Friday, July 29, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Six (1993)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

At the end of season five, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and the rest of the crew of the starship Enterprise traveled back in time to San Francisco of the 1800s to rescue Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and to stop the phase creatures of Dividia II from stealing the life-force of humans of that era. 

Their wacky adventure through time and space will bring them into contact with a past version of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), a young boy named Jack London (Michael Aron) and eccentric novelist Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain (Jerry Hardin).  Picard and the others must figure out a way to get back to the future, save Data's life, and save 19th century Earth from life-sucking aliens. 

Over the course of the sixth season, the starship Enterprise will go on more galactic adventures, meeting new alien life forms, battle dangerous enemies and discover the secret origins of life in the galaxy.  Commander Riker will lose the ability to discern reality from hallucination. Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) goes on a journey to discover the truth about his father's supposed death at the hands of the Romulans.  Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) is kidnapped and forced to participate in a dangerous undercover mission aboard a Romulan ship.  Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) tries to solve the murder of a Ferengi scientist who has invented a revolutionary new type of force field.  And Captain Picard will journey into the afterlife and discover that the regrets of his past are too much a part of the fabric of his life to remove.

And at the end of it all, the unstoppable Borg will return.  But this time, something has changed.  No longer drones, these Borg are vicious and blood-thirsty, and their goal is to eliminate all organic life in the galaxy.  On top of that, Data will have a momentous moment: his first emotion.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Five (1992)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

"...You're not Niles."
At the end of Season Four, the crew of the starship Enterprise found themselves in quite a bind: Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) had left Starfleet to fight alongside the forces of Chancellor Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) as the Klingon Empire is plunged into civil war. 

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) concoct a plan to set up a blockade along the Klingon border, preventing Romulan Commander Sela (Denise Crosby) from delivering supplies to the Klingon traitors led by the Duras sisters, Lursa (Barbara March) and B'Etor (Gwynyth Walsh). 

After the season opener, "Redemption, Part II," the crew of the Enterprise tackles another year of dangerous missions, saving alien worlds from ecological disasters, meeting shifty time travelers, conspiracies and threats to the peaceful Federation.

Joining the crew is the rebellious Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes), a Bajoran officer helping the crew to track down terrorists who attacked a Federation colony near the Cardassian border.  Afterward, Ro stays aboard the ship as helm officer, and participates in a number of adventures.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Directed by Joe Johnston
Rated PG-13: Sci-fi violence and action
Running Time: 124 minutes

Marvel Studios presents the final piece of "The Avengers" puzzle that began with "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk."  Next year, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America will team up for what promises to be the biggest, baddest superhero film of all time.

"Captain America: The First Avenger," like those other films, presents the origin story of one member of the Avengers team.  Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny kid from Brooklyn, New York who feels an incredible sense of duty to fight for his country in World War II.  Unfortunately, his size and laundry list of health problems mean he can never serve in the military, even though is best friend "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is soon to ship out.

But young Rogers refuses to give up, applying again and again until he's noticed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who works for a secret Super Soldier program under the command of Colonel Philips (Tommy Lee Jones).  Against Philips recommendations, Erskine chooses Rogers to be his first test subject, and Rogers is assigned to a unit under Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). 

Meanwhile, the evil and genius Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) has located an ancient power source known as the tesseract he believes will bestow him with the power of the gods.  Once it does so, he begins to unveil his own plan for world domination, making his Hydra forces an even bigger threat to the world than Hitler and the Nazis.  Schmidt, it is revealed, is Erskine's first attempt at creating a super-soldier.  The Nazis forced Erskine to experiment on Schmidt, but the results were unpredictable, turning Schmidt's skin red and deforming his face until he looks like ... the Red Skull.

Back in America, a Hydra agent manages to infiltrate the super-soldier program and destroys it, killing Erskine, and making Rogers the only viable test subject.  Now, "Captain America" can't be sent to the front, he's too valuable as a lab subject and a symbol for American troops.  He's sent to make propaganda films and push the sales of US War Bonds at USO shows across the country.  Eventually, he's sent to entertain troops in Italy where he discovers that Bucky's unit was taken prisoner by Hydra.  Against orders, Rogers, Carter and genius industrialist Howard Stark mount a dangerous rescue mission into German territory.  When Rogers returns successful having rescued some 400 prisoners of war, Philips realizes that Captain America can be a valuable asset in warfare.

Now, Rogers, leading "Dum Dum" Dugan (Neal McDonough) and his Howling Commandos, must find and destroy Hydra's other bases before the Red Skull uses his advanced technology to destroy the United States and take ovr the entire world.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Four (1991)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

When we last left the Starship Enterprise, the cybernetic Borg Collective had kidnapped and assimilated Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), forcing him to lead their attack on the Federation.  Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) has taken command of the ship and implemented a plan that would destroy the Borg ship... and Picard along with it.

Of course, nothing goes as planned - the Enterprise's super-weapon fails, the Borg having assimilated knowledge of it from Picard's mind.  Riker must learn to let go of what he's learned under Picard's tutelage and form his own plans in order to outwit his former Captain and save billions of lives.

But it doesn't end there; Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) will meet his creator, long thought dead.  Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton) will investigate the disappearances of a team of former teammates.  The crew will encounter the younger sister of their fallen comrade, Tasha Yar.  Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) will go on his final mission as a member of the crew before heading to Starfleet Academy. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) will find love, only to have it torn from her.  Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is the only way the crew can communicate with stranded aliens... through her nightmares.

And Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) will come face to face with the disastrous consequences of accepting discommendation the year previous to save the Klingon Empire from civil war.  Now, with Chancellor K'Empec (Charles Cooper) dead, two competitors for the throne, Gowron (Robert O'Reilly) and the traitorous Duras (Patrick Massett) could lead the Empire down that road anyway.  In the gripping season finale, Worf must choose between his loyalty to Starfleet and his birthright as a Klingon warrior.  Saving the Empire will bring him honor, but will also cost him dearly.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Three (1990)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

After a shaky but much-improved second season, the sci-fi hit "Star Trek: The Next Generation" returned for a third season in syndication.  Several shakeups behind the scenes, as well as the ailing health of series creator Gene Roddenberry led to a show that seemed almost completely different from what came before.

In the third season, the starship Enterprise-D continues to explore the galaxy, coming across new life forms and strange situations.  In the season opener, experimental nano-robots created by Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) become sentient and threaten the ship with destruction.  In later episodes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) will take on a greater role as a diplomat, negotiating treaties and trade with a variety of alien races.  First Officer William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) will struggle once again with the idea of taking on his own command or staying with the Enterprise.  Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) returns to the Enterprise after a year away and deal with the fact that her son is growing up.  Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) will create an android daughter, only to watch her die.  Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) must prove to the Klingon Empire that his father wasn't a traitor.  And Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge will get beat up and knocked out by Romulans.

Throughout the season, the Romulans will continue to play an increasingly dangerous game of chess with the Federation and the alliance with the Klingon Empire will be threatened.  All this will culminate in an explosive season finale featuring the return of the vicious Borg Collective, an unstoppable race of cybernetic beings bent on conquering or destroying all life in the galaxy. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Let Me In" (2010)

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace-Moretz and Elias Koteas
Written and directed by Matt Reeves
Rated R - Language, violence, gory images
Running Time: 116 Minutes

An American remake of the Swedish film, "Let the Right One In," 2010's "Let Me In" for the most part is a rather faithful adaptation.  Though both films are based on a book, I haven't read it so I can't speak to them as adaptations of that, but I can compare the two film versions which are remarkably similar in some aspects and very different in others.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a meek 12-year-old in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the early 1980s.  Every day at school he's bullied by Kenny (Dylan Minette) and his cronies.  One day, a young girl named Abby (Chloe Grace-Moretz) moves in next door, along with an older man Owen assumes to be her father (Richard Jenkins).  Owen meets Abby one night in the courtyard of his apartment complex, and she tells him they can't be friends.   But soon enough, the two are meeting up in the courtyard every night, and despite Abby's warnings and apprehension, the two begin to grow closer.

But the truth is that Abby isn't a girl; she's a vampire.  Her 'father' is actually her servant, who goes out to make kills and bring her back blood to keep her alive.  Unfortunately, he's failed to do so, forcing Abby to go out and kill on her own.  Soon enough, a police detective (Elias Koteas) begins looking into these murders, and starts to hone in on Abby and Owen. 

It's a little difficult to review "Let Me In" in the sense that so much of what I have to say about it has already been said when I reviewed "Let the Right One In."  The story has all the same themes and points, and many scenes are similarly staged, though not shot-for-shot copies.  Owen gives Abby a Rubik's cube to play with, she vomits after eating the candy, Owen still cracks the bully with a stick on the field trip, a woman catches on fire in the hospital, and so on.  So both films hit all the same beats, but things are just slightly different enough to give each film its own identity.

"Horrible Bosses" (2011)

Starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis
Written by Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daly and Jonathan M. Goldstein
Directed by Seth Gordon
Rated R - Language, drug use, violence, sexual situations
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Aside from "The Hangover, Part II" there's been quite a run of solid and even great R-rated comedies this year.  Highest on the list for this reviewer is still Kristen Wiig's riotous "Bridesmaids," but now coming up second is "Horrible Bosses."

Nick (Jason Bateman) has been working his ass off for eight months, showing up at 6 am sharp every morning in the hopes of getting a huge promotion.  Instead, his asshole boss Harken (Kevin Spacey) decides to take the title, the office and most of the pay for himself.  Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant looking forward to marrying his fiance (Lindsay Sloane), but unfortunately his maneater nympho boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston) has got it hard for him.  Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) loves his job, until his kindly boss (Donald Sutherland) dies and the position is inherited by his cokehead son Bobby (Colin Farrell) who just wants to gut the company for profit.

These three friends eventually hatch an absurd plot to murder their bosses.  But since none of them actually knows how to plan and execute the murder of someone, they need to get help.  They drive to one of the worst bars in town and there they meet their "murder consultant," an ex-con named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx) who, for $5,000, will tell them how to get away with killing their horrible bosses.  Taking a page from an old Hitchcock movie, "Strangers on a Train," the trio decides to each kill anothers' boss.

But forming a plan and executing it are two entirely different and difficult things.  Screwups, mishaps and misunderstandings will follow as the friends get themselves into worse and worse trouble just trying to make their lives a little bit easier.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season Two (1988)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Second SeasonDespite the questionable quality of the episodes, the first season of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was a hit in syndication, premiering to some 27 million viewers, and began to average a whopping 20 million throughout the rest of the season.  The nerdy sci-fi show passed over by major networks was outperforming mainstays like "Wheel of Fortune" and hits such as "Cheers."  A second season, obviously, was on its way.

We find the crew of the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), having gone through some changes since their encounter with the Romulans in "The Neutral Zone."  Worf (Michael Dorn) has been promoted to Lieutenant, and is now Security Chief, taking over for the late Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby).  Geordi (Levar Burton) has also been promoted and is now the ship's Chief Engineer.  Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) has left the Enterprise, replaced by Dr. Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur).  Wesley (Wil Wheaton) remains on board the ship, preparing for entrance to Starfleet Academy under the tutelage of Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Commander Data (Brent Spiner).  The ship has also gained a bar, hosted by the mysterious, but benevolent, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg).  

In the season opener, Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) discovers that she is pregnant.  But this is no normal child; the fetus grows at a rate much faster than normal, with Troi giving birth in a matter of hours.  The child seems to age years in days, and to make matters worse, seems to be emitting some kind of radiation that is affecting dangerous viral samples the Enterprise is transporting in its cargo bay. 

Throughout the course of these 22 episodes, the starship Enterprise will become trapped in spatial voids and encounter bizarre, non-corporeal life forms.  It will encounter frozen Klingons intent on restarting the war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.  The crew will do battle with Ferengi pirates.  The holodeck will malfunction.  Q will make a return visit, and hurl the Enterprise directly into the path of the Borg - a race of cybernetic beings intent on destroying or conquering all life in the galaxy. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season One (1987)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete First SeasonOver a decade after the final cancellation of 'Star Trek,' the crew of the USS Enterprise found new life on the big screen.  After several successful feature film adventures, Paramount felt the time was finally right for 'Star Trek' to return to television.  But with William Shatner and his aging original crew firmly entrenched in the world of feature films, a new ship and crew would be featured in the TV show.

In 1987, 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' premiered in syndication.  And it was huge.

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D cruises the galaxy a century after the events of the previous 'Star Trek' TV series and movies.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) commands the crew, including first officer Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), security chief Lieutenant Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), Beverly's young genius son Wesley (Wil Wheaton), Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), blind helmsman Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton), and Klingon security officer Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn).  

In the premiere episode, the Enterprise is ordered to investigate strange goings-on at the brand-new outpost, Farpoint Station.  En route, the ship encounters a powerful being called Q (John de Lancie) who puts the crew on trial, calling humans a "savage child-race."  Picard challenges Q to allow them to go on their mission as a test to prove that humanity is no longer prone to violence or selfishness.

Over the course of the season, the starship Enterprise will encounter strange new worlds, time distortions, bizarre creatures, old enemies, and new ones. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Bad Teacher" (2011)

Starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel
Written by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Rated R - Language, crude humor, sex
Running Time: 92 Minutes

A very typical movie is the "guys doing awful things" movie.  A well-worn genre, it has given rise to a few classics, from "Animal House" on to the recent "The Hangover."  What has rarely occurred, of course, is the "girls doing awful things" movie.  Earlier this summer, "Bridesmaids" came around and proved that women could be just as foul as anyone else.

Riding on its coattails is "Bad Teacher."

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a shallow, self-centered gold-digger.  She's quitting her job as a seventh grade teacher on the eve of her wedding to some rich guy.  Unfortunately, he discovers that she happens to be a shallow, self-centered gold-digger and dumps her, forcing her to go back to a job she hates, dealing with people and kids she can't stand.  Elizabeth vows to meet a man who can take care of her, but to do that, she thinks she needs to get a fabulous pair of fake breasts.

At school, Elizabeth runs afoul of the school's nosy, bossy "perfect" teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) who recognizes that Elizabeth is a flat-out terrible teacher.  New to the school is young substitute Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake) who happens to have access to lots and lots of family money.  Both Elizabeth and Amy set their sights on Scott, hoping to win him over.   At the same time, the gym teacher, Russ Gettis (Jason Segel) has his sights set on Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth's attempts to raise money for her boob job become increasingly dangerous.  When she discovers that the school gives a massive bonus to the teacher whose students score highest on a state standardized test, Elizabeth concocts a scheme to make sure hers come out on top.