Revisiting The Final Frontier STAR TREK Movie Voyages Arrive on Blu-Ray Plus: A BUG'S LIFE, SKYCRAWLERS and more
Over the years, Paramount has likely released more Star Trek episodes
and its respective cinematic voyages on home video than any other
property in their library (and who could blame them, based on the
enduring popularity of the series). On laserdisc and DVD, every film
was released at least twice, driving collectors to the point where some
owned multiple copies of the same movie. In fact, there may be some of
you out there wondering what could possibly follow from a new edition
of these movies that we haven't seen before.
Paramount’s answer is plenty, at least if you have a high-definition Blu-Ray player. The studio’s new STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE COLLECTION
brings the original Enterprise crew’s six movies to Blu-Ray for
the first time in varied but generally satisfying new AVC-encoded
transfers, Dolby TrueHD soundtracks, and with an array of new and older
Certainly the high-definition experience does plenty to restore the cinematic grandeur of Robert Wise’s STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (***, 132 mins., 1979, G), an
entertaining but flawed picture that nevertheless remains the most
“cinematic” of all the big-screen adventures, graced by an
all-time classic score by Jerry Goldsmith that remains unparalleled in
the series for its majestic scope and unforgettable themes.
Plagued by production woes -- from a budget that went spiraling
out-of-control, to the involvement of several special effects companies
(one of which was in seriously over its head), and a Christmas '79
release date that was mandated by the studio -- it's a wonder that TMP
ever became the box-office success that it did.
Its relatively straightforward story -- of a seemingly extraterrestrial
"cloud" destroying everything that comes in its path as it approaches
Earth -- recalls several episodes of the original series (including
"The Doomsday Machine" and "The Changeling"), with Captain Kirk and
crew setting out to explore the unknown "being" and stop it from
destroying life as we know it.
What distinguishes the film from its small-screen counterparts is the
lavish visual treatment the movie receives from director Robert Wise,
cinematographer Richard Kline, the special effects wizardry of Douglas
Trumbull and John Dykstra (among others), and of course, Goldsmith's
marvelous score, which provides more dramatic and emotional presence
than anything in the actual script -- itself culled from what was
supposed to be the pilot for a second, abandoned "Star Trek" TV series.
Although I hadn't been born when the original series aired on NBC, I
still grew up with the show through the magic of syndicated re-runs.
When I was old enough to see ST-TMP, I was captivated by the images and
Goldsmith's music the first time I saw the movie on home video in 1982,
just a few months before "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" was released
to theaters. After 30 minutes or so, however, I remember becoming just
a bit bored by the film and its elaborate, though seemingly endless,
parade of special effects -- a sentiment echoed by the general
consensus of critics and fans at the time.
Set against the backdrop of the movie are sterile "dramatic" moments,
with only a few notable exchanges between our beloved original crew
making one feel at home. The movie's bland secondary characters --
Stephen Collins' Decker and Persis Khambatta's Ilia -- give each other
puppy-dog glances, but they're never developed enough so that we care
What's left that truly does work (aside from Goldsmith's soundtrack) is
Spock's rediscovery of his human side as he attempts to probe V'Ger --
the little lost space vestibule trying to find its creator -- and the
interplay between Kirk, McCoy, and our favorite Vulcan as they decide
how to save civilization once again in the face of insurmountable odds.
Add in a few classic Shatner-isms ("V'Ger! V-O-Y-A-G-E-R. Voyager!"),
and you have a lukewarm but still undeniably compelling film that
manages to get by simply on the basis of its sheer look and scope.
There have been numerous attempts to “fix” TMP’s
pacing and restore character elements to the film -- first in
ABC’s network TV broadcast, which restored 12 minutes of footage,
and later in Robert Wise’s “Director’s Edition”
DVD, which offered most of those added sequences while trimming some of
the fat from the theatrical print. Wise also approved extensive new special
effects for that version as well, though I’m told that some work
has to be done in order to bring the “Director’s
Edition” up to speed for a high-definition release. (That being
said, don’t be surprised if we see the longer TMP in HD in the
near future, perhaps by the time the new “Star Trek” sequel
For those reasons, Paramount has only included the original theatrical
cut of “The Motion Picture” on Blu-Ray in a transfer that
is unquestionably the finest the movie has ever received on home video.
Superior in every facet to its prior DVD editions (including the
“Director’s Edition”), Paramount has served up a
nicely-hued, finely detailed BD presentation here that only seems to
offer a bit of noise-reduction (something that will be most visible on
excessively large screens). With the movie’s visuals being its
most significant asset (in addition to the score), it goes without
saying HD does more for TMP than any of the other pictures in the
series, and for those of us who might’ve missed seeing the film
theatrically, it’s a revelation indeed. The Dolby TrueHD audio is likewise strong, well representing its
original multi-track, late ‘70s Dolby mix.
Extras are a bit of a mixed bag on the Blu-Ray platter. Because the
movie only contains the theatrical edit, that means the
Director’s Edition DVD commentary has been excised, and that
comes as a major disappointment. That track included interviews with
Goldsmith, Wise (who rightly praised Jerry's score throughout), Stephen
Collins, Douglas Trumbull, and John Dykstra, offering a fair assessment
of the film's turbulent, rushed production and new re-editing.
Fans will need to retain that DVD to hear it, along with three
featurettes that likewise have not been retained for the Blu-Ray: the
12-minute look at the aborted “Star Trek: Phase II” TV
revival, the 30-minute “A Bold New Enterprise” documentary
on the film’s production, and a close examination of the
“Director’s Edition” DVD production. While I can
understand the latter’s lack of inclusion, why the former two
extras weren’t included is a bit of a puzzle (perhaps
they’re being saved for a later Blu-Ray release). Also absent is
the test footage from the “Memory Wall” sequence and
Michael Okuda’s text commentary, though the latter has been
reworked as a “Library Computer” on-screen text index.
Debuting on the Blu-Ray release are a pair of brief new HD featurettes:
“The Longest Trek,” which spotlights the genesis of the
script’s creation, and “Special Star Trek Reunion,”
which interviews several Trekkies who discuss their cameo roles in the
sequence where Kirk debriefs the crew on V’Ger’s
appearance. There’s also a brief “Starfleet Academy: The
Mystery Behind V’Ger” segment, two trailers (both in HD)
and TV spots, and 12 minutes of deleted scenes (in 16:9 standard-def)
The most welcome new addition is a fine commentary track with Trek
experts Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
and Daren Dochterman, which sprinkles insight into the making of the
film and its legacy. It’s not as anecdote-rich as the
Director’s Edition commentary but it’s a breezy, enjoyable
track that fans should enjoy.
Though “The Motion Picture” was a huge hit, fans and critics were, by and large, disappointed by it.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (****, 112 mins., 1982, PG),
then, is undoubtedly the reason why Star Trek is still alive and
kicking in the 21st century. Trading in the evocative visuals and
stilted story of "The Motion Picture" for a more exciting,
action-packed, and far more human tale that -- as director Nicholas
Meyer explains in his commentary -- touches upon old age, death,
heroism, tragedy and triumph, “The Wrath of Khan” has
basically become an iconic film of the early ‘80s, and not just
for Star Trek die-hards.
The movie needs no introduction for most viewers, except to say that it
was the film that really got the cinematic series going, providing a
strong, character-oriented story with terrific special effects, a
sweeping score by James Horner (that placed him firmly on the map), a
swift pace, and a phenomenal performance by Ricardo Montalban that
remains a highlight of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, even two decades
following its release.
No matter how many times I see the picture, I always get a huge charge
out of Montalban's performance as Khan, the vengeance-seeking bad guy
who was banished by Captain Kirk back in an episode of the old TV
series, "Space Seed." Unlike so many cardboard movie villains,
Montalban brings this deranged and yet oddly sympathetic villain
totally, completely to life, providing Kirk and the Star Trek universe
itself with their most formidable nemesis (I still don't believe that
the Borg matches him, if only because there's nothing more chilling
than a villain every bit as human as his heroic counterpart). The
scenes in which he spars with Kirk are charged with so much emotion
that I often find myself re-running them because they're so marvelously
executed in terms of writing, direction, and -- of course --
The most amazing thing about the movie -- which has been impressively
brought to Blu-Ray in Paramount’s “Original Motion Picture
Collection” -- is that Khan and Kirk never meet on-screen.
Credited screenwriter Jack B. Sowards had written a confrontation
between the two prior to one of the story's magnificent space battles,
but it was dropped over budgetary concerns. A shame, because while
“Khan” works splendidly as is, it would have been
fascinating to see Montalban and Bill Shatner go at it
Paramount’s Blu-Ray of “Star Trek II” was restored
from its original negative (the only one of the six to receive such
treatment), meaning once again that only the theatrical version, and
not the expanded Director’s Cut, is offered here. That being
said, the few additions to Meyer’s longer version (identical to
ABC’s mid ‘80s network TV airing) aren’t
earth-shattering, and the BD’s fresh 1080p transfer is crisp and
highly satisfying, while still showing some imperfections in the source
material at times. As with TMP, the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is
Extras are both new and reprieved from the prior DVD, with only Michael
Okuda’s text commentary having been dropped from its predecessor
(once again, it’s been “remixed” in the form of the
“Library Computer” feature).
Among the more interesting carry-overs is the Director’s Edition
DVD commentary from Nick Meyer that features all kinds of trivia and
information that Trekkies are going to love. Certainly he covers the
production of the film in far greater detail than the same DVD’s
30-minute documentary (also returning here) which offers interviews
with Meyer, producer Harve Bennett, Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and
Montalban, but is often tedious and dry, marred by close-ups of the
participants staring directly into the camera. After a few minutes,
viewers may find themselves looking away from the screen while
Bennett's eyes are permanently transfixed on them! There's also no
discussion of the casting of Kirstie Alley or Merritt Butrick (or
anyone else, for that matter), no talk about other deleted scenes, of
which there are many. It's still an acceptable presentation for viewers
new to the movie, but certainly isn't as comprehensive or detailed as I
would have liked.
Meyer's commentary, meanwhile, is fascinating when he talks about
working with Shatner (who he says delivered better takes the more he
did them) and Montalban ("less is more"), as well as coping with the
film's modest budget. He rarely ruffles any feathers, nor talks at
length about his complaints over the ending that was changed without
his consent, but aside from sporadic moments of self-congratulation,
Meyer's talk is candid and quite interesting.
For the Blu-Ray there’s also a new, secondary commentary with
Meyer and Trek veteran Manny Coto, which dissects other aspects of the
production and compliments Meyer’s original talk nicely (with
some natural repetition along the way).
Other, older featurettes examine the production design and ILM's work
on the film. This fascinating latter segment includes interviews with
the ILM staffers who wisely decided to have the FX on the film fall
somewhere between the evocative visual design of TMP and the simpler
effects of the original series.
An even longer featurette profiles a pair of authors who wrote
Khan-inspired books, which is OK for real die-hards (if not blatantly
self-promotional), but why not use this space to include other deleted
scenes -- such as Kirk and Spock's exchange about Saavik's half-Romulan
nature and other alternate takes from the TV version. Other returning
DVD extras include storyboards, the trailer in HD, and some ten minutes
of promotional interviews with Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and
Montalban shot in 1982, shortly before the film's release.
New to the Blu-Ray disc are several HD featurettes, including
“Composing Genesis,” a 10-minute interview with James
Horner where the composer discusses hanging out with Jerry Goldsmith
during the scoring of TMP, how Harve Bennett wanted him to use music
from the TV show and TMP while Meyer wanted original,
“seafaring” themes; and his concept of using the Kirk-Spock
friendship as the driving force for the entire score. It’s a
short but nice featurette paying proper tribute to Horner, whose
musical abilities graced the second and third films, giving both
pictures an emotional center that was sadly absent from Michael
Giacchino’s recent score for the new “Star Trek”
There’s also a segment on collecting Trek “relics,”
another short “Starfleet Academy” segment, and last but not
least, a tribute to Ricardo Montalban from Nicholas Meyer that’s
marred by awkward camera work.
The widespread success of "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" led
Paramount suits to immediately put another sequel in motion. Of course,
that film's door-so-wide-open epilogue wasn't exactly ambiguous --
Meyer's original ending had been "re-tooled" by the studio into a
virtual advertisement for a third big-screen adventure.
With Leonard Nimoy taking over the directorial reigns, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (***, 105 mins., 1984, PG) was put into production and released in June of 1984.
Immediately picking up where its predecessor left off, "Search For
Spock" shows the Enterprise crew battered and torn from their battle
with Khan, one that left the Enterprise in shambles and Spock dead
(well, sort of). Soon, however, Dr. McCoy begins showing signs of a
ghostly, post-traumatic stress disorder -- as in, speaking like Spock
and telling Kirk that he's possibly still out there, somewhere.
Meanwhile, the Klingons -- lead by the ruthless Kruge (Christopher
Lloyd) -- have learned of the Genesis Planet and quickly engage in a
race against the clock to seize its power. Kirk and Co. commandeer the
Enterprise against Starfleet's wishes, and take off not to stop the
Klingons but rather try and find whatever of Spock remains on the
Written by producer Harve Bennett, “The Search For Spock”
is the middle part of what turned into the only true story arc among
all Star Trek cinematic adventures (indeed, Paramount has issued Parts
II-IV separately as a lower-cost “Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Trilogy” Blu-Ray release).
As such, it's the only film in the three-film trilogy that doesn't
quite exist on its own merits: it bridges the gap between the more
thrilling II and the rousing IV, advances the plot, and does so in an
unremarkable but effective enough manner. It doesn't quite get a chance
to breathe and is strictly workmanlike in execution (partially due to
its multiple, claustrophobic sets, and also in its weird casting of
Lloyd and John Larroquette as Klingons), but it nevertheless gets the
job done and has a particularly satisfying ending that paved the way
for the lighter and more energetic "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."
Paramount’s Blu-Ray disc of “Star Trek III” again
showcases the film in HD for the first time courtesy of a respectable
AVC encoded transfer. There appears to be some filtering or noise
reduction employed throughout, yet a decent amount of grain can still
be seen and overall the presentation is an appreciable improvement on
the prior DVD, as is the Dolby TrueHD audio.
Extras again include a few new additions: a commentary from Trek vets
Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor, three new HD featurettes (a look at
ILM’s work on the film; an examination of Trek’s
involvement with the Science Fiction Museum Hall of Fame; and
“Spock: The Early Years”), another Starfleet Academy primer
and the “Library Computer” feature from Michael Okuda,
replacing his original DVD text commentary.
Numerous returnees from the prior DVD include an informative group
audio commentary from Nimoy, Bennett, Robin "Saavik" Curtis, and
cinematographer Charles Correll. Nimoy is unsurprisingly candid and
enlightening when talking about the film, particularly when he
discusses how he talked Paramount executives into letting him direct
the picture. Bennett explains his "task master" role in the series,
Correll talks about the challenges involved with filming entirely on
studio sets, and Curtis basically praises the cast for accepting her
into the fold (while Curtis seems to be an extremely nice person, one
still can't help but lament the absence of Kirstie Alley in the role
Behind-the-scenes featurettes include “Captain’s
Log,” a Making Of that sports interviews with Nimoy, Bennett,
Shatner, Curtis, and Christopher Lloyd among others. While this is
pretty much another talking head featurette, at least it's not quite as
dry as the one produced for "The Wrath of Khan," and Bennett doesn't
stare right into the camera again.
Other, shorter featurettes touch upon ILM's special effects on the film
("Space Docks and Birds of Prey"), the Klingon language (with linguist
Marc Okrand), costumes, and a technical account of NASA's own "Genesis
Planet" terraforming (don't venture here unless you're a real sci-fi
junkie!). Storyboards, photos, and the very brief theatrical trailer
(which resembles a TV spot) round out the disc.
While I've always been an admirer of “Star Trek III,” I
doubt there are many Trekkies who feel this is the best of the series.
It is what it is, and includes several strong scenes mixed in with a
straightforward plot and stage-bound atmosphere.
With Nimoy having gained experience behind the lens, "Star Trek IV"
would arrive two years later and prove to be an overwhelming commercial
and critical hit -- by and large considered one of the finest sequels
To complete the solemn story arc of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
and "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock," director Leonard Nimoy and
producer Harve Bennett wisely decided to “have a little
fun” with STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (****, 118 mins., 1986, PG).
All Paramount execs mandated was that the movie was a time travel
picture -- the rest was entirely up to the filmmakers, who ultimately
collaborated with "Khan" auteur Nicholas Meyer in fashioning a clever,
upbeat sci-fi adventure that remains the most successful of the Trek
After quickly wrapping up plot fragments left over from the preceding
two films, the Enterprise crew heads back to Earth in the Klingon Bird
of Prey -- only to find out that an unknown, alien entity is
threatening all life back home. The probe's only method of
communication is in the song of humpback whales, who are extinct in the
23rd century. Naturally, Kirk and Spock opt to time-travel to 1986 San
Francisco in order to find a living specimen to bring back to the
future, but with Spock's resurrected brain not quite functioning yet at
100% and the crew in "fish out of water" territory, the comedic
situations are exploited even more than the dramatic possibilities.
There has always been a divergence among Star Trek fans on “The
Voyage Home,” which is none too surprising since the movie is
still the only series entry (with the current exception of J.J.
Abrams’ new “Star Trek”) to find breakthrough success
at the box-office with mainstream viewers. Various Trekkies have
disregarded the movie as frivolous and dumb, sometimes as if it's an
insult to the series itself. Others -- and there are far more of them
-- recall it being one of the few Star Trek films, outside of "Khan,"
that they even remember seeing.
As a fan of the original series, I have always felt that “The
Voyage Home” showcases Star Trek at its best. Without a heavy, IV
is light as a feather and freed from the formula that has plagued many
series entries, while the cast, looking as relaxed as ever, seemed
invigorated by the sheer scope of the movie, breaking out of the
claustrophobic, set-bound trappings of the previous installment. The
movie's script, ultimately co-credited to Steve Meerson and Peter
Krikes but apparently rewritten completely by Bennett and Meyer, works
equally as a comedy and a sci-fi fantasy, with the interplay between
Nimoy and Shatner being utterly priceless, despite the obviousness of
some of the gags. Even after some 23 years, it's still easy to see why
the movie was as popular as it was, grossing over $110 million
domestically in '86 dollars (it's the only sequel in the series to pass
the $100 million mark).
Paramount's Blu-Ray disc boasts a clean new HD transfer with Dolby
TrueHD audio; some purists have objected that the transfer is
over-processed and too glossy, yet despite the use of some noise
reduction, it’s still colorful and superior to any prior DVD
edition of the picture. Leonard Rosenman’s festive (and often
unnecessarily derided) Oscar-nominated score, meanwhile, gets an added
kick from the “high-res” audio that TrueHD affords.
“Star Trek IV”’s two-disc DVD edition was one of the
best in terms of its supplements, and the BD offers all of its original
extras, along with several new additions.
Chief among those is a new commentary from current “Star
Trek” screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who watch the
film from a fan perspective and lend their insight into the
film’s strengths. New HD featurettes include “Pavel
Chekov's Screen Moments,” interviewing Walter Koenig, plus
“The Three-Picture Saga” (new interviews with Harve
Bennett, Nicholas Meyer, the usual Trek scholars and producer Ralph
Winter), “Star Trek For a Cause” and yet another short
Starfleet Academy primer.
Ported over from the two-disc DVD is a commentary by Leonard Nimoy and
William Shatner, together for the first time on a commentary track. No,
they don't make too many critical comments (and there's not much
discussion on the development of the project, or the reports that
Catherine Hicks' part was once intended for Eddie Murphy!), but it's
nevertheless a congenial talk that fans should enjoy.
An additional Making Of, "Future's Past: A Look Back," includes
interviews with Shatner, Nimoy, Bennett, Meyer, Catherine Hicks, and
co-producers Ralph Winter and Kirk Thatcher. There aren't a lot of
stories revealed here that fans won't already know (and it isn't overly
critical, much like the preceding documentaries), but it's an
accessible featurette just the same, and far better than the dry,
talking head interviews on the “Wrath of Khan” documentary.
Some production footage is nicely interwoven in the segment, and is
also included on the companion featurettes "On Location" and "Dallies
Naturally, there's plenty of material on the special effects ("From
Outer Space to the Ocean," "The Bird of Prey"), with the usual
storyboards and production stills thrown in for good measure, but the
big surprises come in the additional materials Paramount has included
here. Especially enlightening are a 13-minute tribute to the late Mark
Lenard, who played Sarek, and a fun piece called "Kirk's Women," which
features comments from Catherine Hicks and several female guest stars
of the original series, reflecting on their work with Shatner. It's a
lot of fun, as are the interviews with Shatner, Nimoy, and DeForest
Kelley shot on the set in 1986. Additional segments look at time
travel, "A Vulcan Primer," "The Language of Whales," the movie's sound
design, a tribute to Gene Roddenberry, and are topped off by the
original trailer in HD, containing James Horner's music from the
preceding sequels -- indicating in the process how those themes would
have clashed with IV's lighter tone.
“Star Trek IV” is still fun and thoroughly inspired --
right down to Rosenman's jubilant and unorthodox (for the series) score
-- and likely to entertain all except the most die-hard Trek
I can only imagine that if William Shatner's STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (**½, 107 mins., 1989, PG) happened
to be the main topic of contention on a college debate team, whatever
side is selected to defend the movie would have a far greater challenge
on their hands than the group that simply has to attack it.
This is a movie, after all, that's basically been the punching bag out
of some 11 Star Trek big-screen features. Until “Star Trek:
Nemesis,” it was the least successful of the Star Trek films, and
even now, it's reviled in many circles as being the silliest, least
significant effort of the entire series.
The detractors can still produce a viable argument as to why they
dislike the film, but I guess I have to plead guilty: even though it's
certainly a little rough around the edges, I like this movie. Not only
is the picture not entirely deserving of its bad rep, I'd also gladly
sit through "The Final Frontier" again than any of the “Next
Generation” features (with the sole exception of "Star Trek:
Following on the massive mainstream success of "Star Trek IV: The
Voyage Home,” producer Harve Bennett and director William Shatner
had a tough task at hand. Although Shatner concocted a story about the
Enterprise crew heading out to the far reaches of the galaxy in an
attempt to find God -- a relatively heavy story for a Star Trek film --
it's clear that the studio wanted to retain the colorful humor that
proved so successful in "The Voyage Home." Having to mix the humorous
with the deep subject matter clearly wasn't going to be easy, and
indeed, writer David Loughery's final screenplay shows the difficulty
in striking the right balance the filmmakers faced.
Loughery's story follows Spock's renegade half-brother, Sybok (Laurence
Luckinbill), and his crusade to find "Shaka-Ri," the
supposedly-mythical Garden of Eden in the deep reaches of space. In
order to cross the "Great Barrier," Sybok steals the Enterprise from
Kirk, Spock and McCoy, who are seen taking a vacation at Yosemite in
the movie's opening moments. The meaning of family, the topic of false
prophets, and even the nature of religion's existence in the known
universe are interspersed by a few comical gags and a subplot involving
a freewheeling Klingon commander.
The somewhat rambling nature of the story, plus Shatner's relative
inexperience behind the camera (clearly, Bill was no Leonard Nimoy),
resulted in a movie that, at least, is nowhere near as polished as its
predecessors. The gags range from slapstick (yep, Scotty walking into a
beam) to silly, while there are subplots -- from Sybok's hostages to
the Klingon angle -- that never really pay off. Laurence Luckinbill's
colorful performance would have been more effective on the stage (where
the actor was most at home) than on-screen, where he seems just a
little over-the-top throughout (Shatner should have had him take it
down a notch or two).
Sure, "The Final Frontier" has its issues, but not all of them were
director Shatner's fault, as the movie was almost fatally sabotaged by
Bran Ferren's visual effects. Since ILM was occupied with work on
multiple movies for the summer of 1989 ("Indiana Jones and the Last
Crusade" and "The Abyss" for starters), the decision was made to go
with Ferren and his company to provide the F/X. As documented in
Shatner's "Star Trek: Movie Memories" book and elsewhere, Ferren had a
decent budget at his disposal but completely failed to deliver the
necessary goods -- most of his effects entail the Enterprise flying
through pools of oil that look like run-off you'd routinely find on the
side of a highway. Shatner's originally conceived ending -- involving
Kirk running from monstrous creations from hell -- also bit the dust,
since executives refused to spend the money needed on his admittedly
elaborate climax. What results in the finished film seems hurried and
incomplete, but the powers-at-be opted to deep-six any re-shoots, not
wanting to spend additional time or money on their tentpole June
release. With all of those problems, then, it's no surprise that "The
Final Frontier" didn't live up to its financial expectations.
That said, “Star Trek V” is a movie that does have some
wonderful moments in it -- namely, the scenes involving Kirk, Spock and
McCoy. While many fans either love or hate the "row, row, row your
boat" sequence, I find it to be one of the oddly more poignant scenes
in all the Trek movies. With the supporting cast relegated back to its
strictly secondary nature, Shatner and Loughery at least enable the
classic trio of heroes to take the stage in scenes that have as much to
do with their relationship as friends and, indeed, family as they do
with the plot. And sure, the Sybok element is a bit goofy, but there
are also some terrific moments when the gang does probe some of the
mysteries of the universe and the human heart -- especially when Kirk,
Spock, and McCoy are confronted by Sybok with their own past pain.
The Yosemite scenes are terrifically shot by Andrew Laszlo, and
rounding out the action is Jerry Goldsmith's score. With Goldsmith's
triumphant "Motion Picture" theme returning for the first time since
TMP (along with a reprisal of his Klingon Theme), the composer serves
up a beautiful, stirring score that ranks right up there with the best
of the entire series: it's majestic and moving, clearly an inspired
effort for Goldsmith and still one of my favorites of the late '80s.
“The Final Frontier” may be the least of the original cast
movies, but it's nevertheless an ambitious one that's hard not to
admire simply because of what Shatner and Co. were attempting here. The
massive nature of the story -- does God exist, and if so, where? -- is
balanced by small, intimate scenes with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and it's
that very aspect that I find compelling and entertaining in spite of
the film's problems.
Boasting a superior HD transfer to “The Voyage Home,”
Paramount’s AVC Blu-Ray encode of “The Final
Frontier” is quite pleasing, as is the Dolby TrueHD audio. Both
the visual and audio presentation are superior to the two-disc
Director’s Edition DVD, while again Paramount has served up a mix
of both new and older extras, even though these supplements aren't
nearly as compelling as the goodies on the four discs that preceded it.
For newly produced extras, Paramount here serves up just a few
additions: two HD featurettes (one a tribute to James Doohan, another
looking at Trek honoring NASA), one more brief Starfleet Academy
primer, and a fresh commentary track with Michael and Denise Okuda,
Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman, who discuss
the film’s production and various bits of trivia without being
overly harsh about its shortcomings.
The rest of the supplements have been carried over from the prior
two-disc DVD, including Shatner’s audio commentary and numerous
Although Shatner has previously ranted about the trouble he encountered
in post-production, he's markedly quiet about that aspect of the movie
in his commentary track. Recorded with his daughter Liz (who wrote
"William Shatner's Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V," a
book that still sits on my shelf), this is a disappointing talk that's
dominated by a lot of dead air. More often than not, Liz prompts her
father to discuss various subjects, but Shatner seems unwilling to open
up on the juicier aspects of making the film (perhaps a concession to
getting this DVD out there in the first place), and what they do talk
about has been discussed elsewhere in greater detail.
Also brought onboard are numerous featurettes from the preceding DVD.
These include a solid overview of the production, "The Journey,"
sporting new interviews with Shatner, Loughery, and Harve Bennett.
While the tone of the piece is not especially candid, at least there's
some discussion of what went wrong behind-the-scenes, though the
speakers seem overly concerned about not burning any bridges (does Bran
Ferren have dirt on them?).
Additional documentaries include a profile of the two actors who
essayed the Klingons (cute, but not necessarily worth 13 minutes); an
excellent profile of veteran Trek production designer Herman Zimmerman;
an amusing 15-minute interview with Shatner culled from the shooting of
the film; a fluffy look at Trek's pro-environmental messages; and a
terrifically amusing pitch by Bennett to the Paramount sales team (from
1989) about marketing the sequel.
Most interesting to fans, and the most revealing element of these older
extras, are the make-up tests of the "Rockman" Shatner wanted to
include at the end of the movie. Though Shatner shoots down the suit
that was constructed, I didn't think it looked that bad in the footage
screened here, though because the studio only allotted enough money for
one suit to be made (Shatner needed a dozen in order to shoot his
original climax), it was never used.
Additional make-up tests, special effect mock-ups, stills, storyboards,
trailers and TV spots, and a wonderfully vintage press conference (from
mid-December, 1988) round out the disc, along with four brief deleted
scenes. Running under a total time of five minutes, these are culled
from a workprint and are basically extensions of scenes in the finished
All in all, this is a fine Blu-Ray presentation of the fifth Trek film.
Though the supplements aren't as in-depth or candid as one might hope,
the improved BD transfer, the effects test footage and the more vintage
extras (the press conference, Shatner's original interview) make it,
overall, a worthwhile trip back to a "Final Frontier" that's fun in
spite of its flaws. Check it out.
After “Star Trek V” met with declining revenues at the
box-office, the powers-at-be decided that the sixth sojourn for the
original Enterprise crew would be its last.
Nicholas Meyer returned to co-write and direct STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (***, 113 mins., 1991, PG),
a film that received a wealth of positive reviews when it was initially
released, performed solidly at the box-office, and was produced to
coincide with the 25th Anniversary of Trek itself.
Yet in spite of the film’s many positive aspects, it still comes
across -- at least in my eyes -- as an efficient yet somewhat
uninspired adventure that's generally entertaining and only a bit
This time out, Captain Kirk, Spock and the gang are tabbed for one last
mission: to escort a Klingon emissary to a Federation meeting where a
peace treaty is to be signed. Of course, something goes seriously awry
when the ambassador is assassinated and civility in the galaxy is
threatened by the possibility of a full-blown war. It's up to Kirk,
Spock and McCoy -- who are convicted for his murder and imprisoned on a
snowy planet on the fringes of the universe -- to save the day and
stabilize the situation.
Working with a modest budget, Meyer does a good job exploiting his
strong suit (clever dialogue) and creating a plot that's more Agatha
Christie-like than the usual Trek adventure. Christopher Plummer does a
superb job chewing up the scenery as the heavy, but I wish the movie
had given the original cast more of a proper send-off than this story
Certainly "The Undiscovered Country" is fine for what it is, but it
doesn't aspire to be seemingly anything more than a
better-than-average, more elaborate episode of the show itself. The
movie's now-dated political allegory -- with the Klingons obviously
representing the Russians in the waning days of the Cold War -- is
obvious and Meyer's use of Shakespearean quotes seems heavy-handed,
especially for a Star Trek film. More over, there's no real sense of
closure at the end of the movie, no real goodbye for a crew that had
made its way through three TV seasons and some six features (I don't
count a series of on-screen signatures as being a sufficient end).
Other disappointments are Cliff Eidelman's overly brooding score (which
tries too hard to be different), and a few weak supporting performances
(Kim Cattrall's turn as the Vulcan-who-would-be-Saavik is especially
On the other hand, the old stand-bys -- from Shatner to Nimoy and
DeForest Kelley -- are all relaxed and fit right into their classic
parts, while the effects by ILM make up for the Bran Ferren disaster of
"Star Trek V."
For “The Undiscovered Country,” Paramount has opted to only
include the film’s theatrical version here on Blu-Ray. The AVC
encoded 1080p transfer is excellent, as is the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack,
but the lack of the expanded version (with its altered, so-called
“Scooby-Doo” ending) makes you suspect that another series
of “Director’s Edition” Star Trek Blu-Rays are on the
docket for a future release.
For the Blu-Ray disc Paramount offers viewers the same extras as its
prior DVD as well as a group of additions. Among the new features is an
enjoyable commentary from veteran Trek writers/producers Larry Nemecek
and Ira Steven Behr, two new HD featurettes (“Tom Morga: Alien
Stuntman,” “To Be or Not to Be: Klingons and
Shakespeare”), and one last Starfleet Academy primer.
Ported over from the original DVD are Meyer and producer Denny Martin
Flynn’s original commentary, a “Making Of” featurette
plus a handful of shorter (5-10 mins.) featurettes that look at the
development of the story, the production, and the final day of
shooting. A longer 15-minute segment nicely pays tribute to DeForest
Kelley, and there's a short prop tour available for interested fans.
Original trailers in HD and storyboards round out another strong
presentation from Paramount.
THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE COLLECTION is topped off by a seventh bonus
disc featuring the 70-minute “Captain’s Summit,” an
all-new conversation between William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick
Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, as moderated by Whoopi Goldberg.
This marvelous, highly entertaining discussion is presented in HD and
is packed with laughs and genuine emotion, from Shatner’s
admission that he still hasn’t seen an episode of “The Next
Generation,” to the terrible costumes and the legacy of Star Trek
itself. The chemistry between all four actors is irresistible, Whoopi
does a good job moderating and the result is a terrific cap on a
package that may not be entirely complete (we’ll leave the
omissions for the next group of Blu-Rays), but should certainly satisfy
most Trek fans until another, more definitive edition comes down the
road. New & Coming Soon on Blu-Ray
A BUG'S LIFE (***½, 95 mins., 1998, G; Disney):
Sumptuous Disney Blu-Ray presentation of the Pixar-Disney box-office
smash boasts one of the most gorgeous, flawless transfers you'll ever
see, along with a superior collection of supplements.
The 1998 movie, which marked another technical achievement for Pixar
and director John Lasseter, is slightly more simplistic than their
“Toy Story” pictures and is geared a bit more towards young
children, but the film nevertheless has appealing characters and a
bounty of visual riches that are spectacular to behold.
New intros from Lasseter, a filmmaker roundtable discussion, and
animated sequences from the original treatment are exclusive to the
Blu-Ray disc, while copious extras also abound from the original DVD: a
production team commentary plus all the pre-production material and
storyboards you'd ever want to glance at, to test footage and abandoned
concepts, touching upon all aspects of the movie's production. The
short “Geri’s Game,” additional outtakes and other
goodies are also on-hand, though Randy Newman’s isolated score
track has not been retained.
“A Bug’s Life” was shot in digital Cinemascope, so
the fully digital transfer here in AVC-encoded 1080p is simply
spectacular. Colors, details, and the overall clarity of the image are
flawless on every front, making this a sure-fire demo disc for its
TRUE ROMANCE (**½, 121 mins., 1993, Unrated; Warner):
Regular readers know I’m not a huge aficionado of Quentin
Tarantino, yet I do have a small soft spot for this violent, uneven and
offbeat 1993 thriller which Tarantino scripted. However, under the
direction of Tony Scott, “True Romance” feels like a
combination of a typical Tarantino outing with a more polished studio
picture, and the offbeat supporting cast (Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer,
Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken) does a fine job supporting
The Q Man’s of a runaway couple (Christian Slater and Patricia
Arquette) trying to make off with a suitcase of stolen mob property.
Warner’s Blu-Ray disc looks a little over-processed with digital
noise reduction but it’s still satisfying overall, while a Dolby
TrueHD soundtrack supports one of Hans Zimmer’s more memorable
scores from the early ‘90s. Numerous extras from the prior DVD
include three commentaries and additional scene-specific comments,
deleted and extended scenes, an alternate ending, the trailer, photo
gallery, and vintage 1993 featurette.
FALLING DOWN (**, 112 mins., 1992, R; Warner): Michael
Douglas gives an admirable performance in this superficial 1992 Joel
Schumacher thriller, which would love to be a treatise on the inherent
rage of the white American male circa 1992 but comes off more as a glib
updating of “Death Wish” instead. Warner’s Blu-Ray
presentation of “Falling Down” marks the first Special
Edition of the film (a corresponding DVD is also due out with the same
extras), and boasts a clean, effective 1080p transfer with Dolby TrueHD
audio. Extras include a new commentary track with Douglas and
Schumacher, a conversation with the star, and the original trailer.
ANACONDA (**½, 89 mins., 1997, PG-13; Sony): Enjoyable
creature feature finds a film crew heading deep into the Amazon to
document a lost civilization, only to run into a charismatic guide who
has an agenda of his own: namely, finding an elusive, giant Anaconda
that’s a whopper of a man-eater!
“Anaconda” sounds like every bad Sci-Fi Channel original
movie, and indeed it has inspired a group of low-rent sequels (read
below). Yet the 1997 film is an entertaining slice of guilty pleasure
genre fun -- thanks almost entirely to its cast. Jon Voight hams it up
to a level even Jonas Hodges would be proud of as the local hunter who
knows all about the big snake, while Jennifer Lopez -- back before she
completely became a diva -- is fine as the reluctant heroine (and
documentary film director!) who joins forces with Ice Cube in taking
the creature down. Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, and Eric Stoltz co-star in
director Louis Llosa’s monster flick (which took in nearly $65
million at the box-office), which gets an additional charge out of Bill
Butler’s cinematography and Randy Edelman’s decent score.
“Anaconda” is no “Jaws” but it’s fun for
the minor-league frightfest that it is, and the cast gives it an
additional, enduring appeal.
Sony’s Blu-Ray disc boasts a fine AVC encoded transfer with Dolby
TrueHD sound. Both the audio and visual elements are excellent, but
extras are non-existent.
Sony also has yet another direct-to-video “Anaconda” sequel due out shortly on DVD: ANACONDAS: TRAIL OF BLOOD (88 mins., 2009, R),
starring Crystal Allen and John Rhys-Davies, which is a follow-up to
the 2008 direct-to-video “Anaconda III: The Offering,”
boasting more small-screen oriented F/X and formulaic action.
It’s pretty typical mediocre stuff all the way, and even David
Hasselhoff (who starred with Allen in the prior installment) was smart
enough to bypass it. That said, Sony’s DVD does include a
perfectly acceptable 16:9 (1.85) transfer with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound.
SKY CRAWLERS (**, 121 mins., 2008, PG-13; Sony): Disappointing
anime from “Ghost in the Shell” director Mamoru Oshi is set
in an undefined future (but looks an awful lot like a British WWII
movie), where young pilots dubbed the “Kildren” fight vivid
aerial battles in the skies above and ponder the meaning of their
existence on the ground below. Oshi’s film isn’t nearly as
exciting as you might anticipate given the subject matter, with the
action sequences bogged down by an awful lot of chatter. The sound
design by Skywalker Sound’s Randy Thom and Tom Myers is effective
(and ranks as the Blu-Ray disc’s strongest asset in Dolby
TrueHD), yet the movie is pretty tepid, and reportedly bombed in
theaters in its native Japan. The BD disc also includes a solid AVC
encoded transfer with featurettes on the animation and sound design.
FAST COMPANY (**½, 93 mins., 1979, R; Blue Underground):
Little-screened 1979 effort from David Cronenberg gets its due in a
terrific new HD presentation courtesy of Blue Underground. The subject
matter, examining a big-time car racing team and its problems on and
off the circuit, is certainly atypical for the director, but Cronenberg
devotees will appreciate the fact that “Fast Company” is
not only in circulation at long last (due to a distribution problem)
but that the movie looks terrific: the 1080p transfer (1.85) is
top-notch for an “undiscovered” film, while DTS Master
Audio and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks comprise the spry audio offerings.
Extras include commentary from Cronenberg, interviews with stars John
Saxon and William Smith, a conversation with cinematographer Mark
Irwin, the trailer, and two other, early films (“Stereo”
and “Crimes of the Future”) from the director.
POWDER BLUE (*½, 106 mins., 2007, R; Image):
Tepid ensemble drama follows four miserable folks in L.A.
(cancer-stricken hitman Ray Liotta; stripper Jessica Biel; grieving
ex-priest Forest Whitaker; and basket case Eddie Redmayne) in a movie
that would love to be “Crash” but fails pretty much across
the board -- except when Biel shows up topless, in a role that
generated the actress a fair amount of publicity during production.
Unfortunately for the filmmakers, that press didn’t extend back
to the movie itself, which rightly has gone straight to video.
Image’s Blu-Ray disc includes a fine 1080p transfer with DTS
Master Audio sound, a Making Of featurette, photo gallery, the trailer,
and commentary from writer-director Timothy Linh Bui.
TIME: TERMINATOR SALVATION and More! Until
to drop in
on the official Aisle Seat Message
any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!
Copyright 1997-2009 All Reviews, Site and Design by Andre