Star Trek

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris PineZachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood,
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 8, 2009

“Star Trek”, the titular science fiction/space opera known by all, watched by many, and appreciated by the few has been re-imagined in J.J. Abrams super summer blockbuster. This certainly isn’t your father’s Star Trek, filled with action, bright lights, lens flares and space; the final frontier.

2009’s Star Trek heads back to it’s roots introducing young versions of Kirk, Spock and company. A titanic task? Not quite, considering major back stories have been traded in for a time travel plot that lends to much needed explosions (Hey, I love my eye candy too). The plot plays it safe, not getting into any new ground and treats science with a ‘suspend your belief’ attitude. It’s seeing the characters assemble onscreen, and Abram’s deft use of scenery and characterization that really shine.

Folded Arms are the new thing in the future

Follow me now: Nero, a Romulan from 129 years in the future has come back to ‘the beginning’ (of the Trek universe) because future Spock couldn’t save Romulus from collapsing. The black hole formed from the collapse sucks in Nero and Future Spock, plunging Nero into ‘the beginning’, he destroys the U.S.S Kelvin where commanding officer Kirk Sr., has assumed control, his son is about to be born and he must pilot the ship on a collision course after evacuating the entire crew with busted warp drives. Nero sits around for about 25 years waiting for future Spock to arrive so he can get revenge by destroying Vulcan with the very technology the Vulcan Science Academy created (known as red matter). So it’s up to our very handsome/great looking crew of the U.S.S Enterprise to go in, destroy the ship, save the day and create a Star Trek for the masses. The Roddenberry-verse physics aside, as long as you know that black holes equal time travel, and class M planets exist with scary looking monsters, and total and complete coincidences happen, you should be absolutely fine. Just suspend your damn belief already.

“Did you seriously sign on for the sequel?”

Chris Pine does an admirable job as James T. Kirk, successive captain of the Starship Enterprise. His energy and natural leadership slightly showing, although his douche bag like character is still lovable and enduring. Zachary Quinto was definitely born to play Spock, his cold demeanor picked up from his time as Sylar on TV’s Hero’s, he dons the Vulcan ears and detached voice with ease, simmering emotion under the surface as the half Vulcan/Human hybrid and Kirk’s best friend. The rest of the ensemble cast play their parts magnificently, no one seems to miss a beat and the slight nods to the original series are deft in execution. Even Leonard Nimoy shows up in Spock attire, his first outing in nearly a decade, proudly handing the touch from one generation to the next; although it seem like he was in this version a little longer than necessary. I’m sure all the fan boys were wetting themselves in excitement when the pointy eared one entered from stage right.

There’s only a few moments of disbelief, and it’s all in the science of show; consider that against the numerous times Scotty has outright bent the laws of physics in the original television show and movies. It’s all in good nature however, once you realize you’ve been beamed aboard another reality, one with much better looking people and alien races with humanoid bodies and slightly larger/smaller eyes or different skin color. Bridging the continuities was an immense task, keeping with the newer, sexier generation just got a whole lot easier.

No caption, just a green skinned Orion Girl in her bra and panties

If you haven’t witnessed the rebirth of Star Trek yet, I highly suggest you do so. Reading up on the pre-reviews of supposed mega-blockbusters as Transformers and Terminator: Salvation, I can already see a pattern emerging: All these franchises are getting slammed for lack of care, they’re not lovingly crafted as they should be, and are getting shoehorned with last minute rewrites and CGI over actual plot or any good character emotion. These movies aren’t meant to be overly cerebral, but it’s pretty clear the movie going public wants more substance than the flash and bang approach. Star Trek thankfully is light hearted enough to take all this in stride and put together a fun, exhilarating thrill ride that won’t disappoint.

9.5 out of 10

Movie Review: WALL-E


Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Robots, and co-starring people.
Production Company: Disney/Pixar

After first experiencing WALL-E, I was floored. It was a beautiful story with endearing characters, a social message, and empathy and yet there was no dialogue for the first hour! WALL-E is the last machine left on a garbage encrusted earth; he dutifully carries out his task: compacting garbage into cubes and making skyscraper sized works of art out of them. With humans travelling the stars with no real intent of coming back home, WALL-E has been faithfully carrying out his job for 700 years with no interaction with others, save for his pet cockroach. During all this time, WALL-E has succeeded his other brethren, seemingly still sane due to his lovable curiosity and love of collecting junk. I anthropomorphize WALL-E only because I couldn’t help but root for the little guy. He’s just doing his job until the humans come home; which might never happen.

Short Circuit 3: Jonny 5 in space

WALL-E’s home itself is a testament to all the junk people can create, but it plays towards the old saying: ‘one man’s trash is another’s treasure’. Through it all, WALL-E cares for all his belongings and lovingly takes care of his pet cockroach, feeding him Twinkies, which I always figured would last a million years. His only interaction with people up to this point is a very old VHS (or possibly BETA) version of Hello Dolly that he watches religiously and at the certain scenes, longs for touching hands with someone else; it’s a lonely world for the little robot.

WALL-E’s world is turned upside down at the arrival of EVE (Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), the super sleek, overtly Macintosh-inspired lady machine, looking for plant life on earth. As luck would have it, WALL-E’s attempts at wooing her fail miserably until he presents her with a plant he found growing inside an old fridge; her prime directive in finding any plant life, she shuts down, waiting for the arrival of her ship to bring her back home. As it turns out, WALL-E inadvertently hitches a ride with the ship and right into the adventure of his lifetime.

Humans work their way into the story in the last act, which for me was the weakest portion of the film. Ultimately, the goal is to have human’s re-colonized earth again, rather than travel through the stars. The machines all have a life of their own, as simple as they all look, most don’t even have eyes, and rely on their zany movements or manic behavior to tell us what they’re thinking. It all works, beautifully.

“So, what was your cut of the profits?”

You have to give credit to the Pixar animators, as they really show what they can do even without interaction or speech. Compare WALL-E to Final Fantasy (2001) which was a technical achievement and you’ll see what I mean. Final Fantasy was more concerned about getting their characters to look and act like real people, a noble effort, but the end result is a puppet on screen with dead vacuous pixels. Pixar took the formula, and gave life to WALL-E, so much so that you get the idea that he’s looking behind the film to see who’s operating the camera. I still can’t believe the animators did all this without giving the title character a mouth, just binocular type eyes that only rotate up or down. The pure curiosity, the sell of the moment, the lighting of the picture was even presented as a historical document that I could have believed.

WALL-E is a story for every one of all ages, of all walks of life. There’s a social message hidden in there; namely that we can’t ignore our garbage problems, or just leave when the going gets tough. There’s little treats peppered throughout for the detail oriented, watch for other Pixar movie props to appear on garbage piles, and listen to the AXIOM computer voice, a little nod to an actress who made space cool again. The movie plays out like one of the great silent movies, there’s empathy, there’s pathos, there’s even a love story. I highly recommend this flick to anyone who enjoys a good movie.

9.5 out of 10