My Top SF/F Films of the Decade

I did a list for my favorite books of the past decade, along with all the other cool sites around the internet, but not one for films. Thus, here's my list for the absolute best films for the past ten years:
Children of Men
Children of Men is a fantastic example of the genre and storytelling. Based off of a book by P.D. James, director, Alfonso Cuarón took a couple of liberties with the story by conceptualizing what would the world be like if the Iraq War had spread to a global level, while also examining the issue of immigration in the United Kingdom sometime in the future. The result is spectacular: humanity has lost its ability to reproduce, and chaos seems to have set in around the world. There is a measure of hope when a girl is found who is pregnant, and has to be escorted out of England to a scientific body outside of the country. The film is grim, grounded, dark and expertly shot - one of the highlights is a 10 minute, single take running gun battle at the film's climax.
District 9
District 9 was one of my favorite films of 2009, and as I've noted a couple of times, its story, combined with a reasonably low budget, demonstrates that not all successful movies are blockbusters. Based off of a short film by the same director, Neill Blomkamp, the movie takes an interesting twist on alien visitation on Earth. A massive alien ship appears over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, and its contingent of worker-insectoids, known as the Prawns, coexist roughly with their surrounding humans nearby. Things get problematic when MNU Bureaucrat Wikkus is infected with a substance that puts him between criminal and corporate factions, and he is forced out on the run. The film is expertly shot with handheld footage, interviews and CCTV footage, and is different enough to really stand out. Like Children of Men, it has an interesting message on immigration and partition within society.
The Fountain
Not a lot of people liked Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain, when it came out, but I suspect that it will be regarded as a classic in the years to come. Combining three stories of a Conquistador, a neurosurgeon and a space man, this movie explores two main themes: the hubris of mankind by trying to cheat death and love that crosses all manners of time. The film itself is wonderfully shot and utilizes visuals as much as story and characters to tie everything together, with shared elements between the three times represented in the movie.
Minority Report
Steven Spielberg is a master storyteller when it comes to the Science Fiction genre, and Minority Report is possibly one of his finest films to date. Set in 2054, Washington DC is the home to an experiment where murder is stopped before the crime is carried out. Problems occur when the lead detective on the case, John Anderton, is accused of a murder, and is pursued by his own men as he tries to escape and clear his name. What happens next is an interesting exploration of ethics, not to mention an incredible and largely accurate (thus far) view of how the future will run technologically.
Moon is easily my favorite film of 2009, and is Duncan Jones' first movie out thus far (although he's apparently got two more to come in the same universe). Following Sam Rockwell's character Sam Bell, a miner on the moon, who is involved in an accident, then wakes up to find a clone of himself. The film is perfectly conceived, expertly shot, and like District 9, filmed on a low budget, with models. But what really steals the show is Rockwell and his acting abilities - it's hard for an actor to carry a film, but it's even harder for an actor to carry the film by himself and as two different people. This one's going to be a classic.
Pan's Labyrinth
Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is brutal, dark and absolutely gorgeous. Set in 1945, under Franco's Spain, a girl and her mother go out to a remote outpost of a ruthless army captain who is intent on destroying a local pocket of resistance. The girl, Ofelia, is preoccupied with her fairy tales, and discovers a lost and fantastic world of creatures, who tell her that she is a lost princess to an underworld realm. To return, she has to complete a set of tasks. You're never really sure if the fantasy world is real or just imagined, which adds to the discussion after the film. The movie is wonderfully shot, acted and conceived, and is one of my all time favorites.
Pitch Black
Vin Diesel is at his best here as the dark anti-hero Riddick in David Twohy's film Pitch Black. Pitch Black is easily the stronger film of the small franchise (Chronicles of Riddick was fun, but not as good) and sees a transport ship between planets crashing on a deserted planet with a ravenous native life form that comes out after dark. The survivors of the wreck are forced to work together to survive, travelling from their crashed ship to an outpost, aided by the criminal Riddick. The film is wonderfully shot, and is another example of low-budget filmmaking being superior to some of the larger blockbusters. Twohy sets up a fantastic universe in which to play, and while Chronicles didn't quite live up to expectations, I do hope that the remaining two films are made.
The Prestige
This is absolutely my favorite Christopher Nolan film out thus far, even more so than the The Dark Knight, by a long shot. The first half of the 20th Century isn't necessarily the first place to think about a science fiction film, but The Prestige pulls it off in grant fashion. Set between England and the United States at the time, we see two stage magicians try to out maneuver one another in a rivalry that escalates to bloodshed over the death of Robert Angier's wife during a stage accident. The drive for revenge brings Angier to scientist Nikola Tesla (wonderfully played by David Bowie) and a device that his both disturbing and fantastic. The visuals here are just jaw dropping, with some of the most beautiful scenes that I've ever seen, along with a twisted and interesting plot that really makes this worth watching many times.
Serenity was the little film that could, based off of the little TV show, Firefly, that refused to die. Bolstered by a vocal fan base, Joss Whedon's universe was brought back in grant style that helped to tie up some of the remaining loose ends to the show, but was also armed with a fantastic plot that sets the film apart from other continuations and spinoffs. The movie was designed to continue the story, but brings the story back in grant style fit for the big screen, picking up with the Alliance sending an assassin after River, with the crew uncovering a massive plot that undermines the entire basis for the system-wide government of allied planets. Wonderfully shot, excellently acted and a whole lot of fun, Serenity was a great conclusion to the series.
Solaris was another film that received lukewarm reviews from critics and viewers, but this film shows some of the most beautiful imagery of any Science Fiction film out there, along with a story that explores the extents of love. Steven Soderbergh is easily one of my favorite directors, and he does an interesting job with the conception and direction of this movie, which follows psychologist Chris Kelvin as he is dispatched to an ailing space station orbiting a distant star, Solaris. When Kelvin's dead wife appears, the story turns to exploring second changes, reconciliation and alien intelligences that are beyond comprehension.
Stranger Than Fiction
Normally, Will Ferrell isn't really an actor that I'd look to for a somewhat serious comedy film, but he pulls off what is probably his best acting in Stranger Than Fiction. This film falls somewhat under the fantasy genre, where Ferrell's character Harold Krick begins to hear a narrator in his head. The film nicely weaves together subtle references to the Beatles throughout, while director Marc Forester utilizes a wonderful minimalist style. Combined with fantastic performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson, Ferrell is in good company for a truely brilliant movie.
Danny Boyle's first (and likely last) entry into the genre, Sunshine's plot sounds no better than that of The Core - the sun has begun to go dim, and a crew is dispatched to restart it, using all of the fissionable materials on the Earth and the Moon. What is special about Sunshine, isn't so much the plot, but what the characters go through. The film is heady, trippy and exciting throughout. Boyle has a unique visual style, and Cillian Murphy does an excellent job throughout the movie with its large cast as they go through all sorts of problems on their journey. It's an emotional ride, one that is captivating.
Wall-E is my second favorite film from Pixar, after Toy Story, and is a fantastic and dark vision of the far future, when humanity has abandoned Earth while massive cleanup operations are conducted, then abandoned. All that is left is a small cleanup robot, Wall-E, who's been alone for hundreds of years, and who falls in love with a probe that returns to see if the planet is safe to return to. Despite director Andrew Stanton's protests that there was no environmentalist message, it's hard to ignore that there is one, accidental or otherwise. The film is an interesting look at superficial consumerist culture, but also a cute love story between robots.
The films that have made up this list are all tied together by a couple of common elements: story, characters, conception and excellent direction behind the camera. For me, all of these elements help to tell the element that should be central to all films: the story. As such, while there have been a number of films out there in the genre that I've greatly enjoyed, such as Star Wars or Avatar, they really don't make the list because there, it's the special effects that really take the front stage. This is all well and good as far as technology goes, and I'm sure that once I come across a film that uses these technologies to support a story, I'll be very, very happy. But, a good lesson should be learned, I think, that special effects, while cool, and a good reason to see a film, aren't the only reason to see a film. There's been a bit of a resurgence in the past couple of years towards strong genre films with great acting, visuals and story, and it is a trend that I really hope will continue into the next ten years.

Substance vs. Style in Science Fiction

Producer Jesse Alexander just wrote up an interesting guest column on website io9 recently, (which you can read here), where he talks about a couple of subjects that I've been thinking about lately: the vast difference between substance and visual appeal of the science fiction genre, particularly in movies.

In his piece, he notes that CGI-laden blockbusters have really taken over the movie theaters over the summer season, almost completely. This past summer, we've had Terminator 4, Transformers 2, GI Joe, Star Trek, and Harry Potter all costing in the hundreds of millions of dollars to produce from beginning to end, none of which were really all that great, while the two standout movies in the SF genre were Moon and District 9, both of which cost $5 million and $30 million to create, respectively. This begs the question, as Alexander does, where did these two films succeed where the others failed.

The above films all did really well at the box office, grossing back quite a bit of money (although Terminator: Salvation did pretty poorly, but it will warrant a sequel, if the rumors are to be believed) but of everything that was released this summer, only Moon and District 9 really captured the essence of science fiction on all levels. They were wholly original, influences aside, and are the ones that have come out of this summer that will be remembered for a long time as solid entries in the genre's film side of things.

One of the things that charges are laid against is the use of CGI in films, which has become far more sophisticated and prevalent in films, especially science fiction films. I'm not totally sure that CGI is really the thing to blame here, but the effect that it has on filmmaking and the entire process. CGI is a fantastic tool for filmmakers, especially in the science fiction field. The problem comes when the glamor and expanded visual field overtakes the story in terms of importance.

For me, story is everything with a film or television show, and the Science Fiction genre is a fantastic place for any number of possible stories. There have been a number of fantastic films out there that I can put forward as an example for good storytelling: Minority Report, The Prestige, Serenity, The Fountain, Pan's Labyrinth, and of course, Moon and District 9. These movies utilized special effects throughout, but did so in a way that didn't jeopardize the story to the extent that other films might have. A couple of television shows, such as Battlestar Galactica and Firefly have followed much the same philosophy with their approaches to CGI: the visuals are placed in the film/show to support the events in the story.

My favorite example is 2005's release of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Serenity. Both films with significant fanbases, but with very different approaches to the stories. Serenity was a much smaller film, with a killer story to finish up the Firefly TV series, while Revenge of the Sith was a far more bloated and cumbersome film that cost a significant amount of money to produce. Given the financial troubles and uncertainty of the next couple of years, I would bet that that type of filmmaking will continue, but there will be a rise in films such as Moon, Serenity and District 9. Each of these films received a large amount of critical favor, and while none approached the same amount of money that these larger films pulled in, they didn't cost as much as the much larger films.

One thing about these huge CGI films that I noticed is that the ones this summer were already part of a larger storyline or franchise - there were a lot of numbers after the titles, and I have to wonder if that is part of this empty storytelling trend that Science Fiction seems to have picked up over the past couple decades. I don't mind sequels - There's a number of stories out there that I love seeing more of. But, when does a good franchise become a cash cow, with more of the same to it? Transformers was reportedly like that, even up to the director's level, where more of the same, but just more intense was better. Harry Potter has largely been like this from day one, and Star Trek wasn't all that impressive after you started thinking about it. This, to me, is a sad thing for the genre, one that I've always seen as being far more creative than most of the other genres out there, if only for the exotic subject matter.

There are a couple of things that bother me about this sort of thing, mainly that people are more than happy to take any sort of mind-numbing entertainment and expect nothing more. While this is a bit of a leap, it seems like this is a problem that extends far beyond the entertainment realm, from education to politics. Moon and District 9 worked brilliantly together this summer because they were two films that had intelligent plots, good characterization and an unconventional way of presenting the stories. Despite that, I read a number of reviews that noted that the plots didn't make sense, that there weren't enough explosions and the like. These sorts of reviews usually bother me, as they did with reviews about Lev Grossman's The Magicians, where people just didn't, or couldn't understand what the stories were about, and because they didn't like them, refused to think any more about the subject.

What I am hoping will come out of this is that smaller, cheaper, genre films will become more popular, with producers who are willing to take a little more of a gamble. The films this summer proved that filmmakers could get around expensive effects, by using models, preexisting locations and actors who might not necessarily be as well known. If there are any lessons to be learned from this summer, it is that when a good story is in place, the film can succeed toe to toe with any of the big blockbusters. For me, I'm happy that there's something out there that's a little different, a bit challenging and above all, something that makes me think about what I'm watching.

Today is a Good Day

The reason: Serenity came out on DVD today. And, exams are over for me. So, for an entire semester, I'm through with Norwich, and am not officially on Winter break, until the 5th, whereupon, I'm leaving the country. So, it's a good day.

However, I had to run around throughout the entire campus to try and find a number of people to get approval to study abroad. I hate paperwork. First, to the Bursar's office. Then across campus to the Study Abroad office. Then to Financial Aid and the Registrar, to my advisor and the department head. Then I was given another slip of paper that made me repeat most of that. Now, I'm trying to fill out a transfer of credits form with no one around to sign off on it. I'm really hoping that I can get this finished this week.

Now, Serenity. The best movie of the year + No Class = JOY!

AND - The Supreme Court ruled the Intelligent Design theory unconstitutional to be taught in classrooms. Another point for intelligence.

It came!

Woohoo! It came! I'm now the proud owner of a shirt emblazened with the Serenity logo! A while ago, I joined the official message board and fan section, and through various contests and polls, I gathered points. Four weeks before the movie was released, the powers to be opened up the official store- and I found that I had enough points to get a shirt with the logo. So, four weeks go by, doesn't come, movie hits theaters, don't have it. I was a little worried that it wouldn't come. Then today, I come home to pick up some work and walla! It's on the door. I'll try and get pictures.
In other news, Karen Traviss's latest novel, The World Before, is due out today, according to her and, although the local bookstore that I called said that it's not due out until November. Gah! I'm really looking forwards to this book, because the last two have been amazing, right at the top of my favorites list. At least it's not being released next year like I thought that it was earlier...


Gah- I'm tired. I can never seem to wake up really well, especially when my alarm doesn't go off like I set it. Combined with the fact that I didn't get to bed until 1, I'm very tired.
Anyone like Arrested Development? The second season just came out on DVD- I was finally able to watch the entire thing. There were some great episodes in that season, some better than others, but Alan Tudyk, Ben Stiller and Zach Braff both made guest appearances in a couple episodes, which was hilarious. This season, Charlize Theron is making 6 appearences, which should be really cool to see.
I finally finished American Gods! I've been trying for about three years to finally get around to finishing it, and it usually turns into me reading a chapter, then forgetting about it. Despite that, It's an amazing book, I just have never found time to read it through completely. But, having finished it, an outstanding read.
I mentioned a while back that I've started doing some more writing, mainly poetry, inspired by random moments throughout the day. It's refreshing, and I've begun to get back into the habit of writing more often, moving back to prose. I'm starting with a story idea that I had a while back after reading a Popular Science article on commercial space stations, a couple months after the first civilian space craft, Space Ship One, hit orbit.. The idea that I had earlier was a space station disaster, but not much more than that, but the disaster would be the main idea behind it. I've now shifted my focus to the effects of something like that. I guess that we'll see where it goes.

Oh, and I found a list of deleted scenes from Serenity. Let's hope that they're on the DVD:

00:02:18:20 (INARA AND SHEYDRA)

I could tell that there were some scenes that should have been a little longer. Shiny!

Serenity DVD: December?

I just came across this little bit of news. It looks like there could be a Serenity DVD in stores as early as December, according to this article:

Our ever reliable industry sources are telling us that Universal will soon announce the DVD release of Joss Whedon's Serenity for 12/20. Early word indicates that the disc may include Whedon audio commentary, along with at least 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes (Future History, We'll Have a Fruity Oaty Good Time, Re-Lighting the Firefly and What's in a Firefly), a video introduction to the film by Whedon and 6 minutes worth of outtakes. Some of the details on the extras comes from the BBFC website (click the link and hit enter).

Shiny news! I'm so getting that the day it comes out.

Opening Night

Never did get around to talking about opening night for Serenity. Eight of us went up from school. Me, Eric, Keelia, Kyle, Matt, Justin, Stewart and Karthik all drove up in two cars for the 6:45 showing. We got there pretty early, at 6, got our tickets, then got dinner. We ate, chatted a bit, then went to the theater and waited for the movie. Saw a LOT of people that I knew, from Harwood, Camp or Norwich. Saw Rachel, who was pretty upset over a missing cat, I'll have to remember to call her later... Brigham, from Harwood and Norwich, good to catch up with him, a couple other random people from Harwood, people who Eric and I had talked about earlier that day, talk about weird.
Eric and I had gotten together earlier that day and went up to Burlington to hit the comic shop, where I got most of the comics on that list below, except for the Iron Man one, which is beginning to look pretty lame, which is disapointing, considering that Orson Scott Card wrote it.
The thing about SciFi movies with good fan bases is that it's the waiting that counts. Being in a theater with a couple hundred other people who are looking forwards to it just as much as you are is something like nothing in this world. There's a certain energy about it that's just cool to be apart of.
This morning, Stuart and I manned the Tactics booth for Parent's Weekend, basically doing a bit of recruiting for the club. Not too many people stopped by, but some were interereded. Kind of a waste of time though. I went back to see Serenity later that afternoon for time #2. Just as good the first time.

On another note, does anyone have anything by Zero 7? Great British band with some cool stuff. Looking for recommendations.


Not that it’s any surprise, but I have a new favorite movie. Serenity far exceeded my expectations in terms of story, film work, acting, action and CGI. While not a perfect movie, it came damn close.
The movie picks up about 6 months after the television series Firefly ended, and very soon after the three comics end. In it, we see River get rescued by her brother, then see that they have a new agent after them, an Operative. Fast forward, and the crew’s on a job- robbing a bank. Simon’s pissed at Mal because River’s been included in this op, in which she performs very well and they get off almost completely- except that while they’re robbing the place, Reavers hit the town. We knew they were scary in the series. Up close, we see what they look like and what they do, and they’re downright terrifying.
Crew goes back to space to finish the job, and Simon and River intend to leave. River, on the other hand, goes into a fighting mode while in a bar, destroying the place and forcing Mal to leave again with them. They realize that there’s something major up, and they find out what triggered her, and found that River is essentially a time bomb, created by the government. They turn around to hide again, and find that everywhere that they have hid has been destroyed by the Operative, who’s encountered them once already, at Inara’s planet. The rest is amazing, and you’ll have to see it to see what happens. Let’s just say epic space battles and the origins of the Reavers.
Storywise, it’s extraordinarily strong. We have the same caliber of storytelling that we had in the series, but more epic and more packed. This entire movie could easily be the second season, but with a much larger budget. Seeing the series is handy, and you feel like you’ve never left it. The characters are the same, Serenity is the same, the ‘verse as a whole is the same. It’s like returning to a room that you haven’t lived in for a while, and found that your books are in the same order in which you left them.
There are some minor differences in the verse here and there, such as the Alliance ships, uniforms and soldiers, as well as costumes and other random things, but these are minor differences.
Characterwise, Nathan Fillion stands out the most as Mal. He’s the way that Fox wouldn’t let him: Dark, grim, slightly funny, but an empty man who’s just trying to survive, and when the prime opportunity to hit the Alliance gets to him, he takes it, no matter what the costs. The next biggest character is River, who’s still crazy, but even more so. We learn WHY she’s gone crazy through, which is part of the focal point of the entire movie. We see that she’s conditioned for combat, and has some amazing fight scenes towards the middle and end. Simon and Kaylee finally get together, Wash and Zoe are about the same and Jayne’s never going to change. Inara comes in about half way, and she’s great, while Book’s role has been reduced to a smaller cameo, which is a shame, but his character is a little darker this time around, and we don’t find out anything about him, just more questions.
Film wise, this is also really amazing. Opening right off from the Universal Logo, we are launched right into the story, and is given a huge explanation for the universe. We’re then treated to one of the best opening sequences that I’ve ever seen, that shows us the ship and all the characters, all in a 4.5 minute continuous take. Must have been hard as hell to shoot, but it’s worth it. Throughout the rest of the movie, we’re treated to a lot of the same film work that we saw in the series: Handheld, zooms, following characters and some cool angles. The consistency is very well done.
Zoic, the special effects company that was responsible for the series, as well as the new Battlestar Galactica once again did the CGI, doing an outstanding job. There are some inconsistencies in some scenes between the movie and the series, such as how things move and things like that, but that’s to be expected with a big budget film. Serenity looks spectacular, as to all of the CGI scenes that it’s in.
There are a couple of things that I wasn’t a fan of. One was the deaths. Book and Wash both are killed, and while I applaud Whedon for killing characters, Book’s death seemed kinda out of place, while Wash’s was done perfectly. I’m not fond of their passing, but it worked well. Same thing with Zoë’s reaction. Some people that I’ve talked to seem to expect that she’d stand over Wash’s body for a long time or something, but that wouldn’t fit with her character. Her acting suicidal and without hope was much more accurate, although I think that they really could have spend a little while longer on what happened there.
Action scenes: Amazing. River is definently a very, very deadly and graceful opponent, and man, her action scenes were just mind blowing. Same thing with the space battle towards the end- excellently done.
I can’t really think of a lot more to say that hasn’t been said, but man. Go see this movie. Many times.

Serenity: Opens Tomorrow

The Big Damn Movie is opening tomorrow. TOMORROW. After one release date move, months and months of anticipation, the main event is finally upon us. It's finally here, and I can't wait to finally see it. If you're bored, not sure what to do, not sure which movie to see, this is the one to see. Serenity. There's been a huge number of articles and reviews that have been coming out, and from everyone that I've talked to, the movie is completely amazing, and is so ground breaking that some people have compared to the impact that Star Wars had in the 1970s. I certainly hope that that's the case, and that the public will see this.

There are two features that are well worth checking out: AOL Feature and SciFi's Reurrecting Firefly, hosted by Adam Baldwin, who plays Jayne in the series and movie. They're well worth checking out. Something that I've seen the cast say on a number of occasions: the fans are responsible for bringing back the show. We as fans have been supportive, buying the DVD set, talking online, telling people and essentially, are responsible for bringing the movie to the air. And each of the members of the cast have thanked us in various video interviews. That's the main thing that's blown me away, that they have appreciated our help and recognize that we're here and that we love them. They've been to the prescreenings, done signings and have been just amazing from a fan base. I've talked to friends who've gone and talked with the cast and generally hung out with them at screenings and things like that.

Alan Tudyk , Gina Torres , Jewel Staite , Nathan Fillion , Morena Baccarin and Sean Maher in Universal Pictures' Serenity

I think that the main thing for Firefly fans has been the waiting and anticipation for the movie, much like Star Wars fans have waited years in between each movie. It's the waiting, talking, chatting, watching trailers and waiting for the news to come before the movie opens that really makes this type of thing worth waiting for.

Transport-for-hire ship Serenity lifts off in Universal Pictures' Serenity

So, Joss, Nathan, Gina, Alan, Morena, Adam, Jewel, Sean, Summer, Ron and everyone else involved with the show and movie, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for showing us that they can't take the big damn sky from us.

Oh yeah, and they're FINALLY releasing a regular Firefly Television Soundtrack on a real CD. Right after I bought the damn thing online. Here.

Message from Joss

This was posted on the Official Serenity message board:

Well boys and girls and boys dressed as girls and girls dressed as Kaylee, the time is almost upon us. This Friday we take that old rust-bucket out of the shipyard and see if she can breach atmo. It's been a long (to paraphrase a band I like) strange trip, and it'll be nice finally to show everybody what it is we've been tinkering with all this time. You already know you have my thanks, from the hardcore fans to the softcore... fans.... let me try that again. From the people manning the booths, buying DVD sets for their friends, getting banners seen everywhere on Australian TV, raffling artwork for ticketholders (Adam Hughes, take a bow), to the most casual fan who just wants to see the flick and won't ever even read this. You guys are the fuel in the engine, the Fire in the Fly, the weird green stuff coming out of Serenity's butt. (Hmmm. Forget that last one. I'm a little bit out of control here.)
Everyone needs something to keep them going. Mal has his ship. Zoe has her integrity. Jayne has Vera. And I've got you guys.
So what now? There have been so many posts about seeing it, seeing it again, the first weekend, the second weekend, being enthusiastic without being obnoxious (and yes, it IS hard to see over the pom-pom of a Jayne hat), buying tickets in advance, making a noise... I honestly wouldn't know what to add. I can tell you this: the movie will play in about 2200 hundred theaters, which is a good number. Too many, and you get empty theaters with no energy -- not enough, and you get, well, not enough. It may be hard to find in some areas but it'll be out there. Leave no multiplex unturned! This is going to be a ground war, peeps -- we have to hold the valley for a long while. However it opens, it needs to HOLD. Instead of the Alliance we'll be fighting viewer apathy, fear of something new, the urge to wait for DVD, and Jessica Alba in a bikini. (Although I have it on good authority that she spends 90% of the film in a huge wooly parka. Make sure that gets out.)
The day this puppy opens, I'll be seeing it with my family (don't worry, there's a lot of them, and they're all paying) and then I'm off to Europe to learn the word 'Browncoats' in nine different languages -- 'cause like I said, it's all about holding. I'll never be far from a computer, though, so I can check in with y'all. Thanks for every damn thing.
And remember, amidst all the urgency to make this an event, all the work and the worry, to take two hours and just enjoy yourself. That is, after all, what all this fighting's about.

You heard the man.

Serenity #1 - #3

So I finally have the complete run of the Serenity comics now, I might as well review them as one, how it should be. First, I think that I should mention how successful the entire run has been. Despite the fact that there are only three issues, that it's based off of the little show that was cancelled, every single run has been sold out. They've sent them back for reprints and all that fun stuff, and they've been a huge success. Hopefully, they'll be continuing after the movie with another short miniseries or even a full on series.
The comic format is something that Serenity took to fairly well, which surprised me a little. It shouldn't have though, considering that a TV show is an overarcing storyline joined by smaller stories. Comics are essentially the same way, from what I've seen over the summer and my own launch into comicdom.
So the comics... first of all, Joss Whedon wrote each issue. Each issue has a comparable style of dialog to that of the series, with some fun lines and themes that we've seen in the series. The stories themselves take off after Objects in Space, the last episode of the series, and just before the movie takes place. All in all, it's a great lead in to the movies, mentioning a couple of the movie characters and actually introducing a couple.
Characterwise, we see the return of a couple of characters, Dobson, who was shot by Mal in the first episode, and Badger, a small time crime boss. Dobson was supposed to have been killed, and I'm divided on how I feel about his return. I think that it kinda detracts from the first episode a little, and I'm not a big fan of seeing previously thought dead bad guys return (Mainly from Stargate) although he does play an interesting role in the trilogy. Badger was done pretty well, and it was pretty funny to see him get stranded somewhere, as well as seeing Mal and his crew finally get a little backbone around his group of thugs. The pair of creepy guys, the ones with the Blue Hands return, which was very cool. They do their dirty work, and we learn some interesting things about them, like that they've got blue suits under their clothing, which makes me want to learn more about them. It's not explained who the hell they are though.
The crew. This is a really good transition for the crew, especially coming to the movie. We see them bicker more, we see Inara and Mal have their own problems, Jayne and Mal have problems, Kaylee and Simon, and everything else. Basically, everyone's getting a little more annoyed with Mal.The major things that happen are with Inara leaving, which finally happens here, and Book, who also leaves the ship, to where he is in the movie.
Mainly though, the trilogy is Mal's story. We really see how dark he is, much like some of the episodes, and how much of a rut he's in. That he's just moving forwards, no destination in mind, as he goes from one job to another, with worse and worse luck. Artwise, the trilogy is amazing. The penciling, colors and shading is fantastic, some of the best stuff that I've seen in a very long time. There are just some beautifully drawn scenes in here, and the art along makes the books worth picking up. I was lucky to have gotten all the covers that I had anticipating getting, Inara's, Kaylee's and Wash's. (No, that's a lie, I tried to find the copy with Jayne on the cover, but no luck...) I was divided on the cover art, with there being some really good covers, and some not so good covers, as well as some in the middle.
The main thing is that these issues have to be read together. It's hard to read just one, because you're only getting a third of the story. The entire run is essentially one or two episodes of the series, had it been running, and overall, there's a fairly solid plot and arc that leads right up to the movie.
So, if you happen to see these in stores, do yourself a favor and pick them up.


Someone kill me now, my life is ... well, almost complete. I just finished the novelization for Serenity.

Oh, my fucking lord. The story is amazing. Completely amazing. This movie is going to be my 100% top favorite movie.

Where to begin? The story is as I've heard it described: Epic, like an entire season of television episodes, but it flows in a way that it doesn't feel like you're watching a couple episodes in a row. It's fast, gritty and extremely dark. The trailers, in a sense, are a little misleading on the tone of the entire movie. I'm going to summarize the story briefly.


The story starts off with the crew doing a heist, using River to watch out for trouble. Simon's pissed off at this, and they threaten to leave the ship, which Mal is only too happy to do. While they're doing this heist, the Reavers attack them. Meanwhile, a man called the Operative is after them, following a secret that River learned during her stay at the Academy, which could have extremely poor results for the Alliance. Over the course of the story, they learn what the secret is, and are basically on the run from the Operative. Everything builds into an extremely dramatic conclusion that is just amazing.


I'm not going to say any more than that. It'd take too long to explain, and ruin the movie a bit. I'm slightly regretting reading this, as I've been warned, but nonetheless, I'm just amazed at the story that's presented here. The crew dynamics are fairly dark, but it picks up well after the series, and with what was probably going to happen if the series had been continued.
The main thing that I love about the book is just the sheer differentness of the plot and the characterizations. It's all the same as the series. It was happy, light, heavy, sad, incredible and scary. I cannot imagine how well it will translate onto the bit screen, and I absolutely cannot wait.

The main downer is the novelization part. It's extremely simple, and fairly disapointing. Kieth R.A. DeCandido does his job, and translates the screenplay into a novel form, but almost nothing beyond that. It's a little bit of a letdown really. His language is too loose and casual, and while it's really easy to read, it leaves a lot to be desired. I'm sure that he did his best though. The story of the book outweighs this though, so I'd definently recommend picking up a copy. (Or two, forafriendwhosneverheardoffireflyorserenityandwhoneedstoseehtemovie.) Ahem.

30 more days. Cannot wait.

The Phoenix Phenomenon

Who heard about a little show called Firefly three years ago? How about recently?

Okay, for those of you who don’t know anything about this, listen up: Firefly was a short lived show that FOX aired during the fall of 2002, and quickly cancelled it after 11 episodes. The show, created by Joss Whedon, who was also the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, centered upon a group of misfits in space, on board a little pile of scrap called Serenity. In the first episode, the crew picks up a pair of siblings, Simon, a naïve doctor and River, his psychic and sometimes insane sister. They also pick up a guy named Dobson and a preacher named Book. Dobson’s later shot in the face, but he wasn’t important. Rounding out the rest of the crew is Mal, the captain, Wash, the pilot, Inara, the ‘Companion’ (A high class prostitute), Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic, Zoë, Mal’s second mate and Jayne, the ship’s gun expert. Together, they have their various adventures, although now, the interstellar government is now after River and Simon. Sound like fun? FOX didn’t seem to think so.

So why has Firefly died, and now coming back as a feature film called Serenity?

The main and simple answer: The fan community, who call themselves Browncoats.

While Firefly was still on the air, it gathered a fairly small but extremely devoted group of fans, who a) knew what a good show was, and b) knew how to tell people. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep the show online due to poor ratings. However, it was when the DVD was released that the show really took off. The DVD Boxed set, available at and anywhere you can buy movies, became gold and quickly sold out in some places, taking some people by surprise.

It was also enough to spurn Joss and crew to begin looking for a new home for Firefly, and a feature film, called Serenity, went into the works, this time under Universal Films, which owns the SciFi channel. Great news. The fan community went nuts, and support for the film and series grew. When the first trailer hit, the Firefly boxed set jumped from about 200 on the charts to the top twenty for science fiction DVDs. Two out of three comics have been released to stores, which have also sold out and gone to reprints due to demand. Actors in the movie and series have gone on film and told us that it was our support that brought the movie to life. For once, it pays to be a fan of something. And now, we have something cool to watch again.

Firefly - The Complete Series

This is probably the first time that a movie has been made out of a TV series that was cancelled due to poor ratings. But it’s not the first time that outcry from a fan community has brought back their special show.
During the winter of 2004, Farscape came back in spectacular fashion as a SciFi channel miniseries. Farscape was another TV show, this one run by the SciFi channel, which was cancelled due to lower than desired ratings. Farscape had a more successful run than Firefly did, burning through four full seasons before it was pulled. Once again, the fan community pulled itself together and websites formed that brought the show back to life in a similar, but new form.

Farscape - The Complete Season One

This doesn’t seem to work all the time though. Anyone watch Enterprise? That show was on for several full seasons as well, and despite being on a broad access channel, it was pulling in lower ratings than the SciFi channel’s new Battlestar Galactica. (SciFi doesn’t reach as many people) We saw the same thing here; a small, dedicated group of fans came together, made webpages, went to conventions, wrote letters and all the usual things, even went to the point of trying to finance the show themselves, but only to have the show cut completely.

Why did Firefly and Farscape succeed where Enterprise failed? Surely not because Firefly and Farscape both begin with the letter F, where Enterprise begins with an E. There’s a number of other reasons and influences that probably caused those to continue whereas Enterprise did not.

First, Enterprise is a Star Trek show. They’ve been around forever, and have been one of the main influences on how Science Fiction TV is perceived. It’s huge, and when something like that starts to go wrong, people realize it, and back off. This happened with Enterprise, which started off strong, but lost a huge part of its audience quickly. Firefly and Farscape, on the other hand, were fairly new. The main reasons that they succeeded were mainly because they both had to work extremely hard to expand the audience AFTER they went off the air. This can probably be attributed to the quality of both shows, which are well written and acted. Enterprise was still on the air, had been on for longer and already had enough bad press against it that it was becoming hard to find a bigger audience.
Second, Star Trek has been around for a very long time, and has gone through a number of incarnations in the form of TV shows, movies, books and computer games. It’s essentially flooded the market. People are looking for something else, something new. This is probably one of the reasons why shows such as Stargate and Battlestar have surpassed Enterprise in the ratings game. In addition, it’s also fairly easy for Paramount to begin work on yet another incarnation of Star Trek, in hopes that this one will be better for the fan community. I wouldn’t hold my breath yet, but you never know…

Finally, Firefly and Farscape were highly original shows. They broke a number of the rules in science fiction up to that point and backed it up with some incredible stories, acting and set work that was completely different than Star Trek. The same goes for Battlestar Galactica, which seems to show that the networks have finally realized what a good thing is.

Battlestar Galactica  - Season One (2004)

So, while you go to watch Serenity in theaters later in September, remember that it was a huge uphill battle that was mainly fueled by the fan’s enthusiasm and sheer energy that brought it to the big screen. As they said in the show: We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.
Well said.

New Firefly Images

Here are some screenshots that I took from the Big Damn Trailer:
Lots of Images:

Still Flying

Finally, a Civilized World
The Fearless Leader


A wretched hive of Scum and Villiany
The Man they Call Jayne
Mal with a Gun
I didn't expect this- Space Battles!
"Let's Be Bad Guys."
Nice. Just nice.
Now what's she up to?
Up to no good.
That just looks painful.
Ooh, Aah.
That looks cool.
This reminds me a little of the Black Hawk Down crash.
The bad dude of the story.
Another cool location.
That just looks sweet.

That's Crazy Talk

I tried updating last night, but Blogger was being annoying and didn't post.
It's been a couple of days since I've posted, mainly due to work. One geology teacher seems to think that we really like lots of work. We've been getting tons of various things just piled on to our already large workload. The other geo professor likes to give us work over and over again, shit that I don't understand. Political Science is boring as fuck and History is just plain awesome. Doesn't quite balance things out the whole way, but it's just frustrating. And tomorrow, I have to get up really early to go on a field trip to New York State, in the Adirondacks, to look at some rocks. We're going to be out for a long time. It was intended to be a two day trip, but we were able to talk it down to a single day, by talking to the Geology department chair. I don't think Prof was happy.

I attended the Colby Military Writer's Conference yesterday. It was the tenth one that they've done. It's basically a group of military historians, writers and former/military personnel, and they generally talk about current events, or something that's relevant to today's world somehow. This year's topic was torture, how it should be used, if it should be used and how the military should generally handle gathering intelligence. They also touched on procedures for asymetric warefare. Overall, it was a really good talk. They went over a couple of things in a really good fashion, better than last year's talk, which I thought was a biased argument for the war against the War on Iraq. This time, the talk was mainly for and against limited torture. Putting prisoners in uncomfortable postisions, and most psychological stress doesn't constitute torture, but things suck as physical harm, dismemberment and physical pain do constitute torture. We had people advovcating finger cutting and other similar methods to be used in an urgent situation, which really had some military people pissed off, which surprised me. Somewhat Ironically, it was a holocaust survivor, a 2 star general who headed the Special Forces branch of the military. I talked to him today, and told him that while I didn't agree with everything that he and others said, and did for other things, I really enjoyed the talk and debate.
The entire thing comes at an interesting time, with some things in SciFi really pulling at the human rights ideas, mainly a Galactica, Firefly episode and a novel called City of Pearl. I'm planning on writing an essay on this issue, but not now.

Found some excellent news today:

"Prior to going up in theaters, the trailer will make an online debut. Where and when will be posted on the Browncoats site close to the time of the online debut, so you will all be able to see it BEFORE it is in theaters."
That's regarding the Serentiy trailer, which is supposed to be released with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Apparently, it's being released online first, which is outstanding. When it's released, I'll be posting up a detailed summary of it. I don't have a release date yet, but it'll probably be closer to the 29th. With my luck, it'll probably be while I'm at Celebration 3.

Which, by the way, it's going to be in less than two weeks. I can't wait!