Double Feature: Star Trek: Beyond (2016) & Baby Driver (2017)

double feature

We are nearing the end of the year which means I’m going to try to get a lot of these backlogged movies reviewed. While I did write a review over on Weibo for Baby Driver already, I haven’t done one here and I’m not going to lie that Star Trek Beyond was a few months ago so its starting to get a little blurry.

Star Trek: Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond

Director: Justin Lin

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim

The crew of the USS Enterprise explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy, who puts them, and everything the Federation stands for, to the test. –IMDB

After the last Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness (review), I had my reservations about this one. For one, the first and the second had this conflict in tone and humor. There was this narrative that worked but the villains felt underused or not quite as effective. Thinking back now, it felt like a fairly unsatisfying and forgettable movie experience save for some of the returning cast who had roles which were quite fun to watch. Star Trek Beyond however takes a different approach. It may have to do with the fact that Simon Pegg doesn’t only appear in the film but also does the writing for this one. It also helps that Justin Lin, a director that I like a lot in the Fast and Furious franchise takes the helms of this sequel. A lot of the factors makes this one such a fun and entertaining movie experience that reminds me a lot of the fun I had in the first Star Trek film.

Star Trek Beyond resumes the familiar roles. Its a good thing because for those who have been following the franchise, its a nice little team that we know the personality of. There is this well-oiled machine dynamic despite the issues they encounter. Everyone delivers it very well. I completely had forgotten that John Cho was in this as well especially since I had just seen him in Searching (when I saw this movie in August or something..Searching review here). Then of course, we have Anton Yelchin that is still such a huge loss in my heart because he is so incredibly talented. However, I think what deserves a mention here are the new additions. The first is the girl on the planet they land on called Jayla, played by Sofia Boutella who has such a fantastic character design appearance wise and her weapons and Sofia Boutella does a great job. On top of that, mostly unrecognizable except for his voice is Idris Elba who plays the villain, Krall. He still feels a little underused but the presence is very much there.

Baby Driver (2017)

baby driver

Director (and writer): Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, Kevin Spacey

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. – IMDB

Every once in a while we get a new gimmick and it works for some and doesn’t work for others. Baby Driver utilizes the constant soundtrack in Baby’s life to  work around it. It starts off fairly fun and charming, if a little odd especially when he turns on the wipers for no reason but to match the lyrics or sounds or something. There is a charm to it all. However, Baby Driver reminds us how sometimes soundtracks are used sparingly for a reason because it accentuates a scenes. As clever as the idea itself and how the execution works in some parts, it doesn’t translate to everything. There is no doubt that the soundtrack is really good, except I would have liked to not be overloaded with music so much.

Baby Driver

As charmed as I was with the use of music and soundtracks and how that was executed well enough, the story here is fairly basic. Its actually not even very fleshed out for any of the characters. Its almost like the gimmick is the reason for the whole thing. The action sequences are done pretty good though and the bombastic characters played by Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez and Jamie Foxx all are quite memorable. When things get dicey though, the characters are really just shells and the story is pretty much on rails following everything as expected and predicted.

Is it as awesome as it seems to be for a lot of people? For myself, I don’t really think its that well-rounded. There are aspects that stand out and as much as I like the music and cars and this one delivers two things I love, it somehow outlived its hype. Its not a bad idea and its a fun little experience but somehow it just lost its charm in the second half.

Netflix A-Z: Men, Women & Children (2014)

Next up on Netflix A-Z was a redrafted one.  I just couldn’t find the motivation to watch my previous choice so I don’t even know why I chose this but it was just to fill the space and I vaguely remember hearing good things about this one, despite eventually remembering that Adam Sandler was in this… So here we are: Men, Women & Children.  I’m hoping it’ll be quirky? What more can I say?

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Men, Women & Children (2014)

Men Women and Children

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie Dewitt, Judy Greer, Emma Thompson, Olivia Crocicchia, Kaitlyn Denver, Ansel Elgort, Timothee Chalamet, Elena Kampouris

A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.- IMDB

 Movies with multiple storylines going on with various characters are always tough.  They want to address certain issues but also develop the characters properly while still finding that balance to not make it too long and messy.  Men, Women & Children is hard to determine whether it did a good job.  The beginning was intriguing with narration by Emma Thompson who pops up a few times and then the ending wraps things up okay.  The point isn’t quite lost when the story wraps up but the fact is, there wasn’t sufficient amount of time to cover all these characters without making some of them feel empty and disconnected.  Because of this, I blame it mostly on the middle act that kind of loses its pull gradually and I started checking the time, wondering when it’ll end and still trying to figure out where they wanted the characters to go, as individuals or as a family or whatnot.

Men women and children

One of the themes here is how our lives have influenced us because of this digital age that we live in.  We have social media and how much control is needed (especially parental control), online gaming and the community, the accessibility of porn and other sexual arousal mediums and finally, the easily found support on various things that influences our self-image and somehow lose reason but at the same time, the ignorance of the technology as well and just the lack of human interaction. We’re looking at 5 families (I think) and within these families, they are connected through the parents or the kids.  To be honest, its a relevant statement what this movie is trying to attack but it just keeps emphasizing it so much in the middle part with no build-up for most of the relationships that it gets a little boring.  It kind of seemed like it lost its purpose until it peaks and things turn to crap before they are resolved for each and everyone of them.  Of course, the resolve has different level of intensity as well.  However, because of the lack of connection by the underdeveloped characters, there was only a few characters that I felt was built well enough for me to care and feel bad when things took a bad turn.

men women and children

Another pretty big issue it was address was the whole sexuality issue.  We have boy overexposed to it, and then there’s the idea of where our morals lie and how that spectrum has slipped down a slippery slope because the internet sets less boundaries and therefore, it makes people feel less vulnerable when its online (or whatever the theory is).  Its also the image of what sexuality is, like attraction based on appearance like how skinny is sexy.  Those are basically the children’s side of the spectrum.  I might have missed something since so much is going on.  Whereas the adults have their own issues with lack of desires in real life (or excuse me “in RL”) and then having the whole accessible porn (similar to teens but change in what the look for) and then there’s the whole having an affair or not because its so easy to do it.

Here’s where I was thinking: great timing to watch this after the whole Ashley Madison going on. Then I started wondering, do the sponsors include various porn sites.  My guess is maybe?

men women and children

First of all, story wise.  The best one goes out to the whole Ansel Elgort’s character Tim Mooney and this girl Kaitlyn Denver plays called Brandy.  Their high school love blossoms with a nice build and just their characters seem to be taken the most care in forming.  While at the same time, these two have their own parents who form rather interesting characters. Although developed not as in depth, Jennifer Garner who plays Brandy’s mom plays the over controlling parent who just strangles her daughter with monitoring her every online move and her whereabouts, never giving her the freedom.  I won’t spend too much time diving into all the stories because this would just turn into a neverending essay and we all have better things to do.  The intentions of the story were good.  It just spends a lot of time repeating the message over and over again, especially in the middle part that it just gets a little dragged out without ever achieving the goal of us connecting with more characters.  I’m not ragging on it because while most of the outcomes of the events, from turning bad to learning whichever lessons for each character, was pretty predictable, it still has good intentions about families, balance in relationships, control and freedom, limits of sexuality and all this with the new mentality we all have because of living in this digital age for whichever reason applies.

While this may be one of the more enjoyable characters played by Adam Sandler in the last few years, its a little sad that I found that his relationship with his wife in this story was probably the worse.  Maybe its because I don’t relate and don’t understand the final outcome.  Maybe its the view I have of it or just how I found certain events a little ridiculous.  In the end, I can get why they chose that decision but the start of it just made no sense. Its about desires and he desires his wife but she doesn’t want it anymore or it seems… but why then would she do what she did? If you saw this, you might understand what I’m saying.  The story and the decisions just don’t seem to make sense initially.

Men Women and Children

This has been running a lot longer than I expected but Men, Women and Children have a pretty strong cast.  Its sad that the story wasn’t more compelling to watch from beginning to end. With Adam Sandler in a more serious role and young stars that have great potential in Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Denver.  I personally enjoy Judy Greer and Jennifer Garner as well and very short appearances from J.K. Simmons and this guy thats in Under the Dome (I can’t remember his name).  That’s just a quick overview of the cast, of course.  With so many stories intertwining, there are lots more.

Overall, Men, Women and Children is an average kind of dramedy.  I didn’t find it all that funny personally but it had some moments.  They have a decent cast and even Adam Sandler does a fairly good job.  Its just the story he’s in didn’t work well.  There’s something here, especially the message it tries to sent about our digital world, the information accessibility, the dangers and all the influences bad and good and how it changes the dynamics and expectations for everyone: men, women, children, families, relationships, etc. Was it effective? Mildly.  I wouldn’t resist sitting through this again because there were parts I liked but its nothing mind-blowing.  I mean, other than the story with Tim and Brandy (and a bit about this other teenage girl’s story) that I enjoyed more, it was Emma Thompson’s random insert of narration about the world and the satellite and just the everyday life.  That opening was really thoughtful and it felt unrelated but then it ends with the same thing about satellites and Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and that quote is the perfect place to end this:

That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being that ever was, lived out their lives…on this mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam. How frequent their misunderstandings, how fervent their hatreds.  Our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe are challenged by this point of pale light.  Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.  In all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.  There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.  It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. – Men, Women & Children

Have you seen Men, Women & Children? Any thoughts on it?