Friday, January 29, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The beginning of The Voyage Home begins with a very touching dedication to the seven lives lost aboard the Challenger.  We've just hit the 30th anniversary of that disaster, and thirty years later, this film remains one of my personal favorite Star Trek films.  The Voyage Home goes into new waters for Star Trek as a franchise, blending a clever science fiction story in with some very funny comedy and the finished product that director Leonard Nimoy gives us is more than satisfactory.  While some elements may not be as strong as others, the good far outweighs the bad in this film, and it gives a satisfactory ending to the dubbed "trilogy" of Star Trek films that began with Wrath of Kahn.

And I gotta say for as much praise as I will give this film, it's very ironic that this is one of the only Star Trek films that barely features the Enterprise.  Most of the story focuses on the crew aboard their captured Klingon Bird of Prey, which they name the HMS Bounty.  With the Enterprise being destroyed last film, we don't get a shot of the newly constructed Enterprise-A, until the very final shot of the film.  Yet this film is still awesome.  When you make a Star Trek film, and barely show the Enterprise at all, yet still come out on top, you know you've done good. So huge props to Nimoy there.  He certainly knew how to write this story, and make it entertaining.

Now that's not to say that the film is without problems.  I've heard many people complain about the environmental message which only seems forced.  And does seem forced.  Nothing against the whales, being a lover of the ocean myself, there are many animals that I am concerned about when it comes to their status as endangered...but Humpbacks are not endangered.  The film ventures into fiction at that area, which is kinda weird.  Why not direct the attention towards a species that really is endangered?  Such as certain species of Orca, or as they mention in the film, the Blue Whale, which actually IS endangered? I guess a Blue Whale wouldn't fit on the Bird of Prey.  I'm just kinda nitpicking here, because the movie is so entertaining that it's easy to give a pass on the environmental message. It is cleverly done, even if a little forced.

I've also heard some people say they don't care for the comedy, and that's a point I just brush aside.  Star Trek may not be known as a comedy, but when they write good comedy, it shouldn't just be brushed aside.  And a story about a crew from the 23rd century, trapped in the late 20th century is just RIPE for comedy.  And the writers took advantage of it, because the results could be nothing short of phenomenal. From Kirk shouting at a Taxi driver who nearly ran him over "Double dumb-ass on you!" to Spock nerve pinching a punk rock fan unconscious on the bus, to Scotty talking to an old Apple computer, "Hello, computer1", to Dr. McCoy getting disgusted by 20th century medicine, which is honestly one of the funniest scenes in the movie.  It is absolutely hilarious when Kirk's crew is walking around in their red Starfleet uniforms in the heart of San Fransisco, past people wearing aviators, and other 80's apparel.  They stick out like a sore thumb, and the crew barely cares about it.  What is there not to love? You can try and bring up an argument with me on how that doesn't feel like Star Trek, but you know what? Comedy happens to everyone. If you're from the 23rd Century, and don't have a clue how life works in a time two hundred years before you, you're going to run into comedy.

For a while, this was one of my favorite Star Trek films, and it still is.  Watching it again, I can't really find much wrong with it aside from small little nit pickings. Why is Time Warp so simple?  Why was their return trip not as rough as their entry trip? Other smaller questions like that.  But for what it is, it's a strong film, and probably one of the better Nimoy films.  And it's a shame that his success with Star Trek III and Star Trek IV would become a little controversial to fellow actor William Shatner, who wanted a piece of the pie...but that's a whole different movie all together, and one we'll get to next time.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home earns a three and a half out of four stars with me.  It's storytelling is incredible, and it provides a most satisfying conclusion to the trilogy that started with Wrath of Kahn two movies ago.  The characters are the same lovable characters you've come to know and love, and the comedy is easily some of the best that Star Trek has ever done.  Honestly, I don't think there's a funnier Trek movie or episode out there, and I'm glad for it.  Whether you watch it in I sequence with the other movies, or as a standalone film, it is going to be enjoyable all around for the lovers of Star Trek and science fiction. If you think I'm kidding...well to quote Spock, "The hell I ain't."

Please feel free to suggest a film for me to review in the future.  Leave a comment down below on how you feel about this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Monday, January 18, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

They say there's a bit of a myth/curse when it comes to Star Trek movies. You've likely heard it by now, it's that the odd numbered movies are bad, and that the even numbered movies are good. And in some cases, it's strangely accurate, but in some cases, I think it's a silly idea. And this movie is exhibit A when it comes to that, because frankly, I think this movie is just as strong as its predecessor. Now granted, those are some big words for a movie coming off the heels of Wrath of Kahn, but in many instances, there are moments in this movie that impressed me in ways that Wrath of Kahn didn't as much. Now that's not to say it's better, because there are a few things in this film I do rub my head at, but to call it a bad film is highly inaccurate.

The Search for Spock takes place immediately following the events of Wrath of Kahn, and that's a trend that no other Trek film (except for the film following this one) does.  This is the second film of a designated "trilogy", and it takes on the torch as we see a battle-beaten USS Enterprise, limping towards Starfleet, scheduled to be decommissioned. We also get an introduction to one of my personal favorite ships of Starfleet, the ship dubbed the "Great Experiment", USS Excelsior, which to date remains one of my favorite ideas and designs for any Star Trek ship. The Excelsior's color, smooth design, and even sounds at first are just beautiful to witness, though I will say that in this movie, the bridge is a little ugly. But thankfully, that's fixed in Star Trek VI (but we'll get to that soon enough). It also gets a bit of a laugh in the film when Montgomery Scott sabotages it's awesome transwarp technology, and it sputters out literally in space...and it sounds like a cartoon car dying.  Oh the indignity... And the inner nerd still rages about how Starfleet immediately ditched Transwarp after this movie, but that's a rant for another day.

We get a little flashback to Star Trek II, specifically when Spock decides to sacrifice himself to fix the Warp Core of the Enterprise, and we see that he's put his essence into the mind of Dr. McCoy. And this might be the biggest thing I scratch my head at.  The idea of putting an essence into someone?  I've seen this done in so many ways now, that I really don't know if there is a good way of doing it or not.  I didn't like it in Chappie when it literally erased any death of the main characters, I didn't care for it in Transcendence when it actually led me on an interesting trip of wondering if the main character in the computer was indeed the main character, or a rogue machine, only to pull one of the stupidest endings I've ever seen at me, and here, where machines aren't even a part of the equation, I'm still unsure about it.  Now it's not NEARLY a plot device as the other two films I just mentioned, and the idea of Spock's soul trapped in the mind of Dr. McCoy is actually very intriguing.  But I would have liked it more if it actually hindered McCoy more.  Instead, they give him some drugs and it's pretty much rendered quiet for the rest of the film.  I would have liked this idea explored more.  How was Spock able to put his essence into McCoy by a simple mind-meld?  We're there any other symptoms that McCoy perhaps had to deal with from such a burden?  Just simple questions like this to give us a better idea of how the overall idea works.  But it's just kinda glossed over for much of the film.  That is the film's biggest fault in my book.  While Spock's return to the franchise is a welcome one to me, as he is my favorite character in Trek, it just seemed a little too convienient to bring him back in the way presented.  

But enough about that, let's talk about the good.  The villain.  Christopher Lloyd, before he was known as Dr. Emmett Brown, plays a Klingon Commander named Kruge, and he is just so much fun on screen.  Now granted, he's not as strong a villain as Kahn, but in my opinion, he doesn't need to be. He's one of my favorite villains of the franchise. He effectively left the Enterprise dead in the water, he has his minions kill Kirk's son in an actually very emotional scene (and again, Shatner pulls a decent emotional breakdown when that happens, which kinda makes up for his dry response of the fact he even had a son to begin with in the previous film), and he's just...such a fun Klingon.  Whether his persistent headstrong personality is getting in the way of finding out the secret of the Genesis planet, or having a fun fistfight with Kirk, Christopher Lloyd had a lot of fun in this role, and you can tell by his performance. He is a born Klingon.  

And speaking of the has the strongest scene in the movie.  I remember the first episode I saw in which Kirk activated the auto-destruct sequence of the Enterprise.  "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was a very strong episode, and for it to come in the absolutely ATROCIOUS season 3 of Star Trek (and no, this episode does not redeem that season), I will say surprised me.  And it introduced the concept of the auto-destruct sequence.  The thing is, much like the first motion picture, the auto destruct was paced...very slow.  So the tension really wasn't there for me.  Here, they capture that needed tension in the short time needed, and I gotta say that though it's a very strong scene, it does get a bit of a laugh when the Klingons board and have no idea what's going on despite an audio countdown. But seeing the Enterprise, the ship we grew to love, a ship that is by all means the poster ship of science fiction, a ship that is in many ways untouchable in the levels of cool in Starship's in general, going up in flames, seeing that registry number disintegrating in flame on screen really hits home.  You fans out there may know that the Constitution Class Enterprise isn't exactly a ship I worship, but any incarnation of the Enterprise is cool in my book. And seeing it erupt into flames like that when it was set to be decommissioned was just...strangely touching.   

There are a few other scenes I kinda question, from Spock aging rapidly from infancy to a possible theory my father brought up of the possibility of Saavik getting pregnant after sating Spock's Pon Farr, but overall there's not enough bad about this film to negate any enjoyability in watching it.  Sure it does some things better than other things but overall, it's a good follow up.  Again, I just don't think many people look at it as strongly, mainly because it may have needed a villain as strong as Kahn or a more emotional ending, which this one didn't really have.  But for what it was, I don't let anyone talk bad about it, because it needs to be said that...well in Star Trek fashion, the points of the good...outweigh the points of the bad....or something.  I tried.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock earns three stars out of four from me.  A great follow up to Kahn, and just an overall great movie.  As the first movie to be directed from Spock in the franchise, it really was a fun movie.  Yeah there are a few things that are silly or just don't fit, but again, those small things don't do anything to the good of this film.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  Give it a watch after watching Wrath of Kahn.  You won't be disappointed.

Please feel free to share your opinions on the film down below. Leave a comment for any film you'd wish me to review.  See you next time as my Voyage through Trek filmdom continues in Star Trek IV, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3/4

THROWBACK REVIEW: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

My journey through Trek filmdom goes on.  From what you may remember, the Motion Picture was not one I was easy on.  I had a lot of interesting feedback on my harshness towards it, so before I talk about the film's successor, let me just say this.  Back in the day, it may have wowed audiences, but there are many films that have wowed audiences from back in the day, that have aged very well and still stand out.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture is not one of those pictures.  As I said, it has some interesting concepts, but horrid pacing, and slow storytelling hurt the film...and with film such as the one I'm about to talk about now in the Star Trek is one I will likely never care for.  Now that that's out of the way, let's go from bad to good, because the first film's successor is a vast improvement, and I don't think that needs to be said.

I'm honestly not sure where to begin with this review because I have a bad feeling that many hardcore Trek fans will not like where I stand on this film.  Now don't get the wrong idea.  This is NOT a bad film.  At all. It's entertaining, it's got good pacing, and it tells a fluent story that in many cases is very well told.  But this is. The film that many fans will call the quintessential best of the best in Star Trek filmography.  It's got quite a legacy, and it's got a lot of love from the fandom.  But...honestly....I don't think it's the best Star Trek film (put your guns away).  

The idea to reintroduce what is now Star Trek's most memorable villain I must say must have been a very fun idea.  Reading on the legacy this film had I found out that at one point, it was thought that this would be the final Star Trek film out there.  Maybe the last thing Star Trek related even.  So the idea of bringing Kahn into the picture, a villain who was only seen in one episode is a move I'm not sure I'll ever understand, but hey it does payoff.  Ricardo Montalb├ín returns to reprise the iconic role, and you can tell he is enjoying every last moment of it.  It's a great performance.  Kahn is introduced flawlessly to the audience...but being the fan I am...and a critic at the same time...I must point out the obvious plot hole that immediately popped up in this film.  Chekov should not have known who Kahn was, nor would Kahn know who Chekov was, as Chekov wasn't even on the show when Kahn had his episode.  I brought this up before and got all sorts of fan theories about how Chekov was likely on the Enterprise and bumped into him and whatnot, and you can bring up any theory you want.  The writers screwed up.  Accept it.

I'm gonna backtrack and bring up Kahn's introduction again, because it is easily one of my favorite parts of the film.  When we last saw Kahn, he was being given a second chance by Kirk to survive on a lush world after Kahn failed to take over the Enterprise.  We now see Kahn on a desert wasteland, ravaged after a nearby planet in the system unfortunetaly was destroyed, just giving off such a sinister vibe.  I'm gonna go as far as to say that his introduction rivals that of the first time we saw Darth Vader on screen.  Kahn gives off this deep and buried grudge of hatred for what happened over the past fifteen years, and we get just some of the most tormenting scenes we can think of when he puts these creatures in the ears of Chekov and his's a scene that still makes me cringe.  It was a perfect way of reintroducing Kahn to the audience.  But unfortunetaly, I kinda feel that Kahn's strength as the villain only goes downhill after that.

There's a lot of story in the middle of this movie that I feel just could have been executed better.  Personally, I never got enough reason to believe that Kahn would go on a bloodthirsty manhunt for Kirk in this movie.  That's not to say that it doesn't give us some really tense showdowns.  The first showdown of the Reliant and the Enterprise is perfectly paced and just as tense as it was thirty years ago. And the SECOND showdown between the Reliant and Enterprise?  The Nebula battle is just incredible shot.  I loved seeing the Reliant passing underneath the larger Enterprise in the nebula.  It's arguably one of the most memorable shots of the entire film.  But there are just some things such as Kahn's death, and the reveal of Kirk's son that I feel are just not pulled off as well as they could have been.  Heck, the creation of a planet from the Genesis device, which this plot centers itself on is kinda just glanced over.  For what it is...honestly, I feel that a lot of the story in the middle of this film missing something. 

So let's talk about why this film is remembered so much.  And personally, I feel that this might be why so many fans will call it the best Star Trek film.  The ending of this film is arguably one of the strongest, if not the strongest ending I've seen in Star Trek, in which we get the iconic death of Spock, and his funeral.  And I gotta say watching it all these years later, I won't lie, I almost got a little emotional myself (and not just because last year we said goodbye to Mr. Nimoy).  Just thinking of Spock's decision to sacrifice himself to save the ship is pretty dang strong, but it's the funeral that really hits it, and as much fun as it is to poke fun at Shatner for his performances, he actually pulled the emotions his character is supposed to be feeling off incredibly well.  Hearing his voice beginning to break at the phrase "...his was the most human.", can be heartbreaking to hear for all the right reasons.  While we will always poke fun at Shatner screaming "KAAAHHHN!", it should be said that his performance is one of his strongest in the Trek franchise.

So there are certainly reasons I can see why so many would worship this film as being the best of the best in Star Trek...but for me personally, I've seen stronger films which we'll get to.  Despite some absolutely gorgeous shots, excellently paced action, and such an emotional ending, the middle of this movie I feel can be very non-existent.  While it kept my interest, I didn't feel the story could have been told well enough in certain areas it needed to be.  The reveal of certain facts seemed to be glossed over a little too simply, particularly that of the reveal of Kirk having a son.  Kirk's response to me seemed a little dry.  And I feel that the overall concepts of the Genesis device could have been executed better.  But for what we got, it really is an entertaining ride, and is rightfully called one of the stronger films for many reasons.  All of them holding water.

The Wrath of Kahn is a three and a half out of four stars for me.  With strong and memorable performances from both Ricardo and William in this film, alongside some of the most iconic moments of this franchise, it is a must see for any Star Trek fan.  While I may not worship the ground it walks on, it did start off a trend of strong films for the franchise.  Films we will eventually get to.  And yeah, while I will nitpick on certain things in this film, the fans shouldn't get the idea that I don't like this film.  I will say that there are a few things I laughed at, such as some obvious stock footage from the first film (being a fan of Godilla films, this is a thing I really don't care for too much).  But small criticisms aside, it's a strong film, and nothing's gonna change that.

Please feel free to share your opinions on the film down below.  Leave a comment for any film you'd wish for me to review.  See you next time on my journey through Star Trek's films, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Sunday, January 10, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Fifty years ago, Gene Roddenberry gave us a franchise that would revolutionize science fiction, and in many cases, the world as we know it.  You can say what you want about Star Trek as a franchise, and whether or not it's good, but it has changed life in more ways than one.  From inspiring so many people to go into programs like NASA, to revolutionizing our technology that so many of us use daily.  It is a quintessential franchise of science fiction if you ask me, and a personal favorite.  And to celebrate fifty years, I am watching, and reviewing each and every film made to date before the newest film comes out this year.  And we start this marathon out with...the Motion Picture.

And let me tell you that despite my love for the franchise...despite being a tolerant, patient, and open-minded fan of the series...never has Star Trek bored the hell out of me quite like this...except for maybe Season 3 of the original series.  Doug Walker said when reviewing this film, that the film feels less like Star Trek, and more like it is trying to be 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that's a statement I am inclined to believe.  Not only are there so many similar concepts and scenes (despite the fact that it's been a VERY VERY long time since I watched that film), but it's dragged out and just as slow.  I can't do too much comparing here because again...I can barely remember 2001. But in the case of this just didn't work.

How Star Trek could have started it's film career off like this, let alone stayed alive past this film is quite frankly, beyond me. The acting isn't anything spectacular, a lot of the effects seem dated, and despite some interesting concepts of a world of artificial beings, coming across an ancient Earth spacecraft, and giving it a mind of it's own to relay the programming to it's "creator", it just doesn't hold my interest.  The only reason I remember one character, Decker, is because apparently he's the son of who I believe is my favorite one-time character of the original series, Commodore Matt Decker, who appeared in "The Doomsday Machine" in season 2, which is a personal favorite of mine.  Other than that, I don't remember anyone else's name beyond the original crew.  And on a random note, McCoy has one of the worst lines I've heard in the franchise in this film. "Why is any object that we don't understand always called a 'thing'?"  I kinda rubbed my head at that line.

I love the ships of Star Trek.  I love the Excelsior, Voyager, I love Romulan Warbirds, I love Klingon Battlecruisers, and Birds of Prey, I love the many many many designs of Starfleet's many many vessels, and of course...I love the Enterprise.  That being said...was it necessary to devote nearly five minutes of screen time to revealing it?  This is the film's biggest problem.  Pacing.  Putting the movie in, I was treated to nearly three minutes of stars going by as a soft melody played.  Then the Paramount logo appeared.  That goes to show you just how much trouble I was in.  There are so many dragged out scenes, in this film, that I literally feel like I could cut a majority of this film...and have maybe a somewhat decent Star Trek episode for you.  I barely remember any major lines of this film, maybe aside from Spock's "weeping for V'ger" line.  I barely remember any interesting conflict.  All I remember are shots that just wouldn't end.  Ask anyone I know and they will say I'm a very patient guy.  Never before has a film tested my patience like this. I'm actually quite impressed.

There are so many scenes and sequences in this film that just don't make any sense to me.  How was the Enterprise able to warp and create a wormhole?  Why was this "next step in our evolution" never ever mentioned again in the entire franchise?  Why was....God I can't even remember that many of the questions this movie gave me.  Here's one.  Why was this movie even made?  Sitting here writing this...I'm trying to be forgiving of something I'm not ven sure I should forgive.  I'm asking myself if this movie has made it onto my own personal list of my topmost hated movies of all time. Has it?  I don't know.  I've seen worse...but I will say that some of the worst movies that have said to have been made, gave me more entertainment factors than this did. Whether they were so bad they were laughably good, or whatnot...this movie just gave me so little...and coming from Star Trek?  That's a near unforgivable sin. There is always SOMETHING to take away in a Star Trek episode most of the time.  ALWAYS SOMETHING to capture your imagination or interest.  And this...I can't think of anything.  The concepts that I found interesting just...seemed like they didn't fit.  And that what I hate about this movie.

Star Trek: The Motion a measely half star rating out of four. Of what I remember from all the Star Trek movies, it is the least memorable, least enticing, and least enjoyable film I have seen in my journey. And depending on how I view the rest of the Trek films to may have just become my least favorite Trek film to date, replacing a film we will get to. All I could do, was check the disc running time as this played,and ask why it was still going.  But...there is something of irony in this film.  My father did make a big bad as the film was the stepping stone for everything I've grown to love about Star Trek as I know it.  Without it, there would be no Next Generation.  There would be no other Trek movies.  There would be no Deep Space 9, no Voyager.  How Star Trek managed to cling to the life it had after this film...let alone vastly improve upon it, may be one of those many unsolved mysteries of life for me for as long as I live.  But I will say that...I am thankful it led the way to the superior Trek I know and love...but that doesn't excuse it.  It's a forgettable ride that doesn't offer much of anything for a Trek has easily gained it's nickname as the "Slowmotion Picture" for a reason, and watching it here, that legacy remains unchanged.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the film below. Leave a request for which film you'd like to see reviewed, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: .5/4