ActionFest 2 Redux 2 (ReRedux?)

There were so many films and events over the three days of ActionFest 2 that I missed a few of them. Here are a couple that I missed but hope to catch shortly. I’m posting these unseen as I’m devoting October to horror movies.

Little Big Soldier (2010) – Rated PG-13 for violence and action

Jackie Chan stars as a grizzled veteran who kidnaps a young enemy general (Lee-Hom Wang), then escorts him on a long journey to collect a reward, in this comic martial arts extravaganza set in the days of ancient China. But as their perilous road trip unfolds, the old soldier soon realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Chan also wrote the screenplay for this film directed by Sheng Ding.

Word is that this was a pet project for Jackie Chan so long that he went from being the young enemy general in his screenplay to playing the grizzled veteran instead.

BKO: Bangkok Knockout (2010) – Rated R for violence and strong martial arts action, and some language.

When a mutual friend is kidnapped, highly trained members of an exclusive fight club pool their talents — including expert skills in kung fu, muay Thai and capoeira — to bring the attackers to justice.

Director Panna Rittikrai made the stunt spectacular Ong-Bak movies. This one does not star Tony Jaa but I’m looking forward to checking out the muay Thai.

Thursday Horror Picture Show

Well tonight is date night for my wife and I. First we are going to Carrabba’s for dinner (she loves the Johnny Rocco salad with shrimp and scallops) then we are following that up with my favorite Thursday night activity – FREE Thursday Horror Picture Show at Carolina Cinemas. Every Thursday night at 8 pm, Carolina Cinemas of Asheville shows a FREE horror movie in their upstairs cinema lounge. Tonight’s film is The Night Strangler:

The Night Strangler (1973) – NR (Made for TV)

Darren McGavin stars as hard-nosed reporter Carl Kolchak in this creepy movie. In The Night Strangler, Kolchak uncovers an underground city in Seattle as he investigates another blood-sucking murderer.

Sadly while the entire TV series of Kolchak – the Night Stalker is available on instant Netflix, the two made-for-TV movies that started it are only available on disc. The two TV movies differ from the series in that they aren’t nearly as campy.

I love going to the FREE Thursday Horror Picture Show and getting a Coke and an order of fries. The movie starts at 8 but arrive early as they start the serial at 740. This week is the first chapter of Flash Gordon Goes to Mars!

The October lineup for the Thursday Horror Picture Show is pretty wonderful:

October 6th: Quatermass and the Pit!!!! – One of my favorite science fiction horror movies, this 1967 Hammer film is no longer available on our side of the pond.

October 13th: A double feature of The Mad Ghoul (1943) and Weird Woman (1944)

October 20th: Dracula (1931) to celebrate the birthday of Bela Lugosi

October 27th: Trick R Treat (2007) – a fabulous anthology film, the modern successor to the Amicus films and Creepshow.

ActionFest 2 Redux

Well it’s no secret at my house that I love ActionFest. Every year Carolina Cinemas of Asheville, NC hosts Actionfest, the film festival with a body count. I’ve been to (and thoroughly enjoyed) the first two and am looking forward to ActionFest 3 next spring. Where else can you see a dozen premieres in between watching people set themselves on fire and meeting stars like Michael Jai White (that’s my wife and I below with Mr. Black Dynamite himself).

Half a year later many of the premieres are now on instant Netflix (often thanks to deals with Magnolia Pictures). I’ll just touch briefly on some of them.

Ironclad (2011) – Rated R for strong graphic brutal battle sequences and brief nudity.

Backed by his “Magnificent Seven,” a principled Knight Templar (James Purefoy) defends Rochester Castle from the ruthless King John (Paul Giamatti) and his advancing armies, who seek to rule England’s free men by force — no matter what the Magna Carta might say. Charles Dance, Kate Mara, Jason Flemyng, Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi co-star in this action-packed period piece set at the height of the Middle Ages.

This was the ActionFest 2 premiere film. Ironclad is a lot of fun – the action is wonderful (if cut a bit too frenetically to hide the number of stuntmen), the overall plot is interesting (King John tracking down and destroy copies of the Magna Carta along with the nobles who forced him to sign it), and the movie is filmed at a few real castles.

The cast is great BUT is not used at all well and are saddled with a lot of preposterous dialogue. James Purefoy makes a good action hero and I’d love to see him headline some more films. Paul Giamatti, who I normally like, chews up the scenery as King John. Brian Cox and Derek Jacobi are largely wasted.

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) – NR – Not rated but either a really strong R or perhaps an NC-17

This gory, gleefully over-the-top revenge fantasy stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo, a bum who rolls into town hoping to start over, only to find his adopted city saturated in violence and ruled by a vicious crime lord known as the Drake (Brian Downey). The Hobo’s answer? Pick up his handy pump-action scattergun and start laying waste to crooks, corrupt cops and every other lowlife who crosses his path.

“You and me are going on a car ride to hell and you’re riding shotgun”

I actually missed this one at ActionFest because I went to see a reprise of the marvelous Machete introduced by the fight choreographer. Hobo was financed after director Jason Eisener won a best trailer competition for the Canadian release of Grindhouse.

Unfortunately Rutger Hauer is the star. He is actually perfect for the part but having him in the film shows off how truly terrible all the other actors in the film are. This one actually is reminiscent of grindhouse films in that it is poorly scripted and acted and only exists to showoff mayhem (of which there is plenty). Honestly I’d recommend just skipping it and maybe watching the trailer for it (which isn’t bad).

13 Assassins (2010) – Rated R for sequences of bloody violence, some disturbing images and brief nudity.

To stop a tyrant from murdering and exploiting innocent civilians, 13 samurai warriors unite and prepare to end his life. But to kill the evildoer, the assassins must contend with an army of deadly bodyguards who outnumber them by a wide margin. Directed by acclaimed and prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, this action-packed samurai remake features Yusuke Iseya, Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada and Tsuyoshi Ihara.

One of the joys of Actionfest is catching foreign action films. As long as you don’t mind reading subtitles, 13 Assassins is the best of the instantly available films from ActionFest 2. There is some of Takashi Miike’s trademark body horror on display (somewhat like a Japanese David Cronenberg) but thankfully it is toned down and doesn’t detract from the overall story.

The entire first half of the film is an engaging set up for the unbelievable end battle sequence. The village battle that is the climax of the film runs for almost 40 minutes and is riveting from beginning to end and the two final confrontations ( no spoilers) are actually quite brilliant in execution. I heartily recommend this Samurai film.

South Park

Much to my wife’s chagrin, all 14 seasons of South Park are currently available on instant Netflix.

SOUTH PARK (1997-2009) – Rated TV-MA

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s crass animated series started as a potty-mouthed response to sitcoms that portrayed children as angelic figures, but later evolved into one of television’s most effective satires. Joyfully skewering cultural trends, celebrities and political figures of all types, the show sees the world through the eyes of four children: Shy but wise Stan, neurotic Jew Kyle, laughably bigoted Cartman and mumbling Kenny.

“Are you positive?” – “I’m HIV positive!”

South Park tells you right up front that it is offensive and they are not kidding. This show is VERY offensive and my wife is a delicate flower. Needless to say while she is home, South Park is not served at court.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on this show with my daughter (she is a huge fan). We watched seasons 12-14 because she had not seen them. After watching those with her, I’ve gone back and watched seasons 1-6. I still have seasons 7-11 to watch. The funny thing is that while much of the humor is crass and juvenile (and not actually all that funny), a lot of it is subversive and hysterical.

If you can be offended this show will offend you. There are jokes about excrement, rape, homosexuality, crippled children, fat children, bodily functions, racism, sexism – the list goes on and on. While I appreciate the desire to push boundaries, it is apparent from the development of the series over the first six seasons that Stone and Parker decided that they effectively had no limits. This just leads to an unbelievable repetition of sex and poop jokes.

If you enjoy potty humor then certainly this is the show for you. I don’t really but I do enjoy a lot of the skewering of various extreme segments of society. Most of the celebrity sendups are cheap shots that are not particularly funny but the John Edwards episode was hysterical.

I find it hard to recommend this series. They will have a hysterical episode followed by several ones that are just “meh”. Stone and Parker offer a lot of insight into our cultural mores but you have to wade through quite a bit of crap to get to it.

The only South Park thing missing from instant Netflix is the South Park movie (which is quite hysterical and spends much of its running time poking fun at the MPAA).

The Rest of the Bonds

While instant Netflix is a goldmine if you like Connery or Moore as Bond, you are completely out of luck if you prefer Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan. Also missing is the screwball 60s comedy Casino Royale. Still there are a few more Bonds for me to cover.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby takes over the role of Agent 007 for what many consider to be the finest Bond film ever made. Bond tracks archnemesis Ernst Blofeld (Telly Savalas) to a mountaintop retreat where he’s training an army of beautiful but lethal women. Along the way, Bond falls for Italian contessa Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg) — and marries her in order to get closer to Blofeld. Meanwhile, he locates Blofeld in the Alps and embarks on a classic ski chase.

This one is better than many give it credit. Unfortunately what sinks it is the casting. George Lazenby is a cipher as Bond and shows little charisma and Telly Savalas makes the worst of the Blofelds. Diana Rigg is quite good as Tracy Draco and is thankfully treated as more than the arm candy that some of the Bond girls end up as.

The Living Daylights (1987) – Rated PG

Timothy Dalton makes his suave and lethal debut as superagent James Bond in this turbo-charged action-adventure. This time, Bond’s charged with protecting a Soviet general (Jeroen Krabbe) from a beautiful sniper (Maryam d’Abo). But after being used as a pawn in a fake defector scheme, Agent 007 must trek across the world to find the escaped general and stop a terrifying weapons conspiracy that may be linked to the Soviet military high command.

Licence to Kill (1989) – Rated PG-13

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) resigns from the Secret Service after a friend in the CIA (along with his new wife) is brutally murdered by drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). With a score to settle, Bond partners up with pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and Sanchez’s mistress (Talisa Soto). While avoiding the British government, Bond races across land, air and water in a whirlwind of action and suspense.

Timothy Dalton was not bad as Bond. He jettisoned the tongue-in-cheek approach of Roger Moore to bring back some of the Bond toughness but I am afraid that he comes across as the successor to George Lazenby. They tried him a couple times and then rebooted with Pierce Brosnan.

Casino Royale (1954)

Having gambled away a vast sum of his country’s funds, a diabolical Soviet spy (Peter Lorre) tries to recoup his losses through a high-stakes game of baccarat, but secret agent James Bond (Barry Nelson) enters the competition to foil him in this 1954 teleplay. Intended as a pilot for a weekly TV series that never materialized, this first screen adaptation of a James Bond novel finds 007 portrayed as an American.

Casino Royale (1954 – not the 1967 comedy or the 2006 reboot) is quite an oddity. It showcases many of the limitations of 1950s television. I’ve always enjoyed Peter Lorre from his scary debut as the serial killer in “M” up through his humorous AIP turns in The Raven and Comedy of Terrors (both 1963) but this is not one of his best roles.

There is not much to recommend this film except as the first appearance of James Bond and that it is less than an hour long. Still if you are curious, instant Netflix offers it up.

 

My Name is Moore, Roger Moore

While the Connery Bond selection was disappointing (initially – then they added the three best ones), the Moore one is heartening. My two favorite Roger Moore – James Bond films are available on instant Netflix (Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) as well as The Spy who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill.

Live and Let Die (1973) – Rated PG

Roger Moore steps in as the suave, sophisticated Agent 007 in this eighth Bond installment. Bonds investigation of the murders of three fellow agents in New York soon puts him on the trail of Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), a Harlem crime boss plotting a globally threatening scheme involving tons of self-produced heroin. Jane Seymour plays Mr. Big’s Tarot card reader, the beautiful Solitaire, whose loyalties are quickly cultivated by the charming Bond.

Live and Let Die is the first and easily the best of the Roger Moore Bonds. The story is a bit problematic as the hero and main damsel in distress are white Anglo-Saxons and the villains are ummm well not so much but strangely I didn’t find that offensive so much as silly – “Watch as a white man infiltrates Harlem!” and it works as an adjunct to the then current Blaxploitation era.

If you can get past that then there is quite a bit of fun to be had here. The villains are fun (particularly Yaphet Kotto and Geoffrey Holder) and, frankly, more interesting than Bond. Our main damsel is played by a gorgeous 22-year-old Jane Seymour. The locations are interesting as are the situations – basically the operative word for this movie is fun.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) – Rated PG

Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), the world’s deadliest assassin, has set his sights set on 007 (Roger Moore). James Bond has a license to kill, but Scaramanga isn’t playing by anyone’s rules as the cat-and-mouse game of death takes the two from the Far East to Scaramanga’s island lair.

First let me state that yes I understand that this is not a good movie. Yes Herve Villechaize is tremendously annoying. Yes the martial arts subplot is quaint and lamely attempting to cash in on the then-popular Bruce Lee craze. Yes J.W. Pepper (from Live and Let Die) makes a very unwelcome appearance here. Still with all that I have a huge soft spot for Christopher Lee as Scaramanga, Britt Ekland is quite cute and Roger Moore is still a little charming.

The Spy who Loved Me (1977) – Rated PG

This one is pretty good and is better than The Man with the Golden Gun though I like it less.

Moonraker (1979) – Rated PG

I really like the opening gag of having Bond jump out of a plane without a parachute to steal someone else’s in mid-air. After that though the rest of the film flips back and forth between aping the success of The Spy who Loved Me (even to the extent of having Richard Kiel return as Jaws), amping up the gadgetry and playing Bond for cheap laughs.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Rated PG

Taking a few pointers from the failures of Moonraker, Bond has almost no gadgets in this film and the one-liners are toned way down. Not only that but Bond encounters a woman who is quite willing to sleep with him and he turns her down.

Octopussy (1983) – Rated PG

See Moonraker above.

A View to a Kill (1985) – Rated PG

How can you go wrong with Christopher Walken as a villain? Well let us just say they did – after this they attempted to reboot the franchise with Timothy Dalton as Bond.

Connery Redux

Woohoo! Yesterday I posted that the four lesser Connery Bond films are available on instant Netflix and *surprise!* today the three best Connery Bond films became available on instant play – in HD no less! I look forward to rewatching these classics some time in the next week or so.

Dr. No (1962) – Rated PG

On a mission in Jamaica, suave Agent 007 (Sean Connery) — in the first of the James Bond films — finds mad scientist Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) plotting to derail the U.S. space program and take over the world.

While not the first Bond adaptation, Dr. No is the first of the official MGM adaptations and thus the first of the Sean Connery Bonds. I rank this one third of the Connery Bonds. The pluses to this film are the portrayal of Bond as ruthless (something the series gradually steers away from until Casino Royale brought the series back on track), the performance of Connery who is front and center for much of the film, and the lack of distracting gadgets.

Goldfinger (1964) – Rated PG

The third installment in the 007 series — which racked up an Oscar for its sound effects — finds uberspy James Bond trying to thwart baddie Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and his elaborate gambit to corner the gold market by contaminating Fort Knox.

“Do you expect me to talk?” – “No Mr. Bond I expect you to die!”

Considered by many to be the height of the Bond series, Goldfinger is a fun romp with several memorable villains, signature gadgets that do not overwhelm the story, and an interesting, if implausible, plot.

From Russia with Love (1963) – Rated PG

Bond is back — and so are the bullets, beauties and bad guys! You’ll be shaken and stirred by Sean Connery’s second outing as 007, which has him paying the price for his previous adventure when SPECTRE seeks revenge for the death of Dr. No.

This is my absolute favorite Bond film. Being the second film, the rough edges of Dr. No have been polished out but the gadgets have yet to overwhelm the series. The plot is thankfully not about a megalomaniac trying to take over and/or destroy the world but is instead about the intrigue between British intelligence (and their allies), the Russians (and their allies), and SPECTRE.

Although quite dated, it features one of the first realistic fist fights put on film. Much of it takes place on a train which is a personal favorite of mine and the beginning takes place in (and under) Istanbul which I had the joy of visiting some years back. Pedro Armendariz gives a wonderful performance as Ali Kerim Bey in spite of being terminally ill with cancer during the filming.

My Name is Connery, Sean Connery

Instant Netflix has an absolute plethora of James Bond films currently available. Sean Connery has always been my favorite Bond (though Daniel Craig is a close second). Wonderfully four of the Connery Bond films are on instant play. Not so wonderful – Connery made seven Bond films and his three best (From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Dr. No) are the ones that are not available. Back on the wonderful side – these films are available in HD (if you have the bandwidth).

Thunderball (1965) – Rated PG

Terrorist mastermind Emilio Largo hijacks two nuclear weapons and has his sights set on a blackmail payday of global proportions — unless James Bond (Sean Connery) can stop him!

Thunderball is the fourth best Connery Bond film. Yes it is dated but Bond is tough and this is not embarrassing like the other three are. This is the last Connery Bond to even attempt to adapt the book. The downside to this is that not only is it dated but it is slow-moving in comparison to the other Bonds.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

After American and Soviet spaceships disappear, the two countries trade blame for the incidents. As the nations edge toward war, James Bond (Sean Connery) finds himself in the middle of another international mystery. After staging his own death, Agent 007, with Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) and the beautiful Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), discovers that the leader (Donald Pleasence) of the SPECTRE crime organization orchestrated the events.

This one is a real split decision. Connery begins to phone in his Bond beginning with this installment but the supporting cast is quite good, especially Donald Pleasance who makes the best Blofeld. The Bond series is often misogynistic but this one also takes a bit of a dip into racism. The sets are wonderful and the action sequences are fun.

Diamonds are Forever (1971) – Rated PG

When he discovers that his evil nemesis, Blofeld (Charles Gray), is stockpiling the world’s supply of diamonds to use in a deadly laser satellite, secret agent James Bond (Sean Connery) sets out to stop the madman, with the help of beautiful smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John).

I have a soft spot for this film. This was the first movie I ever remember seeing in a theater. I even remember having Necco wafers as my candy. Still this one is embarrassing, fun but embarrassing. I cannot watch Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint without wincing from the homophobia on display.

This was also the first of the Bonds to devolve into self-parody. It provides a bit of a segue into the Roger Moore era where nothing is taken seriously. Connery once again phones it in and pretty much everyone else plays it over the top. Oddly Charles Gray who played Henderson in You Only Live Twice returns here as Blofeld.

Never Say Never Again (1983) – Rated PG

Sean Connery makes his final appearance as Agent 007 in this action classic. When two atomic warheads are hijacked by the evil SPECTRE organization, James Bond jumps into a frantic race to save the world from nuclear terrorists. With Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), Blofeld (Max von Sydow) and Fatima (Barbara Carrera) bent on destroying the world, Bond is never far from death in director Irvin Kershner’s Golden Globe-nominated spy flick.

I love Connery but here he is starting to show his age as a 53-year-old Bond. This film resulted from some bizarre legal rights regarding Thunderball. This is not part of the official MGM Bond canon and is essentially a remake of Thunderball. Unfortunately, as with Diamonds, the supporting performances are over the top. Barbara Carrera is a lot of fun as bad girl Fatima Blush.

Steven Seagal was the martial arts instructor and look for the debut of Rowan Atkinson as Nigel Small-Fawcett. Sadly this barely even feels like a Bond film since M, Q, and Moneypenny are played by different people and the music seems out of place.

R.I.P. Cliff Robertson 1923-2011

Cliff Robertson is perhaps best remembered by the youngsters for his definitive portrayal of Uncle Ben in the recent Spider-Man trilogy (a momentary digression – does anyone else feel that it is pointless to reboot this franchise?). Unfortunately instant Netflix does not have these movies available nor that of my favorite role of his, the titular Charly (based on Flowers for Algernon).

Instant Netflix does have a good smattering of his films from his 60s and 70s heyday:

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972) with Robertson in the lead as Cole Younger opposite Robert Duvall as Jesse James.

The World War II star-studded sensurround spectacle Midway (1976) with Robertson as Commander Carl Jessop.

The Honeypot (1967) – “As an elaborate practical joke, eccentric millionaire Cecil Fox (Rex Harrison) pretends to be gravely ill and beckons his three former mistresses to his deathbed, but his delightfully devious scheme goes horribly awry when one of the lovely ladies is murdered. This twisty crime comedy co-stars Susan Hayward as a Texas hypochondriac, Edie Adams as a fading starlet and Capucine as a distinguished princess.”

Masquerade (1965) – “On a covert mission to kidnap the young heir (Christopher Witty) to an oil-rich nation’s throne, cunning Col. Drexel (Jack Hawkins) secretly double crosses his British superiors, frames his good friend, Frazer (Cliff Robertson), and attempts to personally pocket a hefty ransom for the princes return. Based on a novel by Victor Canning, this witty spy parody also stars Marisa Mell as a tempting seductress.”

633 Squadron (1964) – “In this classic war actioner based on a true story, Cliff Robertson plays Roy Grant, a combat-weary pilot whose R.A.F. squadron is ordered to destroy a Nazi rocket fuel plant tucked deep inside a Norwegian fjord. The bomb run is a logistical nightmare because the planes must run a gauntlet of anti-aircraft batteries before reaching their target. The scenario and characters were drawn from a novel by Frederick E. Smith.”

My Six Loves (1963) – “Burned out from her tough schedule, Broadway luminary Janice Courtney (Debbie Reynolds) goes to her Connecticut country home for a few weeks of rest. But when she arrives, the diva discovers six abandoned kids have been living on her property. Local pastor Jim Larkin (Cliff Robertson) helps her deal with her unexpected guests, and soon Janice begins forming a bond with both the children and the compassionate pastor.”

Instant Netflix also has two fairly awful later movies. They are perhaps best left off of Robertsons resume (or you can look at them as terrible with Robertson being the saving grace).

Assignment Berlin (1998) – “After narrowly escaping a near-death experience in the States, police officer Tracy Garret (Sammi Davis) accepts an invitation from her father (Cliff Robertson) to visit him in Berlin, where she is dragged unwillingly into another potentially deadly drama. It seems that her father had a few well-kept secrets … and now someone wants to bring them to light. Oscar nominee Paul Winfield (Sounder) co-stars.”

Mach 2 (2001) – “Presidential candidate Stuart Davis is given a computer disc just before his flight takes off and later finds the disc reveals evidence of his opponent Pike’s corrupt ways. Pike learns Davis has the disc and is determined to cause his plane to crash.”

Star Trek – TV week

Before I get back to watching movies on instant Netflix next week, I thought I would cover some of the fabulous TV options available. All kinds of Star Trek are currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Star Trek the Original Series – 1966-1968

With the unflappable Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) at the helm of this classic sci-fi series, the crew of the starship USS Enterprise keeps intergalactic danger at bay and delves deep into the exploration of space … the final frontier. Leonard Nimoy co-stars as the sharp-eared Spock, Kirk’s Vulcan first officer, with DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig rounding out the iconic crew.

All three seasons of the classic show are not only currently available but stream in beautiful HD! While the shows come across as corny now, keep in mind that a lot of their moral points were quite bold for their time.

With their simple special effects, broad acting, and bright primary colors, the original Star Trek is almost ideal for portable viewing on the go (for those with i devices or other smart phones). Season two contains most of the best episodes (The Trouble with Tribbles, The Doomsday Machine, Mirror, Mirror).

A fascinating adjunct to the original series, Star Trek – The Animated Series is also available. It was from 1973 and features the voice acting of much of the original cast. I have not yet watched it so I cannot comment on its quality.

WATCH: Star Trek – The Next Generation (1987-1993)

“Set decades after the adventures of the original Enterprise crew, this syndicated sci-fi series carries on the Star Trek franchise. In the year 2364, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) leads the new Enterprise on missions of discovery. First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Klingon crewmember Worf (Michael Dorn) join Picard as they explore the universe and interact with alien species.”

This show actually began quite terribly with each episode ripping off an episode of the original series. “Q”, an early major villain was just an updating of “The Squire of Gothos”. Despite a rocky start and far too many pedantic episodes, Next Generation grew into an excellent science fiction series with a fascinating new villain in the Borg. The best episodes were the two-parters “Best of Both Worlds” and “Redemption”.

Having said that, you might want to wait a bit as Next generation is supposed to be available in lovely HD this fall.

Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2000) and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2004) are both available for those who want more recent series. I have not really tried Voyager yet but I found Enterprise very disappointing. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is supposed to be available next month.

On the movie front, only Star Trek, the excellent 2009 reboot from J.J. Abrams. Look for a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk in an early sequence.