Last week was the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner. The main speakers were President Barack Obama and comedian John Hodgman. I have provided the Obama speech above and the Hodgman speech below, both speeches are funny, but Hodgman‘s Nerd vs Jock speech is great, but if you can answer all of Hodgman’s questions without problem, then all I can say is wow…
I was lucky enough last week to get into a sneak preview of Woody Allen‘s latest film, a collaboration with Larry David, Whatever Works. This was a much anticipated joining of Larry David‘s George Costanza/Curb Your Enthusiasm style of comedy with Woody Allen‘s classic New York City storytelling.
While I enjoyed Allen’s Match Point, his more recent films centering in Europe have fallen short, but with Whatever Works, Allen returns to his native New York and in turn returns to form, delivering a wonderfully funny and quirky film that follows the latter life of a limping genious physisist (Larry David). There is a scene or two that is somewhat predictable, but there were many belly laughs for me and I wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone looking for Allen at his best behind the camera as writer/director. The duo of David and Allen break a few film conventions here and it feels like a return to Annie Hall form, it is very well done.
Now to Star Trek, first off let me just say, I know this is a late review of the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, but I have spent most of 2009 in Grenada where this film was unavailable in theaters, so I haven’t had much opportunity to see this latest JJ Abrams film.
There is a lot about this film that really bugged me. I have never really been a big JJ Abrams fan and his overall filming style just seems to rub me the wrong way. I don’t know if it was the excessive and unnecessary lens flares, the wild and off kilter camera angels, maybe it was seeing the beautiful Winona Ryder play the role of Spock’s mother, it could have been all of these things, but whatever it was, something got under my skin with this film.
Now that I’ve gotten my gripes out of the way… I had a great time with this film. Even with all these things knawing at me in the back of my mind, this film is just a hell of a lot of fun time. As someone who grew up watching Star Trek reruns, the homages to the old series, like Captain Pike, his wheelchair, the fate of the classic red shirt and many many more tips of the hat were great fun. I was exteremly happy with the main character casting as well, placing Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), and Anton Yelchin (Chekov, by the way, how many times can they script in V-words for this kid to say? It’s great.) in the main rolls were all great choices. It was also great to see Eric Bana completely melt away in his portrayal of Nero. I don’t know how much I liked Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, but that might just be because no one can out Shatner, William Shatner.
Another positive aspect JJ Abrams brings to his films is an extremely interesting conception of alien creatures, the scenes on the ice planet were visually stunning. So, it’s a bit late, but I would definately recommend that any sci-fi fan go out and check out this latest film, especially since there is no way that this is the final installment for this new Star Trek and even though I could do without the lens flares, I am looking forward to the next installment.
There are very few things that will drive me to see a film when I know little to nothing about it. It’s pretty much only been when Woody Allen‘s name is mentioned as the director that this is the case, but now, I would have to add a Pixar production to that short list. I have learned that anything that Pixar produces is totally worth my time.
I knew nothing about this film Up, other than its title and that it was in 3D before walking into the theater, but I left so happy that I showed up. I had heard an early review from the Filmspotting folks (subscribe here) that there was some surprisingly mature subject matter that this film dealt with, but they were good not to reveal anything about it. There are very few films that have made me cry, but I think there were at least 3 or 4 separate times that I cried during this film. I won’t reveal too much, since I went into this film cold and loved that that was the case, but I feel that because Pixar premieres a 5 minute silent short film before each of their feature films, that they have become masters at silent storytelling. The opening 40 minutes of Wall-E were some of the best silent film making I had ever seen and now with Up, the silent montage that is in the beginning of the film was just stunningly emotional. There are some real adult themes that that montage deals with, but the way that Pixar handled it, I feel that the youngest of kids won’t be as emotionally effected by it than the adults in the crowd, I really must commend Pixar, it was excellently done.
There are many positives about this movie and the relationship between the old man and the scout is just great to watch, but I felt that the conflict that included the older explorer from the main character’s past was almost entirely unnecessary to the plot. If the film had remained an adventure movie, it would have served it better. The best scenes are the main character with his wife and the main character and the scout. I have to say though, if the film had just ended when the main character had walked back into his house with his mailbox, I would have felt that that alone was probably Pixar’s best short film to date. The only other criticism I had was that I didn’t feel that the 3D experience really added much to the film and it certainly wasn’t worth the extra cost to see the movie, $16.50 was a lot to pay to see this film, the storytelling was great, it was emotionally intense, but I would recommend seeing the regular big screen version of this film.
I think people of all ages should really see this film, there are very few films that truly earn their G rating for ALL AUDIENCES, but this is definitely one of those movies.
Thanks to Twitchfilm for the above pic.
*Updated 11pm 2009-06-02* As I was walking to the subway this morning around 8am in Manhattan, I noticed that on 76th st and Lexington avenue an Access-A-Ride paratransit bus had caught fire and had COMPLETELY burned to a cinder. You can click here to see the google streetview of the street where this burned bus was located. I’ve now posted a bunch of pictures I took while at the scene of the actual bus all a cinder, but I still cannot find any news stories about this fire online.