‘Star Trek: Beyond’ – Don’t Blink on This Ride

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Starring: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho

Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Directed By: Justin Lin

Studio: Paramount Pictures

MPAA Rating
PG-13

I saw Star Trek: Beyond last night on its second night after release. When I see Star Trek films, I usually miss some secret winks because I am not much of a “Trekkie” and therefore don’t know the labyrinth of secret passageways that many others I meet new. In fact, my wife, who is not a film critic, explains a lot to me when we go to see these films. Last night had a few parts I couldn’t figure out but I’ll avoid those.

Instead, I’ll tell you that Captain Kirk is put in a position to save the galaxy (common theme). The adventurous quest to do that is a rip-roaring ride! Directed by Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious), the spaceships are now the race cars. There is a lot of action in this film but I must disagree with some other critics who are saying it’s too fast and furious. There are moments of suspense as well and moments where the viewers is ban rest, stop, and get cerebral..

The visuals are stunning. Because this is a quick review intended to have “no spoilers,” I won’t describe them to you. I will say that in 1977 when Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, and Mark Hamill saw the death star for the first time, it had a mind-blowing effect on movie goers. There is actually some stuff in this film that will leave you in “shock and awe” in a similar way. Please note however that the plot is pretty good and special effects are secondary to that, which always makes me happy.

There is so much in this film worthy of the ticket price. There is a side story Spock is dealing with, sense that virtually fill the movie with the now departed Anton Yelchin, a Smokin’ hot Zoe Zaldana, a vaguely funny Simon Pegg (but funny all the same.) I had a blast watching this film. I anticipate Trekkies will like the new villain Krall (Idris Elba). He’s a tortured creature with a lot of hate for the federation which makes for some really juicy fight scenes. I did have some issues with the film. Instead of developing the villain they sort of catapulted him into hate mode. I wanted to know more about him and why he became who he was. It was explained a little in a very rushed fashion in the last 1/4 of the film but I think doing that earlier would have invested me more in his character. For the haziness of the villain, I took one star away. This is an amazing film, I highly recommend it.

Deadpool

As far as Marvel films go, this is more fun than they are usually allowed to be. It’s definitely fun but not what I had imagined.

Title: Deadpool
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2016
Director: Tim Miller, known for “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”
Top Billed Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Brief Synopsis: A former military dynamo turned reckless mercenary is transformed into having a superpower.
My Word to the Wise: Add another film to the Marvel superhero franchise. It mocks formulas but is formulaic to a fault. As far as Marvel films go, this is more fun than they are usually allowed to be. It’s definitely fun but not what I had imagined. The reviews made it seem like something apart from Marvel, it’s not.

Spoilers may follow in the rest of this review.

Ryan Reynolds does a good enough job in this Marvel film that sets out to be more gritty than the rest. He’s delivering jokes almost from credits to credits. It’s funny, for a while. I don’t mean to judge like a puritan, because I ‘aint one fo sho, but it seems like the producers wanted nudity, excessive blood, and reckless profanity throughout this movie, that appeals mostly to teenage boys. It’s so obvious they’re doing it you almost expect Deadpool to address the age group in one of his asides. By the way, there are many asides which is new for these movies.

I would like to see Deadpool take on Iron Man. This is partially because I never liked the Iron Man’s false bravado. I know the audience would root for Deadpool because, quite frankly, he way more crazy. I went into this movie not knowing how locked in to Stan Lee and the gang it was. The reviews I read seemed to hint at a superhero outside of the commercial loop. I saw that in about the first 1/3 of the movie. After they explain how Deadpool came to be, it because just another Marvel/X-Men/Avengers for me. They act like they are making fun of the genre with clever writing but Deadpool is just a slightly different incarnation. I hope I’m not bumming anyone out who wants to see it. It is certainly a lot of fun as any Marvel film is. Many buckets of fake blood gave their lives for this film and there’s a lot of nude scenes. I don’t recall seeing those in a Marvel film before. Trust me, I’m not complaining, just being real.

The teenage boys, ages 11-19 will love this film. The older ones will be mildly entertained. Based on the ratings out there in the strongholds: Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, it’s a “great film.” I suppose I agree with them. There’s a lot more on my mind bout this film but I’ll let it come out in comments on other people’s reviews. I really wanted to love this movie but after all the hoopla and watching it, I just like it. I have a platonic relationship with it. Will I see it again? Probably not. It has nothing on an intellectual level I’m afraid. Because it tried too hard to make fun of a genre that it was itself (it didn’t seem to know that) it lost a star. I have movies that “try.” Because I felt the R rating was sought out of indifference for the ten boys who make up the main audience, it lost another star. It’s definitely worth seeing though and damn funny at times. In closing though, I do not feel it lives up to the hype it’s receiving as “something different” in a superhero movie.

A lot of my friends loved this movie. Whether you agree or disagree with my appraisal, please let me know in the comments.

Zoombies

“I don’t want to play with the animals anymore.” -Thea

They can’t all be Oscar winners. They can’t all be big budget. Once in a while, they can be fun with the most minimal resources. Working with what it has, “Zoombies” is too much fun and who doesn’t want a movie like that?

Zoombies (2016)
Cast
Ione Butler

as Lizzy

Andrew Asper

as Gage

LaLa Nestor

as Thea

Directed by
Glenn R. Miller
Written by
Scotty Mullen
Other Info

Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
TV-14
1h 27min

This film is pure fun. It doesn’t try to be “Jurassic Park” but borrows from some of its conventions. The same might be said of it borrowing from “Pet Sematary” and “The Night of the Living Dead.” How about that scene in M Night’s “The Happening” where the lion chews the zookeepers arm off? That was dime. Excellent effects. Scenes like that are mimmicked with low-budget and mixed effects. It was done on the same sort of budget those Discovery Channel dinosaur shows have. It uses canned CGI along with mediocre camera techniques to tell the story. It was funny and exciting, though it could have been funnier.

It all takes place in a new zoo that is doing some testing before it opens to the public. It’s a good thing too because somehow a monkey has been infected with a zombie virus. What happens next is the standard action, zombie, animal film (if there is one). I don’t know but I certainly knew what was coming next. My eight year old and I had some laughs eating popcorn and watching zoo animals wreak havoc on a team of Zoo workers and volunteers. Some ideas are so silly and fun, you could entertain people with puppets.

Don’t expect much from this film, you’ll have a chance to love it that way. I thought of funnier ways to make it but I’m no director. If the idea of animal zombies sounds funny and cool to you, this film is right up your alley. I recommend it.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

The Last Airbender

This is an exciting adventure film for all ages. It combines amazing visuals with a story about the quest of the Avatar. Though some may find the cartoon imitation more suited to teens and under, it has something for everyone: swashbuckling martial arts, a hero, creatures, a villain, and fireballs aplenty.

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The Last Airbender (2013)
Cast

Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone

Directed by

M.Night Shyamalan

Written by

M.Night Shyamalan

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Family
Rated PG
1h 43min

As I did for my last review, I watched a movie tonight in preparation for the podcast I’m doing with a new movie reviewing friend Darren Lucas. We’re set to discuss the movies of M. Night Shyalaman, this was another one I hadn’t seen yet.

It’s a story about a teen who has incredible “airbending” powers enabling him to defeat opponents almost effortlessly. I knew the basis of the character because my son watched this anime style cartoon when he was in elementary school.

It started out exciting. In some ways, I think M. Night tried too hard to make it look like the cartoon, it is live action. Nonetheless, it has a hateable villain that we are meant to somewhat have empathy for since he was burned by his father. It also has a pretty supporting actress. Her presence and acting reminded me of Hilary Swank in her old school Power Ranger character of the 1990’s.

There are some other great characters that do a good job supporting the Last Airbender in his struggle. Of course, there is almost credits-to-credits martial arts in a pseudo form. Throwing of fireballs is common.

I enjoyed the film, it was definitely an adventure. Another effect that some will find noteworthy is the cgi animal the Avatar rides. There are several creatures and they are done far more well than the creature in my last review of “After Earth.” M. Night definitely pulled together the right resources to make these effects work

My word to the wise: This is an amazing Action, Adventure, Family film. I usually don’t watch movies like this: anime, Naruto, the Avatar, etc. but I did love Speed Racer back in my younger breakfast-cereal-in-front-of-the-tv days. Still, I was glued to this one. What does it say about the work of M. Night Shyalaman? He can apply himself to multiple genres and create an entertaining film. After all, he has written screenplays for movies from the family film “Stuart Little” to the horror/suspense film “Devil.” For many other genres he has both written and directed the films. We see the child in him in “The Last Airbender.” It certainly brought out that childlike wonder in me. I recommend this one. It did lose a star with me because I would have liked to have seen it adapted more to the dramatic screen, relying less on trying to make it look like the carton.

After Earth

I don’t understand why the critics tend to rate this movie down. To me it was exciting and suspenseful. It had only one flaw: in a time of amazing technology (the film was made by Sony) the creature looked awfully fake.

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After Earth (2013)
Cast

Jaden Smith as Kitai Raige
Will Smith as Cypher Raige
Sophie Okonedo as Faia Raige

Directed by

M.Night Shyamalan

Written by

Will Smith (story) M.Night Shyamalan (screenplay)

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13
1h 45min

I watched a movie tonight in preparation for the podcast I’m doing with a new movie reviewing friend Darren Lucas. We’re set to discuss the movies of M. Night Shyalaman, this was one I hadn’t seen yet. There is one scene that reminded me of “Signs,” truly a masterpiece of his. When the boy is recovering from being poisoned by a pink giant roach, he summons the strength to face a large beast. It is like slow motion and reminded me of the scene when the father in “Signs” tells Merrill to “swing away. I found the vibe very similar. There is another scene like that I can think of in his psychological fun “The Village.” All three of those movies are definitely worth seeing and I recommend them.

The bare bones version of the story is that a son, trying to please his hero father, tries to do the impossible. Against all odds he is trying to save the mission. In the quest to be victorious, a best is faced. It’s a great premise for a story. Everything takes place after the earth has become uninhabited by humans.

My word to the wise: When I do a search on Google of this film, a lot of titles indicate that it is a production of “Sony Films.” I don’t know why but this liked peculiar to me. It’s as if they spent millions on the film but never got past the promotional sites it debuted with. It’s lees of M. Night “art” and more of a “wannabe” sci fi blockbuster that never made it the distance. Having said that, it was highly enjoyable as an action, suspense, sci-fi Obie. It didn’t have the signature of M. Night for me, which is a “twist” at the end. I got the feeling he was trying something new.

The Purge: Election Year

Although there were quite a few masks, it seems the masked killers were showing their faces this time. It’s easier to believe people in America would purge when they wear masks.

It’s easier to believe the Purge when the masks are on. That’s when the magic of the film happens. It’s violence and fun and … yes, election year!

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The Purge: Election Year
Cast

Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson

Directed by

James DeMonaco

Written by

James DeMonaco

Other Info

1h 45min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated R

I rate a movie based on what genre it says it is. This makes horror movies tough because the genre is not cut-and-dry like the others. If horror is scares that produce a negative reaction such as fear, shock, sadness, etc. then The Purge: Election Year is more thriller than horror. Because it advertises as horror and produces few scares, it lost a star with me. Having said that though, it’s a pretty good thriller. Frank Grilli is back as Leo Barnes from the second film of the franchise. His son was killed in the Purge and now he has become the special security for a congresswoman running for President, Senator Charlie Roan played by Elizabeth Mitchell. The senator witnessed the brutal execution of her entire family in a Purge and as a result is running for President to use an executive order to end the Purge.

On the inner city front, Mykelti Williamson plays shop owner Joe Dixon who has just lost his Purge insurance along with millions in the city. The companies pulled out at the last minute offering continued coverage but only for impossible sums. The result is that many low to middle income people are vulnerable to the Purge. We saw this in the first two movies as a theme of the wealthy vs middle class. purge2The plot continues to a full on battle to keep the Senator safe. She is the hope of the middle and lower class to end the Purge. I started watching this franchise thinking what it could mean, because it’s not a movie to be taken at face value. Now, after the third installment I find the purpose and message of the film more muddied.As with the first film, I think an important message is to love your neighbor and not shoot his brains out with a shotgun, There are subtle things to take out of it too but few thrillers focus on morality and even less horror films do. It’s action packed and there is some vengeance play that’s fun to watch. This is a well made movie but the masks were under utilized. Finally, it comes up short on scares for a horror movie.

Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope

So much has been written about this film. It brought science fiction to mainstream consciousness like no other film before it. When I saw in the theater in 1977, I was 8 years old and immediately a fan.

Star Wars Episode IV “A New Hope” (1977)
Cast

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford

Directed by

George Lucas

Written by

George Lucas

Other Info

Rated PG
sci fi, action, adventure
83 min

The film takes us along the path of a young Luke Skywalker. Luke has humble beginnings but once destiny meets him in the form of Obi Wan Kenobi, his fate to fight against the Empire is sealed. I liken Luke’s path to that of anyone venturing forth in her/his life. There are obstacles and dangers that threaten to take him out  of the game: Sandpeople, Stormtroopers, even Darth Vader himself. By the way, I don’t Elise that director George Lucas had pre planned to make Vader Luke’s father. There is no evidence of this until the second movie. I think the film did highly well so Lucas wrote a second one, and so on. 

Once Luke’s journey is laid out for him, he meets up with a set of misfits like himself: Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (a creature), and of course, his mentor in the ways of a religion called “The Force,” Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness). They are all reckless and endearing characters. This film was released in the late 70’s when movies and tv shows about “real people” we’re ring released. Lucas makes his characters real and so we feel like we are on this adventure with them. That’s a major reason this film is embraced by so man people worldwide.

I must say a word about the music. Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg enlist the magic of composer John Williams in their movies. This is vital to their success. Williams has the ability to create hypnotic and dynamic music to support the storytelling of Star Wars. It is possible, if you know the film well, to listen to the orchestral soundtrack and know without video or dialog what part of the movie it’s from. The music is as integral as the script.

There have been many movies made since 1977 that are part of the “bigger story” Lucas says. None, I might argue, recreates the 79’s Everyman tone of Star Wars. I have seen “Star Wars IV A New Hope” 50 times or more and would happily watch it again. I don’t have the same hunger to see “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi.” Everything is deruvative and nothing can touch the genius of the first movie. “Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope” is in my top 5 favorite films of all time.

X-Men: Apocalypse

A handful of elements are here that I could mention to promote this film. It works well on so many levels. The only question I really had while watching was: “Is it too long?” After the energetic applause at the end in the sleepy town theater I watch movies in, I’d say they got this length just right.

x-men-apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Cast

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Directed by

Bryan Singer

Written by

Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
144 min

First, the Spolier Free Zone!
James McAvoy as Professor X (Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassenbender as Magneto are back in what is sure to be one of the most highly expensive and possibly the greatest earning film of the X-Men franchise yet. Of course, that’s an opinion which is fitting in an op/ed review by a largely unpaid blogger. It is however, my strong feeling.

These movies have so much going on. For the “X-Laymen” like myself, it can be difficult to follow all the little innuendos and stories going on simultaneously. I put that there as a disclaimer to assuage the more rabid fans of X-Men. I do my best here.

The story is about an early campus that looks more like a house where the X-Men mutants are in a school run by Charles Xavier. Now, speeding through time way back to the Egyptian pyramid times, we have the opening shot. Sabah Nur is a worshipped king (of sorts) who, through the help of a mutant, is able to become immortal.

He’s evil, never a question about it. Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) plays this role in a quite hate-able manner which fits in well with other roles he’s played. To make a short summary stop here, he awakens in the time aforementioned and tries to take down the whole world with the help of the X-Men. Yep, that’s the bare bones of it. I could say so many good things about this movie. I loved the characters in this I haven’t seen before (or at least not much). Olivia Munn is one of Apocalypse’s “henchman.” She does a fantastic job and I really hope she turns good so we can see her in new movies. For effects and multiple characters doing exciting things onscreen, I highly recommend this film. It is a tad long at 2hr 24min so bring caffeine. Having said that, what a ride! I can’t wait to see it again.

Next, Spoilers may follow!
My word to the wise: Charles Xavier’s love affair with Moira McTaggert is hovered and hovered over until finally they delve into it fully. Because I am a romantic at heart, I loved this story. Some will find it overly sentimental. The evil folks make evil look really good in this film. They do a lot of destruction. There is a scene when a bomb hits the X-Men school that is a work to make Lucasfilm jealous.

The history of Magneto AKA Erik Lehnsheerr (Michael Fassenbender) is quite elaborately explained. I did wonder, because it was rather long) why they didn’t have an “Origins” film on him the way they did on Wolverine. Perhaps they don’t want us to get too close to him. Nightcrawler (Kodi Scott McPhee) is absolutely hilarious. He strikes me as a secondary character in a movie but I almost could see him having his own movie. He’s a lot funnier than Captain America ever was. So there you go!

Things to Ponder:
Does a franchise as successful as this merit ticket-buyers or does it have to earn people’s money again, every installment?

Why are we shown that “good” is better in this film. The evil mutants seem to be having a LOT of fun? How could they have shown that good is a better choice in this film?

Who is more fun to watch in film: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) or Professor X (Patrick Stewart)

Feel free to leave a reaction to one or more of these questions, or about the film.

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America appears once again in a movie with his name as the banner. Strangely however, a legion of other stories and superheroes weave through this film and it watches more like the next Avengers film. Cap has a backseat purpose.

movie

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Cast

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johanssen as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Directed by

Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Written by

Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeeley (Screenplay writers)

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13
2h 27min

Comic books are fun, but they’re hard to get and I mean that on two levels. A good comic book tells a story in 2 dimensions. A good movie made from a comic book, transfers that “good stuff,” for example the story and superheroes, and translates that into a movie experience. 

Because I read a lot of reviews, I can see there is an either/or in comic book movies: some say they stayed true to the comic and the movie excelled as a result. The other one is when a comic book connosieur slashes and trashes the director for taking too much license in the making o the movie. I  don’t know comic books well, which might explain why I didn’t like this film as much as the critics as large. Maybe I should read more comics?

My first question was: “Why so many superheroes when this is a movie called “Captain America?””

I binge watched the two prequels to Civil War before seeing it at the cinema, as did my wife. I can tell you the first two really held my attention and Cap (as he is called in all of them) is the focal hero of the movies. That made it a lot easier to follow and get on board with. Civil War has too many superheroes exhibiting their individual strengths and weaknesses.

All the while there is a ploy by politicians to gain control of the Avengers due to their reckless modus operandi. Cap’s reins from the other two movies is named “Bucky” and I don’t want to give any spoilers but there is so much back story and attention given to him you might as well have named it “Bucky: Civil War.” Still, he has some interesting abilities and his interplay with Cap is somewhat interesting. I’d call that part of the story “just above a snore.”

We do get to see some action. There is an almost unforgivable about of people having dialog and no action. This to me was a crime. All I can imagine is that it would make more sense if I only read the comics. Because I felt the movie did not live up to its name “Captain America” and should have been named “Avengers,” and because of some laboriously long dialog with no action, it lost two stars with me. I have to say, enough comic book aficionados will go see this no matter what I say but to all the others I cannot recommend this film. I have high hopes for the next one though.