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Monthly Archives: May 2013

While it doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of its 2009 predecessor, this new picture is terrific popcorn entertainment, the sort of bright, brawny blockbuster that used to define the summer movie season.
-Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

A safe sequel which, while certainly engaging and entertaining enough to recommend, fails to live up to the franchise’s daring, appointed mission ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before.’
-Kam Williams,

You think your world is safe? It is an illusion. A comforting lie told to protect you.
JJ Abrams is a pretty divisive director. He has been behind some pretty big busts throughout the last decade: Alcatraz was a disaster, Super 8 a glorified Spielberg ripoff, Cloverfield was a mess, The Undercovers failed right out of the gate and Revolution is an overproduced imitation of a good show.

Despite these failings, he is also the mind behind some of the most creative and memorable properties of recent memory. Fringe was mostly fantastic, Lost was great until the screenwriters ran the show into the ground in the final season. He has really put his own stamp on the last few entries in the Mission: Impossible series, directing the impressive 3rd installment and producing the instant action classic, Ghost Protocol. 2009’s Star Trek was a borderline genius way to revamp the stale property in a way to not alienate the fans of the original. Clearly, his work is hit or miss, which is how I could sum up his latest film and second go-around into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Into Darkness

JJ Abrams second turn at directing Star Trek on the big screen plays it safe. A much more self contained and inconsequential movie than his first, Into Darkness is a lot of fun but has much smaller stakes than you would think for a film set in the expansive universe that the Star Trek mythology provides.

The latest incarnation of the USS Enterprise
Along with Abrams as director, the entire crew of the USS Enterprise is back and we get the same great performances from them this time around. Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Doc Bones were great in comic relief. Zachary Quinto is remarkable as Spock. Channeling his inner Leonard Nemoy with great nuance, Quinto shows an appreciation and respect for the source material that is very refreshing to see.
Zachary Quinto, doing his best Leonard Nemoy impression
The same crew is back, but this time facing off against a new mystery villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Most known for BBC’s Sherlock, Cumberbatch puts on a great menacing performance as a one man weapon of mass destruction, laying waste to Star Fleet however he can. Expect to see him get more high-profile roles after this one as he does a remarkable job.
Enjoy these final moments of peace. For I have returned to have my vengeance. So, shall we begin?
Into Darkness is full of great action sequences and visuals, there is a scene with the Enterprise crashing into the earths atmosphere that is absolutely breathtaking. This films weaknesses lie at the script level. The story has great momentum and flows pretty well until the third act, where it becomes fairly predictable and problematic. At one point the film backtracks out of a pretty important and major plot development in a way that is telegraphed and poorly executed.

Captain Kirk runs for his life
Great acting and visuals aside, Into Darkness is not as good as JJ’s first effort in the Star Trek Universe. This film isn’t going to blow your mind but it’s a solid action/sci-fi film and competently directed. It’s a fun summer action movie, but don’t get your hopes up for the groundbreaking storytelling of the 2009 Star Trek.

Spock, setting his phaser to stun

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


Baz Luhrmann’s vision of the Roaring Twenties dazzles as a purely sensory piece of sight and sound. The hollow narrative doesn’t stop The Great Gatsby from entertaining as a gorgeous, glittering work of visual art.
-Diva Velez,

It looks great, and it’s an impressive tale to bring to the big screen, but the lack of interest in telling the story keep “Gatsby” from being a great film.
-Kristian Harloff, Schmoes Know

And so we beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaselessly into the past

There’s never been a movie quite like this. A 3D romantic drama is new ground for Hollywood and if Gatsby’s success is any indication, we will see a lot more of these in the future. I wasn’t too sure what to expect going into this film because I intentionally neglected to read the novel in high school. It turns out, going in without any context was a a good move. The film really surprised me in a way I don’t think would have been possible had I been more familiar with the material.

The cinematography and time period of this film is every bit a character as Leonardo DiCaprio or Toby Maguire themselves. New York City becomes a living, breathing creature as the characters travel from the mansions of West Egg through the grimy dust of the isolated coal mining town, the “Valley of Ashes”, connecting the wealthy to the sparkling skyscrapers of Manhattan.

The bright lights of 1920’s Manhattan

This movie’s biggest strength is it’s incredible visual style. It is by all accounts a Baz Luhrmann film. The Great Gatbsy looks absolutely fantastic; filmed with precise detail, Luhrmann brings his frenzied visual sense to every scene. The parties, street races, and even moments of dialogue are framed with his own unique stamp.

The decade of the Roaring 1920’s and all the excesses of wealth are on prominent display here: fancy costumes, fast cars, giant parties, extravagant furnishings, bootlegged alcohol. The divide between the rich and the poor is vast and it really takes a toll on the less fortunate. The film does a great job showcasing just how this particular lifestyle dynamic alters the fate of Gatsby and his acquaintances.

Gatsby is no stranger to extravagant house parties

This film has more to offer than just a unique visual style. A great, anochronistic soundtrack composed by Jay-Z pumps through all the party scenes and brings a cool modern twist to the otherwise period setting. All the acting is more or less first-rate, albeit deliberate. Often lines are recited or narrated like being read from the pages of the book. Although intentional, it can be kind of jarring.

Gatsby’s lavish mansion in West Egg – a bit excessive

The Great Gatsby is a ton of fun and deserves to be seen on the big screen. It is the first of its kind, a 3D drama that comes complete with director Baz Luhrmann’s unique and energetic visual style. Clocking in at well over 2 hours, it does seem to drag just a bit in parts of the second act, but not enough to deter the overall enjoyment of the film. Leonardo DiCaprio puts on an outstanding performance as Gatsby that will help this film become the definitive version of the literary classic for years to come.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms

A superhero in film is only as good as his villain. And that’s a critical problem for Iron Man 3.
-Kirk Baird, Toledo Blade

At times reaches “Avengers” level of intensity, fun and exhilaration, which makes it all the more frustrating that a few missteps result in it simply being a good movie and not the post-Avengers game changer it could have been.
-Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles’ Movie Files

This movie isn’t very good. As the highly anticipated follow-up to director Shane Black’s first film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 is pretty hollow. It promises a look into the life of Tony Stark after the events of The Avengers. Iron Man with panic attacks and PTSD: not that interesting. Sometimes, comic book movies should just remain cartoonish and fun. This is one of those times.

Things are different now, I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you.

5 Major Issues I had with Iron Man 3

1. This entire film is just a series of disconnected set pieces. First, Tony’s in Switzerland, then back at his house in Malibu where he is attacked. He flies to Tennessee for a while then investigates a lead in Miami. Finally, the film ends with an enormous oil rig set piece off of some coast who knows where. It’s all very disjointed.

2. The villains in this movie are disappointing to say the least. Iron Man 3 absolutely ruins The Mandarin. Ben Kinglsey does his usual great work with the character but the choices the screenwriters make kill off all the momentum built in the first act of the movie. Guy Pearce does an ok job with an evil scientist type but just becomes silly towards the end of the film. The most important aspect of a comic book movie is the villain and Iron Man 3 swings and misses.

This guy? Not as scary as you might think

3. The effects of Extremis look really stupid. A popular story arc from the comics, Exremis is a “super soldier solution that hacks the brain, rewriting the blueprint of it’s repair center to heal injuries.” Obviously. Probably a cool concept in the comics, it doesn’t translate to the screen here at all. Glowing red and breathing fire makes for lame evil powers.

4. Gwyneth Paltrow is terrible. It’s clear she has never seen a comic book in her life and has no idea how to play this character without being a one dimensional target for Tony to interact with and occassioanlly hinder plot advancement. There was actually a scene at the end of the movie involving Pepper Potts that made me cheer, but unfortunately didn’t play out as I wanted.

Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to act in a comic book movie

5. This film really tries to shoehorn how the events from the Avengers are affecting Tony. He has random panic attacks at the mere mention of the words “New York” and complains about his psyche and his sleeplessness. Hey Tony? Not a great time for some post traumatic stress disorder. This is a comic book movie, it shouldn’t be necessary to convey realistic psychological shortcomings on a hero who flies around in a super charged iron suit.

Tony’s suit, as empty as his heart

I had a fun enough time with the movie, but I didn’t care for a lot of the creative choices. There are some funny moments and some decent enough action sequences, but the film as a whole is a pretty big disappointment.

I’m Tony Stark. I build neat stuff, got a great girl, occasionally save the world. So why can’t I sleep?

FilmFire review:
2.75/5 forms