What’s Space Opera, Doc? How “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” fits into the subgenre

Since people first looked up at the stars, they dreamed of traveling amongst them. Not knowing what they were or what it all meant, there was always a sense of longing to explore the glittering abyss of space. And as imaginations raced, they were quickened and informed by advances in science and an understanding of the world around us. Soon, science fiction was born, and within that a subcategory of these fanciful tales of epic battles and ships piloting the galaxy; it was called “space opera,” and it’s the basis for some of pop culture’s most sustaining works of the 20th century. “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series and Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” works all explored different facets of the wonders held in the cosmos. As people prepare to re-enter the cosmic fray with the latest massive space opera, James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” it seems a fitting time to look at what a space opera is and how a centuries-old subgenre is still captivating audiences’ imaginations.

For all of its pervasive appearances throughout the years, the definition of space opera is an oddly elusive one. It certainly is a subset of science fiction, taking place in a reality closely related to our own, albeit with interplanetary travel and usually alien species interacting in some ways. The term was first coined back in 1941, a play on the derisive parlance “horse opera” used for melodramatic westerns. However, space opera stories appeared as early as 1854, depicting people navigating strange new worlds with unheard of technology and encountering different life forms in an adventure with space travel as the backdrop.

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Blu Tuesday: Star Trek Beyond, Bad Moms and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Star Trek Beyond”

WHAT: When the USS Enterprise is ambushed by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless enemy with a personal grudge against the Federation, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew are separated on a hostile planet. With the help of a rebellious alien warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), the crew must reunite in time to stop Krall from destroying a nearby Federation outpost.

WHY: After all the criticism surrounding “Star Trek Into Darkness,” it was probably time for the franchise to undergo a changing of the guard. But while director Justin Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have returned the series to its television roots with “Star Trek Beyond,” it’s easily the weakest installment starring the new cast. That doesn’t mean the movie’s bad – in fact, quite the contrary – but while the decision to pair off the various crew members is a clever idea, it takes away from the group dynamic that worked so well in the first two films. Karl Urban, whose odd-couple pairing with Zachary Quinto’s Spock is the movie’s highlight, gets more to do as a result, but often at the expense of other characters like Sulu and Uhura. “Star Trek Beyond” also suffers from yet another forgettable villain, as well as some solid but unspectacular action. Although it’s still a satisfying addition to the “Star Trek” universe, the ensemble cast and Gene Roddenberry’s characters deserve better.

EXTRAS: There’s a series of featurettes on the writing process, filming in Dubai, production design and creature effects, a profile on Idris Elba’s villain, a tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, deleted scenes, a gag reel and more.


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Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim
Justin Lin

In 2009, director J.J. Abrams helped to successfully relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise, and his reboot remains an immensely entertaining adventure movie. Although its sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is not without its moments, it’s a disappointing follow-up that’s held back by some unfortunate twists and a misjudged villain. The film hardly slowed down this now 50-year-old franchise, however, which returns to the big screen with “Star Trek Beyond.” The Justin Lin-directed sequel quickly gets the crew back on track by delivering a very entertaining and often kind-hearted summer movie.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is tired of his five-year mission to seek out new life and explore new worlds. While on a diplomatic assignment with fellow crew members Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Kirk presents an alien species with a peace offering from the Federation. The gift is part of a deadly ancient weapon called the Abronath, but he has no clue what it is or what it’s capable of. Krall (Idris Elba), on the other hand, knows exactly what it can do. The face-changing villain is against everything the Federation stands for, so he dupes the Enterprise crew into going on a “rescue mission” to a distant planet, where he attacks them, leaving the crew completely torn apart. Even though they’re outnumbered and outmatched, Kirk and the gang are not alone in their fight against Krall, joining forces with an alien warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, who turns out to be a great addition to the series) to stop him from unleashing the Abronath.

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Movies

These days, if you don’t own a Blu-ray player, you’re missing out, especially with a variety of classic movies being offered in high definition for the first time ever. But while we could easily fill several pages with suggestions of great films and cool box sets that deserve a spot on any holiday wish list, we’ve picked some of our favorites released over the past 12 months. If you can’t find anything worth buying here, then chances are that the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like movies.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will likely go down as one of the best franchises in movie history, so it’s not too surprising that Warner Bros. has decided to capitalize on the films’ success with a fancy Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set. Though most people have probably already purchased the movies individually, this limited edition six-disc set (with only 141,500 copies produced) is geared more towards diehard fans – the kind that would gladly buy all three films again if it meant getting their hands on the exclusive bonus disc (featuring a new retrospective on the series and an interview between Nolan and “Superman” director Richard Donner) and the Happy Meal-sized reproductions of the Batmobile, Batpod and Batwing. The set also includes an introduction letter from Nolan, a glossy photo book, and a series of cool art cards by Mondo artist Jaw Shaw featuring the trilogy’s villains. The only thing it’s missing is your very own Batsuit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Extended Edition

It was never going to be an easy job adapting “The Hobbit” for the big screen, especially after the success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and although that likely played a hand in Peter Jackson’s initial decision to let another director take the reins, at the end of the day, it just wouldn’t have felt right with anyone else behind the camera. Not only does Jackson know the source material inside and out, but in keeping with the same tone and breathtaking visuals from the original trilogy, the movie feels like it’s part of a bigger story. Though it’s not as great as the “Lord of the Rings” films, “An Unexpected Journey” is still a delightfully fun trip back to Middle-earth with a solid lead performance by Martin Freeman. And for those diehard fans who have been patiently awaiting the customary Extended Edition, it’s arrived just in time for the holidays with 13 minutes of additional footage, an audio commentary by Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens, and two entire discs of supplemental material clocking in at over 9 hours. If this doesn’t satisfy your “Hobbit” fix, nothing will.

Star Trek: Stardate Collection

Most diehard “Star Trek” fans probably already own all of the films on Blu-ray, but for those that still haven’t gotten around to picking up high-def versions of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s first 10 big screen adventures, the Stardate Collection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to remedy that. This 12-disc set combines the previously released Original and Next Generation Motion Picture Collections into one massive box of sci-fi goodness, including every feature-length film starring the respective crews of Captain Kirk and Picard, from 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” to 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis.” Additionally, there’s over 25 hours of bonus material like audio commentaries, featurettes and the 70-minute roundtable “The Captain’s Summit.” While “The Wrath of Khan” remains the only installment to have received a 4k restoration (though likely not for long with the original show’s 50th anniversary just around the corner), the rest of the movies still look and sound better than ever.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Michael Dorn (‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’)

Michael Dorn may have come to be known best for his work as Worf, the most famous Klingon in the ‘Star Trek’ universe, but his acting career was already off and running well before he found his way onto the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Dorn in connection with the Blu-ray release of ‘Star trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Fourth Season,’ and he discussed some of his pre-‘Trek’ roles, including working with Bruce Jenner and Sylvester Stallone, in addition to revisiting his work as Worf and commenting on how things are going with the ‘Captain Worf’ series he’s been hoping to make

Celebrity City

Bullz-Eye: So how have you been enjoying seeing the ‘Next Generation’ episodes on Blu-ray?

Michael Dorn: Well, I haven’t seen this season’s yet, but the other ones have looked great. Just beautiful.

BE: When they first started rolling them out, I was really rather startled by the difference. I knew it’d look better, but it never occurred to me that it’d be quite that substantial.

MD: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s one of those things that makes you realize just how much technology and other things have changed. When we were doing our show in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, we looked at the original series and we were, like, “Ah, we’re so far ahead of that!” And now we look at our show side by side, and it’s, like, “Oh, my God…” [Laughs.] Technology has just grown by leaps and bounds. But it looks spectacular.

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