Category Archives: j.j. abrams

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness ~ There was so much hype about is-it-Khan-or-isn’t-it that I think it really overshadowed what a great film this truly is. Maybe if J.J. Abrams hadn’t kept it such a big secret, and just not made a big deal about it, maybe the reception would have been different. Sure this sequel did well, and there will be a third, but I think it could have done better. I mean, seriously, if it came out that this was going to be a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, different or exactly the same, couldn’t that have only helped box office sales?

Yes, the circumstances are different, and yes, things play out very Bizarro World in some places, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I think it’s cool. Abrams did a wonderful thing with the first movie. He found a way for old fans and new fans of Trek to get the best of both worlds. There’s a new continuity without jettisoning the old one, can it get much better than that? New and old fans get a new Khan story, and old fans get to see a parallel universe to the one they know. This is a good thing.

I liked the parallels. I like the new and known dynamics of the Kirk/Spock relationship, and well all the other character relationships. While I do yearn for a seasoned Kirk who knows what to do, I like this young guy too. All the characters get good screen time, the actors give great performances, and the villain(s) do as well. Benedict Cumberbatch is both a compelling actor, but a very compelling villain as well. His casting was golden. He’s no Ricardo Montelban, but he is Khan.

The other thing I loved is probably something that the old Trekkies and Trekkers hate. I loved the action. It never stops. Star Trek Into Darkness is a fast rollercoaster ride of an action movie. This is not your grandfather’s Star Trek where they talk their enemies to death, this is, again, the best of both worlds. I should note that the story has some problems, both in logic and in flow, but you don’t have time to think about it until after it’s over.

And many folks I know had a problem with what seems at first a cop out in the story. That would be young Spock confronting old Spock on a situation he had already encountered. Hello? If your alternate universe future self were readily available for you to access his experience, wouldn’t the logical thing be to consult him, and consult him as much as possible? Eat Vulcan logic, Trekkies.

Visually stunning, wonderfully written, directed, and acted, this is one hell of a movie. I will grant you, this isn’t as good as the first one, but it continues the story suitably and respectfully. Maybe for the new Trek series, the odd-numbered sequels are the good ones.

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Evolve or Die, A Star Trek Rant

Those Star Trek people infuriate me. You know the ones I mean. Whether they call themselves Trekkers or Trekkies (and yes, I do know the difference), it makes no difference when it comes to the 2009 reboot of the franchise, and its upcoming sequel in just a few weeks.

Let’s be serious now – if Gene Roddenberry had actually gotten his “Star Trek: Phase II” on the air when he wanted to, would we be still talking about Trek now or would the proposed series just be an embarrassing footnote like “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island” or “The Brady Bunch Hour”? Let’s all be thankful that Star Wars was so successful, and Paramount made Roddenberry move it to the big screen.

And while we’re being thankful, let’s be thankful for J.J. Abrams for finding a way to both be faithful to continuity, and to free himself of it. He paid respect to the fans, and opened up the field for a new generation of fans. It works in the story, and you have the old continuity and the new continuity existing side by side. And come on, it’s not like time paradoxes and parallel universes are foreign territory for the franchise. It’s almost the norm if you look at the original series.

Let’s talk about TOS, as “The Original Series” is called. It may as well stand for The Old Series, because it’s dated. Worse than that, “Next Gen” is even more painful when it comes to looking dated. Special effects and hairstyles weigh down TOS, but man oh man, ST:TNG just screams eighties. It’s so bad, it’s almost embarrassing. And for most of these Trek people, TNG is the gospel canon.

I lost interest in Trek television, when “Deep Space Nine” came along, and once the Captains met in the movies, I was out of there too. “Enterprise” brought me back. The Trek people hate “Enterprise.” I think it was great, it not only brought me back to Trek, it brought The Bride as well. The Trek folks whined about how the Vulcan protagonist behaved, behavior that was rationalized in the context of the series by the way.

These are the same people that don’t have a problem with Klingons not having ridges in TOS, faulty physics, jumbled histories and timelines, and of course the fantasy of a cashless society. But a Vulcan enacting free will, that’s wrong. It’s okay for Spock, but nobody else.

Seems to me that the Trek folks have a problem with the mainstream taking their toys. It was okay when no one else liked Star Trek, but when there’s a blockbuster movie, they get defensive. And I throw the “Doctor Who” latecomers into the same garbage bin.

I loved Abrams’ Star Trek, and can not wait for the sequel. All y’all old Trekkies and Trekkers, feel free to stay home and not see it, just shut up about it. You’re ruining it for the rest of us.

Revolution

I recently had the chance to view the pilot episode of “Revolution” via OnDemand. Apparently it’s also on Hulu and NBC.com, so I have to wonder if anyone will watch this when it airs Monday night. After the last few television projects from J.J. Abrams, I was prepared to be unimpressed, but I gotta say, I might give this a shot. It actually seems like it might be fun, conditionally, that is.

The concept of “Revolution” is a world where all the power has gone off. Logic dictates some sort of electromagnetic pulse possibly, but who knows really what it could be in a J.J. Abrams show? Didn’t he make up that island you could drive on “Lost”? So the power goes off, and our story begins fifteen years later. America has devolved into small villages of folks living off the land and warring militia states. Still, nobody has gotten the power back on, or even had the know-how to build a simple generator. Did no one pay attention in high school science class?

Logic aside, it does have its moments that set it slightly above other scifi fare currently on TV. I like our reluctant hero Miles, played by Billy Burke, who is like a mild-mannered badass with a sword. I also like our middle management villain Neville, played by Giancarlo Esposito, Fring from “Breaking Bad.” He plays the baddie with the same quiet deadly charisma of The Operative in Serenity.

“Revolution,” created by Abrams, and with this pilot episode directed by Jon Favreau, also depends a lot on its potential genre nerd cred. One of the best moments in the pilot is when Charlie, played by Tracy Spiridakos, and someone who has lived most of her life without power, reveals her secret stash – in an Empire Strikes Back lunchbox, and we hear a few notes of John Williams movie score. Moments like that elevate this show, and make me want to keep watching.

The only thing that would keep me from watching, and it’s the condition I spoke up at the beginning of this review, is that plot device that the show revolves around. What caused the black out? If that will be the carrot on a stick, that keeps viewers watching, yet never gets revealed, I think I’m out. I don’t want another “Lost,” and I certainly don’t want another “Flash Forward” or “Journeyman” where we never find out what happened.

Now watch the following preview at your own risk. It’s one of those that pretty much tells you everything that happens in the pilot, right in the preview. Stupid television executives…

Super 8

Super 8 ~ I never cared much for “Lost,” and Cloverfield could have been so much more than it was, so I was understandably nonplussed when I first heard of Super 8. But, I loved J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek, and even thought it was one of the best flicks of the year it came out. The idea of a movie written and directed by Abrams yet produced by Steven Spielberg intrigued me however, especially when preliminary trailers made it look like some sort of mish-mosh of E.T., Close Encounters, and Cloverfield.

If it needs to be compared to any movie however, it’s more in line with Stand By Me, or even closer to the more obscure, yet so entertaining Matinee. Super 8 is in many ways a walk down memory lane, and not just in the way it’s a period piece set in the early 1980s or late 1970s, although that illusion is ruined with pinpoint accuracy by a Walter Cronkite TV broadcast about Three Mile Island. After that, any pop culture reference post TMI pulled me out of the flick.

Super 8 is also a time capsule in that takes us back to our early teens and that period between playing with our buds and thinking about girls. It’s a bittersweet teen romance mixed with a family drama – and oh yeah, there’s a monster too. But the drama is very good, so much so that at one point, my eyes welled up. The monster sadly, when we finally see it, is of the Cloverfield type, and also of the variety that showed up for a cameo in Star Trek. It makes me wonder if J.J. Abrams can only do ugly, rarely seen monsters with weirdly opening jaws.

The flick is so much better however than I ever would have guessed going in. There was expectation, and Super 8 far exceeded it. Recommended.

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Star Trek – The New Frontier

Star Trek ~ There are numerous reasons why a major entertainment franchise would be rebooted. Perhaps it’s been forgotten a generation ago. Maybe the last film in the series did comparatively horrible at the box office to previous entries. Perhaps the last television attempt was on a flailing network and was badly promoted – and in some cases dissed by supposed fans of the franchise. For Star Trek, coming up on its 43rd anniversary, can count all of those reasons and more for its current reboot in theatres in just a week or so.

The powers that be have brought in J.J. Abrams, of “Alias,” “Lost” and Cloverfield to helm this eleven Trek film, with an all-new cast in a prequel/sequel/reimagining/reboot (yes, it is all of those things) to the original TV series. Trailers have brought nothing but controversy for Trek fans and interest in viewers with no Trek in their past. Surely, this flick will be a rite of passage.

Before I go any further, be warned that this is a spoiler-rich review. I saw the film nearly two weeks ago and have been trying to write a spoilerless review. It’s just not possible to do, and address the things I want to address – so if you continue reading, consider yourself warned.

The flick begins with a bang, and the rollercoaster hardly stops from there on, which is a marked difference from Trek. The Treks before this have seemed pretentiously talky, so much so that is considered to be the way it should be – a point made by Trekkies when they haven’t liked films with ‘too much action,’ like Nemesis, the last movie in the series that may have helped kill the franchise. And that’s a point I’d like to bring up to the hardcore ‘fans’ out there – Paramount did not nearly kill the franchise – you did by not supporting it. I think this is the main reason this new film was made for the mainstream younger audience -and not those hardcore fans- to save the franchise.

And that’s not to say that this new film is not for the fans. The writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, have taken great care to keep continuity and canon high on their priority list – despite the time travel alternate divergence mindgames that go on. They not only play by the rules, but they also get to play by theirs as well. There are moments, little nods, like the red shirt phenomenon, Admiral Archer’s beagle, Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru, Sulu’s fencing, McCoy’s signature catchphrases, and the timelost old Spock doing to young Scotty what the timelost old Scotty himself does to a young 20th century engineer in The Voyage Home, that are just brilliant. And although they are brief, I love the scenes of Kirk and Spock as boys. Beautiful, just beautiful.

The cast is near perfect. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, but twenty minutes into the flick I had forgotten about the original cast and was seeing the new faces as the characters. Chris Pine plays William Shatner as Kirk (rather than just William Shatner, which probably would have been disastrous) just as Zachary Quinto does Nimoy as Spock. Each though brings their own flavor to the part – a bit of James Dean for young Kirk and an alien outsider vibe to young Spock. Karl Urban is the perfect McCoy. That particular bit of inspired casting is a gift from God. I may have to wonder if DeForrest Kelley is his father, it’s so close.

The rest of the cast is rounded out well with the always entertaining Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho doing a wonderful intimidating impression of George Takei doing Sulu in the original series, as opposed to Takei’s more satiric take of recent years thanks to his coming out and participation with the Howard Stern programs, and the highlight of the cast has got to be Zoe Saldana as Uhura – finally claiming the spotlight the character should have had decades ago. Zoe is an actress to watch for the future.

Conversely, Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov, is quite annoying, and one of the lowlights of the film. I have to wonder however if this is on purpose. If memory serves when the Beatle-esque character first appeared in the second season of the original series many fans hated him just as they did that other ratings bump Seven-of-Nine decades later in “Voyager.” Maybe we’re supposed to hate him?

It should be noted that it’s not all wine and roses though. Along with Chekov there were other elements that didn’t win me over. Star Wars is alive an well in the film. Things like the great Tatooine-ish bar scene and fight in which Uhura is introduced and Kirk looking at the Academy training center shaped like a starship work well, but it goes too far in the Hoth scene with Cloverfield’s cousin – thankfully it’s a brief departure. I also didn’t care much for Kirk’s allergy, but again, very brief. I’m torn by the slug scene. is it a rip-off or an homage to the similar scene in Wrath of Khan?

The special effects are great. I like the new warp effect but no so keen on the new transporter effect. The music is amazing. Much like the powerful score of Tyler Bates in Watchmen, the music of Michael Giacchino more than makes this movie as great as it is. He dabbles in Philip Glass, brings on the Akira Ifukube, and even retunes a bit of the original Alexander Courage. I can’t say enough about this score, other than I bought it, and for a soundtrack for me, that’s saying a lot.

All that said, I think this new Star Trek will not only reignite the franchise, but will be the first summer blockbuster of the year, if not the summer blockbuster of the year. It’s fresh, it’s accessible, and it’s exciting. And Trekkies will hate it.

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Majel Barrett Passes at 76

Majel Barrett, wife of the late Gene Roddenberry and the First Lady of Star Trek, has passed away from complications of leukemia this morning.

She appeared in several different incarnations of “Star Trek,” including the original series, “Next Generation,” several of the movies, and even in the fan-produced “New Voyages.”

Her voice also is that of the Enterprise computer in the upcoming theatrical release of “Star Trek” from producer J.J. Abrams.

She’ll be dearly missed.

Star Trek Sneak Peek

The new Star Trek trailer is now online. You can see it here.

Curiouser and curiouser. Was Kirk blond? And did he and Uhura hook up back in the early days? And why would he trash a perfectly good (and probably a valuable antique as well) Corvette like that? Other than that, the spx look pretty awesome. Time will tell.

New Crew, Same as the Old Crew


…almost.

Previews


Speaking of remakes, I’m not sure what to make of this. Did this near-perfect classic even need to be remade?

Godzilla Meets Blair Witch


It’s 1-18-08, and Cloverfield is finally here, and my initial impression is ‘Godzilla meets Blair Witch,’ and that’s a good thing. The flick combines the best elements of each concept.

The beauty of this film was really before it even opened. The ability to keep a secret -the image of the monster, as well as the plot- such big secrets in this internet age, especially when much of the hype was generated via the internet (mostly through an ARG), is a frigging miracle.

First off, dispelling rumors that have at this point been long dispelled, at least by folks who are online. It’s not Godzilla. Like I’ve been telling everyone who’s asked, their resident G-fan, it’s not Godzilla. It’s just not. Toho has the meanest and most litigious lawyers on the planet and there’s no way they’re letting Americans near their baby any time soon.

It’s also not Cthulhu, even though most of the Lovecraftian mythos is in the public domain, and as much as I’d like to see some of those wonderful dark creatures onscreen using some CGI – it’s just not. Although, based on the hype, maybe J.J. Abrams could be convinced to do so in the future.

And thank god it’s not Godzilla, because then I can let my radar down, and not worry about what has been changed or trashed regarding one of my favorite properties. Even though it’s not Godzilla, I’m still a hardcore kaiju eiga fan so I had to see this. Been waiting on this bad boy for months, and I was not disappointed.

The film revolves around a giant monster attack on New York City and rather than take the traditional path, the tale is told using a portable hand-held camcorder in the midst of the destruction. This gives a traumatic and horrific, up close and personal edge to the events. And of course will probably be responsible for multiple cases of motion sickness in theatres on a worldwide scale, but no worries, I predict folks will be so engaged by the flick they won’t notice.

The characters are pretty simple cookie cutter fare and a subtle but simple love story lies beneath the action as Rob has to rescue Beth from monster central. Over and above that I have to pick T.J. Miller as Hud, the voice behind the camera for most of the movie, and his unrequited crush Marlena, played by Lizzy Caplan as the clear breakout stars here. The real humor, beauty and pizazz of the flick lie with them, and the monster of course.

I loved this movie, and was so glad that a film with such hype actually turned out to be worth it. Get to the theatre early for the Star Trek teaser (also by Abrams) and stay ’til the end credits to hear the luscious Akira Ifukube-inspired score by Michael Giacchino.

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