Thursday, June 20, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

When the 'Star Trek' reboot movie came out, I was kind of skeptical as to how it would turn out and whether or not I'd like it, but I and lots of other Trek fans were pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out.  There were a lot of mistakes and timeline discrepancies regarding official 'Star Trek canon', but most of us could let that slide and just enjoy the show, and the characters that took over the original roles.  Most of the cast did a fine job in their portrayals.

I waited a long time for 'Into Darkness' to come out, with sky high expectations, knowing what director JJ Abrams was capable of.  I do admire the guy's work.  He can knock it out of the park, like he did with 'Star Trek', or he can underwhelm with a show like 'Super 8'.  But like other directors, everyone's entitled to their wild swings at the plate.  Stephen Spielberg had his share of those.  God knows George Lucas did too.  Look at M Night Shyamalan.  Three or four good movies and he's made crap ever since.

'Into Darkness' sure starts off promising.  It gives a distinct feel of a terrorism plot, albeit earthbound, when a leaders conference takes place and at least one major character is killed.  Visually it was looking great.  It definitely had Abrams' trademark grandiose scenery and special effects that transports you to another time and place.  He's good with that.

Not knowing yet what the plot of the movie will be because it was shrouded in such secrecy leading up to its release, there was a lot of speculation over who the main villain, John Harrison, could actually be.  A lot of us thought a bland and boring name like that (why not John Smith for cryin' out loud) MUST mean that it's actually a cover for someone else in the Trek universe.  My hope was that it would be Gary Mitchell, one of the very first villains to debut in the original Star Trek TV series.  Timeline-wise, it made perfect sense.  It's very early on in the Trek story, and with a lot of the switcheroo-ness happening following the events in the last film, there were a lot of places they could take the story and make it tremendously interesting.

John Harrison is not John Harrison.  He is not Gary Mitchell.  By now, you must know who he is since the movie's been out a while.  Spoiler ahead.

It's revealed about 3/5 of the way through that he turns out to be who many hoped he would be, but a lot of us hoped he wouldn't, because in Trek canon, there's no way it could be.... Khan.  Khan made his appearance in the original series about three years into the five year mission of the Enterprise, which in this movie franchise reboot hadn't even begun yet.  This John Harrison guy seems to be incognito on earth while his crewmates are frozen in cryo in a place where no one would quite expect to find them, viewers included.  For a while, you feel for Harrison/Khan, because he's trying to actually rescue his people from imminent death brought on by someone who's also somewhat disguised as one of the protagonists of the story, but that I saw coming.  It seemed obvious as the story played out.

Of course, they go the one-dimensional-villain route with Khan as it turns out he's bent on conquest, which isn't quite the way Ricardo Montalban played Khan in the original series.  He did play a rather tyrannical role as Khan, but in said episode, Kirk winds up giving him another chance to thrive with his people on another planet, the now famous Seti-Alpha 5.  There was peace at the end of that episode, until, of course, 'Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan' was released in theatres, where Khan sought vengeance on Captain Kirk and his crew for not keeping tabs on their progress, during which catastrophe happened on SA-5.

In 'Into Darkness', it appears Khan's been roaming around earth for awhile even before the movie starts.  In the original series, the Enterprise only came across Khan's ship, the Botany Bay, adrift in space, as I said, three years into its five year mission.  So much for respect to the Trek canon.  Not to mention, the original Khan character is of Hispanic origin, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who's Khan this time, is about as Hispanic as I am.  No wonder no one could completely figure out who he was.  Why would a white guy play Muhammed Ali in an Ali biopic.

There were quite a few other things that bugged me.  Tribbles show up in this film, again way before they actually are supposed to appear.  Klingons apparently have been around for a bit too.  In fact Kronos appears to be right next door to Earth if you're to believe in how they travel in this story.  And the Enterprise underwater?  Really?  Sorry, NO.

Maybe the key scene that killed this movie for me was where they actually tried to reverse a key scene from 'Star Trek II', more or less doing a shot-for-shot, line-for-line, copy of it.  It bothered me a lot.  In fact it makes me angry to think about it.  To me it showed disrespect to those who are true fans of this franchise.

We'll see now where they take Trek, now that they've finally embarked on their five year mission, AFTER this movie is finished.  Don't even get me started again. Hopefully new writers will be hired, they'll use NASA as consultants again which I have to believe they couldn't give a flying shit about in this movie, and Abrams will be busy trying to get the Star Wars franchise right.  After seeing this movie, I'm actually worried about that now.

It's with great disappointment that I certify 'Star Trek Into Darkness' as Lumpy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Iron Man 3

This is the kind of movie summer movies ought to be chock full of.

I've heard an awful lot about how bad "IM2" was.  Not personally from actual people, but online in reviews and what-have-you.  I loved "IM2".  It portrayed RJD's Tony Stark as an egotistical, way-too-proud-of-himself megalomaniac that would probably beset him had he actually done the things he did in the first "Iron Man".  He's one of the smartest, richest, most clever people on earth.  How else would you expect a guy to turn out?  That movie's main villain, Whiplash, played just fine by Mickey Rourke, along with Justin Hammer (played furiously good by Sam Rockwell), fit the bill for a followup for me.  The icing on that cake was in the form of Scarlett Johanssen's Black Widow.  The main annoyance of that movie for me was the shameless AC/DC plugs throughout.  I'm a traditionalist when it comes to movies for the most part.  I like a good score as opposed to a pop rock soundtrack.

IM3 pretty much takes the cake with the franchise though.  Jon Favreau, director of the first two films, was canned in favor of Shane Black, most famous for the success of the 'Lethal Weapon' franchise.  Looking at IM3, you get the impression that Marvel/Disney gave him a blank check to spend whatever he wanted to get whatever he wanted.  And what we get is a lot of bombast, furiousity, and adrenaline laced battles that don't let up until the show's over.  What IM3 has that perhaps its predecessor lacked is less jokey ha-ha content and more depth with the plot and it's numerous twists, the biggest of which I won't spoil.  I do have to say though that I laughed pretty hard when the big reveal came and I just did not see it coming.  The villains in this movie are played nicely by a number of characters, some not so familiar, some plenty familiar though.  Ben Kingsley paints a portrait of the big Iron Man baddie Mandarin, pretty much the Green Goblin to Spiderman.  Guy Pearce makes a great turn as Alrich Killian, delivering Stark his biggest threat to losing his love interest in Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). 

There's a ton of edge-of-your-seat action here that actually is anchored in plot points that matter.  There's not a whole lot of wasted screen time by anyone here, except for one twist in Paltrow's character that actually made me groan a little and kind of spoiled what could have made this a great film, shading it into very, very good territory instead.  Make no mistake though, this is a comic book film with a comic book sensibility that asks you to stretch your capacity for belief, or suspend it altogether.  That being said, fans of the comic might be somewhat disappointed in the Mandarin because of its take on the character.  Those familiar with Iron Man because of the movies only, though, will surely be thrilled.

This movie is most certainly Smooth Gravy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Well good gravy...!

Welcome to what will become a nice little review spot to accompany Ragnar Station, with The Gravy Pot being where all things good and lumpy will be taken to task by yours truly.  I've been thinking of doing this for a long time now, but the itch to get it going just became unbearable and here I am now.

I'll be giving my opinion on anything that I have an opinion about, which is a far array of things from movies to TV shows, food to drink, music to webpages, you name it.  There aren't really any rules on what to talk about.  The thing here to remember is that it's just an opinion and not anything personal.

At the end of every thing to talk about that I pick at will be a rating system of two simple sides:  Good Gravy and Lumpy Gravy.  Like the late great Siskel and Ebert's thumbs up/thumbs down symbols, it's black and white in its recommendation.  I either endorse it or I don't.  But I will elaborate on whether my recommendations are marginal or not.

To anyone that's ever read my ramblings, thanks for coming back!  For anyone new, I hope you continue to be a regular visitor.  And thank you all for visiting. 

Spread the gravy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"The Wrestler"


We've seen a few movies over the last little while that I'd like to talk about, in theatres, one on DVD.  We saw "Watchmen" in regular theaters and IMAX, "Coraline" in digital 3D, and "The Wrestler" on disc.  

Seeing "The Wrestler" in theatres was tough to do, because it just wasn't there long.  It's a small budget movie, from auteur director Darren Aronofsky, and I was especially interested to see his work because he's doing the "RoboCop" reboot next.  "Robo", at least the first film, is one of my favorite all time movies.  I doubt it can be made as good as Paul Verhoeven's version, where he had his own stamp on satire and dialogue with ultra-violence blended in so seamlessly.  

Mickey Rourke's Randy 'the Ram' Robinson is a mirroring of his own life, I don't know if it was intentional on the writer's part or not.  Rourke's had a tough life after some modest success in the 80s with films like "9 1/2 Weeks", "Wild Orchid" and most recently with "Sin City".  Hollywood's basically left him for dead for the most part as an actor though, and seeing Randy trudge through life in this movie, as a wrestler who was once on top of the world but has come crashing down and is just trying to make ends meet and maybe get his life back together, it's a heartbreaking tale to follow, for sure.  

Being a pro wrestling fan myself, I was worried what the take on this film was going to be like.  Was it going to be campy?  Were they really going to take this seriously, or were they going to make one of those old Hulk Hogan or John Cena movies that have tanked or are tanking now?  Rourke threw himself into the part.  Aronofsky did a great service to wrestling fans by doing research into how the circuit works, how things are done and how the human beings underneath the characters in pro wrestling live and try to survive.  Truly, not many do survive.  A pro wrestler's life expectancy does not average beyond their 40s.  "The Wrestler" shines a light on why this is so.

Randy is a proud character.  He's a humbled one, but proud.  He takes his profession seriously, even if some of those around him don't, most markedly the boss he works for at a supermarket where he takes a job at the deli section.  The guy constantly chides him and belittles him because he's in the position of power where Randy needs the job he has, so he doesn't contest him.  Until later on (that's the extent of spoilage here).  Living in a trailer park where he has a hard time keeping up with the bills, to the extent where he's locked out of his own mobile in the beginning of the film, you see Randy as a gentle kind of everyman who's down on his luck and fights just to stay alive.  Literally.  He takes wrestling gigs in tiny halls where hardly anyone shows up to see the shows.  You see him at an autograph session that has no turnout.  It's wrenching to see him go through it all, and when you see him struggling to win back the love of his estranged daughter, it ultimately hammers home the levels his desperation will drive him to, to reclaim success and love in his life that seemingly is lost forever.  He does find hope in love in a stripper played by Marisa Tomei, but she keeps him at arms length for the most part, despite his efforts to win her over.  In the climax when we see what matters to him the most in his life, we learn how little he trusts anyone, and indeed how much he hates himself, but longs to be "the Ram".

A number of wrestlers saw this movie, and pretty well all of them loved it.  The only one who really didn't think much of it was Vince McMahon,  czar of the WWE himself, but the guy's sensitive to anything or anyone that puts wrestlers in a bad light anyway.  The show's a good watch, but doesn't have any of the Hollywood trappings of a music score or sticky sweet moments that would endear itself to a massive audience.  Doesn't matter..."The Wrestler" got lots of acclaim and made a clear profit, and earned Rourke a nomination for Best Male Actor in the '08 Academy Awards.  He did win the Golden Globe for it though, for what that's worth."The Wrestler" is Good Gravy, for its brave acting and directing and uncompromising ending.