Star Trek: First Contact movie review, Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Alfre Woodard and James Cromwell. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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'TREK' TOPPER
A scene from 'Star Trek: First Contact'

A scene from 'Star Trek: First Contact'
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"Star Trek: First Contact"
3.5 stars
111 minutes | Rated: PG-13
WIDE: Friday, November 22, 1996
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Neal McDonough



 COUCH CRITIQUE
   SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 35%
   WIDESCREEN: A MUST

Director Jonathan Frakes wasn't fooling around when he made this movie big-screen. Even the seemingly simple opening titles were overwhelming in the theater, but will lose something on TV. So don't even bother getting the pan-and-scan tape. It's widescreen DVD or nothing.
 DVD SPOTLIGHT
Once again, Paramount has ponied up a spectacular package for the Special Collector's Edition DVD of "First Contact," including a crisp remastered print, two commentary tracks, and a second disc brimming with bonus features, many of which are engrossing all on their own.

Director Frakes' commentary is a tad boring at first, but the guy is such a dorky goofball it soon becomes entertaining to laugh at him, as well as with him, as he pretends to cheer his own directing credit, sits in awe of Alfre Woodard's performance (quite rightly), points out trivia and minutia, makes fun of his actor friends ("Gates! Great with the props!") and even snickers at some of the "Trek"-lore standards.

A second track with writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore is an interesting listen because they talk in depth about the evolution of the script, allowing fans to breathe a sigh of relief at the horrible ideas they abandoned on their way to this, the best picture of the "Star Trek" franchise.

As with the previous Special Edition DVDs in the series, the film can also be watched with a fanboy-fun, trivia-laced and loophole-exposing text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, "Trek" technical consultants and co-authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia.

THE SECOND DISC
Among the 15 featurettes on this loaded DVD are several about the Borg (especially how they evolved throughout the series), and the creation and casting of the Borg Queen; a handful breaking down the staging of signature scenes (the deflector dish sequence, filming in a real missile silo, etc.); and another batch about the film's design (from sets to costumes to models and CGI, including the escape-pod launch sequence). Most of them are fun and informative, but a few are duds, like the rather flat featurette on the Enterprise-E design with the misleading name "From A to E," that implies a history of Enterprise design.

The best shorts are a really good 15m feature about the evolution of the story and a heartfelt 20m tribute to late "Star Trek" (and "Alien" and "Planet of the Apes" and "Patton" and "Basic Instinct" and "L.A. Confidential") composer Jerry Goldsmith.

But there are some disappointments: one of the Borg pieces devolves into shameless shilling for the Borg ride at the Las Vegas Hilton, and a 10m feature on Zefram Cochrane doesn't really address the big question of the differences between the character glimpsed in the original series and the one in this film.

OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Trailers, storyboards, stills and Easter eggs galore.


  BUY IT HERE

SOUND & PICTURE
2.35:1, Dolby 5.1
Both are top-notch.

DVD RATING: ***1/2



 OTHER REVIEWS/COMING SOON
 
  • Post-Apocalypse
  • Time Travel
  • ('02) "Star Trek: Nemesis"
    ('98) "Star Trek: Insurrection"
    ('96) "Star Trek: First Contact"
    ('94) "Star Trek: Generations"
    ('91) "Star Trek VI: The Undiscover..."
    ('82) "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
  • Jonathan Frakes
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Brent Spiner
  • LeVar Burton
  • Michael Dorn
  • Gates McFadden
  • Marina Sirtis
  • Alfre Woodard
  • James Cromwell
  • Neal McDonough


  •  LINKS for this film
    Official siteShowtimes
    at movies.yahoo.com
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    The Borg invade Earth in sci-fi spectacular that tops all franchise predecessors

    By Rob Blackwelder

    It can now be said there is a "Star Trek" movie that stands on its own.

    No advanced knowledge of franchise lore is needed to become entirely wrapped up in "Star Trek: First Contact," and unlike 1994's "Star Trek: Generations", which had the flavor of a mediocre two-part TV special, this movie feels like a movie. It fills the screen with its presence.

    Competently directed by Jonathan Frakes (who also plays Commander Riker) "First Contact" is the best sci-fi film this year, and very possibly the best "Star Trek" film to date.

    Salivating Trekkers who stand in line in the rain for three hours on opening day will feel this movie is worth all the trouble. But the uninitiated, even the unwilling dragged along on dates or out-voted by their friends at the box office, are in for a pleasant surprise.

    "First Contact" doesn't waste time on long looks at the new Starship Enterprise (the old one was blown to bits in "Generations"). It doesn't dilly-dally with awkward dialogue designed to bring the audience up to speed on "Trek" technology. It just jumps right into a complex but linear plot wrought with pointed action and clutching tension.

    As the film opens, an insidious race of nearly indestructible half-organic, half-machine aliens called the Borg, the most popular and most hated enemy from the "Next Generation" TV show, have massed their forces and headed for Earth to assimilate humanity into their ranks.

    The Enterprise comes to help defeat the Borg with tactical knowledge provided by Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), who had once been taken over by these evil mechanical drones.

    But as the Borg ship explodes, it fires off an escape pod that travels back in time and as the Enterprise follows it into a temporal vortex, they scan their present-day Earth and find it has become a Borg society. The Borg have altered the past.

    The bulk of the film takes place in a post-apocalyptic 21st Century where the Borg try to assimilate Earth at one of its weaker points in history.

    Some of the Trek regulars beam to Earth and team up with Dr. Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell, the farmer from "Babe," in an altogether different role), a drunkard rocket-builder fiddling with the first warp-speed engines, to make sure his experiments continue on schedule so history isn't changed.

    Meanwhile in orbit the Enterprise crew is taken over by the Borg and it falls on Captain Picard, Klingon Commander Worf (Michael Dorn), and android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) to stop them gaining control of the ship.

    One of the fallacies of science fiction is the inevitable leaps of faith asked of the audience -- especially in time travel stories, which "Star Trek" has never done especially well. But there are far fewer gaps in logic here than in previous "Star Trek" films. The script is tight and the characters engaging.

    In the first big screen "Star Trek" without any of the original Enterprise crew, the ensemble cast stands out. Each character has his or her moment, but none feel forced, as if written in as a contractual obligation.

    The best individual scenes involve Data, who is tempted by the wonderfully creepy and hypnotic Borg Queen (Alice Krige) to join her hive and become more human (his greatest ambition) by having real skin grafted onto his synthetic body.

    In the only scene that might confuse those unfamiliar with the trappings of Trekdom, Picard does battle with the Borg in the midst of a 1930s nightclub created on the holodeck, a virtual reality room on the Enterprise.

    For non-Trekkers, this is a great, free-standing special-effects adventure with much more fleshy characters than your average sci-fi yarn. Definitely a good ride. But there are also plenty of nods to "Star Trek" aficionados.

    The normally demure Counselor Troy (Marina Sirtis) gets stinking drunk with Dr. Cochrane. The battleship Defiant from "Deep Space Nine" has a cameo as do "Voyager" regulars Robert Picardo as the cynical Emergency Medical Hologram and Ethan Phillips (Neelix) as a bouncer in the holodeck nightclub scene.




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