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    Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that simultaneously does nothing special, yet does everything right. 


    When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

    With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

    It's well made, in terms of costumes, sets, and sounds; the cast is fun and never boring to watch- especially Cumberbatch, who totally hams it up as the "perfect" bad-guy; and the plot is fun, understandable, and sometimes emotional. The only flaw with Star Trek Into Darkness, however, is that it feels too much like a big "two-parter" TV Episode.

    There's no real Star Treking involved. No travel, no sense of how large and expansive the universe is- unlike with Star Trek (2009) where you would go planet-to-planet, encountering all sorts of fantastical creatures, exotic locales, etc. With Into Darkness, you spend a few minutes on some cool looking planet at the beginning, then the rest of the time is spent between San Francisco, London, and Kronos (for a brief few minutes).

    Another thing was Into Darkness's painfully obvious 9/11-George Bush allegory that wasn't even cleverly hidden or done in an interesting way. I felt like I was watching Total Recall (2012) at times rather than Star Trek just because it was an Earth-centered conspiracy story that really had no reason to be a sequel to 2009's fast and fun summer hit.

    Also, I've never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but I can assure you I know the infamous "KHAAAAAAAAAN!" line as it has slipped into pop-culture parody. Well, what better than to bring that line back and use it to kill an emotional moment just to satisfy the sweaty nerds in the crowd?

    Lastly, I'm kind of glad J.J. Abrams won't be back for Trek 3; because he handles action-scenes as well as Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight, i.e, not very well and you can't honestly tell what the hell is going on.

    I didn't hate Into Darkness though- I really had a fun time watching it. It's a movie that puts a smile on your face if you just accept it at face value. Fun space action with some sexy young stars, tension, and some clever exchanges of dialogue and some of the best costumes and performances you're likely to find this summer movie season.

    Setting my complaints aside, Into Darkness is a film I'd see again for the sheer fun experience of it. It might not be as good as the first; but It's a movie that definitely shows the exciting prospect the future cold hold for this franchise, even if Abrams leaves for Star Wars.

    Into Darkness doesn't break the bank for creativity, and you won't leave the theater going "Wow! I've never seen THAT before!" but it rides a fine safe line for a comfortable and engaging sci-fi action-film that will please the masses; but struggle to be accepted by the hardcore nerds and cinema-goes looking for a truly substantial experience.


    Review: Evil Dead (2013)

    Evil Dead isn't a scary film. Evil Dead is a bloody, disgusting, extremely well-made crowd-pleaser that will satisfy not only the gore-junkies; but the teenager audience who sadly hasn't had enough films like this.

    Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival

     Evil Dead is being touted as *THE* film to see for a pants-shittingly good time and for lots and lots of blood. While I can personally attest to the fact the film isn't exactly scary, spare a few really well done jump-scares, it gives bloody a whole new definition.

    The story follows the original film's pretty well. 5 friends in a cabin, they accidentally summon demons, shit goes wild; but 2013's Evil Dead certainly does a better job of getting you into the characters who, while not Shakespearian by any stretch, do a decent enough job of getting you emotionally involved, with the key emotional core in the film is the relationship between Mia (played by a beautiful and deadly Jane Levy), a drug addict who is using their family's old cabin as the site of her cold-turkey quitting experiment, and her brother David (the sexy and sympathetic Shiloh Fernandez) and it makes it a lot easier to care for those two than Bruce Campbell and his girlfriend's awkward and loveless relationship.

    But no one is going to see Evil Dead for the character-driven emotion, are they?

    Fede Alvarez, Uruguayan director making his first "Big Hollywood" film honors the material,fought tooth and nail with the studio to try and make the film with as much practical effects as possible, a move whch really elevates the film to another level in terms of technical and aesthetic presentation.
    The gore is chunky and red, the effects and prosthetics are on a whole other level of believability. Evil Dead is THE best looking horror film in years and will make your stomach curl at all the raw dismemberment, painful execution, and viscous mutilation.

    Alvarez is also a pro behind the camera, making the film look better than most Best-Picture 'noms. The lighting and camera-work harkens back to not only classic horror; but injected with a definite "new age" style that will cement Alvarez as hot commodity in not only the horror industry; but all across the spectrum.

    The film is a definite crowd-pleaser, and if you're into the whole "movie experience". The crowd I saw it with gasped and screamed, which is one of the first times I've seen a film impact it's audience that much in a while. If you have a free slot this weekend (and a strong stomach) you need to see Evil Dead because let's face it, no matter how awesome 3-D Jurassic Park is, THIS is the movie everyone will be talking about.


    Review: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

    Honestly, after a 9-month delay, numerous re-shoots, an extensive conversion to 3D, with who knows how many sets of eyes looking at this thing, no one thought to state the obvious:

    "Good lord, this is a piece of shit."

    To say G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a bad film is an understatement.  It's an awful movie.

    Horrible plot (if you even want to call it that), choppy editing, and - of course - absolutely atrocious acting sans Adrianne Palicki (hey, she knew exactly how to play the role).

    I'd get into the story of the film but even that is probably a waste of time.  Let's just say one of the villains from the first movie (if you actually saw it) infiltrates the White House to disguise himself as the President of the United States.  From there, he sets up the G.I. Joes on a bogus mission to kill them off, with only three surviving (The Rock, Palicki, and some guy who somehow makes his living as an actor named D.J. Cotrona...seriously, this guy looked scared shitless every time he was on the screen).

    So back to the plot (?), after the remaining G.I. Joes realize they were set up, the vow revenge against those who killed their team (Channing Tatum was smart to ask out of the movie after about 20 minutes).

    Basically, the rest of the film follows the good guys taking down the bad guys with a 15-minute cameo by that sell-out known as Bruce Willis and an Asian and Black ninja (one who can't speak a word of English, the other who shouldn't be allowed to speak a word of English in a movie).

    So yeah, the about sums up G.I. Joe: Retaliation; a beyond painful to watch film.  Though I will say the ending does make the promise of 3rd entry.

    I take that as a threat.


    Review: G.I. Joe Retaliation

    When GI JOE: RISE OF COBRA came out all the way back in summer 2009, after the credits rolled I thought:

    "What the hell was that, because that was awesome"

    To my dismay, it seems not too many people were totally satisfied with Rise of Cobra, mainly with it's handling of characters. I thought it was a big stupid mess that was quite literally a live-action cartoon come to life, and I hoped that tone would stay the same for it's sequel, Retaliation.

    GI JOE: RETALIATION is hard for me to describe.

    On one hand:

    The action is top-notch, the costumes and cerography are spectacular, and the special effects are superb (unlike moments in Rise of Cobra where the movie looked lie a SyFy movie from 2004).

    Retaliation's fresh cast of characters is wholly welcome, as well as giving returning characters new life, mainly Cobra Commander who finally gets to be the ultimate badass everyone wanted in the first film, now thankfully without Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

    The movie itself plays out almost like a bunch of really rich cosplayers got together to make a fan film, from Commander's helmet and persona, to the totally fucking badass Snake Eyes v. Storm Shadow fight, to the crazy vehicles and gadgets that scream GI JOE.

    The writing in Retaliation is like Shakespeare compared to the first film, and even if it's not, the actors all bring their characters and world to life fantastically, with the stand-outs being Friday Night Light's alum Adrianne Palicki as Lady Jaye, Byung Hun Lee as Storm Shadow, and Jonathan Pryce, playing Zartan playing POTUS.

    Now, on the OTHER hand:

    The film lacks a certain something, and I'd almost be willing to say it's the cartoonish stupidity of the first film. While I mentioned earlier this looks a big budget fan film, that's also it's problem.

    The story is good; but it seems to be caught up in trying to play itself like a serious political thriller AND a ridiculous action movie. Some plot-parts seem to drag on, and that might be because for about 30 minutes Jaye, Roadblock, and Flint don't really do anything except some espionage which is never quite intense enough to work.

    Character development is also almost nowhere to be found except, ironically, with Storm Shadow, which worked out very well.

    Speaking of casting, RZA as Blind Master was....well, strange, and that's about the only way I can describe it.

    All in all, RETALIATION, despite some pacing and tone missteps here and there, is still loud and fun to watch, with a good-looking cast, and some amazing visuals, the movie is a fun popcorn experience, while never reaching the pure child's play of the first film, this gives hope that by GI JOE 3, they'll have it nailed.


    "Olympus Has Fallen" Revew


    That seemed to be the constant word going through my mind while watching Olympus Has Fallen (originally entitled, White House Taken, but changed to not confuse audiences with the other White House takeover movie coming out in June, White House Down).

    Sure, I understand from an audience's perspective that a film like this is suppose to be popcorn entertainment and not in any way 'impact' you on an emotional level.

    The problem though is that the filmmakers behind Olympus Has Fallen didn't seem to get that memo and try to make it impactful, try to hit on an emotional level.

    That's where the film suffers.

    Rather than letting a film like this be what it is, it goes for a cross between Air Force One and Die Hard; both those films actually engaged you while caring about the characters involved.  I really didn't care much for anyone in the film even though at many times it was obvious you should have (cringeworthy overacting by an unrecognizable Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense).

    For those not familiar with the plot, OHF centers on former team lead of the Secret Service, Mike Banning (Gerard Buter), who gets the boot after a tragic accident involving the President of the United States, Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart).  Many months after this event, a routine visit to the White House by representatives from South Korea turns out to be an invasion by North Korean terrorists, turning the President and his cabinet into hostages.  Banning - who now conveniently works right down the street at the U.S. Treasury - makes it into the President's home right before the place is completely taken over.  This obviously leads to the premise of 'Die Hard in the White House' where Banning is the only man to save the day while communicating with America's remaining leaders at the Pentagon (led boldly of course by the always reliable Morgan Freeman as the House Speaker).

    If there's one thing OHF has going for it, it's the action set-pieces.  From the initial attack on the White House, to the gun battles that take place throughout the film, director Antoine Fuqua knows how to handle special effects (though you could tell the film was obviously rushed out with some very poor CGI).

    One thing to take note of as well is the main villian, played by the go-to Asian actor for a bad guy in Rick Yune (The Fast & the Furious, Die Another Day).  I'm not much familar with why he seems to always take the same type of role in these big-budget action flicks, but it's obvious he knows what he's doing as you can't help but hate the SOB.

    Overall, OHF is your type of movie if you're looking to kill an hour and a half for some mindless action.  Just be aware, the film will try to take itself way more seriously than it's capable of being, which might leave you with a feeling of bland when leaving the theater.

    Rating: 7 out of 10 (at best).

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