Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (First Contact / Generations / Insurrecti

Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture CollectionI just received my TNG Blu-Ray set from Amazon. After the TOS set, which had a decidedly mixed quality, I was ready to give this set some tough scrutiny. Happily, I can report that A/V quality is superior to the previous set, and the extras and packaging share the same quality with that set.

The films:

Generations I find this movie to be underrated. The intro sequence aboard the Enterprise B is just a terrific bit of continuity expanding coolness. The emotional weight of the movie is great, and although it falls into the "big villain" syndrome, the big villain is 1. played by Malcolm McDowell, 2. is realistic in his motivations and his abilities. The only failings in my book are some torpid pacing in the "Nexus" scenes, and some painful Data scenes. Still, this is a movie that I appreciate more each time I watch it.

First Contact this is everyone's pick for "2nd best of all time" (after "Khan" of course). I'm not going to disagree. It's got a whiz bang action story, the Borg, time travel, good continuity, and great effects. I do think the story sullies the Borg somewhat by introducing the "Queen." But, then again, she is played very well by Alice Krige. As far as time travel, while this wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, it did probably contribute to the trend of too much time travel in Trek.

Insurrection More like an extended episode than a movie, this film has the germ of a good sci-fi story: how much of its scruples will the Federation trade for a technology that could render humanity immortal? Unfortunately, this movie more than most falls prey to the "big villain" syndrome, with an extremely irritating antagonist, the Sona. There is some good fan service, however, with Troi and Riker finally getting together for good. I'd rate this along with some of the so-so two parters in TNG's TV run.

Nemesis Ah, Nemesis. The film that "killed the franchise." The one which necessitated a "Reboot." The one which pooped on several characters and even a few races. This movie is riddled with problems from concept through to execution. It ret-cons the Romulans and adds the "Remans." It brings back Wesley as a Starfleet lieutenant, even though he dropped out of the academy to cross dimensions with the Traveler. It introduces Data's mentally challenged brother "B-4," even though his existence is specifically contradicted by several TNG episodes. It shamelessly rips off a TNG episode in which Troi is mentally assaulted. It posits an outlandish clone plot with Captain Picard, as if the Romulans could both obtain his DNA several decades ago as well as anticipate its usefulness in the future. It kills a main character for no apparent reason. About the only thing worthwhile in this film is the wedding of Troi and Riker. The more I see this film, the angrier I get at the complete lack of care that went into its making.

The Blu-Rays:

Unlike the TOS set, the video quality of these 4 films is in general extremely good, and at times spectacular. Though there is a tiny bit of edge enhancement visible at times (Especially on the sailboat in Generations), Digital Noise Reduction is not obtrusive at any point. Detail is extremely strong for the most part, and colors are absolutely vibrant. Black levels are deep and strong, but detail in shadows is still evident. You will want to be sure to check the calibration of your brightness, contrast, and gamma, to get the most from these films (for those without a disc like AVE, try the THX calibrator on "Star Wars" DVDs for some good brightness/contrast patterns).

I would say First Contact is the best transfer of the bunch, but truthfully, all of the final three films are competitive with the upper tier of Blu-Rays on the market today. Only Generations shows its age a bit, but it still looks very good better than all but ST2 in the TOS set. Insurrection and Nemesis betray a bit of color banding in clouds and space scenes, but it is not oppressive. Some standout scenes from all the films in terms of visual quality: Data and Geordi discussing the emotion chip (Generations). The opening pull-back in First Contact. The establishing shot of the Baku homeworld in Insurrection (known as a torture test for 3:2 pulldown on DVD).

Audio is presented in a set of aggressive 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD mixes. All of them work well, with lots of surround action, deep bass, and clear dialogue.

Packaging is identical to the previous set, with a slipcase and 5 slim BD cases. Art and inserts are all tasteful and good-looking.

Extras include a plethora of commentaries. The most interesting of these are Ron D. Moore and Brannon Braga on Generations and First Contact, and Jonathan (Riker) Frakes and Marina (Troi) Sirtis on Insurrection. Most of the films have multiple commentaries, some have three! The same amount of detail goes into the extras on each film as did the previous set, with most discs recapitulating all of the DVD extras and adding some new ones (such as the execrable "Starfleet Briefings" from the TOS set). Like the previous set, trailers include the 2009 Trek film and a promo for all the recent Trek Blu-Rays. Thankfully, these are skippable.

As far as deleted scenes go, it seems that the DVD extras have been replicated for Blu-Ray. The most interesting are for Nemesis, the deleted scenes being excised "character bits" including "Wesley's New Mission" and "Crusher At Starfleet Medical" that would have made this film feel a lot less generic. Why Paramount has not authorized an extended edition with this material edited into the film is beyond me. It would certainly take some of the bad taste out of true Trekkies' mouths that their favorite characters got short shrift. Unfortunately, all are presented in non-anamorphic 480p, so they look terrible, for the most part.

The main extra is the bonus Blu-Ray, with 77 minutes of new HD documentary footage split into 7 programs. These include investigations into the evolution of the Enterprise, a spotlight on villains, a piece on the movies' influence on fans and Trek creators, an interactive map of the Trek Galaxy, and three (?!) pieces on the Star Trek Experience from Las Vegas. The Enterprise and Villains segments are the best (though still not very good), and I wish they had been expanded and improved. The other pieces are a bit more frivolous. All told, it's definitely not as impressive as the interview disc from the TOS set, but it still should entertain fans at least marginally.


For this price, a Trek fan really can't go wrong with this set. You're getting 4 feature films (two great movies, one good one, and one stinker) with loads of special features and a full disc of (so-so) HD extras. The A/V quality is almost uniformly spectacular, especially in comparison with the TOS set. As far as I'm concerned, this is a must buy for a Trekkie/Trekker with an HD setup. Worth every penny.

**Individual Movies**

This review is for people familiar with the TNG movies in the first place and so I will not touch on them individually, but moreso on the package as a whole. As for the individual movies, in short: "Generations" was cool as it was the first TNG movie and had Picard and Kirk on-screen together, but was overall just OK, "First Contact" is the best Star Trek movie of all time, "Insurrection" is like a long, dull episode, "Nemesis" is OK for action, although lacking overall.

**The Total Package**

The Good:

All 4 Star Trek: The Next Generation movies in one, very nicely priced, collection. "Generations" and "First Contact" both look excellent, with amazing quality, nearly none noticeable film grain, vibrant colors, sound, etc. All 4 movies are just as good as ever, but the higher quality sound/video truly adds to the experience. Most of the extras are nicely done, and include everything from sfx and sound featurettes to top-down maps of the Alpha Quadrant, and although I haven't gone through any of the commentaries, I hear they're all a lot of fun.

The Bad:

"Insurrection" and "Nemesis" don't seem to have received the same treatment as the first two in terms of re-mastering for blu-ray. There is noticeable film grain in nearly all darker scenes (and even moreso in "Nemesis" during the desert scene) -not terrible, but noticeable. It's still higher quality than the DVD's, of course, but you can tell they spent more time re-mastering the first two. Some of the extras are lacking. While there are some really nice ones, for a lot of the deleted scenes and featurretes they've used the exact same featurettes from some of the other Star Trek movies/compilation box sets. This might be nice for people who don't have any of that already, but since it's all still DVD quality or lower (including the deleted scenes), it leaves a bit to be desired.

Bottom Line:

If you like Star Trek TNG and/or are a nerd in general, you'll like this package. It's a ton of fun watching the first scenes of "First Contact" with great picture and sound quality ("We are the Borg..." hell yes!) and Generations has become more enjoyable with the higher quality as well. There are some stunt scenes at the end where you can't help but laugh, knowing when they originally shot the scenes they didn't expect anyone to be watching a higher quality version in the future where you can clearly see stuntmen rather than Shatner, so awesome. Anyways, I hightly recommend it if you're a fan and despite some of the shortcuts, it's a great price for what you get. Heck, I paid more for the DVD's three years ago with an employee discount.

Buy Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (First Contact / Generations / Insurrecti Now

The final bloc of old school Trek films hits Blu-Ray with surprisingly few differences from the standard DVDs. There are no "directors cuts" or variations to make this set a must buy. At the same time, there's little here to make one annoyed at the possibility of a later, better release. Unless Paramount decided to include finished deleted scenes via branching next time around, this is pretty much it. Unless you are bugged by the DNR. Some people are. I'm not since these are the nicest I've seen the films since their first run. However, since they are all recent films, there's little to get excited about in that area. Sounds quality is excellent, I didn't notice anything negative there either.

One really nice thing: they FINALLY provided the trailers to Generations. For some reason, Paramount pulled them at the last minute from the SE DVDs, siting music rights issues (does this make any sense?). Also, the final Nemesis trailer is included on that disc, rather than just the teaser trailer.

Speaking of trailers, the final Star Trek (2009) trailer is on every disc. It is the best of the three trailers, but did we need it on EVERY disc? You can skip right to the menu if you like, and it IS a very nice piece of film. But there you go.

Insurrection was of interest to me as I was excited to finally have a director's commentary by Jonathan Frakes. The SD DVD was lacking one, and since I really enjoyed the First Contact commentary by Frakes, which was informative as well as hysterical, the lack of one on the DVD was a bummer. Becareful what you wish for. Frakes is here, this time partnered with Marina Sirtis. Sadly, it is utterly worthless. She remembers NOTHING about the film and continually asks inane questions about the plot, like a kid seeing it for the first time. Frakes is no better, dropping comments which tell us nothing about the making of the film. Some of it is amusing, particularly when he rags on Sirtis for not remembering a single plot point about the film, but there's a lot of dead air waiting for them to watch more movie before speaking. It's less than two hours; couldn't they watch it once before doing the commentary to refresh the old memory? It's not like Sirtis has a full acting schedule these days. The rest of the time Frakes reads cast and crew credits ("Marty Hornstein...nice guy. Bill Teddmann rest his soul.") or makes jokes about how great his work is (he's a really funny guy, but this was not worth having on the disc).

However, there are one or two moments of refreshing honesty, particularly when Frakes comments on the "British Tar" bit ("this is a long way to go for a gag") and how the ending bugs him, when Data and Artim are in the haystacks ("this is too cute by half"). Otherwise, mostly pointless. There isn't even an alternate commentary like with the other films.

There is relatively little of interest in the new for Blu-Ray features. I found the round table discussions between fans (Larry Nemecek, Jeff Bond, etc.) to be less interesting than I expected. The closing of the Star Trek Experience was both touching and wacko. Do NOT show that to anyone who thinks Trekkies need to get a life and you are trying to convince otherwise. I mean, I hated to see it close too, but I got over it once I left the airport...

Much as I enjoy every Trek film, I didn't get the same excitement with this set as I did the originals. Probably because I wasn't getting versions unavailable since the theatrical run and also because nothing overy exciting was added to the mix. I would love to have seen all of the deleted scenes for Generations and Nemesis finished, rather than work prints (especially since they WERE finished in many cases). The Generations deleted scenes aren't even in anamorphic w/s.

Anyway, I didn't mind the triple dip. I paid only $50 at Best Buy for the 4 movies on BD, which comes to a mere $12.50 per film (less if you count the bonus disc, but I consider it a freebie since I'd never buy it separately). The clarity and sound are much better than standard DVD and since they are pretty recent films, the change isn't that crazy.

Honestly, if you DON'T have a Blu-Ray player, don't worry about it over this set. Aside from the trailers for Generations and Nemesis, you're not missing much. And you can see the trailers on YouTube anytime you like. :-) And if you don't want all of the films, some of them are being released separately. They'll all come out individually, I'm sure. The box set comes with slim cases with sleeves much like the TOS films. The individual BDs are the standard cases with nicer covers. I really an not fond of that, but there you have it.

Read Best Reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (First Contact / Generations / Insurrecti Here

Got this on the cheap on Amazon. Movies look great, looks like most (if not all) of the content from the DVD releases in included. There are a couple of minor new extras, the best being some new interviews with Brent Spiner, but nothing to really get too excited about. The outer package is good with a holographic Enterprise in a nice box, but I HATE the individual blu-ray case designs. Like the original crew film blu-ray collection, instead of the original poster art you get an extreme close-up of one of the crew members. Didn't like it on the original crew film cases, don't like it here!

The films themselves are a mixed bag. Generations is very mediocre, with your standard mad scientist villian and a downright silly plot device to shoehorn Kirk into the film. Plus the way the legendary Captain Kirk is killed is just insultingly bad (a dummy strapped to a bridge, really?!) First Contact is much better, with the great Borg as the villians. There's a bit of retcon going on with the Borg Queen, but it doesn't hurt the film. Great movie. Then you get to Insurrection... Wow, what a crappy movie. Nothing in this film works. Nothing. Plus didn't we already see this movie in the TNG episode "Who Watches The Watchers"?? Plus I kind of agree with the Admiral, isn't moving 400 non-indigenous people worth saving millions? I mean, didn't those people move there to exploit the planet too?? Bad story, bad villian, bad humor. Bad bad bad. Finally we get Nemesis. Frankly the crew just looks tired here. A decent villian (and future Bane) in Tom Hardy, but the cloning story is hackneyed. The introduction of B4 is just totally unnecessary and actually takes away from the emotional impact of the beginning. However, the final space battle is truly impressive. The Enterprise actually uses battle tactics! Lots of fun.

If you don't have the films this is a good purchase. If you are thinking of upgrading then I'm on the fence. Get it on sale.

Want Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (First Contact / Generations / Insurrecti Discount?

This collection pack is great for any enthusiast who is obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and wants a Hi-Def remastered set. However, when you deal with remastered editions, you sometimes run into movies who have had their works of art remastered by lazy companies that cut corners. As some of the other reviews have mentioned, the corners and shadows do have some flaws. The largest flaws I mainly saw, which literally annoyed me, was the remastered work on the CGI shots. Some of the CGI shots, compared to the non-remastered editions, seem like they were drawn by a Japanese cartoon artist for the local newspaper. Other than that, the general shots of the characters and the motions between the characters is great. If you are not too concerned with the issue of the CGI, I encourage you to purchase this item.

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