Saturday, May 25, 2013

Popcorn for One: Star Trek: Into Darkness review (few spoilers)

I don't want to give much away, since the revelation of one thing sets up a series of events.  All I'll say is that according to the writers of the screenplay the main villain of the story (played with nice intensity by Benedict Cumberbatch) was not originally planned to be a known character.  Of course, gives the whole thing away with its list of cast/characters , but I'll still refrain from doing so here.

The film starts out with a great chase sequence with Kirk & Bones ("Great, you just stunned our ride!"), followed by a dramatic scene with Spock.  You'd think that would be hard to top but it really does set up some events that come back to be resolved later in the film. All the major bridge/command crew introduced in the first film have returned, with some nice comic moments for just about everyone.  There have been some complaints from fans about Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) being played for laughs more than their original characters were, but I really think it works and both actors do a great job, especially the brilliant Pegg who steals just about every scene in which he's in.  Karl Urban (as Bones) really does an amazing job capturing the spirit and attitude that made the original Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) such a favorite.  Of all the characters, he seems to have stepped out of the original series intact.

Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) have grown since the first film, but the tension between their personalities and idea of duty continues.  The scene towards the end of the film, that could be seen as a flip of one from an earlier film, works because by that point the characters have arrived at a mutual respect and friendship.

The film could be interpreted as a re-imagining of an earlier ST movie, but there are more things going on and the movie works on all levels for me.  I think the great thing is that you don't have to be a ST geek to enjoy the movie, but things were tossed in for fans of the show that add to their entertainment.  Nice to see Bruce Greenwood return as Admiral Pike and Peter Weller is perfect as Admiral Marcus.  Again, there are twists and surprises I don't want to give away, but I'm happy that the trailers for the film don't give everything away while still showing many of the major scenes to ramp up excitement.

I'll be curious how you folks react to the reintroduction of Klingons and Tribbles.  One of these have a new look and I'm sure that cos-players are already gearing up to include that look for up-coming cons.  (Hope the Tribbles reveal didn't ruin the movie for anyone!)

Wasn't overwhelmed by some of the trailers shown before the feature, although the more I see of MAN OF STEEL the better I feel about where they are going with the characters.  The opposite for WORLD WAR Z, which could be any other zombie movie, as it doesn't reflect the best-selling novel from which it takes little more than a title.  Have little interest in seeing it on the big screen.  Not sure about ELYSIUM with Matt Damon & Jodi Foster as long lost lovers who discover...what?  it's not?  Oh, it's a SF film taking place in a future where civilization is split between halves & have-nots.  It takes place in 2014.  OK,  maybe later than that.  Nothing special except for the two stars as far as I can tell. 

That's it for me. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Popcorn For One: IRON MAN 3 review (SPOILERS)

Was it up to the level of THE AVENGERS? No. Was it better (much better) than IRON MAN 2? By far and more.  Let's go into some of the details with a few SPOILERS:

Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle are all back in their roles, possibly for the last time.  Tony is now having some anxiety issues stemming from his actions with the Avengers in New York.  He tries to cover them with his usual smart-aleck and assured attitude, but Pepper knows that something is wrong.  Meanwhile, a terrorist known only as The Mandarin has been attacking various American targets abroad and now in the U.S. When Stark announces his intention to hunt him down his own home is attacked and destroyed. 

Unfortunately, Stark's latest version of the IM suit has not been completely tested and it is further damaged during an attempt to battle the Mandarin's forces.  Without his equipment and miles from home he finds he has to improvise until he can return to action.

At about the three-quarter point in the film everything takes a pretty dramatic turn when we discover that The Mandarin (played in all his facits by the wonderful Ben Kingsley) is not who or what we thought he was, but actually a front for the actual villain.  Guy Pearce, plays Aldrich Killian, a scientist who had once been humiliated by Stark and now seeks revenge, while also putting himself into a position to increase his own wealth and power by whatever means.  Pearce, has changed more than his physical appearance and is also using a former lover of Stark's to entrap him.

A lot of folks are upset by the change in The Mandarin, from the way he has always been portrayed in the comics.  Not only does he not possess the rings of power that made him all but equal to Iron Man, but it turns out that he is a fake in more ways than one.  I was surprised, as everyone was, by this turn of events, but Kingsley was so good (as both the Mandarin and his true identity) that I forgave the deception.  The film-makers go for a political message about the public's need for a 'bad guy' to hate and the government's use of them for their own purposes.

I'm giving the film a 3.5 stars.  Also, while not a huge moment I do recommend you stay through the credits.  First off, the end credits are really nicely done with a sort of '70s feel to them.  Then there is a moment were we see to whom Tony has been telling the story in flashback since the beginning.  Funny bit with another Marvel character.  The movie has my recommendation.