Thursday, May 16, 2013

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: The Jack Sack™ Movie Review

I loved this movie. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is a rare example of a film's execution surpassing its own limits in terms of story. On paper, I should absolutely hate this movie. I knew a significant amount of spoilers going in and I was convinced that the filmmakers made a huge error until I actually watched *how* they did it. Seeing these actors, Chris Pine in particular giving an extraordinary performance as James T. Kirk, I realized that this cast and crew deserves our trust.

To the film itself, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is an improvement over 2009's STAR TREK in terms of narrative. Kirk and his crew have been on the Enterprise for some time now, and Kirk is already showing that he hasn't earned nor does he respect his position well-enough to keep it. Where some people criticized the first film for giving Kirk the Captain's chair too early, that was a key element in Kirk's character development for this film. So, with Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) taking back the Enterprise and making Kirk his first mate, we see the father-son bond between these two characters emerge more poignantly.

However, the relationship that towers over all of this material is that between Kirk and Spock. In the previous film, Leonard Nimoy's Spock mind-melded with Kirk to inform him of the alternate timeline. Part of that mind-meld was Pine's Kirk being bombarded with Original Spock's emotional bond with Original Kirk. This is an overwhelming burden for the younger Kirk- to know that he is destined to be great, and to be best friends with a Vulcan who has, in his younger incarnation up until that point, been a complete asshole. It's like knowing you're going to marry someone after a disastrous first couple of dates (which included you losing your job, getting thrown out of a moving vehicle, etc.). Kirk knows he has to be the bigger guy at this point because Spock is a work in progress. And in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Spock tests Kirk's resolve early and often, therefore making their ultimate resolution that much more touching.

I have nothing to say about the villain except that he's a huge improvement over the last film's actor and character. I like the execution more than I expected, but this is a part of the movie that's not worth discussing prior to most people seeing it.

The Special Effects were better this time around. The Enterprise looked gorgeous and I'm not a fan of this new ship design at all. The thing is, she earns her namesake and by the film's end she's become an adored family member. I also loved the music, building on the last film's strong score and making more interesting variations throughout.

This entire movie was a surprise for these several improvements in execution. The characters (Scotty in particular) have more dimension to them. I like the filmmakers decisions because they've proven to me that it's not about doing the so-called right thing with these characters, it's about doing those things the right way. While many actors shine in this film, this is Chris Pine's movie. He's a legitimate movie star after his performance here. I'm looking forward to seeing this again this weekend. Go see it too! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Jack Bauer's Vacation Is Over; 24 Officially Returns to TV!

Well, call this a good day for the manpurse industry!  Jack Bauer's vacation has come to an end with the terror-loving producers at FOX reviving the TV series 24.  Today, news comes in that Kiefer Sutherland has officially signed to star in the further adventures of Jack Bauer.

Time to start speculating on the next installment... but first, let's all sober up from our celebrating this news!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

24: The (TV) Movie (Miniseries)? Rumors are Jack Bauer is coming back

File this under rampant rumor/speculation/aggravation: 

The story is that 24 is coming back to TV but as a limited-event (do people not want to say "mini-series" anymore?). The rumor details are here, so take this all with the skepticism it deserves- namely a couple of producers probably desperate to revive their golden goose due to their inability to get 24 on the big screen! I hope something happens, Jack Bauer taking over Mr. Roger's Neighborhood would be fine by me ("There's a bomb on the model train! GET DOWN!!!"). 

Well, maybe they want to get my blog stats back up. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

ROBOT & FRANK: The Jack Sack™ Movie Review

One of the greatest gifts in life is finding true friends. You don't necessarily think about it when a friendship is formed, or even in the midst of the bond, but you do notice it when the friend is gone-- and thus losing a friend (no matter the circumstances) is one of the harshest certainties in life.

ROBOT & FRANK is about the ends and beginnings of friendship- between an aging troublemaker, Frank and his family, loved ones, and an improbable union with a soft-spoken but pushy robot caretaker.  Set in the near-future, Frank (Frank Langella) has lost all of his friendships. He lives alone in a warm but empty house in the secluded, gorgeous Hudson Valley. What should be a happy retirement is in truth a series of days that blend into one another where time is without meaning. Also, Frank is not well, he is forgetful, losing his world to the creeping ravages of dementia- so his solitude is based on the fact that he doesn't remember those closest to him. Instead of putting Frank in an assisted living center, his son, Hunter (James Marsden) elects to bring the care to his father's home- in the form of a short, white robot nurse. Frank is unsurprisingly pissed at his son's gesture and he takes it out on the robot in a series of sinister scenes.

However, some friendships are born from antagonism, and the one that emerges between Frank and his robot is as touching yet unsentimental as possible.  The filmmakers rightly do not turn the robot into a Wall-E type character, in fact the robot's charm comes from his consistently dry delivery. There are a few truly laugh-out-loud moments in this film that don't force the humor. And something more brilliant takes place here- it's not about a robot becoming a human being's friend, it's about a human being treating a robot as a friend. By isolating the variables to one human, the film shows that the generosity, frustration and love that we express to our friends comes from within. We may react to people in the way they treat us, but where the one we're around is devoid of emotion or intent, we nevertheless practice the values of friendship with that being. That's where ROBOT & FRANK succeeds brilliantly- in displaying the giving nature of humans without forcing it to fit a gimmick.

There's a lot of plot here that I don't want to ruin- it's a movie that should be experienced without any prior knowledge. Just take the time to find this film and hopefully you will see the statements on friendship that are so thoughtfully expressed throughout.

Monday, May 06, 2013

I want to be friends with STAR WARS again

Hi Gang,

It's been a while since I posted anything with the complete lack of anything 24-related in the world. And I've had little to add to the internet other than my tweets about cigars, sunsets and bourbon. I guess there's a time for everything to recede and then there comes a time for something new to grow. Maybe I'm back to writing or maybe this is my single post for 2013. I have no idea, and I make no promises about the frequency of posts moving forward.

All of that aside, the reason I logged back into Blogger today was to write out my thoughts concerning STAR WARS, the pillar of my childhood, the albatross on my teenage dating prospective years and the calamitously expensive hobby I delved into during the "prequel" years when the series was marketed and merchandized into new life.

I gave up on STAR WARS. It happened around the time I sat through REVENGE OF THE SITH and realized I didn't care who lived, who died or why I was even sitting in the seat. I was bored by the spectacle. I am not alone in this feeling, and the internet is full of millions of folks saying some version of this essay. I don't have anything Tatooine-shattering to offer here but while reading an interview with Mark Hamill regarding the upcoming movies (Episodes 7, 8 and 9) I realized that I would be seeing Luke Skywalker again on the big screen.  This was the first time I felt genuinely happy about STAR WARS in years. More than any other "original" character, Luke was the guy that made these films. Sure, he whined, he moped around and he kept pissing off the level-headed Yoda and Ben Kenobi, but Luke was the kid. Luke was all of us, thrust into an odd world, told to live a certain kind of life but always looking off to the future, hoping for a new destiny. There is much more I could write about this character, a thesis on Western Individualist thought is just waiting to be applied to Young Skywalker, but I'll skip all of that for now and just go on about my emotions. And the big surprise here is that I feel warmth towards STAR WARS, and more specifically, Luke Skywalker, again. Will it last? Will the new movies be good? That's all up to the filmmakers. I may not be a fanatic anymore, but maybe that was never sustainable. Growing up is not necessarily inevitable, but it does make it difficult to obsess over anything in particular when you have to deal with real issues.

I would really like to have my old childhood friend come back, if not for me but for a new generation of kids that could experience the same joy and imaginative thrill that I had from these stories. I hope STAR WARS comes back for real this time.