“Star Trek Into Darkness”
Everyone knows director J.J. Abrams has taken control of the “Star Wars” revalidation campaign. His resume is proof to the magic this man can make. Look what he did with Tom Cruise in the last two “Mission Impossible” films. In this reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise, he threw out the mold of making films for Trekkies and began making movies everyone enjoys. His formula for success is easy – surround yourself with writers you trust and cast the right people for the job. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and John Cho are a solid crew for the Enterprise. And pulling in the versatile Englishman Benedict Cumberbatch as a villain is a great move. This film continues the revisionist take on the “Star Trek” universe, paying homage to the original material, while braving new ground. The action is tight and Spielbergian. The characters are built solidly but left with room for growth for future films. All in all, this film may’ve been overshadowed by the news of Abrams’ attachment to “Star Wars,” but it illuminates how perfect Abrams and his team are to make something great out of something overdone – really worth a watch.
“Now You See Me”
Let’s forgive director Louis Leterrier for his horrible remake of “Clash of the Titans” in 2010. Let’s look instead at his commendable attempt at making a likable monster in “The Incredible Hulk.” That film should be seen as the bridge to this film – an action movie about magic. And abracadabra, he has a hit, mostly because of the cast. The list of actors has a little of everything – the quirky and interesting Jesse Eisenberg, the always credible Mark Ruffalo, the recently resurgent Woody Harrelson, the picky Isla Fisher, Dave Franco (James’ brother), the illustrious Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. The filmmakers also throw in Melanie Laurent, who was a standout in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which had a cast of standouts. Sure, it has its share of illogical tricks, but in the end, it pulls a worth a watch status out of its hat.
Actor Chris O’Dowd has made an early career of supporting strong women casts. He’s probably best known for his roles in “Bridesmaids” and HBO’s “Girls.” But the Irish actor is beginning to make his own path, recently getting his own HBO show, “Family Tree.” But here, he’s back to helping out the ladies, playing the manager of an Australian Aboriginal girl group. Based on a true story, this girl group was converted from a couple of young ladies singing country songs into women traveling around Vietnam to perform for the troops. The real star of the film is the music. Scenes get set up just to highlight another great soul song from the sixties. The other notable member of the cast is Jessica Mauboy, a bit of a phenomena down-under. She was a runner-up on Australian Idol, like an Aussie version of Jennifer Hudson. The soundtrack and perky performances make this one worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge