The Force Awakens But I Think I’ll Go Back to Sleep

The First Order

May the force be with you.

And also with you.

We lift up our wallets.

We lift them up to you…our lord…Lucas…Disney…Snoke (wait, seriously, Supreme Leader….Snoke?)

I originally planned to write about how for so many Star Wars has become a religion, but, if this new Disney backed sequel, The Force Awakens, accomplishes anything, it’s that it successfully (and thankfully) wipes away the cartoonish reverent silliness of the prequel trilogy and returns the series to the rollicking space opera action of the originals.

Thirty years after The Return of the Jedi, Resistance leader Leia (Carrie Fisher, looking more and more like her mother with each passing year) has dispatched her star fighter pilot Poe (a game Oscar Isaac) to the Tatooine-esque Planet Jakku (not to be confused with Planet Jacko, where the King of Pop’s hologram rules supreme) to retrieve a map that will allegedly lead them to Luke Skywalker, who after the rise of the Dark Side supported First Order went into hidden exile.  There Poe and his charismatic soccer-ball droid BB-8 (an instant new fan favorite) receive unlikely aid from a Storm Trooper with a sudden change of heart he calls Finn (John Boyega, in what should be a star-making turn) and a scrappy scavenger who just might have a bit of The Force in her named Rey (played with moxie by Daisy Ridley, who comes across as a more likable version of Keira Knightley). Continue reading

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Do Ya Do Ya Want My Khan? The Shiny Happy People of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek

Can someone turn down the lights?

Can someone turn down the lights?

Ahhh…shit…(SPOILER ALERT!) I gave away a major spoiler of Star Trek Into Darkness in the title of the post!  Though, honestly, people, is it any surprise that Khan makes an appearance in part two of Abrams’ reboot series?  Following the trend of comic book films, it seems as if Abrams’ Treks will only be as good as their villains…which means this sequel is a slight notch above its overrated predecessor but is still a mish-mash rehash with nary an original idea to be found and completely void of the political allegory and societal mirror-holding that made the original series so…original.  I was a bit more invested in and entertained by this rehash as if you are going to rehash plots and villains, you might as well rehash the best.  I mean I can’t even remember the villain in the first film.

Though the DUN DUN DUN previews made it clear things were going to get more serious this time around, the film is inexplicably sub-titled Into Darkness…as there’s nary a moment of literal or thematic darkness to be found in the shiny happy continuation of Abrams’ shiny happy series.  Okay, okay, they do speak the words war and genocide, and alotta people die James Cameron-style when the ships get all blown up and stuff.  But you gotta hand it to a guy who just doesn’t give a damn.  If J.J. wants to do an opening nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark in a sci-fi film, well, by golly, he’s gonna jam that in there!  And if he wants to have his set designers craft an entire starship to be made of interior reflective surfaces so that his signature lens flares can go whole hog and burn your retinas…then damn it, Jim, he’s gonna do it!  And if he wants to stretch out certain emo-scenes Felicity style to the point of banality…then frick, he don’t need Keri Russell present to do that.  You see, J.J. is like that smart dorky crafty kid who grew up to be geek chic.  He’s completely hung up on the nostalgia Hollywood peddles, which has made him a golden boy in a town that loves to recycle all that is golden.  This means that many will find what he does pretty cool, but if you want anything deeper than re-imagined childhood reveries, then you better look elsewhere.

And although all the lens flares and explosions render certain action scenes incomprehensible, there are still some wondrous set pieces and stupendous special effects to be found here.  Continue reading

Super 8 or ET: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney in J.J. Abrams' Super 8

SPOILER ALERT! – MY WHOLE REVIEW IS ONE BIG SPOILER, SO READ WITH CAUTION!!!!! 
 
Oops…I think even my tongue-in-cheek title is a spoiler of sorts…sorry.  Yes, folks, we have an alien on the premises.

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.

A Review of “Cloverfield”

CAPTION:  Lizzy Caplan and Jessica Lucas were ready for their close-ups until that pesky monster came along.

Pretty Close to Something Terrible…, 21 January 2008
6/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

At one point during the mayhem of “Cloverfield” our jerky-jokey cameraman Hud (an annoying T. J. Miller) remarks that the monster ravaging New York City is “something terrible.” Well, “Cloverfield” is pretty close to something terrible, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny and loads of fun.

Taking cues from “The Blair Witch Project”, “Godzilla”, and our current YouTube/MySpace crazed youth oriented culture that believes everyone’s point of view deserves to be recorded, producer J. J. Abrams’ opportunistic “Cloverfield” operates at a mercifully quick clip to maximize entertainment value with a minimum of effort (and budget) while showing us allegedly top-secret video footage recovered after a massive monster attack on NYC.

Though barely ninety minutes long, we still have to suffer through an excruciatingly banal opening twenty minutes of vapid, spoiled twenty-somethings partying the night away before the monster strikes. There was a moment somewhere during this that I actually zoned out completely and found myself staring at the dark theater wall. The cast of unknowns thankfully contains a few people who might be able to act if given the chance in a normal film. Standouts include the painfully lovely Jessica Lucas as the feisty Lily and Zooey Deschanel look-a-like Lizzy Caplan as the sarcastic Marlena. These two young actresses acquitted themselves nicely while a group of anonymous and interchangeable actors playing stupid characters making bad decision after bad decision whirled around them. It made for one of those odd movie-going experiences where you actually start routing for certain characters to die in horrible ways while you hope the pretty girls make it out alive because, well, they’re cute.

As a gimmick film, “Cloverfield” is as shallow as they come. It’s also too silly and too much fun to end up mad about it. At least the idiot hand-held cameraman/character wants to see the monster and the destruction as much as we do. This leads to some great money-shots of the creature and its tour of terror through midtown Manhattan. It would’ve been more thrilling had I not seen very similarly designed creature effects in last fall’s “The Mist”. Like that film, “Cloverfield” certainly has its moments of giddy monster oriented fun, but it ultimately implodes and leaves behind a wreck of a movie that is pretty close to something terrible.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt1060277/usercomments-779