Why “Star Trek: Discovery” Has the Potential to Be the Best “Star Trek” Yet


Admittedly, we’ve only seen the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS, but what we have seen has been extremely tantalizing. After more than 12 months of worry and anxiety from Star Trek fans that maybe “Discovery” wouldn’t live up to the lofty standards of the “Star Trek” franchise, it looks like this new Star Trek has the potential to be the best one yet.

“Star Trek: Discovery” will offer us richer, more complex characters and plotlines

If you think about all the earlier iterations of “Star Trek,” they were essentially morality plays set in outer space. There were good guys – everyone from the Federation and everyone aboard the Enterprise. And then there were the bad guys – the Klingons and the various aliens populating the Star Trek universe.

It was easy to know who to root for, and who to root against. And you knew how every episode was going to end. It’s not that these shows were formulaic – but they did follow a very well known dramatic arc that followed the conventional format of TV shows. You had to set up a problem, introduce some conflict, and then resolve a problem, all within a very short period of time.

But look at how the first 2 episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” has completely turned that logic on its head. Start with the Klingons – they are still a martial, war-like species, but their motivations appear to be much more complex, making us question whether we might have gotten the Klingons all wrong.

In fact, the first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” tries to show the Klingon perspective on why things are as they are. We see them being led almost by a religious fanatic, and how their enmity against the Federation is almost a holy war of sorts that is based on acts taken against them. We’re told that the Federation may be powerful, but that it is torn by conflict and even hypocrisy.

And then are the Vulcans – we usually think of them as being entirely rational and, ultimately, the “good guys.” But here again, things are not as they seem. We learn about the “Vulcan hello” – which is not exactly what you might expect. It turns out that, in the first encounter between the Vulcans and Klingons, the Vulcans’ first impulse was to fire on the Klingons and attack them. That’s hardly rational.

And then take the examples of the characters and heroes themselves. First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green) has been described as a “disturbingly flawed hero,” and for good reason. What other version of Star Trek has resulted in the First Officer being locked up in the starship brig and facing an imprisonment term for a breach of Federation policy? What other version of Star Trek has seen a character who seems to be wrestling so many internal demons as she decides upon the right course of action.

“Star Trek: Discovery” will be more cinematic than any of the previous TV versions

If you think about the Star Trek franchise, it has done a remarkable job of integrating both the film and TV versions. The times when the film has seemed to veer off-script is when fans have voiced their displeasure. Each new film that is released, then, has to follow a certain dramatic arc and conform to certain “rules of the road” in order to stay true and authentic to the original Star Trek vision.

What gives the new “Star Trek: Discovery” a lot more wiggle room is the fact that it’s set a full 10 years before the original Star Trek. Thus, it’s possible to imagine a new Star Trek universe, and to create plausible back stories for the original versions of Star Trek. The first, initial peaks at this world didn’t go over well with fans – the teaser-trailer showed a starship that many described as industrial-looking and not at all within the spirit of Star Trek.

But this “Star Trek: Discovery” seems to be winning over both fans and skeptics with its amazing cinematic sweep. This is a Star Trek that looks as good as it sounds. We almost feel like we’re watching a movie, and not just a TV series. The battle scenes with the Klingons are fantastic, and exactly what you would expect from a feature-length Hollywood film. And the initial battle with the Klingon guarding the ancient space beacon is almost gladiatorial in its filming. This is just really good TV – TV so good that it almost seems like cinema.


“Star Trek: Discovery’ will be more high-tech and futuristic than other Star Trek shows

It’s hard to think of a TV show that has done more to support the spirit of scientific curiosity and innovation than Star Trek. This is a franchise that has given us the fantastic medical device known as the tricorder, the teleportation room for beaming down to distant planets, the notion of “warp speed” to connote travel at unbelievable speeds faster than the speed of light, and the “phaser” as the weapon of choice in hand-to-hand combat. It also taught us what a spaceship was supposed to look like. That’s hard to top, right?

Well. it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” might just be able to fill those big shoes. Fans are already raving about the holographic telepresence system seen in the first two episodes. Even something as simple as the spacesuits worn by the crew of the Discovery seem to be futuristic and sci-fi. If the first Star Trek TV series showed us a a world that already was high-tech and futuristic, then it looks like it is the job of this Star Trek to fill in all the blanks and lead us on a wondrous innovation journey from Discovery to Enterprise.

Put it all together – the more complex and nuanced characters, the more intricate plotlines, the cinematic sweep of the show, and the emphasis on creating the best sci-fi TV series yet – and it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” has the potential to become the best Star Trek yet. If you had any doubts at all about this latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise, you can now rest easy – this show is going to be bold, daring and spectacular. Gene Roddenberry would be proud.


Categories tv

Tennis Fans Will Love “Battle of the Sexes”


If you’re a tennis fan, then the upcoming “Battle of the Sexes” movie starring Steve Carell and Emma Stone is going to be a pure delight. You’ll enjoy re-living one of the most famous moments in all of sports – the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that took place back in 1973. There are so many reasons why tennis fans will love this new movie.

“Battle of the Sexes” captures the pure spectacle of 1970’s era tennis

It seems hard to believe, but the “Battle of the Sexes” event took place nearly 45 years ago in the Houston Astrodome. At the time, it was one of the most-hyped events ever, featuring the former Wimbledon star Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) and the then No. 1 women’s player in the world, Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone).

Nobody gave Billie Jean King much of a chance, especially after Bobby Riggs had dismantled women’s tennis champion Margaret Court in straight sets, 6-2 and 6-1, just a few months earlier. But Billie Jean King proved her doubters wrong, and forever changed the trajectory of professional tennis with her convincing 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 straight sets sweep.

While many people may have forgotten the final score of the match, nobody who witnessed the event could ever forget the pure spectacle of it. To start with, it featured 30,000 cheering fans at the Houston Astrodome, then a record for professional tennis. And that number was dwarfed by the people tuning in on national TV. More than 90 million people watched worldwide, making it easily the most-watched sporting event of all time. Even the recent Mayweather-McGregor boxing match in Las Vegas couldn’t top this.

The “Battle of the Sexes” movie captures this pomp and circumstance with 70’s era music, and all the little style and aesthetic flourishes that brings back that golden era of tennis. Remember – that was an era before cable TV, before the multi-million-dollar prizes paid out at the Grand Slam tennis events, and before the era of rampant product endorsements. At the time, a guaranteed prize pool of $100,000 was worth staking your fame and legacy on – and that’s exactly what Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs did back in 1973.

“Battle of the Sexes” shows the off-court trials and tribulations of both stars

At the same time that the championship match was happening on the court, there were plenty of off-the-court trials and tribulations for both Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It’s hard to say which one faced greater personal demons.

On the one hand, you had Bobby Riggs, essentially a washed-up former star still struggling to stay relevant. He was a charmer, a huckster and a big-time gambler, and that caused havoc with his family life. When he won his Wimbledon men’s championship back in 1939, he allegedly made $100,000 by betting aggressively on his victory. But what goes up must come down, and in many ways, Riggs was headed for a crash landing due to his gambling.

He was, perhaps, the consummate showman. That’s something the film makes very clear – from the way he paraded around his anti-female chauvinism and bigotry, to the way he paraded around the tennis court like a clown.

On the other hand, you had Billie Jean King, who was fighting for equal pay and equal treatment. Concerned by the huge disparity in paychecks for men and women tennis stars, Billie Jean King joined the movement to start a separate women’s tennis tour. The final tipping point, as the film makes clear, was the wide gap in prize pools for the men and women tennis champions: men were making $12,000 per championship, while the women were making just a fraction of that ($1,500).

But Billie Jean King was struggling for more than just equal pay and equal rights – she was also struggling with her own sexuality. That’s another angle to the film that tennis fans will love, since they might not know the full extent of Billie Jean’s King LGBT issues. She was married, but fell in love with her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (played by Andrea Riseborough). So there’s another major plotline there.

“Battle of the Sexes” shows the origins of the modern tennis era

At one time, tennis was a gentleman’s sport, played only by men of the aristocracy. And until the 1970’s, it was largely seen as a privileged sport for men. But the events of that era exploded open that notion, democratizing the game of tennis for everyone. Today, it’s hard to believe that situation ever existed – go down to any local park, and there’s likely a tennis court. Go into any sporting goods store, and you’ll see life-size cutouts of tennis stars like Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. They are multi-millionaires with huge endorsement deals and global celebrity profiles.

In many ways, the so-called “Battle of the Sexes” was the precursor to all that. And that’s why tennis fans will love this movie so much. You can mark down 1973 as the year everything changed. In many ways, it was the perfect storm – the end of the peak civil rights era, the sexual revolution and the transformation of niche sports into major professional leagues with huge TV audiences. With TV deals came bigger prize pools, and with bigger prize pools the best stars became celebrities. They no longer had to take up Bobby Riggs on a humiliating offer to make $10,000 – they could make several times that just on their talent alone.

If there is any complaint whatsoever about “Battle of the Sexes,” it’s that it perhaps treats Bobby Riggs too lightly. The film humanizes him too much, attempting to equate his struggles with the struggles of Billie Jean King. But he was a chauvinist, a gambler and a huckster. In contrast, Billie Jean King was a true tennis icon deserving of all the acclaim she receives today.

If you’re a fan of tennis, “Battle of the Sexes” has to be one of the most anticipated films of the fall season. Steve Carell and Emma Stone are fantastic as the two tennis champions, and the supporting cast – led by Bill Pullman and Elizabeth Shue – are fantastic as well. Tennis fans, no doubt, will love “Battle of the Sexes.”



Why “It” Is Masterfully Terrifying


The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s famous horror novel “It” is just about as terrifying as it gets for a Hollywood film. Just when you thought you had gotten over your fear of clowns and put to rest your old childhood traumas, “It” digs them back up and makes you confront your deepest fears. There are several reasons why “It” is so terrifying for both children and adults.

“It” turns the icons of childhood into elements of horror

First and most importantly, the film’s director Andrés Muschietti – following the lead of Stephen King – works to subvert the traditional view of childhood as a time of innocence and purity. Childhood, in short, is no longer a time when we can innocently make paper boats and float them in the water, or laugh along with clowns at birthday parties. Take, for example, the scene of little 6-year-old Georgie, a sweet child walking out in the rain who stumbles upon the predator clown in the most innocent of ways – his paper boat floats into the sewer system where the monster is lurking.

In “It,” the monster is Pennywise the Clown, and that’s what is so terrifying. We can no longer trust anyone or anything – the simple red balloon floating in the air could be a toy, or it could be what lures you to your grisly death. Remember, King’s novel of the same name was published nearly 30 years ago. Since that time, the clown-as-monster trope has entered the cultural mainstream, and nobody is shocked anymore when we hear stories of a child predator lurking in the woods, dressed as a clown.

“It” gives us images that are reminiscent of hallucinatory nightmares

The primary attribute of Pennywise the Clown (played by Bill Skarsgard) is that it can shape-shift and assume whatever form is most frightening to its victim. Thus, we see some graphic and hallucinatory images that seem ripped from our nightmares – human-like forms with spider limbs, deformed heads, and just about anything that will scare the wits out of you.

The one scene that everyone is talking about, of course, involves the long fun-house scene at 29 Neibolt Street. This is a haunted house of horrors beyond your wildest imagination. While some of the images and accompanying frights (and especially the creepy music!) may now be “horror film classics,” they are terrifying nonetheless.

“It” is really a story of innocent children vs. evil adults

What makes the film so terrifying from start to finish is how it creates a milieu in which children are good and adults are evil. Parents and adults, when they do appear in the film, do so only sparingly. And they are typically cruel, manipulative and downright immoral (such as the lecherous father who seems intent on corrupting his own daughter). The story that we learn in the film is that the parents know about the horror that has haunted the town for decades, but have done nothing about it. They have covered it up, and have not confronted it.

In contrast, it is the “Loser’s Club” led by Bill Denbrough (played by Jaeden Lieberher) who must take on the horror. They must travel through the town’s sewer system to find the evil lurking beneath. And it is they who must do so without the help of their parents. As Stephen King famously pointed out in the novel: “Adults are the real monsters.” The trailer for the film makes that point loud and clear – the most terrifying aspect of childhood is realizing that parents cannot protect you from the outside world.


“It” equates childhood traumas with monsters

In many ways, “It” is a coming-of-age story, as it tells the story of the various kids in the town of Derry, Maine. The focal point, of course, is the “Losers’ Club” – a group of kids dealing with their own unique form of trauma. In many ways, they are stereotypes – the lonesome loser who hides in the library, the promiscuous girl who’s dealing with potential sexual abuse, the nerdy hypochondriac, and the shy new kid. And then, of course, there are all the psychotic bullies who make our lives difficult as children. All of these are childhood traumas that we largely outgrow.

The genius of Andrés Muschietti’s movie adaptation is that he equates confronting these childhood traumas with confronting the town monster. As the popular saying goes, you must learn to confront your own personal demons. And those demons can be harder to confront than a real, physical being because they live in your heads. In short, “It” messes with your mind. And that is what makes the evil clown figure so powerful – it is able to adapt its shape to match your inner demons. There is no escape because the scariest monsters are those that we cannot see.

“It” is part of the Stephen King horror milieu

All of the action in “It” takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. This town has been a mainstay location in other Stephen King works – such as “Insomnia,” “Dreamcatcher,” “Fair Extension,” “Bag of Bones” and even some of the “Dark Tower” works. Thus, we as the viewer subconsciously recognize this location, making the geography of terror ever more real.

In short, the movie does not have to work as hard to convince us that a demonic and evil force resides in this town – we know it, as if from memory. “It” dredges up all the collective fears and terrors that we have from other Stephen King works and places them in our subconscious mind, rendering us more vulnerable to the terrors of Pennywise the Clown.

“It” makes us realize what a master of horror Stephen King is

Even if you’re not a huge Stephen King fan, it’s hard not to be impressed by his vast legacy of horror. The same novels that he wrote 30 years ago, when many of us were no older than the kids in this movie, are now turning into nightmarish films right before our eyes. Consider that “Dark Tower” also hit movie screens this summer, uniting the various strands of the Stephen King horror multi-verse.

What’s interesting about “It” the movie is that it transforms the fictional milieu of the book (the idyllic 1950s) into the 1980s. This was a time that many of us thought was the best of times, a time for childhood delights. But King is going to terrify us even now as adults, dredging up all those painful memories and traumas from a generation ago, and in a way so authentic that it is just downright terrifying.



What To Expect From “American Horror Story: Cult”


The clues have been coming fast and furious for the upcoming 7th season of the horror anthology TV series “American Horror Story,” which premiered on Tuesday, September 5, on FX.

While there will be a number of returning characters from past seasons – including Ally Mayfair-Richards (played by Sarah Paulson), Kai Anderson (played by Evan Peters) and Dr. Rudy Vincent (played by Cheyenne Jackson), there will also be a number of interesting new twists and turns, as well as new talent (Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Lena Dunham). Here’s what to expect from “American Horror Story: Cult.”

#1: “American Horror Story: Cult” will be based on the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election

While FX has not released the exact plot lines and narratives of Season 7, we’ve received a number of tantalizing clues from the trailer as well as from the show’s director and co-creator, Ryan Murphy.

Here’s what we know: the action in Episode 1 will start on election night 2016 and all of the action will take place in Michigan. From the trailer, we see two very different reactions to the results of the election: Ally appears to be horrified while Kai appears to be exultant. (In fact, Kai lets out a roar of approval and then proceeds to mimic having sex with the television in front of him!)

As Murphy has pointed out, the fallout from the 2016 presidential election is a “horror show” with a “horrifying aftermath.” While he has said that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will appear on screen during the show, Season 7 is clearly intended to be an “allegory” of what could happen – or what might already be happening – in much of America. As such, one person close to “American Horror Story” has said that Season 7 will be the “first full season of narrative television conceived, developed and written in response to the November election.”

#2: “American Horror Story: Cult” will focus on cults, not the occult

There’s another important point to keep in mind about the upcoming season of FX’s “American Horror Story” – it will not feature supernatural elements, as in past seasons. Instead, the focus will be on cults, and what happens when people feel very afraid and vulnerable.

From what we know, Kai Anderson (played by Evan Peters) is going to be a cult leader. The real reason why he’s so excited about a Trump win is because it frees him to run a cult where he can recruit very vulnerable people. In fact, there’s a line in the trailer that’s actually a bit alarming, “If you get people scared enough, it will set the world on fire.”

And we get another clue from the names of the episodes that have been released. If you look at Episode 7, it will be called “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins, Scum Bag.” That episode will feature Andy Warhol, the cult around the Factory in New York City, and the events that led to Valerie Solanas shooting Warhol for not including her in his cult of personality. Director Ryan Murphy has already cast Lena Dunham for the role of Valerie Solanas, and has said that the episode will focus on “female rage” and what feelings people have when they are not accepted into cults.

#3: Get ready for Twisty the Clown and other regulars in “American Horror Story”

We’ve been getting a lot of clues from the team at FX that evil clowns – including Twisty the Clown from Season 4 (“American Horror Story: Freak Show”) – will make their way back into Season 7. And Director Ryan Murphy has also suggested that a number of other characters from previous seasons – including Bloody Face, Rubber Man and Piggy Man – will also appear in Season 7.

In fact, it’s all a bit creepy. Who’s not afraid of evil clowns? And judging from the trailer, these evil clowns and other characters start to become part of different phobias taking over the town in Michigan. In the trailer, we hear someone say, “It has just been getting so much worse” since the election, and it’s unclear what exactly this references – but it could be that the clowns are somehow connected to the cult of personality that Kai is trying to create.


#4: The link between “American Horror Story” and the 1976 film “Network”

What’s really fascinating about Season 7 is how it seems to be much more of a statement on American society than previous episodes. You can interpret “American Horror Story” to be a metaphor for the broader swath of American society that has fallen under the misguided ideas of President Donald Trump – the people marching in Charlottesville, for example.

And that’s a point that Ryan Murphy makes – he says that much of the action in Season 7 was actually inspired by the 1976 film “Network,” which was a media satire. That film, says Murphy, helps to explain much of what we are seeing today.

#5: Plenty of evil plot twists involving children and bad neighbors from hell

One of the questions that we hear in the trailer for Season 7 is, “What fills your heart with dread?” The answer is both confusing and chilling: “Children.” And then the next scene is of an evil nanny or babysitter doing bad things to children. Yikes!

But again, it’s unclear for now how the phobias, the clowns, and the cults are related. We do have some clues from the episode titles, though. For example, Episode 2 is called “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and Episode 3 is called “Neighbors From Hell.”


There’s a good chance that, if “American Horror Story: Cult” is a rousing success this fall, it will lead to an entirely new type of genre on TV: the political horror film. Who needs the supernatural and occult to scare you when you have the politicians in Washington, DC?

And this is something that Season 7 intends to use with great effect – there’s even a rumored plot line involving Kai running for a city council spot and then dreaming even bigger – a shot at the U.S. Senate. At which point, you’re probably thinking about Kid Rock and his recently announced U.S. Senate bid from the state of – you guessed it – Michigan (where “American Horror Story” takes place). These are scary times.


Categories tv

Pin It on Pinterest