Film Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Also known as: Star Trek 3, Washington, Star Trek Into Oblivion (working titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 2016 (Indonesia, Iceland, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand)
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Deep Roy, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Greg Grunberg, Danny Pudi, Doug Jung, Leonard Nimoy (photo cameos)

Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, Sneaky Shark Productions, Perfect Storm Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 122 Minutes

Review:

“[to Kirk] It isn’t uncommon, you know, even for a captain, to want to leave. There is no relative direction in the vastness of space. There is only yourself, your ship, your crew. It’s easier than you think, to get lost.” – Commodore Paris

I guess they saved the best for last because even though this film did the worst at the box office out of the three J. J. Abrams Star Trek movies, it was the best movie of the lot.

Most people probably don’t agree with my assessment of this one but I like it because it feels more like Star Trek than the two films that Abrams directed. Who would’ve thought that Justin Lin, a director most known for Fast & Furious movies would turn out something so Trek-ish. And that’s not a knock against the Fast & Furious franchise, as I find those films pretty fun and enjoyable for what they are.

I believe that a lot of the credit for this film’s narrative has to go to the writers, Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, and Doug Jung, who also had a small cameo in this. Pegg isn’t just an actor, though, as he was a creative force in several of his other projects like the classic British comedy show Spaced and the films Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and The World’s End.

This is really action packed but it feels more like a Star Trek TV episode adventure than the two films before it. It is definitely more in tune with the films of the Original Series and Next Generation eras than the two Abrams pictures before it.

With that being said, this is also fresh and new and it does some really cool things that no other Trek film has done. The Enterprise faced a new type of threat that no ship in the entire Star Trek mythos has ever faced, small drone ships that act like a carnivorous swarm of locusts. You see the Enterprise get ripped apart and as much as any fan hates seeing the Enterprise get beat, it’s an incredible sequence and one of the absolute best in Star Trek history.

For the bulk of the picture, the crew is marooned on a planet. They must find a way off of the rock while stopping the evil plans of the madman that stranded them there. Additionally, that same madman plans to attack the Federation, so not only do Kirk and his crew need to escape their predicament but they also need to find a way to defeat the man that just destroyed the USS Enterprise.

There are some solid twists and turns in the plot and none of it feels like swerves just for the sake of swerves. The plot twists work organically and overall, this Star Trek film feels the least formulaic of this trilogy.

The final battle is a lot of fun, even if I never expected to see a final outer space showdown in Star Trek cued to the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. Some old school fans might find this to be a bit cringeworthy but in that moment, it worked for me. Plus, if you don’t like “Sabotage” you’re probably a communist.

My only big beef with the movie is that after introducing us to Dr. Carol Marcus, who joined the crew in the previous film and was played by the stunning Alice Eve, she’s mysteriously absent from this picture. Why? And also, WTF, man?!

Anyway, Star Trek Beyond was just a lot of fun. It was great escapism, filled its two hours incredibly well and it deserves more fanfare than it received. Frankly, I’m really disappointed that the fourth film in this series was cancelled.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Release Date: April 23rd, 2018 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Marquand

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 149 Minutes

Review:

“In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperately that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. ” – Thanos

*There be spoilers here! But I kept it as minimal as possible.

Well, this film has been ten years in the making, as it is the culmination of everything that has happened in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man hit theaters in May of 2008. Ten years and eighteen films later, all the carefully crafted moving parts come together to create a unified front against the greatest cinematic Marvel villain of them all, Thanos.

So cramming in all these characters is a tremendous feat. And really, I think everyone’s biggest concern was how that would work. Despite my concerns and fears, I haven’t anxiously anticipated the release of a film as strongly as this one since 2008’s The Dark Knight.

But having now seen it, I finally know whether or not the Russos succeeded in successfully conquering such a tremendous feat. So did they succeed?

To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Oh… Hell… Yeaaah!!!”

The way that the Russos balanced everything was incredible. It’s as if they read a ton of major comic book crossover events in preparation for this incredible task and they sort of took their cue from them.

What I mean by that is that this film handles itself like a well written crossover mega event in the comics. It segments the heroes into different groups on different missions, all fighting for the same endgame. It’s like when a crossover is spread over four different comic titles and when you read them in a collected format, you get a story where each chapter is an issue from a different comic. Like X-Cutioner’s Song from the early ’90s was spread over Uncanny X-MenX-FactorX-Men (vol. 2) and X-Force. When you read them in chronological order (or in a collected trade paperback) each issue/title focused on a specific group that was different from the previous chapter but all the stories were part of a bigger tapestry that saw everything come together. That’s exactly how Avengers: Infinity War works, which is really cool to experience in a live action format.

So you have multiple groups here: one led by Captain America that goes to Wakanda, one lead by Iron Man that goes into space, the Guardians of the Galaxy split into two groups with one of them being led by Thor and then there is Thanos’ story and he does get a lot of time to shine. In fact, he was handled better than every Marvel Cinematic Universe villain that isn’t Loki. But who knows, Thanos may still eclipse Loki when it’s all said and done.

This was a pretty long movie but it needed to be and unlike other Marvel movies that seem to run on for too long, there wasn’t a single moment where I looked at my watch or felt antsy like I needed them to wrap it up. In fact, when I got to the end, I felt like I had finally exhaled and I couldn’t get up out of my seat, there was a lot of amazing stuff to process and I sat there with a smile, completely and utterly impressed with how this turned out.

It’s obvious that the special effects are good and some of the most impressive ever created. Marvel never disappoints in that regard.

One thing that really stood out for me much more than it ever has in any other Marvel picture was the score. This film has a very good and memorable smorgasbord of booming orchestral tunes and the Avengers theme was re-imagined in some creative ways. Alan Silvestri really came up with an incredible score that serviced not just this film but served the entire franchise well. There aren’t scores like there were through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but this one felt like a throwback to that superior era for movie music.

If I had to compare this to anything, it’s like if someone took the best parts of both The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars movies and then mixed them together and replaced those films heroes and villains with Marvel characters. It truly was incredible and I can be a snobby dick that’s hard to impress sometimes. I just wish the modern comic writers at Marvel would take their cue from these movies and write comics worthy of these characters once again. But as superheroes are dying in print, they are thriving on celluloid.

Simply for the fact that I haven’t felt like this after seeing a movie in the theater since The Dark Knight, ten years ago, I have to give this film a perfect score. Sure, it’s not the greatest movie ever made but it is a f’n clinic on how to do a massive team up movie and a film that is presented on a massive scale that doesn’t lose itself and keeps you very engaged. Granted, this film also benefits from having 18 movies before it, where all of these key characters, minus Thanos, were able to be developed in preparation for this Royal Rumble of a superhero movie.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Everything in the MCU before this film, as it all leads up to this one.

Film Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Release Date: October 22nd, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Christopher Yost, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Don Payne, Robert Rodat
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi, Alice Krige, Chris O’Dowd, Benicio del Toro (cameo), Chris Evans (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I will tell Father you died with honor.” – Thor, “I didn’t do it for him.” – Loki

Unlike the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I have revisited lately, Thor: The Dark World wasn’t as good as my memories of it.

I do remember being pretty fond of it when it came out but it just doesn’t seem to fit well within the overall MCU when you take what came after it into context. Sure, it gives us the red Infinity Stone but not much else here is all that important. But I guess seeing Thor and Loki play off of one another is always, at the very least, amusing.

In the end, this is the worst of the three Thor movies. But it is not all that bad. It’s certainly better than The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: The Age of Ultron. It’s just a film that wasn’t all that necessary. The relationship between Thor and Jane doesn’t matter after this movie, the secondary characters are sort of forgotten except for Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), who at least makes one more appearance.

This was just a movie where no one really seemed to be all that into it except for the actors playing Asgardians. Hemsworth was great as Thor, Hiddleston is perfection as Loki and Odin is a commanding Odin. Natalie Portman obviously didn’t want to be in this and acted as such. Christopher Eccleston, who I was excited about seeing as the villain, just dialed in his performance and is one of the most forgettable MCU villains to date.

The film was dry, mostly boring and even the fantasy worlds that they traveled to weren’t very imaginative or fun. Other than Asgard, all the other realms in this just looked as bland, dry and awful as a sand sandwich.

The Earth stuff was all overcast and rainy. I know that this takes place in London but c’mon… the magical realms were dark desert; Earth was grey industrial wetness. This isn’t an exciting film to look at.

While I guess it was about time for Marvel to introduce the Infinity Stones (or at least more than one), there are better ways this could have been done. Sure, I wanted a second Thor movie and it would have been a good place to bring in a new Stone but the execution here was lackluster. This whole thing should have been rewritten.

For a film about traversing through magical realms, outer space and battling fantastical shit, Thor: The Dark World felt very small and confined.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: ThorThe Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok

Film Review: Thor (2011)

Release Date: April 17th, 2011 (Sydney premiere)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Patrick Doyle
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner

Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, 114 Minutes

Review:

“I never wanted the throne, I only ever wanted to be your equal!” – Loki

As I am reworking my way through all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films in preparation for Avengers: Infinity War, in about a month, I was really looking forward to revisiting the first Thor.

While I thought that Thor: Ragnarok was maybe the best Marvel film to date, a part of me wanted to go back and watch the two Thor pictures before it. Sure, I knew they wouldn’t be as good as Ragnarok but I absolutely adore Hemsworth’s Thor more than any other hero in the larger Avengers franchise. And yeah, I’ve been a massive Robert Downey, Jr. fan my entire life.

It’s not just Hemsworth’s Thor that makes these films a really fun experience though. A lot of credit has to go to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who is, by far, the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, he’s not a total villain and may be more of an ally in the films now but he was certainly an evil force in the early films. No other villain has had his presence, his charisma and his longevity. Every other villain is essentially a one-off castaway. There’s a reason as to why Hiddleston doesn’t simply disappear like all the others.

The Thor movies also have an incredible ensemble of people. But then they also have Natalie Portman, who I’ve never been much of a fan of and frankly, she didn’t really enjoy doing these movies anyway and more or less didn’t want to do the second one and got herself written out of the third. But the loss of Portman also caused Kat Dennings to be written out. Really, she was more entertaining and probably would’ve worked better as Thor’s girl because the banter between the characters would have been more fun than the boring and lazy Portman.

Anyway, we see Thor banished from Asgard because he pissed off Odin, his father. He has to prove himself and his worth in order to be allowed back into his home realm. He meets Jane, a scientist, and her crew. Thor’s first mission is to retrieve his magic hammer, Mjolnir. He then must fight Destroyer and eventually confront his brother Loki, who has deceived him throughout the events of the story.

We get the return of Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, as well as a cameo by Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury and the debut of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

This feels like a smaller film than what Marvel puts out now. But I like the smaller feel. The world of heroes hadn’t yet expanded to where it would, a few films after this one. This is a cozy origin tale and really is a stark contrast to what we would all see in Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, the Asgard side of the story is broad enough to not feel like you have cabin fever sitting in a small desert town the entire movie.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Thor: Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. Also, The Avengers, as that’s the next time that Thor would show up.

Film Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Release Date: October 10th, 2017 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Written by: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Based on: The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Sam Neill, Matt Damon (uncredited cameo), Stan Lee (uncredited cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 130 Minutes

Review:

“Last time we saw you, you were trying to kill everyone. What are you up to these days?” – Bruce Banner, “It varies from moment to moment.” – Loki

The Thor movies probably get the least amount of respect out of the solo Marvel films. I enjoyed the first two, more so than a lot of Marvel’s stuff. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic, as is Tom Hiddleston. So when I learned that the third movie would also feature a version of the spectacular Planet Hulk storyline, I was super excited. When I learned that it was going to be directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do In the ShadowsFlight of the Conchords), my interest went through the roof.

To put it bluntly, this is now my favorite Marvel film. It actually eclipsed the Guardians of the Galaxy movies in both fun and scale. It is hard not to make comparisons between the films, as both Guardians and this Thor movie involve outer space adventures and a real lightheartedness missing in other Marvel pictures. My god, man… this was so much better than the drab and predictable Captain America: Civil War and light-years ahead of those convoluted Avengers pictures. This also had villains that matter and that look cool, unlike Baron Zemo, who was just some guy, or aliens on flying jet skis or killer robots for the nth time.

Chris Hemsworth is absolutely dynamite in this and even though he has been great as Thor, thus far, this is the chapter in the massive Marvel universe where he really just shines and shows that he is not only the coolest Avenger but an actual friggin’ god. This is the film where Thor finally becomes Thor, the King of Asgard, the protector of his people and a guy that can actually take it to the Hulk.

Tom Hiddleston once again kills it as Loki and this is also where his road to redemption comes full circle. Sure, he’s got his tricks up his sleeves but when his big bad evil sister shows up to destroy his home, he can’t not be by his brother’s side when the chips fall.

Having the Hulk in this was also a real treat that just added weight to the actual threat in this film. This is the best that the Hulk has been and the movie really showcases his power and pits him not just against Thor but also Fenris, a kaiju sized wolf, as well as the mountain sized god, Surtur.

Speaking of Surtur, the first part of the film, which deals with Thor besting a weakened Surtur, was really cool. Ultimately, Surtur does appear in his full form by the end of the film. While he is Asgard’s version of the Devil and he brings about Ragnarok, which is Asgard’s version of Armageddon, Thor uses Surtur’s presence in the film to his advantage. I always wondered how they could actually handle and present Surtur in a film and Waititi nailed it perfectly.

Apart from Surtur, we get Cate Blanchett as the evil Goddess of Death, Hela. She is the older sister of Thor and Loki and has been locked away for eons. The death of Odin brings about her release and even united, the brothers cannot defeat her without additional help in the form of a newly assembled team of heroes.

Jeff Goldblum shows up as another villain, the Grandmaster. He runs a planet that has a massive gladiator coliseum. This is where the big fight between Thor and the Hulk goes down. Obviously, the two end up teaming up and taking it to every baddie in the film.

For what Thor: Ragnarok is, which is a fun comic book movie, it couldn’t be more entertaining. It’s really hard for me to give out a perfect 10 score when rating a picture but in the context of superhero movies and for the fact that it is a better Marvel film than both of the Guardians of the Galaxy outings, which both earned a 9, I have to give Thor: Ragnarok a 9.5 out of 10. It will take something quite exceptional to reach a 10 in this genre but maybe Waititi will give us an even better Thor picture in the future. He’s certainly capable of it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Thor and Thor: Dark World.

Film Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

Release Date: July 31st, 2017 (Museum of Modern Art premiere)
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel
Based on: The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley

MRC, Imagine Entertainment, Weed Road, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t stop what’s coming. Death always wins.” – Man In Black

Idris Elba is a bad ass. Matthew McConaughey is a bad ass. Both men are also super smooth, great actors and the apple of many people’s eye. Then you have Abbey Lee, a woman I just can’t help but be mesmerized by, even if she is just emotionless window dressing in a scene. Throw in the always perfectly sinister Jackie Earle Haley and you’ve got my attention.

Unfortunately, only one word can really describe this film and that is “mundane”.

The Dark Tower was a gigantic missed opportunity. Here, you have a massive and lush universe created by Stephen King over the course of nine books. While I am not a big fan of King, I’ve heard for years that these books are some of his best work and they have become the stories that seem to be the most beloved. From what I understand, this movie was not based specifically on any one of the books but was instead a sort of sequel to them.

The film initially started out with promise but as the picture rolled on, it got worse and worse. In fact, there were some absolutely horrible creative decisions made on several levels of this film, especially if it was going the PG-13 route in an effort to capture the widest audience possible.

I don’t really know anything about the director but the execution was terrible. The acting was mostly good but suffered from the direction and often times, McConaughey’s lines came out pretty wooden. At this point, in his storied career, McConaughey is never really an issue in a movie. I have to put the blame on the director, who apparently wanted McConaughey’s Man In Black to be so cold that he was absolutely emotionless in his line delivery.

The movie introduced a lot of ideas and concepts to filmgoing audiences that might not be familiar with the books but it barely scratches the surface with any of it. There is all this cool shit happening but you never really understand or grasp any of it. The mythos needed to be better established and explained.

The whole film is setup in order to lead to the big final confrontation between the Gunslinger and the Man In Black, something I am assuming literary fans have been waiting for. What we get in the big finale is friggin’ dog shit. Just imagine a wizard versus a gun happy cowboy. The cowboy goes ape shit, blasting off dozens upon dozens of rounds and trick shots until the wizard finally gets duped and shot through the heart. Up until that point, the wizard is using rubble and glass to block shots and even catching bullets in the chaos. It just comes off as hokey and stupid and McConaughey looked baffled by the whole thing as he was doing it. Although, Idris Elba looked like a mastodon of a man as he blasted off hundreds of shots while looking stoic and cool.

I think, based off of the ending, that the film anticipates sequels. I’ll be shocked if that happens because this was a silly and disappointing train wreck.

Film Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Release Date: April 4th, 2016 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Marks
Based on: The Jungle Book by Rudlyard Kipling, Disney’s The Jungle Book
Music by: John Debney, George Bruns (original Jungle Book themes)
Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi

Walt Disney, Fairview Entertainment, 106 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2016.

My mum wanted to see The Jungle Book for her birthday. It wasn’t a film I had planned on seeing in the theater even though I thought it looked pretty decent. The thing is, live action Disney films just haven’t hit their mark for me. So is this one any different?

Well, in all honesty, I would say that this is the best of the live action Disney remakes of their classics. That doesn’t mean it is a perfect film, far from it, but it is an exciting adventure and pretty enjoyable all around.

The voice cast is the highlight of this film. Idris Elba is chilling as the killer tiger Shere Khan and he is nothing but evil in this film. There are no bits where Shere Khan is not taken seriously, unlike the original animated version. Ben Kingsley is majestic as the good panther Bagheera. Bill Murray is perfect as Baloo the bear and his physical mannerisms add to the performance. Scarlett Johansson was good as Kaa and Christopher Walken was solid as King Louie, especially during his rendition of “I Wan’na Be Like You”.

Neel Sethi, the young boy who plays Mowgli, was spot on. In most films, child actors are a distraction and can either overact or underact and just don’t feel natural. Therefore, there is cause for concern when the bulk of a film has to be carried on the shoulders of a child. This kid deserves props. He nailed the role, he wasn’t annoying and you truly felt for him. Director, Jon Favreau did a good job casting the young Sethi.

The visual style of the film is striking and effective and Disney made magic happen once again. Also, it feels a lot more realistic than their previous live action remakes. It wasn’t overly stylized. It felt natural, lush and authentic.

The Jungle Book is a quality film and all involved should be proud of the finished product. As I said, I wasn’t planning on seeing it in the theater but I am glad I did.