Knee-jerk review: "Star Trek Beyond"

1. Okay, now this is more like it.
2. We mostly appreciated the 2009 Star Trek reboot, though looking back we may have been grading on a generous curve.  We barely tolerated 2013's trainwreck Star Trek Into Darkness.
3. Amazing what can happen when you get J.J. Abrams out of the director's chair.  Did we say that out loud?  JJ has said in interviews he grew up a Star Wars fan and it shows: The Force Awakens strikes the right Star Wars mood and shines as a labor of love, while his two Star Trek movies mistake giant spectacle to the small character work and big questions that makes Star Trek special.
4. But what is the deal with the ongoing obsession with destroying the Enterprise on film?  The Enterprise name is by now practically cursed.
5. Suggesting that the famous five-year mission might grow boring felt very fresh. Why wouldn't it be boring?  You can't run into Klingons, Tribbles, or green-skinned Orion girls on every shift.
6. We're not sure what to make of Karl Urban, the only actor who's doing a mimic job.  Yeah, his Dr. McCoy sounds just like DeForest Kelley, which is amusing... but shouldn't he sort of try to make it his own?  It feels too much like a bit.
7. As with any good ensemble caper story, all of the characters here get to contribute to the solution and take action to save each other.  No one's left behind, sitting around, opening hailing frequencies or scanning for delta particles.  It's a fun, fun movie mostly because of this element.
8. But we really do need more of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy working together.  These movies still find ways to keep them apart.  They tell everyone how close they are, sure, but we'd like to see that for ourselves.
9. We were mostly unimpressed with the villain Krall (shades of Star Trek's limp, inscrutable Nero) until the final twist.  In fact, we were surprised by a couple of story turns.
10. Bonus points for Kirk tearing his shirt.  
11. Ditto the retro alien planet that looked like the California desert with some spray-painted rocks.
12. The "Sabotage" scene is a real crowd-pleaser.  Goose bumps.
13. But our favorite was the sequence inside (and outside) the crashed ship.  The 11-year-old version of ourself would have loved that.
14. How much do you think it cost to build that Yorktown space station?  And how long did it take?  These are the things we ask ourselves.  An amazing visual, but it was like seven Manhattan islands all strung together... in space.
15. Looking forward to the next one.


3 rules of karaoke etiquette

We have been known to partake in the dark art of karaoke, living out secret dreams of music stardom, revealing pop culture song savvy, wondering if we sound as good on a microphone as we do with the shower water running or our car idling at a stop light.  For a while there in our late 20s and early 30s, every few months or so featured some house party involving the rental of a 1000-song karaoke hard drive from a mom-and-pop party outfit east of downtown Los Angeles.  Our return to Texas has sent us to a Little Korea bar with private karaoke rooms.  Five visits so far and counting.

But there are rules, people.

1. If you can't sing it, don't request it.  Before you punch in the song number, think it over.  Sing the song in your head.  Can you do it?  Really do it?  Plenty of memorable choruses also feature impossibly obscure verses (Exhibit A: Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life").  Avoid the "gong" - that sad moment when the group collectively overrides your choice and moves onto the next song.  Yeah, it's all in good fun but a little part of you will die a slow death inside.  Bottom line: develop a group of "go to" songs that you can nail.

2. Choose only popular songs everyone can enjoy.  Karaoke isn't the time to display your affinity for Garth Brooks B-sides or British heavy metal (exception: Def Leppard).  No one cares about those songs because no one's heard of those songs.  (That these karaoke catalogs have those ridiculous choices available, but don't have half of the top-40 hits you're seeking, remains an enduring unsolved mystery.) Karaoke should be a communal experience of inclusion.  If more than half of the room isn't singing along with you, you chose poorly.

3. Give everyone a turn.  This doesn't just mean refrain from hogging the song book, which you should never ever do.  It also means not turning into guy who stacks the queue with a string of songs.  This isn't a classic rock station and you're not Johnny Fever.  Pick your song, plug it in, then wait until you perform that song before selecting the next one.  Like the crowded on-ramp merge, everyone gets a turn.

Knee-jerk review: "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates"

1. Someone we know who works in Hollywood as a studio marketing executive often reminds us that if the trailer (or TV spot) for a comedy isn't funny, be wary.  The producers should be putting the funny stuff - assuming they have funny stuff and not every comedy does - in the advertising.  We found the trailer for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates to be utterly hilarious.  So we cashed in a  grandparent babysitting chit to go see it.
2. We laughed a lot.  Some funny bits, for sure.  Like the ATV accident, the "happy ending"massage , the sauna.
3. But was it a good movie?  Maybe not so much.  It's in the R-rated raunchy vein of Wedding Crashers or Superbad or Neighbors.  But it's not nearly as clever or memorable as those movies.  Although we must give it some credit for trying to make the female characters act just as crude and horrible as the male characters.
4. Good performances, yes.  Adam Devine is always funny.  And Audrey Plaza predictably does that quirky snarky thing she does.  But we were surprised how good Anna Kendrick was playing a dimwit.
5. That said, we get the feeling everyone involved thought everything was a little more hilarious than it actually turned out to be.

6. Pretty unimaginative title, too.
7. Selling liquor to hip bars in New York City.  Another of those phony, only-in-movies jobs that 20somethings often have.  And you should see the groovy, giant apartment Mike and Dave share.  We all could use a Hollywood production designer to decorate our homes.
8. We understand now why the set-up (two screwballs are forced by their family to bring dates to a Hawaii family wedding so they won't ruin everything; their hunt for dates goes viral; two screwball girls decide to play "nice girls" to get a free vacation) is so forced and strained - it's supposedly based on a true story.  Seems like there would be an easier way to get the two couples together since that's where the story really takes off.
9. A perfectly placed f-bomb can be hilarious.  But less is more.  This is one of those movies where every other word is the f-bomb.  It's too much.  You become so numb that the word loses all meaning.  Or is that the point?  (And does it make us sound old and cranky to make this complaint in the first place?  Probably.)