150 Movies in 90 Days: Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness

Yes, it's a duck. With green hair and a tongue. Of course! Come on.

Anyway, I did this thing years ago when I was bored and wanted to waste a bunch of time where I watched 50 movies in 30 days. To make my time feel a little more well-spent and placate my need to document everything for no good reason, I wrote mini-reviews (and sometimes just regular reviews) on all of the movies I watched and gave them all a letter grade, because that's not arbitrary at all.

This summer, after my final semester as an undergraduate left me more or less a) triumphant, b) mostly brain-dead, and c) clueless as to what to do next, I thought, why not do it again? In fact, that's actually the main reason I bothered to start a blog. But how to make it even better? I mean, twice as good isn't good enough. I had to make it three times as good as before.

Then, it hit me: to make something three times as good, you MULTIPLY IT BY THREE. I know, right? Blew my mind, too. So I got out my calculator, spent a half an hour running the numbers, and realized that 150 movies in 90 days would be exactly three times as awesome as my original movie-watching experiment.

So, here are the basics: I'm attempting to watch as many movies that I haven't seen as possible, although I'm going to throw like 25 or so in that I have been meaning to re-watch anyway. I'm not sticking to any particular genre, and I'm going to try to watch films from multiple decades instead of keeping it to more recent stuff, too.

If by chance, some vagrant stumbles upon my humble blog and has the burning desire to recommend a movie, I would welcome that. I'll take recommendations on Twitter, too. Bonus points if your movie(s) can be found on HBOGO, Amazon Instant, or Netflix. As I watch the movies, I'll come back here and post my thoughts, and at the end of the 90 days, I'll have a nice write-up to tie a little bow on the whole thing and satisfy my undeniable need for closure.

May 21- #1, Star Trek (2009) and #2, Star Trek: Into Darkness

I've never been a Trekkie. Okay, that's an understatement.

I've never had even the slightest inkling of interest in Star Trek.

Hey, it's not all my fault. When I was growing up, Star Trek was not cool. It wasn't the 60s, when Star Trek was ahead of its time and capturing the imaginations of earthbound would-be adventurers, after all. It was the 80s and 90s, when the Star Wars franchise had come along and bitch-slapped Star Trek with its much cooler take on all manner of fictional space antics.

Star Trek had ugly sweaters. Star Wars had lightsabers. What more do you need? Okay, fine. Slave Leia. Wookies. HAN FRIGGIN' SOLO. Look, when Billy Dee Williams is not even one of the top five coolest things about your film series, you've accomplished something.

If you were not a child of the 80s or even early 90s, you may not know that public schools in back then were not as receptive to nerdery as they are now. It was not cool to be a geek; not at all. Star Trek was for geeks. Don't get me wrong, I didn't avoid doing things just because they were or weren't cool, but besides being decidedly uncool, Star Trek simply didn't interest me.

Then came Star Trek, the 2009 reboot, and I didn't think much of it. Everything gets rebooted nowadays. When people seemed to like it, I figured it was because they had stripped away everything that made it Star Trek in the first place in order to let it appeal to a wider audience. You know, sort of how Eddie Murphy stopped being funny so that he could make a billion dollars.

Apparently, I was wrong, and by most accounts, Star Trek managed to satisfy both Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. When I saw the trailer for the sequel, I thought I should grab the reboot on Blu-ray on the cheap and watch both of them to kick off my summer movie-watching.

Star Trek is, in a word, great. Through some crafty storytelling, it exists in an alternate timeline from the events of the original television shows and films, allowing it to breathe, mostly free of narrative constraints. The film tells the story of James T. Kirk and Spock as they take very different paths that, of course, lead both of them to the USS Enterprise.

Kirk is a bit of a wild character and is instantly likable, despite the fact (or perhaps, because of the fact) that he only really cares about hitting on women and doing stupidly dangerous things. Despite the fact that the character could have ended up as a testament to interstellar douchebaggery, a charismatic performance by Chris Pine keeps this from happening.

Zachary Quinto plays the role of Spock and fleshes out the iconic character while using the kind of subtlety demanded by a character that is supposed to be ruled by logic, not emotion. One important thing that you can say about not only Pine and Quinto's performances, but the film as a whole, is that it hits all the fan service high spots without ever devolving into caricature, which is more easily said than done.

The tightrope walking by not only the performers, but writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, as well as director JJ Abrams, ensures that when classic Star Trek lines come up, we laugh along instead of rolling our eyes. So, when Scotty says, "I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!" or Leonard "Bones" McCoy says, "Damn it, man! I'm a doctor, not a physicist!", the movie doesn't descend into outright parody.

Of course, the special effects are also great, and though the film seems mostly like a setup for a new franchise than anything, Star Trek delivers on every level. Grade: A-

After finishing up Star Trek, I had less than an hour until my brother and I were supposed to leave to catch a 3D showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness. At that point, I was surprised to actually be looking forward to a Star Trek film, dorky sweaters and all. I also wondered where the story would go from the conclusion of the first film, since I tend to avoid trailers and footage of films that I know I'm going to eventually see.

So, if Star Trek was a well-crafted origin story, what was Star Trek: Into Darkness?

A bro-mance.

In the film, the absolute focal point is the emerging and continuing friendship between Captain Kirk and Spock. The two make a great odd couple because of their completely differing personalities; you would be hard-pressed to find a person more impulsive than Kirk, while Spock famously does everything according to logic. The remarkable opening scene not only hammers this point home, but does so while giving the film the up-tempo start that it needs.

It's not surprising that each man learns the value of incorporating some of the other's philosophy into his own life over the course of the film. What is surprising is how well Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto pull off the relationship between the two, to the point where when you get a typical emotional bonding scene toward the end of the film, it comes off as legitimately touching rather than ineffective, like so such scenes often are.

I was telling my brother that one of the best things about summer blockbusters over the past decade or so is that they are not afraid to use humor instead of simply relying on nothing but action set pieces to please the crowds. Star Trek: Into Darkness is no exception, with Kirk and Spock in particular having plenty of exchanges that are legitimately funny, which I won't ruin here.

The story itself lulls a bit after the intro, and the screenwriters, to my surprise, even went to the well and did the whole "loose cannon getting his badge taken away", Star Trek-style. However, in the second half of the film, the villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch in an excellent performance, establishes himself as a menacing presence more than worthy of his screen time, and things pick up again. Overall, the sequel does not disappoint, and again, it's mostly the performances of the entire cast, as well as smart and charming dialogue, that makes Star Trek: Into Darkness memorable. Grade: A-

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