I have much love for the Star Trek series. My parents watched it all the time. We owned all the movies. I even watched The Next Generation and a tiny bit of Deep Space Nine. But eventually I lost interest and the nostalgia subsided, or so I thought. I don't think any director besides JJ Abrams could have gotten me interested in seeing this new crack at Star Trek. Because I already love virtually everything he touches I was able to set my skepticism at a revival of Star Trek aside and went into this with an open mind. It was a joy. Sheer delight. I was thoroughly entertained by the character back stories of all the Star Trek fixtures so many of us know and remember so vividly - particularly that of Spock. This film owes a lot to phenomenal casting, terrific writing, and of course Abrams himself, without whom, this movie wouldn't be nearly as engaging. He's a terrific storyteller and a lover of classic filmic conventions. He develops his characters and also gives into the viewer's lust for action with an exciting flare (literally, there were PILES of flares in this movie and the lighting was very reminiscent of films such as "The Wrath of Khan" and "The Search for Spock"). The extras are fun on the DVD and you get the sense that everyone involved really enjoyed themselves. You also learn that Abrams had many of the creatives involved who worked on the series/movies play roles in this production. Wise move, and it paid off. Finally, it is certainly of note that Abrams and his writers made a brilliant decision to include time travel as part of the storyline. Not only is it very common in earlier Trek stories but also by starting with the story at Kirk's birth and altering time, all our prior knowledge of the earlier stories becomes nullified thereby giving Abrams and his team a clean slate with a cast full of vibrant characters to play with indefinitely. Even if you aren't a Trekkie, there is still room for you in this sci-fi romp. Watch the film & live long and prosper.
Posted by D at Sunday, November 29, 2009
Before you all roll your eyes. Yes, I'm reviewing "New Moon". Stop judging and shut up. In fact, if you really want to show me, just stop reading this.
Okay, so "New Moon" basically was 1000% better than "Twilight". I mean hyperbole aside, it was truly a much better movie. The sound design: excellent. The beautiful slo-mo/speed ramp fights and chases: magical. The dialogue: did the book proud. The acting: markedly improved from the first installment. I would even venture to say that some of it, surprisingly was good (Taylor Lautner). This all leads us to the obvious directorial shift to Chris Weitz (and likely, a heftier budget). Let's just say he gets teenagers and subtle sarcasm. It was truly a fun watch that did the story justice for Twilight series fans.
Yes Naysayers, guys' shirts were off a lot. If you read the book, that's how it is. Deal with it. And yes, it's teenage fantasy but who cares? It's not pretending to be anything else. The design of the wolves is gorgeous. They're very furry and also full of emotion - a difficult combo to achieve in CG land. Clearly, this is a big reason why Weitz was chosen as director - his previous experience with such creatures was in 2007's "The Golden Compass" which won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Anyway, if you can stomach the love, heartbreak, and general teenage hormonal-ness...give it a watch!
Posted by D at Sunday, November 22, 2009
Ah yes, the end of the world. Such a bright topic and a perfect way to spend a rainy weekend morning. I'm reminded of 1998/1999 when a rash of Y2K apocalyptic end of days movies took the scene. Ironically, "2012" situates itself as a throwback to classic 1970s disaster films. It's filled with every convention in the book however what it does visually is far from antiquated. It's breathtaking. Truly a must see on the big screen (hopefully without a small child crying from time to time, like in my theater), "2012" makes you want to run out an be a special effects artist, okay maybe it just made me want to, but nonetheless. It's incredible work. Plus, sorry but doesn't everyone secretly want to see Los Angeles fall off into the Pacific (hands in the air, come on...you know you want to)?
Director, Roland Emmerich's filmography largely focuses on the visually challenging: "Stargate" (a notable guilty pleasure of mine from my high school days), "Godzilla", "The Day After Tomorrow", "Independence Day" (sensing a theme here?) but to me his ability to build drama and tension was best executed through his film, "The Patriot" through more subtle avenues such as the quiet performance of Heath Ledger and the father-figure Mel Gibson. "2010" offers us a similar cast of characters to "Independence Day" each with their own moments in the spotlight but no one really stands out except for leads Oliver Platt and Chiwetel Ejiofor (don't ask me how to pronounce it, I have no idea - I just remembered him from being in "Love Actually"). Platt is solid and established and I expected him to control every scene he was in however Ejiofor may have catapulted himself to the next level with this performance. It screams charisma and it-factor.
A word of warning, this is a Columbia Pictures production. Sony advertising is ALL over this puppy. Vaio anyone?
Posted by D at Sunday, November 15, 2009
"The Garden" is an Academy Award nominated documentary chronicling the drama of South Central LA Farmers and their struggle to keep their community garden. It's a really engaging piece of filmmaking. This from a person who in general gets awfully bored during most documentaries. It's illuminating, upsetting, and inspiring. As someone who used to live in Los Angeles I was mostly intrigued by the racial investigation that this film lightly addresses as well. In a city as diverse as LA one would think that having a sense of pride in the community would be a relatively easy exercise but the disparity between the rich and the poor in that city is so dramatic and the racial divisions are so clearly defined that instead there's a quiet and passive violent bitterness simmering just below the surface as made evident by explosions such as the LA Riots in the early 1990s and illustrated dramatically in the film "Crash". These tensions are very real and incredibly legitimate. The city always seems perched on the edge of a knife. "The Garden" is one instance of many in which people strive for their piece of the LA community. It's a great watch. Rent it. Trailer here.
Posted by D at Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tom Tom Tom. Cruise. Hmm. Well? It wasn't horrible. In fact, "Valkyrie" was good. It wasn't a great, amazing, incredible, or knock your socks off kind of film. What it was though, is solid. And for Cruise, solid is about as much as he could hope for these days. At the core, "Valkyrie" is doomed from the start, it was a failed mission and we all know how Hitler actually came to his end. So there's a bit of a flaw in having a suspenseful plot when you already know the outcome. However, there were some moments of believable tension and most notably some beautiful Hitchcockian photography during exterior scenes. Director Bryan Singer ("Usual Suspects", "X-Men") does a thorough job of making you root for these rebels (How can you not? They're trying to take out Hitler) however as someone pointed out...when all your characters are Nazi soldiers, there's little room for character development - they're not allowed to have any. Worth a rental but don't get your hopes up too high.
"The Big Heat" is a 1953 classic brought to us by Fritz Lang, mastermind behind such early film-school staples "M" and "Metropolis". "The Big Heat" is simplistic enough...cop gets caught up with a case laced with the mob's handiwork...naturally, the mob is in with the top officials so how's a good guy to win? I'll tell ya...with the help of a floozie with revenge in her heart. It's good stuff. I recommend on a dark night with a good thunderstorm. It's not at all scary...just would be aided by the appropriate mood.