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Movie Review – Wonder Woman

We saw an early screening, and I’m happy to report director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman is everything DC should be doing in all of their movies.  It’s epic in scope, as befitting one of DC’s trinity of heroes.  It’s does something interesting with Diana’s origin, managing to homage both her classic origin and the more recent takes.  It has a great deal of heart, something DC’s other EU movies have so far lacked.  It’s genuinely funny, and not in the “this is a joke, please laugh” way that Bruce delivers that “I’m rich” line in the Justice League trailer.  Gal Gadot embodies Diana admirably, whether it’s handling her business on the battlefield or delighting in her first experience with snow.

The cast of characters surrounding Diana are great, with Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen leading the way on Themyscira.  Chris Pine’s is sneaky good as Steve Trevor, a man capable of being rescued and upstaged by a powerful woman.  The baby-men still railing against all-women showings of the movie could learn something from him.  Their romance never feels forced.  I wish we had more of Etta Candy as Lucy Davis’s reaction faces are great.  I was also surprised with how well Wonder Woman handled the particular horrors of World War 1 – since it wasn’t the focus of the movie it would’ve been easy to gloss over what trench warfare was doing to people, but they didn’t.

Any downsides are fairly minor.  The villain is a bit undercooked, taking a page from Marvel’s book, once you get past the surprise reveal regarding him.  The last third of the movie is a bit of a tone-shift from the first two thirds, but you just know they had to have a big battle scene to end things on.  The slow-motion, 300-esque bits with Diana fighting was overused but I’ll allow it.

Wonder Woman was the first DC movie since The Dark Knight where I found myself leaning in, hanging on the action and the character building bits.  Take your kids (not just your daughters) and enjoy the ride.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with the “Kelvin-verse” Star Trek movies.  I really like the cast, and have come to grips with the fact that, since it’s not a TV show, the movies need to shade a bit more to the action side of things than the more cerebral Trek episodes.  Still, the first two movies (especially Star Trek Into Darkness) made some really painful story choices and had me looking at Star Trek Beyond with a bit of trepidation.  I’m happy to report that Star Trek Beyond was pretty darn great, and definitely my favorite of the three so far.

I think what works here more than the previous two movies is, you actually feel like these individuals have come together as a crew.  There are quiet moments of contemplation and camaraderie mixed in with the action beats and it just makes it feel more like Star Trek.  I could actually believe this crew having to deal with some of the stranger stuff from the original series, like Trelaine or Apollo or planets where everybody talks like a gangster.

Beyond follow this crew right in the middle of their 5 year mission, with Kirk handling a diplomatic exchange between two warring races.  Unlike what we’re used to with Picard, it does not go well.  “I ripped my shirt again,” Kirk laments at one point in a tongue-in-cheek moment.  He feels a bit lost, which makes sense as this version of Kirk didn’t have his Starfleet dad to watch and look up to his whole life.

It isn’t uncommon, you know? It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space, there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.

This line comes from Commodore Paris, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo of The Expanse, as Kirk discusses taking a desk job with her.  This is a different spin on the original cast movies, with Admiral Kirk leaving the desk job behind to get out and make a difference in the galaxy again.  Pine’s Kirk is chafing under the monotony of a five year mission, feeling ‘episodic’ (:wink:) and having trouble with the idea that you never really reach a destination out in the vastness of space.  It also works as a counterpoint to the villain, who was sent out into space himself (remaining vague so as not to spoil things) and was broken by it.

I loved the character beats between the leads, it felt very much like the classic series Kirk/Spock/McCoy interactions.  Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah fit in fairly well, and I liked that they didn’t shoehorn in some romantic subplot just because they were adding a female lead.  If there’s one thing that bothered me about Beyond, it’s that 20-21st century music played a role again.  Yeah, it was a callback to the first movie but it felt a bit out of place then and it still does now.  Minor quibble, though, to be sure.

If you are a Trek fan but were turned off by Star Trek Into Darkness, give Star Trek Beyond a try.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Movies Review

Movie Review – Star Trek Into Darkness

There will be spoilers.  You are warned.

If there’s anything I know from reading reactions to Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s that it is very polarizing.  You are going to love it or hate it.  The middle ground ‘it was decent’ option is pretty darn uncommon.

To best prepare you for discussing STID, I’m going to give you some key phrases you’ll hear in the arguments about the movie.

  1. Plot Holes – They are Jupiter-sized and multiple.  There’s a lot that happens where the filmmakers pretty much just hope you won’t be thinking about it hard (or at all).  Why do they need ‘Harrison’ alive if there are 72 other supermen in tubes they can get blood from?  Are they like Marvel’s mutants, where they have different superpowers?  Why thaw out a 20th century guy to make weapons?  I could see studying them, maybe recreating the Eugenics tech that created them – might’ve made an even better movie.
  2. Bad Science – Cold fusion doesn’t do what you think.  The ability to transwarp transport stuff could solve a lot of your problems, and create a bunch of really terrible ones.  “Hey, I can transport myself to the Klingon homeworld from here in the Federation!  Wait…on second thought, I’ll just beam a bomb into that Starfleet briefing and take a nap.”  Magic blood that heals…I assume no one gets sick or dies again now ever, right?  Look, I know that the previous Trek stuff is full of pseudoscience, but there was consistency to it – things you can do, things you can’t.  When you are willing to hand-wave everything away with a cheap fix that doesn’t fit the universe that’s been 40 years in the making, you just lost ALL your tension.  They defeat DEATH, what threat will they face on their five year mission greater than that?
  3. Fan-service – Tribbles!  Harry Mudd!  Carol Marcus!  Section 31!  Prime Directive!  I can confirm that JJ/Orci/Kurtzman definitely read Memory Alpha at some point.  And while I can appreciate the reversal in the ending, but the only reason Spock should scream like that is when he’s mind-melding with a Horta.  Lame.  And at least Spock stayed dead through the rest of ST II.
  4. Women in Trek – Read Felicia Day’s thoughts on this.  She’s got the serious concerns down.  You know what’s bothering me?  Sticking with the 60’s aesthetic with the uniforms for the female characters.  The Original Series didn’t know any better, but yeah, we don’t require women to wear ridiculous uniforms in the military NOW, why would they in 2-300 years?  Even Troi got to wear pants eventually.  I know that there’s only one traditionally female lead in Uhura, but why can’t she save the day at least once?  She should’ve successfully talked the Klingons out of killing them.  Stunning Khan had worked before, did it not in the endgame just because a girl was holding the phaser?
  5. Khan is…white? – When Young Spock called Old Spock about Khan, I kept waiting for Young Spock to show him a picture of the current Khan…and Old Spock to tell him, no, you must have the wrong guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing the movie quite a bit.  Seeing being the operative word…the visuals were amazing.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the filmmakers had come up with some really awesome scenes they wanted to film/create and all of the plot inconsistencies came about when they shoe-horned them in.  That’s how you end up with a ship rising out of the ocean to fly over a volcano.  It’s actually a fitting metaphor for the movie – a visually stunning sequence that everyone in the audience figures out a better way to solve within minutes.