BARE BONES: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

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FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

This is a heartfelt and fun documentary about the legendary Leonard Nimoy and the equally iconic character that made him famous. It’s told through the eyes of his son Adam Nimoy, using all sorts of footage and interviews of his father and many of those who worked with him. It touches on Nimoy growing up in Boston and deciding to become an actor and then his path to playing one of the most famous characters ever on Star Trek, Mr. Spock. Adam Nimoy relates his father’s story…and that of his Vulcan counterpart…with a genuine affection and seems to have a good time going back in the past to tell it. Adam also doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous parts, such as his relationship issues with his famous father, Nimoy’s drinking, as well as, his own substance abuse problems. If the buoyant tone of this flick falters a bit, it is here during these segments. The story is what it is, though and Adam Nimoy doesn’t hide some of the more bitter moments behind the larger than life character his dad is known and loved for. Ultimately we get a portrait of a ambitious man, who had his flaws, but worked hard, genuinely loved his fans and family and rediscovered some of the relationships damaged by his successes and excesses, in time to repair and enjoy his family life before his passing in 2015. If you a fan of Star Trek, Spock and Nimoy, watching this documentary is the logical thing to do. Not perfect, but very sincere.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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

Flick picks up almost three years into the Enterprise’s five year exploration mission, which puts them cleverly “beyond” the first three years/seasons of the original show and thus into new story territory. This third installment of J.J. Abrams’ reboot series is now directed by Justin Lin and tells of a devastating attack on the Enterprise while on a rescue mission in uncharted space. An alien warlord named Krall (Idris Elba) wants not only an ancient device stored on the ship, but the crew itself to drain their life-forces. With their precious ship destroyed and now stranded and hunted on an alien world, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban) must figure out a way to rescue the crew, stop Krall’s diabolical plan and get home to friendlier space.

Justin Lin doesn’t quite bring the dramatic intensity Abrams did to his Trek films and his action scenes may not resonate as strongly, but with Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script in hand, he does give the series a lighter and more fun touch than the more dour Star Trek Into Darkness. The film also feels the most like a Star Trek episode which works for and against it, but mostly for. Giving the flick a less epic feel than the previous two, does reduce the spectacle aspect of the proceedings and the action is more close quarters fisticuffs than battling starships until the last act confrontation at a gigantic space station. Massive sets are replaced by alien landscapes and caves, but much like the 60s series and even the Next Generation series, these are settings our characters often found themselves in. This does give way to some really nice character interaction, as the FX take a back seat, with new character, alien refugee Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) fitting in nicely when paired with members of the prime crew. In true Star Trek tradition, the first two thirds of the film follow along as the crew does what they do best, use their wits to figure out how to survive and save the day. Then we get some of the spectacle we’ve come to expect from this reboot series, in the finale. In comparison, not quite the action packed popcorn flick the first Abrams Trek was, yet also doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Into Darkness, which is refreshing. There are some really nice Trek moments, too, including a nice tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime and a shot quietly celebrating the original Trek crew for this year’s 50th anniversary, that will surely moisten the eye of even the hardest-hearted Trekkie. The film also earns extra points for dedicating the film to both Nimoy and Anton “Chekov” Yelchin, who was tragically killed just a few weeks ago. A real touch of class…which is what Star Trek was always all about. On a production level the film looks great, Lin has a good visual eye and the FX are spectacular, especially during the cranked-up and fun finale.

The cast once again bring these classic characters to life, but not without their own individual touches and the script from Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung does it’s best to give each character healthy interaction and scenes for them to shine. It was nice to see Anton Yelchin get a generous amount of screen time with what is sadly his last performance as Pavel Chekov and Pine, Quinto, Urban, Saldana, Cho and Pegg all have their classic character interpretations locked in. As for the newcomers, Sofia Boutella is feisty and energetic as Jaylah, a survivor of Krall’s villainy whose “home” plays an integral part in our heroes’ plans to defeat the despotic bad guy. As Krall, we have a strong villain in Idris Elba, though we could have used some more time getting to know him a little better as his motivation aren’t really clear till the last act reveal…a reveal sadly seen coming almost from the beginning. If the script has a big flaw, it’s in failing to keep it’s big surprise from being obvious early in the second act.

Overall, this was a fun movie. Though in some ways the weakest of the three, due to Lin simply not being as strong a director as Abrams, especially on the last two films. He moves things fast enough but sometimes a bit more dramatic intensity was called for. Still, it is lighter and more fun than the last installment, though it being the most Star Trek of the three, might also alien-ate (had too) some of the non-Trek crowd that supported the last two flicks. For Trek fans it’s more like an episode than a movie and the most nostalgic because of that, especially when you add some really nice touches harkening back to it’s TV forefathers. Not a great flick, but a fun installment that earns extra points for it’s loving tributes to a legendary actor and his character, not to mention, a young talent taken from us far too soon…and if Star Trek is about anything, it’s about heart…and this film has plenty of that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 starships.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984)

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STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984)

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock had the deck stacked against it from the moment it was green-lit by Paramount Pictures. First, and most obviously, it had a tough act to follow and big shoes to fill after Wrath Of Khan was hailed by many as an instant classic and some of the finest moments of Star Trek yet seen. They also painted themselves into a corner by killing off Spock and now wanting to continue the cinematic series and thus needing to bring him back. Khan was supposed to be the last film but, now Trek was big again and to continue, our favorite Vulcan had to be part of it. And on top of all that, Khan director Nicholas Meyer was unhappy with the added epilogue to ST II that showed Spock’s burial tube on Genesis implying his death may not be final, and chose not to return. So, in essence they needed a sequel to hold it’s own against it’s predecessor, somehow bring back Spock and replace the director that put Star Trek back on the map after the universal disappointment with the stuffy and bloated ST:TMP. Which brings me to the big question… does ST III get a bit of a bum rap with all that was expected from it?

Well, yes and no…

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock picks up with the Enterprise limping home after it’s devastating battle with Khan and The Reliant. Kirk (William Shatner) is equally devastated by the death of his longtime friend, Spock and Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) is also showing signs of odd behavior possibly brought on by grief. Kirk’s son (Merritt Butrick) and Lt. Saavik (now Robin Curtis) are headed to the Genesis planet for study and unknown to any of them, an ambitious Klingon Captain (Christopher Lloyd) has intercepted transmissions concerning Genesis and sees it’s uses as a weapon of power for the Klingon Empire. As the Klingons head for the restricted Genesis planet to steal it’s secrets, Kirk is visited by Spock’s father Sarek (Mark Leonard) and informed that Vulcans can transfer their essence and there is a chance Spock’s “Katra” has been transferred to another before death. It soon becomes apparent that McCoy now hosts Spock’s soul and Kirk must get to Genesis in the hopes his body is still within his burial tube and Spock can be restored. But, Starfleet forbids Kirk’s return there and now he must sacrifice everything he’s accomplished by stealing the Enterprise and going to the restricted planet against orders. And as the outlaw Kirk and his loyal crew race to Genesis, they are headed not only towards a confrontation with the Klingons but, a race against time as the Genesis planet has a dark secret that could spell doom for Kirk’s mission and all their lives. I like Trek III and despite it’s intrusive flaws, it’s a fun flick especially if you are a Trek fan but, it’s certainly far from a Wrath Of Khan. First problem is obvious from the story description, there is an overabundance of plot and it takes a long time before the plot elements and characters come together. The film starts to take off with the theft of The Enterprise but, it’s not till Kirk and company arrive on Genesis, wrecking the Enterprise in the process, that the film really starts to hit it’s stride. The film needed to address the return of Spock, yet also have some kind of conflict for entertainment purposes, and find a way to remove Genesis from the mix if the series was to continue without having to continually deal with it’s effects on the Star Trek world. And the film actually gets all this done but, at the cost of a more streamlined plot and a good degree of fun as the film can get heavy handed when dealing with the life and death issues that surround Spock and the Genesis device and it’s theme of how far will you go to help the ones you love. Taking advantage of Paramount’s desire to have Spock return, Nimoy landed himself the directing gig replacing Meyer. And while I don’t think he did a bad job, his lack of experience does show with the film resembling a TV episode in tone and look, where the story could have used a more epic feel with it’s disintegrating planets and starship confrontations. The pacing and tone are uneven with the first half moving rather slowly and picking up speed once Kirk and company leave Earth and going from dead serious one minute to borderline goofy the next such as some humor involving the Klingons who needed to remain fierce. But, Nimoy also creates some wonderfully Star Trek moments… the theft of The Enterprise being my favorite… and the camaraderie between the characters is as endearing as always. There is some nice action in the  second half and the climactic scenes on Vulcan do carry the emotional weight intended. The SPFX are really good from ILM again and this time no stock footage. The sets once again look cheesy but, being that the whole thing reminds one of a TV episode, it’s not as intrusive as one might expect. And there is some very weak dialog too but, again, Star Trek has always had it’s own way of phrasing things and it’s own jargon so, this isn’t as damaging as it could be. As for the cast, everyone recreates their beloved characters just fine though, Nimoy isn’t as adept at restraining Shatner as Meyer and Shat does fall back into some of the hamminess he’s famous for yet, does have some very strong scenes too. Newcomers range between good to outright bad, such as Phillip R. Allen who is dreadful as Grissom Captain Esteban. Christopher Lloyd is a good villain but, every time he speaks you hear Reverend Jim from Taxi which was fresh in everyone’s mind when this was released. The effect has warn off over time but, was very noticeable back then. Robin Curtis replaces Kirstie Alley as Saavik and is a bit wooden even for a Vulcan, which might explain why the character sadly disappeared after a brief appearance in ST IV. Fans really loved Saavik and it was odd they introduced new characters like her and Kirk’s son and then did away with them. David is especially wasted in this as he doesn’t do much but look wide eyed at the Genesis planet and then pouts when he discovers his device is flawed. Luckily composer James Horner returned and gives another epic score to enhance the flick and the cameo from Mark Leonard is a pleasure as he brings a power and dignity to Ambassador Sarek that the series made good use of with his return in IV and VI. But, flaws aside, ST III is still enjoyable and contains some fun lines and classic Star Trek moments giving each cast member a memorable scene to punctuate their appearances. It is certainly nowhere near the train wreck that Shatner’s ST V is or the mind numbingly dull Insurrection. To a degree Search For Spock had too much to measure up to in the eyes of fans, especially with a first time director, but, the fact that it did have so much to accomplish and actually does get as much done despite it’s flaws, earns the film a bit more credit then it is given. And despite all that was stacked up against it, it still is a fun romp especially once it gets going and it does return some of the TV episode level charm whether that was the intention or not. It’s a flawed but, still entertaining entry in the series and Nimoy would grow as a director with the following and very entertaining Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that became the series biggest hit till J.J. Abrams took Trek mainstream.

3 stolen starships!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

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STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is one of my all time favorites and I have to say I enjoy it just as much now as I did in a theater in 1982… maybe more with the added nostalgia and that it retains it’s status as the best of the Star Trek movies even with the addition of J.J. Abrams’ fun reboot series. The film is a direct sequel to a first season episode entitled Space Seed where Kirk and crew find a 20th century Earth genetic superman in suspended animation with his crew on an unregistered space vessel. He’s thawed out and identified as Khan Noonien Singh a genetically engineered tyrant who, with his followers, nearly conquered Earth in the 1990s. He tried to take command of the Enterprise and kill Kirk but, was thwarted and he and his followers were sent into exile on a deserted planet. The film picks up 15 years later with a ship, The Reliant, accidentally happening upon Khan (Richardo Montalban reprising his classic role), and the remaining members of his crew, while searching for a lifeless planet to test a planetary terraforming device on called Genesis. Khan, who is now mad with vengeance as the explosion of his world’s sister planet has ravaged his home and killed his wife, takes the ship and plans to use Genesis as a weapon of revenge against now ‘Admiral’ James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Lured into a confrontation and badly damaged, The Enterprise and it’s valiant crew must somehow find a way to stop Khan from using the Genesis Device to commit ‘universal armageddon’… and caught in the middle are the creators of the device, a former lover of Kirk’s (Bibi Besch) and a son, David (Merritt Butrick) he’s never met. Khan, as directed and co-written by Nicholas Meyer, corrects basically all of Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s mistakes by returning Star Trek’s sense of adventure and action and making it’s character’s 3 dimensional again. Where ST:TMP ignored the fact that the characters where now over a decade older, STII:TWOK makes their aging part of the story. Kirk is celebrating his 50th birthday and dealing with issues of his new earthbound rank when his heart still belongs in the captain’s chair. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is training a new crew to take over the Enterprise with our beloved crew members assisting in shaping their eventual replacements. Khan himself once a vicious but, noble warrior who graciously accepted Kirk’s decision to let him have his own world to build instead of imprisonment, is now a madman who seeks revenge at any cost. Meyer takes our beloved characters and gives them legendary status working in themes from classic literature like Moby Dick, Horatio Hornblower and Tale Of Two Cities… and gives the Enterprise a charming Naval feel as opposed to the antiseptic and cold feeling the previous film imbued it with. And added to the richness of story and character are some thrilling and suspenseful space battles that evoke some of the classic submarine movies like Run Silent, Run Deep. Assisting Meyer is a cast that brings their famous characters vibrantly to life once more. Shatner may get flak for his over the top performances but, here he is at the top of his game and gives one of his best performances as an aging warrior forced once more to battle against the odds and possibly face mortality for the first time. Nimoy plays an older, wiser Spock who is happy to be molding the next generation and has mellowed a bit allowing him to show a slightly warmer side… or dare I say more human. Deforest Kelley is as cranky as ever as Bones but, this is one character we don’t want to change a bit and he hasn’t. Montalban takes Khan and turns him into a vengeful madman who is still fiercely intelligent and ruthless but, now on the brink of madness with revenge, a foe even more dangerous now that he would destroy James T. Kirk at all costs including that of his own people. A classic character is now made larger then life by a veteran actor knowing when to show the cunning villain and when to unleash the madman. And Meyer gives him some great dialog to chew on. The rest of the classic Trek cast all do well in reviving their beloved characters though I will admit Walter Koenig’s Chekov has a few moments that spill into camp but, the character always was very emotional. Bibi Besch is fine and sexy as Dr. Marcus, Kirk’s old flame. Butrick doesn’t quite cut a figure we’d expect of Kirk’s son but, we can forgive this as it’s part of the story that his mother didn’t want him to grow up like dear old dad. Kirstie Alley made her acting debut as Spock’s protegee’ Lt. Saavik a vulcan officer following in his footsteps and her characterization made her instantly beloved by fans who were equally disappointed when she didn’t return in Star Trek III. Rounding out the main cast is Paul Winfield as The Reliant’s Captain Terrell who makes the best of giving some character to a limited role. I won’t pretend the film doesn’t have faults, it does. There are obvious flaws in it’s science and their are inconstancies, one being that the Chekov character didn’t join the show till season 2 so, Khan should not have known him. The film was made on a low budget so, the sets are cheap looking and a lot are borrowed and redressed from ST:TMP and while the ILM FX are fine, a lot of FX early in the film are also borrowed from ST:TMP and it’s a little obvious. But, the biggest flaw is that Kirk and Khan never meet face to face, all their confrontations are done by radio or on view screen and these two actors at their best, never get to be in the same room together and that’s a shame. But, all it’s flaws can be forgiven as this is just a real fun flick and is classic Star Trek at it’s best… both in spirit and in the portrayal of it’s characters. It’s a film that elevated the characters from heroes to legends and has an old fashioned swashbuckling tone that seems to be gone from films today. It’s a classic flick now made even more fun by the nostalgia it has picked up and is a movie that has charm to spare. An all time favorite and a great movie even with it’s flaws. Also stars regulars James Doohan as Engineer Scott, George Takei as Helmsman Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura with Ike Eisenmann playing Scotty’s nephew Ensign Preston, a new character. STII also features a great score by James Horner and is pretty much the movie that put him on the path to becoming one of the best film score composers out there today. A classic!

4 Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnssssssss!

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REVIEW: STAR TREK (2009)

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With Star Trek Into Darkness coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray, I thought I’d take a look back at the first installment of this new reboot series.

STAR TREK (2009)

With the Star Trek series running out of steam on TV and in the cinemas, Paramount decided to reboot by restarting and recasting the original series for a new movie adventure with a more up to date popcorn movie style. And the gamble pays off beautifully. The new flick starts off with a Romulan ship from the future emerging from a black hole and engaging Federation starship the U.S.S. Kelvin. Upon the capture and murder of it’s captain (Faran Tahir), first officer George Kirk (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth) takes command and orders the crew, including his wife (Jennifer Morrison) who is currently in labor, off the ship and sacrifices himself to fend off the invaders while his crew escapes. Before he dies, his wife gives birth to their son who they name James T. Kirk. The film then picks up with rebelious adult James Kirk (Chris Pine) being talked into joining Starfleet by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and there he meets future crew members Spock (Zachary Quinto), a half Vulcan whose path to Starfleet we also see, McCoy (Karl Urban) and Uhura (Zoe Saladana). Despite getting in trouble, Kirk makes his way onto the top of the line U.S.S. Enterprise where the cadets, including helmsman Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), are being sent on an emergency mission to the planet Vulcan from whom they’ve recieved a distress call. Soon they find the planet is under attack from the Narada, the same ship that killed Kirk’s father and destroyed the Kelvin 25 years earlier and it’s captain Nero (Eric Bana) is hell bent on exacting a horrific revenge that spans centuries of hate and will kill billions. Add to all this a cranky exiled engineer named Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and an older version of Spock from the 24th century (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk and the cadets face their first and quite possibly last mission as Pike becomes a prisoner and cadet Kirk now takes command of the Enterprise.

Star Trek is not perfect, but this flick not only successfully re-invents the franchise, but somehow keeps it familiar enough for those of us who grew up with it. The cast does a wonderful job of keeping the essence of the original characters yet presenting them in a fresh way and adding their own touches. Karl Urban stands out in particular with a brilliant performance as Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg is hilarious as the cantankerous ‘Scotty’. The script nails the character relationships very well. As for the differences between this version and original Trek lore, the plot explains this with Nero’s actions changing the timeline, which in itself is a classic Star Trek plot element. J.J. Abrams directs with a lot of energy and fast paced excitement for the new generation of movie goer, yet doesn’t abandon the spirit of Star Trek that older fans hold dear. Having Nimoy’s Spock there also gives the movie a really nice passing of the torch quality as this new generation version of the beloved characters takes over. The SPFX are incredible and the scope of the film is one rarely seen in a Star Trek film.

A really fun movie that is a really good example of how something can be rebooted and made fresh without alienating the it’s original fan base. A great popcorn movie and the triumphant return of Star Trek for us fans and a fun new introduction for those not initiated.

3 and 1/2 starships

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