Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

startrekintodarkness_1Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve, Noel Clarke, Nazneen Contractor

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Expectations: Moderate. I liked the first a lot, but I’ve heard mixed things about this one.

threehalfstar


There’s a short section in the middle of J.J. Abrams’s first Star Trek film that I refer to as “the part where it becomes a Star Wars prequel.” A couple of oversized, stupid CG monsters came out of nowhere and threatened to derail the film’s fun, modern take on Star Trek. Thankfully, it was just a small interlude before that film hit its stride and delivered a lot more fun. So when Star Trek Into Darkness featured an oversized, crazy CG monster just minutes into the movie, I remarked, “Oh, this is off to a bad start.” But then Kirk blasted the beast with a phaser. It’s almost as if Abrams is apologizing for the beasts in the first film, saying, “I know, guys. They were dumb. So dumb that I’m opening the sequel with one that eats a phaser blast. Happy?” Yes, yes I am, Mr. Abrams, especially so because it’s the only dumb CG beast in the entire film. Well… that and the fact that this is a barnburner of a film.

The marketing campaign for Star Trek Into Darkness purposely obscured the identity of the main villain, so if you haven’t seen the film and you’re still on media blackout, read no further. I will say that I knew who it was before watching the film and it helped prepare me for what was coming instead of actually spoiling anything. But in any case, you’ve been warned!

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Flight (2012)

flight-posterStarring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Brian Geraghty, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


The elements for a fantastic movie are in place, but Flight is much too long-winded and unfocused to get its point across succinctly. I really did like the film, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so many scenes of Denzel Washington throwing caution to the wind and getting drunk that I can take. I suppose that’s all part of his journey, but it felt long to me. In any case, at its heart Flight is a movie about alcoholism. Anyone who’s dealt with an alcoholic (or with addiction itself) can tell you that it’s a frustrating experience, and Flight recreates that frustration wonderfully. I’m unsure if that’s a compliment, but I’m pretty sure it is… I think.

Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, a pilot with a serious substance abuse problem, particularly vodka and cocaine (but he’ll take what he can get). If only someone had told him about all the great low cost and free rehabs for addicts out there. Anyway, the film opens on the aftermath of a night of sex and heavy drinking, and in just a few hours Whip must pilot a commercial airliner from Florida to Atlanta. It’s a short flight… what could go wrong? Everything, apparently. Once in the air, the turbulence is immense, but despite his drunkenness he’s still a good pilot who’s confident and able to do his job. This flight sequence is unforgettable and incredibly well-done, easily the most thrilling and memorable scene in the film. Shame it comes at the beginning, especially in such a long, understated character study.

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Super 8 (2011)

Super 8 (2011)

Starring Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Elle Fanning, Bruce Greenwood, Riley Griffiths, Michael Hitchcock, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Colin Mathews, Amanda Michalka, Zach Mills, Remy Thorne, Glynn Turman, Dan Castellaneta

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Expectations: Fairly high. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the first 3/4 of this one, and I LOVE old Spielberg.


Ready for a rant? I hope so, because I sure am! If I needed another reason to continue avoiding summer blockbusters, I’ve just seen it. Where do I begin? Super 8 is a ridiculously over-the-top, unfocused, hole-filled mess that managed to rub me the wrong way at virtually every turn. This is exactly why I try not to review recent big-budget movies, because they’d all be pissed-off rants and that’s no fun for anyone. If you’re interesting in seeing J.J. Abrams mash a trainload of various elements from the early Spielberg sci-fi films into one movie, then look no further than Super 8.

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