed, sort of shocked and confused. Everything gets glossed over a bit, the Enterprise is fixed and refitted and on Kirk's request is about to do something Starfleet has never considered before: a 5 year mission in space. Remembering at the last minute the dreams of Gene Roddenberry, Kirk gives a speech where he talks about the need to rise above desires of revenge and hatred, as the camera pans to show Khan is still alive and in statis with his bretheren (probably in a Section 31 storage area along with the transwarp transporter and the disease to infect the Founders and the Ark of the Covenant), and Kirk's noble speech calling on the Federation and Starfleet to aim for a higher calling. One almost suspects this is a bit of an apology/corner turning moment. After all, as Redlettermedia's Harry Plinkett has pointed out, this is the third Trek movie in a row (Nemesis, 2009, Into Darkness) to center around anger and hatred and revenge, promising a 'darker' movie than we're used to. And in each case, it's sort of been a bit of a kick to the face. In fact this ending reminds me a bit about Skyfall. That movie marked a bit of an apology to long-time fans of the James Bond series, admitting that the "edgy gritty Bond" of Quantum of Solace was an unmittigated disaster: it worked sort of in Casino Royale same as how the 2009 Star Trek sort of worked, but it ultimately felt empty and without heart. Skyfall ended with Bond going back to the heart of the franchise: tossing his hat on the stand, sexual banter with Moneypenny, and getting a stern word from the man in charge of it all known as M. This movie goes back to the heart and soul of the original series, a five year mission exploring the galaxy and expanding the highly desirable human spirit across the stars. Whoops, sorry about all the bitter angry and gritty revenge plots that make no sense and make you feel like the human race is doomed as your walk out of the theatre, folks! And then, since Star Trek II ended with a voiceover giving the preamble from the original series, and this movie can't help but rip Nick Meyer off, it ends with the Enterprise flying into the unknown as Chris Pine recites the famous narrative:

Our Father, Who Art in Heaven
Hallowed by Thy Name
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done
On Earth, as it is in Heaven
Give us each day, our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from Evil
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory
For ever and ever
Amen

Scoff if you must, but at least God isn't still working in Hollywood writing screenplays and hopefully benefiting from royalties. Pretty sure if you've put pen to paper professionally for the Star Trek series over the past half century you'll have had part of your work stolen and put into this movie.

2009's Star Trek was a high speed action adventure with a pretty weak plot that made no sense and spit continuity-wise on everything that had made the Star Trek serii and movies great. But it got butts in seats and that's what counts. Into Darkness isn't as much adventure, the plot's even weaker (and mostly stuff you remember from earlier movies), and spit on some more continuity. In the end it wasn't even as popular, attracting a little bit more backlash from the community at large. That, beyond all else, gives hope that the third JJ Abrams reboot movie will be a little bit better than the first two, and that he won't ruin Star Wars VII. It sure is looking less likely like that film is going to be the kickass success everybody's talking about though, isn't it?

JJ Abram's gritty reboot of The Black Hole should be awesome though. You knew those droids just urged to drop F-bombs didn't you?