Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013, J.J. Abrams)

For Star Trek Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams operates with an “if it ain’t broke” mentality. It serves him–and the film–fairly well. Except Michael Giacchino’s music. While Abrams goes for sensationalism every time, he does it competently. The Giacchino music, however, is never competent.

This Trek tries hard to create mainstream post-modern; it’s a sequel to the first movie, yes, but it’s also a remake of a television series and a movie series. Not to mention Abrams and the writers gleefully wink at the franchise’s more memorable details. Into Darkness does have some serious moments and even tries hard to work arcs for some of its characters (it loses them too often), but it’s all for fun.

So why do Abrams and company get away with it? Usually the acting. Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic as the villain, a 23rd century terrorist. If he wanted, he could act circles around Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, but Cumberbatch gives them time to catch up. He’s the very special guest star, after all.

Both Pine and Quinto are good. Pine’s likable and believable but the script coddles him. He doesn’t have to run the movie. Karl Urban’s great as Bones, Simon Pegg’s fun as Scotty. John Cho and Anton Yelchin lack personality–the script doesn’t give them enough to do. Zoe Saldana’s okay, the script giving her too much to do.

Sadly, Peter Weller’s weak. He’s obviously stunt casting.

Into Darkness succeeds. Hopefully the next one will be more original.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by J.J. Abrams; screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Daniel Mindel; edited by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, Scott Chambliss; produced by Abrams, Bryan Burk, Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison), Alice Eve (Carol), Peter Weller (Admiral Marcus) and Bruce Greenwood (Captain Pike).


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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011, Brad Bird)

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol might be a vanity project for producer-star Tom Cruise, but he sort of deserves it. His first scene features some athletics from him–the film’s full of them–and it’s hard to believe Cruise is nearly fifty. Either he’s got a portrait locked in a closet, they CG’ed his body or vitamins really are magic….

Ghost Protocol, silly title and all, is a fairly diverting espionage action thriller. With Michael Giacchino’s lush score, lots of gadgets and lots of globe trotting, it feels like a James Bond movie. Just an American one with an emphasis on teamwork.

For his first live action film, director Bird does an outstanding job. The film’s problems progressively get more outlandish, but he keeps them in check. Ghost Protocol is a comedy of errors. Nothing goes right; Bird keeps it moving fast enough one doesn’t think too hard.

And Ghost Protocol opens with silly opening titles showcasing later scenes in the movie. If Bird can recover from that lunacy, he can do almost anything.

His composition is strong–he fills the Panavision frame stylishly. It’s a great looking film, except when the CG composites don’t quite match.

Cruise is sturdy in the lead, but has nothing to do. He’s mostly just shepherding the team–Pegg’s blandly amusing and Jeremy Renner’s fine. The film’s best performance is easily from Paula Patton.

As the villain, Michael Nyqvist is terrible.

The conclusion’s just a setup for a reinvigorated franchise… likely an entertaining one.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Brad Bird; screenplay by Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, based on the television series created by Bruce Geller; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by Paul Hirsch; music by Michael Giacchino; production designer, James D. Bissell; produced by J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise and Bryan Burk; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt), Paula Patton (Jane Carter), Simon Pegg (Benji Dunn), Jeremy Renner (William Brandt), Michael Nyqvist (Kurt Hendricks), Vladimir Mashkov (Anatoly Sidorov), Samuli Edelmann (Wistrom), Ivan Shvedoff (Leonid Lisenker), Anil Kapoor (Brij Nath), Léa Seydoux (Sabine Moreau), Josh Holloway (Trevor Hanaway), Pavel Kríz (Marek Stefanski) and Miraj Grbic (Bogdan).


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Morning Glory (2010, Roger Michell)

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good “Hollywood” New York comedy, even longer since I’ve seen a great one.

Morning Glory is a good one. Though, at times, it reminds of a great one—I’m not sure if David Arnold’s score, which is lovely on its own, is supposed to remind of Sabrina, but with Harrison Ford walking around Manhattan… it’s hard not to think of it.

Since he’s lost the luster of superstardom, Ford has actually become an exceptionally interesting actor. His performance in Morning Glory is easily his funniest (he plays an egotistical news anchor) and it’s unlikely anyone but Ford could have made the role work.

But for Ford to work, Rachel McAdams has to work too, because all of Ford’s scenes are with her. McAdams does a fine job here—it helps the film is incredibly well-cast. From John Pankow as her sidekick (the two are fantastic together… McAdams works well with other actors), Diane Keaton (it’s a shock how little she has to do here, but she’s great), Jeff Goldblum (similar to Keaton, but he’s not third-billed), and Patrick Wilson (who’s excellent as the love interest).

Reading over that paragraph, it seems like I’m not giving McAdams enough credit—she really is good. The film couldn’t work without her.

Michell shoots Morning Glory in Panavision; he and cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler know how to use it. It looks fantastic.

The only problem is the soundtrack—modern pop songs are weak.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Roger Michell; written by Aline Brosh McKenna; director of photography, Alwin H. Kuchler; edited by Daniel Farrell, Nick Moore and Steven Weisberg; music by David Arnold; production designer, Mark Friedberg; produced by J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Rachel McAdams (Becky Fuller), Harrison Ford (Mike Pomeroy), Diane Keaton (Colleen Peck), Patrick Wilson (Adam Bennett), John Pankow (Lenny Bergman), Jeff Goldblum (Jerry Barnes) and Ty Burrell (Paul McVee).


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Taking Care of Business (1990, Arthur Hiller)

Hard as it is to believe, I’d sort of forgotten about Jim Belushi having a film career. For a while during Taking Care of Business, I kept thinking I’d seen him in something recently (which I haven’t), then I realized… his performance in the movie is a rip on Bill Murray. Expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms. They all play like Bill Murray.

Of course, I doubt Bill Murray could have done anything with the role either.

Taking Care of Business is one of those movies I watched a lot when I was twelve. The last time I wanted to watch it, almost ten years ago, someone stopped me. I never realized the favor he did me.

The problem is the script. Charles Grodin has absolutely nothing to do except be a jerk to Anne De Salvo, who’s very funny. Grodin’s playing his caricature here and Arthur Hiller can’t direct his redemption scene. Well, he doesn’t have one. Jill Mazursky and J.J. Abrams’s script is really terrible, just awful. It’d be weak as a sitcom.

Strangely, there is some excellent acting in the film from the supporting cast. Mako, in particular, is hilarious as the Japanese businessman who thinks Belushi is funny (it’s good someone does, I suppose–and there are a few funny Belushi moments, but most are obscene and obvious). Loryn Locklin’s character is probably the worst written, but she’s funny and appealing. It’s surprising she didn’t go on to anything. Hector Elizondo’s good too. Of course, there are some terrible performances too. Veronica Hamel and Gates McFadden are both the pits.

The script’s biggest problems have to do with plotting, but it’s also just dumb. Belushi’s a convict who escapes for the World Series and all the other prisoners band together to help him do it. It’s like a Disney prison movie–oh, wait a minute… it is a Disney (Hollywood Pictures) prison movie.

The signs of trouble start from the opening credits, which are poorly done animated ones.

Given how bad the movie is, I won’t even point out not having concluding scenes between the respective romantic couples was–narratively speaking–a pea-brained move. I just realized I didn’t get around to talking about the thirty-five minute first act either. Too bad.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Arthur Hiller; written by Jill Mazursky and J.J. Abrams; director of photography, David M. Walsh; edited by William Reynolds; music by Stewart Copeland; produced by Geoffrey Taylor; released by Hollywood Pictures.

Starring James Belushi (Jimmy Dworski), Charles Grodin (Spencer Barnes), Anne De Salvo (Debbie Lipton), Loryn Locklin (Jewel Bentley), Stephen Elliott (Walter Bentley), Hector Elizondo (Warden Toolman), Veronica Hamel (Elizabeth Barnes), Mako (Mr. Sakamoto), Gates McFadden (Diane Connors), John de Lancie (Ted Bradford Jr.), Thom Sharp (Mike Steward), Ken Foree (J.B.) and John Marshall Jones (LeBradford Brown).


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