Film Review – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013, USA, 132m, 12) ***½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions / Bad Robot; d. J.J. Abrams; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof (based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry); pr. J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci; ph. Daniel Mindel (DeLuxe | 2.39:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; pd. Scott Chambliss, Amelia Brooke; ad. Ramsey Avery.
cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), Peter Weller (Marcus), Alice Eve (Carol Marcus), Noel Clarke (Thomas Harewood), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Nazneen Contractor (Rima Harewood), Amanda Foreman (Ensign Brackett), Jay Scully (Lieutenant Chapin), Jonathan Dixon (Ensign Froman), Aisha Hinds (Navigation Officer Darwin), Joseph Gatt (Science Officer 0718), Jeremy Raymond (Lead Nibiran).
Action-packed and effects-driven follow-up to 2009’s STAR TREK reboot coasts on the familiar character interaction of the lead cast to overcome its story shortcomings. This time the crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization destroys most of Starfleet and what it represents, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) leads his people crew on a mission to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction, thereby propelling all of them into an epic game of life and death. Rehashing elements of 1982’s STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, this film cannot recreate the tension generated in that earlier model. Abrams tends to go for broke on the visual effects and mass destruction, stifling the story and blunting the characters’ motivations. The cast gives game performances and the visuals are sensational, but the action is too often overblown and lacking in credibility – notably during the protracted climax. There is still much fun to be had though, and this largely comes via the familiar character interactions. Pine, Quinto and Urban have captured the camaraderie seen in the original series characters and their interpretations are spot on. Followed by STAR TREK BEYOND (2016).
AAN: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton).

Film Review – STAR TREK (2009)

STAR TREK (2009, USA, 127m, 12) ****
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Entertainment / Bad Robot / Mavrocine ; d. J.J. Abrams; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman; pr. J.J. Abrams, David Witz; ph. Daniel Mindel (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; pd. Scott Chambliss; ad. Keith P. Cunningham.
cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Eric Bana (Nero), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Ben Cross (Sarek), Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson), Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk), Jennifer Morrison (Winona Kirk), Rachel Nichols (Gaila), Faran Tahir (Captain Robau), Clifton Collins Jr. (Ayel), Tony Elias (Officer Pitts), Sean Gerace (Tactical Officer), Randy Pausch (Kelvin Crew Member).
A hugely entertaining reworking of the classic 1960s TV series sees the crew of the Enterprise set on a new timeline. The brash and arrogant James T. Kirk is looking to live up to his father’s legacy with Quinto’s Mr Spock keeping him in check. All the favourite characters are back as the crew tackles a vengeful, time-travelling Romulan looking to create black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time. Whilst the plot may not stand up to scrutiny, the action set-pieces are thrillingly staged, and the visual effects work is first-class. Abrahams directs with gusto and a strong feel for the characters with the richly humorous interaction between the leads that made the TV series so popular evident again here and only occasionally feeling forced. Followed by STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013).
AA: Best Achievement in Makeup (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)
AAN: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Mark P. Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin); Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Image result for Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerSTAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot / Walt Disney Pictures; Release Date: 16 December 2019 (USA), 19 December 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 August 2018 – 15 February 2019; Running Time: 142m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | Dolby Digital | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP | 12-Track Digital Sound; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate violence, threat.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams (based on a story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams and characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan; Associate Producer: Nour Dardari; Director of Photography: Dan Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins; Art Director: Paul Inglis; Set Decorator: Rosemary Brandenburg; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Digital Makeup Group; Sound: David Acord; Special Effects: Dominic Tuohy; Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic and others.
      Cast: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Richard E. Grant (General Pryde), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Keri Russell (Zorii Bliss), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Shirley Henderson (Babu Frik), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Dominic Monaghan (Beaumont), Harrison Ford (Han Solo (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.
      Comment: A technical triumph of visual effects and energetic action set-pieces this is an engrossing experience for two-thirds of its run time. Unfortunately, it becomes bloated during its final act with a need to tick too many boxes as it plays out its crowd-pleasing finale. It’s a shame as there is so much that is right with this conclusion to a saga that has spanned 42 years. The story propels us from one strange or exotic location to another and from set-piece to set-piece as it guides us through the simple quest that will ultimately lead to final closure on the Sith/Jedi war. As a spectacle, it is hard to resist, yet it somehow fails to connect on an emotional level as character revelations seek to top each other and some of the plot contrivances are overly convenient and obvious. Also, during the many action scenes, you begin to wonder whether any Stormtrooper can shoot straight. That said, the CGI and design work is simply amazing and Williams provides yet another majestic score. The result is an entertaining and largely satisfying final chapter that at the same time leaves you thinking it could still have been better.
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.