Weekend Roundup: Five Minutes of Heaven and JJ Abram’s Star Trek

I hope y’all had a lovely and storm-free (weather or otherwise) weekend. Boy, the weather’s been strange this weekend, it couldn’t decide whether it wants to be rainy or sunny, so it alternated back and forth practically every half an hour! There’s even some strong storms hitting our neck of the woods, even a tornado touched down last night about 20 miles north of my house! I think some people in North Minneapolis are still without power now, man it certainly makes me feel blessed to wake up with a roof over my head.

Hemsworth as George Kirk

Well, we had planned to see Thor again on Saturday with some friends but didn’t end up going. We did see a Chris Hemsworth movie though, JJ Abram’s Star Trek, well he’s got a much smaller part in it as Capt. Kirk’s heroic dad.

Apparently the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie ruled box office again. I actually had the [dis]pleasure of seeing the last installment before this one, can’t remember what it’s called, it was playing on TV when we were at our friend’s house. It is mind-boggling to me how this movie could be such a smashing success. There’s sooo much going on but yet there is very little story, let alone character development. Things seem to be happening at random for no apparent reason and by the end of it, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘just what in the world was all of that all about?’ It was utter rubbish I’d say, Johnny Depp was the only saving grace as Jack Sparrow, but still not enough to make it bearable.

Anyway, now on to the two real good movies I did see this weekend:

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

When I saw this description on Netflix, I was immediately intrigued to add it to my queue:

A powerful meditation on guilt, forgiveness and reconciliation, this potent drama stars Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt as two men on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political struggle: one a killer, the other the brother of the man he killed. In crafting his keenly sensitive film, director Oliver Hirschbiegel eschews the predictable to deliver a work of tremendous insight and emotional complexity.

It’s a relatively short film, clocking in at 89 minutes, but man does it pack an emotional punch! The film starts out in flashback mode of the two main characters in a small town in Ireland at the height of the region’s civil war. They’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and one fateful night, their path is about to cross in the most tragic ways. It’s an amazingly effective set up to the scenario we see decades later, the day when  the two now grown-up men are about to face one another.

Both Neeson and Nesbitt are fantastic in this character-driven drama. Neeson as Alistair (speaking in his native Irish brogue) is a picture of inner turmoil – he may seem calm and composed but inside he’s a wreck, forever tormented by the sin he committed decades earlier. Nesbitt’s Joe Griffin is the same way, as his mother somehow blamed him for his brother’s death, he carried that insurmountable guilt with him all his life. There are so much emotions going on in the scenes leading up to their meeting, but amazingly, despite the nail-biting intensity, there are still elements of humor infused in them. There are so many mixed emotions you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at times, but throughout you really feel the anguish of both of them.

I really appreciate the poignant message against violence and terrorism. Alistair confesses repeatedly during his counseling sessions that it’s not only the victim who suffer greatly from the ordeal, but the perpetrator is also forever scarred by it and the psychological toll can be unbearable. And revenge isn’t the answer either… “My five minutes of heaven, how can that not be good for me?!” Griffin screamed, rationalizing his vengeful plan. But the filmmaker wants us to think that only through letting go, and perhaps even forgiveness, that one can achieve inner peace.

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Star Trek (2009)

The crew of SS Enterprise

When I saw this at the theater, I remember how much I really enjoyed it. I’m not a Trekkie mind you, so I don’t know all the details about any of the characters other than knowing the names of the actors who played Capt. Kirk and Spock in the original TV series. So it’s a good thing this JJ Abrams’ feature film is an origins story, going back to the history of the USS Enterprise’s crews and how they got there.

The original and the new Spock

And what an entertaining journey it is! Much like X-Men: First Class where there are many characters involved but the main story really boils down to Professor X and Magneto, the story here is centers on the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are both perfectly cast as the eventual BFF. Pine has the wit, swagger and rebellious streak as the inherently smug but lovable Kirk, whilst Quinto is appropriately calm and unruffled as the ultra-intelligent half Vulcan/half human who feels trapped between the two worlds. The exchange between the two characters are the highlights of the movie, including the Leonard Nimoy as the elder Spock. (Thanks to Gowiththeflow blog for the two Spocks photo)

But just like any massive ship, it can only function properly when all the crews does its job well. Abrams runs a tight ship with this movie, the ensemble cast work nicely together and make for an exceptional team. My favorite New Zealander Karl Urban is awesome as the amusingly grumpy Dr. McCoy, his screen presence is undeniable, more than capable for more leading man roles. I like Zoe Saldana as Uhura as well, she’s definitely got the ‘it’ factor and has the sex appeal without looking like a bimbo. Oh, and Bruce Greenwood as the wise Capt. Pike is wonderful as well, he is a great character actor whose presence is always welcomed in any movie. Eric Bana is unrecognizable as the villain, playing a Romulan creature with a personal vendetta against the Vulcans and humans. He was decent, but he doesn’t seem menacing enough. Simon Pegg also does a memorable turn as Scotty, he might have overdone his Scottish accent a bit but still his bit parts are a hoot.

This movie is massively entertaining from start to finish, just don’t think too much about the plot. It’s technically impressive as well, no wonder it nabbed four Oscar nominations including sound editing and visual effects (it deservedly won an Oscar for Best Makeup). I’d think this movie would satisfy any Trekkie out there. Even I get a bit giddy when Spock did the Vulcan salute and said, ‘Live long and prosper.’

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So what movies did you watch this weekend? If you’ve seen either one of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.