Priest Movie Review

priest_ver9Y’all probably know by now that I’m super partial to sci-fi action films. I generally tend to gravitate toward them and think of them highly, despite some of their more obvious flaws. Similarly, I also tend to enjoy really bad movies. You know, the ones with cringeworthy dialogue, wooden acting, obviously fake stunts, weak plot points, etc. So when I heard of Priest, with numerous reviews panning it, I figured it was something I’d enjoy (LOL). When I finally got around to watching it, turns out, I didn’t enjoy it as much I’d hoped I would’ve. *insert sad face* That said, I’m gonna review it anyway and discuss some of the things I liked and disliked.

Simplistically, Priest is about holy supernatural warriors called ‘priests,’ battling vampires for control in an alternative reality. According to the movie, human kind and vampires had been vying for dominance. The vampires initially ruled, as their fast senses and movements made it easy for them to kill the humans quickly. Eventually, the humans began prevailing once the ‘priests’ stepped in. Trained with special powers (?) the priests were able to battle the vampires and wipe them out. The few remaining ones were put into reservations. As the vampires disappeared, so did the need for the priests. Fearing their power, the leaders of the church and cities (btw the church ended up taking control and people began living in walled cities under church rule), disbanded the priests and attempted to reintegrate them into society. As expected, it didn’t work and instead the priests became pariahs and struggled to find jobs.

With this background, the brother of one of the priests ended up getting attacked by vampires and his daughter (played by Lily Collins) taken. The priest (played by Paul Bettany) hears of this and goes to the leaders to ask permission to rescue the daughter/ his niece. The leaders refuse to believe that vampires are back and deny him permission, stating that if the priest attempted a rescue, they would disbar him from the religious order. The priest doesn’t listen and goes to save his niece anyway. Joining him on this mission, is the niece’s boyfriend, the sheriff of the wastelands (played by Cam Gigandet) and the priestess (played by Maggie Q), initially sent after him by the city leaders. The rest of the movie basically deals with the rescue with some other background characters and stories thrown in.

What I liked, is the following:

  • The action scenes were decent. There were a few slo-mo scenes that were nice and some quick action scenes. That said, they definitely could’ve been improved upon (I felt timing of some of them was a little off and the camera angles could’ve been better, along with lightening being a tad too dark), but it was decent enough.
  • I also enjoyed the new take on vampires presented in this movie. Most current vampire lore has them characterized as these human-like creatures who possess super-strength, speed, beauty and immortality. However, in this movie, they were literally beasts. They were weird creatures with human-ish bodies, but with no eyes and grey skin. In fact, this take was also twisted around to address the idea of current human-like vampires. The villain (played by Karl Urban), was actually the first human vampire as he had fed from the blood of the Vampire Queen. He possessed stereotypical vampire abilities, like super strength, never-aging, blood lust, and also new things like an ability to withstand sunlight. I just thought it was interesting to introduce different types of vampire characterizations in the same movie.
  • The idea of warrior priests was also kinda interesting. Although, the underlying religious tones were slightly too much for me at times. I think they were added to heighten the drama, but it was just weird. I would’ve much preferred a more consistent theme, rather than have the movie introduce religious tones once in a while.
  • I didn’t mind the little hints of romance between the priest and priestess. It was relatively subtle, especially compared to other things in the movie. I mean, could the movie have gone without it? Yeah, most definitely. It might’ve even made the movie better? But, I didn’t mind it. There was only a few hints of it shown so I thought it was fine.
  • And finally, I liked the whole broad vampire plot-line, with the niece being bait for the priest and the idea of a vampire train. I thought it was interesting. Not the best, but interesting enough.

Reading back on my list, even the positives are littered with critiques (LOL). Surprisingly, even with these critiques, my list of what I didn’t enjoy is still longer. For the sake of length, I won’t make a bullet list, but I’ll just list a few things in a simple paragraph (or two).

Firstly, I HATED the reveal that the niece was actually the daughter of the priest. It was too cliche for me and I much preferred it earlier when it seemed like the priest was just going after a niece. On that note, I really disliked how the priest’s backstory played out. I would’ve much rather had him be a childhood love of Shannon who was recruited as a child vs. the adult recruit. I just felt like it cheapened his character, rather than elevate it as the movie hoped to. I also was not a fan of Cam Gigandet’s acting, or maybe it was the character. I just found most of his scenes so grating and with nothing really important to add. He was a typical side-kick character, but the attempt to make him more interesting by threatening the priest was annoying and backfired for me.

Similarly, I hated how the movie tried to add in so many different things. Instead of focusing on a singular, over-arching theme, it attempted to patch together different themes. The result was a mis-matched thematic tone with insufficient attention paid to the cohesiveness of the movie. For example, the whole battle between the priest and the vampires took on the themes of: a) a man realizing that his power comes from God and not the Church b) a man struggling with forgetting his love and attempting to get back his daughter c) a man trying to find his place in the world. Not the mention the fact that the movie also seemingly touches on the concept of blind obedience vs. true devotion to God. There’s just so much going on at once and nothing ever really reaches the point of completion or even gets fleshed out slightly. Additionally, the pace of the movie also varies. Sometimes its a slick action flick, while at other times, it drags on. Literally, the characters just sit and talk in a desert wasteland a couple of times. It just gets annoying to watch and attempt to focus upon. In fact, on that note, I also thought the movie, while it did have an interesting over-arching plot-line (the niece bait +  vampire train), doesn’t really go anywhere or do it justice. It kinda just gets forgotten. I mean, to be clear, the plot *does* get resolved near the end. But the way it resolves is so unsatisfying that it felt like it didn’t really amount to much (i.e. reach its potential). Plus, I didn’t find the directing to be that amazing or great. It just felt so standard and typical to me — with nothing new to add or talk about. On the whole, I felt like the whole movie needed to be revamped and edited better.

My rating: you can skip it, there’s other better “so bad, it’s good” movies out there.

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

mpw-115634Last week, I raved about how much I enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Not only did the movie live up to my expectations, but it also led me to fall deeper in love with the series. So when the 2011 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness came out, I was so excited. However, my excitement soon faded into disappointment and anger once it was revealed that Khan, a prominent person-of-colour, was to be played by a white man, Benedict Cumberbatch. As you probably know by now, diversity is an issue close to my heart and hence having one of my favourite series end up white-washing such an iconic character was a pretty big blow. My disappointment furthered when I watched the movie and Khan’s character was kinda butchered (he’s supposed to be this insanely scary sort of fellow who poses a real threat, but Cumberbatch’s character was a mystery midway and then ends up being evil but with no real threat so you’re kinda just watching the movie bored). As a result, I kinda grew disillusioned with the series reboot. So when the 2016 sequel, Star Trek Beyond, was released, I actually didn’t care that much. I watched a trailer or two, and that was it. However, my friend convinced me to come along and watch the movie with her, and ladies and gentlemen, my love affair with Star Trek has rekindled.

One of my favourite things about the Star Trek series, alongside its space focus (I adoreeee anything to do with space, it’s so fascinating!), has always been the teamwork. Each member of the Enterprise works in tandem with the others. No one is the one, main star player, not even Captain Kirk. Before some of your Trekkies come at me with pitchforks, lemme explain. Captain Kirk functions as the leader of the Enterprise. He makes most executive decisions and the team relies on him to direct them. However, despite Kirk’s starring role, he’s not the only one who ‘fixes’ every situation. Kirk comes up with the plans, but their execution and even the planning stage, requires action and input from the other members. Their missions always end up being full-on group work; each Enterprise member plays a key role. Take the 2009 reboot movie, Kirk actually gets kicked off the ship and marooned on some distant planet. If it wasn’t for Scotty (and Spock), then Kirk would’ve never made it onto the ship again. Similarly, when Kirk and Sulu destroy the Romulan beam, it’s Chekov who manages to save them from certain death and beams them back to the ship. And even in the very beginning of the movie, its Uhura’s extra-credit work that spots the future Romulan ship in the first place! If any one of these members had missed their jobs/ hadn’t done them, then the entire outcome of the adventure would’ve ended up differently. That’s what I mean by it being a group effort. And my point was further illustrated in the recent film. Hence, onto the review:

The movie begins where the last one left off, with the Enterprise crew on their 5 year mission in space. Getting tired of the monotony and feeling disillusioned, Kirk contemplates quitting being Captain and instead becoming Admiral. However, a situation arises in which he and his team get attacked. It takes the entire teamwork of the team to escape the situation and save the day (much like the 2009 film). Without Uhura’s bravery in detaching the ship’s disc (no idea what it’s called) from the other part of the ship, Kirk probably wouldn’t have had time to escape Krall and escape the crashing ship. Without Spock to distract the aliens, McCoy probably wouldn’t have taken control of the alien ship and learnt how to control it. Without McCoy’s medical knowledge, Spock probably wouldn’t have survived long with his wound. Without Sulu and Uhura’s leadership capabilities, the team would’ve never discovered that Krall was tracking them or what his end plan was. Without Chekov, Kirk probably wouldn’t have been able to trap Kalara or get Krall’s location. Without Scotty, Jaylah wouldn’t (or perhaps would’ve taken a much longer time that needed) agree to give up her home and help the crew escape. Hell, without Jaylah and her knowledge and gadgets, the Enterprise crew would’ve had a much more difficult time rescuing everyone. Without Sulu’s determination, the ship probably would not have flown into space (everyone doubted that they’d reach terminal velocity except him!). Without Uhura’s linguistic skills, no one would’ve discovered that Krall was actually Balthazar Edison. And without McCoy and Spock, Kirk probably would’ve died.

Yet, unlike the 2009 film in which the sense of adventure was present but still subtle, this movie all but exclaims that it’s your run-of-the-mill adventure heist film (although they aren’t really the criminals here). It literally follows the sequential system that heist films operate upon. There’s a planning stage, the actual heist, and then a denouement. Although, this heist appears midway through the film, I think it still counts.

On that note, as you can probably guess (if you’re particularly good at reading between the lines!) that this film isn’t really about the general Star Trek universe. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a lot of discussion about the starfleet and the role played by the federation. However, there’s also a lot of focus upon the characters themselves and the heist plot doesn’t really explicitly need the Star Trek universe. In other words, you could totally imagine the heist happening in some other science-y movie.

That said, I still really enjoyed the film, just for the sheer amount of teamwork in the film and the little looks into each individual Enterprise team member and their personal life. Spock and Uhura are still in love with each other, with Spock still struggling between following his passion and doing his alleged duty. Uhura is still a badass who will do anything to save her crew. Sulu is married and has a daughter and remains a true dependable leader. Bones still dislikes Spock but comes to understand him better. Spock does the same with Bones and comes to express his respect for him (LOL). Chekov remains smart but has also begun thinking about leadership roles. Scotty develops a mentor bond with a young woman and delves into what being in a team means to him. And Kirk comes to grips with combating space weariness and being older than his dad ever was.

I also quite liked the character of Jaylah introduced in this film. Played by the wonderful Sofia Boutella, Jaylah is a young alien woman who had survived the hardship Kirk and his crew were going through. It is through her help and ingenuity that the team is able to reunite and save the day. I just thought it was quite nice to have another female character in the film who played a prominent role and was so smart and quick on her feet. I also enjoyed the villain Krall, played by Idris Elba. Although I think his story could’ve been more impactful, I still enjoyed what he represented, i.e. the other side of the federation and how not everyone could be a fan of it. And of course, as this film was directed by a different director, I think it’s also worth to address that. If you’ve read by 2009 reboot movie review, then you probably know that I was pretty annoyed with the constant lens flares. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t have those! The movie was directed by Justin Lin. I’m already pretty familiar with his work (through the Fast and Furious franchise and Community), so I kinda already knew that I would enjoy his work. Lin, in my opinion, is particularly good at doing action scenes (although he does have the tendency to do too many), and it definitely showed in this movie. But I think it also kind of played up the entire adventure heist element of the film, so it worked out. My only criticism, would perhaps be that sometimes, things fell into place too conveniently. Some intense suspense or thrill was lacking in certain scenes because you already knew what would happen. Nonetheless, I think this film was a solid entry into the franchise and is still a pretty enjoyable movie.

My rating: watch it to enjoy some cool space action and awesome team work!

Star Trek (2009) Movie Review

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So I feel like I’ve been lacking when it comes to movie reviews. To be honest, I’m not much of a movie person. Or rather, I do watch movies, but just don’t watch them that often or watch them right when they release. Hence, when it comes to doing movie reviews, sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse because by the time my reviews come out, the movies have lost publicity and faded into the deep interior of people’s minds. But, I really do enjoy watching and writing about movies, so I continue to do it anyway.  Anywho, today’s topic is the 2009 reboot movie Star Trek.

Firstly, I’m not the biggest trekkie, but I do have a soft spot for this particular series. The original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation were shows that my grandfather really enjoyed watching. As a kid, I would sometimes join him and watch them. Now most of the stuff went over my head (I was quite young!) but I do have some good memories of the series. However, my affinity for the series mostly comes from the fact that it was something my grandfather and I did together and something that he enjoyed. So I always associate Star Trek with my grandfather and good memories. Hence when I heard about the 2009 reboot, I was fully on board. And to my absolute delight, when I saw the movie, I fell further in love with the series.

The movie plot, for those of you who’d like some refreshers, basically serves as a prequel/ origin to the eventual Star Trek series. However, it also isn’t quite a *prequel* to the actual series, as the movie sets up an alternate timeline. So while the characters remain quite similar and some plot-lines are recycled, the character origins and development are actually different. So for example, in this film, Captain Kirk actually grew up fatherless and his motivation for joining starfleet was to win a bet, vs. in the original series where he grew up with his father and joined because he was genuinely interested. Similarly Kirk and Spock don’t start out as good friends, but have a rather antagonistic beginning.

Which brings us the the general story in the movie. Since it’s been some time since the movie released, I’m not going to write out a detailed, scene-for-scene description. I’ll basically just summarize the gist. In essence, the origin stories for both Kirk and Spock are laid out (Kirk being a fatherless rebel needing direction and Spock dealing with bullying over his human mother), with the two beginning an antagonistic relationship. It’s through a dangerous situation (rogue Romulan ship from an alternative-timeline future bent on destroying the planets Vulcan and Earth), with a little help from the alternative-timeline Spock (who reveals the backstory of the dangerous situation and the subsequent alternative-timeline that has been created), that the two become friends. Their friendship, and relationship with what would become the original Star Trek crew, is what finally defeats the dangerous situation (pretty cool, climactic scene wherein everyone participates). The movie ends with their formation and Spock’s famous dialogue to venture into space “where no one has gone before.”

As you can tell (hopefully LOL), it’s a super fun movie to watch. It’s basically an adventure film in which the good guys go through some tense and bonding moments before eventually winning over the bad guys. Pretty typical in its plot-line. And yet, the cast, character development, script, and humour elevate it. It actually reminds me a bit of the later Marvel movies, where the fun quotient adds another layer to the movie. And I think this also relates back to the original essence of the Star Trek movies/ shows. From what I’ve been able to glean from observing my grandfather, watching parts of the series, and reading online, one of the biggest draws to Star Trek, has been the sense of discovery the series promotes (along with the science). In each episode, Captain Kirk and his crew discover something new and experience new adventures. It’s fun. Things are always happening. And the film does exactly that. The crew experiences a new situation/ adventure and bond over it. I think this film functioned really well as a starting point for the series. Not only could new fans get into the series, but older fans were also serviced with the idea of an alternative-timeline (giving the writers some leeway with situations, which also serve to conciliate head-strong fans who demand 100% accuracy).

On another note, I think the casting was also really great. I was initially a little hesitant over Chris Pine’s  selection, because prior to this movie, I had only seen him in The Princess Diaries 2. I wasn’t too sure as to how he’d take to Kirk. However, I was also a little scared that he would try to emulate William Shatner’s extremely over-exaggerated acting in an effort to pay homage. Shatner is a good actor (I’m guessing b/c I’ve only ever seen him in Star Trek), but my god, his Captain Kirk, while smooth with the ladies, was also ridiculously zealous in his reactions. To my thankfulness, Pine declined to follow Shatner’s acting style for Kirk and instead did his own thing, which translated wonderfully onscreen. I really enjoyed Pine’s take on Kirk, as being this rebellious kid who needed direction. He really shined in this role and captained the movie wonderfully. All the other characters were great as well, Zachary Quinto as Spock, John Cho as Hikaru Sulu, Karl Urban as Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura, Simon Pegg as Montgomery Scotty, Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov, and even Eric Bana as Nero.

Which also brings me to another issue: diversity. Growing up in an extremely multicultural country, diversity (and to another extent representation), has always been important to me. And one of my favourite things about this movie and of Star Trek in general, was how diverse it was. You had people of different races all playing an important role. As a woman of colour, this is a message that brings me great joy. Your talents aren’t determined by your skin colour or anything; it’s who you are. And Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov really represented that for me. It doesn’t matter that you’re a person of colour, or a woman, or have an accent; as long as you can get the job done, you’re good to go. In today’s climate, as much as we’d like to celebrate our diversity and sing kumbaya while sitting in a multicultural circle, the truth is, racism is still quite rampant in our society. I mean, in the United States alone, Black Lives Matter is a glaring example. Even in other parts of the world, Islamophobia is widespread. And these issues are also represented on-screen, wherein people of colour significantly feature less in films and if they do, they are often reduced to being caricatures or reinforcing stereotypes. Yet, Star Trek goes against the grain and represents a more hopeful future/ reality. Not only are people of colour/ minorities represented on-screen, but their roles are significant, regardless of race. Of course, the diversity ratio can be improved, but considering how the series was created way back in the 1960’s and still managed to be so diverse is incredible. Especially when you compare to how we face issues with diversity today.

However, with all my positives for the film, I will say that it is not perfect. The one thing that really annoyed me, was the constant use of lens flare to make scenes dramatic (?). I mean, cinamatography on the whole was decent. The movie was lit brightly which, in my opinion, added to the light, fun feel of the movie. However, there were also constant lens flare. At some point, it just became too much. This may in fact be a critique of the director because apparently he has done it often? And from previous movie watching experiences, I know that you do not always need lens flare to display dramatic moments. There are different ways to shoot scenes, angle your camera, etc. to achieve a dramatic flare. Yet, in this film, I counted over twenty different lens flare scenes, before I stopped counting. I mean, come on. And I was also a little peeved at Uhura’s costume. I mean, not only does the mini skirt uniform she wears look uncomfortable, but it also begs the question of practicality. From prior skirt-wearing experience, I can tell you with 100% guarantee, that pants are much more versatile and facilitate movement in an easier fashion than skirts. I just, I found it ridiculous that everyone was wearing pants except her. I also wasn’t quite a big fan of the gratuitous semi-nude shot of Uhura undressing. I just, it felt so unnecessary and almost like it was servicing fan-boys. Ick. But on the whole, it was definitely an enjoyable movie and a great starting point for new fans to get sucked into!

My rating: watch it to be sucked into an awesome space-y and science-y adventure!