REVIEW: STAR TREK (2009)

CAST

Chris Pine (Into The Woods)
Zachary Quinto (Heroes)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Simon Pegg (Paul)
John Cho (Total Recall)
Anton Yelchin (Alpha Dog)
Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days)
Eric Bana (Hulk)
Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: The Movie)
Ben Cross (Live Wire)
Winona Ryder (Little Women)
Clifton Collins, Jr. (Westworld)
Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Faran Tahir (Iron Man)
Jennifer Morrison (How I Met Your Mother)
Rachel Nichols (GI. Joe)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Brad William Henke (Lost)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Tyler Perry (Gone Girl)
Majel Barrett (Earth: Final Conflict)
Amanda Foreman (Alias)
Jimmy Bennett (No Ordinary Family)
Bob Clendenin (Scrubs)
Lisa Vidal (The Event)
Oz Perkins (Secretary)
Mark Bramhall (Annabelle Creation)
T.J. Storm (VR Troopers)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)

In the 23rd century, the Federation starship USS Kelvin is investigating a “lightning storm” in space. A Romulan ship, the Narada, emerges from the storm and attacks the Kelvin. Narada’s first officer, Ayel, demands that the Kelvin’s Captain Robau come aboard to negotiate a truce. Robau is questioned about the current stardate and an “Ambassador Spock”, whom he does not recognize. Narada’s commander, Nero, kills him, and resumes attacking the Kelvin. George Kirk, the Kelvin’s first officer, orders the ship’s personnel, including his pregnant wife Winona, to abandon ship while he pilots the Kelvin on a collision course with the Narada. Kirk sacrifices his life to ensure Winona’s survival as she gives birth to James T. Kirk.

Seventeen years later on the planet Vulcan, a young Spock is accepted to join the Vulcan Science Academy. Realizing the Academy views his human mother Amanda as a “disadvantage”, he joins Starfleet instead. On Earth, Kirk becomes a reckless but intelligent young adult. Following a bar fight with Starfleet cadets accompanying Nyota Uhura, Kirk meets Captain Christopher Pike, who encourages him to enlist in Starfleet Academy, where Kirk meets and befriends doctor Leonard McCoy.

Three years later, Commander Spock accuses Kirk of cheating during the Kobayashi Maru simulation. Kirk argues that cheating was acceptable because the simulation was designed to be unbeatable. The disciplinary hearing is interrupted by a distress signal from Vulcan. With the primary fleet out of range, the cadets are mobilized. McCoy and Kirk board Pike’s ship, the Enterprise. Realizing that the “lightning storm” observed near Vulcan is similar to the one that occurred when he was born, Kirk breaks protocol to convince Pike that the distress signal is a trap.

Enterprise finds the fleet destroyed and the Narada drilling into Vulcan’s core. The Narada attacks the Enterprise and Pike surrenders, delegating command of the ship to Spock and promoting Kirk to first officer. Kirk, Hikaru Sulu and Chief Engineer Olson perform a space jump onto the drilling platform. Olson is killed but Kirk and Sulu disable the drill. Despite their efforts, Nero launches “red matter” into Vulcan’s core, forming an artificial black hole that destroys Vulcan. Spock rescues the high council and his father Sarek, but Amanda dies.

As the Narada moves toward Earth, Nero tortures Pike to gain access to Earth’s defense codes. Spock maroons Kirk on Delta Vega after Kirk attempts mutiny. Kirk encounters an older Spock, who explains that he and Nero are from 129 years in the future. In that future, Romulus was threatened by a supernova. Spock’s attempt to use “red matter” to create an artificial black hole and consume the supernova failed, and Nero’s family perished along with Romulus. The Narada and Spock’s vessel were caught in the black hole, sending them back in time. Nero stranded Spock on Delta Vega to watch Vulcan’s destruction.

Reaching a Starfleet outpost, Kirk and the elder Spock meet Montgomery Scott. With the elder Spock’s help, Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise. Following the elder Spock’s advice, Kirk provokes younger Spock into attacking him, forcing Spock to recognize he is emotionally compromised and relinquish command to Kirk. After talking with Sarek, Spock decides to help Kirk. While the Enterprise hides itself within the gas clouds of Titan, Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Narada. Kirk fights with Nero and Ayel, killing the latter and rescuing Pike while Spock uses the elder Spock’s ship to destroy the drill. Spock leads the Narada away from Earth and sets his ship to collide with Nero’s ship. Enterprise beams Kirk, Pike and Spock aboard. The older Spock’s ship and the Narada collide, igniting the “red matter”. Kirk offers Nero help to escape, but Nero refuses, prompting Kirk to give the order to fire, dooming the Narada to be consumed in a black hole.

Kirk is promoted to Captain and given command of the Enterprise while Pike is promoted to Rear Admiral. Spock encounters his older self, who persuades his younger self to continue serving in Starfleet, encouraging him to do what feels right instead of what is logical. Spock remains in Starfleet, becoming first officer under Kirk’s command. The Enterprise goes to warp as the elder Spock speaks the “where no one has gone before” monologue.The story does what it needs to, the casting is great (especially Spock and McCoy), the effects are fantastic and Abrams manages to do character moments on the move so there’s hardly time to take a breath – oh and Simon Pegg is great as Scotty! Maybe the best thing is, die hards and newbies alike will all find something to like.

REVIEW: VANILLA SKY

CAST

Tom Cruise (Knight and Day)
Penelope Cruz (Grimsby)
Cameron Diaz (Bad TEacher)
Kurt Russell (Big Trouble In Little China)
Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl)
Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones)
Timothy Spall (Rock Star)
Tilda Swinton (Constantine)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Ivana Milicevic (Casino Rtoyale)
Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Mark Bramhall (Alias)
Brent Sexton (God Friended Me)
Laura Fraser (Breaking Bad)

MV5BMTU5NTUxOTkxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk0MzY2MjE@._V1_Vanilla Sky didn’t really have it easy in the year of its release. On top of being a Hollywood remake of the critically-acclaimed Spanish film, it also had to contend with the debut of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and the wider distribution of Nolan’s Memento — both of which generated buzz by accomplishing similar things in superior ways — earlier that year. Therefore, the field was crowded in the psycho-puzzle subgenre, and the twisted story of David Aames’ conflict of romantic pursuits and amnesiac murder mystery wasn’t, in a literal sense, anything new.MV5BMTU3NDE1ODA3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk4NTA4MTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Crowe tweaks the narrative, though, by emphasizing the protagonist’s legacy as the heir to a publishing empire, accentuating his recklessness with the business end of things and a general self-awareness of the tools at his disposal: charisma, wealth, and appearance. That makes it all the more intriguing to watch his casual tryst with clingy actress Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) evolve beyond his control, and to see it all deconstructed by a beautiful but comparatively commonplace dancer, Sofia (Penelope Cruz), who immediately steals his heart.MV5BMjAwMjc2MTg4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDM5MDM2MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1528,1000_AL_Cruise admirably embraces the understated commentary on his persona through his character’s carefree place of power and his thorny relationship with his father, with his easy charm and building anxiety driven by writer/director Crowe’s good-natured style of human interaction. An immediate spark ignites between his character and Sofia within, unsurprisingly, a cluttered celebration of the greatness of David on his birthday, and it stays credible throughout the film due to how Penelope Cruz’s down-to-earth wit and allure drags him out of the clouds, shaping into a poignant love story. The standout performance, however, emerges in Cameron Diaz with arguably the best turn of her career, encapsulating obsession and one-way affection in a beautiful shell that’s both sympathetic and unsettling, the cloud over David’s happiness.MV5BMTc4MjU0MDY4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzg1MTUyNA@@._V1_SX1522_CR0,0,1522,999_AL_Infusing ethereal tracks by composer (and wife) Nancy Wilson and Icelandic band Sigur Ros with classic and contemporary melancholy pop songs, director Crowe again uses his musical awareness to heighten the visual and dramatic tempo in Vanilla Sky. Instead of directly enveloping scenes in the feel of a time period or the clear emotional state of a character, however, his musical selection here transports the audience through the complicated space of David Aames’ mind, guiding the film in both similar and differing tonal directions to that of Amenabar’s original intents. Crowe’s attunement to sound mixes intriguingly with the growingly abstract nature of David’s telling of the events, embracing an attitude that’s somewhere between the earnest warmth of the director’s previous pictures and the disappearing grip on reality within David’s psychosis. Overt sentimentality does get in the way of establishing a consistent suspenseful mood, but that duality also becomes one of the film’s distinguishing attributes as the tone shifts between those margins.MV5BZDRkOGQwNWItZjQ1ZC00MjU0LWJiZTUtZWIwMjZkMTdhNWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Along the way, Cameron Crowe never lets the viewer forget that this is a narrative being spun by an imprisoned man in a latex mask, divulged to an inquisitive psychiatrist as he builds a case for David’s mental state surrounding a murder accusation. Paired with the evocative perspective of Braveheart and Almost Famous cinematographer John Toll, surreal cues emerge through the film’s visual language that suggest there’s more to everything than what we’re shown, where little details scattered about — photographs, drawings, even the mole on someone’s body — begin to play with the perspectives of both David and the audience’s trust level in him. It’s at this point where Vanilla Sky pulls the curtain back on what it’s really about, descending into the pandemonium of nightmares and unreliable narration through warped science-fiction that recalibrates just about everything that’s transpired thus far. Crowe doesn’t get carried away with it all, either, keeping a firm grip on what’s safe to be deduced and not as the film shapeshifts into a psychological thriller.MV5BZmQ0YmE1MTMtYWQ2ZS00ZDNhLWIzOTctNjk4YTQ1YmQzZDZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTI3MDk3MzQ@._V1_Vanilla Sky tumbles down that rabbit hole in a wild, slyly unsettling climax to the tragic mysteries of David’s life, both revealing the truth of what’s going on and inviting different interpretations to what it all means through layered clues, more flashes of images and whispers in the distance. It’s unsurprising that heavy emotion speaks louder than thematic lucidity in Crowe’s ending, the most divergent part of the film from the original; however, the bittersweet nature in how it feeds into the choice between moving on with one’s life or perpetuating an illusion says enough. Despite tiptoeing around some rather dark elements, it leaves the audience with a degree of cathartic optimism hanging in the air alongside swelling atmospheric music and painterly surroundings, yet there’s also the lingering sensation that everything hasn’t been, and won’t be, fully answered. Whether repeat viewings will bring that more into focus depends on the viewer, but thankfully experiencing the sweet and sour of David’s life is compelling enough to continue doing so anyway.