2013's Most Anticipated: Star Trek Into Darkness

4. Star Trek Into Darkness (PG-13) - Runtime: 132 minutes
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: J. J. Abrams

I really, really enjoyed 2009's Star Trek reboot. It brought what I felt was a cold and sterile science fiction franchise into the 21st century with a little bit of sexy and a slightly rougher edge than previous installments. It was frankly, a breath of fresh air, to use a cliche. To say that 4 years waiting time in between these two movies is long is not doing justice to really how looooong this took to come out. And now that Abrams is off gallivanting in a galaxy far, far away, it's safe to say this is his last Star Trek movie. And boy was it a great one and not only that, is the best movie so far this year (yes I throw out that term a lot but I really, really mean it this year!). Where Iron Man 3 hit all the right notes, Star Trek Into Darkness does too, but in almost a more epic and intimate way (I was nearly in tears at one point!).

You're immediately thrown into the action as you see Kirk running through an alien forest, being chased by some crazy ass white-painted alien tribe (who sort of look like the Prometheans from Prometheus - oh Damon Lindeloff, you wrote this too, didn't you?). It's revealed that Kirk has decided to interfere with this technology-inept race by saving their collective asses from extinction, which goes against every regulation in the books. Spock agrees with all these rules and is willing to risk his life in order for that alien tribe to not catch one glimpse of the Enterprise. And this opening scene sets the whole tone and pace for the movie. At equal times funny and action packed, but emotionally resonant, the whole of this movie is summed up thematically by this opening scene. And it only gets better from there.

Enter Benedict Cumberbatch, aka Johnathan Harris, a man hell-bent on taking down Starfleet for some unknown wrong in the past. It's with this knowledge that Kirk and Spock go after this man in search of revenge for his terrorist-level attacks. What mysteries await are simply too good to spoil here. Safe to say, you'll be anxiously watching every second of this movie. It's that good. Everything about this movie - the acting, the plot, the pacing and editing are near-perfect. There's a good mix of humor and jokes, a ton of drama that hits all the right notes and you can see the characters grow throughout this movie. Kirk becomes a hero and Spock starts to understand his human half.

It's quite an accomplishment for a movie to be all things to all people and I applaud the effort. I'm sure a lot of people won't like it, but it's hard to argue that you can't get any better than this for a big-budget summer blockbuster.

And having just finished watching the first two original movies, I can safely say that Abrams handles the lore from these two movies with great care. There are changes, obviously, but they're satisfying and make sense for this "new" generation of Kirk and crew. I can't imagine long-time fans of the show not coming away satisfied at how there's so many references (probably some that I didn't even notice not having seen any of the shows!). But even if you're not a fan - this movie satisfies in its characters and humor and action - there's not one scene or story or character that seems out of place or that I wasn't in love with.

This is one of the most emotionally satisfying pieces of film that I have seen all year. Abrams has shown again he has the massive talent and genius to create something that will satisfy both fans and non-fans alike. And that bodes well for Star Wars! I went to see this in the IMAX at Henry Ford (the only IMAX that really matters) and it simply was stunning - I cannot recommend it more highly if you have the $15 to spend to go see this right now at IMAX.

Rating: See It! Twice!

Star Trek and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I never was a huge fan of Star Trek. I think my dad may have watched the Next Generation show religiously, but I just couldn't get into the seemingly cold and sterile environment of the Enteprise. But then J. J. Abrams came along and brought a little rock n' roll and sexy back to the franchise and I became hooked on that version. I couldn't wait for the sequel (four years is a long time!). So to pump myself up, I decided to check out the first two original movies before going to see Star Trek Into Darkness. And while I can understand why people love Star Trek, these two movies weren't exactly  lighting up my sci-fi neurons.


2013's Most Anticipated Addendum

It looks like that 2 of my movies this year have already taken a nosedive into next year. Warner Brothers just announced last week that 300: Rise of an Empire is getting pushed back to March. That's probably smart because it's original time slot in August seemed like it would go up against some stiff action competition. And with practically no one returning from the original and it being a prequel, it's probably not going to make a huge impact at the box office. And then I found out that the Mad Max sequel has been scheduled for some time in 2014. This movie already had a shaky date in 2013, so it's no surprise that it's been pushed back. I really didn't have a hard time finding 2 movies that I think will be really, really awesome! It's funny because they're probably the most opposite you could get with the movies they're replacing.

2013's Most Anticipated: The Great Gatsby

13. The Great Gatsby (PG-13) - Runtime: 142 minutes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan
Director: Baz Luhrmann

I wish Baz Lurhmann would do more movies. In his 20 year career, he's only directed 5 feature-length movies. Which is sad - he has a great creative voice and vision that's hard not to enjoy. I even thought Australia was a good movie (good, not great)! Call me crazy! And while I really did enjoy his adaptation of one of America's greatest novels, I felt the movie didn't reach the lofty heights of his greatest movie - Moulin Rouge!.

For those who skipped out on the reading assignment in high school, The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, a bond salesman in 1922 who seems to want more out of life. When he gets invited to one of his neighbor's extravagant parties, he meets and becomes close friends with the enigmatic Jay Gatsby. But Gatsby has a lot of skeletons in his closet and honestly just wants to be loved by a woman he could never get. There's a lot to digest in the story - themes of the American dream, social upheaval, decadence and excess - all are briefly touched upon in the movie.

While the heavy themes may weigh down any other director, Luhrmann takes the chance to lavish all his attention of the decadence of the 20s in America. The parties are opulently staged and its excessive eye candy is too much to take in at times. But that's the point - the parties are bloated representations of these themes and one can see that the parties are going to be crashed hard in the near future with the Great Depression looming. Despite that heady reading, the scenes themselves are just fun and there is so much to take in. It's like in Hellboy II during the market scene where you could pause and just marvel at all the detail and what's happening. This is true of Gatsby's parties - you could pause the movie and find something new every time. And top that off with an extremely catchy and grandiose soundtrack, it just makes these moments pop!

And if the first half of the movie is where it shines the brightest, the last 45 minutes become depressingly slow and could have been paced better. All of the parties are done and there's nothing left to do except drive to the inevitable conclusion (pun intended!). And while there are still some strong moments in the end (specifically the "party" at the hotel in New York and Nick's visit to the empty halls of Gatsby's palace), it felt oddly slow and needing of better editing.

As for the cast they all are really good - DiCaprio really deserves a nomination for his performance. But Joel Edgerton steals every scene he's in - he's a hypocritical playboy and Edgerton really gets the character - he's insecure to the core, but he sure makes a scene and in the hotel room really lets loose all those insecurities out on Gatsby. Mulligan has the perfect look for Daisy Buchanan and she plays her with doe-eyed naivety and wonder. Maguire is good too, but his character is merely a siphon through which we see the story unfold. Plus you have Isla Fisher (one of the more under utilized actresses out there) and Jason Clarke, both good actors who give everything they got for this movie.

This is most certainly an adaptation worth seeing - it's unique and utterly entertaining. Plus the acting is superb and the movie is just fun to watch! The soundtrack is amazing and the film does a good job of taking you to the party.

Rating: See It!

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher (PG-13) - Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

I've never heard of Jack Reacher before. I'm not a big fan of any kinds of these books - Alex Cross, Jack Ryan, etc. They all seem terribly dull to me - but that's just my opinion, obviously these books (and movies) have done phenomenal business. Jack Reacher is supposed to be a fantastic character - a behemoth of a man who plays by his own rules. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise really is out of his element here and the script and direction of this movie is a hot mess.

The first 15 minutes of the movie are almost completely silent - I had to double check my TV to make sure the volume was up and even then I was worried I got a defective disc. And this silence sets the whole tone for the movie. Instead of epic destruction and balls-to-the-wall action, this movie quietly slinks along. And that can be a good thing - Haywire did that to perfection last year, but when you have Jack Reacher, a man supposedly who plays by his own rules and doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything, the tone should reflect that. Instead, there's this quiet throughout the movie and no one can save it.

The movie starts out with a startling scene in which a lone gunman snipes 5 seemingly random targets. A man is framed and it's up to Reacher to uncover the conspiracy. At this point, when Cruise enters the scene, I hoped the movie would shift gears. But it doesn't and this is because Tom Cruise is just not right for this role. He's better at playing the stealthy and subversive characters (Mission: Impossible, Minority Report, Collateral), not a calculating genius with a bodybuilder physique. It's not only Cruise, but also the slow and methodical way the plot unfolds. It's terribly dull and the action scenes are few and far between.

On top of that, the movie makes absolute zero use of Robert Duvall and Werner Herzog. Duvall can absolutely turn a good movie into great and Herzog is simply Herzog (the iconic director is more known for his depressingly chilling voice than acting). And both of them are just throwaway characters. Duvall shows up in the last 30 minutes, acting like an old hick with a gun fetish and Herzog could have been more bone-chilling and menacing, but he comes across as just a creepy old dude that's seen too many mafia movies.

And when you finally reach the climax of the movie - when Reacher finds out the conspiracy, it's a bit of a let down and possibly confusing. They don't really go into much detail about who's behind it all - it just is. It reminded me a lot of Broken City this year - really slow and blowing a lot of hot air. There wasn't much to look at behind the curtains when they get pulled back.

If you're expecting a action-fueled thriller, Jack Reacher is not it. The movie lacks any sort of suspense or thrills and completely underutilizes such great talent. When you reach the end of the movie you will most definitely be disappointed you wasted two hours.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!


2013's Most Anticipated: Iron Man 3

10. Iron Man 3 (PG-13) - Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce
Director: Shane Black

First of all, kudos to Marvel for just naming this Iron Man 3, instead of some vague subtitled mess like Iron Man: The Phantom Mandarin or some such nonsense (If only they would apply this straight forward thinking toward the new Captain America and Thor movie titles!). And secondly, this is by far the best Iron Man movie out there. That's a bold statement, but IM3 delivers on a lot more action, more laughs and arguably one of the better character arcs for a superhero movie.

Tony Stark is dealing with all the shit that went down in New York during the Avengers and can't grasp that Iron Man himself would have to deal with something trivial as anxiety attacks. He's living in a world where an alien threat seems imminent and there's all sorts of weird dimensions and possibly magic. Tony Stark is a mechanic and a man of science and all of these events have shaken him to the core. Now a new threat, the Mandarin makes things personal for Tony and he's out for revenge on top of it all.

I don't think I need to talk too much about the movie - it's just really well paced - at over 2 hours it breezes by. Helping that is a good dose of humor throughout - Downey, Jr., is of course, perfect again, but he's aided by a supporting cast and a great self-aware script that pokes fun at itself occasionally (like the hired goon who, when faced with death by the hands of Iron Man, yells "I don't even like working here. These guys are really weird!"). Everyone gets their moment to shine in this movie - especially Ben Kingsley, whom Maggie thought was "just a delight!" I couldn't agree more - this movie is energetic and engaging.

Plus the action is a step up in regards to previous installments. Stark's house being destroyed is simply stunning - a beautiful disaster and the end climax doesn't wear out its welcome. Plus in between you have a great rhythm of action and drama and comedy. Shane Black nailed it here and I would love it for him to come back again to these characters - it's just something he gets

If you haven't seen it yet and you have enjoyed the Marvel movies so far, you owe it to yourself to see this spectacle of a movie right away. It's not perfect, but it's most definitely the best movie I've seen all year!

Rating: See It!


Review Roundup!

This is how I felt watching Alex Cross

These are a handful of movies I've seen that weren't on my most anticipated list, but nonetheless I thought were worth checking out! I don't think I missed too much in these past three months, but there were some really good ones and really bad ones. Thankfully, most of the movies weren't longer than an hour and a half, so not too much time was wasted! You can thank me later!

2013's Most Anticipated Roundup!

Where I've been the past 3 months
Folks, it's been a long three months for me and instead of wasting your time and my time, I'm just going to sum up some of the movies I've seen. But I'll be back to normal scheduling this week (I have a lot more time and less stressful days ahead of me).