Boldly Going Pt 10 (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)

ST_Nemesis_PosterSo, after the disappointing returns the studio brought in the director of Executive Decision, Stuart Baird, and John Logan, the screen writer of the Time Machine.

The Romulans are in turmoil and during a high level meeting of their government, there is an assassination of the council.  Shinzon is installed as their leader.

Picard and the Enterprise are lured to a remote planet by a unique signal that is emitted by androids like Data.  They discover the pieces of an Android named B-4. Once assembled they try and determine how he got to the planet and his purpose.  It turns out that he has a connection to Shinzon.

When he meets with Picard, it is revealed that he is actually a clone of Picard from an abandoned secret  Romulan project. Shinzon is deteriorating and needs the genetics of Picard to stop it.

To be honest?  This is the film that nearly killed the franchise.  It is a dreary and dark mess.  The characters do not feel like themselves and the attempts at epic game changers just do not feel like they were at all committed. Data’s self sacrifice would probably feel more heavy hearted if there was not already an onscreen replacement. When Troi is literally mind raped, she requests to step down and Picard refuses to allow it, asking her to endure more.

Even scenes that feel like they should be exciting adventures are just lifeless.

Nemesis is a disappointing slog.  True story, I tried to watch this film five different times in the years since it came out and fell asleep until the fifth time.  I recently watched it again. I did manage to stay awake, but boy was it not a good time.

Boldly Going Pt 9 (Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998)

ST_Insurrection_PosterAfter a rousing success with First Contact, Jonathan Frakes returned to the directors chair with Insurrection.

When Data goes haywire as part of an undercover science team observing a small community on a remote planet, the Enterprise is called to investigate.

When they arrive, the peaceful Ba’ku are discovered to be aging very slowly. As they dig deeper, they realize there is a dark conspiracy at play to remove the Ba’Ku so the planet’s unique radiation can be harvested.

Picard and his crew, of course, side with the Ba’ku and work to stop the attempt to forcefully re-home them.

This film seems to be a less popular entry…but honestly? I do not think this is the film is “bad”.

Largely, Star Trek films lean towards a larger and more “epic” adventure. Stories bigger than the TV series would have allowed.  But Insurrection is a pretty small scale story.  And it feels like it easily could have been at home as another episode of the Next Generation.  But this is not a bad thing.

Insurrection is an action film with small level ethical questions.  And it is a lot of fun.  They lean into jokes where the crew all start to feel re-invigorated by the planet…and even find sone ways to make it a bit meaningful (as Geordie’s eyes heal and he is able to watch a sunrise in a way he never has been able to in his life).

There is some nice twists with the villains and F. Murray Abraham rages like a master.

Is this up there with the best of film Trek? No, but it is a solid Star Trek tale that is a lot of fun.

Boldly Going Pt 8 (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

ST_First_Contact_PosterFor the Sophomore voyage of the Next Generation crew, they pulled a Wrath of Khan and a Voyage Home.  They reached back to a central villain from the the series, the Borg, and added time travel.

Picard is still haunted by a voice from his time in the Borg Collective. When he senses the Borg are mounting an attack on the Earth, he is surprised to learn that the Federation feels there is too much risk for him to be there and command that the Enterprise patrol the neutral zone.

Picard and the crew decide they cannot sit things out. They arrive to find that the Borg are on the verge of victory, but Picard gives the fleet the orders to hit the right coordinates to destroy the Borg ship.  A small escape ship trails out and the Enterprise follows it, only for it to open a rift in tine and space, they realize as they follow, time is changing around them, the Borg have gone to the past to assimilate a defenseless pre-Federation Earth.

The Borg manage to damage a small community that happens to be the base of operations of the first man to achieve Warp Speed just days before his flight. After the Borg ship is destroyed, the Enterprise crew sets about making sure the flight happens.

But while Riker and his team work to correct history, the Borg managed to get to the Enterprise before their ship was destroyed and Picard must lead the charge against the attempts by the Borg to take over the Enterprise and its crew.

First Contact is highly regarded, and not unjustly.  It is easily one of the best of the entire film series.  The Borg provide a new perspective on Picard and pairing him with Alfre Woodard’s 21st Century Lily (who ends up trapped on the Enterprise) is a perfect choice as she is able to see past his authority and is not afraid to call Picard out in a moment of machismo.

The film mines a lot of humor from Zefram Cochran’s unwillingness to embrace the hero Geordi and Riker expect him to be.

There is a lot going on with themes of heroism, revenge, blinded by one’s perceived righteous anger and fear of the demands others place on you.

The performances, from the regular cast to Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, James Cromwell as Zefram Cochran and the previously mentioned Alfre Woodard are some of the best of the franchise.

The film holds up as a true high water mark for what the Star trek Franchise can be and is easily rewarding for multiple visits.

 

Boldly Going Pt 7 (Star Trek: Generations, 1994)

ST_Generations_PosterComing only a few months after the Next Generation series came to a close, Generations was to be the film to bridge the original series and the Next Generation.

And there was a hope that it might bring together both crews in an exciting meeting of titans so to speak.

Opening in 2093, the new ship the Excelsior is making it’s maiden flight.  Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are part of the celebration when the ship encounters a distress signal. They beam the inhabitants to their ship, but in an accident, it appears Kirk was killed.

The film jumps to the present (I mean, for the Next Generation Crew) where they are having a celebration. They answer a distress call from a science vessel. There they discover a scientist who claims they were attacked by Romulans.

The scientist wants to get back to his experiment, to the point of attacking the crew.  Picard learns that he is part of the same long lived race as Guinan and he is trying to get to another dimension known as the Nexus. But doing so could be highly destructive. Add to the mix Klingon mercenary sisters who are working with the scientist and things look bad for the Enterprise Crew.

Picard ultimately finds himself alone with the mad scientist on a planet where he must try and stop him…but he finds an ally in a man thought long dead.

To be honest, for a long time I just did not like this film.  I came to realize that this was mainly due to the fact that it was not what I wanted it to be.  Only Picard and Kirk meet. And upon revisiting the film recently, I think I hold this one up a bit higher than in the past.  There are some things I really enjoy.

Everyone is great, but I confess I find Stewart and Spiner to be the MVPs here. Stewart gives real heart to Picard who is suddenly facing a sense that maybe he made the wrong choice in never having a family.

Meanwhile, Data opts to install and activate his emotion chip.  At first, this is mined for humor, with Data recalling jokes from early in the television series and discovering-with joy- that he hates a particular drink. However, he starts to become overwhelmed by his emotions, ultimately becoming paralyzed with fear, leaving Geordi to be taken captive.

They try and up the stakes with the destruction of the Enterprise, which is a pretty exciting crash sequence.

Is Generations the movie a younger me wanted?  No. Is it a better film for not being what the younger me wanted?  Yes.

Boldly Going Pt 6 (Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country, 1991)

ST_The_Undiscovered_Country_PosterStar Trek: the Next Generation was a good half way through its run when the work began on the final voyage of the original crew. Plans were already underway to transition the theatrical films to bring on the Next Generation crew. To try and set up a solid sendoff for Kirk and his crew, they brought back the director of the Wrath of Khan, Nicholas Meyer. The film revolves around plans for the Federation and the Klingon Empire to make peace and join together.

Kirk is not thrilled to be assigned to this, and aside from Spock, the crew begrudgingly following their orders. After a tense dinner with the Klingon Chancellor and his team the Chancellor is murdered and Kirk and McCoy framed and sent to a Klingon Prison Moon.

This forces the rest of the crew to solve the conspiracy and save Kirk and McCoy.

Does the Undiscovered Country work and achieve its goals? I would say that it does succeed. The Conspiracy is not overly complicated and the goals make sense. This allows the tight time frame the characters are working in to not work things out blindly.

It also closes things out feeling like while the crew’s futures are open, we the audience have a real sense of closure. There are some nice little touches like Michael Dorn appearing as Worf’s Grandfather as the Defense for Kirk and McCoy in their trial.

It also has some really good performances (Plummer really chews the scenery with grand pomposity) and great action sequences. It is interesting to see the role “government politics” tend to play in this film, as it often is not something the films really have had a lot of interest in. It was more of an aspect that grew within the later television shows.

While no Wrath of Khan or First Contact, this is a really enjoyable entry within the Star Trek Canon.

Love of Santa Clause Pt 3 (The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, 2006)

santa-clause_3_posterDisney decided to make the series a Trilogy.  Well, at least until they come up with a Santa Clause 4 or maybe a series reboot with Chris Hemsworth as Scott Calvin.  In this film, we are introduced to Jack Frost, who feels like the most under appreciated of the Legendary Figures.  He schemes to find a way to be famous and sets his site on the throne of Santa Clause.

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Clause are bringing Mrs. Claus’ parents to the North Pole.  Of course, they have no idea Scott is Santa Claus, only knowing he is a toy maker and they never see their daughter.  The In-Laws both take digs at Scott, though in different ways.  While his father-in-law Bud is direct, his mother-in-law Sylvia is passive aggressive.  Yet again, the film relies on a deception themed plot.  Scott and the elves try and convince the In-Laws that they are in Canada.  All the while, Jack Frost is busy trying to undermine everything so he can convince Scott to take the Escape Clause.

Frost is successful, taking over a Santa.  This results in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” sequence.  It is, frankly not very successful, because Scott finding how life is super different without him as Santa is highly compressed into about five minutes.  It just does not give us enough time for emotional resonance.  The resolution comes quickly, almost to easily.

While there is a good cast here (Short, Anne-Margaret and Alan Arkin are all entertaining), the film feels like there is still a missing element.  One of those elements is Bernard.  Krumholtz and Allen had a fun chemistry, and while Spencer Breslin’s Curtis is a likable character, his ascension to the main elf is not quite the same.

While not a absolute failure, this is not a strong ending for the series.  It feels rushed and has a somewhat unsatisfying resolution.

Love of Santa Clause Pt 2 (The Santa Clause 2, 2002)

santa_clause_2_posterThe Santa Clause 2 takes place about eight to ten years into Scott’s run as Santa Claus.  He is informed that somehow a Clause has been missed.  The Mrs. Clause.  Scott needs to find a wife before Christmas.  And to top it off, his teen son Charlie is on the naughty list.

Scott, Bernard and Curtis (the elf who discovered the missed rule) work to deceive the rest of the elves by creating a fake Santa (who is made of plastic) to run the show while Scott goes to find a wife and check on Charlie.  Charlie has made the bad list because he is rebelling against his Principal who does not like Christmas.  Astute watchers of comedy movies will realize that high jinks with follow.  Charlie becomes upset when Scott falls for his Principal.  Scott is really just upset that he has had to keep the secret of Santa for years.  But he does have a little sister now, who is the film’s doorway to “The Belief of Children”.

The film has a few repeat messages.  In the first film, a big deal is made of when the adults stopped believing in Santa, and this film carries that through again.  At a Christmas party for the teachers, Scott impresses Carol by providing all the teachers with gifts-vintage toys they all wanted or loved as kids.

For the Elves, the plans backfire as Fake Santa becomes obsessed with the rules and takes over under the notion that all kids are naughty and should not be cut any slack.  He creates an army of giant tin soldiers and locks up Bernard and the other elves, while Curtis flies to get Scott’s help.

The film has some rather large plot holes.  Specifically, the whole premise of the Mrs. Clause.  Afterall, Scott is not the first Santa.  Have none of the other previous Santas taken wives?  Have they simply stopped being Santa before the issue came up?  If they did have Mrs. Clauses, what happened to those wives when the new Santa came along?

This is not to say that the film is not fun.  They expand on the Santa world mythology, introducing the other Legendary figures… Mother Nature, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, Father Time, Cupid and a scene stealing Tooth Fairy.  They cast character actor Art LaFleur, who is a pretty imposing size, but with small and dainty wings.

The film also is not burdened with explaining all the laws of Santa (only really adding the Mrs. Clause).  And there is a certain fun in Wendy and Neil being in on the secret that Scott is Santa.  For one, it makes them far more likable.

Overall, this is a fun film, though not quite as strong as it’s predecessor.  I however, give them credit for coming up with a story idea that is not a total rehash of the original.  Of course, it also relies on the issue of keeping the Santa identity a secret all over again.  But as a fun holiday diversion, the Santa Clause 2 if certainly still a fun way to pass the time.

 

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