Tag Archives: John Cho

Total Recall (2012) Review

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Total Recall (2012)

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Kate Beckinsale as Agent Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen
Bokeem Woodbine as Agent Harry
Bill Nighy as Matthias
John Cho as McClane
Director: Len Wiseman

Douglas is frustrated with his frequent dreams where he is a secret agent. He visits Rekall to get a fake memory implanted into his brain, but the procedure goes haywire.

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When it comes to remakes of classics, 2012’s Total Recall seems to be one of the most disliked, at least from the past decade. I remember liking it when I saw it for the first time, but that was quite a while ago. After rewatching the original Total Recall after many years (and loving it even more), I decided to check out the remake again the same night. Perhaps not the best option, as I immediately noticed everything great and good about the original that the remake did not have. That being said, taking the remake aspect out of it, Total Recall (2012) is otherwise a serviceable enough standalone sci-fi film.

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I wouldn’t say the script of Total Recall (2012) is bad, it is competent and functional enough but it really isn’t strong. It does start off pretty well, with a good pace and an intriguing mystery at the centre of the movie. Throughout the movie, there’s some pretty good world building as well. I wasn’t super engaged with the plot partly because I knew what general direction it would be moving towards, and partly because it wasn’t the most interesting. Still, the plot at least had me willing to follow what was happening. After a while though, the plot becomes very generic and by the time it reaches the third act, it almost just gives up. It just concludes in a dragged out, dull and bland action climax. By that point the plot has gotten really convoluted, and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the movie to try to regain the thread of what was happening. For what its worth, I watched the Extended Director’s Cut and I heard the theatrical version removes the complexity from the plot. So if you were planning on watching it, I highly recommend checking out the longer version. That was me talking about the remake without comparing it to the original, that ends here. Side by side, the remake really does take away so much of what made the original film so special. Mars doesn’t play a part, there aren’t any mutants, and it takes itself incredibly seriously. Plotwise it’s not exactly similar to the Paul Verhoeven film which I honestly respect. I admire the decision to be a little different to the classic Arnold flick, even if it means having to drop some beloved and iconic aspects. That being said, the movie is still left less memorable and interesting and really lacks a personality. It is worth noting is that there are some out of place callbacks to the original throughout, which are baffling considering the remake’s intention to be somewhat different. There are lines of dialogue which are straight up taken from the 1990 film. There’s even a reference to the three breasted woman from the original film, which will only make sense to people to watched that movie and understands this moment, while the rest of the audience are left confused.

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Total Recall does at the very least have a solid cast going for it. Colin Farrell plays the role of lead role Douglas Quaid, not one of his all-time best performances, but he’s quite good. Arnold Schwarzenegger did admittedly seem out of place for the story of Total Recall (especially when he’s playing a role that is meant to be an everyman), but he fitted the energy of that film appropriately, and his presence really added to the film. With a more conventional and straight-faced Total Recall however, Farrell does a good job in the part. He’s convincing at the action scenes and at conveying his character’s need to know what is going on. Most of the other actors like Bill Nighy do a good job. Meanwhile Jessica Biel is very unconvincing as the love interest. Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the main villain of Total Recall, played in the original by Ronny Cox. With a talent like Cranston as the antagonist, there’s a lot of potential. While he’s decent enough in his scenes, the movie doesn’t utilise him the best. He’s just generically evil, doesn’t leave much of an impression, and isn’t even in the movie a lot. Thankfully, Kate Beckinsale picks up the slack as Quaid’s wife Lori and the secondary villain of the movie. Essentially she plays a combination of Sharon Stone’s Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter from the original Total Recall, as she relentlessly pursues Quaid throughout the film. Beckinsale’s turn as a villain is very fun to watch, she’s unstoppable and ruthless, and is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie.

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Len Wiseman is a decent director and overall, his work here is okay. At the very least, the cinematography is stunning with some impressive visual effects. Wiseman has many sweeping shots of the big cities, and he is great at visualising a futuristic world. Although it looks very similar to locations in other sci-fi/futuristic movies, Wiseman clearly has an eye for detail and scale. The action is entertaining and well shot, even if it isn’t always coherent (especially towards the end). There is a ton of CGI and everything from the visuals to the action can seem very video gamey, which is a criticism that I’ve seen a lot from people. That being said, given that the point of Rekall was to give a false reality with the memory implants, it does play into that aspect well, unintentionally or otherwise.

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Total Recall (2012) is not a good remake, it definitely lacks a lot of what made the first movie great in the first place. I appreciate the efforts to be different and not just a copy of the beloved classic, but the method for doing so seemed to be copying plenty of other sci-fi movies. The end result is a bit generic and despite a promising start, ended up losing me by the end. But I wouldn’t say it’s bad, as a standard sci-fi thriller, it’s okay enough. The visuals are nice to watch, the action is entertaining, and generally the cast are good, especially Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. Not a must see but it’s passable and not a bad watch, preferably if you haven’t watched the original first of course.

Columbus (2017) Review

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Columbus

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & drug references
Cast:
John Cho as Jin Lee
Haley Lu Richardson as Casey
Parker Posey as Eleanor
Michelle Forbes as Maria
Rory Culkin as Gabriel
Director: Kogonada

When a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin (John Cho) finds himself stranded in Columbus, Ind., a small Midwestern city celebrated for its many significant modernist buildings. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. As their intimacy develops, Jin and Casey explore both the town and their own conflicted emotions.

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I remember hearing a lot about Columbus before watching, mainly that it stars John Cho, is about architecture, and was visually stunning. I wasn’t quite sure how into it I would be however, but it turns out to be fantastic and I kind of loved it.

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Columbus is a rather simple yet beautiful movie. It follows an unconventional friendship between two characters who are having a crisis in their lives as they reminisce about their lives, talk about architecture, and get to know each other. You care about the characters because of how grounded they are, every character in the movie is fully realised and feels lived in. The narrative is quite layered despite its simplicity. It’s a very calm and centred film, the movie is mostly just people walking around town and going about their lives. It’s fairly plotless and captures the subtle moments of day to day life, while managing to not be mundane (at least I didn’t find it to be that way). It’s also very dialogue heavy, mostly with the conversations between the two lead characters. While I know not everyone will be into it, I found the dialogue interesting and if a scene of dialogue doesn’t advance plot or make a thematic point, then it adds something to the characterisations. There are lots of talks about architecture as it is a very present part of the plot, and it actually does well at serving as a bridge to connect the two main characters. I also found myself being quite invested in the architecture side of the movie despite not knowing a lot about it. Part of that is because it’s clearly a passion for these characters, and that is so believably captured here. The movie is very slow, which will turn off some people especially those not as interested in the plot and characters. It takes its time with its characters and sometimes just lets a scene play out and breathe, really adding to the subtle yet strong atmosphere throughout.

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The acting is great from everyone, but it mainly comes down to the two excellent central performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson. The two characters have a lot of chemistry as their relationship grows, and I enjoyed every second they had onscreen together. They captured their characters incredibly well, they were very much subtle performances, yet very convincing and believable.

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This is the first film from director Kogonada, and this is a fantastic debut for him. First of all, with what this movie is known for: this movie has gorgeous and riveting cinematography, perfectly shot throughout. All of it is beautifully composed and tranquil. Every frame is composed with care and attention, and the camera doesn’t once feel invasive of the action onscreen. Almost every shot is completely stationary, yet is put together so well that the shots feel lively, even in the slowest of moments. The shots linger too, often allowing us to absorb every frame at our own pace. The subtle score from Hammock which accompanies the movie gives this warm melancholic feeling. All this comes together to create this dreamlike atmosphere, in fact this has to be one of the most atmospheric movies I’ve seen. The carefully framed and beautiful shots of architectures and landscapes paired with quiet conversations create this introspective and peaceful vibe.

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Columbus might not be for everyone, with the slow deliberate pace and the dialogue heavy focus. However the performances (especially John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson), and beautiful cinematography, as well as the characters had me on board the entire time. I was quite invested with what was happening and the atmosphere had me entranced. I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Kogonada makes next.

Searching (2018) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug references
Cast:
John Cho as David Kim
Debra Messing as Detective Rosemary Vick
Michelle La as Margot Kim
Sara Sohn as Pamela Nam Kim
Joseph Lee as Peter Kim
Director: Aneesh Chaganty

David Kim (John Cho) becomes desperate when his 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) disappears and an immediate police investigation leads nowhere. He soon decides to search the one place that no one else has — Margot’s laptop. Hoping to trace her digital footprints, David contacts her friends and looks at photos and videos for any possible clues to her whereabouts.

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Searching is a movie I heard some buzz about for some time, a movie that takes place entirely on a computer like Unfriended that’s about John Cho trying to find his missing daughter. While that sounds like it end up being a gimmicky movie, it actually wasn’t bad, in fact it was really good. Searching has a familiar premise but it executed very well and is led by an incredible performance by John Cho.

The movie is about an hour and 40 minutes long and from start to finish I was pretty invested. Searching isn’t the first movie to have the film take place entirely on a computer, Unfriended did this as well. Searching unlike Unfriended isn’t a horror movie, but it can still be very suspenseful. It’s not like you’re not expecting someone to come up behind an unsuspecting John Cho or anything, it’s more that you’re not really expecting what new piece of evidence that we’re going to find out about his daughter. This is especially the fact when Cho finds out that her daughter really wasn’t quite how she seemed to him. It also did a good job at portraying how people would react to a disappearing person, while the way it was done in terms of storytelling is out of place (which I’ll mention later), they did a good job with that aspect. Usually with these kinds of stories, you can predict pretty much where everything is going to go and what beats it was going to go through. However if I did predict certain things here, I had to have gotten through a significant amount of the way through the movie before I did so. One of the detracting elements to the movie was the ending. I can’t exactly say how it ends but I can say that while direction-wise I like the twist, it feels like so many things are resolved incredibly quickly. There also was an aspect that was a little convenient and hard to buy, not really realistic considering the rest of the movie Also they use a news report as a way of summarising a lot of what happened, and as you’ll read later on, that really took away from the movie. On the whole I like the direction of the ending, just not so much the execution of it.

While there are a number of people in the movie, whether they’re on screen or as voices, but really most of the movie is John Cho on a screen. I’m only familiar with John Cho from his role as Sulu in Star Trek and I know that he’s heavily involved with comedy, however he gives a really great dramatic and fantastic performance here as a father trying to find out what happened to his daughter. He just exudes desperation, which increases as he continually meets dead ends and finds out things about his daughter that he didn’t know before. There are also some more quiet moments when he doesn’t say anything, there’s nothing showy about his performance, it feels very real. The same goes for the other actors, including Debra Messing as the detective assigned to the case, Michelle La as John Cho’s daughter and Joseph Lee as Cho’s brother.

As previously mentioned, Searching isn’t the first movie to take place on a computer but it still did it pretty well. The way that Searching is directed is why it works so well. Sometimes John Cho isn’t on screen and yet the things that are typed, the pausing, all of that is very effective visual storytelling, especially for showing what John Cho is thinking in those moments. The editing on the whole was done really well, very efficient and stylistic yet not too overblown. Now in terms of realism, it mostly feels realistic, despite some moments when people wouldn’t necessarily be having their screens on in some of the situations (though those moments don’t happen too much). Also there are times when it cuts to news footage and while it is seen on a computer, it’s not being seen by John Cho on a computer looking at said news footage, so it feels an out of place way for them to get major events and exposition out there since they aren’t able to do that with a computer or phone. The whole ‘taking place entirely on a computer’ thing seemed to be a double edged sword. There isn’t a bunch of pounding dramatic music and is used minimally but it was really effective, giving off a really unsettling vibe like just like the rest of the movie.

Searching is a effectively suspenseful film, well deserving of all the praise it’s been getting. Despite a shakily executed ending, with the direction and storytelling mixed with John Cho’s fantastic performance, it’s really good and well worth the watch.

Star Trek Beyond (2016) Review

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Star Trek Beyond

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock
Karl Urban as Lieutenant Commander Leonard McCoy
Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Simon Pegg as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott
John Cho as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Ensign Pavel Chekov
Idris Elba as Krall
Director: Justin Lin

A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that’s aboard the badly damaged starship. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

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I really liked the more recent Star Trek films but I had some doubts about Star Trek Beyond, director Justin Lin was known for the Fast and Furious movies which were enjoyable but not really what you would expect to direct a Star Trek movie. Also the first trailer really didn’t impress me. However, I can say now after seeing it, Star Trek Beyond was a ton of fun. The acting and story were just as good, and the action was quite entertaining. Definitely check it out when you get a chance.

Left to right: Simon Pegg plays Scotty, Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah and Chris Pine plays Kirk in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

This film is quite different from the previous 2 films, at least in terms of their setting. This time they are stranded on a planet. The beginning of the film is a little slow, not bad but could’ve been paced better. After that though, the film is better paced. This movie really does get better and better as it goes along. You might think that as this is done by the person who did the Fast and Furious movies, that there wouldn’t be any character development or anything. Not true though. The characters are just as well written as in the previous movies, and they really do have great moments of interactions, all of them are done excellently.

Chris Pine plays Kirk in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

The previous cast returns once again, they play off each other so well, especially Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban. The previous movie had a lot of Kirk interacting with Spock, here though it’s Spock and Bones, and they are absolutely fantastic. I really liked Sofia Boutella in this movie, she is great in the action scenes and definitely a memorable part of the movie. Idris Elba plays the villain in this movie. At first Krall wasn’t that interesting. He wasn’t bad, he worked for the film and Idris Elba is by no means wasted in this role. However he gets a lot better as you find out why he was doing what he was doing in the final act. I wished that he was given development much earlier in the movie however. Overall, he was on the same level as Nero in Star Trek 09, fine villain, nothing that spectacular, especially where you compare him to Khan in Into Darkness. However Krall is still a solid villain.

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The style definitely feels different from Abrams’s Star Trek and it definitely feels it. It works well but I will admit that personally, it felt like it was missing Abrams’s flare and style, which is sorely missed. The action is good but occasionally especially in the fight scenes, a lot of close up shaky cam is used. The CGI for the most part works, though there was a few parts where it looked a little off, that’s mostly in one scene involving one city, the rest of it looked great. The soundtrack is once again done by Michael Giacchino, and it’s also well suited for the movie and works quite well.

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If you liked the previous Star Trek films, you’ll probably like this film as well. Star Trek Beyond has great performances from its talented cast, the action is enjoyable, and the story was written quite well. I personally like the other Star Trek movies more, probably for the most part due to Abrams’s direction but I think that this is still quite a good movie, and definitely worth checking out some time.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) Review

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock
Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan
Simon Pegg as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
Karl Urban as Lieutenant Commander Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura
Alice Eve as Lieutenant Dr. Carol Marcus
John Cho as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
Peter Weller as Fleet Admiral Alexander Marcus
Anton Yelchin as Ensign Pavel Chekov
Bruce Greenwood as Admiral Christopher Pike
Director: J.J. Abrams

The crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization destroys most of Starfleet and what it represents, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) leads his people (Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana) on a mission to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction (Benedict Cumberbatch), thereby propelling all of them into an epic game of life and death.

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JJ Abrams’s Star Trek was loved upon its 2009 release by regular audience members and Star Trek fans alike. Yet for some reason some people really didn’t like its 2013 sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I personally liked it slightly more than the previous movie, in regards to its villain and some of the action. But for the most part it is pretty similar to the original movie, same great actors and characters, similar action, it’s overall a pretty good sequel to the original film.

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Now unlike a lot of Star Trek movies where it goes to many different planets and sites “Going where no man has gone before”, it doesn’t happen that much here, aside from a couple of brief scenes, it mostly takes place upon ships, which I guess doesn’t make it that much of a Star Trek movie. The plot (or dark tone for that matter) isn’t something that you’d expect from a Star Trek movie. However I’m still fine with this, then again I’m not that huge of a Star Trek fan. It does have plenty of callbacks to previous Star Trek films, especially Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, almost to the point of parody but I still liked them, even for as cheesy or ridiculous they may seem looking back. After seeing this movie a few times, I did notice that there were some plot holes and conveniences in the story, but nothing major to take away from the overall experience.

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The cast from the previous film returns and once again were great here, particularly Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, who really own their roles. Both of these actors share great chemistry and you can easily see their friendship. All the other returning cast members did a great job as well, which consists of Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and many others. I also really liked Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain. Eric Bana did a fine job in the previous movie as a villain but he was sort of restricted and just wasn’t as memorable. Cumberbatch has much more to work with however and was a lot more memorable, every time he’s on screen he conveys such a presence. It helps that his character was presented as being such an unstoppable force, and really had a lot more focus on him.

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JJ Abrams always makes a great looking movie and Star Trek: Into Darkness is no exception. The visuals and effects are on point and are truly done great, it’s so easy to get pulled into this movie. Yes, there is plenty of lens flares once again but I didn’t really mind them, that’s part of Abrams’s style. The action was once again great and even better than the previous film. The music by Michael Giacchino was once again really good and it helped elevate the scenes. On the technical side at least, Star Trek: Into Darkness is directed perfectly.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness is in my opinion another great addition to the Star Trek series. It has the action, performances and story that the previous movie had. It may have a couple of plot holes and conveniences in the script at times but it’s not enough to lessen the enjoyment that I had watching this movie. With Star Trek Beyond, it’s hard to see how Justin Lin can make it as good as or better than Abrams’s two Star Trek movies but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Star Trek (2009)

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Star Trek

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pine as Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zoe Saldana as Uhura
Karl Urban as Bones
John Cho as Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Bruce Greenwood as Pike
Eric Bana as Nero
Director: J.J. Abrams

On the day of James Kirk’s birth, his father dies on his ship in a last stand against a mysterious alien time-travelling vessel. Twenty-five years later, Kirk (Chris Pine) has grown into a young troublemaker. Challenged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to realize his potential in Starfleet, he comes to annoy instructors like young Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Suddenly, there is an emergency at Vulcan and the newly commissioned USS Enterprise is crewed with promising cadets like Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and even Kirk himself, thanks to Leonard McCoy’s (Karl Urban) medical trickery. Together, this crew will have an adventure in the final frontier where the old legend is altered forever as a new version of it begins.

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Making reboots and remakes are often quite risky, they may be great or they may fail in incredible degrees; to sum up whether it succeeded or not, I’ll say that whenever I think of good reboots I think of Batman Begins and Star Trek. With an engrossing world, great performances and entertaining action scenes, it is one of my favourite Sci-Fi action movies.

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Star Trek is always entertaining from the opening credits to end credits. I’ll be honest, before watching this movie I never watched any form of Star Trek media, this was my first Star Trek movie; a good thing about this movie is that you don’t have to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it; you can quickly pick up what the world is like and doesn’t rely on prior knowledge to understand what’s going on. The dialogue between the characters is written incredibly well and is well suited to the characters that the actors played.

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The actors do a really good and respectable job portraying these famous and beloved characters. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are particularly great in their roles. After seeing Chris Pine play Kirk, I can’t imagine anyone else playing that role; he was like a good new generation version of William Shatner. Zachary Quinto was as great as Spock in all of his scenes and I could really buy him as being a half human and half Vulcan. I also particularly like the contrast between the Kirk and Spock and these two actors did great jobs at showing their differing personalites. Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg and Bruce Greenwood were also really good in their roles. Eric Bana played the villain and I thought did a pretty good job, he wasn’t anything special but I thought that he managed it quite well. There is also an appearance from a (Original) Star Trek cast member that I won’t spoil, should you be one of the few who hasn’t watched this movie yet. The actors are all very aware of the characters that they are playing and they delivered the well written dialogue well.

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I loved the special effects in this movie; everything is on such a large scale. One thing that is often talked about with this movie is the lens flares; Abrams often uses it in his movies but I felt like it worked for Star Trek. The action scenes are filmed spectacularly, particularly when it involved the Enterprise. The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino also added a lot to the movie.

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Star Trek is a great movie for fans of Star Trek and people new to that universe. J.J. Abrams did a great job with this movie as well as its sequel (Star Trek Into Darkness) and hopefully more sequels. These two movies give me great hope for Star Wars Episode 7 to be a great movie. Check out Star Trek when you can if you haven’t seen it already, it is a fun and exciting experience.