The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Star Trek — Boom. Roasted. Amazing.

Star Trek Wolverine Bryce vankooten

Treking Along, One Hit at a Time.

by Bryce VanKooten

J.J. Abrams is the Apple® of the cinema – he’s just better than everyone else. Everything he does, every idea brought to the drawing table (board?) is matched with superb in style, fresh execution and noticeable dedication to story. Its masterful; that pretty well covers it.

I was giddy for Star Trek — the newest, Abrams-Directed, 2009 installment of the classic 1966-originated story and characters. Mastered with a bright young cast (including my friend Michelle!), all of which preformed wonderfully in their depiction of their characters on screen, it was only fair that I got to see a movie ‘fresh’ for once in my life (I’d read the LOTR and Harry Potter books, had the Da Vinci Code spoiled for me and discussed Watchmen, at length, before its opening). Star Trek was/is a fan boy’s favorite, and I was happily not one of them.

Throughout the first half hour I urging myself not to lean over to my fellow moviegoers and whisper, “Man. This is so good”. It didn’t seem right. There’s something volatile about talking during a movie other than a comedy. My eyes were glued. Sidenote: are you seriously telling me that Wolverine and Star Trek basically cost the same? What? My ears were glued. And yet I’d read that Michael Giacchino dropped the ball on the score … bullocks. My mind was glued. Yes, there was a bit there when I realized it very well could have been a Wednesday night because that haunting, this-is-the-feeling-I-get-when-they-talk-about-time-travel-in-LOST, feeling was creeping up my spine, but all and all, the plot was feasible. Okay, so we created a black hole, discovered an alternate reality and traveled between the two, meeting ourselves and destroying new lands. But honestly, did anyone get that lost (no pun intended)? It was altogether manageable, was it not?

It was brilliant.

Abrams has found some keepers in Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, his writer’s dejour (as well as Arthur Anderson, who directed the opening scene where the woman so marvelously gets sucked out!!). Together, they’ve scribed a mighty track record in the last few years with seeming success around every turn: Fringe, Alias, Transformers, Mission: Impossible III, The Island, and their upcoming successes, Transformers 2 and the Untitled Star Trek Sequel, due out in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

I was blown away by Spock (didn’t even know he was the smartest ‘man’ in the world until the movie told me — what fun that was), but Chris Pine managed to successfully steal the show as James Tiberius Kirk. He was marvelous actually — funny and charming, the perfect concoction of cocky and courageous. I’ll be blunt: the ‘diving down to stop the drill’ scene: worth the price of admission, easily.

Abrams hasn’t veered far from his roots. Many of his films are good at the same things, which is to say, I think we’re all fine with that. But maybe the Academy isn’t. I don’t think Abrams cares much about what those guys think, which might be a subconscious reason why we love him: he likes what we like. There’s that fine line Abrams always manages to walk between humor and drama: never too subtle, never to forceful. He’s a master of every situation and possibly one of the greatest story tellers of my generation. If I ever met him, I’d love to thank him for that. I hope story will always rule this land.

Action is obviously Abrams’ style and his unmistakable strength — those trademark camera shakes never seem to be mellow dramatic — but its not his only strength. He’s managed to brand great storytelling into his films, great amounts of witty, perfectly placed humor and ease, so that we almost expect it now. We know he’s thought this all the way through, and that’s a safety blanket of sorts. How do we know? Because we can tell he likes making movies. Amidst the clouds of massive, action riddled box offices, Abrams is breath of fresh, virus-free air. Again, like a Mac.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m willing to resign myself into blindly purchasing great products, even great marketing. I buy Stride because of their viral marketing style. I bought Red Stripe because their commercials made me laugh – same with Dos Equis. I drive a Honda because they are dependable and write on an Apple computer because, well, its obvious*. My childhood was formed by Nike, so I wear their sneakers. And Fiji Water, though it cost twice as much, has an awesome bottle so sometimes I cave to their coloring. My purchases are my right as an American. It makes it fun again to be a consumer. It’s very American to choose. As stated, Tom Cruise has won me over; I’ll see whatever he’s in because he’s in it. Abrams is now the same**.

I think of my theater tickets as a little investment. Who gets my investment is a decision I get to make every time I plop myself in the seat. From here on out, I’ll gladly go blindly with Abrams.

*see line 1

**The opposite is true for Eddie Murphy; I won’t see it if he’s in it, unless it has ‘Shrek’ in the title, even then, its not really him.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wolverine (2009) — *sigh*


Cool Picture ... Bad movie.

Cool Picture ... Bad movie.

20th Century Fox in the 21st Century — Wolverine

by Bryce VanKooten

It’s a tough gig to be a superhero movie these days. You got a lot of folks standing in your way: the fan boys, the mass media, good movies that have come before you. Generally, I think we’ll all love superheroes till the day we die – their tights and capes speak to us, of course – regardless of their grandeur on the big screen.

Wolverine cleaned house on that big screen this weekend. And, like so many super-dudes before it, will likely be given a sequel (word is, its already in the works). But how will history see these flicks when the smoke and swords clear? Where will Wolverine lie in the vast landscape of superheros  flicks? Wolverine was a … fun movie, sure, but it was also a disappointment – the worst kind, too.

Wolverine was a terrible movie that performed well. Let’s all take a collective gasp together now…

When I sat myself into my theater chair on Sunday afternoon, I knew the movie wasn’t going to be great. I’d seen the first 20 minutes on that leaked copy online and decided that watching an action movie on a teeny monitor was just about as rewarding as playing dunk hoops with a 6 foot hoop: same product, not quite the satisfaction.

Liev Schreiber was great as Sabertooth and Hugh Jackman was as good as he could be – most of the dialogue was just short of campy – reprising his role as the early version of our beloved Wolverine. The action was cool, I guess, but for 150 million bucks, shouldn’t it be amazing? The storyline — which if lifted from the comic’s themselves would have been fantastic — was brutal, of course. So where was the rub? Why the odd taste in my mouth as I left the theater? I mean, I knew what I was in for, didn’t I?

In the last couple of day’s I’ve tried to pinpoint my feeling towards Wolverine and I think I found it: 20th Century Fox. Let’s recap, shall we?

Fox’s top ten superhero movies:

  1. X-Men Last stand
  2. X2: X-Men United
  3. X-Men
  4. Fantastic Four
  5. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  6. Daredevil
  7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (its only been out a week)
  8. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
  9. Elektra
  10. My Super Ex-Girlfriend

What character comes to mind first when you look at that list? The X-Men folks of course. And who more specifically in that group … Wolverine. Here’s the deal: the Wolverine story might be one of the coolest in comic book history. All the hype, all the anger, the healing, and the betrayal – it’s the stuff movies are made of – perfect for the big screen. But, we sit through this saga of quick cuts, childish dialogue and sub-par effects and we leave like, “eh, I mean, I guess there were some cool parts?” I think its safe to say that Fox is very talented in ruining movies. Coming off the heals of The Dark Knight (both fun and smart) or even strictly fun movies like Iron Man, or Hancock, Wolverine just comes as a dissapointment.

Have we lost our standard? Has the bar been lowered? Removed?

How easily we are pleased as Americans and as fans. When a gritty, gruesome movie is stripped of its essence (i.e. guts), regurgitated PG-13 for the masses and downgraded to a 1 hour and 47 minute mash up of CGI claws, clueless character and campy (yes, I know the second time I’ve used that word) dialogue, the only thing you can hope for is a terrible opening to stop the massacre of great stories by horrific studios.

Alas, we dream on.

I’m going to let history speak for itself here. Here’s a list of Fox’s adapted, fan boys movies (excluding above list) since 2000. You tell me how many are great — not good, not doable (like ham on Thanksgiving), but great.

Planet of the Apes, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, Titan AE, The Day After Tomorrow, I, Robot, Eragon, Max Payne, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Alien vs. Predator, Live Free or Die Hard, Hitman, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Jumper, Babylon A.D., The Happening, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, The Day the Earth Stood Still.


May 7, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment