Somehow JJ Abrams & co. made me interested in the Star Trek universe

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Well, one of my most anticipated movies of the first half of the year has come and gone. I finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness Wednesday night and you know what, despite the huge hype machine working overtime for this film, this film somehow lives up to it. So yeah, I really enjoyed it.  Instead of doing a straight review, I feel like jotting down my change of heart of sort, in regards to this franchise.

Now, Star Trek fever has been high the past few weeks not only because of the studio’s marketing machine, but also sparked by various bloggers and sites posting all kinds of Star Trek-related stuff in anticipation for the new movie. Strangely enough, instead of being blasé or even rolling my eyes about the whole thing, for once I was actually intrigued. I guess it was started back in 2009 when I saw JJ Abrams’ Star Trek for the first time. For some reason, the whole franchise sort of eluded me when I was growing up, as I had never followed any of the TV series nor seen any of the previous films. Ok I did see clips of the 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, this Spock swimming with the Whale scene is such a hoot! It’s one of the best ‘fish out of water’ comedic scenes ever, pardon the pun 😀

Oh and I did see the comedy satire Galaxy Quest which is not only hilarious but spot on – one doesn’t have to be a Trekkie to recognize the obvious subject of its parody. Nonetheless, I was practically Star Trek virgin four years ago. The only ‘knowledge’ I knew of Star Trek is from pop culture, the iconic phrase Live long and prosper, the Vulcan salute that I have to admit I have trouble doing, that Spock & Kirk are cross-species BFF and that Klingons are their longtime nemesis. But other than that, I’ve no clue about their universe, so I’ve got to admit that whole Spock + Spock scene in the first movie was quite discombobulating for me. My hubby had to explain a lot of the basic Star Trek 101 and all the jargon, ahah. I guess perhaps his enthusiasm might’ve rubbed off on me a bit, but I think it’s more than that.

As I mentioned in my review of the 2009 version, I think the casting and the chemistry of the cast is what I really enjoyed about the film. But what I didn’t mention then is how timeless the story of Star Trek stories, depicting the adventures of this group of humans and aliens on board the Enterprise spaceship. The underlying themes war and peace, loyalty, personal courage, the role of technology, etc. are human motifs that still relevant to this day, but of course it’s now enveloped in a shiny and cool wrapping with the latest special effects and gadgetry… oh and of course, sprinkled with lots and lots of lens flares! 😉

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Thankfully Abrams’ obsession with the lens flare didn’t bother me as it did in the first movie (maybe I just chose to ignore ’em), but what we still get in this sequel is the zippy and fun tone, boosted by the chemistry of its cast and spectacular special effects. Despite the title, the movie is really not as dark as we’re led to believe. Yes it’s slightly darker than the first, but by no means grim. Everything I like about the first movie is present, the bromance between Spock and Kirk are funnier and snarkier – Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine are one of those perfect casting choice that gets even better the more I watch them together. More screen time for Karl Urban‘s McCoy (yay) and also Simon Pegg‘s Scotty relishing in his Scottish brogue whilst being in a hysterical state of panic for most of the movie.

Cumberbatch_StarTrekIntoDarknessBut really, the REAL star of Star Trek Into Darkness is the villain. Much like The Dark Knight‘s The Joker, Benedict Cumberbatch villainous turn as the intergalactic terrorist John Harrison stole all kinds of scenes every time he’s on screen! As the superior being – in every way, as the character pompously claim – Cumberbatch is such a perfect choice for the role and he brings that same cocksure swagger from his role as Sherlock Holmes. Yes his delivery is a bit too theatrical, perhaps intentionally so, but there’s no denying his screen charisma. Cumberbatch is unconventionally good looking, but he made those who are classically handsome oh so boring! Oh, and I think there should be law that require him to wear long, cape-like coat in every movie, yes?

I think in terms of the characterization of the villain, it’s definitely an improvement over the first (no offense Eric Bana!). Somehow Cumberbatch’s role isn’t the typical two dimensional bad guy hellbent on destruction, though certainly it’s not an excuse on his means he chose for his mission. What really works is how the series of destructive events truly test those in leadership roles of the Starfleet, particularly Kirk as he often has to make split-second decisions with the crew’s life hanging in the balance. Despite the eye-popping action in 3D (those warm-speed scenes are pure geek-gasm stuff), sleek set pieces and futuristic fashion, it’s not really style-over-substance (thank goodness!). I’d readily give the movie a 4.5/5 rating!

Thanks to the trio of writers Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci in creating a reboot that still pays homage to the original, but yet feels fresh and cool. In a way, it’s kind of like the motto that Gene Roddenberry created back in 1966.

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Well, one thing for sure, the journey of the Enterprise crew seems endless. With a projected box office take of $100 mil in four days, even without Abrams at the helm (as he’d be too preoccupied with yet another behemoth franchise Star Wars), we’re likely to see more sequels in the works. Hey I’m fine with that, fingers crossed that somehow Cumberbatch would return as well?

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In the meantime, I’m inclined to check out previous Star Trek films, starting with the original William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (particularly The Wrath of Khan) . Then later on I might move on with The Next Generation with Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, especially since Keith highly recommended Star Trek: First Contact.

So I guess thanks to Mr. Abrams bold and exciting voyage, I just might jump into the Star Trek bandwagon after all. No, I don’t think I’ll be a Trekkie nor would I start be buying a Captain Kirk action figure any time soon, but somehow now I see this 47 year-old franchise in a whole new light 😀


So tell me where do you stand in regard to this sci-fi franchise? Let me know your thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness, too!

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Top Ten Favorite Actors with the Smoothest Voice

When I was in Junior High, I had a major crush on this guy whom I went on a Summer Camp with. Look-wise he’s quite perfect, with gorgeous dark hair and deep-set eyes. But then one day my friends and I ran into him in a parking lot. He rolled his car window down, lowered his sunglasses and the second he opened his mouth to greet us, my jaw practically dropped to the floor. He’s got this high-pitched, almost squeaky voice that I nearly burst out laughing. Suffice to say, I wasn’t so smitten by him after that, ahah.

Y’see, the point I’m trying to make is, to me a man’s voice is almost as important — if not more so — than his looks. I’d find an average looking man with a rich, deep voice far more appealing than a handsome guy with a higher-pitched voice (I’m looking at you David Beckham). Of course some guys have all the luck, like my beloved Gregory Peck who’s drop dead gorgeous AND has a rich barritone voice to die for 🙂

This list is inspired by him, an actor who can act on his voice alone, hence he was in high demand for a variety of live radio programs, such as this Anna Karenina one with his Spellbound co-star Ingrid Bergman. I think an actor’s distinct voice could actually make the movies they’re in more memorable than they otherwise would’ve been. In fact, some actors’ voice are the most memorable part about them. AMC’s filmcritic.com actually made a list ranking the top 100 movie star voices of all time, nice list apart from the exclusion of my beloved Gregory of course.

So anyway, here’s a shortlist of actors whose rich, silky voice are beautiful music to my ears. Now, all of them are talented actors to begin with, but the sound of their voice and their delivery are definitely icing on the cake. Btw, I’m not going to mention the obvious ones here like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman, whose names are almost synonymous with ‘iconic voice.’ So anyway, here they are in no particular order:

1. Hugo Weaving

“Hello Mister Anderson.” “Remember, remember the 5th of November” Now, Mr. Weaving’s a master of acting with his voice alone. I dedicated a whole post on his face-less performance in V for Vendetta, especially in the indelible introductory monologue in the dark alley. I also hearing his monologues as Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

2. Timothy Dalton

Ok, so here’s another tall, dark beauty with an equally ravishing voice. Whether he’s Bond, Mr. Rochester, or an Errol Flynn-esque baddie in The Rocketeer, his signature deep, authoritative voice and distinct delivery is always a delight to listen in. My favorite role of his is in BBC’s 1983 Jane Eyre. That powerful voice combined with the depth of his performance as Rochester is why his portrayal remains my all-time favorite.

3. Alan Rickman

Hans Gruber, Severus Snape, Col. Brandon… these are iconic characters largely because of the way Rickman played them. Snape is the most intriguing character in Harry Potter movies for me, his singular diction with that silky voice is always a highlight in any movie. Even the simplest words like ‘indeed’ or ‘obviously’ sound so beguiling coming from Mr. Rickman’s mouth.

4. Matthew Macfadyen

I first heard his wonderful voice in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice as Mr. Darcy. I wasn’t impressed with him initially, but upon second viewing I warmed up to his performance … and that voice! In fact, his narration in that rich timbre is my favorite part of The Three Musketeer trailer. I could watch that thing over and over again just to listen to his voice!

5. Liam Neeson

Whether he’s a Jedi master, Gotham’s underground villain, a bad ass retired spy or even a Jesus figure in the form of a lion, Neeson’s Irish-tinged speech can be as commanding yet still exudes a certain warmth that’s quite soothing. His role choices may be a bit questionable of late (Battleship Liam? Really??) but his voice is always dependable.

6. Anthony Hopkins

Whether he’s threatening to eat your liver with a chianti in Silence of the Lamb or displaying utmost loyalty with mild-mannered decorum in Remains of the Day, Hopkins’ deep smooth voice always fits the character perfectly. It may not be his best work, but I love The Mask of Zorro largely because of Hopkins sensitive portrayal of Don Diego de la Vega, especially when he was teaching Antonia Banderas sword fighting as well as etiquette. His soothing voice is so indelible in that film.

7. Rufus Sewell

Talk about having the whole package… with glass-cutting cheekbones and wide, expressive eyes, I would readily reconcile myself to Rufus even if he has a less-than-ideal voice. But this gorgeous Englishman has an irresistible throaty voice to boot! Not only is his voice so sweet to the ear, it’s ever so evocative, as displayed in the 9/11: Out of the Blue poem I posted last year. The Ode to a Beautiful Nude poem clip I posted earlier was removed… so here’s the first part of the Out of the Blue four-part series:

8. Laurence Fishburne

Who could forget Morpheus’ iconic voice from The Matrix? Fishburne’s low, commanding voice has that trustworthy, regal aura about it, no wonder he’s often cast as a wise, gifted characters. He’s got a perfect voice for theater, which was where he got his start in New York. As the first black actor cast in Othello (alongside Kenneth Branagh), that voice certainly would lend itself extremely well reciting Shakespearean lines.

9. Richard Armitage

I first had the pleasure of enjoying Armitage’s magnetic performance in BBC’s North & South (see the proposal scene below). As if his dark looks weren’t swoon-worthy enough, he’s got such a deep, breathy voice to match. No wonder he’s made voice-over work his second career, lending that golden pipes of his to narrating documentaries, audiobooks, and various radio work. I LOVE The Hobbit trailer largely because Armitage gets to sing as Thorin… I sure hope he gets a ton of lines in the movie as well.

10. Patrick Stewart

One of the best things about the X-Men trilogy is the casting, particularly the two English thespians Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. No doubt McKellen’s Magneto is the juicier role but I adore Professor X as Stewart exudes such warmth and eternal wisdom in the role. The Shakespearean actor often plays authority figures, the most famous one being Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek series. Sometimes when the show was still on TV I’d often stop to just listen to him even though I’m not a Trekkie by a long shot. I wish I could find the clip of just Xavier talking but in this trailer you could hear a sampling of it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Gerard Butler, Gabriel Byrne, Sir Ian McKellen, Russell Crowe, Ian McShane, Jeremy Irons, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hiddleston, Derek Jacobi, Sean Bean, Powers Boothe.
… 


Well, what do you think of my picks? Do share your own favorite actors with the best voice.

Top 40 Reasons I Love X-Men: First Class

Happy Sunday, folks, hope you’ve had a pleasant weekend!

I’ve been wanting to do this post for quite a while as I haven’t got a chance to actually review this movie for myself (but Paula G did here). But as I said in my weekend roundup last week, it’s my top favorite movie of the Summer. After seeing it again for a second time last night, I wholeheartedly stand by that decision, in fact, it renews my appreciation of the X-Men franchise.

Yes, so I’m still not crazy about January Jones’ acting, or lack thereof, but I guess she’s supposed to be this icy queen, so in that sense she did what she was hired to do. Btw, instead of a straight on review, I’m inspired to do a similar post like what Stevee of Cinematic Paradox, listing 52 reasons why she loved Inception, but I’m doing a Top 40 instead (y’know, like Rick Dees’ Weekly Top 40 for those of you growing up in that era, but in reverse order).

Btw, there are SPOILERS ABOUND in this post, so consider yourself warned:

1. Michael Fassbender Ian McKellen left a huge shoes to fill as Erik Lehnsherr but Fassbender manages to make the role his own.

2. James McAvoy – Who says the good guy has to be boring? McAvoy not only makes Charles Xavier a compelling character, but someone worth rooting for.

3. Matthew Vaughn’s stylish direction – even with so many characters, Vaughn keeps the movie moving at the right pace and keep the focus on the two most compelling characters.

4. Smart script and sharp dialog from Vaughn’s longtime collaborator Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) and the guys who penned Thor, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz

5. The splendid dynamic between Xavier and Lehnsherr, the best ‘frienemies’ of the superhero universe I’ve ever seen …

6. The retro 60s vibe – the cars, the clothes, down to the JFK news footage during Cuban Missile Crisis era

7. Living up to Vaughn’s promise of Cold War setting + a Bond flick + Frankenheimer political thriller… all in one movie!

8. The awesome soundtrack – done by Henry Jackman (who also worked on The Dark Knight’s soundtrack). The music has an epic feel to it as well as a 60s vibe that perfectly captures the mood of the film. I LOVE the score used in the trailer, I even play it over and over again just to hear it. But this one used when Magneto lifts the submarine is downright epic:

9. The Wolverine cameo… short and bad-ass. I had no idea he was going to show up the first time around so it was an awesome surprise, but it’s still clap-worthy even on second viewing.

10. Kevin Bacon as a larger-than-life Bondian baddie… an explosive one at that…

11. That whole scene at the beach…especially the part when a bullet hits Xavier’s lower back… I teared up both times.

I can’t feel my legs.

12. Magneto’s heartbreaking back story… right from the tragic opening scene at the Polish Nazi camp and at the hand of German-speaking Kevin Bacon as a Nazi officer

13. Oliver Platt as one of the first ‘Man in Black’ is one of the most fun roles I’ve seen him do in a long while

14. The cool looking black and yellow x-men uniform

15. The name Sebastian Shaw… seems destined for a powerful bad dude

16. Jennifer Lawrence’s affecting portrayal as Mystique …

17. The contrasting ideology of Xavier and Magneto … and how each came to such a viewpoint…

Erik Lehnsherr: After tomorrow, they are gonna turn on us but you are blinded because you believe they are all like Moira.
Professor Charles Xavier: And you believe they are all like Shaw.

18. The global feel – with the various filming locations and language spoken (German, Russia, France, etc.)

19. Michael Fassbender’s Bond-like moves, especially the scene in the Argentinian Alps

20. The often funny X-Men training at Xavier’s mansion… especially Banshee learning how to fly with his sonic-producing ability

21. The scene where Charles accesses Erik’s childhood memory with his mother, and both men cry

22. The complicated relationship between Xavier and Raven – who somehow grow up together like siblings

23. Seeing Xavier’s playful and flirty side in college – using his mutant thesis as a pick up line even!

24. The dazzling scene when Magneto lifts the submarine high above water …

25. Darwin’s awesome adaptability powers – it’d have been nice if he stayed around longer though

26. A wonderful metaphor for all the outsiders and outcasts amongst us.

27. Rose Byrne’s outfit as Moira… especially the classic trench she wore to attend Xavier’s presentation …

28. Magneto’s fascinating relationship with Raven/Mystique

29. All the close-ups of Fassbender, whether he’s in rage, sorrow or both

30. The moment Erik kills Shaw with the same coin he once gave him… most memorable villain’s death ever

31. Hank McCoy’s humorous introduction at the lab – I love Nicholas Hoult’s heartfelt yet cerebral portrayal …

32. The devastating moment when Charles and Erik realize they have to finally part ways and each mutant must then choose a side

33. The name Raven… which carries the same mystique as the character who possesses it

34. The whimsical tones throughout the movie, adding mutant-related humor that enhances the plot instead of simply being used as filler …

35. Magneto’s stopping dozens of missiles mid air…whilst look dashingly cool doing it

36. The mutant recruiting sequence, especially when Angel showed Erik and Charles what she’s capable of…

37. Eye-popping special effects throughout, especially in the third act of the film in the final sea battle scene

38. The scene when Charles first meets Erik under water

Erik: I thought I was alone.

Charles: You’re not alone, Erik. You’re not alone.

39. Xavier’s heart-wrenching wail when he realized Erik is defying orders not to kill Shaw

40. It’s the kind of superhero movie I like… the one with thrilling action coupled with tough moral dilemmas. In other words, it’s what a fun comic-book movie should be… bombastic, but with heart.

Beneath the spectacle, there are themes of ‘prejudice, fear of the unknown, being outcast, trying to find a place in the world’ – universal themes we can all identify with. I posted a countdown to this movie back in May, hoping it would be a return to form for the X-Men franchise, well suffice to say, Vaughn (and Bryan Singer as its producer) did not disappoint!

4.5 out of 5 reels


Well, do you love this movie/franchise as much as I do? Feel free to share what you think of it and add your own favorite part/scene from the movie.