"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Every film in a franchise comes with big expectations and Star Trek Into Darkness is no exception.  However this time, the weight of those mighty expectations rest more onto director J.J. Abrams who has recently been named director of the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII as well.  As we have yet to see how Abrams will handle the Star Wars universe, let’s take a look at his second outing in the Star Trek universe.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens with a wonderful sequence on a primitive planet that shows us the differing approaches between Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) of the Starship Enterprise.  Of course, the crew of the Enterprise hangs just over the edge until it gets that boost and rights itself back on the correct path.  That's the fun of space adventure according to Captain Kirk.

But Spock's Vulcan instincts ground the crew until two horrific terrorist attack on Starfleet put Kirk and his crew right back in the middle of action pursuing a crazed maniac, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the worst kept secret of the film.  Yes, he is exactly who you suspected him of being.  Yet Cumberbatch fits those sinister boots well, all pale and deeply intense with his voice.  

The crew, of course, are all back from the first film. Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Dr. Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho) are the dependable glue on which the ship stands.  Speaking of the Enterprise, the ship also gets some great footage in 3D as it hurtles through space at warp speed. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of some character development of the Enterprise crew and the core trio of Kirk, Spock and Uhura. I had hoped for a larger role in the film for Saldana than that of constant worrying girlfriend.

There are some great interactions early on between Kirk and Spock and again of the two with Uhura which had me chuckling with affection but then the film got intense, fast.  The action sequences were surprisingly good for post-conversion and had me jumping in my seat at times.  Overall, the film is enjoyable trip to the cinema for Trekkies and Abrams most likely last directorial venture in this film universe (I hope not!) will leaves us wanting more at the end of the film. 

Directed by J.J. Abrams; Screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof; Based on 'Star Trek' created by Gene Roddenberry; Cinematography by Daniel Mindel; Editing by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; Music by Michael Giacchino

Additional cast: Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve, Noel Clarke


Monday, May 20, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man Three

A year ago, The Avengers came, saw and conquered the box office and its fans.  Iron Man Three sure looks to follow its path as Tony Stark is back in an all-new Iron Man adventure packed with enormous effects, many sidekicks and lots of quippy dialogue delivered in a style is uniquely Robert Downey Jr.'s.

The events in New York that leaves the world and Tony Stark unsettled and that is not the place Stark hopes to find himself in.  He has high anxiety if anyone even mentions the city of New York and spends nights he should be sleeping working on the perfect version of the Iron Man.  He is too involved in his personal demons but as we know trouble always manages to find our superheroes.

In this case, trouble is called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) who takes responsibility for terrorist attacks against the United States.  And when Happy (Jon Favreau), Stark's head of security, ends up in the hospital after a bomb explodes at the Chinese Theater, Tony just has to get involved. This time it ends up getting really personal as The Mandarin blows up his home to smithereens.

That's when the Iron Man emerges, when all his chips are down and he is reduced to back to being, as he calls himself 'a mechanic'.  He must research what The Mandarin's true intentions are, save his friends and find out what his past has to do with his present.  Robert Downey Jr. was made for this role and it shows.  He knows this character like the back of his hand.

The rest of the cast do their part in aiding Iron Man as both the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) step up to saving the day.  Stark also gets a wee sidekick for a little while which leads to great bit about a Dora the Explorer watch. It's hilarious. 

Guy Pearce also does well as crazed scientist Aldrich Killian.  I enjoyed James Badge Dale's turn as an evil henchman and Happy Endings' Adam Pally as super-enthusiastic Stark fan.  But the real scene-stealer of the film is Ben Kingsley who takes it to new heights as The Mandarin.  You'll want to watch it again mainly for him.

Just as Joss Whedon's second film The Avengers kicked off the summer season, so does director Shane Black's second film that just sparkles with some great dialogues and explosive climax. Sometimes a Marvel movie is just what the summer doctor ordered.  Take a friend and enjoy the start of summer at the movies. 

Directed by Shane Black; Screenplay by Shane Black and Drew Pearce; Cinematography by John Toll; Editing by Peter S. Elliot and and Jeffrey Ford; Music by Brian Tyler.

Additional cast: Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Ty Simpkins and William Sadler


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Top 5 Films for Mother's Day

In most parts of the world today, Mother's Day is celebrated.  And as I'm sitting at home sick (having given my own mother the flu), I got to recalling some of my favorite films that feature great, moving and memorable mother-daughter relationships with her.

5. Brave - One of the few animated feature films that contains a solid relationship between a mother and daughter.  In most animated feature films (see Disney films), the mother doesn't make past the first fifteen minutes.  However, in Brave (co-directed by Brenda Chapman), headstrong Princess Merida and Queen Elinor learn to finally listen to each other and what they wish for their lives. In the end, like every fairy tale, all's well that ends well.

4. One True Thing - Meryl Streep, who excels in most mother's roles, plays the long-suffering wife and mother to a novelist husband (William Hurt) and her writer daughter Ellen (Renee Zellweger).  In the film, Ellen comes to realized how unfairly she's treated her mother and comes to share a closer relationship as her mother is diagnosed with cancer.  Keep the tissues handy as Streep, of course, absolutely brings it.  And if you're still longing for some weepy films, check out Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

3. Freaky Friday (1976) and Freaky Friday (2003) - This is the ultimate mother-daughter movie.  What could get a mother-daughter who don't see eye to eye than spending a day in each other's shoes? Literally!  These two Disney films are classic entertainment with Jodie Foster and Lindsay Lohan (before her downfall) playing the daughters.  But the newer version needs to be seen for Jamie Lee Curtis' absolutely fearless performance. 

2. Stepmom - This one never fails to bring on the waterworks.  And I always have an urge to sing 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' afterwards.  Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts are at their best when they become part of one big large happy family when Roberts marries into the family.  The last scene is so good between the two women who each have fears and insecurities for their children.  I can watch this film anytime.

1. Imitation of Life (1934) and Imitation of Life (1959) - My final recommendation features strong performances from the actresses in both films. Similar to the recent HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet, the films features lasting friendships between white widow, her black housekeeper and their heartbreaking relationships with their daughters.  Watch these if you can.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

News Update: Cinderella, Elizabeth Bennett fights Zombies and JJ Abrams visits Downton Abbey!

Meet the new Cinderella!  Walt Disney Pictures' new live action film on Cinderella cast its lead actress in Lily James (Downton Abbey) after their first choice Emma Watson passed on it.  The film has 2014 release and features Cate Blanchett as James' evil stepmother and will be directed by Kenneth Branagh.  Although my personal favorite Cinderella film still remains 1998's Ever After: A Cinderella Story featuring a kickass Drew Barrymore (bad English accent notwithstanding) in the Cinderella role and Angelica Huston as her stepmother.

The zombies live to see another day!  The Universe does want to see Elizabeth Bennett and her beloved Darcy become zombie hunters. And I will get to see a Regency zombie apocalypse.  Huzzah! Lily Collins (formerly Snow White in Disney's Mirror Mirror) will star and director Burr Steers (17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud) will helm Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, based on Seth Grahame-Smith's best-selling novel. 

He reinvented Star Trek and he's on his way to do the same to Star Wars, so what's filmmaker extraordinaire J.J. Abrams doing in the Downton Abbey kitchen? Can he introduce time travel into the show and bring back Matthew Crawley? Pretty please!!!

First clip of Pixar's upcoming short The Blue Umbrella

Here's a first clip from Disney Pixar's new short, The Blue Umbrella, due to debut in front of Monsters University this June. The official description says:
It is just another evening commute until the rain starts to fall, and the city comes alive to the sound of dripping rain pipes, whistling awnings and gurgling gutters. And in the midst, two umbrellas—one blue, one not—fall eternally in love.
I can hear the 'awws' in the theater already!  And it's also eerily reminiscent of the yellow umbrella scene from How I Met Your Mother.  Umbrellas and love, go figure!

Directed by Saschka Unseld, the short will make use of the studio's newest technology that gives the film a "photorealistic" look largely because of new algorithms and lots of global illumination.  The result as you can see for yourself is absolutely stunning. 

(Photo: Wall Street Journal)

Glad to see Pixar experimenting with animation technology to create bold and unique shorts that still touch our hearts.  Might we see a Pixar full length feature one day in this manner? I'm sure the geniuses over at Pixar are already hard at work at it. 
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