Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek Movie Reviews, Part IV: The Classics

And here we have it: the best of all the Star Trek films! This is the top tier which features the two films which are easily the most classic and popular of the franchise!





2
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
In what became the Trek to beat, The Wrath of Khan gets every aspect right. Nicholas Meyer's directing and (uncredited) writing nails the adventure missing from the first feature, delivering stellar action, excellent acting, and Trek's premiere villain. Ricardo Montalban is fantastic as he reprises his role of Khan from the original series, stealing every scene he's in. The themes of life and death are wonderfully handled.

There's very little to find wrong here. If anything can be held against it, it's the lack of roles for the supporting cast and slow pacing that doesn't hold up to today's standards. It's also a shame that so many of the film's visual effects in the beginning are recycled from The Motion Picture. Featuring the franchise's most memorable scene, The Wrath of Khan is Star Trek in top form. Full review



Story: 2 / 2
Characterization: 1.75 / 2
Acting: 2 / 2
Entertainment: 2 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: .75 / 1

9.5 / 10

1.
Star Trek: First Contact
The Next Generation's first solo venture not only is their best film but also challenges The Wrath of Khan as the franchise's best outing. Every aspect is in top form including a tightly written script, great acting and strong direction. Patrick Stewart gives his best performance in all four TNG films, particularly in the conference room scene with Alfre Woodard. Alice Krige brings the right balance of sinister and sexy as the Borg Queen. The effects are excellent, seamlessly blending into everything that goes on while Jerry Goldsmith returns with a beautiful theme. First Contact proves that The Next Generation could soar on the big screen, even if that potential would never be realized again. Full review



Story: 2 / 2
Characterization: 1.75 / 2
Acting: 2 / 2
Entertainment: 2 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

9.75 / 10

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Milestone with Nicholas!

Well, it's been fourteen weeks exactly since his birth and Nicholas has reached his first major milestone! Yesterday evening, for the first time, Nicky rolled over! Four times, to be precise. I was unfortunately at work and by the time I got home, poor Nicky was too pooped to perform a fifth roll. However, it was captured on camera by my wife!

I've been trying to upload the video to my blog over the last couple of days but keeping having trouble uploading it. I'll keep on trying and will post it as soon as I'm able to, but I wanted to make sure that I shared the great news with everyone!

Star Trek Movie Reviews, Part III: The Good to Excellent Tier

The next tier in the Star Trek film franchise are the movies that are either good or excellent. These are the ones that succeed on most levels and are close to being in the top tier of classic Trek.

 



6.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Following up a strong entry into any series is a daunting task, especially when said entry is The Wrath of Khan. But The Search for Spock manages to hold its own quite well, featuring William Shatner's best performance in the series. Spock's resurrection is a bit of a stretch, pushing the realm of Fantasy more than Sci-Fi, but it does work. The most exciting sequence is the theft of the Enterprise while the all-too-brief space battle against the Klingons doesn't hold up to the standard set by The Wrath of Khan.

What holds The Search for Spock back, though, is its rather lackluster villain and  its rather predictable outcome especially since the title tells you everything you need to know about the plot of the movie. With a title like The Search for Spock, there's only one way this movie can end! It's also unfortunate that Kirstie Alley did not hold over in the role of Saavik as Robin Curtis is rather bland. Overall though, The Search for Spock is a solid entry into the Star Trek franchise. Full review

Story: 1.5 / 2
Characterization: 1.5 / 2
Acting: 1.5 / 2
Entertainment: 1.5 / 2
Music: .75 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

7.75 / 10


5
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Leonard Nimoy's second spin in the director's chair gives us Star Trek's funniest and lightest entry. This fish-out-of-water tale (no pun intended) sees the Enterprise crew in 1986 San Francisco trying to find a pair of humpback whales to save 23rd century Earth. Yes, the story is really that absurd but it's the focus on the crew fumbling around in the past that makes it work. It features some of the cast's finest, most laid back performances. The writing is excellent, bringing fresh and witty dialogue to the whole affair, particularly in the 20th century scenes (reportedly, Nicholas Meyer's biggest contribution to the script). It's one of the franchise's strongest entries. Full review


Story: 1.25 / 2
Characterization: 2 / 2
Acting: 2 / 2
Entertainment: 2 / 2
Music: .5 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

8.75 / 10

Tie-3
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The return of Nicholas Meyer sees the Star Trek film franchise back in form (after the wreck of Star Trek 5) just in time for its 25th anniversary. The cast delivers strong performances for their swan song in a story that's a fitting farewell. The fall of the Klingon Empire is a remarkable parallel to the fall of the Soviet Union which happened not long after the movie was made, especially since the Klingons symbolized the Soviets in the 60s TV series. Cliff Eidelman's brooding and dark score is the series' most unique and the visual effects were the best up to that point, particularly in the climactic battle.

And of course, who can't forgo mentioning Christopher Plummer's mesmerizing turn as General Chang, the one-eyed Shakespeare quoting Klingon who is one of Star Trek's best villains. Nicholas Meyer doesn't ease the film's pace, constantly moving things briskly forward and setting a tone that's quite different from any other entry in the franchise. The biggest gripe that I have is that there are some small plot holes which allow things to fall conveniently into place, but this is very minor. The ending is perfect as the original Star Trek crew is allowed to sail off into the sunset. Full review




Story: 1.5 / 2
Characterization: 1.75 / 2
Acting: 2 / 2
Entertainment: 1.75/ 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

9.0 / 10



Tie-3
Star Trek
Taking the helm of the floundering franchise, JJ Abrams brings the fun and adventure back in this fast-paced, thrilling entry that successfully reboots the series while acknowledging what's come before it. The most daunting task for this film would be the casting, bringing young actors into some of Science-Fiction's most iconic roles. All around, they nailed it. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are excellent as young Kirk and Spock, making the roles their own. The rest of the cast is also great, particularly Karl Urban in a take that is a wonderful tribute to the late-DeForest Kelley. It's also great to see Leonard Nimoy return as Spock from the future for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The story presses forward with a sense of urgency, never really letting up until the final third of the movie. Unfortunately, that's when the script does make some big leaps of logic to make things work (Kirk coincidently runs into old Spock's cave which is within walking distance from Scotty) but you're so caught up in the fun of it all that you hardly notice. The finale is strong but doesn't measure up against the action in the middle part of the film, particularly the exhilarating space dive. Yet as the crew falls into place at the end and takes their place at the helm of the Enterprise, you can't wait for the next mission to begin. It's a very strong entry yet you can't help but feel like JJ Abrams has yet to bring the best. Full review



Story: 1.5 / 2
Characterization: 1.5 / 2
Acting: 2 / 2
Entertainment: 2 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

9.0 / 10

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Star Trek Movie Reviews, Part II: The Mediocre Tier

The mediocre tier of the Star Trek films are those that had potential to be something more but missed the marked in some form or another.




9
Star Trek: Insurrection
If there was an award for Most Overstated Title, it would go to Insurrection. While The Search for Spock was a strong entry in the shadow of The Wrath of Khan, Insurrection is less-so against First Contact. It plays like a two-part episode of the series more than a feature film, with production values that are noticeably lower as sets from the various series are redressed. The visual effects are cartoonish at times, not measuring up to what's seen in the rest of the series.

The cast of The Next Generation gives it their all but most of them are given very little to do, some even being relegated to comic relief. The less that is said of F. Murray Abraham's Ru'afo the better. The film is fun and well-directed but Michael Piller's script is lacking in scope. There's not a lot that is worthy of a feature film here. Full review

Story: 1 / 2
Characterization: 1 / 2
Acting: 1.25 / 2
Entertainment: 1.25 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: .5 / 1

6.0 / 10

8
Star Trek Nemesis
Nemesis is far from the disaster many fans make it out to be, but it's also far from being great. There's plenty of potential here with some good ideas in John Logan's script. Unfortunately, a lot of that potential is squandered due to Stuart Baird's uninspired directing that results in snail-pacing which led to a lot of the best character-driven elements being left on the cutting room floor. A lot of what's wrong with the script could've probably been overlooked had the cast not been going through the motions. There's a serious lack of heart in Nemesis which makes the film's flaws even more noticeable.

The visual effects are top-notch but that doesn't help save the battle sequences which are slow and not very thrilling as one's left with the feeling that we've been here before and better. You can tell that Logan was inspired by The Wrath of Khan but Nemesis by far misses the mark for which they were aiming. Perhaps a better director could've pumped some energy and inspiration into it to make Nemesis the send-off the crew of The Next Generation deserved. Full review

Story: 1.25 / 2
Characterization: 1.25 / 2
Acting: 1.25 / 2
Entertainment: 1 / 2
Music: .5 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

6.25 / 10


7
Star Trek: Generations
The cast and crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation makes the leap to the silver screen with mixed results. Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga's script has plenty of ambition and big ideas that could never have been executed on TV at the time but it's in their execution that it's lacking. The script is bogged down by plot holes and the technobabble that riddled the franchise through most of its run in the 90s. The villains (found in Dr. Soran and the Duras sisters) are underwritten, with the Duras sisters' plans never clearly presented.

The first meeting of William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard should've been epic and exciting! Instead, it's the movie's low-point where everything grinds to a halt. It doesn't help that Shatner acts laps around Stewart who is by far the superior actor yet is no match for Shatner's charisma. Dare I say that their meeting is actually boring? As a result, Generations peaks too early; with the thrillingly realized destruction of the Enterprise-D. If you want to learn how to crash a ship in a movie, look no further than here.

Generations manages to capture the feeling of The Next Generation series better than any of its other entries, including the far superior First Contact. There's plenty of potential here and this could've been a great film debut for TNG. Unfortunately, it's a mixed bag. Full review

Story: 1.25 / 2
Characterization: 1.25 / 2
Acting: 1.5 / 2
Entertainment: 1.5 / 2
Music: .5 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1

7.0 / 10


Monday, May 13, 2013

Star Trek Movie Reviews, Part I: The Lower Tier

Having already done a thorough review of each of the previous 11 installments into the Star Trek film franchise, I won't delve as deeply into the movies. Instead I will offer a miniature "capsule" review that sums up those reviews and will begin with my least favorite Star Trek movie and work my way to my favorite.

I will also be using a new grading scale. Instead of the 4-star system I have used in past reviews, I will now use a 1-10 grading scale in which I will grade different aspects of the movie and add them together for a final score. Said grading scale is as follows:

Story: The strength of the story, any plotholes that exist and the overall writing (2 points)
Characterization: The characters as presented in the script. Are they believable? Are they developed? (2 points)
Acting: The overall action (2 points)
Entertainment: Is the movie entertaining? This includes pacing and direction. (2 points)
Music: The quality of the music. (1 point)
Visuals: Not all movies have visual effects, so this also represents the overall cinematography and visual presentation of the film. Obviously because music and visuals aren't as crucial (yet still a factor) to the overall quality of the film, they are given lower point values. (1 point)

And now, we will begin with what I believe are the "lower tier" of the Star Trek movies. These are the ones that just are plain and simple not good and borderline bad.












11
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
The Final Frontier is easily the worst and most painful to watch of all the Star Trek movies. From it's horrible visual effects to its laughable laughing villain, it's an all-around mess. The portrayal of the Enterprise's secondary crew is horrible as they fall so easily under the influence of Sybok. The promise of finding God is so great that it can go one of two ways: 1) They actually find God and once you do, how do you possible continue exploring after that? Or 2) You don't find God but something terrible instead.

What I do give this movie credit for is the attempts it made to show the family dynamic of the crew who have served together for so many years. Though they're otherwise portrayed poorly, this is one positive aspect of their characterizations, particularly the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The other thing that is right in this movie is Jerry Goldsmith's stellar score. Otherwise, you're best doing what Gene Roddenberry did; Pretend like this movie never happened. Full review

Story: .5 / 2
Characterizations: .25 / 2
Acting: .5 / 2
Entertainment: .5 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: .25 / 1
3.0 / 10

10
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek's first foray onto the big screen is hindered by a story that recycles and mashes together plots from episodes from the 60s TV series and a cast that's stiff and flat. The film's pacing drags along with long stretches of time where there's little to no dialogue. Any sense of adventure from the original television series is unfortunately missing, replaced by boredom. Though Jerry Goldsmith's majestic score is one of the franchise's finest and the visual effects are outstanding for 1979, they're not enough to salvage this uninspired effort. Full review

Story: .75 / 2
Characterizations: .5 / 2
Acting: .5 / 2
Entertainment: .5 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1
4.25 / 10

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Music of Star Trek, Part III

I decided to group the top five soundtracks for the Star Trek franchise all together because they're all so excellent that it was really hard to figure out which ones I liked the most. I honestly was torn when coming up with this list of the top 5 Star Trek scores because the music for each film is really excellent.

5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier / Jerry Goldsmith
If there is one shining light in the mess that is Star Trek 5, it's Jerry Goldsmith's superb score which manages to rise above the fray. It's wonderful to hear the return of Goldsmith's theme for the Enterprise that he originated in The Motion Picture, as well as more extensive use of his Klingon battle theme. His music for the mountain climbing sequence at the beginning of the movie is beautiful and it's a shame it's only other use is in the film's penultimate scene to represent the friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy which is a major part of the movie. It's a very minor gripe, though, about a score that is otherwise excellent.

Highlights: 3. The Mountain / 7. Target Practice / 8. A Tall Ship / 12. Open the Gates / 14. Without Help / 20. The Barrier / 21. A Busy Man / 22. An Angry God / 23-24. Let's Get Out of Here / 25. Cosmic Thoughts / 26. Life Is a Dream (End Credits)

 1/2

4. Star Trek: First Contact / Jerry & Joel Goldsmith
After hearing it's beautiful French Horn theme for the first time in the movie theater in 1996, I was hooked on this soundtrack. Jerry and Joel Goldsmith's soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact was the first movie soundtrack I ever owned and thus has a special place in my heart. The music is top notch from the father and son duo, though some of the music for the Data/Borg Queen scenes is a little too low-key for my taste. Otherwise, from its suspenseful and menacing use of the Borg theme to the main theme representing First Contact with the Vulcans, this remains one of my favorites in the franchise.

Highlights: 1. Main Title / 6. Red Alert / 14. Retreat / 23. Bridge Argument / 24. This Far, No Further / 25. Evacuate / 28. Flight of the Phoenix / 29. First Contact / 30. End Credits

 1/2

3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan / James Horner
Having to follow-up Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-nominated score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture would seem like a daunting task that no one could live up to yet young composer James Horner rose to the occasion for The Wrath of Khan. Both Horner's primary and secondary themes soar with great beauty that stand apart from Goldsmith's Enterprise theme. His scoring during the film's space battle scenes is fantastic, perfectly capturing the suspense and thrill of what we see onscreen. Horner's score is an instant Trek classic!

Highlights: 1. Main Title / 5. Enterprise Clears Moorings / 7. Spock / 8. Kirk Takes Command & He Tasks Me / 10. Surprise Attack / 11. Kirk's Explosive Reply / 17. Battle in the Mutara Nebula / 18. Enterprise Attacks Reliant / 19. Genesis Countdown / 20. Spock (Dies) / 21. Amazing Grace / 22. Epilogue & End Credits



2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture / Jerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith set the bar pretty high with his score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. From his theme for the Enterprise (which would go on to be the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation) to his Klingon battle theme and his music for the V'Ger flying sequences, Goldsmith's music manages to stand above the movie it helps narrate. If there was a Star Trek score that should've taken Best Original Score in the Academy Awards, this is the one that deserved it the most. Full review

Highlights: 2. Main Title & Klingon Battle / 4. Floating Office / 5. The Enterprise / 8. Leaving Drydock / 11. Spock's Arrival / 13. Meet V'Ger / 15. V'Ger Flyover / 18. Games & Spock Walk / 21. Inner Workings / 23. The Meld & A New Start / 24. End Title / 25. Ilia's Theme



1. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country / Cliff Eidelman
It would seem fitting that the #1 spot this list should go to Jerry Goldsmith's The Motion Picture. At the end of the day, Cliff Eidelman's one visit to the franchise in The Undiscovered Country rests as my favorite score. As soon as its first six notes begin to play you know that this is going to be something different and it truly is the most unique score in the entire franchise. Eidelman and director Nicholas Meyer were really smart to not worry about topping what came before with another fantastic march but instead create a beast of its own for this movie and it really works. Eidelman's music captures the suspense wonderfully while also doing a remarkable job scoring the quiet moments. His majestic theme representing the crew (used very sparingly) is outstanding especially in its rendition at the end of the movie. And who can go without mentioning the music during the climactic race to prevent war as the music grows louder and quicker with each passing moment. It's a shame Eidelman's career hasn't been bigger and I wish that he would get the opportunity to revisit this franchise for he truly delivered a classic score.

Highlights: 1. Overture / 3. Spacedock & Clear All Moorings / 4. Spock's Wisdom / 6. Assassination / 7. Surrender for Peace / 11. Rura Penthe & First Sight of Rura Penthe / 13. First Evidence & The Search / 14. Escape from Rura Penthe / 18. Dining On Ashes / 19. The Battle for Peace / 20. The Undiscovered Country / 21. Sign Off / 22. Star Trek VI Suite

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Music of Star Trek, Part II

8. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock / James Horner
James Horner's second offering to the Star Trek franchise is solid but not as successful as his first. Maintaining continuity between the two pictures, Horner gives more prominent focus to his secondary theme from The Wrath of Khan, giving it it's best rendition in the sweepingly beautiful Prologue and Main Title. His theme for the Klingons isn't very successful, consisting mostly of a lot of banging and clanging in the percussion section. The score's best moments come during the theft of the Enterprise sequence and as the crew returns in their stolen Klingon bird-of-prey to Vulcan. It's a good score that falls into the middle of the batch amongst the excellent music consisting of the Star Trek film franchise.

Highlights: 1. Prologue and Main Title / 6. Stealing the Enterprise / 12. Genesis Destroyed / 13. Returning to Vulcan / 15. End Titles

 1/2

7. Star Trek: Insurrection / Jerry Goldsmith
For Insurrection Jerry Goldsmith presents a gentle theme to represent the Ba'Ku people and some of the franchise's finest action music. Despite this, he never seems to really receive the opportunity to let his music shine the way he does with his other scores. That's not through any fault of his own as Insurrection plays more like a two-part episode than a feature film (see my May 2009 review). For what he's given, though, Goldsmith delivers.

Highlights: 1. Main Title and The Ba'Ku Village / 4. In Custody / 8. A Few Loose Ends / 10. New Sight / 13. Insurrection / 14. Not Functioning / 19. The Drones Attack / 20. The Riker Maneuver



6. Star Trek / Michael Giacchino
Following JJ Abrams' leads, Michael Giacchino takes the music of Star Trek in a much different dirrection than the rest of the franchise. He presents three very strong themes for Kirk, Spock and the villain Nero with Kirk's theme being the most prominent. Having said that, it feels like Kirk's theme (as heard in the cue Enterprise Young Men) should've been more. The action music is very exciting though similar to Giacchino's previous works. Overall, it's a solid score though there seems to be more style than substance here.

A big gripe that I have though (without holding it against Giacchino's music itself) is the mixing of the orchestra. For whatever reason, there is very little reverb in the mix, giving the orchestra a very dry sound. Hopefully Giacchino rectifies this technique in future scores.

Highlights: 4. Nailin' the Kelvin / 5. Labor of Love / 8. One Proud Mother / 14. Enterprising Young Men / 19. Chutes and Matter / 30. Nice to Meld You / 32. I Gotta Beam Me / 36. Trekking Down the Narada / 39. Nero Death Experience / 43. That New Car Smell / 45. End Credits

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Music of Star Trek, Part I

11. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home / Leonard Rosenman
Despite a fan main title anthem, Leonard Rosenman's score is a mixed bag. The sounds found here don't match those in any other incarnation in the franchise and though (in concept) that's not a bad thing, Rosenman's sound doesn't work here. The cues representing the alien probe don't make for easy listening.

Highlights: 1. Logos & Main Title / 10. Hospital Chase / 14. Home Again & End Credits
 1/2

10. Star Trek: Generations / Dennis McCarthy
Dennis McCarthy has provided more music for the Star Trek franchise than any other composer, having provided music for episodes for every modern television series. Unfortunately, McCarthy is never able to shake the television mindset as he makes the jump to the big screen with the crew of The Next Generation and most of his music sounds like it could be found in another episode. That's not to see it's not enjoyable; it certainly is. Unfortunately, when in comparison to the works of Goldsmith, Horner and Eidelman, McCarthy's score falls short.

Highlights: 16. Coolant Leak & Crash Landing / 24. To Live Forever
 1/2

9. Star Trek Nemesis / Jerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith's fifth and final score in the Star Trek franchise is also his weakest. There's very little going on in the first half of the score and it's not until the last half does he really open up the orchestra's sound. Unfortunately, when he does the action music is rather uninspired, especially for someone renowned for scoring action movies. One of the score's biggest problems is its lack of a distinguishable main theme. It's a shame that Goldsmith finishes his Trek career like the cast of TNG; with a whimper.

Highlights: 4. Enterprise Flyover / 21. The Scorpion / 24. Preparing for Battle / 25. The Battle Begins / 28. Team Work / 34. Final Flight