Zoe Saldana

Star Trek

Year: 2009
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Gene Roddenberry(Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Everything has to get a reboot these days, and typically I spend a lot of time hating on them but I consider this an exception. This is just such a cool movie. Believe me, I’ve watched all ten movies that came before it and while two of them were really good none of them were cool. J.J. Abrams really turned up the volume.

In his debut film Chris Hemsworth gets me every time. The intro to this movie is absolutely incredible. It starts with a bang and then hits you right in the heart. Thrust into action, the future Thor is inspiring with his bravery. Hemsworth delivers on this scene when he’s naming his son as he is sacrificing his life to save everyone. The sparks are flying in the background of this emotional scene and it’s just beautiful. Star Trek doesn’t usually start like this, and it makes a difference.

The following scenes featuring young Kirk and Spock are awesome and deepen characters we already know and love. Despite how crappy most of the movies have been they are still legendary. Captain Kirk and Spock are icons. It’s no easy task to recreate them but J. J. Abrams made it look easy, this time around anyway. He took two characters that people know, and not just know but know really well and taught us something new about both of them.

Abrams did so many things right early on. Showing the conflict Spock has being half Human and half Vulcan. The first meeting of Kirk and Dr. McCoy, with Karl Urban doing a terrific Deforrest Kelley impression. He shows us Kirk cheating the freaking Kobiyashi Maru test! These things were all really well done. I think it’s blasphemous to say it because it’s a reboot, but having just watched all the Star Trek movies I have to admit that this is better. It’s more engaging, it’s more entertaining.

The cast is fantastic. Chris Pine was a relative nobody when this movie came out and he became an instant star with his portrayal of a young Captain Kirk. He has swagger and he looks the part of a young William Shatner but still manages to make his own stamp on the part. Zachery Quinto too looks the part yet manages to make it his own. Quintos Spock won’t just Vulcan death grip you, he’ll karate chop you and outsmart you because he’s been doing so his whole life. I don’t usually like Karl Urban, but he is fantastic in this part. I like that Harold (John Cho) from Harold and Kumar is playing Sulu. Anton Yelchin, may he rest in peace, is a cool Chekov. Zoe Saldana continued making her rounds in Sci-Fi franchises and looks great as usual. Simon Pegg is awesome in everything he is a part of and he is no different as Scotty, frankly his presence just makes this movie that much better.

The movie already had us with great action in the intro but the space jump is just amazing. Ha ha the thrill seeking “other guy” eats it on the dive. In true Star Trek fashion that no name along for the ride with Kirk and Sulu is expendable and dies. Oh damn, Sulu has a future sword and starts flipping around like a ninja. Again another character is redefined and cooler than he was before. Who knew Harold had it in him. Kirk Point Break’s Sulu when he’s falling without a shute, and Chekov gets a moment to shine. This scene is hands down a step ahead of the rest of Star Trek, it’s so cool.

I had a big problem when I saw this for the first time because they destroyed Vulcan. I just felt like this was a blasphemous thing to do. It was like killing Cyclops in that awful third X-Men movie. You can’t destroy Vulcan, it’s too important. However, it is a defining moment in the story that drives the rest of the film. I have come along since that first viewing, especially after watching all the Star Trek movies in a row. This one is just better, I’ll forgive it its misgivings.

I don’t think there is anything about Eric Bana as the villain, or the whole Nero story line, that’s really significant. Although he does break out those bugs that make you susceptible to suggestion from The Wrath of Khan. That is cool, but beyond that, and destroying Vulcan, he is just a guy for the good guys to fight. This movie is all about the good guys and they needed a villain when they weren’t fighting each other.

Ha! Kirk is climbing again! It’s been established before, the man likes to climb. Spock maroons him on a desolate planet because he’s too brash. Kirk has to climb out of his landing spot deep in the ice. Then Leonard Nimoy shows up, somewhere William Shatner was outraged, and he’s just a sight for sore eyes. In this long and monotonous journey that included two movies I couldn’t even finish the original Spock is just great to see again.

By establishing a new timeline they establish a new universe for themselves. It was a brilliant idea that should have been great going forward. I’ve only seen the sequel once and we never owned it until I started watching all the Star Trek movies, oh the hours I’ll never get back. After this movie I’m actually looking forward to seeing the next one again but I won’t be reviewing the third film because I have had enough of Star Trek. We watch Star Trek Beyond recently and weren’t impressed.

This movie has a great climax following the awesome fight, or ass kicking I should say, between Kirk and Spock. Spock beats the shit out of Kirk, but Kirk gets what he wants so it’s all good. Kirk has no qualms with taking an ass whooping in this movie, but he keeps fighting anyway. Spock and Kirk of course come to an understanding and then ride into battle together. Beaming aboard the enemy vessel, phasers in hand. They save the day and fly off into the starset as a couple of joes that might still become the friends in this new time line.

I haven’t mentioned it but the score for this film was terrific. I love that weird sound they chime all throughout the movie. It just sounds like Star Trek and really sets the tone.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but this movie nearly saves the name of Star Trek for me. I have made it plain how this journey through Star Trek has been for me. It’s all in print now and I was ready to swear off the whole thing for good. All of it, Kirk, Spock, Data, Worf, my personal favorite Captain Picard, every single person who ever wore one of those stupid uniforms. Nevertheless, this movie has me wanting more and I didn’t think that was possible at this point. I think I’m going to watch the sequel tomorrow night and see where it takes me. I didn’t like the sequel as much but hopefully that changes this time around. Or maybe it won’t. Star Trek has had just enough good movies to keep me going so by the laws of probability there won’t be another good one till this version hits its fifth or sixth movie, if we’re being optimistic.

This is the coolest of the cool, a complete retelling of something that at least had the potential to be cool at times. If you haven’t seen this movie you should check it out. Just don’t go calling yourself a Trekkie until you’ve paid your dues. You don’t have to wear Vulcan ears or anything but you have to know. You have to understand what came before and have some appreciation for it. It’s questionable if any of the movies that came before are actually worth your time but this one definitely is.

Disclaimer: Please excuse me real Star Trek fans. I don’t claim to be one of you but I am like a close outsider. I know things, but I would never beat you in a trivia match up. If I’m way off base here then by all means present your arguments and I would love to discuss it.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Advertisements

Guardians of the Galaxy

Year: 2014
Directed By: James Gunn
Written By: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie came out before I really understood and appreciated the scope of the MCU. I knew that all the comic book movies Marvel was making would eventually tie together and I thought they were all good. Yet when this movie came out I gave it a pass. I have been a comic book fan my whole life yet had never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The previews did nothing to encourage me as I distinctly remember wondering what was up with this movie. There was a talking racoon in it and this big tree thing that was voiced by none other than Vin Diesel. They had a WWE star in the cast! The fat guy from Parks and Rec was playing the lead. There was just no way this movie would amount to anything more than an experiment Marvel lost money on.

Well, I like to admit when I am wrong and from the very beginning of this movie I could instantly tell I was not only wrong about it but I was in store for something spectacular. Starlord dancing around during the opening credits is so engaging and fun. It instantly sets the tone for what turned out to be a really engaging and fun movie. That tone is also set by an awesome soundtrack that would top the charts for many weeks on end.

It turned out that fat guy from Parks and Rec lost a ton of weight and was kind of a hilarious badass in his own way. The talking racoon was not only not stupid but managed to steal the show. He is incredible and awesome in every single scene he is part of. Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot arguably showed more range than Vin Diesel as the actor in popular over explosive movies. I knew nothing about Dave Batista other than him being a WWE performer. Just when that seems like enough I see something like this that throws the whole world off balance.

I thought Dave Bautista was not just good in this movie but outstanding. He is so funny with his literal one liners and lack of understanding when it comes to metaphor or sarcasm. “Why would I run my finger across his throat?” He’s just so unexpectedly hilarious I absolutely cann0t wait for the sequel because I want more of this guy. I wrote him off for no other reason than the fact that he was a pro wrestler by trade and that seemed to be a gross miscalculation.

Chris Pratt blew up into a star following this movie and when you watch the movie it’s easy to see why. He is undeniably likable in this movie and brings a wit to the character that makes him hilarious. I really like Chris Pratt from his days on Parks and Rec where after a while I thought he was the only good thing about the show. I only refer to him as “the fat guy” because I have heard so many people describe him that way. I found it really impressive how he got himself in shape for the role. He did so on his own volition too which shows a lot of dedication to the character.

I can’t think of anything to say about Rocket other than he is just hands down awesome. His dialogue and delivery are so funny. He didn’t have time to work out the “minutia” of the plan, he called Stan Lee a “class A prevert,” and he got Starlord to take that prosthetic leg for his plan to escape the prison. He’s just so funny and I was thoroughly surprised by the character. He is so much more than simply funny as he is a tiny little badass that you just don’t see coming.

By saying no more than three words throughout the movie Vin Diesel actually managed to impress me. I have never been a big fan of the guy and don’t consider him to be a good actor. I can’t stand an actor that has to go over the top trying to be cool. If you have to try to be cool you are simply missing that element that makes it natural. In this film though, with his three words, it’s the coolest I think he has ever been.

Zoe Saldana seems to be part of every sci-fi franchise lately after significant parts in Avatar and the Star Trek franchise. In this movie she looks really good with green skin and I like her character quite a bit. She’s a beautiful woman but I feel like I would’t recognize her in anything else. She has over 40 acting credits but usually when I see her she is either CGI or in tons of make up.

Most of the characters in this movie are in a ton of make up or done by CGI but my favorite is Michael Rooker with that bright blue skin. I am a big fan of Michael Rooker going all the way back to Cliffhanger and before. I love his perception in this movie that Starlord owes him something because he stopped his people from eating him as a child. The arrow that he uses with his whistling is awesome and I can’t wait to see more of it in the sequel.

The rest of this cast is full of great actors in supporting roles. John C. Reilly is great in everything and he manages to be really funny in a small part. Glenn Close brings credibility as the leader of the Nova as does Benicio Del Toro as The Collector. My favorite supporting character is Korath played by Djimon Hounsou. He just looks so wicked in costume and I love the part of the film in which he called Quill Starlord and the response is a delighted “finally.”

I really liked the villains in this movie. Ronan was really wicked from the beginning with his dressing ceremony up to his disgust at Peter Quill dancing. Played by Lee Pace it is hard to recognize him at all in all the make-up but the make-up that hid him was excellent. He is a ruthless villain and thus far one of the better villains in the MCU who haven’t really measured up in the villain department quite like they have in the hero. This movie also gives us our longest look at the coming big bad guy Thanos, played by Josh Brolin. He has merely a cameo in this movie but it offers us a good look at what is to come. I also liked Nebula with her jealous streak and ability to just bounce back into form robotically after being blasted by an explosion. Looks like she will be switching sides in the next film and it will be cool to see her kicking ass for the good guys.

I had never seen anything by Director James Gunn before but I will have an eye out for his work in the future. I think the script he wrote for this movie was just so incredibly funny. I am regularly impressed with the people Marvel finds to helm their movies because often I am unfamiliar with them. They manage to make it all work great though with fantastic continuity for the expanding cinematic universe. No matter who is at the helm all of these movies manage to feel like they are on the same page. It’s an impressive thing and evidence of the genius behind Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige.

I think I have rambled on sufficiently for this movie but I could never say enough about how much I enjoy this movie. I love when I have low expectations of something and it manages to blow me away. If you have preconceived notions about this movie I understand, but I sincerely encourage you to give it a chance and find out as I did how great it is and what you are missing. This movie isn’t just worth your time but worth plenty of your time as it gets better with multiple viewings.

 

 

Avatar

Year: 2009
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron

RYAN’S REVIEW

When this movie came out I saw it in the theater three times.  I thought it was one of the most awesome movies I had ever seen.  It was really something special, and the box office results reflect the fact that it was no ordinary movie.  I hailed James Cameron as a genius and still do because the fact is he might have saved the theater business from going under.  He created an experience that can’t be recreated at home.  His 3D, and I’m not talking about the crap being passed off as 3D now, but James Cameron 3D, Avatar 3D, will save the movie industry.  That is of course when people figure out what Cameron did different and learn to recreate it.  Until then let’s look forward to Avatar 2 because I have every hope that it will surpass it’s predecessor and blow us away all over again. For further opinions about James Cameron see our posts on The Abyss and Aliens. It’s difficult to describe watching Avatar in 3D because I didn’t write about the experience when it happened, but I remembered thinking I wish I could see every movie I loved just like that.  I felt like I was inside the movie, and it was amazing.

That being said, having just watched it I can see now that this movie doesn’t belong in our collection and I regret buying it when it came out.  We don’t own a 3D TV, and even if we did I don’t know how well the film actually transitions to the small screen in that format. The 3D effects made this movie truly amazing and an outstanding viewing experience, but without them it’s a different story.  It’s just a movie without those effects, and not a good one at that.  The story is practically a knock-off, the performances are weak, even by the A-list actors, and until the end the movie is more or less boring without the 3D.  Giovanni Ribisi is so cliché in this film he should be embarrassed, Stephen Lang is trying too hard to pass himself off as a badass, and Sigourney Weaver is just going through the motions.  The surprising actress is Michelle Rodriguez, who I usually hate but didn’t mind here.  Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are both good,  but the effects that make their characters tend to overshadow their acting.

If you have watched this movie on a 3D TV then please let me know how it was, but if you don’t own one I’d advise you not to waste your time with this one.  If you saw it in the theater I trust you were pleased but that experience can’t be recreated at home with a normal TV.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I am really happy that I can say that I saw this film in 3D. It was an amazing experience and by far the coolest movie I have ever seen in the theater in 3D. It was the experience that was amazing. The movie itself was not. The story has been told before, and while I appreciate the effort put forth to make a statement about human kind, they story wasn’t original and I am not sure why Ryan bought this movie.

NEXT MOVIE: Back to the Future (1985)