Tag Archives: Chris Pine

“STAR TREK BEYOND” Review (✫✫1/2)

A little short of beyond, actually. 

A wash of sadness came over me as I sat down to watch Star Trek Beyond. This was the last time I was going to see Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy on the big screen, who both tragically passed away earlier this year due to unfortunate circumstance. With both becoming Star Trek staples of their own generations, I knew Star Trek would never be the same with the both of them gone. My sadness grew as I kept watching Star Trek Beyond and realized their final appearances were wasted on a mediocre movie. Surely they deserved a better final outing than this.

The third film in the newly rebooted Star Trek universe, Beyond follows the U.S.S. Enterprise as it traverses on its five-year voyage through space. The crew, while going through amazing and exhilarating adventures, grow restless of their time in space. Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) isn’t sure if he wants to be a captain anymore. Spock (Zachary Quinto) isn’t sure if he still wants to be in Starfleet. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) doesn’t know if she wants to keep seeing Spock. Bones (Karl Urban) is still a sarcastic sourpuss.

One day, while investigating a distress call, the Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of vicious new aliens. Crash-landing on a strange planet, the Enterprise crew needs to navigate their way back to each other to team up against this mysterious new threat.

The first of the Star Trek reboots not to be directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Trek Beyond is instead steered by Justin Lin, who is most known for the more recent Fast & Furious movies. Watching this movie, and more specifically the action sequences, you kind of get the sense that Lin is pulling inspiration from those movies and shooting it into the veins of Star Trek’s science-fiction. The result is one that strangely works, a Star Trek movie that is an entertaining and unconventional spin on the action genre. In one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Kirk is fighting the villain in a field where gravity is pulling from three different directions. Seeing them fighting, flying, flipping around, with only a few glass frames to support their footing was one of the more exciting sequences not just from this film, but from the previous two as well.

All the same, some sequences were just too silly to fully accept and be entertained by. In one instance, Kirk is driving towards an enemy base using a motorcycle he lifted from a carrier. I’m not bothered by the fact that he’s using a motorcycle. I’m bothered that when he’s using it, dust isn’t coming out from behind the motorcycle, or that it isn’t even shaking from the rocky terrain he’s driving on. The CGI looks so ridiculous in this scene that it feels like he’s riding on a hovercraft than on a rugged vehicle.

In another scene, the Enterprise crew kills an entire armada of aliens by… playing the Beastie Boys? I’m not making this up. They literally pushed play on a stereo and blew up thousands of aliens. If that just sounds ridiculous, imagine what it looks like seeing it on screen.

The cast is fine in their roles and the movie retains its sense of visual style from the previous two movies. The problems come in with this movie’s scripting, which compared to Abrams’ earlier entries, is just a half-hearted effort at making a relevant Star Trek movie. I’m not a simpleton. I wasn’t expecting this to outdo the impact of the first Star Trek, and it didn’t. That one is in a class of its own, standing out both as a reboot and as its own exciting story.

What I do expect a movie to have is intelligence, or maybe more importantly, integrity. For years, Star Trek has pushed science-fiction writing to the limits in what it could achieve narratively. It asked questions, probed situations, presented problems, and provided answers for our Enterprise crew and their many quests across the galaxy. To its fans, Star Trek is more than science-fiction. It is science-philosophy.

You will find no thought-provoking ideas in Star Trek Beyond, and that’s fine. These movies are not automatically required to be outstanding. Even so, can you at least pretend to have some excitement at directing a Star Trek movie? There is not a cell of this movie that you can’t find in its previous movies. Even the villain is so insipid that he made Jesse Eisenberg look more interesting in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice. What excuse does this movie have to be so stock?

Heath Ledger got The Dark Knight. Paul Walker got Furious 7. Yelcin and Nimoy, unfortunately, have to settle with Star Trek Beyond, a recycled action movie that fails to even be consistent. If we didn’t deserve a better movie, then at the very least, they did.

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“THIS MEANS WAR” Review (✫1/2)

Spy vs Spy in the most imbecilic way possible.

I hate formula movies.  I hate em, I hate em, I hate em.  They are predictable, repetitive, and annoying in nature, deafening and forgettable by default.  It doesn’t matter what genre its from: if it follows the formula, premise, or plot-line of another film, it is automatically doomed for failure.  You’ve never heard of Mac and Me because it isn’t E.T., and you don’t remember The Mummy because it isn’t Indiana Jones.  Why on earth, then, would we remember this when we already have movies like Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, and Men In Black?

This Means War is one of those movies that follows its formula so strictly, it treats its premise like its their only chance of survival.  Imagine the movie like the sinking Titanic, and the small plank of wood (the formula) is the actor’s only hope of survival.  Director McG should have actually seen Titanic though: the plank of wood didn’t have the strength to support its two leads.  What makes McG think that here it would support three?

This Means War follows the story of two CIA agents: partners, allies, goody-goody beer buddies.  FDR (Chris Pine) is an active womanizer who is always on the lookout for new jailbait.  Tuck (Tom Hardy) is his less-lucky friend who is divorced, has a son, and struggles to even find a date.  Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) is a bold, intelligent, and beautiful product-testing agent who struggles to find love.  Oh boy.

These are our characters: one of them a pleasure-seeking playboy and the other two romantically hopeless until they discover online dating.  And when Tuck arranges for a date online with the beautiful, yet oblivious, Lauren, their date leads to another coincidence encounter that could only happen in a movie: FDR, who just happened to be looking for a video in the rental store when he ran into Lauren.  From there, you can predict what the movie is: a spy-romantic-action-“comedy” about two expert CIA agents fighting over the same girl.

Har har har, hee hee hee.  How original.  Hasn’t this been done before?  How many times have we seen movies, television shows, novels, and even comic books about competing love interests?  I’m all for the buddy-cop-turns-rivalrous-romance gag, but the material in the story must be funny and/or clever in order for it to back up its lack of originality.

Expect none of that humor, wit, or emotion in this movie.  This Means War is mind-numbing, a sterile, unfunny, and idiotic film that tries to win us over with confidence and charisma, but instead rubs us off with immaturity and annoyance.  There’s no reason to care for these characters.  The emotion is artificial.  All of the jokes are unfunny, and they dilute to topics as silly and insignificant as alcohol in a baby’s bottle, or sex jokes involving Cheetos.  No, that was not a typo.  Think of how many jokes you can make about a small, orange, stubby-shaped object.  I’ll bet Chester was happy to hear about the product placement, though.

The greatest hinderance of this movie is its writing, where every single line of dialogue carries over its insincerity and its dependency on its paper-thin premise.  The dialogue is so shockingly dumbfounded that I wanted to rub my fingernails on the chalkboard owned to whoever taught these screenwriters how to write.  The smartest lines of dialogue in the film include something like “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” or “You have the intelligence of a fifteen year old boy!”.  Well, at least we’re on the same page here.

The only redeeming factor of this movie is the cast, who at times deliver their lines with whimsicality and good humor.  Even then though, their roles are wasted.  Their characters are so stupid, half-witted, and immature that they could only be artificial.  Take, for instance, Reese Witherspoon’s character.  How is it that a woman like her gets all of these advances and radical emotional changes from both of these guys, yet she continues to remain so clueless and oblivious like she’s out on a first date?  Explosions go off and these guys go kung-fu on each other and you still think they’re just travel agents?  Sorry, I’m not buying that.

Do I really need to elaborate any more here?  I’ve already said why This Means War is terrible, and I hope my point is made.  The chemistry is flat, plastic, and unbelievable, the dialogue, even more so.  The plot is stock, unoriginal, and lifeless.  The visual effects are so bad, you can see the CG on a car when it goes flying from an explosion.  The villains, especially, are extremely lackluster and uninspired.  What is more stock, for instance, than a Russian baddie trying to get revenge at two secret agents who killed his brother?

This, from the same guy who gave us We Are Marshall.  What happened to McG?  He was so great with that film, filling it with so much life and emotion.  Terminator Salvation, preposterous as it may be, was also darkly atmospheric and marginally entertaining.  Now, he’s here scraping the bottom of the barrel with This Means War, giving us no sanctuary from conventionalism, but instead, wooden planks to float on it.  Let it sink, McG.  Please.  Let it sink.

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“STAR TREK” (2009) Review (✫✫✫✫)

To go where no Trekkie has gone before.  

When I first heard about J.J. Abrams rebooting the Star Trek series with another movie outing, my immediate reaction was rolling my eyes.  “Not ANOTHER Star Trek movie!” I remember thinking.  Indeed, wasn’t that everybody’s reaction?  Star Trek lived and had its time, and it seemed like the only people who would enjoy this new release were the Trekkies that were faithful to the series since episode one.

Nothing, however, would have prepared me for how immersive and fantastic this new movie is.  It’s more than just another Star Trek movie: its a science-fiction epic.  It’s an energetic and revamped take on a series that severely needed a new direction.  The story is original, the characters are fresh, and the vision is as bold and fearless as it possibly can be. Its success doesn’t just rely on CGI and visual effects (although believe me, it doesn’t fail in either category).  It’s one of those rare treasures where the characters and their dialogue is more appealing than the action scenes we have to go through every twenty minutes.

The plot originated from an idea that was had way back in 1968.  Back when the series was first spawning its popularity, original creator Gene Rodenberry started early writing for a prequel to his own science-fiction series.  But just like superhero movies Watchmen and Sam Rami’s Spider-man, it was stuck in development hell until finally creative writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were hired to write the script for the new mysterious Star Trek prequel.

This was a smart move.  They are the same writers behind movies as successful as Mission Impossible III, Transformers, and Eagle Eye, and their proficiency as writers shines here more than ever.  They compose a story as brilliant as it is exciting, a plot that is as action-packed, captivating, explosive, humorous, and in-cheek as possibly can be.  They do more than just adapt this universe: they pay tribute to it.  They pay homage to the classic series, pulling inspiration and ideas from all corners of the galaxy in the Star Trek universe.  We can tell this through tidbits of plot and dialogue that Orci and Kurtzman insert throughout the movie that reveal intimate details of the Star Trek universe we might not have known before, such as how Kirk came to become enrolled in Star Fleet, the origins of Spock, or how James McCoy got his famous nickname “Bones”.

This isn’t just another action film where the characters are just shoved aside for the action and explosions: Orci and Kurtzman are just as careful with developing character and dialogue as they are story.

Still though, if we have Orci and Kurtzman to thank for the vision, we have director J.J. Abrams to thank for the realization of it.  To date, this is only his second time in the director’s chair (his first being Mission Impossible III), but his skills as a filmmaker shine here of blockbuster-esque proportions.  Every minute of this film is fueled by both ambition and excitement, with every minute being tense, exciting, funny, exhilerating, and action-packed all at once.  Nothing is ever dull or boring or repetitious in this film: every second is filled with character appeal and visual spectacle that hasn’t been matched since George Lucas’ Star Wars series, or recently James Cameron’s Avatar.  I cannot recall a single moment in the film where I was bored or irritated.

If we’re talking about science-fiction epics, it flat out doesn’t get much better than this.  Star Trek is a great movie for many reasons, both obvious and not obvious.  The obvious reasons would involve its visual effects, make-up, and art direction.  The film is obviously visually ambitious, and like the U.S.S. Enterprise, transports you to many worlds of visual color, dazzle, fantasy, and wonder that is ever-present in the constantly-changing genre of sci-fi.  Another obvious reason would probably involve the performances: Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto do a great job at portraying the next-generation versions of James Kirk and Spock, and their chemistry with each other reflects their rivalrous spirit with both great tension and comedy.  Eric Bana also, deserves great props as the lead antagonist.  He portrays a villain so passionate and deadly that I pray the Wrath of Khan would never have to face him.

But those reasons makes the movie succeed: what makes the movie thrive are the unexpected reasons.  And those reasons are writers Orci and Kurtzman and director J.J. Abrams.  I’m not saying their careers don’t precede them: I’ve enjoyed Mission Impossible III and Eagle Eye, and I absolutely love the first Transformers movie (although the second one made me want to gouge my eyes out with a toothpick).

But the caliber of this work goes far beyond what was expected for them.  It’s typical to expect a good product from a good team: it’s rare to see exceptional work of this caliber from that exact same team.

Take this from a guy who isn’t a Trekkie.  I’ve seen a few episodes of “Star Trek” in the past, but I never became interested enough to follow the series as a direct fan.  Watching this movie makes me wonder what I might have been missing out on.

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“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

A.k.a, the wrath of John Harrison. 

Star Trek Into Darkness is a sequel of excellent caliber, a science-fiction movie that not only lives up to the expectations set beforehand by its fans, but in many ways, surpasses them by making a much more efficient, fluent, exciting, and overall, more well-made film.  The movie is everything a science-fiction epic should be and more: it is exciting, suspenseful, entertaining, visually spectacular, and surprisingly emotional.  Were we expecting this?  I think we were not.  

Taking place a few years after the events of the first film, Star Trek Into Darkness finds the newly-appointed Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and his first-mate Spock (Zachary Quinto) as they have just started breaking into their roles as pioneers of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  As they continue to carry out their duties, however, a new threat has arisen to challenge them and the entire Starfleet: Captain John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a sniveling criminal who has betrayed Starfleet for unknown reasons.  As Kirk and Spock begin to investigate further into Harrison’s history, however, they uncover a dark secret that will haunt their lives forever.

This is everything a great sequel is supposed to be: exciting, suspenseful, engaging, emotive, and reminiscent of the original.  The key ingredient to this recipe is its writers and director: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who are responsible for the witty and intelligent dialogue from the first movie, and J.J. Abrams, who is nearly a master at making blockbuster movies.  Abrams, whose most recent film was the intelligent and highly entertaining sci-fi Super 8 shows once again why he is one of the best filmmakers in the business: he is great at manipulating emotion.

In one scene, for instance, he shows a light-hearted, funny, rivalrous exchange between its two leads, Pine and Quinto.  In another scene, he shows an explosive, exciting, and suspensful mid-space gunfight through all of the lense flares and visual effects.  In another, he shows a sad, tragic, emotionally stirring moment between two close characters, almost bringing its audience to tears in the process.  With Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams does what every great director should: he doesn’t let the visual effects run on autopilot.  He illustrates every emotional moment of this film with alluring precision, and it only makes us all the more excited knowing that he’s going to be in the directors chair for Star Wars: Episode VII.  

Regardless of Abram’s direction, however, this movie would not have survived without Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s intelligent, creative, and captivating screenplay.  This movie once again reminds me why they are among my favorite writers in the industry: they highlight character motivation and emotions and embed them into gripping, fascinating, and exciting science-fiction stories.  This is prevalent in all of their work: Mission Impossible III.  Transformers.  Eagle Eye.  Even the first Star Trek was focused largely on character than it was in explosions and special effects (although, as you can guess, it didn’t disappoint in either category).  With Orci and Kurtzman, they do here with any of their screenplays that makes their writing the highlight of the film: they make the characters appealing, funny, likable, and sympathetic.  Even the bad guys have a soft spot we can root for.

Which leads me to my final point: the performances.  Specifically Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives such a rousing performance as the film’s villain that he stands out in my mind similar to The Joker from The Dark Knight, or Loki from The Avengers.  Cumberbatch, who is most known for portraying the title role in BBC’s Sherlock, plays here a villain so contrasting, so ruthless and unforgiving in nature, that one could say he’s a more driven antagonist than Nero was in the first Star Trek.  His movements are stiff in STID, his gaze cold and calculative.  But when his intent is revealed, its a secret so shocking that it shakes the entire theater like the collapsing corridors of the Enterprise when it is shot and going down.

That, and this movie has endless amounts of explosions, gunfights, spacefights and CGI, which only makes the movie all the more better.  The only thing this movie lacks is the originality of the first film, and it somehow doesn’t evoke the same sense of fascination the first one did either.  That hardly matters, because Star Trek Into Darkness is still a wonderful science-fiction story while paying homage to the earlier Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan, although I dare not say precisely how.  All you need to know right now is that Star Trek Into Darkness is engaging, intelligent, touching, shocking, energetic, and fun.

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