Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Tag Archives: Chris Pine

ANCC: Wonder Woman

All the world is waiting for Jennifer, Nick, and the Gorehound and the power they possess in their satin tights, fighting for their rights, and the old red, white, and blue! Yeah…this week, they talk about 2017’s Wonder Woman.

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below.


Also, read Nick’s write up when Gal Gadot was first cast as Wonder Woman three and a half years ago.


Trek Tuesday: Beyond

Earlier tonight, I saw Star Trek Beyond, the latest and third of the rebooted Star Trek films (and thirteenth overall).  I know that the movie is still very fresh in my mind, and it would be prudent for me to really take some time to absorb the movie before sharing my thoughts.  However, my immediate reaction to Beyond is that it is a very middling film.  It isn’t terrible by any means, but this is a movie that I really wanted to like more.  There was something about it that I just found lacking.


In Beyond, the crew of the Enterprise is ambushed and stranded on an alien planet where they are desperate to escape from the evil Krall who wants to destroy the Federation with some device that the crew happens to have.  Here are the positives.  I liked the set-up.  Having the crew apart from one another on an alien world is something new and refreshing for the Star Trek films.  I also liked how every main cast member had something of importance to do.  No one was really shafted and they all had a moment to shine.  All of that was great, and I really liked seeing that.

Where the film suffers is the writing, particularly that of our new villain Krall (as played by Idris Elba).   What is this guy’s ultimate plan?  How does he have control of the aliens on the planet?  Where did he come from?  What is pushing this guy to do what he is trying to do?  You never really know until very late in the third act and by that time, you don’t really care.  And the problem is that it is still incredibly muddled.  Given his eventual backstory reveal, Krall could have been an interesting character, but by the time the movie deepens him, it is too little, too late.

Once you get his backstory, you then start to ask questions that are never really answered.  How did he do this or how did he learn about the weapon?  How did he know that the Enterprise had the item he needed when the Enterprise didn’t know what it was?  Why didn’t he ever try to leave the planet when he clearly had the means to?  His whole character then completely unravels.  And since the plot really hinges on him, the movie really suffers.

Besides that, the direction is incredibly lifeless.  Beyond attempts to be the most action-based Star Trek film yet, but outside of the climatic rescue of the crew, it is just kind of dull.  I’m honestly surprised about it because Justin Lin really breathed new life in the then-dying Fast and Furious franchise when he came on board.  And who was in charge of the lighting design?  Some of the night/dark scenes were so dark, I could barely register what I was seeing.

Whereas Star Trek (2009) was a lot of fun and Star Trek Into Darkness had an interestingly complex plot (before it completely fell apart in the final quarter), Beyond doesn’t really do much for me.  The story and motivations pushing it along are too muddled for me to be invested in, and it isn’t nearly fun enough for me to not care about narrative missteps.  I really wanted to like Star Trek Beyond and I do to a certain extent.  I just wanted to like it more.  Maybe a future viewing will have me warm to the film more, but right now, I am a bit cold.  And that disappoints me the most.


“Horrible Bosses 2” – The Nick Review


I went into Horrible Bosses 2 was absolute dirt-level expectations.  The original was the 2011 summer comedy for me, and I hold it in pretty high esteem of being a genuinely funny movie.  When I got word that this follow-up was dreadful (only a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes), my potential enthuasium for the film dissolved and I was in no hurry to see it anytime soon if ever.  However, a few weeks back, HBO was showing it.  I thought to myself, “Why not?” and sat down to watch it.

And I found that I actually liked it.

I am a little perplexed by the awful reviews.  While this movie is not going to be breaking new ground, it works as a comedy with legitimate funny bits stemming primarily from the trio of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis.  The film has the same tone as the original, so it can be argued that Horrible Bosses 2 is more of the same, but I can’t complain.  I was entertained by it and I had some very good belly laughs.

Not everything works, obviously.  The inclusion of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Spacey is a kind of forced, and I don’t think the movie needed them necessarily.  Christoph Waltz was an inspired choice for the main antagonist, but he is painfully (and surprisingly) under-utilized (there are long stretches in the film that he is off-screen).

On the flip-side, you have the new addition of Chris Pine, who is absolutely hilarious playing Waltz’s smarmy, arrogant, frat-boy-type son.  Why doesn’t Pine get more work and more mainstream of an actor?  Especially in comedies.  He’s great!

So, I dunno.  I enjoyed Horrible Bosses 2.  Was it as good as the first?  No.  Sequels rarely are.  Was it entertaining?  Yes.  Granted, it was really more of the same, but I’m glad I saw it.


Jack Ryan: Shadow Review

Over the past few months, I have seen a variety of movies, and I want to talk about them all.  With the holidays and things in my personal life, I haven’t been able to!  But, starting today, I will have a better opportunity to get to all of these.  So, I begin today with my review of 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.


I don’t really know much about the Jack Ryan character.  I’ve never really read the works of Tom Clancy, and I’ve only seen various clips of the previous films (I am pretty sure that I’ve seen The Hunt for Red October, but never in its entirety in one sitting).  Because of that I went into this 2014 reboot of the series with no expectations.

I’ll admit I was looking forward to it when I saw early trailers a little over a year ago.  Kevin Costner is probably one of my favorite actors, and I do like Chris Pine and Kenneth Branagh.  I’d figure that I would at least be entertained.

And, for the most part, I was.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what director Branagh was going after.  The little I do know about the Jack Ryan films is that they tend to be more political thrillers as opposed to action flicks.  Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is much more of an action film than I was expecting with a villain (also played by Branagh) who would probably feel more at home in a Bond film than here.   To be fair, this film is an original story and not based on any of Clancy’s original novels.  That might be why I found the heavier emphasis on action to be unexpected.

Whatever the reason, the film itself is a mixed bag.  Jack Ryan (Pine), a Wall Street analyst for the CIA, is sent to Russia to investigate some mysterious Russian-owned stocks.  It leads him to Viktor Cherevin (Branagh), an influential Russian businessman, who is plotting to crash the American economy so it could prop Russia up as a stronger world power.  Or something like that.

The first two-thirds or so work well as a techno-thriller.  The story is interesting enough, even though there are a couple of really strange character and plot beats (including a needlessly long prologue).  What works is that the actors are charming and charismatic enough to keep you invested in what is happening.  Where the movie goes wrong is the final thirty minutes when everyone seemed to take stupid pills.

Characters begin acting dumb and start making extremely questionable decisions for no other reason than to stretch out the movie.  The prime example is that Ryan and the CIA had the opportunity to take out the central villain, but they don’t.  And no reason is given.  Up until this point, every character (both good and bad) were competent at their jobs.  Then, suddenly, it is as if they stopped caring.

It was a really strange thing to witness.  I don’t know if the screenwriters just didn’t know how to end it,  how to get various characters from point A to point B, or just had ideas for sequences they wanted to do and didn’t care how they got to them.

I really want to recommend this movie, because there is a lot of good in it.  But that last half really destroys what could have been a fun little movie.  Unfortunately for those involved, Shadow Recruit failed to be successful at the box office which killed any potential follow-ups.  The January release date likely didn’t do it any favors.  I’m sure Hollywood will eventually try again with Jack Ryan.  Hopefully, they will be successful next time.


Trek Tuesday: The Captains


In 2011, William Shatner released a documentary titled The Captains.  In this, he visited and had lengthy conversations with each of the actors who have played the Star Trek captains in each of the franchise’s incarnations about their careers, lives, and the impact of becoming a part of Star Trek.  During the film, Shatner, himself, explores his origins as an actor and how, through the conversations, comes to terms with his association with the franchise and his role of James T. Kirk.

The film, itself, is extraordinary fascinating to watch.  As someone who has been a fan of film and filmmaking, I love hearing stories about how actors started out and built their careers over long periods.  That sort of stuff just interests me.  Getting to watch people such as Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine discuss the ups and downs as they were trying to make it completely captured my attention.  I was very much surprised by how honest the actors were about their lives and careers, with some of them explaining how their career caused marriages to fall apart or other personal misfortunes.

What helps this greatly is, well, William Shatner.  He has is able to bring such a conversational tone to his interviews, which seems to disarm and relax who he is talking to, thereby allowing them to open up.  Helping this out is that Shatner seems 100% genuine when conducting the interviews that it seems that he really wants to know more about the others who have sat in that center seat.

When the documentary was first released, a common criticism was that it was more of a vanity project for William Shatner.  While I cannot argue against that idea (the structure of the movie was ultimately about Shatner accepting his role in Star Trek – which seemed dubious given the film was made in 2011 and not 1990), I think it is slightly exaggerated.  Personally, my problems with it was that I wanted to see more of Shatner interacting with his fellow actors and learning more about them.

Luckily, I got that opportunity as in 2013, the film was re-edited and re-released as The Captains: Close Up.  Restructured as five episodes of approximately 30 minutes each, every installment focused completely on one actor as Shatner interviewed and discussed his or her career.  It included much more interview footage (though I noticed some bits were cut out between releases) than the previous release and gave me more of a sense of where these actors came from.

For Star Trek fans, the highlight is to see Shatner with the other captains.  It gives you that gleeful, if stupid fanboy moment.  You can tell from the movie that Shatner and Stewart have a strong relationship (which was previously known in Trek circles), but the real surprises are Shanter’s interaction with Mulgrew and Brooks.  Mulgrew is so incredibly smart, witty, and exudes elegance that it seems obvious that Shatner is completely entranced by her.  She has such a tongue-in-cheek, no bullshit attitude which is a marvel to watch.  She even turns the tables on Shatner by starting to interview him.

Avery Brooks is completely out of his mind.  Or at least thinks on a very different level giving him a unique outlook on life.

The Captains is a really fascinating documentary which should be required viewing for any Star Trek fan or anyone who is interested in acting.  The Close Up version is currently on Netflix, and I highly recommend checking it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

Trek Tuesday: Into Darkness – Again!

Last week, I picked up the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray at my local Target.  No, I didn’t get the “exclusive” Target version with extra special features – I am rarely interested in special features these days. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, as Target was completely sold out of them by the time I got there (which made for hilarious advertising since the regular Blu-ray was also listed as the “exclusive” edition including a horribly misleading sticker on the package).

Anyway, I digress.


So, I re-watched it.  This was the second time seeing the film, and I wanted to get another perspective on it.  Given the decisive nature of the film with general audiences and Trek fans, I was curious how I would like it during as second run through.

I have to say that I do like Star Trek Into Darkness.  Personally, I think it is a stronger film, overall, than 2009’s Star Trek.  I still find the film’s story to be interesting, the reworking of Khan, and Kirk’s overall dilemma.  A lot of this works.  However, this is a film with several narrative faults.  And these faults are really, really bad.

Honestly, the film really falls apart in the third act.  We learn that Admiral Robocop is the bad guy who basically set Kirk and company up.  But, then Khan kills him and becomes the main villain.  This was the beginning of the trouble.  The film was still working even though we had a game of musical chairs with the villain, but things were still on track.

The real problem – and this is a big one – is when Into Darkness completely plagiarizes Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Kirk’s “death”.  Into Darkness was already going to be compared with Wrath of Khan for the mere fact it was the second installment.  Even more so since it featured Khan.  Abrams should not have a drawn more attention to the (let’s face it) superior earlier film by lifting its climatic scene.

The whole sequence was made worse when Spock inexplicitly yells “KHAAAN!”  It was embarrassingly bad during the first viewing, and I doubt it will ever not be cringe-worthy.  This is when the film completely blew up for me (no pun intended considering the following scene had Khan’s ship kamikaze into the San Francisco in a completely gratuitous manner).

But here is the thing: if someone isn’t a Star Trek fan and never saw Wrath of Khan, they wouldn’t know the difference.  That sequence would not have been distracting for a new/uninitiated fan as it was for me.  On that level, I suppose the film succeeds.  But I know that I cannot overlook it.  It is too difficult not to.  And, because of that, it makes the other relatively minor flaws of the film completely stand out even more.

I don’t think that Star Trek Into Darkness was a complete misfire the way some militant butthurt fans are claiming.  I also do not think that it is a wonderfully perfect movie the way other militant fans say it is.  It is 2/3rds of a good movie that rams into a brick wall after a steady pace.  Since it is looking like JJ Abrams will not be returning to the director’s chair for the next installment, I welcome some fresh blood into the franchise.  I think it’ll be good for a series like this to rejuvenate.  As a fan of the franchise, I want to see new takes and new directions.  It keeps things fresh and interesting – something Star Trek Into Darkness may not have done the greatest job of doing.

The Star Trek Into Darkness Podcast

This week, Zack and Nick voyage into the final frontier again to discuss Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest entry in the Star Trek franchise.  What will they have to say about JJ Abrams’s second Star Trek feature?  Beam down the track and find out!


Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.

star trek into darkness

As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

Related Articles:

Nick’s Star Trek Into Darkness Review (SPOILER FREE)
Zack’s Star Trek Into Darkness Review (SPOILER FREE)
The Star Trek Commentary
Trek Tuesday

I Saw Star Trek: Into Darkness (Spoiler Free)

Note: For Nick’s review, click here.

A few days ago I went to see the latest JJ Abrams-directed Star Trek movie, subtitled Into Darkness, at one of my local multiplexes. I am honestly still trying to gauge how I feel about this sequel, released four years after the successful reboot of the series. Into Darkness has a lot about it that I should like on paper, and yet I’m having a hard time ultimately deciding whether or not I liked this film. Let me get one thing straight: Into Darkness is a high quality adventure and a good movie – I’m just not sure it was the movie I wanted it to be. It is for this reason that I didn’t post an immediate review. I’m not sure I could have been honest and genuine in an immediate review, and I didn’t want to regret my words months later. Now that it has been a few days, I am hoping I can get my thoughts together and write a cohesive review that sums up my feelings for the movie. Maybe I’ll also be able to finally decide whether or not I thought this film was any good on a personal level as well.


The plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness is easy to summarize: there is a rogue terrorist threat (a scenery chewing Benedict Cumberbatch) within Star Fleet, and our intrepid heroes (a returning Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, et al) must band together to put a stop to his machinations, and maybe just avert a possible war with the newly discovered Klingon Empire as well. There’s also subplot about a militaristic general (played by an apathetic Peter Weller). I actually have a lot of problems with the story in this movie. Some of the story details in Star Trek: Into Darkness ended up being very much like those found in three big blockbusters released last year. Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers all dealt with a cunning, ruthless villain who was eventually “captured” by the good guys, only to escape and cause more havoc in the process. Into Darkness follows this trend, unfortunately. Additionally, a good chunk of the latter third of the film follows an earlier Star Trek movie pretty closely, and feels shoe-horned in. If the filmmakers were aiming for some kind of homage to earlier Trek lore, I feel they missed the mark completely. That Into Darkness also ends on an incredibly contrived deus ex machine is also disappointing.

Despite these general misgivings, I still found elements of the story to appreciate and admire. I loved the continued interactions between Kirk and Spock, and the opening scene, wherein Spock and company attempt to stop an active volcano from destroying a young civilization, is both breathtaking and tense. I thought Into Darkness did a pretty good job of humanizing our characters as well, particularly Spock, who Quinto plays well. I liked the idea of the Enterprise venturing into Klingon territory, but I just wish more had been done with it. I absolutely love the idea of a militaristic Star Fleet general using the Enterprise for some kind of False Flag mission, but again I wanted them to explore this more than they did (General Marcus could have been the sole big bad in the film honestly). In a way, I feel like the story we got was much less than the story we could have ended up getting. There was so much potential for something great here that I can’t help but feel let-down just a little bit. Into Darkness is still largely breezy and entertaining like its predecessor, but it just didn’t do as much for me this time. The movie is a step in a different direction from the first film, which I feel is good. I’m just not sure if it’s a step in the right direction overall.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a good villain in a story that doesn't always allow him to be the primary antagonist.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a good villain in a story that doesn’t always allow him to be the primary antagonist.

I’m still having a hard time deciding whether or not I actually liked this movie. I can appreciate it on a technical level, and I love the interactions between the primary characters (Karl Urban’s McCoy continues to be a highlight for me and must be mentioned). I’m just not sure I found the mixture of old versus new to be particularly charming in this film, especially considering how much it apes from what is my favorite original series Trek movie. I found the direction that Into Darkness took to be the easiest possible way to make the film, and that kind of disappoints me. There was such great potential in this sequel, but I feel it kind of missed the mark on the whole. Star Trek: Into Darkness is not a bad movie. I think it’s actually well-made and entertaining. It just wasn’t what I hoped it would be. I’m not going to complain about the little changes/details or the fun, breezy sense of adventure like a hardcore Trek fanboy might. For the most part, I liked them just as much here as I did in the original film. The sequel just didn’t up the ante the way I thought it could have. Star Trek: Into Darkness is a good summer movie that just didn’t meet my high expectations – check it out, but don’t expect a romp on the level of the first movie.


Trek Tuesday: Into Darkness

Note: Given that I was avoiding all types of spoilers and was irritated when I came across some in sensational news headlines in what was pure click-bait, this review is going to be spoiler-free.


Star Trek Into Darkness is the twelfth entry in the Star Trek film franchise and the second directed by JJ Abrams.  The prior film was a runaway hit with critics and audiences back in 2009, so I am sure there was a lot of pressure on Abrams in this second installment to meet and, hopefully, exceed four years-worth of expectations.  After absorbing the film for a few days, I have to say that Star Trek Into Darkness is a solid, enjoyable romp.  Mostly.

The film starts off fantastically.  Lots of adventure and mystery with a sense of fun.  The cast of characters, led wonderfully by Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachery Quinto (Spock), are completely into their roles and are having a blast.  The chemistry between Pine and Quinto is perfect and is what really helps sell this incarnation of Star Trek.

About the mid-way point, things take a bit of a hit when we meet one of our central villains played by a scene-chewing Benedict Cumberbatch.  Cumberbatch is great, but the revelation of his character is a bit “why are we going there?”.  However, it is not a deal-breaker as film finds new ways to use his character which actually enhances the story where I, as a viewer, became more invested.  The only real downside is that the threat this character presents is never explored in the film.  Instead, Abrams hinges Cumberbatch’s true villainy of what audiences might already know about this guy from past Star Treks.  Speaking of which…

The big problem occurs in the final act when Abrams completely abandons trying to carve out a new Star Trek universe and instead gives us a greatest-hits reel of past adventures.  And, I am not talking about winks for the fans – he nearly remakes various sequences from past films.  He puts a new spin on it, and the performances are good, but I just cannot shake the feeling it was pandering gone horribly wrong.  Instead of having this movie stand on its own, it harkens back to past films in order to get viewers more emotionally invested through nostalgia.  I do not think it was needed to this extreme, and Abrams is a better filmmaker than that.  I am really surprised how blatant (including using the exact same dialogue) some scenes were.

That said, I would recommend this movie.  It is fun, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  Could my opinion change upon a second viewing?  Possibly, but I doubt it would waiver to any extreme.  As its own thing, Star Trek Into Darkness works.  The pacing is great, and the plotting is pretty tight.  Just keep in mind when seeing it to prepare yourself for some pretty blatant riffs on some classic scenes.


Trek Tuesday: The Future Begins

By the mid-2000s, the Star Trek franchise fell from popularity.  Many were predicting the franchise would be resting for a long, long time.  Then, in 2006, it was quite the surprise when Paramount announced that JJ Abrams (of Lost fame) was tasked with essentially rebooting the series with a new big-budget tent-pole movie.

star trek 09

Simply titled Star Trek, Abrams delivered on his promise to make Star Trek cool again.  With great critical acclaim, this film was also the most profitable Trek film ever (even after adjusting for inflation).  It was a proven success by pleasing Trekkers and casual movie-goers alike.  But, big box-office winners also include things like Transformers and Twilight.  Did Star Trek deserve its success?

The answer is “yes”.  It gives you everything one could possibly want from a Star Trek movie: action, adventure, humor, romance, etc.  Granted, it does not delve much into any allegory or philosophical issues Star Trek is known for.  But, you know what?  Most of the Trek episodes out there do not either.  Most, like this movie, were straight-up adventures.

Truth of the matter is that it had to be.  A mainstream film cannot speak to a niche audience if it wants to be successful.  It just can’t.  Star Trek Nemesis somewhat proved that point.  Abrams did what was needed to make Trek viable as a success again for today’s audiences.  It worked.  And since it did, he can maybe bring back that allegorical stuff in a follow-up.

Now, not everything works.  There is a lot of convenience in the storytelling and some very questionable story choices.  For example, Kirk (Chris Pine) going from a cadet to captain in less than a week took me out of the movie for a bit.  The biggest issue I had with the movie is that it forces itself (and it is forced) to make a connection with everything that came before.  It is a completely unneeded bone to the angry fanboy crowd.  The movie would have been stronger without it (and less convoluted).  Honestly, though, all of these are just little things and not deal breakers in the least.

Star Trek was a success no matter how you cut it.  It did the job it set out to do by making Star Trek cool again and introducing it to a whole new generation.  Why would any Star Trek fan be against that?


Edited to add: Be sure to check out our commentary track for Star Trek!

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