Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Wherein the Cap'n briefly touches upon three movies that don't need another full write-up, but bear some revisiting.

Movie The First - Lens Flare: The Motion Picture, er Star Trek (2009)

I'm going to say this again, because despite standing by my earlier review, I am astonished how well Star Trek works without having a plot. It doesn't have a plot! At all! The movie is a greatest hits of Trek novels and ephemera strung together by a GIGANTIC PLOT MECHANISM that exists solely to set the "Reset" button on the series.

Don't get me wrong, Star Trek does two things very well (and neither is Lens Flares):

1. It's one of the few remake-ish movies in the last three years or so that doesn't really abandon canon or tell the old fans to go buzz off ("This isn't your father's Star Trek" aside). It really does embrace the best things about the original series, puts a cast together that somehow manages to evoke the original actors but also put their own stamp on things, and it's trying very hard not to say "we're better and here's why". Putting Leonard Nimoy in the film and setting him up as a recurring character down the line is a good sign that JJ Abrams and company do, in fact, want this to be like your "father's Star Trek". Just with more goddamned lens flares.

2. Like many other Abrams-related projects, Star Trek effortlessly draws you in and sets the stakes up quickly. Despite knowing exactly what happens to the Kelvin the second time I watched the film, I'll be damned if Star Trek didn't suck me in AGAIN! Part of it is the breathless pacing of the film, part of it is that Abrams is really trying to avoid the self-parodic nature of later Original Series movies and anything having to do with Data in the Next Generation movies. It's funny, but not at its own expense. The Red Shirt death is spot on, for example. You laugh, but you also say "holy shit", because no Red Shirt ever got it that bad before. For two hours the movie manages to breeze by and I was still on board.

But there IS NO PLOT! Any movie where it's a requirement to read the prequel graphic novel in order to actually understand why the main villain does anything he's doing or to fill in any of the unanswered questions (many of which are raised in my old review) is fundamentally problematic. If you bother to stop and think about things like "why doesn't Nero say anything to the Captain of the Kelvin?", and there is actually an answer, as long as you listen to the commentary on the deleted scenes, then there's something funky about the movie.

What's funky is that there's no "there" there. The movie has less of a plot than The Phantom Menace, and much larger gaps in logic and credibility. So much of Star Trek happens by sheer coincidence that I can't understand why I liked it as much the second time as the first. This is a testament to the ability of JJ Abrams to overcome basic moviemaking techniques and still craft an entertaining film. Kudos, sir.

But for God's sakes, man: can we lose the lens flares? I mean in every single shot of a starship, there's at least one, and once we're on the Enterprise, yeesh! It's distracting, for crying out loud, and not in the good way that the rest of the movie is.

Movie the Second - Clerks

Sometimes, you raise the right movie at just the right time. Just as I mentioned last night, Clerks is now the same age I was when I first saw the movie. Back when it was the MOST VULGAR COMEDY EVER, or something ridiculous like that. I think John Waters would disagree, and there's been much, much worse since, but in 1994 the big stink was that Clerks almost had an NC17. For talking. That's it.

I watched a vhs copy of the movie, and it began the long on-again / off-again odyssey of my interest in Kevin Smith films, which I've covered so many times that it's not worth getting into again. What's funny is that the day after I mentioned the 15th Anniversary of Clerks, the Blu Ray arrived in my mailbox from Netflix.

Ready for a shocker? It doesn't look any different than it did 15 years ago. Smith makes a joke about it on a new introduction (where he apologizes for making fans buy Clerks yet again and suggests its very existence on Blu Ray is an insult to the medium), but I honestly couldn't tell you Clerks looked any better or worse in High Definition. It looked like it always looks: grainy, kinda soft picture - in essence, an independent movie made for next to nothing in 1994.

That's not damning the film in any way. Clerks is still a funny slice of mid-nineties slacker comedy, and I think it holds up better than any of the other movies he made between 94 and 99. You're just not buying the movie because it's going to knock your socks off or anything. Because tech junkies will be pissing and moaning about this for a while. I get it; you hear "Blu Ray", you expect top of the line, and the price tag is pretty steep ($30).

On top of that, the only really new material you get on the disc is the apology from Smith and an 87 minute making of documentary - for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back*. That's right. All they could find for this new edition of the movie is a standard definition doc for another movie. Is it pretty good? Yeah, I guess so. It's comprehensive and has lots of interview footage with the cast and crew, along with more-interesting-than-you'd-expect behind the scenes stuff.

But I must stress, it's the making of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Not Clerks. So will I buy a copy of Clerks on Blu Ray? Eh. I'm glad I rented it from Netflix, because there's almost no reason to sell the 3-Disc 10th Anniversary set. Aside from putting the First Cut and the Theatrical Cut on one disc, I couldn't tell much of a difference between them. So unless I find it used, probably not, but it is out there for you fanatics with $30 burning a hole in your pocket.

Movie the Third - That Remake of The Third Man with Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio that may or may not happen.

I don't know, you guys. I just don't even know.

* the great irony is that Miramax is using the Clerks and Chasing Amy Blu Rays as an excuse to repackage Jay and Silent Bob in a boxed set, and the J&SBSB BD still has none of the original dvd extras.

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