Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Jim, There is a Historic Opportunity Here

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)The time has finally come for me to complete the original series of Star Trek movies.  It’s been a fairly decent run thus far.  Though I’ve really only found two of the movies to be fairly disappointing, I still don’t think I’ve seen one of these movies capable of making me understand how a Trekkie could possibly consider this series to be superior to Star Wars.  Even the best ones I’ve seen so far pale in comparison to the best Star Wars movies, in my opinion.  But they still have one movie left, and that movie is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, written by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn, directed by Nicholas Meyer, and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Kim Cattrall, Christopher Plummer, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, David Warner, Rosanna DeSoto, Iman, Brock Peters, and Michael Dorn.

One of the Klingon moons explodes, throwing the Klingon Empire into turmoil and causing them to call the United Federation of Planets and suggest that they enter into some peace negotiations.  Spock (Leonard Nimoy) recommends Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) to escort the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon (David Warner), to the negotiations.  Kirk resents the assignment, still harboring a lot of resentment for the Klingons because they killed his son.  After a tense meal with the Klingon’s on board the Enterprise, the Enterprise appears to inexplicably fire upon the Klingon ship and, while the gravity is down, two Enterprise crew members beam on board and kill most of the Klingons, including Gorkon.  The Enterprise is blamed and Kirk, along with Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), is sentenced to life imprisonment on a mining planet.  Kirk and McCoy have to try to survive imprisonment while Spock and the Enterprise crew try to find out what happened to clear their names.

I wasn’t really feeling this movie, but I suppose I’d relent as far as to say that it was an acceptable sendoff for the original Enterprise crew.  It just felt so uneventful.  I guess there were technically a lot of things happening, what with the peace negotiations, the framing of Kirk, the attempted assassination, etc., but I’m also not that interested in watching interstellar politics.  I found it mostly boring and did not inspire me to give it too much attention.  I think one of the things that kept annoying me is that they wouldn’t stop quoting Shakespeare.  That stuff barely keeps me interested when it’s an actual Shakespeare play!  And they just do it way too much.  I get it, you all like Shakespeare, and we’ve all cumulatively agreed to not pay attention to how the Klingon’s would get that interested in Shakespeare, but you can knock it off already.  And then, when they got bored of that, they started quoting Peter Pan, which is basically the same thing, I guess.  And when they end their movie with Kirk telling them to fly toward the “second star to the right and straight on till morning” made me think that it was their intention to have Star Trek VII take place in Neverland.  They’ve done more ridiculous things in the TV show.  But, best I could tell, I had not misplaced another movie, so they may not have made that movie.  Some of the non-classical quotes were also irritating.  The biggest one for me was when Spock decided that whoever they were looking for (the two killers) were still on board the Enterprise.  Yeah, they would logically still be on board the Enterprise … IF they didn’t teleport off already, as they’ve proven themselves able to do.  I also got annoyed at the end when they said they wanted to decommission the Enterprise again at the end of the movie.  Why does Starfleet have such a hard-on for getting rid of their most effective vessel?!  This is the second time they’ve tried that in these movies.  And after they said they wanted to decommission it, it got destroyed, and then they STILL rebuilt it!  Make up your mind!

This was the best looking Star Trek movie that I’ve seen until the J.J. Abrams joints.  It looked really good.  It started off really well too with that giant energy wave thing that looked great, even though it was very, very pink.  I guess I didn’t like it because I didn’t really see the point of it.  I understand that the Klingons needed some reason to talk peace with the Federation, but they didn’t really need something so elaborate.  The action was decent enough when it happened, but I got to thinking that the shields are nowhere near as effective as they should’ve been.  They announce that the shields are in the process of weakening, but then they show the hull and there’s physical damage on it.  So the shields when only slightly depreciated are only really good enough to keep out 10% of incoming damage?  And after that, I thought that it was cute that the movie ended with the signatures of the main crew before the credits began.  It’s a nice little finishing touch.

The cast still brings it to the best of their ability, but the bulk of them are showing their age at this point.  I guess I can’t really blame them for that.  Not everyone can age as gracefully as I have.  I did feel like it didn’t really fit the character of Kirk to have him mutter some insult about one of the Klingon’s resembling Hitler under his breath without having the balls to repeat it when he was called on it.  I also thought it was a little over the top for DeForest Kelley to jump up on the Klingon and straddle him as he pounded on his chest to revive him.  I don’t know if I could call it cliché since I don’t know if this movie was one of the first to do it or not, so I’ll just say it was a little much.  I also thought Iman was good in the role of Martia, but mostly because she was hot.  It was a little strange that she still talked in her own voice in all the different forms she took until she took the form of Kirk, but I didn’t care that much.  Then I got really confused because Michael Dorn plays Colonel Worf in this movie, the Klingon that defends Kirk and McCoy at the trial.  This didn’t seem to make any sense chronologically for me since the same actor plays a Klingon with the same name hundreds of years later in The Next Generation, but they had already finished airing The Next Generation by the time this movie came out.  I guess they just never had the opportunity to explain it.  Had they mentioned it in this movie, it would’ve been predicting the future.  And TNG was already done, so they couldn’t mention it there.  Maybe just not worth the trouble.

Though I found myself somewhat bored with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, I felt as if it was an acceptable way to send off the series.  The story was a little boring and based mostly around interstellar politics, but the action and the performances were all good, and the story did succeed at what it wanted to do by closing out the original series with a nice little bow.  I wouldn’t recommend this movie on its own, but I would recommend the whole set of the original series movies.  They’re more good than bad, and overall worth watching.  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gets “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” out of “Let them die!”

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Rape, Torture, Fire, Animals, Religion.  Am I Missing Anything?

I had done everything I could to avoid watching today’s movie.  It’s the first part in what will inevitably be a trilogy of movies based on a Swedish trilogy of movies that was itself based on a trilogy of Swedish novels.  The reason I never saw the original movies is because I generally hate reading movies.  You make me pay attention with quality movie, not because I have to pay attention to read what’s going on.  I never read the books because they were books, and I don’t do that.  And when they released the American version of the film, I still never wanted to watch it.  Firstly, everyone is going to say that the American version is not as good as the Swedish version.  And others may even say that the Swedish version was not as good as the books.  On top of that, all I knew about this movie was that someone gets raped in it a couple of times.  That is literally everything I knew about it, so much so that I actually referred to this as “That Rape movie”, because that was shorter than the actual title, and why would I want to watch a movie about rape when it’s not “socially acceptable” for me to touch myself while watching … except in Japan.  My roommate even asked me if I wanted to watch this with him, but I turned it down.  Finally, I saw it in a RedBox and decided to just do it already.  Someone would request it eventually anyways.  So let’s dive into my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (aka “The Rape movie”), based on a novel by Stieg Larsson, written for the screen by Steven Zaillian, directed by David Fincher, and starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson, Steven Berkoff, Yorick van Wageningen, Geraldine James, Donald Sumpter, Robin Wright, and Goran Visnijc.

Journalist and co-owner of a Swedish magazine called “Millennium”, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), has gotten himself on the wrong side of a libel case brought against him by a corrupt businessman named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom.  Even though his credibility has been damaged, he has been requested for an investigation by an entrepreneur named Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), but only after an extensive background check by computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara).  Vanger asks Mikael to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece, Harriet, who disappeared 40 years ago.  Even though he suspects that she’s dead, he wants to know what happened.  As Mikael is dealing with that situation, Lisbeth has a bit of a situation of her own.  She is under state appointed legal guardianship because of some troubles in her past and her new lawyer, Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), is being a total dick … and putting his in her mouth.  He makes her work for her money right up until she films him raping her and regains control of her life by blackmailing him.  Mikael investigates Harriet’s disappearance by himself at first, but eventually requires the services of another investigator, and so his path crosses with Lisbeth’s.

I was totally disappointed.  This movie was not about rape at all!  Why is that the only thing I had heard about this movie?  It’s actually a mystery and suspense movie with two quasi-rapes and a lot of rape talk.  I guess I’ll have to start referring to this movie by it’s actual title now.  All that aside, this was a pretty good movie.  Is the Swedish one better?  I don’t know, but that’s the rumor.  But I’m not talking about that, am I?  The story of this movie was pretty good, but I felt like it got off to a slow start.  Technically speaking, you could have easily dropped out all of the Lisbeth stuff before she meets Mikael.  He’s really the main character of this movie, and all of her stuff before that point didn’t really serve the story at all, which means this movie could’ve been completely rape free and been just as potent.  Looking around on Wikipedia, it turns out that Larsson included that stuff because he witnessed a gang rape when he was 15 and it’s haunted him ever since.  I’m sure women would be into it because Lisbeth has a pretty hardcore retaliation for her rape and that’s very empowering for women.  Not having a vagina myself, I just realized that it was unnecessary to the story.  If Lisbeth just walked in and got hired by Mikael, nothing would have changed.  The mystery that they solve together was pretty great, and I really had no clue what the outcome would be until the very moment they revealed it in the movie.  I also had a bit of trouble following some of the reveals in the end because I lost track of the names of all the characters.  I probably could’ve been paying better attention, but there were also so many suspects that, when they were coming up with the potential killer’s name, I was trying to figure out which one of the people they were talking about.  But it’s still a very good mystery, and I appreciated it for that.  After the mystery is taken care of and the story is wrapped up, I felt like the story kept going to no great effect, but it wasn’t that much time wasted.  The look of the movie bothered me a bit, but mainly just because everything was just a shade above black and white for almost the first half of the movie, and that didn’t make it very visually interesting to me.  Except for the opening titles.  They were pretty cool and definitely visually interesting.  There was also a car chase and crash that was pretty spectacular in the movie.  I’m not that big of a fan of Trent Reznor.  Never was a Nine Inch Nails fan and most of his “music” in this movie just sounded like there was constantly a plane flying overhead, but it did set the mood, so I guess it did what it was aiming at.

I can’t think of any real criticisms about the performances in this movie, but I do have a couple of fake criticisms.  This was one of the first times I had seen Daniel Craig play someone that wasn’t James Bond, and it was a much more grounded and real performance.  I felt bad for him for the bulk of the movie because almost anyone that interacted with him opened with a verbal kick to the nuts by bringing up his legal troubles.  I did laugh when Lisbeth was stitching up a cut on his head because the cut seemed so minor.  As a guy, there’s not a whole lot I can say about Rooney Mara’s character that’s non-sexual.  Finding her attractive in this movie was difficult for me.  I usually like the goth look, but her hair and almost invisible eyebrows were a little off-putting to me.  Her body was not, though, and she was not shy about letting that thing breathe.  I did think the sex between her and Daniel Craig just came out of nowhere and could’ve used a little explanation, but I’m not complaining because I enjoy her boobs.  Most of the time she just played it emotionally dead, but performed her part of the rape disturbingly realistically, and that made her retaliation that much more satisfying.

I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo much more than I thought I would, but it was not without it’s problems.  The story doesn’t pick up for me me until Lisbeth and Mikael start working together because I felt like Lisbeth’s part of the movie before that was unnecessary.  It wasn’t that visually interesting to me, but the story kept me paying attention for the second half of the movie, and I never saw the end coming.  I can recommend this movie for a watch but, from what I’ve heard, that’s just because I haven’t seen the Swedish ones.  I still liked this movie though.  And so, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets “You do something for me, I do something for you” out of “May I kill him?”

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The Sound of Music (1965)

You Brought Music Back Into The House

This was an odd request to fulfill.  Not because the movie is bad or anything, but it’s a really old musical drama that I would not expect my friend Josh to request of me, but he said if you can get through a musical, this movie was actually really good.  It was also a pretty easy request to fulfill because I already owned the movie.  But, as is the case with a ridiculously large portion of my collection, I had not opened it and had no recollection of the movie.  But, in order to fulfill the review request, I popped open this movie for the first time and sat down to watch, and review, The Sound of Music, written by Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse, Ernest Lehman, and Maria von Trapp, directed by Robert Wise, and starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Charmian Carr, Nicholas Hammond, Heather Menzies, Duane Chase, Angela Cartwright, Debbie Turner, Kym Karath, Richard Haydn, Eleanor Parker, Peggy Wood, and Anna Lee.

How do you solve a problem like Maria (Julie Andrews)?  By sending her to be the governess of the seven von Trapp family kids!  Apparently, these little kids do everything in their power to scare off any potential governess’, and Maria would be no different.  She goes to the estate and meets the widowed Austrian Navy Captain, Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), who in turn introduces Maria to his seven children, who he has trained to obey commands via a whistle like dogs.  The children are Liesl (Charmian Carr), Friedrich (Nicholas Hammond), Louisa (Heather Menzies), Kurt (Duane Chase), Brigitta (Angela Cartwright), Marta (Debbie Turner), and Gretl (Kym Karath).  Maria gets close to the children when Georg is off making a booty call to Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Eleanor Parker).  She gets close to them by sewing them play clothes out of curtains and singing songs at them, in turn teaching them to sing.  When Georg comes back with the Baroness, she gets Maria back to a nunnery by insinuating that Georg and Maria are falling for each other.  But Maria comes back with a vengeance and gets her man back.  But all is not well for the von Trapp family, as the Nazi’s are starting to take over Austria, and they want Georg to join their navy.  How do you solve a problem like the Nazi’s?

I was pretty surprised to find that I liked this movie.  Not because it was old, because I like plenty of older movies.  It’s not because it’s a musical, even though I tend dislike them.  I was surprised that I liked this movie ’cause I hate Josh so fucking much and he liked it.  But this was an enjoyable movie.  It’s a pretty cool story, first of all.  It’s got this story of the house keeper winning over snotty children, then it’s got this love story, and it’s got some drama in it too.  I would’ve LIKED for there to be some awesome Nazi shootout/battle scenes, but I guess that wasn’t really what they were going for.  The drama wasn’t too heavy, but it was a little tense near the end when they were hiding out from the Nazi’s.  The love story is one you can kind of see coming from the beginning, but it was still well executed.  What surprised me most about this movie is that it had some genuine laughs in it.  I wasn’t expecting comedy out of this movie.  The first part that made me laugh was when Georg was dissing Maria’s dress.  She says “We gave all of our Earthly clothes to the poor,” and Georg asks “What about this one?” and Maria responds “The poor didn’t want this one.”  That’s a pretty solid joke, and it totally caught me off guard.  The kids said a couple of funny things in the movie as well, using the classic “kids say the darnedest things” style.  The movie looks pretty gorgeous too, having been filmed on location in Austria.  Beautiful scenery in this movie, and all very colorful and pleasant to look at.  I would say the thing that scared me most about this movie would be the fact that it was just shy of 3 hours long.  But, to be honest, I didn’t really notice it.  It kept my attention well enough to make time fly pretty quickly, but you should clear your schedule when you sit down to watch this thing.

As with most musicals, I do feel like they broke into song a little too much.  We don’t all need to be singing all the time.  I get it, the von Trapp family were singers, but you really don’t need to have a whole production number just to say “We’re going to bed.”  Because my mother could not be stopped from singing nonstop in my childhood (because of the nail she had lodged in her brain), I knew the greater majority of the songs in this movie by heart.  What I didn’t know was that they were all from this movie.  If you have a decent degree of knowledge involving older songs and musicals (or you’ve seen enough Family Guy), you’ll recognize the greater majority of these songs too.  Obviously “The Sound of Music” is one that we can all figure out came from this movie, but also “Maria” (which is the one that goes “How do we solve a problem like Maria?”), “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, (These Are a Few of) “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi” (the one with “Do, a deer, a female deer”, blah blah blah), “The Lonely Goatherd”, and “Edelweiss” can be found in this movie.  I knew all of them, and if someone hummed a few bars I could sing it, but I just found out that they were from this.  So the songs were indeed an asset to the movie, though one or two were a little drawn out for my tastes.

There was one thing that caught me off guard about the cast that I kept noticing throughout the entire movie: Julie Andrews was hot!  Like, fer real though!  She was also a good actress and a great singer, but that is not what I was focused on when she was on screen.  Christopher Plummer did more acting than singing in the movie, but he was pretty great at both.  At first, he played a dick very well.  Later, he was very warm in his mannerisms.  When it was time to sing, well he could do that too.  Fuckin’ show off.  I would say the only one of the children that made any kind of impact on me was Charmian Carr.  She was really the only one that had any kind of story beyond just hanging out with her siblings.  She performed fine, and was also attractive.  Let me ask you a question: if she actually was 16 in this movie, is it bordering on pederasty to think she was attractive?  ‘Cause she would’ve been born a year before my mom.  I don’t know, it’s a grey area.  The youngest boy, Duane Chase, and the youngest girl, Kym Karath, only struck me because they annoyed me.  The boy seemed to be trying too hard, and the girl was not a great actress.  Yeah, that’s right.  I’m ragging on 7-year-olds for their inability to act!  What of it?!

Anyways, this was a good movie.  If you ask me, they should win AT LEAST 4 Oscars … as they did.  Good call!  A good story, some pretty great songs, and mostly great acting can be found within.  I would thoroughly recommend this movie to anyone that feels they can tolerate a musical, and maybe even if you can’t.  Don’t be so manly that you can’t enjoy a good movie because it’s slightly girly.  This movie is only available in disc form on Netflix, but it’s worth the wait.  Check it out.  The Sound of Music gets “Only grown-up men are scared of women” out of “I wonder what grass tastes like.”

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