New Releases for the Week of November 18, 2011


November 18, 2011

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1

(Summit) Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Maggie Grace. Directed by Bill Condon

It’s the beginning of the end of one of the most successful film franchises of the last decade. Few other pop culture items have polarized audiences as much as this. Young girls and their moms are rabid about it to the point of obsession. Young boys and their older brothers hate it with a passion as if the makers of the Twilight series burned their comic book collection or something. In any case, the wedding between Bella and Edward finally takes place, leading to a complication that threatens not only Bella’s life (as always) but also the fragile peace between vampire and werewolf.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, featurettes, promos and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Rating: PG-13 (for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements)

Happy Feet 2

(Warner Brothers) Starring the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon. Mumble, the dancing penguin from the first movie, now has a son of his own who is finding that he has two left feet. Like his father before him, Erik must now find his own way and his inner muse. However he might not get the chance as forces greater than he could have imagined put their world in peril and all the creatures of Antarctica will have to stand together – or fall separately.

See the trailer and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and mild peril)

Like Crazy

(Paramount Vantage) Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Alex Kingston. A British exchange student nearing the end of her student visa falls in love with an American and determines to stay with him, even though it violates the terms of her visa. When she’s caught and deported, the question becomes whether they will drift apart and find other people or if their love is strong enough to keep them together through the roughest of times.

See the trailer and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content and brief strong language)

The Skin I Live In

(Sony Classics) Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet. After his wife is burned in a terrible car crash, a renowned plastic surgeon searches to create a new artificial skin that might have saved her. The closer he gets to success, the more his quest spirals into obsession with consequences that are unforeseen and just as terrible. This is the new film by Spain’s pre-eminent filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for disturbing violent content including sexual assault, strong sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and language)

Fright Night (2011)


Fright Night

Colin Farrell doesn't take kindly to Anton Yelchin putting an explosive ketchup pellet in his Gatorade.

(2011) Horror Comedy (DreamWorks/Touchstone) Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing, Will Denton, Sandra Vergara, Emily Montague, Chris Sarandon. Directed by Craig Gillespie

In these modern times we generally don’t get to know our neighbors very well. We live in isolation, insulated by walls and fences and the Internet. Our neighbors could be the kindest, sweetest, gentlest people on earth…or the embodiment of evil.

Charlie Brewster (Yelchin) is a high school senior with a hot girlfriend, Amy (Poots). His mom Jane (Collette) is a real estate agent and lives with her son in a nice development on the edge of Las Vegas. Charlie has transformed himself from being a geek to being one of the cool crowd. In this sense, he’s leaving behind old friends like Adam (Denton) and Ed (Mintz-Plasse) whom everyone calls “evil” for unspecified reasons.

He also has a new next door neighbor, Jerry (Farrell) who works nights doing construction on the strip. As a day sleeper, he blocks his windows and gee, there’s an awful lot of construction debris and apparently nothing going on in the exterior or the yard. He is, however extremely hot as both Jane and Amy notice, not to mention flirtatious.

Evil Ed isn’t convinced. He’s been noticing that several kids have been missing from school and he believes that Jerry is at the heart of it. In fact, Ed thinks Jerry’s a vampire, which bemuses Charlie no end. However, when Ed threatens to publish some nerdy pictures of Charlie, he reluctantly agrees to join Ed to find out what happened to Adam, who’s among the missing.

Unfortunately, it turns out Ed was right and when Ed disappears, Charlie goes up to Ed’s room to see the “proof” he had of Jerry’s vampire-ness and when he does, Charlie becomes a believer. So much so that when Jerry invites a beautiful sexy blonde neighbor (Montague) who happens to be a stripper over, he calls the cops. Thus the war of cat and mouse games begins.

Charlie enlists  the aid of Peter Vincent (Tennant), a stage magician at the Hard Rock Casino who is a self-professed vampire expert. Charlie’s going to need all the help he can get against a demon that’s over 400 years old and is an expert in self-preservation. Charlie is horribly overmatched but he’s got to find a way to prevail if he wants to see his mother and girlfriend alive again.

This is based on the 1985 Tom Holland movie of the same name which had William Ragsdale and Chris Sarandon in the Charlie and Jerry roles, respectively. That one was appeared on cable regularly for years; it was actually a different kind of vampire movie with enough camp and gore to counterbalance themselves and certainly a refreshing relief from all the slasher movies that were all the rage then.

The acting is pretty solid here. Farrell is playing a role he was really born to play – a bad guy who can do horrible things with abandon, but all with a twinkle in his eyes, a drink in one hand and a woman in his arms. Come to think of it, maybe Farrell didn’t have to do a whole lot of acting.

Yelchin has yet to impress me – until now. He does a bang-up job as the heroic lead, a part he may not be used to. He did buff up a little for the role, although not to the point of ridiculousness; this is supposed to be a skinny high school kid going up against the undead, but you don’t want the fight to be unbelievable or TOO uneven. Yelchin succeeds in avoiding those pitfalls.

To me, Tennant – a former Doctor Who – is the show stealer here. He plays Vincent as a cross between Criss Angel and William Powell, liquored up and a bit of a self-important jerk and outwardly a coward but when it counts he has the heart of a lion. There’s a rock star quality to Peter that is nicely counterbalanced by his inner nerd.

Poots, Collette and Montague are all beautiful, sexy and smart in their roles. I guess it doesn’t hurt that the script was written by a woman – in this case, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” Marti Noxon. She brings the same hip quotient, quip repeatability and smarts to the movie that she did to the TV show. I don’t know that Joss Whedon, busy filming The Avengers at the moment, has seen this movie but if he has I have no doubt he’s proud of his protégé.

This is a highly entertaining vampire movie that may not go over well with the kids who love sparkling brooding vampires, but it does have nods to most of the vampire classics in one form or another – even in a backhanded way to Twilight. There is a crapload of CGI which varies in quality from seamless to noticeable.

There is an amazing chase scene in which Jerry pursues the Brewsters in their SUV which contains a lovely homage to the first Fright Night and contains some of the best stunt work in the movie. It’s a scene that obviously required meticulous planning, which is something I always appreciate from a filmmaker and so rarely get.

Fright Night is dying at the box office which is a shame. Hopefully people will pick up on how good this movie is on home video. It’s actually a clever movie that deserves a better audience than it’s apparently getting. Maybe if they’d only gotten Colin Farrell to sparkle…

REASONS TO GO: Smart, well-planned out and well-written. Very sexy where it needs to be. Great mix of horror and humor.

REASONS TO STAY: The gore gets kind of mind-numbing after awhile.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a good deal of blood, gore and horror violence. These vampires don’t sparkle after all; there is also a good deal of sexuality and sexual references.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Sarandon, who played Jerry in the original Fright Night and its sequel (via flashback) makes a cameo as the driver of the car that rear-ends the Brewster’s car and thus is the only actor to appear in all three Fright Night movies.

HOME OR THEATER: I think this is one to watch at home on a dark and stormy night.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT WEEK: The Last Station

New Releases for the Week of August 19, 2011


August 19, 2011

FRIGHT NIGHT

(DreamWorks) Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, Toni Collette, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Chris Sarandon, Lisa Loeb, Dave Franco. Directed by Craig Gillespie

Some high school seniors have it all, but Charlie has all that plus a vampire living next door. Of course, nobody will believe him so Charlie decides he’ll need to take out that infringing bloodsucker by himself before his mom and girlfriend become the latest victim of his next-door monster. Of course if all vampires looked like Colin Farrell, I don’t think Charlie’s women would mind being his victim all that much.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Vampire Horror

Rating: R (for bloody horror violence and language including some sexual references)

Conan the Barbarian

(Lionsgate) Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan. From the pages of Robert E. Howard’s legendary fantasy series strides a new version of the muscle-bound hero. Now wearing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sandals is Momoa in the titular role. Seeking revenge on the warlord who massacred his village and killed his parents, Conan finds himself embroiled in a war with the forces of evil with the very survival of Hyboria at stake.

See the trailer, promos, an interview, a featurette and web-only content here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity)

One Day

(Focus) Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott. On the day of their college graduation, two young people meet. The evolution of their relationship is examined by returning to see how the two are faring in their lives on the anniversary of their initial meeting – for twenty years in a row.

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse)

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World

(Dimension) Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven, Joel McHale, Antonio Banderas. The children of a famous spy-hunting reporter don’t get along with their new stepmom. That’s before they find out she’s a retired secret agent, one of the best ever. When a new megalomaniacal villain surfaces looking to conquer time itself, the kids and their now-unretired mom must face their foe to save the world – with a little help from the original Spy Kids themselves.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Family Espionage Fantasy

Rating: PG (for mild action and rude humor)

New Releases for the Week of May 20, 2011


May 20, 2011

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES

(Disney) Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Claflin, Stephen Graham, Keith Richards, Richard Griffiths, Roger Allam, Judi Dench. Directed by Rob Marshall

Cap’n Jack Sparrow returns after a five year absence and this time he’s going for the biggest prize of them all – the fabled Fountain of Youth. Many have sought this elusive goal but none have ever succeeded; then again, none of them are Captain Jack Sparrow! He’ll have to traverse treacherous waters to find his treasure this time – waters filled with mermaids, monsters, the British navy and the deadliest pirate of them all – Blackbeard!

See the trailer, clips, interviews and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard. 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Adventure

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action/adventure violence, some frightening images, sensuality and innuendo)

The Beaver

(Summit) Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence. A family man spirals into a deep depression, forcing his wife to kick him out. Despondent, alone, his life seemingly at rock bottom, he finds a hand puppet in a dumpster – a beaver. Somehow, this puppet allows him to begin to communicate and soon, allows him to become functional again. However as he comes back to life, the question becomes how much the man controls the puppet – or the puppet controls the man.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, some disturbing content, sexuality and language including a drug reference)

Incendies

(Sony Classics) Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette, Remy Girard. When their mother dies, the contents of her will send a pair of twins on a journey into the past of the woman they thought they knew. Each step of the way changes their perception of her – and of their own place in the world. This French-Canadian co-production was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for some strong violence and language)

Charlie Bartlett


Charlie Bartlett

Charlie and his mom sing the theme song from Harold and Maude.

(MGM) Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton, Mark Rendall, Dylan Taylor, Megan Park, Jeff Epstein. Directed by Jon Poll

One of the curses of humankind is our ability to forget as adults just how difficult it is to be a teenager. We forget what it means to be ignored. We forget what it is like to be unheard.

Charlie Bartlett (Yelchin) would seem to have an ideal teen life. He comes from money – a lot of it – and while his father is nowhere to be seen (his absence isn’t explained until near the end of the movie and giving you any detail about where he is would ruin the movie), his mother (Davis) is around, so to speak. She is popping pills and booze like there’s no tomorrow, so Charlie pretty much gets to do what he wants.

Predictably, what he wants is to rebel against authority and he gets kicked out of private school after private school until there are none left. The only alternative is (gulp) public school. Charlie approaches his new school with all the regard of a convict examining death row. His fears are soon realized. Charlie, hopelessly ill-equipped for public school survival, wears a tie and jacket to school and carries a briefcase. He might as well walk up to the school bully and announce “I’d like you to kick my ass at your earliest convenience.” Said bully, in the person of Murphy Bivens (Hilton), obliges him regularly.

Charlie’s mom, believing that her son could use a little guidance, sends him off to a battery of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors, who prescribe him a variety of drugs. Charlie hits upon the idea of distributing these to the student body through his new pal and business partner Bivens, who recognizes a good business deal when he sees it.

Charlie also soon realizes his contact with psychiatrists and such have given him a little knowledge of the subject, and his status as a teenager gives him further insight into the teen condition. Soon, he begins having therapy sessions in the school bathroom and the kids, eager to be listened to by anyone, are lining up to vent.

Charlie also develops an attraction for Susan Gardner (Dennings), a pretty and surprisingly well-adjusted girl who returns his affections. This doesn’t sit well with her dad (Downey), who is as crappy a father as you are likely to see in a movie – when he isn’t drowning his sorrows in the study. You see, Susan’s dad has a thankless, nearly impossible job – he’s the principal at the school attended by Susan and Charlie.

Naturally, Charlie’s little enterprise doesn’t sit well with the powers that be and soon things come to a head. Charlie’s struggles against authority and authority’s tendency to react poorly to a challenge to that authority may land Charlie in deeper trouble than he has ever been in before.

Most teen comedies these days seem to revolve around unpopular guys trying to score with girls way, way, way out of their league. The bulk of them are raunchy and sexy, so it is somewhat refreshing to encounter a comedy aimed at teens that actually treats them with some respect rather than as hormone-crazed infants. Charlie is a fleshed out character who, while sharing a great deal in common with Ferris Bueller, still manages to be one of the most memorable 17-year-olds I’ve seen onscreen in awhile.

It doesn’t hurt to have one of the best actors of his generation to play off of, and Downey as usual delivers. He has a fairly thankless role that doesn’t require very much of him until near the end of the movie, but when the time comes for Downey to shine, he does with a vengeance. Yelchin is not a bad actor in his own right when he gets a good role, and he has one here and he makes the most of it. Sure, sometimes Charlie is arrogant and foolish but what teenager isn’t?

Yeah, there are some definite flaws here. For one thing, the adults are entirely unsympathetic on a nearly universal level; I understand the need to reinforce that kids feel un-listened to but I think that if you’re going to give kids credit to be smarter onscreen, give them the credit offscreen to be able to understand that not all adults are insensitive to their needs.

Still, this is a movie that has some ideas to share and while they aren’t always successful, director Poll and his team are successful enough to allow me to recommend this to teenagers unreservedly and to adults somewhat less so – certainly adults aren’t the target audience here, but those seeking out some insight into the teen psyche could benefit from a viewing.

WHY RENT THIS: An insightful theme that hits the mark from time to time. Terrific performances from Yelchin and Downey.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Like many movies meant to appeal to teens, adults are seen nearly uniformly as unsympathetic and/or flat-out stupid. Script is uneven despite the best intentions of the writers.

FAMILY VALUES: A good deal of rough language, some drug usage and brief nudity make this unsuitable for children.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Hope Davis, who plays Anton Yelchin’s mom here, also played his mom in the 2001 film Hearts in Atlantis.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: The bathroom confessional scenes are re-created by the cast and crew.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Race to Witch Mountain

Terminator Salvation


Terminator Salvation

The sad fact of the matter is that T-800s suck at hide and go seek.

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, Jadagrace Berry, Michael Ironside, Linda Hamilton (voice), Arnold Schwarzenegger. Directed by McG.

The thing about the future is that it is largely unwritten. It is in many ways the undiscovered country that we all travel to together (sounds catchy, no?). Some of our biggest mistakes are made when we think we know what it holds.

John Connor (Bale) has every reason to believe he knows what’s going to happen. His mother Sarah was visited by a soldier from the future whose mission was to protect her from killer robots, called Terminators, from the same future who wish to kill her before she can give birth to a son, who will lead the human resistance to eventual victory in a war against Skynet, the sentient machine that murdered most of the human race in a nuclear horror known as Judgement Day.

Now, it is 2018 and the war is not quite going according to plan. Connor has a large following who believe he is a cross between the Messiah and a kicker of mechanical ass. He also has many who believe him to be delusional, such as the de facto resistance leader General Ashdown (Ironside) who leads the fight from a submarine.

Connor leads his team on a fairly routine mission to take out a Skynet research facility. He is supposed to retrieve a case that has a chip in it – or some such thing – and return it to the Resistance. However, in an unexpected twist you can see coming a mile off, a nuclear device detonates inside the facility, wiping out all of Connor’s crew, or most of them – some of them are back at camp. I think. Anyway, only one person gets out alive besides Connor (although he doesn’t know it at the time) – Marcus Wright (Worthington), a convicted murderer whose last memory was of his death by lethal injection. Now he’s awake and puzzled. He’s not the only one.

While Connor heads to the sub to yell at his superior officers about what was worth risking the lives of his men, Marcus walks towards Los Angeles across desolate roads covered with sand and dead cars. When he gets to L.A. he meets a Terminator who doesn’t take kindly to Marcus. Fortunately, Marcus meets the L.A. chapter of the resistance – a teenaged Kyle Reese (Yelchin), who is the soldier who will someday be sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor (are you getting all this?) and, not coincidently, become the father of John (the pain is getting worse) and a silent young girl (Berry) named Star whose sole reason for being in this movie is to be silent.

It turns out that the thing the Resistance needed from the research facility was a signal code that when broadcast turns the machines off. This could come in handy when trying to win the war. It also turns out that Skynet is collecting humans for some as-yet-undetermined purpose, and it captures Reese and Star, although Marcus gets away. He runs into fighter pilot Blair (Bloodgood) whose life he saves at least once.

Finally, it turns out that Marcus is a cyborg himself, whose purpose is as yet undetermined. It also turns out that General Ashdown wants to use the signal to turn off Skynet long enough to bomb the area into the stone age, which Connor objects to because he doesn’t want Daddy deep-fried before he can sow his wild oats in the past. What’s a Messiah to do?

As it turns out, yell quite a lot. Or talk in a strained whisper, as if channeling Clint Eastwood. If you had told me that the most one-dimensional portrayal of John Connor in the franchise would be delivered by Christian Bale, I wouldn’t have believed you but here it is. The mechanical terminators display more range than Bale here, which is surprising because he’s demonstrated that he is a terrific actor in other roles.

Of course, he doesn’t really have much time to display much of anything between action sequences. Director McG and writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris try not to dwell too much on story, instead relying on one action sequence after another. Granted, some of these action sequences are eye-popping, but by the end of the film they get a little bit overwhelming. I would have liked to have seen more balance between plot and action.

Sam Worthington does a reasonably good job as Marcus, which is a good thing although he is sometimes indistinguishable from Bale. Worthington, a veteran of Australian TV, has a high-profile lead coming this holiday season in James Cameron’s ambitious epic Avatar so judging from his work here, we can expect Mr. Worthington to be a big star. This is a good role for him to catapult into the limelight. There’s a pretty decent cast here otherwise, but quite frankly they don’t have a whole lot to do except to dodge explosions, yell a lot and look worried about the whereabouts of John Connor.

I’d be the last person to complain about too much action normally. I love great action sequences, cool special effects and big honking explosions. I also love the Terminator franchise, although I have to admit the last movie was less awe-inspiring than the first two. However, compared to this, Terminator: Rise of the Machines is much superior. That’s a shame because I had high hopes for the latest entry into the franchise. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. I honestly hope that the movie does well enough to justify continuing the franchise. I just hope they put a little more effort into the plot and characters and a little less emphasis on the pyro and CGI.

WHY RENT THIS: If you love action sequences, this movie is chock full of them. Worthington is a big star in the making. Some of the CGI here is breathtaking.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Bale’s performance is one of the least successful of his career. Emphasis on action comes at the expense of character development and plot.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of gruesome violence and scary monsters will make this too intense for young impressionable sorts.  

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: This is the first Terminator film without Earl Boen, who plays the cynical psychiatrist in the first three films.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: The single-disc DVD has no extra features. Nada. None. There is a 2-disc DVD edition which is only available at Target which has 30 minutes of special features, undoubtedly some of which are on the Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray is in Maximum Movie Mode which utilizes the Blu-Ray features better than almost any other Blu-Ray on the market, with interactive access to nearly every featurette and info piece on the disc.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Miami Vice

Star Trek


Star Trek

Eric Bana gives Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto some hair care tips.

(Paramount) Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, Rachel Nichols, Faran Tahir. Directed by J.J. Abrams

Even icons from time to time must reinvent themselves, if for no other reason to remain relevant in changing times. That is even more true for those having to do with the future.

The Federation starship U.S.S. Kelvin is investigating strange readings at a black hole. To the surprise of the ship’s captain (Tahir), a gigantic spacecraft of unknown design emerges from the singularity and without any provocation at all, opens fire on the starship, crippling it. The captain is forced to come aboard the unknown ship and is escorted to its captain, a Romulan named Nero (Bana),  who proceeds to ask the Federation representative some rather odd questions, the strangest being what stardate is it. The answer drives Nero berserk and he murders the captain and once again opens fire on the Kelvin.

The second-in-command (Hemsworth) orders an evacuation of the doomed Kelvin, paying special attention to his wife (Morrison) who is in labor. He intends to join her, but the ship’s automated functions are out of commission, and they are needed to gain critical time for the crew of the Kelvin to make their escapes. He realizes with sickening horror that he must remain aboard to run the ship manually. The young lieutenant saves his crew by ramming the dying starship into the unknown spaceship, crippling its weapon systems and propulsion. The name of the young hero? George Kirk.

Years later, his son James (Pine), born the day of his death, is adrift in Iowa, drinking in dive bars, picking up every woman he can and generally just lashing out at the world. While attempting to pick up a pretty Starfleet cadet named Uhura (Saldana), he gets jumped by a number of cadets, holding his own for awhile before getting his tush handed to him until Captain Christopher Pike (Greenwood) stops the fracas and clears the bar. He talks to the young Kirk about his father, and the difference he made to the 800 lives that were saved by his sacrifice and invites Kirk to join the Academy.

At first Kirk is reluctant to join Starfleet but eventually relents. On the shuttle ride to San Francisco, he meets an irascible divorced physician who is joining Starfleet to rebuild a career that had been essentially stymied in his divorce. The medico’s name is Leonard McCoy (Urban).

Already at the academy is a young half-Vulcan named Spock (Quinto). Tormented by young Vulcans for his half-human ancestry, Spock elects to follow the Vulcan disciplines of logic and dispassion of his father Sarek (Cross) with the blessing of his compassionate mother Amanda (Ryder). Despite this, Spock elects to decline admission to the Vulcan Science Academy (the first Vulcan ever to do so) and join Starfleet. After graduating from the Academy, he devises the notorious Kobiyashi Maru test, the infamous “no-win” scenario.

In the meantime, a brash young Ensign Kirk is blowing through the academy in a mere three years, still picking up women wherever he goes including a beautiful young Orion ensign (Nichols) who has come up with a rather ingenious solution to Spock’s test, landing him in hot water with the Academy dons. Unfortunately, an emergency comes up that relates directly to Kirk’s past, one that will bring all the disparate elements and characters together and forge together a crew that is destined to become a legend, while a man from the future (Nimoy) holds the key to the lives of Spock and Kirk.

The Star Trek franchise has been in decline for several years now, with an over-saturation of product that eventually seemed somewhat formulaic in many ways. Star Trek reboots the franchise with the original characters as seen through fresh new eyes. Director J.J. Abrams balances a delicate line of maintaining the spirit of the original series while adding additional elements of action and epic scope. Thus his new re-imagining of Star Trek will please not only hardcore Trek fans but also more general audiences.

Electing to go with a cast of young actors while steering clear of big name actors (Bana as Nero is the most recognizable face in the show other than Nimoy, and Bana is nearly unrecognizable in any case), and they come through in spades. All of the major crew members (Cho as Sulu, Pegg as Scotty and Yelchin as Chekov, as well as Urban and Saldana) have extremely pivotal scenes and establish their characters nicely.

Much of the success of Star Trek rests on the shoulders of the two leads, and they pull through splendidly. Pine captures the essence of James Tiberius Kirk without the quirks and mannerisms of William Shatner. He nails the bravado, the charisma, the independence and the compassion of Kirk but at the same time manages to render him human and fallible. Like Shatner’s Kirk, he is rash and sometimes prone to egotism, but at the heart of him is his brilliant intuition and willingness to risk. Pine takes an epic character and makes him accessible.

Quinto, best known as Sylar on the hit TV show “Heroes” makes a marvelous Spock. He radiates icy calm that masks the boiling inferno below the surface. Spock is heavily conflicted but chooses not to come to terms with his conflicting natures; instead he subverts his more human aspects in favor of the Vulcan stoicism. Quinto also has an uncanny resemblance to Nimoy as a young Spock, and fills the boots more than adequately.

There are plenty of breathtaking special effects, not to mention some intense action sequences, the best of which is a parachute jump onto a drilling platform high in the atmosphere of Vulcan. Visually, this is a movie that will rock your world.

But is it Star Trek? That’s the question most Trek fans were hoping to have answered. I have to say, yes and no. The original television series in many ways was less action-oriented than this is. Yes, there were plenty of fistfights, phasers set on stun and epic space battles in the original, but the themes had to do with things that were important to series creator Gene Roddenberry; man’s inhumanity to man, racial tension, drug abuse, gender inequality and the supreme waste and ultimate uselessness that is war. Here, we are being re-introduced to the characters that the producers hope to rebuild the franchise with and the movie is more about that than taking on issues.

However, the foundation has been laid and hopefully in the future we’ll see stories more in tune with the high bar that Roddenberry set. Given the outstanding box office returns the movie had, it is inevitable that there will be at least one or two more installments in the movie series if not more. The action and special effects will get the bodies in the door; the characters will bring those bodies back for more. Abrams has hit a home run with the new Star Trek. Now, the question becomes can he do it again?

WHY RENT THIS: Breathtaking special effects and heart-pounding action sequences drive the movie. Young actors bring established characters back to life with fresh perspectives. Pine makes a fabulous Captain Kirk and could be a future star.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The overall tone that Trek-haters despised is still present here.

FAMILY VALUES: Some scenes of brief sexuality and some violence; also there is a nightmare-inducing creature during the Delta Vega sequence. Otherwise, fit for most young audiences (but not for the very teeny tiny).

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The seven years gap between this movie and Star Trek: Nemesis is the longest in the franchise history.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There are three different home viewing versions of this so far: a single-disc DVD which is essentially just the film, a 2-disc Special Edition DVD which contains some deleted scenes including Abrams’ take on the Klingons, and a 3-Disc Blu-Ray which contains a humongous number of featurettes, as well as a 360 degree view of various Enterprise and Romulan sets. There is also a feature on Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: Disney’s A Christmas Carol