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Author Topic: Bad Sci-Fi
Timothy-
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Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 11, 2018, 12:22
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Your point about take-off is certainly a very good one. The key concern in the story is some sort of acceleration or deceleration later in the trip, at which point the weight difference becomes relevant. One can come up with some sort of explanation for many of these points, such as only being able to afford just enough fuel. I can't remember if, or how, such questions were considered in the story. But if they're discussed as flaws, they probably weren't dealt with adequately. One might also note that the take-off isn't as important a fuel-consumer when you launch from a ship as when you launch from the bottom of a gravity well.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 11, 2018, 12:44
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My biggest question was "if weight is so important for the successful completion of the mission, why the hell didn't they have someone watching the space ship all the time to ensure there were no stowaways?"

Indeed. The really lame dialogue in this from mission control is that she broke the rules so her life is forfeit. She brought this on herself, etc. There’s not even the smallest attempt to find a solution. This in itself could be a plot point. But it wasn’t from what I could see. Just stupid writing.

And, okay. Fine. I “break the rules” if I get on board the next crew destined for the useless International Space Station. (But not useless for purposes of Kumbaya.) But, come on, due diligence. If someone can sneak aboard a vessel that small, someone didn’t even run down the most basic checklist. “Oxygen. Check. Enough food to eat. Check. No one crept aboard because of crappy TSA security. Awe. I’m sure no one snuck aboard.” Or, as you said, post a guard if the mission is so damned important.

This is really awful stuff that probably would be considered good if written by a twelve-year-old. Even then, I might be surprised at how detail-oriented many twelve-year-olds can be, especially if they are sci-fi enthusiasts.

After all, the greatest part of the fuel used in space exploration is used in taking off, thus the girl's extra weight would have already done the damage.

They give some B.S. excuse about not having enough fuel for the descent. It’s a lame point. Your observation is surely the relevant one.

I also thought about the margin of error. This chick can’t be over 130 lbs. That’s a rounding error for a spacecraft being launched that far.

No, you’re not being too picky, Mr. Kung. Sure, small details in any story might cause one’s eyes to roll at the implausibility. But these weren’t small details. This was the basic scaffolding. And the writers failed miserably. If you get the big stuff wrong, don’t expect anyone to hand around for your smaller touchy-feely points.

Again, if any of you are so bored out of your mind that you’re looking for something to do, watch some of this. It’s hilariously obvious that there is junk all over that spacecraft that could be tossed out before you tossed out the hot blond. Crap. I’d cut my hair, throw out my clothes, and chuck all my rations. I’d take triple laxative. I’d trim my nails extra short. I’d even go so far as to throw my desk chair out the hatch (that’s gotta be 10 pounds right there) and maybe even the table its sitting on. Just for starters.

Had this been some smooth, egg-like shell of a spacecraft with nothing but a few blinking lights embedded in the wall, then okay. I can see where it would be hard to lose some weight.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 12, 2018, 15:44
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I finally decided to check out the wikipedia entry, with interesting results. The critics concede that it's valid physics, but also very bad engineering for failing to put in a margin for error. Thus, the emergency is created by the author not on the basis of reasonable design, but for the purpose of confronting a moral problem. There's no indication that there was a problem with launch. This may mean that -- in space and with low gravity -- very little energy was needed to set the transport in motion. One can suspect that the transport would be very spare, with little that could be jettisoned, given the priority placed on saving energy.

Interestingly, Godwin wanted to end up saving the girl anyway. John W. Campbell, the editor, wanted to force the dilemma to the end. Oddly enough, as an engineer himself Campbell should have been aware of the concept of having a margin of error. (The reason the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many far newer bridges have fallen is that it was designed with a large margin of error. Perhaps engineers stopped doing that somewhere along the line. Bad idea, bad results.)

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 12, 2018, 21:33
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Timothy, I never contended this was an issue with physics. This is a matter of MacGyver. He could have easily stripped five hundred pounds out of that ship using no more than a tooth brush and a rubber band. And I think it’s a safe assumption that the short story and this movie have some major differences. The short story can’t be this bad.

In retrospect, it’s hilarious that the pilot (once back on earth or at least on the ground) now goes all noble and outs the corporation for the bad working conditions, etc., of the miners. Well, bucko, it’s a little late in the day to earn your John Wayne stripes. The time to act was when you needed ground control to inform him (or Major Tom) how to reduce enough weight for at least a survivable hard landing.

But, again, from the views of the physical ship shown in the movie, there’s enough decorative trim you could tear off the walls do be rid of 200 lbs. without breaking a sweat. Just. Bad. Filmmaking.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 24, 2018, 09:20
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The free digital over-the-air station, Comet, is featuring some bad sci-fi. Although a supernova plays no role in the movie, James Spader gives his all and shows why he’s probably better as a lawyer than a space medic in 2000’s Supernova.

Synopsis: Medical ship receives 9/11 call. 9/11 caller is a crazed lunatic made so by his contact with what looks like a cosmic sex toy. He has super heeling powers and kills almost everyone on the ship. While doing so, Peter Facinelli’s (as the villain) over-acting is splendid and on-key.

Angela Bassett (the stylish and professional medic), along with Spader, are the brains of the operation. The rest of the crew are there to be picked off one at a time, including Lou Diamond Phillips. Don’t ask me to make sense of all this. I’m not sure it does. But it’s good bad sci-fi and is entertaining in that vein.

This isn’t sci-fi but it was also included on Comet’s “Noir Sunday” catalog. Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell are carnies in 1947’s Nightmare Alley. One reviewer noted that both the writer and the director eventually committed suicide. There are indeed some dark themes to this.

But mostly this is a look inside some of the sideshow characters of a traveling carnival. Blondell and her alcoholic husband were once a big “mentalist” act on Vaudeville. But her partner, Pete (Ian Keith), turned to booze and it was back to the relative obscurity and degredation of the traveling carnival. None of this was unpredicted by Blondell’s fascination with tarot cards.

Stanton (Tyrone Power) is trying to still make his way up in the world. He knows that Blondell and Pete have a complex system whereby they can encode messages and thus make it seem as if they can read people’s minds.

Well, sin and misfortune (and the destiny of the tarot cards) bring Power and Blondell together as both love interests and a big act. She’s now got a reliable partner again whom she has taught the system, with the aid of the nubile Molly (Coleen Gray). Enter a scheming psychiatrist into the mix (her part ultimately a little unspecified and unresolved). And who need Blondell when you have the double-gorgeous Coleen Gray? Molly and Stanton break off on their own now that they have the code. What could go wrong?

They have great success as a fancy nightclub act playing in some posh joints to some posh people. Stanton’s long game isn’t this relative penny-ante mind-reading. He want’s some big scores. So he starts playing some extremely rich people, including convincing them that he can put them together again with parted loved-ones.

One rich lady is so convinced she hands Stanton an envelope with$150,00o in it….enough to start some quasi-religious tabernacle for his mentalist craft. Stanton merely stashes the envelope as get-away money as he then tries to land an even bigger fish. This one he also convinces that through Stanton he can talked to departed loved-ones. But before he opens his wallet, he demands to actually see his dearly departed daughter. Stanton agree.

What could go wrong? There are some more twists and turns and, of course, all does not turn out well for Stanton in the end as had been predicted by Blondell’s tarot reading. If there’s a theme in this film it’s probably “Don’t drink too much.” The movie is entertaining but often uneven. We get no sense for why Stanton isn’t satisfied with his relative successful and lucrative gig of mind reading in posh clubs. We don’t know what drives him.

And the introduction of the psychiatrist in this is not at all well integrated in the story….which makes some sense because apparently this character was not in the original book. This movie want to thrust forward wildly without sometimes laying the groundwork. The conflict between Blondell and Gray as Stanton’s love interest is barely touched on before we add this third element of the psychiatrist.

But ultimately this is one of Tyrone Power’s best roles. Some interesting background on this is given in the trivia section at IMDB:

Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck found this movie so generally distasteful that he eventually took it out of circulation; but it was theatrically re-released in 1956-1957, did good business, particularly in the drive-in circuit, and received wide distribution; after Power's premature death in 1958, widespread public demand for it on television resulted in its initial telecast in New York City Saturday 10 January 1959 . . . and soon spreading far and wide as a result of its extraordinarily high ratings. Its 2005 DVD release as part of the Twentieth Century Fox "noir" series brought "Nightmare Alley" back once again into even wider circulation.

This is a good con-man film very well acted throughout. It’s often dark but always entertaining.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 24, 2018, 09:51
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According to wikipedia, Supernova had a mediocre first week and went downhill from there. No one seems to have liked it. And judging from their plot description, I can see why. Of course, that says nothing about the various performances, special effects, etc. But they sure did know how to create an emergency situation. Perhaps the movie should have been titled Murphy's Law.

I think your interpretation of Nightmare Alley is a reasonable one. The title is rather apt. This may not be what one normally thinks of as film noir, but it's awfully dark. The carny life probably is unpleasant for most of us, though it probably suits many of its participants. (Fredric Brown occasionally delved into carny life in some of his novels. He could be a gritty writer, but I don't recall any as dark as this.)

Interestingly, you have a lot of cons going in the movie. The whole mind-reader business is a minor con, and you have 3 different couples involving 4 people. And then you have the larger con(s) that Power engages in.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 24, 2018, 10:18
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Since Brad and Tim are the SciFi experts here, I think it would be interesting for one or both to review the movie, "Event Horizon."

I saw this shortly after it came out and haven't seen it since. It was a strange movie.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 24, 2018, 10:30
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Mr. Kung, I'm always up for a Sam Neill film. I don't think I've seen Event Horizon but I couldn't swear to it. Three bucks will give me that one VUDU.

Supernova is likely inexpensive but compelling programming for what is a cheesy over-the-air network (Comet). It should be seen in this vein. Actually, I don't necessarily recommend seeing it. It's not that bad to be good. But it's bad enough!

---

Reading a bit more on it, I'll probably pass on Event Horizon because it's more of a horror movie than a sci-fi movie.

Timothy-
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Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 24, 2018, 10:42
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It seems to be a cult classic -- meaning most people don't like it, but the ones who do really like it. Given the depressing ending -- implying an eternally repeating disaster -- I'm not sure if I would like it.

As for the science, I don't see how using a black hole (which would create a lot of problems for the ship carrying it, which would presumably slowly disintegrate into it) would enable it to link two distant points in space. But we don't really know much yet about the science of black holes, having never actually encountered one yet.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: Bad Sci-Fi
on: September 25, 2018, 18:40
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Last Night Comet TV aired 1966’s Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. with Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing had also appeared in 1966’s Dr. Who and the Daleks.

I caught the last 1/3 of this so that’s not much I can say about it. Dr. Who is certainly an acquired taste (and often bad sci-fi) and if you acquire the taste then your taste is somewhat suspect. I’m partial to the Tom Baker (the 4th doctor) episodes which I’m happy to report are all included on BritBox, as are the first through seventh doctors.

When watching the Broadchurch series, I had no idea that David Tennant (Alec Hardy) had played the second doctor (modern incarnation). I watched two of them today on Amazon Prime. The technical aspects are obviously improved. The kitchiness of them remains. It’s hard to say the the original doctors played to more adult tastes. But you can definitely see the influence of the tattooed, ear-plugged, dope-smoking yute in these.

That said, I give credit to Tennant for not simply sleep-walking through the role. I would say he infuses The Doctor with sufficient quirkiness without it looking too deliberate. Many of the other doctors don’t pull this off. That’s one reason I like Tom Baker in the role. He really gets into it and there’s never a doubt he’s The Doctor, not some low-paid British actor trying to act quirky enough to fit in.

I haven’t seen anything but very small bits and pieces of many of the other doctors. The original doctors included the granddaddy of them all, William Hartnell, and John Pertwee (3), both who gave a fair-to-good interpretations. I never cared for Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor, even less so Sylvester McCoy (7). I don’t think I’ve ever seen Paul McGann (8) in action. He had only 1 episode which is probably why.

Colin Baker, as #6, is probably the poster child of the kind of self-conscious quirkiness that I don’t think worked at all. I’ve seen very little of Patrick Troughton’s doctor (2) so I don’t have much to say about him. I seriously doubt I’ll be able to stomach any of the other modern doctors, and it looks like Amazon Prime has all of them. But I’ll give Tennant a run for his money and see where it goes.

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