Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wanted

If you've seen the trailers, then you know what you're getting yourself into with Wanted. The thing that I liked the most about it, though, is that while the trailers showed the marketable "curve the bullet" scene a hundred times, they didn't really ruin anything else for us. Unlike Get Smart, Wanted thrives off of what we didn't see in the previews and gives us one hell of a ride from start to finish.

Wanted
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Starring: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman


Like WALL*E, I was admittedly not excited about seeing Wanted in theaters. I was sure we had seen the best parts in the trailers and I was cynical that the storyline would try too hard to replicate The Matrix. "Meh," I thought, "it's just another movie based on a comic book that I've never read - how good can it be?" But this movie blew into theaters with kicking ass and chewing bubble gum on the agenda, and it was all out of gum.


The story wasn't anything mind-blowing; we've seen this type of thing before. Wesley Gibson, the archetypal loser stuck in a dead-end job, gets his life turned upside down by an incredibly sexy assassin who brings him word of his estranged father's death. After getting over the initial shock that his dad was a member of The Fraternity, a league of assassins created a thousand years ago, Wesley embraces his training in order to kill the man who killed his father. I don't want to go any further into the plot or the stunts or anything because it'll just ruin it for you. [Don't you hate that? When you hear one certain thing about a movie (or see a scene in a trailer) and then you're waiting the whole time for that scene to come so you can just get on with enjoying the movie? I do. That's why I don't read reviews before I see movies anymore. ANYWAY...]


What differentiates this film from others like it is Timur Bekmambetov's vision. The Russian director, responsible for the most lucrative films in that country's history (Night Watch and Day Watch), brings his signature style to America in his Hollywood debut. My first thought after walking out of the theater was "Wanted is this year's Shoot 'Em Up." Like that film, this one doesn't hold back at all on the language, sex, or violence and embraces those things as integral parts of the production.


Angelina Jolie fittingly plays a character named Fox, who embodies the lifestyle that Wesley (McAvoy) can't even fathom: sex, bullets, and speed. She actually did a better job than I thought she would, and whew - she hasn't looked that good in a long time. Morgan Freeman (who hasn't been bad in a movie since...ever) reigns as the enigmatic leader of The Fraternity, and plays the part effortlessly. The dude is so solid. He's a great addition to any film, automatically upping the quality level and (I'm sure) influencing his co-workers to step up their game.


Wanted is what you would get if you crushed Swordfish, The Matrix, and Shoot 'Em Up together into one action blowout. It's stylish, sleek, quick-moving, adequately acted, and visually fantastic. Fans of the comic book series by Mark Millar have been vocal about the film's differences to the comic book, perhaps suggesting the film would suffer because of it. But a recent interview with Millar sheds light on the creator's opinion of the final cut of the film: "F***ing hell. I loved it. I could not love it more. It's weird passing your wee baby over to someone else, but this is like putting someone up for adoption and seeing him come back as Einstein." That's a pretty glowing review from the guy who created the work in the first place.


Yeah, my eyes are closed. I'm THAT good.

I think this is one of those movies like 300 that pretty much every guy over the age of 4 will love. It's not big on commentary, context, or subtlety, but the "Ass-Kicking Quotient" is through the roof. It doesn't take a film student to realize what's going on in this one: unadulterated summer action throttling us in our seats and then questioning the audience with one of the best closing lines I've heard in 10 years - "What the f*** have you done lately?" Until next time...

Friday, June 27, 2008

WALL*E

Let me start by saying that I didn't think I would like WALL*E at all. I thought the trailer showed too much "cutesy" stuff and not enough solid storyline. I still don't like the trailer, but I was wrong about the movie - it was actually one of the better films of the year so far.

WALL*E
Director: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ben Burtt


WALL*E, the small garbage-compacting robot, is serving his purpose trying to clean up the Earth. Humans have long since evacuated the planet due to unlivable conditions: heaps of garbage caused by an overindulgence in consumerism and materialistic culture. So the humans took off on the Axiom, a ridiculously huge spaceship, and are cruisin' through space living the lazy life while the robots clean up the planet. Little do they know that WALL*E is actually the last one left doing his job; but it's not like they're in any hurry to get back to the planet. They float around on hover Lazyboys eating meals in milkshake form, talking to each other on transparent computer screens even though they're only six feet away. They send probes to Earth periodically to search for plant life (if they find any, it means its time to come home), so WALL*E meets EVE (a probe) and falls in love.

As Boze said after we left the theater, this film could be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. The aforementioned plot synopsis might be enough for you if you were a child, but those of us looking for a little more depth to our entertainment are definitely rewarded with what we're given. The movie is virtually a silent film for most of it, with only a few words "spoken" (more like "beeped") by the robots until they reach the humans. That means that Pixar had to rely on visual storytelling rather than dialogue to achieve the connection between WALL*E and the audience. They did a phenomenal job. Everything about the movie flowed perfectly, and the look of the film was outstanding. I can't imagine how many man-hours it takes to put something like this together.


Aside from the visual storytelling, the film had a couple of underlying themes that I thought fit seamlessly into this simple story of a robot in love. First off, as I mentioned before, the world is covered in garbage and humans were forced to vacate the Earth. Duh - this is an exaggerated warning about what could happen to us if we don't take care of this planet. There was also a nice parallel to the current political system that came up in one scene - the gist of it was that the rules of the ship were set 700 years ago, but they wouldn't allow the captain of the ship to fix a problem that he had a simple solution to. This comments on the party system that people have been complaining about for years - there are other solutions, but the Constitution doesn't specifically say that we can make changes.


WALL*E was worth your time. It'll put a smile on your face. It has all the patented "Disney moments" that we've come to expect from family-oriented films like this, but it also gives us an interesting look at a possible future if the state of the world doesn't change. The characters are likeable and the optimistic sense of wonder the movie exudes is a welcome change from decent sequels and comic book movies (in case you're getting sick of those). The Incredibles and Finding Nemo were pretty good, and WALL*E is right up there with the best Pixar films since Toy Story.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Pixar always puts those animated short films in front of the main movie, and this one was my favorite that they've done so far. It's called Presto, and it's about a magician and his rabbit. I looked for it online, but I guess they're keeping a pretty keen eye out and swatting down unapproved video uploads of it. Oh well - you'll see it in the theater if you check out the movie. If you don't, I'm sure it'll be on the DVD release in November. Until next time...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Happening

My love for M. Night Shyamalan films has been widely documented. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village. Unbreakable was pretty cool. But I'll be the first to admit that Lady in the Water kinda sucked. So naturally I was really hoping that Night (as he is known on his sets) could pull off some magic in his newest thriller and bring us something as high quality as his earlier works. As I'm sure you've heard by now, The Happening wasn't exactly a return to form: it was down there with Lady in the Water as a cool concept that was badly executed.


The Happening
Writer/Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo


It's becoming harder and harder to stay a supporter of Shyamalan when he keeps pumping out stuff like this. The Happening, according to an interview with the writer/director, was supposed to be a 50's style B-movie reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Birds. That aspect of the movie was all but hidden from everyone besides people who happened to read that article, and it seems like the film suffered greatly in critical reception because of it. I knew what the film was aspiring to be when I sat down in the theater, and it still didn't live up to my newly-lowered expectations.


The most glaring proof of its B-movie nature can be found in the performances from the main characters of the film. Usually-bankable actors Wahlberg and Deschanel gave some of the most rigid performances I've seen in a long time, no thanks to the sometimes-laughable dialogue written by Night himself. I KNOW that Mark Wahlberg is a better actor than what his performance indicated in this film, so there had to be some sort of instruction from Night to make his acting as stiff as possible. If this were made known to the movie-going public beforehand, then perhaps the film wouldn't have been as lambasted as it was upon its Friday the 13th release date. Deschanel looked like she ate some bad eggs for breakfast the whole movie, and I'm not kidding when I say that Marky Mark had the same look on his face the whole movie:


Without giving away the patented "twist" ending (hint: there is no twist ending), I won't go too much into the cause of the mass suicides depicted in the trailer in case you decide to watch this movie and want to be surprised. Wahlberg plays Elliot, a high school science teacher who is having some marital troubles with his wife Alma (Deschanel). When the first event occurs, they meet up with John Leguizamo's character Julian, who is a fellow teacher at Elliot's school, to escape from the city.


The movie started with a mass suicide scene, but never really got going after that. We couldn't care for these characters because they were so distant to the audience due to their (purposefully?) poor performances. Thanks to this factor, the sense of urgency that was necessary for us to feel worried about the characters was nonexistent. Aside from that, the cause of the "events" only seemed to affect certain people, which made no sense to me at all.


It features a standard message of "protect the environment" and falls into the same type of apocalyptic-themed flicks as the recent I Am Legend and Cloverfield. Growing concerns over global warming, rising gas prices, and constant wars seem to be pushing the world into a state of paranoia, and we can only predict that movies with these types of themes prominently displayed throughout will not stop in the years to come. Whether they be government-themed paranoia like Disturbia or the upcoming Eagle Eye, or disaster-themed like War of the Worlds or the others I've mentioned, these types of movies are sure to be on the rise for a long time until we can figure out what to do about fixing some of these problems that are apparent in today's world. Until next time...

Get Smart

If only the title followed it's own advice. Get Smart was a mediocre attempt at comedy that had lowest-common-denominator audience members howling in their seats next to me. If a movie could win an Oscar for "Ruining Humor Ahead Of Time In A Trailer By Showing Too Much," then this film would have won it. Handily. Sadly, it was more of a children's film than a movie targeted toward the people who would have liked it the most: namely, 18-35's and fans who used to watch the show.

Get Smart
Director: Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp, Champ Kind


What a sweet cast. As far as performances go, all the main players pretty much did the best they could with the pitiful script they were forced to memorize. Carell was likeable and charming, while Hathaway reached her pinnacle of hotness that she had been dreaming of since the days of The Princess Diaries. Aside from that, her acting was passable since she was probably given the most complex role of anyone in the cast. Dwayne "I'm Not The Rock Anymore" Johnson was the typical jock who befriends the nerdy Carell, and he played this role as if he were sleepwalking through it waiting for the producers of the Scorpion King to call him for a sequel. (Incidentally, they didn't.)


The plot follows the government agency CONTROL analyst Maxwell Smart (Carell) as he gets promoted to Agent 86 and partners with Agent 99 (Hathaway) to take down the KAOS, a terrorist group who has infiltrated CONTROL's home base. All of the field agents are compromised because of the break-in, so Max and Agent 99 (who recently had plastic surgery to change her identity) are the only two left to save Los Angeles from destruction at the hands of the mysterious Siegfried (Terence Stamp of Superman II).


I think most of my disappointment with Get Smart stems from my opinion that the supposedly "funny parts" of the film weren't even that funny. What is happening to comedy these days? Are summer trash like The Love Guru and You Don't Mess With The Zohan the kind of quality that we've come to put up with at the theater? I think we as the American people deserve better when we shell out 10 dollars to see a movie. I think we deserve to actually laugh throughout a "comedy" and not just nod and say to ourselves "oh yeah, I remember seeing that in the trailer." Correct me if I'm wrong, but comedy should be funny.


The problem with Get Smart (in my humble opinion) was the same problem with Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the script was abysmal. The directing was fine, the special effects were OK, the production design, lighting, cinematography, score - I didn't have a problem with any of that. But they needed to get a script a little more fresh than something a 12-year-old could have written. I know that the show was based on slapstick-type humor, but at least it had a little intelligence to go along with it. If you've ever seen a movie before, you knew exactly what was going to happen in Get Smart at least 10 minutes before it unfolded on the screen. Branz criticized me for being too hard on it, but I think the American people deserve a bit more credit than that. I'd like to believe that we are capable of comprehending some abstract thought, making hinted-at plot connections on our own without everything being spelled out, recognizing basic themes when they are presented to us, and all the other little things that go along with appreciating films and what they can do for us. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that you need a college education to make these type of cognitive leaps.


Anyway, the movie was probably worth a rental. There were some humorous sections (Mel Brooks co-created the show and was an adviser for the film), but overall it just wasn't funny enough to make up for its predictability. If you have children, you are a child, or you will be having children in the near future, then there's a distinct possibility that you might like Get Smart. Otherwise, wait for it to hit TBS in about 9 months. Until next time...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

Refusing to pay exorbitant movie ticket prices in NYC, I finally got around to seeing The Incredible Hulk yesterday. The short review - I liked the parts without the CG best. Above average for a comic book movie, but only slightly.

The Incredible Hulk
Director: Louis Letterier
Starring: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, William Hurt


Director Louis Letterier (Transporter and its sequel) turned this movie into a crisp, action-packed version of what Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk never tried to be. That previous film was a more introspective piece that most people hated because it didn't feature enough action and Hulk-Smashing. Letterier and Co. set out to rectify those problems in this movie, which is a completely unattached film that has no bearing on its predecessor - meaning you don't have to see the "first one" because this one isn't a sequel.

Action-packed though it was, The Incredible Hulk was too driven by CGI in my opinion. The Hulk isn't one of my favorite superheroes (by a long shot), so I'm automatically slightly biased against him. I also didn't really like Ang Lee's Hulk because the CG was too ridiculous (not to mention the fact that his Hulk fought a giant cloud in the final battle and he leapt across states as a method of travel). That being said, if I was a ten-year-old kid, I would have LOVED The Incredible Hulk. There was a LOT of smashing and destruction and explosions and all the things that one would assume would make this movie great. Surprisingly, however, these parts of the movie didn't really do it for me. I don't know if it was because everything was so blatantly CG that I couldn't get any real enjoyment out of it, or if was all too dependent on imagery from other films (King Kong and Cloverfield come to mind) - but something was a little off for me. [Note: I loved Transformers, which was full of CG destruction, so I'm not quite sure what the difference is with this. Hmm...] I'm fully aware that its near impossible to make a Hulk movie without heavily relying on special effects, but that's what I wish they would try to do next time (if there is a next time).


Anyway, the acting was pretty good from Norton, who was a great Bruce Banner. He was awkwardly gangly and nerdy enough that you believed he was a scientist. Liv Tyler, aside from her sometimes-creepy resemblance to her father, was a great Betty Ross. William Hurt wasn't the best General "Thunderbolt" Ross I've seen on film (that would be Sam Elliott from the 2003 flick), but it would be hard for anybody to follow Elliott's performance. Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno's cameos were well-done and funny. I do admire Marvel's ability to lock down high quality actors for superhero movies, a genre which was once laughed at but is quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to moneymaker. Ed Norton, Robert Downey, Jr.? These are really good actors here, folks. I hope they continue with this trend for their upcoming releases.


I didn't know anything about the villain, Abomination, before going in. Tim Roth was OK as the power-hungry bad guy. His character, however, was bent on destroying Hulk for no reason other than he feels that Banner doesn't deserve the power he has. Kinda lame, but whatever - no need to dwell on the bad. I did that enough in my Indiana Jones review.


My favorite part about The Incredible Hulk (just beating out the Brazil chase scene) was that they didn't obsess over the origin story. They showed the gamma radiation accident that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk during the opening credits, and then jumped straight into the action-chase through Brazil right after that. There was no excessive hour in the beginning before we got to see Hulk in action, and I loved that the filmmakers recognized the recent trend in comic book movies and tried to distance themselves from it.

So how was the plot/story for The Incredible Hulk? Here's where we get into the interesting stuff. As some of you may have heard, when Ed Norton signed on to be a part of this movie, he was told that he could contribute creatively as well. So he took Zak Penn's (X-Men 3) script and rewrote it from page one, knowing that most of the sets and things had already been built. He added a lot of dialogue, changed more dialogue, and fleshed out the Bruce Banner character more with extra scenes and character motivation. Marvel then agreed to film this newly-written version of the movie.

So they did. When it was all filmed, they put the whole thing together in a rough edit and Marvel decided they wanted to go with a quicker, more action-oriented film that deleted a lot of the character pieces that Norton had written. He got pretty pissed, because they told him he could have this control and then they took it away from him, and somebody leaked it to the press that this controversy was brewing. Now that this was all out in the open, there was no chance of Marvel and Norton negotiating reasonably without people following their every move. Worried about his already-notorious reputation for being a control-freak-pain-in-the-ass on set, Norton conceded to Marvel's decision to make a more commercial version of the movie.

So what did the studio cut that Norton wanted to remain in? A suicide attempt scene at the beginning of the movie caused a little bit of unease because this was supposed to be a family-friendly movie and suicide is a bit heavy for that. Also, the scene featured in the trailer with Banner talking to the psychiatrist was Norton's, and they cut that along with some more flashbacks that Ed had worked into the script. Fear not, though - the Blu-Ray release will feature 70 minutes of footage that we didn't get to see in the theater. Read that again - that's over an hour of stuff! I guess we'll have to wait a few months to see which version is "better."


I love all the stuff that Marvel is doing with all of their cross-promotion between films and dropping references to things yet to come. Not to ruin anything (since it's been shown in the TV spots for the movie), The Incredible Hulk features a scene with Tony Stark (Iron Man) and General Ross talking about forming a team. This, coupled with the bonus post-credits scene from Iron Man, obviously leads us toward the planned 2012 release of The Avengers movie. Also, this version of the Hulk features multiple references to super-soldier serum, which should incorporate into Marvel's Captain America movie scheduled for release in 2011. Cool.

As far as comic book movies go, I'd place this just above the middle of the pack. It was better than Elektra and Fantastic Four, better than Ghost Rider and 2003's Hulk, but not nearly as good as Spider-Man 2 or X-Men 2. Take that as you will - but if I were you, I'd wait to see some other summer movies in theaters and not give up money that you could be spending on a Dark Knight IMAX ticket. Until next time...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Solaris

Greetings to all. It's been a while since I've written anything about an older movie, so I'll take this opportunity to provide a little retrospective look before we get into the rest of the summer blockbusters.

Solaris
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney


In my opinion, good science fiction films are few and far between. Aside from the obvious franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, the first Matrix) and the occasional brilliant standalone (Children of Men, Minority Report), we certainly aren't living in a Golden Age of Science Fiction. Solaris wasn't brilliant, but it was a lot better than 90% of the genre that's been presented to us in the past 10 years. Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean's 11 Trilogy) reunited with George Clooney to bring us a meditative, competent look at a near future that is surprisingly personal in a genre full of harsh isolation.


Much of the credit of the film's success has to be given to the production designer and the cinematographer, who crafted a world that seems futuristic but not TOO over the top and captured it in a smooth style that I wish we saw more these days. The lighting was especially noticeable (in a good way) and the contrasting styles between the gleam of the ship and the shadows of the flashbacks complement each other in a very cool way.


Since most of you probably haven't seen this (the marketing for it was terrible if I recall correctly - I had no desire to see it in 2002 when it was released), I'll give you the rundown. The plot revolves around Chris Kelvin (Clooney), a psychiatrist who is still dealing with the loss of his wife. He receives a strange video message from a friend, requesting that he comes to the space station Prometheus and help the crew return home. They've been studying Solaris, a pulsating cloud in space, that apparently won't allow them to return and has been seriously messing with their minds. Kelvin begrudgingly accepts and heads into space, only to find that all but two crew members are dead. That night, his wife appears on the ship - and that's all I'm giving you.


The movie is a great study of the psychology of exploration, the meaning of death, and is a very personal look at Kelvin's character as he tries to make sense of these strange happenings. George Clooney did a great job, subtle and emotional at all the right times. The wife, played by Natashca McElhone (The Truman Show), was also exceptional. Be warned - there's a little too much Cloon-ass for my taste, but the ladies might enjoy it.

There's not much else I can say without giving away key plot points; it had a couple cool twists that I didn't see coming. All I can say is that if you're a fan of sci-fi, give this one a shot. It's not action-packed, there aren't any space blasters or anything like that - it's a slower, visual film that deserves more than it got thanks to bad advertising. Until next time...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Star Trek: The Official Reviews Part 2

By Guest Sci-Fi Loser Alan Trehern

Well, I'm back, and you're probably SICK and TIRED of me writing long series reviews of some of my favorite movies. You may not enjoy these movies as much as I do, but that's too bad, because the reviews are here, and you really have nothing else to do, so sit back, flip off the tele, and enjoy the third installment of the Star Trek Ominbus of Posts: The Official Reviews: Part 2!

For those of you who are eager to get caught up (let me see those hands, class) here are the previous posts, as well as the link to the final installment of the series: The Shatnerverse...

Star Trek IV: The One With the Whales…wait, sorry
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Leaving the serious themes of the previous movies, STIV attempts to get an even more important message across while simultaneously making a good movie. This one has to be, hands down, my favorite film in the series. I said this strongly the first time I saw it, but after a second viewing, my opinion was only further fueled. Nimoy directs again, and in this installment he attacks the issue of global conservation and protection with a tale of time travel, illegal whaling and terran armageddon. After returning Spock’s katra from McCoy’s mind to the Genesis-revived body of the science officer, we find the crew months later coming back to earth from the planet Vulcan. Following the destruction of the USS-Enterprise, Kirk must captain the bucket of bolts Christopher Lloyd drove around in the previous movie.

Traveling back into our solar system, our heroes are unknowingly met with a destructive probe bent on speaking with the inhabitants of Earth, or destroying the entire planet. But is it us it wishes to speak to?

This violence-free film is a great addition to the three-movie storyline the creators had established over the series, and it also focuses on a lot of the minor crewmembers, including Chekov, Scotty and Sulu. There could have been more Dr. “Bones” McCoy, but the next two films are chock full of the good doctor, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

If you enjoy things like humpback whales, the mom from 7th Heaven (HOT!), whipping around the sun in time warp, Italian food, and whales, then this movie is for you. I’m even bold enough to say that if you are going to watch one Star Trek movie, it SHOULD be this one. Yeah, I like it that much.

Ben’s Notes:
Utterly contrary to Trehern’s opinion, this was by far my least favorite of the series (although the first one was pretty boring). The complete disregard for cohesive plot in Star Trek IV made the entire thing laughable, and the concept of the crew time traveling to our present just didn’t work for me. Haven’t they ever heard of the space-time continuum? Just the fact that the crew of the Enterprise was actually back in our time walking around and interacting with people (especially giving them technology – Scotty, I’m lookin’ at you) would have altered our world in ways unimaginable to the human brain. Plus, the inclusion of humpback whales being the only way to communicate with a species in the 23rd century is outside my realm of personal believability, even for science fiction films. Shatner was his usual cool self in this one, and it was good to have Spock back after the recent carnage wreaked on him in the previous two movies, but I thought Star Trek IV was a disaster.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
I love the feeling you get when jumping off a really awesome trilogy and just hoping right back into the action. Thankfully, we watched all of these movies consecutively, not having to wait 2 years for the next one to premiere (suck it late 80s!). In any case, STV picks up months after the events of STIV. The U.S.S. Enterprise-A is still in the beta stages, and the crew is on shore leave on Earth. Meanwhile, however, on a planet called Nimbus III, a renegade Vulcan named Sybok (half-brother of Spock) has planned to steal a Federation cruiser to cross the Great Barrier (my idea!) to a place where creation began: Sha Ka Ree. The overall movie is really good (if your disc isn’t scratched to hell) because the storyline and direction came straight from Kirk (i.e. it was directed by William Shatner). He attempts to revolve the story around seeking God and Eden, or the perfection and divine in all of us, while at the same time, giving us more laser-gun and riproaring (I think that’s one word) action than we’ve seen in this series.

Interestingly, we also see the inner workings of Dr. McCoy, who plays a fairly large role in this movie, hating Spock because of his lack of passion for humanity, and hating Jim Kirk because of his complete disregard for his own life. Probably being my favorite character of the Enterprise trifecta (Kirk, Spock, McCoy), McCoy comes from a troubled past, which is revealed to us in the form of a personal realization. He comes face to face with his greatest fear, which happened to be a moment in Time. His father, ill with an incurable disease, lays crying out for pain to a grieving McCoy. All the knowledge he has amassed as a doctor and he has nothing to alleviate his father’s agony, lest one thing. McCoy Sr. asks for his son to kill him, setting him free, and McCoy reluctantly obeys. Not a week later, a cure is found, and McCoy is haunted by his father’s ghost, which he carries willingly for the rest of his life. Intense.

I can’t say this is the best of the series, but you have to watch it if you’ve gotten this far. And just think: this storyline was given life by William Shatner, which mean it’s only a few more years until that mythical “Shatnerverse” experiences its Big Bang. More on that later…

For now, here are Ben’s Notes on the film:
Brilliant. I don’t know how this franchise could have produced a movie so bad (Star Trek IV) and then followed it up with something so awesome. I really liked this one a lot; so much so that it competes with ST2: The Wrath of Khan for my favorite in the series. The themes explored in this movie came across as particularly heartfelt and poignant to me, and the idea of searching for a higher meaning in life is something we can all relate to. Shatner was surprisingly as competent behind the camera as he is in front of it, and the cast turned in some solid performances. All this contributed to not making the movie TOO cheesy, instead giving it a personal, quiet humility that places it highly in my rankings of Star Trek lore.


Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country
What is “The Undiscovered Country”? This question crossed my mind as I slipped the last and final voyage of our heroes into our modern DVD player, not knowing how emotionally attached I would become to the adventures and evolution of these characters and their 23rd century world.

As we soon find out, the undiscovered country is the future…intergalactic peace seems almost within reach when a travesty occurs in the Klingon sector. Their empire stands on the verge of extinction, so they are forced to lower their defenses and allow help from outside nations (i.e. the United Federation of Planets). I didn’t realize this at the time, but after further research (e.g. the Disc 2 documentaries) this movie parallels our world and its strive to change. Star Trek was created in a cold war world, and Kirk and his crew had always considered the Klingons the enemies, just as the Soviets had been enemies of the U.S. for decades. The universe of our heroes was changing, just as ours was during the fall of the Berlin and the U.S.S.R., and many of Americans and crewmembers of the Enterprise feared what this future may hold.

I won’t go into details of the storyline, cause I think this is a movie you should see, especially after you experience the entire series in order. Captain Kirk, who breaks character in this film, has a perpetual hatred for the Klingons, blaming them for the death of his son (see Star Trek III). This racism, however wrong, can be seen in everyone present. People have trouble dealing with change; many respond with disgust, while only the strong can embrace it and learn to live with it. Kirk learns this through the movie.

Jim Kirk and his crew then open the doorway to the young generations to come; even though they are relics of a war soon to be over, they have set the groundwork for others to live peacefully and without fear in this…undiscovered country.

Ben’s Notes
I didn’t even see that connection with the Klingons and the Russians, but that makes perfect sense now. Director Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II) returned for this film, tackling some heavier subject matter and doing it with style. Kirk and McCoy imprisoned in a working camp was a personal highlight for me, and this movie places pretty well with the others in this series, keeping a lighthearted tone when needed and trading back and forth with serious issues. A nice addition to the franchise, and a sad ending to the original crew of the most famous spaceship the Federation has ever known.


We also see an emotional farewell to this original crew, for this was their last voyage together. Weep not, my children, and keep your hope alive for I know that they will meet again. And they do indeed, but alas we’ve not the time for it. Tune in next time, though, for it’s back to The Solar Sentinel for the last thoughts on The Evolution of Science Fiction and a map of this…”Shatnerverse”.