J.J. Abrams

2001
Alias : “Truth Be Told” 91
[ This is hardly the first series about espionage and international intrigue, but if feels fresher, edgier and smarter than the genre has in a long time. Or maybe I’m just blinded by my schoolboy crush on Jennifer Garner. Grad student by day, CIA spy by night, Garner’s Sydney is one sexy badass cool mama! Garner goes through so many looks, moods and dimensions in each show that it looks like an actor’s whole lifetime achievement reel. And scratch what I said about being blinded by love, by the end of the pilot there’s already been more unexpected twists, kick ass action and emotional nuances than in all the Bond flicks put together. Scene to scene, the thrills never stop. You get a throwaway 2 minute beat in the middle of an episode that’s more effective than most $100M Hollywood blockbusters, and then the suspense and excitement just keeps on building. ]

2002
Alias: “Almost Thirty Years” 89
[ The first season’s riveting climax. The finale is full of revelations, breakthroughs and torture (!), nicely mirroring the pilot, and the cliff-hanger is IN-SA-NE. ]

2003
Alias: “The Telling” 91
[ The best damn episode of the series. 30 hours of continuity finally come together in an action-thriller overload of twists, climaxes and revelations. The last act is pure genius, from the Hitchcock-brilliant cellphone scene to the “Kill Bill”-ruthless catfight to the David Lynchesque mind-fuck of a cliffhanger… Too bad the show was never this good after this, as Abrams more or less abandoned “Alias” to go create:

2004
Lost: “Pilot part 1 & 2” 90
[ I haven’t watched any more of the series (yet), but this two-part opener on its own is, like “Alias” at its best, better than almost every movie. I mean, GodDAMN! Right from the opening minutes, it grabs you by the throat, with the aftermath of a plane crash. That first scene, plus the flashbacks to right before that are peppered through the pilot, are action filmmaking as visceral as it gets. It makes “Alive”, “Fearless” and “Cast Away” look like after-school specials! The characterizations are quick but efficient and the cast if instantly compelling, from the Hobbit junkie to the Harry Knowlesesque “lardo”, the pregnant chick, the Asian couple, the Indian tech guy, the bimbo and her hunky brother, the black father and son, the prisoner babe and especially the doctor dude. Greatest thing is that the disaster/survival stuff is only the beginning, as creepy creatures roam the “deserted” island where the plane crashed… ]

2006
Mission: Impossible III 67
[ review ]

2009
Star Trek 54
[ review ]


2011
Super 8 34
[ review ]

2013
Star Trek Into Darkness 55
[ I like that this sequel begins in media res, as our heroes are on a mission to save a strange planet from a volcano that is about to erupt. And right away, it’s fun to reunite with the winning cast J.J. Abrams put together in the first film: Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Karl Urban as McCoy, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scotty and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Back on Earth, a distruntled operative played by Benedict Cumberbatch conduct a series of terrorist attacks on Starfleet, which notably leave someone close to Kirk dead. Fueled by revenge, our Captain embarks on a new mission that is deemed morally wrong and unacceptably dangerous by members of his own crew. Worse, it could lead to all-out war with the Klingons, on whose homeworld Cumberbatch is hiding… What follows is a somewhat gripping sci-fi adventure, with some appealing visuals, pretty great special effects and intense if sometimes rather confusing action scenes. What it generally lacks is wit and humor, you know, a sense of fun. Watching this movie after seeing “Guardians of the Galaxy” (twice!), I can’t help but find that it suffers by comparison, not unlike how I found that the original was nowhere near as thrilling as “Starship Troopers”. ]

2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 94
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]