star trek ii: the wrath of khan

#890.5: Easter in the Age of Covid, 2.0

It didn’t come as a surprise when the province of Ontario went back into the “grey zone” again last week.  But sad to say, when I asked myself “How will this change my daily routine?,” I had to admit that it wouldn’t.  Easter wasn’t that different from last year.  I did some live streaming, I did some listening, I did some writing.

Actually I did a lot of listening and writing.  Andy Curran (Coney Hatch, Soho 69, Caramel) will be on the show this Friday April 9.  The guy is fount of rock knowledge so this will be quite a tour-de-force, and I have been doing my research.  I’ve been listening to Coney Hatch and solo Andy, on repeat.  I have three Rock Candy remasters here with valuable liner notes and bonus tracks.  I’ve been reading.  Deke will be in seventh heaven getting to talk to one of his heroes.  It’s going to be a lot of fun, and that’s one reason I do this.  It’s fun.

Friday afternoon I went over to my parents’ house to pick up some mail.  Mail theft became a serious issue last year so now I have my mail delivered elsewhere to be collected.  In the mail were two Star Trek movies that I haven’t seen in a long time.  Two years ago, I made the mistake of donating all my Star Trek DVDs while doing a big purge.  I said “No big deal, I’ll just buy a Blu-ray set.”  But none of the Blu-ray sets had the features I wanted from the DVDs.  I have been slowly buying them back, and this weekend I got to star Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

It has been literal years since seeing The Voyage Home, or “the one with the whales”.  Perhaps a decade.  What a perfect film, at least as perfect as any movie with time travel conundrums can be.  I smiled and chuckled the whole way through.

As for Khan, I know I streamed it somewhere fairly recently, but it has been just as many years since I watched the extended director’s cut.  It only adds up to a few minutes here and there, but it was all fresh and new to me.  The restored scenes help clarify the identity of young Peter Preston, who dies in the first attack.  “He stayed at his post, when the trainees ran!” mourned Mr. Scott.  A restored line reveals Peter Preston is Scott’s nephew.  “My sister’s youngest,” he says.  “Crazy to get to space.”  Lines such as this add value to the already perfect film.  Others do not.  Additional exposition was probably cut because it wasn’t necessary.  I did like one in which Kirk explains to Spock who David Marcus is.  “That young man is my son”, says Kirk.  The only reply necessary from Spock:  “Fascinating.”

So I had fun.  I made lots of time to play some music.  I listened to Paul Stanley’s Soul Station, and I’m trying to find a way to be objective about reviewing it.  I like it a lot.  But if anybody else with a better voice put out a similar record, would I give it the time of day?  Unlikely.  So there is a certain hypocrisy there that I must address before I attempt to review it.  But I will.  I genuinely like the album.  But I like it on the same level that I like the Peter Criss solo albums:  as a reasonable facsimile of the real article.  A forgery through the lens of somebody I already like and am familiar with.  Easier to digest.

Tonight:  Easter dinner courtesy of Golf’s Steakhouse, via the generosity of my mom who always spoiled us.  Friday night’s live stream was Easter themed, and viewers were shocked at how spoiled we were as kids.  We got great Easter gifts while other kids got a chocolate bunny.  My sister and I didn’t question it, we just went with it!

Thanks mom for dinner tonight.  I ordered a porterhouse.  It’ll be here in 10 minutes.

Happy Easter my friends.


REVIEW: James Horner – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982)

STAR TREK II:  The Wrath of Khan original motion picture soundtrack (1982 GNP Crescendo)
Composed and conducted by James Horner

The Wrath of Khan was James Horner’s breakthrough score.  He sold a bajillion albums since, for movies you probably heard of (Titanic, Avatar, Aliens, etc. etc.).  One listen is all it takes to hear why The Wrath of Khan put him on the map.

When the film came out in 1982, it felt brand new in two ways.  One, it felt like Star Trek was alive again.  Khan‘s tight pacing, dialogue and performances were miles ahead of the monumental bore than was Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Second, the score was top-knotch.  Just as John Williams made Star Wars a brilliant audio ride, so did James Horner with Khan.  Of course this isn’t to knock Jerry Goldsmith, who score The Motion Picture (and lots of other Treks too).  Khan was a different kind of movie, with the kind of action and tension the first film lacked.  The score followed suit.

Perhaps the most exciting cue on this soundtrack is recurring Khan theme heard in “Surprise Attack”.  As stunningly good as it is, the quieter moments in the score are just as important.  Though quiet, they still delivering tension when necessary.  Check out “Kirk’s Explosive Reply”, from the scene in the film when Kirk is stalling for time to take down Khan’s shields.  When a character stalls for time, you need to feel that tension, and it is all there in the track.  “Spock” is also a lovely softer piece, from a thoughtful moment between Spock and the Captain.  There is an air of ambiguous danger.

Surprise attack!

This being Star Trek, you need regal themes for those big widescreen shots of the USS Enterprise gliding past in all her glory.  Check out “Enterprise Clears Moorings” for a the finest example of this.  Of course, Khan was probably best loved for its battle scenes.  “Battle in the Mutara Nebula” and “Genesis Countdown” combined are 16 minutes of adrenaline mixed with tense stretches of quietly humming instruments.   Even when contemplative, this soundtrack is somehow so big and bold.  It is an absolutely huge sounding score.  Brass, military drums, strings…it is a flawless collection of music.  Every bit as exciting as the film, and completely enjoyable as its own work.

People say James Horner plagiarised music from classical composers.  So did John Williams, and you don’t hear fans complaining about it!  The Wrath of Khan could easily one of the best soundtracks you ever buy.

5/5 stars

Part 121: Movies


 As a movie buff I was glad when one of our stores decided to carry VHS tapes!  My movie collection grew massively at the time.  I had access to lots of cool items, in widescreen format.  I bought virtually everything that we saw come in, if it was in widescreen format.  The staff, T-Rev in particular, knew to keep an eye out for widescreen movies for me.  This opened up a whole new retail world for us, for now we had customers that were not interested in music at all, just movies.  Of course movie knowledge now came into play, especially when customers would ask a question like, “Do you have that John Wayne movie where he’s after the outlaw guys?”

In 1998 or 1999, I bought my first DVD player.  We started carrying DVDs at that time as well.  That was exciting too.   A lot of people had been asking about them.

When they were still big, you could expect to pay $8.99 to $11.99 for a used VHS tape.  $5.99 if it was a cheapie bin special.  For DVDs, you might expect to pay $16.99 to $19.99 for a used one.  That was in the beginning, prices dropped quickly and within five years, DVDs were almost as cheap as CDs!  We even had laserdiscs, on the rare occasion that they came in.  They were giant.  If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, here’s a size comparison to a CD.

We learned right away though that handling DVDs was not the same as handling CDs!  Maybe the plastic they were made of was softer, because they scratched so much more easily than a CD, and the scratches were so much harder to remove.  This trouble was doubled with the 2-sided DVD discs.

Fixing a scratched double sided DVD was very, very difficult.  You could spend 5 minutes buffing the scratches out of one side, only to find that handling the disc put more scratches in the other side.  They were very tricky, and a lot of the DVD discs that we sold in the early days looked terrible, for that reason.  They would work fine on most players (most), but looked cloudy and streaky.  And a lot of our DVD customers were really, really picky.

Eventually the 2-sided discs became a lot less common.  In the meantime, we had to set up display spaces for DVDs, figured out how to store the discs themselves behind the counter without damaging them, and so on.  Even slight handling or dust could create problems.  Dusting the DVDs could often make them look worse, as the wiping left slight but visible scratches.

At first the selection was pretty poor.  Sony were giving away a number of titles for free with their players, so we had a lot of copies of Sphere, and The Negotiator.  Trade-ins started after a few months.  We started seeing box sets, before they were really common, Criterion Editions, all kinds of stuff.  It happened quick, our stock grew and grew….

…And so did my own personal collection!  Ain’t it the way?

Continued in Part 284:  The Impact of Movies