Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek BeyondStar Trek Beyond Poster

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, and Sofia Boutella.

Backstory

I have a love/hate relationship with the Star Trek reboot films.  I love the first one, and hate the second one.  I mean, I’ve blogged extensively about my problem with Into Darkness, so I won’t go into it.  The short version is there was one moment in the film that was a callback to the most famous Star Trek film, but it’s handled with such a lack of subtlety that it pulled me out of the film, and I couldn’t get back in.  So my expectations were lowered with Beyond.  The trailers, with their Beastie Boys and dirt bike races, left me cold.  Even the promise of new blood, with new director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious 3 thru 6) and Simon Pegg pulling double-duty as writer and Scotty wasn’t enough to get me excited.  But, a newer trailer that looked more Star Trek-y, and the fact that Star Trek remains my first fandom, got me into the theatre on opening weekend.

Plot

The Starship Enterprise is halfway through its five year mission of exploring deep space, and a certain malaise is setting in with our favourite crew.  Both Kirk and Spock are starting to entertain other offers.  While re-stocking at Yorktown — Starfleet’s most remote starbase — the Enterprise receives a distress call from a planet deep within an unexplored nebula.  They go off to investigate, but it turns out to be a trap, and the Enterprise is destroyed.  Stranded on this unknown planet full of alien technology, the Enterprise crew soon finds themselves at the mercy of the alien warlord Krall.  With the help of Jaylah — an escapee from Krall’s prisons — Kirk and the Enterprise crew begin plotting the rescue of their shipmates.  Will they get off the planet?  And who is Krall, and why does he have such an intense hatred of the Federation?

What I Liked

Firstly, there’s no big callback to a previous Star Trek movie that pulls me out of the proceedings.  There are, however, enough Easter eggs to make you smile.  (A lot of them actually have to do with Enterprise, which I’ve been revisiting recently on Netflix.)  And now that I see how the dirt bike race and the Beastie Boys are worked into the plot, it works.  As always, our crew is a delight.  It’s fun seeing them paired off when they initially land on the planet.  Spock and Bones get thrown together, and we get some classic Spock and Bones interplay.  Idris Elba is a great villain as Krall, and Sofia Boutilla is also quite delightful as Jaylah.  The plot itself is actually a great callback to the plots of original series episodes.  And they way Leonard Nimoy’s death is worked into the film is quite poetic.

What I Didn’t Like

As Justin Lin is the Fast and Furious guy, I was expecting better action scenes.  But a lot of the fight scenes are in the dark and it’s tough to follow what’s going on.

Final Verdict

I couldn’t stop smiling as I came out of the theatre.  This was the most fun I’d had in a Star Trek film since, well, the first in this reboot trilogy.  I really enjoyed it.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Ghostbusters

GhostbustersGhostbusters Poster

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, and Neil Casey.

Backstory

I’d been reading about a third Ghostbusters movie online for years.  But, as the years went on, I began to agree that some kind of reboot would probably be the better way to go, as the memory of the first film fell into the past.  It was strange as the release of this film drew closer.  Never had I seen a film that so many people were primed to hate.  Me?  I remained cautiously optimistic.  Lots of good people were working on the film…but would it translate into a good film?

Plot

Dr. Erin Gilbert, a prestigious physicist, is about to make tenure at her university, when a ghost from her past comes back to haunt her:  a book she wrote with her friend and colleague Dr. Abby Yates about the possibilities of the paranormal.  Erin goes to confront Abby about the book and have her stop selling it, but soon Erin is swept up with Abby and her new colleague Jillian Holtzmann as they investigate a ghost sighting.  Once again convinced that ghosts are real, Erin, Abby, and Jillian form their own scientific research firm to hunt them down.  They’re soon joined by Patty Tolan, a history buff whose knowledge of New York’s haunted spots soon becomes a valuable asset, and Kevin, their brainless receptionist.  As they investigate various ghost sightings, they soon discover someone is planting devices all over New York to attract ghost activity.  Will these Ghostbusters get to the bottom of the mystery of these devices?  Will Erin and Abby ever be able to mend fences?

What I Liked

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann steals the show.  As the team’s engineer and designer of most of the equipment, she has just the right amount of mad scientist charm to make her one of the most delightfully odd characters I’ve seen in a long time.  I was also looking forward to Leslie Jones, as she’s one of the funniest people on Saturday Night Live right now, and she does not disappoint.  I loved the special effects, and seeing the updated versions of the classic gear.  And there are many, many Easter Eggs to Ghostbusters lore.

What I Didn’t Like

The many, many Easter Eggs to Ghostbusters lore were a tad distracting.  For example, I kept wondering when Sigourney Weaver was going to show up for her cameo, as I knew it was coming!  And, as with all sequels and remakes, you know the plot, so you know what’s coming.

Final Verdict

I am pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it.  It’s a good update of the Ghostbusters formula, with just enough new twists to keep things interesting.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: ResurgenceIndependence Day: Resurgence

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Angelababy.

Backstory

Independence Day is one of my favourite movies.  It’s just such a fun film.  But did it need a sequel?  It seemed like a nice, self-contained story.  But I didn’t care.  A return to that world, I felt, would be pretty cool.  I expected the film to be this year’s Jurassic World:  just one big 1990s nostalgia trip.  The first film was my birthday movie 20 years ago…it just made sense that it should be my birthday movie this year.

Plot

It’s been 20 years since the War of 1996 (the in-universe name for the events of the first film).  The planet is united like never before.  By reverse-engineering the alien technology from the first film, the Earth Space Defense force stays on constant patrol for other extraterrestrial threats.  But, it’s soon discovered that the aliens managed to send out a distress signal in their dying gasp.  And now, the Queen Alien has shown up, to finish what the first invasion force started.  Can the world cry out in one voice once again that we will not go quietly into the night…that we won’t vanish without a fight…we’re going to live on…we’re going to survive…will we celebrate out Independence Day again?

What I Liked

It’s fun seeing the world of the aliens expanded.  We go inside the ships.  We get a better look at what their society is like.  We get tantalizing hints of the resulting ground war against the surviving aliens.  We meet other aliens.  There’s some great world-building going on.  And Jeff Goldblum is at his Goldblum best.

What I Didn’t Like

Well…the first film, we had moments to breath and get to know the characters.  This film moves so fast we barely get to know the new characters and how they fit into the narrative.  Rather then revel in the nostalgia, like in Jurassic World, it’s more like they just simply go down a checklist of moments from the original film to re-visit and re-interpret.  And David Arnold’s score is sorely missed.

Final Verdict

In the end, this reminds me of the recent remakes of Total Recall and RoboCop…it’s fun, but it’s a little too slick and a little too polished.  I like it, but the original had a touch more…seasoning.

3 Nibs

July Special: The Return of Crystal Pepsi

Had to take a break from my hiatus for a special installment of U62: U62: The TargThe Targ.  More specifically, a special installment of my segment “Mark Tastes Random Things.”  What random thing did I have to taste?

Crystal Pepsi.

I loved Crystal Pepsi back in the day.  It was Pepsi…THAT WAS CLEAR!  It was so awesome.  I personally felt it didn’t taste exactly like Pepsi.  When it went away, I was sad.  When I first launched this website, I had a page dedicated to my love for Crystal Pepsi.  I longed for its return.  So, when they announced it was coming back, I was elated.

When I got my hands on my first bottle, I knew I had to share it with you.  So I drink it live on the air, and tell you all about it.

So enjoy, The July Special: The Return of Crystal Pepsi!

Download here!

And subscribe in iTunes!

Movie Review – Finding Dory

Finding DoryFinding Dory

Directed by Andrew Stanton; Co-directed by Angus MacLane

Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, and Sloane Murray.

Backstory

Of all the Pixar movies I wanted sequels for, Finding Nemo 2 was pretty low on the list.  I mean, they found Nemo.  What more could they do?  But then they revealed it would be about Dory looking for her family and I was like, “Well, OK.”  And then original director Andrew Stanton came back, and for his co-director, he brought Angus MacLane, who’s directed some of the better Pixar shorts in recent years.  It looked like everything was falling into place for it to be halfway decent.  But that was the question:  in the pantheon of Pixar sequels, would it be more Toy Story 3 or Cars 2?

Plot

It’s been one year since the events of Finding Nemo.  Dory has settled in quite nicely with Marlin and Nemo.  But, this quiet rest has unquietted her mind, and she begins having flashes of memory of her parents.  Desperate to find her family, Dory, Marlin and Nemo hit the open ocean once again, and soon find themselves at Dory’s birthplace, the Marine Life Institute, an aquarium that specializes in rehabilitating rescued sea life.  Here, Dory makes her way from tank to tank, trying to find her parents.  She makes some new friends to help her:  Hank, the septopus (an octopus that lost a tentacle), Destiny, the whale shark, and Bailey, the Beluga whale.  Will Dory find her family?  And what does this mean for Marlin and Nemo?

What I Liked

The voice acting is incredible.  It’s amazing seeing Ellen DeGeneres’s portrayal of Dory.  Because her memory is so fleeting, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy to her this time out as she struggles to hang on to the glimmers of her family.  It’s quite a nuanced performance.  The new characters like Hank and the seals are fun.  And, because it’s Pixar, the animation is spellbinding.

What I Didn’t Like

From a technical standpoint, the film seemed darker than the first.  The colour palette was darker…Thomas Newman’s score was more melancholy than the first.  Didn’t quite mesh with the film’s tone.

Final Verdict

As Pixar sequels go, this is definitely more on the Toy Story 3 side of the spectrum.  I didn’t think a Finding Nemo sequel was needed, but here it is, and it is good.  The resurgence that began with Inside Out continues!

3.5 Nibs