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STAR TREK BEYOND

22 Jul

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Synopsis: A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that’s aboard the badly damaged starship. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

Cast

Chris Pine………………………James T. Kirk

Zachary Quinto…………………………Spock

Karl Urban…………………Dr. Bones McCoy

Zoe Salanda…………………………Lt. Uhura

Simon Pegg…..Montgomery (Scotty) Scott

John Cho……………………………………Sulu

Anton Yelchin…………………………Checkov

Idris Elba……………………………………Krall

Sofia Boutella……………………………….Jaylah

Review:  The Star Trek franchise always had a series of elements that made it specifically Trek, among them the sense of hope, humor and adventure for mankind’s future, an over the top enemy combatant and most importantly the familial bond between Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  This the third adventure in the reboot series, written by Simon (Scotty) Pegg, Doug Jung and under the direction of Justin Lin, not only accomplishes all the elements with a great story and script it also pays homage to Leonard Nimoy and dedicates the film to the late Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.

The real crux of this, the third and best outing yet is that, finally the Kirk, Spock, McCoy trio really connect in the way you always knew, one can not be without the other. In a side plot we learn that Ambassador Spock (Nimoy) has died and Quinto’s Spock must now come to terms with his destiny, should he leave the federation and live on New Vulcan or stay with his friends. This seems to be a theme in other incarnations of Trek and feels right at home here as well.

Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah who befriends Scotty and helps the Enterprise crew against a common enemy Krall who is hell bent on destroying the Federation and all it stands for. Jaylah is a stand-out in the film in the sense that she is a strong independent woman who looks just as good in the command chair as Kirk. She keeps calling Scotty by his full name Montgomery Scotty, confusing his last name Scott with his nick name. This really endears you to her character.

The film is a real pleasure to watch for trek fans and the pacing of the script keeps you engrossed in the story. To appease modern summer blockbuster audiences there are battle sequences, an exciting climax to the story line and great visuals. Like the original trek the cerebral aspect and metaphor here is what can happen to a human being totally consumed by hate and revenge. If this third film is any indication may the franchise live long and prosper.

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GHOSTBUSTERS 2016

18 Jul

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  • Director Paul Feig
  • Writers Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
  • Stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

 

REVIEW:

Seeing any reboot these days especially one that had such a negative reaction way before it was released, is a risk considering Ghostbusters is such a beloved movie, but I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! That said, if you take four of the funniest ladies on the planet mix them with cameo’s by the original cast sans the deceased Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis, add at times belly laughs, clever visual gags and witty dialogue you have a winner, that pays homage to the original.

First off Kate McKinnon is the star of this film with the hilarious character of the nerdy, obsessed with building gadgetry, techno babbling scientist, Jillian Holtzman. Her timing her facial expressions her commitment to the role from the moment she steps on screen to her battling with ghosts is just hilarious. She is obviously SNL’s break out star and this role just proves the point. Kristin Wiig plays scientist Erin Gilbert and she being left in the dust, by having to play straight woman to the rest of the cast, does not have enough funny moments, although her getting slimed every ten minutes is funny I wish they gave her more to do. Melissa McCarthy plays paranormal specialist Abby Yates former roommate and friend to Gilbert. McCarthy’s comic timing is impeccable and when she worked with McKinnon many belly laughs ensue. Leslie Jones plays Patty Tolan and is very funny as an extension of her SNL persona, the loudmouth woman who knows she’s right even when she’s not. The chemistry between the four of them really works well with McKinnon the stand-out. Bill Murray plays Martin Heiss, a professional debunker of the paranormal and has the best cameo, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, a bust of Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver also appear in the film. Each one having a small but funny cameo. Chris Hemsworth plays Kevin the ditzy hunk receptionist for the Ghostbusters, you can tell he had a blast playing the role and enjoyed making fun of his own screen image. Stay for the end credits because it is a follow up of events that occur after the last scene, this also where you will see Weaver’s cameo. I give the film three and a half stars for director Paul Feig’s vision although not up to the original the film is fun and worth a look-see.

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Captain America the Winter Soldier

7 Apr

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Synopsis: Captain America, Steve Rodgers, returns to fight a new world order, in a modern world. When a S.H.E.I.L.D. colleague is attacked, Rodgers joins forces with Natasha, The Black Widow and Sam Wilson, The Falcon, as H.Y.D.R.A., once again tries to dominate the planet.

 

CAST:

Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as The Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce

 

Review: In the much anticipated return of Captain America, MARVEL has made one of the best movies so far, in their superhero war chest. The movie is non-stop action from beginning to end, the story is a tightly scripted action thriller, and there are enough laughs and back-story references to please any fan. In this sense the movie succeeds at bringing the old Captain America into relevance in today’s world.

The fun begins with a murder mystery, when Nick Fury is presumably assassinated; Captain America follows a trail with fellow agent The Black Widow. Along the way are many surprises and twists. His old friend Bucky Barnes returns as a ruthless assassin working for H.Y.D.R.A, with a mission to kill the good Captain. Steve Rodgers befriends a young soldier Sam Wilson, whom he trusts, and who admires him and his American values.

Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce represents S.H.E.I.L.D and is the money man who funds the operation through influencing a tight knit consortium of world leaders. Can he be trusted….? Is Nick Fury, really dead, will Bucky remember his friendship with Rodgers, will Stan Lee have a cameo?

In the bigger picture, Fury has built a secret arsenal underneath S.H.E.I.L.D headquarters. H.Y.D.R.A has been secretly funding the project through Pierce. When Fury figures this out, he confides in Rodgers and hands him a UBS storage disk that contains all of S.H.E.I.L.D’s secrets and in his presumably dying breath tells Rodgers not to trust anyone. The story continues along this line, as Rogers forms a team with Natasha and Sam.

There are cameo appearances by Gary Shandling, (comedian, The Gary Shandling Show) as a corrupt senator working for H.Y.D.R.A as well as the obligatory Stan Lee moment.

MARVEL stories always have a human touch and the relationships between the characters ring true. When The Black Widow flirts with the Captain, you can see what she is thinking inside. Rodgers is all about Truth, Justice and the American way and obviously thrives on trust and loyalty, Fury is all about distrust, protecting freedom and always ready to fight. The newbie to this scenario is Sam Wilson, The Falcon, whose loyalty to the Captain’s cause makes him a trusted and valuable friend.

This is a story loaded with intrigue; in fact some of the gadgets and technology are slightly reminiscent of James Bond films. The film has left enough loose ends to make a sequel, as with all good movie franchises, it also ties up the some unanswered questions from the first movie.

I must say, watching Robert Redford play the heavy, with his charm and understatement, makes him more insidious as opposed to over the top as most Bond villains are. He was perfectly cast and just how insidious he is, surprises you at various tense moments throughout the story.

I saw the 3D version of this movie and felt the effect never distracted, that said, the movie would be just as enjoyable with or without the 3D.

I hope MARVEL can keep up the good works and future movies in the franchise, such as the AVENGERS sequel, will live up to the bar as raised by this one.

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GRAVITY

31 Jan

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Director – Alfonso Cuaron, Screenplay – Jonas Cuaron , Screenplay – Alfonso Cuaron

  Synopsis:  Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone – tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space. — (C) Warner Bros.

CAST

Sandra Bullock – Ryan Stone

George Clooney – Matt Kowalsky

Ed Harris – Mission Control

Orto Ignatiussen – Aningaaq

Amy Warren – Explorer Captain

 

Review: Gravity is a pulse pounding, thrill ride of a film that is less cerebral than say Kubrick’ s, 2001 A Space Odyssey , less fantasy visually  than Cuaron’s Pan’s Labrynth, and certainly not based in the Star Trek/Star Wars style mythology. Gravity is a visually stunning “what if” adventure concerning itself with survival, if faced with abandonment, in a routine space walk  and disaster strikes.  Sandra Bullock as Medical Engineer Ryan Stone, on her first venture into space with George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky are busy working outside their space shuttle when they get an urgent message from NASA, the Russians by demolishing one of their obsolete satellites, causing fragments of debris, metal parts, and various other satellite parts to fly at enormous speeds in the path of the shuttle. All hell breaks loose causing Clooney and Bullock to spin out of control. Clooney manages to stop his spin, Bullock, who is now spinning away from the shuttle is alone and out of touch with NASA.  The silence, horror and panic in the vastness of space is as terrifying and real a moment, in brilliant use of 3D yet, that propels the events that ensue.   In Bullock’s character we learn her back story and come to realize this is a woman who lost a child and is about to confront her maker, and the changes that take place as she manages to save herself. The movements of Clooney and Bullock are tense as they clock the time the debris will orbit back and hit them again. Bullock’s face beneath the helmet she wears shows the desperation as she listens for Clooney’s voice to talk her through it. With their colleagues dead, you can only hope that these two manage to save themselves.   Using a thruster pack Clooney and Bullock make their way to the nearby International Space Station (ISS) only to find it damaged and unusable. En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s life back home and the death of her young daughter. As they approach the substantially damaged but still operational ISS, they see its crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules and that the parachute of the other capsule has accidentally been deployed, rendering it useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests the remaining Soyuz be used to travel to the nearby Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 mi (160 km) away, and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Out of air and maneuvering power, the two try to grab onto the ISS as they fly by. Stone’s leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she is able to grab a strap on Kowalski’s suit. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS. As Kowalski floats away, he radios her additional instructions and encouragement. The rest of the story is about Bullock’s rebirth and survival as she confronts her own demons and past. Cuaron uses imagery to depict Bullock as baby in a womb as Bullock floats through the Soyuz.

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This is a first class adventure movie; the use of 3D enhances the story in a way I have never seen before. You feel the sense of insignificance as alone and floating in the silence of space can be. The film is up for 2013 Best Picture Academy Award and Bullock is up for Best Actress.

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The Man of Steel

14 Jun

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CAST

Henry Cavill-Clark Kent/Kal-El

Amy Adams-Lois Lane

Michael Shannon-General Zod

Diane Lane-Martha Kent

Russell Crowe-Jor-El

Antje Traue-Faora-Ul

Harry Lennix-General Swanwick

Richard Schiff-Dr. Emil Hamilton

Christopher Meloni-Col. Nathan Hardy

Kevin Costner-Jonathan Kent

Ayelet Zurer-Lara Lor-Van

Laurence Fishburne-Perry White

Cooper Timberline-Clark Kent at 9

Dylan Sprayberry-Clark Kent at 13

REVIEW:  75 years ago Jerome Siegel and Jerry Schuster creatively introduced to the world, the  now legendary American icon, Superman. It has been said that Superman’s enduring popularity has do with the fact that the mythos behind the hero is the ultimate 20th century immigration story.  A stranger arrives in America’s heartland, is adopted by a farmer and his wife, and spends his young life coming to terms with his heritage vs. the culture of his new home.  Stranger makes good, becomes America’s darling and protector and vows to uphold truth, justice and the American way. Underlying Zack Snyder’s direction of this too much CGI’d Krypton, Superman’s home world, loud explosions, and over the top villain Zod, there is an inkling of the myth behind the hero.

In the telling of Superman’s origin Russell Crowe makes a fine Jor-el, Superman’s Kryptonian world, dad. That said, Zack Snyder removes the clean-cut Jor-el from the comic books and makes Crowe look like a warrior from say 300, Snyder’s CGI laden warrior film. Crowe becomes a guiding light in spirit, through-out the film and even has an encounter with Lois Lane.

Henry Cavill is perfectly cast as Kal-el/Superman/Clark Kent. He is the perfect embodiment of the character and gives Kal-el depth as he struggles with who he is. He is searching to understand his place in the world as we all do from time to time. He understands he has powers and he learns through Jonathan Kent, his earth dad played by Kevin Costner, to control his powers for the good of mankind.

Superman’s nemesis, General Zod, played perfectly by Michael Shannon, comes to earth to turn the planet into a new Krypton.  The interplay between Zod and Superman moves the story along as Kal-el must choose between saving all that he loves or sacrificing himself to save earth.

The good news is that the simple immigration tale that is at the core of the myth, though scattered in spurts throughout the film, remains somewhat intact. The bad news is the CGI effects and overuse of the hand held, stedicam , make a quarter of the film shaky and at times I felt like I was on a roller coaster.

Superman’s home planet and technology look so overcrowded with detail that I found it a distraction from the story telling. There was too much eye candy to follow and not enough human interaction.

There are many good points to recommend this film as a go-see; on the other hand it had many flaws in the visual style and some of the casting. Laurence Fishburne was poorly cast as Perry White editor of the daily planet. In Superman’s history Perry White never wore a small diamond earring in any ear, but of course the Superman story has been, told and retold, and reborn and reborn again so many times, I guess any new vision would be acceptable.  He does get cantankerous, but no “Great Cesar’s Ghosts” or Jimmy Olsen’s in site.

Amy Adams is miscast as  Lois Lane, traditionally; Lois was a lot more feminist and curvy than Amy Adams’ version of the character. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Lois Lane a little taller and dark haired. If you are trying to draw a whole new generation of young people into the Superman fold, then why not cast say, Jennifer Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), into the role?

The film does have much going for it as a reboot. I suspect this film will rival some of the recent Marvel superhero films that have preceded the Man of Steel. If you are a fan of the mythology as I have been, you will enjoy yourself. There is plenty of Superman pop-culture reference scattered throughout to please the most hardcore of fans.

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AFTER EARTH

2 Jun

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Directed by M. Night Shyamalan; written by Gary Whitta and Mr. Shyamalan, based on a story by Will Smith

SYNOPSIS: In After Earth, one thousand years after cataclysmic events forced humanity’s escape from Earth, Nova Prime has become mankind’s new home. Legendary General Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith) returns from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family, ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (played by Jaden Smith). When an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai’s craft, they crash-land on a now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, Kitai must trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. His whole life, Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father. Today, he gets his chance.

Cast

Jaden Smith-Kitai Raige

Will Smith-Cypher Raige

Zoë Isabella Kravitz -Senshi Raige

Sophie Okonedo-Faia Raige

Glenn Morshower-Commander Velan

Kristofer Hivju-Security Chief

Review:  This movie has its moments but should be entitled “Much ado about nothing” or a review headline should read Will Smith’s vanity gift to his son Jaden. Sadly the once promising young film director M. Knight Shyamalan co-wrote and directed this cliché, paint by the numbers sci-fi tale of a father and son’s journey to rediscover and renew their relationship.

The simple plot is about a post apocalyptic earth that has been invaded by aliens. Humans to survive relocated to another planet. The aliens can sense human fear by the release of pheromones and thus can hunt them down. When General Cypher (Will Smith) takes his son Cadet Kitai on a training mission their starship, carrying an enemy alien in a cocoon, gets caught up in an asteroid field and their only escape route, a wormhole, takes them to the off limits planet earth where they crash land. Needless to say only Kitai and Cypher survive. The problem is the ship broke in two pieces when it landed. The first section has  Kitai, Cypher and a working tracking system, the only working homing beacon is in the tail of the ship which fell 100 kilometers away. Since Cypher has a broken leg, he sends his son, Kitai on his first ranger mission.

The rest of the story is about Kitai’s survival in the wild as he tries to hike to the other half of the ship and launch the homing beacon. Many adventures and cheesy special CGI effects later the ultimate confrontation takes place. Will Kitai fight off the alien, find the beacon, and save his dad?  What do you think? The plot is shallow and predictable. To make matters worse Will Smith speaks in slow monotone syllables in every sentence he utters, so you know what he is saying must be important. He has a pseudo-Carribbean/Bostonian hint in his speech.

I will say there are some tender moments and some disconnected literary references, such as Moby Dick and “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. Their ship is called the “Hesper” and General Cypher chases aliens with no fear as Ahab chased the whale. Overall the film falls flat, the sentiment seems fake and the story disingenuous.

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Star Trek

16 May

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Synopsis: In this much anticipated sequel to J.J. Abrams Star Trek 2009 reboot , the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

CAST

 Chris Pine – James Tiberius Kirk

Zachary Quinto – Spock

John Cho – Hikaru Sulu

Bruce Greenwood – Captain Christopher Pike

Simon Pegg – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott

Zoe Saldana – Nyota Uhura

Karl Urban – Leonard “Bones” McCoy

Anton Yelchin – Pavel Checkov

Benedict Cumberbatch – John Harrison

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Review:  For the uninitiated among you, there are several elements in the Star Trek Universe, created by Gene Roddenberry, that have stood the test of time, in what must be close to 50 years of its’ existence:

1) The idea the universe is multicultural and must be celebrated, the first interracial kiss in broadcast history, a multi ethnic and species crew of the Enterprise, Klingons, Vulcans, Humans, Romulans etc, etc.

2) The Prime Directive of non-interference in a species natural development.

3) Most important the triad-relationship between Captain, James T. Kirk, Science Officer, Mr. Spock and Doctor, Bones McCoy. Against all odds and adversaries the three remain close friends.

Regarding the last, this triad can be seen in mostly all the Trek Spin-offs, Voyager for example it’s the friendship between Captain, Janeway and head of security, a Vulcan named Tuvok.. In the film versions of the original series we find Kirk, Spock, McCoy have become a close knit family.

J.J. Abrams changed the Trek Universe in 2009 with his Star-Trek reboot. Although he ultimately kept the Trek core values he eradicated several core Federation planets thus starting from scratch. In the end, that film as the new one was a satisfying  reboot for old trekkies as well as a nod the younger audiences Trek must embrace to stay alive. It is accepting change and going with it that has kept Star-Trek one of the most enduring sci-fi franchises this side of Dr. Who.

Into Darkness picks-up where the last one left off and brings us on a thrill ride of in-jokes, surprise appearances from the past, humor and most of all the development of friendship between Kirk and Spock.

Without giving anything away, the film brings us full circle as Kirk battles an enemy within Starfleet  and an old adversary that Kirk in this timeline, meets for the first time.

Once again Pike’s Kirk, Quinto’s Spock, and Urban’s McCoy, are spot on. Simon Pegg’s Scotty is frenetic, hilarious and polar opposites of James Doohan’s Scotty, which was wise, ironic and a miracle worker. When Nichelle Nichols first played Uhura, it was groundbreaking television, she was the first black woman to break the color barrier, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, is not groundbreaking,  so as a twist she has been in a romantic relationship with Spock since Abram’s 2009 Trek Reboot. Unfortunately she is not given much to do here until late in the film when she gets involved in the action. Anton Yelchin’s, Checkov, is wide eyed and enthusiastic with extreme Russian accent intact, and John Cho’s, Sulu is also spot on.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays John Harrison, a terrorist that wants to destroy the federation. He is a great villain and his story holds true to Trek-lore and history. Nuff said.

Star Trek was always a mirror of our times, the use of metaphors and other species to depict the human condition, has always been a necessary component of the Trek Universe. J.J. Abrams has a good handle on this and the film is a nod to the past and a look to the future of the franchise. In today’s world the film debates the issues of genetic engineering, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The film works on many levels and I hope it speaks to a younger audience the way the original series has spoken to me all these years. I look forward to Kirk and crew’s 5 year mission that lies ahead as we come full circle in this the second of Abram’s, Trek incarnations.

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