Star Trek Into Darkness

A Free Soul Movie

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Visual Effects

The horse race! The great question! The draw of history! Is there anything more exciting than the uncertainty of not knowing who will take home gold on Oscars’ big night? Of course there is. Lots of things are more exciting, and there’s no uncertainty here because Gravity is going to win the crap out of this award. So instead, let’s talk briefly about magic. Because that’s what visual effects are. Ever since the first days when a train scared people by pulling into the station, film itself was magic. The idea that you can capture the world around you and preserve it on a chemical strip has an air of sorcery to it, as it should, but we’ve had a century to get used to the mechanism, so visual effects have taken on the hefty mantle of casting spells. Like making us believe we’re in space, or fighting a dragon, or fighting an exploding foe, or fist-fighting on top of a train, or returning to space. Here’s a look at all five nominees with behind-the-scenes VFX videos to make up for my totally unsurprising predicted winner (which is in red)…

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2013.trailermashups

Trailer mashups are a beautiful diversion. On the surface they’re frivolous, but they also manage to re-contextualize the familiar and shine a blinding bulb on thematic similarities. You might get fired for watching them all day (come on, Mr. Danforth!), but there’s a deep power in connecting two seemingly incongruous films or accentuating the copycat nature of tentpoles. There’s a wacky romance to be found in Gravity, a steampunk spectacle in an animated world, adorable Pixar revenge and much more to be discovered. If you watch all of this year’s best, you’ll be overwhelmed with the patterns — not just in the plotting, but also in trailer construction. There’s a bit less Brrrrrwwaaaaaaam this time around, but the hero’s journey is still thriving alongside the explosions. You’ll also notice that pretty much no one makes trailers for Stories We Tell or 12 Years a Slave. Blockbusters are the key targets, and mixing them up with animation and nostalgia seems to be more popular than ever. Oh, and Wall-E. Trailer mashup artists love that damned thing. We like to have fun with trailers here at FSR. Even if we over-think them, hopefully you’ll find something to ponder with our favorites of 2013. Or maybe you’ll just laugh a lot before Mr. Danforth fires you. The guy is ruthless. I think his marriage is on the rocks or something. At any rate, and without further ado: Brrrrrwwaaaaaaam.

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CUMBERBATCH_STAR-TREK-INTO-DARKNESS

When Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof finalized the script for Star Trek Into Darkness, they made a bold decision (presumably under the guiding hand of J.J. Abrams) to include a twist not based on information delivered in the movie itself, but based on real-world knowledge of the series’ history. When the destructive John Harrison reveals himself, in fact, to be Khan midway through the story, it’s an unnecessary twist designed specifically and solely for fans who knew who the hell Khan was to begin with. In an alternative universe where the simple act of making a Star Trek sequel didn’t bring Khan to every film journalist’s mind immediately, it could have been a magic moment, but it was also always destined (in every universe) to be a head-scratcher for those outside the know. They didn’t spend the movie building up the mythos of Khan — they spent the movie displaying how vicious “John Harrison” could be and then revealed, gasp, that he had another name! It was a reverse Keyser Soze. Just like that — poof — John Harrison was gone. Which is what makes Abrams’ room temperature regret about lying to the press about Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan leading up to the film’s release all the more bizarre.

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cornish monsters

After the terribly disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness, there may be hope for the next installment in the very good possibility that Joe Cornish will direct Star Trek 3. Yesterday, Deadline exclusively reported the rumor, whatever that really means, and ever since I’ve been trying to imagine what this development could mean. A lot of fans of both Cornish and Trek have been debating the pros and cons of the pairing. Cornish is too inexperienced as a director, some say. He shouldn’t waste his time with a franchise threequel, others argue. Well, I am optimistic for a few reasons. One is that we’ll probably get more Simon Pegg‘s Scotty, because Cornish and Pegg go way back — he helmed behind-the-scenes docs for Pegg and Edgar Wright films and also scripted The Adventures of Tintin, which featured voice work from the actor. And maybe he could find a role for Pegg’s buddy Nick Frost, who acted in Cornish’s sole feature directorial effort, Attack the Block. Mostly, though, it could be a lighter, more humorous episode. Not just if that reunion happened, but because of the Star Trek stuff Cornish has done in the past. Namely the TNG parody from The Adam and Joe Show that you can watch after the jump.

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blackfishmovie

Welcome to my 6th annual list of halloween costume ideas. These are mostly original, yet also mostly unlikely suggestions. One thing a lot of them have in common is the fact that you’ll need to explain exactly what you are, even if there is some mainstream-recognized foundation. For example, if this was a list of costume ideas based on movies that haven’t come out yet, one might be “Justin Bieber as Robin in Batman vs. Superman.” The basic Robin uniform would probably be easily understood, but the fact that the colors have been changed to purple, white and black, and why you’ve got a mop top will require the clarification that it’s based on a casting rumor the singer made up. I’d like to preface this year’s list by saying that I feel the past 12 months have either been uninspiring compared to other years — and/or I haven’t seen the hip movies of 2013. And I didn’t bother with much from the last quarter (as in post-Halloween) titles from 2012, because they all just feel like they’re from a century ago. Seriously, if you see anyone dressed as Abraham Lincoln and mention Spielberg’s movie, you’re sure to get a reaction of “oh yeah, there was that movie.” Feel free to borrow any of the following ideas for your Halloween festivities, especially if you want something that’s a conversation starter. But you must send us pictures. And if you don’t like my suggesions but you come up with your own very […]

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flare

By now everyone who’s a fan of film and who frequents the Internet has to have noticed that director JJ Abrams’ films have their own unique aesthetic that heavily involves the overuse of extraneous lens flares. It’s almost impossible to watch one of his movies and not become aware of the blinding lights, and it’s almost equally impossible to talk movies on the Internet without seeing all of the memes that have been created to make fun of him for them. Don’t believe it? Just look at the image that’s been floating around the Internet above, or watch this supercut that College Humor did of every lens flare that appears in Abrams’ first Star Trek movie. The phenomenon is undeniable. One thing we’ve never really known is why Abrams overuses the effect so much, or how he feels about all of the flack that his films have gotten because of it. Or, we haven’t known until now, because Crave Online recently caught up with the director and, like a bunch of heroes, flat out asked him what the lens flare thing is all about. Think that’s a little brazen? Even more shocking than someone asking a celebrity a straightforward question in this day and age was Abrams’ response—not only did he own up to overusing lens flares, he flat out apologized to fans for it.

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Space Jam

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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discs death force and vampire hookers

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Drive-In Collection: Death Force / Vampire Hookers In Death Force, Doug Russell (James Iglehart) is a soldier on the way home to his wife and infant son, but when he runs afoul of two supposed friends he’s left for dead in the middle of the ocean. Luckily he washes up on an island beach where he’s found, nursed back to health, and trained in the way of the samurai by two Japanese soldiers unaware that their war (WWII) ended years prior. Vampire Hookers doesn’t really need a synopsis, does it? Vinegar Syndrome’s latest double feature of obscure drive-in favorites is one of the good ones thanks mostly to the first feature. At its core it’s a revenge flick, but the story touches and fight choreography make it a surprisingly good time. In its uncut incarnation, aka Vengeance Is Mine!, it does for decapitations and gut slashings what Olympus Has Fallen did for head shots. Better, the numerous fight scenes are actually pretty great. And best? The ending! Vampire Hookers meanwhile comes from the same director (Cirio H. Santiago) but is a completely different beast tone-wise. It’s a comedy through and through, complete with physical gags, bats on strings, and a very vampy John Carradine. The seven minute-long (but relatively tame) sex scene stands out though. [DVD extras: Trailer]

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Uwe Boll Postal

The best writing from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Marquee

As if the summer box office wasn’t already glutted with more than enough blockbusters to last us right into fall, Paramount Pictures has now announced that they’re bringing back two of their most plagued productions for a special studio-specific double feature to end the summer with a bang (or, potentially, a whimper). Paramount is bringing both Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z back to select theaters for a one-week engagement (August 30th through September 5th) that will, thoughtfully enough, cost moviegoers just the price of one ticket. Both films were troublesome for Paramount in different ways – STID had to live through director J.J. Abrams’ persistent insistence that his film was not a new spin on the classic Khan storyline, only for fans to discover that, well, it was. The Brad Pitt-starring World War Z had its own cross to bear – months and months of reshoots and rewrites that typically spell doom for any film. Neither film has been a true box office bust – STID pulled in nearly $460m worldwide (more than its predecessor), with WWZ making just over $526m worldwide – but is that enough for Paramount? Apparently not. But with Paramount putting together its own double feature to grab the last dollars available from an exhausted (and exhausting) summer, we couldn’t help but wonder what other studios could put together their own second-run double features and, if they did, what we’d actually like to see from them.

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rejectrecap082413

This will go down in non-history as the week fanboys told Hollywood to argo fu… Actually, the fanboys are apparently doing more than just complaining and burning the Hollywood sign in effigy this time. There’s a petition on Change.org with more than 30,000 signatures. Just imagine if in this increasingly (faux) democratic entertainment industry that the public managed to pull enough sway to actually cancel a major studio casting choice. I presume Warner Bros. would pass on the bill in the form of a mandated crowdfunding campaign in which every signer of that petition has to pledge at least a buck towards buying Ben Affleck out of the presumably already filed contract they’ve made for him to do not only Man of Steel 2 but a number of other Justice League franchise films. Ten bucks if they want a souvenir t-shirt. Well, that portrayal, if nobody stops it, is two years down the line. Let’s focus on all the great, positively reviewed new films opening this weekend, like The World’s End, Short Term 12, You’re Next, Drinking Buddies and The Trials of Muhammad Ali (not yet reviewed), plus some expanding favorites all making this the best new movie weekend of the year. And in between showtimes as we spend the next two days in the cinema, let’s review all the other non-Bat-news and features FSR has covered since the last Reject Recap. Below you’ll find goodies on The Avengers, the Marx Brothers, Smokey and the Bandit and other awesome things […]

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Loki Glass Prison

The glass prison designers of the fictional world are making bank this year. It seems that almost every action-packed superhero or quasi-superhero film features the same prominent set piece and it hasn’tt gone unnoticed: a recent meme circulated remarking on the inefficacy of the glass  prison, showing the evolution of the structure on film. The image, created by Raven Montoya, stacked a number of villains captured in glass prisons on top of each other: Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, Magneto from X2 (technically a plastic prison), Loki from Avengers,  Raoul Silva from Skyfall, and lastly, the animated Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. The caption  quipped, “Yes! Of course it’s a good idea to put the homicidal maniac in a glass prison. I’m sure he won’t get out.” That the villain always escapes comes hand in hand with another trope of the glass prison—to  quote the Joker in The Dark Knight, “It’s all part of the plan.” The villain intends to be caught in order to set his diabolical plan in motion. Charlie Jane Anders of io9 cites the Rube Goldbergian  nature of the scheme as one reason for the evil mastermind to create this situation—to enhance  his devious nature. She also notes a more important use of such a tactic: “You get to put the hero and the villain in the room together, without having them fight.” All this would seem to be blockbuster screenwriting 101. You set up a mid-movie failure to create tension before the final […]

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kurtz

Box-office juggernauts Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman have been writing partners for 22 years now. After spending all that time together, it’s astonishing they haven’t come to hate each other, but the duo have managed to sidestep any signs of spitefulness. From television to the big screen, they’ve covered a fair amount of ground together. Orci and Kurtzman got to put Ethan Hunt through another mousetrap adventure in MI:III, they helped bring the Autobots and Decepticons to life, and now they’ve done the most obvious film imaginable: suave bank robbing magicians. With director Louis Leterrier‘s Now You See Me, the two men are once again seated firmly in the producer’s chair, where they’ve found themselves frequently over the past few years. This year alone they have three produced pictures being released, all of which are fairly, if not completely, high-profile projects. Now You See Me, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Ender’s Game don’t make for a shabby roster, and while speaking with the two men we concluded that all three represent the type of movies they love. Side note: If you missed out on our previous interview with Kurtzman and Orci discussing Star Trek Into Darkness, it can be found here. Here’s what Now You See Me producers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci had to say about their approach to producing, not being snobs, and balancing art and commerce:

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benedict-cumberbatach-take-a-shower-of-evil-in-star-tr

There sure was a lot to talk about with a certain summer blockbuster this week. So much that this week’s Reject Recap is nearly half-filled with highlights of stuff written on Star Trek Into Darkness. And yes, the villain’s name comes up. It’s not a spoiler anymore. Everyone knows. And it doesn’t even matter if you know or not. Just like it doesn’t matter if Alice Eve has a gratuitous underwear scene or Benedict Cumberbatch has a shower scene if neither of them is otherwise an interesting character — and that’s a more worthwhile debate for this particular film, too. Anyway, I’ve spread the Trek links a bit, giving them the even alternating slots because there used to be (no longer, apparently) that rule that even-numbered Trek films were the good ones. Anything else happen in the past seven days? Well, our man in Cannes, Shaun Munro reviewed I think 400 movies, give or take a few. Arrested Development is returning this weekend so we had something fun to share related to that. And filmmaker Sean Hackett (Homecoming) shared a personal essay in the hopes of helping bullied movie fans out there. Two highlights come from outside the FSR gates this week, and as usual I invite you to suggest great writing on film to include here in the future. Because we can’t always cover everything, and I can’t always read everything. Oh, and one more great thing from the past week, which we humbly didn’t highlight among the ten: […]

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Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci are probably two of the busiest screenwriters working today. It seems like every month we hear of a new project they’re scripting, developing, or what have you (a look at their current IMDb pages includes listings for upcoming projects, from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to that Van Helsing reboot). Their schedules have certainly stopped me from interviewing them in the past, and when their names are appearing on four high-profile films in the span of a single year, you can see why scheduling would be a bit of a problem. Now the pair has two projects coming out only weeks apart, with Star Trek Into Darkness and Now You See Me both arriving this spring. Now You See Me has a chance of being a sleeper success, while Into Darkness already opened to impressive numbers this past weekend. It’s been four years since their Trek reboot, and ever since then there’s been plenty of rumors over what exactly J.J. Abrams was hiding in his mystery box. With the film finally out, we spoke with screenwriters/producers about what that box contained in a SPOILER-filled discussion:

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Star Trek Lens Flare

Rumor has it that J.J. Abrams is known to approach strangers, hold his finger beneath their nose while stifling a laugh and then ask them if they can tell which box it smells like. That probably isn’t true, but the man most definitely loves a good mystery. As writer, director and/or producer he’s been attached to dozens of films and TV shows featuring mysteries both big and small. The secret to Lost‘s island, the reveal of the monster in Cloverfield and the alien in Super 8, the explanation as to why Felicity cut her hair… all mysteries we eventually saw answered after a glorious period of intense curiosity. Hell, we’re still eagerly awaiting an answer to what exactly he was thinking while writing Gone Fishin’. Abrams famously explained his attraction to the idea of a “mystery box” during his 2007 TED Talk, and it basically boils down his belief that “mystery is more important than knowledge.” There’s a semantics argument to be had there, but the core point is a sound one that more often than not gets lost in an online world used to having all of the answers and information available 24/7. People who read books don’t (usually) read the ending first, so why do so may of us want to know as much as possible about the plot points, casting and cameos in the movies we’ve yet to watch? Abrams simply prefers as little as possible be revealed in advance of our eyeballs actually seeing his work […]

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Abrams and Giacchino Star Trek Score

Whether or not you’re a fan of Star Trek Into Darkness, you should take a look at the latest SoundWorks Collection shorts on the music of the film. Michael Coleman visited the 20th Century Fox Newman Scoring Stage to document some of the recording of the Star Trek sequel’s score. While there he interviewed Tim Simonec, the conductor and orchestror, while also getting some footage of director J.J. Abrams and composer Michael Giacchino overlooking the sessions. Also named in the video is co-producer Michelle Rejwan as the orchestra plays “Happy Birthday” in her honor (at least I think it’s in her honor since the camera is turned toward her). Behind the scenes stuff like this is always neat, and here Simonec explains some of what’s different about the Into Darkness score compared to the previous Star Trek movie’s music. For one thing this has more synth less choir. I also just like watching all the professional musicians. It’s easy to forget about all that talent while watching a movie, especially when you wind up nitpicking at the writing and directing. While Giacchino’s compositions themselves may be criticized, there’s absolutely no digging at the people on the strings and horns and percussion. Their performance of the score is objectively perfect, as that job always has to be. Watch the brief video after the jump.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

After four years of waiting and anticipation, geek honcho J.J. Abrams has finally given us the sequel to his 2009 box office and critical hit. And it is … serviceable. Abrams’ new movie is as sleek and shiny as his first Star Trek picture but lacking much of its charm. The novelty of seeing these characters coming together is gone, the villain is lackluster in bizarre ways, and the high-flying pacing is absent, making many of the film’s logic gaps even more head-scratching. And there are indeed some real head-scratchers. Choosing emotion and spectacle over logic can work, and it does in the last Trek outing and the first half of Star Trek Into Darkness, but this time around Abrams and his screenwriting team can’t gloss over all the leaps in logic and other narrative problems. What starts off as another thrilling Abrams movie ends up turning into a mess by the end. Here are some (spoiler-y) questions which arise out of that mess:

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Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-trio

It’s hard to watch Star Trek Into Darkness and not think about Star Wars. Yes, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and so we have that knowledge on the brain going into this. Maybe we’re even on the lookout for clues hinting at what we should expect from his take on that galaxy. This isn’t the first time the Trek franchise has had to try and prove itself in the shadow of George Lucas’s own series. Even though it originated with a TV show in the 1960s, Trek‘s cinematic resurrection a decade later was in part allowed by and somewhat influenced by the success and quality of the first Star Wars. But even regardless of the fact that Abrams is following the latest Trek with the next Wars, I often otherwise felt like I was watching one of the latter while sitting through Into Darkness. Before getting into the evidence that Abrams is a clear fan of Lucasfilm works (and not just Star Wars) and likes to sample from them, let’s take a moment to think about what all his call back references and allusions to both Wars and Trek might mean for Episode VII. Will there be too much winking and fan-service, unhidden Easter eggs and inside jokes and maybe even outright recycling the way Into Darkness is with certain prior Trek installments? Could Episode VII have a number of allusions to Trek the way Into Darkness pays obvious homage to Wars? Rather than creating new worlds of his […]

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