Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Do you think this counts as hate speech?

May 7, 2009

As noted below, I went to see the new Star Trek movie earlier tonight. I strode into the theater, sat in a choice location near the center, and what did I see? Some high school age kids filing in. In costume.

In Star Wars costume.

Here I am waiting to see Kirk and Spock pummel each other (like in the trailer), and I see Jar Jar Binks, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia sit in front of me, waving their cheap plastic light sticks at each other. I almost tapped one of them on the shoulder to remind them what movie they were about to see.

I mean, what’s with that? Can’t we all just live in peace, without provoking each other with antagonistic cosplaying? They’re lucky I didn’t have my phaser. I would have set it to “melt fanboys.”

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Star Trek Babies Vs. the Hard Rock Romulans

May 7, 2009

Seriously, they’ve got shaved heads, tattooed faces, and they wear Army green bomber jackets. These Romulans are effin’ metal.

I just returned for an unhoped-for opportunity to see Star Trek before its ostensible opening day tomorrow. Being a huge Star Trek nerd for as long as I can remember, I’ve been looking forward to this movie with an uncomfortable mix of excitement and trepidation for well over a year, and while I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, it was definitely not what I expected.

What I expected, at the least, was a sort of analog of the recent superhero movies: an introduction to the characters, against an impending calamity that introduces them to each other. This it was, right down to John Cho as the slightly less baritone but kickass younger version of Sulu. Also on par with my expectations, and awesome, was the look and feel of the film. Unlike the six movies starring the original cast, much of the visual and sound design was clearly inspired directly by the original TV show. That, and the ludicrous hand-to-hand fight scenes.

As much as the film was true to the source material, however, it mangled up canon in an enormous way. I won’t say much more about it, because if you care enough to be reading this post, you’ll be seeing the movie anyway, but trust me. J.J. Abrams and the lot mean a lot more than you think when they call this a “franchise reboot.”

Lest I confuse, I loved the movie, and I’ll likely be seeing it again. Having said that, I wouldn’t be a true fanboy if I didn’t rant for a while about some minor glaring inconsistencies with canon and reality for a few paragraphs. You’ve been warned!

First off, I wonder if I’m alone in thinking that Spock’s dialogue was a bit wooden. Of course Spock has always spoken in a formal manner, but with precision and a characteristic distinction. Either this was missing with Quinto’s Spock, or I’m just not used to the new voice and I want to make more of it than that.

Next, red supergiants go supernova. Big, big stars that have already depleted their fuel. Not pristine, yellow stars in the primes of their lives.

Third, what in the heck is an “inert reactant?” Didn’t anybody tell the set designers that that’s an oxymoron?

Fourth, I don’t know the requisite mathematics, but I would think that a black hole massive enough to devour an Earth-sized planet in under a minute would have a larger event horizon than the one in the movie. But I could be wrong.

And lastly, what’s with that thing that hangs around Scotty?

That’s enough for now. I’ll probably pick up more things to bore you with when I see it again, as I inevitably must. Let’s hope the next one has them boldly going where no one had gone before Picard came along.

New Star Trek Trailer

November 23, 2008

As with most things, I’m pretty late on this. The new Star Trek trailer has been up for almost a week now, after all. Still, I decided to hold off on writing my impressions until they’ve had time to gestate a bit. Now that they’ve reached full term, I’m finally ready to birth them into the world, with an ugly placenta to follow afterward. (How’s that for imagery?)

My first impression is that six months is an uncomfortably long time to wait. I’m a Star Trek fan, after all. I’d go see this thing if it were titled Star Trek: Klingons on Ice! (Come to think of it, that sounds pretty awesome.)

My second impression is one of trepidation. I’m of course not alone in this. The makers of this film are in a position to manhandle the very heart of Star Trek canon. By recasting the original characters and setting the film in their pre-Enterprise days, they are in a position to completely undo the foundation of the original stories, or even to start Star Trek over from scratch. (The former is known in Nerdish as “retconning.” The second has become known to those prone to fan-rage as a “reboot.”)

From what I’ve seen, J.J. Abrams and the rest don’t intend to let this happen. They intend to stay true to canon. And to their credit, the cast they’ve assembled so far seems to fit with that intention. None of them looks badly out of place in the shoes they’re trying to fill. (Except perhaps for the young James T. Kirk, but no amount of handsome young faces are going to fill those shoes.)

I like what glimpses of the design of the film I’ve seen. They have the bright, clean feel of the original series, with the high-tech gloss that a 1960’s TV budget couldn’t bring to bear. The starship design manages to be new and interesting, while also true to the aesthetic of the show. I’m nothing but excited by the design so far.

That leaves me with one last point of concern. I’m just old enough to have lived through about ten years of Hollywood revisitations of 1960’s and 1970’s TV shows. I’ve sat through enough Brady Bunches, Beverly Hillbillies, Dukes of Hazzard, and even Rocky and Bullwinkles to know that no decade of television is safe from being realized on the big screen, if the whiff of profit is on it. I fear that Star Trek will see this treatment. I fear that there will be too many moments of “Ooh, look how nice the Enterprise looks now!” too many CG-powered space battles, too many strings of technobabble (and “bairns”) and not enough attention to advancing our understanding of the original characters. This is not a rational fear, but I feel it nonetheless.

In any case, I’m extremely excited about this movie, and I’ll be first in line to see it when it opens. Maybe even in uniform. I’ve been known to be precisely that nerdy sometimes.

Harold and Kumar score one more for the US of A

August 24, 2008

I finally managed to see the new Harold and Kumar movie last week, and now that I’ve finished moving into my new apartment, I finally have the time to write a few things about it. I won’t attempt a review; the film is as endearingly wacky as its predecessor, if not as tightly plotted, but the reader has at her disposal any number of resources to learn more.

No, what I’d rather write is what I took to be the central message of the film, and why I found it so bad-ass wicked awesome. And also sweet.

Near the end of the movie, a pot-addled interpretation of a certain political leader (I won’t spoil it for the unitiated, except to say his name rhymes with “tush”) tells our heroes, “You don’t have to trust your government to be a good American. You just have to trust your country.” That may sound incredible coming at the end of a story about two young men wrongly interred at Guantanamo Bay, but it falls squarely at the heart of the matter, both in the movie and in the real world.

The basic outlilne of the government of the United States is enshrined in the Constitution. In a very real sense, the Constitution is the United States, because therein are laid out the principles upon which the nation is built: rule by the people, equal protection under the law, freedom of expression, et cetera. When the character mentioned above calls on us not to trust our government, he is reminding us that the tenets of governance prescribed in the Constitution are not perfect, and that they are not set in stone. When he tells us, however, that we are to trust our country, he is calling us to place our faith in the principles upon which the government must ideally rest, central among which is the ability to amend and improve them.

In the midst of the diarrhea jokes and pot binges, the Harold and Kumar movies are at heart a love letter to the United States of America. In spite of all the adversity, both realistic and absurd, that our heroes face, they never fail to stand up for their right to pursue their dreams. In the US, it is true in principle that anyone, whether their ancestors be European, African, Korean, Indian, or Neil Patrick Harris, can achieve their aims. It’s on all of us to create a nation where this is true in fact as well.

ILL: I Laughed a Little

June 22, 2008

Such acronyms proliferate throughout The Love Guru, which, despite nearly universally negative reviews, I wound up watching yesterday due to circumstances beyond my control. I sat through an hour and a half of jokes about penises, farts, boogers, testicles, poop, and probscine copulation. And you know what?

I actually sort of almost enjoyed it. Kinda.

Certainly, there was hardly any plot to speak of, and that wisp of story was so often lost among the random juvenile silliness that it was impossible to care about it. And yes, Myers’ flailings, ramblings, and winks at the camera were often far more pandering than ingratiating. Further, every shot with Verne Troyer is filled with such senseless slurs and violence that I choked more often than I laughed. Even a small part by one of my personal heroes, Stephen Colbert, was painful and unfunny. Amidst all that, I still found something to enjoy. The secret?

Very low expectations.

I didn’t expect to be drawn into an engrossing story. I didn’t expect to meet quirky, original characters. I only expected wave after wave of sophomoric toilet humor, and boy, did the film deliver on that! I was a bit embarassed more than once at what set me laughing. Here’s an example: at one point, to help the Toronto Maple Leafs’ star player “revert to his childhood,” Myers makes sustained diarrhea noises in a coffee cup. I thought that was hysterical. I should not be allowed in public.

In short, I can’t recommend that anyone spend ten dollars on this movie. However, if you find yourself roped into it like I did, you might as well enjoy what dumbed-down silliness there is to be had. Remember the old adage: “If you have no expectations, you will never be disappointed.”

Oddly enough, those words don’t show up in the movie.

It is not canon

May 28, 2008

I learned a few years ago that two movies would follow the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One would be an adaptation of The Hobbit, which is so exciting as to set my nerdly demeanor all atwitter. To see Bilbo in his prime; to see Smaug meet his end; to see the Dwarves and their Thief steal into the heart of Erebor, the Loney Mountain; to see the Battle of Five Armies… Such a treat seems almost excessive, after how wonderfully true and moving the LotR movies were. But it is not the forthcoming Hobbit movie that moved me to write this post.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard. Another movie will be released the year after The Hobbit. This one will concern itself with events that took place in the sixty years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It will track the actions of certain (not yet specified) characters from LotR, to bridge the gap between the two. In other words, it will be making stuff up.

Tolkien wrote very little about those sixty years. Some was set down in the Appendices to LotR, such as the attempt by the Dwarves of Erebor to retake Moria, and some was hinted at in both The Hobbit and LotR, such as the White Council’s actions against Sauron in Mirkwood, Gollum’s imprisonment in Thranduil’s caves, and Aragorn’s fighting alongside the men of Gondor under a false name. The essential point, however, is that these are all short snatches of story or simply vague hints. Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, and everyone else behind the project will be cobbling these snatches together, along with their own fabrications, into a narrative for the film. They’re going to retcon Tolkien.

Penny Arcade linked to a transcript of a chat session between fans and Peter Jackson, the producer of the two films, and Guillermo del Toro, the director. Both are obscenely talented people, and i have no doubt they will bring all their expertise to bear on this product. I’m just concerned about what this means for Tolkien’s legacy. On the one hand, he is one of the greatest authors of all time. He constructed an entire world, one with a history that lives and breathes, that can be pored over with just as much fascination as the histories of the peoples who live and who have lived in our own world. It should be near instinctual to wish to protect that creation, to ensure that no one else trivializes Tolkien’s vision by inventing new stories for time-honored characters. On the other, Tolkien created a full and vibrant world, and perhaps it would not be so harmful if people of great talent explored that world in ways that the original author did not think to.

I am on the fence. I will remain there, happily containing my fanboyish malcontent, until the film comes out. Rest assured that if it falls short of my expectations, I will be online within moments, registering my disgust throughout the world.

Similarities

May 24, 2008

All right, first of all, spoiler alert. And I ain’t talkin’ about cars.

It struck me today why I enjoyed the new Indiana Jones movie so much. The ending, while superficially ludicrous, is nearly identical, point-for-point, to the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let me take you through it:

  • Mythical object of immense power. In Raiders, this was the Ark of the Covenant. In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the object was, of course, a jade hockey mask. Just kidding. In both movies, the objects were of uncertain origin and nature, and their power was virtually unlimited. And in both movies, that power was lusted after by a dark power from the bowels of history. (Apologies to any Russian readers.)
  • Indy’s instinct for avoiding trouble. Throughout most of both movies, Indy seems to run headlong into danger rather than avoiding it, but at the end, he instinctively knows not to entangle himself with the artifact’s power. In Raiders, he knew not to look into the Ark as it was opened. In Crystal Skull, he knew instinctively to get away from the interdimensional portal. In neither film is he at all tempted by the power of the object, and so in both films he is delivered from it.
  • Face-melting fun. Watching Nazis’ faces melt was perhaps the best part of Raiders. Similarly, it was hard not to cheer in campy delight when Cate Blanchett’s eyes exploded just before she melted into dust. Take-home lesson: if you mess with the black arts, you won’t be pretty no more.
  • Wide-open ending. We were told very little about the Ark. Was it really a conduit to God, or just an object of great material power? What happened to it after it was sealed in that warehouse? (That question, for good or ill, was answered somewhat in Crystal Skull) Similarly, we learn very little of the aliens who left their shiny skeletons behind. Much is left to the imagination.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark was a truly great adventure movie, with a breathtaking climax of an ending. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull perhaps doesn’t reach the same height, but it follows the same path, and is better off for it.

    I promise this will be the last post about it!

Life is still worth living

May 24, 2008

The title may seem a touch melodramatic, but it isn’t. It was touch and go for a while there. It all hinged on one outcome, which, had it gone ill, would set all worth and meaning spinning down the drain. The chain was taut, and the plug slipping. What would happen?

All is well. The new Indiana Jones movie is oh so good.

It opens as every good Indy movie does: with danger. Guns are raised, bullets are loosed, and good men fall beneath the colors they swore to defend. Despair falls.

Then, the hat, and we are saved.

The new film has all the action sequences, all the exotic setpieces, all the pseudo-mystical babble of the previous films, and all of it is executed with a breathless, swashbuckling glory. Indy bludgeons himself against one impossible situation after another, all while the familiar refrain washes over him. The wisecracking supporting characters, the unsettling villain, they’re all there. This is an Indy film through and through.

There is much that is new to the series here as well. It takes place in the 1950’s rather than the 1930’s, and appropriately is peppered with Elvis Presley, diners, atomic weapons tests, and full-on Red Scare hysteria. When Cate Blanchett’s femme fatale describes her dream of a weapon that will turn Americans over to the Soviet mindset from within, without their even knowing it, she captures the hysterical fear of those days that anyone, any neighbor, teacher, co-worker or passerby, could be a godless Commie. All these references give the movie a solid sense of time and place, just as the Nazi threat did for the first and second films.

There is much silliness to be had, of course. The final act is a billowing crescendo of silliness, building to a climax so powerfully silly that it requires conscious effort not to wonder what “interdimensional” could possibly mean. But even through the improbability and bewilderment of it, Indy is there, grounding us in his calm reality and letting us share in his awe, and his triumph.

My fears were allayed, my hopes were rekindled. It isn’t so much that Indy is back. It’s that he is back, and back in proper form. The alternative to that would be unspeakable.

In other words, it’s good. Go see it.