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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness


Wednesday night, I saw the new Star Trek movie.
My brother couldn't see it until today, and didn't want his experience to be influenced by my opinions, so out of respect I withheld any comments or posts until after he had seen it.

It's no secret that I was not a huge fan of the previous film.
My initial review was actually pretty favorable; but now that I have seen it a few times, and some of its glaring plot holes have come into light, I feel it is a truly terrible film.

With that in mind, I enjoyed this second film MUCH more than the first.
I was entertained, never bored, and found it to be very fun and enjoyable.
That's my initial gut reaction.

That being said, if you even think about it a little bit, Star Trek: Into Darkness is ultimately unoriginal, and disappointing.

This is going to be a bit of a bipolar review, because my feelings on it are so conflicted.
I simultaneously liked it, and disliked it.
I'm weird...I know.

I liked this new film more than the first, primarily because it left out all the ridiculous slap-stick humor, and obligatory J.J. Abrams CGI-monster chase sequences. This one also had a decent plot, and a compelling villain, unlike the first.
Several of the performances really stood out as something special. I loved the Christopher Pike character.  They also made much better use of Scotty this time around.
Also the space battles were second to none. Really top notch.
It was fun. That's pretty much the end of my praise.

The film's biggest problem, is that it does not have the courage to stand on its own, and be original. It borrows too much material from the original franchise, in terms of dialog and plot elements.

I thought it was a major mistake to retread on such familiar Star Trek territory.
With one name change, and a couple of minor plot changes, they could have made almost the exact same movie, but it would have been much more original and interesting. As it was, it became far too predictable, especially towards the end.

With this whole alternate timeline thing, they pretty much have free reign to do whatever they want, so in my opinion, they shouldn't be borrowing/stealing dialog and key events from the original films.
Why would completely different establishing events, occurring at a totally different time from the original establishing events, lead up to a nearly identical conflict, climax, and resolution as in the original films?
Really this is just an example of poor writing and lack of imagination.

The first half of the film was pretty good. For a while it looked like they might actually be taking a few concepts from Star Trek and really making them their own, unfortunately this didn't pan out.

The ending was embarrassingly sloppy and predictable; complete with the usual deus ex machina that completely destroyed any real risk or emotion.
Also, the obvious allusions to the original series felt unnecessary and out of place.  What should have been a powerful and emotional sequence was turned into a ridiculous tongue-in-cheek joke.
What's worse though is that most of the people in the audience, probably won't understand why a certain part of the film is embarrassingly laughable. Kids these days...

It also featured a destruction sequence that really bothered me. I don't want to say too much by way of spoilers, but shouldn't that crash have killed thousands, if not tens of thousands of people? Yet, we never heard anything else about it. It was just consequence-free destruction for the sake of having a big action finale. That was disappointing. Either leave it out, or address it head on. Don't just throw in a big spectacle scene because it looks cool, and then pretend that it didn't really matter.

Plain and simple, this is just a modern re-imagining of the Star Trek brand, tarted up with 500% more action, and 2,000,000% more special effects/CGI. It is an action sci-fi film for the modern ADD audience, and it barely qualifies as Star Trek.
Basically, it is just more of the same from J.J. Abrams. A fun summer action movie, nothing more.

I would give it 3 stars out of 5.

******

Ok, That is my original post-viewing review.
After writing my review, I came across Collider.com's review.
Boy were they harsh! They gave it a D rating!
I actually agree with everything in their review.  As far as complaints go, they really hit the nail on the head. This isn't just Star Trek snobbery...the movie has some serious problems.
Where I differ however, is that I still think entertainment value counts for something; and Into Darkness is certainly entertaining.  I enjoyed it! I had fun with it!  It is definitely fun enough to justify overlooking some of its flaws for the sake of the experience.
On their rating scale, I would personally give it a solid B.
Their review is actually very well thought out, so if you are interested in a fairly thorough analysis on why this is not a great film, give it a read. I quite enjoyed it.

*Edit:
After a second viewing of this film, I have a much better idea of just how bad Into Darkness actually is. There are so many things that are wrong with it, and so many things that just don't make any sense.  I talk about this more in my review of Man of Steel, so I won't reiterate here.
I'm bumping my rating down to 2 stars out of 5. This is probably my least favorite Star Trek movie...well, maybe second least favorite...The Final Frontier was pretty bad. Maybe I just need to watch that one again.  Hey! That would be a fun project! Re-watch all of the Star Trek movies and rate them from most favorite to least favorite! I'll have to do that one of these days.

Gatsby


Last weekend I saw The Great Gatsby.

What a weird movie!

I'm not super familiar with the works of Baz Luhrmann. I've seen Moulin Rouge!, and Australia, but that's all.

I didn't really like Moulin Rouge!, the style and story didn't really appeal to me.

Australia was ok, it was just way too long.  Really it should have been split into two separate movies.

I suppose if you like the style of Baz Luhrmann, then you will probably like The Great Gatsby also.

I can't really say that I liked it...but I do have to admit, the soundtrack was pretty good; especially the new song by Lana Del Rey.


Watching this movie was like a roller coaster for me.  I don't mean that the movie itself was a roller coaster, but rather that my opinion of the movie, while I was watching it, fluctuated wildly...like a roller coaster!

At times I thought, "this is the worst movie I've ever seen!" Then a few minutes later I would think, "hey, this crap isn't half bad."
Other times I thought, "this style is so stupid!" But then I would think, "wow, the style was actually really cool in that part."

It was a strange experience.

The party scenes got a little tiresome after a while. There were so many of them!
I was also kind of grossed out by how sweaty this movie is. I swear, half the movie consisted of characters lazily lying around on sofas, half dressed, all sweaty and gross from the New York summer heat. It gave it kind of a trashy feel.

I only have two real complaints about Gatsby, besides the weird style:

1. Tobey Maguire is terrible! He's terrible in everything! Why are people still giving him jobs?!

2. The CGI was terrible! They used it WAY too much! Seriously, at times the buildings and scenery looked like they belonged in a Star Wars prequel...it was so bad.

Everything else...was ok.

It's been a long time since I've read the novel, and I don't remember it very well, but I am told that this movie follows the book very well, with the exception of Nick Carraway narrating from a Sanitarium.

My overall impression of the film is that it is all style and no substance; which is actually rather appropriate considering the book itself is about a bunch of selfish people who are solely concerned with style and appearance, but have no real substance themselves.
So in a way, the style of Baz Luhrmann was the perfect medium for conveying the ideas and personalities found in The Great Gatsby.

Like I said, it's weird.

By some strange cosmic stroke of genius or happenstance, this terrible film is somehow made excellent through its terribleness.

I would say it is worth watching...once.

2.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Iron Man 3


This is going to be a quick review, because there isn't much to talk about if I am going to avoid spoilers.
I just wanted to say that I really liked it, and it is my favorite of the three Iron Man movies. I think I even liked it more than The Avengers.
I loved the humor of the film, but was also interested in the dramatic portions. I LOVED what they did with Tony Stark, being on the verge of a breakdown after the traumatic events in The Avengers. I thought that this element added a lot to his character, and the plot.
I also liked Pepper Potts more in this film than any of the others. She actually did stuff! I just wish that they had done more with her in the armor...maybe her own suit???
I'll give this one 4 stars out of 5. This is definitely in my upper tier for the usually-lame super hero movies. I was very impressed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Summer Commute

Last summer I decided to get more into cycling, so I purchased a shiny new road bike. :)

This summer I've decided to try commuting to work on my bike.

It's only 10 miles each way, and I have a pretty good route picked out that is safe for cyclists.

Also, my work is pretty bicycle friendly with our showers, and changing area with lockers.

Plus, there are already several people I know of who regularly bike to work.

They are pretty cool dudes...I would also like to be a cool dude...

So yesterday I rode my bike to work for the first time.

It was a great success!

My morning ride was very pleasant, and I felt great afterwards.

When I drive, it takes me about 20 minutes to get to work. Biking only took me 40.

Sure it makes my commute twice as long, but I get my daily exercise at the same time. So that's pretty good I guess.

My afternoon trip had significantly more traffic to deal with, so it was slightly less pleasant, but still quite enjoyable.

I felt well equipped for the commute with my backpack, spandex, and flashy lights, but I think I still need to get a mirror for my helmet. I know they look dorky, but it would make me feel a lot better knowing what was coming up from behind. Glancing over my shoulder all the time gets old real quick.

It was too cold to ride in today (May 1 = snow in Utah), but I'm hoping that this will become my regular summer routine. :)

Here's to being awesome!