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JPFmovies final look at the Sci-Fi Series Star Trek Voyager (1995-2001). The first female Captain in the Star Trek franchise—while acted well we think the series was a bit of a bust.

Again, thanks to Netflix, JPFmovies has been able to “binge” on various T.V. series that, for whatever reason, were not watched over the years.  Without giving away our age, the JPFmovies’ crew had just started law school when the Voyager series began its run and our T.V. watching was at a minimum.  So, reviewing series that are twenty something years old will hopefully give a fresh perspective on the eve of the next Star Trek franchise move “Discovery.”

Voyager had a lot of potential but just seemed to leave it in the Alpha quadrant so to speak.  Running when Star Trek was at the height of its popularity, Voyager managed to sink whatever gains TNG and DS9 made for the Star Trek fans/franchise.  Many blame producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga for letting a potentially great story-line turn into milk-toast—which is what Voyager was at best—milk-toast.

Reading many many other reviews of Voyager on the internet, JPFmovies realized that while we thought Voyager was a bust, Trek fans were ruthless in their criticism of the show.  One site went so far as to have a mock-trial of the court martial of Capital Janeway.  Now that is some hardcore criticism—we here at JPFmovies can be ruthless, but have yet to be that ruthless over our 5-year run.

After reading many of those blogs about Voyager, we here at JPFmovies pretty much have to agree with the Star Trek consensus on the value of the series.  Forget that there is a completely politically correct cast (in the mid-to-late 1990’s when PC was at the height of it power) there is the native American, the female Captain (which was a good idea), the African American security officer, the female engineer and the white guy, Tom Parris, a convicted criminal who is basically on parole when assigned to Voyager.  The picture of the cast is a multi-cultural rainbow.  Ok we can get beyond that if the characters are well written, good stories are followed and the acting is even satisfactory.  With the exception of a few fine episodes sprinkled throughout each season, the vast majority of the series was mired in inconsistencies which anyone knows will drive Star Trek fans crazy.  And though we here at JPFmovies are clearly not Sci-Fi fans, but the sheer number of story inconsistencies even got on our nerves.

So much potential:  a mixed crew of outlaws (the Marquis) and the spit and polish Star Fleet personal is abandoned really after the first couple of episodes; gritty themes about energy and supply shortages necessary for survival also abandoned after the first couple of episodes with an annoying alien (Nelix) supposedly acting as a cook-tour guide through the Delta quadrant; and let’s just say it when having to choose between survival and the prime directive, throw out the prime directive—to be fair this was addressed in a few episodes very very early on in the series.  So what did the producers do to keep the series afloat to that magical 100-episode syndication threshold?  Brought on a blond in a cat suit, discovered that the holographic doctor could actually act (but then used him a crutch) and the Borg.  While the show limped through its 7 seasons, it also set up Enterprise (previously reviewed) to fail.

There is just too much to write to fully explain all of these points.  One thing JPFmovies did read that we could not believe, was that the studio was receiving hate mail and BOMB THREATS as a result of its decision to go with a female Captain. Take it easy, it is just a T.V. show after all.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

JPFmovies’ next foray into the Sci-Fi world: Star Trek Enterprise (2001-2005). Almost everyone complained about it but we didn’t think it was bad.

The creation of Netflix, probably the greatest innovation for movie and T.V. fans since the introduction of HBO and similar channels, has given people like us at JPFmovies the ability to “binge” watch movies/T.V. series.  Well, we went on an Enterprise “binge” in “the blind” so to speak—not having followed any of the trials, tribulations and fan/producer politics.  If you look through our reviews over the years you will find very few T.V. series, much less American produced television.  In other words, we were not influenced by all the political machinations surrounding the three previous Star Trek series beginning in the 1980s and running though the late 1990s or by the opinions of their fans and producers.  So when we went on our Enterprise “binge” it was really with a fresh eye.  And you know what?  We thought it was a decent show (except for the theme song).

That said, when we searched the Internet for information about Enterprise, almost all the content we saw was invariably negative.  Enterprise was blamed for the end of the Star Trek franchise that had been running since the 1980s.  Fans blamed the show’s lack of continuity and rather thin plot while producers Berman and Braga argued it was some sort of “franchise fatigue”—a position we here at JPFmovies find self-serving, trying to avoid taking responsibility for the show’s short run.

 

So when we watched the show with a fresh eye, JPFmovies thought the show didn’t deserve all the criticism it received and should have been given some more seasons to let the show get some more traction.  Those of us at JPFmovies thought that T’Pol (the ever present Vulcan) was an interesting change of pace from the traditional steely-eyed monotoned alien who spouted nothing but “logic.”  As a Vulcan, she walked the line between Vulcans repressing their emotions and having them.  Frankly I didn’t mind seeing some emotions underneath the typical Vulcan surface.  We also read a lot of complaints that the actress playing T’Pol could not act and was there only for her eye candy appeal.  To deny she was eye candy would be foolish, but she also did a good job playing a full time female Vulcan.  In fact, a JPFmovie consultant found an interview with her where she herself said that you need more than eye candy to make a Trek series—you also needed decent stories.  So she was aware of the limits that she could provide as a model.

We also found Enterprise a nice change of pace in that the Capitan was not an all knowing, never making any mistakes character, i.e. larger than life.  Scott Bakula, as Capitan Archer, screws up all the time—as he should, because Enterprise was humanity’s first venture into space beyond our system.  Picard, Sisko, and Janeway always made the right calls—never faltering.  Archer was constantly screwing up, as the Vulcan delegation on earth was quick to point out.  A human out there in space interacting with aliens (hostile or not) is going to make mistakes—and lots of them.   There was also the ship’s doctor, Phlox, an alien who proved quite interesting—a “Denoublan” who used odd creatures in the course of his medical treatments and had three wives who each had three husbands.  He was always a great one to watch.  Then too, Jeffrey Combs, who played many roles on DS9, was great as Commander Shram—the head of an alien race called the Andorians.

 

To keep this review at a readable length, the last thing we will comment on was Enterprise itself.  The ship, unlike Voyager, TNG’s Enterprise, and DS9’s invulnerable space-station, was fragile—prone to damage and breaking.  The ship never had shields or phasors (until several episodes in).  Much more often than not, Enterprise was no match for many of the alien ships that it encountered.  Again, something that one should expect when humans first begin to explore space outside of our solar system.

 

We read an article on Syfy’s site which also brought up some good points as to why Enterprise didn’t go the distance: The Internet!  TNG, DS9 and Voyager were essentially all pre-Internet boom shows, while Enterprise was subject to hypercritical analysis, which was like a cloud of noise that had a profound impact on the ability of others to just enjoy Enterprise, and also created the perception that the show was more reviled than it actually was.  Another interesting fact we didn’t know about Enterprise that sprang from the Internet was that it was unsurprisingly, one of the most pirated shows from 2001–2005 on sites like the Pirate Bay—so many viewers would not be reflected in the ratings.  Two ideas that JPFmovies put some serious stock in.

 

Despite all the “bad press” Enterprise was subjected to, it seems that the show is having a renaissance, many people are going to back to watch the show streaming on such outlets as Netflix, and the “bad press” is starting to be replaced with more positive posts—a long overdue interpretation of the series.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Now for something completely different. JPFmovies is back after a long break to regroup and refocus on what quality entertainment may be out there as well as point out the crap—the original mission of JPFmovies. A foray in SCI-FI.

Here at JPFmovies we rarely look into SCI-FI—yes we have a bit of an institutional bias towards SCI-FI entertainment.  That said, due to SJ & EJ’s insistence on watching significant amounts of SCI-FI programming and of course the availability of Netflix binging, the JPFmovie writers and reviewers are now ready to competently review past and present SCI-FI franchises.

Here is what we are looking at.  Ascension—the Syfy miniseries that aired in 2014 about a generational spaceship modeled after the military Orion Project from the late 1950’s through the 1960’s.  As well as three of the major Star Trek spin-off TV series from the 1990’s (Deeps Space 9 and Voyager) until 2004 the fourth and last season of Star Trek Enterprise.  Why are we looking at the three Star Trek TV series you may ask?  In honor of the highly-anticipated Star Trek re-birth “Discovery” which is supposed to debut this year.

Where do we start?  Well according to SJ the choice is easy:  Deep Space 9 a/k/a DS-9.  Why?  Because it is the first one chronologically running from 1993 until 1999.

JPFmovies:  SJ what do you have to say about DS-9?

SJ:  It went places the other series didn’t.  It explored religion for instance but it was a little problematic that all the Bajoran’s had the same faith.

JPFmovies:  You also mentioned that the series was funny?

SJ: Yeah it was probably the funniest series.

JPFmovies:  Well how do you reconcile that statement with the fact that DS-9 dealt with some pretty dark themes like war and religion.

SJ: Well it had darker themes but also lightened up with episodes like “little green men,” “take me out to the hollo-suite” and “trials and tribblelations.”

JPFmovies:  Who was your favorite character on DS-9?

SJ:  Simple Dax.

JPFmovies:  You said that without hesitation.

SJ:  Yeah she is awesome.

JPFmovies:   What did you like most about DS-9?

SJ:  Ah . . . it’s hard to say.  I suppose it had sort of a diverse like episode topics going from fun to war to episodes about different cultures and romances with all of the characters.  Though I am not fan of that but some people like.

JPFmovies:  What did you like least about DS-9?

SJ:  Ah . . . it sort of there is only one religion for the Bajoran’s and it didn’t even have a name.

JPFmovies:  How would you describe the first two seasons of DS-9?

SJ: The first 2 seasons are O.K. but it definitely gets better with time.

JPFmovies:  How does it get better?

SJ:  Um the characters go more in-depth the plots get more interesting.  It goes from minor conflicts to major conflicts.

JPFmovies:  What do you say to the statement that they had to bring in a character (Warf) from Star Trek the Next Generation to keep the show’s ratings afloat?

SJ:  I think that Warf brought a lot to the show. I love Warf I can see how they needed someone that people were familiar with to keep the ratings afloat.

JPFmovies:  What do you have to say about DS-9’s original theme that it was supposed to be a western?

SJ:  I think it would have been hilarious, but it’s not super Star Trekkie—I mean Star Trek is not a western.

JPFmovies:  Reading things about the show now, how do you react to the statement that Dr. Bashir was for the series first 2 years almost removed?

SJ:  Yeah I could see that he was my least favorite character he was really annoying.  He really didn’t have much of a character they made him be more of a person with the Section 31 episodes.

JPFmovies: What was the deal with Captain Sisko’s evolution from a guy with a full head of hair to a bald man with a go-tee?

SJ:  How so?  I mean he shaved his head and grew a go-tee.

JPFmovies:  Well you have to admit that in a TV series that is pretty unusual.

SJ:  Yeah that is true but remember with the Next Generation and Riker’s beard it became a saying that a show got good when it “grew a beard.”

JPFmovies:  How do you respond to a 2007 interview with iF Magazine, where George Takei, who had played the character Hikaru Sulu in The Original Series, criticized DS-9 for being the polar opposite of Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy and vision of the future?

SJ:  I think that Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future . . . well when DS-9 was made it was outdated by then.   When you look at the original series it’s not super great with feminism and that.

JPFmovies:  Where do you see the Star Trek franchise going in the future?

SJ:  Well I think it sort of veered away from what it was.  I hope that the new series is going to be more like DS-9 and TNG but I kind of doubt it.  Each series was different but had the Star Trek feeling and I think the newer movies have not had that really.

JPFmovies:  You’ve heard about the new series that is to be released this year “Discovery”?

SJ:  Yeah . . . you told me!

JPFmovies:  Where do you want to see that series go?

SJ:  Well I am not exactly sure what it is about . . . IDK I’d like it to be as progressive as DS-9 and Voyager were but not too close because it is then just a remake.

JPFmovies:  Why do you think it took 13 years to make another Star Trek series?

SJ:  I feel like it fell out popularity after Enterprise.  Um unfortunately I don’t know any Star Trek fans other than my family.  I hope there will be more Trekkies because of this new series.

JPFmovies:  Well thank you for your insights and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on our next look at Voyager.

SJ:  Thank you.

Well folks as you can see DS-9 was well received by many a SCI-FI fan.  As always we welcome your comments.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Marco Polo Season 2—I was not disappointed.

Well I went on a Netflix “binge” and watched season 2 of Marco Polo and wasn’t disappointed.  The season starts with Marco Polo tracking down the child emperor of the Song dynasty who he finds and delivers to the Khan.  After a little debate the Khan kills the child emperor causing some riots by Chinese patriots that are upset with the sight of their emperor hanging by his neck from the gates of the capital city.

The focus has shifted primarily to the drama and dynamic of Kublai Khan’s court and once again Benedict Wong’s performance as Kublai remains the true heart and center of the series.  The series occupies itself with a challenge by one of the Khan’s relatives bringing a challenge to his rule by trying to hold a vote of the Mongol chiefs to elect “The Khan of Khans.”

The most noteworthy newcomer this year is Michelle Yeoh’s Lotus (Of Crouching Tiger-Hidden Dragon fame) she is a fierce and fighting part of the Song Dynasty’s underground rebellion and a character who figures heavily into the backstory of Tom Wu’s Hundred Eyes.  As Lotus, she takes on just about everyone in her singular, savage crusade.

In season 2 it seems that Marco is moved from the inner circle of the Khan’s court to just a “regular” courtier.  But in the end he saves the Khan from the Christian armies who have come to wipe out the Mongol empire.  Setting Polo up for a bigger role if there is another season.

An interesting surprise was to see Gabriel Byrne make an appearance as the Pope who is the force behind the crusading knights sent to eradicate the barbarian empire.  The Pope has been working with Polo’s banished and estranged father Nicolo to achieve this goal.

There are quite a few more sub-plots that arise throughout the 10 episodes but would take quite a bit of text to discuss.  Season 2 is again filled with great scenery and costumes that were seen in season 1.  There is also more sex season 2 than in its predecessor.  All in all I was not disappointed and hope Netflix invests in a third season.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

Netflix Marco Polo Season 2. I can’t wait.

I am so excited for Netflix’s Season 2 of Marco Polo I plan to watch it when released at 2:00 a.m. CST on July 1, 2016!

The original Netflix series Marco Polo was 10 episodes that premiered in December of 2014.  Fans like me have been waiting patiently for a year and a half for its second season.  The series has generated a vast divide between the mainstream critics who provided negative reviews (like Rotten Tomatoes which gave it a 28% positive rating) versus the Netflix figures I’ve seen which are as high a 93% favorable by the subscription viewers.

Netflix confidently produced a 10 episode second season premiering about a year and a half after season 1’s release.  I am in the latter camp believing that Marco Polo is a great series and I could not wait for the second season to be released.

The series obviously is based on the larger than life travels of the great Marco Polo’s time spent with Kubli Kahn and his rise in the Kahn’s court from essentially a hostage left by his father to the great Kahn’s close advisor.  The series finale ends with the Mongols breaching the last stronghold of southern China’s ruling dynasty and the Kahn assuming the throne of the Emperor who has gone into hiding.

I thought Season 1 was fantastic and went on a “Netflix binge” watching virtually the entire series in one long sitting.  I plan on staying up until 2:00 am this morning to watch at least the first episode and to save the rest for later in the evening.

Critics be dammed, Marco Polo is a great original series and if you have Netflix give it a chance if you haven’t already.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

The Road to Wellville (1994) Strange but Watchable.

The Road to Wellville (1994) is the story of the doctor and “clean-living” guru John Harvey Kellogg and outlandish methods employed at his Battle Creek Sanitarium at the beginning of the 20th Century.

 

The film has a pretty good cast including Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg, Matthew Broderick as William Lightbody, Bridget Fonda as his spouse Eleanor, John Cusack as Charles Ossining, Dana Carvey as the doctor’s adopted son George, and Colm Meaney as Dr. Lionel Badger.

 

Dr. Kellogg’s sanitarium is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he practices his unusual methods for better health, including colonics, electrical stimulus, sexual abstinence, vegetarianism and physical exercise. The sanitarium is for the well-to-do patients including William and Eleanor Lightbody, who are suffering from poor health following the death of their child. On their way to Battle Creek they meet Charles Ossining (John Cusack), hoping to make a fortune by exploiting the fad for health food cereals.

Ossining finds a partner in Goodloe Bender. Having enlisted the services of George Kellogg, the doctor’s estranged adopted son, they attempt to produce “Kellogg’s Perfo Flakes.”  Using the Kellog name to attract consumers.

 

In the sanitarium, Will Lightbody is separated from his wife, and is soon harboring lustful thoughts toward Nurse Graves and a patient named Ida Muntz. His wife Eleanor, meanwhile, befriends Virginia Cranehill, who has a modern attitude toward sex, influenced by the works of Dr. Lionel Badger. Will eventually succumbs to Ida Muntz’s charms. Later he learns that Ida has died during treatment. Following the death of a patient in the sinusoidal bath, and the discovery of yet another death, Will suffers a breakdown, flees the sanitarium, gets drunk and eats some very rare meat. At the restaurant, he meets Ossining, and agrees to invest $1,000 in his health food business. Will returns drunk to the sanitarium, where he is reprimanded by Dr. Kellogg and is abandoned by a distraught Eleanor after vomiting on the good doctor.

 

Ossining’s business is a disaster producing nothing edible—not even by pigs. He and the partners resort to stealing Kellogg’s cornflakes and repackaging them in their own boxes and is eventually exposed as a fraud and arrested.

In a final coda, the Lightbodys have reconciled and are happily married, with four daughters. Will receives a check for $1,000 from Ossining, who has become a cola beverage tycoon. Dr. Kellogg dies of a heart attack while diving from a high board.

 

Sound strange and complicated?  Well it sort of is which makes the movie kind of an odd yet viewable film.  All the crazy inventions that Dr. Kellogg is using on his patients makes one wonder when they stopped using leaches to treat people’s ailments.  All in all the cast does a pretty good job and though the movie was a flop at the box office I think it is better than the reviews give it credit for.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 
 
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