“Star Trek Into Darkness” does a good job of building things up before descending irredeemably into a place where no one can hear you scream. At first glance, it has everything
necessary to get our backsides onto the seats. It’s the latest in the long line
of the “Star Trek” movies, and the second since director J. J. Abrams rebooted with some success back in 2009. But once you leave the theater, you realize how dark it truly was. The setup: While observing life on a planet leftover from “House of Flying Daggers,” Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban, whose brilliance in this part is underappreciated) set in motion a chain of events which require Lieutenant Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana) boyfriend Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) to be lowered into an active volcano. To save him, a whole bunch of rules are broken, which bring Captain Kirk back to Starfleet headquarters to be yelled at by Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and Admiral Marcus (Buckaroo Banzai himself, Peter Weller). The yelling is cut short when a villain named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, who clearly studied at the feet of Alan Rickman’s performance in “Die Hard”) shoots them up. This sends our heroes on a secret mission to either kill Harrison, or maybe actually — since the only non-American lead character (a very uncomfortable Simon Pegg) reminds Kirk that they aren’t soldiers — instead bring him to trial. Oh, and there’s a blonde named Carol (Alice Eve) who at one point changes her clothes.
Continue reading "To Seek Out New Civilizations for New Life" »
Life of Pi (2012)
20th Century Fox
Hello! My name is Richard Parker, and I am a Bengal tiger. You may have heard of me, as I am the star of a new 3-D movie called “Life of Pi,” in cinemas now. The director, Ang Lee, has chosen not to feature my name on the advertising posters, although my face features prominently. It is time for me to speak up and tell you my side of the story.
Continue reading "Through the Eye of the Tiger" »
Post Tenebras Lux (2012)
56th BFI London Film Festival
Terrence Malick has a lot to answer for. Carlos Reygadas has apparently been the first — although certainly not the last — director to watch “The Tree of Life” and say, “Hey! I also have a biographical story which can make a vague point of the interconnectedness of the world we live in!”
For the first 15 minutes or so of “Post Tenebras Lux,” this is an excellent idea. A toddler makes her way through a muddy field, alone except for some cows and dogs, as night falls and an incredible thunderstorm rolls in. The little girl in her bright coat — with the sky and lightning flashes reflected in the puddles beneath her feet — is as striking as anything world cinema has seen for some time. But this astonishing opening
sequence presages two things: an uncomfortable mix of fiction and reality and
a disconcerting blend of image and substance.
Continue reading "An Impressionist Family Portrait" »
Great Expectations (2012)
Johan Persson/56th BFI London Film Festival
Charles Dickens’s novel has been required reading for years, with varying levels of success. Modern 14-year-olds often struggle with the flowery Victorian language and find it difficult to see the very current emotions underneath. Many children will seize upon this movie gratefully. In that sense this new adaptation is a tremendous success. In very many other ways, this is a story that has been told before.
Continue reading "All's Fair in Love and Class War" »
Rust and Bone (2012)
Roger Arpajou/Sony Pictures Classics
Jacques Audiard knows how to inhabit the body. In his films he manages to bring us inside the bodies
of his characters so that we can also feel what they are feeling. But not really their emotions — Mr. Audiard has less time for emotions than almost any other filmmaker currently working. What he is somehow able to convey is the actual physical sensation of swimming in the ocean, dancing in a nightclub or hitting someone in the head.
Continue reading "Twist of Fates" »
Ben Wheatley/IFC Films
If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then it follows that the English countryside is his kingdom. His enjoyment of the countryside is his democratic right, but this is made much, much more difficult when other Englishmen get in the way. “Sightseers” explores one way of solving this problem in the least pleasant possible way.
Continue reading "A Romantic Getaway, With Murder" »
Ginger & Rosa (2012)
Nicola Dove/56th BFI London Film Festival
Sally Potter has always been famous for making movies considered unmakable. “Ginger & Rosa” is her determined attempt to enter the mainstream by telling a straightforward story in a straightforward — albeit minimalist — way. Her instincts as a filmmaker for style, sound and faces are as sharp as ever, but she seems to have forgotten that sometimes the most direct way of making a point is by going in a roundabout way.
Continue reading "A World on the Brink, a Friendship Tested" »
Wuthering Heights (2011)
Agatha Nitecka/Oscilloscope Laboratories
With “Wuthering Heights,” Andrea Arnold confirms herself as the most important directing talent to emerge from Britain since Stephen Daldry and Sam Mendes. She has also achieved this via an unconventional path: by winning an Oscar with a live-action short film (2003’s “Wasp”), working under the restrictions of Dogme (2006’s “Red Road”), building a movie around a pregnant teenager found having a screaming argument with her boyfriend in a train station (Katie Jarvis from 2009’s “Fish Tank”) and now “Wuthering Heights.” Once again, Ms. Arnold has crafted something amazing by working primarily with nonprofessional actors and shooting on location, this time on the Yorkshire moors.
Continue reading "The Foster Home Straight" »
The Inbetweeners (2011)
Nicola Dove/Wrekin Hill Entertainment
One of the reasons that Europe is better than North America is a lower drinking age. In Britain, one can be served beer with a meal (a packet of potato chips counts) from the age of 16; on the continent, you are allowed beer and wine without
restriction but must wait until 18 or 21, depending on the country, before
being legally allowed spirits. No one, of course, lies to get around it. This
means that British teenagers have the full spring break experience at 18 in
Mediterranean resorts such as Malia in Crete and Magaluf in Spain, where “The
Inbetweeners” was filmed. And yet somehow no one had previously thought
to make a movie of the whole vomit-covered, Red-Bull-and-vodka-soaked,
dance-music-scored mess which was both suitable for the international
market and starring actual teenagers.
Continue reading "Adolescence Hangover" »
Rock of Ages (2012)
David James/Warner Brothers Pictures
The first 30 or so minutes of “Rock of Ages” are as much fun as Hollywood has allowed itself to have lately. Unfortunately, the movie then makes the classic mistake by most rock bands in the middle of a show: It switches the pace to a bunch of boring ballads.
But to set the scene: Country girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) walks off a bus onto the Sunset Strip in 1987 and immediately meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a barback at the famous rock club The Bourbon Room. Drew convinces his bosses, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand), to hire Sherrie, which makes her first day the last show of famed band Arsenal before its lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) goes solo. Dennis needs the Arsenal show to go well, as the club is under threat from protestors led by the mayor’s wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Stacee has his own problems: His manager (Paul Giamatti) is a tool; he has to be interviewed by Constance (Malin Åkerman) for Rolling Stone, and no one likes his pet baboon. And these plot turbulences are expressed through cock-rock songs from the ’80s: Guns N’ Roses! Poison! David Lee Roth! Pat Benatar! Foreigner! Extreme! Warrant! Bon Jovi! Def Leppard!
Continue reading "Nothin' but a Groupie Time" »