Sunday, August 21, 2016

Star Trek Beyond / ***½ (PG-13)

Captain James T. Kirk: Chris Pine
Commander Spock: Zachary Quinto
Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy: Karl Urban
Lieutenant Uhura: Zoe Saldana
Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott: Simon Pegg
Sulu: John Cho
Chekov: Anton Yelchin
Jaylah: Sofia Boutella
Krall: Irdris Elba

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Justin Lin. Written by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung. Based on the “Star Trek” television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Running time: 122 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence).

I overheard a critic speaking recently who said that nostalgia doesn’t belong in criticism. I’m not so sure I agree with this, which is no surprise since I write from a very nostalgic point of view. I understand what this critic was saying. There is an objectiveness that is necessary in criticism and getting too nostalgic runs the danger of adopting the false entitlement of ownership that so many fans espouse these days, leading to much of the illegitimate criticism felt by franchises, such as the “Ghostbusters” reboot. However, I think it’s impossible to critique these franchises without acknowledging their reliance on what has come before. Of course, the best franchise films work just as well if you’ve never seen any entry in the series before, but most are made with the notion their audience is familiar with the franchise characters, tone and mythology.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July 2016 Final Week

Featuring:
Downton Abbey, season 6 (2016) ****
Ghostbusters (2016) **½
The Shadow (1994) **
Star Trek Beyond (2016) ***½
Modern Family, season 7 (2015-2016) ***½
Jason Bourne (2016) ***
Androcles and the Lion (1952) ***

To call this the final week of July is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like the final half of the month. And this was all I watched in that time period. It was a busy time for both work and family that did not allow for much in terms of watching a screen for long periods of time.

My wife and I finally finished the BBC series “Downton Abbey” and couldn’t have been happier with it. It was consistently good and, like most British shows, did not outstay its welcome. I was happy with how the lives at the Abbey turned out, and while it might be nice to see how progress continued to change the class structure of British Royalty and their servants, it more than likely would’ve seemed more sad than what the results of progress really are. Like the elder generation, we all like our entertainment to stay the way it was.

In other television opinion, ABC’s “Modern Family” continues to quietly provide some of the most hilarious commentary on its titular subject matter. After seven seasons, you might expect some of the characters to become tired or irrelevant. You might think the barb would be dulled, but such is not the case with this series. It continues to pull out quality comedy from familial life without much change in style, structure or even cast. It’s quite remarkable.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghostbusters / **½ (PG-13)

Erin Gilbert: Kristin Wiig
Abby Yates: Melissa McCarthy
Jillian Holtzman: Kate McKinnon
Patty Tolan: Leslie Jones
Rowan North: Neil Casey
Kevin: Chris Hemsworth

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Paul Feig. Written by Kate Dippold & Feig. Based on the 1984 movie by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Running time: 116 min. Rated PG-13 (for supernatural action and some crude humor).

The new reboot of the “Ghostbusters” franchise comes with a load of baggage, mostly having to do with the quite progressive idea of recasting the lead characters as women instead of men. I’ve never seen a beloved franchise so maligned by advance anti-buzz as this film. I’m a big believer in seeing the movie before forming an opinion about it. I guess it goes to show you how little progress we’ve made in this country in terms of equality that so many people have an issue with female heroes. People even criticized the editing of the first trailer as a negative point to avoid the fact that they were upset that their franchise had lost a Y chromosome. I’ve never seen the editing of a trailer criticized before. First trailers are usually poorly edited because they’re trying to tell a story before all the filming and effects have been completed.

Anyway, I think it is wonderful that this franchise was taken over by women. It is a great step forward to see women depicted as heroes while remaining women, instead of becoming over-sexualized props for the men they accompany. The main cast is wonderful. The Ghostbusters are just as iconic portrayed here by Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. They’re funny. They’re capable. They aren’t “real” because they exist in a fantasy, special effects laden universe of the paranormal; but they are women, with thoughts and actions unique to them and not existing in the service of men or even necessarily the plot of the movie. The new Ghostbusters are a shining example of where women in mainstream entertainment should be.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July week 1

Featuring the films:
All the Right Moves (1983) ***
Andrei Rublev (1966) ****
Ghostbusters (1984) ****
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) ***½
The Shallows (2016) **½
Heaven’s Gate (1980) ***½
Ricki and the Flash (2015) **½
The Bourne Identity (2002) ***
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) ***½
Mannequin: On the Move (1991) ½*

I had a pretty good ten-day run of movies to start off July. I needed a football fix when I realized the Giants would face the Cowboys in a mere ten weeks, so I threw in a Tom Cruise high school classic, “All theRight Moves”. It’s actually pretty amazing that they gave Craig T. Nelson a sitcom where he plays a football coach after the ass he plays in this movie. I mean, yeah, he makes a pretty good football coach, but this ain’t the coach of his television show.

“Andrei Rublev” is one of the more unique biopics I’ve ever seen. At times it veers of into seemingly surreal settings and fantasy, yet it never loses track of its subject. It’s filled with those unique images that Werner Herzog says are lacking in modern cinema. Although it isn’t modern, it isn’t as old as it looks and feels in its execution. It’s a strange but wonderful treatment for an important Russian historical figure.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—June 2016

Featuring the films and shows:
The Flash, season 2 (2015-2016) ***½
Independence Day (1996) *½
All These Women (1964) ***
Party Over Here, season 1 (2016) *½
The Alphabet (1968) ***½
Always For Pleasure (1978) ****
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) ***
Arrow, season 4 (2015-2016) ***½
Grimm, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
The Do Over (2016) **
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) ***
Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) **½
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, season 1 (2015-2016) **½
Angie Tribeca, season 1 (2016) ****
New Girl, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
Piper (2016) ****
Finding Dory (2016) ***
Central Intelligence (2016) **½
The Boy Next Door (2015) *
Sleepy Hollow, season 3 (2015-2016) ***
Amarcord (1973) ****
The American Soldier (1970) ***
The Amputee, version 1 (1974) ***
Simply Irresistible (1999) ½*
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) **
The Amputee, version 2 (1974) ***
Downton Abbey, season 5 (2015) ****
… And God Created Woman (1956) ***

Hopefully this will be my final full month summary of the year and for all time. Again, a great many movies and television finales to cover, so let’s get to it.

On the television front. I was running behind a bit on several series, so I finished up several series during the month of June. Most of them were comic book shows. “The Flash” continues to be the most fun comic book show on television, although “Supergirl” gave it a run this year. It was fitting that the second half of the season featured a crossover episode on Supergirl. Plus, it was like a bonus “Flash” episode. Didn’t the producers of “Arrow” say that this season wouldn’t be as dark as last seaon? I guess what they meant is that it would be darker. Heck, the team narrowly avoided nuclear Armageddon for its finale. That was after the crippling of Felicity, the failure of the Olicity relationship and the death of a main character. While Arrow teammates do have a tendency to come back from the dead, I think this one’s for real this time. I also finished the surpernatural fantasy shows “Grimm” and “Sleepy Hollow” this month. Both sustained their MOs, although “Sleepy Hollow” felt a little rockier, probably due to its new show runners. It’s renewal was a surprise, but I’ll stay on for another season. FOX’s stalwart sitcom New Girl also held steady for its 5th season.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—May 2016

Featuring the films and shows:
Special Correspondents (2016) **
Patton Oswalt: Talking for Clapping (2016) ***
A Trip To the Moon (1902) ****
Alice in the Cities (1974) ***½
Captain America: Civil War (2016) ***
Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988) no stars
Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (2016) ***
Mommie Dearest (1981) **
The 33 (2016) ***
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956) ****
The Apartment (1960) ****
Mr. Turner (2014) ***½
The Keeping Room (2015) ***
Jurassic World (2015) ***
On the Town (1949) ***
Main Street Today (1944) ***
Elementary, season 4 (24 43-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
The Last Man On Earth, season 2 (18 23-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Castle (8 seasons, 173 eps. 2009-2016) ***
A Room With a View (1985) ****
Saturday Night Live, season 41 (21 105-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
Supergirl, season 1 (20 43-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) ****
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., season 4 (22 45-min. eps. 2015-2016) ****
Blindspot, season 1 (23 42-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***
Gotham, season 2 (22 42-min. eps. 2015-2016) ***½
The Avengers (1998) ½*
The Asphalt Jungle (1940) ***½
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) ***
All My Good Contrymen (1969) ****
All the Boys Are Named Patrick (1959) ***½
The Muppets (1 season, 17 eps. 2015-2016) **    


I’m so far behind that I’m forced to include the entire month of May in one post. I’ll have to do the same for June. With the end of the television season occurring in May, there are a great many individual shows and films I would like comment on in addition to my tweets, so let’s get to it.

OK. I checked out Ricky Gervais’s Netflix movie “Special Correspondents” and I have to say for all the freedom Netflix gives to their filmmakers, they seem to have a problem with their original film division. While that approach seems to work very well for their longer format series, it seems to result in feature films with a lack of energy. They need to be tightened up. Gervais is quite funny and he has a good premise here, but its approached with no urgency and suffers from it. We’ll return to this next month with Adam Sandler’s latest, “The Do Over”.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—April 2016 Week 4

Featuring the films:
Purple Rain (1984) **½
Alambrista! (1977) ****
Keanu (2016) ***
Dead Poet’s Society (1989) ***
Ant-Man (2015) ***
Solarbabies (1986) *

We’re just going to have to whip through most of this stuff so I can catch up to where I’m at today with movies and TV. This was the week after Prince died, so I kicked it off with “Purple Rain”, which I had never seen. Probably because I doubted it was very good. Despite the fact that we lost a great artist, I’m pretty sure I’m right in thinking that cinema wasn’t his best medium. This screening confirmed that belief. I then watched the wonderful 70’s film about Mexican illegals, “Alambastra!”, which should probably be seen by everyone who believes that immigrants are just living off of our sweat. I also saw Key & Peele’s first feature film “Keanu”, about their search for their lost gangsta cat. The movie capitalizes off their ability to convolute black stereotypes, but could use a little deeper foundation work. It was enjoyable enough though. I revisited “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Ant-Man” for the first time since my initial viewings. That was a much longer period of time for Poet’s. I still found the same problems I had 25 years ago with that one, but I liked “Ant-Man” even more the second time. Finally, the mind-boggling “Solarbabies” was my HDTGM movie for the week, truly begging the question, “How Did This Get Made?”