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Comics Review

Ascender

There has to be more than this. There just has to be. Why couldn’t I have been born when we still had spaceships and shiftdrives? Why couldn’t I have been born before the Harvesters took it all away?

Ascender is a beautiful series from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dustin Nguyen. A sequel to their Descender series, Ascender is very much another coming of age story, both for our young protagonist and civilization itself, but this isn’t the same old story, it’s a hard genre reset for the franchise.

Without giving too much away, a cataclysmic event at the end of Descender destroyed almost all technology and decimated all life. In the absence of technology, magic has been rediscovered, and in the absence of civilization, mythical creatures once again roam the land. Yes, the sci-fi franchise has suddenly turned to fantasy.

Throughout the story, a young girl and her father (a main character from Descender) will try to find their place in this strange new land, picking up new and old friends along the way. A powerful sorceress who filled the power vacuum early on stands in their way, but another familiar face from Descender may hold the secret to dethroning her and returning the world to the way it once was. The story is engaging and fast-paced, and the art is absolutely gorgeous and reminiscent of water colors. Simply put, you’ll love this series, even if it’s just for the art alone. You can definitely start Ascender without having read Descender first, but part of the charm is the whiplash of that genre transition. I recommend reading both if you can.

The first two volumes of Ascender are out now, and volume three is just one issue in, so it’s a great time to start. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Starcrash

To those of you who follow me on Tumblr, you may have seen me claim that Highlander: The Series would be the next Rewatch post, but I overestimated how quickly I could get through 6 seasons of 90’s TV. I somehow have even more respect for what my friends Mika and Tracy at LezWatch.TV do now. So, anyway, where’re back to films with an odd favorite of mine: 1978’s Starcrash!

Distributed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and directed by Luigi Cozzi, Starcrash has everything you could ever want: starship battles, a robot with a Texan accent, nonsensical costumes, a knockoff Jedi, a John Barry score, Christopher Plummer, and David Hasselhoff! The story follows our heroes, played by Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, as they race to stop Joe Spinell’s evil Count from unleashing a sinister weapon (which is never fully explained) on the galaxy. Their journey takes them to many different worlds, all ending in a crash between two starships, the titular Starcrash. What, you were expecting something more profound from the title? This is not a profound film. This is the kind of film you watch with your drink of choice, and thoroughly enjoy, because it’s exactly what you need right now.

Starcrash is not a great film, it has numerous easily identifiable flaws, and yet it still manages to hold itself together, and I keep coming back to watch it again and again. It is absolutely enjoyable, and I think we can all agree that enjoyable films are the best films. If you want to understand what I mean by of all that, you can stream Starcrash for free on Shout! Factory TV, or buy it on Apple TV for just $9.99.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy this not great, but also very entertaining, film. Laugher was not intended, but it is absolutely permitted.

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Stargate

Since I’ve switched Rewatch over to films for a while with my review on Charade, and since I’ve reviewed every Stargate TV series, it made sense to rewatch the film that started it all. What happens when you combine action archeology and military sci-fi? You get Stargate, a 1994 film directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader.

When the Stargate is unearthed in 1928 Giza, it remains a mystery until its code is cracked by archaeologist Dr. Daniel Jackson (played by Spader). With the gate active, forming a wormhole between a similar gate across the known universe, Colonel Jack O’Neill (played by Russell) will lead a team, including Dr. Jackson, to the other side. What they discover is a world, and an adventure, beyond their wildest imaginations that I just can’t do justice with text, so please enjoy the trailer embedded below.

The whole cast is great, not just Russell and Spader. In particular, Jaye Davidason as Ra is uniquely captivating, and even French Stewart is here without being the comic relief. And the soundtrack by David Arnold, the second of his long career, ranks among my top favorite soundtracks of all time.

The story doesn’t stop with the film. While there were no film sequels, Stargate SG-1 (read the Rewatch review here) would follow as a direct TV sequel, running from 1997 to 2007. This would be followed by Stargate Atlantis (read the Rewatch review here), running from 2004 to 2009, and Stargate Universe (read the Rewatch review here), running from 2009 to 2011. That’s a total of 14 years of uninterrupted content following a single 2-hour film, not bad. I love Star Wars, and no offense to Star Trek, but Stargate spawned the greatest franchise in TV history.

You can stream Stargate for free on Amazon Video, or buy it on Apple TV for just $9.99. I hope you enjoy Stargate as much as I do, it’s a great film with an impressive legacy!

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch: Charade

I’ve run out of available, good, older TV series for now, so I thought it might be fun to check out some older films that I’ve enjoyed for a while. First up is Charade, a 1963 “romantic comedy mystery film” that’s not only great, it’s available entirely for free because they messed up the copyright (more on that later).

Charade follows a woman (played by Audrey Hepburn) as she unravels the mystery of her husband’s murder and a mysterious man (played by Cary Grant) who tries to help her. The quick whit and improvisation talents of Hepburn and Grant are on fully display here, it’s electric. Sometimes it feels like a scene will never end, and you won’t want it to either. And the score by Henry Mancini is captivating. It’s really hard to describe this film, but I’d suppose I’d say that the feel of classic James Bond is combined with the whit of Spider-Man, and it’s all wrapped in a charming love story. So now you’ll have to see it and provide me with a better short description.

Speaking of seeing it, this film came out at a time when including “Copyright”, “Copr.”, or the symbol “©” with the title was still required by law, and apparently someone forgot to do that. This means that the film immediately entered the public domain upon release. Oops. That may not have been great news for producer/director Stanley Donen, but it’s great news for us, because now you can stream and download Charade for free from The Internet Archive and stream it for free on Amazon Video!

Charade is a crazy fun romp, and definitely one of my favorite films. It’s a collection of things that really should have never gone together, but somehow it made them work and still managed to exceed expectations. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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Nostalgia Review Video

Rewatch – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 during the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was a stark tone-shift for the Star Trek franchise, focussing on character development and story arcs that spanned its entire 7 seasons, while also primarily taking place on a diverse space station with little space exploration. The fanbase has always been polarized as to how that went. I loved it.

The series initially focussed on whatever random situation the crew of Deep Space 9 encountered, and eventually spent much of the first 4 seasons brokering peace between the Cardassians and the Bajorans. For its last 3 seasons, the space station became the front line of the epic Dominion War between the Federation Alliance and Breen-Dominion Alliance. These last seasons had some of the most emotional and character-focused war stories I have ever seen on television, not to mention some of the best ship battle sequences on Star Trek television.

The main cast was extensive, featuring Avery Brooks as Captain Benjamin Sisko, Nana Visitor as Colonel Kira Nerys, René Auberjonois as security chief Odo, Armin Shimerman as bartender Quark, Alexander Siddig as Doctor Julian Bashir, Terry Farrell as science officer Jadzia Dax, Nicole de Boer as science officer Ezri Dax (taking on the Dax symbiotic in later seasons), Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf, Colm Meany as chief engineer Miles O’Brien, and Cirroc Lofton as Sisko’s son Jake Sisko. Villains appeared often, but Marc Alaimo as Dukat was the primary antagonist throughout the series. Finally, a personal favorite of mine from the recurring cast, Andrew Robinson as spy-turned-tailor Elim Garak.

Following Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard was no easy task, but Brooks as Sisko pulled it off from day one. He brought a gravity and humanity to the role that is difficult to describe. Sisko felt always in charge, yet often vulnerable. There was no occasion he didn’t rise to, no matter how unsure of himself he was at the time. He did his job, and carried the weight of that job, because it was his job. There are many great characters with their own great actors throughout the series, but Brooks as Sisko is uniquely captivating. And, since Brooks himself is so incredibly cool too, here’s a clip of both:

The series is packed full of stories that explore the personal impact of war, politics, and religion, far too much to cover here. There never has been a better time to re-watch it, or watch it for the first time. You can stream Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for free on Amazon Video if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, or buy the complete series on Apple TV for $204.93 (so maybe just watch it on Amazon). Also, you can stream What We Left Behind for free on Shout! Factory TV, it’s a 2019 documentary about the series.