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Saw a couple of movies recently that I thought were worth mentioning:

Star Trek Beyond: Easily the best of the series so far. Don't get me wrong: I like the 2009 Star Trek*—it has its flaws, but overall it is a good, fun movie. Beyond, however, is where the series has hit its stride. It is the closest in feel, in character, in story, and in theme to the Star Trek that I grew up with. The main actors' portrayals of their characters have matured, with all of them getting a good amount of screen time and all of them fully inhabiting their roles. For the first time, I felt like I was watching Kirk, not Chris Pine playing Kirk; Spock, not Zachary Quinto playing Spock; McCoy, not Karl Urban playing McCoy; etc. Their portrayals are still different from those of their predecessors, but I don't get the sense that they're trying to be "as good as" anymore—they just let themselves be their characters, and it works!

Story-wise, it also feels very right. It's a Star Trek story, not an origin story (like the first movie) or a twisted, corrupted retelling (like Into Darkness). Simon Pegg and Doug Jung did a fantastic job with the script, and the director (Justin Lin), cinematographer (Stephen F. Windon), and editors (D'Auria, Highsmith, Matsumoto, and Sprung) did a fantastic job of bringing the script to life.

My Score: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars) — Dinged a half-star because I saw one of the major plot points coming long before it arrived, but then that happens sometimes.

Suicide Squad: Rotten Tomatoes can blow me. So can Rolling Stone, Metacritic, The Altantic, and The Hollywood Reporter. Suicide Squad is a fun movie! No, it's not a cinematic masterpiece. Yeah, it's slow in spots. Yes, it tries to milk pathos from a couple of characters who don't really have any. But despite all of that, it is a totally fun movie to watch. And sorry Rolling Stone, but Suicide Squad does NOT "mess up Harley Quinn". Okay, she's a little darker in places, and a little sillier in others, than the source material is. But to my mind, it's still Harley, and a damn fine Harley at that. (Also, what the movie adds to her origin story is both chilling and perfect.) Jared Leto's Joker is also very much the Joker, despite the visual differences. Of all the live-action Jokers there have been so far**, I actually like him best***.

But the absolute best performance in the entire movie is Will Smith's Deadshot. I can't comment on the performance without giving stuff away about the plot, but trust me: Will Smith nails it!

My Score: *** (out of 5 stars) — because the plot is kinda thin, some of the characters aren't sufficiently developed, and other minor flaws.

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*Star Trek Into Darkness, on the other hand, I do not like very much at all—it's too dark for Star Trek, ignoring the message of hope that Trek had always embodied.

**But none of the live-action Jokers can compare to Mark Hamill's animated Joker. Seriously, movie guys, just cast Hamill as the Joker already!

**For those who are interested, my ranking of the four live-action Jokers in major media are 1) Jared Leto, 2) Cesar Romero, 3) Heath Ledger, and 4) Jack Nicholson. The gaps between 2, 3, and 4 are much smaller than the gap between 1 and 2.

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