Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Try not to freak out now, Trekkies...
Try not to freak out now, Trekkies…

Captain’s log, stardate 6833401.342. It has been four long years since J.J. Abrams released his first reboot smash hit called Star Trek. Many have waited in anticipation for the coming of his newest creation.

And finally, it has arrived.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is an emotional and action filled roller coaster that takes the audience through the movie at warp speed, rarely pausing for breaks to breathe. The pace of the film is great, never keeping one waiting very long for the next action scene while also leaving room for the intense intimate conversations.

This version of the classic franchise delves deeper into the characters themselves as well as the plot that involves new villain, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Most importantly, Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are the two that the audience gets to learn more about and see in a different light.

Kirk’s maverick-style personality gets exposed and shaken when he sees his friend, (and somewhat of a mentor) Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), get killed by Khan after never even having one of his own crew members lost before. This traumatic event forces the young Kirk to become slightly more level-headed even while retaining most of his maverick-style. He appears to grow up a little throughout the course of the movie and becomes a better leader and captain as a result.

Spock too, deals with his mental capabilities being tested. As a half-Vulcan, he rarely shows emotion and prefers to keep them hidden; especially after seeing the destruction of his home planet. But as the movie progresses and Spock has to deal with more and more intense issues, he finally lets loose after he loses Kirk (who Spock comes out and says is a true friend to him) to an overdose of radiation and his withheld emotions turn into a raging fire of pure anger. 

Personally, this was my favourite part of the film; when Spock becomes enraged and goes to hunt down Khan immediately. It’s very rare that fans ever get to see Spock act in such a way and it was a neat character development for such a well known figure. Oh, and be sure to note…

Don’t ever piss off a Vulcan.

The film had very good acting, with all of the characters being played well and Khan being done very well as an intelligent, sadistic villain. The music was just as good as the first movie, with classic stuff such as the original (slightly altered) Star Trek theme used in the appropriate areas. 

There were lots of tidbits for hardcore Trekkies as well. I didn’t quite catch all of them, but there are many that those who love the franchise will enjoy. And even for those who don’t, it doesn’t really matter as the film is just a fantastic movie in itself. 

The Klingons were finally introduced in this flick, during which there occurred and epic battle scene that is one of the best in the entire thing; Khan does a lot of eye-popping acrobatics during this fight. It’s cool to finally get to see the Klingons and what they look like in Abrams’ world. Needless to say, they’re done pretty darn well and there is even a bit of Klingon that is spoken, so for the people who took the time to learn the fictional language, there you go. I guess.

The comic relief supplied by Scotty (Simon Pegg) is entertaining as always and has to be one of my favourite things about this movie too.

The special effects were done extremely well and everything looked fluid and jaw-dropping (I saw it in 3D), keeping the audience glued to the screen for every single photon blast and phaser beam. 

And let’s face it, seeing the Enterprise take up the entire theatre screen while epic music is playing just never gets old.

Finally, I’m glad they ended the film like they did the first one and like they did every episode of the original show, with someone (previously old Spock, this time Kirk) saying: Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. It’s five year mission; to find strange new worlds, to explore new life and civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Yeah. Classic stuff.

Anyways, that’s it for this time around. Howe, out.

Rating out of 100: 85

NBA Talk: May 12

You heard right, the Warriors are giving the Spurs a challenge.
You heard right, the Warriors are giving the Spurs a challenge.

What happened today: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors managed to knock off the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena to knot the series up at 2-2. The game had to go to overtime before ending, but it was worth a watch. There was a lot of sloppy play but some exciting ones as well. Both of these teams looked a little gassed and both star point guards of the Warriors and Spurs were dealing with injuries. Curry was playing through a sprained ankle and Tony Parker went on with a calf bruise. This series has been insanely interesting to watch and looks to be one that goes all the way to a Game 7. 

Who showed up big: Harrison Barnes of the Warriors came up big in this afternoon’s game with 26 points and 10 boards. If you’ve forgotten by this point, he is still a rookie. And a damn good one at that. The kid is fearless and explosive, willing to take any clutch shot or attempt a dunk over anyone. He struggled early on in the game today and didn’t shoot a very high percentage, but that didn’t stop him from taking the shots he should’ve been and he made a lot of big ones near the end of the game, along with backup point guard, Jarrett Jack.

Who’s surprising me right now: The Memphis Grizzlies. These guys really do grind out every single game and it’s showing against the reeling Thunder. The Grizz lead that series 2-1 at the moment with a chance to go up 3-1 at home next game before heading back to OKC. The reigning defensive player of the year, Marc Gasol, has been just fantastic in this series as has Tony Allen. The tough, physical defense of the Grizz is doing one heck of a number on the Thunder, who are without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and are looking for more scoring options than just Kevin Durant. The Grizz have handled business so far so there’s no reason to think they can’t or won’t win this series. Even without Westbrook, losing in the second round would be a massive failure for OKC and an upset that I can’t honestly say I saw coming.

Best thing about today’s games: Steph Curry getting the MVP chant when he went to the line in Oracle Arena. These playoffs have made everyone realize, if they didn’t before, that Curry is one of the greatest pure shooters to ever play the game of basketball. Every single time he rises up for a shot, Warriors fans cheer and opponents hide their eyes because it just looks like it’s going to fall. Curry’s also adept at creating his own shot, something that’s hard to do in today’s game. He can shoot while being guarded by anyone, anywhere. He showed off his in-the-gym-range this season when he lit up the Garden for 54 points. He won’t win any real MVP awards, but this kid can play.

What I’m looking forward to for tomorrow: Two things. How the Knicks make use of Stoudemire being back in the lineup. Does he make the Knicks a better or worse team and how rusty is he now? I’m ready to see Bosh take it to Boozer again in Game 4, just like he’s been doing all series. Ever since Boozer made that “Two and Half Men” comment two post-seasons ago, Bosh hasn’t held back on asserting dominance over the opposing big man.

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

This movie has made me want to read the novel.
This movie has made me want to read the novel.

First off, let me tell you that I have not read the book that this film is based off of, so I have absolutely no bias towards it in the slightest. I went into the theatre expecting nothing great. No pun intended.

The feeling I came out with surprised me.

This movie actually was great. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve gone to see in a long while. Everything just seemed to flow well together and smoothly. Many critics were rattled by what they saw as an overt use of colour and brightness, but I found that it wasn’t any more over the top than it needed to be.

The music was interesting, as they chose to fuse present day songs with the 1920s style setting. Amazingly, this didn’t impact the movie in the way you think it would. The flow remained smooth and nothing felt really out of place other than the fact that the audience undoubtedly noticed that it was current music. The song choices themselves were great and added to the scenes they were used in, making everything pleasing to the eye.

Speaking of pleasing to the eye, Leonardo DiCaprio had one of the best performances in this movie that I’ve seen in a while. Again, I haven’t read the novel, but it felt like he played Jay Gatsby to a tee. He made you feel the pain and hope that Gatsby held and made you root for him within minutes of screen time. He was easy to sympathize with and did an unreal job of showing the difficulty his character had with the love he held for Daisy (Carey Mulligan).

Specifically, the scene that Gatsby has with the main antagonist, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), is one of the most intense and well done scenes in the entire movie. It has the audience focused and on the edge of their seats. The tension in the the theatre was so thick I could have cut it with a knife.

Tobey Maguire did a solid job in his performance as the main character, Nick Carraway. He played the “sidekick” role in this movie rather well and everything really did seem as though it as coming from behind his eyes. He was easy to identify with and the audience quickly was able to cozy in with him for the full ride of the flick.

The narration, spoken by Maguire, can only be taken from the novel itself. The words are all so perfect for the movie and are brilliant in themselves. The writing is just fabulous, it is no wonder that the book was such a huge success. As an author myself, this is always what I’m most interested in and Mr. Fitzgerald (the author) definitely proved himself worthy of high praise.

The words make the movie that much more intense and poetic, and it just wouldn’t be the same without them. They also help the audience understand Carraway’s character while simultaneously adding to the plot.

The ending of the flick is, of course, sad and for a moment almost disappointing until it is understood that it could not have ended any other way in Fitzgerald’s mind. Carraway ends up broken, Gatsby dies and Daisy leaves with her jerk of a husband.

But when the film ends with the lines about the past, something which Gatsby and Carraway talk about extensively earlier on, one just has to give the author and the movie the respect it deserves. I know I’m being a little vague here, but you really just have to see the movie to understand what I’m talking about at this point.

If I had any knocks on this movie, it would have to be that Carraway ends up turning the story he’s telling to a doctor into a novel in which he calls, The Great Gatsby. This seems super lame until you realize that this book was written in 1925, so Fitzgerald did it before a lot of other filmmakers and authors overused it.

Overall, it was a great film with amazing writing, good acting (DiCaprio is really worth seeing) and a fun but mysterious feel. I highly recommend it.

Rating out of 100: 80

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Love this poster. Just love it.
Love this poster. Even in a foreign language. Just love it. 

I can’t lie. This was one of the movies I was most excited for leading up to it. I liked the other two Iron Man flicks and really enjoyed The Avengers, so I figured this movie would be either great or just as good as the other two. I also liked the trailer more than the average kind.

And it didn’t disappoint.

Any movie that opens with I’m Blue by Eiffel 65 gets an automatic checkmark in my book. The music throughout the film following that was solid, and I can’t help but giving props to director Shane Black for having the willpower to only ever play the song Iron Man by Black Sabbath just once throughout the course of the three movies.

Robert Downey Junior was brilliant once again as Tony Stark, playing him just like the comic book character that the fans love. Not to mention he actually looks like the comic version of Tony Stark. Adding on to that, RDJ is a fantastic actor and gave another great performance in the newest take on the metal man.

Unlike the other two Iron Man flicks, this one is far more about the choices Stark makes as a man, instead of just showing him flying around and defeating bad guys with long electrical whips. It delves into the mind of Stark and gives the audience a better take on the man behind the armor.

This makes the character seem more vulnerable, something that was never shown in the other two films. But it also makes Stark more likable, while keeping his arrogant and selfish attitude intact, and shows the audience a different side of the character that all in all just makes him more interesting.

For example, Stark encounters the young boy, Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), who has a rough life and is, of course, excited to meet the “mechanic” behind the legendary Iron Man. At first, Stark sees Harley as merely a nuisance and uses his home to store his broken suit. But they end up developing a type of bond that Stark rarely has with any other character.

Also, the witty banter between these two is some of the best in the entire film.

Gwyneth Paltrow is great as usual as Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle comes across strong again as Iron Patriot (Stark dislikes this name) or War Machine. But the most powerful performance other than RDJ’s has to be by Guy Pearce.

For what seems like the first time, an Iron Man movie has a single, respectable villain with a solid twist as part of his story that works in The Mandarin quite well. He makes the previous foes, especially Whiplash, very forgettable. His acting is also just as good or better than past villains; as is his short origin story.

Along with all of the character development, Black does well to keep the movie from getting too slow by adding in lots of good action scenes. The most notable is the final fight between Iron Man and Pearce’s character, Killian, near the end of the movie. There are suits flying around everywhere, attaching to Stark as well as fighting fire-mutants on their own.

After a few days to let it sink in, it’s probably my favourite of the three movies. There are lots of references to The Avengers as well throughout the film, which gives it a place in the Marvel timeline. Not only are there references to characters such as Thor, who is referred to as “the big man with the hammer who fell from the sky”, but the fact that Iron Man went through the wormhole in The Avengers actually plays a vital role to the plot of this film, as the memory of it is plaguing Stark and giving him anxiety attacks.

All in all, this flick was a great start to the superhero-season. It’s worth going to see and any fan of Iron Man or Marvel will want to get on it ASAP if they haven’t already.

Oh, and little tip if you are worried like so many others about the possibility of Iron Man being finished; stay all the way until the end of the credits. Wink, wink.

Rating out of 100: 77

Movie Review: Pain and Gain

Don't worry. The poster is way less cool than he actual movie. *cough*
Don’t worry. The poster is way less cool than the actual movie. *cough*

Oh, Michael Bay. Michael, Michael, Michael.

I think literally everyone who went to see this movie was expecting the director famous for films like Transformers to add some big explosions and intense actions scenes to this flick. And he delivered most of that.

Except that every single time he did so was extremely strange.

I went into this movie knowing very little except what I saw from the trailer. I did know; however, that this film was based on a true story. I didn’t expect the story to be what it was at all; a gigantic mess of painfully slow, awkwardly weird, terrifyingly morbid content.

The whole thing left a sort of bad taste in your mouth and I think my friends who went with me to the theatre asked several times during the film why we paid to go see this.

The acting wasn’t the problem so much as the story and what Michael Bay and his crew did with it. In fact, this might be one of the best performances I’ve seen from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He played a character that I’ve never seen him play before, a man who was the total juxtaposition to his normal roles; a sniveling, whiny, drug addict who is going all out to please Jesus.

Mark Wahlberg wasn’t bad either and gave a solid performance. Even the main antagonist played by Tony Shalhoub did a pretty good job, although his character was the epitome of annoying.

I’m not sure how much Bay played with the “based off of a true story” stuff, but this was one heck of a doozy. During the part in which Johnson’s character is trying to get rid of the hands of two people that the main group murdered, he is actually barbecuing them outside, wide out in the open, while Bay sees it necessary to have the words “This is still a true story” flash up on the bottom right part of the screen.

That had to be one of the parts where my jaw dropped open and my hand smacked my forehead. Did Bay really see it necessary to add that to the movie, even if it was part of the true story? In fact, why did he even feel the need to make this wacky tale into a full blown film? I’ll never know.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention when The Rock’s toe got shot off in an amazing escape from the police while his character was trying to steal money for, you guessed it, drugs. The truly abnormal thing is the fact that he kept the toe, never went to the hospital and seemed fine after a little bit of whining and complaining.

He later fed said toe to a tiny chihuahua.

I’m not lying. This seriously happens. But what dude in real life wouldn’t go to the hospital to have his shot off toe looked at? I mean, it wouldn’t have busted their operation at all. For heaven’s sake, they go into a hospital later in the film!

The movie’s slowness was also pretty difficult to deal with. Personally, I thought it was going to wrap up when it was only about halfway through. And that’s one of the worst feelings to get during the viewing of a film.

When it finally reaches its finale, the pictures of the actual people that the actors played flash up onto the screen, just like in many other “based on a true story” type movies. But if you’ve seen Argo, like I have, you almost had to restrain yourself from laughing. The people didn’t look anything like the actors that played them.

I think the closest similarity was that the guy Mark Wahlberg was playing also had hair… Yeah.

I’m not really sure I’d recommend this movie to anyone, unless you just like weird stuff or really want to see something different. But don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Rating out of 100: 57