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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

While Tom Holland’s live-action Spider-Man character remains in limbo due to that infamous Thanos finger snap (even though we know another Spider-Man film starring Holland is being released next year, which is a bit of a giveaway), Sony Pictures has upped the ante on the Spidey franchise with the eye-popping, all-around-ingenious Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of 2018’s greatest cinematic surprises.

While there have been awesome superhero movies, and terrific movies based on comic books, this might be the best “comic-book movie” ever made. No movie has ever captured the rush of reading a great comic book like this blast from directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman. They go for broke with a mixture of visual styles—hand-drawn and computer-animated—that magically splash across the scene. The story is pretty great, too.

Miles Morales (the voice of Shameik Moore) is trying to adjust to a new, upscale school after winning a scholarship. He’s away from his big-city friends and getting some guff from his well-meaning police-officer dad (Brian Tyree Henry), who wants him to appreciate the chance he’s been given. Miles’ uncle (the ever-busy Mahershala Ali) keeps him grounded, encouraging him to continue as a graffiti artist. On one of their painting excursions, Miles is bitten by a strange spider and then, well, you know.

He eventually crosses paths with the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Chris Pine). As the plot would have it, parallel-universe portals open and allow in a whole fleet of different Spider-Men, Spider-Women, Spider-Pigs and Spider-Robots. That group includes Peter B. Parker (the invaluable Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (a mishmash of Spidey and Porky Pig voiced by John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot—and, best of all, Nicolas Cage as the black-and-white Spider-Man Noir.

So Miles is one of many Spider entities on hand to go up against Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), whose corporation is responsible for the time-hole rip. The reasons why are convoluted but discernible if you pay close attention. As with any good comic book, the movie is stacked with action, plot threads and many twists and turns.

I’m not a big comic-book collector, but I did go through a phase where I was reading graphic novels (often compilations of a comic series), and a few artists really grabbed me. I loved the artwork of Bill Sienkiewicz in an Elektra: Assassin series he did. Much of the art in Into the Spider-Verse reminds me of the work of Sienkiewicz and those like him; it’s comic art with a nice level of depth. Spider-Verse, to me, plays like every frame is a page out of those awesome graphic novels, edited together into a movie. There’s a slight jaggedness to the flow of the film; there’s almost a stop-motion feel to it at times. The film nothing anywhere close to a boring visual moment.

The movie is also very funny, poking fun at past Spider-Man movies and taking advantage of Johnson’s comic timing. Lily Tomlin voices a very different Aunt May, who is like Batman’s Alfred with a little more edge. Yes, there’s a Stan Lee cameo. When this is coupled with his animated cameo in this year’s Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, it’s clear Lee made some pretty great, unusual cameos in the year he left the planet.

While I enjoy Tom Holland as the live action Spider-Man, this sort of animated offering is more up my alley. I want more Spider-Verse. This is surely one of the best movies of the year, and the best Spider-Man movie to date. In fact, it’s one of the best animated films ever made. Yeah, it’s that good.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

A beloved novel gets absolutely slaughtered with A Wrinkle in Time, one of 2018’s worst movies—and an embarrassment for the great talents involved.

Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel was adapted by Disney once before with an also-lousy direct-to-video release back in 2003. The book has been bouncing around Hollywood for decades, with many attempts to bring it to the big screen being aborted. It’s a sad, sad thing that Disney finally took the plunge, dropped a lot of money (more than $100 million)—and came up with this mess.

Compounding the sadness would be that it is directed by Ava DuVernay, who made the excellent Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma. While that film had a cohesive vision, excellent technical credits and powerhouse acting all around, her new film has none of these things. It’s total chaos.

Crackpot dreamy scientist Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) is obsessed with interstellar travel, and believes that wrinkles in time could be used to travel light years through space. It’s never really established what he truly wants to achieve through such travel, but his obsession eventually leads to his disappearance for four years. He’s apparently traveling through the universe with no real way to get home, and no real sense of purpose.

A ragtag group of kids led by Murry’s oldest daughter, Meg (Storm Reid), and precocious adopted son, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), set out on an ill-conceived journey to find their dad, accompanied by Reese Witherspoon as crazy Mrs. Whatsit; Mindy Kaling as eccentric Mrs. Who; and Oprah Winfrey as the ponderous Mrs. Which. Mrs. Whatsit speaks fast; Mrs. Who speaks quirkily; and Mrs. Which talks really slow. That’s this film’s best attempt at humor and distinguishable characters.

The journey leads them through various, horribly designed set pieces and terrible, candy-colored CGI. When movie magic is present, art direction, cinematography and editing combine to transport viewers into new worlds and visions. In Wrinkle, these things combine to look like a bad office costume party, at which somebody spiked the brownies with bad weed.

The film seems poorly planned from its very first scenes, as if the director really had no idea what to film or how to film it. It’s abundantly clear that many of the sequences didn’t get enough coverage shots, so nonsensical editing is constantly occurring over dialogue that doesn’t match the actions. Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler totally blows it in the lighting department, opting for a dull sheen on the movie. The sets and costuming/makeup are laughingly bad, reminiscent of the eyesores that were Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movies.

A prime example of the elements not coming together would be early scenes in which Oprah is supposed to be a giant. DuVernay employs a mixture of forced perspective and green-screen effects that keep Oprah disconnected from her fellow performers. She probably rarely shared a studio with them, and the finished product makes it seem that way. Her character just looks like it’s roaming around in its own realm, even though she’s actually talking to others.

Zach Galifianakis shows up as … well, I’m really not sure what the hell he is supposed to be. I just know he looked and sounded stupid. The same can be said for Michael Peña. Witherspoon at least tries to be fun in her thankless role—although she’s not fun at all. I’m just saying it’s evident she tried to be fun, while Kaling, like Oprah, looks totally lost.

Now that I’ve watched the film, I’m not sure what happened or what was supposed to be happening. Perhaps A Wrinkle in Time is a novel that was, is and always shall be unadaptable. It’s admirable that DuVernay and crew took a stab at such a cherished, complicated work.

Actually, no … forget about that. They should’ve left this material alone, and their finished product is proof it was a project well beyond their capabilities. When they saw the script, they should’ve ran far, far away. I was angry while watching it, and I’m even angrier here while recapping it. Movies this bad should never happen—especially with this level of talent involved.

A Wrinkle in Time is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

The DC Universe gets the blast of fun it sorely needed with Wonder Woman, a film that gets it right in almost every way—including a performance from Gal Gadot that makes it seem like the role is her birthright.

Gadot lights up the screen and commands the camera on the same level as Christopher Reeve and Robert Downey Jr. She simply is Wonder Woman; I can’t picture another actress even attempting to play the character. She owns it. It’s hers. Game over.

There’s always a faction of fans who bitch about superhero-origin stories, who want films to jump straight to the hardcore action, but I love a good origin story done well. The movie starts with young Amazonian princess Diana running around her island paradise, practicing her fight moves and yearning to be trained as a warrior. After butting heads with her sister, Antiope (Robin Wright, rightfully cast as an Amazonian badass), Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, yet another piece of great casting), relents, and allows Antiope to train her niece—as long as Antiope doesn’t tell Diana about the true powers Diana possesses. For those who don’t know the Wonder Woman back-story (I was a little rusty on it myself), it’s a sweet piece of mythology and mystery, and director Patty Jenkins (who made the Charlize Theron Oscar vehicle Monster) perfectly paces all the revelations.

Diana eventually winds up in Europe during World War I along with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a wartime spy who crash-lands on her island. Diana is convinced that the German military leader who Steve is fighting (Danny Huston) is the war god Aries, and she intends to take him out. This all leads to miraculously cool scenes of Wonder Woman leading soldiers on the battlefield against the Germans, and it’s nothing short of exhilarating.

Gadot has the best superhero smile since Reeve flashed his pearly whites in the original Superman (1978). When Reeve smiled, he drove home the fact that he was the sweetest, best darned guy running around on planet Earth (you know, back when Superman was generally happy rather than constantly moping about). Gadot has that same kind of smile superpower.

It says a lot that Gadot and Jenkins make you feel good in a movie with a lot of violence and villainy. Huston is a super-creep, and his evil sidekick, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), likes making poisonous gas—and there are moments when her evil-doings are flat-out terrifying. Yet no matter how dark the film gets, it remains an overall upbeat experience.

However, the film is not perfect. There are some occasional terrible CGI special effects, although there are enough stellar effects to balance things out. Still, maybe this movie needed a few more months in post-production, because the shoddy moments are glaringly obvious. They don’t come close to spoiling the movie, but they keep it short of excellent.

Pine is a total charmer as the confused spy who winds up romancing a goddess—a love story handled in a way that is surprisingly convincing and quite adorable.

Perhaps some of the joy in this movie will make it into November’s Justice League, or future Superman movies. (Hey, Batman can mope … that’s his lot in life.) Wonder Woman gives the DC superhero crew a new lease on life, and offers the summer movie season the adrenaline boost it needed after the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie stunk up the place.

After all these years, and all sorts of failed attempts, Wonder Woman has finally gotten her chance to rule on the silver screen. Gadot takes that chance and soars. May she have many more adventures as fun as this one.

Wonder Woman is playing at theaters across the valley in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster are simply amazing in Hell or High Water, a terrific modern Western from director David Mackenzie.

Pine and Foster play two brothers who devise a bank-robbing scheme to save the family farm; Bridges is the soon-to-be-retired sheriff trying to stop them. Pine takes his career to a whole new level with his work here; he disappears into his part, making us forget he’s Captain Kirk. Foster, an actor I couldn’t stand when he was younger, gets better and better with each film; this is his best work yet. Pine’s Toby is supposedly the more sensible brother, while Foster’s Tanner is the nut. However, those roles sometime switch, and the acting by both makes it mesmerizing to watch.

What else can you say about Bridges at this point? He’s one of the best actors to have ever walked the Earth, and Hell or High Water further cements that fact.

Mackenzie, whose most notable prior film was the underrated Starred Up, takes a step into an elite class with this one. His staging of car chases and manhunts is nerve-shredding.

This is a movie without a bad frame in it. It’s a masterpiece—one of only a few to be released so far this year.

Hell or High Water is now playing at the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews

While Star Trek Beyond could use more soul and a more cohesive story, the film scores high on the zip factor, and introduces a creepy new villain. The latest film in the franchise’s reboot might be the weakest of the three featuring the newish cast, but it is still a lot of fun.

J.J. Abrams stepped down to direct his revamped Star Wars, relegating himself to a producer’s role. In steps Justin Lin, best known for making cars jump between skyscrapers in the Fast and Furious franchise. It’s no surprise that Lin’s take lacks a certain depth that Abrams managed to bring to his two installments. It’s also not a surprise that some of the action scenes motor along with the efficiency of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

The film picks up with James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew in the midst of their five-year mission. Kirk (as he was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is starting to get a little bored. He’s up for an admiral’s position, and might soon find himself grounded to a desk job.

The movie has barely started up when the U.S.S. Enterprise is attacked by thousands of marauding spaceships, and the crew finds itself shipwrecked on a sparse planet inhabited by few other beings. Unfortunately, one of those few would be Krall (Idris Elba), a nasty-looking alien with evil intentions involving an ancient weapon. The crew must reform to band against Krall, get off the foreboding planet, and save the Federation.

Star Trek Beyond is basically Star Trek on steroids, with crazy action sequences involving motorcycles and thousands of ships rather than just a couple of ships squaring off against one another. Some of this action is top-notch, but occasionally hard to follow, thanks to the editing style Lin employs.

One of the script’s greater aspects isolates the grumpy Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) on the planet with his spiritual nemesis, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Spock is dealing with some awkward news: Spock Prime, a parallel-universe version of himself, has passed away. So he’s dealing with the realization of his own mortality in a most bizarre fashion. (The movie offers a touching tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, as well as the rest of the classic Trek cast.)

This, of course, will be the final journey for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, who has a formidable role in this installment. It’s actually a little hard watching the movie when Yelchin is onscreen: It’s strange knowing this excellent young actor has left the planet.

There are times during all of the chaos when it’s hard to connect the dots and comprehend what exactly is going on with the story. There are many subplots at play (Kirk’s spiritual dilemma, Spock’s relationship with Uhura, Bones’ perpetual grumpiness, etc.) along with the Krall confrontation, and portions of it don’t make a lick of sense.

Those portions, however, are often wiped out by the film’s firepower, most notably during a space battle that deftly utilizes Kirk’s favorite Beastie Boys song. (Yes, Adam Yauch helps save the universe.)

This new film has a lot in common with the campy TV series, and has a throwback element to it. Your enjoyment of this chapter probably hinges upon whether you prefer the old TV show or the movies. While some of the goofier plot elements do recall old-school Trek, the action sequences definitely have a more Fast and Furious, modern feel. I was half expecting Vin Diesel on the bridge in a wifebeater.

The next chapter is reportedly in the works, and supposedly aims to bring back Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s dad. While I’m glad to see Justin Lin didn’t totally blow his chance at the Star Trek helm, I’d like to see somebody with a more nuanced touch take a stab next.

Star Trek Beyond is playing across the valley in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

I haven’t been on a boat in many, many years. After seeing The Finest Hours, I have no need to be on a boat in many, many more years.

In 1952, an oil tanker called the Pendleton split into two during a blizzard off the coast of Cape Cod. The eight crewmembers who were in the stern perished; 33 men initially survived in the bow section of the ship.

Upon hearing news of the situation, a four-man crew boarded a smallish Coast Guard 36500 lifeboat and set out in the midst of the storm to assist the Pendleton crew.

Director Craig Gillespie has crafted an exciting movie about the sea—that is, it’s an exciting movie when the action is actually on the sea. Unfortunately, some of the stuff that happens onshore bogs down the movie in schmaltziness. That’s OK: The action sequences, and the performances during those sequences, put The Finest Hours over the top as worthy entertainment.

Chris Pine plays Bernie Webber, who captains the tiny boat tasked with saving more than 30 men. Yes, this means the guy who plays Captain Kirk gets to be called “captain” a lot during the course of this film. It’s a slight distraction, but a good one nonetheless.

As Ray Sybert, one of the unlucky fellows aboard the Pendleton, Casey Affleck is rock-solid as the man who takes charge in the face of great peril. When some crew members think it’s a good idea to board the lifeboats in the middle of gale-force winds, Sybert gives them a demonstration that renders that option moot. Affleck, one of the more underrated actors in the biz, offers the film’s best performance.

Unlike the dreadful In the Heart of the Sea that Ron Howard shat into the ocean last year, The Finest Hours packs a major, exciting action punch with a lot of water. I haven’t felt this freaked out watching people ride into slamming waves since Wolfgang Petersen tortured Clooney and Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm.

Chris Pine rides into the belly of the beast with three crewmembers played by Ben Foster, John Magaro and Kyle Gallner. All four are terrific at looking scared shitless while being drenched and bounced about. When the action covers their voyage, or Affleck struggles aboard the sinking vessel, the movie is top-notch.

Sadly, Gillespie feels the need to make this a love story, too. Holliday Grainger plays Miriam, Bernie’s new girlfriend, and her face-offs with Bernie’s commander (Eric Bana with a distracting accent) at Coast Guard HQ are tiresome stuff. Bernie and Miriam’s courtship is actually kind of sweet in the early part of the movie, but their love story becomes nothing but an unwelcomed distraction once waves start hitting Bernie’s boat.

The film looks and plays like a movie that could’ve been shot in black and white. Some of the faces in this film (especially Foster’s face) have an old-timey look; there were times when I was expecting one of the Bowery boys or Humphrey Bogart to show up and lend a hand.

Pine comes to life when his character is out at sea, but his stilted choices back onshore seem almost gimmicky. He’s very charismatic in most of his roles, yet the sheepishness he portrays on dry land feels forced and overdone. He salvages his work during the action sequences for sure, but the movie does feature some of his career-worst work at times.

If you are looking for a good sea movie with a decent love story, your best bet is still Titanic. The Finest Hours is no masterpiece, but it gets the job done. 

The Finest Hours is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Three people and a couple of dogs try to figure things out in a post-apocalyptic world during Z for Zachariah, a strong acting exercise featuring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine.

Ann (Robbie) has been living a solitary life ever since a nuclear war wiped out the world’s population. She still lives on her father’s land, a place mysteriously immune from radiation clouds. With her trusty dogs by her side, she tills the land, hunts for game and longs for company.

That company comes in the form of Loomis (Ejiofor), whom she rescues after he takes a dip in a radioactive pond. After scrubbing him down and nursing him back to health, the two form a bond with romantic inclinations. Is their budding relationship something that would’ve happened under normal circumstances, or is it just a product of them apparently being the only two people left in America?

Robbie and Ejiofor are a decent pair. As the slightly jumpy Loomis slowly recovers, he helps Ann get her tractor started by figuring out how to manually get gas out of electric pumps. He likes the way she cooks fish; she likes the way he provides company. They’ll probably get fake-married and repopulate the Earth, right?

That question is pushed to the forefront when Captain Kirk himself shows up, all scruffy-looking and puppy-like. His name is Caleb (Pine), and he’s exactly what most God-fearing farm girls left alone would like to have show up at their doorstep. He’s gorgeous—and he says grace before a meal. He escaped from a mine after the bombs went off, and may or may not have killed a few people to survive. Loomis sees him as a threat, and he starts to get a little jealous.

OK, he gets very jealous—and the jealousy doesn’t mix well with his paranoia that Ann will eschew him because Caleb is white, and he is black. It’s also not helping matters that he wants to tear down the church Ann’s dad built in order to get wood to make a watermill. His need to provide electricity for the winter is creating a little friction.

There’s some male bonding during a turkey hunt and the deconstruction of the church, but it becomes increasingly clear that the farmhouse isn’t big enough for both men. It’s only a question of who will blink—or shoot—first.

The movie suffers a bit on the logic side: The characters walk around with no radiation suits or protection on their farm, but they get all geared up when they are a mere few hundred yards away, in town. Still, it’s a movie acted so well that you’ll forgive the silliness and inconsistencies.

Robbie, who has given some amazing performances in the recent past in The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus, provides a sweet, grounded center for the movie. She makes a rather unlikely person seem altogether convincing.

Pine, who shows off his comic side in the Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is great as the mysterious drifter who seems awfully nice, but just might kill you for your girlfriend. Ejiofor gives Loomis a nice twitchiness. He offers the film’s most memorable performance as a good guy who had a few brain cells fried by radiation. He’s just not all there.

The film plays like a darker, almost-humorless version of Will Forte’s TV show The Last Man on Earth, with a little bit of the dour Viggo Mortensen film The Road mixed in. See it for the excellent performances, but please ignore the post-apocalyptic practices in the film. Should you survive a nuclear apocalypse, wear your radiation suit outdoors for something like 10,000 years before traipsing around in your bathing suit.

Z for Zachariah is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

While the first Horrible Bosses got by on the charms of its three main stars, the second one falls a bit short.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have decided to go into business for themselves after the events of the first film. They wind up on TV pitching a stupid idea called the Shower Buddy, where they are seen by Rex (Chris Pine), the son of billionaire businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz). This leads to that, and the boys wind up in a kidnapping scheme involving Rex trying to double-cross his dad.

The screenplay strains to bring back Jennifer Aniston as the naughty dentist and Kevin Spacey as the embittered ex-boss. It also doesn’t help that Day and Sudeikis are a bit overwrought this time out; their acts are getting a little tired.

Bateman is easily the funniest thing about this movie—effortlessly smarmy, as always. I laughed a fair amount of times, but these characters would be better-served with all-new material and a new premise. I like seeing them together, but they need a new place to play.

Horrible Bosses 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

J.J. Abrams continues the great thing he started with his 2009 reboot of this beloved franchise. In Star Trek Into Darkness, he gives us more familiar characters from Trek history—but thanks to that ingeniously created alternate timeline, the people aren’t quite the same.

Benedict Cumberbatch is scary as a renegade Starfleet officer looking to kill as many commanders as possible while Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) chase him all over the universe. Peter Weller enters the fray as a power-hungry admiral, and Alice Eve is a welcome addition as his daughter, an Enterprise stowaway.

There are moments when Abrams goes a little overboard with his homage (I hate that tribble!) but it’s not enough to damage another worthy chapter in the franchise. In a year when the summer movie blockbusters were pretty weak, this, alongside Iron Man 3, was king.

For those of you who still don’t know the true name of Cumberbatch’s character, congratulations on making it this far. Get this sucker into your Blu-ray player before the big secret is blown—and don’t go checking out cast listings for the movie, either, because the secret will be revealed. It’s best to let this one surprise you.

J.J. Abrams will be directing the next Star Wars, which means his days of directing Spock and Kirk are probably over. He certainly made his mark on the franchise; in fact, his first effort is the best Star Trek movie ever made. I’ll put this one in a tie for second with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Special Features: A bunch of short featurettes are included on the Blu-ray. To get an exclusive director’s commentary track, you have to purchase this via digital download on iTunes.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

When director J.J. Abrams created the alternate timeline with his brilliant 2009 Star Trek reboot, it gave the franchise a chance to construct all new adventures for Kirk and Spock. It also gave Abrams the opportunity to mess around with variations on characters and adventures that we have already seen.

Such is the case with the exhilarating Star Trek Into Darkness, a movie that includes elements of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and “Space Seed” (a classic Trek TV episode).

The film starts with Chris Pine’s cocky Kirk getting himself into more trouble. He ignores Starfleet directives and rescues Spock (Zachary Quinto) from an erupting volcano, allowing a primitive alien species to set their eyes on a big UFO in the form of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Kirk gets demoted by Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), but keeps a relatively high rank thanks to his pal Pike pulling some strings.

Back on Earth, a bomb goes off in London courtesy of renegade Starfleet officer John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch); that same officer attacks a gathering of Starfleet commanders soon thereafter. He is pissed off, and anybody in a Starfleet uniform is his target.

Kirk and Spock find themselves en route to Klingon territory, where their homegrown terrorist has gone to hide. They have unorthodox directives from Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to target and assassinate the terrorist from the skies using torpedoes. (Echoes of drone targeting and the U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden, right?)

So … you have Klingons, terror in London, commanders getting attacked and volcanoes erupting with Vulcans in their belly. That’s a pretty damned good start to a sequel, no?

The true identity of Cumberbatch’s character might not come as a surprise. Heck, his real character name is listed in the cast on IMDB.com. As for me, I remained in the dark until some jackass uncorked a spoiler on the Internet a few weeks ago. Damn you, Internet reviewer. Damn you! The Internet is a fun thing, but it sure does wreak havoc on those fun movie secrets.

Abrams gets a little heavy-handed with the Sept. 11/War on Terror allegory, but he still keeps his movie effective, and even moving at times. As for his use of a tribble—the furry pests the Enterprise contended with in a famous series episode—it is my least-favorite part of the movie. The way the tribble is utilized makes no sense and feels like a stretch.

Abrams also oversteps a bit with pivotal late scene between Kirk and Spock that is a mirror version of an infamous scene in Khan. I don’t mind him messing with the Trek legacy, but keep it original. Bring back some famed characters, and hint at moments from franchise past, but don’t blatantly copy them. There’s a moment when Spock yells a particular word that got unintentional laughs from me.

Cumberbatch does a great riff on an old adversary, and his deep voice is one for the ages. He’s one of those anything-can-happen movie villains who is frightening, yet oddly virtuous. Weller gets his best role in years as Marcus, a flawed man with an imperialistic agenda that might have some people viewing him as the film’s real villain.

Alice Eve is another memorable new addition as Carol Marcus, the admiral’s daughter and a stowaway on the Enterprise. Some of you might remember a scientist from a previous Star Trek film with that same name. Well, from now on, you’ll remember Eve, who has an obligatory underwear scene that is right up there with Sigourney Weaver’s out-of-nowhere strip in the original Alien.

Pine and Quinto might not have you forgetting Shatner and Nimoy, but they have established themselves in their roles and can probably own them as long as they want. Zoe Saldana has many shining moments as Uhura.

Simon Pegg’s Scotty, John Cho’s Sulu, Anton Yelchin’s Chekov and, especially, Karl Urban’s Bones all contribute to the party. The Star Trek franchise gets the award for Best Reboot Casting.

If you see Star Trek Into Darkness in 3-D, know that this is retrofitted 3-D. It looks OK, but you are probably safe to take in the 2-D version (although the Abrams lens flares do look pretty cool in 3-D; the man loves his lens flare).

For a film called Into Darkness, there are many, awesome shots of the Enterprise during the day. It’s interesting to see a ship usually cloaked in darkness sailing around in daytime skies, and even going underwater at one point.

There’s a pivotal chase scene in which Kirk and Spock pilot a ship that has a Millennium Falcon vibe to it. That had me thinking about the next Star Wars, and what Abrams—who will direct—plans to do with it. Abrams has a grasp on major geek real estate with these two franchises. He’s, like, the Godfather of Geeks, and he could destroy all of us with a bad chapter in either series. He’s a powerful man capable of great good—or insurmountable evil.

Fortunately, he used his powers for good with Star Trek Into Darkness, a solid piece of summer entertainment.

Star Trek Into Darkness is playing in theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews