Publisher: Spectrum Holobyte
Developer: Spectrum Holobyte
Platform: DOS; Macintosh
With characters, actors, visuals, and sounds straight from one of my favorite television shows, I figured this game would have a hard time displeasing me. But it missed on all cylinders, and probably needs a new warp drive to boot.
In A Final Unity, you find the Enterprise unwillingly involved in a Garidian civil war and later in a race with the Garidians and Romulans to discover the power behind the mythological Unity Device. Several missions await, and on the way you run into Ferengi, Klingons, Vulcans, and a few new alien species. The plot is dished out slowly and effectively in gameplay and cut scenes, culminating in a satisfying end game reminiscent of Judgement Rites.
Sadly, the plot is the only redeeming quality of the game outside from what the show itself brought to the table. The ship interface is downright maddening. The battle station and engineering are simultaneously slow and confusing, let alone uninteresting. While you can leave the controls up to Worf and La Forge, respectively, I was left yearning for the system in the Interplay games, which says a lot. Navigation is damn near impossible when the game doesn’t automatically set the course and speed for you. You’re given a three-dimensional view of space, and discerning between sectors, neutral zones, and nebulae is a puzzle in itself. Finally, Starfleet gives many vague orders that are misleading at times. Sometimes, the plot advances simply by waiting for an indefinite period of time, with little clue that waiting, is in fact, what advances the game.
If that were all, I could forgive this section of the game. But away team missions are not much better. You can take any member of the crew on your away teams, and who you take matters very little, most of the time. Each crew member is given a ton of generic responses to every possible action and are not always in character. Who you control on the away mission is also usually irrelevant, and more or less is up to whose voice you’d rather hear at that moment. And while there are some conversation trees, there are rarely consequences for saying the wrong things until the end game, where you must control Picard. The puzzles themselves are fine, with some creative and original ideas and some clunkers. Regardless, some of the puzzles simply involve, again, too much waiting.
Yet, all of these faults pale in comparison to the most glaring atrocity in A Final Unity. The series was a veritable joy to watch week in and week out for two reasons. The first one, intelligent and engaging stories, is present. But there was hardly an episode of TNG where I wasn’t laughing out loud on several occasions. There was a sense of humour underlining nearly every story, and sadly, there is absolutely nothing worthy of a laugh, or even a smile, in this game. Riker makes no mention of his exploits with women. Data doesn’t ramble off his thesaurus nor makes any social faux-paus. Worf doesn’t even get to say, “Klingons do not play video games!” In short, the characters, while having the voices of their original actors, had none of the charm or personality. A significant reason for my enjoyment of 25th Anniversary and Judgment Rites was how well the writers embodied the characters and integrated them into the story. The rivalry between Bones and McCoy was there, as well as Scottie’s pleas in vain about the damage to engineering. And William Shatner’s overacting was funny enough on its own accord. I was hoping that perhaps Wesley Crusher could make an appearance so Picard could belt out, “Get the boy off my bridge!” But, alas.
If you are a hard-core fan of Star Trek, you will probably enjoy this game, at least to some degree. But I found this adventure, despite the few positives, an insult to the fans.
December’s proving to be especially busy so I’m going to go simple and throw up some reviews I had on my old site. Sierra certainly didn’t have a monopoly on awful games; they just had a lot of the more expensively produced ones. Over the next two weeks you can get a little taste of ten horrific games I sat all the way through so you don’t have to.
Then after that Death By Troggles will be taking the rest of the year off and hopefully come back with a fresh new site design!
I enjoyed this exercise, if nothing else because I was able to educate myself on some directors I was only vaguely aware of, and discover movies by directors I like. I don’t have any statistics for you today, but if you’re so inclined, give me your thoughts and feedback. Maybe drop down a list of your top five directors? Did I miss a director you love? I’ve loved what I’ve seen from Sidney Lumet, but I haven’t seen much.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by. News about what’s coming up to come this weekend!
I know this doesn’t really fit in with my theme about directors, but there’s at least one director here I’ve seen three movies from, so I figured while I was honoring him I’d throw in the embarrassingly short list of other foreign films. Recommendations, please!
Three Colors: Blue
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
The French flag has three colors that stand for liberty (blue), equality (white), and fraternity (red). The following three movies address modern French society focusing on each of these ideals. Each movie is also washed over in their responding color. As for Blue, Juliette Binoche shines in this overbearingly depressing (but surprisingly hopeful) movie about how she copes with the death of her husband and son. The use of music and color is my favorite of the three movies.
Three Colors: White
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
As opposed to the other two movies, White is primarily a comedy, albeit with strong dramatic elements as well. A Frenchmen connects with a Polish immigrant whose wife wants to divorce him because of poor performance in bed. Critically considered the weaker of the three films but it’s easily my favorite. Not only was I laughing quite a bit, I also found it quite touching and spirit-lifting.
Three Colors: Red
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
A model discovers her neighbor, a judge, taps into other people’s phone calls purely for his own amusement. Generally considered to the best of the series and it holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My least favorite, however, as while it’s exceptionally crafted and splendidly interweaves characters from all the movies, I found I was unable to connect with it emotionally like the other two.
Director: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza
Short, powerful horror movie for those who can deal with shaky camera. A reporter goes on a ride-along with the fire department and while on a call to an apartment to help a sick lady, winds up quarantined along with the firemen. Remade as Quarantine in America, though the original is better acted and thus more intense.
Director: Hyun-seung Lee
A man moves into his new place and finds a letter in his mailbox asking him to forward mail to the previous owner. He soon learns that he and this woman are separated by two years in the time continuum but are able to communicate through the mailbox. Fun premise, but ends up be very predictable and schmaltzy. Well-shot. I almost prefer the American remake with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. Almost.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Brilliant concept, as we witness a horrific crime from three different perspectives of those involved. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into it. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, an era thing, or just a personal thing, but despite being very intrigued, I was more or less bored out of my skull from start to finish. Certainly can’t complain about the acting or the camera work, though.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
A poor village under attack by bandits hires seven samurai to help defend themselves. It’s long, epic in scope, and takes a little bit of patience to get into. But Kurosawa unravels powerful characters, emotionally intense battle scenes, and stunning cinematography.
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
After people die, they spend a week with counselors who will help them recreate one memory from their life that get to relive for eternity. Filmed sort of like a documentary. Slow at times, and not as insightful into the human spirit as I would have hoped, but amusing and occasionally poignant. Never feels trite.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
A man accidentally gets into a time machine and goes back one hour. The consequences of such a short time jump soon become disastrous as he soon finds out. Intriguing, well-acted, and never insults the viewer. Easily my second favorite time travel movie after Back to the Future.
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
A women gets terminal cancer and is left by her husband, so she throws caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, picking up two teenage boys along the way, just for fun. That premise doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enjoyable and heartwarming. A little sexy, a little funny. Beautiful cinematography. Not sure if it was just our copy, but the subtitles were in yellow, and being as this was shot in Mexico, that color often was the same as the scenery itself, which made for some annoying moments that I had to quickly rush to the screen to read what was being said.
Director: Guilleromo del Toro
A beautiful and dark fantasy movie about a girl in 1944 fascist Spain who is sent to live with her stepfather, a captain in the army and kind of a monster. She meets a fairy and a faun who send her on a gruesome quest to prove her royalty and be reconnected with her father, the real king. I don’t typically like fantasy, but I found this extraordinarily moving.
The Lives of Others
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
We follow an interrogator for the East German police who is sent to spy on a playwright who is suspected of writing anti-East German scripts. In the beginning, he’s cold and calculated, but slowly begins to become disillusioned with his job and his country as he spies on the playwright. The most moved I have ever been while watching a movie. Donnersmarck hits all the right notes, gets an exceptional performance out of Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, and leaves us with an absolute perfect ending. My second favorite movie. Flawless.
Possibly the most recognizable director in the world, Spielberg is certainly one of the best at making blockbuster movies really entertaining. He almost never goes for straight comedy, but his movies almost always have good laughs. Some of his worse movies have been sequels, suggesting he may have a weakness for resting on his laurels, though being okay with sequels gave us Last Crusade. He’s great at casting, not always finding the best actor, but almost always someone who fits the role. And since most of the roles in his movies don’t require significant character depth, it works. And while he’s not generally groundbreaking with camera techniques, he’s not afraid to take on really difficult projects with epic scope or heavy drama. He’s definitely earned his reputation.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Dumb, pointless sequel that does a terrible job of building off the first movie. I don’t know how much of that is on Spielberg vs. Michael Crichton, but I’m pretty sure this movie doesn’t need to exist. Love the scene in the field, though.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: I’m most definitely in the minority here, but in general I’m not a fan of movies that glorify children and make adults mean and/or stupid. Perhaps because of this I didn’t find it as moving as everyone else does. Some amusing scenes.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Somewhat enjoyable in the theater, but upon reflection is just really insulting, going for cheap and easy laughs while poorly developing every character. Spielberg’s inability or unwillingness to take control of this project and let George Lucas call all the shots really killed it. Spielberg liked Frank Darabont’s script. Ford liked Darabont’s script. Spielberg was quoted as saying he wanted no CGI. But Lucas likes David Koepp (who is decent, but also wrote Death Becomes Her) and Lucas likes CGI. In fact, this movie is responsible for the phrase “nuking the fridge”, usurping the similarly meaning “jumping the shark” from over thirty years earlier. It was probably never going to be as good as the hype, especially with the decision to cast Shia Lebouf and Sean Connery bowing out, but we’ll never know how good it could have been had Spielberg had full reins.
Saving Private Ryan: The first half hour is brutal, gutsy filmmaking, which unfortunately activated serious PTSD symptoms for a lot of men who lived through D-Day. For people like me who barely know which end of a gun the bullet comes out, it was refreshing to get a honest depiction of war, even for a little while. The rest of the movie is a drama about Tom Hanks finding this private (Matt Damon) who has lost all his siblings and is being recalled home. It’s fine, but didn’t do much for me, especially with an ending that has Mr. Ryan asking a very poignant question to the audience, but before we can even mull it over, Ryan’s wife answers it for us. Gee, thanks for that.
Catch Me If You Can: Based on a true story, we have Tom Hanks chasing another person, Leonardo DiCaprio, a young man who has made a career out of forging checks and his identity to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Not terribly gripping, but a lot of fun. DiCaprio is perfect for this role and he nails it.
Minority Report: Tom Cruise works for a futuristic law enforcement agency which has the ability to see murders before they happen, then intervene before the perpetrator has a chance to commit the crime. However, the perp still gets prosecuted as if he committed the crime anyway. This is all fine and dandy until Cruise gets seen murdering someone; of course, he can’t imagine he’d ever do so, and before he gets apprehended, goes on the lam, desperate to clear his name. Engaging premise and a lot of fun. Cruise is capable in the role. I wish it were more than just an action movie.
Jurassic Park: Crichton’s famous book about a dinosaur park gone bad is pretty thrilling with occasional corniness and some plot holes that are easy to ignore considering the ride. Really tense in some parts, and convincing dinosaurs (other than, you know, the non-existent mutant raptors).
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Gets kind of a bad rap among the original Indy trilogy, though I hear less and less about that since Crystal Skull came out. Completely lacks depth and character development, but it is a prequel that visits Indiana Jones before he began to have feelings, so it’s not entirely unintentional. Casting his then wife as the heroine (Kate Capshaw) was a bad idea, as her sexy to annoying ratio is quite lopsided compared to Karen Allen, though the script is largely to blame for that as well. But the movie is still fun and has many action-packed scenes, which is kind of the point. Jonathan Ke-Quan does a great job as Short Round, and the special effects work is amazing. The final scene on the bridge is a fantastic example of creative film-making without the help of computers.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: While I find the movie’s finale a little bit of a letdown, Richard Dreyfuss is simply masterful as the line worker who encounters a UFO and gets drawn into the wilderness to discover the truth. I haven’t seen this movie in about twenty years and I can still vividly remember those tones.
Jaws: While I found this a bit frightening as a kid thanks to the music and the shark, I find this even more haunting as an adult as I have a greater understanding of the isolation and emotional trauma these men experience. Dreyfuss is great again, as is Roy Scheider, but the knockout performance comes from Robert Shaw, who is probably scarier than the shark they’re hunting.
Lincoln: A truly epic look into Lincoln the man and his motivations to end slavery, only briefly touching on the more famous historic events such as Gettysburg and his assassination. Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional as Lincoln, and I found myself laughing way more than I thought I would. Watches more like a good history lesson than a good movie, but it’s a really good history lesson.
Schindler’s List: Based on the life of Oskar Schindler who, while working for the Nazis, secretly rescued a bunch of Jews. One of the most emotionally powerful things I’ve ever seen, which is marred only by a completely fabricated Hollywood feel-good speech by Schindler at the end. Shot entirely in black and white and it works. Superb cast. Ralph Feinnes really stands out as one of the bad guys, and Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson are great as well. Excellent touch at the end to have people who were personally rescued by Schindler honoring him at his grave.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A bit disjointed at times, feeling like they had a bunch of great ideas for scenes and just glued them together. But they work on their individual merits, despite how preposterous most of them are (an underground tomb in Venice!) The camerawork is really excellent, providing (along with John Williams) the thrills an adventure needs. But what really helps this movie is Sean Connery, who plays Indy’s father perfectly, giving significantly more depth to Indy’s character. The opening with River Phoenix as young Indy is unnecessary, but it’s fun enough that it was worth keeping in.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The perfect adventure movie for those who like anti-heroes. A simple, coherent plot that quickly assigns good guys and bad guys, but gives the bad guys motivations other than just being bad, and the good guys motivations other than being good. Karen Allen is a perfect love interest for Indy, and John Rhys-Davies is wonderful as his convenient Middle Eastern friend. The only significant fault I can find in this movie (and it applies to Last Crusade as well), is that Indy fails at overcoming the bad guy both times and can only idly stand and watch as their arrogance gets themselves killed. Talk about anti-climactic. But more than making up for it is the duel between Indy and the swordsman, which was Ford’s idea as he had dysentery and couldn’t engage in an elaborate fight scene. A lot of brilliance comes accidentally; Spielberg had the insight to see it when it fell in his lap.
Other Steven Spielberg Movies You May Have Seen
War of the Worlds
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
The Adventures of Tintin
Empire of the Sun
The Color Purple
The Twilight Zone: The Movie
The Sugarland Express
One thing that Zemeckis really has excelled at in his career is taking chances. He was the first director to make a major movie that had actors acting with cartoon characters. He was the first director to use technology that allowed the same actor to interact with himself as another character in the same shot. As a young director he fired his primary actor who had shot nearly all of his scenes and replaced him. He made a movie where over half of it contains virtually no dialogue. He’s not a great director. He seems unable to elevate a mediocre script, leaving good actors out in the cold. But there’s a few things he’s good at, and he’s very good at them.
Death Becomes Her: Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn compete for Bruce Willis’s love, duking it out Mortal Kombat style as they’ve both consumed immortality treatments that literally makes them survive everything. This should have been good, but the script is really lacking. The special effects are good for the time but even at the age of twelve I was really unimpressed with everything.
What Lies Beneath: Michelle Pfeiffer has been seeing a ghost, so she investigates while her professor husband (Harrison Ford) suffers the consequences. It starts out interesting with some genuinely suspenseful scenes, and then completely derails in the final third.
Forrest Gump: Tom Hanks is developmentally disabled and fatherless, learning his lessons in life from his mama Sally Field and his best friend Jenny (Robin Wright). Somehow he is able to join the Army in Vietnam, which leads to a number of crazy successes in life as he becomes a table tennis champion, inspires T-shirts, talks to JFK, runs his own shrimp company with the help of Army buddy Gary Sinise, and so on. It’s certainly engaging and the acting performances are top-notch, but as a dramatic story it does little for me. Plus, his relationship with Jenny really starts to make me uncomfortable by the end.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A really cool premise, as the worlds of Hollywood and Toon Town literally meet. The plot is simply a standard detective story, but the jazz comes from real actors engaging with cartoons, completely unheard of 1988. Kathleen Turner does a good job as the sultry Jessica Rabbit, while Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd are capable acting with their toon co-stars. A bit of a novelty these days, but still watchable.
Contact: Based on Carl Sagan’s story of a girl (Jodie Foster) whose father encourages her scientific spirit and then goes and dies on her, fueling her drive into an all-work, no-play life searching the stars. She discovers what is believed to be plans from an alien species to build a spaceship to go visit them. Politics soon enter the discussion which naturally miffs Foster. More drama than science-fiction, exploring and contrasting Foster’s atheist views to the politicians and other scientists who get to decide whether or not she’ll be allowed to make first contact. Matthew McConaughey is fine but he was miscast as Foster’s lover slash Christian counterpart. Foster is superb and really makes the movie watchable.
Back to the Future Part III: The final movie in the trilogy sees Marty and Doc end up in the Old West, trying to stay alive while figuring out how to get the Delorean to work with 1885 technology. As a western it’s a bit lacking, with an obvious set and a non-authentic atmosphere. As a time travel movie it’s lacking, as the movie focuses mostly on it being a western. However, as a character piece, it’s really quite good. Doc’s character grows by leaps and bounds as he falls in love with a schoolteacher (Mary Steenburgen) who was supposed to die, and Christopher Lloyd hits a home run with his performance. Unfortunately, Marty doesn’t really develop for the second movie in a row, and is there just for comic relief (which Fox is good at). Despite its flaws I can’t help but watch it whenever it’s on thanks to all of the charm. I just wish the ending was more satisfying.
Back to the Future Part II: The second movie in the series is utterly preposterous, with the primary characters ignoring the obvious several times, making things harder on themselves just to serve the wacky plot, which sees our main characters time travel relentlessly. From a plot perspective, this movie is only here to set up the third movie. There’s no significant character development. However, it’s a hell of a lot of fun thanks to Zemeckis’ and Bob Gale’s vision of the future as well as forcing Marty and Doc to revisit 1955 and run into their own selves from the previous movie. Fox playing four separate characters (including his daughter) is also fun. Zemeckis is a master at exposition. So many times in these movies Doc has to go on a rant, trying to explain the intricacies of time travel to Marty (and the audience), and makes it interesting every time. Christopher Lloyd helps as usual, as he really becomes his character.
Cast Away: Tom Hanks, a FedEx employee whose life is run by the clock, winds up the sole survivor of a plane crash and finds himself alone on an island without any communication to the civilized world. The movie is bookended by ho-hum drama elements involving Hanks’ relationship with Helen Hunt, but the hour and a half or so that focuses on Hanks’ struggles on the island (and getting off it) is brilliant movie-making. With the only dialogue being Hanks talking to himself (and even that goes away after a while), the movie must rely on Hanks’ acting and Zemeckis’ directing to explore the isolation, fear, and depression that Hanks goes through. They succeed.
Back to the Future: The hallmark time travel movie (and my favorite movies) sees Michael J. Fox accidentally go back in time and accidentally prevent his parents from hooking up. After seeing this at least a hundred times, I can confidently say that Gale and Zemeckis created as flawless a script as possible. While it’s easily watchable for kids thanks to quotable one-liners, fun music and suspenseful action, there are layers and layers of intricacy weaved in to make it watchable by adults repeatedly. The movie never insults the viewer by overexplaining things, all the while effectively getting buy-in to this world where time travel is possible. Easter Eggs are plenty, and repeated viewings reveal double-meaning in nearly every line of dialogue. Zemeckis somehow manages to weave in incest themes without making it trite or uncomfortable. It also helps that Crispin Glover puts in a dynamite performance as Fox’s father. Despite the amazing scripts, I wonder how successful this would have been with a separate cast. I’ve seen a couple of scenes with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, and he just didn’t have the comedic energy that Fox has. Plus, Christopher Lloyd has to the best crazy scientist ever. He’s such a master at subtlety, which makes his over-the-top character work.
Other Robert Zemeckis Movies You May Have Seen
A Christmas Carol (2009)
The Polar Express
Romancing the Stone
Another seemingly average but competent director who makes mostly inoffensive comedies, some funnier than others.
Greedy: Kirk Douglas is rich and dying and his family and friends (Michael J. Fox, Nancy Travis, Olivia d’Abo, Phil Hartman, Ed Begley Jr.) are trying to get into his good graces. Of course he recognizes this and has something up his sleeve. Douglas is easily the highlight here, but this is pretty by the numbers and not as funny as it could have been.
Trial and Error: Jeff Daniels is defending Rip Torn in a class action suit but he gets so hammered the day before trial he can’t make it. Rather than ask for a continuance or anything remotely logical, he sends in his actor friend Michael Richards to take his place, coaching him along the way. Meanwhile, Daniels starts a romance with Charlize Theron. Better than it has any right to be, with some genuinely funny moments and an engaging cast.
The Distinguished Gentleman: Eddie Murphy plays a con-man who gets elected to Congress as kind of a joke, but then when he gets there he takes exception to how easily influenced his colleagues are by lobbyists and begins to make changes. Predictable and as a political lesson is not to be taken seriously. Murphy was still charming in 1992 which helps keep this watchable.
Clue: Six guests (based on their board game characters) at a strange house must unravel a murder mystery. Appropriately plays the premise for slapstick and parody. Sometimes a bit contrived, but it’s forgiven considering its comedic nature. Tim Curry is brilliant, while the supporting cast puts in some good performances as well, notably Christopher Lloyd and Madeline Kahn. When this was release in theaters, viewers had a chance of seeing one of three separate endings. Talk about a wonderfully fun and manipulative marketing ploy. These days, of course, one can see all three endings simultaneously. Guessing the killer is fun but the modi operandi are so preposterous that it’s mostly just for fun.
My Cousin Vinny: Joe Pesci helps his cousin, falsely accused of murder in a small town, by defending him in his first case as a lawyer. He’s mostly clueless on even the most basic aspects of law and courtroom etiquette, but with the help of his fiancee Marisa Tomei, he uses his guile and desperation (if he wins, they’ll get married) to win over the jury. Pesci and Tomei are perfect together, and Pesci’s antics are hilarious to this day.
Other Jonathan Lynn Movies You May Have Seen
Nuns on the Run
The Whole Nine Yards
The Fighting Temptations