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Archive for May, 2009

#1541: Star Trek

Kevin told me this was like a delicious beer after being in the desert for a long time.   Kevin was right.

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This is how you do a summer blockbuster.

It’s by no means perfect, but Star Trek takes the original cast of characters and does more than reboot the franchise.   J.J. Abrams took a virtually lifeless franchise and managed to resuscitate it.   Then he gave it a makeover and taught it to tap dance.

While hardcore Trek fanboys may be wetting their pants in fury at the storyline, it puts Trekkies and newbies in the same place, storywise.  Nero, a bitter and furious Romulan, sees the destruction of his planet and travels back in time to inflict pain and suffering upon the person he feels is responsible for the death of his people.   Eric Bana as Nero is nigh unrecognizable but does a fantastic job as a smoldering villain who can only cling to his rage.   It is the only thing he has left.

Nero’s arrival in the past causes a schism and an ‘alternate reality’ forms, one that’s different in many ways from the Star Trek series.   Abrams and the writing team manage to keep it original and yet a fun, inspired homage to the ’60’s television show.   All the characters retain what fans loved the most about them, but veer in different paths than expected.  Spock and Uhura are makin’ out and Kirk’s daddy’s deader than a doornail; Scotty’s been assigned to a Hoth-esque ice planet when he meets up with Kirk and Chekov’s a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed lad of seventeen.   Sulu forgets to essentially disengage the parking brake the first time out of the docks.

Newbies to the Trek franchise will have no trouble keeping up.   Abrams and company didn’t forget about the old guard, though, and liberal references to the original series ranging from the obvious to the sly are sprinkled in throughout the movie.  (My personal favorite was the fact that any time a ship sustained a direct hit, Abrams cut to a scene of Engineering, complete with explosions and redshirts flying away from consoles.)

The casting director for this one deserves a raise.   Zachary Quinto’s Spock is a model of Vulcan logic and reserve with emotions barely visible in his eyes (at least until you get him around Uhura or insult his mommy).   Chris Pine nails Kirk’s cocky asshole bravado, right down to the smile and swagger.   Anton Yelchin makes a memorable mark as Chekov with about three minutes of screentime; John Cho makes Hikaru Sulu fucking badass as shit (who knew fencing was so cool?).   The real, real, real amazing cast member is Karl Urban, and thank god for that.   I’ve loved Urban for a really long time and it makes me sincerely happy to see him get a lot of accolades for playing an inspired Bones Mach II.   He gets some of the funniest lines in the whole thing – lines which could have come off as enormous clunkers in the wrong hands, but nails everything.   He was the audience favorite in my showing.  Zoe Saldana as Uhura is good, but I felt like something was strangely lacking.   I’m not sure what.  And Simon Pegg as Scotty is adorable – and his little friend, too.

Star Trek is great fun.   It has a little of everything mixed in the right amounts moved along at proper speed.   It is probably the only movie in my memory that an entire audience flooded out of a theater asking to go right back in – I even saw two guys go to a ticket counter to buy tickets for the next showing to see it again.   Never in my life have I seen people so uniformly giddy about seeing a movie AGAIN in the theater.   Everyone I know who has seen this film wants to go back, again and again and again.

This thing has got legs, that’s for sure.

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I can’t recall when I first saw The Day The Earth Stood Still, but I do reckon that it was most likely with my mom.  To say that my mother is enthusiastic about this movie is understating it a bit; I think it’s actually one of her favorites of all time.

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An alien spaceship lands in Washington, triggering fear and suspicion worldwide.   Out steps an alien, Klaatu, bearing an important message for all nations of the Earth.  Along with him is Gort, a sinister looking robot.   Humans mistakenly believe Klaatu may attack them, so they shoot him.  After he’s locked up inside a hospital, he escapes and blends in with Earthlings, learning more about our culture and ways before convincing a fellow scientist to have a meeting of the greatest minds on earth so he can spread his message to all nations equally.   The message?   Embrace peace or perish.

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The Day The Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi classic and with good reason:  it belongs to none of its knee-jerk, reactionary brethren of the decade.  (Them, anyone?)  Instead of being a frightful tale of how atomic power can go dreadfully wrong (duck and cover from those giant ants/spiders/creatures, kids), it’s a slow-burn tale of how we are the horrific ones.

Bad special effects aside, it’s the theme and central idea to the movie that still play to a modern audience.   The fear of outsiders, the fear of global destruction and the fear that we may not be the big fish in the food chain we perceive ourselves to be are all still very relevant – Soviets or no Soviets.  Klaatu’s indignant frustration at the stupidity of the people of Earth but kindly outlook on the mother and son duo that he befriends are exemplary of human traits, sure, but none of us had the power to reduce Earth to a cinder.

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The man in the silver rubber suit is no longer as terrifying as he once was, nor does Klaatu’s then high-tech spaceship strike anyone as being anything other than ultra-retro, but the disturbing, unsettling feeling that The Day The Earth Stood Still conveys is that we do have a choice – Klaatu or no Klaatu – to decide our own fate.  It is our own stupidity and as Klaatu puts it, our own irresponsibility that gets in our way.  It is our choice to be smarter or be a lot deader, even if there’s no giant alien robot around to police the hell out of us.

We still live with the threat of horrible things looming over us.  It’s no longer worrying about the Soviets dropping A-Bombs and the idea of the KGB looming large over the capitalist stronghold of America; now it’s militant religious terrorists, dirty bombs and bioterrorism.   To be typically crude:  same shit, different day.   In other words, Klaatu’s message is something that still resonates because we’re still behaving in the same fashion.   We can doom ourselves … or not.

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Arguably, while the humans are left with a choice to DON’T BE SO STUPID or DIE IN A MASSIVE FIRE, FOOLS, Patricia Neal is the initial savior of humanity.  It is she that gives Klaatu a chance; it is she that helps him evade capture and it is she that goes to Gort the giant robot and makes sure he A) doesn’t blow shit up everywhere to avenge Klaatu after he’s been killed and B) resurrects Klaatu.

In other words, Patricia Neal?  Is the shit.  Also, thanks to Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and some screenwriters, we have the immortal words the Evil Dead franchise ticks along on:   Klaatu barada nikto.

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My mom’s recollection of this is that it was really cool back in the day.  She was awed by the sound on the special edition.   One of the things that sells The Day The Earth Stood Still is the creepy, semi-disturbing music which runs to and fro through the film.   (Good job, music composer.)   She pointed out how freaking alien Michael Rennie (Klaatu) looks in his oversized suit and scary-lean figure.   And above all, the special effects still seem real to her, and I imagine the movie has a whole realm of meaning to her that it will never have to me, primarily because even though we live in times with fear, I never had the threat of having atomic bombs rained down on me by Nikita Khruschev.  (I also never lived next to a SAC base, which my mother also did, right when a bunch of Americans and Russians were thinking hard about pushing some little red buttons.)

I think it is this movie that gave me my love of sci-fi; not sci-fi for fantasy’s sake, but the kind of sci-fi that makes a larger point.   The Thing and other movies of that ilk all have bigger questions in mind than just what they are at face value and I think… I think this comes from early viewings of The Day The Earth Stood Still with my mom.

If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?

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There’s so much to tackle in a film like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, so let’s just … start with the name.

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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is exactly what the name implies plus more.   Jesus Christ returns to earth in Canada to protect lesbians from evil vampires hellbent on nomming on their blood.   If you think that’s crazy, well, that’s about one one-thousandth of all the insanity the movie has in store.

Jesus comes back and right off the bat, he’s fighting evil vampiric chicks.  But after he’s done there, he’s got time to get a haircut, get a piercing, squeeze in a song-and-dance number while simultaneously healing the sick and lame and come out looking like a member of Bad Religion.

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Say what you will, but that Jesus fellow is no slacker.

Jesus slowly amasses a group of followers, including devoted ass-kicking apostle Mary Magnum, to take on the Canadian vampire coven…thing.   Pretty soon it’s an all out battle to save the souls of the innocent with both sides locked in battle.   (And Jesus manages to kick the asses of twenty-odd atheists who show up to tell him to not-so-politely get the hell out of Dodge.)   Of course, it only makes sense that El Santos, the god of Mexican wrestling, would show up to lend a helping hand.  Right?

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Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is absurd fun.   Throwing back to the style of ’70’s kung-fu and exploitation, it’s great fun without being sleazy.   While some of the cinematic aspirations of the filmmakers fall short as there’s only so much you can do with a budget that would roughly pay for a ticket to Star Trek, the heart of the film is big.    Make no mistake, it’s definitely got moments where it’s clearly done on the cheap or by amateurs, but let’s face it:  professional stunt-people would’ve killed the allure of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.  Low-budget entertainment at its finest, this is the movie that those trailers for Grindhouse aspired to be and more.  I can’t say this movie is for everyone, but it will amuse and entertain a lot of folks.   (Troma never made low-budget flicks quite so fun.)

You can find it readily on Netflix and I’d say it’s worth the rental just for watching Jesus do a kicky song and dance number.   Don’t come for the plot or the action scenes or the brief moments of vampiric gore; come for the fun of watching a slice of inspired cinematic homage-cheese.

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All the movies I need to see in theaters between now and December 31st, 2009:

That’s just the ones I really, really want to see.   I know I’ll end up seeing others.    I, uh, just wish I had some sort of theater discount right now.   That would be … great.

Did I miss anything?

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Is The Great White Dope.  Yes, you, sir — you have won a copy of Speed with the Almighty Saint Keanu.

I’ll be sending you an e-mail shortly…

May giveaway to be announced halfway through the month as something wonderous is hitting DVD at about the half-month mark.

(Also, the last Worst Movie Ever winner?   Haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been delayed dropping yours in the mail…)

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No reviews tonight.  I’ve actually watched a fair amount of movies lately; Australia, Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation and other rewatches, but I haven’t had the bug to write them up.   Honest to God, I don’t know when I’d get the time to sit down and take notes on Australia.  Sucker is long.

So instead you get a mish-mash today of links and pretty pictures, as I try to get back into the swing of updating regularly.

Brief self-serving promotion:   You should follow me on Twitter.

Since I was just talking about Deadpool, here’s a hilarious Marvel/DC video – Deadpool and Watchmen:

I don’t know what kills me more; “I’m a Marvel – WHOA!” or the idea of a Rorschach/Deadpool sitcom.   Yes, it is funny and yes, you should watch it now.   I may have watched it multiple times and giggled like a freak every time.

New G.I. Joe trailer: Look, we all know by now this movie will be made of sweet cracky suck, but behold, Christopher Eccleston (the man will be a Hot Old Man Of The Month one of these months, I swear).   That cheesy effect of the Eiffel Tower degrading/falling over must not be the most insane thing in the movie for them to put it in the trailer.   I, uh, have no excuses for wanting to see this hot mess.

Slashfilm has new Inglourious Basterds posters for Pitt & Roth: Screw Brad Pitt, let’s look at ELI ROTH.

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I smell bad, bad Photoshop.   What in the name of sweet hell is going on with his face in that picture?   It’s like he’s a Ken doll.   Did they airbrush that scruff on?  Did they hire the guy who did the Zombie Wax Liam Neeson Taken poster to do this one?

New Star Trek Pictures: I wasn’t too excited for Star Trek originally; I know, that’s geek heresy and I deserve to be interrogated by a Klingon inquisitor or something.    After looking at these and hearing an early review from a friend, I’m ready to go see Star Trek. I’m taking my Star Trek loving mom for Mother’s Day to see this one.

Blah Blah Blah Blah District 9 Trailer: Consider me underwhelmed.  So underwhelmed, I might catch it on basic cable five years from now.

Final Girl talks about sucky ’89 horror: Say what you will, but I LOVES me some Deep Star Six.  Miguel Ferrer!   Mutant monster things!   I watched it a lot when I was a kid.   That, and The Abyss, I think, are my earliest childhood memories of underwater “monster” movies (let’s not get all cranky about The Abyss being a monster movie now, you know what I mean).

Jason from Invasion of the B Movies is writing a book. Which is awesome, and that’s pretty much all I gotta say about that.

Now, who can outgeek each other in the comments section, hmm?

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Jason Isaacs!

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This dude made an evil British army officer sympathetic in a sick way to a lot of American ladies, yes?   And how is it that he is so effing handsome in every movie that he’s in?   HOW?   I don’t know.   Recommendation:  If you haven’t seen Showtime’s Brotherhood,  you should, because Mr. Isaacs is wonderful in it.

He’s Lucius Malfoy!   He was also quite yummy in Event Horizon, which I like even though the rest of the known world hates it.   He’s nice as the good guy, but I think we can all agree that his voice, that eyebrow and the whole package are nice as a villain, hmm?   (He plays the best villains, yes.)

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