Thursday, March 11, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Mar. 5-11

Star Trek: First Contact (1996) ***½
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Writers: Bannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore, Rick Berman
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige

Well, The Next Generation crew got it right the second time around. They turned in the best of the TNG movies with their sophomore effort, with a compelling story, a creepy and engaging villain, a good amount of action to go along with the dialogue, some good sci-fi social and human commentary, some great guest stars allowed to bring their usual level of greatness to the series, all while adding an enlightening chapter to the entire “Star Trek” mythology.

(500) Days of Summer (2009) ***½
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webber
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg

The narrator warns this movie isn’t a love story. I suppose it’s more like a love footnote or cross-reference. It has many elements of a love story, but it’s about failing at love. It’s very clever and observantly written. I felt our hero was a little daft in the film’s closing moments and the writing could’ve handled his refusal to see the obvious conclusion in front of his eyes, but all in all, an excellent non-love story about the nature of love.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) ***½
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers: Andrew Dominik, Ron Hansen (novel)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, Garrett Dillahunt, Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Shepard, Zooey Deschanel

There are no horse chases, only one minor shoot out, and only one robbery in which the James Brothers seem to be disappointed. In fact, the movie isn’t really about Jesse James at all, but rather his late career shadow Robert Ford. But the title is fitting in the way it places the spotlight on James rather than Ford. This is the most contemplative western I’ve seen; and I can’t imagine it’s widely loved by western fans. Yet it’s a great character study of Ford and James. James is shown to be just as small a man as Ford at times; and in the end Ford may even seem more deserving of James’s fame, because unlike James, he grows.

Pandorum (2009) **½
Director: Christian Alvart
Writers: Travis Malloy, Christian Alvart
Starring: Ben Foster, Dennis Quaid, Antje Traue, Cam Gigandet, Chung Le, Eddie Rouse

You know I tend to like movies similar in tone this one, that dark “Alien” sci-fi feel. But there was something about “Pandorum” that just didn’t set right with me. I can’t really talk about it without spoiling the ending, but I’m not a fan of spoiler warnings, so I’ll just say this space doom flick had an opportunity to take its conclusions to such a dark place I can’t think of any other pictures that have done it. Such a move would’ve been incredibly brave by the filmmakers, but they went in a more traditional direction. I enjoyed the journey, but the conclusion really wouldn’t have affected that either way. I just wanted something I hadn’t seen before this time; and I almost got it.

Plastic Bag (2009) ****
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writers: Ramin Bahrani, Jenni Jenkins
Starring: Werner Herzog

I think perhaps Bahrani and Herzog are the only filmmakers who could possibly make a movie about mankind’s struggle for purpose starring only a plastic bag. Brilliant.

Watch it.

Strange Days (2009) ***
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writers: James Cameron, Jay Cocks
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliet Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, William Fincher

It’s strange how with some movies you can perceive them differently upon each viewing. The first time I saw James Cameron’s and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” I saw it as a minor sci-fi/crime story; it’s most basic level. The second time I saw it, it seemed a little more profound, an exploration of how our paranoia feeds off the unknown and how those fears can explain so many of our societal flaws. Upon my most recent and third viewing, the profundity didn’t seem quite so deep as the second time, and while it was still a basic sci-fi/crime story, the romance came more to the forefront. This time its most prominent element seemed to be the hero’s inability to let go of his old flame and see the most beautiful, powerful and attractive partner sitting right next to him. Truth is Angela Bassett is totally hot and kicks some major ass.

No comments: