Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness -- WOW. And again, just...WOW.

I was quite fortunate on two counts this afternoon -- not only did I get to catch a matinee showing (in 3D!) of Star Trek Into Darkness, but I was able to see it with my teenage sons, with whom I rarely get to enjoy a movie with anymore.

I will likely have more to say about Star Trek Into Darkness (STID) as time goes on, but right now I need to let the experience sink in. And boy, was it ever an experience...and I mean that in the best possible way. I am a life-long Star Trek fan, of every one of the TV and theatrical incarnations, to include J.J. Abrams' "re-imagined" timeline, starting with this movie's 2009 predecessor and continuing herein.

I suspect much will be said and written with regard to the subject matter choice of this movie. My personal feeling is this:  I'm glad the writers "went there," and got this particular story out of their systems. I won't provide any further spoilers here -- but I think STID strikes a nice balance between the continuing development of relationships among this young crew (which is, I might add, expertly and perfectly cast), while paying homage to that which has come before -- despite the proviso that events from the 2009 movie have irrevocably changed the Star Trek timeline for all involved, in ways that we (nor the writers) can't yet imagine.

A lot has also been written already about Benedict Cumberbatch's turn as the STID villain in this latest installment -- and for good reason. As good as the advance word of mouth has been on this guy, he's even better than that. Cumberbatch is believably scary-good -- calculating, manipulative, cunningly suave, and willing to justify any means to his end. Not all the antagonists in STID are drawn in such stark shades of black and white, however -- and this is where the Star Trek purists (who insist/demand that the future is the utopia imagined in the original TV series) and I disagree. People are people -- good, evil, and everything in between. And it will never matter how much of a utopian society we're able to build -- there will always be an element of inherent evil (or for you true Trek nerds, a "Section 31") ready to tear down or re-interpret what others have worked so hard to build for good.

For what it's worth, STID has the most breathtaking and amazing special effects I've ever seen in any movie in my lifetime. The attention to detail is astonishing -- for example, after an altercation between the U.S.S. Enterprise and another starship, there is a (arguably dangerous) debris field simply floating in space between the two vessels, as there likely would be in a weightless environment. Why didn't anyone else think of that simple detail before?

This newly designed Enterprise continues to grow on me...and starships are critical for me to be immersed in all of this, because they are my favorite part of the entire Star Trek universe. What seemed to me to be at first a ship haphazardly designed by adult fan boys in the 2009 movie, who were inspired by several years' worth of 1970s-era Hot Rod magazines, is starting to make optical sense to me now. The Enterprise is beautifully and lovingly shot from many angles (by both the camera and opposing weapons) in STID. Perhaps even more logically, we get to see ship interiors and spaces that fit and flow together and actually help you believe, for example, that you're seeing the engineering deck of the Enterprise, and not just a sprawling brewery factory doubling as such.

I read several glowing reviews of the post-production 3D effect layered onto this movie, which affected my decision to spring for the 3D showing, BUT -- I won't be paying the premium price for 3D again, unless it's a film that was filmed that way from the start. It's cool technology, yes, and I admit that I ducked once or twice when a piece of "debris" came "flying" at me from the screen, but honestly, I wouldn't say it added that much to the overall experience. (In truth, the 3D trailer for the new Superman epic, Man of Steel, was more exciting than the entire STID movie in 3D.)

So, bottom line -- I do strongly recommend that you see STID in a theater, in 2D or 3D. The cast is impeccably awesome, the story's pretty darn good, and the special effects are the absolute best I've seen in any theatrical space opera in the past 30 years. I'll go ahead and give it a 4 stars out of 5 on Mike's Perfectly Meaningless Movie Rating Scale.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Local Used Book Store Closed, Victim of eBooks

Book Rack to Close for Good Saturday - Kingstowne-Rose Hill, VA Patch

This is what happens when you don't blog regularly, and routinely seek out local news. The Book Rack was a book store that sold second-hand paperbacks and hardbacks in a nearby shopping plaza, that closed at the end of Feburary 2013 -- a victim of all of the iPads and Android tablets that showed up under Christmas trees at the end of 2012. That's not unexpected, but the store closing is sad for our family -- my wife and I, as well as our two sons dug through many stacks of used books over the years there. RIP, Book Rack -- and perhaps, books in general.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Springfield Town Center -- Not A "Reston Town Center"

The nearby transformation of the former Springfield Mall into Springfield Town Center (STC) is discussed and highlighted in this brief but very informative video. I thought all along that the STC redevelopment would be a series of redesigned "blocks" comprising a network of sidewalks, streets and plazas interconnecting among the existing anchor stores and newer, smaller retail tenants (not unlike Reston Town Center). I know that STC was pitched with this type of layout a number of years ago. STC will remain an enclosed mall, but with many upgrades, and a much more "open" feel, at least judging by what the video shows. Personally, I can't wait for STC's new multiplex theater and expanded food court to open and take the pressure off of Kingstowne Town Center, which has become nearly unnavigable on weekend evenings in recent months.

Jack Diamond Exits MIX 107.3...Apparently, for Good

In a surprise move, WRQX-FM booted ultra-popular morning drive host Jack Diamond from their daily lineup a couple weeks ago, and replaced him with "The Bert Show," syndicated from Atlanta. Twenty plus years ago when my wife and I first married and commuted into Alexandria city together from our Kingstowne home, we listened to Jack and Bert on the drive, who were a pretty successful team back then. Jack has taken on several co-hosts over the years, and (in my opinion) hasn't been quite as much fun to listen to, but that's more likely due to me preferring straight news/talk radio to gossipy shock jocks on my morning commute. Godspeed, Jack Diamond...

And So ENDED The Great Basement Den Renovation (Like 10 Months Ago)

Yes, it's a sad state of affairs when you check into your blog stats and realize that A) it's been one year and a day since you last posted, and B) that you last posted about basement renovations. I mean, seriously...yawn. Anyway, for the one or two folks who might accidentally stumble across this blog and potentially tear their hair out over the renovation "cliffhanger" I posted a year ago, this picture's just for you.