Franchise Frenzy with Star Trek Beyond and Jason Bourne

It wouldn’t be the summer movie season without franchise entries galore, and although I proudly shirk most, two series I have always enjoyed are Star Trek and Jason Bourne. The latest episodes opened on back to back weekends and both are entertaining, serviceable entries providing escapism that hit all their required marks. But it was interesting to see how one was almost undone by its director’s ambition with action sequences, while the other was so taut and perfectly executed in its action as to take the film to another level. If Justin Lin’s smash-and-grab acrobatic incoherence is the perfect example of what not to do with action sequences, then Paul Greengrass’ intense hand-held location shooting is the masterclass of modern action direction.

Star Trek Beyond Damnit Jim Its Bright In Here

Being with the same cast for the third time around gives Star Trek Beyond a nice lived-in feel. We know the characters so well, as these actors have come into their own doing great jobs with Simon Pegg’s scripted witty and goofy banter that harkens back to classic Treks, especially Karl Urban as Bones. The plot is pretty basic. And since it seems like The Enterprise needs to get destroyed every time now, they wisely dispense with this in the beginning when the crew crash lands on an uncharted planet after having fallen into a giant space booby-trap. On hand as the villain, is a growling Idris Elba who seems to be the go-to guy for villains with crazy accents these days. The flick is fun and quick paced, and the special effects (especially the giant space station/city Yorktown) are colorful, bright and dazzling.

I was happy to see J.J. Abrams move on from the franchise, but Justin Lin was not the right choice to replace him. Lin made quite a name for himself orchestrating some of the most gleefully over-the-top car/truck/tank/plane/whatever smash-em-ups in the otherwise brain-dead Fast & Furious franchise. Sadly, his flair for the outlandish stunt doesn’t translate as well into space.   Continue reading

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

The 4th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2009:

Once upon a time…

…in 2008, while the world economy went into a tailspin, Hollywood delved into super-depressing, self-important mode and the Davies Awards asked sourly, “Why So Serious?”

But then the Brothers Coen and Quentin Tarantino looked around with their impish grins and wondered, “Why can’t we be a little serious but have fun, too?”  Meanwhile, The King of the World, James Cameron awoke from a decade long hibernation to deliver us into a fantastic world we had never seen and finally made a film where 3D technology rose above gimmick status.  All the while, his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow masterminded the ultimate coup-d’etat.  Will a woman director finally take home Oscar…for a war film?

But these golden days seemed so far far away back in January…

2009 began ominously. The multiplexes seemed a dark abyss. Continue reading

The Summer of War

Superfluous slasher sequels and Labor Day mean one thing for filmgoers: the long summer movie season is finally coming to a close.  Though I did my fair share of grumbling and there were alarmingly more “Colon: Movies” than ever before, the summer of 2009 ended up being a fairly solid season.  The year as a whole has been eerily reminiscent of 1999 in that there have been a slew of top-of-the-line “niche” films and both art-house and multiplex offerings have been more thoughtful than usual by delivering subtext and social commentary with their cliches, laughter, violence and gore.  Whether any of these films will matter ten years from now is hard to tell.  Looking back on the summer trends, I think I’ll always remember this 2009 season as the summer Hollywood went to war. Continue reading

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.