J.J. Abrams may be a famous/millionaire/ brilliant director but I don’t envy his job. He must of had a lot on his mind while directing Star Trek Into Darkness.
1. Keep Star Trek relevant among Marvel, Superman, Spiderman, Hobbit, Batman and Bond franchises.
2. Keep all the spoilers under wraps
3. Keep the new Star Trek fans happy.
4. Keep Star Wars fans from turning on him.
5. Keep Trekkies happy by appreciating the Star Trek lore and adding to it.
6. Keep Benedict Cumberbatch’s fans happy.
7. Keep all the young and successful actors happy by giving them juicy roles.
JJ Abrams succeeded on all fronts and Trek has another fantastic entry to it’s cannon. Abrams infuses Into Darkness with his brand of chic geek and has guaranteed millions of dollars will continue to be spent on merchandise, blu-rays and fan fiction. The film excites, invents and builds a brave new world. Abrams and crew (Kurtzman, Orci, Lindelof) have also given Kirk a fantastic villain to battle for years to come. Benedict Cumberbatch mixes intelligence with a sleek physicality as John Harrison. The best part about his bad guy is that he unites the Enterprise crew into a cohesive whole.
The film revolves around Cumberbatch’s character setting off an explosive chain of events that kills Kirk’s mentor and threatens the universe to intergalactic battle. Kirk blindly seeks revenge and endangers and alienates many on his crew. The results are disastrous, shields go down and Kirk learns to rely on his team. The main relationship in Trek is that of Kirk and Spock’s blossoming bromance. The two are polar opposites and they learn that is what makes them a great team. Also, Kirk figures out that Scotty may be a pain but he is often right, Sulu is a formidable leader, Uhura has untapped knowledge, Bones can fix anything (bomb or bone) and Checkov can fix something that is irrevocably broken.
My only complaint is with the 3D. I wish Checkov could have done something with it. . I’ve watched a plethora of films in 3D (Hugo, Avatar, Life of Pi being the best) and this was the only film that hurt my eyes. I am no expert in the technology yet I know that no movie has hurt my eyes like Trek did. There was a murky/dark feel and I barely noticed the third dimension. It didn’t add to the world so you shouldn’t pay the extra money.
The toughest aspect when writing about this film is not giving away the spoilers. I’ve read some reviews that are cavalier in giving away the minutia of the film. Normally, giving away small aspects of a film is not a problem. However, with Star Trek the small details can give away massive spoilers that will wreck the fun of moviegoers. You know certain films will happens in the Trek universe. Ships will explode, Kirk will hook-up with green aliens and somebody will be beamed. However, you shouldn’t know what ship will blow up or who will get beamed up. Abrams and Bad Robot have rejuvenated a boring series and introduced us to an old world that is home to the great unknown.
If you liked the 2009 Star Trek you will enjoy this film. If you are a Star Wars fan do not worry because your galaxy is in good hands. If you think Cumberbatch is the greatest thing ever you will continue to think he is the greatest thing ever. I can’t wait for Sherlock season three.
John’s Horror Corner: Boys Against Girls (2012), a female empowerment film written and directed by a man…hmmmm
MY CALL: A female empowerment revenge film made by a man? Hmmmm… I don’t think a female director would have made her shorts so short. It was decent but hard to describe in a few sentences. I recommend it to fans of the extreme (e.g., Hostel or Sawmovies). IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: I Spit on Your Grave (1978, 2010),The Descent (2005), A Perfect Getaway (2009) and Thelma and Louse (1991) all do better jobs of showing us strong female roles in which the actresses are completely credibly tough.
Our male writer/director (Austin Chick) piles the female oppression on pretty hard. We first find Shae(Scream Queen Danielle Panabaker; Piranha 3DD, The Ward) in some sort of feminist women’s studies class talking to her classmate about her married boyfriend who’s about 15+ years her senior. After he breaks things off she feels lost without her unhealthy relationship as she fends off unwelcome advances at work (as a night club bartender) and sneaks off to cry about the loss of this loser. As if she didn’t already have a big enough deficit of self worth, Shae is always dressed in very short shorts or snug tiny skirts.
Lu (Nicole LaLiberte) works at the same bar, but she handles her shallow clientele with more assertiveness; she won’t be bullied or taken advantage of by men. She wants to help Shae feel better so they go out for a night of drinks and dancing. But when one thing leads to another, Shae finds herself alone with a man in a situation where “no” has little weight. As if that wasn’t bad enough–and ALL of this has happened in just one day so far–Shae’s day gets much worse with! After that which would undeniably be considered the worst day of her life, she can’t even report the multiple assailants without being called “sweetheart” by a dismissively skeptical cop who says “you look fine to me.”
Yeah, laying it on a little thick, huh?
Nicole LaLiberte does a solid job as the vengeful, sociopathic and sultry Lu. She kills a man in a cringingly brutal manner and just looks him in the eye, watching as he dies. She plans murders with the same calm deadpan demeanor one would have while reading the nutrition information off of a Captain Crunch cereal box. The yin to Lu’s yang, Shae is clearly the shy one, but she’s along for the ride willingly and finds her murderous footing quickly. The two of them embrace their vengeful actions–not as righteous, but simply “right” as if they had no other cares or sense of consequence in the world.
They have some funny moments. The delivery of their homicidal discussions provides a great dark comedy appeal in a few scenes. The gore element is present and there’s even a brief dash of torture, but it’s not celebrated as it is in the Hostel movies. We still get gummy detoothed mouths, some dismemberment, and exit wound splatters, though.
I’m having a hard time swallowing the pro-feminism while she’s in those short shorts.
The female empowerment is often credible, but at times, a bit over the top. For example, Lu physically handles herself way too well for someone who’s probably never lifted anything heavier than a 6-pack and is a crackshot with a handgun and we have no reason to find that credible. However, anyone who watches this movie wants to see brutal and clever death scenes and likely wouldn’t be too troubled with this shortcoming.
On the topics of female empowerment and death scenes, that’s all we see. Unlike crime thrillers, this movie does not alternate between the killers’ agenda and the police detectives tasked with the investigation of their bloody wake, there are no chase scenes and our “protagonist” murderesses make no effort to evade their pursuers (which we have no knowledge of, if they exist) or to cover their tracks or wipe their fingerprints from the crime scene. No. This movie is about two girls avenging how they’ve been wronged.
This was a female empowerment revenge film made by a man. It wasn’t bad. But…hmmmm…I don’t think a female director would have made Panabaker’s shorts so short or LaLiberte’s lesbian-driven nudity soooooo, well–naked. LOL.
It’s still a fun romp, though.
What I love about Upstream Color is that it lives and dies with it’s creator. Shane Caruth (Primer) directed, produced, wrote, cast, shot, designed, edited and scored Upstream Color. Steven Soderbergh called him “the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.” When asked to describe his film to the Austinist he said this:
I absolutely don’t want to describe it. Which is why I am so grateful to be able to cut the trailers and teasers and posters and all that stuff. I would rather cut a thousand bits of media that explained what’s going on totally than do a synopsis. The synopsis that we were sort of forced to do is: “a man and a woman are drawn together and tangled in the life cycle of an ageless organ.” That is the best that I could do
The movie has an abstract loveliness that fills the senses and pours beautiful images over you. If you thought Tree Of Life was difficult to understand then UC will give you fits. Knowledge is power but I find that to be the opposite with films like this and Primer. Stay away from reviews because they give away too much and cheapen the end result. I don’t want to leave you completely in the dark so here are some things to expect from the film. You will see mind altering worms, pigs, streams and characters named Thief and Sampler.
Treat Upstream Color as the great unknown. Don’t look for clues or meaning. Enjoy the fact that there is a director out there who doesn’t want to make things easy and puts everything on his shoulders to appease the masses.
Watch Upstream Color. Watch it again. Think about it. Watch it again. Think about it. Enjoy the ride.
How do you follow up a successful writing gig on Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom? You gather Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Patricia Arquette and Dermont Mulroney and throw them into an odd film involving Charlie Sheen’s broken psyche after a break up. Throw in some odd visuals, various dream sequences and wonderful hair and you have yourself an odd film that accumulated a plethora of critical vitriol and 16% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Roman Coppola infuses the film with a 60/70s vibe that exudes pop art but forgets narrative function. I’m assuming the flashbacks, dream sequences and scantily clad women were all intentional but that excess cost the film a cohesive feel. When a film meanders it seems to float listlessly going nowhere. You appreciate certain aspects of the film (Bill Murray in a funny hat) and forget the rest.
It is neat that Roman and Charlies relationship has come full circle. During the late 1970s they played together in the Philippines while their fathers Francis-Ford and Martin made Apocalypse Now. Now Roman is directing Charlie in what seems to be an excuse for the two to have fun again. An interesting thing about this film is that Roman couldn’t get it insured due to Sheen’s involvement. So, in his words “Thank god, because I saved two percent of my budget for not giving it to that worthless function.”
The best story coming out of this film was of the casting of Bill Murray. Murray is an elusive man of mystery who has no agent or manager. Roman had worked with him on Lost in Translation and with a little persuasion got him to cameo in the film. Murray agreed and Coppola didn’t hear anything from him until the day before when Murray showed up randomly on set. You gotta love the Murray.
Mud is the best film of 2013 (so far). It is an instant classic that relies on authenticity, three dimensional characters and vivid scenery to tell a wonderful story. It also proves that a poster featuring a man grabbing something from his back doesn’t have to be bad.
Mud tells the story of two boys who meet a man named Mud. They find him on an island off the Mississippi that is home to a boat in a tree. They become quick friends and make a deal for the boat. The boys will get Mud food and keep his whereabouts secret and he will let them have his gun and tree boat when he leaves. What follows is a neat story about love, loss and growing up. The film has drawn many “modern day Huckleberry Finn” comparisons and the similarities are there. However, the movie should be appreciated on it’s own unique merits. Mud doesn’t feel self important and has a respect for the geography. It is told with humility and understanding by a man who is finding his footing in the American cinematic landscape.
Director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter) has excelled at creating soulful characters and insular stories. His characters are not motivated by greed or selfishness and thus their problems feel universal. The central characters deal with protecting their families, mental illness or growing up too fast. His films pack a realistic punch, show off vivid geographical detail and close attention to characters. Stereotypes are non-existent and the focus on family is always strong.
Nichol’s was recently was interviewed by Empire magazine and he explained his films:
“I’m trying to make classic films. Films with Scope. Each one has to have it’s own purpose in the world.” Take Shelter’s purpose was “to tell you more about yourself than the movie and to place the decision in the audience’s head, rather than just givin’ it to ‘em.
His films do not have an epic scope or feature twirling in corn fields (nothing wrong with that). They feature snapshots of time that involve important moments. The setting may be small but divorce, lost love or a first kiss are huge in factors in life. Nichol’s tells his films with a laid-back grace that doesn’t pander to familiar tropes yet doesn’t push the Kubrickian limits.
The reason this film works is because Nichol’s understands the world and dives deep into character. It is easy to see why the kids would help Mud. Matthew McConaughey infuses the character with charm and a sense of danger. Also, the two kids are dealing with their families splitting apart or never having one at all. They meet Mud at the right moment and the three of them go on a neat adventure. While watching you feel the breeze, fear the snakes and can swear a mosquito is buzzing around you. Nichol’s knows how to bring you into his cinematic world and engross you in middle America.
I hope a younger audience discovers this film and learns something from the two kids. They search, build and approach the world with an adventurous spirit. I remember when movies used to feature kids going on adventures not involving dragons or beanstalks. Remember Stand By Me, Goonies or Home Alone? I grew up with that DIY youthfulness and I always appreciate movies like this.
Watch Mud. Appreciate the adventure. Watch Take Shelter. Listen to Lucero.
MY CALL: This totally random WTF-style horror movie is often intentionally funny and embraces its own campiness with extra cheese. If you love bad old school horror, then you should embrace this, too. IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: Other WTF-style horror movies such as The Sentinel (1977; serious). The Nesting (1981; serious), The Outing (1987; funny), Deadly Blessing (1981; funny), The Possessed (1975; funny), Xtro (1983; weird) and Superstition (1982; funny).
This rather tasteless, tactless schlock flick begins when in 1957 when some bikers kidnap a local young beauty named Josie and bring her to the town of Hellgate. Things get out of hand during a rape-y game of cat and mouse and Josie is accidentally killed. Josie’s bereft father comes across some dumb magical glowy crystal which reanimates the dead and turns goldfish and sea turtles into giant mutant zombie monsters that explode.
Mutant goldfish zombie
With his newfound powers of resurrection, he brings his daughter back as a slutty well-preserved zombie that lures men to Hellgate to enjoy…ummmm…her. The down side is that now you have to meet her father, who looks a bit like Dr. Doom with chunks of metal on his face and a metal arm–evidently replacement parts for injuries suffered from his exploding reanimated zombie pets. Dad gets homicidal whenever Josie drops her top.
Well after 37 years of her slutty antics, Josie meets Matt (Ron Palillo; Friday the 13th Part VI), takes him home, drops her top and decides that she really likes him. So she keeps her dad at bay while he makes his escape.
A white dude with a jerry curl. What slutty zombie chick could resist?
But Matt decides to return for Josie and brings his buddy and their girlfriends. Why he’d bring his girlfriend with him to get together with an even hotter girl is beyond me. Now furious with Matt’s return, dad raises all of the dead in the local cemetery as zombies to take care of him.
Matt’s girlfriend making her “oh” face.
Needless to say, the acting hurts. But the cast makes up for it with loads tasteless nudity to remind us that they clearly weren’t hired for their gifts for dialogue.
There were some fine attempts at gore including some dismemberment. There were also some very cheesy gore scenes including a lame strangulation. Other special effects include such highlights as a rubber bat being shaken from fishing line (that we can see), crystals that shoot lasers, and coloring a bodybuilder’s hair gray as the sole effort to make him look 37 years older (since he was in the 1957 scene).
The zombie make-up was generally nothing special.
But at least they tried.
This movie is often intentionally funny and embraces its own campiness with extra cheese. If you love bad old school horror, then you should embrace this, too.
The 32 have become four. Four villains defined by hair, sneak attacks, trout references and Mark Wahlberg’s earnest acting. Not only have they survived the tournament but they’ve had to endure bad reviews (28% RT), poor box office results and lots of hair gel.
These final four villains all have one thing in common. They’ve elevated the material to memorable heights. Love them or hate them they caught you off guard. I am not alone in my observations about these odd films. Roger Ebert appreciated similar aspects and in honor of him I will use his wonderful prose to discuss three of the four.
Sidenote: Ebert never reviewed Dracula but one would believe he was in awe of Gerard Butler’s logic defying hairstyle and miscasting. Also, reading the reviews for Dracula was infinitely more entertaining than watching it. Critics unleashed their fangs over the role and I got to read quotes like:
“With his long black coat and incisory overbite, he’s like Neo in The Matrix played by one of the Bee Gees.”
“Gerald Butler’s Dracula seems more like a peevish male model than a true prince of darkness.”
“Butler’s Dracula might be the worst ever committed to film.”
“Butler is too busy preening to generate any sense of menace.”
If you go to the one minute mark of the trailer it looks like Dracula is wearing a helmet.
Ebert never insulted Gerard Butler but he did give The Happening three stars and said nice things about Posey in Blade: Trinity:
“Parker Posey is an actress I have always had affection for, and now it is mixed with increased admiration, for the way she soldiers through an impossible role, sneering like the good sport she is.”
Ebert also summed up Deep Blue Sea with this quote:
“There is a moment in this movie when something happens that is completely unexpected, and it’s over in a flash–a done deal–and the audience laughs in delight because it was so successfully surprised. In a genre where a lot of movies are retreads of the predictable, “Deep Blue Sea’‘ keeps you guessing.”
All of these films keep you guessing and asking questions. For instance, I asked frequent MFF contributor VJ if the shark from Deep would think twice before eating Butler’s hair. He answered with this gem:
“I have a feeling he would probably think twice then decide to eat it…however when it was digested and passed it would come out perfect. the shark would swim by it and think wait didn’t i already eat that hair? so it would gobble it up again and the cycle would continue eventually driving the shark mad. the shark would become so obsessed with the fact that it can’t take down the hair it would be begging for a deathly harpoon shot from Thomas Jane.”
The worst thing a movie can be is forgettable. When it movie hits the right bad chord they can live on in infamy. Three out of the four films have become memorable and kinda classic. The lone exception is Dracula 2000. I’m amazed it has made it to the final four. I blame the hairstylist, funny quotes by VJ and total randomness of it being on the list for it’s survival,
Without further ado. Here are the four finalists. Vote. Like. Share. Repeat. Thanks!
Via my wonderful fiancee at MADesigns