Monday, June 1, 2009

Film Round-Up for June

In this edition of The Film Round-Up: The awesomeness of Star Trek; the pretty goodness of Wolverine; the mehness of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; and the irrelevance of Terminator Salvation.

To ease the pain of reading the review of Terminator Salvation, here's a photo of one of the movie's co-stars, Moon Bloodgood. Pretty lady, no? Sorry ladies, I don't have anything for ya, but I just posted a 600-word review of a movie starring John Krasinski. He's John Cusack 2.0!

As always, these reviews previously appeared in ICON, and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)

The summer movie season--when everything is bigger and better, allegedly-- kicked off last month. Here's a look at four high-profile releases, one of which you should see immediately.

Terminator Salvation (Dir: McG). Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Ironside. The fourth installment in the popular, time-bending franchise takes us to 2018, where rogue soldier John Connor (Bale) leads humanity's fight against a legion of unstoppable machines intent on destroying the human race. Thrown into this epic struggle is the appearance of man/machine Marcus (Worthington, who fails to maintain an American accent) and Connor's teenager father (Yelchin, whose teeth are awfully white for someone living during a holocaust), both of whom play crucial roles in mankind's survival. For so much on the line, the movie never makes you care about what's taking place, glumly covering the same terrain as its predecessors while offering no compelling storylines or ideas. The acting is uniformly intense, which makes it hard to take anyone or anything seriously, especially when there are several gaping plot holes. Terminator Salvation isn't bad as much as it is irrelevant, proof that good ideas from the past eventually get stale. PG-13 **

Star Trek (Dir: J.J. Abrams). Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, Anton Yelchin, Winona Ryder, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Karl Urban. Abrams' rollicking, youthful interpretation of the epic TV and movie franchise should be the crown jewel of the summer movie season. The new edition concerns the early days of the Starship Enterprise's crew--specifically the battle between a young troublemaking James T. Kirk (Pine) and the quietly brooding Spock (Quinto, who's outstanding)--and their mission to save Earth and their captain (Greenwood) from a revenge-minded Romulan named Nero (Bana). You don't need to be fluent in Klingon to enjoy the movie, which doesn't cater to geeky trivia or nostalgia, though Nimoy does a nice job as the future Spock. The movie stands on its own. The new crew is fantastic (aside from Quinto, Urban and Pegg steal their scenes), and the movie is relentlessly entertaining, the apotheosis of a smart, fun summer blockbuster. Pray the half-baked sequels and aspiring, Uhura-loving fanboys are kept to a minimum. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the terrific script. PG-13 ****

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Dir: Gavin Hood). Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Will i Am, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds. Jackman takes a break from singing and dancing (thank God) to again portray his most famous role--the titular clawed superhero. Here we see his story pre-X-Men, when he and his mutant brother (Schreiber) spent years on the run--fighting in multiple wars, mostly--before joining a covert task force. When Wolverine objects to its ethics, he starts a new life in rural Canada, which is harshly interrupted years later by his unhinged brother and the force's power-mad commander (Huston). Destruction ensues. Entertaining and chock full of action, Wolverine is enjoyable, and writers David Benioff (25th Hour, The Kite Runner) and Skip Woods offer enough dramatic twists and snappy dialogue to keep us engaged between explosions. Certainly not as dramatically polished as recent superhero movies, which is actually an asset. Sometimes it's OK to turn your brain off and have a good time. Wolverine fulfills that need perfectly. PG-13 ***

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (Dir: Mark Waters). Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Emma Stone, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster, Anne Archer. A womanizing photographer (McConaughey), who doesn't believe in love, returns home for his younger brother's wedding, where he reunites with the one true love he abandoned (Garner) and looks to hook up with a bridesmaid. Unable to see the error of having commitment-free sex with underwear models, McConaughey is visited wedding eve by the ghost of his uncle/playboy mentor (Douglas), who does that for him a la A Christmas Carol. Big, dumb-as-a-doorknob romantic comedy is salvaged by three terrific performances: a Robert Evans-inspired Douglas; the increasingly reliable Garner, whose gentle acidity is most welcome; and an unrecognizable Stone (Superbad), who nearly steals the whole shebang as McConaughey's first ghost/sexual partner, a chatty 1980s teenager. The trio elevates the movie above its clich├ęs and lack of touch. As for McConaughey, who's decent, he must stop playing the same redeemable rogue before he becomes a hunkier version of Alan Alda. He's better than that. PG-13 **

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