BARE BONES: FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

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FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016)

This is a heartfelt and fun documentary about the legendary Leonard Nimoy and the equally iconic character that made him famous. It’s told through the eyes of his son Adam Nimoy, using all sorts of footage and interviews of his father and many of those who worked with him. It touches on Nimoy growing up in Boston and deciding to become an actor and then his path to playing one of the most famous characters ever on Star Trek, Mr. Spock. Adam Nimoy relates his father’s story…and that of his Vulcan counterpart…with a genuine affection and seems to have a good time going back in the past to tell it. Adam also doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous parts, such as his relationship issues with his famous father, Nimoy’s drinking, as well as, his own substance abuse problems. If the buoyant tone of this flick falters a bit, it is here during these segments. The story is what it is, though and Adam Nimoy doesn’t hide some of the more bitter moments behind the larger than life character his dad is known and loved for. Ultimately we get a portrait of a ambitious man, who had his flaws, but worked hard, genuinely loved his fans and family and rediscovered some of the relationships damaged by his successes and excesses, in time to repair and enjoy his family life before his passing in 2015. If you a fan of Star Trek, Spock and Nimoy, watching this documentary is the logical thing to do. Not perfect, but very sincere.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

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Flick picks up almost three years into the Enterprise’s five year exploration mission, which puts them cleverly “beyond” the first three years/seasons of the original show and thus into new story territory. This third installment of J.J. Abrams’ reboot series is now directed by Justin Lin and tells of a devastating attack on the Enterprise while on a rescue mission in uncharted space. An alien warlord named Krall (Idris Elba) wants not only an ancient device stored on the ship, but the crew itself to drain their life-forces. With their precious ship destroyed and now stranded and hunted on an alien world, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban) must figure out a way to rescue the crew, stop Krall’s diabolical plan and get home to friendlier space.

Justin Lin doesn’t quite bring the dramatic intensity Abrams did to his Trek films and his action scenes may not resonate as strongly, but with Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script in hand, he does give the series a lighter and more fun touch than the more dour Star Trek Into Darkness. The film also feels the most like a Star Trek episode which works for and against it, but mostly for. Giving the flick a less epic feel than the previous two, does reduce the spectacle aspect of the proceedings and the action is more close quarters fisticuffs than battling starships until the last act confrontation at a gigantic space station. Massive sets are replaced by alien landscapes and caves, but much like the 60s series and even the Next Generation series, these are settings our characters often found themselves in. This does give way to some really nice character interaction, as the FX take a back seat, with new character, alien refugee Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) fitting in nicely when paired with members of the prime crew. In true Star Trek tradition, the first two thirds of the film follow along as the crew does what they do best, use their wits to figure out how to survive and save the day. Then we get some of the spectacle we’ve come to expect from this reboot series, in the finale. In comparison, not quite the action packed popcorn flick the first Abrams Trek was, yet also doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Into Darkness, which is refreshing. There are some really nice Trek moments, too, including a nice tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Prime and a shot quietly celebrating the original Trek crew for this year’s 50th anniversary, that will surely moisten the eye of even the hardest-hearted Trekkie. The film also earns extra points for dedicating the film to both Nimoy and Anton “Chekov” Yelchin, who was tragically killed just a few weeks ago. A real touch of class…which is what Star Trek was always all about. On a production level the film looks great, Lin has a good visual eye and the FX are spectacular, especially during the cranked-up and fun finale.

The cast once again bring these classic characters to life, but not without their own individual touches and the script from Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung does it’s best to give each character healthy interaction and scenes for them to shine. It was nice to see Anton Yelchin get a generous amount of screen time with what is sadly his last performance as Pavel Chekov and Pine, Quinto, Urban, Saldana, Cho and Pegg all have their classic character interpretations locked in. As for the newcomers, Sofia Boutella is feisty and energetic as Jaylah, a survivor of Krall’s villainy whose “home” plays an integral part in our heroes’ plans to defeat the despotic bad guy. As Krall, we have a strong villain in Idris Elba, though we could have used some more time getting to know him a little better as his motivation aren’t really clear till the last act reveal…a reveal sadly seen coming almost from the beginning. If the script has a big flaw, it’s in failing to keep it’s big surprise from being obvious early in the second act.

Overall, this was a fun movie. Though in some ways the weakest of the three, due to Lin simply not being as strong a director as Abrams, especially on the last two films. He moves things fast enough but sometimes a bit more dramatic intensity was called for. Still, it is lighter and more fun than the last installment, though it being the most Star Trek of the three, might also alien-ate (had too) some of the non-Trek crowd that supported the last two flicks. For Trek fans it’s more like an episode than a movie and the most nostalgic because of that, especially when you add some really nice touches harkening back to it’s TV forefathers. Not a great flick, but a fun installment that earns extra points for it’s loving tributes to a legendary actor and his character, not to mention, a young talent taken from us far too soon…and if Star Trek is about anything, it’s about heart…and this film has plenty of that.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 starships.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MOONTRAP (1989)

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MOONTRAP (1989)

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Low budget but, ambitious 80s Sci-Fi flick opens in 1969 with the first moon landing, where we find Armstrong and co. were being watched by some sort of robotic being. Twenty years later, space shuttle pilots Colonel Jason Grant (Star Trek’s Walter Koenig) and Commander Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell) encounter a massive space ship whose orbit is decaying and is soon to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. Grant does a quick space walk to investigate and returns to earth with a strange pod and what appears to be a human corpse. The ship’s trajectory has it and it’s apparently ancient occupant, coming from Earth’s moon. To the horror of the NASA personal, the pod opens and the machine-like creature inside uses the surrounding mechanical devices to build an exoskeleton and go on a destructive rampage. Now the government wants Grant and Tanner to revisit the moon and find out what these creatures are and who are it’s ancient humanoid victims. The astronauts arrive on Earth’s satellite and not only discover a humanoid woman in suspended animation but, a nightmare beyond imagination that put’s them in a battle for the very Earth itself.

Moontrap is a pretty entertaining movie despite some flaws. As directed by Robert Dyke, from Tex Ragsdale’s script, the pace may be a little slow but, there is some nice action and Dyke takes the material serious enough to give it the respect it deserves. I give a lot of credit to the filmmakers for attempting a more serious Sci-Fi adventure in the post Star Wars era and they mix the action with the more dramatic elements well. There is some intensity to the scenes of alien attacks and the film is fun, despite it’s serious approach and it helps us get past some clunky dialogue, some definite plot holes and the fact that leading man Koenig isn’t quite our idea of a hard-nosed, tough guy astronaut. The SPFX are very well done on a modest budget and the extensive and well-executed model work and matte paintings really help sell the idea of mechanized aliens and hidden moon bases. The filmmakers also don’t try to shoot for more than they can afford and this helps the film from getting cheesy as it keeps it’s scope manageable. It’s simply an entertaining little movie with some nice atmosphere and even a little old fashioned charm, as it has a bit of an old 50s Sci-Fi film vibe to it, with it’s hot-shot pilots vs. alien invaders story. Evil Dead fans may also want to take note that not only do we have Bruce Campbell but, the score is done by Evil Dead composer Joe LoDuca as well.

The cast are fine. As stated, Walter Koenig wouldn’t be the first actor we’d think of to play a tough-as-nails astronaut but, he tries really hard. He delivers some very corny and clunky dialogue with a straight face and we do accept him in the role even if we don’t totally buy him getting laid with the buxom space vixen, Mera (Leigh Lombardi). Campbell is right at home playing the wise-cracking sidekick. He is charming and fun and we like his Ray Tanner a lot but…it’s Bruce Campbell, how could we not? Leigh Lombardi is mysterious and sexy as Mera, a woman found in the ancient moon base and as her character’s English is limited, she doesn’t have too much dialog so, mysterious and sexy will have to do. The supporting cast are much weaker in the acting department but, it sort of goes along with that 1950s style movie charm.

I like this movie a lot. Sure it’s a bit corny and it’s leading man casting was done more for having a marquee genre name than a perfect fit but, the film has a lot of charm and it’s heart is in the right place. The filmmakers did a good job putting together it’s alien invasion story on a limited budget and knew their boundaries which helps us get past it’s flaws and enjoy it. We also finally get to see Chekov nail a space babe and not even Star Trek can make that claim…at least not that I remember.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 moons.

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RANDOM NONSENSE: WHY NOT WAN FOR STAR TREK 3?

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First off this is totally based on my opinion and at this time there is absolutely NO word or even distant rumors that this is even being considered. Wan is currently scheduled to direct Fast And Furious 7. It’s just MonsterZero NJ throwing his two cents out there. That being said…

It’s basically a fact that J.J. Abrams will not be returning to the director’s chair for Star Trek 3, which word suggests, Paramount Studios is hoping to get in theaters by 2016 for Star Treks’s 50th anniversary. The Into Darkness writing team appears to be returning and we’ve heard rumors of everyone from Attack The Block‘s Joe Cornish to Jon M. Chu to Rupert Wyatt to sit in the director’s chair. So, MonsterZero NJ asks… ‘why not Wan?’

James Wan is a good director with a great grasp of making familiar elements seem fresh. His haunted house movies like Insidious and The Conjuring took all the time honored elements of the haunted house thriller and gave them a new coat of paint and thus got an effectiveness out of things we’ve seen many times before. Perfect formula for keeping a 50 year old franchise from feeling like a… well… 50 year old franchise. Abrams’ 2009 Trek gave us fresh faces as endearing characters and added a time line shift to put a new spin on established events. It livened up a wilting franchise and as a long time Trek fan, I really think it gave this legendary series the shot in the arm it needed. I enjoyed Into Darkness, it has it’s critics and it does have flaws but, I don’t think it was damaging to the series as some hard core Trek fans believe. But, either way, keeping things fresh and moving forward is what needs to happen. I think Wan can do this.

One of the things I love about Wan’s films is he has a sumptuous visual style that would serve the Star Trek universe beautifully. His films look gorgeous whether it’s the haunting visuals of his Dead Silence or the gritty look of  the original Saw, Wan creates some stunning visuals in his camera lens and could make a visual feast out of the next Trek. And while we’re mentioning Wan’s supernatural thrillers, why not a horror tinged Star Trek? Wan wants a break from horror but, why not give the next Trek a refreshing alternative to another vengeful villain with a big ship like we had in the last two movies and give us something more intense and maybe with a supernatural element too. The original Star Trek series had quite a few horror/supernatural themed episodes, Specter Of The Gun with it’s ghostly recreation of The Gunfight At The OK Corral, the Jaws-like Devil In The Dark with the crew facing a subterranean creature and the very Halloween-ish Catspaw complete with witches and a giant black cat, to name a few. None of the movies have gone anywhere near this type of story and it would be a new direction for the theatrical films and a great fit for Wan who could do a big budget sci-fi and inject it with some intense horror or supernatural elements. Who better to give us a Star Trek that’ll make us spill our popcorn and yet keep it familiarly Star Trek. In Insidious 2 Wan also delivered a nice mystery element and Trek has gone there before in the Wolf In The Fold episode where Scotty was accused of a series of Jack The Ripper-like murders. The idea of a scary Star Trek flick or one tinged in mystery intrigues the movie geek in me no end.

The characters are already established and the actors playing them know them by now and know how to play them. And once Trek 3 is ready to roll, Wan will have already worked with established characters from the Fast And Furious series so, he’ll have a little more experience with an ensemble cast of well know characters. Though his recent supernatural films have had a bit of an ensemble going on so he’s not a novice in that department. And let’s face it, when Wan gets a good actor, he gets a good performance. Look no further then Lili Taylor’s powerhouse turn in The Conjuring, Rose Byrne in Insidious or Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence. Wan gets good work out of a good cast and I think we can agree that the new Star Trek has a great cast. I don’t see a problem with Wan giving us the characters we love yet, taking them to new places that we haven’t seen them go yet.

Wan also can direct some intense action and handle drama, two things that fuel Star Trek. He can create some taunt suspense and the series could use a real white knuckle outing. There was some nice suspense in the last two but, nothing that would really get you gripping your chair armrests over and it would be nice to come out of the next Star Trek feeling like you’d just been on a roller coaster or in a really great haunted house ride. I remember how I felt when I left the theater after seeing Poltergeist. Imagine leaving Star Trek 3 feeling all numb and giddy like that?! I think Wan can do this. Obviously it depends on the script and where the writers take the story but, I think James Wan could give the series yet another fresh turn and not overshadow what we already like about it. The film would look visually beautiful and depending on the story, we could get some solid suspense and maybe a few scares too. Imagine a Star Trek movie where you’re actually covering your eyes in fear at points? As a horror movie fan and a Trekkie since I was a kid… I’m getting goosebumps at the thought of it. Paramount, give Wan a chance.

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REVIEW: STAR TREK (2009)

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With Star Trek Into Darkness coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray, I thought I’d take a look back at the first installment of this new reboot series.

STAR TREK (2009)

With the Star Trek series running out of steam on TV and in the cinemas, Paramount decided to reboot by restarting and recasting the original series for a new movie adventure with a more up to date popcorn movie style. And the gamble pays off beautifully. The new flick starts off with a Romulan ship from the future emerging from a black hole and engaging Federation starship the U.S.S. Kelvin. Upon the capture and murder of it’s captain (Faran Tahir), first officer George Kirk (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth) takes command and orders the crew, including his wife (Jennifer Morrison) who is currently in labor, off the ship and sacrifices himself to fend off the invaders while his crew escapes. Before he dies, his wife gives birth to their son who they name James T. Kirk. The film then picks up with rebelious adult James Kirk (Chris Pine) being talked into joining Starfleet by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and there he meets future crew members Spock (Zachary Quinto), a half Vulcan whose path to Starfleet we also see, McCoy (Karl Urban) and Uhura (Zoe Saladana). Despite getting in trouble, Kirk makes his way onto the top of the line U.S.S. Enterprise where the cadets, including helmsman Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), are being sent on an emergency mission to the planet Vulcan from whom they’ve recieved a distress call. Soon they find the planet is under attack from the Narada, the same ship that killed Kirk’s father and destroyed the Kelvin 25 years earlier and it’s captain Nero (Eric Bana) is hell bent on exacting a horrific revenge that spans centuries of hate and will kill billions. Add to all this a cranky exiled engineer named Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and an older version of Spock from the 24th century (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk and the cadets face their first and quite possibly last mission as Pike becomes a prisoner and cadet Kirk now takes command of the Enterprise.

Star Trek is not perfect, but this flick not only successfully re-invents the franchise, but somehow keeps it familiar enough for those of us who grew up with it. The cast does a wonderful job of keeping the essence of the original characters yet presenting them in a fresh way and adding their own touches. Karl Urban stands out in particular with a brilliant performance as Dr. McCoy and Simon Pegg is hilarious as the cantankerous ‘Scotty’. The script nails the character relationships very well. As for the differences between this version and original Trek lore, the plot explains this with Nero’s actions changing the timeline, which in itself is a classic Star Trek plot element. J.J. Abrams directs with a lot of energy and fast paced excitement for the new generation of movie goer, yet doesn’t abandon the spirit of Star Trek that older fans hold dear. Having Nimoy’s Spock there also gives the movie a really nice passing of the torch quality as this new generation version of the beloved characters takes over. The SPFX are incredible and the scope of the film is one rarely seen in a Star Trek film.

A really fun movie that is a really good example of how something can be rebooted and made fresh without alienating the it’s original fan base. A great popcorn movie and the triumphant return of Star Trek for us fans and a fun new introduction for those not initiated.

3 and 1/2 starships

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REVIEW: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

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STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

It’s been a 4 year mission to wait for a sequel to J.J. Abrams’ awesome Star Trek reboot but, finally Star Trek Into Darkness has arrived. And while it’s not quite up to the 2009 blockbuster, it is still a really entertaining 2 hours at the movies. The film opens with Kirk (Chris Pine) disobeying Starfleet’s Prime Directive to save a primitive alien race and his Vulcan first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto). When the Enterprise reaches Earth, instead of being handed the much coveted 5 year mission, Kirk is handed a demotion and Pike resumes command of the good ole NCC 1701. But this speed-bump in Kirk’s career doesn’t last as a mysterious rogue Starfleet agent by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) launches deadly terroristic attacks against Starfleet and it’s personnel. His actions put Kirk once again in the captain’s chair with orders to hunt this dangerous fugitive down, on the Klingon home world of Kronos to where he’s fled and eliminate him. But Kirk is not comfortable being an assassin and he and his and crew find that once they enter Klingon space and retrieve their quarry, that “John Harrison” is not who they think he is and they may be pawns in a greater conspiracy involving a Starfleet Admiral (Peter Weller) with a monstrous warship and his own agenda.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun and fast paced action adventure that’s only real problem is that it moves a little too fast and we’d like a little more time to allow the emotions of the events witnessed to resonate. Kirk’s demotion is a good example as he is back in command in about 10 minutes of screen time and we really don’t get a chance to appreciate this blow to the character’s career and ego. Once the plot starts to unfold, the film is all too eager to get to the explosions and fisticuffs than to give us a few minutes to properly absorb the dramatic effects of what occurs. But I would be lying if I said that what action Abrams delivers is not exciting and fun, because it is. This is especially true during an exhilarating last act which made up for some of the lack of real emotional depth earlier on. The script from Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof has it weaknesses, but ultimately I did like their twist on a familiar Trek character and how the new timeline effected his involvement in Trek history.

The cast is once again top notch and it is the interaction between characters that really helps keep this movie on target during some of the weaker bits. The combination of Abrams’ direction, the script’s character interaction and the cast, really give this film it’s strength despite all the awesome action and eye popping SPFX. All the crew return from Trek 09 and are all really good, once again, at making these classic characters their own yet, still familiar. Trek’s bad guy is played with relish by Benedict Cumberbatch, giving a strong performance as the main villain, though I just wish his character had a bit more screen time to be developed a little more, to give the character more weight and impact. It’s great to see Peter Weller back on the big screen as Admiral Marcus, the Starfleet officer whose visions of war with the Klingon Empire have caused him to act against the very things he seeks to defend. Rounding out the main cast is pretty Alice Eve, who is fine as Carol Marcus, the admiral’s daughter and future Kirk love interest. The character has little to do for the most part, but Eve does well when Miss Marcus does become important to the plot.

So in conclusion, I had a fun time watching this Trek sequel and while I wish it had a little more emotional depth in the first two acts and a little more development of some of the new characters, their is plenty of warp speed action to entertain and the film really delivers in the final act where it counts. Beam me up for Trek 3!

3 and 1/2 starships

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