Star Trek Into Darkness

Paramount Pictures

Rated PG-13 for intense violence

Kirk Matches Wits With Rogue Commander In Intergalactic Showdown

Stardate: 2259. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) has just been called on the carpet following an expedition to a primitive planet where, in the course of saving Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) life, he violated the Starfleet’s strict sanction against interfering with alien civilizations. Consequently, he is demoted in rank and summarily stripped of the command of the USS Enterprise.

He is replaced by his predecessor, Rear Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), who reminds his headstrong protégé about the importance of following the rules. Soon thereafter, however, Pike is slain by friendly fire in a gunship attack launched by John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a fellow officer ostensibly gone rogue.

The tragedy affords Kirk a second chance in the captain’s chair, as well as an opportunity to track down the intergalactic menace and to exact a measure of retribution for his late mentor. As it turns out, Harrisonisn’t really a disgruntled colleague but, lo and behold, the reincarnation of Khan, a recurring villain who has appeared before in both television and movie Star Trek episodes.

Here, the slightly tweaked character is the recently defrosted leader of a race of genetically enhanced super-beings who’ve been cryogenically frozen for a few hundred years. The pseudo-scientific explanation of his dormancy and revival is of less import than the fact that he’s just fled to Kronos, home of the Klingons, another regular nemesis of Captain Kirk and his crew.

Thus unfolds Star Trek Into Darkness, the 12th big screen adaptation inspired by the classic ‘60s tv show originally starring William Shatner. It’s also the second installment directed by J.J. Abrams, who oversaw the reboot of the sci-fi series in 2009. Truth be told, Abrams’ semi-autobiographical thriller Super 8, which he shot between Star Treks 11 and 12, proved to be a far more scintillating summer blockbuster than either of those.

At least he did reunite the principal cast, including the aforementioned Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, along with Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty John Cho and Sulu and Karl Urban as Bones. Are the special effects dazzling? Yes. However, the film’s fairly formulaic plot is apt to capture the imagination only of young’uns totally unfamiliar with Khan and the Klingons.

Still, die-hard Trekkies will probably appreciate all the inside jokes sporadically sprinkled into the dialogue for the benefit of loyal longtime fans. Overall, this safe sequel is certainly engaging and entertaining enough to recommend, though it fails to live up to the franchise’s daring, appointed mission “to explore strange new worlds” and “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 132 minutes

 

 

Venus And Serena

Magnolia Pictures

Unrated

Revealing Biopic Examines Roots And Rise Of World-Class Williams Sisters

Richard Williams was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he was left traumatized by having a railroad spike driven through his leg for refusing to behave deferentially towards a gang of white racists. Understandably, that experience played a significant role in shaping the youngster into the highly ambitious and fiercely overprotective father he would later become.

In fact, well before his daughters Venus and Serena were even born, he hand wrote a 78-page game plan for their lives. Its foundation was laid in childhood, where they would not only be homeschooled but forged into professional tennis players.

Achieving that dream would be no small feat, given that the girls were to grow up poor in Compton, an L.A. ghetto far removed from the privileged background considered necessary to compete on the championship level. Sadly, upon turning pro, rather than being immediately embraced by California crowds, elder sister Venus was called the “N-word” by local fans who preferred to root for her European counterparts.

Nevertheless, having been prepared by their dad for just such a reaction to the presence on center court, both young ladies miraculously managed to rise in stature on the circuit. All of the above is chronicled in captivating fashion in Venus And Serena, an intimate biopic co-directed by Michelle Major and Maiken Baird who were allowed to follow the pair around with a camera for over a year.

Besides detailing the ups and downs of the turbulent 2011 tennis season, this riveting and revealing documentary treats the audience to an intimate look at the close-knit sisters with the help of home movies from their adolescence. Featuring appearances by Chris Rock, Bill Clinton and Serena’s ex-boyfriend Common, this flick is at its best when Richard Williams is given the floor in archival footage to make audacious predictions about turning not one but two of his daughters into world-class tennis players.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 99 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening May 24, 2013

 

Epic (PG for mild action, scary images and brief rude humor). Animated fantasy about a headstrong teenager (Amanda Seyfried) who is magically shrunken and transported to a parallel universe where she is called upon to join forces with a band of diminutive warriors in an epic showdown between good and evil. Voice cast includes Beyoncé, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell and Pitbull.

 

Fast & Furious 6 (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, mayhem, violence and intense action). Latest edition of the luxury car franchise revolves around the gang’s reuniting to help a Diplomatic Security Service agent (Dwayne Johnson) thwart a conspiracy masterminded by a mercenary (Luke Evans) specializing in vehicular warfare. Ensemble includes Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster and Tyrese.

 

The Hangover III (R for sexuality, drug use, violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity). Third offering in the road trip franchise finds the wolf pack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha) returning to Las Vegas for another raunchy round of male-bonding hijinks. With Melissa McCarthy, Dr. Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Mike Epps and Jeffrey Tambor.

 

Before Midnight (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity). Minimalist drama directed by Richard Linklater with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprising their roles as lovers now on vacation in Greece in this character-driven sequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. With Ariane Labed, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick and Athina Rachel Tsangari. (In English and Greek with subtitles)

 

Fill The Void (PG for smoking and mature themes). Israeli drama, set in Tel Aviv, about a Hassidic bride-to-be (Hadas Yaron) who is pressured by her mother (Irit Sheleg) to break off her engagement and marry her widowed brother-in-law (Yiftach Klein) after her sister (Renana Paz) dies while giving birth to her nephew. With Hila Feldman, Yael Tal and Ido Samuel. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

 

A Green Story (Unrated). American Dream biopic about Van Vlahakis (Ed O’Ross), a Greek immigrant who came to the United States in the ‘50s with $22 in his pocket and proceeded to build an eco-friendly business into a multi-million dollar empire. Featuring Shannon Elizabeth, Malcolm McDowell, Roger Bart, Billy Zane and Annabella Sciorra. (In English, Greek and German with subtitles)

 

We Steal Secrets (R for profanity, sexuality and disturbing images). Whistleblower documentary about WikiLeaks, the anti-establishment website created by free-speech firebrand Julian Assange.

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