Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Star Trek: Scifi Goodness for the Masses June 2, 2009

After weeks of anticipation, I finally managed to see Star Trek yesterday. It was well worth the wait! What a fun, exciting, satisfying movie! I have never been a fan of the Star Trek multiverse of movies, tv shows, conventions, etc. It was always a little too geeky, cheesy, and out there for my taste. The funny looking blue or green-faced aliens, some with tubes coming out of their heads… All the terminology that I didn’t understand… Maybe my sheer love for Battlestar Galactica has softened my viewpoint of Star Trek, or maybe J.J. Abrams really did reinvent this classic scifi icon for the masses. It’s probably a little of both. Whatever the case, I simply loved this movie, and here are ten reasons why:

  1. The Music – How strange, that in an action movie, the music would impress me more than anything else. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, since Michael Giacchino composed the original score. He has supplied music to many of my favorite shows, including Lost, Alias, and Fringe (all J.J. Abrams shows – I guess he knows how to hold on to a good composer), as well as to several movies, including Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: III, and Land of the Lost . One of my favorite musical moments was the operatic piece during the movie’s climax. It made for an epic conclusion.
  2. The Sound – So this is kind of related to the music, but expands to all the sound effects, from explosions, to racing cars, to gun fights. The sound was simply amazing! It helped that I was in a theater with the best Dolby Digital surround sound I had ever experienced. I felt like I was taking off with the Starfleet on the maiden voyage of the Enterprise, as the sounds of the engines filled up the theater and made my insides shake. And when Kirk and his comrades were parachuting at lightning fast speed onto a drilling platform, I could almost feel the wind whooshing past my face. And when the soaring music would enter a scene, I was transported into that world of space travel, the Starfleet academy, or even young Kirk going for a joyride in his stepdad’s car to the high octane strains of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”.
  3. Spock – Zachary Quinto has totally redeemed himself from his over the top portrayal of Sylar on Heroes (probably more the writers’ fault than his). He was fascinating as Spock (has Spock always been such a complex character?). He did a great job of showing Spock’s inner turmoil over his mixed ancestry, and his struggle between remaining completely logical, or allowing his human emotion to be a part of who he is. The interesting development of his character alone made me want to go back and watch some other Star Trek movies or episodes.
  4. Scotty’s bizarre little alien sidekick – When Kirk meets Montgomery Scott (played by the perfectly cast Simon Pegg) for the first time, the audience had the added entertainment of Scott’s short-statured alien friend, who didn’t say much, but who had an annoying tendency to sit in the wrong place – right in the middle of where Scotty needed to be working. This unusual comic duo made us laugh out loud several times during their scenes. It always feels good to laugh during an action movie to relieve some of the tension from all the intensity. There was plenty of opportunity to laugh during this one!
  5. Captain Kirk – Chris Pine had some big shoes to fill, playing the role of James T. Kirk, a name that immediately makes everyone think of the larger than life William Shatner. And I have never seen any of the other movies or tv shows he has appeared in. The casting department must have known what they were doing when they hired him, though, because he was perfect. He had a nice balance of rugged good looks, fearlessness, cockiness, loyalty, and leadership. Often characters like this annoy me and are very off-putting, but I really liked him. One of my favorite scenes of him is when he wakes up on that icy planet and unwittingly involves himself in a chase with two terrifying creatures. It was funny and frightening at the same time, and he played both very well.
  6. Familiar actors in unrecognizable/atypical roles – I thought I spied Winona Ryder under that aging makeup, and sure enough, it was she who played Spock’s human mother. I wonder why they cast a relatively young actress (she is in her late 30s) to play a woman who must have been at least in her mid-40s. I do see a similarity between Quinto and Ryder’s facial structure and eyes, so perhaps physical resemblance won out over age appropriateness. I kept thinking that main villain Nero looked familiar, but I was shocked when I found out it was Eric Bana. He usually plays clean cut leading men, not tattooed, psychotic warlords. (I look forward to seeing him in The Time Traveler’s Wife later this summer.) It was nice to see Jennifer Morrison (from House) as Kirk’s mother. I wish they would have found some room to include her beyond the initial scenes involving Kirk’s birth. Surely his mother would have been influential in his life, and it would have been nice for the writer’s to touch on that.
  7. The special effects – With a big budget and seemingly limitless possibilities that come with technology, it’s no surprise that the special effects were impressive. A couple of scenes that stand out in my mind: the parachute dive onto the Romulan drill, and the scenes involving the black hole. The “beam me up” effects could have been more realistic. Perhaps that was a throwback to the old school look of the original tv series.
  8. The story – I was relieved to discover that I didn’t need to understand the complex mythology of Star Trek to follow this story. Even for people who don’t like scifi, there are characters and developments to enjoy: a rebellious young man (Kirk) tries to live up to his father’s legacy as a leader, a stoic Vulcan struggles with questions of human nature and how they apply to him, a Starfleet tries to prevent history from repeating itself and tries to save its home planet, etc. The story was relatively easy to follow (save for some of the time travel aspects), but it wasn’t oversimplified either.
  9. The experience/the hype – I had heard so much about this movie from my friends and acquaintances, some of whom have seen it two or three times. Sometimes an overhyped movie results in a letdown at the theater, but in this case it actually added to my enjoyment, since the movie really was that good! Just the experience of sitting in the theater and being transported via the big screen and the surround sound, to this world of space ships and aliens and good guys and bad guys, was quite memorable.
  10. J.J. Abrams’ special brand of awesomeness – In my opinion, J.J. can do no wrong (well, except for maybe Six Degrees and What about Brian). He must be totally in tune with my generation, because sometimes I feel like he is making these movies and tv shows just for me. I love everything about Lost, Fringe, Alias, Felicity, and now his movies, too (MI:3, Cloverfield, Star Trek). I realize he’s had different involvement with these projects, ranging from producing to directing to writing, and even to composing, but I see many common threads running through them. His successful formula includes well-developed characters, riveting action, music perfectly suited to the scene, bizarre revelations, and satisfying plot twists. Some may see his near-obsession with time travel as a flaw, but I think his fascination with the subject makes his shows/movies more interesting (especially Lost and Star Trek). The creature on the ice planet reminded me of the monster in Cloverfield, and the red matter reminded me of the giant red ball in season one of Alias. My favorite characteristic of J.J. Abrams’ work, however, is his special ability to incorporate music and character development to draw viewers into a scene or story. I had tears in my eyes in the opening minutes of Star Trek. We had only a few minutes to get to know Kirk’s father and mother, but their heartfelt exchange after his birth, and the circumstances surrounding it, were very emotionally engaging for me. Abram’s blend of music/character/dialogue/direction is what had me engaged in this summer action movie from beginning to end. So, thank you, J.J., for another unforgettable moviegoing experience.

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Fall 2008 Preview: Fox Gets a Head Start August 29, 2008

So did Fox sign like a 100-year contract with Major League Baseball to broadcast the play-offs and World Series every fall? It certainly seems that way. For as long as I can remember, the new fall tv season has been either delayed or interrupted by baseball on Fox. The network’s old strategy was to delay the start of its shows until after the World Series. Back in the late 90s, I would complain about having to wait until practically November to watch the X-Files every year. For the past couple of years, however, Fox has taken the better approach of jumping out ahead of the other networks to give its shows some time to settle in and develop a following before being so rudely interrupted.

That being said, let’s take a look at what Fox has prepared to tide over its viewing public until American Idol takes center stage in January. As with most of the networks, there aren’t as many new shows as usual because of the writer’s strike. That makes it easier to sift through the newbies. I’ll also mention anything noteworthy about returning shows.

  • Prison Break – This show returns on Labor Day, for more crazy antics from Michael, Lincoln, and the gang. In my opinion, this show should have wrapped up nice and neat at the end of season two (rather than turning into a tangled, mangled mess of subplots), but there are still a lot of fans, so I am glad that they can still tune in to see their favorite characters.
  • House – I am interested to see what the tone of this show will be when the season begins. How will they follow the depressing events of last season’s finale? ——- SPOILER ALERT ——- On House, the season ender was a manipulative tear jerker/ethereal dream sequence, as House slipped in and out of consciousness trying to remember something important about the bus accident he was involved in. Turns out he was on the bus with Wilson’s girlfriend, Amber, and eventually the team determines that because of a medication she was taking that caused an unfortunate reaction to her crash injuries, she only has hours to live. There’s nothing they can do. So the season ended on a real downer, with a parade of characters coming into Amber’s room to say their farewells. I didn’t even like her character, but what a horrible way to get rid of her. Sure, it will provide some tension between Wilson and House this season (since Wilson blames House for Amber being on that bus in the first place), but it seems like it was just done for shock value. I am tired of shows having to one-up each other at the end of the season. Speaking of shock value…
  • Bones – This is the second best show that Fox has to offer, and it also had a controversial season finale – in fact, it caused more of an uproar than House did. This is one of the few shows that I only watch when nothing else is on, rather than being sure to watch every episode. (This is also how I watch How I Met Your Mother.) Since I only dabble in the show, I may have missed some clues or backstory about the Gormogon plot, but here’s my take on what happened: ——— SPOILER ALERT ——— Booth and Brennan and the team uncover some evidence that leads them to believe that Gormogon (a serial killer who eats his victims) or his apprentice works at the Jeffersonian. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Zack is injured in an explosion that leaves his hands basically useless. That’s a bummer. But it gets worse. It turns out that he planned that explosion to create a distraction so that Gormogon could steal something from the Jeffersonian. Zack is the apprentice! So, with a tear in his eye, Zack explains to the team that Gormogon had a logical view of the world, which is why he went along with his plan. I’m sorry, but that seems like quite a stretch. Sweet, geeky Zack as an accomplice for a cannibalistic serial killer – because it was logical? I can understand why some people have decided to stop watching the show, but I didn’t watch it for Zack. Mainly, I enjoy the chemistry and interaction between Booth and Brennan. So, I’ll still tune in from time to time, and will be sure to watch the season premiere to see the fallout from the finale’s crazy events.
  • The Moment of Truth – Ridiculous. This is the worst show on television. It shows the worst of human nature. No inspiring moments here. Move along.
  • Hole in the Wall – Which brings me to the first of Fox’s new shows. From what I can tell, this is a game show that requires people (mostly obese people) to manipulate their bodies into certain shapes to fit through a cut out in a giant screen. If they fail to do so, they will fall into a vat of water, and they will be further humiliated by goofy music and a laughing, taunting studio audience. Seriously? This is a real show? It sounds more like a bad idea for a team building exercise at a corporate event. I hate shows that are designed to make fun of people, even when the contestants know what they are getting into. We shouldn’t take pleasure in watching other people fall flat on their face, flop around, or otherwise embarrass themselves on national television. I hope that this show will be a massive failure. Is there still some class left in the American viewing public?
  • Fringe – Finally, I arrive at the one of the few bright spots among the newbies this season. This is actually the new show that I am most looking forward to. It has an interesting premise (its official website describes it as a show that “will thrill, terrify and explore the blurring line between the possible and the impossible.”). Sounds like a sci-fi thriller right up my alley. Plus, it has an interesting cast. I am happy to welcome Joshua Jackson back to television in a more grown-up role than the one he is best known for – Pacey on Dawson’s Creek. He’s joined by several names I don’t recognize, but based on the previews, the actors look well-suited to their roles. And finally, it has J.J. Abrams name attached to it, and I like almost everything that he has done. We can all find out if this show is worth adding to our “must-see” lists when it premieres on September 9.
  • There are several shows that I didn’t mention. And that is because I don’t watch any of them. They all have their place in the television landscape, and I’ll just leave it at that.
 

Double Feature: Cloverfield and Only You June 27, 2008

Filed under: Movies — Emily @ 2:28 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

What do Cloverfield and Only You have in common? Not much. But I did watch them practically back to back last weekend. While they are very different movies, I enjoyed both of them. Read on for my spoiler free take on both of them.

Cloverfield

Cloverfield (2008 )

Let’s start with Cloverfield. Just knowing that J.J. Abrams produced it made me like this movie. I’ve enjoyed everything that he’s ever made – Felicity, Alias, Lost, Mission Impossible III, etc. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of creature features, but this movie manipulates the genre in surprising and creative ways.

The handheld camera vantage point lends an air of believability to the scenario. Viewing the events on a home video, filmed by one of the main characters, makes the action much more realistic, and even disturbing. My guess is that if they had gone the traditional route, this movie would have been critically panned as another cheesy monster movie. Instead, we are given some backstory on the central characters in the opening scenes of a going away party. Normal activity on a normal night… which makes the sudden shift in tone that occurs all the more frightening.

The cast does a great job of portraying fear, disbelief, resolve, and other emotions that people in an unexpected disaster might experience. I didn’t even recognize Lizzy Caplan (I know her best from Mean Girls) as Marlena, she was so into character. Jessica Lucas, who most recently was a new CSI on CSI, played Lily. Both actresses came across as tough and generous, rather than some of the stereotypical weak-hearted and self-centered girls in other movies. The only other person I recognized was Michael Stahl-David, whose character, Rob, was pivotal in getting the plot moving. Stahl-David played Sean Donnelly on the short-lived tv show The Black Donnellys.

The real star of this movie, however, is the special effects. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that the chaos and destruction that New York City and its residents undergo in the movie looks very realistic. You’ve probably seen the clip that shows the Statue of Liberty’s head landing on a street. That’s only the beginning of an impressive, scary, intense, and fun movie. Not recommended for the timid moviegoer.

Only You

Only You (1994)

This is, in my opinion, one of the better romantic comedies of the past 20 years. There have been a lot of them – many not so good. Only You has a lot going for it – a great cast, a few twists and turns in the plot, beautiful scenery in Italy, and a great soundtrack. Marisa Tomei stars as Faith, a woman who goes to Rome in search of her soul mate. All she has to go on is a name – Damon Bradley – that was revealed to her by a Ouija board and a gypsy when she was a teenager. Joining her on her date with destiny is her best friend Kate (the always funny Bonnie Hunt). Along the way they run into a host of memorable characters, including two of my favorites from the 90s (Robert Downey, Jr. and Billy Zane).

Rewatching this movie reminded me that Marisa Tomei is good at playing likable, charming, idealistic women. Where has she been? Well, she actually has a few new movies coming out within the next year, and she has been in several movies in the past few years that aren’t mainstream. She also appeared on tv’s Rescue Me in 2006.

I also wondered whatever happened to Billy Zane. According to his filmography at IMDB, it looks like the 2000s haven’t been very kind to him. Perhaps playing the villain in Titanic wasn’t such a smart career move. But, I will always look back fondly on his work in Sniper, Memphis Belle, Posse, etc.

Robert Downey, Jr. is really the only actor from this movie who has continued a commercially successful film career, and that despite his drug problems. Most recently, he was in Iron Man, and while I thought it was strange for him to play a super hero, I hear he does a good job. I thought he was great in Zodiac, which is an all around great, if also disturbing movie.

But, about Only You, it is a movie I could watch again and again. This is partly because it takes me back to my high school days (so does Clueless), but also because I love Italy, and it shows some beautiful scenery of Rome, Venice, and Orvieto. And compared to today’s romantic comedies, which are mostly ridiculous, it is a classic.