My favorite Star Trek movies. 9th choice!

I was a strict Original Series only kid. This has less to with personal preference and more to do with availability of anything post-Kirk. The Next Generation aired on our local Fox station, which never ‘came in.’ I think it might have aired around 6 or 7 at night, which was dinnertime. Even if I could overcome those two massive hurdles, dinnertime and tuning in Fox 43, I also had three older sisters who were strangely ambivalent about my youthful Star Trek needs.

My main exposure to Trek was through the box set of the first five movies, the random VHS packed with two or three episodes of the old show, the other random VHS packed three or four animated episodes, and of course, the comics. Gold Key, DC, the odd Marvel from the late 70s. So when I thought of Star Trek, I thought of Captain Kirk, Spock, and the 1701 (no letter).

But there was another image. I didn’t know anything about The Next Generation until it was nearly over. I knew it was on. I may have known there was a Klingon. But I knew nothing else. But deep in the back of my mind there was a memory from when I was four years old. I remember tracing, with the tip of my finger, the shape of my nose. Around the nostrils, to the top of my lip. I did this while laying on the couch, with some fuzzy show on the TV. And in this memory, I recall saying, “This is Star Trek.” What? My nose is Star Trek. Well…that fuzzy image on the TV had to be on Fox. And what would my dad try to watch on Fox, even though it was usually hopeless? Star Trek, duh!

So I was stuck with that strange memory of tracing the shape of my nose and somehow identifying that with Star Trek. That nose incident must have been around 1987. (Another detail I remembered was a tar monster…so that didn’t take long to pin that date on the calendar.) The first Star Trek movie I went to see in the theaters was Star Trek : Generations, in 1994. One look at that bridge set and I realized why my nose had been reminding me of Star Trek for all these years!

We’re getting down to the end of my list of favorite Star Trek movies.

Here’s my 9th favorite, or 4th least favorite.

Star Trek : Generations


There are so many things wrong with this movie. You know them. From the cardboard opening sequence on the “B,” to the lame-o introduction of the TNG crew to the silver screen, to the underwhelming Kirk-Picard team-up, to the nasty pointless Klingons, and on and on. This movie is so full of bad choices, from its very concept all the way to the apparently lazy post-production (where have I seen that bird-of-prey before…), this movie should just be considered an utter failure.

But it’s not. Not by me anyway. It bugs the heck out of me, sure. But I do, for the life of me, kinda like this movie. So what are its strengths?

As anticlimactic as the team-up was, it is just still so cool to see Kirk and Picard together. I had the trading card of the two of them in the kitchen. I loved the card because it promised something interesting. kirk picard They could be on the bridge of either ship, or on the Klingon homeworld, or going back in time, or anything. I’d already seen the movie, but I was ten and a Star Trek fan, so I could imagine anything I wanted to. The people manufacturing these trading cards had to make the movie look exciting, so they wisely took a great shot of Picard and Kirk and filled in the kitchen background with some glowy green tin foil. They weren’t about to print a card with the description: “Heroes of space cross the generations to cook eggs together!”

But from that poorly conceived first meeting comes something cool. My friend first pointed this out to me. Years after I had written this movie off, my buddy told me that he watched it again recently. He said that even though the scene is a major disappointment, the two actors were fully in character. Kirk is bossing Picard around. And Picard is obeying because he thinks Kirk is cool. Despite the anticlimacticism of the scene, the actors elevate the scene to something memorable.

The story is pretty wobbly. With a force like the Nexus, the movie has two choices: 1. Build a super-tight narrative, or 2. Make a fun movie. Neither of these was accomplished. So we have a drab movie with a moth-ridden plot. Plot-holes are inherent to time travel stories. “The City on the Edge of Forever” deals with them brilliantly. That episode narrows the field to Kirk and Edith. So the story is really about two time-stream-crossed lovers whose romance could shatter the world. That episode also restricts the heroes. They can’t just ride out of 1930 and end up wherever they want to. They’re at the mercy of the Guardian, who might just be using Kirk and Spock to set the timeline right. Star Trek IV deals with the problem of time travel plot holes by making a fun movie. Why can’t they just swing around the sun whenever there’s a problem? Eh, because they can’t. There’s a unique effervescence to that movie that can’t be revisited whenever the creators feel like it. And since the lightness of that movie can’t be revisited, neither should the lightness of its science be revisited.


But the Nexus isn’t about science. The Nexus isn’t even a very interesting concept. It’s a migrant beam that destroys things but somehow sends people into a temporary bliss. Like, maybe if they played up the God as giver-and-taker aspect, it could have been interesting. Or if they had built up a cultural myth about the Nexus, so Kirk and Picard had to confront Soran’s religion the movie could have been more interesting. But the Nexus is just there. And I mean it is just there. It’s never mentioned again. And in this movie, it’s just so convenient. The good guys don’t get wrapped up in the fantasy of it, maybe because Picard’s perfect world is so lame. It’s like he entered Janeway’s stupid holonovel. The same kid is even there!

Picard’s resistance to the Nexus is unexplained. Guinan inhabited a Christmas tree ornament and twinkled at him? Guinan ex machina does not make for a good movie. But Picard doesn’t need a good story for his rejection of the Nexus because he’s there to team up with Kirk. Once he’s decided to leave the Nexus and stop Soran he just sort of appears in Kirk’s fantasy. An explanation might have been helpful, at least. Did Picard jump fantasies because his new greatest joy in life would be to stop Soran, so the Nexus accommodated that dream? Do inhabitants of the Nexus have the power to will themselves other places? It’s never mentioned and it was probably never thought about. Picard walks into a bland bright white light and stumbles into Kirk’s dream.

Kirk’s dream world is a little more believable than Picard’s, but still doesn’t seem quite right. My first thought was that Kirk’s fantasy would be as captain of the Enterprise. Being earthbound and with one woman would be a wonderful life for most guys. It might even be the best life for Kirk. But it wouldn’t be what Kirk would fantasize about. For the twenty-eight years this character had existed his one joy was being in the center seat and whenever he wasn’t, his goal was to get back to it. But there he is, on earth, chopping wood, waiting for Antonia to return. That was another thing that bugged me. Of all the women Kirk had loved, they had to make up a new one? Since Antonia is only seen from a distance, they could have used a stand-in and just said, “There’s Carol.”

That’s kind of the point of this movie though. It is one missed opportunity after another.

I’ve heard that the final episode of the show, “All Good Things…,” was written simultaneously with this movie. The writers themselves have admitted that the show was better. And while I agree, the show was only better as a capstone for the series. Taken out of context, that episode would fall a little flat. And frankly, it did. It was one of the first TNG shows I watched and, not really caring or knowing much about those characters, I was bored. I think they made the right choice in putting this story on the big screen and “All Good Things…” on the small. But they should have applied the same care and attention to this script as they did to that.

As an adventure for the TNG crew, this isn’t even good. There is a Kirkless Generations floating around out there. Take Kirk out and you still have, as you say, a TV story. And I don’t think it would be a particularly good TV story. In fact the characterizations are not right, so it would seem like a regressive TV story. Riker says, “Fire,” pretty well. But that’s about all he does. Data is extremely annoying, having been casually tossed a conclusion to his seven-year journey to human-ness. Worf has regressed into a grunting idiot. Geordi says, “…Not funny,” and that’s about it. Crusher doesn’t do anything. Troi crashes the ship, and that’s it. All of these characters were developed over years and none of them are treated well on the big screen. It’s really the opposite of what the TOS cast enjoyed. They were barely characters at all on the old show, but the movies gave them all room to move and grow.

For all its faults, I do still like it. It might be nostalgia. This was the first Trek movie I saw on the big screen. I know one thing I do love is the way the D looks. The space ship shots are truly gorgeous and the interiors were cleverly updated for the big screen. But that’s not enough to make me like a movie. I think just seeing Kirk and Picard together is what keeps me coming back. As lame and anticlimactic as it is, you’ll never see those two greats together anywhere else.

The list so far:

The Wrath of Khan

The Undiscovered Country

The Voyage Home

The Search for Spock

The Motion Picture

First Contact


Star Trek

Insurrection

Generations

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My favorite Star Trek movies. 8th choice!

Star Trek : Insurrection

The one with the aliens that are into plastic surgery.

Yeah…I barely remember this one. I saw it when it came out and then again at home sometime five or so years ago. One viewing is usually enough for me. But even after two viewings, this one is still pretty forgettable.


The opening is cool. But Data’s exposure to the locals is awfully reminiscent of a better TV story. “Who Watches the Watchers,” from season three, has the Federation’s surveillance of a primitive race exposed, leading to one of the most interesting missions for Picard and crew. The similarly themed movie turns this premise into a story about Picard bucking the system. While somewhat cool, putting Picard in that position just doesn’t feel right.

The Federation doesn’t seem like a government likely to indulge some a smarmy villain for such a risky gain. So forcing the Federation into the role of smug imperialists rings false. Really the movie fails because it fails on this point. The Federation has acted against our heroes in the past. It’s believable when Kirk is in trouble for activating the Genesis device. The Federation doesn’t go bad at that point. Kirk’s the one that goes rogue, for reasons his bosses don’t understand. The other big anti-Enterprise action committed by the Federation, Starfleet this time, is in the final episodes of TNG’s first season. In this story, some wormy, insect-y aliens have taken over some key positions in Starfleet Command. Big deal. An infiltration is hardly the government itself going bad. Neither is Starfleet’s pursuit of Kirk really indicative of anything besides an organization maintaining its laws and principles.

This movie attempts something very bold in showing evil inside the Federation, and in power. But it just comes across as petty. Like, I get that maybe they were going for a bit of social commentary. That’s a cool concept, but … well, I guess I don’t really have strong reasons for why I think they fail in this. I just have feelings. So I’ll shut up about that.

One complaint I’ve heard a thousand times is that this movie feels like a long episode of the TV show. I don’t entirely disagree. The scope of the Federation’s turn to the dark side is a bit expansive for a TV episode. It’s a concept too big for a two-parter TV episode. But the botched first contact would, and did, make a great episode. And the exodus of the village people does seem like a story more fitting an hour of TV than a Star Trek movie. The attempts to expand the scope of the story kind of fall flat and are mostly unmemorable. The bad guy’s sail ship space ship (which might come from the opening pages of the Planet of the Apes novel) is cool, but I honestly forget why he even used it, and where he was going to.

I need to watch this one again. I truly can’t remember much of anything.

So I’ll watch it again, but I doubt it will move up the list at all. Maybe I’ll do a fan-edit, if it looks like there’s enough cool stuff to salvage it.

Oh. And is this the one with the joystick on the captain’s chair?

The list so far:

The Wrath of Khan

The Undiscovered Country

The Voyage Home

The Search for Spock

The Motion Picture

First Contact


Star Trek

Insurrection

My favorite Star Trek movies. 6th choice!

I was still pretty unfamiliar with the Next Generation when this one was released. The first Star Trek movie I saw in the theater was Generations. And the crew of the 1701-D does not make much of an impression. I knew Picard, Data, Worf, and Riker. The others were a little hazy for me. I remember wondering if Troi and Dr Crusher were played by the same actresses, or were meant to be the same characters, in this movie that were on the TV show. At twelve years old, my primary interest in Star Trek was see the guys kick butt. The last time I’d seen the actresses was on vague airings of the first season, in which both ladies looked very different from their movie appearances.

The women of the Next Generation fared much better on TV than in the movies. Really, everybody fared better in the TV version. The attention paid to all characters on the show was now narrowed to make all four movies the Picard and Data show. All the development on secondary characters like Worf, Wesley, and Geordi was abandoned to squeeze them into character types for the movies. “We need a cranky strong guy to intimidate other crewmen (and to make jokes about). Use Worf.” “We need a whiny scientist to doubt the success of the mission (and to make jokes about). Use Geordi.” Or to skip them altogether. I know that Wesley had left the show before the final episode aired, but his presence was really a big part of the TV show. After seeing this movie, I read up on the Next Generation and was surprised to find that a few characters had been on the show and not made it to the movies. Wesley left for the Academy, so he wasn’t in the movies. Yar died. (Imagine my surprise! “There was another crewmember, who died on the show! And stayed dead?”) I thought Whoopi Goldberg was a guest star in the Generations movie. I was surprised to find that she was in a bunch of episodes prior to that. And after that first movie, she’s no where to be seen. Enisign Ro was made into a kind of big deal and then left aside.

The movies really become the Picard and Data show, which is okay if you like Picard and Data. I mostly do. Though Data can get pretty annoying. Some of his most annoying scenes are in the movies. (“You little lifeforms” might be bad, but it’s got nothing on Data’s standup comedy in “The Outrageous Okona.”) The Picard of the movies is a cool character. He’s played by the same actor that played an earlier version of the same character for seven years on TV. They dress him the same, and he’s given the center seat on a space ship called the Enterprise. The peaceful, negotiating, curious Picard on TV must have disappeared in the Nexus. He might start his big screen career weeping over a photo album, but it doesn’t take long for movie Picard to morph into a kind of ride-em-cowboy action hero.

But that’s okay. The old show became something new when its sequel movies were made. And now the Next Generation becomes something new for its movie sequel series. Something stupid, sure. But it’s new.

And when I was twelve, seeing my second Star Trek movie in the theater, this was just what I needed to be convinced to look further into the mysterious Next Generation.

Star Trek : First Contact

That long introduction can be easily summarized: What I knew about the Next Generation was learned two years earlier, at a single screening of Star Trek Generations.

This movie does what its predecessor failed to do: introduce the crew for the uninitiated and tell a story worthy of the big screen.

This Picard is different from TV Picard, in that he’s an action hero. But he’s no goober. He is a thinking action hero. He is troubled by what he has to do. And his gradual descent into potentially dangerous obsession is so unlike what we expect from blow-up kinds of flicks. This is how Picard should be introduced to the big screen. The movie zeroes in on Picard, giving him an Ahab complex, which is a classic Trek conceit. Picard’s obsession is justified though, given the extreme danger the Borg present. So there’s a nice tension between Picard doing the right thing and going too far. I don’t know where the line is drawn for him. Oh wait. Hee-yah! it is.


The rest of the cast is good, but given little to do. Data fills the screen more than any other crewman. His nature is introduced, challenged, and slightly changed. That is how you introduce a TV character to the big screen. The emotion chip stuff from the previous movie is just confusing to new viewers and unsatisfying to dedicated fans. (Trust me. I’ve watched that movie as both.) Here, Data is introduced as an android who wants to be human. He is then offered the chance at something like humanity. And he finally decides that his mission is more important than any personal goals he might have.

Riker, who was part of the big three of the TV show is like, barely present in any of the movies. Even when he’s given a wedding or a joystick for a space fight, he still barely registers. On the show, he was the action guy and Picard was the sit-back-and-think-about-it guy. Here, Picard gets to do the action. This leaves the thinking to Riker. Hence Riker’s smaller role in the movies.

Worf’s role is trumped up a bit, thanks to the practical necessity of getting him on the Enterprise in the first place.

The rest of the cast just sort of hover around, waiting for Picard to initiate the next plot point.

The guest cast is excellent. This may be the greatest guest cast assembled for any Star Trek movie. Into Darkness had a majorly impressive one, but the movie sucked. The 2009 reboot had a great one, with Bana as Nero, Nimoy as Spock, Hemsworth and Morrison as Kirk’s parents, and Bruce Greenwood stealing the show as Captain Pike. Montalban, Besch, Butrick, Winfield, and Alley were great in Wrath of Khan. Pound for pound, my money for best guest cast goes to this movie. James Cromwell’s Cochrane is hilarious and sad at the same time. Alice Krige is creepy and slimy and evil. But what is most impressive about her performance – and please don’t tell me I’m alone in this – she plays it kinda sexy. It is very uncomfortable. Great villain.


The standout among the guest cast is Alfre Woodard. This movie would not be one of the greats if it weren’t for her. She’s the forgotten hero of history and she knows it. For whatever reason, she’s hanging around this loser who will someday become the hero of the galaxy. And Picard gives her a peek at what her work will accomplish. She will be forgotten, but her work will lead to amazing technologies and unprecedented peace within mankind. She gives us the sense that she doesn’t understand, but sees the edges of it. And her scenes with Picard, challenging this future boy, are fantastic.

This is a big, loud action movie, but it’s not vapid, like the modern big, loud Star Treks. This action movie hinges on time travel, another classic Trek conceit, and somehow builds suspense, a classic Trek trick. The big baddie is a perfect choice for the movie. They’re popular among fans. And they’re about six or so years old at this point, so if they’d waited much longer the creepiness would have expired. They’re famous enough that lay fans know enough about them to keep up. And they’re creepy enough, and easily explained, so the complete newbie can get what’s going on. (It’s me. I was the newbie. We all gotta start somewhere!)

The story is great. The performances are top-notch. And, best of all, the style of story-telling is different from the TV show. As great as the show was, this is how a Star Trek movie is made.

There’s a new Enterprise too! I wasn’t anticipating this, as I’m sure most Trekkies were at the time. I can dig it. I like it more now than I did at first. My problem with the design was that it undermined what made the classic ship so cool. Aerodynamics are pointless in space. This ship seems overly reliant (so to speak) on the flying saucer, which I don’t like. The Enterprise doesn’t need to look fast. But this design has grown on me over the years. Exploring it in Elite Force II helped me to appreciate what they were going for. It’s basically an upgraded war-class version of the D. That’s what comes across anyway. That makes sense for the direction the movies take the otherwise peaceful explorers, plunking them into dangerous places. There are no kids on this ship!


As franchises go, Star Trek is my favorite. Hands down. I’m not a huge TV-watcher, so I haven’t seen every episode of every Star Trek. And I rarely re-watch movies or TV shows. But the show that I have watched more of, and in more repeated viewings, is Star Trek. Even the last film on this list will probably be viewed several more times by me. Even though I love it all, I am also capable of viewing it critically. This is the last of the “which I like more” Star Trek movies. From here on out, the movies are being ranked by which I dislike less.At this point on the list.  I’m still going from best to worst. This is just where I stop loving the movies, and start disliking them.

The list so far:

The Wrath of Khan

The Undiscovered Country

The Voyage Home

The Search for Spock

The Motion Picture

First Contact

Things I like that should become Christmas presents. For me, or your friend. COMICS

DC Earth One

DC’s Earth One series of graphic novels are very accessible to the new or mildly interested comic reader. I still haven’t read Superman Volume Two (it’s brand new!), but the first volumes of Superman and Batman were pretty cool. The Batman one is especially cool. It’s easy these days to dismiss the origin stories of the big superheroes. We’ve seen it all before. It seems like a new reboot comes out every other year in the comics and the movies. These comics are quite refreshing. The origin stories are retold refreshingly, changing just enough to edge these costumed weirdos that much closer to reality. Or, at least a comic book version of reality you don’t see in Superman and Batman comics very often.

And, I love origin stories. I don’t get tired of hearing the same story over and over. After all, aren’t all stories just reiterations of the same basic Jungian narrative anyway? The Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige, etc.

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The New 52





Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who

Assimilation²

This was the comics event of the year. Star Trek and Doctor Who! Together!

I haven’t checked these out yet (I’m a wait-for-the-trade kind of guy), but they look amazing!

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New Star Trek comics

Okay. These are super nerdy.
Episodes from the original series are retold as comic books using the countenances of the cast of the new movies.
I love stuff like this. Here are the first four bound collections. Four stories in each collection.

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More New Star Trek comics

Here’s a smattering of other Star Trek comics that are now, or soon to be, available. I’ve read most of Byrne’s Trek comics and they are clearly put together by a man who loves the old show. The spirit of the show, especially that of the isolated first pilot episode, is well resurrected here.
And I just love the TNG comics put out by DC in the early 90s.

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Wow. Phil Noto is a fantastic artist. I got this one for my birthday and it is a really great story to spend an evening with.
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This is one that I’ve heard a lot about am anxious to get a copy!

I haven’t read any of these yet either, but they were recently recommended to me. My friend said they’re reality-bending, which is enough to sell me. That plus the gorgeous literary covers ensure I will have to at least give it a look.

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These look cool!

Things I like that should become Christmas presents. For me, or your friend. MOVIES

The Dark Knight Trilogy

My most anticipated movie of the year was probably Dark Knight Rises. I still haven’t decided how I feel about Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman movies. I enjoyed pretty well while I was watching it. I’m a little unsure about the solution…
Still. Batman Begins and Dark Knight remain truly excellent films. They will probably stand as the great superhero films.

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Batman:

The Dark Knight Returns

These look fantastic! I really enjoyed last year’s Batman Year One. I expect the same level of attention was paid in the production of this two-part adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic.

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Justice League: Doom

Superman vs The Elite

Here are DC’s other two animated features from 2012. Both look pretty well made. That Justice League one looks like a ton of fun!

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Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One

So you already have The Avengers. And Iron Man. Maybe you skipped Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. Well, here are all the feature films of Marvel’s Phase One cinematic initiative in one place. Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.

So that’s the good news. The bad news: the release date has been pushed back to Spring 2013.

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Lord of the Rings Extended Editions

Don’t drool now.
Five discs for each film. Extended cuts.

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Planet of the Apes series and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The classic films and the modern prequel-ish thing have some beautiful sets to lust after.

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Alien Anthology and Prometheus

Check out the first two excellent films! And remind yourself that the crappy prequel wasn’t as bad as the third and fourth movies!

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Blu Ray Collection

What better way to lead in to next year’s grand finale.

David Suchet has expertly played the finicky detective since 1989. 1989!! The first six series (a total of thirteen will be completed next year) are now available on Blu-Ray.

Parfait!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation, season two on blu ray

Who could forget this beauty? The Next Generation continues to be released on high quality blu ray format box sets. This one has a boatload of extras. But most fans are eager for the top notch digital upgrade applied to every episode.

This is one of my favorite periods in Star Trek. I just love Dr Pulaski. She was a bit of life added to a show with a cast of characters that easily bored me. As much as I love the Enterprise D, I found the interpersonal success enjoyed by her crew insipid. Dr Pulaski was a real person – maybe the only believable person on the show. She had great skill and knowledge, like the other crew members, but she was also prideful. While I normally wouldn’t encourage prideful behavior, I find hers to be honest and refreshingly presented. Here was a character that sometimes failed. She had doubts. She had prejudices. And, most interesting for the narrative, she was a character that could change/grow.

This season marks the only appearances of Dr Pulaski in all of filmed Star Trek.

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Bond 50

I love Bond. I’ve seen them all (well, all except Skyfall and I haven’t seen that yet because I’m an idiot). Connery’s my favorite. There’s no contest. Daniel Craig is great and his movies are good. But he’s no Connery.

Skip Roger Moore. I couldn’t stand his Bond movies when I was a kid. I tolerated them when I was older, my hand at diplomacy. I’ve returned to be annoyed at them.

Dalton is fine. Brosnan was in one good one and three increasingly stupid other ones.

How many great flicks are on this set? Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Casino Royale.

How many good ones? Most of the others are good.

How many total stinkers? Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, Moonraker, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day are all pretty hard to get through.

27% Great
27% Stink
45% Okay

That’s about right for Bond.

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Road to Avonlea

and

Anne of Green Gables

My wife and I don’t watch a ton of TV…well, we do but we don’t watch anything broadcast. So we watch our DVD sets. I usually let her pick. (It’s an easy way to die to myself!) Her TV choices range more to the girly and kiddie than mine would, but I tend to enjoy whatever it is anyway! She recently watched through the entire Road to Avonlea series, which is a spin-off from the excellent first two Anne of Green Gables TV-films.

The entire seven seasons have received the digital restoration treatment.

Road to Avonlea: The Complete First Season
Road to Avonlea: The Complete Second Season
Road to Avonlea Season 3
Road to Avonlea: Season 4
Road to Avonlea Season 5

And the movie that started it all:

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Once Upon a Time

Here’s one that my lady loves to watch and I can only tolerate. It has a lot going for it, but I feel like I’m watching TV when I’m watching this TV show. And that’s a bad thing. Maybe I’m asking for too much.

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For the kid