Movie Review: STAR TREK Beyond

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movie-review_-star-trek-beyondParamount Pictures
2016
PG-13

“It isn’t uncommon, you know. It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space, there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.”

A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall, a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that’s aboard the badly damaged starship. left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

Everybody seems to want to hate on Star Trek Into Darkness. I don’t get it, really. I found myself rather enjoying the movie, despite it’s flaws. Maybe it was the flaws that gave it the flavor I enjoyed. Or, maybe people just feel funny if they admit to liking something on the Internet. Whatever. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness. That said, I also understand why it took a while to get a third installment of what is now referred to as the Kelvin Universe of these shiny new Star Trek movies. And, I guess, deep down I was also kind of hoping that the next movie would draw its strength from an original story, rather than borrowing from past Trek storylines.

And fortunately, despite some misgivings about the first trailer shown, it turns out Star Trek Beyond manages to hold its own, with an original story that feels more like a classic episode of TOS Star Trek. Something that’s hilariously lampshaded in the beginning of the film, I should say.

Here, the crew of the Enterprise is in the middle of its official five year mission, and everyone seems to be stuck in a rut. Captain Kirk contemplates taking on an Admiral position, which would mean he couldn’t captain a ship, while Spock considers taking up the mantle of Ambassador to Vulcan in the place of the recently deceased Prime Spock (is it just me, or does “Prime Spock” sound like an entree at a steak house?). This is put on hold when they head out to a distress call that turns out to be an ambush that results in the destruction of the Enterprise (again…I swear this happens every other movie, now) and the majority of the crew taken prisoner by an alien that seems to have a mad-on for the Federation. Kirk, Spock, Bones, McCoy, Chekov, and Scotty manage to evade capture, but they’re all scattered on the planet they crashed on, and it’s a bit dangerous going trying to find their way back. Fortunately, Scotty runs into someone who has been hiding out from the alien bad guy for much longer, and helps them all to free all the captured crew and thwart a plan to destroy the nearby Federation Puzzleball Space Station.

Overall, I think I may actually like Star Trek Beyond better than the first two. Yeah, I said it. Mainly because there’s more depth of character development, and it wasn’t just the Kirk and Spock show. Here, it’s Spock and McCoy together for the majority of the time, and the chemistry between those two works so well, I found myself demanding more screen time for those two. There are a couple of groaning points, mind you: The big twist reveal at the end that just made me (and probably more than just me) go, “Wha…?” And then there’s the way the Beastie Boys factored into defeating the enemy. Yeah. That happened.

So, basically, if you’ve been holding off watching Star Trek Beyond because you can’t get over the whole “inverted rip-off of Star Trek II” thing, get over yourself and go watch this. Recommended.

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Book Review: STAR WARS vs STAR TREK

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star wars vs star trekMatt Forbeck
Aadams Media
2011

Who rules? Captain Kirk or Han Solo? Could a Jedi Knight use his light saber to deflect a beam from a phaser? Could a Cardassian beat a Chazrach in a fair fight? Would a Federation ship making the Kessel Run crack the Millennium Falcon’s record of less than twelve parsecs? And most important…in a fight between the Empire and the Federation, who would win? Ever since the first Trekkie walked out of Star Wars in 1977 and said “Meh!”, fans of the two stories have gone head to head over these questions. Now you can line up—side by side—aliens, technology, story points, weaponry, and heroes from the two greatest SF sagas of all time. Whether you can pronounce “Heglu’meH QaQ jajvarn!” (that’s “Today is a good day to die!” in Klingon) or can recite all the names of the members of the Imperial Senate (which meets on Coruscant), you’ll want the detailed information Matt Forbeck has compiled about both universes, as well as trivia, quizzes, quotes, and information drawn from these two iconic settings. So phasers on stun and light sabers at the ready! It’s on.

I came across this extended bit of bathroom reading material at one of the Bargain Priced book kiosks at a local Barnes & Noble, and thought the title was intriguing enough to pick up. At the very least, it would prove an amusing distraction. And it was…for about a few hours, as I happened to breeze through the entire book, cover-to-cover within a day. Which is not a bad thing, mind you; it speaks to the book’s easy accessibility.

Star Wars Vs. Star Trek takes the ever-popular “Who Would Win In A Fight Between…?” debates that are prevalent within the various geek subcultures, and crafts amusing scenarios that pit them against each other to determine the outcome in a surprisingly logical manner. After a couple of forwards written by Jeremy Bulloch (the original Boba Fett) and Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager), and a brief introduction to set the stage for the bits to come, we’re given a list of sections that explore every aspect of both the respective universes to see which side comes out superior, from the weaponry and technology, to the alien cultures, to how bad the villains are, to the ultimate showdown between the iconic characters themselves. Stats are given for the advantages and weaknesses of each character/type, and then a brief showdown write-up is made, providing an outcome and a winner which you may or may not agree with, but at least it’s given some thought beyond the “I prefer this, ergo it will win, neener neener neener.” argument.

Star Wars Vs. Star Trek worked best as bathroom reading material, or as a distraction while riding the bus or train or whatever. I don’t see reading this more than once, though. But, just in case you were wondering who—or what—would win in a showdown between these two iconic worlds, well…it’s worth a look-see.

Sunday A’La Carte’: March 1, 2015

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spock metal horns

First day of March. Which means that the accursed Spring is just around the corner, here. It was a relatively warm day here in my neck of the woods. The weather reports promised snow, and for the record, yes, there was a light dusting overnight, I believe, as I saw some on the walkways and parking lot asphalt surrounding the Victorian. That didn’t last long, as the Day Star was out in full force, with the weather having become only one-layer coat weather. Not necessarily Black Metal weather. Melodic Death Metal, maybe. That’s why tonight’s soundtrack is IV: The Requiem For The Art Of Death by Immortal Souls to accompany tonight’s serving of A’La Carte’. Thought I forgot to make the meta joke, didn’t you?

First order of business: Another icon of geekdom has succumbed to the great equalizer of all mankind. I speak, of course, of actor Leonard Nimoy passing away on Friday, February 27th. Most will remember him as the iconic Vulcan science officer Spock on the original Star Trek television series, as well as eight movies (yes, I’m counting the Abrams reboots) and a couple of appearances on The Next Generation as well. But, his work as an actor stretches back well before that, with extensive bit parts in several B-movies and television shows (including Dragnet, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits); even after the original Star Trek run, he did extensive acting, voiceover work, and directing, among other endeavors. The Star Trek Animated Series notwithstanding, he was the voice of Galvatron for the 1986 Transformers movie, as well as voicing Sentinel Prime for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. He co-stared in the Invasion Of The Body Snatchers remake (the good one, 1978), and not only stared in the original Outer Limits series episode “I, Robot”, but also the 1995 Outer Limits series remake of the same name. I have rather fond memories of listening to him croon his rendition of “Proud Mary” in a friend’s dorm room in college, who just happened to have the vinyl copy of one of his albums. So, it is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the man who was Mr. Spock. Live long and prosper.

doctor who - dalek color

I take a few days off of Facebook at the beginning of the week, and come back to find that the entirety of the interwebs is up in arms about the color of a dress. Good. Bloody. Grief. Archaeologists from the future are going to list this as one of the Greatest Mysteries of the 21st Century. And then label the 21st Century as the Era of Stupid.

I’ve been designating Fridays after work as the night I try out something from a place I’ve never been to before. On February 27th, I decided to try out SmashBurger off of 72nd and Jones streets in Omaha. Mainly because it’s on the way back to the Victorian. I’ve been hearing a lot about how tantalizing and superb these burgers they produce are, and I’m always down to try out a new establishment’s take on the classic Bacon Cheeseburger. I did order the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, to go; I got the order, made the trek back to my domicile, and then opened it up to discover that this so-called “BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger” had neither BBQ sauce, nor cheese. They remembered the bacon, though. No, it was just a bun, the meat patty, a couple of strips of bacon, and some fried onion strings. Since driving back to the restaurant to lodge a complaint at this point would have been pointless, I ate the burger anyway. It didn’t taste too bad, really…it’s just NOT WHAT I ORDERED. You get one chance to impress the METAL DEMIGOD, and you failed, SmashBurger of Omaha. FAILED. I’m afraid that 5 Guys still remains the top of the heap thus far.

optical-illusions-photo-manipulation-surreal-eric-johansson-3

STUFF I WROTE: Hard Rock + Proto-Metal FEBRUARY ended with posts for the Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, Bean Town rockers Boston, and all-around American band Grand Funk Railroad. My never-ending quest to read and review all of the Doctor Who novels continues with reviews of the Tenth Doctor tales Feast of the Drowned and Sting of the Zygons. Then I posted a metric-ton of music reviews from the likes of doom metalists Place Of Skulls here, Texas groove metal band Faithbomb here, four (count ’em) One Bad Pig reviews here, here, here and here, something from metalcore band Mindrage here, and Seattle death metal band Mindkor here.

That’s all for this week. I leave you all now with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, performing “The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins” on…some television show. Cheers, my wonderful freaks.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: STAR TREK Nemisis

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star trek nemisisParamount Pictures
2002
PG-13

“What is it your Borg friends say? Resistance is futile.”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise-E become involved when the Romulan Empire’s new leader, Praetor Shinzon, makes overtures for peace with the Federation. Surprisingly, Shinzon is not from Romulus, but from Remus, a native of the darkness-shrouded twin world of Romulus. But he is not even a normal Reman at that. Picard faces a new, very personal enemy, and the Enterprise-E is tasked with preventing a costly reignition of war between the Empire and the Federation.

I remember back when I first saw the big preview of this Star Trek movie. My exact thoughts were “About bloody time the Romulans get their own Trek movie.” I know, I know, the Romulan race isn’t as popular as, say, the big scary Klingons, or the uber-creepy Borg. But let’s face it. The Romulans are one of the bigger races of Star Trek lore that was just begging to be explored in a movie. So far, the baddies amounted to the Klingons, the Borg, a self-aware American space probe, a cheesed off Augment (that’d be Khan, btw), another probe looking for whales, Spock’s half-brother, a mad scientist, and rogue Federation agents. So, with Nemesis, I was really stoked to have the chance to delve a bit deeper into the history and culture of Romulus and their war with the Federation. It’s a geek thing, really.

After watching the movie, with my longtime friend and partner in geekery Nex in tow, I realized that Nemesis is not so much a Star Trek movie about Romulans, as it is about the lesser-known sister race the Remans, and of a sinister clone of Jean-Luc Picard that seek to take over the Romulan race (after untold centuries of being the butt-ugly Nosferatu-like slave cast of the Romulan society) and destroy the Federation. So, like the Klingons in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the Romulans are in danger of being wiped out and look to becoming buddy-buddy with their longtime (*ahem*) nemesis the Federation to survive.

In between the opening credits and the final scenes, there is a very dark and well made sci-fi space opera played out. I actually enjoyed this yarn, with its major changes to the lives of our beloved Next Generation characters, complex story lines and its willingness to really shake up the status quo. Mind you, director Stuart Baird never watched an episode of TNG before doing this movie, which accounts for more than a handful of inconsistencies with accepted Star Trek lore. However, I only became aware of these when reading up on the project after the fact, and I’m not a big enough geek to pick ’em out while watching. What I got was a very dark, noir-ish sci-fi flick that built things up slowly with a very satisfying payoff in the end. Loved the costumes and set pieces, loved the atmosphere, and especially enjoyed the effects. I was entertained greatly.

Star Trek Nemesis — surely not the best Trek movie out there, but definitely better than a couple that have come before it. Definitely worth the rental…

Movie Review: STAR TREK Generations

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star trek generationsParamount Pictures
1994
PG

” I hope, for your sake, that you were initiating a mating ritual.”

The first feature film starring the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” finds Captain Picard and crew battling a sinister scientist whose plot is a century old. Picard’s only hope lies in forging an alliance with a legendary Star Fleet captain from the past.

When Star Trek: Generations came out, I was on my second failed attempt at college, and was surrounded by bigger Trek geeks than I was.  The week leading up to the release of this movie, there was a lot of talk at the cafeteria tables about this movie, a lot of excitement building up.  The night it opened, the small theater in the small college town was packed, awaiting the anticipated meeting of the Two Captains: Kirk and Picard.  I admit, I too was rather intrigued at the idea.  I mean, the only thing that would surpass this kind of crossover would have been a live action realization of the Star Trek / X-Men crossover comics.  Yeah, yeah I know, timing issues, but a fanboy can dream, can’t he?

So, how well did Star Trek: Generations tickle my fancy?  Um, you’re well away from any heavy blunt objects, right?  Because, let me tell you, I was completely underwhelmed with this offering in the Star Trek movie franchise.

On the one hand, it was the perfect time to pass the torch from The Original Series cast over to The Next Generation.  The long-running show had just ended mere months before Generations was released, and about the only real crossover with the two casts before then was on the TNG episode “Relics”, where they discover Scotty stuck in a transporter, and Man Out Of Time highjinks ensue.  Leading up to the release of Generations, at first it was supposed to be the two full casts getting together to do battle with…something.  Not sure about the original premise, but I do know there was supposed to be everyone there.  I actually saw shot footage of Uhura climbing up rocky terrain with her phaser drawn on one of those entertainment news shows.  But, probably due to everyone’s serious hate-on with William Shatner, the original cast dwindled down to three originals: James “Scotty” Doohan, Walter “Chekov” Koenig, and of course William “It’s not a toupee!” Shatner.  It was like buying one of those Superhero toys three-pack, and having only one of the toys a cool one, and the rest mediocre B-listers at best.  Not to diminish the two actors; you would understand if everyone would have rather had Bones and Spock in the set, here.

Let’s see, the story.  It’s the future!  And the Enterprise-B is ready to take her maiden voyage.  The captain is Captain John Harriman, an obvious descendant of Cameron Frye (sa-WHING, battah!), and he’s invited the legendary crew of, well, not the very first Enterprise, but the first one that mattered.  Three show up: Captain Montgomery Scott, Commander Pavel Chekov, and of course, Captain James T. Kirk.  It’s not long out of dry dock when the crew receives a distress signal from two refugee ships on the outer edge of the solar system, caught in a strange energy ribbon.  Despite being not completely up to code yet, the Enterprise manages to save some of the refugees before their ships are destroyed, and thanks to the sacrifice of Captain Kirk, escapes before becoming trapped in the energy ribbon themselves.  Included with the refugees are the mad scientist Soran, and a certain future barkeep named Guinan.

Did I mention that Kirk was killed?  He totally was.  Well, sort of.  I’ll get to that.

Anyway, fast forward further into the future, and we’re on board the Enterprise D, where they receive a distress signal from a solar observatory, and discover the previously mentioned Doctor Soran as the only survivor of a presumed Romulan attack.  But, betrayal! Soran was in cahoots with the Klingon Duras sisters, who capture La Forge while Soran blows up a nearby star.  That altars the course of the familiar energy ribbon, known as the Nexus, so that Soran can join up again inside.  Seems that the Nexus makes you experience your deepest desires or something.  I shudder to think what mine are.  But anyway, Picard gets trapped inside the Nexus, and meets up with Captain Kirk, who’s been stuck in the Nexus since its encounter with the Enterprise-B.  They agree to team up, go back in time somehow, do battle with Soron, Kirk dies for realsies this time, the Enterprise gets blowed up, but everyone crash lands to safety in the saucer portion, Data utters a profanity, and everything is left open for another sequel.  The end.

Just by describing it like that, Star Trek: Generations sounds like a whiz-bang Trek adventure, doesn’t it?  And in certain ways, it is.  Being on the big screen, the visuals are breathtaking, as were the action scenes. The scene of the Enterprise-D crashing into a forest is, I think, well worth the price of admission right there.  Well, 1994-era price admission, anyway.  After that scene, I started clapping from the shear awe-inspiring scope of the scene.  To which I was promptly shushed by the guy sitting next to me.  Jerk.

But, despite the sheer scope of the thing, and finally realizing TNG on the big screen, Star Trek: Generations couldn’t seem to shake off the feeling of being a two-part TNG episode.  Which, to be fair, was kind of the problem that Star Trek The Motion Picture had back in the day, really.  It took another movie for the Next Generation cast to really find their footing on the big screen, methinks.  Here, there are some callbacks to previous episodes that, if you’re a longtime fan of the series, you’ll get immediately.  But, they’re not what you’d call New Viewer Friendly, as anyone who has never seen an episode of TNG will be confused by all the chuckling from the seasoned geeks in the crowd.  There are times where the flow lags big time.  And the whole Data Gets His Emotion Chip thing was completely distracting.

Overall, though, Star Trek: Generations was a really good film.  It was big, it passed the torch, and we finally got to see the death of an icon.  Until he totally resurrected himself in a Star Trek novel he wrote.  But anyway, despite some flaws, Generations manages to be a bit better than Star Trek III, itself a pretty decent entry in the overall series.  Newbies might want to find a friend who’s a Trekkie (or “Trekker”, as I don’t want to get any whiny e-mails here) to provide some footnotes.

Movie Review: STAR TREK VI- The Undiscovered Country

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star trek viParamount Pictures
1991
PG

“Captain’s log, stardate 9522.6: I’ve never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I could never forgive them for the death of my boy. It seems to me our mission to escort the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council to a peace summit is problematic at best. Spock says this could be an historic occasion, and I’d like to believe him, but how on earth can history get past people like me?”

After an explosion on their moon, the Klingons have an estimated 50 years before their ozone layer is completely depleted, and they all die. They have only one choice – to make peace with the Federation, which will mean an end to 70 years of conflict. Captain James T. Kirk and crew are called upon to help in the negotiations because of their “experience” with the Klingon race. Peace talks don’t quite go to plan, and eventually Kirk and McCoy are tried and convicted of assassination, and sent to Rura Penthe, a snowy hard-labor prison camp. Will they manage to escape? And will there ever be peace with the Klingons?

After the massive brain fart that was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (a movie so dismal that Gene Roddenberry himself denounced it as part of the Star Trek cannon), how does one go about making a follow-up?  For a while, it didn’t seem likely that there would be another sequel, despite not having much of a feeling of closure with The Final Frontier.  Obviously, a sequel did happen, but you must understand that this was a decline of sorts of the Trek franchise at the time.  Burnout.  To give you a perspective of the time, I was ensconced firmly in my Senior year at High School, and producing paintings and sketches of the Enterprise in art class was still a thing for me.  So when I happened to see the teaser trailer for Star Trek VI the summer before, made me squee pretty hard.  They used the phrase “One Last Adventure”, which lent a bit of melancholy to the whole thing; but, it was a new Star Trek movie.  And it couldn’t be any worse than the last one, right?  Right?

Happily, I must say that Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was not only better than Star Trek V, but managed to get back to Star Trek IV levels of enjoyability.  This mainly has to do with William Shatner’s name being nowhere near either the writing or directing credits.  No, instead we have the return of Nicholas Meyer, who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and co-wrote parts II, IV and this one.  You know, all the good ones in the series?

Also, the story itself, rather than involving finding God and discovering our feelings, helps to somewhat answer the question that’s been on the minds of fanboys everywhere since Star Trek The Next Generation premiered in 1987: “When exactly did the Klingons begin to make peace with the Federation?”  Here, you get some glimpse into the beginnings of the peace processes, and what happens when certain parties on both sides don’t want peace.

Overall, Star Trek VI manages to bring back the fantastic story telling that made Wrath Of Khan and The Voyage Home so popular among the fans.  Everything gels together, and the twists and turns keeps one on the edge of the seat.  Nothing drags, the dialogue is snappy, there are some great scenes (the dinner party scene especially), and the little touches that moves the characters on with their lives brings a sense of fullness here.  Also, Red Foreman is the Federation President!

I watched this in the theater twice.  The second time I drug my sister along with, as she was kinda miffed that I wouldn’t say whether Kirk dies in this movie, as the previews showed a quick teaser image of that.  I own this, both on VHS and DVD.  I also made a digital copy just in case something happened to the DVD.  Yeah, you might say I like this movie.  Highly recommended.

Movie Review: STAR TREK V- The Final Frontier

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star trek vParamount Pictures
1989
PG

“Jim, you don’t ask the Almighty for His ID.”

We start off in Yosemite National Park of the future, where Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Enterprise crew are on R&R while the new Enterprise is in space dock for some troubleshooting repairs. All that is cut short when the peace summit on Nimbus III is taken hostage by none other than…Spock’s half brother. After arriving on the so-called peaceful planet, the crew finds out the hard way that the inhabitants there have pledged their devotion to this charismatic Vulcan (now there’s a paradox for you), including the three delegates to the peace summit. After taking control of the Enterprise, Sybok (the half-brother in question) unveils the reason for his subterfuge: He’s on a literal quest to find God. Existential postulations and overacting ensue…

Wow, this was a mess. William Shatner’s first (and thankfully, only) directorial contribution to the Star Trek movie series is a disjointed hodgepodge of both religious and humanistic philosophies told in a somewhat lackluster sci-fi action setting. Actually, the action itself is relatively low-key, the majority of the time spent on exploring the deeper relationships between the cast members and their personal demons (for lack of a better word). The revelation that Spock had a half-brother was a bit of a surprise…kinda came out of left field, really. The humor seems a bit forced, as the original script was a bit darker, but at the insistence of Paramount, there were last-minute changes of dialogue to inject some of that wiz-bang humor that worked so very well for the last movie. Unfortunately, it falls flat. And what was up with that supposed romance between Scotty and Uhura? Mind you, Uhura is still quite the foxy lady there, but still…don’t see it. Not buying it either. To say nothing of the fact that, as per usual, “God” turns out to be some kind of megalomaniac madman. Go figure…

For a Star Trek movie, this one is one of the weakest of the entries. So much so that Gene Roddenbury himself considered the movie non-cannon as far as Star Trek goes. Ouch…

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