Superman II (Richard Donner cut)

  • Title: Superman II (Richard Donner cut)
  • Director: Richard Donner
  • Date: 1980, 2006 (Reconstruction / Donner edit)
  • Studio: Warner Brother’s
  • Genre: Action, Fantasy
  • Cast: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Terence Stamp, John Ratzenberger, Shane Rimmer

“Clark, once a girl’s seen Superman in action, Niagara Falls kinda’ leaves you cold. You know what I mean?” – Lois Lane

“It is you! I guess I’ve known this for the longest time.” – Lois
“You realize of course, if you’d been wrong, Clark Kent would have been killed.” – Clark/Superman
“With a blank? Gotcha!” – Lois

“This Super Man is nothing of the kind, I’ve discovered his weakness.” – Zod
“Yes?” – Ursa
“He cares. He actually cares for these Earth people.” – Zod
“Like pets?” – Ursa
“I suppose so.” – Zod

I never saw Superman II when it came out, and I’m unaware of the details of any controversy surrounding the film, or the director. Apparently, Donner was the original director and was replaced. However, what I watched was Donner’s cut of the film, and that is what I will be reviewing here.

Superman II starts with a repeat of Superman the Movie, with Jor-El carrying out the sentence of Krypton’s high Council to exile three Kryptonian villains to the Phantom Zone. Zod still threatens Jor-El and his heirs. The movie also includes a few clips of the previous film, setting the stage for the sequel. It also shows the missile Superman threw into space from the first film, hitting the phantom zone and at first splitting it apart, then cracking the parts open, releasing the villains.

At the Daily Planet, Perry, Lois, and Jimmy are discussing the story of Superman defeating Lex Luthor. Jimmy says that it’s too bad Clark missed the Big Story. And Lois casually responds, “Clark is never around when Superman is around.” Then she has a lightbulb moment. Perry calls Lois and Clark into his office.  He wants them to go undercover as newlywed’s to cover hotel swindles at Niagara Falls. In Perry’s office, Lois confronts Clark with the idea she thinks he’s Superman. She even goes so far as to throw herself out of Perry’s high rise window. Clark saves her subtly, and without “becoming” Superman.

Meanwhile – Luthor and Otis are working in the prison laundry. Luthor’s girlfriend rescues Luthor, but Otis is left behind.

Also, meanwhile, in Houston, two NASA controllers are talking to the Artemis 2 mission to the moon. The three Kyptonian criminals arrive on the moon. They kill the astronauts and cosmonaut.

Lois and Clark are at Niagara Falls, pretending to be a newlywed couple.

Lex Luthor and his girlfriend discover Superman’s fortress of solitude by using Lex’s alpha wave tracker. Lex places crystals (one by one) into Superman’s crystal computer. Luthor and his girlfriend listen to Jor-El explaining about the three super-villains from Krypton. Luthor, of course, wants to find them.  He starts making a speech – but his girlfriend has left to use the ladies.

At Niagara Falls, Clark’s glasses get steamed up and she cleans them for him. She’s also taking pictures with a Polaroid camera. A little boy plays on the wrong side of the rail, despite warnings from his mother.

Meanwhile, the three Kryptonian villains fly through the sky, and land in or near a swamp. Zod walks on water.

At Niagara Falls, there’s a beautiful rainbow in the mist from the falls, which no one really notices. However, the little boy loses his grip on the rail and falls. Superman rescues him.

Then Clark returns to Lois. Lois again wonders about this.

In their hotel room, Clark is in a black tux and Lois in a towel applying her make-up. She again talks to him about how it sure was strange that of all the places where a child might be in danger, Superman was here, today. And how she couldn’t find Clark when Superman arrived. Clark tries to talk to her about it. Lois takes out a gun and shoots him. Clark admits he’s Superman. As Superman he takes Lois flying – to his fortress of solitude.

There’s a few cuts showing the Kryptonian villains and what they are doing.

What’s more interesting is that Clark prepares a nice meal for Lois, gives her champagne, and they then sleep together. The next morning, Clark talks to the computer image of his father about being in love with Lois. He decides to expose himself to the radiation of Krypton’s red sun which will take away his super powers permanently and leave him mortal.

Zod and his fellow villains destroy the town of “East Huston, Idaho”. Zod announces he will be ruler. Later there’s a shot of the Washington Monument being destroyed.

As Clark talks to his father, before deciding to take his radiation bath – Lois watches silently from a distance, but understands everything that is going on.

The three Kryptonian villains wreck havoc at the White House. Some advisor kneels before Zod, but Zod realizes immediately he’s not the president. The president agrees to kneel before Zod if everyone is spared. But he mentions that “one man” will never kneel.

Lois and Clark arrive at a diner. While Clark’s in the men’s room, the local bully starts to harass Lois. Clark arrives and instead of beating the guy up or defending Lois’s honor – he’s beaten-up by the guy. Clark is shocked to see his own blood. Lois attacks the bully then they are eventually left alone.

The waitress turns on the news and the president announces that he is “abdicating” all control to Gen. Zod, though in the midst of his speech he calls out to Superman for help.

Clark tells Lois he has to go back. Lois tells him it’s not his fault.

Meanwhile, Luthor meets the three villains. He offers in bargain the “son of Jor-El”, Superman. Lex wants “Australia”.

Clark struggles back to the fortress, alone. He sees the destroyed crystal computer.  He calls out to his father and admits his failure. Clark looks extremely sad and sympathetic and it’s some of Christopher Reeve’s best acting in the two films. Then he sees the glowing green crystal. He puts it in one of the few remaining glass tubes in the computer.

There’s an odd crystal mask, then the hologram of Jor-el appears. Jor-el gives his son his final message. There is a way for Clark (Kal-El) to regain his powers. But it will completely destroy the computer and Jor-El’s holographic image. Kal-El is flooded with his father’s essence, when the solid-appearing full-size hologram of Jor-El touches Kal-El he seizes, glows and becomes Superman.

Perry is at the Daily Planet talking to Lois and Jimmy about the three villains. Then they arrive and cause havoc. Non grabs Perry, and hits his head against the ceiling, knocking him out. Ursa breaks Lois’s hand. Zod destroys Jimmy’s camera.

Superman returns and confronts Zod and the others. There’s a major fight scene. When flying Non and Ursa have a vampire-like look. There’s a lot of destruction in “Metropolis” which is obviously New York. The fight continues.

Zod and Ursa throw a bus full of people. Superman is buried between the bus and a truck. Everyone is saying Superman is dead, and a mob even starts to confront the three villains – but they are blown away by super cold breath – that moves people, papers, and even cars.

Superman rises from where he was crushed, but he’s weak – he flies away.

The three villains return to the Daily Planet. Lex tells them he has “Superman’s address”. The three villains take Lex and Lois with them to the Fortress of Solitude. There, Zod threatens to let Ursa kills Lois if Superman doesn’t play ball. He also threatens Lex Luthor. Luthor goes to Superman’s side and Superman tells him they must trick the villains in to the molecular chamber. Luthor returns to the villains’ side and says he “wants Cuba”.

Superman agrees to go into the chamber. But when he comes out he kneels before Zod, then takes his hand and crushes it. Zod and Non are thrown into the pit of the Fortress. Lois hits Ursa in the jaw and knocks her in the pit. Superman had reversed the molecular chamber – so he was safe and the villains made vulnerable.

He, Lois, and Luthor leave the fortress and Superman destroys it with his heat vision. He then flies Lois home to her apartment. She’s crying and saying goodbye to him. She promises to keep his secret. Superman leaves.

Superman then does his time travel thing of flying around the planet and sees that his missile never hit and broke open the Phantom Zone. He then flies forward.

Next day – all seems normal at the Daily Planet, though Lois says she’s “super” and elbows Clark. Clark, also as Clark, finds the bully from the diner. The cook and waitress seem to recognize Clark, and the cook says he just “spent a fortune” to clean up the place. Clark beats-up the bully, says he’s been working out, and offers the cook money for the damages.

The film ends with Superman flying above the Earth in the sun.

I’ve seen this film twice now, and there are things I like and things I don’t about it, although overall I’d say it’s a good movie. When I first saw it, I was confused by the use of time travel, again. And confused by just what happened and what didn’t. Obviously, the Kyptonian villains never reached Earth. But did Lois and Clark never go to Niagara Falls? If they didn’t the little boy who fell into the falls is dead – because Superman wouldn’t know to save him. But if they did – then Clark also admitted who he was to Lois, and brought her to his fortress of solitude. Then it’s likely he became “mortal” – and without three villains from Krypton to fight – villains his family have history with – would he ever decide “the world needs a Superman”? Plus, in the first film, Superman time travels to save Lois’s life – in this film, he time travels, why? So she doesn’t know who he is? To protect the world from Zod and his cronies? What? There didn’t seem to be enough of a reason for it.

However, upon re-watching it – it seems that Superman didn’t go quite so far back. Perry is wearing a different shirt that when he sent Lois and Clark to Niagara Falls. When Clark goes to the diner to beat-up the bully – he’s recognized. Lois even teases Clark that she’s “Super”. So it seems his little forward spin meant some things stayed the same. Lois is also working on a story called, “Superman’s Day Off”.

Speaking of Lois – in the first film, the running joke is that she can’t spell. Which is odd for a prize-winner reporter. In this film, Lois is always hungry. I wanted her to be treated better than that – because Margot Kidder does such a good job with the little she’s given.

Christopher Reeve though really shines in Superman II, the scene where he’s telling the hologram of his father (more like a ghost in these films) that he’s fallen in love with a human woman, and he doesn’t know what to do about it; and the scene where he talks about making a mistake, and losing all contact with his father to regain his power as Superman are powerful – and show Reeve’s acting ability. They were very impressive.

Overall, this reconstruction/director’s cut is a good film and I enjoyed it.

Recommendation:  See It!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Superman Returns

UHF

  • Title:  UHF
  • Director:  Jay Levey
  • Date:  1989
  • Studio:  Orion Pictures (DVD released by MGM)
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  “Weird Al” Yankovic (created as Al Yankovic), Victoria Jackson, Kevin Mccarthy, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Anthony Geary, Trinidad Silva, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty, Fran Drescher
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is even better than I imagined!” – George

“Sweetheart, take my advice, broads don’t belong in broadcasting.” – Fletcher’s thug to Pamela

“I never should have taken this job. I should have known it would turn out like all the others. You know, for a short time there, I really thought this was going to be different. I just don’t know anymore.” – George

UHF  is a underdog story about a UHF television station and the misfits who end-up working there. However, today many people might not even know what a UHF station is. Back in the days before cable when all television was local and not national, picture tube television sets had two dials – VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency). The VHF dial consisted of numbers 2 – 13 and was where the locally-owned network affiliates were found. A locally-owned network affiliate was owned by a local business person or group and they bought network programming during prime time, but ran whatever they wanted otherwise (usually re-runs). The UHF dial (channels 14 – whatever) was home to all sorts of unusual channels that were also locally owned (and may even have a network affiliation) in my area we had a channel 35 which was an PBS affiliate and a channel 41 which was an ABC affiliate. But often the UHF band also supported various local channels that catered to a specific audience: news, sports, minority broadcasting, etc. In major cities the local VHF or UHF stations often were the first to jump to cable and become national “Superstations” (for example WWGN (Ch 9) in Chicago – famous for running Cubs baseball, WTBS in Atlanta, WWOR in New York, etc.).

UHF, the film, is about one of these small, independent stations – but more than that it’s about the people who end up there and how they actually care about what they are doing. George Newman (Weird Al) is an idealistic dreamer. He goes from job to job, constantly getting fired for daydreaming rather than concentrating on his boring work. Bob is his friend. After they are fired from their job at Burger World, George is suddenly given what he thinks will be his golden opportunity: his Uncle Harvey wins a television station in a high stakes poker game. George’s aunt convinces Harvey to let George run the station, Channel 62.

Channel 62 is a mess. Fran Drescher is Pamela Finkelstein, the secretary who was hired with the promise of a job in news. When George and Bob arrive no one else works at the station except the engineer, Philo, who seems very strange, even to George. But George, who is at heart, just a very nice guy, assembles a group of great people and gives them the opportunity to shine. This includes Billy Barty as Noodles the Cameraperson who works with Pamela, now the station’s news reporter, Stanley the Janitor – who was fired by the cross town network affiliate “Channel 8” president, JR Fletcher.

George sees that they are only running re-runs, and decides to launch new live shows. At first, this only goes so well. But then, after a particularly bad day, George puts Stanley in charge of the kiddie playhouse show. Stanley is a hit, and soon, “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse” becomes a ratings blockbuster. George adds in other new shows, including “Wheel of Fish” hosted by his friend, Kani, who also runs a karate studio; and Raul’s Wild Kingdom, as well as various movies such as: “Conan the Librarian” and “Gandhi II”.

UHF moves quickly between George’s daydreams – such as the opening parody of Indiana Jones, or later George’s “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies” music video; unbelievable commercials, promos for various shows, and brief excerpts of the programs on U62, and it’s main story, which is an underdog story for George and his friends – where nice guys do finish first.

As George and Bob create more original programming, they get more and more attention, and when the ratings come out U62 is at the top in the local market, with five shows in the top five. George and Bob are stunned. But just as everything seems to be going perfectly, Uncle Harvey loses at the racetrack and needs $75,000 to pay his bookie.

Meanwhile, RJ Fletcher, the owner and manager of network affiliate channel 8, who has proved himself to be a nasty piece of work, with no redeeming features whatsoever (and who keeps, through his own arrogance and disregard for others – handing opportunities to George, who’s very niceness turns to his own advantage) is angry about channel 62 beating him in the ratings, which he takes as a personal affront. He offers to buy the station from Harvey so he can pay his bookie.

George convinces Harvey to at least let him match Fletcher’s offer. He and his friends then hold a telethon, raising money by selling stock in the station at $10.00/share. Despite difficulties, at the last minute they are up to $73,000 and change. Then a bum, who’s been seen collecting change throughout the movie, gives them the last $2000 they need. It seems the penny RJ had given him as an insult was an ultra-rare coin worth a fortune. RJ could have still gotten his station (which he then was going to destroy) but he first goes to gloat at and insult the assembled crowd. George sneaks over to the bookie’s car, gives him the money, gets the contract and Harvey signs it over.

Meanwhile, Philo had also installed cameras at RJ’s office and recorded him saying very insulting things about the local community. This footage is not only played on Channel 8’s own signal, over-writing his broadcast signal, but it’s the primary evidence when the FCC agent shows up and revokes Fletcher’s licence (we can assume, since the man shows up and rather than fining Fletcher for not re-applying for his broadcasting licence – he revokes it.) Philo walks off after saying goodbye to George and Teri (George’s girlfriend) and disappears in a beam of light. Pamela reports on the story of the end of Fletcher’s media career.

UHF  is really a simply underdog story. And it’s the story of a man finding his way in the universe. But it’s also a story about good people, and how just simply being nice, and kind, and considerate will bring good things. There’s also a lot of sight gags, some physical comedy, and even some wordplay. It’s an enjoyable family film.

This is a B film, however. Although there are some well-known names in the film (Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Kevin McCarthy, Anthony Geary) it’s mostly “Weird Al”‘s movie – almost as if he and his friends got together to make a film. But even so, it’s enjoyable and fun.

Recommendation: If comedy’s your thing, See it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Van Helsing

Labyrinth

  • Title:  Labyrinth
  • Director:  Jim Henson
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  TriStar (Jim Henson Productions, Lucasfilm)
  • Genre: Fantasy, Children’s Film
  • Cast:  David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“It keeps changing, What am I supposed to do?” – Sarah

Sarah is a young teen-aged woman who enjoys Cosplay (she dresses in a watery green gown that she probably made herself, and wears over her jeans, while reciting lines from her favorite story), her books, her stuffed animals, and her other trinkets of childhood. When her parents ask her to babysit her baby brother, she acts very put upon and even bratty. Finally, she wishes her baby brother away. When the Goblin King takes her brother, she immediately regrets her actions and becomes determined to get her brother back.

Sarah must solve the labyrinth, get to the castle beyond it, and rescue her brother. At first, she constantly asks for help from anyone she meets, but over time she gradually begins to trust her own instincts and solves a series of tests, riddles, and puzzles herself. She makes new friends, and works her way to the goblin castle.

Once at the castle, she decides she must confront the Goblin King herself, uttering the magic words, “You have no power over me,” which free her and her baby brother. When she returns home, she begins to pack away her childish things. But her friends from the Labyrinth appear in mirrors to tell her, they’ll be there, “should you ever need us.”

Labyrinth is a story about growing up. Not only must Sarah learn to care for her baby brother without complaining, but she must learn to trust herself, not others, and rely on her own ability to solve problems. Which isn’t to say she must be totally alone – the importance of real friends is another theme of this classic children’s/teen movie.

What makes the film stand out, however, is David Bowie’s performance as the Goblin King. Bowie sings three songs in the film, all of which are just awesome! The song and dance routines are well integrated into the film – and they make the movie.

The Blu-ray looks really good, though I was disappointed that the songs weren’t subtitled. The Firey sequence shows some really bad travelling matte lines and green screen artifacts, though. The rest of the film, which features Jim Henson’s signature muppet creatures, and an actor in a suit (Ludo) looks good. That is to say, it’s not dated looking. The film references (and has a credit for) Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and the paintings/drawings of MC Escher, both of which are acknowledged in the end credits. I especially enjoyed Sarah and the Goblin King’s confrontation in Castrovalva.

I loved this film as a teen – and I might have even owned a copy on VHS at some point. It’s been on my “buy when you see it cheap” list for a long time – and I just bought the Blu-Ray on sale for a very good price last month. The film does stand up, which is always a concern with movies you loved as a child or teenager but haven’t seen since becoming an adult. I did feel, especially early in the film, that Sarah was a bit of a brat. But, I also felt sad to see her boxing up her toys and stuffed animals at the end of the film.

Recommendation:  See it! Especially good for pre-teens and teenagers
Rating:  PG 
Next Film:  To Catch a Thief

Stripes

Stripes_dvd_cvr

  • Title:  Stripes
  • Director:  Ivan Reitman
  • Date:  1981
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, John Candy, Lance LeGault
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

You don’t say ‘sir’ to me, I’m a sergeant I work for a living.”  — Sgt. Hulka (Warren Oates)

“I’m talking about something important, like disclipline and duty and honor and courage.  And you ain’t got none of it.”  — Sgt. Hulka

“We’re Americans – with a capital ‘A’.  Do you know what that means?  Do you?  It means our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.  We are the wretched refuse.  We’re underdogs. We’re mutts. … But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more lovable that the mutt. [pause] Who saw Old Yeller?  Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?  Nobody cried when Old Yeller got shot [raises his hand] I’m sure.  I cried my eyes out.” — John (Bill Murray)

“We’re all very, very different, but there is one thing we all have in common.  We were all stupid enough to enlist in the army.”  — John 

In the 1970s, in a “bad economy” much like today, two guys who are down on their luck and out of options join the US Army.  John loses his job, car, girlfriend, and apartment all in the same day.  His friend, Russell (Ramis) has discovered his easy five-week job to teach English involves people who only know a few swear words and that’s it.  They decide to join the Army.

At boot camp, John, Russell and the rest of the guys in their platoon have their hair buzzed (it’s the 70s – most have long hair or even “afros”) and receive basic green uniforms.  Sgt. Hulka introduces himself and has each of the men in his platoon introduce themselves and explain why they decided to join the army.  It becomes obvious that the entire platoon is, to be frank, a group of screw-ups with few other options.

There is a montage of training scenes, inter cut with scenes of John doing push-ups.  A perpetual clown and comedian, he gets on Sgt. Hulka’s nerves immediately.  Also at the army training camp is Capt. Stillman (John Larroquette) who enjoys peeking at female officers taking showers, and never listening to anyone.  It’s Stillman who orders one of his men to fire a mortar round on the weapons practice field without any co-ordinates.  It flies way off course and takes out the climbing test structure and Sgt. Hulka who is sitting on top of it.

Hulka’s men go into town to celebrate their new-found freedom at a mud wrestling expo in a strip bar. They are caught and dragged back to the camp by the MPs.  However, John and Russell escape immediate punishment when they are rescued by two female MPs they have been chatting-up throughout the film.

Upon returning to the army training camp, they discover they have three hours to get ready for the parade in front of General Barnicke or the entire platoon will be forced to re-take basic training.  Russell convinces everyone they can cram for the test and pass it.  He starts training the others, but disagreements break out.  John delivers his rousing “Old Yeller” speech and gets everyone working together.  They then over-sleep.

When the group reaches the parade grounds, however, John leads them in an unconventional but greatly appreciated drill routine.  They earn applause, whistles, and approval from the gathered crowd.  The general finds out they finished their training on their own after Sgt. Hulka was injured.  He asks for the platoon to be assigned to his secret “EM-50” project.  The EM-50 is an “Urban Assault Vehicle” or more obviously, a Winnebago that’s been turned into a tank.  The platoon is supposed to be on a good-will tour in Italy.

 

However, John and Russell get bored while on guard duty.  They decide to visit the two female MPs they’ve been chasing throughout the film — even though the girls are in Germany.  It might have worked, but Capt. Stillman takes his new girlfriend to see the EM-50, finds it missing and panics.  He gets the platoon together to find it, and ignores Sgt. Hulka when he tries to warn him that they’ve gone the wrong way and they end-up heading into Czechoslovakia, where they are captured by the Russians.  Sgt. Hulka, who’s realized there was going to be a problem, escapes capture and sends a signal to the EM-50. John, Russell, and the two girls pick up the signal, and they manage to find the platoon, and Sgt. Hulka, and rescue them, returning safely to Germany.

The film concludes with everyone arriving safely at home, and magazine and newspaper headlines are used to do a “where are they now / what happened to…” segment very quickly.

Stripes has a couple of very memorable scenes, notably Murray earnestly giving the “Old Yeller” speech to his fellow enlistees, and the well-choreographed parade ground scene.  The Winnebago tank is also funny.  The film screams 70s in everything from the clothes and cars to the attitudes, especially towards women.  Although it doesn’t currently work as well as some films from the 1970s, and parts of the film are really dated (like the fact that they invade a country that no longer exists) some parts do still work. Both Murray and Ramis are very funny, and the cast is filled it with other very funny actors.  Overall it’s now a mediocre film, but it wasn’t quite as painful to watch as I feared it might be.

Recommendation:  It’s OK.
Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Sunset Boulevard

Star Wars Return of the Jedi

  • Title:  Star Wars Return of the Jedi
  • Director:  Richard Marquand
  • Date:  1983
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends you can either profit by this or be destroyed.  It’s your choice but I warn you not to underestimate my powers.”  — Luke

“When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”  — Yoda

“Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall, that is the way of  things, the way of the Force.”  — Yoda

“Anger, fear, oppression, the Dark Side are they.  Once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.”  — Yoda

“Your father was seduced by the Dark Side of  the Force.  He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Dark Vader.  When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Return of the Jedi again starts with a crawl updating the audience to the plot, and reminiscent of very old movie serials.  There is an impressive opening shot of a very large and long ship approaching a partially constructed Death Star.  The sequence has several impressive model shots as well, including:  two star destroyers, shuttles, and the moon with the Death Star itself.

On Tatooine, R2-D2 and C3PO are in the desert, they approach Jabba’s palace.  Inside, R2-D2 plays a message from Luke Skywalker.  He wishes to bargain for Han Solo’s life, and gives Jabba R2-D2 and C3PO as gifts (don’t worry it’s all part of the plan).  The droids are indoctrinated into Jabba’s workforce in a scene which includes shots of droids being tortured (one is having it’s feet burned with red-hot horseshoes, another is being pulled apart at the arm and hip sockets).  Jabba’s palace has an 1001 Nights aspect to it, and it’s full of music, aliens, and dancing girls.  Jabba kills his slave girl, dropping her into a pit.  A bounty hunter comes in with Chewbacca, haggling with Jabba (via C3PO’s translations) to get a higher price.  Lando is also hiding in Jabba’s palace in disguise.  Later that night, the “bounty hunter” rescues Han.  He’s frozen in Carbonite and she de-freezes him.  She’s Princess Leia.  Han is basically OK, though temporarily blind.  Jabba quickly captures Han again.  Leia is brought to be Jabba’s slave girl, and Han is imprisoned with Chewbacca.  Luke, dressed in black and cloaked, arrives.  Luke uses his Jedi mind tricks on one of Jabba’s guards, but they don’t work on Jabba.  Luke threatens Jabba for Han and Leia’s lives, but Jabba is over-confident and drops Luke in the Bantha pit.  Luke kills the Bantha monster and the Bantha Keeper is devastated.  However, Luke in unable to rescue Han at the time and the entire group is taken to Jabba’s sail barge to be taken to the desert where they will be executed by another monster – Jabba thinks.

On the barge, Luke will be forced to walk the plank – but instead he performs some very impressive gymnastics and grabs his light-sabre that R2-D2 has sent sailing into the air.  The Star Wars theme swells.  Luke fights Jabba’s creatures and rescues Han and Chewbacca, then heads to rescue Lando. Leia tries to free herself and also kills  Jabba.  Leia also rescues R2-D2.  She points the huge gun on the sail barge at the deck, set to blow.  Luke and Leia swing to safety on a smaller desert hover boat where Han, Chewbacca, and Lando await.  The two droids dive into the desert sand, and are picked up by the smaller boat.  The sail barge is destroyed.

Luke heads off to Dagobah with R2-D2.  The rest are on the Millennium Falcon heading for the alliance fleet.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader and an extremely impressive parade of troops great the Emperor.  The Emperor urges Vader to wait for Luke to seek him out and together they will turn Luke to the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Luke visits Yoda on Dagobah.  Yoda is dying.  Luke is devastated to lose his mentor, but handles it without the anger of his younger days.  Yoda also avoids Luke’s questions, but mentions a mysterious “other”.  After Yoda’s demise, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi appears.  He confirms what Luke knows – Vader is his father … and also tells him Leia is his sister (Luke half figures this out himself).  Luke now knows he must confront Vader — but he’s convinced there is still good in his father.

Meanwhile the Alliance, including Han Solo, Lando, Chewbacca, Leia, and in the background, Wedge, as well as a full room of others goes over their plans.  A female general/diplomat reviews information received from “Bonthan spies”, then turns the meeting over to Admiral Ackbar to explain the details of the attack.  Lando will lead the fighter strike team in the Millennium Falcon which Han gives him.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2-D2 will go to Endor to knock out the Shield Generator.  Luke arrives just as the plans and teams are being finalized and joins Han and Leia.

On Endor, Han and Luke encounter a pair of Storm Troopers and the speeder bike chase ensues.  Leia falls off her bike.  Luke returns to Han and company.  Meanwhile, Leia meets and befriends an Ewok – a sort of primitive walking teddy bear.  Leia is nearly captured by a pair of storm-troopers but she manages to defeat them herself.

Meanwhile, on the Emperor’s ship, Vader reports that a Rebel force has landed on Endor, including Luke. The Emperor orders Vader to Endor.  Luke will come to Vader who will bring him to the Emperor.

Meanwhile, Luke, Han, and company are looking for Leia — they don’t find her, but get caught in a trap. Though they get themselves free, they are captured by Ewoks.  The Ewoks worship C3PO.

They are taken to the Ewok village.  Leia appears.  Luke uses the Force to raise C3PO’s chair and the group is set free.  Leia kisses Han.  At the feast that evening, C3PO tells the gathered Ewoks the story so far complete with sound effects.  The Ewoks look on in stunned amazement.  Luke, Han, and everyone are inducted into the Tribe.

Luke and Leia speak to each other.  First, Luke asks Leia about her mother.  He then tells her, Darth Vader is his father.  Then he tells Leia she truly is the last hope of  the alliance, she’s his sister and has the power of the Force too.  He wanders off, because he’s a danger to the main Alliance mission.  Han arrives.  Han gets a bit angry that Leia’s honest with Luke but won’t tell him what’s wrong.  Of course, Han has no idea what Luke’s just told Leia.

Luke turns himself  in to Vader.  Despite Luke insisting there’s good in Anakin Skywalker, Vader turns him over to the Emperor.

Han and his team check out the shield generator on Endor.

Lando and his space fleet make the jump to hyperspace under Ackbar’s orders.

The Ewoks lead Han and his team to the back door of the bunker.  An Ewok steals a speeder bike and draws off some of  the troops.  Unforunately when they walk into the bunker…

Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.  The Emperor gloats that Luke’s friends are walking into a trap.  The space battle attack on the death star has to break off and a space battle ensues.

Han, Leia, and Chewbacca face a legion of storm troopers.  C3PO baits the storm troopers into a trap and the Ewoks attack.  Before long an all-out battle occurs between storm troopers and Ewoks.  The Ewoks do well but many are also killed.

The Ewok battle on Endor is intercut with the battle in space between Lando’s group and the Emperor’s fighters.

The Emperor, again, gloating has the Death Star attack and destroy a rebel ship.

On Endor, R2-D2 gets hit by laser fire.  Han tries to hot wire the bunker door.  More Ewoks are killed. Lando continues to lead the fight.

The Emperor continues to goad Luke.  Luke grabs his light-sabre but Vader blocks his attack on the Emperor.

The Ewoks begin to succeed again in their battle with the Emperor’s troops.

Leia is injured as she tries to cover Han at the door.  Chewbacca commandeers an Imperial Walker.

Luke fights Vader, then stops.  Vader strikes out at Luke and Luke counters him.  Vader throws his light-sabre at Luke,

The space battle continues.

Han and Chewbacca pull one over on the Imperial troops.

Luke plays cat-and-mouse with Vader and insists he won’t fight him.  When Vader realizes Leia is Luke’s sister and says he will convert her to the Dark Side.  Luke fights back, hard, now angry.  The Emperor arrives, and Luke, looking at his own mechanical hand, and Vader’s wrist where he’s cut off his hand, stops, and tells the Emperor he’ll never turn to the Dark Side.  Luke throws aside his light-sabre.

Back on Endor, the bunker is destroyed.  In space, the attack on the Death Star commences.

The Emperor attacks Luke with lightening bolts.  Luke pleas to his father for help.  Vader grabs the Emperor and throws him into the well of a power reactor, saving Luke, but getting electrocuted in the process.

During the space battle a rebel ship hits a star destroyer and it sinks, crashing into the planet.  Luke drags Vader to an escape craft.  Vader asks Luke to remove his mask so he can look at Luke with his own eyes.

Luke escapes in the shuttle.  The Death Star is destroyed.  Han assures Leia that Luke wasn’t on the Death Star when it blew.  Leia quietly responds that she knows.  Han offers to not get in the way when Luke returns.  Leia explains Luke is her brother, then kisses Han.

Luke burns his father’s body.

Everyone reunites at the Ewok celebration.  Luke wanders off and he sees the ghosts of his father, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi before Leia brings him back to the party.

The conclusion to the Star Wars trilogy is actually quite good and satisfying.  It’s best in it’s quiet moments – Luke’s conversations with Yoda and Ben (Obi-Wan); Luke’s explaining his background to Leia; even Leia explaining to Han that Luke’s actually her brother and she’s in love with Han.  The film also uses short set pieces and in the last half-hour/forty-five minutes a lot of inter-cutting.  This stops the film from bogging down.  Yes, the film is the Hero’s Journey but it’s well executed, especially as at the time true fantasy heroes journey’s were seldom the subject of  popular entertainment films.  Luke is much more mature here, so much so, that I wondered just how long Han was stuck in Carbonite, since Luke has finished his training.  Leia also seems a bit older, and more ready to take on responsibility, though her character doesn’t grow as much as Luke or even Han.

Return of  the Jedi also has a lot of great lines.  Like all of  the Star Wars trilogy the writing is very quotable, which makes the film fun to watch.  All the leads also do a good job.  Mark Hamill is no longer playing the “whiny farm boy” but has grown and matured. Han Solo has discovered the importance of caring for people instead of just himself and Chewie.  Only Leia, though always strong, seems to have not changed much… though she does more or less propose to Han.

Recommendation:  See it, a true classic.
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Sting

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

  • Title:  Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back
  • Director:  Irvin Kershner
  • Date:  1980
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Adventure, Action
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Frank Oz, Julian Glover, Michael Sheard, John Razenberger
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Wars not make one great.”  — Yoda

“Do or do not.  There is no try.” — Yoda

“Size matters not.  Look at me – judge me by my size do you?  Hum?  And well you should not.  For my ally is the Force.  And a powerful ally it is.  Life creates it, makes it grow, it’s energy surrounds us and binds us.” — Yoda

“I love you.” — Leia
“I know.”  — Han

“Luke, we can destroy the Emperor, he has foreseen this.  It is your destiny.  Join me and together we can rule the Galaxy as father and son!”  — Darth Vader

Like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back opens with a crawl, describing what’s going on and remarking that it’s “a dark time for the Rebellion” despite the success of destroying the Death Star.  This proves true, as Empire can be arguably seen as the darkest of the three original trilogy Star Wars movies.  The movie itself opens with the Empire launching robotic probes to find Luke Skywalker and the rebels he leads.   One such probe lands on a glacier.

This is the ice planet Hoth, where Luke, Han, Leia, and a group of rebels, part of the Alliance, are hiding. Han and Luke are on patrol, each riding a cold-weather animal called a Taun Taun, something like a furry cross between a camel and a kangaroo.  They are finishing up their patrol, and Han tells Luke he’s headed back to the Rebel base.  Luke agrees, but mentions he wants to check out a meteor.  They agree to meet back at camp.  Han returns to the camp and tells the general that he really must leave, he has a price on his head and it won’t be lifted until he pays off Jabba the Hutt.  The general, though upset to lose Han, agrees to his leaving.  Chewbacca and C3PO work on fixing the Millennium Falcon.  Leia confronts Han about his leaving.  They still spark and fight, as in Star Wars, but it’s evident that the two have some affection for each other beneath their arguing.

Luke is attacked by an Abominable Snowman-like creature and taken to an ice cave.  He manages to escape, in part by using the force to pull his light sabre to his hand.  He wanders out into the snow, where he has a vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who urges him to go to the Dagobah System to complete his Jedi training under Yoda, a great Jedi master and teacher.  Luke then collapses from the cold.

Meanwhile, the rebels have realised that Luke is missing.  Though the general thinks it’s too late to go looking for Luke (the extreme cold makes it dangerous to be outside late at night or during blizzards) Han insists on looking for Luke anyway.  He takes his Taun Taun to search for Luke.  He finds Luke, and cuts open his own now dead Taun Taun to place Luke inside while he builds a thermal shelter.

At the rebel alliance base, the search parties have been recalled.  At the general’s insistence, Leia orders the shield doors be closed for the night.  Chewbacca cries out in mourning when the door is shut, because Han hasn’t returned.  The next day, speeder patrols are sent out to find the two.  They do find both Luke and Han and bring them to base.  Han is OK, Luke is treated for exposure and frostbite but basically he’s OK too.

Han and Chewbacca find an Imperial Probe Droid.  The rebel general decides to evacuate.

Vader orders an attack on Hoth.

Leia addresses the fighters who will escort the transports off the planet.  She ends with “good luck” and from the sound of things, they’ll need it.

The rebel speeders attack the Imperial walkers invading Hoth.  The walkers are like metal combat elephants.  Very quickly during the battle, Luke realizes their blasters can’t penetrate the armor, and advises using harpoons and tow cables around the legs of the walkers, causing them to collapse.  This does work.

The battle between the Rebel snow speeders and the Imperial walkers, though it takes place on a snowy field, is also on a very bright sunny day!

Getting back to the battle, after losing his gunner, and one successful pass leading a harpoon ship, Luke is hit and crashes into the snow.

Han rushes to the command center to check on Leia, urging her to leave.  She issues the evacuation order.  Although the rebels had some success against the walkers, over all it’s a rout.  As Han is leading Leia away, the tunnel ahead of them collapses.  He tells the rebels he’ll get her out on the Falcon, and they head back the other way.  Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO end up on the Millennium Falcon.

Vader enters the nearly empty rebel base.  The Millennium Falcon escapes.  Luke and R2-D2 get to an X-wing, but Luke heads for Dagobah, not the Alliance rendezvous.

Three star destroyers and TIE fighters chase the  Millennium Falcon.  One star destroyer actually manages to physically hit another one, leaving one to go after the Falcon.  When the hyper-drive fails, Han knows he’s in trouble.  Han and Chewbacca try to fix the ship while in flight, when they encounter an asteroid field.  Han flies into the field, because he knows the Imperial ships won’t follow him.  He impressively loops the Falcon and lands in a cave on an asteroid.

Meanwhile, Luke splash-lands on Dagobah.  R2-D2 falls into the swamp, is attacked by a creature, and is spit out.  Luke gets his camping gear together and tries to figure out what to do.  He meets Yoda, whom, at first, he doesn’t recognize — and he thinks is actually somewhat annoying.  But when Yoda takes him to his home, and has a conversation with the dead Obi Wan Kenobi – Luke realizes this is the Jedi Master he seeks.  Yoda is hesitant, but agrees to teach the young Jedi.

Meanwhile, Vader’s ships fail to find the Millennium Falcon.  Vader kneels before the Emperor for a holographic conversation.  Vader suggests “the son of  Skywalker be turned”.

Han, Chewbacca, and C3PO work on fixing the Millennium Falcon, and even Leia helps.  But something attacks the ship while they are in the cave.  They go out to investigate, and find Mymocks, some type of  bat-like creatures with suckers stuck on the ship.  Han suddenly realises he’s made a big mistake — they all get back in his ship and barely escape.  They weren’t in a cave, but a giant space worm with teeth!  Han lands the Falcon on one of  the Star Destroyers, which gives an incredible sense of  scale.  He manually detaches and floats away with the rest of  the garbage the Empire dumps before going to hyper-space.  They float away and then head for Bespin and Lando Calrissian.

Yoda starts training Luke — physical training, and exercises in using the Force.  He also tries to explain what the Force really is and how it supplies power to a Jedi.  And he warns Luke about the Dark Side of  the Force.  Yoda tells Luke, “When you are calm, at peace, passive… a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense.  Never for attack.”  They arrive at a cave, where Luke feels cold.  Yoda tells him the cave is strong with the Dark Side, and urges Luke to go in.  Luke starts to strap on his weapons, but Yoda says he won’t need them.  Luke takes them anyway.  Inside the cave, Luke sees Vader… he draws his light sabre and attacks, but when he cuts off  Vader’s head he sees his own face in the helmet.  Yoda continues Luke’s training, but he gets distracted by R2-D2.  Yoda then raises Luke’s ship out of  the swamp, something Luke was unable to do because he did not believe he could do it.

Vader, meanwhile has hired bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to find Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon.

Yoda continues to train Luke, and urges that Luke learn control.  Luke sees a city in the clouds, and sees his friends in trouble, sensing that they are in pain.  Yoda says Luke has seen the future.  Luke asks if his friends will die.  Yoda says he doesn’t know.  Yoda also urges caution, but Luke wants to go to his friends to help them.  Yoda admits that if he goes he could help them, but if he goes he will also endanger everything his friends stand for.  Ben urges patience, and Yoda urges that Luke wait.  Patience is not Luke’s strong suit.  Luke leaves Dagobah but promises to return to finish his training.  Ben says “that boy was our last hope” but Yoda says “there is another”.

Han Solo has landed in Bespin, a mining colony in the clouds.  Lando says he’s independent, with no Imperial oversight and not part of the mining guild.  But he turns them over to Vader… saying Imperial troops arrived first and he has no choice.  Chewbacca is tortured with sound.  Han is tortured with burning heat.  When Han and Leia are reunited in a cell, Han remarks that they didn’t even ask any questions, and he can’t understand that.  Lando enters the cell, and explains they are after Skywalker.

Vader decided to test the carbon freeze unit with Captain Solo.  Chewbacca fights for Han, but Han calms him down, tells him to care for the princess (Leia).  Han and Leia kiss and for the first time, Leia tells Han she loves him.  His response is, “I know”.  Han is put in carbon freeze but survives.  Han is now a monolith in perfect hibernation.

Vader asks that the princess and the wookie (Chewbacca) be taken to his ship.  Lando’s starting to catch on that he can’t trust Vader, as his “deal” is getting worse by the second.

Luke arrives.  He and Vader clash in an epic light sabre battle.  The battle has three major set-pieces and is inter-woven with other parts of  the plot.

First Luke and Vader crash in the carbon-freeze room, and Luke extracts himself  from the freezing unit before Vader can use it on him.

Lando and his men arrest the Imperial stormtroopers.  They free Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO.  Boba Fett has frozen Han placed in his cargo hold.  C3PO meets up with R2-D2.  They try to catch up to Han Solo but see Boba Fett’s ship leave.

The film returns to Vader and Luke’s light sabre battle.  Vader encourages Luke to turn to the dark side path.  Luke is sucked out a Cloud City window.

Lando urges a city-wide evacuation, telling people they are on their own.  Lando, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C3PO make it to the Millennium Falcon despite being caught in a running laser blaster battle. The Falcon takes off.

Luke rescues himself and for the third time fights Vader.  Vader cuts off Luke’s hand and he loses his light sabre.  Vader tells Luke he’s his father.  At first, Luke doesn’t believe it, then doesn’t want to believe it.  Vader tries to convince Luke to join him, to defeat the Emperor, and to rule as father and son.  Luke escapes down a tunnel and lands on an antenna at the bottom of  Bespin.  Luke calls for Ben for help. Then he calls for Leia.  She senses him.  Leia sees Luke, the Falcon rescues him.  The hyper-drive on the Falcon re-engages thanks to R2-D2.  Chewbacca and Lando take the Millennium Falcon to search for Han.  Luke gets an artificial hand.  Luke, Leia, C3PO and R2-D2 look out a window at a galaxy and the Falcon leaving.

The Empire Strikes Back is darker than Star Wars.  Rather than a fairy tale or fantasy film like Star Wars, this film focuses on the Rebel Alliance which is in trouble, and develops the characters who learn and grow.  Luke is well on his way to truly becoming a Jedi Knight.  Han, though he still talks about leaving, is showing his loyalty to Luke and to Leia.  And Leia herself, the most experienced person of  the three in terms of leading the rebellion, is starting to feel something for Han.  There’s also the hint of  something between her and Luke.  But yes, the Empire does strike back, and our heroes are in trouble even though they escape definite capture by the end of  the film, all that is except Han Solo.

Rather than the harsh white/black/grey color palette of the first film, Empire is more colorful… from the greens of  Dagobah’s swamp to the blues of  the carbon freeze room at Bespin.  This contrasts with the darker plot of  the film.

A second thing to notice about both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, is the use of  language… specifically accents to denote groups.  The Imperial admirals, generals, and lieutenants generally all speak with British accents (and very precise ones at that).  The Rebels are generally American.  Notable exceptions are James Earl Jones as Vader’s voice, though David Prowse was in the costume, and Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi.  Although this doesn’t consciously affect the viewer, subconsciously it sets the two groups apart.  However, it was most probably an accident not a deliberate choice:  much of  the Star Wars films were filmed at English studios and many British character actors (including Peter Cushing, Julian Glover, Michael Sheard, and even Alec Guinness) were hired on site.  Of course, the film was an American film and main casting took place in the US.  Lucas (executive producer on Empire) hired people he had worked with before or that were young and new.  But I still thing the obvious class differences between the Empire and the Rebels add to the film.

Highly, highly recommended, a must see!

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars  Return of  the Jedi

Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

  • Title:  Star Trek IV  The Voyage Home
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Catherine Hicks, Robin Curtis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Give me one more day, sir, damage control is easy.  Reading Klingon… that’s hard.”  — Scotty

“Our own world is waiting for us to save it, if we can.”  — Kirk

“To hunt a species to extinction is not logical.”  — Spock

“No, I’m from Iowa.  I only work in outer space.”  — Kirk

At Star Fleet, a Klingon reports to the council twisting everything that happened at the Genesis Planet in the last two films, calling Kirk a terrorist who killed a Klingon crew and stole a Klingon ship, but worst of all saying that it was Kirk who developed the planet-killer weapon, “Genesis”.  Sarek arrives to attempt to defend Kirk and explain what really happened.  Kirk is found, in absentia, in violation of Star Fleet regulations.

Meanwhile, Kirk and his crew are on Vulcan.  Scotty is repairing the Klingon Bird of Prey, now re-named HMS Bounty.  The crew votes that they will return to Earth to face the music.  Spock has been in recovery, re-training his mind in a multi-tasking environment of three computers all asking questions at the same time.  He is stumped by, “How do you feel?”, which prompts a conversation with Amanda, his human mother.

Meanwhile, the USS Saratoga encounters a strange probe.  Before long, its signals are draining/attacking the ship and it is left with no power.  As this probe encounters other ships, both Klingon and Federation, it either destroys them or disables them – through these power drains.  The probe heads to Earth.

Kirk and company, with Spock, leave Vulcan and return to Earth.  Saavik is left on Vulcan.  But as they approach Earth, they receive a planetary distress call.  The call describes the mysterious probe, but also the storms and power outages on Earth.  Space dock itself has no power, and neither do orbiting ships or any ships near Earth.  The probe’s unusual transmissions are even attacking Star Fleet itself in San Francisco.  The message orders that no one approach Earth.  Kirk has Uhura and Spock analyze the signal — the two soon realize it’s whale song, specifically humpback whale song.  Kirk points out that because humpbacks are extinct – the signal cannot be answered.  Kirk asks Spock and Scotty about the possibility of time travel and transporting a couple of humpbacks to the future (Kirk’s time).  Although it’s very risky, they decide to give it a try.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty slingshots around the sun, arriving on mid-1980s Earth.  They land the cloaked ship in San Francisco Bay Park.  However, the ship is damaged and the dilithium crystals drained.  Kirk splits his small crew into three teams:  one will obtain radiation photons from a nuclear reactor aboard a naval vessel, one will find the whales, and one will find the materials to build a tank to hold the whales on the space ship until they can be released.

In “Old” San Francisco, Kirk sells his eyeglasses at an antique shop, they distributes the money to his crew as they go about on their assigned tasks.  He and Spock wander about wondering where they will find a pair of whales in a city.  But Kirk spots a bus advertisement for “George and Gracie” the humpbacks on display at the Cetacean Institute.  After a slight difficulty in obtaining transportation, they reach the Institute and join a sight-seeing tour lead by Gillian, a marine biologist with a specialty in whales. The two listen to her lecture, but Spock jumps into the tank to meld with one of  the whales – Gillian is incensed.

Later she meets the two as they are walking back to San Francisco from Sausalito,  she drops Spock in the park and has dinner with Kirk.  She informs him that the whales are to be released in the open ocean, because Gracie is pregnant – and no calf  born in captivity has survived.  Yet, if the whales are released in open ocean, they will be at risk from illegal and legal whaling.  However, Kirk isn’t able to convince her that he needs to safely transport the whales to the future.  She drops Kirk in the park where she dropped off Spock.

The next day, Gillian goes to the Institute – only to discover the whales are gone.  She returns to the park, and sees a helicopter lowering something into an empty space – where it disappears.  She literally runs into the invisible spaceship.

Meanwhile, the rest of  the crew hasn’t been idle.  Scotty and McCoy find a plexiglass manufacturer.  In return for Scotty’s formula for transparent aluminium, they receive the plexiglass they need to make a whale tank.  Sulu transports it by helicopter.

Chekov and Uhura find the Naval base, and locate the “nuclear wessel”, the USS Enterprise.  They get on board and Chekov starts collecting photons/radiation.  In takes awhile, however, and their presence trips an alarm.  Uhura is beamed up in time, but Chekov is not.  He runs off, is captured, escapes, runs off again, and falls.  He’s sent to a local hospital under police guard in critical condition.

Uhura finds Chekov through the emergency calls.  Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian rescue Chekov.  McCoy causes some havoc, giving a woman waiting for dialysis a pill to re-grow her kidney.  Also, upon being confronted with doctors who plan on exploratory surgery to fix Chekov’s cranial fracture – he locks them in a closet and puts a doo-dad on Chekov’s head which cures Chekov quickly.  They escape the hospital and return to the ship.  Kirk attempts to say goodbye to Gillian, but she throws herself  into his transport beam.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty takes off and pursues the whales following the radio transmitter code Gillian gives them.  They place the ship between a whaler and the whales and successfully beam them aboard.  The ship then attempts to return to the twenty-third century.  It’s a bumpy ride, and upon returning power is an issue, because the probe is still there.  The Bounty crash-lands into the ocean. Kirk has everyone abandon ship and orders Spock to protect the crew.  He goes to the hold, which is filling with water.  He orders Gillian and Scotty to also abandon ship.  Gillian points out he has to get the whales out or they will drown (being mammals).  Kirk sets about manually opening the hold, and succeeds in getting the whales out.  He also gets out himself and joins his shipmates on the barely floating, slowing sinking space ship.

The whales frolic, and eventually answer the probe’s whale song.  The probe stops its attack of  communication waves, and leaves.  Calm and power return to Earth.

Kirk and company return to the Federation council chamber, now dry and dressed, to face judgement. When Spock is asked why he’s there, he responds that he stands with his shipmates.  The charges are read out, but dismissed in light of the crew saving the planet and the Federation.  One change remains – that of disobeying orders, levied solely at Admiral Kirk.  He pleads guilty.  For this he is busted back to Captain and given command of a new Enterprise.  The crew goes with him.  Kirk points out that they have “come home”.  Gillian joins a science vessel.  Spock has a conversation with his father and tells him to tell Amanda that he “feels fine”.

I really enjoyed Star Trek IV when it came out, but I feel it hasn’t really aged well.  There are strange anachronisms (such as Kirk’s huge Klingon communicator, much larger than a cell phone), and the constant swearing – amusing when the film came out, somewhat annoying now.  A great deal of the humor just doesn’t work as well.  There are also some major gaps of logic and intelligence.  For example, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura almost instantly figure out the probe’s communications are whale song, aimed at humpback whales.  Yet no one on Earth or in Star fleet could figure this out?  Why?  Second, of all the people send to the nuclear naval vessels – Kirk picks Chekov – someone likely to bring suspicion on himself simply by being there.  Though he does have the second highest level of science training after Spock.  They did explain Scotty’s giving away the transparent aluminium formula (how do you know he didn’t invent it?) though it is a non-invention paradox.  When Spock notes to Kirk that the glasses he sells were a gift from Dr. McCoy, Kirk responses, “And they will be again, that’s the beauty of  it,” meaning this to is a paradox (where did the glasses come from if they are now trapped in a time loop?)  The capture of leaking radiation to somehow re-charge the ship’s dilithium crystals also made no sense – If  the reactor was leaking, wouldn’t the sailors be in danger?  McCoy also wrecks a lot of havoc in the hospital, though his motives are clearly humanitarian.  Finally, Kirk’s “sentence” is one of  the biggest examples of throwing Br’er Rabbit into the brier bush I’ve ever seen.  In other words, it’s a “punishment” that gives Kirk exactly what he wants – to be a captain again, rather than an admiral – and captain of a new Enterprise to boot.  They film also doesn’t showcase the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the previous two films.  On the other hand, all of the bridge crew members have significant things to do – so there’s less of  a feeling of people just standing or sitting around doing nothing – or disappearing entirely for long sections of the film, but the film’s style still there’s no personal threat to any of our main characters (until Chekov is injured – and McCoy fixes him up quickly).  The threat, of course, is to all of  planet Earth – and involves an important issue, so that does work.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars