Monday, April 21, 2014


CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) ***½

After the dark themes of death and revenge were explored in the second and third Star Trek adventures, the screenwriters decided to have a little fun with the next one.

The story this time deals with a gravitational crisis brought on by the extinction of humpback whales in the 24th century, threatening all life on Earth. So the crew of the Enterprise find a way to take a trip back through time to the modern-day (1986) San Francisco to try to rescue a pair of humpback whales to repopulate the species in their time. What results is one of the zaniest, lightest and most enjoyable of the entire franchise stories.

Having proven the doubters wrong with his work on "The Search for Spock," Leonard Nimoy again directs. The entire cast appears to be having a lot of fun with this goofy plot and the more humorous atmosphere. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Cinematography, Score, Sound and Sound-Effects Editing.

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) **

Okay, we know this one of the worst entries in the series. We know that, given the success of "The Voyage Home" with one its stars (Nimoy) as director, the producers went ahead and let William Shatner try his hand at the helm. Is it as bad as its reputation or has it been underrated? Well, a little of both actually.

The movie begins with a sequence showing Kirk (Shatner), Spock (Nimoy) and Dr. 'Bones' McCoy (DeForest Kelly) on vacation in Yosemite. It's a pleasant enough start, and thankfully brief as they are all called back to duty on board the Enterprise.

It turns out that a renegade Vulcan has lured the Enterprise crew into a hostage rescue mission under false pretenses and plans to hijack their ship to seek out the creator of the universe at a mythical planet called Sha Ka Ree. This Vulcan is called Synok (Laurence Kuckinbill), a half-brother of Spock. He has an ability to use the mind-meld to manipulate people's emotions to get what he wants, but has to compromise with Kirk and Spock when they refuse his propositions. Much of the plot hinges on discussion of what the meaning of this mission is and whether they would find what Sybok believes exists there. Once there, his elation turns to shock as he finds something more sinister than he'd imagined.

Apparently, the production was beset by many problems and budget cuts, leading to a reduction in available special effects and other materials. Director Shatner recalls his disappointment in his book 'Star Trek Memories' by pointing out how several planned effects sequences had to be reduced in scope to the point where he felt the scenes lacked excitement. By contrast, he also states that initial reactions to the film gave him momentary hope that the film could still be a success. Indeed, "Star Trek V" actually had the highest opening weekend of any in the series up to that point, but word of mouth and generally poor reviews hurt the film's run. He was never asked to direct again, although he has adapted his own 'TekWar' stories for TV. As it stands, this fifth entry contains some interesting ideas but never comes together as an engaging adventure.

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) ***½

After the failure of William Shatner's directorial effort on "The Final Frontier," the series went back to director Nicholas Meyer, who had directed the successful "Wrath of Khan" and helped write "The Voyage Home." All original series main cast members returned.

The Klingon empire is in crisis and a decision is made to offer peace with the United Federation of Planets. Skeptical, Kirk and crew reluctantly go along. Then the Klingon Chancellor (David Warner) is assassinated under mysterious circumstances, and Kirk is blamed. Sentenced in a trial to be banished on a prison planet, Spock and the crew must figure out what really happened and save their friend.

The mystery elements help give this sixth, and final, film to include the original Star Trek cast an atmosphere of intrigue that was lacking in the previous installment. Also, the knowledge that this would likely be their last voyage together seems to have made the cast more lively and engaged this time around. As with any good entry, though, the thing that makes this one special are the villains. In particular, a Shakespeare-reciting Klingon general named Chang, who is bent on taking the Federation to war in spite of his leader's wishes to give peace a chance. Veteran actor Christopher Plummer (who recently won an Academy Award for "Beginners") gives the role a more understated quality than might otherwise be expected (think of Lloyd's Kruge from "Star Trek III") and seems to have fun with his lines.

At the end of the film, the principle cast members' signatures are written across the screen in acknowledgment of the series' conclusion. They ended the crew's mission on a high note. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories if Makeup and Sound-Effects Editing.  Criddic gave it nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer), Costume Design and Sound.  It won for Makeup.

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