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Paul” — movie review
Today’s movie review is for the Sci-Fi, buddy, nerdy, road trip, comedy, extra-terrestrial parody / spoof “Paul” which was released in 2011.  The movie was written by and stars Simon Pegg as Graeme Willy and Nick Frost as Clive Gollings – two British friends who have come to America to visit a bunch of UFO sites in the Southwestern United States using an RV.  The two play life-long best of friends.
Along the way, they encounter a “real-life” alien by the name of Paul.  Paul is the alien who crashed in Roswell, New Mexico way back in 1947.  The “alien” was captured by the government and kept in secrecy in Area-51.  After 60-plus years of captivity, Paul gets wind the government feels they’ve gotten all they can from him and now intend to dissect him.  So, of course, he breaks out and tries to go home (shades of “E.T.“).
Seth Rogen is the voice of Paul, who is completely CGI.  Jason Bateman plays one of three FBI agents who are tasked with recovering Paul.  Sigourney Weaver is the head of the agency responsible for Paul and orders him captured or killed.  Kristen Wiig plays a right-wing religious fanatic who is “converted” by Paul.  She is also he love-interest for Pegg / Willy.
The alien is named “Paul” because when he crashed, he inadvertently crushed a young girl’s dog – named, you guessed it, “Paul”.  Blythe Danner plays the adult (60 years older) girl and Paul (the alien) wants to visit her before leaving so he can apologize.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it funny?  Does it work in any of the genres it’s trying to reach?  Yes!  Yes!  And, absolutely – ALL of them.
To be honest, I have not seen most of Pegg’s “big” roles.  Yes, I saw him in Mission Impossible and as Scotty in the three StarTrek re-boots and I thought he was pretty good.  I also saw him as the lead in “Absolutely Anything“, but I never got around to reviewing it (my bad).
Pegg and Frost are the two “live” leads / stars and they are both good to very good in their roles.  None of the acting (or other actors) is exceptional, but the movie works as the sum of its parts, not as a starring vehicle.  With one exception…  Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, but fortunately for the movie, the Rogen voiced Paul absolutely steals the movie in EVERY scene.  Paul is a smoking, drinking, cursing, sarcastic realist with nothing to prove to anyone and he would prefer going home to being autopsied.
Most of the humor is sophomoric, but it ALL works and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (out-n-out laughed) several times and guffawed / chuckled even more.  I would caution anyone who is shocked by pointless, vulgar language that this is a movie you need to avoid.  I would advise turning on the system censors, but I think you’ll miss too much of the humor as even the cursing is made fun of.  The movie is rated “R” for language, sexual innuendo and drug use (they smoked weed around a campfire).
If you are one of those folks who are into cultural references, this is THE movie for you.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of references to other movies, news, social trends, etc.  The only thing I’ve seen (recently) that’s been close was “Ready Player One” (which, curiously, I have also never reviewed — my bad, two).
Final recommendation:  Highly!!  The movie is (somewhat) predictable, but it’s a great trip.  In each of its genres it’s like walking up to your favorite roller-coaster:  you know every climb, every drop and twist, but you line up for the ride again because it’s just simple, entertaining, fun.
A final note:  prior to posting this, I have gone back to see some of the reviews of this movie and I am surprised how poorly it was received.  I gather Pegg and Frost are a team who have done some very funny movies in the past (which I have not seen yet) and this is not close to being their best work.  I guess I was just in the mood for some well done (if juvenile) social satire and this punched my ticket for the ride.  In any case, I now have a beacon pointing me to some “good medicine”.  (And after all, laughter IS the best medicine.)
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On This Day In:
2019 Welcome Home
The Whole Community
2018 The Cells Are Right
Day 19: Broth
2017 Be Responsible
2016 Thinking About November 8th, 2016
2015 Lonely Teardrops
2014 Pleasurable Law
2013 Room For Justice
In The Minds Of Others
2012 Extinction, n.
2011 Snap!

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Today’s reviews are of a movie I watched earlier in the week and a book I finished today…
Movie Review: Star Trek:  Beyond (2016)
This is the third movie in the Star Trek reboot series which stars Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones/McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty).  All the main characters are well played as all the actors seem to have settled into their on-going roles.  Sadly, I never saw this movie in its original release.  To be honest, I just never made time.  As good as a 50-inch screen may be from three feet away, it’s still not the same as having to use your peripheral vision to absorb the spectacle of the big screen theater experience.  But, then again, there is much to be said for a pause button, having your own kitchen / food / fridge, and a toilet ten steps away.
Is the movie original, any good, plot, action, does it make sense, etc.?   No, not really.  Yes, very enjoyable.  The plot is okay.  The action is reasonable, but I found the special effects to be only so-so.  Does it make sense?  Does it have to?  It’s Star Trek!  Okay.  Yes!  It makes sense (as long as you don’t try to think about it too hard).  The “best” Star Trek has always been a commentary on its current times, with a sub-textual message that we can get through this if we work together (aka “the future is hopeful”).  I would only say I’m getting tired of the Enterprise getting destroyed.  This is like the fifth time in fifteen movies.  Enough already!  We’ve seen this Fx get worked to death, now.  All in all, I’d say this was the best of the three reboots.  Highly recommended, particularly if you are a Trekkie (like me).
Book ReviewJack Reacher Series #2:  Die Trying  (1998©)
This book is the second in the Jack Reacher series of “male / adventure / action” genre books which I enjoy reading.  The series is authored by Lee Child.  Although it is the second book in the series, it is actually the third book I’ve read.  I got out of sequence because I read the book which corresponds to the Tom Cruise movie which came out several years ago (2012).  I enjoyed the movie, so I read the book.  I enjoyed the book (#8 in the series), so I decided to go back and read the series in order.
In this book, Jack is kidnapped (with a female FBI agent) in Chicago and taken to a posse comitatus (aka right-wing crazies) encampment in Montana where he must foil an attempt to secede from the United States.  All in all, the book is pretty standard faire for this genre and for this series.  Having said that, you will either enjoy it or you won’t.  I did.  Again, nothing earth-shattering here, just a good action / adventure story.  Even though it’s over 500 pages, it’s a fast read.  Strong to highly recommended book recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2015 Tell Me…
2014 Live Forever (To Remember Me)
Orange October (VI) – Giants Win Game 4
2013 More Than Just Words
2012 Egotist, n.
2011 Good And Bad

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(This is a long post, so if you’re not interested in my movie reviews, you may want to just come back tomorrow…)
This last week I decided to do a mini-binge / marathon on the movie series based on a television series from my youth: Mission Impossible.  In all honesty, I watched several seasons of the series but lost interest due to the similarity of so many of the episodes.  In fairness to the series, how many times (and ways) can you save the world?  Anyway, I do remember enjoying the TV series.
Also, in complete honesty, because I have only recently come around to being a Tom Cruise fan, I have never seen any of these five (so far) movies at the theater in original release.  Further, I had only seen parts of number one on TV.  It’s not that I intentionally avoided them.  I just don’t think I ever bothered enough to sit down and watch them.  My brother owns the DVD set, so I thought, what the heck: binge time.
Mission: Impossible (1996)  —  movie review
Wow! Is it possible this movie is 20 years old and I’ve never seen it?  Sho’nuff.  This movie introduces Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) – the only two characters to carry through all five movies in the series.  Hunt is the leader and Mr. Everything.  Stickell is the computer and electronics expert.  There is one carry-over from the original series: Jim Phelps (played by Jon Voight).  Basically, Hunt is framed for treason and the list of IMF agents around the world is up for grabs.  Hunt has to lead a hastily organized team of disavowed agents to recover the list and find the real traitor.
This was probably pretty good for its day and it does have one famous scene: Cruise hanging from a wire, stealing a computer file, in the CIA headquarters.  Other than that, I found it pedestrian.  Not bad.  Just not very good either.  All in all, an acceptable kick-off to the series.  Final recommendation: Moderate.
Mission: Impossible II (2000)  —  movie review
In the first of several implausible stories, Hunt (Cruise) leads the IMF team in a mission to stop an Australian pharmaceutical industrialist who hopes to become filthy rich by releasing a virus which will kill most of humanity while his company is the only one with the cure.  (Huh!?)  The worst of it is the use of an “anti-Hunt” / bad-guy former IMFer who wants to steal the company so he can get rich, too.
Not only is the story unbelievable, so are the action sequences and the fight scenes.  I guess the good news is that there are a fair number of both, so you can be visually entertained.  The movie is not unwatchable and it’s not really boring.  It’s just kind of “meh”.  Final recommendation: poor to moderate.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)  —  movie review
Hunt is semi-retired.  He is an instructor and mentor for junior IMF field agents.  One of his most promising protégés gets captured and Hunt is recruited back into the field to rescue her.  She dies in the attempt and Hunt assembles a team for revenge – I mean justice.  Blah, blah, blah, evil arms dealer who gets it in the end.  And, there’s another mole in the IMF HQ.  Seriously, is anybody guarding the hen-house?
As a movie, this is pretty much another ho-hum’er.  As an action / adventure movie with special effects, this sequel is better than 1 and 2.  Strangely, at this point I’ve started warming to the whole Hunt / Cruise and IMF thing.  I’m not sure why, but I think it’s some kind of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on.  In any case, Philip Symour Hoffman plays a surprisingly excellent villain!  I have never been a Hoffman fan and really only ever liked him in one role – a minor character, a grad student in the movie “Twister“.  I don’t really avoid movies with actors, but I doubt I’d go out of my way to see any movie with him in it.  I still don’t get why he was considered a “great” actor.  In fairness to Hoffman, I have never seen “Capote“, but I did see “Doubt“.  I just didn’t find him believable in that film / role.  So, yes, I was surprised at how good Hoffman is in this role.
This episode also sees the introduction of the character Benji Dunn, played by Commander Montgomery Scott, I mean Simon Pegg.  Add humor here…
Final recommendation: The movie is again only so-so, but Hoffman is terrific and makes the movie!  Strong recommendation.
Mission: Impossible (4 / IV) – Ghost Protocol (2011)  —  movie review
Okay, so the United States education system is not big on Roman numerals, so we’re gonna drop the “IV” and give this movie a title.
In another entirely implausible story (IAEIS), Hunt (Cruise) leads the IMF team in a mission to stop a Russian scientist who hopes to improve humanity by blowing up San Francisco with a nuclear missile which will lead to WW III and which will kill most of humanity.  (Huh!?) By now, Benji / Commander Scott / Pegg is a certified field agent.  IMF is framed for blowing up the Kremlin and the President “disavows” the whole of the IMF to avoid war with Russia.  This episode introduces William Brandt (Hawkeye / Bourne “Lite” / Jeremy Renner) as a quasi-Hunt “Lite”.
At a certain point in this series – just like with the TV series – the audience has to say, “I don’t care if any of this makes sense, as long as I’m entertained.”  I thought I’d reached that point in the MI:II, but MI:III kind of brought me back to this kind of makes sense and I am kind of entertained.  And then they drop you off the cliff again…  Makes sense, no.  Entertained, yes.
Final recommendation: Strong to Highly.  To be honest I think this is based on the cumulative effect of watching 9+ hours of this stuff.  It has started to grow on me and I am enjoying them more, even though most of the time it’s the same thing over and over again.
Mission: Impossible (5 / V) – Rogue Nation (2015)  —  movie review
IAEIS, Hunt (Cruise) must lead an (again) disavowed / defunded / disbanded IMF to fight a British sponsored “rogue” IMF force known as the “Syndicate”.  Blah, blah, blah, exotic locations, explosions, motorcycle and car chases, fight sequences, innocent casualties, hero drowns, hero comes back to life, blah, blah, blah.  Hunt / IMF wins and gets the bad guy.  The moral of the story is friendship and doing the right thing is more important than following the orders or the law (I guess).  Oh, yeah, and again, never trust the guys back at HQ.
Final recommendation: Strong.  I’m not sure why, but again, I was entertained by this movie.  No, it’s not believable and almost everything has been done before in 1 thru 4, but worked.  Go figure…
Series final recommendation: Strong.  This is a series twenty years (so far) in the making.  As technology has improved, they’ve tried to keep pace.  Mostly, it (the movies individually and the series as a whole) works – the special effects, the “spy” technology and the movies.  I’m also finding the series interesting because they are aging the lead character (Hunt) instead of simply re-booting the series with a new team.  All in all, I rate the series as higher than the individual pieces and the last two as better than the first three.
Two final notes:  like many of the movies in the action / adventure genre, this series has definitely made an effort to “span the globe” in an attempt to attract the global audience.  This series goes a bit too far (IMHO), but who am I to say as they are making a ton of dosh in the foreign markets.  And I apologize to any readers who slogged through this LONG post.  I hope you found the reviews moderately interesting / entertaining.
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On This Day In:
2015 Happy 4th of July 2015!!
2014 Happy 4th of July 2014!!
2013 Patriot Act, Anyone?
2012 Five Lost Wars
2011 Worth Fighting For
2010 Still Learnin’ Hard…
4th of July 2010

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Well, the last thirty days have seen a good run of new movies for me: “Oblivion“, “Iron Man 3“, “The Great Gatsby” (last weekend) and yesterday, “Star Trek Into Darkness“.
The Great Gatsby – movie review
“The Great Gatsby” movie is based on the “classic” novel by the same name and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I saw the movie promo’s starting several months ago, and as I’d read the book several decades ago, I decided to do something I almost never do – read the book and then go see the movie.  On the rare occasions when I do both read the book and then see a movie based on a book, I tend to see the movie (and enjoy it), and then go read the book.  In all honesty, this is normally because it takes a couple of years for the movie to follow the book and I would pick up the book in paperback after the movie just cause it’s cheaper to buy it used then.
But I digress…  This book is from the 1920’s and the movie has been done multiple times since its initial publication.  I guess the most famous is the 1970s version starring Robert Redford (which I have never seen).  Anyway, my daughter is an English major and she has a copy of the novel, so I read it in advance of seeing the movie.The movie follows the book very closely.  The characters are not the way I imagined them from the reading, but the major scenes are pretty spot on to the book.  As I didn’t “like” the book, I ended up finding the book only slightly better.  The costumes and feel of the movie seem pretty accurate and the acting was okay, but a couple of things bugged me.  Visually, the shirts and coats of many of the men didn’t seem to fit.  Almost all were too tight, and many were too short (particularly in the sleeves).  Now, normally this wouldn’t bother me much – if it all – but one scene has Gatsby raining down clothes on the female lead bragging about how he has them sent from his personal clothier in London.  So, why don’t the shirts, vest or jackets fit?
The second thing which bothered me was the music score.  It was too modern.  It had a ’20s “jazzy” feel, but it wasn’t, and a couple numbers even seemed to be almost rap.
So, is this the “definitive” Gatsby?  Even not having seen any of the other versions, I’d be inclined to say no.  I enjoyed DiCaprio in the title role, but everyone else was kind of blah.  Well, Maguire was okay, but not better than so-so.  None of the other characters were the way I imagined them from the book and certainly none of them played the role better than my imagination – again, even though the book was followed fairly closely.  Final recommendation: unless you are a MASSIVE DiCaprio or Gatsby fan, wait for TV release.
Star Trek Into Darkness – movie review
First off, full disclosure…  I watched all of Star Trek (the Original Series – aka ST:TOS) in first release back in the ’60s.  I have seen every episode at least five times (and most, many, many, many times more).  I even have the Enterprise and the Galileo Seven Christmas ornaments, for cryin’ out loud.  So, maybe this reviewer is slightly biased.  Having said this, what did I think?  This is a terrific movie!!  Get out your DVD of the first re-boot to get prepped and then RUN down to your local cinema to see this on a big screen.  Do NOT wait for this to come out on DVD unless you have a huge video set up at home.
Is this episode a “soap opera” in space? Yes (so what).  Are there “enough” nods to the original series and earlier movies? Yes!  Is there action?  YES!  Are the special effects up to snuff?  YES!  (Well, mostly.  Some of the CGI is pretty fuzzy / noticeable).  Is the acting good to great?  For the most part, yes!  These guys are really starting to own the roles, particularly the “minor” regulars Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).  It goes without saying that Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones/McCoy (Karl Urban) are well played.  Once again, Scotty (Simon Pegg) dominates most of scenes he’s in.  And ethnic issues aside, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a good Khan.For me, the two touchstones of ST:TOS were humor and friendship.  Both are abundant in this movie.  I honestly believe that if you are in any way a fan of the original series, you will enjoy (if not love) this movie!!
Now, before all the absolutists start in on me, here are a couple of the “WTF” moments:
The transporter has a limited range (even in “The Next Generation” (TNG)), you can’t beam from one solar system to another.  So, Khan can’t beam from Earth to the Klingon home world.  Khan defeats the combined crews of three Klingon Birds of Prey (30 to 40 guys), but he can’t wup on one Vulcan (okay, so Khan was popped by 6-8 phaser stun blasts, but still), come on…  And finally, even at warp speed, travel from Earth to the Klingon home world is not instantaneous.  And, yes, there are other things, but REALLY, the movie is terrific!
Anything else?  Yeah.  Two “reality” points.  First, enough with the retread story lines.  The purpose of the reboot was to provide freedom for new stories, not just to re-hash the old stories with new actors.  How about Star Trek 3 gives us a new story?  Now, that I’d love to see!  Second, Pine isn’t younger than Kirk anymore.  If you’re not careful, you’re going to age Pine right out of the role for future movies.  I don’t see how you can do five years worth of exploration while shooting a movie once every three / four years…
Time will tell…
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On This Day In:
2013 Defining Maleness
2012 All Set
2011 Not Always

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