Movie Review: “Ice Age: Collision Course”



They weren’t much to start with, but the “Ice Age” movies are officially two or three installments past their expiration date with “Ice Age: Collision Course.”

A laugh-starved kids’ cartoon, it has nothing to recommend it to adults save for the opening credits confirmation that America’s Omnipresent Astronomer, Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, has finally jumped the shark.

He lends his opening narration to a science-averse comedy that has anthropomorphized mammals sharing the Earth with dinosaurs and a nutty squirrel in space thanks to “Ancient Astronauts.”

All in good “dumb” fun he assures us.

Only it isn’t. The critters face extinction — again — as meteors rain upon the Earth, the planetary “cleansing” that comes along every 100 million years or so, a wise weasel (Simon Pegg) informs the extended family of Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano). Better take cover.

Jennifer Lopez classes up the clan as mate to saber-toothed Denis Leary. John Leguizamo gets all the worst one-liners.

“You are the wind beneath my…fleas!”

But Pegg, playing an eyepatch-wearing recurring character, provides a deliciously loony hint of where the laughs should have come from, songs — all of them derived from the “Marriage of Figaro.” That’s opera, Doc.

More Pegg, please. Less of everything else. But then, it’s too late for that. “Collision Course” is already a bomb.


MPAA Rating: PG for mild rude humor and some action/peril

Cast: The voices of Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg and Neil DeGrasse-Tyson
Credits: Directed by Mike Thurmeir, Galen T. Chu, script by Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, Yoni Brenner. A 20th Century Fox release.

Running time: 1:34

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Movie Review — Disingenuous Dinesh is back with “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party”


There’s something inherently hilarious about the very idea of Dinesh D’Souza, a smug brown foreign person pandering to elderly, xenophobic white persons as he demonizes the political party that represents most other brown persons in his adopted country.

Not as hilarious as his view of himself, of course. D’Souza, a conservative “scholar,” is a martyr to the cause,  a man sent to prison for trying to buy an election. He recreates his trial and his “prison” experience in his latest documentary, “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.”

Of course, the fact that he starts his film off with this eye-rolling trial and “hard time” filled with bad actors rolling their eyes at his pleas and seeming naivete — and FAILS TO LABEL IT AS RE-CREATED, with actors and editorializing, not real footage — makes you question everything that follows in his latest red meat to the Red States Jeremiad about America — and how this ill-informed Indian immigrant thinks it’s going wrong.

Not that the questions are hard. D’Souza distorts history, defames FDR and LBJ and Margaret Sanger and settles on his favorite whipping boys — the late leftist activist Saul Alinsky and those he claims are doing Alinsky’s “dirty work” — Barack Obama and The Clintons.

But as he panders to an audience that Donald Trump’s candidacy has outed as virulently racist, clinging to the Confederate flag and a political party where KKK members still run for office on the GOP ticket, D’Souza celebrates “The Party of Lincoln,” questions why African Americans abandoned the party that freed the slaves and pushed for equal protection under the law during Reconstruction.

He demonizes Andrew Jackson, the first Democrat, as a genocidal racist slave owner, but fails to note the legions of Republicans throwing tantrums to keep him on the $20 bill.

Like that most polished propagandist, Rush Limbaugh, he pushes Goebbels’ “Big Lie,” starting with crediting himself as prophetic with his previous anti-Obama screed, listing all the things he said would come to pass, but didn’t, but which he assures us did.

In Obama’s America, this smirking elitist narrates from the back of his chauffeured luxury SUV (Again, irony) and mixes up his early history of the Republican party, builds a vast conspiracy that the Democratic Party has used to keep black people down, and ignores the decades of real scholarship that explains the GOP’s descent into race-baiting, “the Southern strategy” and where racists found a political home.

That his many images of the Civil War, heroic boys in blue slaughtering the traitorous racist rebel Southern Democrats under the Stars and Bars, doesn’t grate with his audience should teach him something. This is important history, but ancient history. The recent history is what he needs to ignore. So, he fills the last 15 minutes of the movie with “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” and country music has-been Larry Gatlin singing a patriotic ditty commissioned for the film.

D’Souza, naif to American history that he is, could have done a real service instead of being another right wing Pied Piper leading the lemmings off a cliff. He could have asked “What happened to Our/My Republican Party?” and giving blunt, truth-spoken-to-power answers. He’d rather trash the America that GOP policies in large part created.

Racial identity, which LBJ predicted when he shoved through the Civil Rights and Votings Rights Acts, shifted. Why doesn’t he ask about and explore that? It’s important to the country’s, and the GOP’s future.

Nixon deployed “the Southern Strategy” to seize control of the conservative, white South, and people like Bush the Elder played the demonizing black criminals card to win elections. The party base shrinks and shrinks, the bile builds and builds, and nobody remembers the celebrated GOP past that D’Souza wants to revive.

Elections have to be bought, or gerrymandered, when your base is dying off faster than oxygen-tanked crowd I saw “Hillary’s America” with. The GOP is getting older, whiter, madder and smaller in number. The “Big Tent” is shrinking.

Asking hard questions like “Is there one GOP member of Congress who would support one piece of Civil Rights or Reconstruction legislation today?” and “Why not?” would be helpful, to his adopted country and D’Souza’s adopted party.

Does D’Souza even know that there used to be something called a “liberal Republican”?

The answer to all this is “No.” Or it doesn’t serve D’Souza’s pandering need to pack his pocketbook. When it comes to American history, the only lesson he’s learned is credited to P.T. Barnum.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”


MPAA Rating:PG-13 for some violence, thematic elements and smoking

Cast:Dinesh D’Souza, Jonah Goldberg, Peter Schweizer
Credits: Written and directed by Dinesh D’Souza, Bruce Schooley. A Pureflix release.

Running time: 1:46

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Movie Review: “Jason Bourne” again

jb1jb2The Bourne bodycount soars as Bourne bystanders are mowed down by that Bourne in a china shop, the Bourne who would be Bond, “Jason Bourne” for the re-teaming of Matt Damon with his best Bourne director, Paul Greengrass.

It’s the most sinister Bourne movie yet, with a murderous CIA chief (Tommy Lee Jones) who will spare no expense,blackmail any tech tycoon and kill his own agents in his headlong pursuit of that righteous rogue agent, Jason Bourne, so he and his can “put him down.”

It’s the most breathless Greengrass (“United 93”, “Bloody Sunday”) movie yet, as he sets a new Olympic record for the Bourne blur of edits and handheld camera shots that create two hours of almost headache-inducing perpetual chase. It features the most humorless Tommy Lee Jones performance ever and a buff, stoic and less interesting Matt Damon turn that never seems to be about anything but a paycheck, Bourne again self-righteousness notwithstanding.

The only grace note allowed the cast is to give Julia Stiles, as that equally rogue online wizard and Bourne-handler Nicky Parsons, a noble and utterly convincing death — chest heaving from a sucking bullet wound, shock setting in. Hers is the only body in this body-strewn thriller we feel for, and no, it’s not a spoiler alert when she dies in the opening act.

Bourne has long been underground, off-the-grid, making a living in bareknuckle back alley brawls along the crisis-torn borders of Greece as “One Blow Bourne” — who fells foes with a single punch. Damn the simple laws of physics and relative throw-weights.

But Nicky has hacked back into the files of the “Treadstone” CIA program that created the super spy and has news about Bourne’s murky past. If only they can meet. If only her younger replacement (Alicia Vikander) hasn’t planted tracking malware into her hack, so that her boss (Jones) can find Bourne and finally “put him down.”

Riz Ahemd (“Nightcrawler”) is a tech tycoon who preaches “privacy is freedom” with his online service, but is compromised by the CIA.

And Vincent Cassell (“Mesrine”) is a fanatical assassin the CIA folk only refer to as “The Asset” as they deploy him to kill Bourne, wherever (London, Berlin, Las Vegas, etc.) he may be, whatever the collateral damage.

Jones has hints of his “U.S. Marshals” guise in this CIA director, barking orders from a surveillance war room where he and his can seemingly see all, tap all, anticipate all and manipulate events to their liking. That stuff, with its “What do they know about us?” implications, is meant to be chilling.

“Split the town,” he orders his teams, closing in on Bourne and Parsons during a Greek riot. “Put her in a box.”

Greengrass puts us in that Athens-wide riot, a chaos of noise, chopper shots, unclear glimpses (rendered HD by CIA software), Molotov cocktails and mayhem.

The problem is, he won’t let go. That scene, like many in the movie, goes on forever. There are no pauses to recreate empathy, no real moments of connection. Over-editing tends to spoil the chases, starving us of the intensity created by anticipating this bit of jeopardy or that one. A lot was spent on digitally enhanced car crashing that is more an assault than a rush.

The monotonous, pulsing strings of the David Buckley version of John Powell’s score grate well before we get into the second hour.

And Vikander, a magnetic presence in “Ex Machina” and an empathetic one in “The Danish Girl” is absurdly young to be playing someone this high up the chain of command, entirely too lightweight to carry the cunning and gravitas her character is contrived to have. She looks and feels like a younger re-fluffing of Franka Potente’s heroine from the first Bourne movie, back in 2002.

The visceral visuals make this a barely-serviceable/watchable summer popcorn picture. But the bar was set high too long ago for that to be enough for America’s Bond. Everybody got paid, again, sure. When that’s your only motive, your high-minded action movie wilts under scrutiny, as if it was Bourne to be bad.


MPAA Rating:PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles
Credits: Directed by Paul Greengrass, script by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, based on the Robert Ludlum character. A Universal release.

Running time: 2:03

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Movie Review: His son’s dead, and the killers meet the Snowplow Man “In Order of Disappearance”


Here’s something Hollywood “revenge” thrillers always get wrong. They always give their hero “special skills.” You know, what Liam Neeson bragged about in “Taken,” what Sly Stallone let others attribute to him in “Rambo.”

Real thrills and real engagement with such movies come from men and women out of their depth, people without those “skills” having to improvise and discover what they’re capable of.

Give me “Three Days of the Condor” or “Fargo” over “Taken” any day.

“In Order of Disappearance” gets this right. The darkest, funniest and best thriller of the summer comes with snow, subtitles and Scandinavia’s most durable character actor, Stellan Skarsgard, playing a man named “Dickman” who is truly in over his head.

This is a Norwegian “Death Wish” in which our hero has that most Norwegian working class job. He’s a snowplow driver.

Nils Dickman (Skarsgard) is a boringly reliable immigrant, a Swede among the Norwegians, who “is as Norwegian as they come” in Tyos, the small town where he runs the giant plows. It’s not far from a big international airport, which is where his adult son got a job as a baggage handler.

That job, and the son’s choice of friends, is how Ingvar got himself killed.

The cops figure it’s an overdose, and could not care less when Dickman insists “Ingvar was no drug addict.” His wife (Hildegard Riise) accepts this, blames Nils somehow, and withdraws into grief. Nils? He’s putting on his snowsuit, grabbing his hunting rifle and heading out to find some answers.

Those answers are hard-won. He gets first one name, then another. He improvises, stalks and surprises each henchman, bludgeoning, shooting and manhandling them to get to the next name, working his way toward the Mr. Big who is ultimately responsible for his kid’s death.

That guy is called The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen), and dotes on his own son as they’re chauffeured around in an exotic Fisker Karma as a limo. And when his minions start disappearing, his first thought is that the Serbian mob, led by the great German actor Bruno Ganz (“Downfall”), is behind it. Nobody named “Dickman” could possibly be responsible for all this mayhem, or so his villainous logic tells him.

That surname is the first hint that, as sad and brutally efficient as this blood-stained picture is, we’re in dark comedy territory. There’s more than a hint of “Fargo” in what director Hans Petter Moland (“Zero Kelvin”) is showing us.

Every dead body earns a black screen with a tiny white cross on it, and the name — with nickname (“Ronaldo,” “Jappe”) — of the villain Nils has somehow managed to dispatch. By the third time this happens, you’re laughing. By the time the body count starts to spike, you can’t help yourself.

Kim Fupz Aakeson has concocted a script with lazy Norwegian cops who shrug off violence with “This doesn’t HAPPEN here” and hitmen who marvel at climate’s role in those countries which have a healthy “welfare state.” The cold makes people keenly aware of much they need and depend on others. They need their roads plowed, for instance.

The Count should know that if you’re dealing with Serbian mobsters, you’d better know how much they still feel the sting of the Battle of Kosovo, which happened 627 years ago.

Skarsgard has carved out a wide niche for his varied and colorful acting career to inhabit. He’s stoic and unflinching here, a man on a mission. But even though that hint of whimsy that is his baggage — catch him in “Our Kind of Traitor,” if you can — may be hidden beneath the surface. We can still feel it.

Nils’ quick journey from peaceful, family man to avenger is just swift enough. Blood wipes right off of snowsuits, especially when you have the presence of mind to order take-out coffee and use the cardboard tray as an arterial spray-guard when you’re putting a bullet in someone.

When he’s asked, “When did YOU become Dirty Harry?”, we don’t have to wonder. Skarsgard has let us see Nils’ learning curve.

And you can guess, from the cast list, which old acting dogs have to face each other before all this can be resolved, even if the much-younger Hagen (“Kon Tiki”) makes a fine, furious heavy destined to have his place “In Order of Disappearance.”


MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, and language throughout

Cast: Stellan Skarsgard, Bruno Ganz, Tobias Santelmann

Credits: Directed by Hans Petter Moland, script by Kim Fupz Aakeson.

Running time: 1:56. A Magnet release.

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Movie Review: The horror isn’t just in her head in “Sun Choke”


Horror survived its widely criticized “torture porn” phase — movies with nubile young women and occasionally handsome young actors eviscerated, etc., on the screen.

And it will survive writer-director Ben Cresciman’s self-consciously obscure and artsy variation, which could be labeled “porn torture.”

Because in “Sun Choke,” the porn comes first. It’s a psychological thriller built around two intense and graphic sex scenes, and a few other moments of expedient nudity. Mind games, stalking and graphic violence work their way in.

But it’s the sex that seems to be the movie’s reason for being.

Sarah Hagan plays Janie, sort of a helium-voiced Cobie Smulders. She sounds like a parody of a little girl, perhaps because that’s the way her stepmother (horror icon Barbara Crampton, of “Re-Animator”) addresses her.

“LITTLE girl.”

Janie is disturbed, living in an austere, modernist house with step-mom while dad is away on business. Irma is treating her — for something. But is she a real shrink, using tuning fork prompts to send Janie into flashbacks, yoga to “re-center” her, or just an evil stepmother keeping her charge under control, by electro-shock dog collar if necessary?

The jury’s out on that, because Irma seems dedicated to Janie’s “recovery,” determined to protect her because “There are a lot of ways this world can hurt you” by, among other things, shaving her legs and armpits with a straight razor (nude scene number one). Yet Irma is also willing to give this fragile 20ish woman some leeway. (Wildly illogical moment number one).

That’s where Janie gets into trouble. She spies a beautiful woman in town, follows her, peeks in her window as Savanna (Sara Malahul Lane) has uninhibited sex with her boyfriend. Janie is instantly obsessed.

Irma may not know the particulars. But she knows Janie needs punishing, and new forms of restraint.

“Sun Choke” takes its own sweet time, and then some, getting started. The viewer can ponder the uncanny Cobie resemblance in the leading lady, and grimace at the voice she has shown off since “Freaks & Geeks” in the last millennium. But the possibilities in those static early scenes are many.

Is Irma manipulating Janie to a purpose? Is Janie’s Dad even alive? Is Savanna a figment of her warped imagination?

The last act answers these questions and rather spoils the mystery in the most explicit and bloody ways. But more disappointingly, there’s nothing frightening of even involving in the characters, performances or situations. The movie doesn’t pull us in, squanders the sinister foreshadowing it dabbles with in Act One and resolves itself in abrupt shades of crimson.

In between, there are arty flashbacks and splashes of red that hint at the perils to come. But can we feel their peril when they plainly don’t? When we know, for instance, just how small and weak the batteries are in a dog’s perimeter shock collar?

“Sun Choke” earned rave reviews at a horror film festival back in 2015, which makes you wonder if there was judicious slashing in the editing as well as the film’s gory finale as the movie was prepped for its 2016 theatrical release.

If not, well, there is a cluster of horror film reviewers who just lost their heads at the sight of sexy young women doing sexual things in an otherwise dull horror thriller. To paraphrase the folk tale, it’s not just the actresses who have no clothes. The same could be said of “The Emperor.”




MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, nudity, explicit sex

Cast: Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton,Sara Malakul Lane 
Credits: Written and directed by Ben CrescimanAn XLrator release.

Running time: 1:25

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Box Office: “Star Trek” does a fast fade, “Ice Age” bombing, “Lights Out” holds the line

boxThe pre-release predictions that “Star Trek Beyond” wasn’t going to revive the franchise that “Star Trek Into Darkness” deflated have proven true.

So, kudos to Box Office Mojo and Box Office Guru for calling this one right. A step fall-off Saturday means that “Star Trek Beyond” will be lucky to do will be lucky to do $56 million on its opening weekend. That’s assuming that Sunday doesn’t fade more than Sundays typically do.

I get the distinct impression that this movie’s most ardent fans have seen it, Wed., late Thursday or Friday. When the actuals are announced Monday, closer to $50 may be the result. Kudos to me if that’s the case, as I got the distinct impression that the polished, fan-pandering product they delivered was only going to have a certain amount of appeal, and marketing wasn’t going to overcome that.

“Lights Out” now stands to clear $20 million. “Ice Age” won’t come close. Stick a fork in that squirrel. And mastodon. is still insisting “Hillary’s America,” the Dinesh D;Souza political documentary in which the con man ex-con foreigner discovers “the secret history of the Democratic Party” (Careful, Dinesh. Reminding conservatives how racist the Democrats used to be might prompt them to change their affiliation) won’t crack the top 10.  That film won’t lose as much audience Sunday as expected and could very well break into the top ten.

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Box Office: “Star Trek” strong, “Ice Age” bombs, “Lights Out” overachieves

boxoffice is emphasizing the negative regarding  the opening weekend of “Star Trek Beyond,” with some justification.

It’s opening, based on late Wed., Thursday and Friday’s numbers, with $60 million in ticket sales.

But “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the last film in this series, did much better, without adding in “marathon night” ticket sales. It opened at about $71 million.

Franchise fatigue? Almost certainly. Paramount was nursing this film — cherry picking which critics got to see it early to push positive reviews, doing the “marathon” showing of all three films Wed. night — into a good opening.

And after inflation, it’s still underwhelming. They read the reviews and their tracking data and jumped the phaser early in the week, announcing a fourth film with this cast — minus the late Anton Yelchin — before “Beyond” opened.

$60 million is a healthy opening, but I sensed, from that marathon night audience (older, fewer in number) that this has run its big screen course. Web buzz on it has been low, web traffic on this blog (a pretty reliable indicator of interest) has been nil.

I said “anything under $50 and Paramount will have serious second thoughts.” But Paramount may still change its mind.

Fox is almost certainly regretting doing another “Ice Age” movie. These Blue Sky productions have been lower and lower in entertainment value, and the box office has reflected that. “Collision Course,” the latest, is doing $18-19 million this weekend. Those are direct-to-DVD numbers, back when DVDs were a thing. Bomb. It won’t break even.

Conversely, “Lights Out!” is performing a bit above the usual horror opening ceiling, over $20 million. Very good for a non-franchise horror film. The “Insidious” pictures and their ilk do better. But it’s good to see a creepy, child-in-jeopardy ghost story pay off like that. Same formula as “Insidious,” good cast, good performances, decent enough script.

“Ghostbusters” is floating above all the heat and hate (Fanboys, He Man Woman Haters, Republicans, etc.) to have a 50% drop off from a pretty solid opening weekend. Breaking even for the $144 million movie is still within reach. It will clear $100 million by next Friday, should manage $120-140 US, with any profit coming from overseas.

“The Secret Life of Pets” isn’t all that, yet is heading towards $300 million, just in the US. “Finding Dory” is just $100 million ahead of it, at this point.

“The Legend of Tarzan” slipped over $100 million and may hit $135 when all is said and done. 

Ex-con con man Dinesh D’Souza’s fresh-from-his-conviction documentary “Hillary’s America” added over a thousand screens, and didn’t crack the top ten. A week of Trump TV took some of the wind out of its sails. Still, nobody ever went broke pandering to that audience.

“Absolutely Fabulous” is doing only so-so in limited release, just $5000 per screen.

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Weekend movies: “Star Trek” endorsed, “Ab Fab” pretty much, “Lights Out!” almost.

beyond2There’s some ridiculously high number on the tomatometer for “Star Trek Beyond,” which plays like the farewell to this “Enterprise” crew even though Paramount, just this week, announced a fourth film.

Forget the Tomatometer. Metacritic has a much more sober score, reflecting the prevalence of lukewarm opinions on this Justin Lin/Simon Pegg (co-wrote the script) installment in the NeverEnding Franchise.

Here’s what I’ve appreciated about the J.J. Abrams’built “Trek.” He cast it quite well. Though it hasn’t made real stars out of Chris Pine, Karl Urban or John Cho, and Zoe Saldana and Pegg and the late child actor turned adult Anton Yelchin had some fame pre-“Trek,” the Enterprise has been the best place for these players to show off their work.

The effects have been top notch, the production design first rate and Paramount has treated it as their marquee attraction. Not the case when they were milking the cash cow under Shatner and Nimoy, with worn out uniforms and plainly less expensive sets. I’m talking about the movies, not just the TV series.

“The Next Generation” was a waste of big screen time, and they knew it and acted like it.

But I am very curious to see how much this movie earns on its opening weekend. This “Star Trek” leans into “Guardians of the Galaxy” with its jokes and dated fanboy friendly pop culture references. More Beastie Boys? Really?

The Box Office Guru pitches this as a $66 million hit. Box Office Mojo figures it still has $59 million in it. Anything under $50 would push Paramount into reconsidering a fourth film, I dare say. And that could happen. The paid preview marathon I attended was one third empty. The hardcore fans are older and fewer in number.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” figures to be the second biggest opener among the new films. But that franchise was born bad and has been dropping dead dogs on us ever since. A $25-30 million opening might be generous, with Mojo predicting low and the Guru thinking it will do “Angry Birds” money. Even toddlers know that one’s a loser. Terrible reviews won’t hurt it. Bad reputation will.

“Lights Out!” will test whether the summer horror glass ceiling prevails. A half-decent horror film, very well acted, short and just scary enough, will it get anywhere near the horror Promised Land of mid $20s for an opening? Not likely. Guru figures $14 million, Mojo agrees. Passable (barely) reviews could boost it. It’s not a franchise, and horror fans like to return to their favorites, so $20 would be a stretch.

“Absolutely Fabulous” is already a hit in Britain, but do Americans remember the early 90s TV series that ran on cable here back in the day? And do those old enough to remember that still go to the movies? Not likely. Decent enough reviews, but its only being test-pushed onto 300 or so screens. Not a lot of cash there.

Dinesh D’Souza’s latest sop for the suckers, “Hillary’s America” or whatever he called it after getting out of prison, will make a bundle off the hardcore right. A reliable audience for anything this huxter serves up. It goes into wider release Friday.


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Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”


beyond1.jpgbeyond2The effects sparkle and the design dazzles in “Star Trek Beyond,” perhaps the best looking “Star Trek” movie ever.

And Simon Pegg — cast member and avid Trekker — has served up a pulpy and derivative script that panders to the fans, but generally pays off as it does.

Every cast member has a moment or two in the sun. Deaths are remembered. Neither Leonard Nimoy (Spock 1.0) nor Anton Yelchin (Checkov 2.0) will be around for Paramount’s just-announced fourth film in this latest iteration of the “Final Frontier” franchise.

Attention was paid to the villain, and even under makeup and effects, Idris Elba registers.

So yeah, we see another version of the U.S.S. Enterprise crash into a planet. Yes, another interstellar megalomaniac has it in for Starfleet.

Sulu (John Cho) finally comes out of the closet, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) break up (like we didn’t see THAT coming) so that he and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) can resume the Greatest Romance in Filmed Science Fiction.

Scotty, Simon Pegg’s character, lands his one-liners and may let the alien girl (Sofia Boutella) get him. For once.

And Kirk (Chris Pine)? He gets on a motorcycle and approves of The Beastie Boys, music to battle an alien menace by. Apparently.

Pandering? Yes. But pandering with polish.

Chris Pine’s Kirk is no longer wet behind the ears, so he’s contemplating abandoning their “Five Year Mission” for a desk job and promotion with two years to go. He’s a bit young to be feeling his mortality, but he’s figured out that if space and time are infinite, “What’s the point?”

His boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) understands, seeing as how “There’s no relative direction in the vastness of space…It’s easy to get lost.”

Spock is having second thoughts about his career, too.

That’s the perfect time for a fresh alien menace to arise from a planet in the middle of a nebula. A hive of tiny ships piloted by reptilian beasties lure the Enterprise in, decimate the crew and wreck the ship. As the survivors struggle to survive on a planet dusted with aliens enslaved by this Krall (Elba) and his minions, and littered with wrecked spacecraft as well, we see this “doo-dad” that motivates Khan — um, Krall — and get to the big conflict at the heart of Pegg and Doug Jung’s script.

“There is strength in unity” the United Space Alliance members believe. But their martial foe has observed them and thinks they’ve grown soft. He’s been watching “Next Generation” re-runs with all that mincing about on the Holodeck, talking about one’s feelings. Just a guess.

“Struggle made us strong,” he says of himself and his kind.

Pegg plainly took the most pleasure in writing for McCoy and Spock. The script and the director (Justin Lin has been doing “Fast and Furious” movies of late) lean heavily on “family” and “teamwork” and comedy. The action beats often work, even if it’s harder to roll your eyes at all this “Enterprise” recycling with 3D glasses on.

As trite and repetitive as these movies have become, this weary franchise is still more fun or at least easier to sit through than any of those Diesel-powered car chase pictures. But is that enough for an audience that knows it’s being pandered to, and could finally be ready to move on, to “boldly go” see something else?  I include myself in their number, and I don’t know the answer, either.


MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence

Cast: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, John Cho and Anton Yelchin
Credits: Directed by Justin Lin, script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:58

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Garry Marshall: 1934-2016


I was always more of a fan of Garry Marshall the character than Garry Marshall the director. I rolled my eyes at “Pretty Woman” and had a hard time sitting through such indulgences as “Valentine’s Day” and “Georgia Rule.”

But that wonderful Bronx honk of his will be missed.

He made sloppily sentimental and popular movies (“Nothing in Common,” “Beaches”) and sloppy but sometimes amusing sitcoms (“Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy,” “The Odd Couple’).

He was a hilarious on-screen presence in films such as “Soapdish.” He didn’t so much talk as bark or bray. Hilariously. He was a thug in “Goldfinger,” and looked the part. I had forgotten that until I was re-watching it recently, and there he was.

He discovered Robin Williams, made Julia Roberts a star and gave Richard Gere, Bette Midler and many others comebacks. He was loyal to his lifelong pal Hector Elizondo, and for decades, oversaw a long-running game of shirts-skins basketball of his peers and colleagues at his home in Beverly Hills.

I interviewed him several times, usually for a movie I didn’t care for. But he was never less than entertaining, a delight to talk to. I recall asking him if he’d had any advice for his protege Tom Hanks (one of many proteges) before Tom tackled the task of directing for the first time.

“Shoo-wah,” he grinned. “‘Tom,’ I said, ‘be shoo-wah ta bring a second pair of SHOES to the set. EVERY day.’ Why? ‘You work all morning, you’re on your feet, making a thousand decisions. Lunch time, you change your shoes. The afternoon’s like a VACA-tion for your feet!'”

That’s hilarious, and true. I checked that out with Hanks some time later, “advice that I take to this very day,” he said, laughing. ‘”A VACAY-shun for your feet!'”

Garry Marshall, brother of Penny, was one of a kind. Whatever his imprint on TV and film, he was a genuine character and will be missed. RIP.

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