Saturday, August 22, 2009

Casting Star Trek

Enterprise, the last Star Trek series, was a failure that finally vanished after four seasons. Though I remember it fondly, I'm in the minority. Even though the new Star Trek film was a big hit -- or, perhaps, because it was a big hit -- we'll probably never see another proper Star Trek series set in the same continuity as the previous shows. But, just for fun, I've decided to cast a new series anyway. Even though this will never happen and it's all just for fun, I've decided to try to make things somewhat realistic and assemble a cast that might actually be possible for a network TV series. So, no huge movie stars in every role, though I won't be picking complete unknowns since that wouldn't be any fun at all. Also, I'm not writing character sketches or thinking about who should be an alien or anything like that. I'm just picking some cool actors.

Anyway, I think this would be a cool show:

Captain: Terry O'Quinn

Terry O'Quinn is a great choice as captain for a Star Trek season for a variety of reasons: He is beloved amongst genre fans for his role as John Locke on Lost, appeared already in Star Trek as Admiral John Pressman in the Next Gen episode the Pegasus, and he's just an incredible actor.

A captain of a Federation Starship has to have charm, gravitas, and intensity, and Terry O'Quinn has demonstrated over the course of his career that he can bring all of that in his sleep. I see him playing a character that is a cross between the renegade Jim Kirk and the by the book, hardass Picard. You know... basically Captain John Locke. How awesome would that be?

First Officer: Morris Chestnut

To be perfectly honest, Morris Chestnut is too good an actor -- with too good of a resume -- to play the second lead in anything. But we're in a recession, money is tight, and roles are scarce, so he might be willing to sign on even though he's way too good for this role.

Or... maybe he'd jump at the chance. After all, the first officer always has the most fun. He's like the captain, but he's actually able to let his guard down and be a friend to the crew. After all, would you rather be Captain Picard or Riker? Well... ok... I'd rather be Captain Riker, but you know what I mean. Anyway, Chestnut is a super cool actor who has that right blend of charm and physicality that makes it clear he'd be great both leading men and kicking their asses.

Doctor: Robert Davi

What can I say? I want Robert Davi on my show.

The role of the doctor always allows for a lot of leeway. After all, a doctor of a starship isn't trying to make captain. A doctor just wants to be a doctor. So you can get away with casting somebody -- how can I say this politely on the rare chance that Robert Davi googles his name and finds this website -- with a little more experience than the rest of the crew.

Anyway, I love Robert Davi and think he's an awesome actor. And, chances are good, so do you.

Helm: Ashley Legat

I don't know much about Ashley Legat other than that she plays Casey on some Disney Channel TV show called Life with Derek. But we need somebody young and cute as our "rookie" and Legat fits the bill as well as anybody.

Anyway, she is decent on Life with Derek so she's probably a fine actress who could excel on my Star Trek show, and I think she has different, almost otherworldly, beauty that I think would lend itself well to some kind of weird makeup or prosthetic forehead.

What? You've never seen Life With Derek?

Chief Engineer: B.D. Wong

What can I say? I wanted an Asian guy. Now, B.D., don't get offended if you're reading this. Yes, I cast you because I wanted an Asian man, but you were the first Asian actor I considered. So that's good, right?

Anyway, B.D. Wong is a cool actor. He's nowhere near as famous as he should be, but a plum role as chief engineer on my Star Trek series should correct that. Heck, maybe we'd even make him gay in honor of George Takei, the first -- and most awesome -- Asian actor on a Star Trek series. He has played a gay guy already in the And Band Played On (I think! Anyway, he was in that movie at least) and a scientist in Jurassic Park, so all our bases are covered.

Head of Security / Tactical: Michelle Rodriguez

Now this is what you call typecasting. Basically, Michelle Rodriguez will be playing Vasquez from Aliens, the tough as nails Latino space marine. It's a role Rodriguez could perform over the phone and still win an Emmy. She played that role in the Fast and the Furious, Resident Evil, S.W.A.T., and on Lost. I'm sure she's sick of playing the tough tom boy and would want to play more of a stretch, but I don't give a shit. She can act in somebody else's TV show. She's playing the tough as nails tom boy in my Star Trek show.

Also, as a side note, I've never really understood why the bridge's tactical officer is the same position as the ship's chief of security. What if you're really good as ship to ship tactical combat but not so good at running a team of security officers? Whatever. It's a Star Trek convention that I'm sticking with, even though I don't really get it.

Science Officer: Kevin McKidd

Another actor who's way too good to be cast as a member of the bridge crew on a Star Trek show, but whatever. He's a cool actor and I think he'd be awesome in Star Trek. Maybe you know him as Lucius Vorenus on Rome or as the titular Journey Man (probably not) from that short lived TV show, but either way you know him as being awesome.

Much like the Tactical/security character, I don't really know what the science officer does, but every Star Trek show has one. I guess they put data into the computer and then read the results the computer gives them... but they do it scientifically, I guess.

Anyway... I wanted a British guy, because every Trek show has one of those as well. Well, except for Voyager, but that show sucked.

Miscellaneous: Peter Dinklage

Every Star Trek series has at least one character that just doesn't call into any established category. Chekov (a late addition to the second season) was the "Navigator," as though the ship didn't already have a computerized GPS to perform that function better than any human could. Next Gen's Troi was the ship's councilor. Deep Space Nine had Quark, the owner of the station's bar. Voyger's Neelix was the cook. Etc and so forth. I don't know what Peter Dinklage will be doing, but I'm sure he will be awesome in his role.

Dinklage is just a really good actor who's been great in everything I've seen him in, and he deserves to be in even more stuff. And not because he's a little person, but because he's just that good. He has an intensity and charm to him that is just incredible. And he has an awesome voice. He's like a mini Orson Welles.

Anyway, I don't know what role or character he'd play, but there you go. Maybe he'd be a Space Pixie.

Anyway, that's my Star Trek show. Don't tell me you wouldn't watch it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Five Worthless G.I. Joe Characters

Just for fun, here are five G.I. Joe characters who are completely worthless.


Personally, I think a guy with a big laser would be awesome to have at your back during a battle, but not according to my childhood friend Johnathan Kovatch. According to him, Scifi was totally lame.

When I first got Sci-Fi and brought him over to Johnathan's house, he thought it was as cool figure.

"So his backpack is full of bullets and they load by going though this wire into his gun?" He asked.

"No. He has a laser gun. That's some kind of power pack."

"What?! I'm not playing with a guy who uses lasers! That's unbelievable! He has bullets and they travel through his pack into his gun!"

I haven't seen Johnathan Kovatch in about 20 years, but if he's reading this... he can go to hell.

Sneak Peek

This is a real character. Sneak Peek is an "advanced recon" specialist who carries around some giant device that looks like the kind of thing tourists look through to get a better view of the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore.

"Hey, do you guys think you're going to need to see over a lot of walls?"

"Uh... maybe."

"Awesome! Let me get me scope. Wait... who's got, like, a shit load of quarters?"

The Driver of the Bridgelayer

It's like a tank... that lays a bridge over a chasm. I'm guessing that comes in handy maybe once a decade.

Snow Job

"Going on a mission, huh? Can I help?"

"Yeah, ok."

"Is it in Antarctica?"






"The North Pole?"


"Uh... Northern Minnesota in the Winter?"


"Upstate New York?"

"No. Actually, we're going to Iraq."

"I'll sit this one out."

"Or you could, you know... change."

"What do you mean?"

"... Forget it. See you later, Snow Job."

Quick Kick

"Hey, Duke! I heard you're going on a mission. You're probably gonna need an expert at the martial arts!"

"Uh, yeah. Snake Eyes already agreed to come. He's kind of a ninja."

"Oh. But how quick are his kicks? As quick as this?" (WHOOSH!)

"Uh, yeah. He kicks pretty good. And he's got a gun, so... you know. Thanks anyway."

"Do you have any missions for me?"

"I wouldn't mind a danish. Want to run next door to the Super America and get me one?"

"... Ok. Let me go put on a shirt."


I got no idea what to say about this asshole.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top 10 G.I. Joe Characters

In honor of the recently released new G.I. Joe film, I'd like to get things back to basics by talking about the real G.I. Joe. The new movie is fun and all, but it just didn't have the charm, wit, or originality we all came to expect from the cartoon and comics. Most of that has to do with the fact that the best characters didn't make it into the film, and those that did weren't really portrayed with much accuracy or fidelity to the source material.

So here, without any further ado, are my picks for the top ten G.I. Joe characters ever:

10. Flint

Here's all you really need to know about Flint: He wears a beret and he's (probably) bangin' Lady Jaye. You could even turn that into a poem somehow if you really wanted to.

Flint is just a good solider, a hit with the ladies, a great friend, and a born leader. He's kind of like the Commander Riker of the G.I. Joe unit. Sure, it would be cool as hell to be Duke or Captain Picard, but at the end of the day, wouldn't you really rather be Flint or Riker? They weren't really in command, but they still seemed like they had way more fun.

9. Stalker

Stalker almost doesn't fit in G.I. Joe because he's, like, and actual soldier or something. There's just something believable about him, as though he actually belongs in US military operation. I suppose it helps that he's wearing a normal enough costume and actually has talents and specialties that make him sound like a real soldier. No gimmicks here, he's just a real, old fashioned solider.

Stalker would've been perfect for the new G.I. Joe film, and I can't help but daydream about how awesome Wesley Snipes would've been. And now, you will too. Here's hoping the people writing the sequel are reading this blog.

8. Bazooka and Alpine

Taken on their own, both of these characters are likable enough, but not really all that special all things considered. One is a guy who's really good at climbing stuff while the other one carries around a, um, bazooka. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

But for some reason the writers of the TV show made these guys into a brilliant comedy team who had some of the best moments in the entire history of the show. They were just hilarious every time they came on screen.

Oh, and Alpine's real name is Albert Pine. That's just funny right there.

7. Gun Ho

Gung Ho's specialty is that he's a Marine, which makes one wonder why he isn't in the Marines. But whatever. We're talking about G.I. Joe, here, and Gung Ho is one of the toughest and most charismatic of all.

Like most of the Joes, he ostensibly has some talent that distinguishes him enough to be the best in his particular field, but in reality he's just a big guy who's good at beating people up. That's why the Gung Ho stories were always better than, say, the stories about Ripcord. How many times can you really watch somebody jump out of an airplane?

Oh, and he always loved making gumbo for the troops, much to their dismay because he was a horrible cook. Ah, what fun those Joes had!

6. Chuckles

Fans of the cartoon only probably don't know much about Chuckles, since I'm pretty sure his only real appearance was in the animated movie, and even then it was only for a few minutes. All I remember is him picking up a missile and throwing it at some Cobra soldiers.

But it was the action figure that made Chuckles one of my favorites. He's just some guy with a handgun and a Hawaiian shirt. How cool is that? G.I. Joe has the most lax dress code imaginable. It makes me wonder what Chuckles wears to the Pitt on casual Fridays.

5. Scarlett

Scarlett is more than just a pretty face. As one of the few female members of G.I. Joe, she's also one of the toughest of the entire bunch. She's an expert in martial arts and uses a crossbow as her weapon of choice.

Oh, and she's really pretty too. If you were a child of the 80s, you had to make a mental choice: side with G.I. Joe because you're in love with Scarlett or betray all of your principles and join Cobra because you're in love with the Baroness. Later, children of the 90s had to make that same choice between Kelly and Jessie from Saved by the Bell. Just kidding. Nobody ever chose Jessie.

4. Roadblock

From an adult's perspective, I honestly don't know if Roadblock was a racist or stereotypical depiction of an African American. As a kid, he was just a big, strong black guy who talked in rhyme and loved soul cooking. Very few people would argue that all African Americans act that way, though I think the world would be a more awesome place if everybody acted that way. Long story short, Roadblock was awesome.

His specialty was... um... carrying around a big gun. But, honestly, wouldn't you rather have him at your back than, say, Snow Job?

3. Duke

Duke is a born leader. But like the best kinds of leaders, he leads by example, so he's not some armchair general sending his soldiers off to fight and die for king and country, he's right there in the fray. Duke is probably the first solider on the battlefield and the last one to leave. I'd follow Duke into battle, and so would you.

In the cartoon, there was a hinted at relationship between Duke and Scarlett, the hottest babe on the planet. In the original animated movie, Duke took a (snake) arrow through the heart in order to save his brother Falcon... and lived! It'll take a lot more than some snake arrow to stop a man like Duke.

2. Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes is a bad ass, mute ninja dressed in a full body suit who never talks, never shows his face, and has yet to even reveal his name. The Snake Eyes figure came with a gun, a sword, and a timberwolf. That's just awesome.

The cartoon never really knew what do to with Snake Eyes, since the entire concept of a Ninja fighting for the Joes just seemed a little too violent and over the top for Saturday morning viewing, but in the comic book he was really allowed to shine. He was a Vietnam Vet who trained martial arts in the Arishikage Clan, where he first met and befriended Storm Shadow.

Oh, and Duke may have gotten Scarlett in the cartoon, but Snake Eyes got her in the comic.

1. Shipwreck

There's just something about Shipwreck. First of all, he's a sailor... called "Shipwreck." That's just bad ass. Imagine if you got on a plane and you heard a voice over the intercom that said, "This is your pilot Planecrash..." His irony isn't limited to his codename, since every line out of his mouth is loaded with sarcasm, put downs, or some other form of witticism. He's just a jaded, battle-hardened soldier who's seen everything and come out alive.

And he made it to G.I. Joe so he must be, like, an incredible sailor too. But Shipwreck was so bad ass, he almost never even set foot on a boat. They always sent him to the desert or the North Pole or any other damn place where Cobra needed a good ass-kicking.

Oh, and he's always accompanied by his talking parrot named Polly, who's an even bigger jerk than Shipwreck.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

This movie was a mess... but it was a hot mess.

To begin with, I'm not just a G.I. Joe fan, I'm a G.I. Joe fanatic. I've read (and still own) almost every issue of the original Marvel comic book and I've watched and rewatched every episode of every incarnation of the cartoon. This film is not even close to being any kind of definitive G.I. Joe movie, but it isn't a complete insult to the franchise either. At the end of the day, it is a less than faithful adaptation that still managed to be a ridiculously entertaining summer popcorn film.

If you're familiar with the other films directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing), you should already know what to expect: Over the top, impossible to believe action set-pieces bordering scenes where square jawed heroes crack one-liners, damsels in distress thrust their hipes at a jaunty angle, and villains chew through the scenery like Tommy Lasorda at an all you can eat hot dog buffet. In other words, he's awesome. He fills his movies with the only three things I really need: Babes, explosions, and people punching each other so hard they always go flying against the far back wall. If any of that sounds like fun, you'll enjoy this movie. If it doesn't, um, go see Julia and Julie. I'm sure the only thing that explodes in that is a poorly baked souffle.

But is it really a G.I. Joe movie? Well, yes and no.

G.I. Joe is no longer "America's daring, highly trained special missions force," but The World's special missions force. They are now an anti-terrorist squad funded by the UN (or something) and headquartered in a secret, underground base just a few miles from the Pyramids in Egypt. The nationalities of many of the members has been changed to accommodate this multi-national team, so Breaker is now Moroccan, Heavy Duty is now British, and Ripcord is an African American. These changes were probably made so the film would be a hit overseas as well as domestically, but they didn't really bother me too much anyway. After all, giving Heavy Duty a cockney accent doesn't really change his core characterization as a big black man with a machine gun. Casting a Wayans Brother as a character who has always been a ginger-haired white man was a little strange, however, if only because there were plenty of other African America members he could've played to better effect. Were there really so many people clamoring for the inclusion of Ripcord that they had to change his character so dramatically in order to shoehorn him into the script?

But whatever. Odd characterizations aside, the cast is fantastic and pretty much sold this entire film mostly on their charm and likability, much like the characters from the cartoon used to do every Saturday morning. Nobody watched that cartoon to see if Cobra would actually take over the world with their Pyramid of Darkness, they tuned in to watch Quick Kick joke around with Bazooka and Alpine. Dennis Quaid didn't give the performance of his career here as General Hawk, but Dennis Quaid phoning it in is still Dennis Quaid. He's awesome.

Lost fans will love seeing Mr Eko and Caesar as Heavy Duty and Breaker respectively. Said Taghmaoui is particularly good in the particularly thankless role of Breaker, but that has been a stable of his career for years. He's one of those actors who always seems on the verge of breaking out as a star, so it's always nice to see him in a big movie like this. Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord as one of the Wayans brothers, which is to be expected. At least he wasn't playing him as Little Man. He's likable and occaisonally funny, but nowhere near as funny as Brendan Fraiser or Kevin J. O'Connor were in the Mummy.

The best I can say about Channing Tatum's Duke -- our film's lead hero -- is that he wasn't terrible. He was just boring. Channing, I know Duke. I've watched and read about Duke since I was a boy. You sir are no Duke.

Most on target was probably Ray Park as Snake Eyes, who looked and acted exactly as he did in every other incarnation of the franchise. It's a hard character to screw up, and they thankfully made him mysterious and badass, though a little more of his backstory would've been nice.

Best of all, at least on the eyes, is Rachel Nichols as Scarlett. Her character was underwritten and incredibly cliched, but she was more or less the same independent, stone-cold femme fatal from the comics and cartoons. And if you ever fell in love with her radiant beauty from the saturday morning cartoon, you will fall all over again with the near-perfect live-action version. Long story short, this chick is fly.

Christopher Eccleston's Destro is actually somewhat faithful to the original character from the comics, but Arthur Burghardt's voice acting in the cartoon was so indelible in people's memories that it's hard to accept any other portrayal, especially considering how he only puts on the mask (SPOILER!!!) in the last few minutes of the movie, and even then it isn't really a mask at all. But Eccleston is a good actor who was a lot of fun to watch.

Byung-hun Lee played Storm Shadow as any cliched ninja, but it's hard to blame the actor for a role that was so underwritten and boring. Her certainly looked good in the white costume (which was a little too flowy and baggy to be all that menacing) and aquitted himself well in the fight scenes. But Storm Shadow should have a little more charisma than this, though they did hint a bit at his backstory and his personal code of honor.

And just as radiant as Scarlet was Sienna Miller as Sarah Palin... I mean, the Baroness. The best thing I can say about Sienna Miller is that she is a stunningly beautiful woman who looks exceptional in a tight leather body suit. And maybe she's a good actress too, I dunno. When she first came on screen, I was absolutely blown away by how perfectly they captured the character from the cartoon and comics, until she opened her mouth and talked in an American accent. What's that about? And then as we learned more and more about her backstory, her character got worse and worse. But, again, she's a total babe.

And I have no idea what Joseph Gordon-Levitt was doing as "The Doctor." He was given so little to do that he must've decided to go completely over the top with his character so he'd still stand out. And he does, but maybe not in the way he would've wanted. Just a weird, unbelieveable, poorly thought out character all things considered. But I'm sure he'll be fun to see in the sequel now that his hackneyed backstory is out of the way.

So... I liked the cast, which is good because the storyline was a big ball of crap.

It had to do with Destro selling nano... whatever bombs to... somebody who... I dunno. A lot of stuff blows up. That's pretty much all you need to know. Destro is trying to blow stuff up while the Joes are racing to stop him. Luckilly for the audience, while they're trying to stop Destro from blowing stuff up, a lot of other stuff gets blown up on the way. Seriously, I think they did a lot more damage to the streets of Paris trying to stop the destruction of the Eiffle Tower than what would've happened had they just let it fall. But that action set piece was one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. In terms of action, this movie definitely delivers, all though the big finale was kind of hard to follow, since there were too many things flying around at the same time, all of which looked too much alike.

And where were the parachutes everytime a plane blew up? People aren't supposed to die in G.I. Joe!

And here's a tip for any would-be (or, in this case, professional) screenwriters out there: Don't use nanotechnology in your films unless they actually follow some kind of logic or set of rules. The nanomachines in this film were magical devices that destroyed metal, changed people's faces, did mind control, and anything else the filmmakers wanted at any given time. That's not writing, that's magic.

But, at the end of the day, Rise of Cobra was a really fun movie that was kind of based on G.I. Joe. In the cartoon and comics, the Joes were the best at their particular talents who used them to fight Cobra. In this movie, the Joes are the best at their particular talents, who all use big guns to blow stuff up. I never thought I would say this, but this film simply doesn't have the intelligence or depth of story telling found in the cartoon, and it doesn't hold a candle to the comics, which is one of the best war comics of all time. It's simply not faithful enough to become beloved by fans or original or different enough to stand on its own terms. It's just... a movie.

If you want to see a real adaptation of G.I. Joe that has brilliant casting and amazing costumes, check this out... but only if you're willing to shread a tear for the true G.I. Joe film that could've been: