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1. World War Z (Paramount)

2. Iron Man 3 (Disney)

3. Now You See Me (Summit)

4. Epic (20th Century Fox)

5. Redemption (Lionsgate)

6. Pain and Gain (Paramount)

7. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount)

8. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.)

9. The Bling Ring (Lionsgate)

10. Oblivion (Universal)

Published in Video Top 10

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

1. World War Z (Paramount)

2. Now You See Me (Summit)

3. Pain and Gain (Paramount)

4. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount)

5. The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.)

6. Epic (20th Century Fox)

7. Empire State (Lionsgate)

8. Oblivion (Universal)

9. The Bling Ring (Lionsgate)

10. Disconnect (Lionsgate)

Published in Video Top 10

1. Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount)

2. Now You See Me (Summit)

3. Pain and Gain (Paramount)

4. The Great Gatsby* (Warner Bros.)

5. The Big Wedding (Lionsgate)

6. Oblivion (Universal)

7. Empire State (Lionsgate)

8. Tyler Perry Presents Peeples (Lionsgate)

9. Epic (20th Century Fox)

10. The Iceman (Millennium)

* Available for rental before Redbox and Netflix

Published in Video Top 10

Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators (Thursday, Sept. 5, Syfy), movie: It’s the last Syfy B-flick of the summer—and this one doesn’t live up to the idiot-genius of Sharknado. As you’ve probably guessed, Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators is about killer swamp-chompers; what you can’t possibly surmise is how they got that way: “Contaminated moonshine dumped in a Louisiana swamp turns the bayou’s gators—and the people who eat them—into deadly mutants.” Yes, alligators are a delicacy in the South—do you think Syfy just makes this stuff up? The “Sy” stands for syience!

Boardwalk Empire (Sunday, Sept. 8, HBO), season premiere: Last year’s psycho villain Gyp Rosetti has been dispatched; one of this season’s potential antagonists is a far-more-subtle kind of weirdo: Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker) isn’t just the newbie fed he appears to be; that’s all I’m sayin.’ Meanwhile, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) cautiously gets back to Atlantic City business; Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expands his biz in Chicago; and Nucky’s now-ex Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is nowhere to be seen in the season premiere—meaning there may not be a likable character left on Boardwalk Empire. It really is the new Sopranos.

The Million Second Quiz (Monday, Sept. 9, NBC), series debut: NBC has a handful of promising, could-be-hit dramas and comedies coming—so of course they’re kicking off their 2013-2014 season with a game show—a game show hosted by Ryan Seacrest, no less, because the space-time continuum will collapse upon itself if this gelled hobbit is off television for even a moment.

Sons of Anarchy (Tuesday, Sept. 10, FX), season premiere: Apparently, Tara (Maggie Siff) didn’t catch Orange Is the New Black before she was tossed in prison—the terrible haircut is optional. With his old lady in the joint, it’s up to Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to hold his motorcycle club together and take care of his two sons, with the latter mostly falling to the motley It Takes a Village crew of bikers and porn starlettes that makes up SAMCRO Daycare. Clay (Ron Perlman) is also behind bars, but probably not for long, as big bad Lee Toric (Donal Logue at his most menacing) is ready to strike any deal it takes to destroy Jax and the club for their inadvertent role in his sister’s murder. The 90-minute season opener, “Straw,” is so loaded with violence and cable-testing imagery—some inflicted on showrunner Kurt Sutter’s own recurring character, Otto—that it seems like Sutter and FX are practically telling moral watchdog groups to suck it. (The Only TV Column That Matters™ approves this message.)

The Heart, She Holler (Tuesday, Sept. 10, Adult Swim), season premiere: Between Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators and a second season of The Heart, She Holler, it’s an even worse week than usual for hillbillies on the TV lookie-box—or better, depending upon your social status. If only there were a mildly comedic way to tell if you might be a redneck. Anyway: When last we saw inbred man-child heir Hurlan (Patton Oswalt) and his jealous sisters two years ago, all was not well in the hick town; somehow, things have degenerated even further, as Heartshe has now become “the cosmic battleground of mankind’s final war between Pure Evil and Pure Awful!” TLC vs. MTV? I’ve waited so long for this … (single tear).


DVD RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 10!

Delete

When the Internet becomes self-aware and turns on mankind (just go with it), it’s up to a hacker-activist named Lucifer (Seth Green) to stop it. No, this isn’t a Robot Chicken sketch from 2007; it’s an actual miniseries that was on actual TV. (Sonar)

Homeland: Season 2

After not blowing up Washington, D.C., last season, semi-terrorist Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a U.S. congressman, and Carrie (Claire Danes) is out of the CIA—but will they be able to stay apart and out of danger? Oh, what do you think? (20th Century Fox)

Phil Spector

This shows the murder-trial life of music producer Phil Spector (played by Al Pacino and a dazzling array of wigs) and his defense attorney (Helen Mirren); based on true events but taken to ridiculous, fabricated extremes. Like Spector himself. (HBO)

Reality Terror Night

Five girls spend the night in a “haunted house” shooting a reality show, only to learn that the place really is haunted by a sadistic killer. So it’s like combining Big Brother with Ghost Hunters, then killing everybody? Sold! (Lightyear)

Star Trek Into Darkness

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the Enterprise crew are called back into action to battle a powerful wacko (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is totally not Khan. Nope, he’s not Khan. Don’t even think about him being Kahn. No Khans here. (Paramount)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 10)

Army Wives: Season 7, The Big Bang Theory: Season 6, Castle: Season 5, Chicago Fire: Season 1, Clunkers, Luther: Season 3, Madonna: MDNA World Tour, Mary and Martha, Parade’s End, Peeples, Slip and Fall, Supernatural: Season 8, Wish You Were Here.

Published in TV

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

The Summer Movie Season starts earlier every year. In fact, one could argue that March releases like Oz the Great and Powerful and Jack the Giant Slayer were summer-season-caliber, big-budget extravaganzas with lots of Hollywood pop. Yes, they blew ass, but they had a summer-season pedigree.

For organization’s sake, let’s just say the summer season starts on May 3 this year with the release of Iron Man 3, and ends around Sept. 6 with Vin Diesel’s Riddick. Here’s a round up of some of the biggies that look great—and others that offer reasons for concern.

Iron Man 3 (May 3): How in the heck are they going to top The Avengers? It looks like Marvel and company are going to try, starting with this, the first stand-alone superhero film after last year’s massive roundup. Shane Black, who piloted Downey to one of his best performances in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, takes over the franchise from Jon Favreau. I think this franchise will avoid the dreaded third-in-the-series curse that has afflicted superhero films before (Spider-Man 3, Superman 3).

The Great Gatsby (May 10): Leonardo DiCaprio takes on the title role for director Baz Luhrmann. (The two worked together before, on Romeo + Juliet.) This was originally slated to be released last year; let’s hope the delay was to make it better, and not because it stinks like Luhrmann’s overblown Australia.

Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17): Will this be J.J. Abrams’ last time in the director’s chair for this franchise now that he is taking over Star Wars? My guess is yes. If this is half as good as Abrams’ first blessed effort with the Trek characters, then we are in for a good time. Have you seen the footage of the Enterprise underwater? This one has to be good!

The Hangover Part III (May 24): I’m betting on a return to form after the lousy second chapter in what director Todd Phillips promises will just be a trilogy. The preview footage of a euphoric Zach Galifianakis and his giraffe has me excited. However, if Mike Tyson shows up and sings again, this will get an automatic “F.”

After Earth (June 7): Uh oh … somebody has given M. Night Shyamalan a lot of money to do science fiction again. Will they ever learn? In Shyamalan’s favor, he has the likable duo of Will Smith and son Jaden starring as a father and son crash-landing on Earth many years after humans have left. Also … Shyamalan only contributed to the script, rather than writing it all himself. So there is hope. There is hope.

Man of Steel (June 14): After doing a decent job with Watchmen and then sucking balls with Suckerpunch, director Zack Snyder takes on the Superman franchise. This time out, Henry Cavill (who was really bad in Immortals) wears the cape, replacing Brandon Routh, who actually did a great job in Superman Returns. Amy Adams is on hand as Lois Lane, and oh my goodness, there’s Michael Shannon as arch villain Zod. OK, I want to see this.

This Is the End (June 14): The likes of Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill play themselves in this apocalyptic comedy. While they’re hanging at Franco’s place, the apocalypse strikes, and they don’t deal with it in the best of ways. If this isn’t the year’s best comedy, I will be disappointed.

Monsters University (June 21): A prequel to Monsters, Inc., this will make millions upon millions upon billions upon trillions of dollars, whether it is good or not.

World War Z (June 21): Another postponed movie from last year, this one has Brad Pitt squaring off against crazed zombies. I love the previews, but its delayed status is worrisome.

The Heat (June 28): Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play an FBI agent and a cop teaming up to take out a drug kingpin. McCarthy got an Oscar nomination the last time she was with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids); I doubt that will happen this time out. Still, it could be fun.

White House Down (June 28): Following in the footsteps of Olympus Has Fallen, this is another film in which the president and his pad are in jeopardy. This time, we get Jamie Foxx as the president, and Channing Tatum as the hero.

The Lone Ranger (July 3): The idea of Johnny Depp playing Tonto—not to mention his crazy getup—has me concerned. Gore Verbinski directs, with Armie Hammer as the title character. This could be very, very bad.

Pacific Rim (July 12): Big alien-monster-type things strike the Earth, and huge robots piloted by humans are sent to defend the planet. This looks amazing, and Guillermo del Toro is directing, so this will be something to see. I’m hoping this puts MichaelBay’s big robots to shame.

Grown Ups 2 (July 12): I miss Adam Sandler. That dude used to make me laugh—and laugh hard. The key phrase is “used to.” His first Grown Ups was one of his worst movies, and it looks like his Sandler comedy slump will continue with this one.

The Wolverine (July 26): I thought the first solo Wolverine movie was OK, but many people hated it. James Mangold directs this film, which is set in Japan. There’s no word on whether Jackman sings live on set.

The Smurfs 2 (July 31): This movie is proof that Satan loves you.

2 Guns (Aug. 2): The good news is that this film stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. The bad news is that it is directed by the guy who did Contraband.

Elysium (Aug. 9): From the director of District 9, this stars Matt Damon (with a shaved head) in a future in which the Earth has gone to shit, and the rich live in space. Jodie Foster co-stars.

Kick-Ass 2 (Aug. 16): Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all return for a new round of comic vigilantism. Jim Carrey joins the cast as Colonel Stars and Stripes, and all signs point to hilarious.

The To Do List (Aug. 16): Aubrey Plaza blew my ass out of the water with her performance in Safety Not Guaranteed. This one has her starring as a soon-to-be college freshman looking to get some things out of the way before starting college.

Riddick (Sept. 6): After The Chronicles of Riddick, I never wanted to see Riddick again. Hell, I never wanted to see Vin Diesel again. After seeing the teaser—a teaser that features weird monsters—I’m optimistic this will be a return to the coolness that was Pitch Black

Published in Reviews