Monday, June 03, 2013

What I Watched In May

You know its the Summer when I get out to the theater four times in on month! Woo hoo!

First up was post-apocalyptic science fiction epic (?) OBLIVION starring Tom Cruise. I'm not a big fan of Cruise as a person- I find his Scientology belief system far too idiotic to take seriously- but as a film star I think he can be quite compelling. Such is the case here in which we watch him functioning as the male half of a couple in charge of overseeing a vast section of the ruined future Earth. The twist is that he is overseeing the final destruction of the planet's oceans for use as fuel to take the remaining humans to a new home. He seems content with his lot in life spending his last days on his home planet with his beloved wife (?) until we see that he has a secret little hideaway where he wallows in relics from the past. And his curiosity about the planet bound remnants of the alien species responsible for Earth's destruction might be dangerous to him and his lady.

A number of science fiction fans are lauding this as a true classic of the genre and although I think its very good I'm not sure it reaches that status. Its a very well produced movie and I was impressed on several levels but its not in the 2001, SOYLENT GREEN or GATTACA category of the best of the best.

IRON MAN 3 was a hell of a great Marvel Super Hero action film. I was pretty sure that it would be very good when I learned that Shane Black was writing and directing as I've been impressed with his work for decades. His first film as director was the brilliant KISS KISS, BANG BANG (2005) which is one of my favorite movies of the past ten years. Its also the film that put him in contact with Robert Downey Jr. and probably got him this gig. IM3 is a blast from start to finish and it was a stroke of genius to separate Stark from the suit and force him into a James Bond role to save himself and the people he cares for. Great villains, smart humor, a fantastic cast and a lot of heart - damned near perfect Summer fun.

The sixth FAST & FURIOUS film is almost as much fun as the last two but not quite. The script's central driving scheme of a  resurrected cast member is too silly by half but the actors work hard to make you buy into the idea. I love these movies for the big dumb action rides that they are, so your mileage may vary- a lot- but I really enjoy the sundrenched cinematography, hard boiled dialog, over-the-top driving sequences and the exuberant nature of a film series happy to just create thrills. Plus, I'm not ashamed to say, that I like the cast. I think Vin Diesel is an incredibly talented actor even if his bald, muscle encrusted exterior makes too many people think he is in the Schwarzenegger mode of screen stiffs. Even in a movie this crazed and unbelievable Vin can be subtle and funny and that is a remarkable thing. These are not movies built for thinking - they are built to put a smile on your face and this one succeeds. I can hardly wait for the cleverly teased seventh entry!

I have to admit that I am not a fan of J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of STAR TREK. I think it had a terrible script filled with stupid coincidences, idiotic narrative gaps, dumb character choices and a massive lack of logic. It was an entertaining, fast paced movie but one that gets more irritating the more you think about it. Now comes his sequel and its a slight improvement- it doesn't have as many stupid moments, the characters seem more thought out in their actions and the script avoids glaring logic flaws. So is STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS a good movie? Sadly, no. The best I can say is that it isn't a bad movie- its essentially 'meh'. I never cared one whit about what was happening onscreen. Not for one second was I concerned about these characters, their plight or the possible dangers that they were zipping through. The film has no weight, no heft and certainly no depth. It is feather light in the worst sense. It is air- breezy, bright, colorful fluff that floats in front of you and is easily forgotten when you turn your head or sneeze to expel its cloying scent. It is 'meh'. I did not care about anything in it for a second. This film is something I could never say about the original Star Trek - it is shallow. And the worst part is that the central idea for bringing the main villain into the story is a good one and should have worked. The cast remains game, trying their hardest to make it work but its just too one dimensionally done. What a shame. The cast is very talented but once again they have little to do other than run around, shoot things and throw punches. It seems clear that (for me) Abrams' was the wrong choice to make these movies.

OBLIVION (2013)- 8
IRON MAN 3 (2013)- 8
THE CURSE OF THE DOLL PEOPLE (1970)- 3 (English dub is a mess)
A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE (1974)- 7 (rewatch)
AIR HAWKS (1935)- 6 (death ray/mad scientist melodrama)
KILMA - QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE (1975)- 6 (not bad jungle girl film with Naschy)
JOHN DIES AT THE END (2012)- 8 (very fun!)
TRESPASS (2012)- 4 (if I'd know this was directed by Joel Schumacher I would have avoided it)
THE FAST & THE FURIOUS 6 (2013)- 7 (silly but highly entertaining action outing)
TRACKMAN (2007)- 4 (Russian slasher)
DUNE (1984)- 6 (rewatch) (still just a Cliff Notes version)
THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011)- 8 (great action film)
FUTUREWORLD (1976)- 5 (rewatch) (Not terrible but not very good either) 


Kal said...

Have you seen Dune and Children of Dune that SYFY did a few years back? That was a great production of the story.

I totally agree with your reviews of the top four movies on you list. Star Trek was such a letdown.

Rod Barnett said...

I watched the first half of the Sci-Fi (at the time!) production but found it so stale I stopped. I meant to return to it and really dig in but I still never have. I might have to give it a shot again soon.

I hope to have a chance next year to sit down with William Stout and discuss his experience working on the Lynch film. He has a LOT of tales to tell about that film. I'll be posting a podcast in a few days of a conversation with Mr. Stout but we only mention DUNE. Next time we start there!

Brian Lindsey said...

FYI, if you haven't heard already: Due to his blockbuster success with IRON MAN 3, Shane Black has been given the green light to begin pre-production on his dream project -- DOC SAVAGE. Hooray!

Also: I, too, caught AIR HAWKS ON TCM last month and enjoyed it... Edward Van Sloan is positively orgasmic with joy whenever firing his death ray!

Rod Barnett said...

Wasn't the Death Ray the strangest thing to pop up in that film? I ha no idea AIR HAWKS was going to be the slightest science fiction-y. Amazing!

And if those rumors about Black doing a Doc Savage movie are true I'll be thrilled beyond words.