Monday, July 25, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Review

Star Trek Beyond
Director: Justin Lin
Cast Headliners: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Idris Elba

Original Release Date : July 22nd, 2016

 Much like the crew in the plot of Star Trek Beyond, what does the film do when it does not have JJ Abrams in the director's helm, as he is only producer here? Well it can be assumed even without watching this that the crew finds a way to heroically perverse to great success, and the same can be said for this film. Justin Lin does a solid replacement job, and for good or less so the entire cast brings that trademark Star Trek feel for a fun if mostly typical adventure.

The film picks up three years into the five year mission of the reboot Enterprise crew. Captain Kirk(Chris Pine) grows slightly tired of life in the stars, and certainly enjoys the chance to reach a rest point at Yorktown space station with his usual crew of Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy(Karl Urban), Uhura(Zoe Saldana), Sulu(John Cho), Scotty(Simon Pegg), and Chekov(the late Anton Yelchin). It's always nice to see the world of ST fleshed out a bit more, though a mysterious visitor brings the crew and ship to another wild jungle planet and the space around it as they go against the fearsome Krall (Idris Elba).
It's a pretty standard formula of good and evil and doomsday devices by this point. It does not bring much new or timeline crossing elements to the picture, and does not get much darker than the tense thriller angle of Into Darkness. But it's a action packed, fun, laugh filled adventure that delivers a a expected but still tasty slice of the goodness of this franchise. The humor and writing are one of the highlights, with many unexpected pairings on their own missions when never knew they wanted but turn out swell, such as Spock/McCoy and (thankfully here a deserving final role) in Chekov/Kirk or the slightly less featured than usual Uhura/Sulu. Whether it's from the charismatic core crew giving humor or just the way scenes often cleverfully unfold there's plenty of chuckles, cheers, and charming heart to be found.
The returning hits their usual notes on par but there is the moderately big new characters as well. Jaylah(Sofia Boutella) is a local of the enemy world and events bring her to ally with the Enterprise crew. She is a great addition in many ways. Boutella never once comes off as anything but genuine with her alien makeup visage, and brings an exotic warrior attitude that leads to humorous moments and cool action. She has a solid core role in the plot and one eagerly anticipates her being in more potential sequels. Meanwhile however Elba's alien warlord Krall is just about decent or so. Purposefully at times hard to understand vocally, his attitudes and motivations never rise above much more than the simpler of the original television series' foes. His backstory is almost an attempt at the tragedy of Nero or the empathy of Khan, but coming from his heavily makeupped/masked visage it's harder to take seriously other than offer a hand to some action and dramatic dialogues.
The action and visual spectacle delivers very well as usual for the series. Justin Lin's trademark explosive style from the Fast and Furious series rarely jumps into the too-crazy of that world (But sometimes does) though otherwise it feels just as it should. Some sequences are a bit hard to follow, but both in space and on ground there are multiple exciting sequences that make the sometimes too long downtime solidly worth it.
Overall Star Trek Beyond is “another Star Trek” in its good and bad. But when it's this legendary franchise, with these actors that is a fine enough thing. It makes some missteps, has some good and ok new additions and ideas. To a fan though, it will bring a solid experience no matter what it has or who's in the director's chair. 8 out of 10

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Infiltrator Review

The Infiltrator
Director: Brad Furman
Cast Headliners: Bryan Cranston, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo, Benjamin Bratt

Original Release Date : July 13th, 2016

                The Infiltrator has two strong aspects going into it. It features a starring role in Bryan Cranston as undercover Customs agent Robert Mazur, and it follows the story of the major 1980s sting operation against Pablo Escobar’s operation in Florida/ the USA. While there’s some good performances and directing to be found, they are at times buried in a sea of other things.
                Cranston’s Mazur is great. In every performance he brings a range, craft, and intensity that always makes him a highlight. When it comes to this film he delivers, and while the material at times is repetitive he is convincing. Especially solid when looking at Mazur’s undercover identity “Bob Musella”. Much like a Heisenberg once upon a time, Cranston is a chameleon able to shift through different situations. Although it’s in his usual style, and almost an inverse of that character’s role, he is a entertaining lead for the film.
                The rest of the cast is for the most part good. The shaky interactions between Mazur and his partner Emir Abreu(John Leguizamo) are pretty decent, although when the latter goes off on his own Leguizamo does not quite carry scenes the same way.  Bit players such as Jason Isaacs as Mark Jackowski, Said Taghmaoui as Amjad Awan, Olympia Dukakis as Aunt Vicky, Juliet Aubrey as Evelyn Mazur are other moderately decent standouts in a sea of even more bit players.
                The film meanders at times, likely limited to its adherence to reality, but a strong aspect comes from the fake romance of Mazur with his “fiancĂ©” Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and the drug powerhouse Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt) and his wife Gloria (Elena Anaya).  Kruger is solid in a way matching her chemistry with Cranston’s Mazur, both being undercover agents. And Bratt is really good in a sympathetic way, as is his love/hate relationship with Mazur.
                The directing by Brad Furman is competent, with the 1980s singing through in musical  choices. Things get intense when they need to be. At times things can be a bit shaky, but it provides a decent backdrop in some exotic locales for a very dialogue heavy slow burner.
                Ultitmately its slow burn , fact heavy nature will be what one either likes or doesn’t. There’s action at times, but its in a long process with a lot of buildup and little sting. But the Cranston is good when the Cranston is good. 7.65 out of 10