Science fiction, terrorism, and some horror/history made for an exciting week for renters.
“Star Trek: Into Darkness” — J.J. Abrams finally gets back to his Trek reboot with this action-packed sequel. Abrams has a firm grip on the material and delivers a solid sequel that jumps right into the action, now that the characters were established in the first movie. The crew of the Enterprise returns to earth for some leave time but are immediately drawn into a battle when Star Fleet is attacked from within. Great stuff. Loaded with well-conceived action sequences and high drama. Everyone knows by now that Khan is the villain, but wait till you get a load of how he is conceived here. The whole cast returns with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, anchoring the film as Kirk and Spock, respectively. Now that Abrams is doing “Star Wars ” we might not see these guys in character again until they are the same age Shatner and Nimoy were when they started making the films.
“Homeland: Season 2” — Showtime is blowing HBO away with this excellent drama about a terrorist cell trying to place an agent, and returning war hero, into a secret weapon. This show works because the people in it are dangerously imperfect and include a CIA agent struggling for acceptance but tortured by mental illness. Then there is the soldier who may be a time bomb aimed at the government he has sworn to protect. The cast is amazing, with Clare Danes almost bursting out of her own skin as the agent and Damian Lewis making the soldier a true enigma who is equally tragic and, surprisingly, heroic.
“Phil Spector” — HBO gets some cred back with this excellent dramatization of Specter’s murder trial after the gunshot death of actress Lana Clarkson in his home. The film focuses on the trial and charts the efforts of Specter’s attorney to figure out if her client can save his own case by testifying. The film is beautifully written, thanks to playwright/director David Mamet. Al Pacino is very good as Specter, but Helen Mirren has a ton of moments as the conflicted attorney who is struggling with pneumonia and a dangerously unstable client.
“Frankenstein’s Army” — A group of Russian soldiers pushing into eastern Germany stumble across a top secret lab that houses the titular fighters. Turns out a hideous plan to turn the tide of the war rests on an army of soldiers sewn together from battlefield remains. Uber-creepy and very well made on a limited budget. The idea is so good that you have to give this one a chance.