Star Trek Into Darkness

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Star Trek Into Darkness  (B).  J.J. Abrams (Super 8) directs this sequel to his successful 2009 reboot of the venerable Star Trek franchise, and I thought it was an enjoyable adventure.  After a pulse-pounding opening sequence in which a young Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, Star Trek) shreds the Prime Directive in order to rescue First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto, TV’s Heroes) from an alien volcano, we get to the meat of the story–a series of brutal terrorist attacks sends the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on a mission to capture the mysterious perpetrator, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement).  Robocop himself, Peter Weller, appears as the belligerent Admiral Marcus.  On the whole, I thought it was a good, effective sci-fi action flick, and I think that non-Trekkers would enjoy it just fine.  But true Trekkers, I think, might quibble with it.  For one, the Enterprise flies what must be an incredible, impossible distance in what appears to be about 15 seconds.  Even worse, somebody uses a transporter to travel the same incredible distance, which would have been clearly impossible in any incarnation of Trek.  Finally, the conclusion of the movie involves a deus ex machina that is pretty outrageous even by Trek‘s loose standards.  But if you like sci-fi and can forgive these little transgressions, I think you’ll find this twelfth Star Trek movie an enjoyable ride.

The Great Gatsby

Mom Under Cover checks in with this new review.  (Spoilers, for those few who don’t know how Gatsby ends.)

The Great Gatsby – B

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is not great, but it is worth seeing.  Fitzgerald’s prose is much of the novel’s allure which may be why Hollywood has not found a way to make a movie as memorable as the book.  Leonardo DiCaprio makes a believable Gatsby; his performance is one of the film’s highlights.  Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan) shows promise in her first scene but quickly becomes blasé.  Mulligan looks the part, but her Daisy is way too boring to warrant Gatsby’s adoration.  Joel Edgerton plays a very good Tom Buchanan–cad that he is.  Most disappointing was this film’s Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire).  The movie opens with Carraway in a psychiatric treatment center recounting the events leading to Gatsby’s death.  I found this plot device to be really corny.  Maguire’s Carraway was so emotionless it is inconceivable that he was bothered enough by the tragedy to warrant counseling much less in-patient treatment.  Viewers who have not read the book will assume that Carraway was a main character rather than the narrator.  Perhaps it was the direction, but Maguire’s character was intrusive (that voice drove me crazy by the end of the movie) and flat.  Luhrmann fans will not be disappointed by the Baz-matazz, over the top visuals and music choices.

Iron Man 3

New from The Movie Snob.

Iron Man 3  (C).  I remember enjoying the first Iron Man and not caring much for the second one.  The latest installment also left me cold.  Once again, Robert Downey, Jr. (The Avengers) plays the swaggering genius-zillionaire Tony Stark.  Only now, Stark has lost a bit of his swagger–he even has an occasional panic attack, for crying out loud!  But this is no time for Stark to take a soul-searching sabbatical, for a new threat has emerged–a superterrorist called the Mandarin, played with some panache by Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog).  Unfortunately, the innumerable explosions, the endless digital effects, and even the remarkably steely abs of Gwyneth Paltrow (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) just weren’t that entertaining.  And I wasn’t the only one who was turned off; I saw a family in the theater with a couple of kids, one of whom was dressed up at Iron Man, and about halfway through the film, I realized that they had all left.  It is probably too violent for little ones, I guess, but it is rated PG-13 after all.  Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), and Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) costar.  Oh, be sure to stay through all the closing credits for an amusing final scene.

The Squid and the Whale

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

The Squid and the Whale  (C).  Alas, this is not a movie about a titanic clash between a sperm whale and a giant squid (although there is a connection, oddly enough).  No, this 2005 release is a family drama with a big old side of dysfunction.  The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) in what I think was sort of a breakout role for him.  He plays Walt, the teenaged son of an unhappily married couple played by Jeff Daniels (Arachnophobia) and Laura Linney (The City of Your Final Destination).  When their parents separate, Walt and his younger brother Frank have trouble dealing with the consequences.  The dad character, a college professor and fading novelist, is an insufferable jerk, and Walt shows disturbing signs of turning out the same way, such as in his dealings with his rather sweet girlfriend Sophie (Halley Feiffer, Margot at the Wedding).  Anna Paquin (X2) co-stars as one of the dad’s college students who is obviously trouble.  Anyway, it’s an okay movie for what it is, I guess, and at only 81 minutes long it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The Aristocats

DVD review from The Movie Snob

The AristoCats  (C+).  This was my first time to see this 1970 Disney movie.  It was a decent way to pass the time, but it certainly doesn’t measure up to Disney greats like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or The Lion King.  The plot was very similar to that of Lady & the Tramp.  Lady cat Duchess (voice of Eva Gabor, TV’s Green Acres) and her three kittens are the pampered pets of a wealthy but elderly Parisian woman.  When Madame draws up a will leaving her whole estate to her pets for their lifetimes and only after that to her faithful butler Edgar, Edgar decides to accelerate the process by dumping the cats in the French countryside far from Paris.  A good-natured alley cat named Thomas O’Malley takes it upon himself to help them get home.  There are a few unmemorable songs along the way.  But this is probably a good one for younger kids; there are no very scary scenes, parental deaths, or anything like that.

Man of the West

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Man of the West  (B).  This 1958 Western stars Gary Cooper (High Noon) as Link Jones, a former outlaw who has gone straight and made a new life for himself.  On a trip to Fort Worth, his train is held up by bandits, and he and two other passengers get left behind when the train makes its getaway.  Stranded in the middle of nowhere, Jones and his comrades fall in with the train robbers—who turn out to be members of Jones’s old outlaw gang, headed by the psychopathic Dock Tobin (Lee J. Cobb, The Exorcist).  Jones has no choice but to agree to help the gang with a bank heist.  A pretty good movie, but it’s no High Noon.

Antony and Cleopatra

DVD review from The Movie Snob.

Antony and Cleopatra  (C-).  I picked this 1972 flick out of a Walmart bargain bin.  I figured it had Charlton Heston in it, how bad could it be?  Well, it’s not very good.  I hadn’t realized it’s an adaption of Shakespeare’s play (or that Heston was apparently a huge lover of the Bard), so the dialogue is a little on the archaic side.  It’s also extremely long, at almost two and a half hours.  Heston (Ben-Hur) both directed and played Antony.  Cleopatra was played by an actress named Hildegard Neil, who was decent but not great.  John Castle (Man of La Mancha) played Octavius Caesar, and he was pretty good—icy cold and calculating.  Maybe it’s better than I thought—I was suffering from a cold when I watched it, and probably wasn’t in the right mood.  Still, I won’t be hurrying to watch this one again.