Star Trek (11)

The new Star Trek film is not so much my favorite Star Trek film of all time as it is a goddamn triumph.It's the only one I've seen in the theater three times, the only one I can recall crying in EACH of those times, and deserves to be hailed as a science-fiction achievement if for only two words: alternate universe.Did Star Trek invent the theory of alternate universes? I don't know, but they appear in one form or another in a lot of the series' episodes. Some are more overt, like the famous "Mirror, Mirror" episode, and some are more subtle, seeing characters act, well, out-of-character due to one reason or another. It's been a staple of Star Trek lore but thus far hasn't been approached in film, until now.

In the first ten SECONDS of the film, we get a time-traveling anomaly that changes the Star Trek universe ten minutes later. (I'm not about spoiling, but I will admit that I teared up in the theater ALL THREE TIMES I saw the film during that sequence.) As a result of this ripple, this allows director J.J. Abrams and his team of crack writers to craft a new Star Trek alternate universe where he has license to play with the characters and situations and yet preserve the cannon of the other series and films. The characters (Spock deduces it, naturally) themselves realize this midway through the film, that this original anomaly has changed their time line forever. It's the moment that Star Trek was born for and was finally realized by J.J. Abrams. In one master storytelling stroke, J.J. was able to preserve the past, invigorate the present, and leave the entire future open to new and exciting possibilities. And for THAT, it's a damn triumph.It doesn't hurt that the performances, pace, action, effects, music, and story are also tight. Even the historical winks -- the Kobayashi Maru sequence jumps to mind -- are fun, fan-orgasmic, and not so much interwoven to but also serve to drive the plot. Heck the trailer itself gives me goose-bumps. This is Star Trek for Star Wars fans, something that has danger, crackles, and is bold entertainment from start-to-finish. I kinda liked it.

Sinestro Corps War

I don't often delve into the DC Comics realm (I've always been a Marvel kinda guy), but I'll make the occasional exception for stories that interest me. The Sinestro Corps War a two-volume series that captures that comic book run where Sinestro recruits his own corps to instill fear and kill all the Green Lanterns he can, and change the rules of the GLC (Green Lantern Corps) forever, is one of those.Geoff Johns, who already has attained a reputation as one of the best comics writers of the 21st century, weaves a tale that is rife with death, drama, and spendorous action. Better still, Johns writes for the comics fan who hasn't been necessarily following the histories of all the characters involved, and makes you feel like you can drop in and be a part of it.The series definitely has that galactic-implication feel to it, and the story delivers. Well worth my few bucks.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I came into X-Men Origins: Wolverine with trepidation. The last X-Men film (The Last Stand) was not my favorite film. It's not because I generally like Bryan Singer's work, or that I thought X2 was one of the best superhero films to grace the screen, but that X3 felt pieced together as a showcase for powers and superheros rather than plot and story. When you parade your characters out with the appearance of having them have a series of extended cameos, it appeals more to fans who just want to see live-action representations of the characters rather than fans who also want to see them have some kind of arc or logical involvement in the story.Right from the beginning, when we see Team X assault a complex, they function as a laundry-list execution. Each hero is ticked of by name and given a special stage of entry to use their powers exclusively, while the others just sit around and appraise or have a cappuccino. This overt introductory storytelling is as implausible as adamantium claws, but that's only a minor irritation. It is what it is.

Later in the film, Wolverine attacks a helicopter and brings it down. As he is walking away, the helicopter explodes, and you have Wolverine (Hugh Jackman owns the character, by the way) fully silhouetted in a fiery frame. And I laughed, because the first thing that sprang to mind was MacGruber.
Hair flying, explosions in the background, a caricature of itself. It is what it is.

And ultimately, it is an entertaining film, serviceable, but hamstrung by writing and a weak director. Good, yes, but could have been a lot better. I saw it in the theater, but I won't be seeing it in my super-exclusive-awesome DVD collection.

World War Z

Before I read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, I can say that I've never read a zombie book before, and only seen two (excellent) films, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. I would count the bunny version of Night of the Living Dead, but somehow I don't think that applies. Suffice to say, my knowledge of the zombie genre has been limited at best, and while I don't seek it out as entertainment, generally find it pretty interesting. But only enough to see two movies in my 38 years.World War ZMy interest was peaked by a Cinematical.com mention in an article (from somewhere in 2008) that Brad Pitt's production company was interested in buying the movie rights. I read the brief description by the author and decided to give the book a read (this is exactly how I got interested in reading Hyperion and Let the Right One In). The book turned out to be incredibly creepy, moving, and riveting. A serious book about zombies that overrun the world, and a well-thought-out story of how this would affect all different aspects of society. This kind of thing is what I find a lot of films don't really delve into, the thing you don't think about.

Cinematical posted an update to the film status on their site. The author of the piece posts a spot-on encapsulation of what makes the book special:
    The first thing Brooks does is set ground rules. Once infected and undead, zombies are essentially monomaniacal brains unmoored from brains' normal contingencies – e.g. a pumping heart, a digestive system, oxygen. Until the brain itself is destroyed, it will stupidly, relentlessly pursue human flesh, using whatever parts of the original body remain at its disposal. Zombies move slowly, with arms – if available – raised toward their target. If a zombie finds prey, it will moan; if a nearby zombie hears a moan, it will move toward the source and let out a moan itself. You see how this could escalate.

    Then Brooks considers what a worldwide zombie epidemic would actually look like, and ends up at some scary and eerily plausible conclusions. Israel, ever vigilant and pragmatic, is the first to take the threat seriously, voluntarily quarantining itself and – we gather – escaping the worst of what would befall the rest of the world. The States, like most other first world nations, spends far too long in denial – and by the time reality could no longer be denied, the best scenario became to grab as many people as possible and fortify in the Rockies. Survival would require unbelievable sacrifice on a mass scale – as you read, keep an eye out for something called the "Redeker Plan," a truly terrifying idea that the novel treats with chilling matter-of-factness.

    The "real-world" implications World War Z considers don't stop at the geopolitical. Chapters dwell on the economic, military, personal and psychological consequences of the zombie crisis. Deep down, I know how silly that is and so do you – but the book does not. That's its genius. Brooks also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide, a cute little effort that was similarly obsessed with details and specificity, but its tongue was planted firmly in its cheek. World War Z actually asks what the world would look like if the dead started to rise. And then it begins to answer the question. It's fascinating, thought-provoking, frightening in the sheer vastness of the events it depicts (there is an amazing description of what the epidemic looked like seen from a space station), and ultimately even uplifting.
Even if you are new to the genre, or a casual fan like myself, this is a book that will stay with you long after you are done reading it.