Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elysium

Rating: 3 Shurikens

Elysium is a science fiction film set in a bleak future 150 years from now, where most of the Earth is overpopulated and in really bad economic shape. All of the rich people have moved into a space station in orbit around the Earth called Elysium. It is like a huge gated community in the sky, where all of the people are cured of disease, and labor is performed by androids.

Elysium has a lot of fascinating science fiction concepts that date back to the 1940's. There is Elysium itself, a centrifugal force space station that is like a giant wheel. There are machines that scan people's bodies, and can detect and cure diseases and injuries. There are 'droids, (the robots, not the phones) that move like people, and can communicate verbally. There are spaceships that can make suborbital space without multistage rockets. The weapons still fire bullets, although the ammunition is more advanced. No ray guns. There are exoskeletons that allow humans to have the strength of androids. Some of the technology is awesome, but the computers haven't changed much in the future of Elysium. They are running a variant of Unix or Linux. The screens are LCD and they still have actual keyboards with keys that are buttons. They use laptops that are a lot like what we have today. I guess some things will never be improved, after a point.

Matt Damon plays Max Da Costa, an ex-convict who has decided to go straight and work for a living. He is on parole for criminal activities, and has a job in a factory that produces androids that will work in Elysium. As some of the story is related in the form of a flashback to his youth, we see that Elysium has been in orbit for some time, and that it is a goal for a lot of people to go there and get access to the machines that can cure their diseases, but which the inhabitants of Elysium jealously guard from the huddled masses. Damon played Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, and also played in The Adjustment Bureau.

Jodie Foster plays a politically-motivated but very corrupt Secretary of Defense Delacourt Rhodes, who is responsible for protecting Elysium from invasion by the riff-raff who still live on Earth. Jodie Foster has been in many films in a long career, and she still looks good. As Delacourt, she is willing to do pretty much anything, including reprogramming Elysium's computers to make herself President. She orders a rich businessman, John Carlyle, who runs the plant where Max works, to rewrite the code of Elysium's computers. He stores it using his brain as a sort of portable disk drive to bring it into Elysium. It has an encryption scheme that is fatal to anyone who downloads it wihout the proper codes. William Fitchner plays John Carlyle, and has the appearance of the villain's lackey. He had roles in this year's Lone Ranger and in Contact, which also starred Jodie Foster.

Max has an industrial accident, caused when a machine jams and he goes inside a radiation disinfecting chamber to unjam it. His boss orders him to go inside, but as soon as he clears the jam, the door slams shut. Max is trapped inside and is exposed to a deadly dose of radiation, for which death is an inevitable outcome after five days. He sees his only hope as getting to Elysium and accessing the cure machines. He goes to see a criminal mastermind named Spider, played by Wagner Moura, who puts him in an exoskeleton, so that he can get to Elysium. Capturing Carlyle is the ticket in, and so he goes after Carlyle.

Now, Delacourt Rhodes has an agent who lives on Earth, and who she uses to do certain work that is off the books. His name is Kruger, and he is one of the more interesting characters in the movie. He is strong and ruthless, seems to have no concern for anyone, and is willing to do anything necessary to get the job done. Kruger is played by Sharlto Copley, who starred in the brilliant District 9 in 2009. Kruger is sent to rescue Carlyle, and to bring him safely to Elysium.

Alice Bragga plays Frey, who is Max's girlfriend, whom he has known all his life, as seen in the first few flashback scenes. They lost touch, but after his industrial accident, Max runs into her at the hospital, where she works as a nurse. Bragga starred with Will Smith in I Am Legend, and in the 2010 movie, Predators.

The movie is fairly exciting, with some really good action scenes and decent special effects. The acting is also pretty good, especially Sharlto Copley and Jodie Foster. Damon plays the same kind of action role as he did in the Bourne movies. The whole premise of the film is that the rich have sucked the life out of Earth and dragged it all up into the sky, leaving the rest of humanity to suffer in squalor and harsh conditions, while they live in the ultimate gated community.

It all boils down to affordable health care, and the goal seems to be getting access to the machines that keep the people of Elysium alive and healthy. It is rather unrealistic to extrapolate that level of care over 10 billion people, but they try to do a movie about it. It is hard not to root for the poor people, but it doesn't make for a great film, but maybe a good political statement. I enjoyed it in spite of the message, but I was a little disappointed that that was the motivation, not love.

At any rate, I would not really go to the theater to see this one, as it will be quite adequately served by a smaller screen, and there needs to be movies that you haven't seen yet when they come out on video. I would wait for Elysium to come out on video, except I already paid for a ticket. I give it 3 Shurikens for the science fiction concept development, and the pretty high quality villainy of Copley and Foster, and for decent special effects and fight scenes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Wolverine


Rating: 4.5 Shurikens
Hugh Jackman returns, again, as Logan, the mutant X-Man also known as Wolverine. Jackman first appeared as Wolverine in the first The X-Men, then in the sequels, X-2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, and then in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He also did a brief cameo scene in X-Men: First Class. I am wondering if the same actor has ever appeared as the same character in more movies than Hugh Jackman. I count six, so far, with another one a fair certainty in a couple of years. James Bond has been in more movies, but so many different actors, and Christopher Reeve came pretty close as Superman. But I digress...

The Wolverine seems to be in the continuity of the first 3 X-Men films, with Famke Janssen reprising the role of Jean Grey, who was Marvel Girl, Phoenix and Dark Phoenix in various X-Men comic book series dating back to the early 1960's. In this movie, she is the same Jean Grey that died at the end of X-Men 3. Her interaction with Logan is a dream, and it is hard to tell whether she exists in another realm, trying to seduce Logan into joining her, or whether she is actually a dream construct of Logan's own mind. I lean towards the comic-bookish explanation that she is somehow disembodied, but not really dead. It seems that people hardly ever die in comic books.
The movie begins with Wolverine in a Japanese POW camp, very close to Nagasaki, and just as the atomic bomb is being dropped. A Japanese soldier is releasing prisoners as a couple of B-29's is flying in, seemingly for an air raid. Logan acts as if he knows it is the A-Bomb coming. I don't get how he would expect that, being locked up in a hole in the ground in Japan, and given that all of the activity surrounding atomic weapons at the time was highly classified. The Japanese Soldier frees Logan from his prison, and Logan pulls the soldier into the hole, so they can wait out the destruction. The soldier's name, we learn, is Yashida, who is played by Ken Yamamura.
Much later, we see a troubled Logan in modern times, and having dream conversations with Jean Grey. He is living in the forest in the Yukon, and drinking a lot of whiskey. When he goes to town for supplies, he is picked up by a Japanese girl named Yukio, who was sent to bring him back to Japan. Yukio is played by Rila Fukushima, a relative newcomer to the acting scene. She plays a very good action heroine, with skills as well as poise. Yukio is a mutant with precognitive abilities who was rescued as a child from orphanhood and raised as a companion for Yashida's granddaughter, Mariko,  played by Tao Okamoto.

A very-much-older Yashida is dying, and has sent for Logan because, ostensibly, he wants to thank Logan, and to say goodbye. Yashida offers Logan a cure for his regenerative power that keeps him alive. We learned in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that Logan was born before the civil war, and that he has a mutant ability to regenerate damaged tissues almost instantly upon injury. This makes him really good in a fight, because if he gets cut or stabbed, he heals right up as good as new and keeps on fighting. This also keeps him young and makes him immortal in a sense. Yashida realizes that Wolverine is immortal, and offers him the gift of transferring his mutant abilities to someone else, so that he can live out a normal ordinary life and die of old age.

Yashida has grown quite rich over the years, building a huge industrial corporation. He has hired a blond woman doctor as his oncologist. There is something malevolent about her, and it turns out very soon that she is also a mutant, called the Viper. Played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, the Viper has a snakelike tongue, and can exhale poison gas and caustic venom, as well as being immune to all poisons herself. Viper is based on a villain from the comic books, with quite some artistic license invoked. Svetlana Khodchenkova is an accomplished actress, but new to American films. Ultimately, something happens to Logan, which actually causes him to lose his regenerative abilities, and which the Viper is involved in. The story unfolds with Logan being beat up and shot but unable to heal.

Yashida has a son, Shingen, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who is the father of Mariko.  Sanada played in Speed Racer, among other roles. There is some tension between Shingen and his daughter Mariko, and when Yashida dies, he leaves his estate to her, which makes Shingen really mad. This is somewhat of a subplot that develops later. Yashida, being from a well-positioned family, has a follower that watches over Mariko after his death. His name is Harida, played by Will Yun Lee, who was in the movies Elektra and the 2012 remake of Total Recall. Harida is a Samurai and a Ninja, with great bow and arrow skills. When Mariko runs from the Japanese mafia after her father's funeral, Logan goes with her to protect her, and Harida follows. We learn that there is some history between Mariko and Harida.

The movie is filled with action and lasts well over 2 full hours.The plot is very involved, with lots of twists and turns, and remains exciting from beginning to end.  some of the fight scenes are filmed way up close, so that you only see a part of the movements, and this detracts from the quality of the action scenes. For example, you see the sweep kick, and the villain falls down, but you don't see anybody's legs. Otherwise, the film is engrossing and the action is pretty intense. Plus, there are lots of minions between the Yakuza, the Ninjas and Yashida's own securty guards, so the body count is pretty high. There are places where it is obvious that people are dying, but they keep it from being too gory. This is also a function of close camera views which leave parts of the action outside of the screen area.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone who likes action, even if you are not a comic book fan. Other than the closeness of the cameras to the action, the story is enjoyable, and the characters are realistic. I give it 4.5 Shurikens for action and intensity. Go see it, and soon!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Despicable Me 2

Rating: 1.5 Shurikens

I enjoyed the first Despicable Me very much, and I couldn't wait to see what the sequel would be like. I am a sucker for a good cartoon movie, although theatrical animation these days is way beyond cartoons. Steve Carrell does very well as an animated character's voice, always making his voice intonations match what the character is doing. He reprises his role of Gru, the evil super-villain, who once stole the moon from the sky.

Kristen Wiig is the voice of Lucy, who works as an agent of the AVL, or Anti-Villain League. She kidnaps Gru and takes him to meet with the head of her organization, to recruit him into a mission to find the thief of a secret mutating formula. After he reluctantly agrees, he opens a cupcake shop in the mall where he meets Eduardo, who reminds him of another villain from the past, El Macho, voiced by Benjamin Bratt. Eduardo owns a Mexican restaurant.

Of course, there are the three cute girls, the oldest being Margo, who is very mature for her age, and played by the voice of Miranda Cosgrove. Agnes is the youngest, played by Elsie Fisher, and Edith is the middle one, voiced by Dana Gaier. Dr. Nefario, played by Russell Brand, is still working in Gru's underground hideout supervising the numerous little yellow Minions in the development of a line of jams and jellies. As the results are less than stellar, Dr. Nefario decides to quit and go find some more sinister villain to work for. I'm not a big fan of Russell Brand, as he plays a stupid guy really poorly, or is in movies that are all about how funny it is to be stoned or drunk.

There are a few laughs, but I will get straight to the point. I should have taken a clue from the previews, which show the Lucy character saying "lipstick taser!" and kicking up one heel. Whenever Lucy is on the screen, the whole thing becomes laborious, and the voice does not inject any emotion into the character. My impression is that Wiig is sitting a little too close to the microphone, and that she isn't really watching what is going on as she voices her part. She has been the voice of animated characters before, such as in How to Train your Dragon, and also the first Despicable Me, so she should have some experience.

The minions are also way overplayed, in situations that lack anything funny about them. The only real funny parts are right when Dr. Nefario decides to strike out on his own, and when Gru is trying to keep Margo from getting to close to Eduardo's son. The character of Edith is actually very cute, but is only in the movie for about three minutes.

I was disappointed by Despicable Me 2. I actually should have gone to see something else, but I have homework to do, as it were. My recommendation is to wait for the video comes out, and then goes on clearance sale. There are many better movies to be seen, and I give this one a rating of one and a half Shurikens, mostly on  the portrayal of Gru by Steve Carrell, and a couple of laughs, but way too much stupidity to be funny.

Monster University

Rating: 4.5 Shurikens

Pixar's release for 2013 is the sequel to the 2008 Monsters, Inc. It is a story about the monsters that are hiding under the bed when the lights go out at bedtime. Pixar is genius when it comes to making movies that are entertaining and funny, and able to be enjoyed by everyone, no matter how old or young. I am a big Pixar fan, making sure to see every single movie they make in the theater at the time it is released. Toy Story and Cars are favorites of mine, and Monsters, Inc. is another.

John Goodman plays the voice of James P. Sullivan, the monster known as Sulley. Billy Crystal is the voice of Mike Wazowski, the yellow monster with a single very large eye. Monsters University is a prequel to the original Monsters, Inc. The movie takes them back to college days, after a very cute intro of a very young Mike Wazowski going on a field trip to Monsters Inc. He is inspired to become the world's greatest scarer. Then, fast forward to the first days of school, where he meets his dorm roommate, Randy. Randy is the nerdy younger Randall Boggs, Mike and Sullie's boss in Monsters, Inc., voiced by Steve Buscemi.

Mike then encounters Sullie in the first sessions of the Scare program. He studies hard, while Sulley coasts along on his natural abilities and the reputation of his father. Mike learns that he is just not that scary, in spite of the fact that he studies hard and has really good grades in the academic aspects of being a scary monster. For Sullie, everything just comes naturally. Sulley joins a top fraternity, Roar Omega Roar, but doesn't last long. He then joins the misfit fraternity Oozma Kappa, with Mike, and they compete in the intra-fraternity competition.

Other old monsters make make appearances, and a whole slew of new monsters is introduced. There are the members of Oozma Kappa: the two-headed Terry and Terri, who doesn't always agree with himself. Slug is the member who hosts the fraternity in his mom's basement. Don is the adult student who has been in sales all his life but is going back to school in late middle age.

The movie is very entertaining, as I have come to expect from Pixar. They don't seem to be able to produce crappy movies. It is great for children, and also for anyone who has ever gone to a big college, as there are things that only adults can truly appreciate.

I give this one four and a half Shurikens for many good laughs, and a seemingly effortless but highly entertaining movie, including  decent plot and good character interactions which seem very natural, even though the monsters are completely imaginary.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

World War Z

Rating: 3.5 Shurikens

I love a good zombie apocalypse movie, and that is why I decided to see this one. The previews didn't give away the zombie aspect right at first, but I knew that the Z was for Zombies. Brad Pitt stars as a United Nations agent with some past experience in social unrest, who is recruited to find the source of a strange affliction which causes its victims to become zombies. This is like a lot of other zombie stories, like the series The Walking Dead on TV, or the recent movie, Warm Bodies. There is a difference in these zombies, though, in that they don't shamble much. When they are alerted, the move very fast. Also, the zombie disease is quite contagious, and any bite from a zombie causes a transformation in as little as twelve seconds.

I find the fast-acting zombie bite and the fast-moving zombies themselves to be a very good explanation of how zombie infections spread. Most of the time, we just see relentless zombies that move slow enough to be outrun. They usually tend to come from all directions and overwhelm with sheer numbers and persistence. So the initial outbreak is pretty sudden and happens very fast, and makes for a good and scary opening.

As the movie opens, Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt and his wife, Karin Lane, played by Mireille Enos, are enjoying retirement from his UN job, cooking breakfast and getting his kids, Rachel and Constance, ready for school. There is only a slight hint of what is coming on the TV in the kitchen as the eat their pancakes. They are driving across town in the city of Newark, New Jersey, when traffic comes to a complete stop. As they wonder what happens, it slowly becomes apparent that things are not right. Soon, people are running, and the only thing to do is to follow them. Lane spots a garbage truck barreling through the streets, knocking cars aside, so he jumps in his car and follows as a path is opened up.

Of course, the garbage truck crashes in an intersection, and the Lane family car crashes too. This is where we start to see what the movie is all about. People are running, and being chased by other people, whop catch them and start biting them. The don't seem to care about eating their brains, as most zombies do, just to bite them. They are running as fast as the panicked people they are chasing, and after being bitten, the people change into zombies almost immediately. This causes a really fast transition from people world to zombie world.

Anyway, the Lanes car is wrecked, and the zombies are upon them, so they commandeer an RV that is nearby, and abandoned, and drive like heck to get out of town. On the highway, they stop as Gerry is getting a call from his old boss at the UN, Undersecretary General of Something or other Thierry Umutoni, who is played by Fana Mokoena. Thierry, pronounced the same as Terry, wants Gerry to help him figure out what is going on, and after a harrowing night in Trenton, New Jersey, the Lanes are picked up by a helicopter and taken to a flotilla of ships where the last vestiges of UN and US power are gathering to try to save as many people as possible.

Gerry is tasked with going to South Korea, where the first reported cases of zombie were reported, where he loses the Special Forces group that he is traveling with to zombie attacks. The plane which he flew to Korea in needs to be fueled before takeoff, but only Gerry and his pilot survive. They follow the clues to Israel, which it seems has done a much better job of protecting themselves from the zombie invasions. He meets a woman Israeli soldier, Segen, played by Daniella Kertesz, who helps him later in the movie. A lot happens that leads to a World Health Organization lab in Scotland, where Lane tries to find a cure for the zombie disease, or at least some answers.

I can't say any more about the story, but I have some comments. First, all of the characters come into the movie, and most are left behind by the storyline. There isn't any real outstanding acting going on, and the story is pretty much the same as many other zombie stories. As a top motion picture, it falls short. Still, it doesn't get overly gory and blood doesn't splatter everywhere, so you could take some older kids to it if you wanted to. The action is good, the zombies are actually pretty scary, and being fast zombies makes for a fast movie. It is a lot like a video game, with different phases, like the drive through Newark, the escape from South Korea, the run through Jerusalem, the W.H.O. laboratory, and so on. It is almost as if the movie were designed to be adapted into a video game, even though it probably already has been a video game.

At any rate, I wouldn't rush right out to see this one until I had seen all the other movies in the theater, but then it would be a pretty good choice. It does make for a good screen experience, versus waiting for the DVD or BlueRay. Pluses for action, good effects, decent continuity, but minuses for the way they sent his family away after he was presumed dead in the line of duty, and also for the fact that when he got sick at the end, he had no symptoms whatsoever. He should at least have been flushed, with maybe some sweating, or throwing up.

I give it 3.5 Shurikens.





























Saturday, June 22, 2013

Man of Steel

Rating: 5 Shurikens

Man of Steel represents a complete reboot of the Superman story. Superman is one of the oldest comic book heroes, and has had his story told and retold in comic books, cartoons, on television, and in Big Screen feature films. This is now the third iteration of major motion pictures featuring the Kryptonian superhero.The first was the Christopher Reeve Superman, which I was always a little disappointed in. Next came the Brandon Routh version, which was a sort of a continuation of the Reeve story arc.

This movie starts at the beginning, on the planet Krypton, while the world is ending. Jor El, who is the biological father of Superman, is played by Russell Crowe. Crowe did a pretty good Robin Hood not too long ago. He is preparing to send his infant son from a dying world to Earth, where he will have a new life, unaware of his origins. At the time of his launch, Krypton is in the throes of political upheaval, due to the ambitious General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, trying to take control of the situation. There is some backstory where the destruction of Krypton is due to the actions of Kryptonians themselves, somewhat more elaborate than the old comic book explanation which was that it just happened.

There is actually quite a bit of action at the start of the movie, before Kal El, Superman's Kryptonian name, is launched into space. General Zod and his followers are exerting their force and trying to gain control ofver the DNA of all future Kryptonians. Kal El is launched into space, and Zod and his followers are captured and imprisoned.

The scene shifts to Earth, as a fully-grown Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavill, wanders around the frozen North, working as a fisherman on a Deadly Catch fishing boat, or working as a bartender in a truck stop. While he is on the fishing boat, we see some of his awesome powers being used. Cavill is quite a good choice as Superman, being actually pretty muscular and all buff-looking, which some previous Superman actors actually were noticeably not. Cavill played The Hunter in Red Riding Hood a few years back, and is slated to play The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Along the way, we get to see some flashbacks of the childhood of Clark Kent, and his parents, Jonathan and Martha. Jonathan Kent is played by Kevin Kostner, and Martha Kent is played by Diane Lane. Jonathan teaches Clark to handle his powers, and to keep them secret, but Clark has some trouble with his being different. There was a lot of potential to make the movie a big sad cryfest over Clark's being different and tormented, but they didn't do that, much to my relief.

This is where Lois Lane enters the picture, played by Amy Adams. She is trying to learn of the significance of a very large object of great age, along with the U.S. Military. The object was found under the ice in way northern Canada. Clark Kent is also interested, and he shows up there as well. Lois Lane, always the inquisitive reporterette, goes out on her own to take pictures, while Clark is sneaking in on his own. The object is apparently a space vessel of extra-terrestrial origin, and is actually Kryptonian.

Clark wakes up the ship, and it tries to kill Lois, so he has to reveal himself to her in order to save her. Not surprisingly, General Zod comes to Earth, and he is looking for Kal El, and the DNA of all future Kryptonians. He has help, as he and his minions have all escaped from the Kryptonian prison which they were locked up in right before the planet blew up. It seems that when Clark woke up the Kryptonian ship, Zod got a signal that told him soething was up.

There is a lot of story here, much more than I want to go into. We see Perry White, who is played by Lawrence Fishburne, from the Matrix movies. We never see Jimmy Olsen, nor do we meet Lex Luthor. General Zod and his minions wreak maximum havoc and destruction on Metropolis, trying to capture Superman, and actually attempt to convert Earth to a new Krypton. The Kryptonian atmosphere neutralizes Kryptonian super-powers, and so Zod doesn't discover right away that he has powers just like Superman. This makes for some really awesome fight scenes, as Superman has to fight Zod's minions, then Zod, then Zod with powers.

All in all, it is a very good story, even though quite a bit of license is taken with the original storyline upon which the movie is based. There are elements which cause me to grimace somewhat, because I was reading comic books when I was four years old, all the way through adulthood. I read Superman's origins in 1961, when his Kryptonian ship was a rocket with fins on the back and one thruster. He was wrapped up in a blanket made of Kryptonian thread, which was also super. This movie deviates quite a bit from that origin, and also has a few twists thrown in, such as how Kryptonians colonized space over thousands of planets before becoming nearly extinct.

The body count is high, and though we don't really see a lot of on-screen death, the destruction of Metropolis is extensive. It far exceeds the amount of destruction that New York City experienced in The Avengers. There is also, as I said, a lot of action. One part towards the end is pretty disturbing, which the Superman I knew would have never done. I think it is the only part of the movie that I have too much trouble with. I can't talk about it, because many may not have seen the movie yet, but when you see it, you will know what I am talking about.

I give Man of Steel a full five Shurikens, for good casting, good acting, a decent story which flows well, and also for being a good long action-filled movie from start to finish. I recommend this as a must-see for this year, even more than Iron Man 3 (but possibly not as much as Thor 2).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Rating: 4.5 Shurikens

Star Trek Into Darkness is the sequel to the first Star Trek movie based on the original Star Trek television series. It was directed by J.J. Abrams, whose previous work includes Super 8, Cloverfield, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and of course the aforementioned Star Trek.

Chris Pine is Captain James T. Kirk, Spock is played by Zachary Quinto, and McCoy is played by Karl Urban, who played Black Hat in the movie Priest, and also Dredd in the 2011 version of Judge Dredd. The entire crew from the first movie in what promises to be a series of several returns to its places on the Enterprise. Simon Pegg, of Shaun of the Dead fame plays Scotty, Zoe Saldana is the beautiful Uhura, John Cho plays Sulu and Chekov is played by Anton Yelchin, who played a major role in Terminator Salvation. John Cho played in several Harold and Kumar movies, prior to becoming Sulu on Star Trek, most of which were pretty stupid, although quite popular.

The movie begins with Kirk and McCoy running from the inhabitants of a planet which they are trying to save from volcanic destruction. In violation of the Prime Directive, they risk making themselves known to the natives. Spock is actually in a volcano, with a device that will freeze it and save the planet. In spite of some difficulties, they manage to save the planet, but the natives see the Enterprise, which means that the Prime Directive actually is violated.

When they get back to Star Fleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Earth, Kirk is debriefing with Admiral Pike, played by Bruce Greenwood, a veteran actor with many credits. Greenwood's resume includes parts in Super 8, I, Robot, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Kirk glosses over the earlier events, but finds out that Spock has followed the rules and reported completely and honestly. Kirk ends up relieved of his command, and Spock is reassigned to another ship.

The scene shifts to a different Star Fleet Location, the Archives, in London, Earth. There, a Star Fleet officer, Thomas Harewood, played by Noel Clarke, is visiting a very sick child in the hospital with his wife. Clarke was on the Doctor Who series from 2005, for some fifteen episodes, as Mickey Smith, one of The Doctor's traveling companions. Anyway, the child has a debilitating illness, and is in a persistent coma. The officer and his wife are sad about their poor child, and a strange man offers them a cure in exchange for some action on the part of the officer. The strange man is a rogue Star Fleet officer named John Harrison, and is played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch plays the Necromancer in The Hobbit trilogy.

What Harewood does is carry an explosive into the archives, and then sets it off, causing a high crisis in Star Fleet. An emergency meeting of Star Fleet Command is ordered, and so Admiral Pike, who has assumed command of the Enterprise, and Kirk, now his First Officer are present. The meeting is proceeding with the highest ranking officer, Admiral Marcus, revealing some details about the man who caused the explosion in the first place. The meeting is interrupted by an attack on the meeting place, which is in a high floor of a skyscraper. The attacker flies a helicopter-like vehicle, and shoots up the place, killing several people. Needless to say, Kirk plays an important role in stopping the attack.

Admiral Marcus is played by Peter Weller, who was lead in Robocop and Robocop 2. Weller also played in the Star Trek: Enterprise television series. He survives the attack, and restores Kirk and Spock to the command of the Enterprise. Then he sends them on a secret mission to Chronos, the Klingon homeworld, to catch Harrison. The rest of the movie does depend a lot on what happens on the Klingon planet, so I can't really say any more after this point. You have to see it yourself.

Someone commented somewhere that this movie is limited in plot, seeming like just a series of events leading to the end. I think whoever said that was not a real Trekkie. The story is a retelling of at least one original episode of the TV series, with elements of at least one of the first Star Trek the Motion Picture sequels. I don't even want to name the antagonist, who by this time everybody knows. There is also a reference to someone with the middle name of Noonian which I think reaches into Next Generation territory. There are lots of references to Star Trek lore, although some are not exactly as seen originally.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a fun, action-filled and thrilling movie. It has a lot of good acting, and as I said, a lot of Star Trek history wrapped up in it. It is good and long, as I like movies to be. To me, Quinto does a really good Spock, although I wish he had more bass in his voice. Pine is adequate as Kirk, nowhere near as entertaining as William Shatner. It is tough to follow Shatner in the role of Kirk. My favorite is Urban, who really does an amazing Dr. McCoy. He nails it.

As far as the villain, I am underwhelmed by the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch. He does too much enunciating and his mouth movements seem strange as a result. Also, the Russian accent of Anton Yelchin is contrived, at best, and sometimes sounds like he is doing a French accent. I cringed a couple of times when he was speaking.

Another negative, in my opinion, was the part where Kirk was flying through the debris field in his spacesuit. It was exciting, but the amount of debris present at that location in space was not explained by events leading up to them arriving there. The Enterprise had sustained substantial damage, but there was way more stuff floating around than could have been part of the Enterprise, or of the ship it was in battle with at the time.

So, three little flaws. But overall, the movie was a good investment in terms of a ticket and the time in the theater, and the popcorn and drink. I enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend seeing it to anyone with an interest in sci fi in general, and Star Trek in particular. J.J. Abrams is a talent to be admired, and rarely fails. He is so good, that he is slated to work on the Star Wars third trilogy.

I give Star Trek Into Darkness 4.5 Shurikens for a great story, really good effects, and weaving the lore of the Star Trek into a complete experience. The few flaws are the only things to keep it from being a full 5 Shurikens. I  am looking forward to future episodes in this continuity.