‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Shows Some Growth In Its Second Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access

Early next year, CBS All Access will debut the latest entry in the long-running Star Trek franchise in the form of Star Trek: Picard.  The series’ debut is set for April 2020.  According to information from multiple media outlets, the third season of the streaming service’s other Star Trek series, Discovery will premiere.  While audiences wait for the premiere of Discovery’s third season, they have the series’ to take in on DVD and Blu-ray.  Officially released Nov. 12, the series’ second season is a slight improvement from its debut season.  That is proven in part through the season’s writing, which will be addressed shortly.  At the same time that the writing has provided a certain improvement from the series’ first season, it also has proven to be a negative to the season.  This will also be addressed.  The season’s acting rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed here.  Between the writing and acting, audiences get in the second season of Discovery, an example of a show that is improving, but still has a very long way to go before it can be considered among the best of Star Trek’s series.Star Trek: Picard

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery is a small step up from the series’ debut season.  It shows that the series has some potential.  That is due in part to the series’ writing.  The writing offers audiences far more lighthearted moments this time out than in Season One.  There are more jokes and casual moments featured throughout the season’s 14 episodes this time around.  That could be perhaps because the crew of the Discovery has more breathing room, what with the war with the Klingons ended after Season One.  It is nice to see those more lighthearted moments, as it shows that the show’s writers apparently don’t constantly take themselves with a lot of seriousness and can offer some entertainment.

The writing offers entertainment not just through lots of lighthearted moments this season, but also in the more action packed moments.  Those moments are many throughout the season, too.  From the crew’s dealings with “Control,” which are essentially the ancestors of the Borg, to the fights with Capt. Leland to the final epic battle in the season’s two-part finale, there is just as much enjoyable action throughout the season as there is joking and lightheartedness.  The combination of those elements shows that clearly a lot of time and thought was put into improving the writing for this season.  The time and thought paid off, clearly.

For all of the payoff that the noted time and thought had in the writing, it also proved just as much a negative as a positive.  That is proven as there is an overabundance of unnecessary, over-the-top drama throughout the season, too.  From the season premiere to its exciting two-part finale, the show’s writing team gave star Sonequa Martin-Green more than her share of screen time and just as many opportunities to shed a river of tears and then some.  Between her personal moment with Saru when it appears he is going to die (not to give away too much here, but Saru doesn’t die), her nonstop emotional confrontations with Spock and her adopted parents, to her full-on emotional breakdown after another of her ship mates forced her to send her out of an airlock, killing her, Martin-Green gets plenty of crying time on screen.  As if all of that is not enough, Anson Mount’s extraordinarily (and unnecessarily) long speeches as the season nears its end make it quite easy for audiences to hit the fast forward button on their remotes.  The ongoing drama between Hugh and Stamets, and the seemingly never-ending drama between Michael and Ash adds to that overabundance of drama, too.  That overabundance of drama sadly detract quite a bit from the season’s overall general effect and make it difficult for audiences to take seriously.  Rather, they give the season more of a feel of one big supernova of an interstellar soap opera than an action, science fiction series.  Simply put, the overabundance of drama tied into Season two’s presentation does just as much to hurt this show even more as the more lighthearted moments do in order to make the show more enjoyable.  To that end, one can only hope that the show’s writers will continue to infuse more light dialogue next season than drama.  If they don’t go that route, odds are, it will just continue to alienate fans (no pun intended) and find itself ending sooner rather than later.

While the writing incorporated into Discovery’s second season is both a pro and a con, the one element that can be said to be a full positive is the work of the show’s cast.  Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) is a wonderful addition to the cast.  His portrayal of Capt. Pike makes him one of the best additions to the cast.  He really conjures thoughts of Capt. Kirk as he directly contrasts the much harder-edged presence of Capt. Lorca.  Getting off topic for a moment, the writes mention Lorca in the opening episodes of the season, but still do nothing to explain away what happened to the prime universe Lorca, since it was revealed that Discovery’s Lorca was from the alternate universe.  Getting back on topic, Mount effortlessly makes Pike a character that every viewer loves just as much as the Discovery’s crew.  He cracks jokes with the bridge crew, shoots sarcastic remarks at Ash and Emporor Georgiou, and takes control when the heat is on, just as a good leader would.  He just shows so much charisma throughout.  It makes it too bad that he allegedly will not return for the series’ third season.

Another notable acting job from Season Two comes from newcomer Tig Notaro.  Notaro, who takes on the role of Federation Engineer Jett Reno plays expertly off of Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets).  The verbal barbs that Reno so willingly shoots at Stamets are among the best of the season’s lighthearted moments.  Her timing and general presence makes for some of the season’s best laughs.  In the same breath, she shows her own unique brand of care as she talks to Hugh about his relationship with Paul (yes, Hugh does return this season, albeit in a rather comic book-esque fashion, which is another issue with the writing that detracts from the season’s general effect).  She maintain’s Reno’s edge, but still manages to show Reno has a heart in the process.  It makes her quite the sympathetic character and talented actor.  Between her acting, that of fellow newcomer Anson Mount and Ethan Peck (who plays Spock – Peck’s take on the timeless, beloved figure is noteworthy in its own right), audiences have just as much reason to watch this season for its acting as for the growth exhibited in the show’s writing.  One can only hope that between the growth exhibited in the writing and the positive acting jobs of the cast, the improvements made in this season will continue in Season Three and continue to help this show prove its potential.

Paramount Pictures and CBS’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe, Discovery has show n significant growth in its second season from its debut season.  That is evident in part in the season’s writing, which attempts to offer more lighthearted moments to balance out its overabundance of unnecessary over the top drama.  Speaking of the drama, there is a lot of that, which seriously detracts from the season, along with the oftentimes dizzying cinematography.  Thankfully, as much as those items detract from the season’s presentation, they are not enough to make the season completely unwatchable.  The on-camera work of some of the show’s new cast members adds its own share of engagement and entertainment.  Each item is key in its own way to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, they show this season has the potential for growth, if only its creative heads won’t let it become the full-on interstellar soap opera that it largely become this season.  Here’s to hoping Season Three will avoid all that drama and instead opt for more action than overdrawn, overabundant and unnecessary tear-filled jaunts.  If they do that, it can make Season Three a major turning point for Discovery; if and only if they go that route.  Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on the series is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Paramount’s New ‘Star Trek: TNG’ Movie Collection Is A Welcome Set For The Most Devoted ‘Star Trek’ Fans

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment/Viacom/CBS DVD

Make it so!  Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment is beaming down a new Star Trek box set for fans of the franchise’s Next Generation era Tuesday.  Star Trek: Picard Movie & TV Collection is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray.  The six-disc collection is oddly titled, considering that it is more the Next Generation era movies than TV episodes.  This, the set’s presentation, will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the ser is a positive in its own way, in examining the set in whole.  It will be addressed a little later.  Keeping in mind the set’s primary and secondary content, its average price point becomes a key discussion topic in its own right.  It will be discussed a little later, too.  Keeping in mind the importance of all of these elements, this latest collection of Star Trek movies and television episodes is one that will appeal largely to the most diehard Star Trek fans.

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment’s new Star Trek box set is a collection that is certain to divide fans of the long-running franchise’s Next Generation era.  It is a set that will appeal mostly to the most devoted fans of the franchise and the era thereof.  That is due in part to the set’s overall presentation.  The box set is titled Picard Movies & TV Collection.  The catch is that the set only features two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation along with all four of the movies.  The two episodes featured in the collection are the famed two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds,” which finds Captain Picard being captured by the Borg and turned into one of them.  The other episode, “Chain of Command” also finds Picard being captured, this time as a prisoner of war, so to speak.  One can’t help but wonder why those two episodes were chosen, considering that each was already previously released on DVD and Blu-ray.  There are other, equally entertaining episodes that could have been presented here, which were previously released only on the series’ full season and series box sets.  One of those episodes is the timeless “Darmok.”  The episode, featured in the series’ fifth season.  It was yet another episode that found Picard being captured and stuck on alien turf, having to get out of a tough situation.  What makes it stand out is that no conflict ever happened because Capt. Picard and his counterpart see past their differences and learn to communicate instead.  It is one of the series’ most beloved stories among fans and audiences in general.  “The Inner Light” is another powerful episode that focuses mainly on Capt. Picard in a completely different fashion.  It finds the beloved leader in a “what if” scenario that shows him what his life could have been like.  “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is yet another powerful episode of the series.  It finds Picard and the crew of the Enterprise D working with the crew of the Enterprise C to make sure history runs the way that it was meant to run in what was one of a handful of time travel episodes from the series.  Keeping all of this in mind, one can’t help but wonder why the two episodes featured here were chosen considering they’ve already seen the light of day.

The episodes chosen for this set are just part of what will divide audiences.  The set also features all four of the movies from the Next Generation era.  This is where things get even dicier.  On the surface, it would seem that having all four movies in one, slim package is a good thing.  It definitely is for the most devoted fans of that era from the Star Trek universe (no pun intended).  On the bigger scale though, only one of those movies ever proved truly successful in the long run – First ContactInsurrection, which premiered in 1998, was the second of the four movies.  According to information from Rotten Tomatoes, it was soundly panned by critics and viewers in general, receiving a 54% tomato meter score and 44% audience score.  It was panned by both parties as being little more than an extension of the series.  As a matter of fact, considering the story line, it is a story that had been done prior very early in the series’ run when a hidden federation outpost is accidentally revealed to a group of Romulans.  The Romulans in question end up thinking Capt. Picard is God.  Going back to the featured episodes in this set, that is yet another key episode featuring Picard.

Nemesis, the last of the Next Generation era movies, fared even worse,  receiving a tomato meter score of only 39% and an audience score of 49%.  Written by Brent Spiner, this movie is essentially a double evil twin story, with Data meeting his twin and Picard meeting his “twin,” who turns out to be quite the bad guy with a giant ship. In the end, the bad guy with the bigger ship (big gun) loses to the David character in Picard, of course.

Generations, while the first of the Next Generation movies, comes across as another very familiar story.  The crew of the Enterprise-D already encountered the crew of the Enterprise-C during the course of the series.  Now, here is some of the crew from the first Enterprise bridging the gap with the latest Enterprise crew.  Given, there is an intriguing story about us having to come to terms with our mortalities with the villain wanting to get to the Nexus, but the plot elements written into Picard and Kirk’s own experiences inside the Nexus echo previous episodes of The Next Generation, too.  There are lots of good special effects, but other than that, this movie felt more like a cash grab by Paramount to get fans of both Star Trek eras to open their wallets.  Is that bad?  No.  It makes sense.  At the same time though, the effort did not ultimately feel genuine. It felt more like those involved just wanted to make something that they knew said audiences would buy into even though there is nothing to buy into here.

First Contact is the best of the franchise’s big screen features.  That is because it finally answers the long-unanswered question of who and what was at the heart of the Borg collective.  Never once throughout the course of the series was this question ever answered, even though audiences knew there had to be a starting point, and finally that is what they got here.  Given, the movie’s story is familiar with its time traveling plot line and the attempt to keep history from being altered.  Even with that in mind, the story’s writing staff manages to do something here that makes the story stand out from the time travel stories that were featured in the series.  The set and costume design is also stepped up, adding to the movie’s draw.  To that end, it truly shows itself as something special.

The movies that were spawned during Star Trek’s Next Generation era have themselves become extremely divisive among audiences and fans, as has been noted.  Even with that in mind, there are those fans who are still truly devoted to the series and its cinematic counterparts.  For those audiences, the featuring of all of these movies will certainly be appealing.  In the same breath, the fact that each of the movies featured in the set also themselves feature the same bonus content as was featured in their previous releases will appeal to those noted audiences as well as other audiences.  Simply put, regardless of viewers’ devotion to the Star Trek franchise, everyone will be on the same level, including regardless of whether audiences have seen all four or none of the set’s featured movies.  To that end, love the movies or hate them, at least everyone will get to take in all of the same bonuses thanks to this set.

The carrying over of the bonus content in each movie from this set is a key positive for this set.  The inclusion of all four TNG movies is a boon for the most devoted fans of the franchise, while for those who might be more particular might find it not as interesting a draw.  Keeping that in mind, the set’s average price range of $31.72 is actually not a bad thing.  That price was obtained by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Book Sellers and Books-A-Million. It was not listed at Target at the time of this review’s posting. Considering the prices of the stand-alone episodes’ Blu-ray releases and the prices of the movies’ releases, that price for this set is actually affordable.  Consumers would have to spend more than $100 for each of the titles by themselves, so paying a little more than $30 for all of them together is its own positive, again, regardless of that noted devotion to the franchise.  Having all of the movies, and at least two episodes (which were clearly chosen subjectively) gives audiences of all devotion something to look forward to here.  To that end, it is money well spent both for the most devoted fans and for even the most casual Star Trek fans who want to still be able to check out all of the TNG movies in one collection, rather than having to hunt them down one by one.  When this is considered along with the featured content – both primary and secondary – the whole of the et proves a positive  for Star Trek fans even despite the division that it will certainly create.

Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment’s new Star Trek: The Next Generation set is an interesting new presentation for audiences.  The most devoted audiences will certainly appreciate having all of the TNG movies in one set complete with all of their original bonus content, and at an affordable price.  The franchise’s more casual fans will appreciate the fans, but might find themselves better off with the movies that they enjoy the most.  What’s  more, those same audiences will find the set’s featured television episodes, which have already seen release in their own standalone Blu-rays, questionable as so many other episodes could have been featured.  To that end, those audiences might not find the set’s average price point enough to encourage them to purchase the set.  Keeping all of this in mind, this latest TNG set is an interesting journey, but not one that every Star Trek fan will want to take.  The set is scheduled for release Tuesday on Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment is available online now at:

 

 

 

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Journey To Space Will “Ignite” Audiences’ Enthusiasm For The Next Space Race

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

On August 31st, 2011 the world watched on as one of the most storied chapters in NASA’s history was officially closed.  That was when the agency’s shuttle program was ended.  While its ending was a major point in its history, it definitely wasn’t the end for NASA.  That is because not long after that chapter closed, talk about NASA’s next chapter began.  And now the world knows what the next step into space will be thanks to the announcement that NASA wants to send humans to Mars.  It isn’t the only organization looking to begin interstellar colonization.  SpaceX head Elon Musk has made it clear that he wants his company to send humans to Mars, too.  Both organizations are in their own race to get humans to Mars by 2024.  That is not very far off.  To be precise it is only eight years away at the time of this post and will be here before we know it.  As it nears so does anticipation over what this potential next step will bring for mankind.  Shout! Factory has a new program on the way this week that attempts to answer some of those questions in the form of Journey to Space.  The new feature is currently running in IMAX theaters nationwide.  This includes many science museums’ IMAX theaters.  For those not lucky enough to see it on the big screen, its new small screen presentation offers its own interesting experience.  One of the key elements to note in that experience is the program’s collective cinematography and sound.  It is just one of the program’s most important elements.  The program’s story is notable in its own right, too.  Last but hardly least of note in this program is its bonus material.  Yes, even the bonus material is important here.  Each element is just as important as the others in this program’s presentation.  Altogether they make Journey To Space an interesting presentation in its new home presentation that is worth at least one watch.

Shout! Factory’s new home presentation of Journey To Space is an interesting work.  It is a program that the whole family will enjoy, and is worth at least one watch.  One element that makes it worth that watch is its production values.  Originally filmed in IMAX, this program cries out desperately to be watched on a surround sound home theater system.  That is not to say that it won’t play out on a regular HDTV or even 4K UHD TV (as it is presented on both Blu-ray and 4K UHD platforms).  But it is obvious in watching this program that it was transferred directly from its original masters right to disc without any touchups.  For those without a home theater system, those production values (its collective audio and video mix) will be best appreciated on the largest screen possible.  Anything below 40 inches does not do the program proper justice.  That is especially true in the case of the sequences in which the actual video is placed inside a small frame, which is then set against a much larger backdrop.  Those sequences, as audiences will learn in the program’s bonus material, were originally filmed in 3D.  So that explains that.  In regards to the program’s audio presentation, using either “movie” or “personal” audio settings will produce the best audio experience.  Audiences will understand that when they hear this program for themselves.  The mixing and levels are exactly as they were in the program’s big screen presentation.  That means that they have not been optimized for small screen settings.  This, again, is why this presentation is best viewed in a home theater setup.  Between that and the program’s video, the production values presented in Journey To Space make it a very specialized program in its Blu-ray and 4K UHD platform.  Though it is a very specialized presentation in its new home release, there are still elements of the program that make it worth the watch by any viewer regardless of setup.  One of those elements is the program’s story.

The production values presented in Shout! Factory’s home release of Journey To Space makes it a very specialized presentation.  While the production values do tend to make it a specialized presentation it is just one of the program’s most notable elements.  The program’s story is just as important to note as its production values.  The story is something for every viewer.  The story starts at mankind’s aviation past.  It then flashes forward to the final days of NASA’s shuttle program before ultimately transitioning to the story of mankind’s next step into space, the journey to Mars.  This segment of the story makes up the bulk of the program.  Audiences learn in this segment about the efforts being undertaken to get humans deeper into space and ultimately onto the surface of the red planet.  Those efforts include the Orion spacecraft, specialized vehicles that will roam the planet’s terrain, and even space suits that will allow astronauts to transition right from their suits directly into the noted vehicles.  It outlines the training being undertaken by astronauts in order to prepare them for both the journey to Mars and life on the planet’s surface.  This includes underwater training, learning how to operate those noted vehicles, and even learning to walk in the noted space suits.  The whole thing ends with lead narrator Sir Patrick Stewart (Stewart is just one of the program’s narrators, as audiences will learn) bringing everything full circle.  He notes in his final monologue mankind’s future once Mars is reached and what lays beyond that, including even more advanced craft to go far deeper outside of the Milky Way.  All in all the story at the center of Journey To Space will both entertain and enlighten audiences.  Even as specialized as the program’s production values prove to be, this story makes it worth at least one watch in its new home video platforms.  It isn’t the program’s last notable element either.  Its bonus material is just as notable as its story or even its production values.

The production values presented in Journey To Space make it a very specialized presentation in its new home video release.  That aside, its story makes it worth at least one watch.  That is because it discusses (and ultimately promotes) humans’ journey beyond Earth and the moon.  It does so in a way that makes the story accessible to audiences of all ages.  While it is an important part of the program’s presentation, it is not the program’s only key element.  The bonus material that is included with the story is just as important as the story and its production values.  That is because of the revelations that are made in said material.  The “Behind-The-Scenes” feature, although short (it clocks in at just under five minutes), reveals that much of the program’s cinematography was captured in 4K by astronauts aboard the ISS.  Other footage was created via High Def cameras (such as those of the shuttle taking off) and via CG.  There was also use of 3D and other elements incorporated into the program’s presentation.  This includes the large visual backgrounds that are used for the smaller video segments.  There are even some CG scenes that are revealed to have utilized some 3D elements along with the CG elements.  There are even discussions in that short span on specific camera types and shooting styles used to capture to program’s footage.  These discussions will appeal largely to those with a background and interest in cameras and film production in general.  All things considered, the bonus Behind-The-Scenes featurette included in Journey To Space’s home presentation bring the whole thing full circle.  The discussion, though short, explains why the program is a specialized presentation in regards to its production values.  It also explains the specifics of the footage presented in the entertaining and insightful story.  Keeping this in mind, each element noted here proves important in its own right to the whole of Journey To Space.  Altogether they make Journey To Space an interesting outer space presentation that is worth at least one watch.

Shout! Factory’s new home presentation of Journey To Space is an interesting outer space presentation that is worth at least one watch in its new home presentation.  That is the case even with its production values making it a very specialized presentation.  The forty-five minute program’s story (forty-five minutes counting end credits) makes the program worth the watch even despite its specialized production values.  That is because of the picture that the story paints for mankind’s future.  The bonus Behind-The-Scenes material included in the program’s home release ties everything together.  It explains why the footage is so specialized and also presents how the program’s different scenes were captured and presented in the whole of the program.  Each element proves hugely important in its own right to the movie’s presentation.  Altogether they make Journey To Space an outer space presentation that is worth at least one watch.  It will be available this Tuesday, June 7th in stores and online on Blu-ray and 4K UHD/3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray combo pack and can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/documentary/journey-to-space.  More information on this and other titles is available online now at:

 

 

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Match Is A Good “Match” For Any Dramaphile

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/IFC Films

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/IFC Films

The practice of adapting plays to both the small and big screen is nothing new to Hollywood. Film makers have been doing just that as far back as records were first kept. So when it was announced that writer/director Stephen Belber had adapted his own play Match into a feature film last year it should have come as little surprise to most. The story centers on a highly successful dancer named Tobi. Tobi is confronted one day by a young man named Mike Davis and his wife Lisa as Mike suspects that Tobi is his long-lost father. It is not the most original story by any means. There is no denying this. Despite this, Belber’s story still somehow manages to keep audiences fully engaged from the story’s outset to its end. It actually proves to translate quite well from stage to screen, unlike so many other movies adapted from plays. This collectively is the center of the movie’s success. As successful as the play’s small screen adaptation proves to be in its translation, it is sadly not perfect. It does tend to struggle with its pacing at times, slowing things down a bit more than necessary at certain points. Luckily it doesn’t hinder the story to the point that the presentation fails in whole. While the story’s pacing proves to be an unavoidable issue in its overall presentation, the work of Sir Patrick Stewart and Matthew Lillard is to be highly commended. It more than makes up for the story’s pacing problems. Being that it does, it and Belber’s script come together to make Match a movie that is a good *ahem* “match” for any lovers of drama.

IFC Films’ recently released drama Match is a good “match” for any lover of dramas. The main reason for this is its script and said script’s translation from stage to screen. The story behind this movie centers on two men–Tobi (Sir Patrick Stewart–Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Christmas Carol, Blunt Talk) and Mike (Matthew Lillard–Scooy-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Be Cool Scooby-Doo)–connected by Mike’s belief that Tobi is his illegitimate father. Mike and Lisa (Carla Gugino–Watchmen, Night at the Museum, Sin City) try to figure out if Tobi is indeed Mike’s father by having Lisa pretend to be a writer for a famous dance magazine. Given the central plot is not exactly the most original work ever crafted either for stage or screen. But even with that in mind, Belber manages to make his story stand out from other similar stories of its ilk thanks to the story’s execution and its ability to translate so well from stage to screen. As Lisa interviews Tobi and Mike reveals that he’s a police officer, audiences are actually led to believe that there is something more sinister than what is actually revealed to be the pair’s real plan. To that extent, Belber deserves applause for maintaining that element of surprise even early on. As the story progresses, Tobi’s growing relationship of sorts with Lisa will keep viewers just as engaged. That is because it aids in Tobi’s character development. His discussions with Lisa serve to make him a truly sympathetic character. On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily serve Gugino in any way. She remains little more than a foil to Willard and Stewart throughout the course of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time. By the story’s final act, audiences will look back and say to themselves that they should have seen the final reveal coming, giving themselves that v-8 moment of sorts. The fact that Belber could keep from making the story predictable all the way to that point makes the script that much more worthy fo applause. Keeping all of this in mind, it makes clear exactly why the script lies at the heart of the overall success of Stephen Belber’s small screen adaptation of his hit stage play. It is just one part of what makes the script so important to the presentation’s success, too. The actual translation of the play from stage to screen is deserving of mention here, too.

Stephen Belber’s script for Match is in itself a solid reason that drama fans will enjoy this presentation. The original play’s translation from stage to screen is just as worth mentioning in its overall success and enjoyment as the script itself. Believe it or not, a play’s translation from stage to screen is very important in how it goes over with audiences. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s take on author Victor Hugo’s beloved novel Les Miserables is a prime example of the importance of a play’s translation from the printed page to the screen. Hugo’s story has been adapted and re-adapted time and again throughout Hollywood’s rich history. This includes both on the big screen and small. Some of those adaptations have translated relatively well while others obviously haven’t done so well. Mel Brooks’ big screen adaptation of his movie The Producers is yet another example of the importance of a play’s translation from stage to screen. The play itself was not that great. And its translation from stage to screen was just as unsuccessful. There was just something about its feel and look that did not work. In the case of Match, quite the opposite can be said of the story. Even those that go into the movie without knowing it was adapted will notice in its minimalist backdrops that it must have come from a play. That is meant in the most complimentary fashion, too. Even with the use of so few sets, it still looks impressive. Belber and the movie’s crew didn’t just try to re-hash the play on screen. They actually made the attempt to make the story look believable. Thanks to those efforts, Belber and company are to be complimented even more. The combination of those efforts to give the story a believable look and to make the story itself one that would keep viewers engaged makes for plenty of reason for dramaphiles to see this movie. Of course for all of the success derived from the movie’s script and its successful adaptation from stage to screen, it is not an entirely perfect presentation. One would be remiss to ignore the story’s occasional pacing issues. Thankfully the issues in question are the movie’s only real cons save perhaps for lacking any bonus commentary. But that’s not necessarily a con in the traditional sense of the word. And it will be discussed at more length shortly.

Match proves in the long run to be a movie that any dramaphile will appreciate. That is thanks in large part to its script and its largely believable look. For all of the success generated by these elements, the movie is not a perfect presentation. It is hindered to a point by its pacing. There are points throughout the course of its roughly ninety-minute run time that it tends to slow down seemingly unnecessarily with the end result being that it loses viewers at least in those moments. Luckily those moments are not so prevalent that they make the movie in whole a fail for Belber and company. But they do happen enough that there is no way that they can be ignored. Thankfully they are the movie’s only con in the more traditional sense of the word. If the movie had come with commentary by perhaps Belber and/or Stewart it would have been a great addition considering minutia such as the framed pictures in Tobi’s apartment, and Stewart and Lillard’s obvious on-screen chemistry. Having no commentary doesn’t take away from the movie by any means. But it would have been a great addition to the overall viewing experience. All things considered here, Matchs’ pacing is a con in the movie’s overall presentation. But it isn’t so overpowering that it makes the movie fail in whole. Neither does its lack of bonus commentary. That lack doesn’t hurt the movie. But this critic personally believes that it would have helped make up for the pacing. Perhaps there could have been commentary on that issue. Regardless, Match still proves in the end to be a movie that any dramaphile will want to see at least once.

The pacing behind Belber’s script for Match is an issue in its overall presentation. While it is an issue that cannot be ignored, it is not so overpowering that it makes the movie a fail. The movie’s script and its successful translation from stage to screen are still enough of a collective success that they make up for the story’s occasional pacing issues. They are not all that make up for those problems, either. Stewart and Lillard’s combined years of experience play just as important of a role in the movie’s success as its look and its script. Stewart shines as he takes over for Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Good Night and Good Luck, Superman Returns), who took on the role in the story’s stage presentation. From the movie’s early moments when Tobi thinks that he is being interviewed to the story’s more emotional moments, Stewart shines. His years of experience both on stage and in front of the camera show through clearly as he makes Tobi a character for whom audiences will root throughout the movie. On the other side of the proverbial coin, Matthew Lillard is just as impressive. most audiences that are familiar with Lillard’s work remember him from movies such as Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2, and some of the most recent animated incarnations of Hanna Barbera’s long-running franchise. That work, along with his work in SLC Punk, Homerun Showdown, and others is completely different from his portrayal here. Considering his past body of work, his portrayal of the emotionally troubled Mike is a massive departure for Lillard. And he is quite convincing, too. It goes to show the diversity of his talents even more. Viewers can’t help but feel some sympathy for Mike as it becomes evident that Mike’s anger issues have arisen from the fact that he did not have a father figure for the majority of his life. Just as interesting is his seeming change in the movie’s final story’s final scene. It’s like a weight has been lifted from him that had weighed with the weight of the world on Atlas’ shoulders. And in turn, it leaves viewers hoping that things will be better between him and Lisa, that weight having been lifted. It is yet one more way in which the work of both Stewart and Lillard presents so much talent and depth. That talent and depth combined with the story’s script and its overall believable look in its adaptation makes for a movie that any dramaphile will want to see at least once. This is despite its occasional pacing issues and regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the work of either Stewart or Lillard. All things considered, Match proves in the end to be a “match” for any dramaphile.

Stephen Belber’s small screen adaptation of his play Match is a movie that is a good “match” for any dramaphile. It takes an all too oft-used plot and gives it new life thanks to its execution. Its translation from stage to screen adds to its enjoyment as it boasts a completely believable look even with the use of minimal sets. The combined efforts of Sir Patrick Stewart and Matthew Lillard are just as impressive in the grand scheme of things. Their efforts combined with the story’s script and its look more than make up for its occasional pacing issues. They do so much good for the movie that even with those pacing issues Match still proves in the end to be a good “match” for any dramaphile and an equally good “match” for any critic’s list of the year’s best new independent movies. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from IFC Films is available online now at:

Website: http://www.IFCFilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFCFilmsOfficial

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Star Trek TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00IURL19Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717281&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+6. The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Command-Blu-ray/dp/B00IUR3YI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717308&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+chain+of+command.

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ParamountMovies and http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

True Trek Fans Will Appreciate The Captains Close Up

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/epix

Courtesy: Entertainment One/epix

The Captains Close Up with William Shatner is an enjoyable documentary for anyone that has grown up with Gene Roddenberry’s beloved sci-fi franchise that is Star Trek.  That started as a shot in the dark decades ago has grown to become one of television’s most beloved franchises.  And the people that have helmed the most famous of all starships in sci-fi history have by connection become among the most respected, beloved, and famous figures in television’s modern history.  Fans get to see them every year at conventions around the country.  But how many fans have ever had the chance to see all of the Federation’s most well-known captains in one place at the same time?  Thanks to Entertainment One and epix, Star Trek fans can hear from those individuals in this new DVD.

Epix and EOne’s new Star Trek documentary sees the very first of the individuals to lead the Federation’s flagship interview those that came after him.  This includes Avery Brooks (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Even Chris Pine (Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, People Like Us), makes a surprise appearance in the first of the DVD’s five segments.  Audiences will appreciate the interviews culled for this presentation as they show not just the captains, but the people behind the uniform.  One of the most intriguing factors that viewers will note ties together each of the actors is their collective theatrical background.  Each of the cast members started out in theater before making a name for themselves in each of their respective installments of Star Trek.  One cast member from one of the more recent franchises even notes in her interview that having a theatrical background coming into any of the Star Trek franchises was very important.  That is because it helps to adapt to and interpret each script and situation.

The theatrical experience tying each captain to the other is intriguing.  There is no doubt about that.  Most interesting of all though, is the interviews themselves.  Shatner comes across in an entirely unpretentious fashion as he sits down with each star.  Watching him discuss life on and off screen with each captain is more like watching two old friends catching up on old times than any formal interview.  Deciding which interview best illustrates this is difficult.  But being that he is the most well-known of the captains, the most logical choice would be Shatner’s interview with Sir Patrick Stewart.  Stewart speaks candidly with Shatner about his modest upbringing, his career before and after Star Trek, and about his charity “Refuge.”  Even Stewart’s own son gets in on the act.  He comes in, sits down with Shatner and his dad, and shares some rather entertaining tidbits of information about growing up in a family of actors.  Viewers will laugh along with Sir Patrick as his son shares these entertaining anecdotes.  Sir Patrick’s reaction is timeless.  He visibly blushes, hides his face and laughs embarrassed at the stories.  On the completely opposite end, Sir Patrick’s own emotional story of growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father is just as moving.  It is moving not because he admits his father only beat his mother, but because it led him to create “Refuge” in an attempt to help women who have been victims of domestic violence.  It’s easy to see how difficult it was to discuss this story.  And it makes him that much more human.

After his interview with Stewart, the next best example of the interviews’ candid nature would have to be Shatner’s interview with Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Somehow, the pair moves from talking about home cooking to the more serious discussion about reactions to audience criticisms and so many other topics.  Among those topics is that of how Mulgrew came into the role of Captain Janeway almost by chance.  Those that are less familiar with Voyager will be surprised to discover that Mulgrew got the part of Janeway after the original actress who was to play Janeway abruptly quit mere days after being given the position.  She goes on to discuss the joy of working on the show and balancing that with her own personal sadness and stress of dealing with divorce off screen.  It’s another of the more emotional moments shared throughout the interviews collected for this DVD.  Fans will find their own favorite moments when they buy or order the DVD for themselves.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D3XM3MY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=12P7CS8DNG71Y48M096T&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on The Captains Close Up with William Shatner and other DVDs and Blu-rays from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.