Tomorrowland

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”)
Written by: Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) and Brad Bird (“Ratatouille”)

Vagueness in a film’s marketing is something we’re all going to have to get used to as moviegoers from now on. From ambiguous trailers to the ridiculous amount of press a leaked photo gets to the cast and crew having to sign discourse agreements before actually shooting a single scene, cinematic secrecy is becoming all too familiar these days for studios who want very little revealed before a film’s release (it’s odd since spoilers basically start hitting the internet minutes later, but we regress). There is a problem, however, when a film’s mystery frustratingly seeps into its storytelling and never lets up. Such is the case with “Tomorrowland,” a sci-fi movie so concerned about giving away too much too soon, that before we know it, at least a third of the film is over and we still have no idea what the heck is happening – nor do we care anymore.

Far less creative than it thinks it is, “Tomorrowland” takes the central premise of “making the world a better place” and runs its mediocre narrative into the ground. Britt Robertson (“The Longest Ride”) stars as Casey Newton, an intelligent young girl witha positive outlook on life who is invited to experience the utopian world of Tomorrowland by way of a magical pin given to her by an android named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Athena has been in search of individuals driven by hope for the future and Casey’s just the girls she’s been looking for (although calling her special in any way is an overstatement). Inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney as an adult, Thomas Robinson as a kid) once fit that description when he was younger, but now as an adult, he is far less certain that Tomorrowland is a reality. When Casey asks him to take her there, he scoffs at the idea before he realizes they are the only two people who can save the world from apocalyptic doom.

Keeping things obscure is one thing, but director and co-writer Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) do it in such an annoying fashion, you never feel like any of the ideas they present to you are important enough to embrace at more than face value. A myriad of questions are asked, none of which are answered. In fact, any question a character utters throughout most of the film is sidestepped sloppily and without regard to compelling dialogue between the characters. At one point Clooney’s character asks, “Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” It’s hard not to imagine Lindelof writing this little exchange in the script while snickering at his computer. To answer your question, Damon, no you don’t have to explain everything, but at least give us a reason to stay around and find out what big surprises you have in store for us (spoiler: there are no big surprises). Also, if you honestly think some “amazing” special effects (these are average, at best) are going to be enough to get us through the mess you’ve written, your characters in “Tomorrowland” aren’t the only ones living in another world.

Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)

Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.

Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.

Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.

Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.

With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.

Cowboys & Aliens

July 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”), Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Mark Fergus (“Iron Man”), Hawk Otsby (“Iron Man”), Damon Lindelof (debut)

Throughout movie theaters across the country, the trailer for “Cowboys and Aliens” was met with uproarious laughter when the title card was revealed. Although seemingly not any more preposterous of a plot than a teenager infused with spider DNA, audiences chuckled incredulously. With audiences laughing at the mere concept of the film, there was added pressure on director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) to keep a serious tone and to strike a convincing balance between the western and sci-fi genre. What we actually get is a film with no true identity.

The film opens with Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) waking up in the middle of a desert not knowing where or who he is and with a strange device attached to his wrist. When he heads into the nearest town, Lonergan discovers that he is a wanted criminal and is set to be turned over to the feds. While Jake is intercepted by the begrudging Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), aliens attack the town of Absolution, taking many of its residents with it. Though confused and shocked by the events, Jake, Colonel, the mysterious Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and others band together to go on a rescue mission to fight the alien race and recover their loved ones who have been abducted.

For a film starring two strong actors and a supporting cast to match, the acting in “Cowboys and Aliens” is incredibly flat. Both Craig and Ford seem to be going through the motions, giving plastic performances with only a few explosive moments. Not even the always-dependable Sam Rockwell (“Moon”) can muster a memorable performance.  However, the actors are not totally at fault here. With a cheesy, cliché-ridden script, the writers (five accredited ones to be exact) take a solid cast and give them nothing to do with their characters. No effort is made to give us a reason to root for these people other than the obvious “us vs. them” reasoning.

One of the biggest problems surrounding “Cowboys and Aliens” is that it attempts to combine two genres, and in the process fails on being a good version of either. The Western elements are not nearly compelling enough. While the familiar costumes and sets are there, the swagger and strong characters of true Westerns are sadly missing. The film incorporates its sci-fi elements with generic and predictable action beats, there for the sole purpose of showing the aliens and what they can do. It has the same tired and predictable sci-fi moments that you’ve seen a hundred times before.  You know when an alien is going to meet its end and you know when some unsuspecting human is going to get snatched.  It’s been done before, and in much more interesting ways. When coupled with some spotty CGI work, the end product is a film that turns out being a mediocre sci-fi movie set in the Old West.

But beyond all of its shortcomings at mashing genres and at a run time of about two hours, the biggest problem is that “Cowboys and Aliens” is unnecessarily long-winded and isn’t very much fun. It relies so heavily on mesmerizing you with its visuals that no care is given to the story.  And while the trailer provided audiences with laughs, the actual film is more likely to produce yawns.