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Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

STAR TREK BEYOND

Star Trek Beyond is the third installment of the revamped Star Trek series.

I was originally planning on saving my review for Star Trek Beyond for a summer movie summary on science fiction movies outside of superhero movies. That was not to be the case as most of the top sci-fi movies were superhero movies. Nevertheless Star Trek Beyond is a movie worth reviewing by itself.

For the third of four movies of the revamped Star Trek series, the writers and director Justin Lin had to deal with making a 2-hour movie that is a continuation of the series while leading to an ending setting up for the fourth and final movie, which currently has no set year of release right now. The trick is trying to make the right choices of what to include, whether it be pieces from the original television series of the 60’s or of movies of the past, and create the right third-movie.

One thing about this installment is that the focus is more about exploring new worlds which is what Star Trek is all about. However it’s also about friction as smaller ships ambush and wreck the USS Enterprise. Even the threat of an intergalactic race in another galaxy under a tyrannous villain adds to the drama this time. This is a case of a fresh story for the Star Trek franchise while trying to maintain the same spirit of the whole Star Trek series.

I mentioned back in my review of superhero movies that despite the action scenes, morals and values are essential for a superhero movie. Morals and values are also essential for a movie like Star Trek as well. The Starship voyage continues in its quest to discover new intergalactic worlds and develop ties between the life forms. The value of doing what’s right is present in this Star Trek movie as Kirk is about to go on a rescue mission that might endanger his life. He responds by saying; “I would rather die saving lives than live knowing that I took them.”

The movie sometimes seems like it wants to be a sweet farewell to Leonard Nimoy. It’s evident in the story as Spock receives news that Lieutenant Spock has died. Reminders pop up in the story line as Spock plans to leave the Starship to carry on the Lieutenant’s duties and even a sentimental scene near the end. I don’t think it did any wrong moves in doing so. Memorializing an actor, especially if they had such a memorable role in their lifetime, is never an easy thing. There are some times in retrospect I felt there were some wrong moves in memorializing Paul Walker in Furious 7 like the farewell image of his character played by his look-alike brother. However I feel they did it right here, including the toast ‘to absent friends.’ Even at the end the movie is dedicated ‘In Loving Memory’ of Nimoy.

yelchin

The film makers of the fourth and final revamped Star Trek film decided to drop the character of Chekov in respect to the late  Anton Yelchin.

Unexpected was the death of Anton Yelchin who played Chekov in the three revamped Star Trek films. He was a gifted actor capable of doing an excellent job in each role he played. In Star Trek, he delivered a Chekov that was half the age of the original Chekov but made it work on screen. He even added some charming humor to the movie series with lines like “Nine-Five-Wictor-Wictor-Two” or “I can do zat! I can do zat!” Unfortunately he was killed an a car accident one month before the film’s premiere. He was 27. The film didn’t make any major last-minute changes in editing or storyline upon news of his death but he is memorialized after Nimoy’s dedication with ‘For Anton.’

New to directing the Star Trek series is Justin Lin. He’s best known as the director of four Fast And The Furious movies. With his first attempt at directing Star Trek, he does a very good job in maintaining the spirit of the Star Trek franchise along with delivering the right storyline and right action to the movie. For the record, J. J. Abrams is producer this time. The script written by Simon Pegg who plays Scotty and Doug Jung who’s past work is mostly writing for television is consistent with the story and the spirit of Star Trek despite it being short on the expected action. All the returning actors still maintain their respective characters well. One thing noticeable is Chekov has more of a presence and he doesn’t deliver so many humorous lines this time. Another new addition is Idris Elba doing an excellent convincing role as the villain Krall. Visual effects were still good even if they weren’t the most spectacular. Also the addition of the Beastie Boys song ‘Sabotage’ got me thinking again to how Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Martian has made it a must to include musical moments in such movies.

The big surprise is the lack of box office success that came with this film. The film currently has a North American gross of over $157 million and a total worldwide gross of over $333 million. Since it cost $180 million to make, it’s labeled a ‘flop,’ especially knowing the first two revamped Star Trek movies starting back in 2009 both made over $200 million. People are wondering why? The film has an approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes of over 80% and there was expected to be big fare since this year is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise starting all the way back with the TV series. Some are saying Yelchin’s sudden death may have a lot to do with it, like it ‘spoiled the fun.’ It’s wrong to make such an accusation. Nobody saw his death coming. Not even Anton himself, if you’ve bothered to read the news about it. Some are saying the story lacks excitement. Possibly but it still has a lot of ingredients win crowds and Star Trek fans alike. Hard to say exactly. My assumption is that simply this is the third movie, not the first and not the last. Plus it faced competition from a wide variety of other movies this summer. I feel that the final movie can achieve more at the box office because it will be the final movie of a revamped film series that worked rather than flopped.

Star Trek Beyond may not be as action-packed as most of the other summer fare out right now or even past Star Trek films but it is a movie that delivers on the Star Trek franchise and stays true to its spirit. It even paves way to the fourth and final Star Trek movie to come.

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Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Captain Kirk and Spock bring the villain Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Captain Kirk and Spock bring Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) to justice in Star Trek Into Darkness.

The Star Trek franchise has really come a long way since its days as a television series, hasn’t it? Movies, a new series in the 90’s, a loyal following of Trekkies and even a 2009 remake of the original. Now Star Trek returns to the big screen with a remake of the sequel entitled Star Trek Into Darkness. Does it still entertain current audiences?

The movie opens with Captain Kirk defamed and demoted from his Captain position after Spock’s life is jeopardized while prevent a volcano from erupting on the planet Nibiru that would have wiped out all civilization and would have exposed all of Nibiru’s lives to the Enterprise. Admiral Pike has been reinstated but believes Kirk deserves a second chance and successfully lobbies for Kirk to be his first Officer.

The movie moves forward to London two centuries from now. A bomb has just exploded and the perpetrator is believed to be Starfleet agent John Harrison. The meeting about how to deal with Harrison is disturbed by Harrison’s jumpship. Kirk destroys the jumpship but Harrison is able to escape to the Klingon planet of Kronos. Meanwhile Pike was killed in the attack which promotes Kirk back to captain of the Enterprise. Kirk is left in charge of dealing with the Enterprise and Harrison whether to have Harrison killed by the torpedoes on board the Enterprise or brought to justice.

Their first attempt at capturing Harrison is by arriving on the Klingon planet even though they know Klingons are set to attack them. Harrison kills the Klingons but appears to surrender when aware of the torpedoes against him. It’s when Khan is held inside the Enterprise that is true identity is learned, Khan: a genetically engineered superhuman designed as a weapon 300 years ago for a war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. On top of that, the torpedoes each have one of Khan’s crew cryogenically frozen inside. In the meantime Admiral Marcus, engineer of Khan and captain of the USS Vengeance which Khan designed, demands Khan’s release. The Enterprise refuses and that leads to a war leaving the Enterprise severely damaged.

Soon after many giveaways happen to the intentions of both Khan and Marcus which almost leads to the destruction of the Enterprise had it not been for Scotty’s fast thinking on the Vengeance. A confrontation between Kirk, Spock, Marcus’ daughter Carol and Khan leads to Khan succeeding and gaining control of the Vengeance. Khan will only allow the crew of the Enterprise free if given the torpedoes. They agree but just when it’s thought that Khan has the advantage, a surprise occurs. This leads to a battle between Khan and leaders of the Enterprise with a not-so-typical ending to the movie.

This is a continuation from what started in 2009 when the first Star Trek was remade. If you remember then, they attempted to remake the very first Star Trek movie with a modern faced cast and with modern special effects. The end result was one popcorn movie remake that worked well not just with audiences but critics alike. it even became the first Star Trek movie to win an Oscar: winning Best Makeup. Here in 2013 comes a new challenge of remaking The Wrath Of Khan with the new modern cast and the new special effects.

I’ll admit that I have not seen the original Wrath Of Khan so I cannot compare it to Into Darkness. What I can do is compare it with the 2009 remake of the original. The original was good as it was able to remake and even modernize the original well with good writing, good acting and excellent effects.  Into Darkness was also very good in its own way with the acting and the directing and especially the effects. There were times where the original actors (William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) make appearances in the movie with is not uncommon for Hollywood to do in terms of movie remakes and movie versions of TV shows. However Shatner was given a good role that was atypical. As for the story, it was your typical Hollywood formulas in the story but what it lacks in original it, it makes up for in entertainment. It succeeds in being a thrill ride for those who see it with battles and even an ending that it not your typical predictable Hollywood ending.

The acting from the actors was also good. One thing I liked about the 2009 remake is that none of the actors were trying to fill the shoes of the actors past. Chris Pine knew he wasn’t to be a copy of William Shatner. Zachary Quinto knew he wasn’t to fill the shoes of Leonard Nimoy. John Cho knew that he’s not in George Takei’s shadow. Anton Yelchin knew not to compare himself to Walter Koenig. And Zoe Saldana was not trying to be Nichelle Nichols either.  Each had their part to do and doing it made it work. The actors again continue to do it in Into Darkness. Mind you the role of Spock was given a new challenge by having him convey emotion despite being a Vulcan. Even Benedict Cumberbatch did a very good job in playing Kahn, even if Khan came across as an unoriginal Hollywood villain.

J.J. Abrams can add this movie to his cloud as one of the top sci-fi directors in Hollywood. He started well with Mission Impossible III, progressed with the first Star Trek in 2009 and did it again in Super 8. Although Into Darkness doesn’t compare to the first Star Trek, it does not hurt his reputation at all and even adds to his consistency. The highlights of the movie of course were the visual effects as should be expected with any sci fi movie. People don’t go to a sci fi movie for the script. They go to escape to another world. And Star Trek Into Darkness succeeds into taking us into our world two centuries from now and into the many worlds in the Star Trek universe. It was a very good trip into escapism that most will enjoy.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a sequel remake that puts its most emphasis in the escapism and the excitement of the action. It succeeds again in giving the audience a trip to another world while staying true to the Star Trek theme. The big question is if there’s to be a remake of The Search For Spock in the future, how soon will it come out and what will the end result be?

Movie Review: Paul

Okay, you’re probably wondering why on earth am I just posting this review now when Paul has been out for at least a month? Here’s the thing. I don’t immediately rush out to the theatres whenever a movie comes out. I see them when I see them. Often when there’s a big hit movie, I wait weeks until the crowds die down to go see it. So that explains why you get my review of Paul later than most. So after explaining all that…

Who is Paul? He’s a fugitive. He’s a celebrity. He’s a slacker. He’s a joker…He’s an alien. Paul is all those things, and the subject of a recent comedy movie. The latest concoction of the British writing/acting collaboration of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. So how does this close encounter of the funny kind end up?

Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are two British comic book dweebs with a passion for sci-fi and alien encounters. The love it so much, they rent an RV and take it from San Diego’s Comic-Con all across the US for their own alien encounter tour. Little do they know they’d find themselves in trouble. First they come across some homophobic hunters who suspect them to be a couple. They head off, accidentally denting their truck. On the run, they get hit by a car driven by, among other things, an alien named Paul. The two bring Paul along in the RV. Little do they know that Paul is actually in pursuit by a shady government agent named Zoil who even recruits two inept FBI agents in the capture.

Later during a campfire over at a campground run by Moses, a strict Christian and his daughter Ruth, Paul tells the twosome that while captured by the government, he helped with Spielberg’s E.T. and the X-Files’ Mulder. Ever since he learned the government planned to dissect his brain, he’s been on the run since. Ruth is then kidnapped by the two. Once in the RV, she learns of Paul and refuses to trust him as it contradicts her devout beliefs. Once Paul heals her blind eye, blind since she was four, she trusts him to the point she becomes eager to sin.

Meanwhile Zoil and the two agents question Moses who says she was abducted by demons. Graeme, Ruth and Willy once again meet up with the homophobic hunters, but Paul comes to the rescue. Upon pursuit of Paul, Zoil and the agents come across him. Once Paul makes his escape, all three are after him but for their own separate pursuits each. Meanwhile Moses is chasing for Ruth.

Paul finds refuge in an old house which is owned by Tara, a young girl who saved his live back in 1947 and is all grown up, reclusive because of the ostracism she received throughout her life. Tara is relieved to find that Paul is real. After turning on the stove, a shootout ensues at her house, causing it to explode with Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara on the run. The three agents go on their pursuits again but only Zoil survives in meeting up with Paul, who is in a field waiting for his UFO to take him home. Instead, it’s a helicopter with ‘The Big Guy’, Zoil’s superior. Zoil reveals he was the one who helped Paul get away. Zoil disarms the men but is shot in the shoulder. Tara punches out ‘The Big Guy’. Moses shoots Clive dead. Paul heals him but his healing powers come at the risk of his own life. After Clive is revived, it appears Paul is dead but he’s just exhausted. Paul’s ship arrives, crushing ‘The Big Guy’. Heading for home, he invites Tara to come with him and finally live a life. Two years later, Clive, Graeme and Ruth return to Comic-Con. This time, they are on stage as successful comic book writers thanks to their comic book Paul.

I have to say the biggest overall glitch with this movie is that it often appears to rely on the crude and rude one-liners in many parts. It has enough humorous subject matter and comedic characters without having to resort too often to such lines. First off,  the incorporation of the subject lines of many alien shows of past, like Star Wars, Close Encounters, E.T. and the X-Files. Second off, there are already a lot of talented actors that have been able to prove of recent that they can do comedy well. Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader have proved their humor in Saturday Night Live and other movies they’ve acted in. Blythe Danner, Sigourney Weaver and Jason Bateman were also able to make their roles work in the movie. Seth Rogen, already a reputed funny man himself, did a good job in the voice over as Paul. Pegg and Frost are already known for their comedic acting as well as their writing for Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. They don’t have to resort too often to such low brow material.

Outside of that, the movie was a good job of meshing 3D animation with live-action, an alien encounter story with comedy, and even romance with sci-fi dweebs. Pegg and Frost once again show that they’re at their best when they’re together. They also showed they can do a good job with an American story line for the first time. Also it was unique to see a comedy not just revolve around an alien encounter but also with San Diego’s Comic-Con, which has grown in popularity in recent years to the point even A-listers make appearances.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who both wrote and star in Paul, describe it as a ‘love letter to Steven Spielberg’. You could describe their two previous big-screen comedies, Shaun OIf The Dead and Hot Fuzz, as ‘love letters’ too. If you saw Shaun Of The Dead, you’d tell it was a love letter to all those zombie movies. If you saw Hot Fuzz, you’d definitely know it was a love letter to all those gunslinger action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t think Paul is so much a love letter to Spielberg as much as it is a love letter to sci-fi as a whole. Good mesh of stories but I feel this movie is more of a salute to sci-fi dweebs and comic books geeks the world over.

Paul is an enjoyable movie. Even though I felt it could be better with the humor in the script, it is a delight to watch. Pegg and Forst know how to do enjoyable movies and they do it again here.