Documentary Review: Spielberg (2017)

Release Date: October 5th, 2017 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Susan Lacy
Cast: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Richard Dreyfuss, John Williams, J.J. Abrams, James Brolin, Bob Balaban, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Frank Marshall, Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Zemeckis, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tom Cruise, Eric Bana, Daniel Craig

HBO Documentary Films, Pentimento Productions, 147 Minutes

Review:

This was a pretty stellar documentary for fans of not just Steven Spielberg but filmmaking and film history in general.

It reminded me a lot of the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, in that this spent a lot of time breaking down most of the key movies in Spielberg’s oeuvre.

Every segment here was rich, detailed and featured interviews with some major directors, actors and producers. But the film also gets into Spielberg’s personal life and how real life experiences influenced his movies.

This was a lengthy documentary, just as the Kubrick one was and rightfully so. In fact, this could have been the length of a ten part, two hour apiece Ken Burns documentary and I still would have been fully engaged.

Spielberg’s career has been long and full of at least a dozen classic films that will be remembered forever. Each segment could’ve been it’s own documentary film and it actually kind of sucks that a few films were mentioned but not given as much detail, most notably A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, the Jurassic Park sequels and some of his production work like Back to the Future.

Still, this is pretty thorough and there is so much to unpack and take away from this. It is one of the best documentaries on a filmmaker’s life and career.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on specific directors but this reminded me a lot of Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures.

Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

Also known as: Star Trek XI, Star Trek Zero, Corporate Headquarters, The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles, Untitled Walter Lace Project, Star Trek: The Future Begins (working titles), Star Trek: The Beginning (South Korea),
Release Date: April 6th, 2009 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr., Rachel Nichols, Deep Roy, Tyler Perry, Victor Garber (scene cut), Brad William Henke (scenes cut)

Spyglass Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait’ll you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” – Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise as long as I can remember. However, nothing has really resonated with me since the end of Enterprise in 2005. This film was an attempt at rebooting the franchise and altering the timeline so that it wasn’t forced into having to work within the framework of already established canon. I wouldn’t call that the best idea, as Star Trek has such a rich mythos that it doesn’t need to be rebooted, there are unlimited ways to tell stories within a franchise this large. But a reboot is what we got because Hollywood is gonna Hollywood.

That being said, for what this is, Star Trek isn’t a bad motion picture. It’s an unnecessary one but I did want to give it a shot because if this was all the Trek I was going to get, I wanted to try to make the best of it.

This could have been better though. They hired the wrong guy to direct, as he just wanted to make Star Wars movies, which he would later do, and wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and didn’t really understand what it needed to be in contrast to what Star Wars is.

The director, J. J. Abrams, also made some strange stylistic choices in how he made the Enterprise look and how he went absolutely ape shit with the use of lens flares and lighting. The film is almost headache inducing at times.

As far as the story goes, the altering of the timeline really seems moot, as there are things that are different before the moment of that alteration. I’m specifically talking about the time Enterprise was already in space before Kirk showed up, as well as Spock’s previous service on the ship and Captain Pike’s role in everything.

Additionally, the story really seems to be a rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which Abrams would also heavily borrow from for his first Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But this is the same guy who also borrowed heavily from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for his picture Super 8. It all kind of makes me wonder what his next Star Wars film will heavily borrow from.

In the realm of Star Trek movies, this is better than the worst films that came before it but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of Wrath of KhanThe Voyage HomeThe Undiscovered Country or First Contact. As its own film, separate from the series, it is a fun, space action movie. I will give it that. It is a good adventure and a better than average popcorn movie but we’ve seen this all before and done much better.

In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with most of the casting. I never liked the idea of anyone else ever playing the original crew but that bad idea is salvaged fairly well with most of the cast choices. I like Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock and Urban as Bones. However, I just don’t see how they will ever have the chemistry that Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley had. But since this series was cancelled after the third film, I guess we’ll never see what develops between the three men over the long haul.

But this film also diminishes McCoy’s importance, as the relationship they focus on is just between Kirk and Spock and not the trinity we all came to love on the original television show and the movies of the ’80s. And that’s a shame, really, as I love Karl Urban’s commitment to the McCoy character. He just nails it so well. I think he actually understands the role much more than Abrams, the man behind the camera.

I’m probably coming off as harsh but I’m just calling it like I see it. I did enjoy revisiting this, as it was a quick paced, exciting film. It did have some heart in the moments where Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock, came into the story. But it did lack the right sort of emotion to make me feel for these characters.

do like this for the most part but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a framework for something that could have been richer and more intimate. A lot of the pieces to this puzzle were good and while some connected, it’s as if the filmmakers gave up about halfway through and just threw all the pieces back into the box.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.

Film Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Release Date: May 8th, 2017 (TCL Chinese Theatre)
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Joby Harold, David Dobkin
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana

Warner Bros., Safehouse Pictures, Ritchie/Wigram Productions, Village Roadshow Pictures,Weed Road Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

Initially, I was not excited about this movie, as I am not a fan of Charlie Hunnam. I also wasn’t aware that this was directed by Guy Ritchie until the credits on the film started rolling. However, I saw a lot of positive reviews about the movie, so I figured that I’d check it out. I’m really glad I did.

To start, this is the first time that I liked Charlie Hunnam in something. While I adored Pacific Rim, when it came out, I thought he was the weakest part of the picture. I also hated Sons of Anarchy even though it did feature some great actors. Hunnam’s Jax Teller was just an awful character with a fake American accent that was trying too hard to sound cool. Now that isn’t necessarily Hunnam’s fault, it’s the directors’, producers’ and creator’s, but he’s the face of that character. A stupid character that I grew to hate and be annoyed by.

In King Arthur we have Hunnam talking in his real voice and it is refreshing, since I’ve really only seen him play Americans. He also feels at home in this role and maybe that is because Guy Ritchie is just an awesome director to work for. Whatever the reason, I would follow Hunnam’s King Arthur into battle. Granted, he has a kaiju-sized snake in his army and that’s just friggin’ cool.

Yeah, a giant snake! There are also a lot of other fantastic beasts, which I really wasn’t expecting. You see, I didn’t check out the trailers and I only heard it mentioned on television, in the background, when I was cooking or writing or doing something else.

This is lightyears ahead of that uber boring King Arthur picture with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley from a decade or so ago. It has bigger balls, more style and certainly isn’t an Ambien party.

The Ritchie touch in this picture was an awesome flourish added into this tale that has been told more times than the “guy walks into a bar…” joke. The editing, the music, the action style was all great and set this film apart from other similar stuff.

The only complaint, really, is that sometimes the CGI looked a bit clunky and cheap. It isn’t something that is noticeable throughout the picture but some action sequences almost turn into video game boss battles. While I like the approach and how it is executed, the CGI just takes it down a notch. I’m sure the budget was somewhat reserved but I hope Ritchie has more money to work with if he does make this into the planned six-part film series.

Jude Law was pretty damn amazing as the villain in this. He’s worked with Ritchie before and the two know how to make magic happen when they collaborate. Law is pretty great in most things but seeing him as the embodiment of evil was really cool. The monster he transforms into is bad ass as hell, by the way.

It was also good seeing Eric Bana, who I feel should be in everything.

For a picture I had no hopes for, I left feeling really happy. The movie is balls to the wall bad ass in every regard. This is how fantasy epics should be. Got that, Game of Thrones? In fact, this is superior to Game of Thrones because people actually STFU and go Ginsu City. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is to Game of Thrones what a bone-in cowboy ribeye is to a saltine cracker. It’s like what old school Spike TV (when it still had testosterone-fueled entertainment) is to C-SPAN 3.

*Author’s note: I don’t like Game of Thrones.