Tag Archives: Justin Lin

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

star-trek-beyond-poster-international

Star Trek Beyond, grammatically confusing title notwithstanding, is the solid albeit less ambitious third entry in the rebooted Star Trek franchise that began with Star Trek in 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013, both films I really enjoyed.

This time around, Fast & Furious 3-6 director Justin Lin has replaced Abrams, with Simon Pegg (Scotty) penning the script. Most of the cast is back, with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, and the late Anton Yelchin, in his final role, as Chekov (a name that, when yelled in an American accent during times of distress, which happens numerous times in this film, sounds a lot like an insult — you figure that one out for yourself). Unfortunately, as Alive Eve had a scheduling conflict, her character Carol Marcus from Into Darkness simply disappeared from the crew USS Enterprise. Joining the cast this time are Sofia Boutella as Jayla, an alien scavenger, and Idris Elba as the unrecognisable alien Krall.

The plot of Star Trek Beyond is very simple: The Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission after receiving a distress call. Stuff happens and basically the entire movie is spent on a barren planet against a powerful alien enemy. Each member of the main cast is dealing with something personal, and there are a few twists and turns along the way, but on the whole, there’s nothing mindblowing about the story.

The same can be said for the action. Justin Lin is essentially the director responsible for turning the Fast & Furious franchise into the juggernaut it is today, so you know he’s got a great feel for action. But the action sequences in Star Trek Beyond, while visually impressive, aren’t at the same level as the Fast & Furious films in terms of innovation and adrenaline-pumping thrills. The special effects are also in the same category — they are good enough to get the job done, though there are no jaw-dropping or memorable images.

These elements combine to make Beyond feel more like a glorified season finale of a TV series than a major cinematic blockbuster. Perhaps that’s downplaying the overall quality of the production, but both of its predecessors felt a lot more like event films, whereas this one came across as more run-of-the-mill and par for the course. And it shouldn’t have been this way considering that its US$185 million budget was equal to that of Into Darkness and US$35 million higher than Star Trek.

That said, despite the seemingly lowered ambitions, I still found Beyond to be a pretty enjoyable popcorn flick. The biggest reason is not the action or the special effects, but the chemistry and interactions between the characters. I’m not a Trekkie and have never been one, but I had a lot of fun watching the back and forth banter and camaraderie between the cast members, especially Spock and Bones, and Scotty and Kirk. By the end of it all, I found myself engrossed in the story and invested in their fate. Pegg deserves a lot of credit for the dialogue and bringing out the essence of so many of these beloved characters.

My biggest disappointment with the film was the character of Jayla, who seemed to have a substantial and pivotal role in the film judging from the trailers and the posters. And while she is important, she doesn’t quite live up to the expectations or the hype of her well-designed physical appearance. On the other hand, the villain Krall turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and that speaks to the imposing screen presence Idris Elba always brings to every one of his roles.

Ultimately, Star Trek Beyond is a well-made and very watchable third entry in a franchise that appears to be heading toward an inevitable decline. It’s not spectacular but it’s also far from weak. If future entries can maintain this standard — and they’ve already said there will be more — I certainly wouldn’t mind going on more of these adventures aboard the Enterprise.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Fast Five (2011)

Here’s the deal.  I’ve only watched the odd numbered films in the Fast and Furious series (being the original and the third one, Tokyo Drift), and it doesn’t bother me at all that I haven’t seen the other two.

I mean, they’re all the same — fast cars, hot girls and a loose crime plot that involves something no one really cares about.  But this fifth one, Fast Five, looked pretty good.  It has the original stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, plus some of the guys from the other films, including Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang (who died in the third film — the chronology is out of whack), Ludacris, and supermodel Gal Gadot (who literally looks like a smoking hot stick figure).  Most of all, it features Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as some supercop on their trail and the rumour was that he takes on Vin Diesel in one heck of a meathead showdown.  Sounds like a riot.

To be honest, I don’t really remember the other films of the series I’ve seen, probably because they were forgettable and crap (and I’m not into cars).  Which is why I am shocked to say that I thought Fast Five was pretty good, if you go into it knowing what you’re going to get.

This one has a bit more of a plot (just a bit more).  Paul Walker’s FBI agent dude is now on the run with Jordana Brewster, after having broken Vin Diesel out of a prison van (is it just me or does Vin Diesel look like a big, fat version of Mini-Me on steroids?  Nothing against him but I can’t take him seriously, whether it’s his hilarious voice or his attempts to be cool).  They need cash and some corrupt drug kinpin in South America has a lot of it.  Bingo!  Let’s rob the douche and ride off into the sunset.

Of course, it’s not easy, and in comes a bunch of characters from the previous films to help them pull off the job of the century.  As mentioned earlier, The Rock is brought in to hunt them down, and assisting him is a hot latino police officer played by Elsa Pataky (who is married to Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth).  There’s loads of action in this film — gun fights, chase scenes, heist scenes, hand-to-hand combat, car chases — and most of them were pulled off with expertise from director Justin Lin (who has been at the helm since Tokyo Drift).

It’s all outrageously ridiculous and very little of it makes any sense (it’s one of those films where people just gun each other down in the streets, they blow everything up in sight and people punch the living daylights out of each other without even getting a bruise) — but if you can put all of that aside and just go along for the ride, Fast Five is an enjoyable treat that’s fun, cheesy and a car lover’s wet dream.  The only thing I will say is don’t get your hopes up for the Diesel/Rock showdown — unless you like watching two all-beef patties tackling each other through walls and windows for a couple of minutes.

This is not saying much, but I think Fast Five could very well be the best one in the franchise.

3.25 stars out of 5

PS: Upon further review, it appears I’ve seen the fourth film as well, Fast and Furious.  There you go.  It’s not often that I don’t recall anything about a film I’ve seen.

PPS: Remember to stay after the credits — there is a little ‘twist’ scene with Eva Mendes (who is apparently in the second film) that gives you a decent indication of what the next film will be about.