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A “Star Trek” theme park ride wish list

A “Star Trek” theme park ride wish list (photo)

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My phasers are officially set to stunned: Time reports that a full-on “Stark Trek” theme park is set to open in 2014, in Jordan of all places. That sounds like a most illogical location for a monument to all things “Trek,” but it turns out the country’s king, Abdullah II, is a hardcore Trekkie who’s investing $1.5 billion into the “Red Sea Astrarium” project, which also includes “hotels, theaters, fine dining and shopping on site as well as the chance to learn about Jordan’s history and what it’s doing in terms of harnessing green energy.”

That sounds nice, but let’s face it: I wouldn’t be writing about this if the big draw was a presentation on future environmental strategies. As a recovering “Star Trek” nerd (yes I went to a convention — just one, though!), what I want to know about is the “Star Trek” component. Time‘s article says the park will include a licensed “Trek” “space-flight adventure” that “will deliver a variety of multi-sensory futuristic experiences, culminating with a state-of-the art space-flight adventure that takes real-time immersive entertainment experiences to bold new heights.”

Sounds good to me. But one ride alone isn’t going to convince me to renew my United Federation of Planets passport and travel all the way to Jordan. If this “Star Trek” park’s going to draw geeks from all over the world, it’ll need a whole lot of cool (and by cool I mean intensely dorky) rides. Like, for example, stuff like this:

1. Captain Picard’s Phaser Funhouse
There’s a great ride at Disney’s California Adventure park called Toy Story Midway Mania! You and a friend each get a little pull-string cannon to shoot at video screens inside this giant funhouse. You wear 3D glasses and fire at various mini-games inspired by old midway entertainments: throwing darts, breaking plates, and so on. You try to rack up points and beat your partner. It’s a simple idea but the interaction between your real gun and the digital CGI is stunningly effective and surprisingly immersive. Applying similar technology to the “Star Trek” mythos seems like a no-brainer. Create a basic storyline — say, you’re Starfleet Academy recruits being tested on your skills with a weapon — give everybody a realistic-looking phaser and some 3D glasses and away we go. Instead of midway games, the ride’s themed like a shooting gallery, with pop-up Borg cut-outs to shoot at and innocent Talaxians to avoid.

2. Shuttlecraft Spaceflight
Here’s another impressive Disney attraction that feels equally tailor-made to “Star Trek” applications: Mission: Space at Epcot. The ride creates the convincing illusion of interplanetary flight by sticking guests inside a giant centrifuge disguised as a prototype spaceship. As your “shuttle” launches on a mission to Mars, the centrifuge begins to spin at incredible speed, eventually inflicting 2.5 Gs on riders (barf bags are provided in arm’s reach). A trip on the Starship Enterprise would be far too smooth and peaceful for this sort of experience, but it seems perfect for a “Star Trek” shuttlecraft, those little spaceships the crew take to land on planets or survey temporal anomalies. The “Trek” version of the ride could even adapt Mission: Space’s clever button mechanics, which instruct guests to press buttons to detach rocket boosters or activate manual flight, so that you get to play with the awesome touch-screen consoles that Data and the rest of the crew use on “The Next Generation.”

3. Space Jump Freefall
One of the most memorable scenes in J.J. Abrams’ recent “Star Trek” reboot featured Kirk, Sulu, and an ill-fated redshirt making a dangerous space jump from a shuttlecraft to a giant drilling platform hovering over the Planet Vulcan (I find this stuff easier to read, by the way, when I say it in the Comic Book Guy’s voice). Now we can’t very well throw theme park guests out of a spaceship (as much as we’d like to when they fail to keep up with the person in front of them in line). But today’s modern tech has to offer a way to approximate that experience better than, say Stuntman’s Freefall. Maybe some sort of combination of video screens and those indoor skydiving rooms?

4. Star Trek: The Experience – Klingon Encounter
This is a real but defunct attraction that was housed in the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008, but now needs a new home. I never got to experience it myself, but it got high marks from Trekkies for its impressive recreation of iconic “Trek” elements: guests were beamed up from the Hilton to the Enterprise and then got to ride in the Turbolift and hang out on a 1-to-1 recreation of “The Next Generation” Enterprise bridge, populated by actors playing Starfleet officers (you can watch a fan’s video of the attraction on YouTube). The Vegas Hilton’s “Star Trek” experience eventually added a second attraction, a 3D ride involving the Borg, and also featured a replica of Quark’s Bar from “Deep Space Nine” I’d say they should just haul the whole thing out to Jordan, but after plans to relocate the exhibit fell through in 2009, most of the props from The Experience were sold at auction. They now live long and prosper in nerds’ basements all over the country.

5. The Trouble With Tribbles Petting Zoo
Your amusement park’s got to have something for the kids. How about a big room full of lifelike, adorable tribbles? They were specifically designed by the writers of the original ’60s “Trek” to be easy and cheap to make, so it shouldn’t be too hard to build some relatively inexpensive high-end versions complete with some basic movement mechanics and cooing sounds. Getting them to asexually reproduce on command for the tourists might be a little bit harder though.

What rides would you want to see at a “Star Trek” theme park? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

Bubba Smith (1945-2011)

Bubba Smith (1945-2011) (photo)

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The Los Angeles Times reports the sad news that Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith was found dead in his home, apparently of natural causes. The former NFL player turned actor was 66.

During his professional football career, Smith was a two-time Pro Bowler as a defensive end and tackle, and won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Colts. But he’s best remembered now (at least by nerds of my generation who watched too much HBO when they were growing up) as Moses Hightower from the long-running “Police Academy” series. He appeared in the first six theatrical films (wisely bowing out for the franchise-destroying final entry, “Mission to Moscow”), and delivered many solid gags about being a big tall guy who was big and tall. Dressing in drag, flipping cars, wrestling an aligator, he was up for anything.

I shall memorialize him now the only way I know how: with a YouTube clip:

There are lots more unembeddable Hightower highlights on YouTube. I recommended this one, where he flips the car and then punches a hostage-taker through a door and down some stairs, or my favorite, where Hightower learns to drive.

I hope wherever Bubba Smith is now, the cars are easy to lift and large enough to accommodate his size.

Share your favorite Bubba Smith memories in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

The ten coolest cars in movie history

The ten coolest cars in movie history (photo)

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This week’s excellent new film “Bellflower” features one amazing automotive co-star: the Medusa, built by the main characters in preparation for the apocalypse. The Medusa is a sick ride: it’s got two fuel injected exhaust flamethrowers, a loudspeaker intercom system, a roll cage, and even spews smoke screens on command.

In other words, this is one cool movie car. But where does it rank in the history of coolest cinematic automobiles? I’d put it just outside our top ten favorites, and by our I mean my, and by favorites I mean totally subjective favorites that you’ll disagree with and give me grief about. Here they are:


10. The Ecto-1
1959 Cadillac Ambulance, modified
From “Ghostbusters” (1984)
Directed by Ivan Reitman

Bulky, clunky, and old, the Ghostbusters’ signature ambulance isn’t the prettiest car to look at. Still, all that weird sciencey equipment designed to trap spooks, spectres, or ghosts, plus the great red on white detailing and “Ghostbusters” logo make it an eye-catcher. Plus every child who played “Ghostbusters” growing up in the 1980s does a dead-on impression of that unmistakable siren. Even better, I’m pretty sure if you had one of these and drove it around the streets of New York City in 2011, you would get laid faster than you could cross the streams.


9. Cobra’s Merc
1950 Mercury Monterey, modified
From “Cobra” (1986)
Directed by George P. Cosmatos

What 1950 did L.A. cop Marion Cobretti’s beloved Mercury Monterey come from? Definitely not ours. It must belong to some weird alternate 1950 where cars are designed to break the laws of physics: driving backwards down the highway at absurd speeds, rolling over other cars like a monster truck, jumping off parking garages like a parkour racer (a par-car?) and practically flying over the canals at Venice Beach. This unstoppable tank was still ahead of its time in 1986. Fifteen years before the first “Fast & Furious,” Cobretti had already outfitted his Merc with nitro for crazy speed boosts.


8. Cameron’s Dad’s Ferrari
1961 Ferrari 250GT Spyder California
From “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
Directed by John Hughes

“Less than one hundred were made,” Ferris Bueller’s best buddy Cameron says of his dad’s prized 1961 Ferrari. In fact, the car was even rarer. Less than 100 were made of all the Ferrari Spyders between 1958 and 1963, at least according to this article on last year’s auction of the replica car used in the film. Cameron’s father — who understandably calls the Ferrari his love and his passion — would kill his son if he found out he was driving it. But the car is so friggin’ cool that no one would pass up that opportunity to take it out for a tour of Chicago. When Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane leave it at a parking garage, the attendants swipe it for a joyride too. And, man, do those arcing slo-mo jumps through the streets of the Windy City look beautiful.


7. Frankenstein’s Monster
1970 Chevrolet Corvette, heavily modified
From “Death Race 2000″ (1975)
Directed by Paul Bartel

It’s a car that looks like a lizard’s head with headlights for eyes and fangs for a grill. It runs people over. ‘Nuff said.


6. Stuntman Mike’s Death Proof Car
1971 Chevrolet Nova, modified
From “Death Proof” (2007)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

The heroines of “Death Proof” obsess over a white 1970 Dodge Challenger, the same car used in the classic road movie “Vanishing Point.” And while the Challenger is an amazing car — and there are a lot of great ’70s muscle cars in many movies from that period — Tarantino’s homage trumps them all. That’s because of his unique innovation: the death-proof cabin. Supposedly “Stuntman” Mike McKay has outfitted his 1971 Chevy Nova (with unforgettable skull-and-lightning logo on the hood) so that it is, at least while sitting in the driver’s seat, “100% death proof.” It’s impossible, but imagine if it wasn’t? It would be mighty cool to drive that Nova. Maybe too cool; the feeling of omnipotence Mike gets behind the wheel was probably a contributing factor to his deranged psyche.


5. The Pursuit Special
1973 Ford XB Falcon GT, modified
From “Mad Max” (1979) and “The Road Warrior” (1981)
Directed by George Miller

“Mad” Max Rockatansky’s endless and endlessly awesome wanderings through post-apocalyptic Australia wouldn’t be the same without his Pursuit Special (see: “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”). It’s truly one of the most iconic cars in movie history: the modified black Ford Falcon body, the side exhaust pipes, the supercharger on the hood. In “The Road Warrior,” it was modified with booby traps and concealed weapons to help Max survive in the wastelands. The thing’s so sweet, it almost makes you psyched for the end of peak oil.


4. Bullitt’s Mustang
1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback
From “Bullitt” (1968)
Directed by Peter Yates

Lieutenant Frank Bullitt’s 1968 Mustang might be the least flashy car on this list, but that’s part of its appeal. The fact that something so cool is (or at least was back in 1968) so attainable makes it even cooler. Yes, the cars used to film the movie’s masterpiece of a chase (see below) were heavily modified to withstand high speeds and big jumps, and throughout the nine minute sequence they drop more hubcaps than a clumsy chop shop stock clerk. But Peter Yates’ direction makes the scene just plausible enough to feel authentic. Bullitt’s car was a real-world ride. It’s easy to watch the film and pretend that if you’d been around back in ’68, you could have had one and been just as cool as Steve McQueen.


3. The Carmarine
1976 Lotus Esprit S1, modified
From “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)
Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Over twenty-two films, James Bond has amassed a car collection that would make Jay Leno drool with envy. Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, first introduced in “Goldfinger,” is easily his most famous whip, but for my money, the Lotus Esprit from “The Spy Who Loves Me” gets the nod as his best vehicle. It’s both stylish and functional. In a pinch, it can instantly transform from car to submarine; the wheels retract, fins extend, fans appear out of nowhere on the rear bumper, and a missile silo phallically extends from the roof. It’s quick enough to evade evil scuba divers and powerful enough to blow up a helicopter. Then when the coast is clear, Bond can drive it right out of the water onto the beach, scaring the hell out of some Sardinian sunbathers. Like the song says, nobody does it better.


2. The Batmobile
Bat-customized Chevrolet Impala
From “Batman” (1989) and “Batman Returns” (1992)
Directed by Tim Burton

There have been so many Batmobiles by now that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. The most recent “Tumbler” Batmobile from the Christopher Nolan films can jump and includes a pop out Bat-Pod motorcycle. The Joel Schumacher Batmobile could climb on walls. The Adam West ’60s Batmobile spewed fire from its oversized exhaust pipe. But the Anton Furst designed Batmobile from Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns” gets top marks for its sleek yet muscular body and its surplus of cool design elements. It can be remote controlled, responds to voice commands, and has pop-up shields to protect it while parked. The fanciful gadgets are off-set by some more blunt features, like twin hood-mounted machine guns, perfect for infiltrating Acme Chemicals.


1. The DeLorean
1981 DeLorean DMC-12, modified
From “Back to the Future” (1985)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

How could it not be number one? The DeLorean was already a massively cool — with that stainless steel body and those great gull-wing doors it’s one of the few automobile designs from the 1980s that still looks futuristic — and then you add on the ability to travel in time and you have one bitching ride. Then in “Back to the Future Part II,” director Robert Zemeckis did it one better by turning the whole thing into a flying car and hovercraft. If God appeared before you and said you could have any car from any work of fiction, you’d pick the “BTTF:II” DeLorean ten out of ten times before He even finished His sentence. It’s the coolest car in movie history.


What’s your vote for the coolest car in movie history? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.com.

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