REVIEW: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right, yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.” ―Thanos

Third Avengers film finds the “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) deciding to restore balance to the universe by killing half of it’s population. To do this he must track down six powerful infinity stones to be placed in a gauntlet, that once completed, will give him the means to do so. To stop him, The Avengers must put aside their differences and The Guardians of the Galaxy must learn to play nice with The Avengers. Not as simple as it sounds as Thanos and his four children…The Black Order…will destroy anything in their path to get the stones…two of which are already on Earth.

Spectacularly entertaining film is directed with a wonderful mix of intensity, action and humor by Joe and Anthony Russo, who gave us the best Marvel film…until now…Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who get a whole lot of story going without the film ever feeling like it’s too busy or a mess. Our heroes are split up on various quests. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to forge a new weapon, Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to keep Thanos from getting the Time Stone and Cap (Chris Evans), Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) are trying to keep the Mind Stone in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head out of Thanos’ mitt as well. The action scenes are far more spectacular than we have yet seen in the MCU and in this film series we’ve seen a lot. What can you say about a film that gives you Thanos vs Hulk in the first five minutes and that’s just for starters. What makes this film work so well, though, is not only some wonderful camaraderie between the many characters, but some very emotionally powerful moments, too. The Russos give this film an emotional depth that this series has rarely experienced and Joss Whedon’s first two Avengers movies rarely touched on. There are some side-split-tingly funny dialogue exchanges, too, between characters…such as Banner’s “There’s a Spider-Man AND an Ant-Man?”…and some heart skipping moments, that won’t be spoiled here. The writers pick some great character team ups, like Strange and Stark and Thor and Rocket with some great cameos that also won’t be spoiled here. None of this would work, however, with a weak villain and thankfully Thanos is one of the best MCU villains so far. He is given depth, a purpose…although, a diabolical one…and a powerful presence. It all combines for a villain who lives up to his threat factor big time and puts our heroes in more danger than they have ever been in…a danger they all face valiantly.

The cast is too large to discuss each individually. Our mainstays from the series all perform well with some stand-outs. Hemsworth is a highlight with Ragnarok’s changes to the God of Thunder carrying over here. While initially critical of Cumberbatch as Strange, he has grown into the role very well and the Russos use him wisely. Holland is turning into a great Spider-Man and the script, under the Russo Brother’s guidance, fix the awkward relationship between Peter and Tony that didn’t gel so well in Spiderman: Homecoming. Almost everyone is given their moments, there is some great dialogue for them and the whole cast are given some really intense scenes, unlike they have been afforded before, to shine in. The real force here is Josh Brolin as the Mad Titan. He does voice and motion capture for Thanos and really gives him a powerful presence and an intensity, few MCU villains have mustered in the film series’ decade history. You believe he is a threat and yet, they give him some emotional moments of his own, which give him a depth which only adds to his effectiveness. He makes this epic work. If there is any issue with characters, it’s that Thanos’ CGI children…Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian mostly come across as generic monsters, save for the creepy Ebony Maw…but Thanos gets most of the screen time.

There is very little to gripe about here. At 160 minutes, one or two scenes run on a bit long and a few characters, like Black Widow and Falcon get shortchanged in the whole of things. However we do get a comic book movie of epic proportions that brings spectacular action, nerve-wracking intensity, dramatic weight and some outright hilarious dialogue moments, all mixed to perfection by the Russo Brothers. Sure there is more to the story and the end leaves us wanting that more, but next summer the fourth installment arrives and it is going to have to be something else to surpass this, one of the MCU’s absolute best installments so far. Spectacular entertainment!

…and don’t forget to stay during the entire credits for a post credits scene that will knock your socks off.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 4 infinity gauntlets.

 

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NEW AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR TRAILER IS HERE!

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Marvel has dropped the new/final (?) trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy together for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 4/27/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR GETS A TRAILER!

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Marvel has finally dropped the first trailer for Avenger: Infinity War which brings our heroes together with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a battle against the “Mad Titan” Thanos! Avengers: Infinity War arrives on 5/4/18 and is directed by the Russo Brothers.

Sources: Youtube/Marvel

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REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

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DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Doctor Strange is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the latest character of theirs to be adapted for film. The story tells of brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose career comes to a shocking halt when a car accident destroys the nerves in his hands. He tries every medical solution possible, until he learns of a man (Benjamin Bratt) who overcame his paralysis using the mystic arts in a place called Kamar-Taj. Traveling there, Strange is reluctantly taken in by a sorcerer named Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who studies under The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). In a short time, Strange shows great mastering of the mystic arts and not a moment too soon as a former follower of The Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) has stolen a spell which can open up a portal to let a great evil into the world.

Doctor Strange isn’t a bad movie, but it is a rather mediocre entry in the Marvel film series as directed by Sinister’s Scott Derrickson. Derrickson directs from a script and story by he, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill and is never able to give it that sense of fun or excitement that has made this Marvel series such a consistent success. The film is rather moderately paced and seems far longer than the 115 minute runtime. It’s not a boring film, but it just it never really gets exciting and the action seems very by-the-numbers and repetitive. The FX sequences have a very heavy Inception-esque feel and overuses certain imagery to the point of redundancy. Only so many times you can watch buildings morph and multiply before it stops impressing. Derrickson also doesn’t seem to have the deftness to mix in the trademark humor that these films have and a lot of the attempts at such humor come across as awkward or simply fall flat. There are some interesting visuals and while repetitive, the FX are orchestrated quite excellently, but the film never really feels like part of the universe it’s supposed to and we never really endear to Strange much like we did Tony Stark, Thor or Steve Rodgers. He’s just not that interesting. Ironically, while Dr. Strange may be one of the weaker heroes in the canon, Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is one of the stronger villains and we actually wish he had more screen time as this is a Stephen Strange origin story and much of the film focuses on him, leaving Kaecilius to sporadic appearances.

As we are on the subject of the cast, sadly this is one of few times it could be said that the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t quite seem right for a role. His Stephen Strange is kind of a dull hero and his transformation from arrogant surgeon to gallant sorcerer, is not nearly as impressive as, say, Thor’s transformation from arrogant prince to champion of the universe in that film. His attempts at humor mostly fall flat both in the writing and in Cumberbatch’s delivery. He just didn’t seem as comfortable with the one liners as he was with all the mystical mumbo-jumbo. Chiwetel Ejiofor was noble and a bit more endearing as Mordo. He was charming and likable and charm was something Strange was lacking. Swinton certainly fits the role of The Ancient One, who, if knowledge serves, was male in the comics. She is mystical and exudes power and wisdom and works well as the Master Po (Google it, kids) of the Marvel Universe. Mads Mikkelsen is a bit stronger villain than we’ve seen in this film series and had a sense of menace and power that the actor conveyed well. Too bad his screen time is limited as we could have used a bit more time to really get to know Kaecilius. Rounding out is Rachel McAdams, who is spunky and fiery as Strange’s ex-grilfriend and a doctor in her own right. Again, limited screen time hinders a likable character who isn’t given all that much to do.

After delivering so many entertaining and fun flicks…with some spot-on casting to boot…Marvel was due to stumble a bit and this unimpressive flick isn’t nearly bad enough to do the series any real harm. Derrickson has a strong visual style and made this a bit grittier than some of the previous flicks, but wasn’t able to give it a sense of fun, or excitement. His attempts at humor never really hit the mark and the action seemed very routine despite being surrounded by a lot of overactive visual effects. Cumberbatch didn’t seem to fit quite right, either, as hero Strange, who was never charming or endearing enough to really warm up to. We did get a strong villain, but lack of screen time didn’t help there either. A mediocre entry in an otherwise fairly solid series of movies. Not quite as disappointing as the schizophrenic Iron Man 3. Obviously, stay during the credits for two additional sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 Doctors.

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REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014)

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THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014)

Anyone who has read my reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug know that while I enjoyed them to a good degree, I definitely had some problems with all the obvious filler added to pad a moderately sized book into 3 lengthy films. Thankfully the third and final installment of this trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary prequel to his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, not only never feels padded but, is a powerful and spectacular conclusion that ranks as one of the best of his Middle Earth films.

The story picks up where the last chapter left off with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) venting his rage on Lake Town, which leads to Thorin (Richard Armitage) reclaiming the Lonely Mountain. But, Thorin has acquired ‘The Dragon Sickness” and is becoming as greedy as it’s previous occupant and turns his back on his allies leaving the Lake Town survivors at his door begging for aid. The elves have come in force to also claim what is their’s and they join forces with Bard (Luke Evans) and his people to form an army to lay siege  to the fortress with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the 12 dwarves inside. And this plays them all right into The Defiler Azog’s (Manu Bennett) hands as the orc has assembled a massive army and now can crush dwarf, elf and human together, all at once. But, sometimes common foes can make allies out of enemies and all may not be lost as Bilbo and Gandalf (Ian McKellan) try to convince the former allies to reunite against the hordes of evil that are knocking at their door.

I loved this movie. After being a little disappointed at how much the first two flicks were padded and drawn-out to create a trilogy out of a single book, this… the shortest of the 3 films at 144 minutes… gets right to it and gives us a conclusion that is as emotionally strong as it is action packed and visually spectacular. The film never drags it’s feet, as the others did in spots, and none of the action scenes feel like they have overstayed their welcome like the second film’s fun but, overlong barrel chase. Jackson returns to the intense emotions of his Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the film has some powerful moments both triumphant and heartbreaking, heralding some of the Rings trilogy’s finest moments. Yes, this entry is that good and makes the weaknesses of the previous films all the more apparent. It’s amazing what 20 less minutes can do to trim the fat while keeping the meat. As with all these films they are technical and artistic marvels of top-of-the-line SPFX and design. This film looks as spectacular as it’s action and we get treated to some new creations not seen in previous films and go deeper into some of the places previously visited. The score by Howard Shore is his best of this trilogy and the cinematography of Andrew Lesnie captures everything not computer generated, splendidly.

One problem I never had with this series is the cast. It is obviously a considerably large and talented cast and Jackson has gotten good work out of all of them. Martin Freeman shines as Bilbo, again, though it almost seemed like Richard Armitage’s Thorin took center stage this time. Armitage skillfully takes his nobel warrior into a state of selfish greed and then reawakens the proud dwarf within when the story calls for it. McKellen is masterful, as always, as Gandalf and Luke Evans is thankfully given lots more to do here and makes far more of an impact with his Bard. Evangeline Lilly once again steals hearts and slays orcs as elven warrior Tauriel and she gets some nice emotionally strong moments and handles them quite well. Orlando Bloom brings back beloved Legolas to action and it was great seeing him in battle once more as it was to see Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm and the legendary Christopher Lee one more time in Middle Earth. The rest of the cast all do good work bringing their fantasy characters to life whether under make-up or CGI and it enhances the film even more.

What can I say, I had a great time here! Jackson delivers an epic conclusion that makes up for the indulgent enhancing of a classic tale in the first two parts and delivers spectacle and drama on the level of his LOTR trilogy that seemed to be lacking in the first two chapters of this prequel trilogy… though, The Hobbit is a less intense book to begin with. It’s got massive battles, incredible visuals, stunning special FX and some dramatic intensity to back it up. And if all else had failed… and it sure doesn’t… we get to see Evangeline Lilly’s enchanting elf one last time.

4 Elven hotties.

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REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)

I’ll start off by saying that J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth are among my favorite books and, understandably, Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy are among my favorite films. That being said, I still feel there is no reason to take a single book and stretch it out into three movies despite how much I love the story and characters. And with THAT being said, there is no reason then for each of those three movies to be almost three hours long. And it is exactly that reason that I feel something’s missing from Jackson’s Hobbit films… or should I say there’s something too much as there is a lot of filler added to turn one book into three movies… and it’s obvious. And this filler, as well as, middle film syndrome is exactly what keeps The Desolation Of Smaug from shining despite some sumptuous production design and some really fun action sequences. There is a lot of filler in this middle installment and sometimes it’s tediously obvious as once it’s over, you realize the story hasn’t really gone very far. The film picks up where the last left off with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of Dwarves on their way to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the vile dragon Smaug. They are still being hunted by a band of Orcs and not only clash with them continually but, battle giant spiders and suspicious Elves as well. Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) goes off to investigate his fears of a great evil returning… and we know exactly who, since we have already seen The Lord Of The Rings… and even the Dwarf party are split as they near their destination and their showdown with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Can they succeed or shall they fall before the onslaught of the Orcs and the mighty dragon? Even if you haven’t seen The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this is a middle film in a trilogy so, it’s no spoiler to tell you to expect not only an open ending but, a cliffhanger as well. And it just leaves one a bit unsatisfied. The first Hobbit film at least ended at a satisfying point and while I felt it took way too long to get going (again, a lot of filler) it was really fun and moved very quickly once it did. Smaug feels like a 90 minute film stretched into almost 3 hours as there is just a lot of dialog sequences and scenes that really don’t advance the story… the sequences in Lake-town are especially tedious and accomplish little and even the sequences that do matter, seem drawn out. And the fact that the tone here is a lot more somber, also darkens the proceedings. But, there are some saving graces that elevate the film from being an outright disappointment. There are some really fun action sequences such as the battle against the giant spiders and a thrilling chase involving river barrels and pursuing Orcs and Elves, not to mention the climactic confrontation with Smaug himself. There is the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and with him a new character who is an invention of Jackson’s named Tauriel who is played with equal parts fire and foxy by the beautiful Evangeline Lilly. Tauriel is one of the film’s real treats and Lilly creates a very endearing and strong character. She caught this fanboy’s attention instantly. I have never seen Lost but, I am impressed now. Sadly, I cannot say the same for Luke Evan’s Bard whose character really doesn’t make an impression and hopefully the talented Evan’s has a bigger impact in the next film as Bard didn’t have much to do here but look dour. The same goes for Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) who’s appearance is barely… or should I say bear-ly… more then a cameo. The SPFX are spectacular as are the visuals, thought the 48 fps can look a bit off at times especially with the barrel chase sequence. Smaug is very impressive and is greatly aided by the vocals of Cumberbatch who also voices The Necromancer. Jackson gets good work from all his cast with Freeman making Bilbo as endearing as Frodo and Sam in the previous trilogy and Mckellan is a delight as always. Richard Armitage is strong and noble as Thorin and the rest of the actors performing the dwarves all do nice work giving their characters personality despite performing as a group with little spotlight on them individually. Bloom is welcome back as Legolas though he is a bit more serious here and, as stated, Lilly gives nice life to a character created solely for the film. The score by Howard Shore obviously evokes his LOTR score but, to be honest, I don’t think it has the same resonance in the Hobbit films as it did there. So, in conclusion, Smaug is plagued not only by the added and unnecessary filler needed to make this one book tale a trilogy but, also suffers from middle trilogy syndrome in that it doesn’t have a satisfying ending and comes across as exactly that, the middle part of a bigger story. But, it’s saving graces are some really fun and exciting action sequences, some stunning visuals and  the continued good work of the cast and director Jackson at making the characters endearing… not to mention a sassy and sexy she-Elf who will be an instant fanboy favorite. I did like it but, didn’t love it as I wanted to.

3 Dwarven axes!

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Evangeline Lilly’s sexy and deadly Turiel.

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REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)

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THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)

For this Sunday night’s entertainment, I’ve chosen to revisit the first in Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit trilogy!

I will start off by saying that there is no reason to spread a single book into 3 movies (actually there is, greed.) and since you are doing so, there is no reason for any of those 3 movies to be almost 3 hours long. And this overindulgence and it’s effect on the film’s pacing is the only problem I have with the first of this new trilogy of movies based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit as it would have been better served and better paced if kept well under 2 and 1/2 hours. That being said, I did enjoy the film quite a bit once we get past the slow first half set up and get to the adventuring. The film is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit which is set 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings saga and tells the story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman in younger days and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo) as he is given the task by Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) to aid a band of dwarves in retaking their kingdom from the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). It’s a simple story that would have made a great single film but, director Peter Jackson and crew have overindulgently chosen to pad the story and drag it out over 3 apparently long movies and the first half of this flick suffers for it. It’s 40 minutes before Bilbo even leaves his home. But, Jackson still packs the film with enough visual majesty and pulse pounding thrills to win us over, despite making a mountain out of a molehill. His Middle Earth is still a wonder to behold and we get to visit new places and meet a horde of new characters. The second half picks up speed and we get the action and adventure we came for and it doesn’t disappoint. The last act in particular never stops moving and has some spectacular action sequences as our band meet some of Middle Earth’s more fearsome inhabitants and make some nasty enemies. It’s all well staged and as with the last series of films, the special effects are spectacular and the visuals are breathtaking. Despite the negatives, there is still a lot to enjoy about this story which by nature is lighter in tone then the trilogy it precedes. There are also some appearances by now favorite characters and it was nice to see them back especially since we know where they are headed. Maybe now that the set up is over and the quest has begun, the pacing will be much more in line with the Rings trilogy for the next two movies. Overall I enjoyed the first segment of this Hobbit trilogy and anxiously await the next part, The Desolation Of Smaug but, hopefully Peter Jackson spends a bit more time in the editing room and cuts some of the overindulgent fat and sticks to the lean meat of this classic tale for the final two installments.

3 and 1/2 generous Dwarven war axes as the second half of this flick more then makes up for the slower pace of the first half!

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REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

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STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

It’s been a 4 year mission to wait for a sequel to J.J. Abrams’ awesome Star Trek reboot but, finally Star Trek Into Darkness has arrived. And while it’s not quite up to the 2009 blockbuster, it is still a really entertaining 2 hours at the movies. The film opens with Kirk (Chris Pine) disobeying Starfleet’s Prime Directive to save a primitive alien race and his Vulcan first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto). When the Enterprise reaches Earth, instead of being handed the much coveted 5 year mission, Kirk is handed a demotion and Pike resumes command of the good ole NCC 1701. But this speed-bump in Kirk’s career doesn’t last as a mysterious rogue Starfleet agent by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) launches deadly terroristic attacks against Starfleet and it’s personnel. His actions put Kirk once again in the captain’s chair with orders to hunt this dangerous fugitive down, on the Klingon home world of Kronos to where he’s fled and eliminate him. But Kirk is not comfortable being an assassin and he and his and crew find that once they enter Klingon space and retrieve their quarry, that “John Harrison” is not who they think he is and they may be pawns in a greater conspiracy involving a Starfleet Admiral (Peter Weller) with a monstrous warship and his own agenda.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun and fast paced action adventure that’s only real problem is that it moves a little too fast and we’d like a little more time to allow the emotions of the events witnessed to resonate. Kirk’s demotion is a good example as he is back in command in about 10 minutes of screen time and we really don’t get a chance to appreciate this blow to the character’s career and ego. Once the plot starts to unfold, the film is all too eager to get to the explosions and fisticuffs than to give us a few minutes to properly absorb the dramatic effects of what occurs. But I would be lying if I said that what action Abrams delivers is not exciting and fun, because it is. This is especially true during an exhilarating last act which made up for some of the lack of real emotional depth earlier on. The script from Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof has it weaknesses, but ultimately I did like their twist on a familiar Trek character and how the new timeline effected his involvement in Trek history.

The cast is once again top notch and it is the interaction between characters that really helps keep this movie on target during some of the weaker bits. The combination of Abrams’ direction, the script’s character interaction and the cast, really give this film it’s strength despite all the awesome action and eye popping SPFX. All the crew return from Trek 09 and are all really good, once again, at making these classic characters their own yet, still familiar. Trek’s bad guy is played with relish by Benedict Cumberbatch, giving a strong performance as the main villain, though I just wish his character had a bit more screen time to be developed a little more, to give the character more weight and impact. It’s great to see Peter Weller back on the big screen as Admiral Marcus, the Starfleet officer whose visions of war with the Klingon Empire have caused him to act against the very things he seeks to defend. Rounding out the main cast is pretty Alice Eve, who is fine as Carol Marcus, the admiral’s daughter and future Kirk love interest. The character has little to do for the most part, but Eve does well when Miss Marcus does become important to the plot.

So in conclusion, I had a fun time watching this Trek sequel and while I wish it had a little more emotional depth in the first two acts and a little more development of some of the new characters, their is plenty of warp speed action to entertain and the film really delivers in the final act where it counts. Beam me up for Trek 3!

3 and 1/2 starships

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