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[Netflix Digest] – For The Love Of Spock & Spectral

 

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Posted January 23, 2017 by

 
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A review digest for films you can watch right now on Netflix!

For The Love Of Spock:

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Japan has the Power Rangers, the UK has Doctor Who, and the United States has Star Trek. All these long-standing franchises are constantly renewed, rebooted, or regenerated for new generations. Star Trek began in 1966 with a series that ran for 69 episodes. From there, Star Trek evolved into 13 movies, five television series, and many cartoons, books, video games and more. Over the years, Star Trek created a lot of fantastic characters, but few, if any, are as beloved as uber-logical Mr. Spock. It’s this character that became the focus of a new documentary, FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, but much like the Enterprise, this documentary badly goes much further.

For The Love Of Spock is a documentary film written and directed by Adam Nimoy who is the son of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock. As Adam explains in the movie, the documentary began as an in-depth look into the character his father created with Gene Roddenberry. But on February 27th, 2015, Leonard Nimoy passed away. Suddenly, Adam’s doc shifted into a whole new direction and became en exploration of his father, far beyond Leonard’s space-faring, super-smart Vulcan. It’s that change, I believe, that makes For The Love Of Spock so much more transcendent than simply a tribute to a pop culture character.

The film details Leonard Nimoy’s rise through Hollywood as a character actor, his stardom as Spock, and his long and varied career afterward. Spock was a hard act to follow, but Nimoy starred in many roles including two seasons on Mission: Impossible, host of the documentary series In Search Of, and guest star on Fringe. In the late 80s and early 90s, Nimoy directed several feature film hits including Star Trek III, Star Trek IV, and Three Men And A Baby. Between all that success, the doc delves into the man behind the entertainment and weaves in the story of a driven father and an alienated son.

The story of family, father, and son is what elevates For The Love Of Spock from genre fan fun into a must-see documentary. You don’t need to like, or even now much about, Star Trek to connect with what’s going on. Though the title is blatantly speaking to Star Trek fans, the substance of the documentary takes us into the life of a hard-working father and the struggles of family.

Television roles, albums, movies, books, and more, define the career of renaissance man Leonard Nimoy. The man who spread the simple message “Live long, and prosper” to the rest of the world is lovingly remembered in For The Love Of Spock. It’s a documentary that puts on display the incredible creativity of Nimoy without hiding that the man from another world was very much human.

Ratings:

Direction 5
Writing 4
Performance 4
Sound & Music 3
Cinematography 3
Editing 4
Visual Effects 2

 

Spectral:

Spectral

There’s no slowing down of Netflix’s content creation machine. The leading streaming service routinely puts out new shows, comedy specials, documentaries, and films. The quantity is impressive, but the quality is even more impressive. More often than not, Netflix produced dramas look great and feature a host of talented cast and crew. SPECTRAL, a new Netflix Original feature film, is one part Ghostbusters, one part Aliens and a dash of X-COM. Does it all work? Well, it looks great.

Spectral stars James Badge Dale as Dr. Mark Clyne, a DARPA scientist sent on a mission into war-torn Moldovia. It’s there that the Clyne learns that soldiers have been using his imaging system and it’s picked up a strange new enemy. The ghost-like specters move through walls and freeze soldiers to death among being impervious to weapons. Fran Madison (Emily Mortimer) is a CIA agent in charge of operations in the area, and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, 2009) is General Orland. Both work with Clyne to figure out a way to stop the specters.

As I mentioned above, Spectral looks great. Director Nic Mathieu paints a lovely picture. The war-torn cityscapes of Moldovia are slick and crisp even for something so apocalyptic. The use of CG is smart and subtle most of the time. The only exception is a piece of equipment utilized by the soldiers which walks around almost like a giant metal gorilla or horse. In less competent movies, this kind of machine would look awkward or get little screen time. But not so much in Spectral where Mathieu made it look fantastic and makes it a part of the action and not just a prop. The action and imagery are fun, including the creepy specters.

Spectral is consistent throughout. The acting is solid, particularly for the leads. It’s got a

touch of Aliens with the rag-tag group of soldiers though none particularly stand out. Spectral just never completely comes together. The story and characters feel vastly underwritten and matter-of-factly. Spectral’s biggest problem is its adherence to the current Hollywood formula. From a business point-of-view, it’s a smart move to mimic the success of billion dollar movies like Avengers or Star Wars. But unless you nail it by filling it with a little more flavor and color, the formula feels like a drag. It’s the difference between Avengers and Age of Ultron. Avengers is energetic and moves briskly, while Ultron plods along, hitting formula checkmarks along the way. Spectral hits a lot of the checkmarks, including those that should be left unchecked.

I put Spectral into my, “got nothing else to watch on a lazy day” category. It’s entertaining. The concept of supernatural science fiction is interesting, and the visuals were well-done. The lack of any real characters, scares, or tension won’t make you care much for a sequel even if the film’s ending wants you to. However, the near-future setting and technology is a world that Netflix could build upon with a follow-up or series. But it’s up to viewers to decide if they want to invest in more of what little there is.

Ratings:

Direction 3
Writing 2
Performance 3
Sound & Music 2.5
Cinematography 3.5
Editing 2.5
Visual Effects 3

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Ruben R. Diaz
@RMartian
Freelance Contributor

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