Boldly Going Pt 2 (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

ST_the_Wrath_Of_Khan_PosterAfter the slower first film, the creators sought to look back to the original series for inspiration. The came back to the first season episode Space Seed. In that episode, the Enterprise comes across a 20th Century ship adrift in space, the SS Botany Bay. The crew of the ship are revived and it is discovered they were genetically engineered super people led by Khan. Khan attempts mutiny, but after failing is left on a remote habitable planet with his followers.

Picking up just about fifteen years later, Chekov (now a Commander) is part of a team searching for a lifeless planet to be a part of an experiment known as the Genesis Project.  The goal being instant terraforming that takes a lifeless planet or moon and makes it a living planet teeming with plant life.  When Chekov and the Captain of the USS Reliant beam down to Ceti Alpha VI to verify if the life readings are correct. They find a lifeless planet of sand storms and…housing.

As they investigate, Chekov discovers that this is the remnants of the crew of the Botany Bay.  But before they can get out and back to the ship, they discover that Khan is alive and well…and fueled by rage against James T. Kirk.

And so Khan sets in motion plans to use Chekov, Captain Terrell and the scientists they are working with to set a trap too torment and destroy Kirk.

The Wrath of Khan focuses on the aging cast dealing with personal fears of obsolescence and weaves it together with a revenge action story. Montalban returns to the role of Khan Noonien Singh and he seems to relish the opportunity to approach the character from a new perspective. No longer simply an arrogant leader impressed with his own “perfection”, he is now engulfed in the flames of anger and hatred singularly directed at the man who insulted his ego the most. This is a terrific performance.

The reveal that Kirk has a son, a son who hate the militaristic Federation and has no trust for them (believing they will take the Genesis Project and make it into a weapon) no less, forces a new look at Kirk.  This seems like a big ret-con, but at the same time it works well here, as Kirk reveals he promised Carol, the mother of his son, to stay away. So David knows who Kirk is, and hates him.  But he has no idea that Kirk is also his father.

The film also takes a heavy focus on the trio of Kirk, Spock and Bones.  This really pays off in the end with a powerful sacrifice that carries the weight of over a dozen years. And while the film clearly hints the story is not over for these friends, it still hits with a heavy heart.

Nicholas Meyer manages to weave the personal stories in with the action with great skill.  This film manages to tie with the TV series and have a sense of being an epic, yet keep it on a very personal level.  The Wrath of Khan is the high water mark for Star Trek.

 

Boldly Going Pt 1 (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979)

ST_the_Motion_Picture_PosterAfter the third season cancellation of the original Star Trek, Roddenberry tried to get various ideas off the ground, including a new Star Trek series. That idea morphed into the first Star Trek film.

Ten years later (give or take),  the five year mission is over, Kirk was promoted, Spock went off to find himself and Bones walked away from Star Fleet. Uhura, Sulu and Chekov are still serving on the Enterprise.

When a mysterious cloud starts attacking everything that it comes in contact with, Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise once more with his crew and some new faces as they go to try and make contact with the mysterious entity known as V’Ger.

The first outing starts a long running love affair within Trek to explore the future of AI and the ethics that surround it. V’Ger is revealed to be in search of its creator to commune and learn.  The entity’s hostile acts are, in fact its attempts to communicate.

There are pretty much two big negatives for the film.  One?  The costume design is…terrible.  Going from vibrant colored shirts to lifeless white and gray aesthetics, this is not an improvement. The film also tends to move at a glacial pace. When faced with a bigger budget and the competition of Star Wars, the film makers focus on long lingering space exterior shots.

On the other hand, the film is remarkable in its beauty. Those exteriors are a wonder, especially later in the film when they are interacting with V’Ger’s environment. It is nice to see the crew together again, and while I think they have done this story better since, there is still a sense of wonder in the first Star Trek theatrical outing.

Boldly Going: the Introduction

To be honest? I was always a Star Wars kid. At age five, I saw Star Wars and I was hooked.  I also liked Star Trek…but it had ended before I was born. I discovered it through syndicated re-runs, and I thought it was kind of cool.  I was more excited after I saw Wrath of Khan as a kid…that was a cool film.

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I watched the Next Generation randomly, and enough to really like Picard, Data Worf and the other members of the crew. My favorite Star Trek was Deep Space Nine…but even there, I have only seen a random number of episodes.  In fact, there is no Star Trek series I have watched every episode of. I might get through Picard soon.

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But…I have seen every Star Trek film. And I only recently realized that I have only reviewed one Star Trek film.  Star Trek Beyond.  And I need to rectify that.  Beyond was a fun film that I find very re-watchable.

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So, let us fix this glaring gap.  I have recently sat back down and watched every Star Trek movie from the Motion Picture to Beyond.  And for the next three weeks I will give my thoughts on each film. So let us boldly go to where many have gone before…

Open House Pt 5 (House: the Collection)

For a long time, it was hard to come by the films in this set, outside of the first two which were more well known. Until Arrow came along, a complete blu-ray set seemed an unlikely scenario.

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Each disc comes in its own case with reversible art, one side newly created artwork for the Arrow Releases and the other side the original poster or VHS art. I admit, my preference is to the original art.  The paintings are really nice, but the disembodied hand ring the doorbell is iconic.

The Box itself is sturdy, allowing for safe storage.

Each disc is loaded with extras, including bonus interviews, audio commentaries and all new documentaries for three of the films. I wish they had one for the third film. However, the Horror Show includes the American and European cuts in HD.

This is a good set, full of really good extras to let you immerse yourself in the history of each movie.

Open House pt 4 (House IV: The Repossession, 1992)

House_4_posterAfter the massive departure with the Horror Show (including abandoning the “House III”) Sean S. Cunningham worked with a new team to bring out House 4.

This film is an attempt to return to something closer to the first two films.  This film features the “return” of Roger Cobb, again played by William Katt. Cobb and his wife are being pressured by his step-brother to sell their old house.

Roger is killed an accident that also leaves his daughter wheelchair bound.  Roger’s wife Kelly wants to keep the house, but also senses a presence and sees visions.  Roger’s Step Brother is in league with a sleazy business man who is looking for a place to unload his toxic waste and they want the land on which the house sits.

The odd thing with this film is that it really does not connect to the original film at all.  In that film he was divorced and had a son. This film has a wife and daughter and it appears they have been happily married for over a decade.  There is really nothing that indicates there is any connections between the Roger Cobb of the first House and this film.

This one has an uneven feel.  There are a few instances where they aim for humor, but it still stays closer to a serious tone for most of the film.  And it moves at a slow pace. Having William Katt return as Cobb is just kind of confusing.

Overall, this film has a very early Fox TV movie feel (lie, the early days of Fox when they were trying anything to make it work…like the Omen IV). This never matches up to the heights of fun absurdity of the first two films, nor the gory seriousness of the third film, and it is just a bit lackluster.

Open House pt 3 (House III: The Horror Show, 1989)

House_3_PosterAfter the failure of House II and the collapse of New World pictures, the franchise took a bit of time off.  When Sean S. Cunningham found new studio for funding, the new team wanted to give the franchise a fresh start. So in America, they called the film the Horror Show, while in Europe it would be called House III. Cunningham decided this was better than nothing.

But the end result is that there is nothing that really ties the film to the franchise. There is no house the film is centered around.  Instead, the film focuses on traumatized detective Lucas McCarthy.  A family man, he is overwhelmed by nightmares about Max Jenke, a notorious serial killer he put away. Okay, most of the kills happen in the house and Max’s spirit is primarily focused on the McCarthy family, but the house never feels like a center piece or character as the two prior films.

But when Jenke is put to death by electrocution, he is actually set free as a vengeful spirit and sets out to torment McCarthy.

McCarthy must try and stop Jenke, while convincing himself, the police and his family that he is not going crazy and homicidal. This film also lacks the sense of fun of the previous two entries, it’s tone dreadfully dark. I mean, Brion James turns in a wicked performance, but he is a much darker take on the Horace Pinker character, making this film a more dreary ride.  Even with Lance Henrickson at the lead, it never rises above the standard fare of super natural horror. Writer Allyn Warner even took the infamous Allan Smithee credit. This one just lacks the identity of the first two films.

Open House Pt 2 (House II: the Second Story, 1986)

House_2_PosterJesse has inherited his ancestral home and finds himself drawn to the history of the structure.  His girlfriend works for a sleazy music executive and so his friend Charlie arrives with his girlfriend, the singer in a band to try and get her career a boost.

Jesse discovers that his great great grandfather (for whom he is named) may have been buried with a great treasure…he and Charlie decide to go to the graveyard nearby and exhume his grandfather.  When they find the  treasure, it is a crystal skull…but that is not all… great great grand dad is still alive. They bring him back, and it turns out that the elder Jesse is a kindly old cowboy who explains that the house is a unique nexus of time and space.  But they must protect the skull as evil seeks it out for evil’s own gain.

Each room can lead to another time and place, fraught with excitement and danger. And it is this premise that makes House II stand apart from the first film.

Rather than follow Cobb on another tale in the house, they opted to tell a stand alone tale in an all new house. The tagline was “It’s Getting Weirder” and boy how… the premise is really more of a sci-fi fantasy adventure with little horror elements. Heck the film features Jesse and Charlie acquiring a weird but cute Caterpuppy and a prehistoric baby bird.

The cast of characters are a lot of fun, especially Royal Dano as Gramps (who even gets an emotional moment when he realizes he looks more corpse than living man) and a real highlight in John Ratzenberger as Bill Tanner. The second Cheers alum in the franchise was a coincidence…but frankly it would have been a hilarious conceit to continue the trend.

The film did not do very well upon release, but found new life on TV as it was PG-13 and could actually be played virtually uncut.  And the fact is, this movie is just a lot of fun. It may not be much of a horror movie, but it is funny and exciting.

Open House pt 1 (House, 1985)

House_1986_PosterSo, in the early 80’s Sean S. Cunningham was working on expanding on his success with the Friday the 13th franchise. Teaming up with Fred Dekker (screenwriter and director of Night of the Creeps and the Monster Squad) and Ethan Wiley to make a haunted house film directed by Steve Miner (Director of Friday the 13th pt 2 and Halloween H20).

House tells the story of a popular horror writer who struggles with his post traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. In addition, since the death of his son, his marriage has fallen apart. He decides to tackle his demons by writing a book about his time as a soldier. He inherits a house from his aunt who hung herself.

As he sets forth making the house his new home, he starts to deal with bizarre phenomenon…like monsters coming out of closets and a monster version of his ex-wife and visions of his dead son.

House is one of the more unique horror films of the mid-80’s. It is very intentionally meant to be fun.  The monsters are fun old school practical, but the film never is all that scary. William Katt plays Roger Cobb serious, but with just a hint of a man wondering if he is caving in to absurdity. George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) is his neighbor Harold.  Wendt is pretty open that back in 1985, his Cheers success kind of fed his ego to feel he was better than appearing in a horror film (Wendt looks back on this as foolishness on his part and feels the movie held up). This may have benefited his performance though, because he is really entertaining.

house_newspaper_adAs noted, in spite of there being plenty of monsters, this film is tonally light.  But it benefits the film. House is a lot of fun to watch, and overcomes any limitations of it’s budget to be a memorable time.

Wild Girls (Booksmart, 2019)

Booksmart_PosterRaunchy teen comedies with heart are the genre people love, but often, the genre falls kind of flat, especially when they start leaning into being shocking over a soul.

Molly and Amy are studious best friends who stayed focused on their studies so they could go off to a prestigious college and get high paying jobs.  But when Molly discovers that all the slacker kids who made fun of them got into the same school or other Ivy League schools, she snaps.  She convinces Amy they must attend the big pre-graduation party. There is one hiccup though, they do not know the address of the party.

The film follows the girls as they keep ending up at the wrong parties and dealing with crazy situations.

The film does something clever early on.  At the start, we are really led to see the girls as outcasts whose lives were ruined by the mean kids.  But as the story unravels, Molly and Amy start to question their friendship, with Molly being forced to question a lot about herself.  And the mean kids? Don’t turn out to be that mean.  Like, Amy and Molly could have been friends with these kids if they had not actually kind of looked down on them as dumb kids going nowhere.

When they get to the party, I kept waiting on a cliche that never came. I kept waiting for the scene where the mean kids humiliate them…and instead, the story flips it on it’s head. The heart of their friendship and self discovery takes over, rather than worrying about being outrageous.

Beanie Feldstein manages to really come close to the line of being obnoxious without actually crossing it, so Molly is flawed but still sympathetic. Kaitlyn Dever has the role that gives her an extra edge for being likable, as she is the straight man much of this film. But together, they really connect.

I really enjoyed Booksmart and am looking forward to Olivia Wilde’s upcoming career as a director.

The Family That Wrestles Together (Fighting With My Family, 2019)

Fighting_With_My_Family_PosterFighting With My Family is the story of wrestler Paige.  Coming from a lower class family obsessed with wrestling, Zayara and Zak dream of the big time wrestling.  When they try out for WWE, only Zayara is selected, crushing her brother.  But when she tells him she won’t go, he lets her know he cannot take this away from her.

And so, Fighting With My Family takes us on Zayara’s journey to becoming the WWE Diva Paige.

As someone who has little knowledge of Wrestling beyond knowing who the Rock is, I cannot verify the accuracy of the film.  What I can confirm is that this is a fun film with a lot of heart.  Florence Pugh is incredibly sympathetic and lovable. The film does not make her pure of heart, she learns some hard lessons, like not seeing the other women as enemies.  As she grows, she pulls others with her.

The relationship that becomes most strained is Paige and her brother Zak.  He struggles with the idea that he cannot be where she is at.  And it drives him away from everything good in his life for a time. The Rock is charming as usual.

This is a good little inspirational sports film worth a watch.