Posts Tagged ‘action-adventure movie’

The Enterprise crew takes an entertaining but inessential voyage in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

April 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 13, 2017

Star Trek Beyond, the third entry in J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the venerable science fiction franchise, is a pleasant but ultimately inessential way to pass two hours.

As the picture begins, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise are roughly three years into their five-year mission. But Kirk has grown weary of deep-space exploration (there’s an amusing shot of him opening his closet to see several hangers displaying identical uniforms). Meanwhile, his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto), feels compelled to break off his relationship with the human communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana) because of his wish to help propagate the Vulcan species. This longing is only magnified when he learns of the death of Ambassador Spock (the late Leonard Nimoy, glimpsed in stills), his counterpart from and link to the original Star Trek TV series.

When Enterprise puts in for resupplying, rest and recreation at the remote (and oddly named) Starbase Yorktown after an unsuccessful attempt to broker peace between two warring alien races, there’s a distinct air of discontent about the ship. And yet Kirk remains up for a challenge; when the alien Kalara (Lydia Wilson) rockets toward Yorktown on an escape pod spinning a tale about how her crew has been marooned on an even more remote planet named Altamid, the captain gathers his crew for a voyage through an uncharted nebula.

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The strangely entertaining ‘The Accountant’ tests preconceived notions about autism and action-adventure movies

November 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 17, 2016

The Accountant is a cleverly constructed and strangely likable action-adventure movie built on an unusual premise: That an autistic child can be groomed to become a businessman with the acumen of Bruce Wayne, an assassin with the skill of James Bond, a criminal with the morality of Robin Hood and a ladies’ man with the swagger of… well, of a celibate monk.

Ben Affleck plays the eponymous accountant, who goes by the name Christian Wolff. He runs an unremarkable tax firm in an unremarkable strip mall in Illinois, but that’s really a cover — “Wolff” mainly earns his keep by serving as a forensic accountant for shadowy criminals, businessmen and governments the world over. The Accountant’s main action begins when he’s called in by Lamar Black (John Lithgow), the founder and head of an advanced prosthetics manufacturer called Living Robotics, in an attempt to sniff out some financial anomalies that have been discovered by one of the company’s junior bookkeepers, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

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On the artistic and cinematic merits of ‘Aliens’

December 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 21, 2015

Back in July, I referred to James Cameron’s 1986 movie Aliens as seminal. I actually called it that twice, first in my review of Edge of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Live Die Repeat) and then in my writeup of Nick Cole’s 2014 novel, Soda Pop Soldier, which happens to pay homage to the Cameron film. (Rather improbably, the narrator of the book has not seen the movie.)

When I wrote those blog posts, I wanted to link to something that would back up my assertion about the importance of the movie. But I couldn’t find something that struck me as definitive, such as an entry on one of the American Film Institute’s lists of the top movies, and I didn’t want to get bogged down.

So I did what I often do when I’m looking into a topic: I opened a bunch of links and then I left the tabs open in my web browser for months.

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‘Jurassic World’ and the action-movie paradox: About movie portrayals of violence

June 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 21, 2015

The other day, in my review of Jurassic World, I wrote this:

What’s not honest is the way Jurassic World deals with the human toll of violence: It wants the audience to think they can eat their cake and have it, too. All the individuals who are killed are essentially unknown to the viewer or have been depicted as bad people. The filmmakers want us to be thrilled when a flock of flying dinosaurs are unleashed on a panicked pack of tourists, but the scene is remarkably bloodless for all that.

I meant that last sentence literally: As the fliers assault unarmed people and are shot out of the sky by a contingent of overwhelmed guards, there’s hardly a drop of crimson liquid on display.

Another incident in the sequence also bothered me tremendously because of what it didn’t show. It’s during the fliers’ attack that the only remotely sympathetic character in the movie to fall victim to a dino — or at least, the only remotely sympathetic person to be eaten whose name the audience is ever told — is chomped.

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Scaly injustice: Gene-spliced dinosaurs rampage through a crowded theme park in ‘Jurassic World’

June 19, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 19, 2015

Twenty-two years after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park thrilled audiences with its computer-animated dinosaurs run amok, the franchise is back. Jurassic World is the fourth installment in the series, and for my money, it’s by far the best of the sequels — not that that’s saying much.

(Quick disclaimer: I arrived a few minutes late to the screening. Did I miss anything important? Um, I hope not. I mean, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.)

The story has a lot of moving parts, but it boils down to this: A large, powerful and mean dinosaur breaks loose in a crowded theme park; action ensues.

Yes, yes, yes — it defies all logic, but there it is. Despite the chaos and carnage inflicted by reanimated reptilians in the original 1993 blockbuster, the 1997 follow-up The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which loosed a Tyrannosaurus rex on San Diego, for heaven’s sake) and 2001’s Jurassic Park III, the late John Hammond’s vision of a theme park populated by extinct species has been built. And not only built: This incarnation of his vision has opened for business. It’s adding animals and attractions every few years.

Jurassic World, as this luxury vacation destination is called, is quite popular; it’s raking in buckets of visitor revenue from an easily distracted public. It turns out, however, that in the name of increasing profits, the park’s operators have been pushing the limits of both safety and sanity — not to mention, some human-interest subplots show us, the boundaries of sentimentality, too.

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Adventures in libertarian utopia: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ puts its violent antihero through a vicious, violent and dynamic wringer

June 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 4, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road, the new science fiction action movie from George Miller, is a brutal, kinetic, testosterone-powered thrill ride that finds cause to recognize (and even celebrate) women as something more than sex objects.

This is the fourth film in Miller’s series about a warrior who roams a twisted post-apocalyptic Australian desert landscape. While watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this apt dismissal of an entry in James Cameron’s franchise starring an Austrian as a post-apocalyptic warrior: “Terminator 2 probably ranks as the most violent tribute ever made to peace.”

The title character here is portrayed by the versatile English actor Tom Hardy, who played the petulant Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis, the puckish Eames in Inception and the murderous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Hardy steps in for Mel Gibson, the Australian-American whose star was made in no small part by Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), all of which Miller wrote and directed. I’ve only seen the first of the earlier movies in its entirety (and many years ago — the details are quite hazy), although I’m of an age where snippets of the 1985 film couldn’t help but impose themselves on my adolescence.

But familiarity with Mad Max’s previous outings isn’t a prerequisite for watching Mad Max: Fury Road. The important thing is that the viewer enjoy watching cars and trucks race towards and past one another while various (mostly heavily muscled) characters direct guns, harpoons, explosive-tipped spears, chainsaws, knives and fisticuffs at one another.

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Guess who’s coming to invade? Revisiting ‘Independence Day’

February 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 3, 2015

Aliens are coming! Aliens are coming! And they’re going to blow up the White House, the Empire State Building and some skyscraper in Los Angeles!

That’s the elevator pitch for Independence Day, the blockbuster action-adventure movie directed by Roland Emmerich and co-written by Emmerich and Dean Devlin. ID4, as it was dubbed in marketing materials, was the top-grossing film of 1996 and to this day has the 12th-biggest Independence Day weekend opening of all time.

I remember watching Independence Day when it first came out and thinking that it was good, corny entertainment. (Confession: I’m almost positive that I owned, and eagerly read, the novelization of this movie.)

It was not without reservations that I sat down to re-watch Independence Day one night last week. After all, I’d recently read a rather indifferent assessment of the movie at Moria, Richard Scheib’s invaluable website for fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy films.

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Nobody knows his face, but everybody knows his name (and story): Revisiting Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’

December 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 6, 2014

Everyone knows the basic setup of the world of Batman, one of the great comic-book heroes. Heck, millions of people could recite it in their sleep. It goes like this:

Bruce Wayne, the only son of billionaires, was orphaned by a gunman at an early age and raised by Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family’s loyal butler. Determined to fight the endemic crime of his native Gotham, the so-called Dark Knight dons a cape and cowl and equips himself with a cornucopia of fantastic gadgets in order to help Jim Gordon, the city’s trustworthy police commissioner, apprehend bizarre and menacing villains.

In 1989, the quirky director Tim Burton launched a Batman film franchise, featuring an unlikely choice — mild-mannered comedic actor Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Mr. Mom — in the lead role. Burton’s quirky, sometimes over-the-top gothic realization of this noir-ish comic-book universe proved to be immensely popular. Batman garnered $40.5 million in its first weekend, dwarfing the previous best opening of a superhero movie (Superman II, which took in $14.1 million in 1982).

Burton’s quite excellent Batman went on to total earnings of more than $250 million and helped spawn a legion of superhero movies. They included Batman Returns, which saw Burton and Keaton reuniting for a decent 1992 feature, and two extremely cheesy, greatly inferior further sequels: Batman Forever (1995), directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Val Kilmer in the title role; and Batman & Robin (1997), again directed by Schumacher but this time starring George Clooney.

When, in 2005, Christopher Nolan came out with the insipidly named Batman Begins, a cinematic reboot of the Caped Crusader, I wondered why, exactly, the movie was necessary. What novelty could be mined from the genesis of Batman, whose origin story even the highest-browed of potential moviegoers knows by heart?

I never did see Batman Begins in the movie theater. But I did watch it, on a fiasco of a date, at a free outdoor screening in Raleigh’s Moore Square Park in the summer of 2005 or 2006 (if memory serves).

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The bomb at the far end of the galaxy: Why is ‘Supernova’ so bad, and why can’t I stop liking it?

October 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 9, 2014

Oh, Supernova. You could have been so, so good. Instead, you were so completely awful.

Supernova, the 2000 science fiction/horror movie, is a famously bad film. Its credited director is Thomas Lee, the pseudonym chosen to replace Alan Smithee after the cover of that moniker was blown by 1997’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. According to the Internet Movie Database, the actual main director of Supernova was Walter Hill, the writer-director of 48 Hrs. and a producer of Aliens and several lesser science-fiction movies. IMDB also says that Supernova had uncredited directorial and/or editing contributions from cinema immortal Francis Ford Coppola (yes, the man who filmed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now!) and B-movie director Jack Sholder (The Hidden, which I actually remember as being quite good).

(Spoilers ahead.)

The movie’s setup is fairly straightforward. As ambulance vessel Nightingale patrols remote areas of deep space, its crew slowly adjusts to its newest member — pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader), a former military man who recently finished rehabilitation for his addiction to a futuristic drug named hazen. The crew finds Vanzant to be cool and distant; he finds them to be gruff and unorthodox.

Captain A.J. Marley (Robert Forster) is working on his doctorate in anthropology, a pursuit that requires him to watch (and comment disparagingly about) violent 20th century cartoons. Benj Sotomejor (Wilson Cruz), who is either the ship’s navigator or its information technology guy — it’s never made clear — has reprogrammed and is becoming emotionally intimate with the Nightingale’s computer, Sweetie (voiced by Vanessa Marshall). Paramedics Danika Lund (Robin Tunney) and Yerzy Penalosa (Lou Diamond Phillips) are rutting like rabbits and considering whether to have a child together. (He’s gung-ho; she’s reluctant.) Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), who had a hurtful relationship years ago with a hazen addict, seems to spend most of her time glowering and lecturing Vanzant.

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An atomic supervillain conquers Gotham in Christopher Nolan’s impressive, oppressive ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

September 23, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 23, 2014

Pity poor billionaire Bruce Wayne. At the start of The Dark Knight Rises, the 2012 blockbuster feature film based on DC Comics’s popular characters, the former bon vivant is a recluse with a limp and slightly shaggy facial hair. The troubled metropolis of Gotham has cleaned up its act in the eight years since the death of district attorney Harvey Dent at the end of The Dark Knight.

But Wayne (Christian Bale) keeps to himself, either unwilling or unable to move on after the Joker killed the love of his life, Rachel Dawes. And Wayne’s crime-fighting alter ego, Batman, whom most Gothamites unfairly blame for Dent’s death, hasn’t been seen since that the prosecutor’s demise.

The eponymous dark knight will be needed, however, because a new menace is approaching. The chief villain of British director Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie is Bane (Tom Hardy), a mysterious masked man whose ruthlessness, strength and intelligence are only matched by his (and Nolan’s) ardor for labyrinthine plots. The Dark Knight Rises’s fast-paced beginning introduces Bane through an impressive midair hijacking in which he captures nuclear physicist Leonid Pavel and kills the CIA crew that had taken Pavel into custody. Bane also leaves behind one of his minions, noting that the authorities will expect a certain number of bodies in the wreckage. The henchmen obeys willingly, thereby enhancing the caper’s already ominous air.

There are a few other new characters (or new to Nolan’s Batverse, anyway). One is the impossibly limber Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a seductive thief whom we first see flirting with a local congressman. Moments later, she spars — verbally and otherwise — with the reclusive Wayne while attempting to steal his late mother’s string of pearls. Wayne is understandably captivated by the cat burglar, whom even casual fans will recognize as Catwoman despite the word not being uttered onscreen.

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