Reviews

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

The next installment in the Alien franchise is here. This time Ridley Scott is admitting upfront that it is, in fact, an Alien movie. With that said, if you have not seen Prometheus, I highly recommend watching it before seeing Alien: Covenant. Without spoiling too much from Prometheus, Michael Fassbender’s character David, is a very important part of Alien: Covenant and his motivations are directly tied into the events of Prometheus.

Now, moving on to Alien: Covenant, it’s an Alien movie…. kind of. I say “kind of” because it still sits firmly in the world that Prometheus created, focusing on the tone and overarching plot of that film. Sure, we have a new crew, a new mission, but at the end of the day, it’s the same shtick.

There is a lot to like about Alien: Covenant and if you love monster movies, it’ll be an enjoyable experience for you. With that said, if you are looking for a classic Alien movie that brings you back to Sigourney Weaver’s era, this is not going to fulfill your wishes.

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The cast is fine. It features Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them), Bill Crudup (Watchmen), and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), with Michael Fassbender playing two different characters, David from Prometheus and Walter, the Covenant’s android. They all do a good job with what they are given but as usual, Fassbender steals the show, much as he did in Prometheus and much as he has done in the more recent X-Men films. Everyone else is just along for the ride, in some cases literally.

The story is pretty interesting and has a lot of solid horror movie moments that Prometheus definitely lacked. We spend a lot of time off the ship which, while similar to Prometheus, is still very different from the original Alien Quadrilogy movies. Ridley Scott clearly is trying to pave a path between Prometheus, a movie he was adamant was not an Alien movie, and the original Alien. So, I expect at least one if not two more films before we catch back up to Ripley.

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The special effects are inconsistent at best. The ships and technology look amazing and are great updates to the original films while not directly copying Prometheus. The bridge set, the corridors, etc. are all finely detailed and just really well done. The aliens and major action sequences leave much to be desired. The aliens are inconsistent in size, amorphous in shape, and deal damage convenient to whatever needs to happen in a particular scene. When a green\blue screens are used it’s painfully obvious that the backgrounds are fake. With that said, scenes where Fassbender is interacting with himself are very well done and incredibly convincing.

Alien Coventant poster

Overall, it’s a decent Alien movie. You can see my specific rating below. It expands on the universe. The movie provides some very cool and dark explanations for events but at the same time does not stand up to the quality of the original two films when it comes to special effects, suspense, or action. Ridley Scott has tried twice to replace Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and has clearly failed to do so both times.  That’s about as much detail as I can go into without spoiling the movie, so if you’d like to know more, I’ll provide an in-depth take in an upcoming ranking of the Alien franchise films.

Did you like the movie? Comment below!

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

Prodigy – A Film from KC

Prodigy (2016) by Kansas City native Alex Haughey is a science-fiction drama. It stars Richard Neil and Savannah Liles, in her debut starring role. It has been billed as a blend of “personal drama and psychological thriller.” Young Ellie (Liles), who is blessed with a razor-sharp intellect, is pitted against non-traditional psychologist Dr. Fonda (Neil). As the two conduct mental combat, the truths and lies are revealed. While the movie makes an enthusiastic attempt at this genre-bending approach, it does fall short on some of its goals.

The film has been shown at some film festivals already including Cinequest and Sedona.

Some spoilers for Prodigy follow after the break.

Prodigy Chess

The story is interesting: Ellie is held captive in a highly-secure shadow government facility. Accused of a crime, it falls upon Dr. Fonda to reason with her and discover the depths of her involvement with a murder. Time is running out: the government wants to euthanize Ellie and learn what gives her the astounding abilities she displays. Dr. Fonda has to work with his former colleague Olivia (Jolene Andersen) to unlock Ellie’s mysteries. In the stunning conclusion, many truths are revealed.

All in all, the film attempts to have a conversation about guilt and responsibility. Through much of the exposition, the characters expound greatly on personal choice, protection, and control. While it is a battle of the wits from the onset, it’s fairly clear that Ellie’s cold, calculating logic is outmatched by the more experienced, nuanced, and feeling Dr. Fonda. There is lesson here that only through understanding and acceptance of powerlessness can brute strength be overcome. It’s an interesting commentary on many social topics facing the world today.

Prodigy at the table

However, there are some technical aspects with which I take issue. For one, the script. While the actors deliver good performances – and they seem to strengthen as it moved along – often times, they seemed to be locked into a very specific dialog. This “tell and not show” approach is a common hallmark of first-time filmmakers. In a way, it assumes that the viewer isn’t in on what’s going on so everything needs to be explained. But, it’s a little too much. Ellie’s lines were almost too sculpted; Liles’ performance was almost melodramatic. Perhaps a stylistic choice; however, it failed to engender any real empathy for her as a character. I found myself on numerous occasions asking “why do I care about this girl?” I found Dr. Fonda’s troubles far more interesting.

In the end, this was very solid attempt at starting a conversation about responsibility and grief. It had great sound, good editing, and (although a bit campy) serviceable performances.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information on Prodigy on the film’s website here. The site includes information about the film, cast, a trailer, screening information, and a gallery of stills and behind the scenes photos.

Prodigy – A Film from KC

How They Held Up: 2017 Anticipated Movies Part 1

You may remember a Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies of 2017 list that we published back in January.  Or you may not. I don’t know if you read it…

Either way, as of March, three of the ten films on the list have already been released. What a great time to recap these films and see if our some of our 2017 Most Anticipated Movies lived up to our expectations or if they fell flat.

Kong: Skull Island

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Released: March 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%    Metacritic: 62%    imdb: 7.1
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 394 m
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly

This movie was really everything I wanted from a Kong film, to be honest. When I see a disaster monster film, the last thing I expect is Oscar-bait performances and epic story telling. I expect over the top stakes and realistic terror-stricken actors. That’s what I got. I was ultimately impressed with the well placed story lines woven throughout the film. Each character had a different goal once they set foot on Skull Island, which was handled by everyone quite well. The center of the movie, King Kong, was brilliant. His CGI was rendered so well it was frightening at moments. As an audience, you believed he was the perfect protector.

Overall grade: B. See the movie, stick around after the credits

Beauty and the Beast

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Released: March 16
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%     Metacritic: 65%     imdb: 7.8
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 710 m
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline

What a spectacular film! This long-awaited live-action adaptation of the classic Disney cartoon blew me away. It left me with such a magical fulfillment that very few movies give me nowadays. I was astounded by the sheer talent and detail that was packed into every corner of the film. Aside from the visual spectacle the movie created, the beloved soundtrack, including the newest additions, were stunningly recorded from start to finish. This movie will be tough to beat for me. It was everything I wanted and more, making it a shoe-in for my favorite film of the year.

Overall grade: A. Relive the magic again and again.

Power Rangers

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Released: March 24
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%          Metacritic: 47%           imdb: 7.1
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 61 m
Director: Dean Israelite
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Dacre Montgomery

As far as the numbers go, this is the most polarizing film of the year so far. The fans and critics are once again at odds. And I can’t say I’m surprised. For Power Rangers, this film is amazing. It features some great moments that even casual fans of the franchise will love. It does Power Rangers immense justice. However, there were a lot of issues that left critics feeling sour. It lacks an identity between a kids’ film and an adult fan service movie. It’s very apparent they had no idea who the target demographic was at any point.  And it struggled because of it. My hope is that now the pesky origin story is out of the way, they’re able to build on what they created, give us more Ranger time and less Breakfast Club moments.

Overall grade: C+. Go in expecting to have fun and nothing more.

 

****BONUS****

Logan

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Released: March 3
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%      Metacritic: 77%     imdb: 8.5
Worldwide Box Office Gross: 567 m
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

This film was not on my Most Anticipated list. That was a mistake. For me, the previous Wolverine films had been ultimate let downs and I was almost certain that this one was not going to be any different. I was dead wrong. Logan brings every ounce of A game it had to the table. Featuring stellar performances from every actor involved, the film hits you with an emotional heaviness that isn’t found often on screen, despite the many efforts.  It was a movie that could stand on its own, not requiring the knowledge of any previous X-Men films beforehand (which is fantastic, because who needs homework?)  The combination of Mangold + Jackman + Stewart, all of whom have said this is the end of the line for their characters*, was so overwhelmingly brilliant that I cannot recall another director/actor combo that produced the same gravitas in a comic book film.  It’s almost a shame that this was a finale for them all. But what a beautiful beginning to Dafne Keen as X-23.

Overall grade: A-. Nothing is perfect, but this is damn close.

 

What did you think of some of our most anticipated films? What are you most anticipated movies for 2017?

 

*The author is well aware of multiple interviews where each party gave stipulations for their individual returns. She is noting that as of now, all of them have confirmed their characters would go no further in the timeline.

How They Held Up: 2017 Anticipated Movies Part 1

Beauty and the Beast – Quick Movie Take

Rae, host of Screen Heroes and member of the Super Sirens cosplay duo, gives us her Quick Movie Take on the brand new live action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans. Catch her review below!

Are you going to go see Beauty and the Beast? Is it on your list of must-see movies this month?

If you have seen it, what did you think? Was Emma Watson a good Belle? Comment below or on our video!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more fun content!

Disney’s animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted. source

Beauty and the Beast is rated PG with a running time of 129 minutes.

Beauty and the Beast – Quick Movie Take

Kong: Skull Island – Quick Movie Take

Ryan of the Screen Heroes podcast and Buster Props bring us an early take on the monster movie reboot Kong: Skull Island. The new incarnation of the giant gorilla takes place at the tail end of the Vietnam war and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

Have you seen Kong: Skull Island yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for even more fun videos.

A diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong. source

Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 118 minutes.

Kong: Skull Island – Quick Movie Take

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review

Allow me to start by making a statement of opinion: I am not a fan of The New 52 Harley Quinn writing team or the work they have done on the series. The review you are reading is a reflection of that opinion, and I understand that there are readers who appreciate this series. I do not wish to put off that audience. While sales suggest this audience is turning away from the series, the readership was strong and committed to the point that. Unlike almost every other DC title, the creative leads on the series were not changed over or stories reset by the Rebirth event. This was a disappointment to me, but there have been suggestions of a shift in story that might occur.

Please be aware that from this point on there will be spoilers for some of the Harley Quinn series, specifically the more recent issues with the return of the Joker. You have been warned.

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I have not read the complete series of The New 52, now Rebirth, the Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti Harley Quinn, but not for lack of trying. I find their stories inconsequential and shallow, and feel that the character they are working with now, that their continued storytelling has created, has little similarity to the 25-year-old character that shares it’s name. However, this is not to say that Harley Quinn cannot survive on her own without The Joker, a choice that much of these stories works with, or that she cannot hold her own in a title of her own. Her early 2000s series and Gotham City Sirens both demonstrate otherwise. Any reader, fan base included, who claims that stories involving this character needn’t or shouldn’t have depth are simply incorrect. Characters change and evolve, but this character isn’t only dissimilar to what she had been but has been stripped of what one would consider character. Removing her of larger, more worthwhile conflict has created mostly a vehicle for jokes and innuendo that is great for selling products and looking good on covers. Outside of character issues, I find the writing in itself difficult to follow. I won’t make sweeping statements; most of these critiques are reflected in the recent issues that I want to comment on. All of this said, let’s focus on the most recent issues of the series that offer a carrot to fans of the origins of the character and a possible relationship with Joker. I tune-in and read the series when there is a story being told that interests me. Recently, the series has courted fans who want to see Harley in a more consistent relationship that reflects her history, grounding her in her roots between Joker and Poison Ivy that were cemented in Batman: The Animated Series. A few panels went viral and created discussion and debate when Harley seemed to finally answer the will they/won’t they with Joker.

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He attacks her, forcing himself on her, and she bites his lip, leaving him bleeding on the floor and stating she will never follow his demands again. Many fans liked this, as it demonstrated her ability to overcome abuse and gave her growth beyond being a subsidiary character to Joker. Issues followed in which Harley and Ivy are shown solidifying their relationship, with Harley asking to become something consistent. This story was done over several issues, and the answer from Ivy delayed by a story of their vacation adventures. Finally, she states that she can’t commit, because of her responsibility to plants. Really.

Ivy

While I understand the concept that Ivy’s mission is more important than her relationship with Harley, there are no stakes that dictate the need for a choice. There is nothing pressing that keeps Ivy from spending her time with Harley and nothing that kept her from taking a vacation and participating in adventures with Harley any more than she would be creating adventures individually.

At that juncture, I tuned off again. However, it didn’t take the creative team long to create a new relationship option, one that interested me within the confines of this canon: Joker wants her back.

Issue #9 shows Harley returning to the roller derby and once more fighting someone who beat her in an early comic, Bertha. Someone in the audience kills Bertha when she is close to murdering Harley, saving her. The rest of the comic is essentially padding with multiple dream sequences that are cute but have little importance. Yes, we know Harley is weighed by her past with Joker. Yes, we know Harley likely remembers her affection for Ivy sweetly. Outside of reminding us of that, these sequences do little. There is also a small subplot in which Harley buys some pizza, stops a robber, and gets free pizza for life, giving some to a homeless man. These sorts of stories are common in this series, attempts to show Harley as compassionate and human in extremely hammy ways that otherwise aren’t important to the plot. The disjointed subplots and dream segments make for stories that are difficult to follow. These minor plots, attempted to actually convey some form of character, are often more limited in page count than fluff, making them difficult to take with weight. The comic ends with Joker being in Harley’s apartment when she gets home.

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Issue #10 is a holiday comic. Issue #11 starts with a terse discussion between Harley and Joker where he asks her to meet him the next day in public to show he is a changed man. It then reacquaints readers with Red Tool, a parody character intended as a stand-in to answer the fan question, “what would a relationship between Harley and Deadpool be like?” The answer is “uninteresting.” Deadpool may be intentionally grating and verbose, but this character shares none of that wisecracking brevity or fun. Red Tool is essentially a guy in a suit similar to Deadpool who seeks to protect Harley because of an attraction to her. His dialogue is wordy, yes, but it isn’t written to be fun or clever. It’s lengthy because they haven’t resolved how to show story instead of tell story, an issue I have always had with these comics. That isn’t to say the dialogue reads like exposition drop. Between the accents they awkwardly write into each character and the choices made in speech layout.  It can be difficult to follow what is being said between forced catchphrases and supposed colloquial language. Red Tool makes Joker leave and Harley intends to meet him later. The pair return to an earlier unfinished plot of a door on the carnival lot that is locked. They break the door with grenades and find a monster inside. Similarly, this story is short, depicting it as insignificant, despite there being lots of questions about a huge goo monster. Escaping it, Harley returns home exhausted and sets her clock to meet Joker. Instead, Red Tool meets him.

Issue #12 has Harley sleeping through the meeting because Red Tool changed her alarm, and the two men exchange words. Joker tells him he will not fight. Red Tool then beats him. Harley is woken by the noon bells and realizes her alarm was changed. She hurries to find Red Tool beating Joker, telling him to stop and that, because of the altercation and change of her clock, she will not speak to him for a month. She takes Joker home and ties him to a chair, blindfolding him and taking him into the city. Joker demonstrates he does not intend to harm her. His dialogue is somewhat unusual, little of it seeming like it is coming from the character. He rarely smiles or makes a joke. This can be attributed to his hope to show himself as a “changed person,” but to me, personally, it simply feels out of place. Harley leaves him in the middle of the road with a sign that says “Brooklyn Sucks.” He is beaten and run over by several drivers. While the comic is billed as a conflict between Red Tool and Joker, it really isn’t. Joker takes the beating and Red Tool is shown as a bully. While Joker isn’t depicted as a victim, really, he is more of a mannequin; the reader doesn’t feel bad for him or validated for Harley’s choice to have him harmed. The actions he takes, or lack of, seem so lifeless that it comes across as totally inconsequential, something that has always been the main issue with the series.

In all, the attempt to draw in fans of Harley and Joker as well as fans of Harley who don’t want her to return to Joker is unsatisfying for either. Joker does little, Harley doesn’t make a choice, and the most significant encounter is Red Tool’s leaving the story for what will likely be the duration of this arc, something fans of Red Tool will be frustrated by. The choice to show Joker as less aggressive towards Harley is presumably a response to the reception of Joker as a more compassionate character in Suicide Squad. With the abuse removed from the final film, fans can subscribe to their relationship with limited backlash and DC can sell more merchandise that references their partnership. That said, one of the biggest criticisms of the merchandise is also one of the strangest parts of this story up to issue 11: Mad Love.

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“Mad Love” is the story that summarizes the pair’s union and depicts their backstory that every version since has worked around, up until The New 52. And this issue of Harley Quinn either redraws and re-contextualizes or flat-out blatantly reuses panels or concepts originally presented in Mad Love. These panels are some of the most interesting and engaging pages of these issues, and that’s the problem, because these stories didn’t exist in this canon until now. Harley in her nightie with bleached skin doesn’t seem unusual, but it depicts a version of this character, and her relationship, that carries more depth and subtlety than this series has offered. Not only do these panels serve only as a reminder of what both was and what this series struggles to be, many of them are improbable or impossible in the canon of this series. This is not only a problem in writing, but serves to demonstrate what fans want against what they choose to give us. These panels serve to do little more than to bait readers with a strong reaction to the original stories, with either affection or disdain. If references to other stories, stories that the series has mostly ignored or worked around in unsubtle ways, is the most appealing part of your current series, that series has, no pun intended, issues.

While this arc will likely see Joker warming in Harley’s opinion, the handling of this concept over the current series seems more like a choose your own adventure but not for the reader, rather for the staff. The series will be predicted by responses, each issue ending without resolution and being drawn out similar to the story of Harley and Ivy. At best, they will make a choice that will violate the trust of a group of readers. At worst, there will be little movement in the story, something this series has struggled with for years, and while no one will be entirely put off, no one will be served, either. In other words: please tell us a story.

Rebirth Harley Quinn: The Joker’s Call Review

Yoga Hosers – A Spectacle of Fun

Kevin Smith’s latest movie, Yoga Hosers, hits theaters tonight! His new movie stars his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, as well as Johnny Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp. The movie is part of the True North Trilogy which began with Tusk and now continues with Yoga Hosers. While this review is basically spoiler-free, there’s a fee notes about general plot as well as a couple of cameos you might not have expected. But I promise we don’t give away the Canadian farm.

I was recently given the opportunity to attend a pre-screening of Yoga Hosiers as part of a Q & A session with Kevin Smith and his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith. During this session Smith discussed why he decided to create such a bizarre movie and how he plans to tie it into his “True North Trilogy”. He explained that he simply was excited to make a movie that was “fun and starred his daughter”. Whether this movie is critically perceived as a masterpiece or not, simply put “he didn’t care”. Although some would be quick to label him, I found his attitude to be inspiring. People are very critical and often depend too much on the general population’s opinion, NOT their own. So here’s my opinion on Yoga Hosers, and how it was so bad, it became good.

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This film takes place directly after the events of “Tusk” (the first installment in the “True North Trilogy”) and pretty much stars the same cast reprising their roles for this film, turning a pair of one-scene characters into its main protagonists. Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) pass their time obsessing over pop cultural and yoga. While the Colleens struggle with standard teenage normalcies like crushes and bad minimum-wage jobs, a secret Sausage-Nazi invasion is happening right beneath their noses, or feet.

Who doesn’t like a film about two female leads stopping a hostile Manitoba Sausage-Nazi takeover? That’s right, Sausage-Nazi’s!

Yoga Hosers Sausage Nazi

This film comes jam-packed with endless cheesiness, sarcastic references, and Canadian slams which is all a part of the Kevin Smith charm. It’s very reminiscent of a younger Clerks that somehow tangled with Gremlins.

The effects are what you would expect from a B-Grade movie. Character introductions are handled with 8-bit Technicolor cutaways, comic-style fight scenes, and a black/white flashback to provide some context regarding the ridiculous Sausage-Nazi villains. All stylistic approaches Kevin Smith added to throw this semi-horror and semi-action movie over the top on its imagery.

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In my opinion, the best parts of this film are the cameos. Johnny Depp nails it, with his peculiar role of Guy LaPointe. Justin Long couldn’t have been any funnier as an “out of his mind” Yoga instructor. It was quite refreshing to see both Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp have a natural chemistry that extends beyond the big screen.

By no means is this a good movie, but it has something few movies have, FUN. Of course, hearing Kevin Smith’s explanation of this movie helps for understanding this bizarre spectacle, but I personally enjoyed it. I didn’t take it seriously and I didn’t have any expectations. Yoga Hosers was a fun transition from its seemingly disturbing predecessor, Tusk. I am looking forward to seeing Jay and Silent Bob in the final installment of the True North Trilogy:  Moose Jaws.

I give this movie a solid 3 out of 5 UFO’s.

Yoga Hosers – A Spectacle of Fun

There’s A New “The Room,” And It’s SLC Punk 2

As I teenager, I was into punk. More accurately, I thought I was into punk, though I was probably into a dozen related things, most of them more mainstream for real punk culture and that would be called a myriad of childish names by people who considered themselves real punks. However, I lived in a small town with a population of a few thousand, so there were few people to contest that claim. Because of this, I took the 1998 film SLC Punk as a truth about punk culture. It’s various pauses in story to drop scenes of punk history were either affirming for information I thought I already knew or informational about things I couldn’t find elsewhere. Mind you, this was early in the Internet age for a teenager. Social media was non-existent, Google was effectively an idea of the future, and information was limited to 56k. In other words, what I knew of punk came from word of mouth, the local library, and this movie. With that in mind, I also refuse to rewatch it even for the sake of context for this article, because it will probably make me feel like an idiot. I view this movie with tinted lenses, and I remember it fondly. It seemed like a compelling story about real characters who resembled much of what I knew punk culture to be: flawed, anxious, and ultimately self-destructive. No real punk stayed that way. The sequel, released recently to Netflix, suggests that the Internet would have made that film both painful and irrelevant. I also can’t make up how terrible the dialogue is.

Before you continue past the jump, there will be spoilers in the rest of this review. So if you haven’t seen Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 and you don’t want spoilers, stop now, queue up your Netflix, and then join me later.

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While it seems to have had some interest in it’s initial release based on the number of Indiegogo contributors listed in the credits, my only knowledge of SLC Punk 2 came from it being recommended on Netflix. Apparently, Netflix knows I love bad cinema. This film may be the newest and one of the strongest additions to the “So Bad It’s Good” genre of B movies.

The film starts with some brief introduction to a main character near the end of the story. We see our hero, Ross, being beaten up at a punk show. Ross would be best described as a teenage boy who read about Nick Cave on a Wiki but never heard any of the associated music. He is established as “too straight edge for the straight edge kids,” and then promptly spends the entirety of the film drunk and on mushrooms. For how subversive the film treats the character, refusing to let any other character accurately give him a classification of subculture, Hot Topic had been around for 17 years in 2005, when this film is set, and he looks to have taken most of his visual and character traits from the 2005 sale section. He’s blocky and stiff in appearance, always wears a sport coat, spends his film conflicted and romantically broken. Seem familiar?

The film is narrated by the character’s father, Heroine Bob, who died in the original movie. This isn’t a cameo. Bob is a solid 20% of the film, narrating, directing the audience’s understanding of the scenes, and doing the punk history that Matthew Lillard’s character did in the original, speaking directly to the camera. What I remember as a character from my teens seems to me now more of a Quentin Tarantino impression, with the strange, eager excitement of a teenage boy jammed into a man’s ability to convey them. Bob tells us that his son, a unique white rose of independence, is heartbroken and his mother has no idea where he is. That’s basically the entire film. His way of explaining this is by describing his son the way a LiveJournal profile might describe it’s author. Another descriptor might be “stilted.” This could be said for most of the adult actors in the film, who are returning cast of the 1998 SLC Punk  film. I am somewhat confident in that all of these people are decent at their craft, but this movie does it’s best to be certain to undermine those capabilities. Camera angles seem more forced, as if the director was limited to long scenes in wide shots and close-ups, dialogue does it’s best to emulate Clerks, and the characters are reduced to even more finite cardboard cutouts of what they were before. There’s a woman who runs a steampunk shop, a man who runs a black metal shop, a junkie everyone thought was dead, and a guy who essentially runs Suicide Girls. This is 2005, so I can believe a steampunk shop and Suicide Girls being both new and thriving (despite no customers coming into the shop over the course of the film), but a black metal shop? Is this an RPG game? How can a shop that only appears to sell guitar amps, pointy guitars, and swords survive, even pre-economic crisis?

This  also brings us to one of my favorite scenes, and one that seems to misunderstand story writing, character, and law. Ross, heartbroken and riding with his friends, demands more beer. He stops at a gas station, grabs a 30 pack, and pays the man at the register with a $20, telling him to keep the change. As he exits, the cashier asks if he has ID. He replies, “yes,” the cashier shrugs, and the scene is over. There are so many similarities to The Room’s flower shop exchange that all this gas station needs is a doggie. The cashier definitely seems like an actual cashier they roped into saying a line and this situation wouldn’t happen even in a teenager’s dreams.

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SLC Punk 2 spends most of it’s time padding out runtime with dialogue that doesn’t matter to the story and hopping from the three teenager characters driving to a punk show and a myriad of Bob’s friends from before he OD’d gathering together to support his baby momma and help her find her son. The film seems to depict a group of men who have watched over Ross as a child in the absence of a father, rebellious boys grown into supportive men caring for a child in need. However, they all also seem surprised by the existence of the others in the young man’s life, if not entirely unfamiliar with each other since Bob’s death. How do a group of people all working to help raise this kid not run into each other in a decade or two?

In keeping with the style of the first SLC Punk, there are scenes in which the narration jumps in to allow Bob to explain punk culture. While the original film seemed creative and fun, giving these scenes a childish style that matched the theme, this one simply seems to be weak in it’s ability to edit, relying on cheap Adobe presets and reusing several of it’s quirky images, in particular a shark biting something. Similar strange editing choices, namely scenes with glaring ADR and jump cuts to attempt to put a band-aid over mistakes, make some of the second act difficult to watch, even for a movie watched for the sake of being so bad it’s humorous. I’m not sure if style has changed so much as to make this seem amateur after time or if the crew on this film simply wasn’t as good at shooting and editing as the original.

The other most striking scene, no pun intended, is the one moment of weight that is attempted with these characters. Ross’s friend Penny, who I haven’t mentioned prior because she does little up to this point but drive the car, stops to speak to her father. He aggressively remarks about where she has been, asking if she’s been “slutting around with her faggot friends.” Riddle me that logic, to which she quietly says, “yes.” He then punches her in the face. She responds by taking Ross’ cane and beating the father’s windshield. For a man so abusive as to beat his child, he doesn’t do anything to stop her but shout, and she flees to her car, telling him he can “jerk himself off.” We are faced with child and sexual abuse and then immediately removed from any responsibility for that issue. It isn’t brought up again, and outside of Ross trying to get her to date him, she isn’t given much screen time after. She is the Denny of SLC Punk 2.

The movie ends with a punk show, which seems to be the film’s main interest. According to IMDB, it was funded by Indiegogo donations and attended by more than 2000 fans. Ross storms the stage to insult punk in general, he gets beat up, and the adults save him. Everyone is happy and the story ends. As a whole, this movie seems to want to emulate the style of a film made prior to the common use of digital editing and film, which makes it’s cheap imagery seem less charming and more like a YouTube channel. The movie overuses and abuses punk songs, and if you turn on the subtitles, the songs frequently give the singer of the band a credit. Maybe it’s a cultural difference, but in a world where information is so available, referential films seem more painful and less entertaining than they would have in the late 90s. Rather than feeling like you’re in on the knowledge this film offers of a subculture, it feels like you’re having something explained to you that most people already know. When you pair that kind of awkward over-explanation with strange performances, clunky writing, and culture that is more eye-roll worthy than interesting, you’re getting a movie that feels like a live action version of the “My Immortal” fan fiction.

Have you seen Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

There’s A New “The Room,” And It’s SLC Punk 2

Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

It seems that 2016 has been a year of huge potential with mixed results, many tent pole films and many more reactions to them. This could simply all be down to the source material: characters with per-existing histories and fan bases that make it difficult for studios, directors, and actors to please. All this aside, it has been an emotional roller coaster of a year for fandom film goes.

Earlier this year when I posted an article about this summer’s Godzilla movie and how it was going to be done by the original studio that created the character, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t extremely excited. What has also had many  of us fans very excited, and also a little concerned, was that this newest film was going to be a complete reboot – and it wasn’t going going down the retelling route.

For those of you who may not be Godzilla fans, there are some things that have always been canon in the Godzilla mythos: his origin, what he is, when he appeared. Like Superman or Captain America’s origins, there are some things about the big G that have been sacred to fans all around the world. But when the original studio decides to reboot the franchise itself and it acknowledges it is going to be a modern and very different retelling of the origin story…you need to have faith, but you can’t help but feel a little concerned too.

Our faith was rewarded, because they delivered.

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good

Purple may be a new look, but it looks good. The violet color is actually symbolic of death in Japanese culture.

The overwhelming consensus from from western fans who were lucky enough to see the film in Japan and those from the home nation of Japan, is that the film, while different, was masterfully done.  It has also been highlighted on many sites posting reviews of the film. The Japanese members of the fandom are usually the harshest critics out there – and yet so far they are the biggest supporters.

But it gets better…..this Godzilla is coming to the USA. Funimation, the company that distributes other Japanese media in the United States (the Dragonball franchise for example), has announced that Shin Godzilla will be coming to the USA for a theatrical release in late 2016. No date yet on that release, but with roughly four months left in 2016, you will not have long to wait.

Look away if you want to be spoiler free as I will be giving a rough synopsis of the plot. There is also one spoiler image as well, so if you want to save yourself a legitimately fun surprise, best to wait it out.

The film opens with some mysterious problems occurring in Tokyo Bay. Before you can say “I think it’s a monster” an enormous tail appears in the bay. This is right off the bat in the film and it takes no time to build up a threat. Godzilla is here and it really starts to hit the fan quickly. This is quite the refreshing change from other Godzilla films and it addresses one of the key fan complaints against the 2014 Hollywood outing.

The other thing that I should mention is that Godzilla doesn’t seem quite himself….spoiler image coming up folks…..

He evolves during the course of the film…

dramatically…

…more than once….

 

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla

The first two forms of Shin Godzilla – these are Bandai figures. As of yet no official pictures have surfaced online with as much detail.

The Proto-Godzilla does what Godzillas do best and starts running riot. It is here where the film starts to show some of its true colors. We go to rooms full of Japan’s government representatives as they stare in disbelief at what they are seeing and try to manage some kind of response.

I should mention that Godzilla originally served as a commentary for the current state of affairs in Japan and in this first reboot since the original film, the studio stayed true to that idea. The theme of politicians talking and debating until they are forced to act is a reoccurring plot point in the film and while a few fans have complained that the amount of time spent on this element could have been shortened, I think that this issue the film highlights couldn’t be any more current. The Japanese representatives spend a lot of time arguing about what should and can be done, but by the time they are able to come up with a plan…the problem has shifted sideways on them. Godzilla changes for his second time (the second form is pretty unnerving to look at by the way).

So at about this time, the USA comes into the movie. The US military helps the Japanese have a go at the walking disaster that seems to love populated areas, but nobody seems to be getting anywhere against the monster using conventional weapons, much to the concern of the US.

Then, Godzilla evolves into his third and final appearance of the film, the one we have been seeing in all of the trailers and lets just say he packs a mean punch.

Tension starts to reach a critical point when the US representative tells the Japanese that they have a deadline to sort this monster business out or it’s nukes away. Say what you will about the political undertones, it definitely ratchets up the tension.

I will not give away more after that because what comes next is crucial to the climax of the film. However, lets just say that the film ends with something of a cliff hanger and what I think is a pretty interesting way to finish the movie which will no doubt be the first installment in a series of new Godzilla films.

And a new series there will certainly be, with this movie already being almost twice as successful as the 2014 Hollywood Godzilla during its opening weekend in Japan. It would seem unlikely in this day and age that a sequel not be made.

So for those of you who would be considered “Western Audiences”, you may have to wait a little while for him to get to you, but this Godzilla is coming your way and if it’s one thing we all know – good things are worth waiting for.

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So how about it folks? Are you excited to see this new Godzilla? Will you see it in the US theaters?

Are you more excited to see where this version of the Godzilla franchise is going or the US one?

Comment below!

Shin Godzilla – Kaiju done right

Stranger Things: Spoiler-Free Review

Are you a fan of classic 80’s child adventure stories? I’m talking about Goonies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Flight of the Navigator, Stand by Me, The Wizard, Explorers, and The Last Starfighter, just to name a few.

Well, you’re in good company. A set of twin writer/directors Matt and Ross Duffer, known as The Duffer Brothers also enjoyed those movies and have decided to grace us with a mixture of those ideas with large doses of practical and computer special effects. Welcome to the world of Stranger Things.

Synopsis

“When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl.” To say the least, that description only scratches the barest surface, as this series defies genre. It’s a Sci-Fi/Mystery/Thriller/Action/Drama love note to that era of Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

As a Netflix Original Series, Stranger Things was bound to be at least decent. It’s sitting side by side other great shows, including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Upon first glance, the one thing I noticed was how well this show is put together. From the smallest detail, to the largest story arc, everything is dripping with 80’s. There are throwbacks via posters on the walls, t-shirts, and even the telephones and cars in use are very true to the year. The only thing that may have seemed out of place is the vernacular, the words they used. But, since I only spent a few years in the 80’s, I may be mixing fiction and reality. Which is bogus to the max, like totally.

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Review

Seriously, though, the writing, directing, audio, music choices, casting, acting, special effects, and everything else all coalesce into something that major Hollywood movies are currently having great difficulty in achieving, unity. Stranger Things acts as one story set in its own universe. There is no one piece where you can look and say, “that doesn’t belong” or “they should have done that better.”

The episodes are displayed as chapters in a book. If this were a book that I was currently reading, I would read it cover to cover continuously.

Stranger Things is rated PG-14, and I would not suggest it for anyone who is susceptible to nightmares or fear of the dark, as this will exacerbate those conditions. There is a fair amount of blood and violence, a lot of swearing, and just a smidgen of teenage sexual situations. This is one of those rare times where I will side with the ratings and say, maybe the younger kids should sit this one out.

StrangerThings

What do you think about Stranger Things? Have you already binge-watched it? Let us know in the comments!

Stranger Things: Spoiler-Free Review

Star Trek Beyond: Spoiler-Filled Review

For those who don’t know, I’m The Star Trek Dude on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also recently begun my Trek Watch in which I am reviewing literally every official episode and movie of Star Trek including The Animated Series. Even though my plan is to do this in order (TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, and Enterprise with the movies interspersed as they happen), I thought I would take this opportunity to review Star Trek Beyond while it’s fresh in my mind. The review below is from my Trek Watch site, so please check out the rest of my reviews that are ongoing at TheStarTrekDude.com. You can find the original Start Trek Beyond review article here: thestartrekdude.com/star-trek-beyond

Stardate: 2263.02
Year: 2263
Written by: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
Direct by: Justin Lin

This review, like all on this site unless noted otherwise, will contain spoilers but since the movie just came out, I wanted to warn you.

My Trek Watch is being shifted a bit in honor of Star Trek Beyond which opened in theaters today. Star Trek Beyond is the third film in the Kelvin Timeline (previously dubbed JJ-verse by many, myself included) and the 13th film of the franchise. The movie was co-written by self-proclaimed Trekkie and Trek actor, Simon Pegg and directed by Fast & Furious director Justin Lin, another self-proclaimed Trekkie. The film stars the returning cast which includes Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), and Anton Yelchin (Chekov). We are joined by two newcomers in the main villain played by Idris Elba (Krall) and a new protagonist played by Sofia Boutella (Jaylah). You might remember Sofia Boutella from Kingsmen, as she plays Samuel L. Jackson’s #2, the woman with the blade legs.

Star Trek Beyond - Posters Small

Alright, let’s talk about the film. Star Trek Beyond takes place just about 3 years into the Enterprise’s Five Year Mission. This might even be a bit of a nod to The Original Series, since it was canceled around the time this movie would have taken place. I love the way the movie begins. We are shown a Captain Kirk who is bored, tired, and disenchanted by the chair. He even makes an inside-joke about things feeling episodic. I laughed. What I liked about this was the parallels to Captain Pike of the Prime Timeline in “The Cage”. Both characters had lost their sense of adventure and drive for exploration. They had lost themselves a bit and didn’t know what their next step would be. Both even thought about leaving the Enterprise.

In the meantime, we had Spock’s interesting arc of conflict dating back to the 2009 film. He is constantly struggling with his duties to Starfleet and his duties to the Vulcan people in the aftermath of Nero. In a truly touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Spock learns that the Ambassador has died. This is an incredibly complex situation. What does it feel like if a version of yourself dies? How can one know?

Things don’t stay dark the whole time, though. In fact, I found that the film brought a sense of light and brightness to the franchise we had not seen since Star Trek: Insurrection. I found that this movie enjoyed the spirit of The Original Series but did so in the 21st century when movies are more fast paced and action packed.

The overall plot is solid. I also really liked the origin of Krall, even if some critics claim they caught on immediately. I did not. I found Krall to be a menacing character as well. He is powerful, intelligent, and dedicated to his cause. The characters have fun and/or important arcs that are all more or less resolved by the end of the film. Again, Chekov has the least going on but he did get more screen time than Into Darkness. Jaylah was a nice breath of fresh air too. Her speaking style, visual appearance, and attitude made the movie more enjoyable and brought a sense of wonder with her.

Star Trek Beyond - Krall

The character relationships are the best part of this movie from a story perspective. Bones and Spock have some wonderful moments both humorous and serious in nature. When Spock is close to death, it is their respect and friendship that keeps them going. Since 1966, we’ve watch Bones and Spock trade barbs. McCoy would throw a “green blooded” insult and Spock would reply with something intellectual yet sarcastic. What some don’t realize is that they were true friends with deep respect for one another. Beyond showed this better than any film before it and I loved every second. Seeing the characters paired up differently was also fun. We had Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, Scotty and Jaylah, and Bones and Spock as I mentioned.

Spock Jaylah and Bones

What sold this movie to me, as a Trekkie, is its understanding of the franchise and canon. While the 2009 film obviously referenced the Prime Timeline it didn’t add anything outside of Spock Prime. At the same token, Into Darkness ignored the Prime timeline all together with the exception of Khan’s existence. Star Trek Beyond does exactly the opposite throughout the film. First, we have all of the Star Trek: Enterprise references like the Xindi and Romulan Wars, MACOs, and the formation of the Federation. We even got a glimpse of that era’s uniforms and the USS Franklin is clearly based on the NX-01 Enterprise design from the TV show, even if it’s different. But that’s not where it ended. We got references in basic dialogue like Chekov’s tale pertaining to the origins of Scotch, straight from TOS. Kirk even makes a statement about “absent friends” in his toast toward the end of the film. The birthday references are there too. These were echos of The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock but in a different light for different incarnations.

The resolution for the film is fun, for me at least, but flimsy at best. I saw some similarities to how the Borg were handled at times during Voyager with the whole disrupt communication concept and I can appreciate all of the ships in the swarm functioning that way but I don’t understand why they blew up anymore than I understood it in the Voyager episode “The Swarm” when those ships exploded due to a phaser feedback… but at least that was an actual weapon. But, as I said, the scene and music is fun, so I’m going to let it slide because Trek has done worse before and it’s my only serious gripe for the film.

USS Franklin

Finally, we had the major tribute to Nimoy. Quinto’s Spock is looking through a box of items from Spock Prime. He then pulls out a small case where a photo slides out. I expected just a picture of Nimoy as Spock, maybe young, maybe old but just something to say goodbye one last time. We got so much more. We got the iconic photo of the original crew, similar to the one below. We got to see the Kelvin Timeline not only honor Nimoy in his passing but honor his Spock, his Kirk, his Enterprise, and his crew. It was a picture I never expected to see in new Trek and an acknowledgement of the franchise’s history that was perfectly deserving on its 50th year.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Crew

In the credits, we got a final goodbye to Nimoy and the film’s dedication to Anton Yelchin. While Nimoy’s loss was a major one for many in the Trek community and beyond, Yelchin’s was shocking and painful. He was so young and his presence will be missed in everything he could have been a part of. I fully support Abrams’ and the studio’s decision not to recast Chekov.

To end on a positive note, Star Trek Beyond was a fantastic birthday present to a franchise half a century old that has hit every corner of this globe. It captures the spirit of The Original Series while pushing forward in its own right, respecting the franchise every step of the way. I loved it and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Star Trek 4 and the upcoming TV series on CBS.

May you all live long and prosper.

For more of my thoughts on the film, catch the Screen Heroes podcast episode #31 with a live broadcast Tuesday, July 26th at 8PM CST at twitch.tv\griddaily or listen to the recorded episode at griddaily.com

If you have thoughts or are interested in more, go to TheStarTrekDude.com!

Star Trek Beyond: Spoiler-Filled Review

Star Trek Beyond: The Spoiler Free Review, It’s Fantastic

But I’m sure you’ve already heard that it’s good or that some reviews not liking Star Trek Beyond for its lack of depth, you know, the kinda of depth of classic episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever” or “Balance of Terror”, for example. What some people forget is that on average The Original Series was far from perfect. Depending on who you ask, only about half the episodes are really good. What brings fans like me back continually are the characters and how they interact. I’ll sit through some of the worst TOS episodes if the banter between Spock and McCoy makes me smile and if it has a theme or at least some solid message I’ll have a good time watching it. And that’s what Star Trek Beyond is, a simple character driven story with a theme. Its theme is camaraderie plain and simple. There are also much more sublet nods to ideas of globalization and provincialism and sense of wonder. Sometimes all you need is a nod if you want to focus more on the characters and you’ll have a great film.

Plot:
The plot is functional, nothing too elaborate, but it gets the job done. There are no big loop holes or dramatically illogical moments like what was found in Star Trek Into Darkness. But it does lack the freshness and charm of something like an origin story that is found Star Trek (2009). At no time was the story dull or boring, even during the moments of exposition and story setup it was fun to watch. The film moves from start to finish in a quick way that will leave you feeling like it’s going to end way too soon but the pacing never disappoints.  Interestingly enough where you could argue Into Darkness failed at plot twists and surprises, Beyond does a much better job at it. You’ll definitely want to avoid spoilers with this one.kirk-yorktown-uniform

Cast and Acting:
This film’s saving grace is its cast and acting. I know it’s been said before but if you think these actors have hit there mark before, you’ll be blown away with how they’ve improved on capturing the characters. They all feel much more visceral. Most noticeably is Karl Urban’s McCoy who is given a far greater role in the story. He’s your battle medic alright. And McCoy is gonna make you laugh, let me tell you.

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The new comers to Star Trek, Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella, are well done also. You’d think Idris Elba, being so buried in makeup would be a mistake. When I first saw the trailer, I was reminded of the Remans from Star Trek: Nemisis, shallow Nosferatu like aliens that were flat and dull, more monster than villain. But Elba pulls it off well. He has a certain speaking cadence like Bane from The Dark Knight Returns but it’s actually much closer to how Ceaser speaks in the Planet of the Apes remakes. It draws you in, eager to hear every word, it keeps you hanging on his words. The villain interestingly enough has a not too subtle character arch that when it reaches its climax is interesting and adds to both the story and characters motivation, if a little to late.

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Sofia Boutella’s female heroin character, Jaylah, has some range as well. She portrays her as a strong and cunning independent survivor. Yet Boutell gives Jaylah a much needed vulnerability at times. Something that other space fairing, sci-fi flicks didn’t do with there stick fighting female leads (cough, cough Force Awakens). It’s Jaylah’s vulnerability with her strength that makes her compelling in the opposite way of how Rey was handled in Star Wars.

jaylah-franklin-chair

Script:
Much of the charm and fun from Star Trek Beyond comes from the clever script. Cheeky one liners and interactions between characters are what makes this film exciting during the down time between the action scenes. McCoy and Spock’s interactions are some of the best moments with the film. But every character has his or her scenes and contributions to the plot; no character is wasted and everyone has a reason to be there.

jaylah-scotty-scanning

The only draw back at the end is the problem solving felt a little too collaborative. Like cheesy 90s sitcoms where couples finish each others sentences when faced with a problem, it felt like they where kicking a ball back and forth and it felt a bit too forced.

Action:
The action is real good but perhaps not as good as something like Force Awakens. True, there are some moments where Star Trek Beyond introduces some very interesting shots and camera work that depict actions scenes in zero gravity in a new way, both in space and hand to hand combat. But these shots don’t always pay off. When they do, they’re something special.

kirk-motorcycle

Oddly enough though, the infamous motorcycle scene is actually pretty darn good. When I saw it first in the trailer I was reminded of the lame dune buggy scene from Star Trek: Nemesis. But it fits with the story and is fun to watch. I actually liked it. Kirk was the action hero we always knew he was.

Lastly, the space battles where good but not overly so. Much as with the plot, the strength is with the characters not the space ships.

Special Effects:
Actually, I was slightly disappointed with the special effects. Generally most sci-fi films do a great job at this, heck even fan films can have some great stuff. But there are some moments here and there where I guess they got overly ambitious with shots and angles and didn’t have the budget to make everything look perfect. I mean don’t get me wrong, the film overall looks great but early on in the above mentioned motorcycle scene for example,  it looked sub-standard, perhaps because they wanted an interesting pan shot for the camera. It may be from lack of budget more than lack of vision though.  I got to hand it to them for trying an interesting shot though. I’m no special effects purists.

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Overall:
Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic film but if you’re an old school Trekkie that hated the previous two films then there really isn’t much here you’d like. As for everyone else, you’re going to enjoy yourself with Beyond. It feels like a love letter to The Original Series, at many times echoing it in form and function. Though not a film with intellectual depth, it stands on par with the complexity found with Star Trek: First Contact easily and in many ways surpasses it. It’s an incredible bounce back from the shortcomings of Into Darkness and though in may not have the charm of the 2009 entry, it feels much closer to the source material than many other Star Trek films. In many ways, it was much closer to Star Trek: The Motion Picture as far as look and feel to The Original Series. That’s pretty darn impressive in itself.

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What did you think of Star Trek Beyond? Do you think Justin Lin was up to the task? Comment below with your thoughts!

Live long and prosper.

Star Trek Beyond: The Spoiler Free Review, It’s Fantastic