BEYOND MEDIOCRE

STAR TREK BEYOND IS A HARMLESS PATCHWORK EFFORT THAT ISN’T HORRIBLE BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THE MOVIE TO CELEBRATE TREK’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

Director: Justin Lin

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sophia Boutella, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin

Rated: PG

Studio: Paramount

Running Time: 2 Hrs

There’s been a lot of attention focused on Star Trek recently. From the new series coming this January to the loss of Leonard Nimoy last year, to the tragic death of Anton Yeltsin a few months ago to the fact that 2016 is the franchise’s fiftieth birthday, Star Trek’s been on a lot of minds. You would this would be a perfect opportunity to release another strong entry in Trek’s lengthy and celebrated movie series. Not only to celebrate Trek’s long list of successes but to honour the memory of its recently departed family members as well.

Unfortunately, Star Trek Beyond is not that movie.

Read More . . .

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PACIFIC RIM IS A PERFECT ORGASM OF AMAZING SPECIAL EFFECTS AND BRILLIANT DESIGN WORK THAT REMINDS US HOW SATISFYING EPIC FILM MAKING CAN BE 

Director:  Guillermo del Toro

Starring:  Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam,  Rinko Kickuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Ron Pearlman

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Length:  2 Hrs 12 Mins

Rated:  PG

I have a confession to make.  I am a enormous geek.  I’m not ashamed of it, there are plenty of successful, wealthy and super famous people who wear their geek badges with pride (George Lucas anyone?  Steven Spielberg?) and when I tell people of my geek love, I do so with neither shame nor embarrassment.  Now that doesn’t mean that you can slap an “approved by fanboys everywhere” sign on something and expect me to embrace it. If something sucks, it sucks, and I’ll take it to the cleaners five times before lunch on a Monday without batting an eyelash.  Wolverine is one of my favourite comic book characters but I openly despised his first solo movie and while I went into Green Lantern hoping to enjoy a fun science fiction flick a few years ago, I came out of it wanting to shoot someone.  But Guillermo del Toro’s new science fiction epic Pacific Rim doesn’t just appeal to my geek, inner or otherwise, it takes it out for a lobster dinner, gets it drunk and has dirty, dirty sex with it.

Earth is under siege.  Massive alien creatures called Kaiju (great beasts in Japanese) have been invading the planet from an inter-dimensional fissure known as the Breach at the bottom of the Pacific ocean.  Sporadic at first, these monsters the size of mountains keep coming, destroying entire cities in their wake and prompting unprecedented global co-operation by the nations of the world.  And so the Jaegers are born (Jaeger meaning hunter in German), massive robots mentally controlled by a pair of specialized pilots called Rangers, bonded through a phenomenon known as the Drift.  The Jaegers become mankind’s mechanical guardians, hunting down and slaying the Kaiju like knights of old slaying dragons.  The Rangers become pop culture icons, celebrated on talk shows and magazine covers while the various models of Jaeger robots become immortalized in toy lines and on trading cards.  But the Kaiju become bigger and stronger, they begin learning and adapting to human defences, their attacks increasing in frequency as well as ferocity.   Twelve years after the first Kaiju laid it’s colossal, taloned foot on Earth, the human race finds itself up to its robotic eyeballs in trouble.

No longer able to cope with the Kaiju invasion, the world’s political leaders decide to scrap the Jaeger program, abandoning it for a plan that seems equally destined to fail.  Marshal Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) falls back to Hong Kong with what remains of his Jaeger fleet, planning one final desperate counter offensive in hopes of winning the war.  Joining him are Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), his adopted daughter and aspiring Jaeger pilot, and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), a former Ranger who’s been off the grid since his brother (and co-pilot) died fighting a Kaiju when the war began turning against humanity.  If the mission fails, the  human race faces extinction.  As Marshal Pentecost says, they are no longer an army, but a resistance.

Pacific Rim has one story; enormous robots protect humanity by fighting humongous monsters that make Godzilla look like a slightly annoyed iguana on a bad hair day.  Sometimes the Jaeger use their fists, sometimes they use mammoth swords and there are times they use entire trains as baseball bats.  The special effects are incredible and the fight scenes between the Jaegers and the Kaiju are mind blowing spectacles that will assault your senses and excite your imagination.  Director del Toro and the film’s art designers invested heavily in the look and feel of the movie, not only in the careful designs of the Kaiju and the Jaegers, but in the smallest details as well as what a world where such marvels exist might look like.  Pacific Rim isn’t a smart movie, there are no surprise plot twists or hidden motifs, but it isn’t a stupid one either either and doesn’t make the mistake of taking itself seriously.  Del Toro deserves plenty of credit for carefully walking the razor thin line between amazing and ludicrous and Pacific Rim slides comfortably into the same territory as other smart but entertaining science fiction epics like Jurassic Park and Independence Day.

And for a giant robot/super monster fight movie, the acting is pretty solid.  Elba brings a calm dignity and plenty of bad assery to former Ranger and current Marshal Stacker Pentecost.  While there are times you fell like standing up and saluting him in the theatre, Pentecost has a tender side as well, particularly when it comes to his adopted daughter Mori, and Elba brings just enough tenderness to the role to make you buy it.  Charlie Day and Burn Gorman add sufficient comic relief as Doctors Geiszler and Gotlieb, a pair of brilliant minds that bicker more than a married couple.  But the true stars of Pacific Rim are the amazing effects and the mind blowing battle scenes.  If you’re going to see Pacific Rim for the acting or the story, you’re missing the point  by about a dozen light years.

Last week I had the pleasure of reviewing Despicable Me 2, and called it my favourite animated movie of the year.  Now I can slide Pacific Rim into the top spot of my favourite popcorn movies of the year.  And that’s what Pacific Rim is, an excellent popcorn movie with the best special effects you’ve seen in a long time, if ever.  Fans of science fiction, anime, monsters, special effects, imagination and pure movie making magic will adore this movie (with Jaeger/Kaiju fight scenes taking place in cities, under water and even in space, how could they not?).  It isn’t going to win any Oscars for best acting or writing, those movies (some of them outright borefests) are a few a months away yet, but what it will do is make you feel like a kid again, watching the good guys throw down with the monsters on an epic scale.  It was what you probably felt the first time you saw Star Wars or Lord of the Rings; the magic of pure imagination and entertainment.  Catch Pacific Rim on Imax if you can, because being absorbed by it’s special effects on the Imax screen is easily worth the extra few dollars.  Grab your popcorn, settle in and let your inner (or outer) geek out to stretch its legs for a few hours, because if there’s one movie that will cause a you to have a geekgasm overload this summer, it’s Pacific Rim.

Shayne Kempton

AWESOME HEAVY METAL EPIC