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Entries in Alice Eve (4)

Thursday
May162013

Star Trek Into Darkness

In 2009, director J.J. Abrams rebooted the much loved “Star Trek” series with one of the most thrilling, visually engaging and humorous science fiction movies in recent memory. He took a franchise that had remained largely stagnant since 2002’s underrated “Star Trek: Nemesis” and reinvigorated it with style. It may not have been the “Trek” we have all come to know and love, but its new identity nevertheless managed to win fans over, even if it failed to touch upon some of the wonderful themes from the previous movies. If the first batch of films with the original crew explored the meaning of life, the inescapability of death and religion vs. evolution, 2009’s “Star Trek” is more like “Star Trek: First Contact,” a technically well made, devilishly exciting action movie that doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot to say. The follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is largely the same. Luckily, a movie doesn’t have to be profound to be entertaining and “Star Trek Into Darkness” is likely to be one of the most entertaining movies of the summer.

The story begins on a primitive planet where the species living on it has “barely invented the wheel.” A volcano is about to destroy the planet, so Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew set out to save it. Federation regulations state that the crew of the Enterprise must not make their presence known to these people, a regulation they inevitably break. This reckless behavior lands Kirk in hot water with the Federation and his ship is taken away. However, an attack on Starfleet headquaraters by a mysterious man (Benedict Cumberbatch) leads to a desperate reversal of that decision. This man’s last known location is on the Klingon planet Kronos and even though that area is off limits to the Federation for fear of starting an all-out war with the Klingon empire, Kirk and his crew head out to bring him to justice.

One of the reasons 2009’s “Star Trek” was so good was because of it’s absolutely brilliant storytelling that not only managed to squeeze out some wonderful emotion in its opening moments, but also craft a story that didn’t neglect everything that had come before. It wasn’t a reboot in your typical Hollywood sense. Because the story involved time travel, a ripple occurred in the timeline, creating a new one and changing the personalities and adventures of the crew, even if only slightly. This allowed Abrams to preserve the original stories while crafting his own and include everyone’s favorite Spock, Leonard Nimoy, in the now famous 2009 cameo.

Unfortunately, this desire to preserve memories while crafting new ones is the new movie’s biggest downfall. Without giving too much away, “Into Darkness,” or at least its ending, sticks so closely to one of the franchise’s previous installments that it almost becomes moot, almost like a 2.0 version of that film in question. The path to the conclusion becomes so clear that only those unfamiliar with “Star Trek” lore will find what transpires surprising. Despite giving it its own little twist, it comes off as lazy—any screenwriter can take an existing story and repackage it with minor changes. Furthermore, when this same conclusion rolled around previously, it meant something. When it happens here, it feels derivative and any emotion that may be felt is offset no more than ten minutes later, its impact completely diminished. My vague criticisms may be frustrating to read, but to go any further would constitute spoilers and fans of the franchise are astute enough that they’d know exactly how this movie plays out, if they haven’t already.

Clearly, this is not as good as 2009’s “Star Trek” (though that’s perhaps an unfair comparison to make since it could be argued that film is the best of the bunch), but the style and fun remains. Abrams’ obsession with lens flares is still very much evident, to the point where the entire screen is sometimes covered with them, and his ability to use canted camera angles to make something as simple as running down the Enterprise’s corridors interesting is uncanny. The humor is still there as well, even if the proceedings are a tad darker than the previous installment. Perhaps the film’s greatest strength, however, is Cumberbatch in that mysterious role that I dare not reveal. Unlike Nero, the Romulan hell-bent on revenge from the crew’s last adventure, this character is calm, collected and manipulative. Once aboard the Enterprise, his incarceration becomes a little bit like “Silence of the Lambs” in space, where he becomes the equivalent of the intelligent and smooth talking Hannibal Lecter. Cumberbatch, in one of the film’s most moving scenes, turns to the camera and speaks of horrible atrocities while tears roll down his face, cementing himself as one of today’s great performers.

So although you could say this is a disappointment when compared to the previous film (or a number of other “Star Trek” adventures), doing so would be focusing too much on the negative. Its stumbles certainly don’t eclipse its technical proficiency, its exhilarating action or its stylish flair. “Star Trek Into Darkness” is a solid action movie that builds character personalities and relationships even while neglecting the themes that made the franchise so great.

Star Trek Into Darkness receives 4/5

Friday
May252012

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3 is an oddity. Nobody was really asking for it, but at the same time, it’s easy to understand why it’s here. It comes from a popular franchise with a likable, funny star that has always churned out impressive box office numbers and this new installment is likely to do the same. Still, Men in Black 3 shows its age and while it’s not the funniest movie in the world (especially when compared to the previous installments), it makes up for it with a surprisingly affecting story and an ending that makes you completely reevaluate the relationship between the two main characters.

The film begins with a sultry vixen who is about to break the last Boglodite in the universe, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), out from a top secret prison located on the moon. He has been locked up for over 40 years thanks to Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who shot off his arm in the apprehension, and his first order of business is to take him out before that fateful day. He succeeds in doing so, but only after going back in time, all the way back to 1969. K’s partner, Agent J (Will Smith) is the only person who isn’t affected by the altered history (for nebulous reasons), so he also heads back in time to save the young K (Josh Brolin) from an untimely demise.

The first thing one notices when watching Men in Black 3 is how much its stars have aged. In the other films, Jones played the hardened older man who had to put up with the uncouth style of a young Will Smith. Now, Jones isn’t playing the hardened older man. He has actually become one and his lack of caring shows. He coasts by in this role, almost as if he’s wondering why he’s there dressed up once again in a black suit, shooting CGI creations with silly looking plastic guns. The filmmakers try to recreate the magic from the other films, but the original film came out 15 years ago and Smith doesn’t fit the young, quick witted role anymore. He’s old enough where he could play the hardened older K from the original film and a younger face could play him.

In their attempt to recapture the olden days, the humor comes off as outdated as well. This futuristic, science fiction, alien invasion movie, which should be able to come up with better jokes than the typical “look how old this stuff is” material so many time travel movies rely on, succumbs to just that. The neuralyzer, the spiffy device used to wipe the memories of those who witness the actions of the Men in Black, takes time to charge and is attached to a battery pack, for example. It’s this type of laziness that keeps the movie from matching its predecessors in laughs. If you’re going for the comedy, you might as well not go at all.

However, what Men in Black 3 misses in that area, it makes up for with its solid story and emotional ending. It may have an uninteresting and barely menacing villain played by a miscast actor who isn’t all that compelling to begin with, but viewers aren’t going for him. They’re going for the connection between K and J, to watch their relationship grow, and boy does it ever. The final scene, a twist that is satisfying without being obvious, works incredibly well and makes you appreciate their characters that much more. It adds a new, more personal, layer to their relationship that works in the moment, even if it may not necessarily work in conjunction with previous films.

Only repeat viewings of the other two movies will be able to tell if it does or not, sans for a few unmissable plot holes like the supposedly long history Agent K has with Agent O (played in the present day by Emma Thompson and in the past by Alice Eve), despite her exclusion in the series up until this point. The character is connected very loosely to what’s going on, serving only as an expositional narrative device, and fails on multiple levels of poor screenwriting because of it. But the movie as a whole, as cliché as it is to say, is greater than the sum of its parts. Men in Black 3 isn’t a reinvigoration of the franchise or particularly interesting as a standalone film, but as the emotional bookend to two memorable and lovable characters, it works.

Men in Black 3 receives 3/5

Wednesday
May262010

Sex and the City 2

There’s a term we movie reviewers like to use to describe certain films, those that already have an existing fan base and will make loads of money regardless of what we write. That term is “critic proof.” Now I’m aware that I’m the last person whose opinion you’d ask for when it comes to Sex and the City 2, but duty calls nevertheless, so here it goes. I hated this movie.

The story takes place sometime after the first movie. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is married to her dream man, Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but they are in the middle of a slump. Big wants to stay home and relax while Carrie pushes for outside interaction. Eventually, Carrie gets an invite to attend a movie premiere with her friend Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and her young boy toy. Meanwhile, the other two girls are dealing with parenthood. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) loves her husband and her child, but is unhappy at her job and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is finding it hard to deal with a constantly crying baby and a beautiful nanny (Alice Eve) who she fears may lead to her husband’s infidelity.

Meanwhile, Samantha gets invited to spend a week in Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, but she refuses to go alone and drags her three friends there with her. Besides, they are all having problems and need to get away for a while. But while there, Carrie runs into an old flame, Aidan (John Corbett), which threatens to throw her marriage further off track.

Again, I know nobody cares about my opinion on this movie, but I fear you may consider it even less valid when you hear this. I have never watched a single episode of Sex and the City. I’ve seen chunks of it here and there, but never found it tolerable enough to sit through an entire episode. I’ve always found the characters insufferable, people I would never want to hang around with. Materialistic and shallow only begin to describe them. Take an early scene, for example, where Big and Carrie have a warm, romantic evening together where they hold each other and watch an old black and white movie, the classic It Happened One Night. For their anniversary, Big buys her a television for their bedroom because he wants to recreate that night. He thought the idea of wanting to be with him would trump any material possession, but Carrie misses the romantic gesture and insists that a piece of jewelry would be better.

Maybe it’s because I’m a man and my ignorance of the female mind plagues me, but I found myself siding with Big most of the time. Soon after the above events, Big comes home from a terrible workday and wants nothing more than to spend a quiet evening in, but still he humors Carrie and accompanies her to the aforementioned movie premiere. Yet she still isn’t satisfied. Eventually he goes a little overboard and asks for two days a week away from her, which any woman would understandably scoff at, but she actually goes along with it. Carrie's problems are all self inflicted, but they are all blamed on outside factors. I wasn't buying it.

The writing, if not already understood, is fairly bad. The story meanders, the dialogue is boring, consisting of scenes where the four sit around a table and talk about food, fashion, clothes and shoes (as well as the obligatory "man hate" speech where they insist men in America don’t want them to "have a voice")—and the humor is mostly pretty lame. The opening of the film sees our protagonists at a homosexual marriage and they drop more gay jokes than MacGruber. It’s all pretty trivial, really.

Like the original Sex and the City movie (which I have seen), this thing goes on and on with no signs of letting up. It spends two and a half hours throwing the girls into random, contrived predicaments that come off as over-the-top and cartoony, including a late scene where Samantha shows off her condoms while thrusting around a group of Middle Eastern men who find her sexuality offensive.

These are not the type of women that should be idolized. Yes, they have some redemptive qualities and yes, they are strong, powerful and independent, but that doesn’t mean they are exemplary. They’re sex crazed materialists who are, at times, quite selfish. I bring up their unfortunate influence for one reason. At one point in the movie, a prominent character cheats on her significant other, something that is clearly wrong, but struggles over whether or not she should tell him. The girls sitting behind me, talking amongst themselves, argued that she shouldn’t, agreeing with another character onscreen. Sex and the City 2 is daft, and that’s fine, but when that daftness translates to the audience watching, something is clearly wrong.

Sex and the City 2 receives 1.5/5

Friday
Mar122010

She's Out of My League

My father once told me of a game he used to play with my uncle before I was born. Every year, my family would head to the beach and my dad would sit with beer in hand and rate passing women on their looks. He used a scale of 1-10 and would debate with my uncle over who was the best looking. My dad never was the classy type.

She’s Out of My League deconstructs this game, though perhaps “deconstruct” is not the right word, as that would imply the film has an air of intelligence around it. It does not.

You see, Kirk, played by Jay Baruchel, is a five. He is a lanky, skinny, nerdy type of guy that looks at a beautiful girl and immediately dismisses his chances with her. That is until Molly, played by the beautiful Alice Eve, accidentally stumbles into his life. She is, as his friends put it, “a hard 10,” and we all know a 10 like her could never find love with a five. Kirk is already pessimistic and self-conscious of himself and his friends only play into those fears, which could end up ruining his relationship with Alice.

There might not be much to recommend here, but I can say this. She’s Out of My League gives hope to all of the fives of the world. It tells them that they are tens in the eyes of the one that loves them, which is a nice change of pace regardless of how cheesy that message is. However, it also says that all men are womanizing meatheads that cannot function normally when a pretty girl is around.

When Molly walks in a room, every male in sight goes googly eyed and ogles her like a Thanksgiving turkey. While the actress certainly is a gorgeous woman, as a man, I found it kind of insulting that the movie insinuates our general lack of control when pretty women are around, suggesting that we have two heads and aren’t using the one with a brain in it.

Nevertheless, whatever analogous analyzation I may be finding here should be overshadowed by laughs. Unfortunately, this thing rarely elicits much from its tired premise. While Baruchel has been likable as a supporting role in movies such as Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, he isn't much of a leading man. He's hardly compelling and his nasally voice eventually proves grating on the nerves. It’s tough not to feel sympathy for his pathetic character, seeing as how, let’s face it, the majority of us are fives like him, but he doesn’t have enough charisma to work this movie through to its conclusion.

With contrived attempts at creating drama and the only laughs coming from a character nicknamed Stainer, who adopted the moniker due to his weak bladder as a child, She’s Out of My League is little more than another run-of-the-mill teen comedy that lives in a world where beautiful women actually look on the inside before they see the stained teeth, puss filled pimples and giant gut on the outside. What a world that must be.

She's Out of My League receives 1.5/5