The USS Intrepid –a kitbashed starship model

The Intrepid, the most intrepid of ships.

The Intrepid, the most intrepid of ships.

I have a new Star Trek kitbash model done. It’s the USS Intrepid.

It originally had four engines on the back; I closed up the center engine section to create more leg room.

It originally had four engines on the back; I closed up the center engine section to create more leg room.

It was originally an Enterprise-B model kit, but I got rid of the secondary hull and the neck and put the main warp engines directly under the saucer.

The 'Fins' on the engines can be used to scrape the paint off of any enemy ships.

The ‘Fins’ on the engines can be used to scrape the paint off of any enemy ships. Just kidding.

I used the model’s shuttle bay section by putting it on the bottom of the saucer. The piece that goes behind the shuttle bay entrance is a piece from my spares box.

I also built a handy stand for the ship.

I also built a handy stand for the ship.

The “radar” dish in the back was also taken from the spares box–it’s from a larger scale USS Enterprise. I also moved the torpedo launcher to the top of the rear superstructure, so the ship will have some added punch.

The Intrepid races to put out another "fire" that's sprung up.

The Intrepid races to put out another “fire” that’s sprung up.

I imagine this ship to be a specialized, short range craft that could do longer range missions if required. –SF

What a fox!

Can you see the fox! Look for the ears....

Can you see the fox! Look for the ears….

I found somebody taking a nap in my backyard.

Zzzzz...zzzzz..zzzzz...hm, where's a good hen house when you need one...zzzzzz

Zzzzz…zzzzz..zzzzz…hm, where’s a good hen house when you need one…zzzzzz

When you blow up the picture, it turns out to be a fox, snoring away. Well, I couldn’t hear him snoring, but he certainly looked asleep. Nice that these guys consider my property a safe enough haven for them to snuggle up for a while.

Jurassic World — a review

I get the sinking feeling this isn't the ladies room....

I get the sinking feeling this isn’t the ladies room….

You’d think they would learn, wouldn’t you? After three previous films featuring dinosaurs snacking on people–the first two having been directed by Steven Spielberg–the infamous Jurassic Park opens its doors once again, welcoming a new generation of lunch…um, I mean visitors. Now called Jurassic World, the park is operated by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) a super efficient manager who kicks a garbage can under her co-worker’s desk, catching the drink he’s spilled just in time. But she’s now dealing with something even more scary than a park filled with dinos: her nephews are coming for a visit.

Whoa, dudes, whoa! I'm just looking for a talking raccoon, that's all. Have you guys seen him?

Whoa, dudes, whoa! I’m just looking for a talking raccoon, that’s all. Have you guys seen him?

Whoa, bad timing, kids! It turns out that attendance to Jurassic World has been slipping these past few years, which makes those whacky dinosaur scientists create a really cool new dinosaur, a huge and scary predator that has never walked the earth at all until now, the Indominus Rex. The corporate suits hope that the IR will bring back the crowds, but the cunning and sneaky Indominus Rex has other plans for today, thank you very much.

Watching the early parts of Jurassic World, before the you-know-what hit the fan, I was reminded of Jeff Goldblum’s great line in The Lost World: Jurassic Park: “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh…that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” That’s pretty much how Jurassic World goes, treating its subject matter straight, without any irony, and I was loving every minute of it. Jurassic World is John Hammond’s vision finally come to life, a major theme park with dinosaurs that even has a petting zoo (and the sight of toddlers interacting with baby dinos is just too damn adorable for words).

We need bigger guns. We need bigger guns! HOLY CHRIST WE REALLY NEED BIGGER F**KING GUNS!

We need bigger guns. We need bigger guns! HOLY CHRIST WE REALLY NEED BIGGER F**KING GUNS!

One thing that I really liked about this latest entry in the Jurassic Park series is that its not a remake but a continuation from the first three films. Out of the original characters from the first film, only B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu returns, and he’s given a far larger part this time. There’s plenty of memories from the first movie that are evoked–such as when Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the new owner of the park, directly quotes John Hammond’s oft-used “spared no expense” phrase at one point. And even that annoying “Mr. DNA” cartoon makes a very brief appearance.

But Jurassic World stands pretty tall on its own, thanks to some solid performances by the engaging Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt, who’s got another hit film series here besides Guardians of the Galaxy. The always great Vincent D’Onofrio is given the thankless job of playing the corporate bad guy (he might as well wear a neon sign stating ’I will eventually betray you’), but despite some mild stumbling here and there, Jurassic World is another extremely enjoyable entry in a series that just keeps getting better with each new film. –SF

Oh deer!

Oh, are we leaving?

Oh, are we leaving?

The other day, a mother and baby deer both walked right in front of my house. I saw them walking right past my front windows and door.

Hold your horses, ma, I'm coming, I'm coming!

Hold your horses, ma, I’m coming, I’m coming!

I managed to grab the camera and take a few shots of them as they strolled by.

I'm working with short legs here, so give me a sec....

I’m working with short legs here, so give me a sec….

The baby was actually walking on very wobbly legs, and had some trouble keeping up with mom, but the kid got it done–even stopping at one point to munch on something.

Jupiter Ascending — a review

Hey, am I late for Burning Man?

Hey, am I late for Burning Man?

Jupiter Ascending, the latest SF epic from the Wachowski Siblings (who gave us The Matrix saga, along with Bound, Cloud Atlas, and Speed Racer) was supposed to have been the big popcorn movie summer blockbuster of 2014. But then it’s release was postponed to early winter of 2015, which is basically the studio saying that it had no faith in the film and thus condemned it to the phantom zone. Never a good sign for a movie! When it was released in theaters I didn’t bother seeing it, because I heard such awful things about it. And even when it was released on video I only rented it…for the same reason: the constant whispers about it being really, really bad.

But when I finally saw it, to my surprise I liked it.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a young woman who’s struggling to pay the bills by working as a cleaning lady for Chicago’s upper crust. She’s so hard up for cash that when her cousin suggests that she sell her eggs, Jupe is game. But when she’s at the doctor’s, they restrain Jupiter with weird hovering straps and run tests on her of a completely different kind. Discovering that she’s ‘the one‘, the doctor orders her to be killed. But that’s when Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a human/wolf hybrid, barges in, kills the medical staff, and saves Jupiter’s life.

Go on, make the stupid joke about That 70s Show, go ahead, I dare you!

Go on, make the stupid joke about That 70s Show, go ahead, I dare you!

Upon hearing that she’s been marked for death by the rulers of an intergalactic empire who think she may be the reincarnated version of their late ruler, Jupiter winds up being on the run on both Earth as well as in outer space. But that’s OK, because wolf boy is protecting her. If your eyes haven’t glazed over by now while reading this, then you may well be the target audience for this movie. It’s another space opera with eye-popping visuals that’s not exactly one of the best of the Wachowski films. But who cares? It’s a lot of fun.

LONG LIVE THE FIGHTERS! Oh, wait, um, sorry...wrong SF movie...please don't mind me....

LONG LIVE THE FIGHTERS! Oh, wait, um, sorry…wrong SF movie…please don’t mind me….

While watching Tatum’s Caine taking down a group of imperial guards in an off world palace, the realization occurred to me that the Wachowski siblings have basically remade Flash Gordon here, and that’s a good thing. But it’s a far more serious take on the material than the goofy 1980 remake starring Sam Jones (who shares a last name with Kunis’ main character). Kunis plays the Flash Gordon character, the fish out of water who’s dropped into these weird proceedings, while Eddie Redmayne is basically playing Ming The Merciless (although he’s a little on the screechy side–but he is more of a spoiled brat than Ming was) who’s mining Earth for its humans (a derivative plot device that reminds one of The Matrix).

And, you know what? I was down with the whole thing. Jupiter Ascending is far from being the major turd that some reports have made it out to be. Kunis makes for a very sympathetic and engaging heroine, and as stated before, the movie is visually stunning. If you’re an SF fan who’s looking for something different and fun, you can’t go wrong with checking this one out. –SF

Mad Max Fury Road — a review

Man, rush hour is really bad today....

Man, rush hour is really bad today….

When I first heard about the new Mad Max film, I was saddened. Not because it was another remake of one of my favorite science fiction properties–no, nothing as mundane as that. The Mad Max series was a favorite of my dearly departed father. We watched the original trilogy so many times I thought we would wear out the DVDs. And as much of a fan as my Dad was of the bright and cheery Star Trek, deep down, he always felt that Mad Max would be more like what our eventual future would be. He always felt that humans were just too greedy and vicious–regardless of how often I would point out that the Max films, despite showing a desolate future, also had their share of hope.

And so in remembrance of dear old Dad, when Mad Max: Fury Road came out, I had to see it in the theater. After all, I saw The Road Warrior (a classic) and Beyond Thunderdome (not so much) in the theater with Dad. I eschewed the super duper 3-D IMAX Orgasmic Theater Experience for a regular 2-D viewing. Not only was it cheaper, but 3-D is nothing more than bullshit trimmings that do nothing to enhance a good film, or save a bad one. And, I have to say, once the movie started, I didn’t just like Mad Max: Fury Road, I freaking loved it.

HEAVY METAL FOREVER...and it's on the go, apparently.

HEAVY METAL FOREVER…and it’s on the go, apparently.

Tom Hardy does a superb job with the title role of Max. And despite all the whining and hand-wringing from certain quarters about Max being a sidekick in his own movie, they’re all wrong. Max is indeed the main protagonist here. He’s portrayed as a road warrior who’s burnt out from his bleak existence in the wasteland, as well as the overwhelming guilt he feels for the deaths of all the people whom he couldn’t protect when the apocalypse came, including that of his own child.

When he gets captured by the War Boys serving under the gloriously religious rule of Immortan Joe (played by the first Mad Max’s Hugh Keays-Byrne with a really cool breathing mask), one might not be wrong to think Max has finally come to the end of the road, despite his struggles to escape. He literally gets strung up and used as a blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult) one of the War Boys who’s all too eager to throw his life away for his great leader.

I don't care if you're the star of this movie, that's the last frigging time you cut me off, you hear me?!

I don’t care if you’re the star of this movie, that’s the last frigging time you cut me off, you hear me?!

But there’s a monkey wrench that gets thrown into the works, and her name is Imperator Furiosa (the divine Charlize Theron), a lieutenant of Joe’s who’s trusted to drive the War Rig–a tricked out armored tanker–to Gastown. But Furiosa, a one-armed woman who blacks out the upper half of her head with motor oil as her own personal war paint, isn’t going to Gastown today. She’s taking the five brides of Immortan Joe to sanctuary deep in the desert. Furiosa wants to free these young women from a lifetime of being used as brood mares, and nothing’s going to stop her. Max, tied to the front of a car, winds up just being along for the ride when Nux happily heeds the call to arms raised by Joe. But soon Max will be in the thick of things, whether he wants to be or not.

Director George Miller was 70 years old when he shot this and that fact alone is pretty amazing. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of these fiercely visual films that grabs you by the throat from the first frame and never lets go until the final frame. Using the chase of Furiosa by Joe and his troops as the main narrative drive, the film literally races along, offering a flurry of real-life stunt work with the CGI kept to a minimum. The result is a truly epic cinematic masterpiece that’s not three hours long (thankfully!) and offers you one incredible “holy Christ, what the hell am I looking at?” moment after another. And just when you think you’ve seen something pretty spectacular, the ante gets upped just a few minutes later.

And just like that...no more asshole tailgating us!

And just like that…no more asshole tailgating us!

But as great as the stunt work is, you really start caring more for the characters, because George Miller never lets you forget about them. The characterizations are the true driving force of MM:FR, and once Max teams up with Furiosa, she helps to rekindle the spark within him, as he begins to realize that it’s not enough to just survive, you’ve got to live, and a major part of living is caring for and protecting other people. Charlize Theron is a force to be reckoned with here, she does a magnificent job at playing Furiosa, and once she and Max start working together, you get the same excitement level of a meeting of two titans.

Most people would just look at MM:FR and say it’s just an action film, nothing more. And they would be missing the point (like those who think Max isn’t the main character here). Just like how The Dark Knight raised the bar for superhero films, MM:FR does the same not only for action films, but films in general. Through telling most of its story mainly through some very impressive visuals, as well as showcasing some extraordinary actors at the top of their craft, Mad Max: Fury Road not only raises the bar for cinematic storytelling, it even manages to suggest, amidst all of its dystopian decor, that–in the end–not all human beings are that bad. All in all, this is a fantastic movie that should not be missed.

And I think dear old Dad would have loved it. 😀 –SF