Thursday, October 7, 2010

Of Sharks and Octupi

I watched Sharktopus the other day. SyFy announced on Twitter it was "our most watch[sic] Sept movie ever". I have trouble putting up with their Saturday night B-movies like this. The best parts of this movie were the Bumpers (when the show came back from commercial) that had a quick message from the Destination Truth guy, who made fun of it. SyFy knew this movie was bad. They even made a special Sharktopus theme song. They mocked their own movie, ruining the only joy I normally get out of it.

A secret branch of the government makes a Sharktopus, already an unstable emotion creature, and puts an electro-shock control collar around its head to test it in open waters. It runs rampant killing as many bikini-clad girls as it can. People hunt it and many more people die. The best character was the VW Beetle the reporter drove around. I gave the first hour 100% of my attention. After that every minute I dropped 1%. I watched it die but I hovered around 55% interest. I’m so glad to get it off my DVR. Wasted ones-and-zeroes I tell you.

So, why did I watch it? Last week I got into a debate, by e-mail, with Tuning In To SciFi TV about the popularity of SyFy branded B-movies. I hate them. I think they hurt Sci-Fi fandom in general. How could new people to the genre watch Sharktopus and walk away saying they like Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror at all. The counter argument, that had never occurred to me, was that it is a gateway for non Sci-Fi fans to watch the channel, and these movies pay the bills. Really cheap junk B-movies help to fund their TV shows (currently Stargate Universe, Warehouse 13, Eureka, Haven, Sanctuary, and Caprica), all of which I really enjoy. There is a huge disconnect for me between their movies and TV shows. SyFy single-handedly made Battlestar Galactica relevant. I can accept this now and have moved on with my life. I will watch a SyFy movie that casts an actor I like, though, which is to say I’m a sucker for stunt-casting. Can’t wait for Red.

Stargate Universe is currently one of my favorite TV shows of the season, along with Fringe, Chuck, and (surprisingly) No Ordinary Family. Dr. Rush has been my favorite character since day one. He gets how bad “bad” is, and makes what others perceive to be questionable decisions, to save lives. This comes off a bit wrong only because he doesn’t waste time explaining himself, so he’s seen as a bit anti-social. (Not unlike the print version of Sherlock Holmes.) That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to get beat up every once in a while by Colonel Young, but it’s food for thought.

In the season premier everything from the cliffhanger wrapped up quickly in that hour, almost before we could figure out if it made sense. Instead of heading to the airlock and certain death, Scott and Greer hid on the “dark side” of the ship to survive the pulsar radiation. This makes sense to me, but Cloe’s magic healing leg needs to be explained at some point, not to mention she got all her blood back. We never really saw all the Lucian Alliance troops so they introduced new actors that weren’t in last season, since they let LDP kill Rhona Mitra’s character, Kiva. She’s now free to do The Gates. TJ’s baby-dream-sequence-thing actually worked for me since they had to account for Alaina Huffman’s lack of pregnancy. Now the show is like Star Trek: Voyager again but with a third faction on board; Military, Civilian and Lucian Alliance. Things were already shaky between Young and Camile, how will the new group cope.

At the end of the month a new vision of the Zombie Apocalypse hits AMC for six episodes of Walking Dead. The series looks great, even though it reminds me a little of the opening of 28 Days Later. I’m too impatient to wait so I bought the first Graphic Novel. Anything I say would be spoilers but this series is worth it. I’m not a huge Day/Dawn/Return of the Dead movie fan, but I love playing Zombie videogames and the book World War Z grabbed my attention fully. I’m even in the middle of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The production values look high in this series and I hope it goes the distance. With six episodes it feels a bit like a mini-series, and I don’t want to wait until this time next year for season 2 and I haven’t even seen the first episode.

My only gaming has been Halo: Reach. Daily Challenges are very addictive, and I don’t even care that I’ve ignored the campaign. Maybe this weekend I’ll finish the game on Heroic, but I’m really enjoying all the multi-player offerings. Why is it that every 8-year-old on Xbox Live sounds exactly the same. Are there Microsoft clone children being grown somewhere whose only power is to whine about being shot virtually? The real world might know my pain if the try calling this public megaphone. All parents should secretly play their kids online just to see what its like. Plus every 8-year-old is better at it than me, so I’m bitter. Playing some more Halo now…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dolls Check In But They Don't Check Out, Mostly

I am addicted to podcasts. I like to think of them as pre-recorded radio shows I can listen to when I feel like it. It should come as no surprise then that I listen to videogame, tech and sci-fi podcasts. One of the sci-fi podcasts I really enjoy, with a simple premise, is “Tuning In To SciFi TV”. The name sums it up.

The three hosts, Wendy, Brent and Kevin, discuss the week’s Sci-Fi offerings on TV. I don’t get many chances at work to geek out about the latest episode of anything very often, but listening to them I get to hear what conversations I could have had. To support the community they also have contests and such. Up until last Friday they offered up a free copy of “Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: From Alpha To Rossum.” On a whim I entered and wrote a brief essay about which part of the Dollhouse world I found most interesting. I managed to win with the following…

“… the social implication of storing personalities on a hard drive. The Dollhouse created some restrictive rules of how this was to be applied, but every once in a while they lifted that restriction and the true brilliance of the show came forward. In the first season they showed us a form of immortality at the expense of others. The two Epitaph episodes showed what happens when all the rules drop. It's worth playing with the idea in your mind; if anyone can store their personality/soul in a hard drive for later use, then how does this change the equation of humanity. Each episode poked at that just a little, but a few times they ran with it, and it was brilliant.

Since this is a distinct possibility in the future, why not start thinking of it now. It's a different way of "becoming" someone else, not quite like The Game or Avatar, where you get to be "you" in that person for just a bit. In Dollhouse's case it’s more of an afterlife. Star Trek: The Next Generation inadvertently tapped into this idea with the Holodeck, when Geordi wanted Dr. Leah Brahms to help him fix a problem. Unfortunately, Star Trek couldn't go as far as Dollhouse with the idea, but Caprica can. It's actually the same idea as the Holodeck. Using recordings, and some fancy future algorithms of people with psych profiles and shopping histories, it’s all bundled into a single pattern that equals a person on enough levels that matter. That is the part of Dollhouse I like the most; when you transfer someone to a hard drive are they even human anymore, or can they be something even better, like Echo (uh, and not a Cylon).”

My musings meander a bit, and at some point I need to post something about the Enterprise-D’s ability to create life. In essence, though, Dollhouse can be a strangely uncomfortable show to watch because it’s tackling a tough issue that has barely moved out of Science Fiction yet. Dollhouse displays it prominently with a sexy attitude, which it slowly strips away to show the ugliness of uncontrolled super-science.

I currently have two gaming obsessions, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Halo: Reach. The latter has finally bit me hard and I need to play it every day. The campaign is interesting enough but I have fallen for the allure of Daily/Weekly Challenges. Bungie creates new incentive to keep play Halo with four new things to do every day (and one new thing every week) to earn Credits (or XP as I like to think of it). All variations on a theme, but I need little convincing to keep coming back. I almost want Credits more than achievements, which is the usually driving factor for me to play many different games, and not playing one title into Oblivion. Gears of War II had me at Horde Mode. If more games start doing this I may have to figure out how to go about my day with less sleep.

Guitar Hero is a good enough game. All I want are songs to play for achievements and that’s what I got. I keep up my plastic guitar skill set and remember what good music used to sound like. I think I need a new drum kit, my Rock Band 1 drums are looking archaic. The game loads songs much faster but the narrative sometimes slows the action. There is a great moment I played through this weekend where you have to play the seven-piece Rush “Song Experience” of 2112. An epic song narrated by Rush themselves. Crazy.

However, before I back-up the Terabytes of information in my head, the price of Solid-State Drives needs to come down a bit. I’m not trusting my brain to a series of spinning platter. Oh, and Zombie mode is stupid in a Halo game.