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So, I like “crappy” movies!

This may seem like a bit of a rant and perhaps it is to some degree.

I’m not a film critic. I’m actually a pretty easygoing and forgiving viewer. Now that doesn’t mean I like every movie I see. I have turned off movies I don’t like, even walked out of a theater a couple of times. That also doesn’t mean I can’t critique a film, I do, I’m just not someone who views a movie with critiquing in mind. At my age I know what I like, I know what type of stories I enjoy and these days I’m rarely disappointed.

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I’m really not a film snob, I had a friend who would snub anything he considered too commercial, and I’m open to many types of films. Movies to me are a form of art but to me I also enjoy the mindless escapism the types of movies I enjoy. I don’t mind serious film, but following on my last entry on how I loved the more lighthearted fare of the Science-Fiction films from the 90s, the types of movies I like are those that have a fun aspect to them.

I also feel many professional critics can be a bit snobbish and harsh. From a psychological perspective many people think negatively and even cynically and bring that into their criticisms. I’ve read some reviews that were more cynicism than critique.

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Since judging art is so subjective, bad reviews generally don’t put me off on a film. I enjoy reading criticism of films but I don’t let them sway me and will judge for myself whether or not I enjoy a film.

I like to read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I disagree where they put their fresh rating. I say if a movie has 51% rating that means a majority of critics liked a movie, albeit a small majority. So deeming a movie “Fresh” at 60% is a bit arbitrary.

What I’ve noticed is that within my DVD collection there are many movies from the Science-Fiction and Fantasy film genres that did not get fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. It goes to show that I really don’t listen to critics much. Also, I find, on social media anyway, no matter what movie is announced, haters come pouring out of the woodwork as if Pavlov rang his bell and his dogs begun salivating. People seem negative in general and closed minded. Nasty people have come along and questioned my taste in movies but in the end I like what I like with no apologies and what others think of my tastes matters not.

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Here, in no particular order, are movies from my collection that have received a not so fresh rating.

Seventh Son – 20%

The Great Wall – 35%

Gods of Egypt – 15%

Jupiter Ascending – 26%

GeoStorm – 14%

Independence Day Resurgence – 30%

Batman & Robin – 10%

Judge Dredd (199?) – 17%

The Scorpion King – 41%

Journey 2 the Mysterious Island – 45%

Godzilla (1998) – 16%

The Day After Tomorrow – 44%

Van Helsing – 23%

Planet of the Apes (2001) – 45%

The Time Machine (2002) – 29%

Alien Trespass – 34%

Land of the Loss – 26%

Race to Witch Mountain – 43%

Skyline – 16%

Cowboys and Aliens – 43%

Green Lantern – 26%

Battleship – 34%

After Earth – 11%

John Carter – 51% *

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra – 35%

GI Joe: Retaliation – 29%

Pixels – 17%

Man of Steel – 56% *

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – 26%

Justice League – 40%

Power Rangers – 45%

Velarian and the City of a Thousand Planets – 49%

Pacific Rim: Uprising – 46%

Clash of the Titans – 28%

Wrath of the Titans – 26%

Immortals – 36%

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – 36%

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 44%

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – 22%

Star Trek: Generations – 49%

Star Trek: Insurrection – 55% *

Star Trek: Nemesis- 38%

* I included a few that do have an above 50% rating but those are still technically considered rotten.

# I also only included the 1998 American Godzilla movie even though there are many Japanese Godzilla movies that also have rotten railings. I will cover them someday on my new Godzilla Designs blog. https://godzilladesigns.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/the-eras-of-godzilla-films/

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The 1990s: My favorite Decade for Science-Fiction Films

While perusing my DVD collection, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films I own, I became aware that my most favorite time period for sci-fi and fantasy films is the 1990s. I am mostly referring to Science-Fiction films of the 90s for the 1990s are a bit light on Fantasy films. Now not many people would automatically think of the 1990s as a golden age of Sci-Fi and Fantasy films as compared to the 1950s…(I love the 50s alien invasion movies) but the 1990s did produce a lot of memorable and successful Sci-Fi and Fantasy films.

Now maybe not every movie on my list was a financial or critical success, that’s fine, financial or critical success doesn’t determine whether or not I enjoy a film. While there are Sci-Fi and Fantasy films from all eras that I enjoy, I must admit I have a certain affection and admiration for the film’s of the 1990s. I don’t believe it is due to reasons of nostalgia because these aren’t the movies of my childhood, I spent the majority of the 1990s in my 30s. So why do I appreciate the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 90s?

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I think the answer is threefold. I am an admitted special effects junkie and the 90s saw the birth of CGI…and while some hate it, I love it! I also like practical or real world special effects and many the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films have special effects that are a mixture of both techniques. The majority of the films on my list have special effects that I still enjoy to this day.

The second reason is simply the 90s offered a diversity of the type of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that I enjoy. Favorite franchises of Godzilla and Star Trek brought some high quality movies during this time period. I love Alien Invasion and Alien themed movies and the 90s brought some favorites such as Independence Day, Men in Black, Contact and Starship Troopers.

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The last component of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 1990s that I like needs to be seen in context of how these types of films have been trending, for the most part, in the last 18 years. Namely, these types of films are more darker, grittier and more serious than those of the 90s. What I enjoy in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy from the 1990s is that they’re FUN! They’re all movies with a good balance and mixture of action, adventure, drama….and light hearted humor and fun!

The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Type of movies in general can be dark and serious as they deal with aspects of humanity and our future…while I do enjoy the darker and more serious Sci-Fi and Fantasy films I don’t want a steady diet of them. So my preference in these type of movies is toward films that have a sense of humor and don’t take itself too seriously. I say this with no sense of shame.

A few prime examples of these type of movies are: Judge Dredd and Demolition Man, both starring Sylvester Stallone, the aforementioned Starship Troopers, a satire on Fascism, and Independence Day an homage to 50s Science Fiction Invasion movies. These films do mix action, adventure with a sense of humor and in the end they’re entertaining and fun to watch…and re-watch!

My favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy films of the 1990s.

Total Recall
The Fifth Element
Judge Dredd
Demolition Man
Independence Day
Men in Black
Galaxy Quest
Stargate
Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Starship Troopers
The Matrix
Contact
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Insurrection
Godzilla vs King Ghodirah
Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle for the Earth
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II
Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla
Godzilla vs Destroyer
Godzilla 1998
Godzilla 2000
Back to the Future III
Coneheads
Time Cop
The Arrival
Mars Attacks
Armegeddon
Deep Impact
Bicentennial Man
Batman Returns
Batman Forever
Batman and Robin
Matilda
Phenomenon
Groundhog Day
Jumanji
Dragonheart

Star Trek Review: The Cage

The Cage

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The Cage was the very first Star Trek pilot submitted to NBC in 1965. Sadly the pilot episode was rejected by NBC for being “too cerebral.” We all know the rest of the story. Actress Lucille Ball, the owner of Desilu Studios where the pilot was filmed, put pressure on the NBC executives to give Gene Roddenberry another chance. They did, he filmed another pilot, it was accepted and the rest is history.

For me The Cage has a Star Trek: The Next Generation vibe to it. I had read once that TNG was closer to Rodenberry’s vision for Star Trek because he didn’t have the interference he had had on the Original Series. The Cage also had more of a “Forbidden Planet” 1950s vibe to me and that is understandable given that Forbidden Planet was an early influence on Star Trek. The Cage reminds me of TNG because Captain Christopher Pike, played by Jeffery Hunter, reminds me a lot of Captain Picard in terms of temperament. Although Kirk would become more of a man of action, both Pike and Picard are more intellectual.

The plot is pretty basic. Pike is weary and worn after several missions that have not gone as well as planned. He has lost lives and is questioning his role as captain of the USS Enterprise. His next mission is answering a distress call from the Planet Talus IV where an earth vessel had crashed years before. However, the entire landing party, except for the female, Vina, was all an illusion and soon Pike is captured by the Talosians and thrown into a zoo like setting.

In order to both control him and tempt him into staying the Talosians are able to control his mind by placing life-like images of both pleasure and pain into his mind. Pike doesn’t want to be trapped in a cage and rebels. The Talosians realize that humans will not be a good addition to their menagerie because of human beings desire not to be enslaved. Pike leaves and Vina decides to stay after learning that her youth and beauty was also an illusion.

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This is a very enjoyable episode. It is sad that NBC rejected it. On the other had, if NBC had accepted the Cage the original series, and the history of the Star Trek franchise would be very different. So in many ways I am happy things turned out the way they did. The only aspect of this episode that survived the recreation that lead to the series was Mr. Spock. Majel Barret, who would play Nurse Chapel in the series, and become Mrs. Roddenberry, is the only other actor to survive the transition. Barret played Number One, the second in command, which is another reason why The Cage reminds me of TNG.

Spock was a character that NBC also wanted to be rid of because of his sinister look which they feared would offend some viewers However, Roddenberry put his foot down to save the character Spock and for that we are all eternally grateful, for Spock became not just a much beloved character in Star Trek but of all Science Fiction. Spock is truly iconic. Female actors were used to portray the bulbous headed Talosians and this look also has become classic and iconic look in science fiction.

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This pilot episode was woven into the two part episode The Menagerie later in the series so I will have more to say about it on my review of that episode. I give this episode a solid A+ rating.

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Star Trek: The Original Series Review

Hello faithful followers! Starting next week, and every Monday, I will be reviewing an episode of the original 1960s Star Trek TV series. With 80 episodes (including the original pilot episode The Cage) it may take almost two years! But I think I will do more episodes per-week from time to time. 

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So check back here next Monday as I begin a new series! 

Live Long and Prosper! 

Liam. 

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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In my effort to restart this blog I need to catch up on some movie reviews. Since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was just released, how about I review the movie that came out before it! LOL!

As I have said before I am a huge Star Trek fan but I also love Star Wars too…just not as much as Trek. Yet, I always thought there was something in the aesthetic and pacing of Star Wars that Star Trek should borrow and learn from. When JJ Abrams, a lover of Star Wars, directed the 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek, my wish came true. In the feel and look of the movie there are elements of Star Wars in that Star Trek film and although some fans noticed that too and complained…I was not one of them. Therefore, when the next trilogy in Star Wars was going to be filmed, it seemed only natural that JJ Abrams would be selected to direct this movie.

I want to comment on one of the complaints The Force Awakened received from the minority of the people that did not like it. The complaint is that it is just a rehash or is derivative of the original 1977 film Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I certainly do not deny this accusation. I actually embrace it and it is one of the reasons I do enjoy this movie greatly.

Some have complained that nostalgia is one of its selling points and I have no shame in agreeing with that. I was 14 in 1977 when the original movie came out and I loved it! It had a huge impact on me. So seeing Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia on the big screen was a huge part of this movie. That doesn’t mean the rest of the story wasn’t good, it was, even if it has elements of the first movie, it does!

Luke has disappeared and it has been thirty years since the Death Star was once again blown up and the Empire defeated. However, evil has not gone away. We have new characters that are very interesting to me. the rebelling storm trooper, Finn, the scavenger, Rey, and Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and General Leia, are all great additions to the Star Wars universe. The movie leaves us with a mystery of who is this woman Ren who wields the Force so easily? The special effects are excellent as JJ Abrams wisely knows how to weave practical effects with the CGI.

I will not reveal any spoilers of this movie. I will say this is/was a great way to start the new trilogy. It is visually stunning with everything you would want to see in a Star Wars movie. Although it does have elements of the original story, they are done with respect and reverence to the original.

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Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!!

kirk_spock_mccoy_bridge_2267Today is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Star Trek. The first episode, “The Man Trap” aired on this date, September 8, 1966. I was barely 3 years old at the time, wouldn’t actually turn 3 until that next month, so I never saw the original series in its original run.

It was 1975 and I was 12 years old. Our town just got cable and I discovered WPIX Channel 11 out of New York City. The station had reruns of the Munsters, the Brady Bunch and Gilligans Island and even Godzilla movies. Enough to make a burgeoning nerd happy. Then I discovered a show called Star Trek and my life was never the same!

I was hooked from the start. I do not remember the first episode I saw but soon I was watching the show any time it was on. I loved the characters and the stories. Life was not always easy at home so I was drawn to Spock. He was logical and seemed to have conquered these human emotions. My love of science-fiction was something that I was drawn to as a young child. I never felt that I chose science-fiction I always felt that it chose me.

Star Trek had/has dramatic stories of aliens and the problems of the human condition along with time travel and history all wrapped in a positive vision of the future with larger than life historic characters. Though I was young when I first began watching the show I learned later in life how groundbreaking the show was in showing human diversity and races and cultures getting along harmoniously. I think that is what I enjoyed most about Star Trek and still do. Beneath well acted and well written stories is the theme of hope for the future.

So Happy Birthday Star Trek! You have lived long and prospered and long may you continue to do so!

Self-Destruct!!! & More Fun!!

I was watching Star Trek Original Series movies (I-VI) and wanted to nit-pick the destruction of the Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I love that movie and I didn’t mind the destruction of the Enterprise, I just thought the destruction was rather wimpy. However, I do like the scene with Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and Checkov are watching the fireball wreckage of the Enterprise streak against the sky. That was a spectacular scene. I just wanted a larger explosion. An equally spectacular scene could have been the crew viewing the sky with a giant cloud of debris from outer space painted across the horizon from the explosion of the Enterprise.

Take Star Trek the Motion Picture for example.  The  V’Ger cloud and ship was enormous. The movie says the cloud measured a diameter in excess of two astronomical units, or more than 299.195 million kilometers! When Kirk orders the Self-Destruct a crewman asks Scotti if that will also destroy V’Ger. He says that when that much mater and anti-matter collide it will take out V’Ger also. I am paraphrasing.

Switch to the Self-Destruct of the Enterprise in Star Trek III. When the explosion happens it barley destroys the saucer section of the ship! So instead of a cataclysmic explosion that would take out a ship and its surrounding cloud that was more than  299.195 million kilometers in size, what we  get is an explosion that barely singes the nose hairs of Klingon Commander Kruge in the nearby Bird-of-Prey!! 

Thanks for reading my little nerd rant.

Star Trek Continues is a fan based web series of very high quality. Their most recent episode is entitled “The Fairest of them All” which is a continuation of the Original Series episode Mirror Mirror. When Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty beam back to their rightful Mirror Universe this Captain Kirk will have a Spock that might not be as dedicated to the Terran Empire as he once was. This is a brilliant idea for an episode and it is very well written and acted. Try it out!

http://www.startrekcontinues.com/episodes/#.U57-bSiGjLR

Next week I will have my review of After Earth, starring the Father-Son team of Will and Jaden Smith. The week after that I will review and contrast the new RoboCop movie with the 1987 original.  Also, my review of the movie Pompeii will be coming soon.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Revisited

I re-watched this movie a couple of times recently. I still enjoy the movie very much, yet despite my enjoyment there was something gnawing at my stomach with this movie and I had a difficult time putting my finger on it. Then as I watched it again twice I finally figured out what is bothering me.

There are two important moments in the film and in my opinion this franchise had not yet earned the importance of them. Let me explain: I still have mixed feeling about them using Khan as the villain. It was done so well in the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Ricardo Montalbán I really wanted them to leave it alone. It didn’t need to be redone in my opinion. This takes nothing away from Benedict Cumberbatch and his acting. He did a superb job in the role. It just didn’t feel like Khan to me.

Here is why. The movie was basically a remake of both the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In a sense Star Trek into Darkness emotionally piggy backed on the known threat that Khan was in those two shows. It even took a cameo by Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime to drive that point home. The problem, as I see it, Star Trek Into Darkness did not earn the tension, the threat, that Khan was in this movie. To the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek Into Darkness they had no clue who Khan was and in many ways, since Kirk or Spock really did not have much of a relationship with this Khan, he really wasn’t the big threat that the movie likes to pretend he was. We, the audience, felt the threat that Khan was in the movie because we had a multi-year relationship with the character!

Sure, Khan/Harrison did some bad things at the start of the movie but he could have been any villain. Heck, they could have made Cumberbatch the rouge Captain Garth of Izar from the original series episode Whom God’s Destroy. It would have worked just as well. Or he could have been a totally new villain with the same story and it would not have made much of a difference. So for me, this version of Khan lacked the history with the crew of the Enterprise to be such a big deal.

The same type of issue shows itself with the death of Kirk. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the death of Spock was so powerful because both the crew and the audience had a long standing history with the character. In the rebooted Star Trek these relationships are not as well established. Just because we throw the name Kirk and Spock on these actors doesn’t mean we have the same emotional connection with these characters as we did/do with the original characters and actors and their portrayal of the characters.

In this universe/time-line Kirk and Spock are barely friends. At the start of Star Trek Into Darkness Spock betrays Kirk for violating the Prime Directive and it creates a problem for this growing friendship. Toward the end of this movie Kirk dies instead of Spock and Spock, in anguish over the loss of his friend, screams KHAAAAAN!! like Shatner did in the Wrath of Khan. However, the whole things feels hollow. This Kirk and Spock do not have the multi-year history as friends which made the death of one of them so moving. These two characters have not earned that intimacy yet! Sure, you could see this new Spocks reaction over Kirks death as a way to say that he regrets betraying Kirk at the start of the movie, it still lacks the emotional jolt the scene was going for because these two characters are not yet solid in their friendship.

Having said all of that I still do like the movie. It has a good story and good acting along with great special effects. Benedict Cumberbatch was spectacular. I just wished he wasn’t playing Khan.

In the next movie I do hope they do not rehash other characters from the original series. Well, at least not as the main villain. In truth I hope I hope they do give us someone and something new. I desire to see the new crew in exploration and wish that the enemy they face is some new anomaly or force of nature.

Star Trek Time Line

Less than a month from now Star Trek Into Darkness will come out in theaters here in the US. I must confess that I am on message boards where people in Australia have already seen the film so I know the majority of the spoilers. This blog post however, will NOT CONTAIN ANY SPOILERS!

I am also working my way through the original series on the remastered DVDs. I really love the 1960s original series. I also love Star Trek: The Next Generation and also Voyager. I could never get into Star Trek: Deep Space 9 beyond a handful of episodes that I enjoy and the same goes for the final series called Enterprise. I do like all of the movies even the so-called “bad ones” Like Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis the last movie to feature the Next Generation crew.

I also love JJ Abram’s last Star Trek movie…it really is one of my favorites, if not my very favorite. Yet I sill have some struggles with it. My main struggle is where to place this movie in the time line along with my other favorite Star Trek shows? Yup, I am a big old nerd concerned about such things.

Here is the problem. They have two future characters, Spock and Nero, a renegade Romulan ready for revenge that travel back in time. Or do they? The writers of the movie  Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have stated that the Narada (Nero’s ship) by going back in time and destroying the USS Kelvin, an laternate time line gets established but it doesn’t erase the old timeline. While I am fine with that concept, the problem is that the movie really fails to communicate that concept. In many ways the movie plays like a typical Star Trek time travel episode where in the end everything is set right…except in this case there is no reset button at the end.

Uhura says something about an alternate reality but that is a vague statement. While the term alternate reality is a synonym for a parallel universe which is a hypothetical or fictional self-contained separate reality coexisting with one’s own, much of the movie plays out as if Spock and Nero are from the future of the reality of the central characters. The writers want you to think both things at the same time and that is what gets confusing. They treat Nero and Spock Prime as if they are from the future of Young Spock and Young Kirk when in reality they are not from their future if the alternate reality theory is true.

Take the destruction of Vulcan for example. If the alternate reality theory is true, Spock Prime (old Spock) really is not witnessing the destruction of his planet Vulcan, but the Vulcan from this parallel universe or alternate reality. In Spock Prime’s reality his home planet, the one we first saw in the original series episode, “Amok Time” still exists in the original reality.

Lets take the destruction of Romulus. Supposedly it took place in the regular Prime Universe or reality and that by going through the Black Hole Nero and Spock Prime end up in the alternate reality where Romulus still exists. When Nero is interrogating Captain Pike and Pike says that Romulus still exists and Nero screams that it has happened (the destruction of Romulus), why didn’t Pike tell him…or someone tell him…that they are in a new reality and that in this reality Romulus still exists?

Bu they don’t say anything because, as I said, the movie plays out as if it is all occurring in the prime universe that we all love…but this time without a reset button. The loss of Vulcan, Spock’s mother, Kirk’s father etc, has more of an emotional punch if all of the characters are from the prime universe.

My struggle with that is I don’t care for the idea that old Trek has been erased through the actions of this Trek reboot. So I will accept the writers intent even though I think the evidence is pretty flimsy. I do like the movie, honestly I do…depite the problem.

I also had a scenario where Trek 09 does take place in an already preexisting reality completely separate from the original Trek time line. In other words, Spock Prime and Nero really are from the future of young Spock and young Kirk as depicted in the movie and they are not from the original time line. The only problem with that is it is hard to see Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime and not think of him as the same Spock we all have known and loved. For this scenario to work I would have to see Zac Quinto as the older version of Spock. I agree with the many fans who wished they had done a straight out-and-out reboot instead of the half-reboot that we got.

Do Not Feed the Trolls!

Ah, the wonders of the internet! Prior to the internet I enjoyed certain movies in relative peace not knowing that I wasn’t supposed to like them. Until I got on the internet I never knew that some movies were so hated by the fandom of certain franchises.  For example in 1989 I went to the theater to see the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The theater was full and people were laughing (the movie had raised the level of comedy since Star Trek IV), I enjoyed the story and had a very good time. It wasn’t until somewhere in the early 2000s did I learn how hated that movie is among the rest of the fans of the franchise. I never knew until then that I was not supposed to like it. I never got the memo.

All who follow my blog know that I am a huge fan of the Godzilla franchise. Well, last June I joined a message board devoted to the franchise and that hatred for the 1998 American Godzilla movie and the 2004 Godzilla: Final Wars by the majority of the fans on this site is palpable! Again, I never got the memo I was not supposed to like these films!

Then there are other places on the net which feature trailers for upcoming movies and message boards to discuss upcoming movies. On these sites you have members crying foul and saying this movie will suck even before they see the film. It fits the very definition of prejudice. On one of these sites there was a member, who hates the movies of Christopher Nolan, who is 100% convinced that the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, will suck and be the worse Superman movie ever made. This person said they will wait to borrow the movie from the library just to confirm how awful it really is. Talk about confirmation bias!

Then there is Ain’t It Cool News…This web site run by Harry Knowles is a great place to learn about up coming movies and reviews for the movies as they come out and a lot of other behind the scenes information. Just don’t read the talk back section. No wonder it was successfully parodied in Kevin Smith’s movie “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.” It is filled with trolls just trash talking everyone and everything.

Maybe it is my age. I am not sure of the demographics of the people on these sites but I suspect they’re young. It can be a challenge for someone who enjoys science fiction movies, and who enjoys following the making of these movies before they come out, to find intelligent and meaningful discussion in these places. I will continue to look for news and find these rare discussions that make this hobby enjoyable. I just need to ignore the trolls.