Big franchises make appearances this week: “Star Trek Beyond” is in home video” and Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon in “Inferno” in theaters.
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Star Trek Beyond
A new installment in the long-running major franchise is a project with many potential pitfalls. Happy to report the latest entry in the Star Trek world, “Star Trek Beyond,” is in good hands under the supervision of director Justin Lin and the creative team including producer J.J. Abrams (who directed the last two Star Trek films.)
Besides a compact running time, the movie features a superb score from Michael Giacchino and a straightforward story that can be understood without having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Trek universe.
Screen writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung (who were assisted by a couple of the producers who had also worked on previous films) deal with a variety of relationships among the characters, add some humor and bring a level of uncertainty seldom found in movies like this. And the last 45 minutes is pretty much non-stop excitement.
The starship Enterprise has stopped for supplies part way through their five-year mission in space, when the crew is stranded on a planet without any way to communicate with the rest of star fleet. It’s their task to survive.
There are some surprises as well. Spock (Zachery Quinto) has entered into a romantic relationship with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana). And the much-discussed depiction of Sulu’s being gay is a minor point in the script, although quite touching.
And they’ve got good villain, too. Idris Elba is Krall (unrecognizable under what is said to be a daily five-hour makeup job). It’s a testament to his acting skills that he’s a somewhat nuanced character in what could easily have turned into a cartoonish villain. He’s a bad man, but you understand him, even if he just wants to kill everybody.
This movie satisfies hardcore fans as well as the casual moviegoer.
FOOTNOTE: Actor Anton Yelchin, who did a fine job as Chekov, died a month before the movie was released. He was a fine actor and his death at the age of 27 is a tragic loss.
The Bad Moms are lead by Amy (Mila Kunis). Her life is a bundle of stress, working, taking two children to school every day and trying to balance all the demands for modern day parent with a job. She gets no help from a husband who thinks being a good husband is bringing in the groceries. Amy finds him in front of the computer pleasuring himself and she tosses him out.
She meets up with Kiki (Kristen Bell) who has four small children and a husband who is useless, but at least is not cheating. They’re joined by the hard-boiled Carla (Kathryn Hawn), a single mom who doesn’t quite dress like a tramp, but flirts with every single dad walking by when the parents are dropping off their kids.
It doesn’t take long for the moms to decide to be bad moms and they head to a supermarket for slow motion interlude of bad boy behavior, riding the carts reserved for the handicapped, pouring cereal out of the box directly into their mouths and creating their own chocolate milk by adding chocolate syrup to a container of milk.
Juvenile? Sure, but funny. And the dialogue is very good. Two moms looking at another’s dull dress say, “That’s what lonely person gets buried in.” Then, a serious moment when Kiki says, “You do your best with your children but you don’t know if it’s working until they’re grown up and then it’s too late.”
It all ends happily for everyone, which is the most disappointing part of this movie. You like the characters, so you’re pulling for them, but the story still kind of wimps out making it a saccharine ending.
Be sure to stay for the credits where the actresses all sit with their real mothers and tell stories about each other.
As long as you're not easily offended by vulgar language, this is non-stop fun.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld has the patent on quirky and sophisticated work: the Men in Black series, “Get Shorty” The Addams Family movies and a very underappreciated television series, “Pushing Daisies.”
But he seems to have lost the manual with “Nine Lives.” This is a dubious premise, at best: a man finds himself transported into a cat’s body. Complications ensue.
Why this is a good idea is puzzling. Previous movies with talking animals include “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” ”Garfield,” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” Hardly great cinema
Kevin Spacey is the man, Jennifer Garner is the wife, but the first part of the movie is simply a collection of bad gags about cat, named Mister Fuzzypants. He tries to drink scotch. He tries to write a note. He crawls up walls and jumps across rooms and from one balcony to another.
It’s hard to believe people could really believe this script deserved to become a movie, especially someone as gifted as Sonnenfeld.
“Inferno,” flopped at the box office this weekend. It came in second in the box office race in its opening weekend. It finished behind “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” starring the gifted writer-director-actor Tyler Perry in a dress.
In spite of that, “Inferno” is intelligent, adult suspense entertainment, slickly produced and set in some glamorous locales throughout Europe.
Both director Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are back in top form with “Inferno” after experiencing some rough times.
Howard had stumbled with “In the Heart of the Sea” in 2015. Hanks tripped with “A Hologram for the King” earlier this but rebounded with “Sully” in September.
But now, they’re together in “Inferno,” the third movie based on books by Dan Brown and featuring Hanks as Harvard “symbologist” Robert Langdon.
“Inferno” is an intellectual popcorn movie, where the future of civilization is at stake. Just like in “Captain America,” the Batman or Superman movies, X-Men, or Spiderman. You get the idea.
But here, Langdon’s super power is his intellect.
This time the world is threatened by billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster, nicely done), who is worried about overpopulation. His solution is to unleash a virus that will eliminate most of the world’s population. It will not be pretty, but in Zobrist’s view, this is better because there will be enough natural resources to go around.
However, he leaves some clues and that’s where Langdon comes in. He wakes up in hospital. His doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) becomes his partner in their sprint across Europe to stop the release of the virus.
It’s easy to lose track of what’s going on because there’s lots of information that has to be covered. There’s a lot of talking, explaining secret messages and uncovering clues.
Fortunately, Ron Howard is a director who can tell a story in a straight-ahead style that presents a complex plot in a manner that can be understood. If the viewer gets somewhat confused, it really doesn’t matter, because the direction of the action is still clear.
Solid entertainment from a couple of pros-Howard and Hanks. Four Palm Trees. You won’t be disappointed.
FROM THE VAULT
Barry Sonnenfeld, who lost his way with “Nine Lives,” his work on “Get Shorty,” adapted from the Elmore Leonard novel is high-level entertainment in the story of a loan shark who comes to Hollywood and gets involved in the movie business. John Travolta, Danny DeVito and Gene Hackman head a suburb cast.
HOW WE RATE THE FILMS
Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommend.
New Releases are rated as follows:
Five Palm Trees: Must see
Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen
Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen
Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying
One Palm Tree: Save your money and your time.