Lawless – Review

24 Jul

In the year 1920, the United States government thought it would be a good idea to ban alcohol in all of out fifty states. While in theory, that sounds like an awful idea, many people found way to use the Prohibition to their advantage. Bootleggers and moonshiners began cropping up all over the country, and three of the most interesting examples are the Bondurant brothers who worked out of the Virginia Piedmont. Nick Cave based his screenplay off of Matt Bondurant’s (one of their grandsons) The Wettest County in the World and director John Hillcoat collaborated to create the excellent crime drama that is Lawless.

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Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) and his brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are moonshiners who provide for a small town in Virginia. Amongst the respect and gratitude they get from their friends and neighbors comes an other worldly legend that Forrest is immortal. That immortality is put to the test when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) arrives in town and demands a cut of the action for the new Virginia commonwealth attorney. Forrest and his brother whole heartedly refuse and soon become the targets of Rakes’ wrath. Meanwhile, Forrest hires and quickly falls for a Chicago dancer named Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain) and Jack meets and begins courting local girl Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska) and begins doing business with big time gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). With liquor sales sky rocketing, the Bondurant brothers really do seem invincible until Charlie Rakes brings his war far too close to the Bondurant home.

I was a huge fan of the previous collaboration between screenwriter/composer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat, The Proposition. Not only did I think it was beautifully shot, but the writing and the pacing as well as the outstanding soundtrack made for one hell of a modern western. Lawless plays out like a western but it also has roots in the gangster and crime genre as well. There’s Tommy guns and pinstripe wearing gangsters, but the Bondurant boys and the showdowns that they get into are very much like western characteristics. At one point, Rakes even asks Forrest if he is going to “draw on him” which is a western cliche through and through. I don’t want to say that this movie uses and abundance of cliches because there were a lot of things that happened in the story that were completely unexpected.

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What’s great about this story is how it uses tropes from the aforementioned genres, but then also manipulates the viewer into thinking we know what’s going to happen, but then ends up surprising us with the actual outcome. That’s smart screenwriting, and I respect that. Another important thing is that I care about all of the characters and I care even more about what happens to them. I was actually sort of surprised at the feelings I had towards all of them, and not all of the feelings were good. But if a characters was hurt or even killed, it really resonated throughout the rest of the film, and amongst all of the brutal violence it was good to see that I actually care about the characters and not just the action.

Lawless wouldn’t be the success that it is if it wasn’t for the incredibly talented cast of actors that makes up the ensemble. A lot of people give Shia LaBeouf shit for his acting, but you can’t just think of him as that guy from the Transformers movies. He proves in this movie that he really does have the skill to make it in dramatic movies. Tom Hardy owns every scene he’s in, even though he doesn’t have all that much to say. His screen presence alone does the job just fine. Guy Pierce is the real scene stealer though as the unbelievably creepy and psychotic Charlie Rakes. His look, his voice, and his posture was enough for me to want to go into the movie and beat him up myself. He’s definitely one of the best villains to come around in a long time.

In conclusion, I was in no way disappointed by Lawless and it has even given me some inspiration to start working on my own projects again. This film works as a western film, a gangster film, and family drama film. There’s so much to enjoy about this movie I had to watch it a second time the day after I watched it for the first time. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen a while and may be one of my new favorites. Check this movie out if you haven’t already!

The Last House on the Left (1972) – Review

22 Jul

In terms of horror, there are many different iconic film makers that shaped what the genre is truly meant to be, but I think we can all agree that Wes Craven is the guy. This isn’t the first time I’ve covered Craven’s films on here so this should come as no surprise that I look up to him as a writer and as a director. Even the greatest of film makers have to start somewhere, and for Wes Craven is was in 1972 with his now infamous film The Last House on the Left. In terms of coming out of the starting gate, I don’t think Mr. Craven would have wanted it any other way.

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Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) is a typical upper-middle class teenage girl who is celebrating her seventeenth birthday by going to a rock concert with her friend Phillis (Lucy Grantham). The two girls seem completely carefree despite the warnings of Mari’s parents (Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr) and start the night with some drinking and a search for some weed. Their attempts are stopped when they are kidnapped by a group of escaped convicts led by the sadistic Krug (David A. Hess). The two girls then endure a period of rape, torture, and murder with the convicts thinking this is one last ride before they make their escape. What they didn’t count on was the vengeful spirit of Mari’s parents which leads to more bloodshed than the criminals could have believed.

Interestingly enough, Wes Craven was inspired by an Ingmar Bergman film from 1960 called The Virgin Spring, which has a story quite similar to this one. Bergman’s film was highly controversial and banned in certain places. Well if that happened to Bergman, it sure as hell happened to Craven. When The Last House on the Left was released in 1972 it was met with MAJOR controversy. According to Craven, people were vomiting, passing out, and leaving during screenings. He was also forced to cut a lot of scenes, but was still threatened with an X rating until it was finally slapped with an R just because he knew someone on the rating board. Even today, the BBFC has trouble censoring and releasing it and it was made over forty years ago!

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It really says something when a jaded 21st century movie buff like me actually gets uncomfortable watching something, let alone something that was made way before I even existed. That’s the case with The Last House on the Left. The odd thing is that I can sit through something like Hostel or Saw and not really get uncomfortable because both of those examples really feels like a produced movie with production values that make it look nice and pretty. This was not the case for Craven’s debut. Everything from the actors to the production design is dirt cheap. The look can kind of be compared to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in how it almost has a documentary feel to it. I felt like I was watching these atrocities happen which made the entire experience all the more uncomfortable and sickening. But hey! This is a horror movie. That’s the whole point!

There are some really, and I mean really, stupid things that happen in this movie and the all revolve around two completely inept police officers. This is really the only shitty part about the movie. In one scene, I’ll be completely horrified by the violence and then the next scene I’ll be watching these two Keystone cops flopping all over the place and making themselves look like idiots. I’m all for comedic relief, and they provide some good stuff earlier on in the movie, but they become completely useless as the movie progresses.

Wes Craven really created something unbelievable with The Last House on the Left, a movie that still pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable film making and even helped coin the British term “video nasty.” While it is a story about murder and revenge, it also gives us a look at the violence that even the most ordinary people keep deep down in their subconscious until it is forced back into their lives. This isn’t a perfect film, but it is a fine and disturbing example of modern day horror that was a game changer when it was released and a cornerstone to the genre today.

The Lincoln Lawyer – Review

22 Jul

In my travels here and there, especially on my adventures with public transportation, I’ve seen many a person reading books by the author Michael Connelly.  A prolific writer, Connelly has created many different characters that are part of long running collections and also has worked on writing for film and television. One of his most famous books was made into a movie just a few years ago, The Lincoln Lawyer, but when it came out I didn’t hear a whole lot about it. I thought it was about time to check it out and it’s fair to say that I got exactly what I was expecting from it.

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Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a criminal defense lawyer who keeps his office in the back of his Lincoln Town Car that is driven all over Los Angeles. Haller’s willing to help anyone who’s willing to pay because all this job really means to him is a steady, and hefty paycheck, even though this way of thinking causes some minor conflict with his ex-wife and prosecutor, Maggie (Marisa Tomei). He soon stumbles onto a case that is sure to pay well when the son of a real estate tycoon, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), is charged with sexual assault and battery. At first, the case appears to be an open and shut deal, but when Haller’s own private detective Frank Levin (William H. Macy) uncovers some information about a previous case that may involve Roulet, Haller finds his career, his beliefs, and his life in supreme danger.

I had some thoughts about this movie as I was going into it about what it was going to be like and what my reaction to it would be. It’s kind of crazy how on point I was about it, because while my assumptions either come close or are completely wrong, they rarely are this accurate. Going into The Lincoln Lawyer, I was simply expecting a good escape from everything for a few hours, and that’s exactly what I got. There’s nothing really excellent, nor does it ever go above and beyond what is expected. This is just a good movie through and through, especially since there’s nothing too big I really need to complain about.

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Let’s get the not so good stuff out of the way first. The movie as a whole feels like it should definitely be part of a series, almost as if this is the pilot episode to what is going to be an excellent show. There’s a lot of really cool characters introduced and the story is very intriguing, but by the end I felt like I needed to see more in order for the movie to finally feel over. Part of this is probably because this technically is part of a book series that probably later goes on to build the characters more, but part of this definitely has to do with a hasty ending that ends before it even gets started. I swear, the amount of content that is packed into the last fifteen minutes of this movie is unbelievable. It kind of suffers from Return of the King syndrome, that being there are a whole bunch of parts I thought the movie was over, and then it would just cut over to another scene filled with information.

That’s the bad. Not really that much compared to everything else. The story of The Lincoln Lawyer, as I stated already, is really intriguing and the way it played out over a course of two hours was close to perfect. There was a lot of time for McConaughey to play a swaggering lawyer that appears invincible, and there was even more time for that image to peel away to show a distraught, morally torn human being. That being said, McConaughey and the rest of the cast do very well. Phillippe even gives a surprisingly good performance and I’m a little surprised I don’t see him in more movies. Everyone else does a good job, without acting better than is to be expected, but I just wish Bryan Cranston had more screen time!

The bottom line is that The Lincoln Lawyer is a solid movie that won’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, though, it probably won’t impress you either. What we have here is pure popcorn escapism that just so happened to land on the good side of the film making spectrum. Everything, besides a rushed ending, fits very well together in this movie, but you have to make sure you suspend your disbelief the moment the movie starts. If you’re in the mood to just turn off and enjoy a few leisurely hours, this might just do the trick.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

Not too long ago, I reviewed the entire Planet of the Apes franchise starting with the 1968 original and covered all of the sequels, including Tim Burton’s remake and what I would consider the “official” reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I considered the 2011 film to be the best in the series since the original film was released over 40 years ago. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and when I say it can easily be considered one of the best sequels ever made, I mean it. Not only does it build on what was presented in the first film, it completely enhances the entire experience in every way possible.

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After the events of the first film, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) are living in the redwoods outside of San Francisco and the human population have mostly died off from the ALZ-113 Virus, now known as the “Simian Flu.” Not all humans are dead, however, with a prominent group of uninfected living in San Francisco and led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The group has been doing well, although the fuel power that they are living on won’t last too much longer which forces them to travel into the woods to reactivate a dam that powered part of the city in the past. The humans, led by Malcolm, soon encounter the apes who eventually decide to help them in their mission. This peace and understanding doesn’t last long when members of both sides threaten to shatter everything that has been achieved, the guiltiest party being Caesar’s right hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell).

What I love most about these movies is that they were first made in a time when the social commentary that was being discussed worked very well and had a positive impact on the way people were thinking. That’s also part of the reason why I think Tim Burton’s movie failed as much as it did. There was no real discussion to be had. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the social commentary is back and more relevant than ever. This film is one of the most intelligent summer blockbusters I have seen in a while. It may be a story about man vs ape, but it’s also a story about how prejudice and our preconceived notions and hatreds are enough to spark violence on any scale. This may not be anything new, but in light of recent events all around the world, it’s a message that needs to be heard.

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It may not come as a surprise to most people when I say that Andy Serkis is one of the best actors in the business. It annoys me to no end that he hasn’t even been nominated for any Academy Awards for his performances. I’ve heard arguments that he isn’t “actually in the movie” which is complete bullshit and here’s why. Every movement and emotion of Caesar’s that you see is all Andy Serkis. He is acting in this movie and deserves the proper recognition. That goes for a lot of the other actors too, mainly Toby Kebbell as Koba and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes. The human cast are all fine too, but the real emotion lies with the apes. Even Gary Oldman is completely outdone by the motion capture actors.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also the best looking movie you’re going to see all summer and possibly the entire year. The special effects in this movie are absolutely perfect. One scene in particular shows Koba in a close up and it was unbelievable how real it looked. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie isn’t all about the special effects, and the way the story is written confirms that. The dialogue and narrative are so tightly written there’s not a scene out of place. Every shot of every scene has a purpose so the movie feels just as long as it needs to be. It’s a perfect combination of using special effects in order to enhance the story telling.

I wasn’t surprised by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at least not too much. I knew that this movie was going to meet and then exceed my expectations, which it did. Everything from the performances to the effects to the intelligence of the story mixed together to make the perfect summer blockbuster. This did exactly what a sequel should do: build on its predecessor and ultimately be a better film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this piece of remarkable film making, get your ass in gear and head to the theaters immediately.

Star Trek (1979-1991) Review – Part 2

17 Jul

In my previous review, I took a look at the first three Star Trek films which spanned from 1979 to 1984. I still have three movies to get through, however, and this time we start in the year 1986. The Search for Spock proved to be, for many, an acceptable entry into the series but lacking whatever it was that made The Wrath of Khan so good. I personally really enjoyed the third film, but I’ve already discussed that. With The Voyage Home, writer/director/vulcan Leonard Nimoy wraps up the trilogy that consists of the second, third, and fourth film and also brings the crew into a time that may seem much more familiar.

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James Kirk (William Shatner), the reborn Spock (Leonard Nimoy, McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and the rest of the Enterprise crew are on Vulcan with their damaged Bird-of-Prey ship ready to head back to Earth to stand on trial for the events of the third film. As they are heading back, they receive a distress message from Starfleet saying that a mysterious probe is scanning the Earth and sending a secret message while completely ripping apart the planet’s atmosphere at the same time. Spock, in one of his most brilliant and convoluted deductions to date realizes that it is the song of humpback whales, which have been extinct for over a hundred years. The crew then sling shot back in time to 1986 where they find two humpback whales in captivity and cared for by Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks). Along with the doctor, Kirk and his team assemble everything they need to get home and also plan on a way to bring the whales back to the future to answer the probe’s call and save the Earth.

Wow, right? As absolutely ridiculous this whole plot sounds, this is actually one of, if not the best, movie of the entire series. To people who haven’t seen it, that might sound very farfetched, but to those who have seen it, you know exactly why. After the dark tone of the third film, The Voyage Home is a wonderfully lighthearted film but never pushes the boundaries into excessive glee. It’s just so much fun watching this technologically advanced group of people that we love so much trying to navigate the foreign world of 1986. This provides a lot of comedy and funny situations for the crew to get in, and there’s even a good ecological message about saving the whales thrown in. That whole message probably sounds beaten to death, but it works for this movie very well.

While The Voyage Home is definitely the most light hearted in the entire series, it holds up just as well as one of the best of the bunch. Knowing the characters helps a lot and seeing them try to live in this kind of environment is good for a lot of laughs and a fair share of excitement. The plot is ridiculous, yes, but the writing, characters, and effects are all top notch and loads of fun.

Then…

Oh, then it happened…

The year was 1989. The story arc of the previous three movies had ended and Leonard Nimoy is no longer interested in sitting in the director’s chair, but there was still a demand from Star Trek fans. Who would want the adventures of Kirk and Spock and all the rest to end? Well, that still doesn’t excuse the abomination…the catastrophe…that is The Final Frontier.

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Finally earning some down time after the unbelievable work that they are faced with time and again, the crew of the newly commissioned Enterprise are on Earth and enjoying themselves. Of course, this doesn’t last too long when human, Romulan, and Klingon ambassadors are taken hostage on the planet Nimbus III by a renegade Vulcan, Sybock (Laurence Luckinbill). The Enterprise is then forced to end their shore leave and go to Nimbus III to stop Sybock and his followers. Things begin getting strange aboard the Enterprise after Sybock is taken aboard, however, when it appears that members of the crew begin looking at him as some sort of spiritual guide. Not everything is at it seems and all are stunned when Sybock’s true mission is revealed and just how close his relation to Spock apparently is.

I think I might’ve given this movie a hard time in my little introduction I wrote for it. Then again, maybe not. I’m not quite sure. All I’m sure of is that this movie is a complete joke when it comes to the lore of Star Trek. Kirk, McCoy, and Spock sing in the woods, Scotty bangs his head on rafters, and Uhura does a sexy dance to distract guards. What the hell is going on? This is a weird movie, to put it nicely. It’s like that really bad episode of Star Trek that’s so bad it can’t even be enjoyed that much. Think of it as season 3 episode 1, Spock’s Brain. It’s stupid on every level and the cheesiness can’t even save it.

While The Final Frontier may be considered the bottom of the barrel when it comes to this series, it did have some humor in it that made me chuckle and it was nice to see the characters in another adventure. Truth be told it did feel more like Star Trek than the first film, and that’s saying something. If I had a choice to watch the 1979 film or this one, I’d probably choose this one because at least I wasn’t bored. Still, it is a pretty awful movie with very little redeeming qualities at all. If you thought whales were a crazy plot device, this one will blow your mind. It’s a completely shallow entry… Did I mention it was directed by William Shatner?

Well, the end of the series finally came in 1991 with the sixth entry, The Undiscovered Country.

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When the Klingon moon of Praxis explodes, their home world’s ozone layer begins to waste away giving them just 50 years of survival left. In order to save the Klingon race, Star Fleet decides to hold a peace talk in order to do away with the Klingon Neutral Zone and all of the hostilities between the two factions. Without any permission to do so and much to Kirk’s frustration, Spock volunteers the Enterprise to transport the Klingon ambassador Gorkon (David Warner) to Earth for the council. Gorkon is soon assassinated with the blame place on Kirk and McCoy by the Klingon Chang (Christopher Plummer), Gorkon’s chief of staff. Now begins a race against time for Kirk to get out of the screwy Klingon justice and lead the Enterprise to the new secret location of the peace talks to prevent another possible assassination attempt, this time on the president.

In terms of a send off for the original Star Trek crew, this couldn’t have been a better movie. After the wreck that was The Final Frontier, it was nice to see a more than decent entry in the series. This one almost plays out like a spy thriller, and definitely has Cold War undertones concerning miscommunication, deception, paranoia, and finger pointing which leads to violence. It’s a smartly written movie that has plenty of action, adventure, humor, and politics that I’ve come to expect from Star Trek as a whole. This movie also gets pretty violent at times, even though the outcome looks pretty fake by today’s standards. Other than some wonky special effects in the beginning, this is actually one of the better looking movies in the entire series.

The Undiscovered Country may not be on the same level as The Wrath of KhanThe Search for Spock, or The Voyage Home but it still is a really good movie. The ending itself is bittersweet because we know this is the last adventure we are going to have with this crew, but we also think back to the many episodes and movies that we had to see where they would take us. Sure this is me getting sentimental, but I love Star Trek and this movie is a great reminder as to why it’s so easy to fall in love with a franchise like this.

Well, that’s it. That’s all the original Star Trek movies. Overall, there’s more good than there is bad which isn’t too surprising. From the sorrow of Spock’s death in The Wrath of Khan to the joy that is felt when Chekov has the worst time trying to get people’s attention on the modern streets of San Francisco, the Star Trek movies are science fiction adventure at some of its very best. They may not reach the artistic designs of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they do have characters and stories that are timeless.

Star Trek (1979-1991) – Review Part I

8 Jul

Star Trek is one of those shows that changed the way people watched television and is definitely a prime example of something that was way ahead of its time. From philosophical question to sociological arguments to the first interracial kiss ever broadcast, this show changed things for the better. Other than that, it also provided some excellent science fiction adventure with a group of characters that have only become more beloved as time went on. It’s surprising that the original series only lasted 3 seasons. What isn’t surprising is that that wasn’t the end. After the third series ended, Star Trek: The Animated Series finished off the final two of their five year mission, but the films are what people seem to remember the most. From 1979 to 1991, six films were released, some of which define cinematic excellence and some that make me think if the film makers ever watched Star Trek.

The first of the films to be released is the appropriately named Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

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Some years after being head of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner) now holds a high ranking position in Starfleet, but longs for the days in which he was traveling the unknown reaches of space. He soon gets his chance to step back into the captain’s chair when an enormous space cloud is seen destroying Klingon war ships (woo!) but also heading straight for Earth (boo!). It’s up to Kirk and his trusty crew including Spock (Leonard Nimoy), McCoy (Deforest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) to pilot the Enterprise onto the course of the cloud and learn how to stop whatever it is controlling it. What the crew learns about the cloud is shocking to say the least, and relates back to Earth in a much more direct way than they could have possibly imagined.

At the start of this movie, it really feels like you’re back into Star Trek. Klingons, murderous space clouds, and Earth in peril are all ingredients to make this a successful movie. Well, too bad director Robert Wise was more interested in making a rip off of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Don’t be fooled by the name Star Trek. This is nothing like it, and what’s worse it is unbelievably boring! For example, the first time we see the Enterprise with Kirk is supposed to be a special moments since he hasn’t seen it, and at the time neither had audiences, for quite a while. Instead of making it a nice moment, the scene goes on and on and on with shots of Kirk looking at the ship, Kirk looking at Scotty, space, and random bullshit. I swear it goes on for at least ten minutes. There are many scenes like that and a really random, trippy sequence that also seems to go on forever.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture has all the right parts to make it a cool science fiction movie and an acceptable entry to the Star Trek franchise. All of the plot elements are in place, and towards the end it starts getting really cool, but unfortunately that doesn’t completely save the movie. This is the longest of the original Star Trek movies and it really doesn’t need to be considering the narrative material. Overlong scenes of just space and environments might have worked in Kubrick’s space ballet that is 2001, but it obviously is the completely wrong way to go about doing a Star Trek film.

The series really needed help to get it out of the mire. Enter a new director, new writers, and a story that wraps up a season 1 episode and we have the miracle that is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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On a routine mission for Starfleet, Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) is sent to investigate a planet that just so happens to be where Kirk banished an old enemy, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Monalbán) a genetically enhanced dictator from 20th century Earth. Khan has vengeance in his soul for Admiral Kirk, who is back at Starfleet headquarters working with Spock to train the new cadets, one being an overachieving Vulcan, Saavik (Kirstie Alley). The training mission on the Enterprise soon gets out of hand when it is revealed that Khan is planning on stealing the Genesis device, a machine that has the capability to create life, but also destroy it when used improperly. When the two finally meet, the most important battle the Enterprise has ever faced begins.

The Wrath of Khan is an excellent example for the phrase “back to formula.” Wouldn’t Norman Osbourne be proud? After the monstrosity that was the first film, this second entry is more than just a breath of fresh air. It’s everything a Star Trek film should be, and maybe ever a little more. The fact that the writer went back to a little season 1 episode called Space Seed is just the first reason why this movie is such a success. Obviously the writers and the director have seen the show and knew exactly how the movie should feel. There’s lots of excitement, humor, outrageous science, and dialogue that push “hamming it up” to the extreme. What’s not to love here?

Any fan of Star Trek will be quick to say that The Wrath of Khan is the best film in the series and maybe even in the entire franchise. The action is stunning and the story is really cool, but hasn’t Star Trek always been about the characters? The answer is yes. Yes it has, and they’re finally back like themselves again. Just to be clear, even though the story is fun doesn’t mean it’s stupid. This is a well written, well executed film that puts the pseudo philosophical bullshit of the first film to shame. This is Star Trek at its finest, and quite possibly cheesiest.

The Wrath of Khan was actually the beginning of what is know as the Star Trek Trilogy because the next two films would also follow the same story arc presented in the second film. Following up The Wrath of Khan is an entry that I believe can be held in just as much regard as it’s predecessor. This movie is Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

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Right after the events of The Wrath of Khan, the Enterprise is on its way back to Earth while Spock’s body has landed on the planet created by the explosion of the Genesis device in the nebula. Back on Earth, things are pretty weird. Kirk is depressed after the news of the Enterprise being decommissioned and McCoy is acting like he’s losing his mind. Kirk soon gets a visit from Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard), who informs Kirk that Spock’s being was transferred to before he died and needed his body in order for his being to be returned. It turns out Spock transferred his being into McCoy. Meanwhile, on the Genesis planet, Saavik (Robin Curtis) and Kirk’s son David (Merritt Butrick) find Spock reborn as a child with no mind and must protect him from the planet that’s tearing itself apart. Soon, Kirk and his crew arrive and find a Klingon Bird-of-Prey sitting in wait led by the sadistic Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who wants the secrets to the Genesis device.

Just as I was writing this, I realized just how stuffed and preposterous the whole movie is.This doesn’t change the fact that I love it. If The Wrath of Khan can be compared to that episode that everyone likes and considered to be a classic, The Search for Spock is that crazy season 3 episode that is surprisingly effective and entertaining. This film is a lot darker than its predecessor, but I feel like the entertainment value is just as high. Christopher Lloyd goes absolutely crazy as Kruge even though he’s the last actor I ever would have though would make a great Klingon. It’s also cool seeing the story carry over from The Wrath of Khan. Plus that fight scene in the end is enough to make any fan of the original series remember all of the brawls that Kirk was constantly getting himself into.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is a great entry into the series. The movie does have some shortcomings and weaknesses, but nothing that really hurts the movie at all. I’m just curious as to why they decided to bring Spock back, especially after Nimoy was only interested in coming back for The Wrath of Khan only if Spock dies. Well, I’m fine with whatever the reason and it was cool seeing Leonard Nimoy have a chance as director as well. Any fan of Star Trek should appreciate this entry, even if it shouldn’t be considered as perfect.

Well, that wraps up the first part of the original Star Trek movies. We still have three movies to go, so keep an eye out for part 2!

 

Flatland – Review

25 Jun

To my complete surprise, before I started watching Flatland, I learned that this was actually a pilot for a television show that seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. When I found that out, I was tempted to not even watch it since I was much more interested in watching a movie at the time, but I figured, “What the hell? I’ll give it a watch.” It was packaged and sold as a movie after all, plus the case was boasting about the $40 million budget and how it will please both science fiction and martial arts fans alike. Well, I’m both of them and I have to say that this might be one of the worst things I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch in my entire life.

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In the year 2010, a mysterious man named Smith (Dennis Hopper) recruits a group of people for reasons that he isn’t really willing to explain. These people include two previous enemies Quentin (Phillip Rhys) and JT (Bumper Robinson), but also the martial arts master Amy (Françoise Yip). These people soon learn that Smith is a fourth dimensional being who lives in a dimension called Flatland, where the past and the present collide with possibly deadly outcomes. Smith’s mission is to find and eliminate his longtime mortal enemy named Khan (Steven Grieves, David Hayward) who has been reincarnated, much like, Smith time and again throughout the centuries. At first, this team of warrior aren’t willing to join in Smith’s outer dimensional crusade, but soon learn to look at their past lives in order to defeat the dangers that are facing them in the present.

Doesn’t all that shit sound awesome? It really does. Martial arts, Dennis Hopper, and fourth dimensional warfare? Well, My first question is what happened to that $40 million budget that they were raving about because I never saw any evidence of anything over $50. The action sequences and the stunt work were so unbelievably underwhelming and terribly choreographed that it was laughable. I found myself laughing many times during Flatland at the most inopportune times during the plot. I understand what they were trying to do with the often seen high flying action choreography, but it just didn’t work. It seems like a great idea mixing science fiction and martial arts. Just look at The Matrix. The problem is that there is horrible production quality, and the writing. The writing…

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It’s rare that I see something that has writing that actually makes me cringe with disgust. The entire screenplay is filled with poetic tough talk that couldn’t be delivered well even if they found Marlon Brando back from the dead. Dennis Hopper’s character has these long tirades that is filled with lines that must have made the writers feel so smart and clever as they were writing them. Unfortunately, they only sound like pretentious pseudo intellectuals who think they are writing philosophical tough talk. The only thing that is just as bad as the writing is the sound design, or often lack there of. Some action scenes seem strangely quiet, and other times way too cluttered. I also need to point out the ridiculously stupid soundtrack of traditional asian music with an electronic flair. It’s the cherry on top of the shit sundae.

To sum it up, it’s probably a good thing that Flatland has been forgotten, judging from this pilot or movie or whatever you want to call it. The idea sounds really cool, but unfortunately the writers had no idea what they were doing with plot or dialogue, the action sequences are stale, and the production design as a whole is total garbage. The only cool thing is seeing Dennis Hopper say his ridiculous dialogue with a straight face. I can categorize Flatland as being so bad it’s good, but it was a total waste of my time.

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