Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 (CBS/Paramount, 2 Blu-rays or DVDs, NR, 261 min.). The second season of this “Star Trek” animated series is better than the first, as it delves deeper into the characters’ backstory and brings some real “Star Trek” action to the final two episodes, which end in a cliffhanger. The 10 episodes center on the support crew of one of Starfleet’s lesser ships, the USS Cerritos, which is primarily used for second contact with alien species. Throughout, the focus is more on fun than the live-action series.
This support crew includes Ensigns Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), whose mother is the ship’s Captain Carol Freeman Dawnn Lewis); Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid), who continues his outside assignment on Captain Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) ship through two episodes, until he is duplicated in a carrier crash; Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), a cyborg with a new brain implant); and D’Vana Tendi (Noel Wells), an aspiring doctor. The show covers them in the line of duty, as well as in their social lives. The command team is heavily involved, especially since one episode connects the two factions of the crew. They include Cmdr. Jack Ransom (Jerry O’Connell), Lt. Shaxs (Fred Tatasclore), Doctor T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), Lt. Billups (Paul Scheer), and new security chief Lt. Kayshon (Carl Tarte).
In the episodes, Ramson receives divine power, Boimler becomes an “unauthorized person” upon his return and is not reintroduced into the computer (so the doors and food replicator won’t work for him), and the ship is overrun by Dooplers, a humanoid creature that duplicates itself when agitated. The latter is obviously a nod to the original “Star Trek” episode Tribbles and isn’t the only reference, as another episode brings back the Mugatos and some Ferengi. Captain Tom Paris makes an appearance, as does the Borg Queen (Alice Krige reprising her role).
The series can get slightly sassy, with all-sexual showers and Billups’ Queen Mother trying to get him to give up his chastity so he can inherit the throne. Another episode gives us views of the Klingon and Vulcan Lower Decks crews.
Extras include audio commentaries for episodes two, five, seven, and nine; an overview of Easter eggs and animatics for each episode; an interesting discussion of the show’s Emmy-nominated sound and how it is created (13:19); and a look at the season through interviews with producers, cast, and creatives (32:37). Rating: Season 3.5 stars; 3 star supplements
Scoring guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = jump
Miami Blues (1990, MVD Rewind Collection, Blu-ray, R, 97 min.). This zany crime film is saved by strong performances from its three leads. Alec Baldwin (then fresh out of “The Hunt For Red October”) plays grifter/thief Junior Frenger, seemingly fresh out of prison. After flying to Miami, he steals a woman’s suitcase and breaks an aggressive Hare Krishna’s finger, causing the man to die, apparently in shock. This brings him to the attention of Homicide Detective Sgt. Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward, also executive producer here; the “Tremors” movies), who easily stalks Frenger, but seems reluctant to stop him – they even have a pork chop dinner together – until Frenger l attacks, beats him up, and steals his fake teeth, badge, and gun, so Frenger can pose as a cop before ripping off the bad guys.
The third track is Jennifer Jason Leigh (“Single White Female”) as Susie Waggoner, a 23-year-old student who prostitutes herself to earn money. It is in the old role that she meets Frenger, who immediately seems to fall in love with her. He even rents a house to share with her.
Writer/director George Armitage (“Grosse Pointe Blank”) only occasionally finds the absurd humor he seeks. Carried over from the 2015 Blu-ray edition is combined separate interviews with Baldwin and Leigh (26:01). There is also a mini-poster and photo gallery. Rating: 2.25 star movie; 2 star supplements
The Frisco Kid (1979, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, PG, 118 min.). As supposed comedy westerns, this one is mostly a drag, as we travel across the American continent in 1850 with Polish rabbinical student Avram Bellinski (Gene Wilder, much funnier in almost all of his other films, including “Young Frankenstein”, “The Producers”), who is sent as the new rabbi for the San Francisco congregation. Due to the gold rush, his boat left a day early and the brothers he helps buy a cart for the westward trek soon rob him, leaving him to walk.
After being helped by an Amish family, Avram is on the train to Akron, but finds himself in the bathroom when bandit Tommy Lillard (Harrison Ford, fresh from “Apocalypse Now” and a year before “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”) robs the train and then jumps. Avram is working on a railway line to get enough money to buy a horse, but the raccoons eat all his food. He is eventually rescued by Lillard, who decides to escort the hapless wanderer to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Lillard robs a $640 bank and there’s the long-awaited encounter with the Native Americans that takes an unexpected turn. Val Bisoglio plays Chief Gray Cloud They also visit a brotherhood of brothers who have taken a vow of silence.
The film is directed by Robert Aldrich (“The Dirty Dozen”, “The Longest Yard”). There are no extras. Rating: 2.25 star movie
Hell High (1989, Arrow, Blu-ray, NR, 84 min.; released July 19). There’s sick fun in this semi-slasher flick about four high school miscreants, would-be rebels who unknowingly toy with the wrong teacher with deadly results. It turns out that the school’s biology teacher, Miss Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney, later a veteran of several daytime soap operas) was the frightened little girl from the opening scene who accidentally caused the gruesome death of two teenagers. It’s been 18 years now, and she’s stuck with the rebel Dickens (Christopher Stryker, who sadly died of AIDS aged just 27 before the film was released) in her class.
Dickens hangs out with the overweight Queenie (Millie Prezioso) and Smiler (Jason Brill), who mostly poke fun at the jocks and lounge around. Dickens trains former football player Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousens of TV’s “Breaking Bad”) in their small group. How bad is Dickens? Well, he’s driving his car on the soccer field during the game, so Jon-Jon can intercept a pass!
Dickens decides to have the four Miss Storm pranks in her home, by jumping onto her roof and throwing swamp mud on her windows, not realizing that this would release all of her unhappy memories and newfound aggression. The movie has a handful of violent deaths, a gratuitous shower scene, and plenty of silly antics.
The film was shot in two parts about a year apart, with Grossman running out of money halfway through. When filming resumed, Mooney was pregnant, resulting in the use of a body double and careful camera placements.
The film is accompanied by a considerable number of extras, including three audio commentaries: a new one by director/producer/co-writer Douglas Grossman and cinematographer Steven Fierberg (TV’s “Emily in Paris”, “The Affair “) and the oldest by Grossman and Joe Bob Briggs. Briggs also does an introduction to the film (5:06). There are new interviews with Grossman (42:55; he cites his “Clockwork Orange” influence); Fierberg (28:56; he cites his influence “If”, another film starring Malcom McDowell); Cousins (18:49; he says he never thought the film would be screened); Mooney (20:06); and composers Rich Macar and Christopher Hyams-Hart (26:48; their first meeting in 35 years). Michael Gingold leads a tour of filming locations (1:07 p.m.; three high schools were used). There are archival interviews with Grossman (7:30 p.m.) and co-writer Leo Evans (11:41 a.m.). A deleted scene, without sound, shows the students wandering the swamp looking for slime (2:10) and there are alternate opening titles (2:05). Plus, an illustrated booklet features liner notes by Gingold and an exclusive interview with stunt coordinator/actor Webster Whinery. Rating: 3 star movie; extras 4.5 stars
Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has been a music critic since 1972, right after graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. It has been reviewing videos/DVDs since 1988.
The New Orleans trumpeter at the Strand on July 30