Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek: They're Giving It All She's Got, Captain!

So how do you make a Star Trek film that both appeals to die-hard Star Trek fans, and to the general public who, by and large, think die-hard Star Trek fans are the biggest losers in the galaxy?

Sounds like an impossible task to me; the motion picture industry's version of the Kobayashi Maru.

JJ Abrams, though, is a director who doesn't believe in a no-win situation. And by tackling this problem head-on with a solid and universally satisfying screenplay, he fed the hungry Trekkies the story they've always wanted to see. But he also managed to inject universal appeal into a series that had become so solid a niche' that you were almost afraid to go see any of these films without dressing like a Klingon anymore.

AND- more importantly, he left the door wide open for endless sequels, without having to comb through the hundreds of books and scripts that preceded him over the past 40 years to make sure it complies with the overly-convoluted storylines.

In other words, JJ Abrams is a frickin' genius. And Star Trek is one of the best pieces of entertaining movie-making made in the last 5 years.

I really have only one complaint. Kirk didn't act like Kirk. I mean, half the fun of this movie for a Star Trek fan is to watch your favorite characters make their debut on screen, and meet each other for the first time. When McCoy comes on screen for the first time, the actor portrayed him so accurately that you knew who it was as soon as you heard his voice, before you even saw him. Same for Scotty, and for Spock, and Sulu-- but Kirk? This guy didn't act one bit like Kirk. In fact, in interviews before the film came out, he said that he used Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones character as his inspiration. Which would have been great if this were a movie about the young Indiana Jones. But it's not. Was it too much to ask for a good Kirk portrayal?

I guess so.

But it doesn't ruin the film. And if you pay close attention to the movie, you can find a logical reason for Kirk to not act like the old Kirk we all knew and loved. But I won't give away any plot elements. Just go see it.

I give this an enthusiastic 8 out of 10 and recommend to everyone out there.

Wolverine: Eh, Good Enough....

As I sat through Wolverine, a line from another movie came to mind. Not a line from "X-Men," though, as you might expect. Not even a line from another Superhero movie, nor even one from a blockbuster summer hit.

No, it was a line from "Sideways," spoken by Paul Giamatti to describe a rather bland wine at an all-too-corporate winery: "Quaffable, but far from transcendant."

Some movies are made because they have a good story to tell, and they want to tell it well.

Others are made because they know they can still milk the public, after having given them a few good offerings in the past.

This movie falls into the latter category.

I mean, it was OKAY, I guess. They blew crap up and they had fist and blade fights, and that's always cool. I like flashes of light and loud noises and wisecracking superheroes, and they sure gave me a lot of that.

I like Marvel, too, and up until now I have always enjoyed their approach to movie making. I mean, this is truly the era for comic book movies, with the advances in CGI animation and special effects. Gone are the hokey man-flying-on-a-fishline special effects of the past. Now you can count on everything looking realistic enough for the movie-goer to almost forget you're even using any special effects.

Which is probably part of the problem. You can't just wow me with cool looking stuff anymore. You have to give me a good story.

This was an adequate story. I mean, it gave me Wolverine's background, which in the end was about all it promised, right? He's apparently like 170 years old or something, and got himself a super-alloy-coated skeleton (complete with Edward Scissorhands) in a fit of revenge. And he got duped by his own brother, and then caused the Three-Mile-Island meltdown in the 70's. Hey, who knew?

But it left me feeling a little duped. As if they figured, "Well, just write something, throw it out there, count the money, and hurry up and cash in on whatever characters worked before people realize we're just cranking out crap."

If you have any doubt about this, just look at the plans Marvel cranked out immediately following "Wolverine's" huge $85 million weekend: another Wolverine sequel, as well as a spin-off featuring Deadpool, known in this film as Weapon 11, and also a Magneto sequel, plus another X-Men featuring younger mutants-- are you feeling a little sick of X-Men already? Yeah, me too- and that's just READING about these films.

Well, movie-making is a business, after all, and I guess I can't gripe about that. Like any business venture, they look at what makes them millions and they run with it.

And like I said, it was pretty good. I got a couple of hours off from thinking about unemployment or woman troubles.

I give it a 6 and a half. Good enough.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Observe and Report: again with the naked man.....

I guess I'm just going to have to accept that manjunk is here to stay as a commonplace element in modern moviemaking.

There have been brief flashes of Bruce Willis and Kevin Bacon in decades past, but those were forgettable and forgivable. Now, though, it's right out in your face. I think it was "Sideways" that got this unfortunate ball(no pun intended) rolling. Then along came "Dewey Cox", and then "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and more recently- and grautuitously- "The Watchmen".

Now this.

Even as I write this, I know what's coming. "Hey Steve, how come you don't complain about naked WOMEN in the movies?" I think the answer to that would be obvious, but since apparently it's not, I'll go ahead and tell you why: I'm a heterosexual man, dumb ass. I mean, I'm fuddy-duddy enough to think that nudity should be scarce in movies to begin with, but if you have to flash me some skin, make it soft and supple and feminine. Not hairy and mottled and dangly.

"Hey Steve, great commentary, but can you review the movie now?" Oh shoot, yeah, sorry, I was momentarily distracted by penis.

In this year's second offering of the mall-security genre, and unfortunately the lesser of the two, Seth Rogen hands us what is sure to become his obligatory "Oh jeez, I wish I never made that movie" movie. Every comedic actor has to make one of these at some point in his life. (Pauly Shores actually made a full career out of it.)

Now that Seth has this out of the way, we can just forget it ever happened and wait for something better to come along from him. But in the meantime, I think it suffices to say, when your movie is worse than "Paul Blart, Mall Cop," your movie sucks.

Here's a rundown of the story: Seth Rogen plays a mall cop whose moment of possible glory comes when a parking-lot flasher exposes his crotch to Rogen's love interest, the little blonde slut who works the make-up counter. It's loaded with predictability, mistimed jokes, and a distracting soundtrack that takes the punch out of what could have otherwise been a couple of good gags. The story line is formulated. The characters are flat. I've seen better comedy on public-access television.

The culmination of this disaster film is the only part of the movie I actually laughed at; Rogen's climatic foot-chase of the perp, dangling and exposed, through the shops and between the kiosks of his former mall-cop beat.

When the penis-scene is what I rate the best scene of all, you know the movie has to blow. (Again, no pun intended.)

I give this movie a 4 out of 10. The 4 is for the effort; I think they honestly tried to make a funny movie here. But they ultimately failed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Love You, Man!: I loved it, man.

I friggin loved this movie!

Talk about a slam-dunk. From the premise- a guy who has only girlfriends tries to make one male friend before his wedding day- to the acting, to the pacing, to the directing- all around, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

And let's not forget the writing. This was written (and directed) by John Hamburg, the same creative genius who penned "Meet the Parents" and "Zoolander", and it delivers the laughs even better than either of those two movies did. You'll like the way everything in this film feels so true-to-life. Some of the hardest writing to do is the kind that everyone can universally relate to.

I know this is probably the shortest rave review you'll ever read, but what else can I say beyond what I've already said? I give it an 8 out of 10, and I'll seriously go see it with you if you don't want to go alone. Seriously. Email me if you don't have my number.

Monsters vs. Aliens: Dreamworks vs. Pixar

I know its not right to compare. But I do it. I compare my friends. I compare places I have lived. Hell, I even compare the women I date.

I compare movies.

It's wrong. You should just take every movie for what it is. And if you do that, Monsters vs. Aliens is a very good movie. You'll enjoy it, the kids will love it, and everyone will walk away more than adequately entertained.

But when they have "vs." in the title, it's almost like they're INVITING me to compare. They WANT competition.

Ok, I'll compare. Not just this movie to another movie, but Pixar animated films (like Monsters Inc. or Wall-E) to Dreamworks animated films, as represented by this movie.

Animation: Dreamworks wins. This was breathtaking to watch in some segments, and even when it wasn't taking your breath away, it was impressing you mightily.

Story: Pixar wins. This was a good story, don't get me wrong, but it could have had a twist or two. Wall-E, for example, on the other hand- not THAT was a story! But that's like comparing "E.T." to something off of Dale Dorman's "Creature Double Feature." This was supposed to play off like a campy 50's monster movie, and it kinda did. Mission accomplished.

Humor: Pixar wins, hands down. This really wasn't as funny as I had hoped for. If you saw the previews, you saw most of the laughs already. Beyond that, it was mild-chuckle hour. Kind of disappointing, really.

So overall, I'd have to say that Pixar has a better animation department than Dreamworks. But so what? Go see this, you'll like it. I give it a 6 and a half out of 10. Your kids will give it a 10, especially if you see the 3D version. Go!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Watchmen: Don't Watch, Man...

Ever since I saw the first preview in the theater about three months ago, I have been touting "The Watchmen" as the first must-see film of 2009.

I left out the word "not". As in, "must NOT see."


You see that blue guy over there to the left?

Well, get ready to see his glowing blue penis, over and over and over throughout the film.

Wait, did you just say--

Yes, get ready to see a Superhero's Super Atomic Johnson dangling in your face for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

I don't care how much time and effort and money went into this film. I don't care one bit how true it stayed to the graphic novel it was based on. I don't care about the carefully choreographed fight scenes and the spectacular visual effects. Seriously; those elements alone usually have me declaring any movie "The Best Movie EVER MADE!"

As soon as you put a glowing blue shlong in my face, your film loses all appeal.

Do it more than once, and all I can think to myself is, "Is this director retarded?"

Call it "art." Call it "important to the plot and storyline." Call ME a "homophobe." As soon as you paint a donk blue and make it glow like a rave toy, you have rendered your film absolutely ridiculous.

Show that glowing blue lightstick more than once, and you have lost every last shred of credibility.

Show it over and over and over for damn near three hours, and you hopefully lose your movie-making license for life.

I give "The Watchmen" a zero on a scale of one to ten. Next time, think of the MOVIE GOER when you spend $125 million dollars of Paramount's hard-earned cash, you idiot, not of your own nuclear-homo-erotic fantasies.