Posts Tagged ‘Zoe Saldana’

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Guardians of the Galaxy

August 17, 2014

What seems to be an odd choice by Marvel Studios to follow up with their blockbuster “The Avengers” is proving to be a thrill ride. Marvel has tapped its long history and aree mining gems of stories that are continuing to be popular. While it would be nice to have tent pole titles like the “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four,” and “Spider-man” folded back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the success of the Marvel movies would not be possible without them.

It has given Marvel the means to take stories that many of us comic book fans grew up on and bring them to life. None of these movies were disappointing, as they breathe life to great characters.

For “Guardians of the Galaxy,” it expands the Marvel Universe to cover the world outside, where Thanos, the Chitauri, and other alienraces reside. It serves as a bridge to “The Avengers” and the ever growing continuity that the films share.

The film starts off with a young Peter Quill who witnesses the death of his mother due to cancer. His favorite belonging is a mixtape of his mother’s favorite music that she grew up with. Upon her passing, in anguish, he runs out of the hospital, and is suddenly kidnapped by aliens.

Over twenty years later, we find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) grown up and now part of the organization that kidnapped him, The Ravagers. He is seekinng an orb as part of his treasure hunting day job. He finds the orb he was hired to retrieve in an ancient ruin of a city. He is nearly stopped by Ronan the Accusor’s men. Ronan (Lee Pace) is trying to track down this artifact for Thanos (an uncredited Josh Brolin) who is secretly collecting these artifacts for his purposes. He sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the orb.

Quill, who is trying to sell the orb to his employer, is also hounded by his father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) who have been ate each other’s throats for some time. The sale does not go well,m as Gamora tries to take the Orb, while Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) had followed him and plan on taking Quill as bounty, put on by Yondu.

The whole capture ends up in a fiasco, and they get sentenced by the Nova Corps to the Kyln prison. Here their paths cross with convicted killer Drax (Dave Bautisa) who wants to use Gamora as bait to strike back at Ronan the Accusor for the death of his family and homeworld.

The group finally hatch a plan to escape and retrieve the orb to be sold to another buyer- Tanelee Tivan the Collector. The daring escape takes the group to Knowhere, the remaining head of one of the Celestials, an ancient being of the universe, where the skull had become a mine and home to many thieves and pirates. Herre the Collector had taken refuge with his vast collection,

Here it was revealed what was in the orb that was so important. It was one of the Infinity Gems that had immense power, used in ancient times to destroy worlds.

Upon learning where the Infinity Gem was, no thanks to Drax, Ronan retrieves the stone and infuses its power into his hammer. He then sets off to destroy Xandar, having been their mortal enemy- he blames them for the destruction of his people.

Having lost to Ronan, Quill sets off with Rocket, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and the Ravagers to go and stop Ronan, setting aside their persoanl issues and to something for the greater good. He managrs to unite this band of misfits to go after Ronan and stop his plans.

This film taps into the parts where we only got some ideas from about life in other parts of the galaxy, which was hinted at by “Thor” and “The Avengers.” It gives us a “Star Wars”/”Flash Gordon” like adventures with relatively unknown characters that are anything but two dimensional. This harkens back a bit to those grand space operas with just the right amount of drama, camp, and pathos to drive the story along.

The characters have scarred backgrounds that drive the to what they are. They choose to rise above that and face their enemies. They still do this while keeping their rogue elements. There is a lot of room for characters to grow and be defined, with more villainy and adventures to come. This overall is an entertaining, action-packed romp that leaves us wanting more.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

June 2, 2013

While visiting Seattle on vacation, I was able to meet cousin Calvin and his wife. We decided to check out the new “Star Trek” movie at the IMAX cinema in Lincoln Square, one of the several shopping areas in Bellevue, where I once worked. He was able to get tickets through a friend. I leapt at the chance to see the latest “Star Trek” movie, being a long time fan of the series and all of its different incarnations. I was not disappointed.

The IMAX screen was rather large. I felt like a toddler looking at a giant movie screen for the first time. I had seen an IMAX movie before, which was a rather dizzying display of motion picture. This was also special that it was in 3-D. So once again, I had to don rather uncomfortable glasses to watch the movie. They provided glasses that would make Urkel’s pair look kinda small. They also looked like they were washed in some sort of dishwasher.

After finding seats in the crowded theater, we donned our glasses to take in J.J. Abrams’ latest spectacle. I wasn’t disappointed with the movie until well after I had absorbed what I had seen. I was a tiny bit disappointed, as they used a few staples and lynch pins of the Original Series to retell how those events would now unfold in this alternate reality. I was hoping for some full blown original stories that would be fresh and invigorating, but alas, I was deprived of that. Still, I have to admit, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is a smart, rather well thought out sequel to the 2009 “Star Trek.”

The crew of the USS Enterprise, led by Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine), is on an away mission to save a primitive species from an erupting volcano. He and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) provide a form of diversion that would allow a shuttle crewed by Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Salanda) to drop off Spock (Zachary Quinto) into the volcano and detonate a device that would render the volcano inert.

Escaping the tribe, Kirk and McCoy returned to a submerged USS Enterprise, which was awaiting the away team to return. Having already violated the Prime Directive of non-interference with a developing civilization, the crew perform a rescue operation to a trapped Spock, managing to whisk him to safety just as the device explodes, instantly freezing the molten lava spewing forth from the volcano.

Upon returning to Starfleet on Earth, Kirk is relieved of his command for violating the Prime Directive. Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) resumes command of the Enterprise. He also makes Kirk his First Officer, still believing that Kirk would make a fine captain with some refinement and more experience.

While the Enterprise crew stands down during the change of command, we switch scenes to where a set of parents are visiting a sick child. Despite the great advances in medicine, the child lay dying. A mysterious man makes a proposal to save the child’s life.

The child is saves as the mysterious man provides her with a small amount of his blood. Her vital signs improve greatly. The father agrees to perform what he was asked to do. He enters what appears to be a vast vault somewhere in future London. He reports for duty like normal, only when he sits at his desk, he sets off an explosion that destroys the vault.

This triggers a high alert status at Starfleet, gathering the available commanding officers for a meeting to capture the identified terrorist, a former Starfleet officer named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk narrowly figures out what Harrison’s next move was- to attack the commanding officers of Starfleet. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) was able to survive the assassination attempt, but Pike was not.

This leads to a manhunt for John Harrison, where Kirk volunteers to take command of the Enterprise and track Harrison, who had escaped to Q’uonos, the home planet of the Klingons. Already threatening war with the Federation of Planets, this was the last place Starfleet could go. Arming the Enterprise with 72 specially designed torpedoes, they set off for the Neutral Zone to infiltrate the planet. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy discuss the mission and its ethics, while Chief Engineer Scott (Simon Pegg) resigns commission over not being permitted to inspect the new ordinance.  Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is sent to replace him as Chief Engineer.

Using a confiscated smuggling ship, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura travel to Q’uonos to track John Harrison’s location. They are spotted by a Klingon patrol and must evade them in order to capture Harrison. Eventually they are cornered by the Klingons and forced to land.

In an astonishing change of events, Harrison takes on the Klingon patrol group single handedly, wiping out the troops with little effort. He abruptly surrenders upon learning that there are 72 warheads specifically targeted at him. He is taken on board the Enterprise and held in the brig. He reveals his true identity and his involvement with Admiral Marcus, who has been the focus of his attacks. We also learn that the 72 torpedoes were in fact his crew, cryogenically frozen in chambers disguised as such to be brought on board the Enterprise.

Admiral Marcus intercepts the Enterprise in the Vengeance, a Dreadnought class ship, aware that Kirk and his crew had captured Harrison. Kirk refuses to hand over Harrison to Admiral Marcus, as he is aware of his plans of starting a war with the Klingons with Harrison’s help. The Enterprise warps away towards Earth, but is outmatched by the Vengeance’s superior power. With the Enterprise crippled, Kirk offers Admiral Marcus the lives of Harrison and the 72 frozen ones in exchange for the life of his crew. The Admiral refuses the offer and has the Vengeance’s weapons trained on the Enterprise.

Anymore explanation of the storyline would spoil the movie and many of its little gems- nods to the Original Series, the suspenseful battle between a hot-headed captain and a war mongering Admiral, and how the mysterious figure of John Harrison plays both sides in order to get what he wants. This is not a suspenseful battle at sea, where one captain squares off with another. This is a beat down of one captain by another for his own sinister means. It also deals with the enemy from within, as the character of John Harrison plays both sides to get what he wants- the freedom of his crew.

As far as I’m concerned, Benedict Cumberbatch steals every scene that he is in. His John Harrison is absolutely ruthless under a guise of poise and serenity. His intensity is subtle, just under the surface of that serene façade. I made myself familiar with Cumberbatch’s work in the hit BBC series “Sherlock,” and found it to be intense, focused, with just the right amount of pastiche. He is brilliant as the mysterious villain.

I am also glad to see Peter Weller in a film, as I have not seen him in much of anything since his turn in “Naked Lunch.” His turn as Admiral Marcus reminds me of Ed Harris’s villain from “The Rock,” where he seemed to have the best intention for his men and what he wanted to accomplish. Weller proves to be fit for the role with just the right amount of charisma to be a leader, and the intensity to be that militant wagering that war is the better solution. I wanted more of him in the movie, even more scenes with him manipulating events his way would have been great.

The overall story was promising until some of the secrets were revealed. It was quite entertaining at the time with all the suspense and action. The movie kind of lets you down a bit at the end, kind of rehashing a bit from the Original Series. While it was a unique view with some role reversal going on, it failed in the fact that it was something we have seen before and wished there was some originality. Even having some of the key pieces be of original material would also be a welcome change.

Still, this movie was loaded with thrills and suspense. It was witty, sharply paced, and rife with acknowledgements to the Original Series. I only wished it used more original figures in the story and not had to rely on those elements. It was a great character piece where we get to see the ‘new’ Enterprise crew continue to form their family. I hope that their new five year mission would bring fresh new stories without the chains of the Original Series. I want to see the ‘new adventures’ of the Starship Enterprise. This is the launch pad for that, and it was great.