Category Archives: movie reviews
The first installment of my review of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is here.
Three Klingon battle cruisers, while on a mission in deep space, encounter a large, mysterious cloud-like structure. Deciding it is a threat, they fire photon torpedoes at it, to no effect. The cloud retaliates with huge balls of light which dissolve and absorb the Klingon ships. Meanwhile, a deep space Federation monitoring station receives images of this from an automated probe. Plotting the cloud’s course, they realize it is headed directly towards Earth.
Meanwhile, on Vulcan, Spock has completed rigorous training in the Vulcan discipline of Kolinahr, by which all emotion is finally expunged. About to receive a token of this from a priestess, he stops. The Vulcans assembled there have all telepathically felt a strong, alien mind. Spock is affected by it, and the priestess, telling him that the consciousness has stirred his human side, drops the token to the ground and says he has not, in fact, attained Kolinahr. She leaves him, saying, “His answer lies elsewhere.” Read the rest of this entry
I use the word “review” a bit loosely. I’ve been intending to write about Star Trek: The Motion Picture for awhile; not so much a traditional review, as my thoughts on seeing the movie again for the first time in a long time. Originally, I was just going to plunge right in with no synopsis; but upon thinking about it, I changed my mind. Many may not have seen it, and those who have may need a refresher. In this context, it occurred to me also to put in some production notes, background, and other relevant information. To do all of this in one post would make it extremely long even by my standards (regular readers know that some of my posts are on the long side!); therefore, I’m breaking this into multiple parts, beginning with how STTMP came to be made in the first place.
Throughout the early 70′s, Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, had churned out a string of failed sci-fi (yes, I know that “sf” is correct, and sci-fi is derogatory–but the use here is intentional) pilots, most of them (Spectre, Genesis II, and Planet Earth) awful, one passable (The Questor Tapes) and several that never made it out of the concept stage (two of these, years after Roddenberry’s death, were made into the relatively good series Andromeda and Earth: The Final Conflict). None of these worked out, but as the decade wore on and Star Trek became a cult hit in syndication, Roddenberry decided to try to get it back on the air. Paramount, which owned the rights, was planning to launch a fourth TV network to complete with CBS, NBC, and ABC. The idea of a renewed Star Trek as a flagship show for the network sounded good; so pre-production began. The resuscitated show would be christened Star Trek: Phase II.
The 70′s to that point had not been good to William Shatner. Typecast, he was reduced at one point to doing small-town dinner theater, dramatic readings, and (reluctantly) fan conventions, while literally living out of his truck. He was immediately on board with the idea of reprising Captain Kirk. On the other hand, Leonard Nimoy, also typecast (but working much more steadily in Mission: Impossible!, In Search Of, and other series and movies), had shied away from his identification with Mr. Spock, famously writing the book I Am Not Spock. This was controversial in fan circles, and won Nimoy some foes. In any case, he refused to come back to series TV.
Or a little about romantic comedies, at least.
Earlier today I posted When Harry Met Sally as being at least partially New Year’s themed. I also noted that it was a bit atypical of the movies I usually post here (old B movies, off the wall sci-fi, and generally weird). Thinking of this movie again, I was inspired to post more in the genre. In my mind, romantic comedies fell on hard times around the turn of the century, and there haven’t been many in the last decade or so that I’ve been interested in enough to see, or which (having seen them) I’ve liked much. However, When Harry Met Sally launched a decade of romantic comedies by Meg Ryan, “America’s sweetheart” at the time. Thus, I had thought to take an extended walk down memory lane by posting her three films with Tom Hanks. Alas, the movies I select to post here are largely determined by what I can find free on YouTube, and I was unable to find these movies there. I will keep trying, and if I find them, I’ll post them. In lieu thereof, I thought I’d briefly discuss them. This won’t be a review, per se, but spoilers are possible, so any who haven’t seen the movies discussed here, be forewarned!
I noticed on my stats page that someone had read my review of Gladiator, which I posted a long time ago. I’ve got some other movie, book, and other reviews that I’ve got planned (some written years ago, some that I’m planning to write), so I thought I’d make a central index for them as I get them written and posted. Within genres, reviews are alphabetized by the title of the work reviewed. Enjoy!
A Double Shadow (this goes to the index for it, since I wrote several essays on it, none of them a traditional review–but, oh well)
Epic historical pictures had pretty much petered out by the end of the 1950’s. A few, however, continued to be made into the mid-60’s, before more or less dying out until such films as Braveheart and Rob Roy heralded their partial return. One of the major stars of such epics was, of course, Charlton Heston, star of Ben Hur, El Cid, and many others. In 1965 he made a lesser-known film, The War Lord, available on DVD.
The War Lord, though it has epic production values, is different from the other historical epics past and present in its focus. The usual epic takes a great or momentous storyline (the fall of Rome, the independence of Scotland, etc.) and deals with a wide panoply of exotic places, incredible deeds, and outsize characters. The War Lord, however, has a narrower focus. In brief, Heston plays Chrysagon, a weary Norman knight and veteran of twenty years of ceaseless war for his lord the duke. He has been assigned as his fief a small backwater village belonging to the duke. With his resentful brother, Draco (Guy Stockwell), and his loyal retainer, Bore (Richard Boone), Chrysagon comes with his retainers to the village, only to find it under siege by Frisian raiders. In a fierce battle, the Normans drive off the Frisians and inadvertently capture the chieftain’s son.
Upon settling into the castle, Chrysagon finds all in disarray and the bodies of the former lord and a nubile girl, both dead, in the main bedchamber. It is explained to him by the village priest that this was the remnant of an old pagan custom, the ius primae noctis, or “right of first night”, whereby the lord has the right to sleep with any virgin of the village on her wedding night before she is delivered to her husband. The new lord expresses disgust with the decay into which the estate has fallen and implicitly condemns the riotous living of his predecessor. He also is perturbed by the talismans and semi-pagan sculptures he has seen on the ride in. He vows to straighten things out now that he is in charge. Read the rest of this entry
A few years back, I wrote some reviews/commentaries on various movies and books for a friends now sadly defunct website. Some of them I’ve posted to my LiveJournal since then. I was looking back at some of them, and I’ve decided that a few may do well to be here, as well, with appropriate revision. The movies are a bit out of date (I wrote this review about ten years ago), but I hope this review (and any other old ones I may post in the future) will be entertaining and maybe even enlightening. I also plan to writes some new reviews–I have in mind particularly a series on Pixar’s films. For now, enjoy this review of the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie Gladiator.
The Noblest Roman of Them All
That is how Shakespeare referred to Brutus, but it could apply equally to Maximus, the lead character of Ridley Scott’s brilliant move Gladiator. This movie is many things: an epic of the variety hardly seen these past forty years (with the occasional exception, such as Braveheart); an action/adventure move; a historical drama; the tragedy of a good man wronged. What I would like to focus on here, however, is the way in which it is almost unique among epic movies, present or past, in catching the flavor of Roman virtue and vice at their highest (and lowest). Read the rest of this entry