Monthly Archives: July 2016

“Star Trek Beyond” Movie Review

If you’ve ever wanted a summary of the old Star Trek movies, here you go: Even-numbered Star Trek movies are good. Odd-numbered movies aren’t so good. That’s generally speaking. Worst of the worst is still the fifth movie, The Final Frontier; that one’s… well it’s almost unwatchable. Now let’s move on to the latest Star Trek movie. This science-fiction action-adventure released nationwide on July 22nd, 2016, only managing to earn $95 million against a budget of $185 million in its opening weekend. This is likely due to the film’s unfortunate premiere during San Diego Comic-Con International. For the sake of full disclosure, I was very skeptical about the third iteration in the new line of reboot movies. J.J. Abrams, who directed the first two films, left in 2013 to work on The Force Awakens, and then it was announced that Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious franchise would take over the helm. And when the first trailer dropped, it practically confirmed my fears about it ruining everything the Star Trek series stood for. Then, I watched Star Trek Beyond and found I was dead wrong, because this movie is superbly entertaining. Picking up three years after Star Trek Into Darkness, the crew of the Enterprise led by James T. Kirk has made it halfway through their Five-Year Mission, each member considering how to move on with their lives. Then while resting at the Starbase Yorktown, they receive a distress call from beyond a dense nebula and decide to go track its origins. But hay hits the fan once the crew is attacked by an unknown enemy named Krall, who subsequently destroys the Enterprise and captures most of the crew. A select few members escape and crash land on the nearby planet where with the help of Jaylah, a scavenger who escaped Krall’s wrath, they plan to free their imprisoned comrades. I keep it vague like that because it is best that you go into this film as cold as possible. The best way I can describe Star Trek Beyond is that it is arguably the closest in spirit to The Original Series out of the three reboot films. It recalls the franchise’s themes of unity and hope while giving us some great character progression. During a scene of solemnity, Commander Spock informs Dr. Leonard McCoy , “Fear of death is illogical.” To which Bones remarks, “Fear of death is what keeps us alive.”  The relationship between Kirk and Spock may not be at the forefront of this installment, but it’s still one of the most endearing parts of the overall story. Their back-and-forth banter is only elevated by the excellent chemistry between Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script, is hilarious once again as Montgomery Scott, or Scotty. In fact, the movie itself is generally funnier than either Star Trek or Star Trek Into Darkness. And thankfully, Michael Giacchino returned to compose the musical score. His contribution gives such a sense of wonder and scale that I can’t picture any other composer who could have done it better. Sofia Boutella is a wonderful new addition to the franchise as Jaylah and is yet another great example of a strong female character in recent science-fiction. Rounding out the new cast is Idris Elba as the villain Krall. I keep professing this guy is one of the best actors in the business. He was a vicious, tactful, and commanding villain throughout most of this film. The biggest problem is in the last act when the plot seemingly makes some huge leaps in logic. Especially after the villain’s true motivations and backstory are revealed, a number plot elements and details from earlier on seem like they contradict one another. So don’t try to think too much about it after leaving the theater. In the end, Star Trek Beyond was better than I expected it to be, with great character development, a strong premise, and fantastic music. Even though it starts to throw logic away in the final act, the action is still very exciting and intense. Easily one of the best Star Trek movies in years, there’s also a chance of it making it onto my list of the best movies of the year.

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“Firefly” T.V. Show Review

What did I do? I watched Firefly. And if a show is able to make me content being that slothful and doing nothing else for an entire week, it was worth doing a post. This space western drama by nerd icon Joss Whedon originally aired for a brief 3-month stint on Fox before getting canceled; for all intents and purposes, it was dead upon arrival. I’ll dive further into detail about that, but let’s dissect the series as it was. Set 500 years in the future, the Solar System we currently live in has been used up, and all of the human population has migrated to a new one. Dozens of new planets and moons were terraformed to match the likeness of Earth. The “core” planets are very lush in technology, while the “outer” planets are quite forbidding and desolate- the primary setting of the series. Shortly after colonization, the United States and China formed a supergovernment known as the Alliance and began a war against outer planet colonies for total dominance. The rebels, widely called Browncoats, got stomped in the war, thus the Alliance now maintains control over the vast system. Six years later, the main character Malcolm Reynolds, who fought on the losing side, embarks on a series of quests onboard his Firefly-class smuggling ship, Serenity. He goes on adventures alongside one of the greatest ensemble casts in the history of television. The very first thing to address is that Firefly is more like a Western than it is a sci-fi. There are no alien species, most people in the galaxy use powder weapons rather than lasers, and most of the outer planets feel like deserts for people to run around on horseback. In that sense, it’s arguable that Firefly is the grounded and plausible depiction of the far future yet, no disrespect to Star Trek. Now let’s break down each crew member aboard Serenity. First of all, Malcolm Reynolds is one of the greatest characters Joss Whedon has ever written. He’s such a bitter, cynical space pirate after losing the Unification War. You really get the implication that not only did he lose the war, he lost his faith entirely. Actor Nathan Fillion was able to bring a likability and a sense of humor that made Mal feel like a complete person. He does put up a lot of walls on himself, but that’s because he absolutely has a heart of gold underneath. It just got ripped out a stomped. His second-in-command is Zoe Washbourne, a war buddy who is incredibly efficient with firefights. What makes both her and Mal complete badasses is that Greedo would never stand a chance; they shoot first. Her husband, Wash, is more or less the comic relief of the show. He never fought in a war, he never lost anything, so he’s not bitter. He pilots Serenity and manages to get the crew out of tricky scenarios. Then, there’s Derrial Book, a Shepherd or priest. Mal is initially reluctant about letting a preacher on board, but they mutually respect one another. Book is the voice of reason among a ship full of criminals and wackjobs. It’s implied that he has some high priority status with The Alliance in the past, but since the show was canceled, we’ll never know. (Unless you read a graphic novel) Jayne is the mercenary aboard the ship, meaning he will do anything you tell him as long as he’s paid. His personal love is Vera, a custom firearm of great power. Next, is Inara, the credible person aboard. She’s a Companion, which is more or less the Buddhist version of a prostitute. That’s right, prostitution has been made legal in the future, thus they are seen with high members of society. Another strong woman is Kaylee, the engineer that helps run the ship and figure out the kinks. Though a Firefly is  not prestigious, Kaylee is still highly optimistic and the only genuinely sweet crew member. Now fo the Tams. Simon is an extremely intelligent doctor from the Alliance, who brings a mysterious crate on board. You find out it’s his sister, River. He gave up his entire fortune to find her and get her to safety. River was experimented on and is quite confused throughout the show. Even with such a big ensemble, everyone on the show feels relevant at all times. Projected by the fact that everyone on the show loved each other as a family in real life. So why did Fox break up a family? Because they didn’t like it. They chose to air all of the episodes out of order, and ultimately cancel a show that was before its time. It’s almost a slap in the face. It’s an example of a drama that can still be funny due to good comedic timing. However, when the show wants to be creepy and uncomfortable, it’s definitely that. A few times, Serenity runs into the Reavers, a sub-populace of cannibalistic humans that will rape you to death and sew your skin onto their clothes. Scares me every time I see a ship of theirs. Despite the short run, Firefly still has relatable characters, a fantastic musical score, a unique style, and realistic dialogue. After finishing, you’ll be watching the movie Serenity. Joss Whedon did get a chance from Universal Pictures to wrap up his story in cinematic form. But that’s another review for another day soon.

“Finding Dory” Movie Review

Let’s be honest with ourselves. There was a time when a sequel to any Pixar movie was considered a gamble, and overall just a waste of time. However, after seeing Finding Dory, I would beg to differ. This aquatic-based computer-animated comedy released on June 17th, 2016, where it broke opening weekend box office numbers for an animated movie. Picking up a year after the previous Finding Nemo, we follow the forgetful blue regal tang fish, Dory, when one day, she remembers her old family. So now she makes her way to the Jewel of Morro Bay, California. All the while, the clown fish Marlin is reluctant to go out into the sea once more after having previously lost his son Nemo. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks reprise their roles from the first movie and haven’t a single ounce of their touch. In fact, they sound so unchanged, you could swear they made this film over ten years ago. Ellen is hilarious as Dory and was really able to bring something to the character. I mean, a person (or animal, in this case) that can’t remember anything within an hour’s worth of time? That should be really annoying, and yet DeGeneres kept her interesting and endearing. Along with the three returning main characters, there is a whole new array of supporting characters to become involved with. But the movie primarily focuses on the relationship between Dory and the octopus Hank. Bitter after losing one of his tentacles in the open ocean, Hank agrees to help Dory only in exchange for a one-way trip to an aquarium in Cleveland. Late-night sitcom veteran Ed O’Neill does a fantastic job voicing the character, projecting a strong comedic timing mirroring a cynicism that can only be cured by the optimism of “just keep swimming.” Ty Burell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olson, and Idris Elba also provide their voices for a variety of aquatic animals in the Marine Life Institute. Elba, (in like his 5th movie this year) a snarky sea lion, only appears a few times in the movie, but the moments he was on screen were really funny, almost as if he’s a natural at voice acting. And of course, we have to talk about the computer animation by Pixar Animation Studios. As with every Pixar movie released, the animations and art design of Finding Dory are absolutely beautiful. There is not a single frame devoid of bright or flamboyant colors, from the Marine Life Institute to Marlin and Nemo’s home coral. Each scene looks smooth and crisp in both framerate and lighting. And also like all other Pixar movies, there’s the soundtrack to praise as well. Thomas Newman’s score in Finding Nemo was excellent, and it’s no different in this sequel. Such soothing and sweeping instrumental tracks perfectly exemplify the natural beauty and scope and depth of the ocean in which the main protagonists must travel across in order to make it to their destinations. But that doesn’t detract from tracks for exciting and intense moments, like when the trio are down in a ship wreckage and desperately try to escape the wrath of a squid. Despite all of the praise of which I have just heaped upon the movie, it still cannot reach the level of emotional appeal as the first. I mean to stress, it’s quite funny and touching at the right times, but it never made choke up or well out any tears like Finding Nemo did. Whether that makes this movie a failure, that’s entirely subjective to the viewer’s opinion. But in a sense of objectivity, Finding Dory can still be qualified as yet another fulfilling entry into Pixar’s extensive catalog. The voice acting is great, the attention to detail is phenomenal, the characters are all hilarious, and the premise is executed very well. I would say that it was worth waiting nearly 13 years for a sequel, no matter how skeptical we all may have been. And yes, the animated short at the very beginning was nothing short of ADORABLE.