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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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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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Now for something completely different. JPFmovies is back after a long break to regroup and refocus on what quality entertainment may be out there as well as point out the crap—the original mission of JPFmovies. A foray in SCI-FI.

Here at JPFmovies we rarely look into SCI-FI—yes we have a bit of an institutional bias towards SCI-FI entertainment.  That said, due to SJ & EJ’s insistence on watching significant amounts of SCI-FI programming and of course the availability of Netflix binging, the JPFmovie writers and reviewers are now ready to competently review past and present SCI-FI franchises.

Here is what we are looking at.  Ascension—the Syfy miniseries that aired in 2014 about a generational spaceship modeled after the military Orion Project from the late 1950’s through the 1960’s.  As well as three of the major Star Trek spin-off TV series from the 1990’s (Deeps Space 9 and Voyager) until 2004 the fourth and last season of Star Trek Enterprise.  Why are we looking at the three Star Trek TV series you may ask?  In honor of the highly-anticipated Star Trek re-birth “Discovery” which is supposed to debut this year.

Where do we start?  Well according to SJ the choice is easy:  Deep Space 9 a/k/a DS-9.  Why?  Because it is the first one chronologically running from 1993 until 1999.

JPFmovies:  SJ what do you have to say about DS-9?

SJ:  It went places the other series didn’t.  It explored religion for instance but it was a little problematic that all the Bajoran’s had the same faith.

JPFmovies:  You also mentioned that the series was funny?

SJ: Yeah it was probably the funniest series.

JPFmovies:  Well how do you reconcile that statement with the fact that DS-9 dealt with some pretty dark themes like war and religion.

SJ: Well it had darker themes but also lightened up with episodes like “little green men,” “take me out to the hollo-suite” and “trials and tribblelations.”

JPFmovies:  Who was your favorite character on DS-9?

SJ:  Simple Dax.

JPFmovies:  You said that without hesitation.

SJ:  Yeah she is awesome.

JPFmovies:   What did you like most about DS-9?

SJ:  Ah . . . it’s hard to say.  I suppose it had sort of a diverse like episode topics going from fun to war to episodes about different cultures and romances with all of the characters.  Though I am not fan of that but some people like.

JPFmovies:  What did you like least about DS-9?

SJ:  Ah . . . it sort of there is only one religion for the Bajoran’s and it didn’t even have a name.

JPFmovies:  How would you describe the first two seasons of DS-9?

SJ: The first 2 seasons are O.K. but it definitely gets better with time.

JPFmovies:  How does it get better?

SJ:  Um the characters go more in-depth the plots get more interesting.  It goes from minor conflicts to major conflicts.

JPFmovies:  What do you say to the statement that they had to bring in a character (Warf) from Star Trek the Next Generation to keep the show’s ratings afloat?

SJ:  I think that Warf brought a lot to the show. I love Warf I can see how they needed someone that people were familiar with to keep the ratings afloat.

JPFmovies:  What do you have to say about DS-9’s original theme that it was supposed to be a western?

SJ:  I think it would have been hilarious, but it’s not super Star Trekkie—I mean Star Trek is not a western.

JPFmovies:  Reading things about the show now, how do you react to the statement that Dr. Bashir was for the series first 2 years almost removed?

SJ:  Yeah I could see that he was my least favorite character he was really annoying.  He really didn’t have much of a character they made him be more of a person with the Section 31 episodes.

JPFmovies: What was the deal with Captain Sisko’s evolution from a guy with a full head of hair to a bald man with a go-tee?

SJ:  How so?  I mean he shaved his head and grew a go-tee.

JPFmovies:  Well you have to admit that in a TV series that is pretty unusual.

SJ:  Yeah that is true but remember with the Next Generation and Riker’s beard it became a saying that a show got good when it “grew a beard.”

JPFmovies:  How do you respond to a 2007 interview with iF Magazine, where George Takei, who had played the character Hikaru Sulu in The Original Series, criticized DS-9 for being the polar opposite of Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy and vision of the future?

SJ:  I think that Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future . . . well when DS-9 was made it was outdated by then.   When you look at the original series it’s not super great with feminism and that.

JPFmovies:  Where do you see the Star Trek franchise going in the future?

SJ:  Well I think it sort of veered away from what it was.  I hope that the new series is going to be more like DS-9 and TNG but I kind of doubt it.  Each series was different but had the Star Trek feeling and I think the newer movies have not had that really.

JPFmovies:  You’ve heard about the new series that is to be released this year “Discovery”?

SJ:  Yeah . . . you told me!

JPFmovies:  Where do you want to see that series go?

SJ:  Well I am not exactly sure what it is about . . . IDK I’d like it to be as progressive as DS-9 and Voyager were but not too close because it is then just a remake.

JPFmovies:  Why do you think it took 13 years to make another Star Trek series?

SJ:  I feel like it fell out popularity after Enterprise.  Um unfortunately I don’t know any Star Trek fans other than my family.  I hope there will be more Trekkies because of this new series.

JPFmovies:  Well thank you for your insights and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on our next look at Voyager.

SJ:  Thank you.

Well folks as you can see DS-9 was well received by many a SCI-FI fan.  As always we welcome your comments.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Old Boy (2003) you come out 15 years older after watching this film.

The website “Film School Rejects” recently picked the top 30 movies of the decade and Old Boy (2003) landed in the number 7 slot so I wanted to give it a shot so I would share my respect for this film with you.

The film follows the story of one Oh Dae-su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor’s motives.  That is right for 15 years, stuck in the same hotel room.  No contact with the outside world except TV.  For food, he eats dumplings and every so often, his captors will flood the room with gas that sedates him the same gas apparently that the Russians used on the Chechens during their disputes.  The sedation allows his captors to groom him i.e. cut is hair and fingernails, but also prevents him from committing suicide meaning that someone is constantly watching him.  Oh Dae-su is not the only prisoner at the facility, we are shown that there are in fact others in the same predicament as he is:  stuck in some sort of private prison for as long as the customer wants you there.  No judge, no jury, nothing to get you out of the hotel prison cell.  The concept gives new meaning to the Eagles song hotel California “you can check out but you can never leave.”

While watching his only outlet to the outside world, he learns that his wife has been murdered, a crime for which he is the prime suspect (though he has the perfect alibi), and that his daughter has been adopted.  In addition to his consistent television viewing, Oh Dae-su begins to shadowbox and harden his fists by punching the walls.  As anyone would he pledges revenge on his captor(s) and secretly begins trying to tunnel out of his cell.  Then after 15 years he is released and finds himself on the roof of a building with a cellphone and some money no explanation or any other information about why 15 years of his life were spent in a hotel room. 

At a sushi restaurant, he meets a young woman Mi-do but passes out after boozing it up.  Mi-do takes him to her apartment where Dae-su puts the moves on her.  She explains that she will have sex with her just not now.  Cleverly, they track down the restaurant that supplied the dumplings he ate while imprisoned and use it to discover those who held him captive.  After justifiably threatening the owner, the only explanation for the confinement is that he “talks too much.” Dae-su must fight his way out of the prison past dozens of henchmen using a hammer. 

Then comes the really weird part.  The tail involves incest, rumors and the suicide of others.  Apparently, Oh Dae-su mistakenly spreads the rumor in school that his captor and his sister had an incestuous relationship, which caused false signs of pregnancy and eventual suicide.

 

Eventually we find out that the events surrounding Dae-su were orchestrated, as well as by using a hypnotist, to cause Dae-su and Mi-do to commit incest.  Woo-jin gives Dae-su a photo album. As Dae-su flips through of pictures of his family, he witnesses his daughter grow older in the pictures, until discovering that Mi-do is actually his daughter (the sushi chef).  The warden then betrays Dae-su with a similar photo album ready for Mi-do.  A horrified Dae-su begs Woo-jin to conceal the secret from Mi-do, groveling for forgiveness before slicing out his own tongue as a symbol of his silence.  

We then see Dae-su working with a hypnotist in winter to help him forget the tragic and even evil deeds that he has done or done to him.  Our last glimpse of Dae-su is an expressionless face—no one knows what his fate will be. 

Old Boy is highly credentialed; it won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and high praise from the President of the Jury, director Quentin Tarantino.  Voters on CNN named it one of the ten best Asian films ever made.  The film currently has a rating of 8.4 on IMDb, being the highest rated Korean movie and the 88th best movie of all time on IMDb Top 250.  No small feat for a foreign film not made by Kurosawa.  Moreover, an American remake is planned for release in 2013 directed by Spike Lee starring Samuel L. Jackson.  In its country of origin, South Korea, the film was seen by 3,132,000 filmgoers and it ranks fifth place for the highest grossing film of 2003.

What do I think about this film?  It is one hell of a movie.  The film is original, complex and unpredictable, all of the elements I think a good movie should have.  Old Boy is also well cast and has an ending that I believe is intentionally vague generate conversations and differing opinions.  It is a hard film so be ready, but by all means necessary give the Old Boy a try, you might be surprised even if you don’t like foreign films.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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TV Shows that may be lost and forgotten–Part 1 of 3.

Let’s take a look at some TV shows that may be lost and forgotten. Obviously, these shows may not be lost and forgotten to all of our readers here at JPFmovies, but my guess is that at least two out of the three of the shows I’ve picked probably were lost, forgotten or maybe never heard of. The three lost and forgotten shows are: Love American Style, The John Laroquette Show and The Ropers. When I was thinking about the trio of TV for this post, I wanted some shows that had character but were not terribly popular and easily forgotten. I think each of these series fits the bill.

First Love American Style.

This gem aired from 1969 to 1974. Each show featured several vignettes each lasting about 10-15 minutes of unrelated stories of comedy & romance. The episodes featured different characters, stories, and locations and often featured the same actors playing different characters in several other episodes.

The show introduced the “mini comedic soap opera” form used later by Aaron Spelling for The Love Boat. In contrast to the The Love Boat, Love American Style’s episodes within the show had no connection to each other but told the same predictable light, emotional stories about love, romance, and relationships.

Garry Marshall (creator of Happy Days) said that Love, American Style was “where failed sitcom pilots went to die,” a theory that was true. If a TV producer could not sell a pilot, they would instead sell the script to Spelling, who took the best parts of the pilot and recast them as a segment on Love, American Style.

The series also used 10–20-second “joke clips” between the highlighted segments, which allowed the show to be padded to the required length without altering the main skits. These joke clips were considered then “risqué,” burlesque- comedy of visual jokes.

After the Show was canceled it became standard in syndication as the stations could edit the show to a half-hour by linking the clips with a main segment, successfully making ten seasons out of five.

They just don’t make them like Love American Style anymore. Some say that is good thing, but I disagree—the show is a fun look back into the campy humor of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. And of course there is the famous theme song that is tough to get out of your head once it is in there.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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