iceageIf you’re a fan of this popular franchise, or have kids in your life that are, odds are you’ve already seen this third and latest entry. It’s already a huge hit, with a worldwide gross closing in on $250 million as of this writing. So this review isn’t really aimed at you, but rather the viewers who are interested in the 3D aspect of it, like I was. (My dad and six-year-old nephew hadn’t seen a 3D movie before, and though I would have preferred to see Up, which is the superior movie, Ice Age was the only game in town.) I haven’t seen the other Ice Age films, but I didn’t feel I was seeing the crucial third film in the trilogy, where all the unanswered questions from the other two films finally get answered. No, it’s just the continuing adventures of an unconventional herd (read: “family”) of prehistoric mammals and the other creatures they encounter (voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, and Simon Pegg, among others). It’s pretty mild, even tiresome stuff at first, though when they enter a subterranean lost world filled with dinosaurs, the movie really kicks into gear. The climatic scenes are often spectacular visually, made more so by some pretty thrilling use of 3D, so if you’re in it for the 3D, these sequences make it worth seeing. Also, Pegg as a possibly insane weasel who guides the herd through the lost world on a mission to save their friend is often hilarious. A great movie? No, not even close, but pretty entertaining once it gets past a pretty slow start.

MONKEY RATING: TWO DINO-MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

startrek2009First of all, let me assure all old school Star Trek fans, that is, fans of the original series and the six movies that followed it, that the new J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek, which forms a prequel to the series and the movies, is almost unfailingly respectful to its original sources. Longtime fans will have a great time spotting references to the series and previous films, which are woven into both the narrative and the background. In fact, the movie leans so heavily on its original sources that I wonder what audiences completely new to the Star Trek universe will make of it. I imagine what they’ll see is an attractive young cast, headed by Chris Pine as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, in a super fast paced sci-fi action adventure that pits the crew of the USS Enterprise against Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan bent on a spectacular and particularly heinous revenge. Pine is good as an immature Kirk, but Quinto really nails it as Spock. Out of the rest of the crew, Karl Urban, John Cho and Simon Pegg make the best impressions as Dr. McCoy, Sulu and Scotty, respectively, while Zoe Saldana as Uhuru, who is quite good, appears to be playing a different character altogether. Anton Yelchin rounds out the cast as a very young and very awkward but still charming Chekov. The pros? The visuals are quite stunning, and Abrams is simply one of the best action directors around, able to stage sequences that are thrilling while also inspiring genuine awe and wonder. The story is also clever enough that it gives filmmakers the license to go their own way with the Star Trek story. The cons? Though the fate of worlds hangs in the balance, and though there’s a lot of excitement generated in general, there’s a curious lack of suspense to the proceedings. Also, while most of the other films and TV episodes revolved around some great philosophical idea or question, audiences will find precious little of that in this version of Star Trek. Judged as a summer blockbuster, Star Trek is pretty terrific. Judged against the series and other Star Trek movies? Well, it’s no Wrath Of Khan, that’s for sure, but I’d rank it just below The Voyage Home: Like that latter film it’s a crowd pleaser, though it possesses an action bent rather than a comic one. So, all in all, I was mightily entertained by the new Star Trek, though I strongly hope the next film includes a return to the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings that endeared audiences to the original Star Trek in the first place.

MONKEY RATING: ONE TREKKIE MONKEY

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)