Wadjda (2012) – 4+ stars

We enjoyed this movie, filmed in Saudi Arabia by a female director. The lead actress is terrific. The film gently conveys how similar and how different life is between the US and SA.

Wadjda (2012) – IMDb

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.

Wadjda (2012) – IMDb

StarTrek: Into Darkness (1 star)

I streamed StarTrek Into Darkness, though it was much too long. So much potential wasted. I’m sure the NRA will be delighted to find machine guns are widely used in another 250 years. Why do StarFleet dress uniforms look like Soviet uniforms? Is the militarization of space a fait accompli? (Rhetorical, already true, but with fewer weapons, as far as I know.)

In the previous movie, I objected to a technique Abrams seems to love: the fake flare, the sliver of light across the screen. It’s just annoying and pointlessly overused.

Why do so many major characters have blue eyes — even a Klingon? Why touch base with the original series (Pike, Mudd, tribbles, Kahn, Nimoy) but depart so radically from that story line? I assume this is an alternate timeline.

Quinto as Spock is the only reason to watch this or future episodes. Of course, Spock is every nerd’s favorite, but he is the only character or actor who isn’t locked into mimicking the original. This is a different, and better Spock. Certainly, Spock has to be different thanks to most interesting twist: His girlfriend, the action-figure away-team member Uhuru. (That worked with Sheldon on the Big Bang, not to compare AFF to Uhuru.) I hope he sports a goatee in a future episode. (However, Spock’s wig flops oddly when he runs.)

I hated the old Bones, so duplicating him is no accomplishment. Ditto Scotty and Checkov. I do like the new Sulu. I enjoy seeing John Cho in any role. I wonder how he feels as a Korean-American playing a character with a Japanese surname.

Congratulation to Pino and the writers for making me hate this Kirk even more than the original. This guy is a raging bull in a china shop, completely out of control. And almost a superman himself, kicking the warp drive into gear. Gah!

What happened to the science in science fiction? One joy of the series (plural) was they peppered their dialog with real science. They inspired discussions of light speed, tachyons and so much more. (I can’t be the only one who thought “Jefferies tube!” in one scene.) More money just means more CGI for bigger crashes. Even Kahn, as superior as he is, is an ass-kicking ninja foremost.

Oh, don’t get me started on Kahn, one of the finest villains in TV history. Montalban himself rebooted the series from TV to movie. Now, a guy who could play Data in a future movie replaces the charismatic, sexy Kahn.

I think every TV series of this franchise has contributed more in character, plot, and science than any of the movies. What a waste. All of it. I hope that reanimated tribble eats the whole damn ship.

The Croods (3 stars)

We watched The Croods, an animation about cave people. Nicholas Cage voices the protective dad Grug, and Emma Stone gives voice to the voluptuous, bold daughter Eep. Despite a fast-paced opening, it wasn’t engaging until about a half hour in. There is almost too much action. However, some of the effects were probably beautiful on a big screen. Suspend all disbelief that there is any historical context for this fantasy.

If IMDB is to be believed, this movie did very well. I’d heard of it, but don’t know anyone who mentioned seeing it.

The Cloud Atlas (4 stars)

When I heard about the book a couple of years ago, I read the first chapter. It was fine, but not enough to take me further. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say this 3 hour movie weaves 4 separate timelines together. (Actually, the modern timeline consists of the most characters and stories.) Several of the actors play multiple roles (a few are unrecognizable). It doesn’t seem to be simply a tale of two souls finding each other over and over again. There are more characters whose lives overlap and intersect over these timelines spread out over centuries.

The two stories set in the future interested me the most. The nearer future was well-imagined but ultimately disappointing, reminding me too much of Blade Runner and The Matrix — I don’t doubt a future in which corporations rule us, but I don’t think they’ll need machine guns to do so. However, the 4th timeline in a post-apocalypse was the most original and interesting. I don’t think either of the first stories could be movies on their own, but either of the last two could be.

Red: Werewolf Hunter (2 stars)

Sadly, I can’t recommend this movie, despite Felicia Day. The music on the soundtrack was straight out of a video game. No doubt, there is one of the same title. This movie is very serious without being frightening. It’s on a par with NBC’s Grimm. To its credit, it doesn’t have a happy ending. (Less to its credit, it hints at potential sequel, but actually too briefly.)

To see why Felicia Day might draw one to a film, see Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog or The Guild.

Spoiling Bad

I have a stiff middle digit for “superfan” David Layman and his cohort for spoiling the end of Breaking Bad for “ordinary” fans who have to wait until the episodes are released to us. Thanks, Dick! And thank you to the Albuquerque Journal for tooting its own horn on the front page about how much impact something in the Journal can have on Social Media. The fact that it was an ad, not an article, just gives the owner a bigger boner. Finally, thanks to reporter Rick Nathanson for his fair and balanced observation that in all the world one person was unhappy with this spoiler(it’s at least two, you tool).

Thank god social media was non-existent when the Empire Strikes Back and the Crying Game came out.

Alice in Wonderland (3 stars)

First, this has to be compared with Dark Shadows, which has several of the same people involved. Alice is so much better than Dark, and each of those people involved in both is so much better in Alice. I heard it said a long time ago that Meryl Streep creates an accent for each character she plays. I realize now that is true too of Johnny Depp, who manages to carry each unique voice (and look) consistently through a film. Here, he is quite good as the Mad Hatter.

The story seems to mix the two books together. I don’t know why Alice is older here than in the books; accounting for that just bogs down the story. I wonder what Carroll would have thought of Alice as an emancipated, entrepreneurial woman. For the most part, I enjoyed this movie for the characters and the visuals, not at all surprising for a Tim Burton movie.