Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

I Know Engineers.  They LOVE to Change Things.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)In my video review for Star Trek Into Darkness, I suggested that J.J. Abrams may turn me into a fan of the Star Trek series were he to keep making such good movies from them.  Ever since I made that claim, something powerful has been brewing inside me.  It was my nerdiness.  It had overridden the bias that caused me to write off Star Trek lest my love of Star Wars be tested.  Also, the BluRays of the original movies were on sale just after the new movie’s release.  Inspiration enough for me!  I bought the original movies, but delayed watching them until I watched the entire original series on Netflix.  We’ll review those later.  TV series take much longer.  After finishing the TV show, I finally sat down and watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture, based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Harold Livingston, story by Alan Dean Foster, directed by Robert Wise, and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Persis Khambatta, Stephen Collins, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Majel Barrett.

A monitoring station for Starfleet detects a massive cloud of energy that destroys some Klingon warships, and later the monitoring station itself, en route to Earth.  Starfleet sends out the newly refitted starship Enterprise as a test of her new systems.  Her former Captain, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), comes aboard the Enterprise and takes command from Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins), citing his experience with the Enterprise as precedence over Captain Decker’s experience with the Enterprise’s new systems, creating friction between the two.  Elsewhere, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is interrupted from a ritual to purge himself of all emotion when he detects the cloud, and he rejoins the Enterprise to help find it.  The Enterprise encounters the cloud, where a probe is sent onboard that attacks Spock and abducts the navigator, Decker’s love interest, and Hair Club for Women model, Ilia (Persis Khambatta), who is later replaced by a robotic doppelgänger.  The crew of the Enterprise must work together to find out what this cloud wants before it destroys Earth.

I agree with the general population in saying that this was a less than substantial movie.  I kind of understand the problems with this movie, but I feel they pretty much damaged the movie beyond interest.  It was basically like watching a longer, prettier version of one of the less interesting TV show episodes.  It was mostly about getting the band back together on their new decked out ship, showing off that they have more money to spend on the movie than they did on the TV show.  But I didn’t understand that either.  Has time forgotten the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”  The Enterprise did great on the TV show, but you have to go and update everything and now nothing works?  Then I got bothered with the resolution to the movie.  Turns out the cloud surrounds a planet that itself surrounds the Voyager 6 probe that just wants to return to Earth to drop off its information, as it was programed to do.  But everyone thinks it’s called V’Ger because all of its nameplates are covered up coincidentally in exactly the same spots.  Then it ends with Decker fisting the Voyager and it decides that its mission is accomplished.  It’s something that would be done on the TV show, but didn’t really feel like it required a movie.

The look of this movie is really good for its time, but it’s also to the movie’s detriment.  It’s a great step up from the TV show, but I think they were a little too aware of it.  I have heard this movie described as a bunch of glory shots of the Enterprise, and it’s not a lot more than that.  They love showing off their pretty new graphics though.  The opening scene looked a lot like Star Wars mashed up with Tron.  Then they reintroduce the Enterprise, and Mister Scott takes Kirk on a three minute ride around the outside of the Enterprise, sitting quietly in a dock.  They do the same thing with pretty much every ship shown, even the space station that is doing absolutely nothing.  They also love to show random people floating out in space in space suits doing busy work for some reason.  It’s either done to pad out the film or just to show off how much more money they had this go around.  And it’s true that most of it is really pretty for its time, but there were a couple of things I found goofy.  For instance, the fact that the Klingon ship has a butthole cannon.  And, since we’re on the topic, the opening to the robotic planet that the Enterprise sits outside of for a long time looks like a giant, pulsating, blue anus.  But when travelling through it, it doesn’t look like you’d expect an anus to look like.  Instead, it looks like a series of screensavers.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the performances in the movie.  After playing the same characters in around 80 episodes these people are going to know how to do it better than anyone.  All of them still remember how to do what they’d been doing for so many years before.  Shatner is great.  I’ve made fun of his delivery before, but it just seems right when he’s doing it.  He may be overacting a bit, but when Shatner does it, I still like it.  I didn’t appreciate the changes in uniform as much.  I think the yellow, blue, and red shirts worked.  Plus, they had full sleeves and didn’t reveal that Shatner has unpleasantly hairy upper arms now.  I would also say that, as someone who just recently got turned into a Star Trek fan, I didn’t like seeing Kirk confused on the Enterprise.  I like him much better when he knows what he’s doing.  I think Leonard Nimoy is my favorite amongst the cast.  I like Spock.  He’s got super powers!  And the lack of emotion thing always makes the character more mysterious and interesting.  When Spock rejoins the Enterprise though, I thought he came off more as a dick than a Vulcan, but he eased up a bit on that.  I also love DeForest Kelley.  He’s kind of comic relief without being too overt about it.  Except in that outfit he’s wearing when he first shows up, as if they beamed him up straight out of Studio 54.  Persis Khambatta never really worked for me.  I assume they wanted me to be able to tell what she was saying because she might be saying something that would help me understand what was going on, but the greater majority of things she said did not compute in my brain.  At first it might have been her accent, then later the robotic quality they added to her already hard to understand accent.  Also, she was hot and looked great with that really high skirt, but women don’t really look good bald.  At least not on their head.

I am saying nothing new about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it’s all new to me because this is the first time I have seen it.  The story lacks substance and feels more like a longer version of one of the less interesting episodes of the show, and they wasted a lot of time staring at the Enterprise doing nothing to show off their new graphic capabilities.  I still like the greater majority of the actors playing the roles that they created, but they couldn’t do much with what they were given here.  I still look forward to what they can do with a good script, and I’ve heard good things about the next movie.  We’ll find out how that worked out later.  For now, Star Trek: The Motion Picture gets “No, Admiral.  I don’t think you’re sorry.  Not one damned bit” out of “It knows only that it needs, Commander.  But, like so many of us, it does not know what.”

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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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