action, adventure, animation, comic book, movie, movie review, sci-fi

September 8th, 2019 Movie – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

spider-man spiderverse

My apologies for the lack of a post last week. I was at Dragoncon over the holiday weekend and while I normally try to have a review pre-written so I can post it, I did not manage to get it done in time this year. Anyways, in the spirit of Dragoncon, I decided to review the award winning movie featuring everyone’s favorite web-swinging, quip slinging superhero, Spider-Man. Now I am pretty sure that just about everyone knows who Peter Parker is, but not that many people outside of those that regularly read comic books knows about Miles Morales. I will admit, I did not know who he was at first, as I had stopped being a regular comic reader for several years, but several of my friends are still regular readers and have frequently commented on how much the enjoy reading his stories. So when I heard that there was going to be a new Spider-Man movie that featured Miles, well I was intrigued enough to go give it a shot. So let’s see how good of a Spider-Man Miles Morales is in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

The plot: Teenager Miles Morales has managed to get into an upper class boarding school and though his parents are proud of him, Miles would rather go back to his old school and tries to find ways to get kicked out. After dealing with the stress of his classes, Miles sneaks out and goes to see his uncle Aaron, who takes Miles to an abandoned subway station so Miles can paint his latest design on the wall. As Miles is finishing up and taking a picture of his graffiti, a strange spider bites him on the hand. The next day, Miles runs into a new girl (Gwen Stacy) at his school that he likes but as he they both nervously talk to each other, Miles hand accidentally becomes stuck to her hair. After he is cut free, Miles runs from a security officer and finds himself sticking to he outside of the building when he accidentally falls out the window. Miles manages to make it back to his room, but not before being noticed by Gwen, and as he tires to figure out what is happening to him, a Spider-Man comic falls onto his face and he sees the same thing happening in the comic to Peter Parker that has been happening to him. Miles heads back to the abandoned subway station, trying and failing to call his uncle as he does, and when he gets there, he finds the spider and notices something strange happening to it’s body. Suddenly, Miles gets a strange feeling (Spider-sense) and quickly ducks as some debris comes flying towards him and he sees Spider-Man fighting with the Green Goblin. As Spider-Man and Goblin continue their fight, Miles tries to get away and finds himself inside a massive super collider. Spider-Man rescues Miles when he falls and when both their Spider-senses react to their proximity to each other, Spider-Man realizes that Miles is like him and offers to help him deal with what he is going through once he destroys the collider. As Spider-Man tries to shut down the collider with a USB drive, he is attacked by both the Goblin and the Prowler. While Spider-Man is distracted, Kingpin shows up in the collider’s control booth and activates it, but while it is active, Goblin forces Spider-Man into the beam, causing an explosion. Miles heads to the wounded Spider-Man, who gives Miles the USB drive and tells him that the collider could destroy the city if it is activated again. After telling Miles to hide his face so nobody knows he is, he tells Miles to run, just as the Kingpin approaches him. Spider-Man tells Kingpin he knows what he is trying to do with the collider and it won’t work, and an enraged Kingpin kills him, then sends Prowler to kill Miles when he sees that Miles has seen them. Miles manages to get away and heads back to his home, but when the news breaks about Spider-Man’s death and who he was, Miles sneaks back out to find the whole city has stopped at the news of Spider-Man’s death. Buying a Spider-Man costume and attending the memorial service, where Mary Jane Parker speaks about her husband, Miles decides to try and practice with his powers but ends up damaging the USB drive. Going to Peter Parker’s grave, Miles is surprised by a stranger and displays a new ability, which shocks the man unconscious. As the man falls, he reflexively sends out a web strand that strikes Miles and Miles discovers that the man is another version of Peter Parker from a different dimension. This version, Peter B. Parker, is older than the Spider-Man from Miles city and as the police show up, Miles manages to get away with Peter. Miles takes the unconscious Peter to his uncle’s place and when Peter regains consciousness, Miles talks to him, learning that he is from another dimension. Peter gets away from Miles and starts to leave when his body starts “glitching” and Peter says his body is reacting to being in the wrong dimension. Miles tells Peter about the collider and Peter wants to use it to go home but when he learns the USB is broken, he says he has to go to Alchemax to steal the data again and reluctantly agrees to train Miles in the process. Miles and Peter head to Alchemax and Peter heads inside, telling Miles to stay back and keep watch but when Kingpin shows up, Miles heads inside to warn Peter. They manage to locate the head scientist’s lab, where Miles displays another new ability to turn invisible, but as Miles works on downloading the collider’s schematics, Peter learns that the head scientist is a female Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock says that she knows Peter is from another dimension and that if he stays in this dimension too long, his body will disintegrate, and that she wants to watch it happen. Peter manages to get away and he and Miles grab the computer hard drive and attempt to escape but when Doc Ock chases after them, they are saved by Spider-Woman, who is revealed to be Gwen Stacy. Like Peter, Gwen is from another dimension, where she was bitten by the spider and Peter Parker died, only when the explosion occurred she was blown into last week, and she was drawn to the boarding school because of Miles. The three head to Aunt May’s house, where after she greets them, she takes them to Spider-Man’s secret lair, where three other dimensional Spider-People (Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker and her Spider robot, and Spider-Ham) have also shown up. The Spider-People know that they have to use the collider to get home but one of them must stay behind to shut the collider down. Miles says that he should be the one to shut it down, as they would all die if they stay, but when they test Miles abilities, the other Spider-People feel that Miles lacks the necessary training. A dejected Miles leaves the lair and heads to his uncle’s place, where he writes a note for Aaron only to discover that his uncle is actually the Prowler. Miles leaves his uncles place, but the Prowler sees him and gives chase, allowing Miles to lead him back to the others. At Aunt May’s house, Peni finishes making a new USB drive when Miles shows up, followed by Prowler, Doc Ock, Tombstone, and Scorpion. As the Spider-Gang begin fighting the villains, Miles tries to leave with the USB drive only to be captured by Prowler. Kingpin orders Prowler to kill Miles but when Miles reveals his identity, Aaron can’t kill his nephew so the Kingpin shoots him. Miles takes his wounded uncle away from there, but Aaron apologizes for letting Miles down before he dies, and Miles father Jefferson, a police officer, sees Miles mourning over Aaron’s body and believes Spider-Man killed his brother. Miles heads back to his room at the boarding school, where the other Spiders meet up with him and try to console him. Gwen and the others say goodbye as Peter explains to Miles that he is staying behind, telling Miles that he isn’t ready to help them so he won’t be going with them. Peter then webs up Miles and leaves and as Miles gets free, Jefferson shows up at the dorm. Thinking Miles doesn’t want to talk to him, Jefferson speaks to him through the door to tell him about Aaron’s death as well as how he feels about Miles. Taking his dad’s words to heart, Miles is able to master his powers and heads back to Aunt May’s house, to find her expecting him and giving him a new costume and web shooters tailored for him. Miles heads out to regroup with the others, who have reached Fisk Towers only to find Kingpin is holding a celebration for Spider-Man and they are able to sneak inside and head to the collider. They reach the collider just as Kingpin’s men activate it, with the city beginning to suffer the effects of multiple dimensions merging together. Peter goes to put the “goober” into the override but Doc Ock and the others are there waiting for them. Miles shows up to help and they manage to defeat Kingpin’s goons, but Peni loses the Spider robot in the process. Miles takes control of the collider and begins sending everyone back to their own dimensions and when Kingpin shows up, Peter goes to help Miles defeat him but Miles forces Peter to go back home. Miles and Kingpin face off, with Kingpin getting the upper hand and nearly killing Miles. Jefferson shows up and, seeing the fight, realizes that Spider-Man is actually a hero and begins cheering him on, encouraging Miles to get up. Miles uses his venom shock on Kingpin and then throws him into the deactivation button, shutting down the collider and saving the city. As Jefferson begins arresting the Kingpin’s goons, Miles calls him and they talk briefly before Miles, as Spider-Man, shows up in front of him and briefly speaks with Jefferson before pointing out the Kingpin suspended from a web above him. As Miles adjusts to his new life as the city’s new Spider-Man, Peni is shown to be building a new robot, Spider-Man Noir solves a Rubik’s Cube, Spider-Ham is shown eating a hot dog, while Peter heads to Mary Jane’s house to try and fix their relationship. Gwen is shown looking at a picture she took of her and Miles together and later, is shown calling out through a portal to Miles. In a post credit scene, Miguel O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099, is informed about what happened and makes his own dimensional jump, landing in 1967 New York, where he gets in an argument with that era’s Spider-Man over which one of them pointed at the other one first.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was a massive hit with the critics, currently holding a certified fresh rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse matches bold storytelling with striking animation for a purely enjoyable adventure with heart, humor, and plenty of superhero action.” Stan Lee had recorded a cameo for this movie, making it his final voice-acting role before his death, with producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wanting Lee to have a bigger moment compared to previous Marvel films because he was “so integral to the spirit of this movie,” and considered his role “extra meaningful” following his death. The movie was a box office hit, earning $375.5 million off of a $90 million budget, and won the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, and the Critics’ Choice Awards.

I’m not going to lie. This might be one of the best Spider-Man movies to come out on the big screen. The voice acting was fantastic, with Shameik Moore doing a great job as Miles. Jake Johnson (Peter B. Parker), Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen), Mahershala Ali (Aaron), and Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson) were also equally good, while Lily Tomlin (Aunt May), John Mulaney (Spider-Ham), and Nicolas Cage (Spider-Man Noir) were just plain funny and entertaining. The story was a little darker than I expected for a movie geared towards kids, but still very well written. It was a good way to showcase the pressures that a teenager would face when given super powers and having a desire to use them for good, as well as giving him a support group of people who had been through the exact same thing that he was currently going through. I loved some of the nods and Easter eggs referencing Marvel that were scattered throughout the movie, with my 2 favorites being: 1) The name B Bendis listed in Miles phones, which is a reference to Brian Michael Bendis (who co-created the character of Miles Morales), and 2) The post credit scene where Spider-Man 2099 shows up and confronts a past Spider-Man (with Stan Lee voicing J. Jonah Jameson in that scene). The animation was fantastic in this movie, and I loved how they would slightly alter it regarding Peni, Noir, and Spider-Ham (making Peni look more anime style, Spider-Man Noir being in black and white, while Spider-Ham was made overly cartoony). The soundtrack to the movie fit in well with the scenes taking place and helped emphasize the moods of the scenes, ranging from a normal feel to more dramatic throughout the movie. All told, this is a great movie that deserved the praise it got and is well worth watching when you get the chance (it’s currently on Netflix so do yourself a favor and watch it now.)

Rating: 5 out of 5

Standard
action, adventure, fantasy, movie, movie review

November 20th, 2017 Movie – Wonder Woman (2017)

wonder woman 2017

Finally, DC managed to put out a good entry in their “DCEU” series. Now when I first saw Diana Prince make her appearance in Batman V Superman, I knew that a solo movie would be coming relatively soon, which was a big concern. See, solo female superhero movies have never really worked out well in live-action form, with Catwoman and Elektra being two of the more recent less than stellar attempts. However, the initial trailer that was shown looked amazing so I ended up getting my hopes up that finally, things would be different. Boy was I surprised when I went to see it in theaters and I decided to pre-order Wonder Woman (2017) as soon as it came out on video so I could enjoy it again and again.

The plot: In the present day, Diana Prince arrives for work at the Louvre in Paris, where she receives a suitcase from Wayne Enterprises. When she opens it, she finds an framed, old photograph of herself and 4 soldiers during World War 1, with a note from Bruce saying he had found the original photo and that he would love to hear the story one day. Diana thinks back to her childhood on the island of Themyscira. Diana is eager to begin training for war like the rest of the Amazons but her mother, Queen Hippolyta, refuses to allow her to train. Hippolyta tells Diana the history of the Amazons, how Zeus had created them to restore peace and protect mankind from the evils inflicted by Ares. As Hippolyta led a crusade to end the wars of man, the gods rebelled against Ares so Ares killed all of them except for Zeus, who was able to strike down Ares, then created Themyscira to hide the Amazons and the weapon he created which could kill a god. Diana sneaks off to train with her aunt Antiope and when Hippolyta eventually catches them, she sends Diana away before arguing with Antiope. Antiope argues that Ares is still alive and Diana needs to be prepared to battle him and Hippolyta reluctantly agrees, telling Antiope to train Diana harder than any Amazon before her. As the years pass, Diana has become a young woman and continues training, defeating the strongest Amazons in combat. As she spars with Antiope, Diana gets the upper hand but when she turns to seek Hippolyta’s approval, Antiope knocks her down and presses the attack, lecturing Diana that war isn’t fair, when Diana slams her bracelets together, causing a shockwave that sends Antiope flying. As some Amazons tend to Antiope, Hippolyta worries about what she has done while Diana apologizes, then runs off after seeing the looks on the other Amazons faces. Heading to a cliff to think about what happened, she sees a damaged airplane piercing the mystic veil protecting Themyscira and crashing into the ocean. Diana dives into the water and rescues the pilot, Steve Trevor, and carries him to shore, unaware that German troops were searching the area for his plane and also discover the island. As the Germans approach the island, Hippolyta and the other Amazons attack them as they land on the beach. Steve and Diana join the battle but Diana, fighting her first real battle, gets distracted by seeing her fellow Amazons dying and is almost shot herself but Antiope leaps in front of her and takes the bullet herself. Grieving over her sisters death, Hippolyta prepares to kill Steve but Diana jumps in front of him, saying that he fought at her side. When Steve refuses to answer, he is brought into the city and tied up with the Lasso of Hestia, which compels him to tell the truth. Steve tells them that he is an American spy working with British Intelligence and had been undercover at a German war factory, where General Erich Ludendorff and his chief chemist, Dr. Isabel Maru, are working on developing a new mustard gas that can eat through Allied gas masks. Steve stole Maru’s notebook and managed to escape the factory, bombing it on his way out, and was attempting to make it back to Allied headquarters but was shot down in the attempt. Diana argues that they should go fight in this war, as it surely means that Ares has returned, but Hippolyta refuses to allow it. After talking some more with Steve, Diana decides to help him leave the island, sneaking into the armory and taking the Lasso and the “Godkiller” sword as well as her armor. Diana leads Steve to a dock where a ship is ready to sail but before they leave, Hippolyta and her guards arrive. Diana approaches Hippolyta and says she has to go and Hippolyta says she knows and allows Diana to leave but as they watch the boat sail away, one of her guards asks Hippolyta if she should have told Diana the truth but Hippolyta says that the more Diana knows, the faster Ares will find her. Meanwhile, Ludendorff and Maru have survived the bombing and set up a new factory to manufacture their weapons but Maru is still not having any luck without her notebook. She gives Ludendorff some gas capsules, which increases his strength, and as he recovers from the effects of the gas, she finds some crumpled notes and realizes she might have the answer to their problems. Diana and Steve arrive in London and Diana wants to head straight to the war but Steve convinces her to let him get the notebook to his superiors first. Steve takes Diana to get some more modern clothes so she can blend in but as they head to the war council, they are attacked by German spies and Diana is able to quickly defeat them. Reaching the council, they listen as Sir Patrick Morgan attempts to discuss negotiating armistice with Germany. After handing over the notebook, the generals try to interpret the book and Diana recognizes the languages the book is written in and is asked to translate it. When she tells them of the new mustard gas Maru is working on, Steve tries to convince the generals that they need to send a team in to take out Maru but they refuse. Diana argues with the generals before Steve drags her out of the room and tells her he will take her to the front, despite being ordered not to go. Steve and Diana head to a nearby bar, where they recruit Steve’s mercenary friends Sameer and Charlie, and Sir Patrick arrives to wish them luck on their mission into Belgium. Meanwhile, Ludendorff arrives at a council meeting, where the other generals are discussing the upcoming armistice. Ludendorff says that he can still win the war but the other generals overrule him and say they plan on telling the kaiser to sign the armistice so Ludendorff has Maru throw a gas grenade in the room, then Ludendorff locks the generals inside with the gas to be killed. When Diana and the others arrive in Belgium, Diana is saddened by the sight of all the injured she sees but Steve tells her they have to keep moving so they continue moving forward. The eventually meet up with Chief, a smuggler who supplies items to both sides of the war, and they make camp for the night. The next day, they arrive at No Man’s Land and when she hears what has happened to the nearby village of Veld, Diana decides to help the villagers. Heading up out of the trenches, Diana makes her way towards the German line and Steve and the others, inspired by her bravery, follow after them. They are soon able to take out the German soldiers in the trenches and make their way into the village, taking out all of the soldiers there and liberating the people. After posing for a photo, Steve makes contact with his secretary, who tells him that Ludendorff is hosting a gala close by to the village but Sir Patrick tells him not to go to the gala, as it will disrupt the armistice treaty. That night, the villagers celebrate their newly won freedom while Steve and Diana dance and end up getting closer to each other. The next day, they head to the gala and Steve tells Diana not to go inside before he heads there in disguise with Sameer, but Diana steals a woman’s dress and makes her way in. At the gala, Steve begins speaking with Maru and attempts to persuade her to work with him but he gets distracted when he sees Diana enter the room. Diana makes her way to Ludendorff, whom she believes to be Ares, and the two discuss the war and the Greek gods while they dance before Ludendorff takes his leave. Diana moves to kill him but Steve stops her and argues that it won’t help them find the gas and tells her she might be wrong. As the two head outside, they see Ludendorff ordering cannons to fire at the village and Diana rushes back to the village and Steve follows her, telling Chief and the others to trail Ludendorff. When she reaches the village, Diana finds everyone inside dead and she blames Steve for their deaths, believing his preventing her from killing Ludendorff allowed this to happen. Steve sees some nearby smoke and tells her to follow it, as it is Chief and the others telling them where Ludendorff went. Diana heads out and finds Ludendorff at a nearby airfield, where the gas is being loaded onto a bomber heading for London. Diana starts fighting Ludendorff and eventually kills him but is shocked to discover that the Germans are still loading the bombs onto the plane. Steve arrives and tries to convince Diana to help him stop the Germans from using the gas again but Diana is too confused by what is going on and wonders if mankind is even worth saving, so Steve and the others head out on their own. Suddenly, Diana sees Sir Patrick appear and realizes he is Ares and goes to confront him but when she attempts to stab him, the Godkiller sword is destroyed. Diana looks on in horror and Ares tells her that she, not the sword, is the Godkiller, being the last child of Zeus that he left behind to be used as a weapon against him. Ares attempts to convince Diana to join him but she refuses so he begins attacking her. Steve and the others discover the gas being loaded onto the plane and make plans to disable the plane when they see Diana and Ares fighting. Maru orders the plane to take off and Steve comes up with a plan, telling the others to clear him a path to the plane. When Diana is knocked back by an explosion, Steve goes up to her and starts talking to her, though she can barely hear him as her ears are still ringing from the blast, and he hands her his father’s watch before running and getting on the plane. After knocking out the pilot, Steve pilots the plane as high as it can before setting off the explosives, sacrificing himself in order to destroy the gas in the explosion. Diana, who had been trapped by Ares, sees the explosion and cries out in grief over Steve’s death, enabling her to access more of her power, which she uses to attack the Germans attempting to kill Chief, Charlie, and Sameer. Ares tells her to use her powers to help him kill mankind, offering up Maru for Diana to kill. However, Diana thinks back to what Steve was telling her before he got on the plane and how he loved her, and realized that despite the evils some men may show, there is good in mankind. Ares attempts to attack her again, using lightning this time, but Diana is able to absorb the lightning with her bracelets and uses it to kill Ares and the soldiers end up laying down their arms. Back in London, Diana and the others see a memorial to various soldiers that died in the war and Diana touches Steve’s picture on the memorial before turning and walking away. Back in the present, Diana places the picture back in the suitcase, along with Steve’s watch which she still had, then sends Bruce an email thanking him for the picture before hearing sirens in the distance and, donning her armor, heads out to save mankind once again.

Wonder Woman was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Thrilling, earnest, and buoyed by Gal Gadot’s charismatic performance, Wonder Woman succeeds in spectacular fashion.” Gal Gadot was 5 months pregnant when she had to do reshoots for the film so the crew made a costume that included a green screen around her belly, which they removed during post production. The movie was a box office hit, earning $821.8 million off of a $149 million budget, and set several box office records; including being the highest grossing live action film directed by a woman and the highest grossing super-hero movie with a female lead.

There were a few flaws, but this was a great movie and worth the praise people were giving it. The acting was really good, with Gal Gadot doing an amazing job as Diana, while Chris Pine (Steve), David Thewlis (Ares) and Danny Huston (Ludendorff) were equally good. I also thought that Connie Nielsen (Hippolyta) and Robin Wright (Antiope) were fantastic as Amazons (seriously, Buttercup became a real bad-ass) while Said Taghmaoui and Ewen Bremner made for some pretty good comedy as Sameer and Charlie, while Eugene Brave Rock (Chief) did a good job being the straight man for them. The plot was one of the better origin style movies to come out in recent years. Yes, I know that in the comics, Wonder Woman appeared pre-World War 2, not World War 1, but I think the different setting helped set it apart a little more (and might have also helped keep some of the regular movie-goers from trying to compare it to Captain America: The First Avenger. On a side note, I literally LOLed during the scene where Diana is eating ice cream for the first time, as that was almost identical to a scene in the animated movie, Justice League: War. The special effects were really good, with the battle in No Man’s Land being exceptionally well done and choreographed, as was the Amazon’s battle against the Germans. The only mild drawback for me was the final battle between Diana and Ares, as it felt like the went a little too overboard on the special effects during parts of the battle, when a “less is more” approach might have been better. All in all, DC finally got their act together and made a good live-action movie. Hopefully, they can keep this up.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Standard
action, adventure, movie, movie review, sci-fi

November 7th, 2017 Movie – Star Trek (2009)

star trek 2009

So let me go ahead and put this out there. I am not a Trekkie, but have seen a fair amount of the Star Trek movies and the original series and Next Generation TV episodes but not so much any of the newer shows. Even though I am enjoy sci-fi shows and movies, I was honestly a little indifferent when I heard they were going to reboot the film franchise. However, several of my friends went to see it and said it was really good but I never got around to seeing it in the theaters. I finally got a chance to watch it at a friends house when they rented it after it came out on DVD and had to agree, it was really good. So I decided to buy my own copy of it, making Star Trek (2009) the only movie in the franchise that I own.

The plot:In the 23rd Century, the U.S.S. Kelvin is sent to investigate a strange gravitational anomaly, which they describe as “a lightning storm in space.” Suddenly, a huge Romulan ship exits from the anomaly and begins firing on them, severely damaging the Kelvin, before the vessel contacts the Kelvin and demands that the captain come aboard to discuss a cease-fire. Captain Robau makes his first officer, George Kirk, acting Captain, then boards a shuttle and heads over to Romulan vessel, commanded by Commander Nero. Nero’s first mate Ayel, begins questioning Robau about another ship, then asks about Ambassador Spock, but Robau says he is unfamiliar with either the ship or Spock. When Ayel asks him the current star date, Robau’s answer enrages Nero and he kills Robau, then renews the attack on the Kelvin. George orders the ship to be evacuated, ensuring that his pregnant wife Winona makes it to a shuttle but George is unable to join them as the auto pilot has been damaged and he must stay behind to pilot the Kelvin. George uses the ship’s weapons to destroy the enemy missiles that are fired at the shuttles, then pilots the Kelvin on a collision course for the Romulan vessel. As he heads towards the ship, he hears his newborn son’s cries through the communicator and discusses the name with Winona before he impacts with the ship. Years later, James Tiberius Kirk is a reckless teenager, having stolen his step-father’s antique convertible when he was a kid and driven it off a cliff while being pursued by the police. Meanwhile, on planet Vulcan, a young Spock is constantly tormented by his peers for being half human while growing up and chooses to go to Earth to join Star Fleet as opposed to joining the Vulcan Science Academy, a move which shocks the Vulcan ministers. On Earth, Kirk starts flirting with Starfleet Cadet Uhura when he ends up being in a bar fight with some of her fellow cadets before it is broken up by Captain Pike. After sending the cadets outside, Pike speaks with Kirk, questioning why someone with his aptitude didn’t join Starfleet, commenting about how in the brief time his father was captain, he had saved over 800 lives including Kirk’s, and dares him to do better. Kirk decides to join Starfleet and on the shuttle to the Academy, befriends Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Three years later, the Romulan ship is still in space when another anomaly appears and they capture the ship they were searching for. At the Academy, Kirk is about to have sex with another cadet but is forced to hide when her roommate Uhura walks in, commenting about picking up a long range transmission from a Klingon prison planet being attacked before she discovers Kirk and kicks him out of the room. The next day, Kirk takes the Kobayashi Maru simulation, a scenario that has never been beaten, and somehow manages to beat it. Kirk is brought up on for a disciplinary hearing and ends up butting heads with Commander Spock, who had designed the simulation to be unwinnable in order to test the cadets on their decision making abilities in such a situation. Before the hearing concludes, the council receives an emergency transmission from Vulcan and since the main fleet is occupied elsewhere, they are forced to send the cadets off to help. Kirk is placed on academic suspension so is not assigned to a ship but Bones, feeling sorry for his friends, injects Kirk with a vaccine in order to give him the symptoms of the disease, then brings him aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise as his patient so he can continue treatment. As the fleet heads off to Vulcan, the Enterpise is slow to start due to it new helmsman, Sulu, but eventually heads off after the fleet. During the journey, Ensign Chekov gives a ship wide message explaining the situation and Kirk realizes that the ship is heading into a trap. Kirk locates Uhura and has her follow him and  Bones to the bridge, where he tells Pike his theory, with Uhura backing him up. When they come out of warp, they find the fleet has been destroyed and are attacked by the Romulan ship. Before they are destroyed, Nero recognizes the ship and contacts the Enterprise, speaking to Spock briefly before demanding that Pike come aboard to discuss a surrender. As they are unable to communicate or use the transporters due to the Romulan’s drill attacking the planet, Pike has Kirk, Sulu, and Olsen go with him in the shuttle, making Kirk First Officer while having Spock take over as acting Captain. During the shuttle flight, Pike has Kirk and the others do a space jump onto the drill to destroy it but Olson pulls his shoot too late and is killed. Kirk and Sulu land on the drill and engage two guard before Sulu kills them, then he and Kirk use the guards rifles to disable the drill. On the Romulan ship, Nero is informed of the drill’s sabotage but that they had reached the planet’s core so he orders the red matter used on the planet, which causes a singularity to develop and destroy the planet. Kirk and Sulu are beamed back onto the Enterprise and Spock heads down to the planet’s surface to evacuate the Vulcan high council, including his parents, but as they are about to beam aboard, the ground collapses underneath her and she falls to her death. Nero leaves Vulcan and heads towards Earth, explaining to Pike that he comes from a future where Romulus was destroyed and Spock and the Federation did nothing to help, the begins torturing Pike in order to get the security codes for the Starfleet defenses around Earth. Back on the Enterprise, Spock and Kirk argue about their next move and Spock ends up using the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to render Kirk unconscious and has him ejected off the ship onto the planet Delta Vega. Regaining consciousness, Kirk exits the pod and ends up being chased into a cave by a monstrous creature when he is saved by an older version of Spock. Spock explains that he comes from 129 years in the future and had attempted to stop a supernova that threatened to destroy Romulus but before he could do so, the supernova destroyed Romulus. Spock used the red matter to destroy the supernova to keep it from destroying other planets but he was attacked/confronted by Nero and his ship and they both ended up going through the black hole. Due to the size of Nero’s ship, Nero emerged first in the past and waited 25 years for Spock to arrive, though it was only seconds for Spock. Nero captured Spock, then maroons him on Delta Vega so that he can watch the destruction of Vulcan and feel helpless to stop it. Spock leads Kirk to a Starfleet outpost, where they find Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in command there and Spock, knowing Scotty’s history, is able to show Scotty the formula to transport onto a ship moving at warp speed, then tells Kirk the only hope Earth has is if he is captain of the Enterprise before beaming Kirk and Scotty on board. After appearing in the engine room, Kirk and Scotty are captured by security and taken to the bridge, where Spock questions them on how they got on board. Kirk starts taunting Spock and eventually causes him to become enraged and start attacking Kirk and choke him before Spock’s father tells him to stop and Spock, realizing he is emotionally compromised, relinquinshes command, making Kirk now the captain. Kirk heads towards Earth to stop Nero and they come up with a plan to hide behind Titan and have Scotty beam them aboard the ship so long as the drill isn’t activated. Spock, after speaking with his father, returns to the bridge and says he will go and Kirk decides to go with him. The two beam aboard the Romulan ship, and almost immediately confronted by the ship’s crew. Kirk stuns one of their attackers so Spock can mind meld with him and learn where Pike and the red matter is. They find the future Spock’s ship and Spock is surprised to learn it recognizes him and accuses Kirk of keeping information from him but Kirk tells him to fly the ship and get out of there while he gets Pike. As Nero orders the drill activated, Kirk tries to get them to stop but is attacked by Nero. Spock flies the red matter ship out of Nero’s ship and destroys the drill, enraging Nero, who lets Kirk go as he orders his men to destroy Spock’s ship. Spock warps away from Earth and Nero follows only to find that Spock has turned the ship around and is on a collision course with his ship. Nero orders all of his weapons to fire but the Enterprise arrives and destroys the torpedoes. Kirk manages to rescue Pike and orders Scotty to beam them all back to the Enterprise, including Spock just as the ship impacts with Nero’s ship and triggers the red matter. Kirk and Spock return to the bridge and Kirk offers Nero assistance with escaping the singularity but Nero refuses so Kirk orders Sulu to fire all weapons and they destroy the ship as it falls into the singularity. The enterprise tries to escape the singularity’s gravitational pull but starts to get pulled in until Scotty ejects the warp core and detonates it, using the explosion to push them to safety. Back on Earth, Spock meets up with his future self and the future Spock tells him to stay with Starfleet while he works with the Vulcan High Council to find a new planet for their species to call home. Kirk is honored for his actions and given command of the Enterprise and Spock offers to join as first officer, which Kirk happily accepts as the ship begins it’s new mission.

Star Trek (2009) met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike.” Director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman all went to personally ask Leonard Nimoy to reprise his role of Spock, as he had turned down previous offers to return to the character, but he liked how the script went into the history of Spock’s character and agreed to be in the movie. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $385.7 million off of a $150 million budget and spawned two sequels.

Whether you are a fan of Star Trek or not, this was a fantastic movie to watch. The acting was great, with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto doing a great job putting their own take on the iconic characters of Kirk and Spock. I also liked Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), John Cho (Sulu) and Eric Bana (Nero) in their roles and thought Simon Pegg was hilarious as Scotty. The story was really interesting, with it basically being a prequel to the Star Trek series but the twist of Spock and Nero coming to the past from future causing events to play out differently helped make it so that you don’t have to know everything that happened in the original series and movies as this is all new. As far as the updated look to the Enterprise, I thought they did a great job in keeping it true to the original look and design, with some updates in the form of it’s weaponry and how it was used. As for the rest of the special effects, they were top notch and were all you could wish for out of this movie. The only thing that I honestly thought was out of place in this movie was the strange creature that chased Kirk into the cave on Delta Vega, as that honestly felt like it was a bit much. All in all, this is a great movie and well worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Standard
action, crime, drama, movie, movie review

October 1st, 2017 Movie – Smokin’ Aces

smokin' aces

Holy cow, can you believe it is already October? This year has absolutely flown by, kind of like today. My apologies for the late post with today’s movie but I had to go in to work for a couple of hours today, then there was football to watch. So, when today’s movie came out in theaters, I remember seeing the trailer and thinking it looked somewhat interesting but I never got around to seeing it as there was a lot going on in my life back then. I would eventually pick it up during a Blockbuster run, which would be the first opportunity I have to watch it so let’s see if it was worth the wait as I watch today’s movie, Smokin’ Aces.

The plot: The FBI has been systematically targeting the Mafia, with Primo Sparazza being the last vestige of power withing the Mafia. The FBI have been working on turning Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas magician, into an informant. As Agents Donald Carruthers and Richard Messner are maintaining surveillance on Sparazza when the overhear one of Sparazza’s underbosses, Serna, is on the phone talking about how Sparazza has called in a specialist known as “The Swede” and offers him $1 million to bring back the heart of Israel. Serna decides he will go against Sparazza as part of a power grab and will hire two girls that he has dealt with before to take out Israel before hand but worries about how when word hits the streets about the bounty, more people will be going after him. The next day, Jack Dupree, a bail bondsman, is talking with two former cops, “Pistol” Pete Deeks and Hollis Elmore about Israel at the same time that Deputy Director Stanley Locke is discussing Israel’s connection to Sparazza. Locke then starts telling them of the different hitmen that will now be after Israel in order to collect the bounty; Georgia Sykes and Sharice Watters (the two women that Serna had spoke of), Pasquale “The Plague” Acosta (a legendary expert in torture), the Tremor brothers (a trio of neo-nazi speed freaks), and Lazlo Soot (a master of disguise). Dupree has been hired by the law firm that represented Israel to bring him back for his next court appearance. Elsewhere, Locke informs Carruthers and Messner that Morris Mecklen, Israel’s agent, is working with Locke on an immunity deal and he sends them to Lake Tahoe to grab Israel and make sure nothing happens to him. In Lake Tahoe, Israel is nervously waiting to hear back from Mecklen and has Sir Ivy, his head of security, get rid of the hookers he had the night before and order some new ones while Israel yells at Hugo, another bodyguard/hanger on, about semen stains that got on his coat. Elsewhere, Serna’s associate meets with Sykes and Watters to discuss how they will be getting into the hotel and up to Israel’s room while Dupree, Deeks, and Elmore meet with Ripley “Rip” Reed, the lawyer that hired Dupree to bring Israel back for his court appearance. Carruthers and Messner arrive in Lake Tahoe and wait for Locke’s signal that the deal is on and Messner spends the time reading the file on Freeman Heller, an FBI agent that had gone undercover but was killed by Sparazza. Acosta shows up at the hotel, posing as an FBI agent and asks to speak with the hotel’s head of security while Dupree is talking with Deeks and Elmore and shows them hotel staff uniforms he acquired but they are shot down by the Tremor brothers, who take the uniforms and throw the bodies in the lake. At the hotel, Soot has killed someone and works on making a latex mask to use in his disguise when Hugo shows up and Soot kills him and takes his place. Israel is on the phone with Mecklen, who tells him they need to make the deal now or else the FBI will nullify any protection agreement and Israel agrees and says he will give up Sparazza’s group as well as his own crew, unaware that Sir Ivy was listening in. Locke informs Carruthers and Messner and they head over to the hotel to ensure Israel doesn’t make a run for it and Carruthers calls ahead to try and reach security but Acosta has killed the head of security. At the lake, Elmore is shown to have survived the shooting while Carruthers and Messner receive word of Dupree’s death and learn about the hotel security uniforms that he purchased are missing and it is shown that the Tremor brothers are wearing the uniforms to infiltrate the hotel. Meanwhile, Sykes dresses up as a prostitute and plans on infiltrating the penthouse with the other hookers while Watters is set up in a hotel across the street with a sniper rifle to cover her. Carruthers heads into the hotel while Messner heads to the lake to investigate the shooting. Back in Washington, Locke is given a file concerning the Heller case and after he reads it, he is told to contact the Director and he says not to tell Carruthers or Messner. Inside the hotel, Carruthers tries to find out where the security office is and when Acosta, who is wearing a security uniform, is pointed out to him, Carruthers goes to talk to him and has him take him to the penthouse. Meanwhile, Ivy confronts Israel about the deal he made while outside the bathroom, Soot kills the other bodyguard. In the elevator, Carruthers notices Acosta’s fingers and realizes that the security guard is one of the killers and the two end up attacking and shooting each other. Meanwhile, Ivy tries to shoot Israel but Israel throws a playing card at him, cutting Ivy close to his eye and he ends up firing blindly. When security enters the penthouse, Israel has them arrest Ivy for Beanie’s death. Security shuts down the elevators but the Tremor brothers hot-wire the one they are in and have it continue towards the penthouse. In another part of the hotel, Sykes opens up the elevator and finds Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies but she ends up being trapped when Messner shows up. Sykes has Watters help her try and shoot her way out of there but she is shot by Acosta, who is then shot by Carruthers. As Messner and the other agents drag Carruthers and Acosta’s bodies out of the elevator, Sykes manages to close the doors and have it continue towards the penthouse. Meanwhile, Watters sees a hooker, who was killed in the crossfire, and thinking it is Sykes, begins firing wildly into the building until she runs out of ammo. Outside the penthouse, The Tremor brothers kill all of the security guards but Ivy manages to kill Jeeves and Lester Tremor. As Darwin moves to kill him, the elevator opens and Sykes walks out and threatens to shoot him and he quickly jumps into the elevator to escape. As Locke arrives with some more agents, they head to the penthouse to find Soot had drugged Israel and take him into custody. Messner is running up the stairs as Ivy and Sykes are heading down and they have a brief face-off but Sykes says she didn’t kill the men in the elevator and he chooses to let them go and continues upstairs. Watters sees Sykes being carried out of the building by Ivy just as some FBI agents arrive to arrest her and she ends up being killed. Soot manages to escape custody and shed his disguise, then leaves the hotel while Acosta is shown being carried out on a stretcher but he is still alive. Darwin also manages to escape but as he heads to the car park to get away, he is confronted by Elmore, who shoots him. Messner reaches the penthouse and asks to be told what is going on but Locke tells him to head back to Washington for a debriefing. Messner defies orders and heads to the hospital to confront Locke, holding him at gunpoint. Locke shows him Sparazza and Buddy and explains that they are father and son and that the Swede is actually a famed heart surgeon and through a series of unfortunate events, people misunderstood what Sparazza had intended and thus the resulting blood bath ensued. Locke says that Soot was given the contract to retrieve Israel so they could do a heart transplant for Sparazza. Messner is shocked that Locke will allow this but Locke tells him that Sparazza is actually Heller, the FBI agent Sparazza supposedly killed. Heller’s superiors thought that he had gone rogue and had him killed but Heller survived and so the FBI used reconstructive surgery to save his life. Messner is upset about the fact that Locke kept them in the dark and Locke threatens to fire him before telling him to go back to Washington. As Locke goes to talk with the doctor and some other agents, Messner enters the room that Israel and Sparazza are in and locks the door. He then sits in a chair between the two men and unplugs both of their life support machines, then places his gun and badge on the floor and watches Locke and the others try to get in as Israel and Sparazza die.

Smokin’ Aces met with mostly negative reviews from the critics, holding a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “A violent mess of a movie, Smokin’ Aceshas some Quentin Tarantino’s style but not much of his wit or humor.” The movie was the feature film debut of Alicia Keys and Common, both of whom are Grammy winning artists. Smokin’ Aces was a mild hit at the box office, earning $57.1 million off of a $17 million budget and a direct to video prequel was released in 2010.

This was a decent movie but all of the different sub-plots kind of made it a trainwreck. The acting was good, with Ryan Reynolds (Messner), Jeremy Piven (Israel), Ray Liotta (Carruthers) all did good jobs in their roles. I also liked several of the other characters, such as Chris Pine (Darwin), Ben Affleck (Dupree) Alicia Keys (Sykes) and Common (Ivy). The story was interesting but I think the director tried to have too many characters involved in the story, which was meant to distract the FBI from the main objective against Israel but it made the movie a lot more confusing. The way they tried to involve all of the characters and use them actually seemed to waste a lot of time in the movie and if they had fewer characters, the pacing would have been better. As for the twist ending, it honestly didn’t feel like much of a shock because they seemed to set it up early on, then decided to scrap it, then go back and make it an official twist ending. The special effects were pretty good and this was actually a lot bloodier than I thought it would be, certainly bloodier than the trailers indicated. It is a good movie but it had potential to be a lot better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Standard