Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Star Trek Beyond

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Star Trek Beyond (Paramount Pictures)

Star Trek Beyond Poster

Directed by Justin Lin

Written by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung  Based on Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris PineZachary QuintoZoe SaldanaKarl UrbanAnton Yelchin & Idris Elba

Star Trek Beyond starts off a little weak but it comes on strong in the second half delivering the same (new) Star Trek action and excitement and laughs and cool shit we have come to associate with JJ Abrams and the Trek Franchise. I really liked it.

Verdict: SPARED

star-trek-beyond-bridge-crew

I had a problem with the story of Star Trek Beyond early on. There was a lack of discipline and naval or nautical clarity. They’re not military, I know, but it is a space vessel with a hierarchy. Are there no regulations? But anyway. Then for some reason when anyone from the crew are asked who they are they all need to give their full names. Everybody uses their last names. That’s how it’s always been. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura. We get it. You’re a fan and you know the character’s first names. And I know it seems petty but it bothered me a lot. But then the movie got really exciting and I forgot about all that crap.

Star-Trek-Beyond-Idris-Elba

Beyond is a good story. Simon Pegg does a great job of distributing the action. This is truly an ensemble cast. Where the original series was very Captain Kirk-centric. Or at least the top three. Kirk, Spock and McCoy got most of the screen time. Here Simon Pegg gives everyone a meaty role in the action and everyone a chance to be the hero.

Star Trek Beyond with Sulu and Uhura

The new Star Trek movies have great music. I love Michael Giacchino‘s score. It’s a nice mix of old and new and brand new. But there are also some classic tunes from Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys included in the soundtrack. And I don’t entirely hate the new Rihanna song Sledgehammer. The two rap songs play a large part in the plot which is pretty cool too. You know how they love that classical music.

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Star Trek Beyond is well-directed and I love the new cast. With the welcome addition of new allies and menacing villains and a great mystery and overwhelming odds, Justin Lin does a fantastic job of keeping the whole shebang moving and the mystery interesting. The franchise says goodbye to Leonard Nimoy in the movie with a touching and beautiful tribute that brought more than one tear to my eye. And they also honor Anton Yelchin’s passing, tastefully, in the end credits.

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Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic installment to the new Trek franchise. Fun, exciting and entirely Trek. Some say it feels like a run-of-the-mill science fiction action film just wearing a Star Fleet uniform, but I disagree. The writers are clearly huge fans and the plot, the action, the dialogue and situations are pure Star Trek goodness. And I enjoyed it a lot more than Into Darkness. Beyond represents a return to form for the series.

STAR TREK BEYOND

RIP Anton. RIP Leonard. Good job guys. Bravo.

– Mel

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Spared or Spoiled Reviews: 10 Cloverfield Lane

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures)

10 Cloverfield Lane

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Written by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damien Chazelle

Starring John GoodmanMary Elizabeth WinsteadJohn Gallagher, Jr.Bradley Cooper & Suzanne Cryer

10 Cloverfield Lane is a good movie about one thing and an even better movie if it were about something else. And that’s it. That’s the movie; keeping the viewer unsure what the movie is about; one thing or the another. And that’s my review as well. Because to explain why I DID NOT like a film that I thoroughly enjoyed all the way through up until the ending. And then, get this, because this is important (and where it gets confusing) I ALSO ENJOYED THE ENDING. But I did not like the whole. In order to explain that, I would have to spoil the movie… especially the ending. So this is a spoiled review. And honestly, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read the rest of this review.

But now you’re curious aren’t you? You can’t help yourself. Well, you’ve been warned.

Verdict: SPOILED

"Is that a Pokemon?"

“Is that a Pokemon on the ceiling? Hold still you bastard.”

SPOILER ALERT

Let’s get right to it. I want to see the OTHER movie. They end a good movie by letting us know that a better movie was going on outside the house. Setting up a sequel? Not really. More accurately, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a prequel. It’s an origin story. The birth of this bad-ass heroine. I want to see more from her. She rocks. But then the movie ends just when she finds her swing. Let me explain.

John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane

“This here’s a Pokemon gym, young lady. Don’t you mess with my Pikachu.”

The answer to the question of whether 10 Cloverfield Lane is one thing or the other is that it’s both. A cop-out, maybe. But that’s the only solution that would be allowed. You can’t play the fence this much without both things being true. The guy who saves our hero is a bat-shit crazy kidnapper and a pathological liar but he is ALSO not lying about how he just saved her life from an alien invasion. He’s just weird. Understand that the movie is all about us not knowing this, that the drama is built around not knowing what the fuck’s going on outside the house.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

“How do the Pokemon get up there?”

10 Cloverfield Lane is a pretty good psychological thriller. It’s like Room if Room were the movie we wanted Room to be but were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t. John Goodman “kidnaps” a young woman and holds her in his fallout shelter tricked-out doomsday bunker. Or does he? I’ve already told you the answer. He saves her from certain death at the hands of vicious aliens. But she thinks he’s a crazy, pedophile, rapist, racist violent asshole… and she’s right. SURPRISE! It’s both those things.

cloverfield

“You have a Pokemon addiction, young lady. You need my help.”

A young woman, played brilliantly by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, gets kidnapped and chained to a wall by a crazy guy, but the guy is actually saving her from the apocalypse and it’s him that doesn’t trust her. That’s the movie. No need to watch it. I already told you the twist. SPOILER ALERT. (In case you missed the last dozen or so). It’s good. It’s creepy. John Goodman is awesome and awful. There’s some other stuff that happens. Whatever. Let’s get to the good part. She escapes him, gets outside the house and discovers there actually HAS been an alien invasion. Then… then… THEN… she starts kicking ass. There are like five minutes left in the movie and she turns into an alien ass-kicking mofo. And the fucking movie ends after that.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Cloverfield Lane

“What can I say? I’ve just gotta catch ’em all.”

To add insult to injury, the coolest thing in the movie happens right before the credits. She hears a broadcast from the remaining humans, that they’re looking for people with combat experience. And my girl just blew up a mothership, so… yeah my girl got combat experience. And then the movie ends. And then you want to see THAT movie, the movie that was happening outside of the bunker. And you’re disappointed that instead of that you got this movie; a good movie, but not the kick-ass alien invasion movie.

Cloverfield Lane

♫ to catch them is my real quest. to train them is my caaause…  ♫

So in the end, 10 Cloverfield Lane was good. A little bit of a cop-out in the end, yet still entertaining. But in the end, I realized I had missed all the best stuff. And in the end, I wanted to see the other movie. I kind of feel like had there been no mystery, had we known about the invasion from the beginning, in the end, it could have been a more interesting movie. The same psychological thriller stuff but with stories seeping in from the outside world.

I felt cheated.

– Mel

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Thoughts (after a 2nd & 3rd viewing)

Spoilers!!

If you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, I hope you’re feeling better soon, but this post is full of spoilers. This is sort of a follow up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoilers and other Galactic Funk  I’ve seen it three times now and I would like to share some random thoughts. Very random.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios)

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens poster

These are just notes. They are not in chronological order.

First I found this pretty cool:

When Rey tries to use the blaster for the first time and makes that cute mean shooting face but nothing comes out because she has the safety on, she looks down at the blaster. And then the stormtrooper shoots at her. And Rey dodges the blaster bolt without even looking up. It’s very cool.

Rey and Han from The Force Awakens

Another cool Force related no look move:

When Han Solo enters Maz Kanata’s bar she knows he’s there without turning to look. She has her back to the door but she senses his presence. She may not have been born with the Force but after a thousand years she’s picked up a few things.

Like when Maz tells Rey how to feel the force by closing her eyes and calming her mind, Rey remembers her advice when Kylo Ren tells her she needs a teacher (and that it should be him), But Rey remembers that she already has a teacher and tries what Maz showed her.

By the way, Maz Kanata is awesome. “Where’s my boyfriend? I like that wookie.”

Knights of Ren

Here’s an easy prediction:

I think the Knights of Ren are actually the students of Luke. And Kylo Ren, Luke’s best student, turned some to the Dark Side and killed the others. We should see them a lot in the next movie.

Instead of prequels, I hope this time around Star Wars finally uses flashbacks. I’d like to see some flashbacks to stories from Rey’s past and Kylo Ren’s past.

BB-8 Rollin'

“They see me rollin’. They hatin.” Suck it Neil Degrasse Tyson

Droid stuff:

It’s BB-8 who wakes up R2D2 when he arrives with the rest of the map to Luke. He bangs on R2 with his head. It just takes R2 a while to boot up after being in low power mode for so long. And I don’t care what Dr. Tyson says I think BB-8 is heavy enough not to skid on the sand. He’s very heavy even though he looks light as a soccer ball.

C3P0 mistakenly calls General Organa, Princess when Han first shows up. I think it’s because Han Solo reminds him of those old days.

star-wars-the-force-awakens Daisy Ridley

Back to Rey: (I told you these wouldn’t be in any order)

When Rey is selling parts for portions, she first gets one-quarter portion and seems okay with it. But are they measured by human portions? I’m guessing not. She makes a pretty good meal with it.

When offered sixty portions for BB-8, Rey responds, “The droids not for sale.” I like to think this is more like a slogan than a response. Droids Lives Matter. Droids aren’t second class citizens. The droids aren’t for sale.

My favorite part now is when Rey asks Finn if he’s with the resistance and he thinks and then answers, “Obviously.” and then stands up and says it emphatically, “I’m with the Resistance.” and then whispers it confidentially, “I’m with the Resistance.” That’s my new favorite part. John Boyega is excellent.

Rey and Kylo Ren

Rey and Kylo Ren’s saber fight is pretty spectacular, if you ask me. But it isn’t a “Yoda man” type prequels saber battle with the combatants flying around. And I’m glad it isn’t. The wasted movement is completely un-jedi-like in my opinion. Regardless of how much it makes the audience yell. I prefer a realistic fight with fantasy weapons.

The only good saber battle in the prequels is Darth Maal versus Qui Gong Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi. In fact that’s my favorite saber duel in all the films (sadly it happens in Phantom Menace). The others in the prequels are terribly flashy and with tons of wasted movement. My second fave is Luke vs Vader in Empire on Bespin. The fight between Kylo Ren and Rey is the best one since those two and probably my number three.

Another hope for the next movie. Because Rey uses a staff on Jakku, I hope when she makes her light saber that it’s like Darth Maal’s and has two blades and she wields it like a bo staff. That would make me so happy. That was always my weapon of choice.

Maz Kanata's Bar

Here’s a “no good swindler” thought:

When the Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub tell Han Solo that there are no more people in the galaxy that he hasn’t swindled when they’re on The Eravana freighter, it rings true. Han Solo is old and not at all trustworthy. He throws that one guy into the mouth of that Rathtar without hesitation. This is the Han that shot Greedo before Greedo could get a shot off. He’s a bit of a dick, if you ask me. And when he tells Finn that he used to have a bigger crew, I don’t think it’s because the Rathtars ate them. I think it’s because Han was being a dick. (Can’t believe I wanted to be that guy)

The two Han Solo Millennium Falcon maneuvers, the first where he takes off from The Eravana at light speed and the second where he enters Starkiller Base planet’s atmosphere at light speed to avoid the shield, are reminiscent of Star Trek Enterprise maneuvers. Maybe it’s something J.J. got from his time with the franchise.

BB8 and Rey

Here’s something that made me laugh:

When the stormtroopers attack the village on Jakku in the first scene they come off the transports (like so much Normandy beach invasion). And one of the troopers accidentally shoots the guy in front of him in the back. And it’s clearly friendly fire because they put cover in front of him to let you know he’s not being shot from the front. Stormtroopers can’t shoot for shit (except for Finn).

Kylo Ren using the force

Here’s something I shouldn’t admit:

It took me three viewings to realize that Han and Leia named their son after Obi Wan Kenobi. Wow, I’m slow. Ben Solo… nice.

Quick note. I’m serious about this. Adam Driver should be considered for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I kid you not. His performance and it’s nuance and just everything about it, is better every time I see it. Fantastic work, young man.

Rey The Scavenger

Really the entire movie gets better every time I see it. I guess that’ll reach a peak saturation point and it will level off but I’m guessing not any time soon and by that time I’ll probably be able to recite the whole damn movie by heart.

“So who talks first? Do you talk first? Do I talk?”

Rey and Finn from The Force Awakens

Noticed more recognizable bit player:

The girl who plays Chanel #3 on Scream Queens is on the Resistance base and has a line but then I looked her up (her name is Billie Lourd) and it turns out she’s Carrie Fisher’s daughter. Star Wars Nepotism. I love it.

The guy from Heroes who plays the telepathic cop is also a Resistance officer. Don’t know his name.

And Daniel Craig is the stormtrooper who Rey influences with the force (but everybody knows that one by now)

That’s all I got  I’ll probably have more after the tenth time I watch it.

– Mel

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoilers and other Galactic Funk

After a short one paragraph review, this is a SPOILER-FILLED (and rambling) appreciation of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

You have been warned.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Written by  Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams & Michael Arndt  Based on Characters created by George Lucas

Starring Harrison FordMark HamillCarrie FisherAdam DriverDaisy RidleyJohn BoyegaOscar IsaacLupita Nyong’oAndy SerkisDomhnall GleesonAnthony DanielsPeter Mayhew & Max von Sydow

The Force Awakens makes me hate the prequels even more than I already did. It’s a movie that makes me want to melt every copy of the prequels into one sticky, smoking, smelly lump of plastic. (and if you know me, then you know I’m fucking serious and just might be doing that pretty soon). J.J. Abrams is very good here, with his writing and direction. The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars movie in the series (except for maybe The Empire Strikes Back). Lawrence Kasdan is great here too. He didn’t write the first Star Wars. He wrote Empire (and Empire’s dialogue is light years ahead of A New Hope) But still the dialogue in The Force Awakens is freaking fantastic compared to the prequels. It’s very funny and touching. And feels old while being very new. These two guys have created an authentic Star Wars movie. It feels, at times, like a tribute to the first film. A declaration of love. I’ll have to watch it again to be sure but I’d say it’s the best movie of the year (with Mad Max: Fury Road close behind burning up the guzzoline). I loved every minute of it. However as the title suggests, I’m going to spoil the shit out it. So you can stop reading now if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Verdict: SPOILED (with love)

The Force Awakens poster wide header

SPOILER ALERT

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a distorted reflection of A New Hope. This is a reflection from a rippling pond. Clear and beautiful with a natural fun house quality that changes genders, size, scope and running order. It is Star Wars reflected on the surface of the moving water. Cool and clean and more beautiful than the original. But even as it’s completely, and immediately, recognizable, at the same time it’s a different entity altogether. Like a child is a reflection of its parents. But different.

Rey The Scavenger

In both films, the classic and this fresh take; A father figure allows himself to be killed by his estranged son and former pupil. A planet killing weapon is destroyed by a frontal assault… a spectacular trench run and a small team infiltrating the base and turning off the shields. In The Force Awakens the weapon is tested on the Capital of the Republic and not Alderaan like in Hope but it’s very much the same, except here it destroys the star system and we also get to see the frightened faces of the victims. As well as having the added connotation of destroying a symbol of the prequels films. Blowing it up good.

BB8 and Rey

In both films, the original space opera and this adorable continuation; A hero is left on a desert planet by figure or figures unknown and SHE joins the fight against the dark side thanks to a cute little droid carrying a secret rebel/resistance blueprint. This time it’s a map. A map to a fallen star and they both get off the dead planet (This is not the droid you’re looking for) in an old garbage ship called The Millennium Falcon. But here it’s AFTER an important rebel is rescued from a painful interrogation inflicted by a helmet wearing, force wielding villain. Rescued by a reluctant anti-hero in a stormtrooper helmet. The same but different and the same but a distorted reflection but THE SAME.

The-Resistance-Star-Wars-7-Force-Awakens-X-Wing

All these things are out of their original order and turned inside out or folded in on themselves, where themes are out-of-place and everything’s out of whack and touching where they didn’t touch before. There’s even a cantina in this one. But this time it’s a Reggae band. And it’s familiarity is amazing. It’s fucking amazing.

Han and Chewie

I saw Star Wars Episode VII (Episode seven? It’s number FOUR to me goddamn it) on Friday afternoon at my favorite theater downtown. The place was packed. I purposely forewent any bells and whistle. Just a flat screen, no IMAX, no 3D, no glasses, no frills. A Star Wars film shouldn’t need any of that. And this one does not.

star-wars-the-force-awakens Daisy Ridley

The new cast is fantastic (and pretty). The old cast is, well just that, old. But it’s great to see them again. I grew up with these guys. I wanted to be these guys. First viewing, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be the good guy hero. Squeaky clean and fearless to a fault. Then when I discovered girls and what was cool and un-cool, I wanted to be Han Solo because he was a bad-ass and he was definitely cool. And of course he got the girl and she too was a bad-ass. But in The Force Awakens, the amazing Daisy Ridley plays Rey, who is all three iconic characters at once. She really rocks the hell out of this role physically. She has an awesome screen presence.

Kylo Ren

Next there’s Adam Driver who is just as good if not better than Daisy. And he has to be the bad guy in a Star Wars film. He has to follow Darth Vader. And that’s a fairly heavy lift. But he too is a conglomeration of iconic characters. He’s a bit of Vader (not as much as you’d think). And he’s a bit of his father; Han Solo (the dead guy). He struggles with the good and the bad like his father does (Han shot first… of course, Han tries to swindle everyone he’s had dealings with, Han is a selfish bastard who couldn’t make his marriage work and was never a true part of the rebellion or his son’s life. He was just trying to get the girl and he did. Then he left and returned to smuggling, swindling his partners. (Lando was right. He is a no good swindler… but lovable. Now dead)

R2 and Luke

But Kylo Ren is the most like Luke Skywalker. He never really knew his parents. He’s a bit of whiny brat. Who never truly got the hang of the force (well not yet anyway) and yet he still tries to take over a galaxy with his master. Adam Driver brings all of this in spades. He is a very talented man. And I really liked that he doesn’t need the mask but still wears it to be like his grandfather. He’s a fan. But then my girl Rey gives him a big ass scar on the side of his face. (Put the damn mask back on, Junior. Cuz now you need that shit).

Kylo Ren using the force

Speaking of his failed master. Remember that picture of the first read-through? Why the fuck is Mark Hamill there? He isn’t even in the movie. He has zero lines. None. But how about that ending, setting up an Empire theme for the next film: Like the training on Dagobah. But this time Yoda is Luke and Luke is Rey. A distorted reflection. And like Old Ben says that he failed with Vader, Luke fails with Kylo. And like Ben trained Luke, Luke appears to have a new pupil. A bit of Ben. A bit of Yoda. A lot of Star Wars.

Rey and Finn running for The Falcon

And then there’s John Boyega. Yes there’s a black guy and he too is a distorted reflection of iconic characters in iconic situations. In the first movie Han and Luke pretend to be Stormtroopers to rescue Leia but they’re actually good guys in disguise. Here, my boy Finn, is a stormtrooper who turns out to be a good guy and rescues Poe, the insanely cocky but obnoxiously good pilot played by Oscar Isaac (you know like Luke was in the first movie) See what I mean?

Poe

They’re all here. They’re all Luke. They’re all Han. They’re all Leia. They’re all Vader. And they are all wonderful, three-dimensional characters in their own right but familiar like family. At one point (during my first viewing) I was sure that everyone in this movie was related. That they were all one huge extended family. They’re not. Only Kylo Ren is related to Han Solo like Luke is related to Darth Vader. But I was sure that Rey would turn out to be his sister. Like Leia is Luke’s. And it’s fucking Star Wars. It’s gonna be incestuous as fuck. (something the prequels were not. Somebody hand me a match).

Finn and The Resistance

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the genius offspring of the original trilogy. A child that honors his father. Surpasses her mother. That is a lot better than Return of The Jedi and demonstrably better than A New Hope (If just for the acting, pacing and the updated everything). And it only trails in my fondness for Empire. The Force Awakens is my new favorite Star Wars film. It carries the torch respectfully.

Luke's Lightsaber

But it’s not original. None of it’s original. If this post has said anything (and it really hasn’t), it’s said that every character, every theme, every scene, every tiny bit of The Force Awakens is familiar or exactly like something from the original trilogy. AND I LOVED THAT. I really loved that. Because it had to be. It had to be this way after three barely recognizable, barely watchable, barely canon, barely bearable, toxic smelling, slowly melting, so-called prequels. We the faithful, die-hard fans, who remember seeing the first films in their first runs and every re-release since, who have suffered through three star-studded, sorry excuses for Star Wars movies. We… fucking deserve this.

So thank you again, J.J. Abrams. First for Star Trek and now for this. From the bottom of my heart, that sci-fi loving kid that lives there, and smiled through the entire movie, thanks you very much.

– Mel

Star Wars The Force Awakens Trailer SUPERCUT

All of the trailers for the new Star Wars movie edited together to form one super awesome trailer “supercut.”

This is all kinds of awesome.

Watch this before Disney takes it down.

I didn’t think I could be more excited for The Force Awakens.

But as it turns out, I could.

– Mel

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Teaser Trailer)

I was watching this one minute teaser trailer for the new Star Wars movie and suddenly I heard someone yell out “Hell fucking yeah!” at the top of his voice.

It was me.

I cannot contain my excitement.

(Google Chrome spell corrected excitement to excrement… you know me so well Google)

Stormtroopers, Landspeeders, X-Wing Fighters, The Millennium Falcon…

I have to go change my pants.

– Mel