Summer Movies - We are having our second good stretch of warm weather here in New England marking the start of summer. Of course we all know that the Summer movie releases start out in May, trying to get a jump on the competition, each hoping to be that next great blockbuster. So which one do you give your money to. How much does the trailer affect weather you see the film? Is the actress or the actor the reason you plop down your $12 (or so)? With so much hype with many of these films can they ever live up to the lofty expectation they themselves set so high? I generally avoid the summer glut of big budget high action films but I have to say this year I have already been dragged into several. Here are some thoughts on the ones I have seen.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)- I really resisted this film after having long talks with friends about the difference between an actor playing a role and an actor playing a portrayal of another actor. Star Trek falls into this later category with several characters being
beloved and expectations being high and the current actors mimicking the
characters played by the other people in the original series. It a
tricky game being played by the film makers here.You have some guys playing a role like Chris Pine as Kirk, or Zoe Saldana as Uhura you can't accuse them of mimicry because his playing of Kirk is so different from William Shatner that he can be said to be playing Kirk as he Chris Pine sees the character. On the other hand Spock and Bones played by Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are merely acting the way they have seen Leonard Nemoy and DeForest Kelley did the roles in the past. Is it honest acting like an existing character? I found it bothered me more this time than in the first film where it was sort of novel. Also because this is the route they took the actors are stuck playing those roles that way if the franchise continues. Then there is Simon Pegg as Scotty who has been written into the films as comic relief. He is just a caricature of the Scotty character from the original series played by James Doohan. So with trepidation my daughter and I went in to see the latest installment. They are relaunching a universe with a rabid fan base so in some ways need to keep many of the Star Trek elements in place. While at the same time they are taking the storyline in a completely different direction. They want to use the history created by the original series while at the same time rewriting it. In the end I think they win because they are making money. This film is a giant action film and it is pulling in the money, as of June 23rd $216,611,000
(USA). The story brings back a classic Star Trek character to play the bad guy but in doing so completely trashes the history of the television series. On one hand selling this film on the shoulders of the series but then saying we should ignore the history that took place on that series. So we have our bad guy. Then there are several real problems in the film. One is that it was incredibly predictable the trail of clues needed to make the film flow were too obvious and thus there really was no big turn in the film. The question posed by the film is when a person conducts an act of terror and destruction, one in which loved ones were lost, is it at that point acceptable to go find and kill the perpetrator of that crime? Of course that question was answered well before the final sequences of the film, really by the end of the second act. Then the third act ends up creating more problems for the future of the series instead of just solving the problems of the film. Primarily is the frozen people with the magical blood which saves Kirk but leave a whole lot of questions that I won't go into here. When the film was done and the lights went up in the theater, my daughter looks over to me and says "Well that sort of sucked." I am not going to say that myself, to an extent I was entertained. I was annoyed at times with the characters and the strange dialog where characters argue during the most life threatening times, and really pissed at the comic relief of the film. It really is one of my biggest pet peeves about action movies since the 80s, it seems every one of them feels the need to relieve tension with some sort of comedy bit. At least for me it just takes all the edge of your seat tension and throws it away, taking me out of the film. I hate that and wish it would stop. Star Trek: Into Darkness works as a Summer film but it certainly has its flaws.
This is the End (2013) - My family almost never agrees on a movie to see as a group, with my wife Elisa preferring uplifting films or heart felt romantic comedies. My daughter on the other hand likes more teen oriented fair with some action and horror on occasion. I usually stick to horror but love science Fiction and also see an action film when I am in the mood. So when we all bent a bit and agreed to see this silly comedy it was a rare event. The story centers around the relationship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel who were both on Freaks and Greeks together at the turn of the century. In fact several of the players were on that show including James Franco and Jason Segel but the story centers on the gap in the friendship between Rogen and Baruchel since Rogen became more famous and moved to Los Angeles. They all end up at a party at James Franco's house and comedy ensues. Then there is the whole fact that the world is ending and its the book of revelation end of the world. The supporting cast is excellent including Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson the comedy is funny and rude. As with all comedy there are bits that hit and ones that miss. There really is no predicting, will the audience find the cumming all over the house argument funny? How about Michael Cera as coke head? What about the uncomfortable relationships between Jay and the "new " friends Rogen has? We all laughed at parts of this film and I think the consensus was that it was pretty funny most of the time. Taken for what it is, a funny relationship, end of the world movie with some commentary on the shallow nature of Hollywood relationships and how success changes existing friendships.
World War Z (2013) - I just saw this yesterday so of all the films here this is the one where my thoughts are most raw. This is a Brad Pitt vehicle all the way, most of the actors are far less known than him and the story focuses strictly on him and the red shirts that happen to be with him in each sequence. This is an end of the world scenario where a virus immediately infects people bitten by an infected person. We start the film with Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his family, wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters Constance (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) as they experience the outbreak in Philadelphia. The action pieces in the beginning of the film are worth the price of admission as the family first flees Philly and then is rescued at the last second from the roof of an apartment building in Newark NJ. Gerry a field investigator for the UN is needed to try to figure out the origin of the virus that is quickly decimating the major cities of the world and beyond. The secondary story is that of Gerry not wanting to leave his family at the end of the world but also knowing the best way to keep them safe is to figure this thing out. So off he goes on a world wind tour of Korea, Israel, and Great Britain before finally having some resolution. Now each place has its action scenes with the Korean one making no sense to me, the Israel one pissing me off and the WHO facility in Great Britain being inevitable. My primary problem comes with the Korean one where they fly in looking for patient zero, the entire sequence takes place at night in the rain and even with the time constraints placed by the virus it seem really poor decision making to me to not wait until daylight to do their business. Instead they risk the entire operation and lose there primary virus doctor, Andrew Fassbach (Elyes Gabel) in an incredibly unintentially funny way. On top of that they introduce a decent character Capt Speke (James Badge Dale) give him a bit of personality, just to kill him off, bastards.
Gerry is the luckiest person on the planet, getting his family out of two major cities during the outbreak, Surviving the silly night time maneuver in Korea, surviving the crazy CGI filled swarming of Israel, living through an outbreak on a plane and then recovering from injuries when the planes crashed to make it to the WHO facility, then avoiding 80 zombies and figuring out how to fight back against the plague using himself as the Guinea pig. Over the course of the film he still finds time to check in with his family. What a guy! Now don't get me wrong this is not a bad movie director Marc Forster seems to know how to do action and it is pretty compelling throughout. He is a competent director with impressive credits including Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner and Quantum of Solace. I will certainly give this film another viewing when it comes out on DVD.