Movie Review: The Hunger Games – Why can’t reality TV be this good?

I feel bad for anyone who happened by Rave Motion pictures at 2:30 this morning. They were probably surprised to see the deluge of traffic such that they might expect at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Tonight was the premiere of the Hunger Games and unless you’ve been fasting from all forms of media for lent, you’ve probably heard something about this ‘next big thing’ movie-based-on-a-book-series.

If you’re ‘Oh crap not another ‘Twilight’ antenna just went up, don’t worry. This book series is actually excellently written. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Stephen King is actually quoted on the book jacket, talking about how great it is. I think it’s important to note that Stephen King also said, “Harry Potter is about overcoming adversity – twilight is about the importance of having a boyfriend.” Comparing this book to twilight is like comparing apples and some fruit that is only interesting to pubescent girls with bad taste in books. The first twilight movie made $7 million at it’s midnight showing whereas Hunger Games grossed over $19 Million. This movie has legs and it’s going places.

The Hunger games is an especially violent and tragic series of stories that center around Katniss Everdeen who lives in a dystopian future where the US has deteriorated into a country called “Panem” which consists of twelve districts and an enormous capitol that looks like it was an architectural design collaboration of Cosmo S. Spacely and Senator Palpatine.

Panem suffered civil war wherein the districts rebelled some 74 years ago. Now as a reminder of who’s in charge, the Capitol requires that each of the twelve districts supply two teenagers – a boy and a girl – to participate in the titular Hunger Games. There’s really only one rule to the game: be the last one left alive and you gain fame and fortune. It’s basically a futuristic gladiator arena, but with teenagers. We see up close what happens when a society becomes more obsessed with entertainment and comfort than the sacredness of human life. Some conservative reviewers missed the boat and don’t seem to realize that neither the author, fans nor filmmakers are endorsing this world – they are as appalled by it as you should be, that’s the point – they want to see this world brought down. The movie shows this perfectly. (In case you don’t get it the title of this review is similarly ironic.)

Ultimately the movie is a win. There’s no doubt that Lionsgate has found their Harry Potter. But how does it compare to its epic source material? When a popular book is adapted for film I put the changes made from the book to the movie into one of four categories: changes for time or budget reasons, changes to make the film more appealing a larger audience, additions that work on film but wouldn’t have in a book, and stupid changes that no one likes. While there were some very noticeable differences between the film and the book, the changes are almost all positive.

The book is written from Katniss’ point of view so you’re going to see some immediate differences when you realize that the movie has no trouble leaving Katniss and showing us what’s going on elsewhere.

The first scene of the movie is an interview with the head Game Maker Seneca Crane. In the book Crane doesn’t have a speaking role. In fact, we really don’t find out his name until the second book. In the movie he’s a principle character. Crane’s struggle to maintain control of the games and satisfy president Snow is a lovely subplot that gives a window into what the next two movies will be like. It also gave us Wes Bentley (a Methodist pastor’s son btw) for more than just a cameo role.

Donald Sutherland plays the conniving president Snow who has ruled over Panem since before the rebellion (making him probably more than 100 years old, though he doesn’t look a day over 90.) We don’t hear from him until the second book, but in this movie we get him for several brief scenes that establish him as the major antagonist of the series.

The only place where I wish they could’ve remained more true to the books would’ve been the interviews with the tributes. I would’ve like to have seen the full interview with Katniss as it was described in the book. I would’ve liked to see the interview with Rue.

The acting in this movie is spot on. Jennifer Laurence shows us why she was nominated for an Oscar two years ago. I was most impressed with the scene before Katniss is sent into the arena. She looked like I would expect someone to look if they were knowingly headed toward a gruesome death.

Stanley Tucci plays a perfect Ceaser Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks was born to play Effie Trinket. Josh Hutcherson is a great, albeit less broad-shouldered Peeta than described in the books. Cato, Clove, Glimmer, Foxface et all are pretty much perfect. Woody Harrelson plays a fabulous Haymitch; even despite the terrible wig they had him wearing.  My only beef was with Liam Hemsworth as Gale. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s the only non-American in the main cast, perhaps it’s that I never liked the character of Gale or maybe it’s just that he’s taller and much better looking than me – I can’t be sure. I think it’s just that he botched most of the ten-or-so lines that he was given.

On the continuum of movies based on books the Hunger Games is closer to Lord of the Rings than Twilight. It is shot with more artistry and told with more poise than you might expect from a ‘teenie bopper.’ If you’re a fan of establishing shots prepare to hate this movie. Any wide shots last less than three seconds and all other shots are as close as they can get. Also if you get motion sickness I’d recommend heading to the back of the theater – Gary Ross didn’t bring his Stedicam to set.

In addition to staying close to the action (a daring but effective choice) the biggest difference between this and similar movies is the use of silence. During several moments of the film instead of announcing to the audience that they should be sad by throwing in some over-powering score, the director chose to keep it silent. There is a fantastic score during many scenes, but a few key moments are left without any music – allowing the audience to feel what they might feel if this really happened. The blow is not softened by music. Perhaps the best example of this is during the reaping, when Katniss’ kid sister Prim is randomly selected to participate in the games and Katniss volunteers to take her place. You really feel the pain, the awkwardness, the horror of what the characters are going through.

What is perhaps most impressive about the movie and book are the complex themes. Dehumanization in an increasingly consumer driven and mechanistic society is perhaps the primary theme. These aren’t topics that most teenagers are discussing these days so it’s a great way to ask questions regarding what the limit on entertainment is. I personally see parallels betweens The Capitol and the Districts and the US’s relationship with developing countries. I’m hoping fans of the book might do the same.

Someone asked the questions ‘why do we praise teenagers killing each other.’ I should specify that the book and the movie do not praise killing. The society depicted in the books does, but they are depicted as self-centered and desensitized, not totally unlike our own. It’s actually a very powerful allegory. The watcher walks away asking the question ‘have we become like this society?’ The point is similar to that of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Swift wasn’t actually suggesting that people kill children either – his point was how society has moved toward an amoral, godless society that doesn’t value life.

I would not recommend this one for the kids. It is a very violent movie, with characters dying of spears through the stomach, a snapped neck, arrows to the chest and being torn apart by wolves. So I’d say anyone much younger than 15 would probably be pretty disturbed by the violent deaths of several teenagers throughout the movie.

All in all it’s a very impressive film. It manages to question society in some poignant ways wile telling an entertaining story. I’d really recommend going to see this one. Try to catch it this weekend and if the tickets are almost sold out, may the odds be ever in your favor.

Review: Captain America, The First Avenger

Captain America has little reason to be successful, yes it does has fans, yes its source material is classic americana, but in comparison to the X-men, Spiderman, Batman and even Superman, he’s possibly the least interesting main-stream super hero. That’s why this movie is a victory, because by the end of the story, he’s so totally likable that even if you don’t like the plot, you love the hero of the story.

The Captain gets a shot

The Cap’ has seen other incarnations, none more cheesy than the 1979 TV series, footage from which has been used heavily by Conan O’Brian over the past few months. But for being the classic all American hero, he’s seen little action over the past 20 years. As a result, I’m not terribly familiar with the mythos of Captain America. I grew up watching the X-Men, Spiderman and other superhero’s TV shows and I read several of their comics, but Captain america was never among those that I read. I remember one two-part episode of Spiderman that featured the avengers- which told a really quick origin story of the Cap, but other than that – I was not a fan of his until yesterday.

I was delighted that director Joe Johnston finally got to direct a main-course film again. He made a splash with Honey I Shrunk the Kids in 1989. Then he made a superhero movie before it was cool- a period piece called the Rocketeer; this was a favorite of my family’s when it came out, and if you were to watch it today you would see why in many ways, Johston would be an obvious choice for a Captain America film. Most of the past 15 years he’s been relegated to desserts and side-dishes such as Hidalgo, Jumanji, Pagemaster and Jurassic Park III, all of which were underrated movies that failed to find audiences. He proved his ability to develop characters with perhaps his best known film, October Sky, which marked the beginning of Jake Gyllenhaal’s rise to fame. Having dabbled in the arenas of sci-fi, drama, horror, fantasy and adventure – Johnston was prepared to finally prove himself, by combining elements from all of these genres to make a truly great blockbuster superhero film.

The Plot:

The story Centers around Steve Rogers played by Chris Evans. You may recognize him from the Fantastic 4 movies which I usually list in my top 10 worst marvel movies to-date. (but don’t worry they still rank higher than Hulk, Electra, Daredevil and The Punisher) He plays a much more likable character as Captain American than as the Human Torch, who is down right obnoxious at times. To be clear, Steve Rogers is Captain America, not the sound engineer by the same name who did most of his work during the 80′s. That’s a different guy, I didn’t want anyone getting confused.

Steve Rogers is a loser, a little guy from Brooklyn – much like Peter Parker of the Spiderman Series. One of the ways in which the movie succeeds, is the development of Steve Roger’s character. Unlike Charles Xavior in X-Men: First Class, Rogers’ motivations for doing good are clear. Since he was small, he was bullied all his life. Though he didn’t start fights, he never ran from a fight. He says “If you start running, you’ll never stop.” Because the main course of the story takes place during WWII, Steve Desperately wants to go into the army, as he sees the Nazis as the ultimate bully and he wants to fight them even though at the start of the story he’s a 90 pound asthmatic. This also explains why his weapon of choice is a shield, he’s not out for blood, he’s out to protect the innocent.

After being rejected five times by the Army, he’s met by Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) who sees that Rogers is a good man. Erskine chooses Rogers for a special program to become the ‘first of new breed of super-soldier.’ Erskine likes Rogers because he’s a weak man and ‘the weak man knows the value of strength.’ The procedure works, but in the process the serum used to create Captain America is destroyed so that Steve is the only Super Solder. At first he’s sent around the US as a mascot, wearing the Captain America guise as a symbol to the people, though he doesn’t see any real action. He goes to the front to entertain the boys where he finds out an old friend of his has been captured and is in an enemy base just 30 miles away.

Rogers, does exactly what you’d expect any superhero to do, he goes to the base and frees his friend where he meets Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving playing the role for which he was born) AKA the Red Skull head of a secret Nazi organization called “Hydra”. He discovers the Red Skull’s plan to annihilate several Cities the world over, including (bum-bum-buuum) New York! After Rogers’ success freeing the prisoners from the base as well as bringing back a great deal of intel on the Red Skull and his schemes, he’s given a team and is sent around Europe destroying more Hydra bases. The Shield is a surprisingly cool weapon throughout.

In the meantime he befriends a very young Howard Stark, that’s the father of Tony Stark (Iron Man) and a beautiful young woman, Agent Peggy Carter. Penny is a british special agent who runs into battle with American soldiers and despite having no apparent protective wear other than her rather feminine uniform, is inexplicably unscathed despite the fact that almost every man around her gets killed – go figure. Howard Stark is played by a different actor than the one we see in Iron Man II, this put me off at first, but then I realized that this howard stark is at least 25 years younger than the one we see in that episode of the series and so it makes sense they he would look significantly different. One of the cooler things is that we see the Stark Expo as it was in the 50s, the same one that we see 60 years later in Iron Man II. It also shows us the full character of Howard Stark as both Walt Disney and Howard Hughes – we saw the Walt Disney characteristics in Iron Man II, in this episode we see the Howard Hughes end of his personality.

What I Liked and Didn’t like.

The movie does a good job of portraying WWII era new york, at least to a guy in his mid-20′s who only took one history class in college. The true victory in this area, is that it resists crossing that line between the fantastic and the absurd in regards to what was possible at that time. I enjoy things in the steampunk Genre, but in general the box office hasn’t been kind to them. Throughout the film remains just on this side of believable. Perhaps most impressive in staying true to the era is a car/foot chase early in the film which happens through the streets of New York. I don’t know where they shot those scenes, but it truly looks like a period film.

The physical transformation of the Steve Rogers character is another victory, as Chris Evans’ entire body is replaced digitally for the first quarter of the film. If you didn’t know better you’d just think this guy was a scrawny looking kid with a big head, but when he comes out of the procedure, he, as my 6 y/o nice says “looks like a Ken doll.” This helps with what otherwise might be a terribly unbelievable plot. Since he went through such an enormous physical transformation, its easier to believe that he could do some of these amazing feats without any training.

Aside from the physical transformation – the development of Steve Roger’s character is my favorite part of the movie. You see how much of a little weakling he is at the beginning and how much he has a heart to protect his friends. He’s not cool, he’s not smooth, he’s not good with women and to many he’s not the obvious choice to become a super soldier. Yet, he has a loyalty and sense of honor that is consistent with the old-fashioned hero. He’s straight up good-guy; they don’t try to make him an anti-hero at all. We also see that he’s a strategist, he thinks his battles through and tries to be aware of what’s going on around him. He’s not caught off guard and he never leaves a man behind. This is all a part of why he’s the logical leader of the Avangers, in a way that none of the others could be. He may not have the most interesting powers or the coolest weaponry, but he’s a leader and after the first five minutes, you’re rooting for him.

My biggest problem with the story is that it feels like backstory. I don’t know if that’s just because I know that it is, but it doesn’t have the epic feel that a story of this scale could’ve. They skim over several action scenes by way of a montage and the final confrontation is not altogether satisfying. In one sense this movie is a middle sequel, between The Ironman Movies and The Avengers.

Wait, this isn’t a sequel…is it?

In case you don’t go to movies or read comic books and have no friends who do, let me explain what I mean by ‘middle sequel.’ Marvel comics has been producing a series of movies leading up to next summer’s release of The Avengers. The first of its kind, this new Avengers Film will use most of the same actors from five different movies featuring other superheroes from the team. At the end of the credits of each of these movies there has been a short scene teasing the tie-in to the new Avengers movie. The movie will feature Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, The Hulk and Captain America as well as several villains from several of their respective movies. Captain America is actually the last one of these movies to be produced before next summer when the Avengers is released, so in that sense it is both a sequel to these other movies and a prequel to the Avengers.

This movie is no different from the others in that it has a little something after the credits, but instead of a small scene we see the first trailer for next year’s Avengers movie. It looks wicked.

In Conclusion…

For entertainment value I give this one 4/5 stars. It’s a great movie, but the climax is so leading to next summer’s avengers that it feels a little incomplete. For film value I give it 4/5 stars – the believability of it is good most of the time, but there are a few places where it could’ve been better. The acting was generally very good and dialogue not too awfully cheesy, but it isn’t Oscar material at all. For family friendliness, I give it a 3/5. It is definitely violent, but few main characters die in the course of the plot and those who do are not shown to be gory. The one exception to this it when the Cap throws a nameless badguy henchmen through a propeller blade in mid-air, the moment was so out of place that I turned to my brother-in-law next to me and said “that was a bit much.” There is almost no sexual material aside from a couple of kisses (one of which is possible at the least opportune moment of any movie I’ve ever seen.) And the language is on the milder side of pG-13.

Overall I give it 4/5 stars and I encourage you to go see it, it will undoubtedly be one of the biggest movies of the summer and so far I have no problem saying that its in my top 3.

Review: X-Men First Class

In the growing number of X-Men prequal movies, X-Men First Class will likely stand as the best. Not long ago 20th Century Fox was considering doing a Magneto origins story and they opted for this movie instead which accomplishes everything that a Magneto origin story would have and much more.

Gut Reaction:

I really liked the Movie over all – I found myself quickly putting it in the top two of my favorite X-Men movies. To give that context you need to know that I’m not just an expert on the comics. I read a re-print of the first 10 X-men comics and a few others when I was a kid, but no more than that. My understanding of X-Men mythology came mainly from the cartoon that came on Fox back when Fox ruled saturday morning cartoons. X3: The Last Stand was, to me the most like the cartoon. I recognize that lots of fans didn’t like it (though they sure forgot to let the box office know) but to me it was the most like the X-Men universe with which I was most familiar. First Class is in that same category and succeeds in having the same full-scale epic feel that I got from X3.

What I liked and didn’t like

The movie is an origin story, and origin stories have an automatic leg-up as there is a driving force that goes deeper than the basic episodic comic book plot. But unlike spiderman, Batman, Ironman or Thor this isn’t the origin story of one superhero, this is the origin story of – in many ways – a whole universe of superheroes and villains. That’s probably my favorite thing about this movie; you get a whole slew of characters; Not only Magneto, but also Mystique, Beast, Havoc, Banshee and, of course, Professor X.

There are a handful of areas where considerable plot holes open up when you watch this in close succession to the other four X-Men movies. For example, Emma frost, who is a teenager in Wolverine, is a 30-something woman in this film. Thats not the least of the issues, (SPOILER ALERT) At the beginning of X3 we see Patrick Stuart in a flash-back with the use of his legs, indicating that Charles Xavier was able-bodied at least until he was middle-aged. At the end of this movie Charles Xavier gets shot in the back, becoming a paraplegic in what seems to be his late 20s. (SPOILER ALERT OVER) There is also a considerable adopted brother/sister relationship with Charles Xavier and Mystique, though there is no indication that they even knew one another in the other movies.

The character of the young Charles Xavier is probably my favorite part, though it is also where I thought the movie could’ve most improved. I would’ve like to have seen some kind of explanation on how it is that a wealthy British boy, raised in a mansion in Connecticut, didn’t end up being a spoiled brat. There is no transformation in the story of Charles Xavier, who is possibly the most ethical person in the Marvel universe. How did he come to have such strong moral convictions about when to use his powers and when not to? He has the ability to completely control someone with his telepathic abilities, but he chooses not to – why? – other than the fact that it would make for a boring narrative.

The one thing that you should know is that this is ultimately not a happy story. While a war is prevented, villains are born and characters die. If you can accept that, then you’ll probably really enjoy this origin story. My parents did, in fact most movie-goers I’ve talked to so far have said that its their favorite of the X-Men films. While it has some cheesy moments and other issues that do push the suspension of disbelief just shy of its breaking point, it is still a very fun movie.

Conclusion

To sum it up: I give X-men First Class four stars for entertainment value, I give it three stars for its film value and two stars for family friendliness. A great comic book movie, not without its flaws and not one to take younger kids to, but it’ll probably on my shelf once its released on blu-ray.

My 3 rules for watching movies.

In my adult life, I have been called ‘stupid’ by a peer only twice. Both incidences involved a Christian who was commenting on my opinion regarding what kind limits Christians should put media they consume. In both cases I was defending why I thought some popular movie shouldn’t be owned or regularly viewed by a Christian. I’m not someone who gets a kick out of stirring the pot, but it was obvious in both cases I’d struck a nerve.

As a Christian who enjoys observing, critiquing and participating in popular culture I try to not set arbitrary rules – I look to scripture. Here are my personal guidelines and the reasoning behind each. While I’ve probably broken them all at some point, I can say that I’ve never been sorry when I follow them. I’m talking about movies, but they can really be applied to all forms of media.

  • I do not go see R-rated movies in the theater unless I am recommended it by someone who I know holds my same values. This may seem prudish, but the reason is two fold: First, what if you get caught walking towards that theater by someone who is struggling or is young in their faith – what if they happen to know the kind of content in the movie you’re about to see is not God-honoring? You wouldn’t want to cause someone to stumble. (Mark 9:42). Second, if you go to see that movie and you see something that you shouldn’t, it will effect you and you can’t unsee it, where as If you watch the movie at home you can skip parts of it. (Job 31:1) I recognize that I’m very unusual in this way as statistically, Christians are just as likely to go to an R-rated film as non-christians.
  • I don’t watch any movies with frontal nudity. The reason is simple: Ephesians 5:2 – no hint of sexual impurity. This one seems like a no-brainer to me, but when I told a Christian friend that I wouldn’t watch a particular movie because it had a number of nude scenes in it, he flipped. He said “Just because of that you’re going to miss a great movie.” Just because of that. Just because I’m trying to take the scripture seriously. I don’t do this because I think I’m better than anyone – I do it because I know I’m a sinner; I know the effect those movies have on me and I know I’m not the only one.
  • Finally, I try not to buy any any movies that I’d have to throw out if I ever had children – I thought this was just a good rule to have about life in general. What if all single young adults lived life as if one day they might have to sit down with their children and explain everything they had ever done. What if people began preparing for parenthood before they got married? You wouldn’t just have better parents, you’d have more responsible people – even if they never had kids. I told a Christian friend of mine about this philosophy and that’s when I got called stupid. I’m not going to write a whole manifesto to defend myself on this. I just don’t believe that it is stupid to live a life filled with a desire to be responsible, to be selfless, to be above reproach and to maintain the child-like state of innocence Jesus talks about in Matthew 18.

I’ll quote again from my favorite Pauline epistle:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

No matter what you’re doing in life, if you’re not sure if you’re on track with Christ, read this passage and ask – is this me? I do it all the time and honestly most of the time the answer is “no, not really.” – That’s where I know things need to change.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

This review was made in August of 2010, and edited for release on this blog in May of 2011

Most people will think that I’m exaggerating if I say that Scott pilgrim is the kind of modern-day epic that comes about once a generation, but I truly believe it. While it wasn’t a large financial success, I’m sure it will be a cult classic for years to come. I would put it in the same category as Wayne’s World in that it acts as both a survey and a commentary on the culture of the 20-something culture of the day. Before I continue I should say that it is not a family friendly movie. And I struggle with how much I enjoy this movie. The sexual lifestyle portrayed through several of the films scenes is directly contrary to scripture. If you read my entry regarding my personal rules for watching movies you’ll know that I don’t watch movies flippantly – when considering a movie, I take it very seriously. While there are several scenes that make solid strikes against it I do believe that you will see the hipster subculture values displayed, for good or ill and that there is much to learn about identifying with this culture by observing its values and while entertainment value alone cannot redeem a movie, it does have great entertainment value. If you totally ignore a movie because of its content you may miss what is happening in the culture and this film changes the game in some ways. Perhaps the film’s greatest accomplishment is that it cannot be defined by anything other than itself: it’s truly original. Placing it in a single genre is impossible. The best that I could say is that it’s 3 parts kung fu, 4 parts comedy, 3 part super-hero, 2 parts romance, 1 part musical and 100% comic book. It exemplifies what high quality, fast-cut editing can do for the pace of what could’ve been a trilogy of movies and the incorporation of the comic-book onomatopoeia and the different uses of written text as an added layer throughout the movie flows so well with the comedy of the story that you almost ask your self “Why hasn’t every comic book movie done this?” It’s a feel good movie that moves at a breakneck speed, which begs to be watched again as it’s nearly impossible to catch every subtly, every popular culture reference, every sound bite that is taken out of a video game, every witty throw-away line. It’s a well-written and well-produced collage of 2010’s 20-something je ne sais pas. Some people will be overwhelmed by the pace of the movie coupled with suspension of disbelief required to really enjoy the movie; one friend of mine could only say “That movie was all over the place.” It is not going to reach as wide an audience as most summer blockbusters, but within the culture that it depicts it will continue to be influential in a way that most movies will never be. Any fan of the original comic series (a Canadian work that largely draws on video games and other mid-90’s popular culture) would love it, as it goes out of its way to be true to the text. It replicates exact moments in the book down to pain-staking detail as small as the motion lines around a character’s head. Based on the source material, the casting is perfect and every character is lovable – even if in an antagonist’s role. In summary, for entertainment value I give it 5/5 stars, for family friendliness I give it 1/5. It’s very clever and extremely fun to watch, but much of it is based on a post-modern morals that are equal parts distracting and humorous, so its easy to overlook them, but they are no less prevalent. In short, it’s a geeky 20-something’s dream and for better or worse, will likely to be considered one of my favorite movies if it stands the test of time. Though I can’t whole-heartedly recommend it due to some of it’s content, the very least I can say is: It’s definitely worth a viewing. If you see one movie this summer – you have to see Inception, it’s the best movie of the summer, but if you see two – this should be the second.

Review: Sherlock Holmes

This review was originally written in December of 2009 it was edited for this blog in May of 2011

Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes greatly exceeded my expectations. While it definitely has that cotton-candy hollywood quality to it, it actually has a complex and thoughtful plot. And as you should expect it has plenty of twists, enough that you’re likely to get caught off guard at least once or twice. Its exceptionally entertaining, but has a slight intellectual edge that I wasn’t totally expecting.

Any strict fans of Holmes will likely not be satisfied with this incarnation who is equal parts action hero and sleuth. Though, I personally think that all additions to the character only made the movie more enjoyable. Robert Downey Jr does a great Job in his portrayal of Holmes and Jude Law is a great sidekick. This dynamic was very different than past depictions of the Holmes/Watson relationship, but as far as I can find it is actually more accurate to the books. Watson is never painted as a bumbling old man, rather an uptight and structured foil to Holme’s seemingly whimsical nature. Bringing this element to their partnership allows for the whole of the story to have a more energetic feel.

RD Jr.’s greatest success might be his british accent – I can’t think of a recent movie where I have heard an American actor more successfully pull off a british accent. It certainly seems like every British and Australian actor is fully capable of doing an American accent. I think after Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Robin Hood the Queen probably threatened to gather the Knights of the realm and attack us if we had another bad American actor portray a beloved British character. (Only to realize that most of the Knights of the realm are merely mediocre british actors themselves)

The biggest surprise to me was how un-steampunk the whole movie was. Giving the director, I expected there to be a more ‘spray paint and bubblegum’ quality to both the scenery and plot. My concerns were abated early on however, when the first scene opens with harpsichord music. Anachronisms were minimal and tasteful, and the plot didn’t suffer much obvious imposition of postmodernism on the industrial age.

Over all I give it a 4/5 stars; 5/5 for entertainment value and quality of production and 3/5 for family friendly-ness. It is PG-13 for a reason – the depiction of spiritualism of the 1800s is a rather mature theme for one. It is also not without its fare share sexual innuendo, language and violence – though for the most part I would say that it is surprisingly tasteful throughout. Ultimately it is really nothing but a fun movie and I think that most movie goers will enjoy it thoroughly.

Review: Star Trek

Many people who know me are surprised to find that I was not a an avid Star Trek fan before now – I did watch a little bit of the show, both the original and “The Next Generation” but I myself am not a huge fan of sci-fi. I am, however a fan of sprawling movies with scale to them and this, my friend is a true epic.

Now I know even the previews tell you that this isn’t your daddy’s Star Trek, but the first thing that impressed me about the film was the way it maintained what charm there was in the original TV show. All of the same hokey catch-phrases that you know and love from the original appear in the film. J.J. Abrams did a phenomenal of crafting a story that both Trekkies and Human movie-goers alike will enjoy by having both the edgy, effect-driven, adrenaline-pumping action scenes and the comical nods to the original – like one brief scene where we find Kirk in bed with a green woman, at which point even I, with my near-zero tolerance for thematic material, had to chuckle.

The movie starts with an event that takes place roughly 25 years before the rest of the plot. We see a federation starship being attacked and the 1st officer forced to take command. To save most of the people on the ship (including his wife who is giving birth as the attack is happening) he is forced to stay on the bridge while all others board escape pods so that they will get away safely while he kamikazes his way into star-fleet history.

Fast-forward a few scenes and about 20 years later and we find that that man’s son has grown up to be an arrogant, smooth and talented young James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine who will be one of Holly Wood’s sexiest men this year – mark my words. After a scuffle in a bar with some star fleet cadets A recruiter grabs Kirk and in a matter of minutes convinces the young rapscallion to enlist in Star Fleet. We’re introduced to all the Iconic characters one by one. First Uhura then Dr. McCoy who immediately befriends Kirk. Karl Urban, who plays “Bones” McCoy has a name you don’t recognize, but a face you will – considering he had principal roles in two Lord of the Rings movies and one of the Borne movies. His portrayal of Dr.McCoy is nothing more than an impersonation of the original Actor, and I loved it.

We’re also introduced to Zachary Quinto portraying perhaps one the most recognizable characters in all of Science Fiction, that lovable vulcan, Spock. Quinto’s name might not ring a bell for you, but if you, like me can’t miss an episode of that Monday night shamless X-men rip-off known as Heroes – you might know him by his other name: Sylar. You’ll probably be surprised to know that Quinto does a phenomenal job of actually making the character of Spock quite . . . well . . . human.

The Rubber hits the road when a distress call is sent out from the planet Vulcan and, since the primary fleet is engaged elsewhere in the galaxy, the cadets at star fleet have to take point on this assignment. The enterprise, the fleet’s newest flagship, is no different, and all at once we meet the rest of the crew. This element of having most of the major characters being rookies forced into action is a great way of handling the otherwise improbable course of action that lands Kirk the position of captain two-thirds of the way through the movie.

We find out that the same space craft which initiated the attack resulting in the death of Kirk’s father has returned, and as the plot thickens, we discover that they are actually from the future and so all the events that take place in this movie are, you guessed it, are a deviation from normal-space time, resulting in an alternate reality. If that was too heady for you let me put it this way: in one fell swoop the writers have not only explained what has taken place in the plot, but they are also explaining to all the Trekkies that it is perfectly acceptable for this course of events to be inconsistent with those in the existing Star Trek canon. Brilliant.

Appropriate for all ages? No. I’d say that the rating is quite accurate that children under 13 should probably wait a few years, but all in all the movie doesn’t ever go over-the-top with any of the ‘big 3′ (sex, language, violence) I’d say that I was impressed with the level of propriety and that I wouldn’t discourage anyone with a moderate stomach for violence from seeing it based on content. It is all handled fairly well and is no worse certainly than once should expect.

Over all Star Trek has the full package: Great effects, good acting, pithy dialogue, lovable characters and the most die-hard fan base this planet’s ever seen. Perhaps the only thing that I was slightly disappointed in was the lack of even a brief cameo from William Shatner. But in all reality, this movie wins, through and through. Don’t wait for the blu-ray. Go see it now, because weather you like it or not, its the next big thing. Move over sliced bread- you just got owned by Star Trek!