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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
J. J. Abrams and the returning cast have done it again in the second Star Trek installment called "Star Trek Into Darkness". Throughout the movie we see exciting new worlds, a futuristic earth, and spaceships blowing each other up in outer space. J. J. has created a very interesting and suspenseful plot for our beloved heroes Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). First it begins in London, note that skyscrapers now tower over Big Ben, where a powerful and deadly explosion in an underground USS Enterprise base is triggered, due to an employee carrying out a suicide attack after being motivated by another employee, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), to do it to save his dying daughter. Before the Enterprise and the world can react to this bombing, John does another terrorist attack and guns down many enterprise leaders in their own San Francisco headquarters. Now Kirk and Spock are summoned to travel with their crew into space, into the Klingon home planet, to capture John. However, they fall into a series of traps, and they horrifically discover that John is actually Khan, who wants vengeance because he hates the Enterprise and wants to destroy it. So when you enter the theater, hang on to your seat, because you're in for an intense battle as Khan is one scary and violent villain. There's great acting between Chris, Zachary and Zoe, a faithful return of Kirk's crew members, colossal visual effects, and another fantastic music score by Michael Giacchino. All the fistfights, laser fights, and ship chases are packed in this movie. One time George Lucas said how he wanted the second movie in each of his two trilogies, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, to be the darkest one. And sure enough J. J. has made this second movie of the Star Trek reboot trilogy the darkest because of Khan's brutality towards the Enterprise space fleet. I boldly go into space to see ten stars, yes, 10 stars to rate this sequel.
Django Unchained (2012)
Two Defiant Heroes in a Violent Land
This new film directed by Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained", is excellently made and wickedly thrilling. This is set in the southern US in an ugly historical decade of slavery and brutality right before the Civil War. Here we have the black protagonist named Django (Jamie Foxx) who is marched with other black men in bondage by two greedy uneducated slave-owners across Texas. Django's forced march is ended when Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter disguised as a dentist, assaults the two white men and liberates Django to enlist him as a partner. Schultz is a witty and clever marksman who misses his German homeland, and mentors and trains Django to be a deadly and accurate bounty hunter. In his new promising line of work, Django has a taste in fashion and style, and he lets his emotional hatred of white men drive him when he pursues gangs, outlaws, and men who abuse their black slaves. Schultz ultimately assists Django in his desperation to rescue Django's captured and tormented wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from slavery at Candieland Plantation in Mississippi. At that ominous ranch, Django and Schultz face their doom when they encounter the evil and socially appalling owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his loyal and suspicious servant Stephen (Samuel Jackson). The duo must deal with Candie and his gang to ensure the freedom of Broomhilda. Throughout this vivid and gritty film, there are picturesque locations of Southern States, good and bad characters, and intense western gun battles capable of shattering mansion hallways and spraying blood everywhere. Tarantino is fantastic for his vision of making places and people as unpleasant as possible for the hero characters. Also I find it unique to listen to songs from classic records as part of the movie's soundtrack. The cinematography and lighting are combined to make each scene spectacular. I say 10 stars to rate Tarantino's cinematic art: for envisioning what the hard times were like in the 1850s, and putting characters like Django in the most terrifying situations in his fight and struggle for freedom. This bullet riddled western/slavery epic is a perfect film for the end of this year.
Home Behind and the World Ahead
This film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is an exciting and visual start for a new trilogy that is a prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Based on J. R. R. Tolkien's novel, this movie has so much fantastic and beautiful locations, creative characters and creatures, and hard shattering battles between warriors. In the lush, green meadows, farms and gardens of The Shire, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) lives in his hill house Bag End, which he cleans and lives in with pride and love. Then he sees a tall cloaked stranger for the first time. Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), a wise old wizard, is looking for someone to fill the list of people required for an adventuring group. Gandalf finds that Bilbo fits the bill, so he calls over a gathering of dwarf fighters. Bilbo does not want strangers in his home, but he has to put up with letting them raid his pantry and his dishes, and have a huge dinner banquet. Eventually they explain to the confused hobbit that they are refugees from their homeland. Their city and kingdom fell under attack by a destructive dragon named Smaug. Setting fire to the town, destroying part of the castle and taking control of the gold treasures, Smaug forced the dwarfs to evacuate. Then the soldiers had to do battle with orcs in Moria, their mountain stronghold. In attendance at the meeting at Bilbo's house is Thorin (Richard Armitage), who seeks vengeance against the legion of orcs who murdered his father. Bilbo listens to the offer of Gandalf and his dwarf cohorts to embark on a journey and fight for good: fighting orcs and the dragon to drive them out of the dwarfs' land. He refuses, deciding to stay in the comfort of his estate. But Bilbo, after giving it some thought, joins them in their quest. In this grand epic movie, the band of survivors encounter orcs riding giant Warg wolves, disgusting giant trolls who are hungry, and evil goblins led by a massive fat monster king. Other interesting characters include elves like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and the scary deformed creature Gollum (Andy Serkis). I applaud director Peter Jackson's work on this fantasy. He puts so much amazement and terror in this clash between heroes and monstrosity. Howard Shore's majestic soundtrack is very great, and I like all his themes that he reuses. I give a 10 star rating to Bilbo's life changing event, for movies like these are made to endure in the cinema, passing from one generation of fans to the next.
Bond: British Agent vs. Silva: Rogue Agent and Terrorist
Famous director Sam Mendes and actor Daniel Craig have collaborated to make an intense and exciting 23rd Bond film, called "Skyfall". Craig plays MI6's best spy James Bond 007, who goes on a new mission that takes him into another whirlwind international journey: from Istanbul and its ancient mosques, to the sky high Shanghai, to the operative's English homeland and the city of London, and the beautiful highland landscapes of Scotland. An evil and horrific threat faces M (Judi Dench), head of the MI6 secret service, and the British Government. Her one-time agent turned gangster, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who possesses a false jaw resulting from brutal Chinese torture after M abandoned him, has gathered armed minions and commenced a vengeful war against MI6 and the government. Bond is deployed to counter this megalomaniac, who uses virus hacking to cripple the computer and data systems used by the Secret Service and authorities, leaks confidential identities of MI6 stealth agents, some of them being caught and executed in other countries, and even triggers a gas bomb that explodes half of MI6 headquarters and barges into a court in an attempt to assassinate M. Silva's ultimate intention, with an emotional psychological drive, is to corner and capture M and Bond, with the possibility of killing them. In his assignment, Bond romances Severine (Berenice Marlohe), and collaborates with Agent Eve (Naomie Harris), the authoritative Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and the gadget genius Q (Ben Whishaw). Bond is supplied by Q with a signature protected Walther pistol, a tiny radio homing device, and, of course, the classic Aston Martin DB5 car that has machine guns under the headlights. There's so much brutal yet awesome battles between Bond and criminals, on motor bikes, atop train coach roofs, with a subway chase and a terrifying train derailment, and shoot 'em up firefights in a London courthouse and Bond's own family home up north in Scotland. The visual effects are bright and crackling, achieved by Chris Corbould. The opening title design is artistic, and the skulls, graves and Oriental dragons are reminiscent of the You Only Live Twice and Live and Let Die titles. I love the great soundtrack music composed by Thomas Newman. Daniel Craig is funny and fierce as the hero 007, and I find Sam Mendes' vision brilliant. London is involved more than any previous Bond movie, because it is represented as Bond's beloved nation that he must protect from murderous adversaries. I give this Bond action epic 10 stars. It's always terrific to see an action movie like this, with the suave gentleman spy named Bond, James Bond. P.S. It's now 2013 and I'd like to add that I am really amazed that this is the first Bond film to receive Academy Award nominations since For Your Eyes Only (1981), a triumph for 007.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
A Cartoon That Depicts the Video Game Industry
Meet Wreck-It Ralph, the title digital character whose role in a popular arcade game is a tough, destructive bad guy. Ralph's goal in each level is to pummel and wreck the floors of a luxury apartment building. The game's hero, Fix-It Felix, is called upon by the tenants in distress to repair the smashed glass and bricks. Once Felix wins the level, the residents toss Ralph off the building into a mud puddle. Ralph, having worked in the game for 30 years, feels unappreciated and outcast by the good guy and the citizens. He then decides to leave, which disrupts the game program and puts the console, inside an arcade store, at risk of becoming out of order and thrown out. Ralph has had enough of being a despised villain, and wants to start being a hero, going into a game and fighting off monsters and bosses to be cheered and earn a medal. In his wild journey, he jumps into different games through electronic circuits, including "Hero's Duty" a first person shooter game with ferocious green alien bugs, and "Sugar Rush" a colorful racing game with a huge candy and dessert land. The game characters he comes across include Calhoun, a no-nonsense soldier who shoots bug monsters, Vanellope, a rebellious, pretty and teasing racer in the candy land who wants to win and gain the respect of other competing children, and King Candy, an old greedy leader in the land of the Sugar Rush game who banishes Vanellope because she's a glitch who would interfere with the level programming. Ralph and Vanellope band together as pals and brave danger and excitement in computerized landscapes. This Disney animated feature is charming and hilarious, and it explores the characters and functions of levels in the game data dimensions. It's like a mixture of the styles of The Matrix and Scott Pilgrim, with many references to classic video games, as well as some movies like The Wizard of Oz, Alien and Raiders of The Lost Ark. What I like are the conflicts between the good and bad characters and the funny scenes where Ralph fumbles in crazy situations like climbing candy cane trees. I give 10 stars to this entertaining movie about kids' entertainment.
The Grey (2011)
This is like the Jaws or Jurassic Park of Alaska. In the movie "The Grey", there's a spine-tingling plane impact, then the survivors watch their back for nightmares of the night: wolves. Lots of thrilling wolf skirmishes, lots of snowed over scenery, and lots of good drama by Liam Neeson. His character Ottway helped the oil company defend the oil riggers by shooting predators like wolves, Now he must do it again for the plane survivors, minus a gun that is. There are a few moments when a survivor is alone, or struggling to catch up with the moving group, and when the wolves instantly strike, it's like he doesn't know what hit him. This is a really good and intense man vs. nature epic. 10 stars for the Canis lupus conundrum (insert wolf howling).
J. Edgar (2011)
Quite a Patriotic Career for The Leader of the Bureau!
Leonardo DiCaprio has delivered a fantastic performance as he portrays the FBI founder and head J. Edgar Hoover, in the movie of the same name "J. Edgar". Obviously. The film has been brilliantly well done by the director Clint Eastwood. Dame Judi Dench was terrific as Hoover's mother Annie, and Naomi Watts was superb as Hoover's secretary Helen Gandy. Also, Armie Hammer was outstanding whilst portraying the assistant Clyde Tolson. Similar to the flashback style of another classic movie Citizen Kane, Hoover recalls his lifelong struggle and endurance to make the government organization FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) a successful authority for the safety and justice of the nation. The threatening and critical oppositions include mob leaders and gangsters, child kidnappers, and American leaders like President Richard Nixon, who notoriously disapproved of Hoover's directives.
Hoover's political and authoritative struggles were just as large as his personal conflicts. His mother, regarding her son's homosexuality, threatened that she would not accept him as a son unless he became a more straight and stronger man, interested in the romantic charms of women. She mentored and molded him to be a son to be proud of, she even taught him how to dance. After being trained by his mother who later died from an illness, Hoover was still torn between the two different interests towards men and women. As well as trying to charm Helen Gandy, who only wanted to be his secretary than a girlfriend or fiancée, Hoover faced the arrival of Clyde Tolson, who was having a job interview to become an assistant. Clyde eventually showed a loving affection and attraction toward Hoover, and the two became partners, literally. Clyde enjoyed having dinner with him at fancy restaurants, however he argued with Hoover about his involvement with women. Years later in the relationship, Clyde also reminded his friend about his public dishonesty. Hoover apparently lied about arresting suspects, instead having his officers do the detaining work. Despite his flaws, Clyde stood up for Hoover and expressed his companionship.
Yes, Hoover also has his victorious achievements: the shooting of John Dillinger, the capture of the baby murderer Bruno Hauptmann, and the deportation of dangerous radicals like German agents threatening the government. Overall, this movie is like a landmark. We learn all about the man who started the FBI, which is currently one of the greatest and productive law enforcement organizations in the United States. So for this great American vision, I give DiCaprio and Eastwood's work a 10 star rating. Watching this film, and also touring the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. is a great way to learn about the methods and brave commitments of this historical authority.
The Town (2010)
Hold On to Your Wallet, Because This Boston Bank's Being Robbed!
We have a bunch of movies from the year 2010 which we love: Toy Story 3, Inception, Machete, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and others. Now Ben Affleck shows a mixture of action, thrill, terrorism and horror in his new film "The Town". This is a bloody, bullet riddled tour of crime, murder and bank robberies in Cambridge and Boston.
What do we have in the start of the film? Oh it's a nice day in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Citizens and Harvard University students are going about their business in this bustling and architecturally beautiful part of Massachusetts Avenue. And what is going on at Cambridge Savings Bank? Oh my god! There are some scary bank robbers with skull masks holding employees hostage with machine guns! Absolute terror and profanity is occurring here in the bank's lobby! And the poor manager, Mrs Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) is forced to open the vault for these criminals! Millions of dollars are lost from the bank! And the ringleader of these monstrous hoodlums in scary masks is a man named Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck).
Now in Charlestown, Claire is sobbing from the resulting stress and fright of the robbery. And Doug, who is watching her with his gang, starts to put the romantic moves on her. Doug cheers her up, buys her drinks, and now the terrorizing robber and Claire are in love. Of course the tides that are going against this relationship are the nasty violent attitudes of Doug's gang, the FBI's investigation and involvement with Claire, and the Boston and Massachusetts State Polices which are desperate to bring down these horrid and evil stealing goons in the city of Boston.
The actions of all these main characters, including a smart and witty FBI agent named Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm), deem the fate and future of the innocent people and bank users of the Boston area. I love this movie, because of the adrenaline and fear of being inside a bank that is having a robbery. We have a love affair between Doug and Claire. There are also those deafening gunfire battles and a car chase in those small streets of Boston. Police sirens and intense adventurous action set in Boston is what I call a terrifying yet highly interesting and exciting movie. I give Ben Affleck's work as a director/star a rating of 10 stars out of 10. I can't wait to see Ben's next movie set in Boston, MA.
Angelina's Salt is As Clever As Bond and MacGyver
I state this since that is how I view this energetic, combative and adventurous CIA agent in Phillip Noyce's film "Salt". Angelina Jolie's character, Evelyn Salt, is accused during a CIA interrogation by captive Russian spy-master Orlov of being a sleeper mole, placed within the US government to obtain information for Russia. Salt therefore becomes an outlaw and is chased by Washington and New York police forces where the action takes place. This causes a dashing and thrilling action story. Now regarding Salt's martial arts and weaponry skills, she makes chemical rocket launchers with fire extinguishers to blast away obstacles, she leaps from truck to truck on dangerous freeway bridges, and dangles along precarious building ledges twenty stories up. Her heroic intention is to prevent the Russian agent Orlov's plot to seize American nuclear weapons and cause World War III. From city parkour chases to political conspiracies, Noyce and Jolie's film is a sure winner of an action movie. Salt will surely blow you away, because I am blown away and give this film 10 stars.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
An Adventurous Boy Owner or A Brig-Like Day Care Center for the Toys?
Those Pixar animation geniuses have brought us another detailed scenic movie named Toy Story 3 about our favorite playing toys including Woody, Buzz and Jessie. Not only is this an adventure but also a time span. Andy, the toys' owner, has grown from an imaginative and excited boy to an overburdened college-bound freshman. So the toys are boxed and sent to a day care center called Sunnyside. And is the playtime all the same for our miniature heroes? Highly doubtful. This is a castle-like child center ruled with an iron fist by an affectionate but loyalty and power demanding purple bear named Lotso Hugging Bear. He demands to have squeezing hugs, the toys to obey him, and have the toys to be imprisoned forever in this building for the children.
Lotso and his big tough henchmen toys are one of the reasons that this child center is unlovable. Woody and Buzz and the toys prefer the Butterfly Room where the toddlers gently play with their toys, but Lotso assigns them to the Caterpillar Room with the younger kids who are out of control and forceful with their smaller toy subjects. However Woody and his cohorts all want the love of Andy and plan a desperate escape in the prison-like Sunnyside. The things that are very enjoyable in this animated movie include the Toys' and Andy's sense of play, fantasy and adventure, and all the action on the roof and interior of the day care center. Every Toy Story film is always as exciting as playing with toys.