Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek: Into Awesomeness

I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness once and I'm going to see it again.  It met my expectations and exceeded them.  It delivered a great story mixed with some cool special effects.

This sequel starts off strong with a mission in progress on the "red tree" planet.  Kirk makes some questionable decisions, getting him into trouble.  However, when Agent John Harrison initiates a terrorist attack, Kirk is pulled back into action.  Nothing goes right, and all the crew members must make the best with what they have and keep it all together.

Cumberbatch plays a great villain, and I would never want to get in his way.  Pine plays Kirk almost as a loose cannon, but someone willing to make the difficult decisions.  Quinto plays up the half-blooded Vulcan still struggling between his two legacies, though slow to admit this to his colleagues.

The composer, Giacchino, has outdone himself.  (He had already surpassed John Williams years ago.)  This time he takes on the style of Philip Glass.  It's by far the most successful emulation I've heard, matching several of his musical markers.  I also heard a little John Adams in the closing credits.  The whole score was amazing, bringing together these styles with Giacchino's own personal touch.

I suspect that almost anyone would enjoy this film ... even those who have never watched any Star Trek.  That is, it's not really a prerequisite to have seen the 2009 movie.

My only complaint about the movie is that it relied too heavily on quotes from the original TV show and movies.  I know these are supposed to be nods to the die-hard Trekkies, but it was a little too much this time, and I found it little too distracting.  In fact, there was one particularly cheezy moment.  Unless they were going for campy-funny, it didn't work at all for me.

I can overlook that complaint (as I watch it again).  But I strongly, strongly and strongly recommend NOT watching it in 3-D.  It did nothing for me.  The coolest part was the IMAX countdown before the movie started.  However, in the movie itself, I could see double images, mainly in my right eye.  And while the conversion was a noble effort, there were still several distance issues as the camera panned, which helped to make certain scenes look fake.  In other words, I don't think they did it right.  I'll try again with good old fashioned 2-D.  I wish they had IMAX 2-D.  Now, THAT would be awesome.

Be prepared for lens flares, as J. J. Abrams can't make a movie without them.  They're cool sometimes, but they really stick out in 3-D (another reason to watch in 2-D).

With the awesome story and new kinds of special effects, you'll definitely want to catch this in the theater.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Iron Man 3

Who says sequels always suck?  Iron Man 3 may be my favorite of the trilogy.  The movie not only delivers action and awesome special effects, but it also delivers a real story that is both interesting, somewhat complex, and yet easy to follow.  Some complain that it doesn't deliver enough effects, but I'll take story over effects any day.

A terrorist, the "Mandarin," is bombing several different targets, but Ironman wants to put a stop to it.  Tony Stark, again, plays the quirky almost hero, who mostly prevails while things don't turn out exactly as he wanted them to.  Hmmm ... I guess that part does sound like the first two movies.  The movie also makes use of well-timed and well-placed humor.  Okay ... that was also in the first two movies.

Okay ... it was just awesome and entertaining.

Ben Kingsley gave a great performance as the "Mandarin," though many may be disappointed by the character.  Downey was good.  Paltrow was good.  Jon Favreau, director of the first two movies, reprises his own role as Happy.

I recommend seeing this one in the theater.  3-D is optional, as it wasn't shot in 3-D.  I wouldn't recommend it for children under 13.  Have fun watching!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

G. I. Joe: Retaliation

G. I. Joe: Retaliation was nonstop action, but severely lacking in plot.  There were some ridiculously crazy awesome fight scenes, but getting from A to B got a little confusing.

To start off, most of the G. I. Joe crew is replaced with totally different characters.  Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is always awesome in the roles he plays, but his character, Roadblock, appears at the very beginning of the movie without introduction or explanation.  I suppose we're to assume he's just one of the guys.  It helps that he buddies up with Duke from the original movie, but near the beginning when (as the trailer shows above) most of the Joes are wiped out and Roadblock and a few others survive, we're at a loss understanding how Roadblock got to be that good.  What's his backstory?  Why did he join the Joes?  The whole time it felt like I was watching "The Rock" instead of Roadblock.

Wait!  I just noticed!  ROadbloCK.  He IS the Rock!

There are some connections to the original movie.  It may help to go to a wiki page to refresh yourself what happens in that movie.  However, it seems that the original plot is mostly thrown out the window in the sequel.  We do learn more about Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow.  We finally get to meet Mr. G. I. Joe himself, played by Bruce Willis.  Though, his introduction was confusing ... why can we trust him ... and why wasn't he in the first movie?  I saw him more as "Bruce Willis" in Die Hard, than I saw him as the creator of the Joes.  Like the Rock, Bruce is cool in the roles he plays.  How many movies is that guy going to appear in?

I love the comic-book action/violence that permeates throughout the whole movie, but I was a little disturbed by some of the setup.  Since the Joes are practically turned into outlaws, they must do battle with their own government.  Plus, near the beginning of the movie, the Joes must participate in a foreign mission that would be highly questionable in any political environment.  In these missions, the Joes take on and even kill some good people who are just doing their jobs.

In one scene, the Joes must get past some US guards at a gate.  The Joes kill these guards without hesitation.  It's got to be done to save the world, but still ... don't those red blooded Americans have wives and children waiting at home for them?  You think their survivors are going to sit back and "understand"?  No, in the third movie, they're going to be suing the Joes.

But then again, in the mind of the director, who's really only presenting a series of awesome fight scenes loaded with top-notch special effects, these US guards are just random "bad guys" whose real purpose in movie life is to give the good guys someone to cut down.

The violent scenes are indeed cool, but I wish they could have done more with the plot so as to not show too many unnecessary deaths of good people just doing their jobs.  Either make the deaths necessary, or at least don't resort to killing when only temporary incapacitation is required.

Another observation: it seemed that this time, the bad guys got all the cool gadgets, while the Joes had nothing near as cool as what they got in the first movie.  It's not a show stopper, but still ... why can't the good guys have all the cool gadgets?

Finally, I would venture to guess that Republicans and gun-lovers will eat up all the Easter eggs placed throughout the movie ... a Fox News joke ... guns everywhere.  In fact, the very last scene ends with someone holding up a gun at a solemn ceremony and randomly shooting it in the air.  Really?  I guess they had to fade to black quickly before the Secret Service jumped on the shooter.

Yet, I actually enjoyed the movie.  The non-stop awesome fight scenes and action was worth the theater price I paid.  In fact, I would recommend watching this movie in a theater so that you can fully enjoy these scenes.  Because once this hits DVD/Blu-Ray, it's just not going to be as enjoyable a movie.  Go watch this before Senator Feinstein bans it!