Posts Tagged ‘star trek

06
Jan
10

“heroes,” part one. [the many lists of 2009.]

First came the “villains,” now it’s time for my favorite “heroes” of 2009. This list is a bit more straightforward than its counterpart, but I still had lots of fun picking and explaining the characters I loved best. As is always the case, they are in no particular order, but I am publishing in two parts because it wasn’t coming along as quickly as I’d like.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it may be safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

1. Max – Where the Wild Things Are

Max isn’t just one of my favorite heroes this year, I can say quite honestly, and without hyperbole, that he is one of my favorite characters in the history of film. His character, in relation to his family and to the Wild Things, was so remarkable in how it captured and expressed what it means to be a human being.

Our hearts are, every one, filled with wild, dangerous and beautiful things. Max’s journey into his own heart was not just the journey of moving from childhood to adulthood, it is the continual journey of at once growing up and learning to stay childlike that each of us will be on for the rest of our days.

He is angry, sad and afraid, he feels alone and doesn’t understand why he keeps hurting those around him with his desperate and angry outbursts. So, he goes on a journey to learn about those things deep inside that don’t have words.

Max is trying to learn to hold his rage and his sorrow, his joy and his wild playfulness; he is trying to understand how beautiful and wounded his heart is and reconcile all of these disparate things as part of himself. He is learning to howl when he has no words, and how to come home and share in a love and a safety that doesn’t need to be spoken to be felt.

It felt as if Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze had looked deeply into my soul, into all the pain and blood I carry around from wounds that don’t heal, then, after looking and knowing deeply, named that soul Max and told a story of comfort and commiseration which expresses things which can only be articulated in fantastic stories of deep, troubling anger, as well as joyfully wild rumpus.

It is rare that a film or character comes along that has the power to make us feel less alone, more understood, and helps us understand ourselves better. Max, and Where The Wild Things Are did exactly that for me.

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2. The Crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise – Star Trek

The odds stacked against the reboot of the Star Trek franchise were considerable. One of the chief difficulties would be in the realm of casting. How on earth do you find new actors to take the rolls of a number of beloved characters? They need to be quickly likable, not an easy feat when one character has to be the lovably arrogant Captain James T. Kirk (that lovable arrogance quickly becomes your garden variety aggravating arrogance in the hands of the wrong thespian). The characters also need to honor the way the character was played before without simply imitating it, and to be successful commercially and critically, the cast needs to be people who get the franchise enough to keep the Trekkers happy, while also being accessible enough to please the masses.

The task is impossible, and yet, J.J. Abrams and company pulled it off gloriously! I enjoyed watching the crew of the Starship Enterprise do their thing as much as I enjoyed watching any other cast out there this year. Even on the third viewing, they were still delightfully entertaining. I hope it isn’t too long until Kirk, Spock and the gang return to give me another fix of that rebooted Star Trek goodness.

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3. The bad-ass, but nonetheless ill-fated Norwegians – Dead Snow

Normally, if you were to offer up the prospect of a bunch of young Norwegian medical students vs. a host of Nazi zombies, you wouldn’t put much money on the med students. And, while in the end they most certainly did each come to a terrible and gruesome demise, they certainly fucked up enough zombies to cover the spread.

For the most part, these kids knew their zombie rules, they fought with vicious and brutal tenacity, and even as they died one by one, it was almost never as the result of a stupid decision (like it always was in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), but merely a result of being grossly outnumbered by a militarily trained undead horde.

Basically, the film and its heroes are used as an apt representation of the wise, time-honored Norwegian proverb, “When life gives you zombies, grab a chainsaw or a snowmobile and tear some shit up.”

3(a). Columbus, Tallahassee, Little Rock and Wichita – Zombieland

While technically this is cheating, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss zombie-killers without mentioning our fine, young American friends from Zombieland. They instructed us all on the necessity of adhering to some all-important survival rules for the zombie apocalypse, and at the same time they found friendship and love, learned some valuable life lessons about the importance of family and community, and killed the fuck out of some zombies. All in all, a productive endeavor.

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4. Holmes and Watson – Sherlock Holmes

It’s not exactly a well kept secret that bromances are pretty popular right now. Yet, just because something is a fad doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable when it is executed well, as it is in Sherlock Holmes. The love affair between Holmes and Watson was immensely enjoyable to watch, thanks to the fantastic performances of both.

Yet, it was more than just the relationship between the two, each character functioned quite well on their own. On just about every level, I found the two dashing gentlemen great fun to watch, and it is a franchise that I can’t wait to see more of (but that is another post still to come). I’m pretty sure that if you don’t love Robert Downey Jr., your brain might be broken.

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5. Simon Foster – In The Loop

In the movies, more often than not heroes come ready made with a heaping dose of swagger, he or she is usually a capable and talented individual reinforced by the strength of their convictions and a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Even if the character doesn’t start off this way, the events of the film mold them into the hero we hope for, and when the moment of truth arrives, they shine. Yet, that isn’t really the way it works in real life is it? In real life, heroes usually look quite a bit more like Simon Foster.

Simon Foster is, to be kind, a bumbling, incompetent idiot. He is terrible at his job and everything that comes along with it, especially articulating his positions in a world of sound-bites. Yet, throughout the events of the film, he ends up bumbling his way, granted on a very roundabout and evasive route, into doing the right thing and standing up for truth. It happens almost by accident, but as a conscious choice nonetheless.

Unfortunately for Foster, that isn’t where the similarities to the real world end. Simon’s reward for doing the right thing is being unceremoniously chewed up and spit out by people far more diabolical, and far more competent than himself. His story ends in humiliation and defeat, and the war he tries to prevent happens anyway. He chose good over evil, and in the end had nothing to show for it. To be honest, I think there is something sadly beautiful about that.

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21
Sep
09

summer of movies. [five things. +3]

As the summer movie season is now long dead and gone, it’s long past the time to praise my favorite offerings from summer ’09. I’m the sort of moviegoer who loves the whole indie world, but feels just as home in a well-crafted summer movie. However, heading into the summer I wasn’t holding out much hope for too many strong movies. It is hard to look forward to the likes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which looked awful even in trailer form. It looks like this year was going to be a jarring letdown after last summer, in which we were spoiled with the likes of The Dark Knight and Iron Man. To my delight, while this summer wasn’t crammed with goodness week in and week out, there were still some movies I fell in love with. As always, I missed a bunch of movies I still look forward to seeing, so the list isn’t as exhaustive as I’d like.

1. Star Trek

For my money, you can’t have more fun at the movies than this. Just a week after the summer got off to a dismal start with a “story” which removed everything that makes Wolverine a great character, redemption came in the form of Star Trek. From start to finish the pleasure sensor in my brain was firing with wreckless abandon, and with a few forgivable exceptions, the film doesn’t require one to check their brain at the door.

Our group on opening night included, among others, my wife, who wouldn’t know Captain Kirk if he sat in her lap, myself, I’m not a huge fan but I enjoyed Wrath of Khan and First Contact as much as the next guy or gal, another friend who is a fairly big Star Trek fan, and Brian, who couldn’t watch trailers for the film without laughing out loud. As you can see, a diverse group in terms of expectations. In the end, everyone loved it.

For me, it didn’t take very long, by the time the opening segment ended and the title and logo graced the screen for the first time, I turned to Emily and whispered, “Holy shit, that was fucking awesome.” Flat out fun storytelling, right out of the gate. It kept going strong from that point on, quickly joining Iron Man and Batman as franchises in which I am itching for the next installment.

If you haven’t seen Star Trek yet, you most definitely should.

Star Trek Crew Banner

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2. Up

After a few more weeks in which nothing thrilled me at the movies, the film I was looking forward to most in the early summer months came out, Pixar’s Up. I’m always impressed with how well, and how consistently, Pixar tells a great story. Up was as good as anything Pixar has done to this point. The themes of loss, aging, death, loneliness and the redemptive power of loving others and being loved brought tears to my eyes more consistently than any other film in recent memory. I cried before the film’s story was even off and running, as Pixar offered a stunning montage of Carl and Ellie Fredrickson and their life together. Pixar is just so amazingly good at what they do, if you don’t like them, I think there might be something wrong with your brain.

Plus, if all the stuff I mentioned above isn’t enough, Ed Asner voices the crotchety but lovable old man. It doesn’t get more perfect than that folks, Ed Asner just happens to be America’s #1 crotchety but lovable old man. He was fantastic.

Plus, there are dogs with talking collars who fly planes, and there’s plenty of enjoyable action and comedy. The movie has everything. Come on! How could you not love Up?

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3. The Hangover

The HangoverWe laughed consistently and with volume, the unraveling of the mystery of what happened the night before effectively twisted the storytelling just enough to keep it from feeling like everything else out there, and we were entertained from start to finish. I don’t really ask for much more than that from a summer comedy.

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4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

There was a long stretch of weeks after The Hangover just waiting for Harry Potter. During that time, yes, I did go see Transformers 2, and yes, it really was as awful as you imagined. Fortunately, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was as good as I’d hoped.

harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-photo

I’m excited to see that David Yates continued the brilliant film making he started in Order of the Phoenix, it bodes well for what waits for us in Deathly Hallows 1 & 2. He certainly made some changes I could have done without, but all in all it seems like he gets what these stories are about and retains the symbols that stayed with me while reading the books. The imagery pointing to love being stronger than evil, resurrection, and light overcoming the darkness was on full display, as it should have been. Obviously, I can’t wait for 7.1!

5. (500) Days of Summer

500-days-of-summer

(500) Day of Summer seems to be one of those love it or hate it type films. As its presence on this list makes clear, I fall in the ‘love it’ category. It was different, quirky, and charming. I found the leads awkwardly likable in a way that made them feel like real people as opposed to the perfectly measured fake people in so many other romantic comedies, if that’s what you can call this movie.

It brought me back to college experiences where I fell into both categories on display in the film. It was everything I was hoping it would be, I loved it.

6. Paper Heart

Paper HeartLike the film listed above it, this was yet another film that was either loved or hated. The fact that I hated several movies that came out this summer assures me I’m not turning into one of those guys who loves everything that comes out. I just happened to love (500) Days AND Paper Heart. Sue me.

Part documentary, part scripted awkward love story, it brought something new to the table by combining elements that already existed. A mash-up of sorts that succeeded in creating a story at once charming and knowing. Also, I loved the segments in which they acted out the stories told by interviewees with puppets.

One complaint I heard was that the fact that the portions between Cera and Yi were scripted ruined the movie because it was a lie. First, it wasn’t a lie because they never pretended it wasn’t scripted outside of the actual film. Second, that’s the dumbest accusation I’ve ever heard… all movies are scripted, why on earth is it different because this script pretended to be a documentary. Does that mean This is Spinal Tap wasn’t hilarious and awesome?!? You’d better not say yes! Why should Paper Heart be faulted because they did a great job making the scripted moments feel genuine and authentic. Isn’t that what all movies are trying to do? Ugh, what a dumb problem to have with a movie!

The more common complaint about the film was that some felt Charlyne Yi was annoying. Fair enough, that’s bound to happen. In the immortal words of Trent “Some people don’t like me, I don’t like some people.” To each their own. I thought Yi was adorable and easy to love, and I felt the same way about Paper Heart.

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7. District 9

District 9As is the case for all of these movies, to really get into all that I loved about this movie, I would need a whole blog post. As my blogging infrequency makes clear of late, that’s just not something I have time to do at the moment. However, suffice it to say that this is another film that did something for a small enough amount of money that they were actually able to tell an engaging story. Without a studio paying careful attention to where each of their many millions was going, Neill Blomkamp was free to tell a sci-fi story without worrying about Happy Meals and action figures. Thus, it was able to be all the things science fiction should be, filled with commentary on real life issues and events, along with warnings about what human beings are capable of, for good and for evil.

I know the film has gotten plenty of critical acclaim, as is evidenced by the 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but even so, Sharito Copley’s performance as the lead simply has to be referred to as underrated. It was brilliant. The way he incarnates the metamorphosis from coward to hero, the way he made me feel it as his transformation from human to alien actually made him truly human for the first time was nothing short of brilliant. I loved his performance, and I loved District 9, even if the advertising did give away the climax of the movie.

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8. Inglourious Basterds

Whenever I say I have moral qualms with a movie I can’t help but feel taken back to those early evangelical days when I it was seen as sinful to watch R-rated movies (unless that movie is The Matrix or The Passion of the Christ). However, I do in fact have moral qualms with the reality that Tarantino seems to have completely bought in to the myth of redemptive violence, and more importantly, there are two key moments in the film that seem to revel in violence toward women. Maybe I misread those scenes and they are meant to be horrifying, but instead that’s not what I got at all. So, my appreciation of the film was certainly tempered a bit.

Maybe the reasons listed above should have kept me from loving Inglourious Basterds altogether, but instead they simply kept my from buying in with my whole heart. So many scenes in this film just sucked me in. Tarantino knows how to do what he does, from the tension tinged with humor of the opening moments, to the overwhelmingly cool scenes littered throughout the rest of the film, there are simply no two ways about it, Tarantino can craft a mood and a moment. The look, the feel, the remarkable grasp of how to use music to the effect he wants. That’s his shtick and he does it oh so well, for me, this may be the best he’s ever done it.

In addition to that, I love great performances, and I love great villains. I got a great performance from several different actors, while getting both the performance and the villain from the bone-chillingly remarkable Christoph Waltz. So many performances lit up the screen, Christoph, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, even BJ Novak was great in his first big role that wasn’t on The [American] Office.

The day after I saw the film, I found myself tempted to head back to the theater to see it again. It was a great film to close out my summer.

Inglourious Basterds

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(Movies I missed this summer, but most hope to see soon: The Limits of Control, Away We Go, The Hurt Locker, Moon, Public Enemies, Cold Souls)

The fall/winter movie season looks quite promising, so hopefully I’ll be back at the movies soon.


25
Nov
08

trailer park tuesday. 11.25.08

The Wrestler

“I’m an old broken down piece of meat, and I deserve to be all alone. I just don’t want you to hate me.”

Who’s Involved?:

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Robert D. Siegel

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

What is it?: Mickey Rourke is an aging professional wrestler making his way through the independent circuit. He is a man dealing with the passage of time, the consequences of his decisions, and looking for the hope of redemption and new life.   

Why I’m Interested: I seriously thought about letting this trailer stand alone this week. The buzz is sensational, and it looks like Mickey Rourke will again remind us of what could have been had his life gone differently.

Star Trek

“Buckle up.”

Who’s Involved?:

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, (based on the work of Gene Roddenberry)

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho…

What is it?: In the age of re-imagined franchises, Star Trek is the latest to get the treatment. We start from scratch for the first voyage of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.     

Why I’m Interested: The beginning of the trailer is pretty lame in my opinion, but J.J. Abrams is running the show in this audacious undertaking, and that’s at least worth something. I’d probably have to be given a reason not to see this one as opposed to the other way around.

For those of you, like myself, who are novices to all things Trek, you might want to check out this lovely article over at Cinematical.

Coraline

“You could stay here forever. There’s one tiny thing you need to do.”

Who’s Involved?:

Director: Henry Selick

Writer: Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman

Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Ian McShane, Teri Hatcher

What is it?: A young girl who dreams of finding a better world stumbles upon a doorway to an alternate version of her own life. At first, it seems this world might be exactly what she was hoping for, but (to borrow a line from True Blood), it just might be Satan in a sunday hat.    

Why I’m Interested: Make an imaginative film where the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas tells a darker fairy tale, then throw in the involvement of Neil Gaiman as a bonus, and what you’ve got is me buying a ticket to see your movie.

Astro Boy

Who’s Involved?:

Director: David Bowers

Writer: Osama Tezuka, Timothy Harris

Voice Cast: Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Nicolas Cage

What is it?: Based on the popular Japanese manga and cartoon series which has had many manifestations from the 50’s right up until the 2000’s, Astro Boy is about a robot boy who fights bad guys… that’s about all I know.    

Why I’m Interested: There is a good chance my interest will wane as time passes and I learn more, but there is a cult following that loves the old cartoons, and I’m a sucker for slick animation. So, for now, color me interested.




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