Boldly Going Pt III (Star Trek III: the Search for Spock, 1984)

ST_the_Search_For_Spock_PosterSo, as Leonard Nimoy grew older, he had a desire to direct.  He set forth to get the option to direct the third film, and bring Spock back to the family.

Now, the Wrath of Khan ended with Spock sacrificing himself to save the crew of the Enterprise. They shot his casket to a nearby lifeless planet with the Genesis project.

Back on Earth, they discover that McCoy is… not himself.  It is discovered that Spock actually transferred his soul into the body of Bones.  The crew of the Enterprise steal their ship to head to the Genesis Planet and see what became of Spock’s body.

Meanwhile, Klingon Commander Kruge is convinced that Project Genesis was a federation weapon with the aims of destroying the Klingon Empire and he is determined to get ahold of the weapon.

Mr. Saavik and David are exploring the planet surface, noticing many anomalies. But then they discover a Vulcan child. They realize this is the body of Spock…and he is aging rapidly.  The source of this is that he is connected to the planet itself, and the planet is coming apart at the seams.

It is interesting that while Klingon’s were always a threat, other than their brief appearance in the motion picture, this film is the one that sets them up as a bigger focus of hate for Kirk. Christopher Lloyd is great as our main villain, Commander Kruge.  I am always amused that when they got movie budgets, the franchise remade the Klingon race.  This has lead to all sorts of retcons (the most fun being the Deep Space 9 Tribble episode where Worf basically tells Sisko that the Klingon’s do not talk about it).

This one aims to be a bit smaller in scale, but it is exciting and a solid feature film debut for Nimoy as a director. DeForest Kelley is really entertaining as Bones, who is struggling with the second person occupying his body.

I feel bad for Nichelle Nichols, because at first she has a decent sized presence, but then she disappears after they take the Enterprise and shows up “at the rendezvous point” on Vulcan at the end.

I always remembered the Search for Spock as being a bit weaker than it actually is. And it certainly got treated as such with the old adage that the even numbered films are “the good ones”.  But this is entertaining, and has some neat moments. And also begins the Star Trek trope of “We gotta blow up or crash the Enterprise!” But I like this entry.

Out Of Time Part III (Back To the Future Part III, 1990)

Back_To_The_Future_3_Poster“The Future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one!” These are the words of wisdom Doc Brown chooses to give Marty after three films bouncing around time. Spoilers occur throughout…

Made back to back with Part Two, the third film takes Doc and Marty to a time most appealing to Doc Brown.  Why the old West is so appealing to Brown, a scientist, always seems weird to me. But anyways, Marty goes to 1955 Doc Brown for help.  Future Doc Brown hid the Delorean away, so Marty and 1955 Doc dig it out so they can fix it and Marty can return to 1985.  However, in spite of Doc’s comfort with remaining in the old west, Marty realizes there is a danger when they discover a tombstone for Brown from the 1800s.  And so he goes back to get Doc.

In the old West, Marty finds himself meeting the relatives of both his family and Biff Tannen.  Biff apparently comes from a long line of bullies. The film brings back the gag of Marty giving a false name, this time around he calls himself Clint Eastwood (which is met by laughter from locals for being a non-masculine name). Marty and Doc must figure out how to get back to 1985 before Doc is killed.

Things are complicated by the arrival of Clara, a schoolteacher.  Doc saves her from falling off a horse.  As Doc falls for her, they realize that she should have died, and Marty and Doc have altered history.

Back to the Future Part III avoids the complications of the previous film, keeping everything in a single time for most of the film.  It repeats the motifs of the original film, and it takes three films for Marty to learn not to be set of by being called chicken. But while it is less creative than Part II, it is more tonally consistant and therefore more satisfying for the audience, I suspect.

I do find the “moral” imparted by Doc odd.  We have spent three movies with Doc declaring how dangerous time travel is and how they need to stop jumping through time…only for Doc to decide to run around the time continuum with his family.

But still, this is a pretty enjoyable close to the series, and really, feels like a decent high note to end on.

Out of Time Part II (Back to the Future Part II, 1989)

back_to_the_future_2_poster-e1514977762521.pngSpoilers occur throughout…Back to the Future had one of those endings that worked both as a setup for future films, as well as just a cute way to end a time travel movie.  Marty’s life looks awesome and then Doc Brown shows up saying they need to fix the future. I suspect that the reality is, it was just meant to be a cute little throw away ending.  But then, Back to the Future was a big hit…and both the film makers and audiences wanted to see more. And so they set forward with plans for two sequels.

Back to the future begins right where the first film left off, Doc Brown urgently telling Marty they have to go into the future to do something about Marty’s kid. They bring along Jennifer for the trip to the future, but she becomes so excited by the notion of being able to see her future, the Doc opts to knock her out, telling Marty she will just think it is a dream.  Doc tells Marty to go to a local hang out, meet Griff (grandson of Biff) and simply tell him “no”.  It turns out that if Marty Jr. goes along with Griff’s peer pressure, he will end up in jail.

But after fixing that potential future, other things go awry.  The police find Jennifer and bring her to her future home. Meanwhile, Marty gets the idea to buy a sports almanac so he can go back to the present and make bets based on future knowledge.  Doc puts the idea to bed, but someone overheard the idea…and while Doc and Marty go to get Jennifer? Old Man Biff seeks to reverse his fortune.

They return to the present and leave the unconscious Jennifer on her porch. Marty slips in through his bedroom window, only to discover a whole new family is living in the house.  After being chased off by an angry father, Marty comes across a newspaper.  Certain they came back to the wrong time, Marty discovers that, indeed, they returned to 1985…but everything is off.

Marty is knocked out, and when he awakens (in a scene mimicking the sequence from the first film where he awakens to find his teen mother watching over him) he is startled by a mother who looks very different from before.  He is horrified to discover that Biff is his step-father…and Biff is the richest man in America. Biff tries to kill Marty based on a warning from the man who gave him the sports almanac.  Doc Brown intervenes and explains to Marty that an alternate timeline has been created.

To fix the timeline, they must go back to 1955 and steal the almanac from young Biff.  Then, hijinks ensue.  Marty has to get the almanac from Biff, while avoiding Biff’s thugs, yet also save his other self from those thugs.  It is a crazy last act, filled with alternative views of sequences from the original film.

The most memorable part of the film for audiences was the future of 2015, where Marty rides a hover board, is wearing self drying clothes and everything is super technologically advanced. And apparently Gale and Zemeckis believed the height of future technology would be TV screen communications, swiping credits cards and…fax machines all over the house, built into walls.

It is a fun sequence though, for my money alternate 1985 is an interesting idea.  Biff’s rich and famous routine is absurdly entertaining in it’s obvious allusions to the Donald Trump of the 80’s.  And the notion of 80’s nostalgia is certainly not inaccurate.

The film ends on a cliff hanger, with it seeming that they solved the problem of the Dark 1985 timeline, but the Delorean is hit by lightning, causing it to appear as if Doc Brown was incinerated…but it is all a set up for the third chapter.  A Western Union guy arrives with a letter addressed to Marty from 70 years earlier.

They introduce a a variation on the photo gimmick from the first film, instead using newspaper clippings. As they make changes, the paper headlines and photos change.

This is a flawed film, mainly because halfway through it just starts to seem endlessly complicated. But, in some ways, I really like it for daring to mess around with it’s formula.

Out of Time (Back To The Future, 1985)

Back_To_The_Future_PosterSpoilers occur throughout…Marty McFly has big dreams but lacks any of the confidence to reach for them.  His high school principal is convinced every generation of the McFly family are losers. And it is not hard to see why Marty may struggle with that.  His parents are meek.  His father is pushed around by his boss Biff. Biff has George McFly writing up his reports as well as supplying him with his car. His mother is uncomfortable with the notion of a girl calling a boy. His sister and brother are unemployed layabouts.  And his uncle pretty much lives in prison, failing to get parole at the beginning of the film.

Marty’s only bright spot is his girlfriend Jennifer.  She is confident Marty should be successful, especially as a musician.  One evening, Marty is asked by his friend, eclectic inventor Doc Brown, to help him with a top secret project.  The project turns out to be a Delorean car that Doc converted to… A TIME MACHINE. After an attack from rogue Libyans (it makes sense, trust me) forces Marty to jump into the Delorean and race off, triggering the time travel.  Marty finds himself in 1955. Marty runs into his father, who turns out to be just as as weak willed as his grown up self.

But it is when he saves his father from being hit by a car that everything goes wrong. He discovers the act prevents his father and mother from starting their relationship, instead, young Loraine falls for Marty. Marty Tracks down Doc Brown for help and they set out to fix Marty’s parental relationship (discovering that he and his siblings will be erased from the timeline if his parents fail to fall in love).

As bizarre and outlandish as the plot may seem (and even creepy, what with the subplot that Marty’s mom has a crush on him), everything fits together nicely. The film establishes all the town’s important monuments in about two minutes.  Each character is quickly defined in brief dialog.  And the film presents the science of time travel in ways that seem complex, but easy to suspend disbelief for.  Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale also have a simple gimmick for communicating to the audience the severity of the situation.  Marty has a photograph of he and his siblings, each of whom fade from the photograph through the course of the movie.

Back to the Future was Michael J. Foxes first big starring feature film role.  A role that almost never happened, the film began shooting with Eric Stoltz, but after awhile, it was felt he was just not right in the role.  Up until this point Fox had been a rising television star.  But Back to the Future pushed him into the next level.

Crispin Glover brings a likable and sweet nerdiness to the role of George McFly. This is important, both for George and Marty.  While Marty is a “cooler” kid, a lot of his insecurities are mirrored in his father.  When George makes his third act turnaround, Glover does so with a great performance.  Lea Thompson is sweet, with a hint of rebellion, as Marty’s mom.  A lot of the fun for her character is the juxtaposition of the woman she is in the future and the teen she was.

As Doc Brown, Christopher Lloyd brings his signature manic style, making for an entertaining performance Thomas F. Wilson will probably be forever tied to Biff Tannen, but he is extremely memorable in the role.

While the old age makeup for all the actors certainly looks like “Old People” makeup, it is not so distracting as to damage the enjoyment of the film. A lot of the effects still hold up for the film.

The tone of the film is light, with plenty of humor. And the jokes, for the most part, have withstood the test of time. There is one gag that has not held up so well, because, looking back, it is an image issue.  The gag on it’s face is not remotely malicious, and the filmmakers probably never once had it occur to them that they were basically attributing a form of music created by black musicians to a white kid from the future.

Decades later, Back to the Future is every bit as entertaining as it was in 1985.

 

Fishies Pt 5 (Piranha 3DD, 2012)

piranha_3dd_posterThe surprise success of Piranha 3D (which has a 73% Fresh Rating) resulted in another 3-D sequel.  Apparently the takeaway for this film’s “creative team” from the previous film’s success was boobs.  The title, Piranha 3DD?  The posters?  The plot?

The story centers around a water park run by David Koechner’s Chet and the return of his step daughter Maddy (Danielle Panabaker, the Flash).  Maddy’s mother has died and Chet is a classy guy introducing an adult section to the Water Park.  Maddy is appalled, but also happy to be back to see her friends.

The prehistoric fish are back, having escaped into a water supply, ultimately reaching the lake by the water park.  There are corrupt cops (Maddy’s boyfriend, because…oh who cares) working with Chet to turn a blind eye to his cost cutting ways.  The fish get into the park’s water system, eat people and cause carnage.

This film is gleefully trashy, yet manages to miss the mark entirely.  The jokes are a bit more mean spirited and the characters are, at best, not terribly interesting to  to watch.  At worst, they are pretty unlikable.  Keochner’s Chet is unlikable, but that is typical for characters he plays.  So, as opposed to other unlikable characters, he is hilarious in his unlikable nature.

The film just falls apart and the plot becomes lost very quickly.  The cameos are, mostly, not clever.  Other than David Hasselhoff, the cameos have no real connection to water based horror.  I mean, Hasselhoff is part of water themed horror.  But Gary Busey?

Along with Koechner, there are some other bright spots.  Paul Scheer and Ving Rhames return, in spite of it appearing both died in the last film.  To be fair, Scheer literally disappears from the movie.  He and Rhames have come to the park to challenge their fear of water (apparently the piranha attack in Lake Victoria was traumatic…babies).  When the Piranhas show up, Rhames reveals his fake legs are also shotguns.  Oddly, Rhames does not appear in the credits.  David Hasselhoff is amusing portraying himself as a rather detached and delusional star.  And  Christopher Lloyd makes a reappearance as entertaining as the previous film.  But it is a pretty short scene.

But this film stumbles in trying to outdo the gore and nudity of the previous film.  It makes Aja’s film to look like art.  Heck, the closing credits take forever, because they are filled with “gags” and “bloopers”.  This film fails while trying to imitate it’s predecessor. Remember that Piranha 3D Rotten Tomatoes rating of 73%? 3DD is at 4%…and deservedly so.

Fishies Pt 4 (Piranha 3D, 2010)

piranha_2010_posterIt is spring break in Lake Victoria and the kids are hear to party…get drunk, flash people, have sex…you know regular spring breakin’.  The local sheriff (Elizabeth Shue)is trying to keep things in control, and needs her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to watch his younger brother and sister.  Except he has been hired by Derrick (Jerry O’Connell) to take him and his crew around to the best Spring Break Locations.  Derrick runs a website called Wild Wild Girls* and wants to take advantage of the crowds at Lake Victoria.  Jake schemes, leaving his sibling home alone so he can hang out with Derrick and his group (including two Wild Wild Girls).  Unexpectedly, the girl he has a crush on, Kelly, gets brought on to the boat.

A research team headed by Novak (Parks and Rec’s Adam Scott) arrives to investigate a recent earthquake.  With the help of the Sheriff, they discover the earthquake opened an underground lake and has freed carnivorous fish.  And then the race is on to find the fish and stop them.

Of course, you know they will not succeed and spring break is an all you can eat buffet.  The fish work their way through the winding lake until they get to gorge themselves on swimmers.   In spite of not being shown for critics, the critics were pretty generous with this film.

The reason is, the film does not take itself seriously.  It is gleefully trashy and has fun with that.  There is no message about ecology or anything.  It is just about big and hungry fish.  And people in swimsuits.  The big sequence is a ridiculously over the top gore sequences as the Sheriff and Novak work alongside the deputies trying to save the Spring Breakers.  The effects are largely very good (though some digital moments are pretty obvious) and the film is carnage candy.

The movie has a very firm tongue in cheek attitude.  This is shown in it’s cameos, which are pitch perfect.  Eli Roth is an obnoxious Wet T-Shirt Contest Host.  Christopher Lloyd is a Doc Brown styled ichthyologist and the film opens Richard Dreyfuss slyly portraying his Matt Hooper character from Jaws.

The performances are really fun.  Ving Rhames is enjoyable Shue’s right hand man Deputy Fallon.  Paul Sheer is a goofy crony of of Derrick’s.  And Derrick?  O’Connell has one of the best lines of the entire film.  He plays Joe Franc-uh Derrick with no fear of the edge of the ledge.  I am a big fan of Adam Scott, and he is a lot of fun…it is kind of like he is playing a Action Ben Wyatt.  Kelly Brook’s performance is no major star turn, but her character Danni is likeable and seems keen on getting Jake and Kelly together as a couple.   Jessica Szohr is a lot of fun as Kelly, who is the kind of person to step up to the plate when challenged and when it is suggested she is maybe a bit uptight, shows Jake she is more than willing to cut loose.  Probably the supporting cast member to get the short end of the stick is Crystal, played by Riley Steel.  She has very little personality and pretty much is there to look good in a bikini.

This film should fall squarely into terrible, yet it has a lot of personality and makes for a real fun “Guilty Pleasure” movie.

 

 

 

*Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis wrote an angry letter to the producers and Jerry O’Connell repeatedly said he was playing Francis…upon threat of a lawsuit, O’Connell changed it to “For Legal reasons I play someone loosely based on Joe Francis”.

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