Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Summer Movies So Far....

Star Trek Into Darkness


B -

Yes a B minus, which means it's good buuut.  When my friend asked me what I thought of the movie right after the lights went up I almost said I hated it.  So derivative!  All that time, all that money, all the star power and the CGI expense and we get a rehash of a movie that came out in 1982!  And believe me the Wrath of Khan was a lot better.

Seriously I was pretty angry.  I know how JJ Abrams likes to "flip" his characters.  I watched his TV show Fringe throughout its entire run.  We were given doppelgangers from a parallel universe and when that wasn't good enough he took the original characters and deleted their memories, save one.  All to see how they would react when circumstances changed dramatically or just to experiment with them.  It was clever for a while but if you think back on the series, JJ also tested characters existentially by making them near human such as the shape shifters.  It never ended.

Now JJ has the Star Trek Universe to play with and if this last movie is any measure of his work then I think it is time he moved on to the Star Wars franchise and ruin that one for its fans.

See how angry I can get about this movie!

Like I said, I found it woefully derivative.  Just changing what happens to who doesn't make for an original movie or even a clever retelling.  Let's take the dynamic between Khan and Kirk.  The entire original movie was based on the stakes built from the original TV episode, "Space Seed".  What were the stakes between Kirk and Khan for "Into Darkness"?

None.

You may say the death of Admiral Pike.  I say no.  Did Pike die in Kirk's arms?  Was Kirk even there when Pike died?  No.  Spock was.  If Kirk had been there it would have been an ideal time for Kirk to yell out, "Khaaaan!"  Alas, an opportunity missed.  Or better yet bungled.

Let's examine Khan himself.  In the original TV episode and the movie he was the lead villain.

Unmistakeably.

Was he the lead villain for "Into Darkness"?  No he was a puppet.  Marcus was the lead villain (played by Fringe alum, Peter Weller).  Again, the stakes that made the original movie so powerful were completely undercut here.

So why did I give it a B - and not an F?  I'm trying to say positive here!

The cast was great and they do a wonderful job.  The CGI was great and everything looked real.  (Although this movie was not served well by having it in 3D.)  I'm sure everyone worked very hard on this movie.  Wait a minute, didn't Damon Lindelof get a writing credit for this movie?  Lindelof, the man we blame for the end of "Lost" and that mess called "Prometheus".  Maybe we can lay everything at his feet.  No, I'm sticking with JJ.  He's the one that likes to flip his characters.

No doubt when he films the next Star Wars movie he'll have Mark Hamill in full Darth Vader regalia.

So clever!

Man of Steel

B+

A B+ means its good annnnd.   I really liked "Man of Steel".  My wife didn't.  Far too violent for her.  She's a Richard Donner Superman fan.  While fun, that series was pretty tame compared to this.  There was a lot of destruction.  I found it "real world" however.  If multiple indestructible beings are going to war with each other, then damage will be done.  Of course all this damage has a purpose.  It's a set up for the next movie.  If you noticed all the "Lexcorp" or Luthercorp" logos and signage then you'll know this was a low level introduction to Lex Luthor being in the next movie.  One of Luthor's arguments against Superman and or superheroes is they attract as much mayhem as they defend against.  They are a magnet for chaos.

DC comics since its recent reboot has also explored if the world would be a lot better off without superheroes because all they do is attract super villains.  Not a bad argument.

As for Henry Cavil's Superman I thought him quite excellent.  A very human Superman.  And he should be.  He grew up in a world of humans so it only goes to show that he is a victim of his own foibles much as we are.  He's anguished, but not dark.  Pained but not brooding.  (That's Batman's job.)  His romance with Lois Lane feels natural not forced or silly.  She knows his secret and that clears a large hurdle between them.  Their relationship can be built on trust.  Amy Adams excels in this role.  She's smart and confident without being loopy or constantly getting into trouble.

The villains were excellent also.  Michael Shannon's Zod had just the right temperament.  Which is to say, this short of crazy.  If you want to see Shannon's intensity as a primer see, "Take Shelter".  He is that movie.  Antje Traue's Faora has a quiet  homicidal calm about her.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good reintroduction to Superman.  I did cringe at some of the destruction near the end.  I'd like to think Superman would show restraint and better judgement.  Surely there had to be a better way.  But since this was his first day on the job I guess we can expect little else.

I've spoiled a lot so far but I won't spoil the ending.  It was a human solution.  Judge for yourselves whether that is a good or bad thing.


World War Z


A -

An A minus means this is a pretty excellent movie, just not perfect.  Close though!  This movie succeeded in ratcheting up the tension where Star Trek Into Darkness failed.  You have to have your quiet moments in order to make the big bang moments work.  WWZ was very good at this while JJ's Trek was frenetic and breathless.  

I've heard this movie has nothing to do with the book.  Well, they share the same title and the book was the inspiration for the movie, other than that they don't have too much in common.  Word is that was going to be a big problem for the movie.  Rewrites, cost overruns and re-shoots bedeviled the production.

Maybe they should try that approach more often.

Brad Pitt had a hand in much of the aforementioned and to his credit it didn't damage the movie at all.  Also to his credit was his performance.  Like the Superman character in "Man of Steel", Pitt play a very human protagonist.  He's just a family man trying to get along like the rest of us.  Fortunately for him he has a very special skill set.  He's an organizer/troubleshooter!

In this role Pitt doesn't have to overact.  He doesn't have to rely on his looks or thrust out his jaw in a manly fashion or even twinkle his eyes to get the ladies.  He just has to stay calm, be confident and do his best so he can get back to his family.

I'm thinking Pitt should select more roles like this.  He reminds of Kevin Costner's "Pa Kent" in the Man of Steel movie.  Subdued yet courageous.  Hollywood on the other hand has different plans for Pitt.  Of that I have no doubt.

There is quite of bit of globe trotting in this movie and works to its advantage also.  Desperately racing against a zombie pandemic while hopping around the globe keeps things lively.  Some of the locations are just sets but others like Jerusalem are rich in history and culture, to see them overrun by the zombie infestation is striking in its emotional impact.  You really get a sense this is the end and man's greatest treasures are headed for the dustbin.

But you never get a sense that anyone is giving up and that is good storytelling.  World War Z won't be everyone's cup of tea.  It is a zombie movie after all.  But the violence is just off camera or seen at a distance.  Yes, there is death and destruction but it it isn't a bloody movie.  Certainly not in the sense of "The Walking Dead" let's say.  That show can be down right grisly.  You won't find that in World War Z

The approach here is more mental terror than physical revulsion and in that I can heartily recommend this movie.









7 comments:

  1. Dave ... I have to say that your review of Star Trek Into Darkness was very passionate and you are obviously a Star Trek fan from way back. I myself, have never been a trekkie. I did watch quite a few eps of the tv show ...but it never really grabbed me. And the only movie I saw from Star Trek was Star Trek 2:The Wrath of Khan. I have distinct memories of being a little scared!
    But ive gotta say .... that not being a Trekkie is a distinct advantage when watching the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movies. I really love them. From an outsiders point of view (that of a non trekkie) he has injected new life into the franchise and I think he has done a great job. Ive really enjoyed what he's done so far and im looking forward to what comes next in the series. The casting is great, scripts have been good and the effects (imo) are brilliant. JJ does things on a grand scale and he does them well.
    Friends of mine, who are also non trekkies ...loved the film too. And like me, they are looking forward to the next in the series. But I can completely understand diehard Trekkies who say they don't love JJ's films. If someone came along and messed with my beloved Fringe ....well id kill them!!!
    From a cynics point of view ... the studios would be loving what he's done because this represents huge dollars for them.
    As for Star Wars .... I am beyond excited to see where he takes this franchise.
    As for Superman and World War Z .... well I cant comment because I have no intention of seeing them.
    The only Superman for me is George Reeves. I know that it was years ago ... but when you are a kid and watching a superhero that has xray vision and can fly faster than a speeding bullet and leap tall buildings .... well its pretty exciting. And it was in black and white. To me .... nothing can compare. Those that followed were just pale imitations of the real thing.
    As for Brad Pitt .... im not a fan. World War Z is not on my list of movies to see.
    I have seen The Lone Ranger .... and I would recommend that you see this too .... just so you can see another example of a movie studio trying to get yet another franchise off the ground and doing a poor job! I say ...leave the Lone Ranger alone. It was a substandard movie ...and I wont be there for the second instalment.

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    1. Hi Lyn,so good to hear from you.

      I'm not going to let JJ skate on this one. I think he's gone to the well too many times. Will that stop him? No. As you are aware we are going to get more of his exploration into the human condition with "Almost Human" this fall. Or is it your Spring? Actually, I have a positive feeling about the show. As long as it it isn't derivative of something else like Fringe for instance. That would really burn me.

      I wouldn't exactly call myself a Trekkie or Trekker. I think you have to go to one of their Cons for that distinction. But you're right I am a passionate fan. For those who aren't as passionate as myself I feel they were duped by JJ. It just borrowed too heavily from the source material. Those fans that are ignorant of the original movie, well, I've said it already. They were duped. JJ's first effort was far superior.

      I watched all the George Reeves Superman episodes also. I loved that show. It had a bit of a wry sense of humor also, especially at the end of every show when Lois would give Clark a hard time about whatever. Clark would almost wink to the viewing audience when he would tell Lois that he know more than she thinks. Because, duh, he's Superman!

      The Batman series that came later in the sixties was so different. They played it for laughs and it was totally campy. Did you ever watch that one?

      I will probably never watch the Lone Ranger movie. I've heard it was terrible. That's too bad. I was a big fan of that old TV series too. Is Johnny Depp killing all these properties? I eagerly anticipated his "Dark Shadows" movie from last year as, you guessed it, I watched all of original episodes also. It wasn't very good. Eva Green was great but the rest, yuck.

      I have a few more movies on my Summer docket Lyn and I will be sure to pass along my reviews to you. Good or bad!

      Stay Fringetastic!




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    2. Dave ...I sure did watch the Batman series on tv. That is one show I loved. Even as a kid I understood that they were taking a camp approach to this superhero ....and I loved it. It was funny and it poked fun at itself as well. That's probably the reason why I haven't watched all of the Batman (franchise) movies. I have to say ...and im probably in the minority here ...I did enjoy Michael Keaton as Batman. The others have either been poor casting or just overly depressed/troubled or dark in mood for me.

      As for Spiderman ....give me the original cartoon series that I grew up with. Ive seen some of the movies .... and they didn't grab me either.

      What is really annoying me at the moment is the lack of original movies that are coming out. Everything has to be a blockbuster film ...with huge effects and budgets ...and inevitable sequels. Just how many more superheroes can be found in the annals of DC or Marvel? I used to love going to the movies ... but Hollywood seems to be sucking the life out of movie going at the moment!

      Give me a good indie film with wonderful acting and a great script ....please.

      Dave, have you read this article http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jun/13/steven-spielberg-george-lucas-film-industry . Its about a discussion that Spielberg and George Lucas participated in. They discussed Hollywoods current obsession with blockbuster movies ..... and how it could lead to the demise of some studios. Its really interesting.

      Theres also this article .... re the Lone Ranger....another good one. http://www.vulture.com/2013/07/lone-ranger-is-everything-wrong-with-hollywood.html

      Please keep going to the movies and passing on your reviews. I will let you know if any good little aussie films come out. Im seriously hoping so .... they may be the saviour of my sanity and reignite my passion for movie going.

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    3. Ooops ....forgot to reply to your comment about Almost Human. I know that JJ Abrams name is attached to this project .... but it really is Joel Wyman's baby. I think, in order to get it made his name needed to be a part of it. Joel formed his own production company to get Almost Human up and running. And I know that whilst Joel took this idea to JJ and he had some input .... I really think that it will be mainly a Wyman production with a little bit of input from Bad Robot people like Bryan Burk.

      Joel is really interested and passionate about relationships and how people really need to work at maintaining them. He's also passionate about the choices we make .....which was heavily embedded into the fabric of Fringe. He's also talked about how he feels technology has effected the human condition and relationships ....and perhaps not for the better. I know that JJ Abrams is also interested in these things also. But I really think that JJ will be too busy developing and producing his blockbuster films to be too involved in Almost Human. I hope it does well for Joel. I think he has a lot of interesting things to say.

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    4. I did read that report about what Lucas and Spielberg discussed. Add to that Soderbergh's "retirement" and it all gets a little depressing.

      There was another article I read recently about big budget blockbusters and how the industry over-indulges their stars and directors. (Hello, Johnny Depp and Tim Button). They've got to move away from that because the actors and or director's vision doesn't always translate into good economic sense.

      That being said, I want to see Pacific Rim this weekend. Del Toro usually indulges himself! I may rent "Europa Report" tonight for $9.99. It is getting an early release through various formats like Amazon.

      I saw another "Almost Human" trailer from the SDCC today and it looks really good. I'm a big Karl Urban fan. They didn't give him enough to do in this past Star Trek movie. Maybe JJ threw him a bone and gave him the TV gig.

      I

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  2. Nicely written Dave. The one movie I'm interested in is World War Z. I've heard about all the problems, so I'm excited you gave it an A-. I hope to see it soon!

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    1. Great! I thought WWZ was pretty exciting. Maybe if they added some Vampires or Werewolves it would have been perfect. (Kidding!)

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