Movie review: Star Trek Beyond

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to another blockbuster review of this summer! This time, we’re talking about a film which I was really excited about and couldn’t wait to see – Star Trek Beyond! So, let’s go!

IMDb summary: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

Star Trek Reboot

I am not familiar with the original Star Trek films or the various TV shows, however, I have seen the rebooted movie and its sequel numerous times and absolutely loved it. I even think that Star Trek was the first space-opera type of a franchise that I fell in love with – yes, that means that Star Wars came in 2nd. I might not know all the references and Easter Eggs but I don’t think that you need that knowledge to enjoy the new movies. J.J.Abrams’s direction for franchise made it extremely accessible. I kinda wished that Abrams would have returned to direct the 3rd film, but I kept an open mind and really wanted to see what would Justin Lin do with the property. The casting choices, since the first film in 2009 were also great. I was really happy to find out that Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella joined the cast for Beyond.

SPOILERS AHEAD 

Writing

Star Trek Beyond was written by a TV scriptwriter Doug Jung and a member of U.S.S. Enterprise crew himself – Simon Pegg a.k.a Montgomery Scott. Pegg has some writing experience – he co-wrote Edgar Wright’s Ice Cream Trilogy – Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy also know as the satirical look at British life or the best comedic franchise ever. Overall, I did enjoy the story of Beyond and loved the different aspects of it, especially the jokes. However, some ideas seemed really cliche.

Things I loved:

  1. The expansion of the universe – we got to see some more species of aliens and actually explored the deep space. We also got to see a new(old) ship and a new station.
  2. The references to the original continuity in the death of Ambassador Spock and that photo of the original cast.
  3. The fact that they had the guts to completely destroy the U.S.S. Enterprise – one of two most recognizable fictional ships in the world, other being the Millennium Falcon – in the first act.
  4. The villain with some genuine character development – Elba’s character had an actual motive to be angry at Federation. He also seemed pretty scary and efficient with that life-prolonging technology. I also liked the concept that his character introduced into the film – people born during the times of war will never be calm during peace.
  5. The different pairs of characters: Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, Spock and Bones, and Scotty and newly introduced Jaylah – the ending suggests that we will see more of her and I can’t wait to get more of her backstory. Bones’s and Spock’s duo was my favorite pair – loved their back and forth banter that was actually quite serious (‘ Fear of death is illogical. Fear of death is what keeps us alive.’) and the jokes (‘You gave her radioactive jewelry?’).
  6. The main idea of the film – strength comes from unity – was also nice, but, sadly, it sounds kinda ironical in today’s world.
  7. The dedications at the end. I liked that they dedicated the film to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and I also liked the different forms of dedication. Nimoy’s mention seemed official, so as to show respect for his long career and to acknowledge his importance to the Star Trek lore, while Yelchin’s dedication was more friend-like and simple, yet equally emotional.

Things that could have been improved:

  1. Beyond villain’s plan was very similar/ exactly the same as the plan of the Admiral in Into Darkness – they both wanted to start a war.
  2. The tiny ships acted liked bees and resembled a cloud – while it definitely looked cool it has been done numerous times and felt too repetitive.
  3. The solution how to destroy the bee ships with musical frequencies was kinda cheesy. However, Star Trek used to be a much less serious and more camp-y franchise in the previous century, so maybe it was a nod to that.

In general, I feel that Beyond had the simplest story of the new franchise because it didn’t create an alternative universe, like the 1st film did, or dealt with iconic characters, like Khan (2nd film). At the same time, it was a fine story on its own and, while some of the developments were kinda cliche, the others were really neat and unpredictable. However, if this narrative was done outside of the Star Trek brand, I don’t think that it would have turned out as good as this one did.

Directing

Justin Lin, of the Fast and the Furious franchise, directed the film and did a good job. Although, I did miss Abrams’s lens flares, I really liked the visuals that Lin created for Beyond. I loved the massive scale of the deep space and the architecture of Yorktown. The action was also exciting and energetic. As I have said, the tiny ships did look cool and were efficient in their job. The space CGI was breathtaking and flawless, but a few sequences of the ground could have been improved a bit more. Some of the motorcycle shots looked really fake. The ending montage, which showed the Enterprise being rebuild, accompanied with the traditional monolog, delivered by the whole crew, was a really nice way to end the picture. I would like to praise the make-up department for impeccable prosthetics for Elba’s character. The design of Boutella’s character was really cool as well but I wished it looked more alien because now she kinda seemed like a human with white and black foundation.

Acting

The whole cast did an amazing job. Chris Pine (Jack Rayn, Z for Zachariah, Into the Woods, The Finest Hours) shined once again as Captain James T. Kirk, can’t wait to see him in Wonder Woman since the comic-con trailer looks awesome. Zachary Quinto (Hitman) was perfectly logical with some tiny burst of emotion as Commander Spock, later this year he will appear in SnowdenKarl Urban (LOTR, Dredd ) was great as Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy, MD, and I’m looking forward to Urban joining the MCU.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) appeared as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, while Simon Pegg (Mission Impossible films) portrayed the Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott and both delivered nice performances. John Cho was amazing Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu and had quite an important supporting role, which I enjoyed. Seeing Anton Yelchin as annoying yet sweet Pavel Chekov was a really bittersweet moment. His sudden passing really shocked me and made me appreciate life a bit more.

The newcomers: Idris Elba (Prometheus, MCU, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Bastille DayBeasts of No Nation) as Krall and Sofia Boutella (Kingsman, upcoming The Mummy reboot) as Jaylah were also good. Elba was believable and threatening as a villain, while the inclusion of Boutella’s character opened a lot of possibilities.

In short, Star Trek Beyond was simple, yet fun and exciting addition to the Star Trek universe. The acting was great, the action exciting and the writing – amazing for the most part. I definitely recommend it to all the nerds who read my blog.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

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Movie review: Independence Day: Resurgence

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Welcome to the review of another sequel of this summer. This time, it is Independence Day: Resurgence – a movie that came out 20 years too late and should have probably been left in the 1990s.

IMDb summary: Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defenses be enough?

Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich is known for making disaster films. He, of course, made the original Independence Day feature back in 1996 as well as other mindless fun pictures of the 90s and the early 00s: 1998’s Godzilla and 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow. Most recently, he destroyed the world in 2009’s 2012 and burned the White House in 2013’s White House Down. Now, Emmerich is directing a sequel to a film that made him famous and created his brand in the first place.

The first Independence Day was cheesy, campy and yet still fun summer picture. I wasn’t even born when it first premiered, but I’ve seen it multiple times because TV re-runs are a thing. ID1 had a bunch of awesome and even iconic pop-culture moments: the President’s speech, the shot of the White House being blown up and the shot of Smith and Goldblum smoking cigars in the dessert. Hollywood has been trying to make an ID sequel for a long time and they finally did it 20 years later, hoping that it still would be a success. Well, I highly doubt that this is/will be the case. While last year’s summer disaster film San Andreas was both sorta critically acclaimed and profitable, I do not think that the audiences are really interested in these types of disaster films anymore. I, personally, have seen almost all of Emmerich’s films. I have also seen the majority of Michael Bay’s films. Moreover, I live in the world that is pretty f*cked up. Basically, what I am getting at is that the destruction of the world doesn’t surprise or interest people – we have seen it on screen  as well as in real life multiple times.

Writing and the Story

ID2 had 5 screenwriters: the director Emmerich, Dean DevlinNicolas WrightJames A. Woods and James Vanderbilt. Two of them are actors with minimal to no previous writing work and the two screenwriters of the group do not have a great track record either. Vanderbilt, for example, wrote both The Amazing Spider-Man films. While I can deal with a picture having 2-3 scriptwriters, 5 is definitely too much and that showed in the film. The movie’s story was so much bigger that it needed to be: ID2 had too many characters, too many background stories, too many unexplained storylines and too much of everything. It seems that all 5 people, who were responsible for the script, wanted to portray their individual ideas rather than create a great narrative collectively. Also, bigger does not necessarily mean better.

To begin with, the film had a way too long and way too slow set-up in the first half an hour. It also had a way too drawn out boss battle in the last half an hour. Somewhere in between, there was a good 1-hour movie.

The first ID started with the alien invasion, but its sequel had to catch up on all the old characters and introduce the new ones. It also had to set up a vague ‘thing’ that would help defeat the enemy in the end. It was quite hard and frustrating to sit through all of the set-ups since we all knew from the trailers that the aliens were coming back. I wanted to shout at the screen – JUST GET ON WITH IT.

While I did like the fact that we got to see the kid characters from the first film all grown up, I did not see the need to add even more (young and old) characters into the movie. That whole idea of the other virtual species in that ball shaped ship was also too much. All of the ‘humans are cool and efficient, let’s pat each other on the back’ ideas felt like they were shoehorned into the film and made me roll my eyes a few times. Since the President’s speech from the first film turned out fine, they decided to have 2 speeches in this film. Pullman’s character had a new cheesy speech as well as the new President. In general, the dialogue was pretty terrible. All of the sidelines – the kid’s on the bus and Goldblum’s characters father, those random gold diggers on the ship, the pilots attacking or falling, the scientists with that ball ship, the politicians and all the screens, some random African nation fighting the aliens, alien telepathy, government and funding for the scientist – OMG. In short, everything was too convoluted and too over the top. Also, nothing made much sense because not one sideline was explained or explored properly – there wasn’t enough time for a few of them, let alone all of them.

The end of the picture also tried to set up a third film, which I doubt will materialize. Well, maybe in another 2 decades or maybe never for the better.

Directing and the Visuals

While I had a lot of problems with the movie’s story, I did enjoy the visuals. The CGI looked good, as it should, in 2016. The opening recap with the voice-over speech was a cool way to open the film. All the futuristic technology were also visually interesting and I did like the premise that people used the alien technology to make the world better. The battles were also interesting but some of them could have lasted shorter.

Acting

As I have already mentioned, Resurgence had way too many characters, so its ensemble cast was huge. Some of them had better performances, others – worse ones, so overall, acting wise, ID2 was a mixed bag.

Those who came backJeff Goldblum as David LevinsonBill Pullman as Thomas J. WhitmoreBrent Spiner as Dr. Brakish Okun, and Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson. Goldblum was great in his role and was my favorite part of the film. Pullman felt a bit shoehorned in but was also quite useful. Spiner’s character could have been easily replaced – while I appreciated the fact that he wasn’t a stereotypical gay character, I did not really see the need to keep him alive, or in a coma for 20 years. Why Goldblum’s character’s father played by Judd Hirsch came back, is beyond me. He and his children group, led by Joey King as Samantha only slowed down the film and didn’t contribute at all to its quality.

Will Smith chose not to return for ID2 and was replaced by his ‘son’ and another pilot. I wish Smith would have come back: it is obvious that he didn’t need ID2 since he is getting plenty of work without it, however, the decision to return would have shown some kind of loyalty to the project that helped him transition from TV to movies in the first place. Also, his participation in ID2 might have made the film better. On the other hand, I doubt if there would be enough place for him, with so many unnecessary characters being introduced.

New charactersSela Ward as Elizabeth Lanford, the 45th President, William Fichtner as Joshua Adams, a U.S. General, Deobia Oparei as Dikembe Umbutu, a Congolese warlord, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dr. Catherine Marceaux, a British medical scientist, and Nicolas Wright as Floyd Rosenberg, an accountant. Ward was terrible in her role: her one-liners to attack were super cheesy and she didn’t help the plot much – definitely should have been cut or replaced. Fichtner played a much better political leader and could have been in charge from the beginning of the film. Oparei was there to add diversity to the cast and while the ideas that were introduced through his character were interesting, there was no time for them. Same goes with Gainsbourg’s psychology ideas – interesting but unexplored. Wright’s character was included for comedic relief, which felt forced, out-of-place and boring. The film would have been better without him.

New pilots: Liam Hemsworth as Jake MorrisonJessie Usher as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, Maika Monroe as Patricia WhitmoreAngelababy as Rain Lao, and Travis Tope as Charlie Miller. All of the new pilots were fine in their roles but I think the film would have benefitted if it reduced their number. I was happy to see Hemsworth getting more work, now that The Hunger Games franchise is over. Usher’s and Monroe’s characters were also okay and had an organic place in the story since they appeared as kids in the firs film (played by different actors back then). However, Angelababy’s character was obviously there to appeal to the Chinese audiences (get that Chinese box office money, Fox!). What the appeal of Tope’s character was, is beyond me.

In short, Independence Day: Resurgence was a watchable movie, with terrible writing (too many cooks in the kitchen), okay directing and passable acting. A disappointing sequel that had no place in the 21st century.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Independence Day: Resurgence trailer

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Movie review: The Judge

Movie reviews

Hi!

As you have probably noticed, I go to a cinema at least once a week. This Thursday, I watched The Judge – comedy-drama by the director David Dobkin.  I wasn’t familiar with his work, probably because he is not that famous.  He has directed a couple of comedies, TV shows and produced many more of them. The judge is his baby – he did everything himself – written, produced and directed.

IMDb summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

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Story

I really enjoyed the story and all the different aspects of it. I loved the whole coming home from a big city thing – I have always imagined myself moving from my own small native country to live in the US and coming back for a short visit. The law side of the movie also appealed to me because last year I did a semester of Law AP class at my local college, so I am familiar with the basic structures and different kinds of laws. The family drama was also close to my heart because I have always had problems finding a connection with my mom. Cancer aspect was also understandable because a few years back my grandma died from stage 4 lungs and bones cancer. And of course, love and relationships are a universal language which is understood by all. All the complex plot-lines, problems from the past and current events really mixed well and were not too much for me. My favorite scene was the final courtroom scene – the trial. That talk between The Judge and Hank  was super powerful and really good.

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Acting

Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in his role. Previously, I have seen him in big Marvel movies and in Sherlock Holmes franchise as well as this year’s Chef by Jon Favreau (review). He is truly a remarkable actor and this weekend I am definitely going to watch Chaplin (Academy Awards nomination for the lead role), The Soloist, Love&Distrust and Due Date. I love the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s character could joke around one minute and be tearing up the next. What is more, his character Hank from this movie reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes with all that reading of a person stuff: both these characters paid attention to details and acquired a lot of knowledge without even engaging in a conversation. I guess that’s a part of their job: one is a lawyer while other is the private detective.

P.S. Robert Downey Jr. is almost 50 years old and he still looks like a 30-35-year-old.  Does anyone want a youth potion?

Robert Duvall was also really good in his role as The Judge. I hated him for being such an awful father but could sympathize with him as well for trying to make up for his mistakes. Other actors have been upstaged by Hank and Judge Palmer and I don’t really remember them. One of my most beloved TV actress’s from childhood – Leighton Meester – was also in this film as Carla – maybe / maybe-not Hank’s daughter. She had a small role but it was nice to see her after quite a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed the film, could relate to the story and adored the performance of the main duo – father and son. The movie premiered a month ago at TIFF – possibly this could mean that the movie is willing to get an Academy Award or at least Golden Globe nomination; however, I don’t really believe that will happen because the reviews from critics have been only mediocre.

Rate: 4.5/5. If the movie had been shorter by half an hour I would have given it a full 5.

Trailer: The Judge trailer

The_Judge_2014_film_poster Photos: Getty Images

Movie review: Gone Girl + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I went to the early screening of Gone Girl, so this is a spoiler warning, because I am going to review this highly anticipated book-turned-movie thriller.

Summary: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)

Book + Changes

I have started reading the book by Gillian Flynn when I had 5 days left till the premiere, so I was on a tight schedule. I really loved the first half of the book, but when the big secret was revealed I was kind of skeptical that this was the big plot twist. It was hard to root for Amy when you’ve found out her mental state but I, as a woman, couldn’t be on Nick’s side as well because he was a cheat.
The ending was really weird. They resolved some stuff out and they were still dragging the story out and then it just suddenly ended. What is more, by the end of the book, probably all the readers were on a Team Nick and he did not get a happy ending. I was really happy when the producers decided to create a whole new ending and the third act. Moreover, the author of the book was the one creating the new material, so this was still her imagination and not some screenwriter altering the original material.  In addition, the new ending meant that all the book readers hadn’t spoiled the movie for themselves.

Note: I wrote that part of the review before going to see that movie, so my comment after watching it: they didn’t change a dam thing. I was hoping that there will be a big, grand change but the story played out the same way it did in the book. Of course, there were a few minor changes but that always happens when you are adapting a book to the big screen. For example, in the book we have read what were they thinking after the reunion .In the movie, we are only guessing what is on their minds from their expressions and their actions. I was a bit disappointed that everything everyone was talking about were these big changes and there weren’t any of them.

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Acting

I believe that Ben Affleck was great choice for the role of Nick – the husband. I have firstly acquainted with Ben as an actor in one of the reruns of Armageddon when I was about 8 or 9. After that, I watched him in Daredevil and Oscar winning Argo (I loved Argo – one of my favorite movies ever) and recently, I got around watching – Gone Baby Gone – a directorial debut of Affleck that has almost the same premise as Gone Girl and even a similar name. In the 2007’s Gone Baby Gone a girl goes missing and in this year’s Gone Girl – a grown women. I still need to check him out in Pearl Harbor – I have heard so much about this movie and I can’t believe that I still haven’t watched it. Shame on me.

As much as I knew about Ben Affleck, I was totally in the dark when it came to Rosamund Pike. I haven’t seen any of her movies (or maybe I have and I just don’t remember her which actually is a bad thing for actors). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance; she was a believable (SPOILER) psychopath.

Speaking about the supporting cast, Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, the main scene stealer. He is always perfect in every role and this one was not an exception.  And that SPOILER bed scene – that was one of the most powerfully gross scene I have ever seen. The whole cinema was open-mouthed by the time it ended.

Emily Ratajkowski (Blurred Lines music video girl) played Nick’s mistress Andie, she was quite good too, and her role wasn’t that hard but still props to her for trying to move from her image in Blurred Lines. Then again, this time her boobs also played an important role.

The character I didn’t like in the books but really loved in the movie was detective Rhonda Boney played by Kim Dickens. I really enjoyed her performance and was rooting for Rhonda in the investigation. Tyler Perry was nice Tanner Bolt even thought I imagined him in a completely different way when I was reading the book. Carrie Coon also did a good job as Margo – I loved how she almost always stayed on Nick’s side.

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Directing

The movie is directed by David Fincher who is best known for directing The Girl with the dragon tattoo, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story).  As a long time Facebook user (My name is Lue, and I am an addict), I adored The Social Network and loved seeing Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in one movie (too much eye candy).  I was never a fan of The Girl with the dragon tattoo book series, maybe because I was too young when I tried to read them. Furthermore, the critics and the general public weren’t really interested in the movie adaptation so it sort of slipped from my “to watch” list. I have read The Curious Case by Fitzgerald and I want to watch the movie but haven’t found time yet.

In Gone Girl, I really loved Fincher’s attention to details. He really made me believe in these characters and the story. Of course, he has to share these praises with both Gillian Flynn for creating this strong material and great actors who brought these powerful characters to life.

Themes

Both the movie and the book explore the problems of the family. They show how parent’s problems affect their children. They portray what happens when parents raise their child as a god: the kid doesn’t want to let his/hers parents down, she/he becomes a perfectionist. However, at the same time he/she might turn into a spoiled brat. The conclusion: raise you kids in a right way (but god knows what the right way is). The second big theme was a relationship between a husband and a wife and domestic abuse. Nick and Amy’s relationship was toxic and addictive: they could not live together normally, but they couldn’t exist separately as well. Relationships are hard and if you want your relationship to succeed both sides have to work together. Lastly, I loved how they portrayed the importance of media in contemporary world. If society loves you, you are innocent. If they hate you, you are screwed.

All in all, I liked the book, I liked the movie. I wish they would have given us an alternative ending but I am still quite satisfied with what I got. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie received an Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and acting.

Trailer: Gone Girl trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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Photos: Google Images

Moomin-trolls + Tove Jansson’s 100th birthday

Uncategorized

Hello!

This Sunday, I was reading Haper’s Bazaar UK magazine’s August issue and found an article about Tove Jansson – one of my favorite authors from childhood.

Tove was a Finnish novelist, painter and illustrator who was born in 1914 August. Last month, the world celebrated her 100th birthday. Tove is the most famous for the creation of Moomins – little trolls who live their peaceful but full of adventures life in Moominvalley. She wrote 8 books about them and also released a short story collection through period of 25 years (from 1945 to 1970). I was introduced to her characters by accident – I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first picked up her book Finn Family Moomintroll on sale at my local bookstore. Since then I was amazed and enchanted by the characters that she created and the events they lived through. Now, 10 years later, I still reread all of her books with a smile on my face but I also can see between the lines and understand the social messages she was portraying.

All books about Moomintrolls (Tittles in English):
The Moomins and the Great Flood
Comet in Moominland
Fin Family Moomintroll
The Exploits of Moominpappa
Moominsummer Madness
Moominland Midwinter
Moominpappa at Sea
Moominvalley in November
Short story collection Tales from Moominvalley

For her contribution as a children’s writer she received Hans Christian Medal in 1966. She died in 2001 from lung cancer. Her work inspired a couple of theater productions, cartoons and even movies based on Moomintrolls. If you wish to know more about her work, I highly recommend you to read the article I previously mentioned by Sam Baker. I would love to visit Moomin Museum and Moomin World theme park one day. For now, I will revisit my local library, where a special display for Tove Jansson was put together to commemorate her 100th birthday. Have a great rest of the weekend with a cup of tea and maybe one of Tove’s books!