Thursday, May 28, 2009

EXAMINER #2: 'Star Trek' stands out amongst May blockbusters

As much as I’d like to believe that I’m not a total fanboy… I totally am. So you can imagine how I spent the first four months of2009 -- drooling over the month of May, when not one or two, not three or four, but five major franchises would be waging battle at the box office over the first four weeks alone; "Wolverine," "Star Trek," "Angels and Demons," "Terminator Salvation" and "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian." And that doesn’t even take into account this weekend, the last of the month, which all the other studios conceded to Pixar’s “Up” except for Universal, which in a savvy bit of counter-programming, releases Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” a goofy horror movie that's aimed at a very different, equally loyal albeit smaller audience.
What’s ironic about “DMTH” is that it’ll be the first film Raimi has directed for his genre label, Ghost House Pictures, and the first Ghost House release that won’t open at #1. That said, “DMTH” has good buzz so despite my initial doubts about the project, I’ll be at the ArcLight at midnight on Thursday to judge for myself.
May also featured two indies about brothers, although they (the brothers and the movies) couldn’t be more different. The first, “Rudo y Cursi,” from Carlos Cuaron, Alfonso’s brother, stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as rival soccer stars. Get over the fear of subtitles and go see it while you still can because it’s one of the ten best films I’ve seen so far this year!
The other, “The Brothers Bloom,” is a con-man movie from Rian Johnson, who also wrote and directed the overrated high school noir mockery “Brick.” “Bloom” stars a pair of Oscar winners (Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz), an Oscar nominee (Rinko Kikuchi who steals the film with her mute performance), and Mark Ruffalo, who should’ve been nominated for an Oscar by now. Unfortunately, all the acting talent in the world can’t save Johnson’s lifeless script, which is as phony as the schemes The Brothers Bloom concoct. I’ll spare the film any further commentary but needless to say, I wasn’t a fan. Johnson clearly has talent but his style is all over the place and he’d be well served by directing someone else’s screenplay for a change. I don’t understand the press love he’s been getting.
But back to the blockbuster box office behemoths. The summer movie season officially kicked off with Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” followed by J.J. Abrams’ reboot of “Star Trek” for Paramount, followed by Sony and Ron Howard’s “Angels and Demons,” which had only six days before Warner Bros. unleashed the hell that is McG’s “Terminator Salvation” into theaters. Meanwhile, Ben Stiller took another paycheck role in Fox’s “Night at the Museum 2: Battle For the Smithsonian,” but I haven’t seen that sequel so I can’t bash it, although it doesn’t really belong in the conversation since it’s aimed at a much younger demographic than the other four films.
Now, going into May, judging strictly by the trailers, I was super stoked to see “Star Trek” and “T4.” I had supreme faith in Abrams and very little faith in McG, but then again, I grew up on James Cameron’s “Terminator” films and I’d never been a “Star Trek” kind of guy. I loved the “T4” trailer’s use of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the World Went Away,” but I suspected it was making the movie look more awesome than it really was. The “Star Trek” trailer looked equally awesome and obviously, like something I’d never seen before. Abrams and his young cast sold me on a new universe, where as “T4” sold me on a world I’d heard a lot about over the course of three movies, and couldn’t wait to see for myself.
Elsewhere, despite the production problems and online piracy, I thought “Wolverine” looked pretty cool, if a bit cheap, while the “Angels and Demons” trailer seemed to reveal that director Howard didn’t really fix any of “DaVinci’s” considerable problems, chief amongst them, the lazy casting of Tom Hanks, who looked absolutely miserable running around Rome.
As it turned out, “Star Trek” was the best movie by far, and even it had its script problems. You can read my full review for the Colorado Springs Independent here. None of the other three turned out very good, namely because of bad scripts that were compromised by the Writers Strike. I’d have to say that “Wolverine” was my next favorite of the four, if only because it resembled fun. Sure, it paled in comparison to its predecessors (yes, all of them, even Brett Ratner’s “X3”), but it wasn’t nearly the trainwreck I was expecting and the opening credits were great. Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston are two of my favorite character actors but “Wolverine” was missing a villain like the “X-Men” series’ Ian McKellan, whose sinister presence was also missing from the “DaVinci Code” sequel “Angels and Demons,” which had a couple of decent moments but felt shockingly flat considering the solid source material. I’ve read three of Dan Brown’s books and his writing is quite cinematic, as though it would lend itself perfectly to adaptation for the bigscreen. But both “DaVinci” and “A&D” were undeniably clunky and that’s inexcusable from a director of Howard’s caliber. Hanks was never a good fit for this series, and yet, if he couldn’t make it work, who the hell else could?
Which brings us to the relentlessly grim and joyless “Terminator Salvation,” which McG should be downright embarrassed about. The screenplay felt like a cruel joke, and while credited scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris will be held primarily responsible, it deserves to be noted that A-Listers Jonathan Nolan (Oscar-nominated writer of “Memento,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Prestige”), Simon Kinberg (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “X3,” “Jumper” and “Sherlock Holmes”) and Paul Haggis (Academy Award-winning writer of “Crash,” “Casino Royale,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Walker, Texas Ranger”) all had a hand in shaping the script. The performances in “T4” were all cringe-worthy and borderline laughable with the exception of Anton Yelchin’s take on Kyle Reese. It was a tough Stateside debut for future “Avatar” star Sam Worthington, whose Australian accent snuck in and out of the movie along with Christian Bale’s angry Welsh inflection. As for the supporting cast, Common and Helena Bonham Carter were truly awful, while Bryce Dallas Howard and Jadagrace had no characters to play. The wham-bam action was decent but free of any kind of suspense (it’s been rumored that McG left his 2nd Unit to handle the action so he could focus on the “performances”) and the entire movie felt devoid of fun, failing to do anything new with the series.
Hollywood is batting 1-4 in my blockbuster book so far this summer, but hey, look on the bright side: There’s a new Pixar movie coming out on Friday! And for the crazy handful of you who might not be down with “Up” allow me to suggest a more “adult” theatrical experience, Steven Soderbergh’s low-fi drama “The Girlfriend Experience,” which stars (former?) porn star Sasha Grey as a high-priced Manhattan call girl. Grey makes an impressive mainstream debut and there’s actually very little sex or nudity in the film, which begs saying that it’s still worth seeing, guys! “The Girlfriend Experience” is also available to watch On Demand in the privacy of your own home for $9.99, a great bargain considering the absurd cost of movie tickets and concessions today.
As for June, the film I’m most excited about is Todd Phillips’ comedy “The Hangover,” starring the motley crue of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifiankis, a mysterious baby, Mike Tyson and his tiger. I’m also looking forward to Tony Scott’s remake of the 70s classic “The Taking of Pelham 123,” starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta; a bigscreen imagining of “Land of the Lost” with Will Ferrell and Danny McBride; the new Francis Ford Coppola film “Tetro” starring the always-interesting Vincent Gallo; the final cut of Harold Ramis’ biblical comedy “Year One,” which was produced by Judd Apatow and stars Jack Black and Michael Cera; Michael Bay’s bigger, louder “Transformers” sequel and the Woody Allen comedy “Whatever Works,” starring Larry David. There’s also another comedy from an Oscar-winning filmmaker that opens June 5 in limited release that we’ll take a look at next week. Until then…

Original Link:

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

Whereas I had enjoyed TERMINATOR SALVATION and WOLVERINE and even ANGELS AND DEMONS, I hated STAR TREK. I understood that the movie was an alternate version of the original series, due to the Romulans' attack on the Federation ship at the beginning of the movie. But I hated STAR TREK. I found so many plotholes and sloppy writing in the movie that I ended up writing an article about that.

It became a sad day in American culture when many film critics began praising STAR TREK as one of the best movies of this summer.