Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek-New Movie Review From James Myers, The Entertainment Critic

Movie Review:  Star Trek


The Entertainment Critic Movie Review

In Theatres Now Review

Opened May 8, 2009

By James Myers


Rating: 8 of 10


Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers (WGA): Roberto Orci (written by) &

Alex Kurtzman (written by)




Chris Pine         ...        James T. Kirk


Zachary Quinto ...        Spock


Leonard Nimoy            ...        Spock Prime


Eric Bana         ...        Nero


Bruce Greenwood        ...        Capt. Christopher Pike


Karl Urban       ...        Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy


Zoe Saldana     ...        Nyota Uhura


Simon Pegg      ...        Scotty


John Cho          ...        Hikaru Sulu

            Anton Yelchin   ...        Pavel Chekov


Ben Cross        ...        Sarek


Winona Ryder  ...        Amanda Grayson


Chris Hemsworth          ...        George Kirk


Jennifer Morrison          ...        Winona Kirk


Rachel Nichols ...        Gaila




            There is always a risk when you make a movie that is in effect a sequel to a legendary book, television series, and series of films that brings with it a unique subset of fans.  It’s even riskier when you take on a cult following of a series that refuses to go away and has achieved near biblical proportions.  The Hollywood solution to this problem goes back to Godfather II, where you show a prequel that fills in some holes, has younger stars and adds a 21st Century edginess to the legend.  After a reported $72.5 million dollar weekend for the legend, Star Trek has used this formula to perfection.  The film is expected gross in the $130 million plus neighborhood and that is a real good neighborhood to be in.  I loved this picture!  The young actors, the fresh plot, &  the special effects make this a true summer movie send off.


In the year 2387, a star near Romulus is on the verge of going supernova and threatens to destroy the planet and endanger the rest of the galaxy. The Vulcans, led by Ambassador Spock, build a ship to carry a supply of "red matter", which, once ignited, can create a singularity, drawing the supernova into a black hole. However, they are too late to save Romulus, and the supernova nearly wipes out the entire species. Captain Nero of the Romulan mining ship Narada, having watched his family and home world die, attempts to exact revenge on Spock, but both ships are caught in the event horizon of the black hole, traveling to the past and, through their actions, creating an "alternate, parallel" timeline from The Original Series.


The Narada arrives about 150 years before the incident, and lays siege to a nearby Federation starship, the USS Kelvin, firing its weapons and severely damaging the starship. Nero demands that her captain, Richard Robau, surrender, and learns that neither Spock nor the ship he was aboard has arrived yet. Nero kills Robau and orders the destruction of the ship. As the Kelvin is evacuated, acting Captain George Kirk is forced to stay behind to provide cover for the fleeing shuttlecraft, and dies shortly after his son, James Tiberius Kirk, is born. The Narada crew calculates that due to the event horizon, Spock will appear in about 20 years, and silently wait for him. When Ambassador Spock arrives, Nero captures his ship and the remaining supply of red matter, and banishes Spock to the planet Delta Vega near Vulcan, telling him to prepare to watch his home world die.


Without his father, Kirk becomes an intelligent but reckless and cynical young man. After getting into a bar fight with Starfleet cadets in Iowa, he is approached by Captain Christopher Pike. Pike sees a lot of potential in Kirk, and is dismayed that he is wasting his intelligence on his self-destructive behavior. He then challenges Kirk to outdo his father, who was captain for only 12 minutes but saved 800 lives. Kirk takes Pike up on the challenge, enlists in Starfleet and befriends Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Uhura. However, when Kirk alters the Kobayashi Maru test, he angers Commander Spock, who is still struggling with his human side's emotions. During the official hearing, after which Kirk is suspended, Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan, and the fleet docked above Earth, is prepared to launch with the cadets helping to man the ships. Acting as his attending physician, Dr. McCoy manages to bring Kirk on board the USS Enterprise, while Uhura convinces Spock to transfer her assignment to the Enterprise as well, after being assigned to the USS Farragut.


The fleet warps to Vulcan, with the Enterprise trailing the other ships. Kirk connects information about the distress call from Vulcan with a Klingon signal Uhura had translated the day before regarding an attack on several Birds of Prey, and quickly warns Captain Pike that they are heading into a trap and will encounter the same ship that destroyed the Kelvin twenty five years earlier. Pike follows Kirk's advice in time, as the rest of the fleet has already been wiped out by the Narada.


The Enterprise maneuvers through the debris, sustaining only minor damage to the hull. The Narada is also drilling into the core of Vulcan, and the drilling machine is blocking all external communications and transporters. Nero hails the Enterprise, and encounters Spock, who this Spock hasn't met before, to which Nero replies that they will. He orders Captain Pike to surrender himself and Pike does, leaving Spock in command and Kirk as first officer, baffling both men in the process. However, Pike uses the maneuver to arrange for Kirk, Hikaru Sulu, and Chief Engineer Olsen to perform an orbital skydive onto the drilling platform and destroy it. Though Olsen, carrying the explosive charges, is vaporized in the attempt, Kirk and Sulu are able to stop the drill, but not before it drills to the planet's core. Nero launches a sample of the red matter into the core of Vulcan, causing the planet to start imploding into the black hole. Spock is able to rescue most of the Elders, including his father Sarek, but his mother Amanda Grayson is lost in the beam out as nearly six billion of other Vulcans perish on the surface.


After Vulcan's destruction, Spock estimates only ten thousand Vulcans are left and that they are now an "endangered species." Uhura, who is involved in a romantic relationship with Spock, attempts to help him cope with the loss. The Narada leaves on a course set for Earth, using Pike's Starfleet command codes, which he was forced to divulge through infection with a mind-controlling parasite, to bypass Earth's security forces.


Kirk attempts to convince Spock to travel to Earth to stop Nero from doing the same he did to Vulcan, but Spock instead banishes him to the frozen planet Delta Vega and orders the ship to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet. On Delta Vega, Kirk encounters the elderly Ambassador Spock from 2387, who relays the future events through a mind meld and insists that Kirk must become captain of the Enterprise. The two travel to a nearby Starfleet outpost where they meet the talented Montgomery Scott. Spock helps Scott refine his equations for "transwarp transportation" to allow Kirk and Scott to beam aboard the Enterprise while she is still at warp. After they are beamed aboard, Scotty is trapped in the Enterprise's water tanks. Only when Chekov detects the emergency valve being opened does Spock know that something has been beamed aboard. Questioned as to how they beamed aboard the Enterprise while it was traveling at warp, Kirk and Scotty refuse to answer. Kirk manages to anger Commander Spock, forcing him to give up command due to being emotionally compromised, and Kirk takes the Captain's chair. Spock, Scott, and math-whiz Pavel Chekov devise a plan to bring the Enterprise to Titan and take advantage of Saturn's magnetosphere to disguise their presence from the Narada, allowing them to beam Kirk and Spock aboard unnoticed.


While Kirk comes face to face with Nero, Spock retakes the future Ambassador Spock's ship, and uses it to destroy the drill and lure the Narada away from Earth. With the Narada safely far from Earth, Spock pilots the ship on a collision course with the Narada. Kirk, Pike, and Spock are beamed safely away before the ships collide, creating a black hole in which the Narada is caught. Kirk offers to help rescue Nero, but the Romulan refuses. As the Enterprise finishes off the Narada, she is able to free herself from the black hole's gravity well due to Scott's plan to ignite the ship's warp drive reactor cores in the black hole both to seal it off and to gain speed from the resulting explosion.


Kirk is promoted to captain of the Enterprise, relieving the newly promoted Admiral Pike, who is shown in a wheelchair. While searching for his father, Spock encounters his older self in the Starfleet hangar; Spock Prime is departing to help found a new colony for the remaining Vulcans in order to rebuild their society. Spock informs his older self of his intention to leave Starfleet to help in the rebuilding, Ambassador Spock tells his younger self that he and Kirk need each other and that he should remain in Starfleet. Taking his twin's advice, Spock does so, becoming first officer under Kirk's command.


As the Enterprise warps away, Leonard Nimoy recites a version of the "Where no man has gone before" monologue.


I think the thing that makes this film is the new, young talent.  Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, as a cocky, but smart tough misfit that matures before our eyes during the film is about as interesting a characterization as you can get.  He choose not to mimic William Shatner, but he does remind me a little bit of Harrison Ford’s early Indiana Jones character.  Pine holds our interest; Zachary Quinto as Spock is revolutionary.  A young Spock that grieves his mother, looses his temper, and has a hot girlfriend?  Just try to take your eyes off of him when he is on the screen.  His presence is stunning in this film.  Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy is a bitching cynic; Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura is perfect in her role and Eric Bana as Captain Nero is an obsessed, scary villain.  One thing about these ‘comic book-television series’ films is that if the bad guy is weak or uninteresting, the film fails.  Bana is a strong villain that makes you believe he’d wait 25 years to get even.  The characters make this film worth the price of admission. Welcome to the film summer of 2009.  Star Trek may be just the beginning. 



Movie Trailer:


Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Book Review From James Myers, The Entertainment Critic-Always Looking Up By Michael J. Fox






By Michael J. Fox

Published By: Hyperion, Harper Collins Special Markets Department

Publication Date: March, 2009

Price: $25.99

288 Pages

ISBN# 978-1-4013-0338-9



            It makes me wonder what Michael J. Fox has to be so happy about.  Portraying Alex P. Keaton on the sitcom Family Ties, achieving success in films like the Back to the Future trilogy, and his inspiring television role on the award-winning Spin City, only to have these things torn away from him in the prime of his life by Parkinson’s Disease, forcing his retirement in 2000, almost a decade ago.  Michael is not the type to be kept down and in addition to launching his Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, he has written 2 # 1 best sellers, Lucky Man, and this inspiring book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.


            Check out this inscription from the back cover of his book:


            “At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is a full-length mirror in a wooden frame.  I can’t help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass.  Turning fully towards the glass, I consider what I see.  This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming if it were not for the self-satisfied expression?’  but I already know the answer: ‘It just gets better from here.’“


            This is the type of compelling invitation to read this book, and many, many other insightful, inspirational passages that made me realize that this is more than just another celebrity recounting his life and his supposed triumph over some obstacle.  This is a book about a man who has taken obstacles in his path and turned them into open doors, taken isolation and turned it into dialogue, taken set backs and turned them into self-discovery, taken his self-discoveries and turned them into discovery of others.  Michael has rebuild his life, reconnected with his family, and challenged all of us in a gentle, enlightened, courageous way.  This little book is nothing short of inspiring.  From a man who had it all to a man who somehow now has more, this book is an instructional read for anyone who has a debilitating disease, middle aged setbacks, or the normal roadblocks in life.  His incredible positive outlook makes this one a must read.  Better than ever!  Way to go Mike!






New Book Review By James Myers, The Entertainment Critic-First Family by David Baldacci

First Family by David Baldacci





By David Baldacci

Published By: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: April 2009

Price: $27.99

464 Pages

ISBN-13: 9780446539753


            David Baldacci is the best political thriller author working in modern America today.  The best-selling author of 17 straight books on the NY Times list, he remains a consummate professional in his genre.  With nearly 80 million copies in print, in over 40 languages in more than 80 countries, his body of work indicates that I’m not the only one who loves his books.  His newest book, First Family, is a first class political thriller that seems to be torn from the headlines of today’s newspapers or political blogs. 


            The President and the First Lady have what seems to be an ordinary children’s birthday party at Camp David, a political photo op that seems fail safe.  The Presidential retreat should be the safest place in the world for their children, but a daring kidnapping that turns into a political nightmare and national security failure raises concerns that rock the President and the First Lady as well as the citizens of the U.S.  Our favorite former Secret Service agents, now private investigators, Sean King & Michelle Maxwell are called in.  Seems that King saved the First Lady’s husband years ago when he was a senator for political suicide, and now he is the only one that she trusts to search and rescue her abducted child.  No easy task, in typical Baldacci style, you as the reader become completely involved in this unpredictable, unique, bold story.  The race to save this innocent child despite overwhelming outside, unknown influences makes this one the best political thriller of the year so far.


            The thing I love about all books Baldacci is his ability to pull the threads of a story until you are in, and by that I mean way, way, way into his work and his incredible ability to introduce us to issues that are slightly under the wire, but incredibly compelling.  A first-rate story teller and instructor, his books jar you and fascinate you at the same in the most unique, striking fashion.  If you like reading and have even a mild interest inn politics, check this one out.  This one is a great read to kick off the summer season.






New Book Review by James Myers, The Entertainment Critic -The 8th Confession by James Patterson

The 8th Confession by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro




By James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Published by: Little, Brown & Company

Publication Date: April, 2009

Price: $27.99

361 Pages

ISBN-13: 9780316018760

Four Star Rating ****


            James Patterson is one of my favorite writers.  One reason I love James is his unabashed support for books, writers and writing.  Check out his new website,, a source for parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to find the very best children’s’ books for kids.  A prolific best selling author, Patterson and his various partners have sold more than 160 million books worldwide.  His detective stories are by far and away his most popular and most interesting pieces of fiction.  (Patterson is extremely versatile, writing pieces of fiction and non-fiction with equal grace, and sometimes even children’s books).  Of his detective books, the Women’s Murder Club can be among the twistiest and turningest books; the kind that once you start you cannot put down.  The kind of book you had better read during the day unless you want to stay up all night.  (Not that his Alex Cross books aren’t fascinating, but I just favor his characters Lindsay Boxer & Rich Conklin.  Reading those books is like catching up with old friends).  The former Edgar Award winner is definitely on his game with this new one, The 8th Confession. 


            The Patterson formula is working here:  a rich and famous, beautiful person couple from an enchanted west coast city is murdered without a trace.  As the good guys investigate (Detective Lindsay Boxer & Rich Conklin, Reporter Cindy Thomas), a second murder occurs, this time it is a preacher for the homeless.  Somehow the murders and independent investigation are connected while simultaneously unraveling.  This book is full of surprises as much as any of the prior Woman’s Club’s books.  The climax as well as the ride there is well worth the $30 for this book.


            I loved the plotline of this book, the characters and the genuine mystery-thriller quality that you would expect from a Patterson killer.  Get 2 copies this Mother’s Day; One for Mom and keep one for yourself.  She may be very reluctant to lend this one out.





Monday, May 4, 2009

The Soloist

Movie Review: The Soloist

The Entertainment Critic Movie Review
In Theatres Now Review
Opened April 24, 2009
By James Myers

Rating: 8 of 10

Director: Joe Wright
Writers (WGA): Susannah Grant (screenplay)
Steve Lopez (book)


Jamie Foxx ... Nathaniel Ayers

Robert Downey Jr. ... Steve Lopez

Meggan Anderson ... Paper Airplane Student

Halbert Bernal ... EMT

Matt Besser ... Commuter #4

Troy Blendell ... New young editor

Jayce Bradley ... Brawling Frat Guy
Pete Brown ... Composer
Michael Bunin ... Adam Crane

Joshua Cabrera ... Teenage Musician

Ralph Cole Jr. ... Enraged Homeless Man

Ingrid Coree ... Nurse

Paul Cruz ... EMT

Marcos De Silvas ... Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Aurelius DiBarsanti ... Paramedic
Paul Edney ... Driver
Nelsan Ellis ... David

S. Zev Esquenazi ... Sgt. Hendrickson

Angela Featherstone ... Commuter #1
Lauren E. Gates ... Ballerina

Marissa Ghavami ... Ballerina
Artel Great ... Leon (as Artel Kayàru)

Paul Greenberg ... Commuter #2

Lejla Hadzimuratovic ... Disney Hall Patron

Justin Rodgers Hall ... Sgt. Harris

Lisa Gay Hamilton ... Jennifer (as Lisagay Hamilton)

Richard Hansen ... L.A.P.D

Rachael Harris ... Leslie

Joe Hernandez-Kolski ... EMT #1

Tom Hollander ... Graham Claydon
Pete Ilarius ... Disney Hall Patron

Catherine Keener

Edward Kiniry-Ostro ... Craig
Francesca Kortesmaki ... Twin violinist
Therese Kortesmaki ... Twin violinist
Kitty Kreidler ... Skid Row Homeless woman
Heather La Bella ... ER Doctor

Hallie Lambert ... Ballerina

Kirsten Lea ... Awards Presenter

Susane Lee ... Marisa

Lemon ... Jeremy

Wayne Lopez ... Officer Hank
Wally Lozano ... Sign Spinner

Michael Maddigan ... Brawling Frat Guy
Ricky Marciano ... Cop

Justin Martin ... Nathaniel - Age 13-16

Annie McKnight ... Linda

George Meyers ... Cop

Rob Nagle ... Neil

Kai Nuuhiwa ... Brawling Frat Guy

Alejandro Patino ... Construction foreman
Palma Lawrence Reed ... ER Nurse

Stephen Root ... Curt
Franklin Ruehl ... Homeless man
Esa-Pekka Salonen ... Conductor
Jules Sanchez ... Skid Row Porta Potty Dweller

Sharon Savene ... LAPD Officer
Holly Sherman ... Juilliard student

Robyn Jean Springer ... Disney Hall patron

Janaya Sultze ... Ballerina

Jeff Sutherland ... Cowboy on Plane with Wife
Valentyna Svyatchenko ... Julliard Student

Patrick Tatten ... Paul

David Jean Thomas ... Jim Trotter
Karmyn Tyler ... Juilliard Party Guest
Ilia Volok ... Mr. Barnoff

Maggie Wagner ... Mrs. Villaraigosa

Charlie Weirauch ... Atheist

Troy Williams ... Cop - Hospital Scene

I wanted to see an adult film this weekend. Not an x-rated adult sex film, but a thoughtful adult oriented film, for you know---- grown ups. So I skipped the premiere of the X-man film and I decided to take in The Soloist with Robert Downey, Jr and Jaime Foxx. (I know, I know, I usually go see the obvious blockbuster and report on that; usually that is more interesting). I have been taking classes towards my MBA, and I missed the premiere during finals the last two weeks. (Financial Accounting final, a real nightmare that we’ll talk about another time; god, I hate math or concepts that have to do with anything mathematical). One other thing. As a reviewer, even as a blogger, I don’t usually read other reviews before I see a film. I want my mind to be “tabla rosé”, or totally blank; not in the sense that it usually is, but in the sense that I don’t want to form a pre-opinion about the film before I see it. I broke that rule before seeing this film as well. Some of the other reviews were well….. half way, half hearted and slightly disappointing. I am happy to report to you that I liked this film, despite the efforts to poison my mind against it; I wanted a grown up film, written, directed and played out for grown ups. What I mean by this is that the film did not have the predictable happy ending; Nathaniel Ayers, (the Foxx character) did not end up playing his cello at Carnegie Hall in New York, triumphing over his mental impairments; Steve Lopez (the Downey character) helping the handicapped man, and writing the Pulitzer Prize winning book. If you are expecting the typical Hollywood ending, go see the film and be amazed.

No, this film is not the classic Hollywood cures mental illness stick; this film probes the modern relationship between reporter and prodigy with more of a realistic, gritty, (for lack of a better word) messy result.

Steve Lopez is a divorced reporter who writes feature, human interest stories for the Los Angeles Times. The movie turns on a scene in the Times offices where it is disclosed that the newspaper is not being read as much by young people as the online version and hard news stories are not carrying the circulation at this time. The newspaper sells papers not on the day late news story that you get online or on your cable, but on the human interest stories that Lopez writes. Lopez was in a bicycle accident and afterwards meets Nathaniel Ayers, a street person who plays a 2 stringed violin. Lopez becomes interested in his story when he verifies that Nathaniel was indeed a child prodigy from Cleveland who attended Julliard for a time, and has an usual attachment to all music Beethoven. Homeless and on the streets of LA, Nathaniel seems to be at peace with playing his beautiful classical music with his 2 stringed violin to the open air, the traffic under his part of the freeway bridge, and the pigeons. Shopping cart in hand, Nathaniel roams the city streets, cleaning and playing.

Lopez, the great writer that he is smells a story and pursues it. His columns about Nathaniel leads one his readers to send a cello that she can no longer use. Ayres accepts the cello with some difficulty because there are strings attached; he must report to a homeless shelter to keep the cello and play for the residents. This takes as Ayres does report to the shelter, plays for the other residents and eventually, reluctantly accepts an apartment there. Nathaniel and Steve form a friendship in this process. Steve very strongly feels that if he can push Nathaniel in the right direction, get him medical/psychiatric help and medication, perhaps Nathaniel can resume a promising career as a professional cello player. Not that Steve is without need for some help himself; his life patterns follow a non-commitment trial where he was not able to commit to his ex-wife and child. (Ironically, in the film, Catherine Keener plays Lopez's ex-wife and also his editor at the Los Angeles Times). Steve nonetheless continues to push Nathaniel, taking him to a philharmonic rehearsal as the Walt Disney Center in Los Angeles, arranging for cello lessons from an expert, and coaxing Nathaniel into an aborted concert attempt. Lopez even manages to locate Nathaniel’s sister in an attempt to have someone manage his affairs. The pain and frustration in this film of trying to improve Nathaniel’s situation is well represented in the film.

But the big ticket item, psychiatric and medical treatment, perhaps a cure for the schizophrenic delusions and voices Nathaniel hears in his head eludes Lopez. As the counselor at the centers tries to explain to Lopez, maybe Nathaniel is not ready for help; maybe he does not want to be helped; maybe help has failed him before. Maybe Nathaniel is content with his situation. Maybe Lopez will just have to wait until Nathaniel indicates he wants to analyzed and medicated of his own free will.
Despite clearing the way for the mayor to help that area of center with a multi-million dollar commitment and winning both an award for his writing about Nathaniel and a book deal, Lopez is determined to get Nathaniel treatment and medicated. When he presents Nathaniel with commitment papers, it backfires and Nathaniel throws him out of the apartment, threatening his life.

This is where the true lesson of the story becomes apparent; Lopez has learned as much from the plight of Nathaniel about what it means to commit to another person as a true friend as Nathaniel has benefitted from his generosity. Following through on his friendship, he does bring the sister to LA to reunite with Nathaniel, this time with no strings attached. That is the real message of this film; friendship can overshadow all ills. True friendship is more important than manipulating our friends, it means listening to them and sometimes allowing them to exercise their freedom of choice, even if it seems to you not to be the best thing for them at the time.

This is a very good picture. It is poignant and touching, urban and gritty, and at times scary and eye opening into the plight of the more than 90,000 homeless people in Los Angeles. Robert Downey Jr gives a steely-eyed performance of the excellent writer who has his own issues in life outside of his work (the raccoon storyline of this piece is a reoccurring theme for human fatality we all suffer from). Jamie Foxx totally sells the homeless musician-prodigy suffering from delusions. I think the best performance in the picture was given by Catherine Keener. Her scenes are perfect, and she has the ex-wife, still in love with her man, but unable to live with him down to a science. If the film has a weakness it is in the direction. Nonetheless, I got what I paid for. This is an adult film about grown up people, with grown up themes. The plot did not settle for the flashy Hollywood ending. Some of the scenes taken in the LA ghetto are frightening and the plight of the homeless comes through screen in an earthshaking way. Disturbing and edgy, the film does a very, very good job of bringing home the plight of the poor and the difficulty in treatment when medical science either has failed them before or the patient does not trust them. The plight of the homeless is portrayed emphatically, without being patronizing or overly moralistic.

This film moved me. I enjoyed the picture. I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was not sappy. This is a grown ups film. Because of it’s portrayal of the homeless and it’s true to life exposition, this film deserves to be supported. It is a compelling, interesting film; a breath of fresh air and a disturbing revelation.

Movie Trailer: