Cloverfield

WTF: JJ Abrams, an EW Entertainer of the Decade

J. J.
Image via Wikipedia

Alias. Lost. Fringe. Mission Impossible 3. Cloverfield. Star Trek. All in all, writer/director/producer JJ Abrams had a pretty sweet decade. That’s why we at Entertainment Weekly named him one of the Entertainers of the Decade in our Best of the Decade issue (EW.com.)

He may be a nice guy, and he may be a savvy business man, but idea that he is one of the entertainers of the year is beyond laughable.

His credits include some of the dumbest, most boring, mass media schlock that I have ever seen.  Here is the list according to imdb:

  • Alias (creator, executive producer, Writer)
  • Armageddon (1998/I) (screenplay)
  • Cloverfield (2008) (producer)
  • Felicity" (84 episodes, executive producer)
  • Forever Young (1992) (executive producer, written by) (as Jeffrey Abrams)
  • Fringe" (executive producer, writer)
  • Gone Fishin' (1997) (written by) (as Jeffrey Abrams)
  • Joy Ride (2001/I) (producer, written by)
  • Lost" (executive producer, Writer)
  • Mission: Impossible III (2006) (written by)
  • Regarding Henry (1991) (co-producer), written by) (as Jeffrey Abrams)
  • Six Degrees" (executive producer) (13 episodes, 2006-2007)
  • Star Trek (2009) (producer)
  • Taking Care of Business (1990) (written by) (as Jeffrey Abrams)
  • The Catch (2005) (TV) (creator, writer, executive producer)
  • The Pallbearer (1996) (producer) (as Jeffrey Abrams)
  • The Suburbans (1999) (producer)
  • What About Brian" (executive producer) (26 episodes, 2006-2007)

There is not one original or innovative idea on the list, and only Star Trek was worth watching, but with the usual JJ caveats: Try to ignore the lens flares, forget about it having a plot, and whatever you do, don't expect it to make sense.

It would be a waste of my time to point out all of the problems with JJ's works.  This is just Entertainment Weekly proving they care more about how much money a project makes rather than how good it is.

JJ is a master of smoke and mirrors, but has no idea how to craft a good story.  Let's just sigh together and hope his career will be over soon.

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Review: Star Trek

startrekfanposter1I was a little afraid to see the new Star Trek Movie.  All of the materials they sent me to hype the movie either bored or annoyed me.  I started getting a little excited about the movie after the early screenings started returning good reviews. Sitting in the theater as boring trailers, my anticipation ramped up as film crept ever closer.  I love Star Trek.  It is probably my favorite franchise.  I really hoped they wouldn't mess it up.

It took me a while to write this review, because I wanted to make sure I got past my fanboy response to the movie and was able to talk about the movie with a bit more distance and clarity.

What should Star Trek be?

Gene Roddenberry's concept of Star Trek was a simple formula:

  • Action
  • Adventure
  • Basic wants and needs

But it should also tackle all of the most important issues of the day.  (You can read more about this in my post: More Proof J. J. Abrams Doesn’t Get Star Trek).  The early publicity left me with many concerns.

Addressing early concerns

Prequel/Sequel/Reboot [reus name="Star Trek iFrame"]

I was really confused about the nature of the film when they started calling is a prequel/sequel/reboot.

That is a strange thing to say, and alone, a statement that doesn't make sense, but for this film it works.

  • Sequel
    • Spock starts on Romulus like he is in the Next Generation
    • The first Federation uniforms we see are right out of Star Trek Enterprise.
    • Time travel story
  • Prequel
    • Young versions of the characters
  • Reboot
    • Establishes an alternate timeline for Star Trek

I am not sure I like the classification of this movie as a reboot.  Battlestar Galactica was a reboot, this was more of a return to the core of what made Star Trek great in the original series.  If this is a reboot so was:

  • The Animated Series (added more exotic alien races)
  • The Motion Picture (changed the Kligons forever)
  • Wrath of Khan (Brought back the Action/Adventure quality of the series.
  • Voyage Home (The crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
  • The Next Generation (updated the series for a new generation of fans)
  • Deep Space Nine (Star Trek without exploration but with more military elements)
  • Generations (Kirk is ripped from the timeline)
  • Voyager (Star Trek without the Federation)
  • First Contact (The Borg and the crew of the Enterprise mess with the timeline)
  • Insurrection (The Federation is not perfect)
  • Enterprise (Star Trek before the Federation without superior technology)

If you would count each of these major revisions of the setting as a reboot, than this movie is a reboot.  To me, this sequel/prequel.

Turning Star Trek into Star Wars?

trek-newlogo-lg.jpgAbrams, Kurtzman anf Orci all said they wanted to turn bring more Star Wars into Star Trek, but I don't think they got there.  I love both series, and I am familiar with the main qualities of both, and I don't think they brought much if anything from one to the other.

I was afraid that is was going to be more of a Lethal Weapon in Space, Speed: Warp 10, Star Wars: The Vulcan Chronicles, or Cloverfield 2: The Future of the Beast (WTF Star Trek Super Bowl Ad!?!).  There is not a scene in this film that I could see easily fitting in one of the earlier films or the original television series.

Maybe they originally thought of Nero's ship as a sort of Death Star, but it is no more than Probe from The Voyage Home, V'ger from the Motion Picture, or the Son'a ships from Insurrection.  Other than that, I just don't get it.

Uhura in her off hours

I was excited when I saw the clip of Uhura telling Kirk off in the bar.  I hoped Kirk would get his butt kicked and he so did.  I was concerned about the stripping clips of Uhura in the trailers but I love the way the dealt with her.

----------Spoiler Alert!!----------

I loved the relationship between Uhura and Spock.  It made sence, and it served to dehumanize Spock in an interesting way.  The juxtaposition of her emotions and his total lack of emotions really hilighted the difference between humans and vulcans.

I know there are a lot of people who didn't like her depiction in this movie, but Uhura was always a more laid back member of the crew.

Addressing new concerns after seeing the movie

Kirk's Vaccine reaction

I loved the adverse reaction that Kirk had to the Vaccine that McCoy gave him.  It was a flashback to the kind of humor the original series thrived on.  It was silly, light hearted and interfered with the characters ability to do what they needed to do.

The Engine Room of Doom!

WTF were they thinking when they designed the engine room.  It was funny, but I agree with Gwen DeMarco regarding the fate of the writer who came up with the idea for these scenes...

I could go off on a long string blue words, but I will let the others who have already done that do it.  I just thought this was a blemish on an otherwise great film.

Nero's ship armament

Brian and I argued about this fro a long time after the movie.  Personally, I think Nero was just a MacGuffin to give an excuse for the story to happen.  Neither he nor his crew are intgral to the plot and could have been replaced by anyone else with any other motive using any other means.  Nero is not important. They obviously didn't give his subplot any thought, and frankly, the movie would have been better without the distraction.

I wish the film would have had a real 3 dimensional villain, but I honestly didn't expect one from a J. J. Abrams movie.  He has never done villains well.  Every movie and show that he has ever touch has had a weak, impotent, or flat villain.  A better director would have insisted on a better antagonist, but the story didn't matter, the action did.

startrek20081015025340385.jpg

Kirk's Exile from the Enterprise

Some people have complained about Spock having Kirk put in a life pod and jettisoned from the ship.  If I really wanted to defend the movie here I would say that this was a symptom of Spock's frustration that Kirk should not be on the ship at all.  I think that could be argued.

Once more, this is another symptom of Abrams' half-assed directing style.  He needed to have Kirk on the planet to meet Spock and this was the quickest and most "visually exciting" way to do it.  Let's be honest, this was an excuse to have Kirk chased by a Cloverfield reject so he could talk to Spock in a cave.  It was not thought out.

Nero's Motives

nero-characterposter-72dpi.jpg

Nero's motive for attacking Vulcan are nothing less than laughable.  He was a stupid man on a stupid ship with the horridly named "Red Matter" who wants to destroy Vulcan rather than save his homeworld.

Maybe he thought he could do both.  Rid the Empire of the threat of the Federation and save his homeworld.  I think the reallity is a lot simpler.

Like most of the annoying things in this film it just wasn't well thought out.  It was a flimsy excuse for a Nero to be a villain and commit a terrorist act without having to think about whether or not he has a good (or at least understandable) reason or not.

Nero is a flat, empty character and I can tell you why.  This movie is nothing more than:

Wrath of Khan, take 2

This story follows the plot of Wrath of Khan beat by beat with several notable exceptions:

  • Nero is not as scary as Khan.
  • Nero does not have a motive for revenge.
  • "Red Matter" is not as scary as the Genesis Device.
  • Wrath of Khan had better writers and director.

This movie is to Wrath of Khan what the Next Generation episode "Naked Now" is to the Original Series episode "Naked Time."  It is a good remake, but it is not as good as the original.

Is this Star Trek?

Let's measure it against Gene's definition

√ Action √ Adventure √ Basic wants and needs √ Tackle all of the most important issues of the day.

That last check might be a little controversial, but I thought the show dealt with the random nature of terrorism and the emotional cost it has on people.

Star Trek's New Phase

I am glad to say that Star Trek has been reborn, much as it was when Wrath of Khan came out.  I loved the movie.

Likes

  • Canon Uniforms
  • Spock's relationship with the Romulans
  • Characters were perfect
  • Not just an action film
  • great FX
  • sense of humor

Dislikes

  • The Engine room
  • Lack of a serious villain
  • Nero's Ship
  • "Red Matter"
  • The Alien Monster
  • Kirk's marooning

Rating = 10

The Future of Star Trek

Orci and Kurtzmen have already signed on to write the next movie in the series, but that are not sure if it will be a Prequel, Sequel, or Reboot to this movie.  They said they are waiting to see what the reaction to this film is.  And there is one more thing:

Kurtzman: The very last scene when Spock and Spock meet each other, finally. And elder Spock is convincing young Spock that he couldn't interfere, because it would have diverted [Kirk and Spock] away from their friendship. And that their friendship is the key to the whole sort of shebang.

Orci: He gave him a recorded message from Kirk.

Kurtzman: He [elder Spock] said, "Don't take my word for it." And he handed him [younger Spock] a little holographic device and it projected Shatner. It was basically a Happy Birthday wish knowing that Spock was going to go off to Romulus, and Kirk would probably be dead by the time... (Topless Robots)

That could be the set up for the next movie.  Personally, I don't want another movie.  I want a TV series.

WTF Star Trek Super Bowl Ad!?!

Star Trek Super Bowl Ad

The ads for the J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie are just painful to watch.  I am not sure if they are for Lethal Weapon in Space, Speed: Warp 10, Star Wars: The Vulcan Chronicles, or Cloverfield 2: The Future of the Beast.

Think that last one is over the top check this out:

tagruato1-440x186

/film caught this banner for Tagruato, the evil company from Cloverfield in hanging from a building in the trailer.  A great catch on their part, and yet another reason for me to be a little freaked out by the new movie.

The last thing Abrams should make any of us think about in conjuction with with new Star Trek movie is one of the worst flicks he ever made.  Great way to make me worry more about the flick.

Check out my Star Trek Review.

Speculative Fiction Movies Dominate top 25

Get your copy of The Dark Knight on DVD and help support the project IMDB presented their top 25 searched for films of 2008.  They wanted to go for a ranking that was not based on box-office performance or critical assessments.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many speculative fiction movies were on the list.

  1. The Dark Knight (2008)
  2. Twilight (2008)
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
  4. TR2N (2011) Tron 2, I still don’t really care for the name
  5. The Expendables (2010)
  6. Iron Man (2008)
  7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  8. No Country for Old Men (2007)
  9. Juno (2007)
  10. Transformers (2007)
  11. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  12. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  13. Sex and the City (2008)
  14. Into the Wild (2007)
  15. Superbad (2008)
  16. Cloverfield (2008)
  17. Terminator Salvation (2009)
  18. Wanted (2008)
  19. Dragonball (2009)
  20. Quantum of Solace (2008)
  21. The Departed (2006)
  22. Star Trek (2009) This is J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek
  23. The Godfather (1972)
  24. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  25. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

SF moves took up 60% of the chart with only 1/3 of those movies being ones that have not been released yet.

I find these search reports to be fascinating like a snap shot of what is on peoples minds and what they are curious about.

(via IMDB)

Exploring: Cloverfield

cloverfieldReview of:  Cloverfield Overall Rating: 7.5  C

I sat down to watch a good monster flick.  My expectations were reasonable for a monster movie:  A Big Monster rampaging a city, Military trying to stop it, citizens running from it.  As the movie loaded I got a great laugh at the parental guidance screen because it promised me Violence, Terror & Disturbing Images.  This was funny to me because that was exactly what I was expecting from the film and it gave me hope that it might deliver.

cloverfield pg13

Cloverfield is a nice monster film that delivers terror disturbing images and lots of violence.  The story is told from a first person view point which makes it more compelling.  I love how we actually get to go through a monster film where the monster is rampaging in the background and impacting the story line but only in a more random manner.  This would have been an awesome film but the camera technique, though compelling and adds a lot to the suspense was too jarring.

Likes

  • The first person viewpoint way of telling the story.
  • The suspense that is maintained
  • The confusion and terror is really conveyed through the filming style with us having only a  limited view.
  • The way the monster is handled and I mean in all of it's parts it's vague because I don't want to give away a nice surprise
  • Keeping the focus actually on the personal story and quest of the main character Rob.
  • I love that there is no explanation for the Monster.  No reason where it came from or why it was doing it's random things.  After the film watch some of the special features they do explain some of the monsters background and motivations there.
  • The riderless carriage shot:  nice touch, nice symbolism

Dislikes / Concerns

  • The shaky camera:  Though it added to the experience it shook so much I could not have watched it in the theater without Dramamine.  I was pulled out of the experience of the film and the tension was broken at several instances when I had to just look away because of the over shaky camera.  If they would have left some of it in but toned it down a bit more they could have conveyed the same feel and believability without giving the audience motion sickness.
  • The creature is a little goofy looking when you finally get to see it, and the other parts looks like something out of starship troopers.
  • The constant references to terrorism in the beginning & setting it in New York felt like a cheep shot to me.
  • The defiant military guy that was too helpful and breached orders in a moment of crisis was too hackneyed.
  • The Rambo effect of the characters was a little annoying:  a girl gets impaled through the shoulder on rebar and is able to run for many more hours through the film.
  • The set up was way too long: it introduced too many people that were not necessary and never come up again.  I wonder how many viewers get bored and turn the movie off before the first attack.

Get you copy from: Amazon or  Cloverfield

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Matt Reeves on ‘Trek’ Trailer and Footage

140x105In a recent interview with MTV Movies Blog, Matt Reeves, the writer/director of the upcoming J.J. Abrams monster flick Cloverfield said:

The teaser trailer is so thrilling, in fact, that Reeves admitted to having some difficulty stifling his inner fanboy. “That’s what excited me about seeing the trailer, was that I thought ‘Well, this does look completely different and new,’” he marveled. “But while having all the stuff that will make fans of ‘Star Trek’ still feel fulfilled (MTV Movies Blog)."

How am I suppose to feel about that? Clerks was a completely different and new, and it had enough Star Wars in it to satisfy this Star Wars fan, but it was not a Star Wars Film!

I really want to hold off my judgement about this film I have not seen until I do actually see it, but to interview a guy to tease me about a teaser trailer that does not come out until next month for a movie that will not com out until next December is a bit ridiculous. But it worked, because it got me to talk about their stinkin' movie. Nuts to you Magillicutty!