DVD Tuesday: ‘Star Trek’ & ‘My Sister’s Keeper’

by W. Andrew Powell

The cast of 'Star Trek'

The cast of 'Star Trek'

This wait is over. Just in time for your holiday shopping lists, Star Trek, the best action movie of the year, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD this week, with Chris Pine starring as Mr. James T. Kirk. Also out, Cameron Diaz stars in My Sister’s Keeper, Bruno has Sacha Baron Cohen pulling his usual shtick, and the great Michael Caine stars in Is Anybody There?

Star Trek
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

This was not what I would call a very good year for blockbuster movies. It was a dismal mess of sequels and lumpy, half-hearted plots that paid off with a single epic action film: Star Trek.

Over the years, few franchises have put fans through so much, with as many mixed returns, as Star Trek. And yet, the films and countless TV series have made words like phasers, warp speed, and tribbles, colloquial expressions heard throughout the galaxy. Forgiving even half of the terrible films put out in the name of Trek, it’s still easy to spot the franchise’s golden ideals, which made the prospect of a reboot so intriguing.

Director J.J. Abrams, who worked his magic with Mission Impossible 3, reinvigorates the Star Trek universe with a fresh-faced young cast, headed by Chris Pine as the one and only James T. Kirk. Boldly going with him is Heroes star Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, and John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, just to name a few.

Bumping the action up to a whole new level, the new film shows the origins of the first Enterprise crew while a Romulan captain by the name of Nero, played by Eric Bana, plots the destruction of Earth and Starfleet.

What may surprise some people is the rivalry that is given new life in this reboot, which has Spock and Kirk at each others throats. of course, considering how different these characters are, that makes a lot of sense. Kirk is the freewheeling adventurer, while Spock is an emotionally reserved, logical scientist.

For me, the miracle of this action movie is that it’s built on a franchise that many critics have called dull in the past, or ridiculous even, but everything about Abrams’ Star Trek is exciting, fresh, and dare I say, a sight for sore eyes. Pine and Quinto are utterly fantastic together, and it’s a total treat to have Leonard Nimoy in the film as the much-older Spock. (I would also feel remiss if I didn’t mention the hilarious Simon Pegg as Scotty, who appears just long enough to remind you why Pegg really needs to be in more movies.)

Ultimately, Star Trek is a totally accessible action franchise, and while I worry that has stripped much of the soul out of what was once a very thoughtful series, I can’t help but point out that this is a far superior film than anything we’ve seen from Star Trek in more than a decade. It’s also hugely entertaining, whether you think you like Star Trek or not.

My Sister’s Keeper
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vassilieva, Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin

Director Nick Cassavetes debuts his latest film, and it looks like he’s ready to push your teary buttons again.

Best known for directing The Notebook, Cassavetes’ latest is based on Jodi Picoult’s novel about two sisters who are tied together by love and sickness. Informed that their daughter suffers from a rare form of leukemia, two parents decide that they will have another child using in vitro fertilization, but specifically so that their sick child, should she ever need help, will have a matched donor.

Over the years the two girls, played by Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva, constantly face the same turmoil where younger sister Anna is forced to help her older sister Kate. Life becomes more difficult for Anna however when Kate goes into renal failure and the first medical answer is that Anna will have to donate a kidney.

This is just too much for Anna though and seeking legal counsel she decides to sue her family for medical emancipation.

Featuring Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin, and Jason Patric, the film is sure to be a touching, emotional story about family and sisterly love. That is probably also the same reason it might be a little hokey, but I’m not going to bash the film based solely on that.

However, critics were not all that positive about the film overall. John Hazelton of Screen International called the film “An awkwardly structured but warmly emotional and relatively unsentimental drama,” while Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger quipped, “Don’t avoid My Sister’s Keeper because it’s a film about a serious issue. Avoid it because it approaches that issue like a very special episode of Grey’s Anatomy – complete with whining pop songs and all the comforts of cliché.”

Also out this week…

Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen

This may shock some of you, but I think Sacha Baron Cohen is actually a uniquely gifted actor and comedian. He also has the almost miraculous ability to shock and surprise people again, and again, which comes in handy for his latest comedic foray.

Returning after his hit film, Borat, Cohen is back, but this time it’s as the unmistakably gay Austrian model, Bruno, who has come to America in search of… well, it hardly even seems to matter.

Hiding his camera crew in plain site, and getting the most unbelievable people to appear in his film under the false pretence that they’re actually there for some other insane reason, Cohen plays Bruno as a backwards but oh-so-very gay model, meanwhile finding a way to push everyone’s buttons.

Essentially, it’s the kind of setup for the film that should remind most audiences that this is a “one trick pony” kind of movie, which consists of a series of gags strung together. The thing is, as these films go, Cohen is actually very good at turning emotional button-mashing experiences into a wonderful form of comic mayhem.

“Even more insane and hysterical than Borat,” Edward Douglas of ComingSoon.net wrote, “Sacha Baron Cohen’s hilarious follow-up is also far more coherent and effective at using shock factor to get you laughing.”

While Andrew L. Urban wrote for Urban Cinefile, “Where Borat was an innocent abroad, Brüno is just broad. Cohen makes Brüno the self centred and self obsessed centre of the film, which is not so much a story as a series of sketches designed to shock, disgust and outrage.”

Is Anybody There?
Director: John Crowley
Starring: Michael Caine, Bill Milner, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey

In director John Crowley’s latest film, Michael Caine stars as Clarence, a widower ad retired magician sent to live in a retirement home, despite the fact that he really doesn’t want to be there. Making friends with the young, reclusive Edward, played by Bill Milner, Clarence tries to deal with the death of his wife, while giving Edward the opportunity to break outside of his shell.

While Variety called the film, “profoundly (and some would say pleasurably) formulaic,” the film has earned a number of positive reviews. Bruce Demara of the Toronto Star wrote, “There’s a touch of magic at play here but it is of the understated variety, delivering a finale that is unexpectedly hopeful, moving and emotionally satisfying.”

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