9.19.2011

Apollo 13 (1995)



Real events when told for entertainment often lose their historical accuracy. Such may be the case with Apollo 13, though certainly the gist of the history is preserved. But Apollo 13 isn't a movie merely about the desperate measures taken by three men stranded in space in 1970 and the hundreds of dedicated NASA personnel who worked together to bring them safely home. It's also a story about the year 1970, risk, ingenuity and dreams.

Tom Hanks, fresh off two Oscar-winning performances, plays astronaut Jim Lovell, presenting a complicated portrait of a man brash and reckless enough to be a Navy test pilot, serious and savvy enough to be selected for astronaut rotation with its many attendant public relations duties, and scientific enough to handle the complex physics of what was then the nascent field of space flight. Hanks is joined by Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon as fellow astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission. A large supporting cast, including Ed Harris, are all believable as 1970s engineers. (Many are familiar character actors providing rich connectivity for anyone playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.)

9.16.2011

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)


Often the fact that a movie is first inspired by a video game results in a film stuck with those limitations, and action that is purely suggested by the video game format. Fortunately, the creative team behind Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time thought outside, literally, the Xbox. It features solid performances, a decently crafted tale of intrigue, action and fantasy, beautiful cinemascapes and a truly wonderful score.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title role with a mix of brash cockiness and thoughtful reflection refreshing for an action film. Plenty of brawn and video-game style tricks lighten up the action, but the storyline, about a dagger that can turn back time and a beautiful princess desperate to keep it from the hands of evildoers, breaks up what would otherwise be a series of leveling-up, next opponent stunts.

9.10.2011

Galaxy Quest (1999)


Parody is easy, especially when the target is something that is already somewhat cheesy--like the original Star Trek series. Speaking as someone who was, at one point in her life, able to name an episode from the first 10 seconds of the opening, the original Stark Trek was more cheese than filet. The acting was wooden, the plots sometimes laughable (with occasional flashes of brilliance) and Gunsmoke had better special effects.

With so many easy targets for parody, what makes Galaxy Quest stand out as a movie is that it took the idea of a parody and used it only as a jumping off point. From the introduction of former cast mates who only see each other at science fiction conventions, none of whom have any other claim to fame, we are whisked away into a full-blown sci-fi plot that simultaneously pokes fun at the tropes of science-fiction movies and delivers a soundly conceived tale of its own, written by David Howard and Robert Gordon.

9.05.2011

The Blues Brothers (1980)


"I know how we'll save the orphanage! Let's put on a show!" That plot line is a staple of many Andy Rooney/Judy Garland flicks, and plenty of other movies and TV shows that are produced to show off the talent of the cast. Around the musical numbers there's a very loose plot and in the end the orphans are saved and the cast sings themselves into credits.

The Blues Brothers is that plot. With a few twists. Such as the heroes being chased by members of the American Socialist White People's Party whose battle vehicles include a station wagon. And about 5,000 cop cars, none of which can brake without flipping over. And 1,000 SWAT guys who can't do anything without chanting "hup hup hup." A bunch of army guys who have to shoot a door not a hundred times but a gazillion times to get it open. And an angry ex who uses everything from bombs to flamethrowers to a hunting rifle but somehow never manages to wound the object of her ire. So just a few twists.

9.04.2011

The Green Hornet (2011)


Dumb as a bag of hammers. Yeah, that's how I like my superheroes. I especially like them willing to blow up anything, including innocent people. I admire a superhero who strews mayhem and mess across the screen, leaving other people to clean up after him. /sarcasm

Seth Rogen has only himself to blame. As the writer, producer and star of this movie, it's all on him. Newsflash for Rogen: The people around you who told you this script worked lied. You need new sycophants, dude. Rogen does a great job presenting Britt Reid as a dissolute playboy with a big "daddy doesn't love me" chip on his shoulder. Soon, we hope to see him get his wake-up call. But that turns out to be wanting better coffee, not a better world.