Saturday, May 23, 2009

Terminator: Salvation

Movie name: Terminator: Salvation
Year of release: 2009
Director: McG
Stars: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Helena Bonham Carter, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Michael Ironside, Jane Alexander, Jadagrace
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Picking up after the events of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" that Jonathan Mostow directed in 2003 (to mediocre results), McG picks up the action and the responsibility of making the franchise that James Cameron began in 1984, respectable and interesting. Whereas James Cameron created two action films that had the perfect combination of relentless action with character development, Jonathan Mostow went with a tone that almost made it a bit of a self parody (the concept of the female terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger too old to play the part and so forth). McG is a director whose previous experience comes from directing video clips - his features thus far, namely "Charlie's Angels" (and the sequel) and "We are Marshall" are all quite mediocre. "Terminator: Salvation" is however his best film so far. Using a script that was devised by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (with other polishes from other writers, namely Jonathan Nolan), McG creates a film that is gritty, more "realistic" in it's approach towards a post-apocalyptic world. The film follows an adult John Connor, now a senior ranking officer within the resistence, and his partner Kate, who is expecting their first baby. John is trying to save his father, Kyle Reese, now a teenager (and whom he will send to the past in order to protect his mother) from being killed by Skynet. Into this equation arrives Marcus Wright, a young man with a deadly secret that can destroy John's efforts. Thanks to a credible cast, which also includes the fantastically talented Helena Bonham Carter and Sam Worthington, McG builds a film that has non-stop action, but that doesn't feel overtly saturated with explosions (as do most of Michael Bay's films) and nonsensical plot lines. The film does falter a bit in the development of the surrounding characters, but manages to be exhilarating and well paced. It ends up being an improvement when compared with the last installment. Worth checking out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Star Trek

Movie name: Star Trek
Year of release: 2009
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, Winona Ryder, Leonard Nimoy, Clifton Collins Jr., Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Tyler Perry, Rachel Nichols, Jennifer Morrison, Ben Cross
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
J.J. Abrams is quite possibly one of the busiest men in Hollywood these days. Besides supervising successful tv shows as "Lost" and "Fringe", he still continues to produce other films, such as last year's "Cloverfield". Abrams started his career as a screenwriter, having written "Regarding Henry" for Mike Nichols and later on evolved his career to a successful series of shows as "Felicity" and "Alias" (both of whom made stars of their leading ladies, respectively Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner). The huge box office hit that is "Star Trek" implies a good future for his directorial career, considering this is only his second film in the director's chair, after "Mission Impossible III". J.J. Abrams is clearly someone that understands the concept of entertainment and spectacle. He has worked with blockbusters before, namely "Armageddon" (for Michael Bay), but whereas those films were shallow and brought nothing forth, beyond some technical virtuosity, Abrams tries to build interesting characters, and bring some depth to them (as opposed to create cardboard characters, which is the case of all the films of Michael Bay). "Star Trek" is basically an origin film, of how the original crew of the Enterprise got chosen and picked and their first true adventure in space. Gene Roddenberry the original creator of the "Star Trek" universe would not be disappointed: the film is swift, entertaining, with great production values and special effects, something that his tv show and later on, the films, never really managed to successfully have. The only falter in the film is really the story/screenplay: all that speed hides some shallowness in the development of what could've been a far more interesting story. The characters are interesting, but most of them are sketches (I wish Winona Ryder had had more screen time, her character seemed genuinely interesting). The final result is an entertaining film, that displays an industrial savoir faire. Hopefully the following films will also bring a more personal perspective.

Monday, May 4, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Movie name: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Year of release: 2009
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Lynn Colins, Kevin Durand, Taylor Kitsch, Dominic Monaghan, Daniel Henney, Tim Pocock, William Adams
Genre: Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
Twentieth Century Fox holds the rights to some of the most interesting characters of the Marvel Universe, but so far, the results of the films seem to be incredibly mediocre. "Daredevil", "Elektra", "Fantastic Four 1 & 2" were all quite bad, but somehow "X-Men" and "X-Men 2", both directed by Bryan Singer were the stalwarts for good adaptations of comic books (the third episode from Brett Ratner belongs alongside the other dreadful ones). What Bryan Singer and his team of writers managed to do, particularly with the second film, was to create a coherent and well plotted film, that respected the stories of the comics, but allowed the characters to be flushed out. The character Wolverine always occupied the center stage in those films, as played by Hugh Jackman. When talks of character based films began, Wolverine seemed the perfect choice, and indeed the material is there and the character has plenty of interest to hold a good film together. What this film now released shows, is how not to create a comic book adaptation. After the interesting results of Jon Favreau with "Iron Man" and Christopher Nolan with "The Dark Night", it's with a big disappointment that Wolverine comes out. The film is an origin story, showing the character as a child, his friendship with Victor Creed and both their growth through times and wars. As they grow, their personal differences begin to show and Wolverine chooses to lead a secluded life, away from special forces or violence. But in the end, all those secrets come back to haunt him with a vengeance. What could have been a great story, ends up being a mess, with the film trying to build character development, and in the following moment introduces an action set piece that is borderline badly executed, with bad special effects. The characters go in and out without any apparent explanation and after one third of the movie has gone by, the action starts to develop, but with no coherent plot line. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are clearly talented actors, but there's only so much they can do. Gavin Hood is a mediocre talent, as was proven by his previous effort, "Rendition". The next one needs some serious rethinking and hopefully a good talent in the director's chair.