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Star Trek Into Darkness is the Same Old Thing

Maybe I’m getting old and maybe I haven’t mainlined enough Star Trek in a while, but I have to seriously furrow my brow to try and remember the last Star Trek movie where Earth wasn’t under threat from something.

The last such Star Trek movie was Star Trek Insurrection and it was the exception among TNG movies which always went for the easy James Bond villain formula. Insert a villain who wants to destroy the earth. Fight and blow him up. The End.

Only two original series Star Trek movies endangered the earth and for all the odds and evens stuff, those movies look like a diverse and original collection of concepts and stories compared to the lame formulaic and studio driven mistakes that were the TNG movies. And Abrams Trek movies are clearly determined to head into even worse territory.

With that I give you, Star Trek Into Darkness. Earth is once again under threat, there’s once again a James Bond villain who gloats loudly and threatens destruction, and there’s some high jumps and a splashy effects scene.

Here is your Star Trek Dark Side of the Moon or Star Trek Transformers Into Darkness. Thanks B&B. You made this all possible. Oh and the blonde, I’m guessing, is Yeoman Rand?

Hyde Park on Hudson, No, Just No

I know The King’s Speech made a ton of money. I know that Bill Murray harbors the idea that he can “act” in a way that doesn’t involve playing a morose middle-aged man. I know studio executives thought, “What if we did The King’s Speech but made it more American and had Bill Murray as FDR”. I know it because this happened.

Bill Murray worshipers think it’s great. It’s not. It’s stupid.

hyde park on hudson

hyde park on hudson trailer

FDR was not some free spirit who flew by the seat of his own pants. If you want to paint the British royal family as stuffy, fine. But FDR was a blue blood, he was at least as stuffy and stuffier because he was keeping up a pose. FDR and the King meeting each other were two members of their respective ruling classes, the scions of powerful families, hanging out together for publicity photos.

Bill Murray isn’t a bad choice for FDR, because FDR was kind of a bastard. He was Teddy Roosevelt if Teddy had been a manipulative sneak and a cheat with a mean streak a mile wide. Murray could have played that guy easily. But he’s not playing him.

He’s playing FDR as the Australian speech therapist in The King’s Speech. There to teach the king to loosen up and confront the crisis. It’s not just a cynical cash in. It’s a lie that’s as far from FDR’s real personality as possible.

FDR deserves better than to be the King’s speech therapist and Bill Murray deserves better than to play FDR as a goofier version of Geoffrey Rush’s character.

Taken 2 Trailer and the Return of the Action Movie

Taken was a movie that came out of nowhere. The standard response to it was, “You’ve got to be kidding me”. Liam Neeson, the guy from a bunch of Oscar nominated movies, as an action hero? A plot this old?

But it worked. Now here comes Taken 2 with a trailer.

Taken 2 looks like it works too. It’s silly and ridiculous on one level. But on another level it’s Liam Taken 2 PosterNeeson as the new Harrison Ford and it’s the revival of an action movie that doesn’t rely on a bunch of conspicuous special effects.

The action movie never really died. Steven Spielberg buried Last Action Hero, the coda to the 80’s Action Movie, with Jurassic Park, the new CG fueled Jaws, that made the disaster/monster movie driven by CG into the new blockbuster again. Arnold was out, CG critters were in. (These days Spielberg oversees the attack on movies by producing Transformers.)

But the action movie kept coming back. Jackie Chan brought it back to America from Hong Kong. And English, French and Russian filmmakers have brought it back with Transporters, Wanted and Taken.

Taken 2 doesn’t rely on anything too elaborate. The family goes on vacation. The gang responsible for the last kidnapping looks to get revenge and the rest follows. It’s Frantic with a cold ruthless trained killer instead of a nervous tourist. And again it looks like it works. It’s a script from the guy who did the Transporter movies and the original Taken (not to mention the Karate Kid movies). And it’s directed by the weird French director of Transporter 3. There will be lots of running on roofs and lots of cold-blooded no-hesitation trigger pulls.

Sure it could be awful. 20 minutes of it could just be Liam Neeson hugging his family or Maggie Grace auditioning for American Idol, but it probably won’t be. Because it’s efficient. The Transporter movies were about a guy with no time to spare. Taken had that same sparse no-time-to-spare formula, counting down every second. Taken 2 promises the same thing.

The action movie isn’t quite back. For every Taken, there will be a dozen board games adapted into movies (Liam Neeson was in Battlefield) and comic book movie reboots. But like its hard-charging never-say-die protagonists, it also refuses to go away.

A 100 Million Dollar Joke

You know how something starts out as a joke and then everyone gets more and more serious about it, which almost makes it funnier, but doesn’t really, because it’s not really a joke anymore. It’s like you set out to build the world’s largest ceramic twinkie and then the actual task of doing it, getting corporate sponsorship, drawing up plans and spending two years doing it takes away the joke, until you’re left with the world’s largest twinkie and it’s a new kind of joke now, not the old kind that was fun because it remixed the serious with the goofy, but the new kind that is on everyone involved with the project.

In completely unrelated news, here’s the latest trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Estimated budget for this is 70 million. That’s not a lot for a movie that looks like this, but that’s more than any Civil War movie made in decades. I’m not counting Cold Mountain. Gods and Generals cost way less than this and made much less money. There’s something infuriating about that, because whatever its merits are, Gods and Generals was serious. And what’s this exactly? A joke that everyone involved has to take seriously because it cost over a 100 million, with promotional costs, to tell this joke.

In 2012, we are actually releasing a grimly serious and expensive movie depicting Lincoln as a vampire hunter. This is something that is actually happening. And it began as a joke. It ends as a different kind of joke. And the joke is on all of us.

It used to be the Japanese that would make something like this, because they didn’t really care. They could mash up bits and pieces of American history and culture with dragons, vampires and spaceships and release it. Otaku would eat it up, but no one else would. Now we’re doing it to ourselves. Sort of.

A company owned by an Australian tycoon financed a movie with a Russian director, sets by a French production designer, with special effects from New Zealand, to bring all this to international audiences. All this is a 100 million dollar joke based on a book that even Entertainment Weekly called, “A labored send-up that refracts the life story of one of the most important, famous, and minutely analyzed figures in all of American history through a cockeyed and ultimately foolish lens”.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Judge Dredd looks Dreddful Again

judge dredd trailer

At least the Stallone Judge Dredd had its merits. It didn’t look like a B Movie and it made use of some of the Judge Dredd mythology. If they were to make a Judge Dredd movie, why not use use Judge Death and the dead judges for something more blockbustery. Or they could just make a Judge Dredd movie that plays like a lamer version of Robocop. That’s what the trailer for the new Judge Dredd suggests they did. You can’t judge a movie by its trailer… but maybe you can.

Now I’m not sure that you could even film Robocop, for the same reason that you can’t film The Punisher. The bleak tone, satire and judge-dredd-comic-book-movieultraviolence that works on the comic book page can look silly and over the top on the screen. Verhoeven made that kind of thing work with Robocop, he could probably handle Judge Dredd, but it would be redundant. Berg might be able to do it. But this is just lame.

This version. Well the cast looks anywhere from okay to good. Beyond that, there’s nothing interesting. And the movie looks like a B Movie from the late 90’s, complete with generic CG.

Is there any possible reason to have high expectations for this? Karl Urban and Lena Heady are in it. The rest of the cast isn’t bad either. But director Pete Travis’ previous work doesn’t have much to recommend it. The script is from Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, but also The Beach, Sunshine and a bunch of video games.

So file Judge Dredd under “Coulda Been Good”.

When I Said I Wanted Robert Zemeckis to Make Movies Again…

…this was not what I had in mind.

Okay maybe it’s not that surprising from Zemeckis whose live action career wrapped up with treacle like Cast Away, Contact and What Lies Beneath.

Flight looks good, visually, terrible in every other way.

Let’s begin with the obvious. This movie is an expensive good-looking Law and Order episode. This is Denzel Washington playing a drunken version of Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger. It takes a plane crash and focuses on the least interesting part of it the aftermath. This is something that movies have tried to do before. Badly.

Denzel Washington can act better than Ben Affleck but that doesn’t make this a good idea. It’s Cast Away, except mostly off the island or retold in flashbacks, which sounds even worse. The plane scenes look incredible, but it’s 15 minutes of incredible to an hour of Denzel Washington drinking and yelling at people, and Don Cheadle and John Goodman yelling at people. No thanks.

Still think you want to see Flight? The writer for this wrote another movie, produced by Steven Spielberg and starring that guy from Wolverine? Sounds good. It was Real Steel. And he’s also doing the sequel, Real Steel 2. Before that, two “inspirational” movies about inner city sports. (You can never have enough of those.) A movie about a little girl working with a wounded horse. Oh and Summer Catch.

Yeah this is going to be bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to make money. Denzel Washington + Sully + Soap opera + Great Real Looking Crash Effects = Box Office. But it’ll be a while until anyone wishes Robert Zemeckis would go back to making live action movies again.

 

Last Resort – Weirdest ABC Attempt to Make a LOST Show

Imagine if Lost were done by Tom Clancy and Richard Patterson North and imagine if it was really stupid. (Well obviously it’s stupid, it’s being done by Tom Clancy and Richard Patterson North.)

Back when I used to browse used bookstores, I would come upon lots of ragged paperbacks with plots just like these. They would be classified as Science Fiction, but only marginally so. Someone decided that the best way to revive the castaways genre would be to merge it with the military unit on its own genre to create Lost Crimson Tide.

The only thing Last Resort has going for it is a good cast. The trailer, like so many of these, gives you the entire opening pilot. But how many people are going to keep watching this just to listen to Andre Braugher delivering monologues? I’m not.

This isn’t a TV pilot, it’s a movie and the movie has nowhere to go after a few episodes. Also Tom Clancy and dramas about people yelling in submarines, so 1980’s. Also Pakistan has no submarines.

REbooting the James Bond Reboot

Two movies in it was obvious that the James Bond reboot wasn’t working. It’s made for some great trailers and the Skyfall trailer is no exception, but not very good movies. Sam Mendes can make this look good and does, and there’s the expected boatload of writers, but it still won’t work.

Problem #1: The Bourne envy. The Bourne movies are what they are, but they didn’t have the wide appeal of the Bond movies and people expect something different from Bond movies than a blank protagonist running around grimly shooting and jumping around before returning to a taciturn silence.

The Bourne movies have been sliding at the box office since the first one. The last one barely passed 200 mil worldwide and the series is getting rebooted. The Bond movies imitating have gone through a similar slide.

Problem #2: Daniel Craig doesn’t work. He just doesn’t. James Bond is supposed to be personable and leading a glamorous life. An actor who doesn’t project that has no future with the character. Craig doesn’t. Fleming’s Bond was a wolf and Craig projects that, but there’s nothing else. Just a grim impersonal man going about his business. It’s realistic, much more than Damon’s pretty boy Bourne, but it doesn’t work in the Bond setting and story.

Problem #3: The point. There isn’t one. The Bond reboot movies feel like Mission Impossible movies. Shove in some barely explained threat. Then explosions. There are no memorable villains or memorable anything. The whole thing is not just joyless, it’s pointless.

The solution. Go look at Jason Statham’s movies. I don’t necessarily mean cast him as Bond, though if things get desperate enough that might work, but look at what makes The Transporter movies work. They have a similar formula to the old Bond movies. Lush locations, over the top action, a relentless charismatic hero with a code. They’re popcorn and not up there with classic Bond movies, but they capture some of the reason why people went to see those movies.

It’s time to reboot the reboot.

The Best Trailers are for Games

The movie trailer is almost a dead art. Look at how clumsy the Green Lantern trailers were. Movie trailers either give away the entire movie or are so generic that you can’t tell one from the other.

And games are stealing the trailer crown. Take a look at the trailers for the new Tomb Raider and Prey 2. Not only are these better than the latest trailer for a 200 million dollar movie, but it’s saddening that these are game trailers. I want to see these movies. Especially the Prey 2 movie.

What’s the secret. Game trailers are outsourced to studios which specialize in them. Your games aren’t made by the same people who make their trailers. Which is why the trailers are so much better. The good news is some of these studios are either on track to doing a movie or thinking about it.

More trailer goodness. The Knights of the Old Republic trailer which is about 50 times better than anything George Lucas has done since the Death Star blew up.

The Avengers Avenge with the Avenging

Forget for a moment that the Avengers is supposed to showcase Marvel’s genius in getting all their cinematic ducks in a row and combining some of their franchises into one movie… and the Avengers trailer looks a lot like the trailer for some Fantastic Four sequel. It’s generic, “urban shot”, “we have to fight”, “some huge danger is coming”, “urban areas are being blown up” and if it didn’t have the cachet that it does, it would be Generic Superhero Movie Trailer #96.

The only appealing thing about the trailer is also the only truly successful movie in the bunch, and that’s Downey’s Iron Man, which is why the trailer features him. But Iron Man 2 was already watered down by the Avengers connection, moving Iron Man into Avengers feels like an even more watered down movie.

I was never a fan of grouping superheroes together into the Justice League or the Avengers, it never made much sense or did anything more interesting than they were apart. The Avengers movie doesn’t look to change that. It looks less interesting than all the movies in which Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc appear.

Maybe it’s the cookie effect. When you’re young enough, you just want more cookies and you think a big pile of them will taste better. Then you realize it doesn’t work that way.

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