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If Tongues Could Talk (and they Can) Aug. 8th, 2019 @ 02:20 pm


When a relationship runs into trouble on Farscape there's always a danger Scorpius or a Princess is waiting in the wings, ready to turn trouble into opportunity. Crichton and Aeryn's temporary spat turns into a problem about royal succession in the first part of a three part episode.



Look at the Princess, Part 1: A Kiss is but a Kiss

While teaching Crichton (Ben Browder) some manoeuvres in his module, Aeryn (Claudia Black) unexpectedly recoils when he compliments her new perfume. She warns him of the danger "personal indulgences" pose for fracturing a crew--though, of course, she's already chosen herself to use the perfume. Throughout the episode, poor Crichton's at the receiving end of clumsy insults from Aeryn, excuses so she can get some space and work through her sudden reticence.



She blames Crichton's "rutting instincts" and "hormones"--he replies in amusing indignation, "I was lips, you were tongue!" Now it's Chiana's (Gigi Edgley) turn to offer wisdom to the two who tried to guide her in "Taking the Stone", basically advising both of them that if they don't like who they're with, just go on to someone else. In Crichton's case, of course that's Chiana.



It doesn't seem to bother her that she's with D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) now, though D'Argo makes it very clear he will not tolerate any sharing of the Nebari girl with another. Good luck with that.



After two episodes of the crew being stuck aboard Moya, it's refreshing to get to an episode where most of them end up stuck on a planet--Zhaan (Virginia Hey) and Pilot (Lani Tupu) decide to flee, hoping to lure off Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) when his Command Carrier shows up. No such luck.



Another nice change of pace is that Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) actually makes himself useful. When they're initially not allowed on the planet due to an impending coronation, Rygel actually succeeds in pulling rank as a dominar, convincing Tyno (Matt Day) that protocol mandates the Hynerian ruler and his retinue be accepted as honoured guests.



There's also an amusing scene where Aeryn forces Rygel to kiss her. In this civilisation of Sebaceans, genetic compatibility is tested with some kind of fluid in a vial which alters flavour depending on whether or not two people are computable when they kiss while each has a drop of the stuff on their tongues. To stave off an attempt from one suitor, Aeryn forces her tongue on Rygel's. I love the look on her face when she says, "I'm so pleased!" at supposedly finding him compatible.



Crichton, meanwhile, unexpectedly finds he's compatible with the Princess Katralla (Felicity Price). This is despite the fact that the Scarran ambassador, Cargn (Gavin Robins), had "poisoned her DNA", making her incompatible with any Sebacean, in order to ensure her Scarran-friendly scoundrel brother Clavor (Felix Williamson) takes the throne. Too bad none of them anticipated a human showing up.



This is the first glimpse we have of a full-blooded Scarran, an impressive piece of work combining costume and puppetry. The design evolves throughout the series and becomes even better by the fourth season but already this fellow is a scary enough dragon man, especially in a fight scene between him and Aeryn.

In addition to the Scarran, Crichton also has the half-Scarran Scorpius to worry about and so he finds accepting the Princess' marriage proposal may be the only way of ensuring his survival. The ongoing theme on the series of finding a firm, permanent place to belong takes on an extreme incarnation when Crichton finds out marrying the Princess involves being turned into a statue for eighty cycles (years). Surely there's a middle ground?

. . .



This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):



Season One:



Episode 1: Pilot

Episode 2: I, E.T.

Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis

Episode 4: Throne for a Loss

Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future

Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again

Episode 7: PK Tech Girl

Episode 8: That Old Black Magic

Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist

Episode 10: They've Got a Secret

Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear

Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue

Episode 13: The Flax

Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton

Episode 15: Durka Returns

Episode 16: A Human Reaction

Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass

Episode 18: A Bug's Life

Episode 19: Nerve

Episode 20: The Hidden Memory

Episode 21: Bone to be Wild

Episode 22: Family Ties



Season Two:



Episode 1: Mind the Baby

Episode 2: Vitas Mortis

Episode 3: Taking the Stone

Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter

Episode 5: Picture If You Will

Episode 6: The Way We Weren't

Episode 7: Home on the Remains

Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream

Episode 9: Out of Their Minds

Episode 10: My Three Crichtons

Current Location: A club
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Dear Landlord" Bob Dylan Cover - Janis Joplin

Shaken or Stirred, Just Keep Pouring Aug. 7th, 2019 @ 03:12 pm


James Bond could've taken life a whole lot easier and Dean Martin shows how in 1969's The Wrecking Crew. The last in a series of four films in which Martin played Matt Helm, a sort of international government assassin, it's an adventure film in the James Bond mould with a little more comedy thrown in. Director Phil Karlson creates some exciting energy in the action sequences and there's some wonderfully campy production design but the film's showcase is Martin's chemistry with several beautiful women, particularly with a bumbling agent played by Sharon Tate.



We meet Matt Helm (Martin) already surrounded by gorgeous ladies wearing a variety of bizarre bikinis. What is the kink that necessitated one woman to wear a telephone, its base sewn to her bottom and its receiver sewn to her top? "Wait, my phone's off the hook," says Matt as a car drives him away to his next assignment.



Martin's famous booze fuelled, dry improvisational comedy he perfected on stage here aligns well enough with some conventional spy movie moments. My favourite was a bit where steel doors suddenly come down over one exit after another as he tries to leave. When one door doesn't close right away, he politely stands and waves his hand at it--when it finally closes he gives it the "okay" gesture.



The villain is Count Contini (Nigel Green) whose plan is simply to steal a whole lot of gold in weird, complicated ways. He's assisted by Elke Sommer, Nancy Kwan, and Tina Louise, all beautiful and devious women. Though Louise's scene mainly consists of her trying on various outfits while Martin works the lights.



It's kind of sexy, I guess.

Sharon Tate plays Freya, a guide assigned by the Danish tourism bureau who may have more--or less--to her than it might seem. A running gag throughout the film has Martin just about to make it with a lovely dame only for Tate to stumble in, ruin things, and sort of save his life in the process.



She seems to be a parody of the typically hyper-competent Bond girl, a broader take than the Britt Ekland character in The Man with the Golden Gun. But she shows herself to be a decent martial artist in a memorable fight scene with Nancy Kwan. Choreographed by Bruce Lee, both women markedly lack Lee's unique, lightning speed and precision but with a little help from careful editing the two have easily the best fight scene in the movie.



Martin seemed a little less enthusiastic about entering a fray though it's worth noting he kicks Chuck Norris' ass. Norris makes his first film appearance in an uncredited role as one of Contini's henchmen.



I love Contini's mansion with its chequered floor and gold furniture. Freya unfortunately blows most of it up before she and Matt escape on a helicopter. "This is fun!" she says in contrast to his visible weariness. A transparent babydoll nightgown she wears at the end helps ensure she outshines everything else in the climax.
Current Location: A mansion
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: "The Morning After" Brazil OST - Michael Kamen

Once Upon a Violent Time Aug. 6th, 2019 @ 03:00 pm


It's been over a week now since Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was released in the US. In that time, the movie's done well for something that's not another prefab Disney blockbuster and its detractors have had a remarkably difficult time articulating any kind of moral argument against it. The best anyone was able to come up with is that Bruce Lee's daughter and protégée disapprove of how Lee was portrayed in the film as a bit arrogant. This holds no water, though, for anyone who's seen any interview with Bruce Lee.



I thought Lee actually came off pretty well in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, particularly in the flashback of Lee training Sharon Tate for The Wrecking Crew.

Over at The Atlantic, reviews have been positive. One--I guess I'll call it an exceptio--is this article by Spencer Kornhaber. I hesitate to call it an exception because its arguments are so vague and unformed. Sometimes he seems to like the movie, other times he seems to be arguing that it's empty and callous, even dangerous. But the article interested me because Kornhaber focused on the same thing I focused on in my review, the apparent statement in the film about the difference between fantasy violence and real violence and the nature of how the former might influence the latter. This idea has taken on a new relevance, too, after the recent series of mass shootings which President Trump responded to by putting the blame, in part, on violent video games. Also at The Atlantic, Ian Bogost has written a pretty thorough article on research that has gone into the potential influence of video games on violent behaviour and the history of politicians, on the right and the left, crusading against video games.

In light of this, Kornhaber's article on the same site seems odd and sloppy, not for expressing a contrary opinion but for the lack of effort Kornhaber put into his argument. In discussing the motives Sadie Atkins (Mikey Madison) expresses in the film for committing murder, Kornhaber asserts "the film could almost be read as taking Atkins’s stance," without explaining what he means by this. Tarantino gives Atkins some dialogue in which she argues that people who are responsible for creating violent media, like Leonardo DiCaprio's character Rick Dalton, are in fact murderers because of the crimes they inspire and should be killed. Where in the movie does Tarantino take a position even "almost" like that?

Kornhaber goes on to write:

Once Upon a Time has been widely interpreted as an elegy for a beloved cinematic era that ended with the cultural shifts of the late ’60s, which were embodied by Manson’s curdled, deranged hippiedom. But it could be argued—and, indeed, is argued by Atkins in the film—that the film industry’s bloodthirstiness corrupted a generation that then murdered its idols. Old Hollywood, in Atkins’s reading, created the Mansons, seeding its own destruction.

Sure, "it could be argued," but not very intelligently or well or anywhere in the movie except by Atkins. Where else in the movie is anyone encouraged to murder the idols of Hollywood?

It's ironic that Kornhaber claims the film's argument is incoherent and "facile" as those words fit his own argument pretty well. One quote he pulls from a 1994 interview (but Kornhaber added an exclamation point to the quote) seems especially timely;

[Bruce] Willis - who is currently making a third Die Hard film and also plays a double-crossing boxer in Pulp Fiction - recognizes an essential distinction between the two kinds of productions. In the Die Hard movies, he said, violence is a gimmick.

"In every reel, there has to be some big thing, an explosion or a big action 'beat,' " he explained. In
Pulp Fiction, the brutality "all comes out of human beings just behaving, and not because it's time for an explosion. . . . I think that's the big difference."

The suddenness of the new violence also sets it apart.

"In real life," Tarantino reflected, "when violence enters our world . . . it kind of just rears its ugly head and we are not prepared for it."

No scary music. No ominous shadows. No warning signs.

The filmmaker suggested an example: You're in a restaurant, enjoying a pleasant dinner, chatting with some friends.

"All of a sudden, three tables away, some man smacks his wife," he said. "Whoa! It comes out of nowhere. It affects everything!

"And I'm not interested in just the act - the act of the guy smacking his wife," he went on. "I'm interested in what happens after that."


As we've seen again and again in mass shootings, the killer's motives tend to have little or nothing to do with the people he actually killed--the violence, as Tarantino says, seems to come out of nowhere, with no logical context, but obviously it affects everything. Much like the real life Manson killings the motives for which are difficult to untangle from the incoherent testimonies of the killers and other Family members. What had Sharon Tate to do with Manson's prophesied race war? It all seems likely to have been related to the fact that Manson's former associate Terry was the former occupant of Tate's house and she became the victim of his irrational resentment, and maybe the even less concrete class resentment of the Family members who perpetrated the killing. Simply put, mass murder is a crazy thing to do and it tends to be done for crazy reasons.

But in spending so much time talking about whether Once Upon a Time "absolves" fantasy violence of culpability, Kornhaber misses what's right in front of him, which is the film's argument for the positive function of fantasy violence. This comes from a general problem in criticism in which critics are unable to differentiate between different kinds of fictional violence. It would of course be inappropriate for there to be a scene in the middle of Schindler's List where a starving Jewish man is suddenly able to crush every Nazi guard's skull in a flurry of martial arts prowess. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take pleasure in Indiana Jones wailing on another Nazi in another movie. Some violence in films is there to give us an impression of a horrible experience, some violence is cathartic. And there can be overlap, certainly, as in Yojimbo where we feel the horror of Sanjuro getting worked over--but then it's even more satisfying and cathartic when he prevails against the people who hurt him.

This is what Tarantino is doing in Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. These aren't propaganda films, or they're not meant to be--they're not misleading us about what really happened. Because we already know. Tarantino is arguing that there's value in fantasy that's not about tricking people or deluding them. It's not such a radical idea--we can read Lord of the Rings and appreciate it without believing in the existence of Hobbits and Elves.

Twitter Sonnet #1264

Contestants change for chocolate dressing capes.
Beneath the suffered hat's a thorny web.
A town descends to sleep behind the drapes.
Appointed times allow the thoughts to ebb.
The waggon filled with stones began to move.
A push above the hill and time was out.
And then a wobbly wheel was locked a groove.
Became the fabled train and stuck the route.
The stars were bubbles, nights in certain clubs.
Through quiet tunnels certain ghosts remain.
A foreign movie played with English subs.
Immersive tubes could race a bullet train.
In skinny forests, ruins clearly stood.
Translucent dances burn the brittle wood.
Current Location: A theatre
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: "Kalidor's Theme" Red Sonja OST - Ennio Morricone

Yesterday versus To-day versus To-morrow Aug. 5th, 2019 @ 03:50 pm


How do you assign relative value to sentient lives? When one person has to die so the others can live, are there any possible objective criteria for choosing? On Farscape, one criterion presents itself as obvious to most of the crew but maybe this is more due to bias than it might seem at first.



Season 2, Episode 10: My Three Crichtons

This is a great episode. It demonstrates one of the best things about Science Fiction--it provides a context for thinking about human nature in a way we otherwise wouldn't and so familiar issues take on a new light.

A strange, green blob appears aboard Moya, floats over everyone, one by one, until finding Crichton (Ben Browder). It then grows and absorbs him for a time until he emerges again, but not alone. Two other Crichtons have been created but they're not identical. One resembles a Neanderthal, an early human ancestor, and the other, with an enlarged brain and lack of genitalia, represents the future of humanity.



Eventually, the blob communicates with the Crichtons and it turns out one of the three, any one of the three, must go back with the blob or the entire ship and crew will get sucked into another dimension. A decision has to be made and most of the crew, with varying degrees of reluctance, sees Neanderthal Crichton as the obvious candidate.



Although mainly about Crichton, I love how this episode uses every other member of Moya's crew. Of course Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) heartlessly endorses tossing in all the Crichtons the blob wants, maybe even more than it wants. Aeryn (Claudia Black), although initially suspicious of Future Crichton, even shares a laugh with him over the idea of the sacrifice being anyone other than Neanderthal Crichton. Aeryn's character development is incidental here but nonetheless you can see her quickness to go with the seemingly pragmatic solution suggests she still has some Peacekeeper in her.



Zhaan (Virginia Hey) criticises Future Crichton's callousness but solemnly accepts the necessity of the Neanderthal's sacrifice. There's an interesting moment where Pilot (Lani Tupu) admits he disagrees with Moya on the subject--Moya won't sacrifice any innocent life to save herself while Pilot sees protecting Moya and the rest of the crew as paramount. D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) reluctantly takes Original Crichton's side when he wants to find another solution besides giving Neanderthal to the blob but the only one who whole-heartedly wants to save the hairiest Crichton is Chiana (Gigi Edgley).



When all other possibilities have been exhausted and Crichton and D'Argo grimly approach the cell where Neanderthal Crichton is being held, they find only a grinning Chiana. Why shouldn't the sacrifice be the big brain Crichton, she asks. Why is his greater intelligence prized higher than Neanderthal's qualities--his warmth and sensitivity, she says, were the things she always liked about Crichton.

Although Chiana and D'Argo have more or less been a couple for a few episodes now, there are still manifestations of her sexual chemistry with Crichton and here it's key. Chiana, who's portrayed as the most sexual of anyone aboard, would naturally prefer the Crichton with genitalia over the one lacking said equipment. The implication here is that sexuality is primitive, that in the progress of evolution it will eventually be left behind. Future Crichton repeatedly says how he's able to arrive at better solutions quicker and maybe that's easier to do without the distraction of being physically attracted to people around him to no rational purpose. But without that, his primary motive seems only to be continual, unending progress. He points out, probably correctly, that there are likely many more things he can do for Moya and her crew after this incident is resolved.



But is making something newer and better, improving technology and even quality of life, is progress really what life's all about? That assumes we know what is better. You could say you can only see the answer clearly if you don't have genitals, or you could say your priorities are completely wrong if you don't have genitals. What's the point of progress if people become colder and more divided?



Another thing that has set Chiana apart from the rest of the crew from the beginning is that she's not an unwilling exile from her people. She and her brother chose to leave. The climax of the episode brings in the idea of belonging and hinges on Neanderthal's instinct about whether or not he belongs there. Everyone aboard, aside from Chiana, has longed for this elusively defined sense of "belonging" so maybe it makes sense she's the only one who disregards it. Usually that means she's ready to go off on her own, as in "Taking the Stone". Ironically, in this case, it means she's the one trying to keep everyone together.

. . .



This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):



Season One:



Episode 1: Pilot

Episode 2: I, E.T.

Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis

Episode 4: Throne for a Loss

Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future

Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again

Episode 7: PK Tech Girl

Episode 8: That Old Black Magic

Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist

Episode 10: They've Got a Secret

Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear

Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue

Episode 13: The Flax

Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton

Episode 15: Durka Returns

Episode 16: A Human Reaction

Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass

Episode 18: A Bug's Life

Episode 19: Nerve

Episode 20: The Hidden Memory

Episode 21: Bone to be Wild

Episode 22: Family Ties



Season Two:



Episode 1: Mind the Baby

Episode 2: Vitas Mortis

Episode 3: Taking the Stone

Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter

Episode 5: Picture If You Will

Episode 6: The Way We Weren't

Episode 7: Home on the Remains

Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream

Episode 9: Out of Their Minds

Current Location: A green blob
Current Mood: hothot
Current Music: "One Piece at a Time" - Johnny Cash

What a Painting can Capture Aug. 4th, 2019 @ 04:38 pm


One might guess from the title of "Grand Theft Cosmos", a 2008 Eighth Doctor Doctor Who audio play, that the story involves stealing a universe. And so it does. The Doctor and Lucie, holidaying on a 19th century steamship, run across an art dealer who's gotten his hands on a painting that threatens to rupture time and space. It's a nice, entertaining episode.

Written by Eddie Robson, "Grand Theft Cosmos" features the return of two characters from the first Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) series, the Headhunter (Katarina Olsson) and Karen (Louise Fullerton). Karen is one of the office workers from the Office parody story "Human Resources", also written by Robson, but Grand Theft Cosmos is much better, not having to go out of its way to force references to an unrelated TV sitcom. Instead, the two returning characters have paired up to steal valuable and dangerous items throughout history, in this case a black diamond and those terrifying paintings.

The Doctor is at first alarmed to learn one of those paintings is aboard the steam ship but is only partially relieved to discover it's only a decoy. Eventually, the Doctor must confront the artist by travelling to the 17th century. Tardelli, the artist, is played by Christopher Benjamin who normally plays the bumbling Victorian theatre owner, Jago, introduced in The Talons of Wang Chiang before becoming a recurring character in the audios. Here Benjamin shows himself capable of putting on a sinister, villainous performance and I didn't recognise him while I was listening.

There are plenty of amusing moments, especially when Lucie (Sheridan Smith) and Karen bicker politely with each other--the two were basically office buddies in "Human Resources". But the effective drama around Tardelli's paintings gives the story enough atmosphere to prevent the comedy from deflating the tone.
Current Location: A cosmos
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: "Stolen Car" - Bruce Spingsteen
Other entries
» Light Through the Diamonds


What might a pair of earrings mean to a woman? The question remains intriguing and unsettled throughout 1953's The Earrings of Madame de . . . but, as the title suggests, we don't even learn her surname or her husband's. Louise lives in the comfortable, decadent world of late 19th century Parisian aristocracy created by director Max Ophuls with beautiful sets and mesmerising camera movements. These elements help ensure the story's persistent mysteries remain fascinating.

The first thing we see Louise (Danielle Darrieux) try to do with the earrings is get rid of them. They were originally a gift from her husband, Andre (Charles Boyer), but now she would rather sell them to settle her private debts than appeal to him for more money.



You could make a fair argument that the earrings represent Louise's sense of independence. After a series of improbable circumstances in which the earrings travel to Constantinople and back to Paris, they're given to her again but this time by her lover, an Italian diplomat named Donati (Vittorio De Sica). She wanted to get rid of them before, now they're objects of intense value. You would think she would choose another memento of Donati's love, one that didn't have previous association with her husband. But they almost seem more precious to her than both men when Andre sternly commands her to give them to her cousin.



He does this clearly as a form of disciplinary action. A military man, a general, Andre also usually seems generally permissive. In early scenes in their palatial bedchamber where their seperate beds are sequestered in different lavish alcoves, he seems to casually hint at the normalcy of discreetly ignored adultery among upperclass 19th century Parisians. Yet as he detects one crumb of evidence after another he can't seem to help himself getting involved. His initial confrontation with Donati, though, isn't so much a fight as a simple dialogue in which Louise's own simplistic manipulations are laid bare.



She's no Machiavelli. Her usual technique is to pretend to faint when things don't go her way--she seems to accomplish her ends for how charming people find the transparency of her methods more than for the methods themselves. Maybe that's her tragedy--she lives in a world thriving on polite, complex deceit and she happens not to be particularly clever or insightful.



Does she know herself why she suffers for Donati, a man for whom her favourite expression is, "I don't love you, I don't love you, I don't love you . . ." generally whispered as they embrace in secret. Maybe the earrings represent a life where she might love both men, or neither, or maybe they represent some more fundamental impulse that no language has yet invented words for.



It's a beautiful film, restless in its camera movement and provoking in its subtle enigma. The Earrings of Madame De . . . is available on The Criterion Channel.

Twitter Sonnet #1263

Discovered jewels encased the ears again.
A never carved in golden trees suspends.
As boats and leaves were ever quite akin.
On what the common heart at times depends.
Insistent sleep ensures reflected sheets.
In black and white the gilded frame would glow.
A shadow crowd completes the thousand seats.
Again reflected candles lit the show.
A heavy stone eclipsed the dusty lake.
A pilgrim stopped in webs of tangled hair.
The drunken walker smashed against the rake.
A quiet crowd returned to watch the fair.
Between the bars of blue a curtain drifts.
A steady moon returns the night in shifts.

» A Mile in Someone Else's Brain


It's one of those perennial hazards of a sci-fi world--getting your brain switched with someone else's. On Farscape, it's just one more weird problem on a whole pile of weird problems.



Season 2, Episode 9: "Out of Their Minds"

While Zhaan (Virginia Hey) is aboard a hostile ship, dealing with some aliens who suspiciously resemble Skeksis from Dark Crystal, the rest of Moya's crew are scrambling to get the ship's scavenged defence screen up and running. When the Skeksis fire on Moya, the combination of energy from the hostile shot and the defence screen at 62% power results in everyone aboard Moya turning up in someone else's body.



There's something kind of sweet about Pilot in the body of Chiana (Gigi Edgley) patiently and sadly explaining to D'Argo in the body of Pilot (Lani Tupu) how to communicate with Moya. And Rygel in the body of Crichton (Ben Browder) is hilarious but I think the prize for acting versatility has to go to Claudia Black.



She never quite gets Crichton's American accent but her incredulous reaction when Chiana (Anthony Simcoe) and Aeryn (Jonathan Hardy) catch Crichton in Aeryn's body playing with said body is priceless. "I'm a guy. A guy. Guys dream about this sort of thing." Of course, women may as well--as Crichton suspects and is later confirmed, Chiana has been up to similar hijinks in D'Argo's body. A smirking comment from Aeryn at the end of the episode leaves the impression that a whole lot of sex occurred after the episode's close.



Black is also exceptional as Rygel when everyone's places are scrambled again later in the episode. Something about her big eyes, I think, helps convey his attitude. Though it's hard to top Rygel finding the need to urinate in Crichton's body and then, later, when finding a Skeksi he's leading around the ship suddenly needs to puke, saying grandly, "That's all right, we do that sort of thing all the time here on Moya. I just peed in the maintenance bay."

One thing the episode makes clear about the crew dynamics is that, despite the basic idea of there being no captain, by this point everyone seems instinctively to regard Crichton as being in charge. When a Skeksi comes aboard, everyone assumes he's going to want to talk to Crichton--when Zhaan needs information at the end of the episode, she won't listen to Crichton in Rygel's body, she'll only trust Aeryn in Crichton's body. Something Rygel remarks on with no small bitterness.

. . .



This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):



Season One:



Episode 1: Pilot

Episode 2: I, E.T.

Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis

Episode 4: Throne for a Loss

Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future

Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again

Episode 7: PK Tech Girl

Episode 8: That Old Black Magic

Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist

Episode 10: They've Got a Secret

Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear

Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue

Episode 13: The Flax

Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton

Episode 15: Durka Returns

Episode 16: A Human Reaction

Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass

Episode 18: A Bug's Life

Episode 19: Nerve

Episode 20: The Hidden Memory

Episode 21: Bone to be Wild

Episode 22: Family Ties



Season Two:



Episode 1: Mind the Baby

Episode 2: Vitas Mortis

Episode 3: Taking the Stone

Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter

Episode 5: Picture If You Will

Episode 6: The Way We Weren't

Episode 7: Home on the Remains

Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream

» The Missing Apes


Somewhere in Africa, is there still a community of early hominids, ancestors of homo sapiens? And can they fall in love? Yes, according to 1979's Mistress of the Apes, they can. The story of an amazing anthropological discovery by a few Americans, it's such a terrifically bad movie. It's really fabulous.



Susan (Jenny Neumann) accompanies the sleazy David (Walt Robin), the 19th century explorer stereotype Paul (Garth Pillsbury), and the speaker of random feminist sound-bites, Laura (Barbara Leigh), on an expedition to Nairobi to follow up on something Susan's husband discovered: a bona fide missing link.



Things don't go well. Once in the bush, the four travellers are preyed on by a pair of American poachers who eventually turn out to be cohorts of David's. Paul and Laura are held captive and tortured but they both shrug off the trauma to retaliate with a series of goofy pranks like putting a snake in a coffee pot. Meanwhile, Susan goes embedded with the ape men, resulting in the film's best moment, a scene where Susan tries to assimilate with the hunter-gatherers by using sexy vaudevillian monkey-gestures. All the while, a song called "Ape Lady" plays on the soundtrack.



There's a kind of exquisite lousiness to it. If you can watch the above clip without grinning once I'd be very impressed.

I watched Mistress of the Apes on Amazon Prime a few days ago but it's become unavailable there. The whole thing is on YouTube, though.
» The Copy is Made of Greasy Foam


Wandering through a high fantasy world, David Carradine finds himself caught between a ganglord, a warlord, and a lot of naked women in 1984's The Warrior and the Sorceress. In fact a remake of Yojimbo, it compares unfavourably to the original in just about every way.



Unlike Sanjuro in the original Kurosawa film, who's a world weary samurai but still shocked to see a dog wandering around carrying a human hand, Carradine's "Dark One" laughs when he sees a woman and child being killed at the beginning of the movie. Instead of Kurosawa's vision of the one man who could stand in the middle of turmoil and mitigate or stop the trouble we have a much more cynical, vaguely defined character. His motives are entirely mercenary as he pits one side against another until he realises one side's favourite slave is the sorceress Naja, played by Maria Socas.



It was brave of Socas to appear topless throughout the entire film (apparently Naja's choice) though, as a surrogate for the sake brewer's captive in Yojimbo, a tiny part, her character is still less developed. Her vague motives having to do with a hazily defined lost order where she was at a high place in the hierarchy also gives the Dark One his vague motive for helping her--he used to be a knight or samurai in that same order and so naturally her subordinate. So instead of the world Kurosawa created where a rough around the edged ronin decides to help people on his own impulses, we have a surly swordsman who reluctantly manifests his loyalty to an old party.

Carradine appropriately plays the role with less warmth than Toshiro Mifune played his counterpart in Yojimbo, which also has the effect of making him a lot less interesting to watch.



Produced by an uncredited Roger Corman, The Warrior and the Princess has big goofy 80s fantasy sets to put Masters of the Universe to shame and the ganglord is a low budget Jabba the Hutt knock-off who's best friends with a cheap lizard hand-puppet. The film's kind of satisfying on a cheap, greasy schlock level and it's available on Amazon Prime. Though you're a lot better off watching Yojimbo on The Criterion Channel.

Twitter Sonnet #1262

A diff'rent set of doors accord to-day.
Submerging houses holds a special prize.
In schools of fish the cookies might delay.
The truest plumbers get a million guys.
A set of words arrest the paint for tags.
A can prepares to burst but never will.
A bubble system filled the carbon bags.
A sweating bev'rage pads the groc'ry bill.
Unseasoned satin pressed the watcher down.
Accorded fish replenished gold for scale.
A county squeezed its ruling market town.
Assorted goods removed beyond the pale.
Abandoned zoos contain the panda ghosts.
A paper box contained the cookie hosts.

» There's a World of Lawyers


So what were the rest of Moya's crew up to while Crichton, Aeryn, and D'Argo were stuck in an asteroid field at the beginning of Farscape season 2? It turns out Zhaan was on trial for murder on a planet full of lawyers.



Season 2, Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream

90% of the planet Litagara's population are lawyers, the remaining 10% are "Utilities", the few service workers needed in a city that's otherwise totally automated, presumably. A barman hands Chiana (Gigi Edgley) and Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) the slim volume that comprises the basis for all of Litigara's laws--all of the other books Chiana and Rygel had been poring over in attempt to defend Zhaan (Virginia Hey) apparently being comprised of meaningless ancillary laws to perpetuate the expanding lawyer caste.



I like the premise of a planet of lawyers but for the most part I consider this one of the weakest episodes of the series. Chiana and Rygel's sleuthing to uncover a conspiracy that implicated Zhaan turns up evidence that ought to have been clear to everyone from the beginning. In the finale, Chiana and Rygel basically exploit native superstition--which is hard to believe on a planet of lawyers--and in doing so cause the downfall of a partner in the planet's most powerful firm. We're given no followup on what this means to the civilisation.



But Virginia Hey gives a beautiful performance as she loses her grip, experiencing hallucinations of Crichton (Ben Browder), Aeryn (Claudia Black), and D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe). Rygel is oddly selfless in the episode but still entertaining as an amateur lawyer but Chiana is even funnier, especially after she overdoses on some hangover pills Rygel gives her. As in "Crackers Don't Matter", it's somehow always funny hearing Chiana say "definitely" very rapidly.

. . .



This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):



Season One:



Episode 1: Pilot

Episode 2: I, E.T.

Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis

Episode 4: Throne for a Loss

Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future

Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again

Episode 7: PK Tech Girl

Episode 8: That Old Black Magic

Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist

Episode 10: They've Got a Secret

Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear

Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue

Episode 13: The Flax

Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton

Episode 15: Durka Returns

Episode 16: A Human Reaction

Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass

Episode 18: A Bug's Life

Episode 19: Nerve

Episode 20: The Hidden Memory

Episode 21: Bone to be Wild

Episode 22: Family Ties



Season Two:



Episode 1: Mind the Baby

Episode 2: Vitas Mortis

Episode 3: Taking the Stone

Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter

Episode 5: Picture If You Will

Episode 6: The Way We Weren't

Episode 7: Home on the Remains

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