Film Review: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Also known as: Star Trek IX, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek: Prime Directive, Star Trek: Rebellion, Star Trek: Stardust (working titles)
Release Date: December 10th, 1998 (Cinevegas Film Festival)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Written by: Michael Piller, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe

Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“If a court-martial is the only way to tell the Federation what is happening here, Admiral… I welcome it.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard

This is my least favorite Star Trek film of all-time. Yes, I even like The Final Frontier more than this. The problem is that this just doesn’t work as a story or an event worthy of a Star Trek motion picture.

When you get to the end of this film, you realize that it is almost worth forgetting. It really just feels like a mediocre episode of The Next Generation TV show. It has some grandiose moments but it is a very small story when compared to the scale of what all the other Star Trek movies were. I mean, you just saved the Earth from a time traveling Borg invasion and now you’re off to La La Land to protect a mere 600 people from being tricked by a villain to live in a Holodeck that is made to resemble their village. I mean, really? This was the story? It felt like a rejected script for a filler episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

I liked that F. Murray Abraham was the villain and he did do a tremendous job in the role, fully committed to playing an insane person with a face that looked like beef jerky stretched over a basketball. But it wasn’t anywhere near enough to save this picture from being a lame and stale bore.

Star Trek films’ special effects have always been pretty amazing. However, even that area lacked in this picture. This was the first Trek movie to go full CGI instead of using models for its starships. The Enterprise-E looked good for the most part but the ship with the sails looked bad, the effects of the nebula weren’t well refined and then the attack drones on the planet’s surface looked terrible. It was like watching a cheap TV movie on SyFy from twenty years ago.

This film was also heavy handed with the lightheartedness and humor. Most of it was hokey and weird. There was an entire subplot about Lt. Worf going through puberty. He had a big zit, an angry teenage temper and pretty much just constantly reminded us that his body was going through some changes.

They also emphasized the relationship between Riker and Troi, which was actually fine but most of the scenes seemed out of place and sort of interrupted the flow of things.

Picard also had a love interest in the form of a 300 year-old woman that looked like she was forty-five.

The producers wanted a lighthearted movie after the doom and gloom of First Contact. They admitted to the fact that they were trying to do their generation’s version of The Voyage Home. It just didn’t work nearly as well, as The Voyage Home felt organic and natural where Insurrection felt odd, strange and incredibly dull.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the death knell of the franchise. We would still get one more movie from The Next Generation‘s cast after this one.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: GenerationsStar Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Comic Review: You Are Deadpool

Published: May 2nd, 2018
Written by: Al Ewing
Art by: Salva Espin, Scott Wilson

Marvel Comics, 22 Pages

Review:

This was a really cool experience and I like how it was organized and laid out. It’s more of a game than a comic but it was straightforward and easy to navigate.

For those of us who were kids in the ’80s, this comic is a blast. It takes the old Find Your Fate and Choose Your Own Adventure format and brings it into comic books. I’ve never seen the concept worked out and presented in a visual way but that was what made this so unique and fun. Plus, Deadpool was the perfect character to take this journey with.

As far as the plot, it was simplistic and not too exciting. It mostly just served the experience in creating a few gags and jokes within the adventure. Since Deadpool loves to break the fourth wall, the jokes are more hilarious, as he talks directly to you, the reader, whenever you make him crawl through shit or get beat up by a low level villain.

And while this was amusing for the one issue that I read, I don’t think that it can work as a series. I guess there are more coming out but I got the gist of the experience from this one issue and probably won’t pick up the others. It may have actually worked better had this been a double issue with a longer story and more options, as opposed to spreading this out over five or six separate issues, which is what they’re doing.

Unlike the Find Your Fate books I read in the ’80s, this doesn’t have enough narrative to keep you engaged for multiple read throughs. It needed more meat and potatoes, frankly. But still, it was an amusing fifteen minutes and I have to give kudos for the concept.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Anything starring Deadpool, honestly.

Documentary Review: The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

Release Date: January 20th, 2014 (Sundance)
Directed by: Chapman Way, Maclain Way
Music by: Brocker Wa

Netflix, 73 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a Netflix exclusive that just dropped this past weekend. It is the story of the short-lived Portland Mavericks minor league baseball franchise that was started and ran by Bing Russell, actor and father of Kurt Russell.

The Mavericks were pretty big in the ’70s. In fact, they were getting more press coverage than a lot of the major league teams. They also set some minor league attendance records during their existence. They were scruffy, tough and not your typical clean cut all-American team. They brought a hardened edge to baseball and a level of competition that not only surprised the City of Portland but also surprised the team.

This was a thoroughly entertaining, informative and enjoyable documentary. As a baseball fan that was born in the late ’70s, I’ve heard the stories of the Portland Mavericks but I wasn’t alive to witness it. This gave a lot of the stories I’ve heard, more insight and depth. It also added in a bunch of stuff I would’ve never known otherwise.

It was great seeing Kurt Russell and his mother adding their two cents to the documentary, as well as the interviews with all the old Mavericks and key people. The movie was well edited, well put together and seemed to fly by with ease. The short 73 minute running time may have something to do with that.

This is one of the better baseball documentaries that I’ve seen come out in the last few years. If you’re a fan of the sport, check it out. If you’ve got Netflix streaming, it’s free.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: No No: A Dockumentary and Ken Burns’ Baseball.

Film Review: Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

Also known as: Ghostbusters (original title), Ghostbusters 3 (working title), Flapjack (fake working title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2016 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Based on: Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Music by: Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McDonald, Zach Woods, Toby Huss, Bill Murray (cameo), Dan Aykroyd (cameo), Ernie Hudson (cameo), Sigourney Weaver (cameo), Annie Potts (cameo), Ivan Reitman (cameo), Ozzy Osbourne (cameo), Al Roker (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, The Montecito Picture Company, Feigco Entertainment, Pascal Pictures, Ghost Corps, Sony Pictures Releasing, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I will not let the 12-year reputation of this fine institution be besmirched by you!” – The Dean

I was a massive fan of the original Ghostbusters movies. However, even with rumors of a Ghostbusters 3 for years, I never really wanted a follow up. It had been such a long time since the second film and franchise movies that go on multiple decade hiatuses never seem to recapture the magic. The sequel idea was eventually abandoned in favor of this reboot, however. But still, I didn’t want it.

The only way that I thought a modern Ghostbusters could work is if it was to introduce a new generation and for it to exist in the same universe with the original guys passing the torch so that they could finally retire. Instead, this was just a flat out reboot with no continuity shared with the original two films.

But then there was also the gender twist element to this film. It seemed to be the latest Hollywood franchise to do a full gender swap for the sake of just swapping gender. Do I care that these four characters are women? No. But Hollywood (and all of entertainment, really) is sort of forcing diversity on the masses just because they can and apparently we’re all sexist, racist, homophobes if we don’t just accept what they are making the new normal.

In any event, this film came out with a lot of backlash because people are sick of the forced diversity shtick. Was that fair to the actresses in the film? Probably not. I felt that it should stand on its own merits but I also wanted to separate myself from all the social and political commentary for a long while before giving it a fair shot.

Let me first say that this sequel was unnecessary. Had it been made to build off of the already existing mythos and served to enrich it, then that would have made this more worthwhile and given it a point beyond just appearing like Hollywood attempting to gender swap fan favorite characters.

The thing is, I like most of the people in this film and that’s the main reason why I wanted to finally check it out. That being said, I enjoyed these women, their characters and I also thought that most of the supporting cast were better than decent. I also enjoyed the cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast members.

In the end, this film worked for me. There are several reasons for this but the biggest positive was that the writers didn’t try to just rehash what the first film was. This movie had it’s own original story with some cool ideas that served the narrative well. I liked the story, I thought it was pretty creative and even if the villain was weak when compared to Gozer and Vigo, his plan was still interesting and worthy of a first outing for this team of Ghostbusters.

Additionally, this film had a lot of fan service moments. They weren’t necessary or even really expected but the studio did a good job of not using these elements to sell the film in trailers. These surprises weren’t spoiled ahead of time for me and I was glad to see them worked into the movie, especially that major homage to The REAL Ghostbusters cartoon series.

I also loved the special effects and the whole visual style of the movie. The ghosts looked cool and there was a great variety of ghost styles. While the “ghosts unleashed on Manhattan” segment from the original film is one of the best moments in film history, I felt that this film’s take on that beloved moment was executed spectacularly.

The only ghost I really wasn’t a fan of was the demon dragon thing and the whole segment trying to capture it at the rock concert was one of the film’s lower points. But surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of other low points.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t hate this like many people seem to. But I also didn’t expect to like it all that much either. I was lukewarm to this film and didn’t have the biggest urge to see it. I’m glad that I did though. It was entertaining enough, made me laugh a few times and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel even though they probably won’t make one and will most likely just reboot the film series again, sometime down the road. That one will probably star four overweight paraplegic lesbian Fijians, one of which will be Muslim too.

But seriously, social political agenda aside, this made me laugh and had some good positives.

Also, Andy Garcia’s mayor character was damn good.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Just about any other Melissa McCarthy movie, as well as GhostbustersGhostbusters II and Bridesmaids.

Film Review: Robo Vampire (1988)

Also known as: Robovamp (Spain)
Release Date: 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Godfrey Ho (as Joe Livingstone)
Written by: William Palmer
Music by: Ian Wilson
Cast: Robin Mackay, Nian Watts, Harry Myles, Joe Browne

Filmark International Ltd., 90 Minutes

Review:

“Now that Tom is dead, I want to use his body to create an android-like robot. I’d appreciate you approving my application.” – Soldier #1

This is easily one of the worst things I have ever seen, hands f’n down. This makes all of those other Godfrey Ho movies look like Fellini films.

To be honest, I don’t even know what the hell I watched. This is a Godfrey Ho movie but his pictures are much better when he just throws a bunch of ninjas at each other. This saw a fake Robocop take on vampires dressed in ornate Chinese garb that bounce around like pogo sticks with their arms outstretched. I’m not shitting you. The threat is bouncy zombie dudes dressed like a maître d’ at a super fancy Chinese restaurant.

The fake Robocop suit is so damn bad that it made my head want to explode with confusion and bewilderment. But not a good kind of bewilderment. I think I made a better Robocop suit out of tin foil and duct tape when I was nine years old.

This pile of donkey dung was terrible in every way. The acting was atrocious. The dubbing was deplorable. The directing was reprehensible. The cinematography was nonexistent. The music was barf inspiring. Nothing about this worked in any way whatsoever.

You know how a bad movie can be sort of good because it is so bad? Well, this is so bad it made me want to take a rotary sander to my face just to hide my eyes from it.

One time when I was in third grade, I did what I thought was a fart while I was in class. I got a little surprise though… it was more than a fart. It was a fart with a wet, physical friend. That experience was less horrifying than this one.

So let me use that analogy to segue into what we all know must happen. Robo Vampire absolutely must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Fuck you, asshole! I am not analyzing this cinematic calamity! – Sincerely, the Cinespiria Shitometer”

Rating: 0.25/10
Pairs well with: Bowel cancer.

Book Review: ‘The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution’ by Tom Acitelli

History is awesome. Beer is awesomer. America is awesomest.

Put all three of those together and you get this: a triple awesome badass epic that goes through the history of craft brewing in the United States of America.

Tom Acitelli has put together a great book for craft beer lovers. It doesn’t matter if you are in America or not, this book tells the interesting tales of some of the most interesting breweries there are. It examines how the craft brewing industry came to be such a juggernaut in the U.S. and how it has fought against the bigger corporate megabreweries (still a much, much bigger juggernaut).

The book helped to solidify and enrich my love of beer, its creation process and just about everything else surrounding it.

Acitelli’s words are well-written, the tales he tells are well presented and there is a lot of new knowledge to walk away with even for the most hardcore beer aficionado.

I cannot recommend this book to beer lovers and/or history buffs enough.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The books Tasting BeerBeyond the Pale and Asheville Beer.

Film Review: Boy (2010)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2010 (Sundance)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Taika Waititi
Music by: The Phoenix Foundation
Cast: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Moerangi Tihore, Cherilee Martin, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Haze Reweti, Maakariini Butler, Rajvinder Eria, Rachel House, Craig Hall

Whenua Films, Unison Films, New Zealand Film Production Fund, New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, Te Mangai Paho, Transmission Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t call me dad, it sounds weird.” – Alamein

I’ve been a Taika Waititi fan since first seeing Eagle vs. Shark and Flight of the Conchords. I didn’t see Boy when it first came out though and I put it off for too long. I have heard great things but the subject matter was pretty close to home and I wanted to save this for a later date because I assumed it’d be a good movie to keep on the back burner when I needed something really good to watch.

Well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed and I ended up loving this more than I thought I would. It’s funny and emotional while also having a perfect balance between lightheartedness and seriousness. Really, it was crafted with perfection and with a real love of the story and the characters within.

The young James Rolleston had to carry this picture on his back and he did so with gusto and really made the film a magical experience. You saw the world through his eyes, felt his pain but also felt his youthful enthusiasm, even when he was faced with tremendous adversity and a broken heart. He had Waititi at his side in the toughest scenes but this kid shined and really represented the feelings that many boys and men have in regards to fathers that treat their sons like an afterthought. And even though Rolleston’s Boy eventually releases all his pent up anger and disappointment, he still takes the right step forward and leaves the door open to his shitty dad, showing a child much more mature than the man that made him.

This film deals with a lot of serious subject matter and emotion but it mixes in the comedy elements very well. Waititi is the master at blending tough subject matter and humor. Between this film and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he’s proven that he is a master of his craft in this regard.

Boy, the character, was such a fun kid to get to know. But the other kids were also great and had their own smaller stories sort of woven into this great tapestry. His younger brother Rocky had his own view about things and Dynasty had some serious problems she had to deal with that were directly tied to Boy and his nitwit father Alamein.

Certain moments in the film were emotionally difficult to witness but it was all presented so perfectly and beautifully. And regardless of the hardships all of these characters face, the film ends pretty optimistically with hope. It seems as if things will get better after all the bad stuff that happened. Ultimately, it shows me that Taika Waititi understands life and this film is really a celebration of it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.