Monthly Archives: August 2009

MPAA Has a Hard Time Proving Copyright Violations in Court


by Irma Arkus

According to CNET, MPAA is facing a court decision in San Francisco where the judge isn’t buying the position of copyright violations by filesharers of IsoHunt.

IsoHunt, one of largest torrent search engines operating in Richmond, British Columbia, has been targeted by lawsuits. Now that the Pirate Bay Four trial has concluded in favour of the plaintiffs, primarily composed of lobby groups including MPAA, the move on the part of associations was to take down as many torrent sites available.

But the San Francisco case isn’t moving favorably, as the judge presiding over the case stated that MPAA lawyers have not presented direct evidence of copyright infringement by IsoHunt users.

Currently, it is established that what users do with content after visiting IsoHunt is unknown and undetermined, and that the visiting of site or torrent download does not necessarily translate into a copyright violation.

This certainly does not directly tie IsoHunt to the very act of copyright violation. However, during the Pirate Bay Four trial, a much different strategy was implemented, one based on “copyright infringement assistance” after which it was ruled that the torrent site is “assisting” users to infringe upon copyrights.

Isohunt attorney Ira Rothken seeks a jury trial based on a novel approach, the merits of the torrent search site: “I believe there has not been a single case in U.S. law where there has been a decision on the merits of a Torrent search engine.” [CNET

TV in Fall: Face Peeling and More….


by Irma Arkus

The question of what fall will bring is on the minds of sci-fi and fantasy lovers, who feel somewhat abandoned by recent slew of show cancellations and endings to beloved TV series. While I myself lament a few losses (Terminator, BSG…), I also look forward to what is to come, and would like to remind you and me, what to watch for the next few months.

“V”

Spruced up and ready to go for another shot, this one is a remake of a well remembered cheapy TV classic. Remembered for: lizard aliens who pretend to look like humans, and occasionally show their true face (of evil?) by having the faux epidermis scratched off.

While this held wonderfully decades ago, I was surprised that the remake held onto the face peeling bit. Aside from that, “V” looks promising, and taps into some of Joss Whedon favorite cast.

Morena Baccarin appears as Anna, the leading voice of visitors from another planet who bring peace, technological superiority and friendship to Earth…or so we think. Quickly they turn from fun-loving humans, into lizards who just like eating humans…or something of that nature.

Alan Tudyk also joins the cast as Dale Maddox. We’re not quite sure what Dale does yet, but I am going to throw a guess and have him join the resistance…

The intriguing bit about V is of course the socio-political nature of the show. Benevolent aliens quickly dissolve the rights and freedoms of humans in order to enact laws and order that would “benefit us all.” In reality though, the democratic society quickly descends into a paramilitary hell-hole, where fascist adulation of supreme alien leadership takes central stage.

It is this political nature of the 80s V that is the most attractive part of the upcoming series, as it directly applies to variety of recently enacted laws that could be called nothing but a power grab by Western governments. From Patriot Act in the US, to the abolishment of kitchen knives and rise of surveillance society in UK, continuous stripping of civil rights and freedoms is worrisome.

The show is currently on some crazy fortnight break, but is expected to premiere with its gloriously sleek pilot episode on Nov. 3rd.

Speaking of Joss Whedon however…

“Dollhouse”

Is coming back…and…Summer Glau is joining its cast.

While Alan Tudyk has wrapped up a slow paced season of Echo’s schizophrenic existence with a bang, allowing for threads of her actual personality and memories to start flooding through, while at the same time destroying the primary source of her memories. He literally took the hard-drive containing her memories and persona and destroyed it…

But now Summer Glau, the prima ballerina who is known for her role in Firefly/Serenity as well as Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, will join Dollhouse as someone related to Echo’s past.

While the added bonus of Glau makes the Whedon universe come full circle, at least when it comes to casting that is, the show itself has not received as much critical or audience support as expected. Fox is merciless, and Whedon’s ratings were less than anticipated, resulting in “slash the cash” move by the network.

So, do expect even less of Dollhouse.

“Flash Forward”

Robert J. Sawyer’s acclaimed novel, Flash Forward, is getting the series treatment.

Being a huge fan of Sawyer’s work, I am delighted that his work is finally getting some much needed Hollywood attention, as his writing does lend itself to screen.

Flash Forward describes the events surrounding the moments after the Large Hadron Collider-like particle accelerator starts to function. For a few minutes, there is an exchange in time/space, and everyone on Earth experiences life in near future for few precious moments.

Outcomes of life-changing decisions are revealed, deaths are known, glimpses of that day’s newspapers and insight into the events and lives of others allow for a detective-like investigation of what future actually may bring.

Joseph Fiennes is headlining, and is joined by John Cho, Jack Davenport, Courtney B. Vance and Sonya Walger.

The casting is superb, and the writers describe the scripts as Lost-like, and will premiere on Sep. 24th.

“The Vampire Diaries”

This show attempts to bring young Twilight fans, and older vampires together for a one-bite-fits-all in a high school setting.

Elena, a 17-year old recovering from the loss of her parents, enters a new high-school only to find that her newfound crush, Stefan Salvatore, is actually a 150-year old Vampire. While Stefan is obviously a worthy candidate for dating, his brother Damon is a blood-thirsty, no-good vampire, who not only desires Elena, but wants to suck her blood too.

I am certain that the show will not supplant my love of True Blood, it is sure to gain a following in the preteen to 35 bracket.

The Vampire Diaries premiers mere days from now, on Sep. 10th.

“Supernatural”

Aside from these gems, be sure to pay attention this fall to “Supernatural.”

The show that initially pandered to cliches has risen to new heights in its last, fourth season. While initially the show drew a pretty strong division between good/evil, after a while, the writers had to approach the subject of good vs. evil a bit more tacktfully, resulting in an amazing storyline development. “Supernatural” last year tackled not only some naughty demons, but some rather villanous angels as well, opening the show to a new, more intelligent storytelling, and introducing far more captivating characters.

Now, the fifth season promises to go where no other show went before. The impossibly handsome duo Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki deliver the goods, and
the writing just keeps on getting better and better…

Stargate Universe Webisodes


by Irma Arkus

Webisodes, those pesky, superbly short bits of entertainment, meant to hook-line-and-sinker us into the second half of a series season, are announced for Stargate Universe.

Not only does Stargate Universe offer superb and surprising choices in casting, with Robert Carlyle as Dr. Nicholas Rush, but now announced planned 30 short webisodes meant to entice us to tune in for more.

Helmed by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper, Stargate Universe was pitched at the end of second season of Atlantis as a twist for another series in a healthy franchise.

Ninth chevron on the stargate reveals the Ancient’s technology to be capable of instantaneously traversing not only vast distances , but potentially multiple universes as well. The stargate program is led to a ship built by the Ancients, Destiny, designed for seeding stargates on numerous planets.

Michael Shanks is making an appearance, again, as is Lou Diamond Phillips. A surprising cast addition is David Blue (Ugly Betty), and they are also joined by a few new faces, including Vancouverites Julia Anderson, Alaina Huffman and Jennifer Spence of Toronto.

While Wright and Cooper promise good fun, they also indicated that they are not interested in tacking many rubber-faced alien villains, rather sticking to a sense of realism. According to their interview with CinemaSpy, the two are trying to separate SG: Universe from already established mythology of Stargate franchise, instead focusing on creating an entirely new look and placing emphasys on dramatic performances.

The show promises a lot of hand-held camera feel, as homage to mockumentaries, and of course, fan and critic beloved, Battlestar Galactica.

The show will premier on Oct. 2nd, 2009.

As for the SG1 crew, while additional feature films were planned, we hear that these are on hold at the moment, due to financial strains. [CinemaSpy]

Meanwhile, let’s watch the trailer, and experience spasms of pure fear!

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, A Bad Omen


by Irma Arkus

Can Nikolaj Coster-Waldau be called a bad omen for TV? Probably. But the streak of bad luck could be ending for this rising actor.

Not that I have anything against the guy. After all, his first lead was in New Amsterdam, as the leading protagonist cursed with immortality, seeking nothing more than true love. A la “Grey’s Anatomy meets Highlander.” But the show was so slow-paced that it literally bored me to tears. And it exhibited similar properties with other viewers, promptly causing its cancellation.

I presume that Fox counted on Waldau to exibit properties of catnip for the ladies, who would in heads of executives, come back week after week to swoon over the tough yet sensitive and handsome man / detective, looking for love. But in reality, Waldau, though probably a beaming and handsome example of humanity, made less of an impression on female audiences. Something to do with the general overtones of the show and additional casting choices, which assuredly left me cold and uninterested.

But then something else happened in Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s life – he was cast for Ronald D. Moore’s “Virtuality,” as one of lead characters. Sure he dies in the pilot, but seems to reappear in a twisty, Twin Peaks kind of way.

Unluckily, “Virtuality” was so damn similar to “Defying Gravity,” a show literally pitched to executives as “Grey’s Anatomy in space,” that it made “Virtuality” stand no chance.

I can vouch though, for the fact that Virtuality *is* a better show.

For one Virtuality was smarter. Unlike Defying Gravity, it had clear corporate influence on the ship’s crew. Another aspect that made it for a more interesting show is that not everyone got along on the ship. There were extramarital sexual encounters during the mates private virtual time, and acts of unthinkable violence took place in this unlikeliest of hideouts. Even rape was committed against one of the crew.

Unlike “Defying Gravity,” “Virtuality” also had a far more interesting cast: two crew members were homosexual, and the engineer was a disgruntled man who lost use of his lower limbs and was actually disabled using a wheelchair.

Moreover, the Earth they left was a far more messed up world, ravaged by corporate influence and ecological doom.

Virtuality overall seemed to have a lot more storytelling “meat,” and of the uneasy kind. Unlike Defying Gravity, which seems to persistently occupy a relatively safe and sterile universe in comparison, Virtuality had many elements that left me feeling intrigued and uneasy. As for “Defying Gravity,” I fear that as soon as they uncover the true nature of Beta, the intrigue of the show is pretty much over. But I digress…

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is now joining the cast of “Game of Thrones.” Produced by HBO and based on the most excellent epic fantasy series by George R. R. Martin, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” the show is meant to bring some high quality fantasy to small screens.

Already casting for “Game of Thrones” is underway, and Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, Mark Addy and Harry Lloyd are attached to the project. Now, they are joined by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is obviously sporting a glowing, “bad luck bunny” halo.

The fact that Game of Thrones will be undoubtedly dripping with cool comes with HBO territory. But I also hope it lasts. And for that I am looking at you Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Get a load of this guy


The new new new Doctor Who will look like…ta da…

While I was missing the good old Tom Baker costumes, this kind of brings back the 80’s tasteless Doctors’ wardrobes but with a hipster twist. Nice boots. That’s all I have to say. Nice boots, yeah.

Prions: Can Farmed Fish Give You Mad Cow Disease?


by Irma Arkus

Remember Mad Cow Disease? The one that revealed prions transmitted in beef products as cause of brain illness, and not just any illness, but the deadly spongiform encepalopathy?

As a preventative measure, the peeps at “bovine university” have desisted the practice of feeding animals to cows. But that did not stop the feed containing animals from entering a new food chain, and opening doors to an entirely new form of creating sources of prions into human diet – farmed fish!

Voila! Did not expect that? Me neither.

In upcoming “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Aquaculture,” University of Kentucky neurologist Robert P. Friedland and his science gang, have determined that due to less than adequate testing of feed for aquaculture, fish farms are potentially a deadly source of prions.

Now fish, a major source of nutrients that cannot be found in other foods, including omega-3 fatty acids, is also potentially a way of transmitting diseases that until now never crossed from fish to humans.

Read more here.

HiSciFi – Robert Burns on “The Unselfish Gene”


This week we have one of my new favorite authors, Robert Burns, who not only has the touch for the undead, but writes most beautiful adventure sci-fi pulp I’ve read in a long, long time. And together with Burns, we bring you his new novel, The Unselfish Gene.

The premise of the novel is genuinely un-boring: colonists on moon are the last of humans as we know it, because the rest of the Earth’s populus has been affected by a Zombie virus.

But that is only where the fun starts, as moon colonists seem to suffer from endless complications and health issues of their own: they are not the best choice for human propagation due to long-term radiation exposure, and mental ilnesses, including clinical depression, are quite common.

Worst of all, they are the only and best candidates for survival of humanity, because they have the runaway vehicle: Anita, an Orion-like ship, propelled by nuclear-bombs, is a way out, as Earth also faces a run-in with a comet.

The premise of the novel simply spells disaster, which is AWESOME.

Do check out The Unselfish Gene novel. Not only does it have new and surprising twists to the Zombie lore, but it also happens to be one of those endearing publications with surprisingly cool illustrations. Best of all, Burns not only writes great pulpy sci-fi, but writes science articles for living, which makes his prose surprisingly palatable and enriching.

I don’t do this often, but this time I will make an exception – Buy a copy. Give it to your friends, especially the ones that join the local Zombie Walks.

HiSciFi – Robert Burns on “The Unselfish Gene”

Plastic In Ocean: Update


by Irma Arkus

(Just for once, I would like to write and report on something that isn’t detrimental to marine wildlife, but this is not that day…)

The problem with plastic is that it may at first end up in the ocean, but eventually it will end up as part of you – yes, you! [National Geographic]

Basic Building Blocks For Life Found Abundant In Space


by Irma Arkus

Glycine, a basic compound from which proteins are built of, has been found in the Wild 2 comet dust samples.

The abundance of this amino acid in comet dust may be a signal that life is common, and often seeded by comets and meteors: “The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the universe may be common rather than rare,” says Carl Pilcher, NASA astrobiologist working on the project. [AFP]

District 9 Review

District 9 Review