‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ raises the bar
There’s always a level of risk when a beloved work of popular culture is reworked. Striking the proper balance between loyalty to the source material and creating something fresh is difficult. With the possible exception of Christopher Nolan’s work with Batman, no filmmaker has managed to walk that tightrope as deftly as J.J. Abrams has with the world of “Star Trek.”
The 2009 reboot of the series was handled brilliantly, keeping true to the spirit of the original Trek mythos while still allowing this new crew to follow its own unique path. So there were high hopes for “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second installment of this new Trek voyage.
Taut thriller a story of survival
In a summer season dominated by big-budget sequels and CGI-laden action extravaganzas, it can be a nice change of pace to find films that are a bit more of a challenge. These films can be both simpler and far more complex than the popcorn fare being churned out by the major studios.
One such film is “Black Rock,” directed by Maine native Katie Aselton (TV’s “The League”) and written by her husband Mark Duplass (“Zero Dark Thirty”) from a story by Aselton.
Literary adaptation more sizzle than steak
Turning a literary classic into a cinematic one is no easy task. Many talented filmmakers have tried and failed to bring a great novel to life on the screen.
Baz Luhrmann is taking a swing with his latest, an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby.” The novel, first published in 1925, is deemed by many to be on the short list of contenders for the best American novel ever written.
Super sequel doesn’t quite measure up to previous installments
The start of the summer blockbuster season has been continually getting pushed earlier and earlier. Once upon a time, that season reliably started with Memorial Day weekend; you could set your watch by it. But things have changed; now, with this first weekend in May, the summer blockbusters are in full swing.
First out of the gate? “Iron Man 3.”
Real-life tale shows truth is stranger than fiction
Michael Bay and “based on a true story” – doesn’t really seem to make a lot of sense, does it? This is a guy who somehow managed to make giant transforming alien robots even more infantile and ridiculous in practice than in theory – is he really the guy to bring truth to the screen?
Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the answer would be a resounding “no.” However, he has somehow managed to find the one story where the answer is a giddy, glorious “yes.”
Romantic comedy neither loving nor funny
On paper, an all-star cast makes a lot of sense. It would stand to reason that when you bring a lot of diverse talents together in the same place, something good would happen. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way.
Whether it’s a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen, conflicting egos or a simple lack of real commitment from some (or all) of the cast, these collections of well-known film stars almost always fall a bit flat.
Sci-fi offering visually striking, narratively hollow
So Tom Cruise has been a movie star for the past 30 years. It was 1983 when he starred in “The Outsiders,” “Risky Business” and “All The Right Moves.” He was launched into the Hollywood stratosphere and has essentially resided there ever since.
So it’s remarkable to watch him in a film like “Oblivion.” It is science fiction that’s long on style and short on substance; a fair amount of sizzle with very little steak – the sort of criticism that has dogged Cruise for much of his career.
Film tells the story of Jackie Robinson
I am a sucker for a good sports movie. It doesn’t even really matter which sport – the drama inherent to athletic competition in general often makes for compelling cinema. And that competitive tension can be mined for humor as well as drama. You don’t even need to be a sports fan (though it undoubtedly helps). The very best sports movies are the ones that use what happens on the field as a way to speak to the larger issues of what happens off it.
Franchise keeps lowering the bar
Even in this age of sequels and reboots in which we currently live, there’s such a thing as going too far - especially when the idea being rehashed didn’t have much in the way of staying power to begin with. With each copy of a copy, the concept continues its inexorable spiral downward to the bottom of the barrel. When it finally reaches the lowest common denominator?
That’s when you get the fifth installment in the “Scary Movie” franchise.
Remake of horror classic ratchets up the gore
Every cinephile has a handful of movies that are particularly special to them. For whatever reason, those films serve as touchstones along their own personal pop culture journeys.
For me, Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films definitely fit that bill. The wonderful journey of that trilogy (from low-budget gorefest to hilarious reimagination to full-on epic fantasy/horror/comedy) has ensured that the movies have retained a permanent place of affection in my heart.
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