Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (**)

Directed by J.J. Abrams


The Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise has been one of the biggest success stories out of Hollywood these last few years. It felt like something unlike the Marvel Iron Man/Avengers reboots that worked mainly because A) they were lead by a wildly charming, magnanimous movie star (Robert Downey Jr.); and B) we were introduced to characters that had never really had successful film or television platforms beforehand. Star Trek, on the other hand, has had decades of dedicatedly-watched television episodes. So, for Abrams to tackle a film version - and in doing so, totally re-imagining the television show's mythology - and it work, is quite an accomplishment in itself. Which makes Abrams' follow-up to his 2009 version of Star Trek that much more disappointing.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Great Gatsby (*1/2)

Directed by Baz Luhrman


While watching the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, I tried to imagine if I would think it was as much of a failure if I wasn't comparing it to the great American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or by the two other failed film versions from 1949 and 1974. I don't want to fault this film by comparing it to one of the greatest novels of all time, but director Baz Luhrman makes this kind of thinking impossible, forever reminding you of the source material. It's like he can't help himself. Luhrman's films are usually sugary and melodramatic in nature, but his version of Gatsby is like diabetes on the screen. A two-hour stream of processed, synthetic images make its way across screen, each one vying for your attention with equal ferocity till your eyes get tired and you'd like a glass of water to cleanse your palette.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iron Man 3 (***)

Directed by Shane Black


In the entire twenty-first century comic book movie explosion, no actor has better fit into his superhero role than Robert Downey Jr. has with Iron Man. From the very beginning, the boozing, schmoozing apathy that radiates from Tony Stark was a perfect fit for Downey, if only because he's one of the few Hollywood performers that knows how to create a character like that and make him unbelievably likable and watchable. Iron Man has always seemed like the frivolous alternative to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but in reality Iron Man came much closer to true characterization than Nolan's Batman films ever attempted to. Which is why I've always preferred the one-liners and BANG-BANG-POW of Iron Man than the plodding moralistic meditations of the last three Batman movies.