Transformers: Revenge of the Foul

18-Jun-09 5:35 PM by
Filed under Films, Humor; 3 comments.

This Friday, the sequel to the 2007 film Transformers will land. Based on my experience two years ago, I am confident in my decision to not support the new movie. It's not that the original was bad (though it was); it's that it deviated too significantly from my expectations. Lowering my expectations helped me enjoy the second Fantastic Four film more than the first, but in the case of Transformers, my expectations are fixed not in terms of quality, but of subject matter. I grew up on the Eighties cartoon (which is soon to be re-released on DVD) and consider it the quintessential version of giant, extraterrestrial, shape-shifting robots fighting each other in our own backyard. I respect that changes need be made when adapting this story to a new medium, but making it into an adolescent, anthropocentric comedy crossed the line.

I'm amazed that these movies are written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who brought us not only the entertaining (but predictable) Mission:Impossible III, but more significantly, the recent reboot of Star Trek. How can the same team produce such divergent quality? But then, if my idea of a good movie is Orson Welles playing a toy, then maybe my perspective is skewed.

Regardless, I expect Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to not be this summer's only disappointing film about robots. What if those two movies didn't just morph, but merged? Would they form… Transforminators?

Or maybe Transformers on its own already has more robotic characters than even we realize:

Though obviously a spoof, this concept isn't altogether foreign. The movie S1m0ne suggested something similar, in which the protagonist created a completely artificial actress whose performance indistinguishable from authentically wooden acting. Though the film was fictional, the recent 'Emily' image metrics demonstration showcases the ability to generate a computerized face from a real one.

Now if only they could make computerized computers that can change shape, act, and star in a critically successful film…

(Hat tip to Blake Patterson)

A New Star Trek for a New Generation

08-May-09 6:32 PM by
Filed under Reviews, Star Trek; 6 comments.

My father with his oldest and youngest sons

My father with his oldest and youngest sons

After years of cautious optimism, this is the week we've long lived and prospered for: the return of Star Trek to the silver screen. Much has changed in the seven years since the last film, including the cancellation of the TV series Enterprise, marking not only the end of a continuous 18-year run for the franchise on the small screen, but also a changing of the guard. A familiar cadre of talent had run Star Trek for decades — into the ground, some would say. The 2009 film, directed and produced by J.J. Abrams and starring mostly unknowns, could either invigorate or distort Star Trek. With my father (who introduced me to the show in 1987) and my oldest brother, we were there for last night's premiere. How did we — dedicated and casual Star Trek fans, young and old — react?

I'll answer for me: The first ten minutes had me in tears. That isn't hyperbole or dramatic effect; it's literal truth. This action-packed opening sequence is so tragic, yet so heroic; and what it does to the Star Trek universe is terrible, yet also elegant and necessary. This film is both a prequel and a reboot, documenting the first voyage of Kirk, Spock, and company — but it's not the same ship and crew we remember from 1966. There are differences, both subtle and profound, which the opening sequence makes possible, thus giving the creative team the leeway they need to make something both fresh and familiar.

Fans will find much to like here, such as in nods to Trek lore that don't feel forced, be it the death of a character or Chekov's accent. But there's more going on here than in the details, such as the recasting of the iconic crew. I found it surprisingly easy to accept fresh faces in roles that we've long identified with particular actors, and these newcomers' performances are mostly true to the characters as originally written, without being mockeries. Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty each get notable scenes; Bones and Uhura, a bit more. But this adventure is really about the young, brash Spock and Kirk. These aren't the older, wiser Starfleet officers we're accustomed to, yet I can imagine Chris Pine's Kirk acting and reacting just as William Shatner's Kirk would've under these circumstances.

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