The Fall of the Jedi

I haven’t been writing much lately, what with the two big things being politics (which both suck AND holds the record for “least interesting post I’ve written”) and a game I can’t talk about. What does that leave us? Star Wars.

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If you are a human above the age of 20, then you are probably very familiar with all three Star Wars films. If you’re younger than that, you may try to claim that the last Star Wars film was released after 1983. Like so many others, I feel very sad that the prequel trilogy was such a missed opportunity and such a severe drop in quality. Lucas may have had great ideas, but without being filtered and refined by others, his work has shown to fall short of its potential. Fear not, for our savior has arrived.

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Welcome to FanEdit.org, where films that weren’t good enough the first time around get a second chance at a decent life. It’s no small surprise that the prequel trilogy features prominently here. Each edit has its own intentions and approaches, but the cream of the crop has to be user Q2‘s Fall of the Jedi trilogy. Q2 went through the films and cut as much of the badly-directed acting as he could, and eliminated as many inconsistencies with the Original Trilogy as possible. The Phantom Menace didn’t have much left of its first act once all the filler was removed, so it feels a little rushed. That’s the only criticism I have. Q2 has taken the steaming pile that was the prequel trilogy and has made me no longer ashamed these films exist.

We will never get the movies that the prequels should have been. It’s not going to happen. But Q2 has given us the closest we will ever receive. Yes, Jar-Jar is still there, but half his lines are missing, and almost all of his trying to make an infant laugh are removed. I no longer hate the character with every fiber of my very being. It’s WEIRD. The pod race now has no commentary, Jake Lloyd has no childish screams that are out of character, and characters aren’t beating trade disputes over our heads again and again. The principle of “Less is More” has been applied with great success, saving the romance story in Attack of the Clones from certain doom. I strongly encourage anyone who has ever been disappointed by Lucasfilm’s official cuts to watch these films and see what could’ve been.

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The System is Drowning

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I’ve been actively trying to keep politics off of this page, mainly because so many I know have so many different viewpoints, and I’m certainly not enough of a genius to say who is right and who is wrong. What I think most of us can agree on is that the amount of money being thrown around this election is absolutely sickening.

I saw an article on Forbes that guessed that $4.9 billion dollars will be spent on political ads this year. And what are we going to get for all that money? Almost entirely misleading videos full of half-truths, complete falsehoods, and too often attacks. The political atmosphere in this country is completely toxic, focused far too much on my team winning and your team losing than actually governing. Congressional republicans outright said two years ago that their main job was to make sure Obama was a one-term president. I’m sorry, but you’re there to do a fucking job, not posture and play games with the livelihood of the county. Think about how many better things we could do with $4.9 billion dollars.

We would be far better off with an open and honest system. Where things like Donald Trump demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate and Harry Reid’s claims about Romney’s taxes would not be tolerated. Our system as it exists now is far too flooded with lies and special interest money for anything to be accomplished. Major health care reform was necessary, and democrats were too focused on their ability to do everything without any republican support than trying to find compromises that both sides could agree to. On the other hand, House Republicans voting 33 times to repeal the law is outright incredible. You passed a repeal bill once. That’s all you needed to do. Now you’re wasting our time and money. Bill after bill from this congress has been more about making statements than actually governing. I’m sure I could find lots of examples of democrats doing the same thing if I went looking.

Regulation has to be one of the funniest topics of discussion. We’ve seen more than once what no regulation can do to the market. And at the same time, every time we add a regulation, it seems like we do the same thing we do whenever we pass any laws, in that we don’t look or adjust current laws and regulations enough to work well with the new ones. Regulation is an important job for the government, but it’s as big a mess as the tax code, and everyone is too busy scheming about how to get more power or how to better position themselves for the next election to get anything fixed. Paul Ryan says Medicare needs to be fixed. I wouldn’t trust him to go anywhere near it personally, but at least he’s talking about it. Too often these sacred cows of one side or another are left unaltered far too long and are dangerously inefficient, outdated or both.

I sincerely wish I knew how to fix this, aside from armed insurrection. I’ve always been a fan of a united world government after things like Star Trek and Ender’s Game. But Ender’s Game had a very good point on the subject, which was even when this would be by far the best thing ever to do, it will never happen until people fear they will not survive without it. I don’t think our political system is going to change any time soon. In fact I expect it to get far worse before it ever gets better.

Avengers 2, Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

The announcement on Tuesday personally made a difficult day that much easier to get through. It always helps to get through problems knowing there is something awesome on the horizon. We’ve been lucky to learn that Joss is signed to exclusively work with Marvel for the next three years, and he gets a TV show out of the deal too. I just think apparently Marvel felt nerds didn’t have enough reason to be doing this all week, so they had to sweeten the pot.

“I’m so offended!”

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People will get offended by anything. Just look at the bottom half of the Internet. Sure, quite often, especially on the internet, you run into people outright trying to offend. Just look at Tosh. Tosh is not my style of comedy, so I don’t watch his stuff. I haven’t seen the video from his stand up, and I don’t remember what he said that offended the woman specifically, so I can’t argue whether or not his original joke was potentially funny. However I think we can all agree that his statement that the offended woman should go get raped was way past the line. Any and all outrage in that situation is warranted.

However examples like this are the rare extreme of people taking offense, and when easy targets like this do not present themselves, people will search for anything to feel slighted over. Take Joss Whedon. This is a creator who is admired and adored by many and frequently has powerful women at the center of his stories. I’ve been seeing the criticism recently that Joss only writes strong women with flaws, such as River being crazy or how much Buffy hates her life.

The thing that people miss when they make these complaints is that ALL of Joss’s characters have flaws. Simon Tam is a wasp with no street smarts whatsoever. Jayne has a 2-digit IQ, Derrial Book is badly haunted by his past, and Wash once lost a fight to a paper bag. In Buffy, Xander was useless most of the time compared to everyone else around him. Angel was a douche-bag, Oz eventually became a werewolf with anger issues, and Giles had trouble being hands on with any problems he didn’t outright cause. Joss tries to create real people, and real people are going to have flaws, male and female alike. Just because his characters aren’t perfect doesn’t mean he hates women.

The worst examples of this are when people take innocent if off-color statements and hear what they want to hear, for both sides of an argument. I now turn the topic to Penny Arcade. They were making fun of the way quests in an MMO like World of Warcraft work. They had a character freeing slaves until he reached his quota, where he’d leave the rest to be abused and beaten repeatedly by their jailors. Naturally Mike and Jerry created the most horrifying situation for these slaves to be in as possible, to show how MMO “heroes” are jerks.

The “rape jokes are never funny” crowd immediately took issue with the comic and used it as proof of how two people who worship their wives hate women everywhere, and started calling themselves Dickwolf Survivors. To make matters worse, a group of people trying to support Penny Arcade started calling themselves “Team Rape” and quite shortly thereafter death threats were made from both sides. Shit got way out of hand, Mike and Jerry had to tell everyone to shut the fuck up and pull the Dickwolves merch, and it’s really too bad. At this past PAX East I watched as a straight white male attendee walked up to Mike and Jerry and thanked them for the Dickwolves comic. He had been sexually assaulted, and their comic aided him in his healing process, and he was extremely grateful to them for that.

If you’re going to be offended by something, that’s fine. Someone is always going to be offended by everything out there. But before you start railing against the source of what offended you, remember that’s a person on the other end. If everyone could stop being dicks to each other, and if people had thicker skin, life would be a lot more pleasant.

“Get your ass to Mars”

This week I watched Total Recall for the first time. I have a habit of avoiding Arnold movies whenever possible, excluding the first two Terminator films. Whenever someone mentioned Total Recall, the first thing that ever came to mind was always one of those Conan bits with the still photos, and impersonators mouths being all you could see. It was shortly after Arnold was elected as the Governator of California, and Conan mentioned something about pardons, to which “Arnold” responded “Oh, yes, pardons, I love to pardon! I pardoned the movies ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Last Action Hero.'” With the remake coming to theatres this week I felt it was finally time to sit down and suffer, especially since Bunny was surprised I’d never seen it.

The first thing that was obvious was that it was painfully an 80’s film. This and Arnold’s signature style are the two things that hold the movie back to me the most. What shocked me was how the film itself was a very solid sci-fi film. Sure, the source material being written by Phillip K. Dick probably had something to do with that. But what really surprises me is how it has aged fairly well. The film has enough solid performances and Arnold’s only really feels off when in prerecorded videos. I’d bet that you could redo the soundtrack and the movie would suddenly feel much newer.

The remake seems completely unnecessary to me. Sure, I think done slightly differently this movie could’ve been truly epic, but now that it’s been done once you have to be very careful how you do it a second time. I’m probably not going to see the remake in theatres, but once it’s out on home video I’ll rent it. What I fear the most is that they will have turned it into another boring action movie. Jessica Biel was on the Daily Show this week and seemed to imply changes that take away things I thought the original had going for it. A remake for the sake of purely making more money is the worst kind of film. Any remake to not be garbage needs to contribute something. Case in point: Casino Royale, Star Trek (XI), and Batman Begins. All three films told fantastic stories. What the new Total Recall has to add if anything remains to be seen.

And now I believe Curiosity is about to either land safely next to or crash spectacularly into the pyramid mine. Here’s hoping for a safe landing.

TNG in HD

It’s funny how quickly we’ll adjust to something superior and think “Oh, that’s a little better,” only to then come across the original and wonder how we could ever stand to look at that. Football in HD and Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray are perfect examples of this. They both look nice and shiny on my TV. While football looks amazing, TNG in season 1 only looks better than it did before. That is until you compare it to the actual VHS quality on the DVDs. It’s like the difference between wearing my glasses or not.

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One of the funny things about this new found clarity of image is scenes like this, where a guest star is pushing random buttons on the pad frantically trying to open a door, yelling that he can’t make it work. Maybe you should stop pushing the “Comm” button over and over, silly man. During production of the show some mistakes were made and some were more significant than others. Mike and Denise Okuda have been supervising the project since CBS started with the original Star Trek series, and they are very insistent on not going all Star Wars Special Edition on the show. The following is an example of two different types of errors, from that terrible, terrible second episode titled The Naked Now.ImageImage

When Mike Okuda first made this image 25 years ago, it was supposed to be in color, not monochrome green, but the color coding was lost. He wanted to go back and fix it, but Denise reminded him it’s been green for 25 years. It’s supposed to be green at this point. This kind of non-fix makes me feel the HD project is in exactly the right hands. You may notice however that the images show the movie Enterprise on the original, and the TV Enterprise on the Blu-ray. Okuda originally used the wrong Enterprise in the episode. Again, an unobtrusive edit that doesn’t scream “I’m New!” like everything Lucas has ever touched. The error is repaired and the episode doesn’t feel soiled for it. Well, no more than it is for being this episode.

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And now we get to where things get closest to a special edition treatment. All the planets in the series look terrible. When the entire image looked that bad, we couldn’t tell the difference. But now that the image is clearer, HD versions of all the planets have been recreated with CGI to look like crisp versions of what came before. This is the only instance where CGI is replacing anything that they still have film of, and looking side by side with each planet you can tell they did a good job.

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Season 1 makes me eagerly look forward to the rest of the show making the journey into HD. Having just the one season available also has its merits by forcing you to rediscover that it’s not all trash. Sure, some of it is very hard to watch but other aspects are gems that shine in this release. In my opinion, nobody should try to watch any of season 1 without Wil Wheaton’s Memories of the Future. His snarky commentary on the first half of the season helps you laugh at the bad and appreciate the good about each episode. He claims he’ll have volume 2 done by the end of the year, but we’ll see if he has enough time.