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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Ok Folks as Promised Our Look at Scy-Fy’s Ascension the Mini-Series (2014).

Our last look at Science Fiction (for now): Ascension—the miniseries.  Once again Netflix comes through with programming that we here at JPFmovies would not normally watch.  Netflix’s algorithm that provides the viewer with entertainment ideas suggested Ascension so we took a look and were not disappointed.  There’s a lot of Battlestar Galactica (2003) in Ascension, beyond the simple fact that they’re both high-production SyFy miniseries set on giant spaceships.  And anyone who’s familiar with JPFmovies position on BSG knows this is a good thing.  Like BSG, Ascension has a population that is confined to a life in transit—living in a transient space ship as they travel to their destination of a new world.  And like in BSG not only is there the gritty reality of living in a world of very limited resources with danger lurking around every corner (in BSG it’s the threat of Clyons and in Ascension it is the rigors of deep space travel).  The viewer is also treated to the familiar face of Tricia Helfer, who played the seductive Cylon No. 6 in BSG, here she plays the head “stewardess” showing us her long back every chance she can.

The show starts with the space ship 51 years into its 100-year journey to “Proxima.” Launched in the early 1960’s right out of the “Father Knows Best” period in American social history, the 600-odd people living on the ship missed such society changing events as “the summer of love,” “civil rights” and “The Clash.”  Making the population “pure” so to speak and ripe for study.  Things get a little more complicated (as any good series would) when we find out that the inter-generational space ship was not actually launched but instead is a huge black-ops structure-experiment simulating a deep space journey.  The Ascension program is credited with such scientific advances as “complex polymers” “MRI’s” and some forms of birth control.  The program’s director states that “when you take the best and brightest” and isolate them from any outside influences such scientific advances are inevitable.  We here at JPFmovies were rather surprised to find out that the Ascension program was not an actual space ship but a simulation experiment still here on earth.  Such a premise provided the story with many avenues to go down, including the massive effort and lengths one would have to go through to keep the 600-odd people believing that they were in deep space and not still home on their home planet.

Another similarity to BSG was the cut-throat political scheming and factionalism fighting for control of the ship.  In Ascension, sex is the main form of currency which is literally controlled by Tricia Helfer’s character as the head “stewardess” whose underlings are plainly charged with satisfying the desires of the men on the ship.  Marriage is determined not by love but a computer applying a mathematic formula to ensure ideal genetic matches i.e. a quasi-eugenics program.  And like in BSG, there is also a touch of the mystic through a young girl who represents “punctuated evolution.” She sees the “globus” which is the brand of camera hidden throughout the ship used to monitor every move of Ascension’s population.  The evolved girl in the last scene also transports one of the main characters (the ship’s executive officer) to some alien world that unfortunately leaves the viewer hanging in space raising more interesting questions than it answered.

Much to many people’s dismay, Ascension the mini-series was only that, a mini-series lasting 6 episodes played over three nights on the Sci-Fy network.  Unusually we here at JPFmovies agree with the many, another season was in order not only to answer the questions left as its end but also because an entirely different and interesting Sci-Fi story could have continued.  Ascension is actually a fine science fiction show, and one should catch the series on Netflix.  However, be warned that you will need to be a little patient with it.

What does JPFmovies contributor SJ have to say about Ascension?  One slang word: “meh.”  Different strokes for different folks.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Hello Movie Fans JPFmovies Has Updated the Movie Index Page Complete With Hyperlinks for You.

JPFmovies has updated our movie index page 3 to add all of the movies to date. Feel free to take a look and read any reviews that may catch your eye!

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

JPFmovies final look at the Sci-Fi Series Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001). The first female Captain in the Star Trek franchise—while acted well we think the series was a bit of a bust.

Again, thanks to Netflix, JPFmovies has been able to “binge” on various T.V. series that, for whatever reason, were not watched over the years.  Without giving away our age, the JPFmovies’ crew had just started law school when the Voyager series began its run and our T.V. watching was at a minimum.  So, reviewing series that are twenty something years old will hopefully give a fresh perspective on the eve of the next Star Trek franchise move “Discovery.”

Voyager had a lot of potential but just seemed to leave it in the Alpha quadrant so to speak.  Running when Star Trek was at the height of its popularity, Voyager managed to sink whatever gains TNG and DS9 made for the Star Trek fans/franchise.  Many blame producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga for letting a potentially great story-line turn into milk-toast—which is what Voyager was at best—milk-toast.

Reading many many other reviews of Voyager on the internet, JPFmovies realized that while we thought Voyager was a bust, Trek fans were ruthless in their criticism of the show.  One site went so far as to have a mock-trial of the court martial of Capital Janeway.  Now that is some hardcore criticism—we here at JPFmovies can be ruthless, but have yet to be that ruthless over our 5-year run.

After reading many of those blogs about Voyager, we here at JPFmovies pretty much have to agree with the Star Trek consensus on the value of the series.  Forget that there is a completely politically correct cast (in the mid-to-late 1990’s when PC was at the height of it power) there is the native American, the female Captain (which was a good idea), the African American security officer, the female engineer and the white guy, Tom Parris, a convicted criminal who is basically on parole when assigned to Voyager.  The picture of the cast is a multi-cultural rainbow.  Ok we can get beyond that if the characters are well written, good stories are followed and the acting is even satisfactory.  With the exception of a few fine episodes sprinkled throughout each season, the vast majority of the series was mired in inconsistencies which anyone knows will drive Star Trek fans crazy.  And though we here at JPFmovies are clearly not Sci-Fi fans, but the sheer number of story inconsistencies even got on our nerves.

So much potential:  a mixed crew of outlaws (the Marquis) and the spit and polish Star Fleet personal is abandoned really after the first couple of episodes; gritty themes about energy and supply shortages necessary for survival also abandoned after the first couple of episodes with an annoying alien (Nelix) supposedly acting as a cook-tour guide through the Delta quadrant; and let’s just say it when having to choose between survival and the prime directive, throw out the prime directive—to be fair this was addressed in a few episodes very very early on in the series.  So what did the producers do to keep the series afloat to that magical 100-episode syndication threshold?  Brought on a blond in a cat suit, discovered that the holographic doctor could actually act (but then used him a crutch) and the Borg.  While the show limped through its 7 seasons, it also set up Enterprise (previously reviewed) to fail.

There is just too much to write to fully explain all of these points.  One thing JPFmovies did read that we could not believe, was that the studio was receiving hate mail and BOMB THREATS as a result of its decision to go with a female Captain. Take it easy, it is just a T.V. show after all.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

JPFmovies’ next foray into the Sci-Fi world: Star Trek Enterprise (2001-2005). Almost everyone complained about it but we didn’t think it was bad.

The creation of Netflix, probably the greatest innovation for movie and T.V. fans since the introduction of HBO and similar channels, has given people like us at JPFmovies the ability to “binge” watch movies/T.V. series.  Well, we went on an Enterprise “binge” in “the blind” so to speak—not having followed any of the trials, tribulations and fan/producer politics.  If you look through our reviews over the years you will find very few T.V. series, much less American produced television.  In other words, we were not influenced by all the political machinations surrounding the three previous Star Trek series beginning in the 1980s and running though the late 1990s or by the opinions of their fans and producers.  So when we went on our Enterprise “binge” it was really with a fresh eye.  And you know what?  We thought it was a decent show (except for the theme song).

That said, when we searched the Internet for information about Enterprise, almost all the content we saw was invariably negative.  Enterprise was blamed for the end of the Star Trek franchise that had been running since the 1980s.  Fans blamed the show’s lack of continuity and rather thin plot while producers Berman and Braga argued it was some sort of “franchise fatigue”—a position we here at JPFmovies find self-serving, trying to avoid taking responsibility for the show’s short run.

 

So when we watched the show with a fresh eye, JPFmovies thought the show didn’t deserve all the criticism it received and should have been given some more seasons to let the show get some more traction.  Those of us at JPFmovies thought that T’Pol (the ever present Vulcan) was an interesting change of pace from the traditional steely-eyed monotoned alien who spouted nothing but “logic.”  As a Vulcan, she walked the line between Vulcans repressing their emotions and having them.  Frankly I didn’t mind seeing some emotions underneath the typical Vulcan surface.  We also read a lot of complaints that the actress playing T’Pol could not act and was there only for her eye candy appeal.  To deny she was eye candy would be foolish, but she also did a good job playing a full time female Vulcan.  In fact, a JPFmovie consultant found an interview with her where she herself said that you need more than eye candy to make a Trek series—you also needed decent stories.  So she was aware of the limits that she could provide as a model.

We also found Enterprise a nice change of pace in that the Capitan was not an all knowing, never making any mistakes character, i.e. larger than life.  Scott Bakula, as Capitan Archer, screws up all the time—as he should, because Enterprise was humanity’s first venture into space beyond our system.  Picard, Sisko, and Janeway always made the right calls—never faltering.  Archer was constantly screwing up, as the Vulcan delegation on earth was quick to point out.  A human out there in space interacting with aliens (hostile or not) is going to make mistakes—and lots of them.   There was also the ship’s doctor, Phlox, an alien who proved quite interesting—a “Denoublan” who used odd creatures in the course of his medical treatments and had three wives who each had three husbands.  He was always a great one to watch.  Then too, Jeffrey Combs, who played many roles on DS9, was great as Commander Shram—the head of an alien race called the Andorians.

 

To keep this review at a readable length, the last thing we will comment on was Enterprise itself.  The ship, unlike Voyager, TNG’s Enterprise, and DS9’s invulnerable space-station, was fragile—prone to damage and breaking.  The ship never had shields or phasors (until several episodes in).  Much more often than not, Enterprise was no match for many of the alien ships that it encountered.  Again, something that one should expect when humans first begin to explore space outside of our solar system.

 

We read an article on Syfy’s site which also brought up some good points as to why Enterprise didn’t go the distance: The Internet!  TNG, DS9 and Voyager were essentially all pre-Internet boom shows, while Enterprise was subject to hypercritical analysis, which was like a cloud of noise that had a profound impact on the ability of others to just enjoy Enterprise, and also created the perception that the show was more reviled than it actually was.  Another interesting fact we didn’t know about Enterprise that sprang from the Internet was that it was unsurprisingly, one of the most pirated shows from 2001–2005 on sites like the Pirate Bay—so many viewers would not be reflected in the ratings.  Two ideas that JPFmovies put some serious stock in.

 

Despite all the “bad press” Enterprise was subjected to, it seems that the show is having a renaissance, many people are going to back to watch the show streaming on such outlets as Netflix, and the “bad press” is starting to be replaced with more positive posts—a long overdue interpretation of the series.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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