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3,616 reviews

Vice
Jack Anderson July 7, 2020, 12:07 ET

Great performance but failing tricks
Vice is a successful attempt at telling the story of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Back in 2001, I was extremely invested in what happened to our world, where suddenly everything changed on 9/11. I'll never forget that day as well as the aftermath, which was even more disruptive than the day itself. Suddenly, civil rights and ethics were thrown away and replaced with the infamous Patriot Act or invading countries that were not related whatsoever with 9/11 (Iraq).

I was really amazed by the performance of Christian Bale, which once again transformed himself physically for a role and went fully at it with a level of engagement that is definitely impressive.
You would not think of him to portray Cheney and he did a perfect job.

I was less impressed by the self-aware humor of the film. The on-screen texts mostly failed to provide top notch humor. The worst example was when the end credits started rolling in the middle of the middle of the film. This was a bit painful to watch. In a way, they tried to replicate the kind of agile self-aware tricks from The Big Short, but failed to do so.

Still, the movie was extremely interesting, especially for someone like me who was very interested in that era in American politics.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Amazing Stories: The Cellar
Jack Anderson July 4, 2020, 12:07 ET

Money
When watching this first episode of this new series, I kept thinking about how much this is a pointless exercise. There is no envy to build here, no desire to create. Apple wanted more money for their shareholders and hence created Apple TV+. They wanted big names, so they got Steven Spielberg. And Spielberg took his check and produced this. I don't get it.


 
 
Kung Fu Panda
Jack Anderson July 3, 2020, 12:07 ET

Nah
I used to use the Kung Fu Panda as a social media avatar for about a year before I finally decided to take the time and watch the movie. I soon understood why I waited so long. The movie is boring, the jokes are not funny and visually it's all the same and usual boring 3D crap that Hollywood forces down our throats.
I watched it yesterday and already I forgot most of it. Really a poor film, but I'm sure many will love it. Hey, how can you not find an animated panda cute?

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
The Elephant Queen
Jack Anderson July 3, 2020, 12:07 ET

Remarkable and heartbreaking
The Elephant Queen tells the story of a group of elephant and their struggle to survive. The movie is extremely profound and makes you think about your place in the Universe.
The remarkable images will first let you in awe in front of so much beauty. Then, you'll realize quickly that animals are extremely intelligent and that we are not so special after all. They dance of happiness, spend some of their time goofing around, struggle in their relationships, spend their days around food and water, and feel tremendous loss when one of them is left behind.
There is one particular scene that broke my heart into thousands of tiny pieces. I simply broke down in tears when one of the calves just couldn't keep up and passed away, leaving her mother in the most tragic and heartbreaking of ways.

The movie is so incredibly well made that I simply fail to understand how they did it, which add to the magic of it. And I will leave it there.

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. Superb.


 
 

Jack Anderson June 28, 2020, 12:06 ET

Forgive
THE ANTICIPATION
The Last of Us was one of my favorite game of all time. The eerie atmosphere, the sunsets, the characters, the music. A complete success that I played multiple times. With such a critical and commercial success, you'd expect the Naughty Dog studio to quickly come up with a sequel. Think again. This game took 7 years to be released. And after 7 long years of waiting, we finally were able to play The Lasts of Us Part II. I had not watched a single trailer or read a single article about the game. I wanted to remain fully spoiler-free and, except for knowing that Ellie would be playing the guitar, I knew nothing about the game. This is for me the best way to immerse in a story, whether it is a book, a movie, or, yes, even a video game.

THE DIFFERENT CHARACTER
And then I finally put the game into the PS4. The game opens with Joel telling the story of Ellie and the Fireflies to his brother Tommy. Soon after, you are walking with another character, Abby. She is a bit flabby, has bad hair, and walks like a man. She's not your typical blonde girl from video games. And that's good.

THE TEARS
You are walking in the snow and the scenery is sublime. I love snow. Your first encounter with zombies is simply marvelous. The moment you become submerged with too many zombies and run for your life is simply outstanding. I felt like being in the action. And I was glad to be saved by Joel and Tommy. But, two hours into the game, this is where everything changes. Joel reveals his name and suddenly, we understand that our friendly group members are actually the bad guys. And Abby decides to kill Joel in the most violent of ways, in front of the innocent eyes of Ellie, in a scene that shook me to my core and left me in tears.

THE INCITING MOMENT
This is the inciting moment. The moment when everything has changed and nothing can be like before again. It’s only the beginning of the game and we – Ellie and the player – have lost Joel. This is the bold move from Naughty Dogs. This is the moment we realize this sequel will not just be a new adventure with both characters we loved so much. One had to perish for the other one to live a profound story.

THE HATE
At this moment, I had a discussion with a friend who told me he had no PlayStation but was watching a playthrough online and had just watched that scene. “Man I could not fucking believe what was happening when that fat fucking bitch pulled the trigger,” my friend said. “That was 100% pure hatred inside me for a second.” He then asked me for something. “I want her dead.”
I already had my answer. “I’ll get it done,” I said. Because I felt the exact same hate towards that character. As a player of the original game for seven years, Joel was part of my family too. This bitch had killed him in front of *my* eyes. I had to get my revenge. This would not only be the character of Ellie who would need her revenge. I would need it too and I would do whatever necessary.

THE REVENGE
The game then went into a story that I found highly interesting. A revenge story. We could not have a second story on the Fireflies or about finding a cure, that would have felt like the natural but boring sequel. So we tracked Abby back to Seattle, with our fair share of zombies to kill, dark corridors to go through, resource searching and your usual Last of Us gameplay. And I must admit that while the game is beyond great, I am at a place where I don’t have so much fun with spending hours of my life killing zombies or hiding from bad guys to walk through a compound. The clock is ticking and I’ve got to clean my apartment, pay my taxes, spend time with my family and complete a million other projects. But I digress.

THE OTHER REVENGE
After some adventures and too many buildings to go through, we finally became face to face with Abby, which points a gun at us. “We let you both live and you wasted it!” That was it. The moment. Here we g… – wait, what?!! Suddenly, as I expected to face a brilliant face off, I was taken years ago to a flashback with Abby and her dad, trying to save an animal. We then get to meet his Firefly father, and to witness his struggle when faced with the ultimate sacrifice. Killing a little girl in order to save humanity, or letting her go and losing all chances of a normal world forever. The story goes on and we are taken in that same hospital we once were, seven (real) years ago. And suddenly we root and care about this character and we realize that her motive is precisely the same as our own. Not only that, but it actually started the other way around. Abby was the first one to suffer, as Joel killed her father. So she went to get her revenge and in that process, Ellie felt obligated to get her own revenge. This is a drastic change in the maturity of a story in a video game. But this is only the beginning.

THE NEW GAME
Seattle. Day 1.
Take five days ago, we play once again with Abby. And what I soon realized was that this was the beginning of a new game within the game. And it starts at the perfect place. We get to witness the life of the people from the other side. And we realize our immaturity and that our own feelings grew from only one side of the story. Ours. We loved Joel and wanted to get revenge for him. But our other “we” – meaning Abby and the player – now root for Abby and her dead father. We get to meet her friends, to meet Owen, the boy she loves.

THE MATURITY
When I started playing video games, I only had to go from the left side to the right side of the screen and save a princess. Today, the story is as crucial as the gameplay, making the video game medium as close from cinema as ever.
And this game is, to me, the precise moment where it transcends moviemaking. Because the story is a story you have rarely seen in movies. You see, in movies, or storytelling, there is usually a beginning – a character living a normal life –, an inciting moment – something bad happens – and a closure – usually a revenge. What is terrific about this game is that it takes you one step further. This showed a maturity of storytelling rarely seen before in a major production such as this one.

THE DUALITY OF THE FATES
As we move forward into the darkness of the story, it becomes more and more complex and more and more clear at the same time. The clarity comes from the complexity of the interactions. For instance, Abby finds two friends by “the Scars”, another group based on some sort of cult following. She starts to understand the fears of others and we get to see that the characters fears different things. One helps the other control her fear of heights, while the other presents her a friendly dog to play catch with. In many ways, Abby makes her choice sooner. She finds solace sooner, helped by Scar friend, which actually tells her to stop before she does the inevitable (killing Ellie’s girlfriend). At that time in the story, Abby has enough behind her to look behind her own revenge. And while Ellie is on a similar path, a visit paid by Tommy (Joel’s brother) will convince her to do what she shouldn’t. In many ways, she has still not gone past her grievance, probably because she felt so much guilt by the things she said to Joel while he was still alive. Both their journeys are totally different in their details. And that’s also one of the beauty of it.

THE CROSSROAD
So, Ellie is at a crossroad. A pivoting time. There is a beautiful scene where her girlfriend tells her “come back to bed, we’ll discuss it tomorrow”, when seeing Ellie dressed to fight the last fight. Dina has understood that nothing good can come out of revenge. They already went through it, even though they failed at the last minute. And they lost one of their friends in the process. Why good can possibly come from vengeance? This is the conundrum from wanting to get revenge. You end up doing exactly the thing for which you are seeking justice. But there is no justice in killing yourself the one who killed. Justice must be served by others, in order to be true justice.
So, Ellie passes the door and leaves, hoping to get her revenge before finally being able to move on.

THE PILLARS
The end of the fate of both characters takes place in the pillars. A beauty comes from this evil place that resonated with me profoundly. Abby is unrecognizable, having lost weight and having short hair. As mentioned, she’s already past revenge. And I expected both characters to talk and almost become best friends. Perhaps it could have been a good ending, but probably a cheesy one and, above all, an expected one. I expected Ellie to learn from Abby that Joel killed his father. I expected dialogue to resolve the story, but no, the events did. And that’s the power of great storytelling. The characters are not told what to feel, their journey does.
After a fight that made me sick to my bones – I did not want to push the square button, Ellie is left alone in the water, in a scene so powerful that I wonder how many movies can stand against The Last of Us Part II. The eerie music, the imagery. Everything makes me scream how much I love this game which isn’t. It’s more than this. I lived that story and this journey is mine.

THE SOLACE
In many ways, Ellie found her solace. And while she lost Dina and their son, she found solace in saving two human beings. Abby and her friend. What is really inspiring if you think about it, is that Abby was helped by her new Scar friend to not kill Ellie. And Ellie was helped by a memory of Joel not to kill Abby, in a scene we see later. Joel is on his porch, playing the guitar. And Ellie comes to talk. They end up quickly talking about the hospital:
Joel: If somehow the Lord gave me a second chance at that moment… I would do it all over again.
Ellie. I don’t think I can ever forgive you for that. But I would like to try.
Joel: I’d like that.

If you truly want to reach maturity and grow as a human being: forgive. Then only you’ll be able to accept it. The same way you need to accept your imperfections or the loss of your own body. An arm. Two fingers. Accept and grow and move on, always.

When Ellie comes back home, all she finds is the desolation of a place that once held happiness. While this is truly sad, she shows her that she crossed the line and I actually liked that idea, even though it was heartbreaking. She goes and finds the guitar that once Joel gave her. This gift represented Joel. She tries to play the guitar, with two fingers missing. The sound has changed. She has changed.

So Ellie decides to leave the guitar there, on the border of the window, and she can be seen leaving in the background, the camera slowly zooming on the guitar that we saw in the opening shot. Cut. The end.

THE MORALE
In a world that bred wars for centuries, watching a story like The Last of Us Part II can feel cathartic. Many say that a book or a film changed their lives, but did they really? This game is the reason why the Israeli–Palestinian conflict lasts since more than a hundred years. But this game is also the solution. This is the ultimate tool for empathy and I know that many will think about Ellie and Abby in their own lives, when faced with a desire for vengeance, whatever the depth.

THE ART
When I played Super Mario as a child, I never expected that a video game could take me to such a profound journey. This shows how much video games have evolved and I must say that we may have reached a level where pushing the boundaries will be much more difficult. The highly talented men and women from Naughty Dogs went so far into the art that they set up a canvas for artistic storytelling. Once you reach that, I do not know how you can top that. But someone will. And I’ll be there to applause.

VERDICT
I give the game 10 out of 10.


 
 

Jack Anderson June 20, 2020, 12:06 ET

Uninspired
Following the highly successful Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Naughty Dog came back with a small game titled Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. This time, don’t expect to see Nathan Drake, Elena or Sully. No, the game is focused on the two female characters of Chloe and Nadine, that we previously saw in the Uncharted saga.
The first thing that comes to mind is that the duo is not working. I simply did not care one bit about them. And this is no surprise, we are in front of a spin-off and as with all spin-off, we get less interesting characters than in the originals. I would have much preferred an adventure with the child of Drake than Chloe and Nadine.

Meanwhile, the story that was so exciting in the first games is simply boring as hell in this game. The Uncharted games used to feel like blockbuster Hollywood movies. You’d watch in awe at the video sequences. Here, I would, again, not care.

Technically, the game is top notch, of course. But that’s not relevant. Having a wonderful jungle doesn’t make for a great game. And by the way, I felt that the visual was actually boring as well, because we basically spend almost all our time in a jungle. No diversity.

You can actually see that the game will not be exciting right from the start. The opening scene is as dull as possible. And this explains everything. This game was started with the intentions of making a smaller game. And suddenly, the creators are not pushing themselves for greatness. That’s the entire concept of art. You’d strive for an impossible perfection. You would never start a new piece of work by saying « let’s do something average, no pressure. » By removing the pressure to not have to disappoint, you end up doing the same and not innovating.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 

Jack Anderson June 20, 2020, 12:06 ET

Outstanding
TECHNICAL WONDER
Released only five years after its predecessor, Uncharted 4 is a technical wonder. The graphics are simply astonishing. For the first time, Nathan Drake is on an adventure made for the PlayStation 4. And it shows. We have gone a long way from the first game and while it seems it’s been ages, it’s not even been a full decade. There are only nine years between the original game and Uncharted 4, and it seems like centuries.
The game is so beautiful that at times, you simply want to look around you and enjoy the beauty of it. It’s really that good.

STORY
Story-wise, the game is, for the very first time, personal. The story is showing real emotions and while we are still in a big blockbuster-type adventure, the story is much more mature. We deeply care for the characters in a way we never did before. The relationship between Drake and Elena or Drake and his brother are great.

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. To me, this is the best Uncharted game, period.


 
 
The Big Short
Jack Anderson June 16, 2020, 12:06 ET

Mastered mess
A MASTERED MESSY STYLE
What I liked the most about this film is its style. The film shows a very messy world, like a moving box filled with numbers that go tow to tow against each other. The characters talk at the same time, the camera zooms in and out. But don't think this is merely a coincidence or that the filmmaker improvised. This was beautifully crafted and fits the theme of the movie perfectly.

CAST
The main cast is quite impressive and you'd not expect such A-class actors for a movie about finance.

THEME
I love how the producers were able to make the film fun and engaging, while talking about a subject that many would find utterly boring. Robbie Margot in a bathtub explaining what are CDO's? Hell, yeah!

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. Superb.


 
 
Batman
Jack Anderson June 15, 2020, 12:06 ET

The Joker
I remember watching Batman as a kid and being quite impressed by it. Visually, the film is quite strong, you can truly believe in the world of Gotham City. Tim Burton was a good choice for the film.

JOKER
While the movie is quite flawed, Jack Nicholson is perfect. His portrayal of the Joker is just stupendous. Pure magic. Once again, the kid that I was was very impressed by it.
Nicholson was simply the perfect choice and each of his appearance is a complete delight.

ICONIC
What the movie does best is its iconic look. Again, as a child, I watched it being very impressed.

NO MAGIC
Still, there is no magic happening between the other characters than the Joker. Michael Keaton is spending a big chunk of the movie looking at things with a strange face. I don’t think it worked very well. At the same time, the character of Kim Basinger was classic and did not go over the top. They did the job, but not more, in my view.

PRINCE
I do not know who had the idea to feature some original music from Prince, but that was clearly a bad choice. It feels totally out of place.

VERDICT
I give it 6 out of 10. Very good.


 
 
The Prestige
Jack Anderson June 10, 2020, 12:06 ET

A magic show
THE MAGICIAN
Christopher Nolan is a magician. I have never seen a filmmaker that would make a superb first major film (Memento), a second superb film (Insomnia) as well as a superb third film (Batman Begins) and being able to pull it off one more time. The Prestige is his fourth triumph in a row.

THE RISE
The movie's tension, complexity and, yes, delight, keeps rising and rising and rising again as the movie goes along.

THE MUDDY WATERS
I counted that five characters in the movie might take us in the wrong direction. The two main characters of course (Borden and Angier), but Olivier (Scarlett Johansson) and Tesla (David Bowie) are also not to be trusted. And that's the delight of a film that keeps the audience guessing. Once again, Christopher Nolan has found the perfect angle to tell his story. The format is, again, brilliant because it fits the story perfectly. After Memento told in reverse in order to let the audience feel as lost as the main character, after Insomnia and the lead character not sleeping in a location where the sun never sets, Nolan does it again.

THE AUDIENCE
Because the beauty of the film is that we, as the audience, are watching the film the same way we would watch a magic show. The movie has a second variable, which is us.

THE MUSIC
The Prestige marks the final collaboration between Nolan and composer David Julyan. While the score works, I can clearly say that the music is not a character in this film. I barely noticed the music and while I won’t say that music must imperatively be predominant, it actually is in each Christopher Nolan movie... except for this one.

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. Superb.


 
 
Le Consentement
Jack Anderson June 9, 2020, 12:06 ET

Ubuesque
THE CONSENT
When I was young, I imagined that rapes were committed by evil men hiding behind bushes. I pictured pedophiles as monsters that crawl into the rooms of little girls in the middle of the night to abuse them. In many movies and series, the police would investigate and discover these evil and deviant men.
But as I grew older, I started to learn that abuse is not such a black and white story. Everything is mixed. The bad guys think there are the victims. The victims often are seen as abusing and no one knows anything. That is where the story of Le Consentement starts.
Vanessa Springora tells her story as a child, when she met a relatively famous French writer. She is 14, he is 50. She doesn’t find herself attractive, she suffers from a father that has abandoned her and, suddenly, falls for an old man that manipulates her into his bed. When he cannot penetrates her because of her hymen, he simply puts her on her belly and sodomizes her. And when you’d imagine that society would help this little girl, things get actually much worse.

THE GROTESQUE
Not only this poor girl is being manipulated, but no one helps her. This is where the story becomes grotesque. Her own mother would invite the man to the family table. Friends of the family would even tell Vanessa to keep up with it and trying to make her realize how lucky she is to share the life of such a talented artist. And this made me think of the Michael Jackson story, a talented artist (no one denies that), that groomed little boys into having sex with them, by making them feel important, and manipulating even the family of the boys. This is the most frustrating part. You’d expect that someone would simply call the police and make the relationship stop, but even the police doesn’t really care about it. This is a story of nobody caring. And as the little girl grows older, she is faced with only demons. And since nobody helped her before, no one now has a manual on how to deal with things.

THE PREDATOR
The man that abused Vanessa is named Gabriel Matzneff, and yes, he is a pedophile. One word is absent for most of the story: pedophilia. The so-called artist would be invited on national television and share his love for children. This seems impossible but that was the reality. Many of his books would tell the story on how he abused children. And no one said anything. I cannot grasp the frustration that Springora must have felt for most of her life. I hope that in many ways, her book and the aftermath of its release provided her solace and a kind of impossible closure.
Once again, the reality is much crazier than fiction.

THE SILENT ACCOMPLICES
But the grotesque doesn't end there, the tragedy keeps ongoing. In the very small Parisian underworld (le petit milieu parisien), many knew. But not only that, many were impressed by the so-called work from Matzneff and would find pleasure in reading his published diaries.

THE BOOK
The book itself is extremely powerful. I devoured it in three days and strongly recommend to anyone that wishes to understand the cynical ways of grooming. And you can see that Vanessa is an editor. She knows her stuff and writes with a very concise style that I highly appreciated. This seemed to me that she found the perfect of ways to reply to G., by writing. And I haven’t read the work from Matzneff, but I’m quite sure that she surpassed him by her honesty. Anyone using literature to inflate his or her ego has not understood what literature is about.

VERDICT

I give it 7 out of 10. Excellent.


 
 
Insomnia
Jack Anderson June 8, 2020, 12:06 ET

10X
10X
Insomnia is the second major film from Christopher Nolan and its first following the highly original Memento. Memento was quite a surprise and allowed Nolan to jump to the next level. While the production budget from Memento was $4.5 million, Insomnia was made for $46 million, a tenfold increase that allows Nolan to shoot for three months (versus one for the previous film), have A-class actors and great outside locations. So, let's go in order.

A-CLASS ACTORS
While I highly liked Memento, I also mentioned in my review that the casting was not perfect. Two out of the three main characters were great but not perfectly cast. I imagine the delight of Christopher Nolan to only direct his second major film and have, this time, to work with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, two Academy award winners loved by every moviegoer in the world.
They both

LOCATIONS, LOCATIONS, LOCATIONS
To an extent, real estate and moviemaking are the same. It's all a bout locations, locations, locations. While Memento was great, it also lacked memorable locations. Well, Insomnia is exactly the opposite. I love movies taking mostly place outside and this is exactly the case here. Insomnia is filled with outstanding shots from both Alaska and Canada. Just magnificent.

INSOMNIAC
What I also liked a lot is that the film uses a similar yet totally gimmick than Memento. Here, the main character (Al Pacino) is not able to sleep in a place where the sun never set.

CHARACTERS
While I liked the characters of the film, I did not really care for Hilary Swank's character. I found her too immature and naive for my taste, even if she ultimately actually solves the mystery. I think her lines were not as good as the ones of the other actors and I think her performance was not subtle enough.

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. Superb.


 
 
Memento
Jack Anderson June 7, 2020, 12:06 ET

Backwards puzzle
NOLAN’S BREAKTHROUGH
Memento is the first big film from filmmaker Christopher Nolan. "[The] difference between shooting Following with a group of friends wearing our own clothes and my mum making sandwiches to spending $4 million of somebody else's money on Memento and having a crew of a hundred people is, to this day, by far the biggest leap I've ever made", said the director.

CONCEPT
The idea of Memento came during a road trip from Chicago to the West Coast, as Christopher Nolan was moving. He was traveling with his brother Jonathan, who pitched to him the story of a man with an odd form of amnesia that wants to take revenge following the killing of his dead wife. While the revenge story is all but cliché and déjà-vu, the format is not. On the contrary, the entire movie is based on the concept, that Christopher Nolan imagined. Telling the story in reverse. This idea alone is brilliant. Not only it is wildly fun, but it fits perfectly the story. By telling the story in reverse, we get to experience the condition of Leonard. We actually become the character and fully identify with him, because, like him, we don’t know what the hell is going on.

CASTING
To me, Carrie-Anne Moss is by far the best actress in the film. She plays the perfect way and was beautifully cast. The other actors were very good, but I am not fully convinced that Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano were the perfect choices for these roles. Don't get me wrong, the alchemy works well, but it doesn't work that well.

TOLD
If I had another complaint besides the casting, I would say that the film is too much told and not enough showed. What I mean by that is that the main character spends most of its time on the phone, making his investigation remotely than really being on the field.

LOCATIONS
Third, the locations were doing the job, but there are no memorable locations.

MUSIC
Composed by David Julyan, the music is setting the atmosphere and a major character in the film. The film would clearly not work as well without the daunting score from Julyan. Performed on synthesizers, it sets a tone both melancholic and eerie at the same time. I really liked it and while it may be a sharp contrast with the epic soundtracks from Hans Zimmer later in Nolan's career, I cherish this soundtrack very much.

DIRECTING
The directing from Nolan is very serious and elegant. He reminded me of Terrence Malick, especially in the flashback scenes where we see the character's wife. This made me think a lot of similar imagery from The Thin Red Line.

SERIOUSNESS
While this is only the first major film from Nolan, you can see right from the start the level of maturity and seriousness that he brings to his films. The reason why Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite filmmakers is that he doesn't take shortcuts. He does the job and does it the honest way. If a truck is supposed to jump and do a 180 degrees rotation in the air, he will ask the SFX team to create that effect. There is no blue screens in Nolan's cinema. He shows you a fake world with so much authenticity that the magic happens. And you feel immersed in this world. That will be even more tangible in future films, but Memento is a clear example of carefully telling the story from A to Z. Or in this case, from Z to A.

VERDICT
I give it 8 out of 10. A superb tour de force.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Elementary, Dear Data
Jack Anderson June 7, 2020, 12:06 ET

Interesting
Directed by Rob Bowman, the episode is very convincing and well produced. It is light but still has a dramatic tone once we realize that the holodeck is able to control the ship.
Guest actor Daniel Davis, mostly known for playing the butler in The Nanny, is perfectly cast and gives a great performance of Professor Moriarty.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Where Silence Has Lease
Jack Anderson June 7, 2020, 12:06 ET

Interesting
I found this episode quite interesting. An alien life form is judging the human species and this makes for some enjoyable drama.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Child
Jack Anderson June 7, 2020, 12:06 ET

Bad concept
The story of the episode is very bad. The concept is that an alien life form impregnates counselor Troi, which then delivers the baby in less than a day. The baby grows into a child in a couple of hours and dies. The morale of the story? The alien entity wanted to learn about humans, hence why it fucked her and grew fast. Just horrible. Science fiction stories with babies are always bad, always.

There are some welcomed changed in this second season. First, Wesley finally getting rid of his rainbow sweater and is getting a much, much better uniform. Second, the sets have been updated and we even get some new ones, such as the bar.

Also, actress Whoopi Goldberg appeared as a recurring character. You cannot not like her smile.

But one last change was the removal of Dr. Beverly Crusher, for no good reasons. Behind the scenes, the actress received a phone call from her agent, saying she was fired. Apparently a producer didn't like her. That's a shame because there was clearly something to explore in her relationship with Picard. Instead of that, they replaced the doctor with another character. This was really not good.

VERDICT
I give it 2 out of 10. Very bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Neutral Zone
Jack Anderson June 7, 2020, 12:06 ET

Cryogenics
I love science fiction. But I hate science fiction. To me, there are two types of science fiction. The one with ridiculous and Manichean aliens and the one with real and fascinating science. The one that makes you think and the one that makes you cringe. Independence Day versus 2001: A Space Odyssey. That is the reason why I never watched Star Trek in the first place. I thought it was merely about "bad" science fiction. And I was not fully wrong. Most of the episodes of the first three series (including The Animated Series) are bad. Ridiculous creatures wearing ridiculous outfits, lame storytelling, no character development, you name it. But when the episodes are good, then suddenly the entire show elevates itself and the stories become fascinating.

Star Trek is a saga that you have to work your way through. You have to dig a long time to find gold. But once you strike it, it will hopefully make your journey worthwhile.

In this episode, we are faced with a story on cryogenics. Characters cryogenized for centuries are discovered wandering on a spaceship and get back to life. I just loved the idea and while the execution is not perfect and slightly cliché (as Kimmy mentioned in his own review, you've got the rich financier, the Texan macho man, the housewife), it is still well produced and the result is quite nice.

The sub-story, while not interesting, at least provided some drama to support the story and make it not boring. That was quite clever.

At the end of a first season, let me look back and share a few points:
- First, the season is way too long. 26 episodes is an impossible task. Too little budget per episode, but most importantly, too little time. Shooting an episode in seven days seems a daunting task to me. And it shows.
- There was no character development. Nothing lasts. No storyline that keeps ongoing throughout the year.
- There are only 4 very good episodes out of 26 in my mind: Where No One Has Gone Before (S01E06), Datalore (S01E13), Conspiracy (S01E25), The Neutral Zone (S01E26). That's a ratio of 15.3%. Not great.
So, I am looking forward to continue my journey with the second season. Something is telling me the series will become better, and not only because of Riker's beard.

VERDICT
I give it 6 out of 10. Very good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Conspiracy
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

YES!
Finally! After 24 episodes that were mostly bad, Star Trek: The Next Generation finally offers us a great episode. Where No One Has Gone Before (S01E06) was already quite good, but this one takes it to another level.

First, the music is top notch. Perhaps not really the music itself, but the music cues and effects. They highlight the drama in quite an effective way.

Which brings me to drama. This episodes is simply perfectly crafted. The scenario is great and gives director Cliff Bole the opportunity to deliver a great episode.

The gore climax was stupendous. The old guy kicking ass was excellent, with his both sharp and evil gaze. And seeing the return of the old annoying guy that made an investigation on Picard was simply an excellent idea.

VERDICT
I give it 7 out of 10. Without any doubt the best episode of the series yet.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: We'll Always Have Paris
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

Ah, Paris!
Ah, Paris! Le Tour Eiffel. Le croissant. Le café. L'amour.

This episode starts in a very interesting way. Picard is reuniting with an old fling and we get to learn a bit more about his past, his French past, to be precise. The past of the most British of the French captains.
On top of it, we can see glimpses of two timelines separating. The episode was off to a cool start.

But unfortunately, the episode fails to deliver and ends up being messy and not entertaining.

And ultimately, while the woman plays very well and is obviously very beautiful, I did not sense any emotional connection between the two. There was no magic and it ended up being unbelievable. Ironically, Captain Kirk was laughed at by kissing a women in every three episodes. Picard is the opposite and you'd wish to see more emotions.

Last comment, I find it so bad that the French characters speak English in Paris. And their view of Paris is beyond cliché.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Skin of Evil
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

She's gone
Spoiler alert.

This episode marks the death of Lieutenant Yar. Let's go straight to it: her death was really not built up. You'd expect her to die at the end of the episode, in some sort of climax. But no, we are not even half into the episode that Dr. Crusher already calls it. "She's gone." Moving on.
That was really rushed. Killing off a character would have been at least a fantastic opportunity for a very dramatic episode. I have never ever seen a major character of a series being killed off like that.

The second part of the episode, with the counselor talking to a creature we cannot see was really not good.

But, I may be in the minority, but I found the black oil character pretty cool and yes, well done.

And what to say about the final scene from Yar. She comes up in a green field in the form of a recorded hologram message. The word is cheesy. She gives a word to every member and I must say it was horrendous to watch. Once again, by far the worst death of any major character I've ever seen in television history.

Which brings me to Yar herself. I was quite surprised to see her dying so soon into the series. I mean, we are only at season 1 out of 7. Behind the scenes, the actress Denise Crosby was frustrated by the lack of depth of her character. And I cannot disagree with her. Her character was as flat as a piece of white paper and did not bring any value. To be honest, the other characters are not much better, but at least they have scenes and get some backstory from time too time (Worf with his Klingon heritage, the counselor and her home planet, Picard and his infamous self-named manoeuvre, Delta and his birth, etc.).
What will be the outcome for the series? Well, it is not as if she will leave a big void to fill. I am sad to say that I expect to see no difference. And it's already time for me to watch the next episode. Jack out.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Symbiosis
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

Drugs
The episode is extremely bad. A planet of addicts. Awful acting.

The worst moment is when Wesley is getting a lesson on drugs by Lieutenant Yar, who seems to know a lot about the effects of drugs, as confirmed by the look on Data's face after at the end of their discussion.

VERDICT
I give it 2 out of 10. Very bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Arsenal of Freedom
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

La Forge in command!
What I loved about this episode was Geordi La Forge taking sole command of the Enterprise while being attacked and facing harsh criticism of his temporary leadership.Yes, I dare say it, I think he made a much better Captain Picard, simply because he has to prove to the crew that he can lead. Both Kirk and Picard incarnated authority and virtually no one would doubt them. On the contrary, they would see them as their glorious leaders, which would inflate their ego.

What was also great is that we finally got to see the battle deck as well as the ship splitting in two. I liked a lot that we only got to see it twice in the entire first season (at least so far). That made the effect much more powerful than using it every couple of episodes.

The rest of the episode on the planet was quite bad. Dr. Crush and Picard are stuck together but... nothing even remotely happens. Apparently executive producer Gene Roddenberry was against it, oh well.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Heart of Glory
Jack Anderson June 6, 2020, 12:06 ET

Worf centric
Directed by talented filmmaker Rob Bowman, the episode focuses on the character of Lieutenant Worf. While usually don’t like any episode including immature Klingons, I actually somehow enjoyed this episode.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Coming of Age
Jack Anderson June 5, 2020, 12:06 ET

The investigation
While the episode is not great, it is definitely watchable and does not contain overly ridiculous scenes, unlike many other episodes.

The episode is made out of two separate stories. On one side, there is an investigation on Captain Picard. I did not like it, as we know in advance that it is a complete farce. We know that it will last for 43 minutes and that the next episode will already have forgotten everything about it.

The second part is about Wesley going to the academy. It wasn’t bad and somehow enjoyable.

I don’t have too much to say, only that this is the moment that Gene Roddenberry started to give up his role of script supervisor and I believe that while he created the myth, having him leaving might be the best course of action, quality-wise.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Home Soil
Jack Anderson June 5, 2020, 12:06 ET

Terraforming
The series is often so bad that when an episode is just doing the job, I end up being quite impressed. But if I compare it with shows that I truly love, I would then not feel as satisfied.
Still, the first half of the episode is fascinating. A group of scientists is terraforming and we get to learn a lot about their methods and the show is actually very clever. Instead of immature sci-fi with manichaean characters wearing ridiculous outfits, we are immersing into a story with science. Never forget the science in science fiction.

But while the first half is interesting and taking place in great sets, the rest of the episode is back in the ship and adds little value.

Oh, and the quote about the ugly bags of mostly water quote was fun.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Solid but still average. I am not entertained.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: When the Bough Breaks
Jack Anderson June 5, 2020, 12:06 ET

Stealing the Children
Directed by the excellent Kim Manners, the episode tells a very simple story. A planet with no young people is stealing the kids from the Enterprise in order to build a new generation.
The idea works very well. And the kids are better actors that many Star Trek guests in the past. And for once, Will Wheaton is giving a careful performance.
On top of it, Jerry Hardin is the main guest star of the episode and since I love him dearly, it is a great delight to see him in this episode.
Finally, the last scene provided us with an awesome location. Finally something interesting and exciting. We need much more of that.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Too Short a Season
Jack Anderson June 4, 2020, 12:06 ET

The Ridiculous Case of Benjamin Button
This episode shows us the story of an old man who suddenly becomes younger as the story unfolds. Since the make-up effects are quite lame, it is hard to take the story seriously. But still, I went along. And it is with quite a shameful delight that I looked forward to see the character getting younger and younger. But the episode failed to deliver and became worse and worse until the painful to watch ending.

Besides sub-par make-up, the story of the episode is way too wordy. There is nothing, just endless talks. And the entire story around negotiation and hostages was plain boring.

And the actor playing the old (and young) admiral was awful. I have rarely seen a performance of agony so... agonizing.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad. I once again wonder why I am wasting so much time with Star Trek. Watching the entire TNG series is quite a challenge and probably a silly one, at least when it comes to the first season.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: 11001001
Jack Anderson June 3, 2020, 12:06 ET

Riker's bar
In many ways, the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation did not learn the lessons from The Original Series. The recipe of a bad Star Trek episode was: ridiculous outfits and bad sets. Kirk, Spock and McCoy would visit a strange planet that actually was made of a colorful background with a few fake rocks here and there. And soon after, a new secondary character would appear, often wearing a ridiculous costume. This is to me what bad Sci-Fi is and why, even today, quality is not the first word that comes to mind when you think about science-fiction.
So, you'd think that almost twenty years after the original series, TNG would have learned a thing or two on how not to produce an awful episode. But unfortunately, from the very second episode (or third depending on how you count), we saw the same bad elements added into the series.

Here, this is exactly the contrary. The science-fiction element is clever and interesting. Riker is spending some time in a simulation with a gorgeous hologram that feels real. I really enjoyed that. While the episode's tone is a bit too positive to me, I still found it was a good episode. I still do not understand why they had to abandon the ship, but hey, don't ask too much for television from the 80's. And actually, it was probably me not being focused enough.

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
:
Jack Anderson June 3, 2020, 12:06 ET

Lady without Gaga
Many famous artists started their career with one groundbreaking album. Lady Gaga is no exception. Her debut album was a dance bomb. Listen again to The Fame and you'll understand what I mean. At the time, the message was very simple: sex, fame and money. Lyrics were equally simple: "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick", "I'm educated in sex, yes, and now I want it bad.", "I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, papa, paparazzi", "Eh, Eh, there's nothing else I can say.", "Beautiful, dirty, dirty, rich, rich, dirty".

Years passed and Lady Gaga matured and showed that she was an incredible artist as well as an incredible woman. Her next album, The Fame Monster, showed us her true colors. In The Fame Monster, she became Gaga, that freak woman coming up from the video of Bad Romance (more than 1 billion views on YouTube – you read it right, billion). She was not just a sexy young girl singing about sex, she suddenly had a vivid imagery that worked beautifully.

Time has passed again and we have had the chance to listen to Born This Way, an album where Gaga started to provide a clear message. She was no longer just a pop artist but had a message now. While it worked, it never felt as strong as The Fame Monster. Then she lost herself in a concept album that had catchy songs but that had nothing about art. ARTPOP is an album about sex, not about art. And this is the moment she started to put forward a message that was, to me, made out of thin air.

In a way, ARTPOP is her last electro dance album, as she later released an album with Tony Bennett (Cheek to Cheek) as well as her strip-down folksy album Joanne and the eponymous soundtrack from A Star Is Born.
So, seven years after ARTPOP, it was only logical that she would go back to the roots with a dance album.

Titled Chromatica, the album is supposed to have a meaning. In her official "Welcome to Chromatica" Spotify playlist, Lady Gaga does what no artist should: explaining the meaning of her work. This started off badly. Why would you try to explain your artistic work? Well, perhaps because you are David Lynch and your fans crave to know the meaning of your images. But even he wouldn't dare tell you the meaning of things. The second option is that there is actually no real message and therefore the artist will tell you what this is about. So let us hear it from Gaga herself then: "The manifesto of Chromatica – when I was younger, I was at some point born, I grew in both IQ and EQ and as that happened I discovered that I was living in two realities at once. They fought all the time and yet I made space for both of them for a reason I can't explain. One reality I experienced was my Earth reality, the day to day painting of what I was taught was my natural state in life. At the time, I also experienced a dream simultaneously, and this dream was in combat with my Earth reality at all times. A vision where I performed my thoughts for the world, a world where I mattered in a different way, a world where I was valued for different things. And in this world, I was kind, and that kindness spread through people through sound. This was the birth of Chromatica."

Yes, I call BS. You want more?

"Love is an element on Chromatica, like earth, wind, fire, water. It's a natural force and it's the only way that I can organize this super-organism that is the Earth, it's by making it one whole thing, where time and linear structure don't matter, they don't exist. We are all love, I am love, so is everything around us, it's how we work, it's the thing we both initiate and respond to. It's why everything happens, both good and bad, it's the only way that I can make things simple. And why shouldn't it be simple? I breath in and out love. I don't believe it to be a choice other than that I choose to breath. That is Chromatica. It is how I do hard things. It's neither right nor wrong, nor is it greater or less than any other perspective on life. No one thing is greater than another, kindness rules all things. It simply is, and it's mine. You can have it too though. My best friend says sharing is caring. But we both know that I don't need to share your perspective with you for us both to care."

Since I care about doing my own work properly, I will also give you the transcript of the third part of her manifesto. "The manifesto for Chromatica is never ending, I cannot finish it here. It would be like declaring 'I will never make music or be Lady Gaga again', which would mean I would stop being myself. This manifesto finale marks the new beginning of my life, one where I acknowledge that sound is my life force and that Lady Gaga is the mystery that carries it. Chromatica can't end, it's how I make sense of things, that's what you should tell people if they ask you what it is. And for what it's worth I think we all need that, to make sense of things, even if at times it feels absurd."

After an explanation like that, you'd expect this complex world created by a dual Lady Gaga to contain vibrant lyrics that take risks and talk about dark and complex elements from her life or simply from life. Well, some of the songs are: Rain On Me, Fun Tonight or Sour Candy. Let's cut the crap, shall we? Lady Gaga is an insanely talented artist, but there is no theme in this album. There is no risk. We go from one dance song to another and yes, she delivers it perfectly, but don't ask for a deep complex meaning because there is none, and it is very good that way. She is still as sexy in her videos, she still can dance, she sings catchy tunes and, frankly, she shouldn't say there is much more than thi, because there isn't. Sure, I'd love to see some more dark material, like she delivered in The Fame Monster. I'd love her to take risks. I'd love a ten minute song, I'd love a song with no beats and just her voice, I'd like more. Because I know she is worth much more. I I truly admire her and while her album is a perfect packaged for the masses, she can go further. She could release and deploy her wings and let Gaga fly. Instead of that, she shows us the Lady that sings the usual thing you listen to the radio, and while I also love this kind of music, I crave for more.

Maybe we'll have to wait a few decades to experience that. Once she won't be physically as fit and once the new girls from the block will make her irrelevant, she may be able to produce her best work. Or not. Anyway, Lady Gaga will always be with me.

VERDICT
I give it 6 out of 10. Very good dance album but don't expect any risk in this one.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Angel One
Jack Anderson June 3, 2020, 12:06 ET

Not worth watching
Once again, a very bad episode from TNG. I'm not sure where to start. The planet with women acting like men? The completely ridiculous outfits that Riker wears? Or the virus that spreads in the ship and is totally irrelevant to the story?

VERDICT
I give it 2 out of 10. Not worth watching.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Datalore
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

Brent Spiner’s talent
I know for a fact that one day, and sooner than we think, androids will be as real as Data. This is the inevitability of human progress.

This episode, focused entirely on Data, is actually quite good. And that was about time! The first season is really not great, as I only count two good episodes before that one.
What I liked the most was the acting from Brent Spiner, playing both Data and Lore. Who would have thought, when watching the pilot, that this character would be so interesting? I clearly didn’t at least.
Even though Spiner has to play both a good and an evil brother, he does it with a subtlety that you’d not expect for Star Trek. I really admired him for that.

VERDICT
I give it 6 out of 10. Very good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Big Goodbye
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

Boring film noir
The episode reminded me a lot of some episodes where Kirk and Spock (and sometimes McCoy) would end up in a strange world resembling a lot like Earth from a few decades ago (for us). Here is exactly this type of episode, for the first time in The Next Generation.
The only problem is that Picard and Data are not Kirk and Spock, no offense. Their charisma are not equal and we feel like we are watching pale copies. At least that’s how I felt.
I did not care for the story and it ended up as a pointless episode to me.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Haven
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

A bad tragicomedy
The episode started with a very dumb idea: an arranged wedding with the ship's psychologist, or whatever she is called. The episode doesn't know where to go, from tragedy to comedy and back. But the tragedy is not making any sense and the comedy is not funny at all. Patrick Stewart is really awful when it comes to playing in a comedic way.

The dinner scene was unwatchable. Just plain bad. Oh and we get to witness yet another fake planet taken straight from the 1960's original series.

And the end of the episode is equally as bad. Just awful.

VERDICT
I give it 2 out of 10. Very bad.

PS: She is the ship's counselor.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Hide and Q
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

Q Part II
This episode marks the return of the Q character, which I must say I dislike very much. While I actually welcome this type of science-fiction, I did not like the result.

Another thing I particularly disliked was the scenes on the planet, with a set that looked exactly like from the 1960's. This is really a shame and should not happen in a series produced in the 80's. This is not good and will never look good.

Finally, I could not enjoy Riker being untrue to the crew and especially with the Captain.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Battle
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

Backstory
While I liked the backstory added to Picard, I didn't like the enemy. I find them way too bad to be true, in the similar vein as the Klingons. I don't know how they are called and I don't care.

VERDICT
I give the episode 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Justice
Jack Anderson June 2, 2020, 12:06 ET

The Fuck Planet
Yes, you read it right, this episode could have been titled The Fuck Planet. The crew of the starship Enterprise beam down to a planet where everyone is basically spending their time engaging in physical contact. The episode is beyond suggestive to the point where we even question if the kids are doing it.

The episode is clearly ridiculous, with men wearing absurd costumes and the local police (aka mediators) wanting to kill Wesley because he messed up a couple of... flowers. But while the episode could have been really bad, I must admit I felt engaged in the story, perhaps because the story is extremely focused. Maybe the fact that we finally had some outside scenes for the very first time felt like a breath of fresh air too.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Lonely Among Us
Jack Anderson June 1, 2020, 12:06 ET

Sherlock holes
Most of the episode is quite bad. Not interesting, boring, at times ridiculous. It goes into too many directions, none of which was interesting.

But then (spoiler alert), everything changes when everyone finally discover that Captain Picard is actually the bad guy. I liked the ending a lot

VERDICT
I would have given the episode a classic 3 (bad), but the ending made me change my mind. I therefore give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Where No One Has Gone Before
Jack Anderson June 1, 2020, 12:06 ET

Intelligent SciFi
I really liked this episode, which is, to me, without any single doubt the best episode of the series so far. And it wasn't really difficult, as we are only six episodes into the show and that most of the episodes were plain bad.
The science fiction in this episode was metaphorical and intelligent. That's the type of SciFi I love the most.
The first awesome thing was where the crew of the starship Enterprise travelled so fast that they ended up in another galaxy, more than 300 years of traveling away from their starting point.
Then, the strange thoughts from the crew were equally as interesting. Picard seeing his dead mother was quite a mesmerizing scene. "Maman?"

Also, the eerie music of this episode was interesting and supported the episode in a relatively good way, even though we only get synthesizers.

And for the first time since he appeared on screen, young Will Wheaton played in a good way – or at least not in a bad and too forced way.

The episode was directed by Rob Bowman, and I am not surprised to see his name, as he is a very talented director.

VERDICT
I give it 6 out of 10. Very good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint, Part 2
Jack Anderson June 1, 2020, 12:06 ET

Good
See review of episode 1.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Last Outpost
Jack Anderson June 1, 2020, 12:06 ET

The First Ferengi
The episode started off with an interesting Space face-off between two ships, and ended up with ridiculous scenes on a planet with sets as ridiculous as in the 1960's. How is it even possible to produce such awful sets 20 years after the original series?

Also, the first quote of Sun Tzu's The Art of War was pretty cool. But then the climax of the episode was built on Riker quoting Sun Tzu to the bad guy. What an awful ending.

Finally, why didn't they go to the battle bridge when confronted with an enemy ship?

I really do not like the beginning of this new series. But something is telling me the best is yet to come.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Code of Honor
Jack Anderson May 28, 2020, 12:05 ET

Boring and racist?
This episode feels like a bad episode from the original Star Trek series. I don't have much to say. Cheap sets, cheap story, cheap result. I really do not know if I'll have the courage to sit through close to 200 episodes of the series...

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.

EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: I update this review after learning that the cast of Star Trek TNG felt embarrassed by this episode, finding it racist. I must admit this did not cross my mind while watching the episode, but of course it is quite obvious that it felt out of place. It’s a kind of Tintin in Congo story.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Naked Now
Jack Anderson May 28, 2020, 12:05 ET

The drunk episode
Second episode and already, we can sense the immaturity of the writing. The series premiere was a messy and complex story, here, this is the exact opposite. The characters are infected with a strange disease and become erratic. One character becomes horny, another gets aggressive, etc.

This makes for pretty bad television and I don't have much to say except that Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory was right, Will Wheaton was quite a bad actor, at least as a child. And Patrick Stewart had a couple of awful acting moments in this episode. He seems not to know how to play comedy, at least in this episode.

And overall, the episode is just a pale copy of The Naked Time, an episode with the exact same story from The Original Series – the one where Sulu can be seen half naked holding a sword.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint, Part 1
Jack Anderson May 28, 2020, 12:05 ET

Engage!
"The compulsion to act was introduced to me by an English teacher when I was 12," actor Patrick Stewart said in an interview once. "I found it primarily a means of escape, of detaching myself from a difficult and at times unsafe life and going into a world of make-believe where the world was predictable."

A NEW CHAPTER
It is with this quote that I open a new chapter in my lengthy immature project of watching every Star Trek series and movies. After watching The Original Series, The Animated Series and the first four films, I now move forward to Star Trek: The Next Generation. The year is 1987 and Star Trek is back on the small screen, 18 years after the series finale from The Original Series aired on national TV after only three seasons. As you probably know by now if you read my reviews, is that the series only became a success when it moved to syndication, which led to a series of motion pictures with the original cast.

THE WRATH OF GENE
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was heavily involved in the first film, but some of his choices did not please Paramount, which slowly but surely put him on the side. Frustrated by this situation, Gene came back on the small screen with TNG. And yes, the man definitely has things to say!

JEAN-LUC PICARD
The opening of the series is fantastic. Truly fantastic. Jean-Luc Picard is an instant love. You cannot dislike the man. In many ways, he has similar traits with his predecessor, Captain James T. Kirk. He may not have the same sense of humor and may not wink as much, but he definitely has the ego and the sense of being the one in command. Patrick Stewart, a man with a passion for acting and for the theater, is showing his self. He is Picard. He talks loudly and care for the words and emotions. His gaze is straight and one can only be impressed by his intensity.

A NEW CHARACTER...
And one new character is actually exacerbating the feeling of intensity. The camera. After so many classic episodes from Star Trek, the camera is now a character and the director is not afraid to play with it. For instance, characters are filmed with close-ups that encompass the drama. I really liked this aspect.

SERIOUS
Back to the humor, we don't laugh in The Next Generation, or at least not in this series premiere. 18 years have passed and television series are not the same as they once were. 18 years have passed, but it could have been a century. The opening scene shows us that clearly. In only a few minutes, the new Captain is ordering his crew to go to the battle bridge. My jaw dropped, as the members moved onto another deck, that resembled the beloved and original deck from the first series. Soon after, the audience witnesses the starship dismantling into two separate ships, one for combat and one for the rest of the crew and their family. Epic is clearly the word. Technology has move forward tremendously and the technics of special effects along with it. We can now do things that were previously not possible. And it shows. Star Trek was ahead of its time, and time is now more inclined to provide the necessary tools to support the stories.

A MESSY STORY
Which brings me to the story. I did not like it. It started off great, with the ship being encircled with an energy field, but soon after, the story goes into so many directions that I could not even summarize it. Many new characters are introduced (I'll describe them in my next reviews), new places, elaborate metaphors, possible backstories, this is almost endless and, to me, felt overwhelming. I couldn't concentrate and the problem too is that the series finale lasts for an hour and a half. It makes for quite a messy series premiere, but one that shows that things will be possible.

So, let's see what's out there. Engage!

VERDICT
I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Jack Anderson May 27, 2020, 12:05 ET

Joyful!
MAGIC
Motion pictures is magic. A deeply fragile tiny universe of only two hours where it usually works or it doesn’t. The first Star Trek movie was trying very hard to be. The next installments felt better. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home feels right and from the very beginning.

CONTINUITY
First, one of the best elements from the beginning of the film is that the continuity is top notch. Every film starts where the previous left off and there is a strong sense of a big screen series. This is particularly relevant when watching it in 2020, an era filled with constant reboots or even reboots of reboots of reboots.

SAN FRANCISCO, 1986
The film cleverly takes us back in time, which actually is for us the present... well now it’s actually the past. Anyway, I just simply loved this simple idea. Many times before, episodes from Star Trek took the Enterprise crew back on Earth, but often at a different era. Here, we are in the present and it feels great. Watching the characters walk in the middle of San Francisco is just pure joy. Not only this, but it could easily have been a very, very bad film. They say that movies are created three times: once during the writing, once during the filming and once during the editing. This script, while great on the screen, could have been really horrible. Spock swimming with whales while wearing a headband?

HILARIOUS
Which brings me to how hilarious this movie is. This was pure gold. Kirk and Spock kicked out of a bus, Spock swimming with a whale, the movie is wildly fun and just a joy to watch. This shows the spectre of Star Trek, that can produce highly elaborated stories such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture (meta story), a classic revenge story (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn), a rescue mission (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) and now a time travel story. The franchise compared often to Star Wars may not have the same level of drama, but it can go in areas that Star Wars could not even engage. I just highly appreciate how the franchise was able to move onto the big screen with a serialized precision.

VERDICT
I give it 7 out of 10. Excellent!


 
 
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Jack Anderson May 26, 2020, 12:05 ET

Recapturing the magic
Our favorite crew from the United Federation of Planets is back in the aftermath of their previous adventure, which ended with what we thought was the death of Spock.
But Spock had been sent to the planet created by the Genisis project and came back to life, in the most extraordinary of ways.

CHEAP IS GOOD?
Directed by Leonard Nimoy himself, the film is in a similar vein as the previous two. But the magic of the shiny big screen is disappearing in favor of another magic, a better one. We are slowly but surely moving from top notch science fiction to more basic one, with classic villains.
But by lowering the SiFi quality, we actually get back to what Star Trek did best. I liked to see the crew down to a planet and having a good old adventure. This is the first time in three movies and it was about time.
As an example, Sulu and Kirk are having a small fight with security guards, like old time. Obviously this feels cheap, but hey, it feels good.
As usual with these types of movies, the main goal is to recapture the essence and the magic of the original material, while still moving forward and creating new out of the old.
In the end, this is the film that ressembles The Original Series the most, and in that sense, I must admit Leonard Nimoy pulled quite a thing here, knowing as well that it was his very first time behind the camera.

FINE, I’LL KILL YOU LATER
For the first time again since the movies started, we finally had the great chance to see Kirk in action. He kicks and screams and kills and I loved it entirely! Kirk is back being the center of the Universe and it feels like a breath of fresh air. Kirk loses a son and the Enterprise, and that gives him the ultimate purpose and reason to go at the bad guy. It’s more than enough for me, and it gives for great imagery.

SELF-DESTRUCT
After hinting at this possibility during the series, we now finally witnessed the destruction of the starship Enterprise. This was really unexpected and quite a feast to the eyes. This is exactly the type of things that the movies had to do. The shot of the crew on the planet, looking at the Enterprise disintegrating was simply wonderful. I am just concerned on what it means for the next installments of the feature series. But I leave that for my next review.

VERDICT

I found the movie actually good! Leonard Nimoy did a great job to recapture the original magic of the series and while this felt cheaper, it also felt damn good. I give it 5 out of 10. Good.


 
 
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Jack Anderson May 26, 2020, 12:05 ET

KAAAAAHN
(This review contains major spoilers).

HORNER
The movie starts in the stars with the original theme of the series. What a delight. What a relieve.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov are back for a new adventure!
Composed by the late James Horner (Braveheart, Titanic),

KAHN
This movies does exactly the opposite of the first one. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there was no clear enemy. The story was much inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and its meta story. Here, we have our first real enemy made out of flesh. Kahn.
For those who haven’t seen The Original Series, Kahn is by far the most memorable enemy that appeared on the show. In episode S01E22, Space Seed, Kahn was the type of narcissist macho man that has a gigantic ego and just wants to see the world burns, as another villain would say.
Utilizing such a powerful character from The Original Series is both very clever and very basic at the same time. But the character would be an empty shell without a great performance from a great actor. Many actors would actually be quite ridiculous, but not Ricardo Montalban. The Mexican actor is playing the same way and it works very well.
Kahn waited for a very, very long time to get his revenge, best served cold… especially in Space, as he says himself.

KIRK
After three years of playing joyfully the glorious Captain of the Enterprise, William Shatner is now providing such a wonderful performance, in the vein of his work on the first film. The scene in which he confronts Kahn throughout the type of smartwatch (the mainstream Apple Watch would be released more than 30 years later) was terrific and one of the best scenes of the film. It became a known meme which I actually discovered before watching the film.
The only concern is that their confrontation never actually truly materialized. Kirk never got to face Kahn, except through telecommunications.

SPOCK
Spock can be seen evolving and being much more humane than in the first film, where he could be seen totally blocking every emotion.
And that’s the good thing about this film. You can see that they tried to bring back the feeling of camaraderie that vanished in the previous film and was so important in The Original Series. I would not go so far as to say that they succeeded, but this was definitely a move to the good direction.
The ending of the film is actually filled with emotions. Spock gives the ultimate sacrifice and I must admit I did not see it coming, one bit. And yes, I dropped a tear in front of our lost friend, who actually… I’ll leave that for my next review.

GRAVITAS
Once again, the second film is having quite a major budget – the first film was at the time the most expensive ever – which brings us scenes we never truly seen before. When the Enterprise is being hit, we don’t just see the crew jumping around, but we see the actual impacts, not only on the ship but on the crew itself. This added once again a sense of gravitas, which both serves and impairs the film. You’d wish for more jokes and light touch, which was the foundation of The Original Series.
But you cannot criticize the producers for having built a serious film on a serious topic.

MCCOY
I was glad to see that in this film, contrary to the previous one, McCoy actually had a role and a purpose. I liked this very much.

COSTUMES
The costumes from the previous film were really original and while many do not like them, I actually liked their real modern look. In Star Trek II, the costumes are actually more dated. But this is more of a personal preference.

VERDICT
The film can be summarized in one word: KAAAAAAAAHN! Who would have thought that the often cheesy and ridiculous TV series with low ratings from the 1960’s would become such a dramatic and big franchise. I give it 6 out of 10. Very good.


 
 
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Jack Anderson May 26, 2020, 12:05 ET

2273: A Space Odyssey
DIFFERENT
After religiously watching every single episode from The Original Series as well as The Animated Series, I finally got to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Released in 1979, a full decade after the end of The Original Series, the film is quite different from the show, and this is the primary concern.

CAMARADERIE
One of the essential part of the series was the friendly camaraderie between the seven characters of the show. Kirk, McCoy and yes, even Spock would constantly play at each others, help each others in dire situations. All the seven main characters (including Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov) were a friendly family on the colorful home that was the starship Enterprise.

THIN AND SERIOUS KIRK
In this movie, the characters are back together, but they do not act the same way they used to. First, Captain Kirk, now admiral, is having a sense of gravitas that we rarely had seen with him. It seems the entire weight of the Universe lays on his shoulders. Perhaps it is the case, but it feels odds to see him that serious. At the same time, this new Kirk very serious, very thin and very focused is welcomed and I must admit I loved watching him on the big screen.

SPOCK
Spock is back to the roots. After having spent some time alone on Vulcan, he has lost touch with his emotions and I could enjoy that.

MCCOY
My biggest concern is without any doubt with Dr. McCoy. The story has literally no place for him in this film. He is totally useless and is there because he has to be. I was quite saddened by it and I think his character was clearly under-utilized.

A NEW THEME
Jerry Goldsmith is directing the music operations and that was quite a shock too. From the very first second – actually, a musical introduction with no images – the tone is set. We are in a big adventure on the big screen. Enough with the fun musical cues. This is big.
I liked the new theme he composed. Fun anecdote, the new theme almost didn't make the film, as he actually composed it to replace some music when Kirk discovers the refitted Enterprise. This worked very well in my opinion and, again, shows the scope of Star Trek, which brings me to the financial element.

THE MOST EXPENSIVE MOVIE TO DATE
Helped by the recent release of Star Wars, the studio went fully at it, hoping to replicate the surprising success of the the Space movie. Ironically, the movie was the most expensive movie to date, at $46 million, and therefore the first major movie based on a TV series.
And this can been in every frame. This was actually quite a shock to me, because the series was so cheap. By the third season, there were episodes with partial sets (the cowboy town with just random sets) or no sets at all (no more scenes outside). Costumes were often ridiculous and special effects rather poor.
Here, every frame is screaming money. The Enterprise, once a cozy home, has morphed into a gigantic beast that even the characters no longer recognize. The crew has different costumes, there are elevators everywhere, etc.
While this feels like a breath of fresh air, it is also a concern. Because we don't recognize anything. Therefore, the characters feel out of place. And since the story is not helping, this feels even more out of place. It's basically the same characters and the same set, but characters acting a different way (more serious) and in a set that has drastically changed (more serious as well).

NO JOKE
So, we don't laugh in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Oh, sure, there are a few scenes in which Admiral Kirk winks, but that's about it. In my view, there are not enough jokes. When you compare with the tone from Star Wars, this is night and day. But don't think this is unintentional. Which brings me to the story.

2273: A SPACE ODYSSEY
The story is very complex. There is not a simple evil character that wants to destroy the Enterprise. And in a way, this is very good. The story is quite original and has lots of resemblance with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. And this was very good. This is not about characters fighting with laser swords. This is about exploring new worlds, as Kirk used to say.
So, this is both an upside and a downside. On one level, it's great and fascinating, but on the other, the movie drags itself and for some time you don't even know what you are watching.

LONG
And that is a major problem to me. I find the film to be way too long. Running at 132 minutes, I would have cut at least 20 minutes. For instance, when Kirk is discovering the new Enterprise, this scene lasts for so long I couldn't understand the point of not cutting it. Clearly a mistake if you ask me.

VERDICT
Now, I find myself in a dire situation. I need to rate this film. And this is quite a daunting task. It is so good and so bad at the same time that I cannot figure out which note to pick. Because of its flaws, I think I will go for a 5 out of 10. But this note will not tell the full story. This review, hopefully, does.


 
 
Star Trek: The Animated Series: The Counter-Clock Incident
Jack Anderson May 24, 2020, 12:05 ET

The curious case of the Enterprise crew
After an episode where the crew of the Enterprise was getting smaller (S01E11, The Terratin Incident), the crew is now getting younger. This is somewhat working and enjoyable to watch.

VERDICT
I give it 4 out of 10. Average.


 
 
Star Trek: The Animated Series: How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
Jack Anderson May 24, 2020, 12:05 ET

The giant serpent
The penultimate from the animated series is quite bad. I much preferred the very beginning of the series, where the episodes were not too much into pure science fiction and were more serious. Here, we get wild characters in pretty much each character. This time, a giant serpent. Right.

This shows how complex it is to make a great science fiction series.

VERDICT
I give it 2 out of 10. Very bad.


 
 
Star Trek: The Animated Series: Albatross
Jack Anderson May 24, 2020, 12:05 ET

The plague
Quite an uninteresting episode. Too many pure science-fiction creatures to me.

VERDICT
I give it 3 out of 10. Bad.


 
 


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