Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Not surprisingly, there was a fair bit of both excitement and apprehension among the Star Trek community when the sci-fi franchise got a reboot four years ago. Looking back, it’s pretty safe to say that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto did a pretty good job with their portrayals of Kirk and Spock, respectively. And so, when the Into Darkness sequel was announced, the community was once again met with both excitement and apprehension.

And action in Star Trek Into Darkness largely picks up where the last movie left off with Captain James T. Kirk leading the USS Enterprise and its crew around brave new worlds. Without spoiling too much, he finds himself in some hot water and loses command of his ship. Meanwhile, Starfleet Command comes under attack by a new threat and Kirk gets thrown back into the fire.

Yes, JJ Abrams indulges far too much with his lens flare effects to the point of utter annoyance and the plot almost feels a little too thin for the movie’s over two-hour runtime, but Star Trek Into Darkness is still quite the joy for Trekkers and non-Trekkies alike. The performance of Benedict Cumberbatch, best known from BBC’s Sherlock, is particularly compelling with his clever blend of cerebral superiority and an underlying bloodthirsty rage. He makes an excellent villain and is reason enough on his own to watch Into Darkness.

The Last Stand (2013)

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Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reign as Governator of California drew to a close, we’ve been anxiously awaiting his return to the cheesy action-packed silver screen. Yes, he had a brief cameo in The Expendables 2, but The Last Stand represents Arnold’s first “real” movie since finishing his life in politics. He wasn’t a particularly young man, even in his heyday in flicks like Terminator 2, but now that he’s in his 60s, Schwarzenegger is really start to show his age.

I’m not saying that older guys can’t hold their own when it comes to action movies, but Arnold is a far cry from his days as Mr. Olympia. It also doesn’t help that you can hang the plot of The Last Stand or a very thin, unbelievable string. Apparently, there is a Mexican drug lord that escapes FBI custody. He gets chased across the country, blowing pass road block after road block, leaving death and destruction in his wake. Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger plays the world-weary sheriff of a small Arizona down right on the Mexican border. You can probably guess where this is going.

You get your car chases and firefights, but somehow this movie isn’t nearly as satisfying for this action junkie as the cheesy gems of the late 80s and early 90s. This is despite some bad one-liners that capitalize on Schwarzenegger’s signature style. Maybe it’s for the best that cheesy 90s action movies stay in the 90s.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

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I can see why the Catholic community may have been upset by The Da Vinci Code. Here we are talking about a possible living descendant of Jesus Christ and how the Catholic Church has been keeping a deep, dark secret from his for centuries in order to maintain its power. I can see how that could be troubling, but we have to approach this movie as a dramatized work of fiction and nothing more than that.

The story goes that a man dies and he leaves behind a series of cryptic clues for Tom Hanks’ character to discover. He gets chased by good guys who might be bad guys and he gets led down a nonsensically complicated rabbit hole to discover “the truth.” It really feels like they added multiple layers of complexity purely for the purpose of being complex and not for adding any sort of real value to the narrative. And it really has very little to do with the old man’s death in the first place.

Here is a movie that could have been smart and engaging, filled with subtle nuance and thought-provoking questions, but it just ends up being controversial for controversy’s sake. They could have done a lot worse, but I’d argue they could have also done a lot better.