TV Review: Star Trek (1966-1967)

In what should be a long-term project, I plan to watch and review every Star Trek television show and movie.  I will be posting reviews on the last day of the month.

Title: Star Trek
Release Date: September 8, 1966 – April 13, 1967
Production Company: Desilu Productions
Episodes: 30 (including pilots)

Watching the first season of Star Trek is a return to where it all began.  It’s hard to imagine what it was like for viewers in 1966 experiencing this vision of the future with stories full of great ideas with no knowledge of what Star Trek would become.  The original series, unlike some that followed, hits the ground running with a season full of great episodes.

The early episodes feel really different from what Star Trek would become, and I enjoy the experimentation and possibilities.  And yet, a lot of what I love about Star Trek is established early on, especially the characters of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy and the relationship among them. Rewatching these shows in order is rewarding in that I’m finding ideas and character beats I’d never noticed before.

While I’ve been watching the episodes I’ve also been listening to the podcast Enterprise Incidents with Scott and Steve and reading the reviews on the PowerPop blog, both of which offer invaluable insights that have greatly increased my enjoyment of Star Trek.

My five favorite episodes in Season 1:

  1. The City on the Edge of Forever
  2. Shore Leave
  3. The Corbomite Maneuver
  4. Where No Man Has Gone Before
  5. Balance of Terror

And the biggest stinker: The Alternative Factor

Below the Read More, I’ve written up short reviews of each episode with a letter grade.  These reviews assume some familiarity with the episode and are full of spoilers.

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Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Release Date: May 5, 2023
Director: James Gunn
Production Company: Marvel Studios

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have always stood out from the MCU because they are largely untethered from Earth settings allowing them to full embrace the imaginative and weird.  The third (and final?) entry in the series is no exception.  This movie explores the backstory of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and how he was genetically engineered by the mad scientist the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).  When Rocket is injured his friends can’t heal him because of a kill switch implanted by the High Evolutionary’s corporation Orgocorp.  Rocket’s friends go on a quest to find the code to override the kill switch and in the process uncover the full enormity of the High Evolutionary’s eugenic plots.

The movie does a great job of balancing action/adventure, weird and wild settings (especially Orgocorp’s biological headquarters), and a central message of love and friendship among found family.  All the main characters get some good moments and story arcs while newer characters in the Guardians universe are blended in (I particularly like Cosmo the Spacedog as voiced by Maria Bakalova).  And Drax (Dave Bautista) gets to be a dad again.  Like the other Guardians’ movies, popular music is significant and this movie features a lot of great needle drops expanding the playlist into the 1990s and 2000s.

Rating: ***1/2




Boston Movie Festival: Boondock Saints (1999)

Welcome to my first monthly “film festival” where I watch a bunch of movies on a theme.  This month, in honor of Patriots Day weekend I will be watching a bunch of Boston movies, also known as “Film No R.”  There are so many movies set/filmed in my hometown that I made a list on Letterboxd.  I probably will never watch all of them, but this weekend I’m going to check of some of the more prominent movies I’ve missed.

Title: Boondock Saints
Release Date: November 19, 1999
Director: Troy Duffy
Production Company: Franchise Pictures | Brood Syndicate | Fried Films | Lloyd Segan Company | Chris Brinker Productions

The McManus twins, Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus), are Irish immigrants working as butchers by day and spending the nights drinking in their South Boston local.  After a run in with Russian mobsters, they feel called by God to carry out vigilante justice, killing numerous criminals throughout Boston.  The wildly eccentric FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) tries to track the brothers down while secretly admiring their ethos.  David ‘The Funny Man’ Della Rocco (David Della Rocco) is an errand boy for the Italian mafia who joins Connor and Murphy’s vigilante crew.

Boondock Saints is clearly one of the many 90s action films that took all the wrong lessons from the success of Quentin Tarantino by reveling in stylized violence and ironic detachment. I honestly can’t tell if this movie is supposed to be a comedy or is unintentionally comedic, but either way it made me laugh.  There’s a scene where Dafoe appears to be parodying his character’s death in Platoon and he’s ridiculously over-the-top throughout.  The accents – Boston, Irish, Russian, and Italian – are all so comically bad that I feel that someone consciously made the decision to play it cartoonish. That being said there are some charming performances and interesting ideas in this movie, just not enough to make a coherent whole.

As for Boston content, apart from Irish American Southie stereotypes and some wide-angle footage of scenery from the city, it doesn’t feel all too much like a Boston movie.  This is something that could happen anywhere just arbitrarily set in Boston rather than a Boston story.  It was mildly entertaining to watch once, but I won’t be watching the sequel.

Rating: **

50 Years, 50 Movies (2010): Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.



Top Grossing Movies of 2010:

  1. Toy Story 3
  2. Alice in Wonderland
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
  4. Inception
  5. Shrek Forever After

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 2010:

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 2010:

Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Release Date: August 13, 2010
Director: Edgar Wright
Production Company: Marc Platt Productions | Big Talk Films | Closed on Mondays Entertainment | Dentsu

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a movie that is a cultural touchstone, at least on the internet.  There are no mild opinions on the movie, people seem to either love it or hate it.  And after watching it, I can see why.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is the film’s antihero protagonist, a 22-year-old bassist for a garage band in Toronto.  Scott is really a jerk and the movie basically is the story of how he becomes something less of a jerk.  The first thing we learn about him is that he’s dating a high school student given the cringey name of Knives Chau (Ellen Wong).  Then he meets undeniably cool Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a mysterious woman closer to his own age.  They begin to date, but Scott learns that in order to “win” Ramona he has to fight her seven evil exes to the death leading up to a boss battle with Gideon “G-Man” Graves (Jason Schwartzman, challenging Cera for the nerdiest actor inexplicably playing a cool guy in this movie).

I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, but it is delightfully weird and keeps on leaning into absurdity.  Visually, the movie creatively uses the effects of video games and comic books.  It also has a cast packed with talented young actors who were just on the verge of greater fame, including  Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, and Brandon Routh. Kieran Culkin steals scenes as Scott’s gay roommate Wallace. There are a lot of flaws and questionable content in this movie that could be critiqued, but honestly I enjoyed it because it’s just so different and funny.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: El Mariachi (1992)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: El Mariachi
Release Date:September 15, 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Production Company: Columbia Pictures | Los Hooligans Productions

Robert Rodriguez’s debut movie is a crime/action/thriller set in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuña. An aspiring mariachi musician (Carlos Gallardo) arrives hoping to find work playing for tips at one of the city’s bars.  At the same time, a gangster Azul (Reinol Martíne) comes to town with a plan to extract a very violent revenge on the drug kingpin Moco (Peter Marquardt). Both wear all black and a guitar case, and like an Alfred Hitchcock film, there are mistaken identities.

I didn’t expect to like this movie as much as I did with it’s reputation for graphic violence.  Rodriguez famously made this movie on a shoestring budget of $7000 and seemingly spent most of that money on squibs.  But the mariachi is a resourceful and likable character and gets support (and a  love interest) from the bartender Domino (Consuelo Gómez). Their chemistry is strong and their relationship feels real which lends credence to all the unreality around them.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Ghost in the Shell (1995)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Ghost in the Shell
Release Date: 18 November 1995
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Production Company: Production I.G | Bandai Visual | Manga Entertainment

In a cyberpunk future Japan, Major Motoko Kusanag (Mimi Woods) is an assault squadron leader for a public security agency with cybernetic enhancements.  She and her partner Batou (Richard Epcar)investigate an entity known as the Puppet Master (Tom Wyner) who is suspected of hacking into various cyborgs.  The more she learns of the Puppet Master the more Motoko questions her own identity.

This movie is brutally violent, but also has long periods that are almost meditative.  The animation is stunning and must’ve been mind-blowing in 1995.  The score is also magnificent.  Buuuut, there are also segments with characters providing lengthy exposition dumps and dry philosophical conversations.  For some reason Motoko has to be nude to fight and the animators are really into depicting her erect nipples, which is really sexist.  So, this is obviously an innovative and groundbreaking movie (and one that is part of a progression from Blade Runner to The Matrix), but I recommend it with reservations.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Kid Brother (1927)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Kid Brother
Release Date: January 22, 1927
Director: Ted Wilde, J.A. Howe (co-director), Harold Lloyd (uncredited), and Lewis Milestone (uncredited)
Production Company: Paramount Pictures

Harold Hickory (Harold Lloyd) is the youngest son of Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) of Hickoryville, who also runs a farm with his two strong, older sons.  Harold doesn’t fit in with his father and brothers and has to rely on his wits rather than strength.  When he meets Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), a dancer in a traveling medicine show, it is love at first sight.  Mary inspires Harold to greater confidence especially when he’s needed to save the day when the other members of the medicine show conspire to steal the town’s contributions for a new dam from the sheriff!

This is a funny and charming movie with pretty much nonstop gags.  I like this even more than Lloyd’s more famous film Safety Last.

Rating: ***1/2

I don’t know why the only trailer I can find is narrated dramatically in German!?!?

90 Movies in 90 Days: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Release Date: December 21, 2022
Director: Joel Crawford
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation

I was surprised by the popular acclaim of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish since it came out, because sequels of spinoffs of animated franchises generally aren’t all that good. I only became aware of the character Puss in Boots recently when I watched Shrek 2 for the first time.  My linear mind felt I would need to watch the rest of the Shrek sequels and the original Puss in Boots first, but I overcame that inclination.

And I was just fine, because Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an excellent standalone feature and if referenced anything in earlier movies I didn’t feel like I was missing out.  Oh, and the hype is real.  This is a funny, creative, visually-imaginative, and heartfelt film which has something for the whole family (except maybe the youngest children).

The adventurer Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has lost 8 of his 9 lives and begins to fear his mortality with Death, in the form of a Wolf (Wagner Moura), literally tailing him.  He learns of a map that leads to a magical wishing star and determines to steal the map and use the wish to gain more lives.  His companions on the journey are fellow adventurer (and on-again/off-again romantic interest) Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) and Perrito (Harvey Guillén), a kindhearted but dim Chihuahua.  They are chased by the crime family of Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) who are in turn pursued by the psychotic pastry chef “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney).

A simple summary of the movies plot would be “the real treasure is the friends we made along the way” but that would undervalue the high quality of the characterization and storytelling.  The movie is very funny and I particularly like how Puss can code switch between being a Spanish adventurer and the behavior of real life cats.  Similarly, all of the characters have moments that reference their fairy tale/nursery rhyme origins in clever ways. The animation style is stunning and changes to enhance action and fantasy sequences.  It feels like a bold choice for the filmmakers to break from just using the same style they’ve used throughout the Shrek franchise.

So, this movie probably has no right to be as good as it is.  But it is good, and I tip my hat to everyone involved for putting their best into it.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Release Date:November 11, 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence
Production Company: Color Force | Lionsgate
Summary/Review: I hadn’t intended on watching this movie for my 90 Days project, but my younger child has got into reading The Hunger Games book series and we ended up watching the first two movie adaptations. I’d already reviewed the first film ten years ago (!) but had never gotten around to watching the rest of the series.

The movie shares some problems it has with the book in that it squeezes two stories into one narrative.  The first half deals with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) dealing with the trauma of surviving the Hunger Games while on their victory tour, as well as somewhat forced love triangle involving Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  In the second half of the movie, Katniss and Peeta are returned to the Hunger Games after trickery by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) having all the tributes drawn from surviving victors.  Throughout the story there is burbling of rebellion but as it’s told from Katniss’ point of view we don’t see the planning of that rebellion.  This makes sense from a dramatic point of view although it does seem unfair to Katniss’ character.

All that being said, this movie is well-done and balanced in its approach which could easily drift to far in the directions of exploitation and inspiration.  It’s also packed with stars in supporting roles such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, and Amanda Plummer.  Sam Clafflin and Jena Malone appea as Katniss’ allies Finnick and Johanna and are both good in their roles.

Rating: ***1/2

50 Years, 50 Movies (1986): Running Scared


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.  If you have any suggestions for movies from the past 50 years, please drop them in the comments!

Top Grossing Movies of 1986:

  • Top Gun
  • Crocodile Dundee
  • Platoon
  • The Karate Kid, Part II
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 1986:

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1986:

Title: Running Scared
Release Date: June 27, 1986
Director: Peter Hyams
Production Company: The Turman-Foster Company

I saw Running Scared in the movie theater, possibly more than once, and then several more times on cable.  So I have a certain nostalgic fondness for this movie.  Watching with older and wiser eyes, the Reagan-era “law and order” ideology runs thick in this movie with all the copaganda to justify breaking the rules to get the “bad” guys.  If this were real life, these would be terrible, awful cops not lovable scamps.  Running Scared basically has all the grit of The French Connection with jokes.  In fact it one ups The French Connection’s thrilling car chase after an elevated train by having a car chase ON the elevated railway!

Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) are undercover police detectives in Chicago. When Danny inherits a small fortune, they decide to retire and run a bar in Key West.  But they have one more job to settle, busting drug kingpin Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits in his film debut). Hines and Crystal are pretty funny with the quips and have a good camaraderie. The action scenes hold up pretty well too, and the film makes good use of its Chicago locations and winter setting.

Rating: ***