2001: A Space Odyssey

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

On this episode of TRIO SIMPATICO David and Joshua are joined by returning guest DANIELLE RANDLES to discuss our recent viewing of this catalyst of science fiction film making.

During a limited re-release of the movie in select IMAX theaters we gathered a TRIO SIMPATICO contingent to take in the cosmic splendor of this Kubrick classic on the big screen!  During this episode we share our thoughts about seeing the movie in IMAX for the first time and how that experience differs from previous viewings.

But we don’t simply end our discussion there!  We also take this opportunity to talk about the little-known cinematic follow up to 2001, 1984’s 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT directed by Peter Hyams.  We discuss the tremendous burden of this sequel, the impossibility of matching its predecessor, and the genuinely great things about this completely different but worthy film.

Plus we touch upon the companion novels by Arthur C. Clarke, how to make the name Keir Dullea sexy, and so much MORE!  Listen HERE!

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Solo: Dissection

This is it!  Trio Simpatico’s Solo: A Star Wars Story coup de grâce!

SPOILERS abound beyond this point as Joshua and David welcome guests TIM MCFARLAND and BRIAN ASHTON as the quartet undertakes a SOLO: DISSECTION episode!

Finally sitting down to tear into Solo: A Star Wars Story your co-hosts and their guests crack open the brand new Official Guide to the movie written by Lucasfilm story group head honcho Pablo Hidalgo!

Using the official guide as a map the group covers nearly every aspect of the film giving our opinions and commentary on what we liked, what we didn’t like, and what we hope to see in future STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY films!

PLUS if this conversation leaves you wanting more, fear not!  As you’d expect by now with these episodes, we ran long and had to cut some sections for time, however we are putting those cut segments together for a future bonus episode!

So look for that coming up on TRIO SIMPATICO!

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Solo: A Denny’s Bonus Episode

Trio Simpatico has a brand new episode up NOW!

SPOILERS for Solo: A Star Wars Story

As a prelude to our upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story Dissection episode we present this BONUS episode!  Recorded on location at DENNY’S as Joshua and David partake of the current SOLO themed meals and promotions!

With Peter Cetera serenading them and their fellow patrons, your co-hosts have a fast and loose conversation as they consume their STAR WARS inspired grub!

Listen in to get a quick behind the scenes peek at the lives of Dave and Josh as they prepare for an episode of the podcast, it’s like you’re sitting at the table with them at America’s Diner, Denny’s!

And stay tuned later this week for our full SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY Dissection episode!

http://simpaticopodcast.libsyn.com/a-solo-dennys-special

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Why Rogue One Might Be Better Than the Force Awakens

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Star Wars fans should always be quick to remember that the Star Wars movies were not created in a vacuum (regardless of their various deep space settings).  George Lucas himself has stated that the Star Wars movies were essentially an amalgam of some of his favorite movies and genres assembled within a new and different science fiction setting.

For instance the Dune novels by Frank Herbert are directly referenced more than once in the Star Wars films and it doesn’t take much additional digging to find their influence throughout.

The samurai film epics of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa were another major influence on George Lucas and many elements from the movie The Hidden Fortress are woven into the narrative of the original Star Wars movie.

The film noir genre itself and movies like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca were ones Lucas grew up enjoying and many of the seedier elements of the Star Wars universe find their origins with them.  The Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba the Hutt are a direct result of Lucas’ love of the gritty gangster ridden noir films.

There are of course other influences and aspects of the creation of the Star Wars movies which can be traced to many different sources; various science fiction, other films, fantasy literature, mythology, and even real world politics all of which are too numerous to mention here.  All of this is to say that originally Star Wars was never about the things for which it has now become famous, like reinventing the movie industry or altering the perception of science fiction on the big screen.  Instead I would argue that Star Wars was Lucas’ attempt to reintroduce many of the elements of “classic” Hollywood back into the harsh and often dreary cinemascape of the 1970’s.

At this point I must immediately interject here that I in no way believe Star Wars to be a rip-off or even unoriginal, in fact quite the opposite.  Although the Star Wars movies are heavy on familiar themes, pulp fiction references, and film making of a bygone era (even the scene transitions are antiquated wipes, pans, and dissolves) it was all pieced together in a wholly unique blend of space opera epic which introduced the world to the lightsaber, X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Wookiees, droids, and a whole slew of iconic planets, characters, aliens, and starships.

My point is this: As a long time Star Wars fan I have cultivated the opinion that, as a general rule, Star Wars (in all it’s varied forms and formats) is at its best when it emulates other things and frames them within the Star Wars universe; and doesn’t try too hard to be “Star Wars”.  Star Wars is not purely sci-fi, it isn’t purely fantasy, and it isn’t meant to be dramatic high art.  When any of these elements over shadows the others or when the elements of Star Wars itself begin to dominate the storyline the result is failure.

From my experience this balancing game falls apart in the expanded universe books, games, and other forums.  Though there is an argument for such an imbalance within the prequel movies as well and the reason why that trilogy has become so universally panned (though all of that is a topic for another time).

With the Star Wars novels in particular, especially the now defunct old EU, the authors attempt to capture the feeling of Star Wars too much by directly referencing the Star Wars universe in an awkward forced way.  Or they focus far too much on the sci-fi elements of the setting, presenting high tech jargon while casually rattling off obscure alien species and bits of Star Wars trivia in order to seem authentic.  All the while lauding a story lines which might seem clever in other sci-fi but seem out of place in the context of Star Wars.

There are however some great Star Wars novels, some of my favorites are the Death Troopers books by Joe Schreiber which are essentially horror/zombie novels set in the Star Wars universe.  Additionally Cloak of Deception and Darth Plagueis by James Luceno take up the staples of political thrillers set during the time of the prequel era and include all the Sith intrigue and Jedi apolitical maneuvering you’d expect, along with plenty of action and starships.

Similarly many of the best episodes of the Clone Wars series were when Dave Filoni and company played with various concepts and framed genre and  various trope story lines which had not been seen in the Star Wars universe beforehand.  The Clone Wars cartoon included murder mysteries, heist episodes, and giant kaiju-like monster attacks; all under the interpretations of the Star Wars universe.

Even the Star Wars video games have been at their best when they simply borrow from other popular video games and lend their unique and exciting Star Wars spin to the premise and gameplay.  Star Wars Battlefront was essentially Battlefield 1942 in space.  Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds was very much the Star Wars version of StarcraftStar Wars Racer, the Phantom Menace podracing game, was the Star Wars answer to any number of popular racing games of the day.  Those video games were GREAT!  Sure there were other impressive Star Wars games through the ages but many of those put a tight focus on specific characters or directly put the players in control of reenacting scenes from the movies.

Other Star Wars games did not stand up as well.

One of my least favorite games were the Force Unleashed series.  I believe they suffered from trying far too hard to feel Star Wars.  There certainly was some enjoyment in the array of Force powers available to Starkiller, the main character of the games, and the sandbox of destruction possible as a result.  However that game was a ridiculous mosaic of random elements from the Star Wars saga combined with fanboy wish fulfillment, wrapped in an incomprehensible story arc which was absolutely contradictory to the canon of the movies themselves.  I know a lot of people enjoyed that pair of games but not me and I’m sorry, it’s how I feel.

The only real example of a Star Wars property making a success from overtly trying to be “Star Warsy” was The Force Awakens, which does it’s best to redesign the original movie nearly beat for beat while adding several new and exciting characters and twists throughout.  In fact my biggest complaint regarding Episode VII is the plots general unoriginality.  However the characters and overall execution were so great that the redundancies in the narrative could be overlooked.

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This December will see the release of the first Star Wars spinoff movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (ugh.  Just call them Anthology Movies).  Rogue One is being touted as a war film, a pilot ace flick, and a heist movie all taking place within the setting of the Star Wars universe.  It is because of what we know regarding the plot that I believe Rogue One will be a great Star Wars movie and possibly better than The Force Awakens, for the reasons stated above.

The Star Wars universe is precisely that, an expansive diverse universe of possibilities and has the possibility to be so much more than a story of the Skywalker family and the Jedi.  Star Wars is also not simply a pattern of film making which if done right can be repeated ad nauseam into infinity.  And the Star Wars universe certainly is not just another sci-fi franchise that any tired sci-fi story can pasted onto, sprinkled with a few lightsabers, and titled Star Wars.  It is the exoticness of the well-worn settings and pervasive mandate for adventure which the Star Wars universe was built upon and which is able to take old stories and reform them in new ways.

Hopefully this is the case with Rogue One.

I really hope Rogue One takes off (pun intended) and is a big hit for Disney and Lucasfilm and I would love to see this first spin off movie blow The Force Awakens out of the water.  I’ve said this before, and although I have absolutely no ill will towards the Force Awakens, but I really hope that in the long run Episode VII really isn’t anyone’s favorite Star Wars flick.  With so much new Star Wars on the horizon hopefully as new movies keep opening up in theaters they will continue to outdo the previous ones in new and different ways.

Update: The Colonel’s Pants

So my post about Colonel Wullf Yularen’s pants apparently has gained some traction recently (reread it here) .  The post has acquired quite a few new views in the past couple of weeks and the images in that post have gotten a lot of clicks.

And I do mean a lot of clicks (at least relative to the obscurity of this blog as well as the definitive obscurity of the subject matter of that particular post.)

The only thing I can come up with to explain this phenomenon is the recent release of the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  In case you haven’t seen it yet, go take a look immediately! Seriously, watch it NOW!

 

One of the tantalizing tidbits from that magnificent trailer which pertains to this discussion is the appearance of Ben Mendelsohn’s character who, from what we can tell, is a new Imperial villain.

What has me most excited about this new Imperial baddie is his uniform!

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Ben Mendelsohn as he appears in the upcoming Star Wars Anthology Movie, Rogue One.

 

Look what we have here!  It appears to be a variant of the same white and black ISB uniform which we see throughout the first Death Star during the events of A New Hope (refer to previous post for those details).  As it so happens the plot of Rogue One is going to center around the first Death Star and the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for that battle station!

What a coincidence.  As it so happens that original Death Star was crawling with dudes who were dressed very similarly to this guy!

But if you’re a follower of this blog you’d have already expected that!

Now there are some differences between Ben’s uniform and the ISB uniforms which we see in the original Star Wars.  I’m confident this is simply a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers but there is a slim chance that this uniform is something new and not meant to be in line with those seen aboard the Death Star.

Anywho let’s take a minute to discuss these differences.

First the tailoring itself.  The cut and style of the white jacket seen above is very much the same as the grey and olive Imperial jackets seen in the three original Star Wars movies.  However the white uniform jackets seen in A New Hope were moderately simpler and were essentially plain chefs jackets.

Secondly this jacket has the distinctive silver Imperial code cylinders located at either shoulder of the uniform.  This feature and the small pockets set in the jacket are not found in any of the white uniform jackets we see in A New Hope.

Black gloves.  Although it is very popular for Star Wars cosplayers to sport black gloves with their Imperial uniforms there are really very few examples of that in the actual movies and there are absolutely zero examples of black gloves being worn by the white coated ISB officers from A New Hope.  However the preeminent Star Wars costuming group, the 501st Legion, does allow for the option of black gloves within their strict guidelines for most Imperial officer costumes, so there’s that.

Now that cape which is draped across this character’s shoulders is another major difference in the costume.  This is something completely new for the Imperial era uniforms and I’m guessing indicates some sort of prestigious rank or position within the Empire.  Head of the Imperial Security Bureau perhaps?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

The rank insignia is also new to this uniform and again signifies importance.  With 6 red bars above 6 blue bars that would make this character an admiral, at least according to the Empire Strikes Back system of ranking, making this character the highest ranking individual seen wearing this uniform (fun fact each movie of the original trilogy has a drastically different system of rank insignia all utilizing some variant of the red/blue/yellow rank bar combination).

With this new Mendelsohn uniform we still have the standard belt of the galactic Empire and thankfully this character is wearing the correct, BLACK PANTS, which I thoroughly discussed in the original post.

All in all I have no doubt this character will belong to the same branch of the Galactic Imperial Military as the original black and white uniformed Imperials that we see in Star Wars, now whether or not these guys are firmly defined as members of the Imperial Security Bureau, as was established in the now defunct expanded universe, is yet to be seen.

I guess what I’m saying is all of my analysis and speculation is wasted effort and that I should just sit back a few months and wait to see Rogue One!  Until then I leave you with this pic of my personal ISB uniform because of course I have one, black gloves and all!

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That is all!

 

The Meme Awakens

With so much Star Wars stuff going on this week (The Force Awakens on Blu-Ray!  First Rogue One trailer!)  There was no way I would be able to restrain myself from making at least a short Star Wars post!

Seeing as how I am eager to continue my ongoing “Voided Warranty” meme campaign I decided the next logical step would be to add another droid to the meme, this time from The Force Awakens.  So after going through the movie and taking some random screen caps I came up with the next installment below.

AND if you’re not familiar with the voided warranty meme of which this is a part of see the previous posts about it HERE and HERE!

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“Do not drag your BB unit around in a net, this may bend its antennae and void any active warranties.”

That is all!

The Eternia Restoration 2016

It should be stated that I have three older siblings.  Much older siblings in fact.  When I was born my two sisters had already moved out and the next youngest, my brother, was turning 18 and was on his way to leaving the house as well.  Growing up I was essentially an only child, as such I quickly developed a love of toys.  There was something great about being able to create your own entertainment through imaginative play which really clicked with me.  Wherever I went I’d bring along a few cars or action figures for the trip in case things got boring or I found that the mood required a high speed chase or epic battle scene.

One of my earliest collections of toys were the Masters of the Universe figures and playsets.  In fact it was probably one of the earliest fandoms to which I belonged.  As a kid I loved the He-Man cartoon and would spend hours recreating the battles and adventures of that crazy post-apocalyptic fantasy world of Eternia.  In the basement of my childhood home I had a large corner that was dedicated as a play area where I kept most of my toys and playsets.  There were representatives from several classic toy lines lingering around in that basement.  Star Wars (of course), Transformers, GoBots, Voltron, and even Rainbow Brite (I’m not ashamed!) but dominating the playscape was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!

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The art of the Masters of the Universe franchise is outstanding and this poster sums up my era of collecting the figures.

From around the ages of 4 to 6 Castle Grayskull stood at the center of my toy multiverse like a dull green beacon of adventure!  I had what seemed like a legion of heroes and villains to choose from along with several of the zany and seemingly inefficiently engineered vehicles.  Swords of power and magic staves were strewn across the carpet just waiting to be taken up in combat by the most worthy of heroes or misshapen of monsters.  Skeletor, Hordak, He-Man, Buzz-Off.  These were names of legend.  The epic storylines I would construct would incorporate many of my other toys until seemingly every toy I owned had vowed their loyalty to one side or the other in the continuous struggle of good versus evil.

The laws of physics and rules of logic did not apply to my corner of the basement which made those epic struggles all the more fun.

However there was one rule to that play area, the rule of Mom!  Specifically Mom asked that I keep my toys picked up and tidy when I was done.  No doubt this was some attempt by my parents to teach me about responsibility and the importance of taking proper care of my possessions.  Having children of my own now I completely understand but at the time it was really putting a cramp in my style, more importantly it was hindering He-Man’s quests which would often span several days, picking up where they’d left off during the previous afternoon.

How was I expected to pick up my things when Skeletor had just invaded the castle and was holding Ram Man hostage?  Man-At-Arms just called in Optimus Prime for assistance and if I put it all away now I’ll never remember who had already been killed off and who was only slightly wounded?

However time and time again I was asked to keep my toys picked up and the basement tidy and time and time again I would forget, half-ass it, or outright refuse until finally my other had enough.

“Keep your toys cleaned up or I’m getting rid of your He-Man toys.”

Cue the Ennio Morricone music.  A challenge had been thrown out.  Our eyes locked in a silent but intense stare.

I feel that I must point out here that I would not describe myself as having been a defiant kid or someone who by any means challenged authority but I was, and to this day still am, extremely stubborn.  When I feel like I’m being wronged I’ll double down and hold my ground.  Unfortunately for me my mother is the same way.

Now I was young, I don’t recall the exact details of what happened next, but as you might expect I did not keep my toys picked up or at least didn’t keep them picked up to the standards of my mother.  Believing Mom to be bluffing I was utterly taken aback when like a galactic crushing cyclone my mother came swooping down into the basement and began disassembled Castle Grayskull, the Fright Zone, and Hordak’s Slime Pit.  She meticulously plucked up every multicolored weapon; melee, energy, or otherwise.  He-Man, his friends, and enemies were unceremoniously bagged up together with seemingly no appreciation for their deeply ingrained and often conflicting friendships and rivalries.

In an instant Eternia was completely wiped out, it was like millions of plastic voices had cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.  It was Alderaan all over again, if Alderaan were a series of techo-medieval kingdoms populated by barbarians and beast men.  (Who knows, maybe it was, we’ve never had a real good look at Alderaan at this point.)

I was told my He-Man toys had been thrown away and that was the end of that.

In the intervening years other toys would come and go.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would eventually rise to prominence and surpass He-Man and his friends in number and overall interest.  But there was always a soft spot in my heart for the denizens of Eternia and the few small pieces of He-Man accessories and memorabilia which managed to slip through the cracks would go on to become artifacts of great import in my future play.

Whether or not that experience has left any indelible emotional scarring, who’s to say?  I’ll ask my psychologist when I see him next week.

It wasn’t until years later, around age 9 or 10, when I was sent into our crawl spaces in search of holiday decorations, and I discovered the truth!  My Masters of the Universe toys hadn’t been tossed out like so much fantastic garbage but had simply been stashed away, hidden from me and simply awaiting to be rediscovered.  Occasionally afterwards I’d covertly work my way back through the racks of clothes and stacks of boxed junk in the crawl space in order to get back to my old friends.  I’d pick through the toys remembering how awesome they were and matching them up with their distinctive armor and weaponry.  Even at that time I didn’t dare take them out beyond the crawl space for fear that my mother might have simply forgotten they were up there and upon discovering them would finish the job once and for all!

Well now after all those years I’ve finally freed the citizens of Eternia from the bondage of those attic boxes and have decided to make use of them in a new series of blog posts I’m calling The Eternia Restoration 2016.  If you’re familiar with my Terrordrome Renovation 2011 then you’ll know what to expect!  The short answer is I’ll be going through these old toys, cleaning them up, putting them back together, and just generally restoring them to as much of their former glory as is now possible.

So let’s get right down to it!

For starters here are a few shots of the toys I’ll be cleaning up.  These Masters of the Universe figures, vehicles and playsets have seen a lot of action and are far from complete.  Overall however they were really in much better shape than I expected!

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The heroes and villains directly from their cardboard imprisonment. For the record at this time they all smelled like a lovely melange of Moss Man and Stinkor odors.

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The remaining accessories. Already we can tell there are a lot missing.

 

Next we have the vehicles and war machines of the Masters of the Universe!

 

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The majestic Dragon Walker. The zaniest design for a vehicle ever produced and the best part is that it’s motorized! Here’s hoping we can get it to work!

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Stridor. The mechanical mount of Eternia’s heroes.

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Skeletor’s Land Shark. Watch out all you celebrity billionaire business folk, this is an actual Shark Tank!

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The Wind Raider. This is the oldest of the vehicles I have. It’s missing several parts and is sadly in the worst shape.

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Attack Track. Another highly illogical mode of transportation and it too is motorized!

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Battle Bones. This has always been my favorite. Essentially the bus of Eternia but also a handy carrying case when visiting friends and family.

 

Finally here we have the big guns, the playsets.  I was lucky enough to have not only Castle Grayskull, but the Fright Zone, and Hordak’s Slime pit as well!  Still in pieces I really want to clean these suckers up before reassembling them.

 

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Castle Grayskull. Surprisingly almost all of the castles parts and decals seems to have survived the years in exile.

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The Fright Zone and Slime Pit also seem to be in good shape though I haven’t had time yet to pull them out and sort through to find out.

 

FINALLY we’ll end this with another bit of good news: I’m happy to announce the reunion of He-Man with his sister She-Ra!  Huzzah!  As fate would have it our house was already in the possession of a She-Ra collection which my wife saved from her childhood house a few years earlier!

 

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She-Ra the Princess of Power and her pals.  Although my wife Lauren kept these heroines hair on fleek she seems to have lost all of their accessories.