A Visit to Gettysburg

Late spring is the perfect time of year to visit Gettysburg as the tourist and reenactment season has yet to begin and the stinking heat of summer has yet to enshroud the bucolic Pennsylvania hamlet.  The popular destination can easily be reached in less than three hours from South Jersey or any point in the greater Philadelphia area.  While Civil War buffs and professional ghost hunters could easily make a long weekend of it, we found that one day is perfect for a leisurely self-guided auto tour of the sprawling, picturesque and monument laden battlefield followed by a stroll through the quaint downtown area full of bed-and-breakfast establishments, restaurants, souvenir shops and haunted houses.

What struck me most about the battlefield was not only its size and scope (give yourself at least two hours for the free self-guided auto tour if you plan to make the appropriate stops) but also the meditative peacefulness that now enraptures the place where so much violence once conquered.  It’s a true marvel just for the scenery let alone the history.  Continue reading

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A Review of “Star Trek”

And Hollywood boldly goes where only ten films and five TV series have gone before...

And Hollywood boldly goes where only ten films and five TV series have gone before...

 Damn it, Jim, I’m a TV Producer not a Film Director!

7/10

Author: David H. Schleicher

TV guru extraordinaire J. J. Abrams beams up as producer and director of this zippy and serviceable relaunch of the moribund Star Trek film series, itself a spin-off Gene Roddenberry’s iconic 1960’s sci-fi drama. There’s plenty of circularity in concept and execution as Abrams does an adequate job of paying homage to the original TV series while giving everything a big epic, slick, modern film veneer. Abrams displays his usual flippant emo-sensibilities (lest we not forget his first claim to fame was the insufferable TV show “Felicity”) in creating a colorful back-story to familiar characters, but he wisely focuses on action for the better parts of the film and keeps the pacing at warp speed even though we really know he just wants to play with Trekkies’ emotions, much in the same way a swaggering Kirk antagonizes the desperately logical Spock.

Though Zachary Quinto is fairly lifeless as Spock, the rest of the cast is up to task doing fine impersonations of the senior Trek crew. Simon Pegg gets plenty of laughs as Scotty, and Karl Urban is mockingly masterful in his delivery of all the classic Doc McCoy witticisms. As the young Kirk, Chris Pine puts an entertaining spin on the role as he seems to be channeling both Christian Slater doing Jack Nicholson and, well, Chris Pine doing William Shatner. But it’s only the dashingly smart and sexy Zoe Saldana who takes things to a new level by giving Uhura a personality and vibrancy that was never apparent in the original film series.

Comparing the film to others in the series, it probably ranks somewhere in the middle. By far it displays the best production values and special effects of any Trek before it on the big or small screen. Always crucial to the film series, the villain in this one (a tattooed Romulan named Nero played by Eric Bana) is clearly no match for the mythic-sized Khan of said Wrath of… or the unstoppable Borg Queen of the Next Generation’s First Contact.  And while the early years of Kirk, Spock and the U. S. S. Enterprise are fairly well played here, the main storyline is where the film really suffers as it mashes up a big old mess of a plot involving black holes, time travel and planetary annihilation.

While I grew up watching the “Next Generation” on TV and enjoyed the original film series, I’m by no means a Trek purist. I am, however, a stickler for good storytelling. By playing with all this time-travel mumbo-jumbo, the screenwriters have essentially wiped the slate clean and negated the entire original series. The same old characters are now free to roam outer space on brand new missions, which is a brilliant business building ploy but lazy writing and a big cop-out. By going backwards in the serial mythos instead of forging ahead further into the future, the filmmakers have backed themselves into a corner. Just how many of these new adventures can the old crew have? And will it all lead to the inevitable…Picard’s Academy Days or the origins of Data? While this new film was modestly entertaining and better than your average sci-fi flick, it didn’t really leave me clamoring for more. Will the filmmakers eventually “make it so?”  Quite frankly, I’m indifferent, though Abrams probably “gave it all she’s got”.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

When the Good Movies Are

Max decides to take a nap and dream of wild things until his movie comes out in October.

Max decides to take a nap and dream of many wild things until his movie comes out in October.

 

With last week’s unnecessary X-Men sequel? prequel? reboot? oh who cares?—and this week’s Star Trek hullabaloo, someone like me is left to wonder when will it be safe to venture back into the darkness of the movie theaters?  Thankfully the summer movie season has become a refuge for some decent counter-programming ignored by most feasting on Hollywood’s fatty products, but even better, it’s a good time to start checking out the early trailers and buzz for the gilded autumnal slate of films reeking of prestige.

Here’s my list of the most anticipated films for Summer 2009 and beyond ordered chronologically by alleged release date.  No sequels or franchises allowed beyond this point!

Drag Me to Hell:  (5/29/09)  This is that horror flick from guru Sam Raimi for those who enjoyed The Evil Dead trilogy over his Spiderman trilogy.  It looks kinda goofy, kinda ghouly and kinda fun with a smoking hot Alison Lohman playing a mortgage broker who gets damned to hell after turning down a little old lady’s application for an extension–how timely!  My only concerns are why this thing isn’t rated R and where the heck is Bruce Campbell?  Check out the trailer or go to hell. 

 

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Alison Lohman can drag me to hell anytime. But I don't think she'll ever approve me for a mortgage.

 

If this one cops-out on the gore, be sure to check out the Norwegian zombie Nazi romp Dead Snow due to infect art-houses in June.

Away We Go: (6/5/09, limited)  After giving us one of the most depressing films of recent memory with Revolutionary Road, Sam Mendes goes all quirky dramedy on us with this one featuring a surprisingly likable John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as an expecting couple re-examining their life together.  Let’s hope this doesn’t suffer the same unfair fate of Sunshine Cleaning, which was mostly ignored by mainstream audiences due to a bad marketing campaign that endlessly compared it to other (and lesser) quirky dramedies.  Novelist/memoirist du-jour Dave Eggers co-wrote the screenplay.   Check out the trailer or go away.

Public Enemies:  (7/1/09)  This is an A-lister all the way and promises to be the thinking person’s summer event flick.  Michael Mann, who has proven that both filming in digital doesn’t mean things have to be shaky and grainy and that Depression era films need not be saturated in sepia tones, has crafted what looks to be a crackling period gangster flick inspired by true events featuring a swaggering Johnny Depp, an always brooding Christian Bale and a seductively demure Marion Cotillard.  This thing looks like a real brick that is about to be thrown through everyone’s window.  Check out the trailer or go to jail.  I reckon I won’t be all alone when I take that ride come July.

District 9:  (8/14/09)  It’s so rare these days to see a non-franchised non-comic book based sci-fi flick come out during the summer.  It’s even cooler when that sci-fi film is presented by Peter Jackson, has been kept mostly under wraps, and is just now releasing the early stages of an ultra-clever viral marketing campaign.  The trailer for this one is wickedly deceptive (it looks like some political documentary) and reveals just enough of the “alien…shall we say, invasion?” plotline to tantalize viewers.  This one has some major potential for social commentary, satire and some kick-ass alien action as it blends elements from V,  Alien Nation and Starship Troopers.  Check out the humorous mock-site Maths from Outer Space, or better yet, check out the hella-cool trailer.

Antichrist:  (Unknown)  The only thing more interesting to watch than an established director attempting to go back to his roots (see Sam Raimi above) is watching a controversial auteur go off the deep end with something he’s never attempted before.  Here, Great Dane Lars Von Trier (last seen directing people acting on minimalist chalk-lined stages in Dogville and Manderlay) goes the psychological horror route with this tale of an emotionally crippled couple seeking refuge at their cabin in the woods and perhaps coming in contact with…Satan?  Guaranteed to be his most stylistic film since Zentropa (aka Europa), Antichrist‘s reception at this month’s Cannes Film Festival will go a long way in determining its potential success in the States.  Look for a limited Fall release and prepared to be disturbed.

Shutter Island:  (10/2/09)  Leonardo DiCaprio stars in a Martin Scrosese adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel.  Need I say more?  Added bonus for me:  my favorite underrated actress Emily Mortimer co-stars.  I was in line for this before I even knew it was being made.

 

Emily Mortimer contemplates a vacation to Shutter Island this fall.

Emily Mortimer contemplates a vacation to Shutter Island this fall.

 

Where the Wild Things Are:  (10/19/09)  Any doubts about this Malkovich-less Spike Jonze adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book should be wiped away by what is hands down one of the most infectiously appealing trailers ever crafted.  The versatile Eggers appears again as co-scripter.  Go ahead, get wild and check it out.

Amelia:  (10/23/09)  Will Indian born Mira Nair finally achieve a massive cross-over hit with this bio-pic of Amelia Earhart, or will this be another well intentioned and glossy miscalculation like Vanity Fair?  If Nair can inject the emotional connection she so effortlessly achieved with Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake into the still unsolved mystery surrounding the famed female pilot, then we should be in for something special, and watch out for Hilary Swank in the lead role to nab her third Oscar nod.

Tree of Life:  (Unknown, potentially 2010)  Having once allowed two decades to pass between films, legendary auteur Terrence Malick has now adopted a more Kubrickian five to ten year span between projects.  Given his notoriously long post-production process, this one might not find its way into theaters until the end of 2010 even though principle photography has been completed for some time.  Though this Brad Pitt/Sean Penn drama has been kept tightly under wraps, the advanced buzz surrounding a potential IMAX companion piece and a special effects team working on the “dino shots” make it clear this will be more than just some dreamily poetic coming-of-age mood piece.  For the first time, we might witness Malick go whole-hog.  As such, film purists should be waiting with baited breath.

Other potential films of interest include Quentin Tarantino’s spelling and good-taste-be-damned WWII flick Inglourious Basterds (to be released in August) and James Cameron’s uber-secretive sci-fi epic Avatar (to be released around Christmas) that will either be the biggest bomb or hit of the holiday season.

What films are you most looking forward to?  Leave your top pics in the comment form!

Written by David H. Schleicher