Thursday, May 30, 2013

StarTrek Into Darkness Review


In this review, Joe Wiewiora and Bett Correa give their views of Star Trek - Into Darkness.

General comments:

Bett: I grew up watching Star Trek and almost everything I learned about life was from Generations. I wasn’t sure if I would like the first remake but I did love it. So I had a lot of expectations about this new movie Star Trek Into Darkness, and it really delivered.

Joe: I never really watched Star Trek when I was growing up; I’ve only seen clips and the odd episode of Next Generation. I haven’t watched the old films, but I have seen the remake by J.J. Abrams and enjoyed it immensely. With Abrams directing Star Trek Into Darkness, and with the same cast and crew returning, I was very excited to see the new movie. I was not disappointed.

Story:

Bett: A great movie must have relationships between the characters that you care about and believe in. The central relationship in this movie is the one between Spock and Kirk. The beginning shows Spock following his logic and inadvertently betraying Kirk which results in Kirk being demoted and losing the Enterprise. Spock has to learn the hard way to balance his logic and his love to find the right thing to do. Scotty also finds himself in the same situation and gets kicked off the ship too.

All of this is over shadowed by a terrorist attack that puts our heros onto a mission with a dubious ethnical nature. They meet someone who may or may not be a friend….

Joe:  The story itself seems fairly straightforward. A villain has attracted Star Fleet headquarters on Earth, and then fled the planet. Kirk and crew are sent to bring him to justice. Of course, nothing is ever as it seems.

Friendship is an integral part of this film. We see Kirk and Spock’s friendship develop. We see what each would do in the other’s situation. We see what happens when a friendship is tested, like with Kirk and Scotty. We see who can be trusted and how far. We also see how far someone would go for their friends, who they see as their family.

The audience also gets to see a relationship develop between two who are more than friends. Spock is adept at concealing his emotions, and often for good reason. Uhura believes Spock is unfeeling, which is fracturing their romantic relationship. While this conflict makes for some amusing fodder for Kirk when he’s nearby, it’s an intriguing problem that is actually quite deep.


Acting:

Bett: Spock played by Zachary Quinto lets no emotion escape from deep inside which must in itself be a challenge for any actor. The central plot is watching Spock try to listen to his emotions to make better decisions and Zachary does an excellent job of showing this progression.

Scotty played by Simon Pegg is also excellent as he gets kicked off the ship and has his own side adventure. I find it interesting that Scotty has part of his persona externally represented by his silent alien Keenser.

Kirk played by Chris Pine captures the bravado and loyalty originated in William Shatner’s portrayal of the character.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays the main villain very well. You first want to hate him, but you like him and I think that’s important for the plot.

Joe: My first exposure to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting was in Star Trek. I hadn’t seen the British TV show Sherlock, but I’d heard good things, and now I know why. Cumberbatch’ has a dramatic way of captivating the camera when he speaks. He plays a great villain with motivations that the audience can almost sympathize with. I would accuse him of stealing his scenes, if the actors playing opposite him weren’t also so good.

Zachary Quinto does a brilliant job again as Mr. Spock. It must be extremely difficult to play a character who is cool, calculating, and chooses not to show emotion. However, Quinto is able to subtly convey his character’s thoughts in a way that is unparalleled by any actor of his age. We know exactly what Spock is feeling, even if he doesn’t show it.

Chris Pine plays the hot-headed and charismatic Captain Kirk. He’s been the golden boy of the star fleet and the loyalty of his crew is without question. But in this film, Kirk begins to question himself and wonder how much of his accomplishments have been based upon luck, as opposed to skill. Chris Pine does an excellent job of showing this inner conflict. There is some great character development with Captain Kirk in this film.

Cinematography, special effects:

Bett: I watched the 3D version of the movie. I think the best part of the cinematography/special effects was the fighting scenes on the flying cars near Earth. The characters were jumping between the flying cars and the shots were clear enough to see all the action unlike a lot of action scenes now days that cut so much it’s impossible to see the fight. There were many more amazing action sequences, but even so the movie was centrally about the friendships between the crew and the director did a great job of focusing in on those.

Joe: I did not watch the 3D version, but the special effects and cinematography were still outstanding. It’s quite a feat to make a futuristic film of this magnitude so realistic and believable, but Star Trek is up to the challenge. We fear for Mr. Spock’s safety as he’s lowered into a live volcano at the film’s beginning. We are in awe of the void of space as Kirk shoots from ship to ship, through a debris field, as his suit freezes and his visor begins to crack. The audience can believe that this world, our future world, is real and we care for the characters that are in it.

I also really liked the flying car scene near the film’s finale. The sense of height is palpable and the fight choreography is fantastic for certain hero and a particular villain. As an action fan I also liked the shootout in the middle of the film. I was very impressed. A scene that could’ve been chaotic and choppy was instead seamlessly shot. Fans of the series should be happy to see the appearance of an alien race that was only mentioned in the previous film, but a powerful force in the Star Trek universe.

 

Overall Rating:

Joe: Even if, like me, you haven’t watched the series or the old movies, you can still enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I saw it with my friends when it first came out and then again a week later with my Dad. You can see this film with family members, friends, or mixed company. If you’re a Star Trek fan or seen the last J.J. Abram’s film, you probably already know you’re gonna like it. Thumbs up. I give Star Trek Into Darkness a 9 out of 10.

Bett: I highly recommend this movie to even people who aren’t long time Star Trek fans because the story is universally appealing: Making decisions to protect ones loved ones. I give it a 9 out of 10.

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Iron Man 3 Movie Review

In this review, Joe Wiewiora and Bett Correa give their views of Iron Man 3.

General comments:

Joe: I really wanted to see Iron Man 3 right when it came out, but I had a busy weekend at work. As a result, I had to close my ears whenever anybody started talking about the movie. Most the snippets I heard were good, though. I finally got to see the movie on Monday night and I was not disappointed. Iron Man 3 is definitely a movie to see in theaters and looks incredible on the big screen.

Bett: I loved the first two movies and was excited to see the 3rd. I wanted to see a few things specifically. First I wanted to see Tony would be changed after the Avengers, and second to see how his relationship with Pepper Potts was developing. I first loved Tony Stark for his attitude of self-reliance, fortitude, passion, and hard work. I wanted to see if he would still remain true to that persona.

Story:

Joe: Tony Stark continues to create the greatest and best iron man armor for himself. His latest armor can be remote controlled or fly, piece by piece, through the air to reassemble itself around himself or others. This new plot device makes for some great scenes. It also shows that Tony Stark can still kick some butt with only an iron glove and a boot. In addition, the new armor has some glitches. The thrusters don’t work. It doesn’t always fly. It isn’t battle ready. It’s refreshing to see a suit that is fallible and, like Tony Stark, isn’t perfect.

A large part of the plot in Iron Man 3 was derived from the acclaimed Extremis storyline in the comic books. In the movie scientists and Aldrich Killian, played by Guy Pearce, develop a way of repairing a damaged body and even restoring limbs. However, subjects can burn molten-hot at times and cut through metal…even iron. This process is weaponized, and the Mandarin recruits former soldiers for his army. Along with some fiery special effects, this gives the audience some villains that can actually pose a threat to Iron Man and aren’t just another bad guy in an armored suit. There are some excellent and well-choreographed fight sequences in the film’s finale.

Bett: The story starts out in the past with Tony meeting two people who will be very significant for the story, a woman creating a biological agent who allows plants to self-repair called Extremis and a young scientist who wants to meet Tony. Tony treats the young scientist played by Guy Pearce badly and Tony will live to regret it. There’s fun plot twists along the way, lots of action, a slightly touching relationship between Tony and a small town kid. Tony starts off trying to figure out how he fits into the world now that he knows about the other Avengers. He makes snide comments to the military when they ask him for help asking them to go get the other Avengers. I felt this was a little silly, but I guess the director/screenwriters had to address it.

Acting:

Joe: Tony Stark is fond of saying, “I am Iron Man.” And I can’t see anyone besides Robert Downey Jr. playing the role. He is singularly suited for the character and his quips and banter with the other characters make for an entertaining movie watching experience.

I like watching the evolving relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow have great on screen chemistry, which makes the audience want to root for the couple no matter what misadventures or missiles are hurtled their way.

Fans of Don Cheadle will be happy to see a greater presence of him as Colonel James Rhodes. Whether he’s hanging out with best friend Tony Stark or taking down the bad guys, he kicks butt both in and out of his own armor as War Machine/Iron Patriot.

I was happy to see Jon Favreau return as bodyguard Happy Hogan. There’s some especially funny moments in a pre-millennium New Years Eve party flashback. Guy Pearce adds his talents to the cast as the initially sympathetic and later malevolent Aldrich Killian. But I had the greatest initial trepidation of seeing Ben Kingsley, veteran actor though he is, in the role of the villain the Mandarin. Fortunately there was no need to worry. Writer/Director Shane Black did a brilliant job with the character and I love his interpretation. It also answers the question asked in the movie of how an international terrorist could exist in a world full of heroes.

Bett: Tony Stark seems to adlib many lines and seems almost to be mumbling occasionally. I don’t really mind this, but sometimes it’s too hard to follow. Pepper Potts and him seem like a happy couple, even though he is still a work-a-holic. Tony’s computer, Edwin Jarvis, has its own personality which actually is one of the most fun characters in the movie. The banter between Tony and his Jarvis keeps the action from getting too heavy. Guy Peace is excellent as the young scientist, Aldrich Killian, then later as the villain. Ben Kingsley who plays Mandarin feels confusing because we aren’t really sure what kind of person he is supposed to be, but all that is explained very well in one of the movies best plot twists.

Cinematography, special effects:

Joe: The special effects and camera work in Iron Man 3 are outstanding. Scenes like the final fight or freefalling airplane passengers rescue can only truly be appreciated on the big screen.

"How many in the air, Jarvis?"
"Thirteen, sir."
"How many can I carry?"
"Four."
“Oh boy.”


A riveting scene shot incredibly high over the beautiful backdrop of Miami Beach. Iron Man must try and save as many passengers as he can that have been sucked out of an airplane during mid-flight. Some directors might shoot this scene as more of a continuous shot from the hero’s perspective, like Bryan Singer in Superman Returns. However, director Shane Black distinguishes himself by using a series of jump cuts between our hero and the terrified freefalling passengers. This technique draws the audience in even further and makes an already gripping scene, a riveting one.

This is only one example of the type of directing that distinguishes Shane Black from others who have been behind the camera shooting Iron Man. Personally, I really enjoyed this style of cinema for Iron Man 3.

Bett: I watched the non-3d version of the movie. As would be expected, Iron Man 3 has a lot of amazing special effects, but what I liked was some original action scenes. One of the central plot points is a substance, Extremis, which helps self-repair a human system. This leads to many scenes of humans regenerating. The last fight scene is pretty spectacular especially the very last part! No spoilers! I’ll just say it’s very exciting.

Overall Rating:

Joe: Iron Man 3 can be seen and enjoyed by everybody. I saw the movie with my Dad, who is also a big comic book fan. But you don’t have to like comics books to see Iron Man 3. You don’t really have to have seen Iron Man or Iron Man 2. The movie can stand on its own. You can even see it with your girlfriend or on a date, because Iron Man/Tony Stark is one of the few heroes with a real, good, and well-developed romantic relationship. This is a great movie all around, 8 out of 10. I give Iron Man 3 a thumbs up.

Bett: Iron Man 3 delivers action, plot twists, excellent acting from all, and great special effects. Tony Stark’s attitude still comes through and is an inspiration! I give it 9 out of 10.