Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness – review

Star Trek: Into Darkness is the sequel to the 2009 Stark Trek film.  Action-packed and full of charm, this movie is certainly not lacking when it comes to a fun and entertaining script.  This movie’s effects are really great and make it well worth seeing in 3-D for the battle scenes and amazing shots of the ships and landscapes.  Sadly, for all the pros there are a few “Kahns” to this movie. If you can look past them it will make for a very entertaining couple of hours.

Star Trek: Into Darkness begins with Captain Kirk, played by Chris Pine, rescuing Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, from a volcano in front of a primitive civilization and breaking the prime directive.  Kirk looses his command until a massive attack on Starfleet Command allows him to hunt down the man responsible.  Who is this mysterious man and what are his goals in killing so many?

It is really great to see the cast back for another movie. They all worked so well together in the 2009 film that it was like a perfectly put together puzzle of personalities for the crew.  In this film they are present but not nearly utilized as much as they should have been.  Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy and Zoe Saldana as Uhura, felt like they were barely there.  The movie was very centered around Kirk and Spock, which works for the story, but if you enjoyed the performances of these other characters it will be a bit disappointing.

There are a lot of great shots and amazing action sequences.  This is filmed really well and seemed to use much less of the lens flare effect that was mocked so heavily in the last film.  Kahn, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is a pretty opposing villain.  It is funny that a person can slug him and he simply look smug as if he was hit by the flutter of a moth.  He certainly makes for a fun and interesting version of the character Ricardo Montalban perfected in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

This leads me to the things I found a bit bad about this movie and if a person were to nitpick they would find it obnoxious too.  There are scenes almost word for word taken right out of Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.  Some might argue that it is homage to do this but when it’s this similar to the original I call it a rip-off. Spoiler alert, there is a scene that involves Kirk knocking a man unconscious to get inside the radioactive room that contains the warp drive to start it up.  As he lay dying he sees Spock from the window and they bid each other a tearful farewell and give the hand signal to live long and prosper.  Sounds familiar to the original?  The only difference was the characters were reversed.  They even have Spock yell the famous. “Kahn!” line.

There is also a scene with the old Spock that was very strange.  It basically consisted of young Spock asking about Kahn, old Spock telling him that he swore not to get involved with young Spock’s destiny, then proceeding to tell him anyway everything he knows about what an evil guy Kahn was.  Thank goodness he was around to act as an over glorified Wikipedia for young Spock whenever he needs to know about a new evil that arises.

Star Trek is not an unlikable movie just because of that.  If I wanted to go the full nitpicker nerd I could argue that the Tribble on board the ship would never be the only one for long since they are basically “born pregnant,” and the Enterprise should be swarming with the little hairballs within a few hours.  The movie is very enjoyable and is a very good continuation to the first film.  If you are looking to see a fun action or sci-fi movie I recommend it highly and would say to go ahead and spring for the 3-D.  It will actually be worth it in this case.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Great Gatsby-review

The 1925 novel The Great Gatsby told the story of the folly of youth and the decadence of the roaring twenties.  The Great Gatsby is a visually appealing movie but there is not much that makes you really feel like you are in the actual 1920s.  The acting is very good but the story is so much like the book that it comes off dry and fairly dull. 

Nick Caraway, played by Tobey Maguire, is narrating the story of how he ended up in a sanitarium.  He tells his doctor of starting out as a stockbroker in 1920s New York.  He is living in Long Island next door to Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, a man who throws lavish parties.  Who is Gatsby? What makes him such a mystery?

The Great Gatsby has a lot of visually interesting effects.  Like other Baz Luhrmann projects, the film is colorful and bombastic.  The one thing that takes me out of the movie is the use of modern music; hip-hop remixes in a 1920s setting.  It’s not very often, but when it does happen it is sometimes as jarring as seeing a fighter jet on the screen of a spaghetti western. 

The acting is very decent.  Leonardo DiCaprio is a very good Gatsby.  He plays the role with a winning smile and a lot of charm.  When it comes to the romance between himself and Daisy his desperate goals are all over his face.  Tobey Maguire does good job acting vulnerable in his role as Caraway.  He is believable as the pained narrator who lost hope in human good with the loss of Gatsby. 

The story itself is fairly slow.  It is not a great romance and the material is nothing that would appeal to most people save English majors.  It is a pretty movie and the people who are major characters give it a performance that is worth seeing. There are few tense scenes such as when the characters have a very tense confrontation at the Plaza Hotel over relationship issues.  However, there are some minor actors that go wildly over the top and don’t add any realism to the movie.  For example, the partygoers and Gatsby’s musicians are almost 1920s caricatures that when contrasted to the main characters seem very out of place. Still for the moments of goofy stylization the theme gets the point across so it has at least achieved that goal.

The Great Gatsby is not the most entertaining movie I’ve seen this year. When it comes to 1920s fiction I prefer Boardwalk Empire, which shows that with the big parties and decadent times of the Jazz Age came massive amounts of crime.  If you were a fan of the book or the stars of this film I’d recommend renting it perhaps or seeing it at a matinee.  The movie probably should have been called The Good Gatsby and it would have been a bit more accurate.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3- review

Iron Man 3 is the sequel to the blockbuster hit Iron Man 2 and the first movie to revisit the characters after The Avengers crossover.  This time the director is Shane Black, who had a hit with Robert Downey Jr. with the film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.  The movie is fairly dull and predictable.  Sadly, the tone of it is so mismanaged that it should have been called Tony Stark Adventures rather than Iron Man 3.

Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr., is having panic attacks and is having trouble sleeping.  He has built many new Iron Man suits and is trying to build a new life with his girlfriend Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow.  When a terrorist hurts one of Tony’s former bodyguards he makes a threat that effectively puts him in the crosshairs.  Can he find out who this new threat is and save himself as well as those that he has sworn to protect?

For a movie called Iron Man 3 there is a not nearly enough Iron Man in this movie.   Tony spends a great deal of time running around like he was in a spy movie.  The times he does get in the suit he is climbing out of it just as fast or showing us that he is controlling it remotely- so there is no real danger.  The movie does not even seem to care that the focus for movie is all over the place, not allowing for real character development.

The movie does not have a strong sense of threat.  A very predictable twist comes about halfway through the movie and contains such a colossal hole that the writers should have discarded it the second it was brought up.  The movie barely even touches on the events of The Avengers movie save for the fact that Tony now has panic attacks on occasion.  Even when Tony’s loved ones are threatened you know they are going to be okay.  There is no reason to care if the filmmakers won’t make situations that create risk for the characters.

Iron Man 3 is a mediocre movie; a feature that no longer resembles the last two films.  The movie is fairly dull and involves too much dialogue that unfortunately does not seem to include character development.  If you are desperate for a superhero movie there are much better ones coming in the future.  I would wait for this to come out on video if you are a fan of the series. This film seems to be a swing and a miss for the Marvel Universe.