Tag Archives: Zachary Quinto

You Lookin’ at Me?


by Hope Madden

Oliver Stone’s cinematic output has been hit or miss. The hits leave a mark: Platoon, JFK, Salvador. Unfortunately, it’s been mostly misses this millennium.

But any time Stone has a topic that means something, one with government conspiracy and one hyper-serious guy trying to make things right, at least he’s in his wheelhouse.

Snowden offers him exactly that.

Opening with the clandestine meeting between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the journalists who would make the 2014 documentary Citizenfour (see it if you haven’t), Stone takes us through the harrowing journey that led to that taping.

Gordon-Levitt continues to impress in a performance that is eerily authentic. We see Ed as an optimistic patriot who becomes increasingly more outraged by what he sees and does with his high-security clearance for the CIA.

Interestingly, what the film itself lacks is outrage. Ed Snowden’s personality is very subdued. This no doubt benefitted his escapade, but it does not make for a vivid film.

And while vivid is Stone’s middle name, his attempts to enliven the story too often feel like tricks from an old bag: the mysterious mentor who conveniently shares information just when it’s most provocative; intensely suspicious camera angles; ominous score.

For the most part, though, Stone dials it down this time around, and that’s kind of a shame. Just a touch of the hyperbole and bombast of his usual fare might have benefitted a film that should deeply shock and appall, but does not.

Streamlining would have helped, as well. The 2+ hour running time sometimes feels like 3, often because Stone and his team of writers skim across so much information rather than digging deeply in a single area.

A large supporting cast includes some real gems – Zachary Quinto is especially good. Many of the minor characters, though, are so cartoonishly drawn (Rhys Ifans, in particular) that they distract from what is, in most areas, a reasonably realistic portrait.

There are just enough Stone-isms here to make the film irritating, but not enough to leave a mark. Despite strong performances and directorly panache, Snowden feels unfocused. Worse still, it lacks the gut punch that it should deliver.


The Frontier Strikes Back

Star Trek Beyond

by George Wolf

Kirk. Spock. Bones. Wisecracks, a villain, and some heroic space swashbuckling. We’re pretty familiar with the Star Trek setup by now, and three flicks into the J.J. Abrams-fueled reboot, the latest seems the most comfortable in its journey. And though Star Trek Beyond doesn’t quite boldly go, it is a fun, satisfying ride.

Three years into a five-year mission, the crew of the Enterprise stops for some downtime at an immense new space station. Kirk (Chris Pine) in awaiting a promotion, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is mulling a return home to Vulcan, and Bones (Karl Urban), good God, man, he has some fun needling Spock about a botched romance with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).

The gang gets back in action to answer the distress call of a stranded crew, but falls into the trap of the Kahn-like Krall (Idris Elba), who’s after a very powerful artifact that Kirk just happens to be holding.

Fast and Furious vet Justin Lin takes over for Abrams in the director’s chair and, working with a snappy script co-written by Simon Pegg (“Scotty”), has the film feeling like a fun Trek TV episode beamed up to the multiplex.

Though the adventure is a little tardy getting its legs, things only get better as they go along. The banter is crisp, the derring-do daring, and the chemistry of the ensemble, so important in a franchise such as this, is undeniable.

Spectacular only in spots, what Beyond does best is honor its own heritage while planning for the future. The nods to its TV past run from cheesy to ingenious, even finding a clever way to acknowledge the effect the entire Star Trek phenomenon has had on popular culture.

After the trying-too-hard reach of Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond strikes just the right note. More of this? I’m on board.




Going Boldly

by George Wolf


Look, when you’re wrong, you gotta wear the hat, so fit me with a big Star Trek sombrero.

Four years ago, I thought rebooting the franchise with an origin story was a silly idea. Silly me. In the hands of director/producer J.J Abrams, it has taken on a new relevance, and the second effort from Abrams, Into Darkness, is a spectacular success on all fronts.

From the opening sequence, Abrams settles into a breakneck pace, filling the screen with a rousing combination of action, effects, heart and humor that rarely lets up.

The ace up Abrams’s sleeve? His cast. These are characters ingrained into pop culture, and our emotional investment in them is rewarded. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban play Kirk, Spock and Bones with the mischievous twinkle of youth. Without resorting to caricature, all three actors are utterly believable as younger versions of these rogues we know so well.

They are surrounded by an able supporting cast, most notably Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison, the deadly villain with mysterious motives and a great big Enterprise surprise.

Star Trek screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman return, joining with Damon Lindelof to script a thrilling adventure filled with multiple callbacks to previous film installments and TV episodes.

Quite simply, there isn’t much to dislike. Into Darkness is a finely crafted spectacle, all that a summer blockbuster should be. It is joyously nerdy, yet cool enough for those who wouldn’t know Nurse Chapel from Nurse Ratched. It’s funny, and true to its sci-fi roots while offering sly parallels with today’s political climate.

Next up for Abrams is a new Star Wars sequel, and fans should rest easy. Into Darkness is more proof the man knows a thing or two about making a franchise live long and prosper.

What I mean is, boldly go to the theatre.


Kirk out!