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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Springtime at the Movies, part one: Triple Feature!

It's movie-going season! It doesn't seem like it was all that long ago that "summer movie season" started around Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start of everything else summer - but now it kicks up near the beginning of May, which is barely halfway through spring! In any case, after a couple of months in a dry spell, it seems like we've been in one theater or another almost every weekend since late April. I haven't done full reviews of any of the movies I've seen, though, and I'm not planning to at this point - this is just to get caught up before I forget everything!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

[ X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE Poster ] [Click on image to enlarge]
I honestly was not terribly psyched up to see this movie, which was officially the First Big Release of Summer 2009 - the trailers had some exciting scenes, but I wasn't getting any sense of a story from them. While there's good reason to complain about movie trailers that tell too much, I do like them to tell me something - I'm rarely pre-sold on a movie just because of its franchise, title, or stars. I'd like to know a little of what the movie's about before I plan to see it. But I liked the X-Men movies, and Logan/Wolverine is one of the most intriguing characters in that group...and he's played by Hugh Jackman! Who was I kidding about wanting to know a story? I went into this one without very high expectations, hoping to be pleasantly surprised; and while this wasn't The Dark Knight or even Iron Man, I can't say it was a letdown.

The story actually wasn't bad, though. Logan looks pretty good for a guy his age, which I'm estimating as at least 175 - who knew? The movie was entertaining, stayed pretty consistent with X-Men conventions (to the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, anyway), and did make Logan's backstory quite interesting. It was a bit confusing at times, though, and could have used a little lighter hand and more humor in spots. I thought it worked effectively as a prequel and in setting up the first X-Men movie, but that also leads me to wonder whether any other X-Men will be getting "origin" stories - is there an audience for any character's story other than Wolverine's?

Star Trek

I grew up on Star Trek, have watched every one of the spinoff series for at least part of its run, and have seen all
[ STAR TREK Poster ] [Click on image to enlarge]
the movies - clearly I'm in the target audience for the movie that went back to the franchise's roots. I was very psyched up to see this - and Tall Paul has downloaded every trailer for it that's come out since last summer, so he was looking forward to it even more than I was. Expectations were high, and as we started hearing and reading more and more good reviews, the excitement level ramped up. It's nice when anticipation is fulfilled.

It's safe to say that I was not at all disappointed with J. J. Abrams' re-interpretation of a classic. I was pulled in from the opening scene, and I thought the pacing was just right - no slow patches, but no real moments of sensory overload either. The casting was excellent as well; it was fun to see characters we know so well re-interpreted by different actors, and yet still feel like the characters we know. I particularly liked Chris Pine as Kirk and Karl Urban as McCoy - and next time, I want to see more of Simon Pegg as Scotty! I enjoyed a story that showed events that had only been referred to in prior stories, and readily accepted the premise that made this story possible. I also appreciated the little asides and references thrown in for long-time Trek and Abrams fans (there are some nods to Alias and Lost). Even with all that said, though, I really think anyone who enjoys a good story with strong characters, lots of action, and liberal dashes of humor can find something to like in Star Trek, even if they have no previous familiarity with it at all (but does such a person even exist?)

We waited until the second weekend to see this so we could go with our Trekkiest friends, but Tall Paul has already seen it a second time with Spencer, and I'm pretty sure I'll go back to see it in the theater at least once myself. The DVD will undoubtedly be in our home library by the end of this year (unless it's not out yet by then - but won't they want it on the market for the holidays?).

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

[ NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN Poster ] [Click on image to enlarge]
The first Night at the Museum movie was an enjoyable comedy/fantasy for both kids and parents, and the sequel is in a similar vein. The whole movie takes place in one night, as (former) museum night watchman Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) tries to rescue some of the Museum of Natural History's discarded exhibits from the archives underneath the Smithsonian. The golden tablet that brings the exhibits to life at night has come with them - although it wasn't supposed to - and it happens to work at the Smithsonian too, where someone else wants to claim it. Since the Smithsonian is a much larger museum, the ensuing chaos is on a much larger scale.

The comedy seemed to be on a larger scale as well; I thought the first movie was funny, but I don't remember laughing quite as much at that one as I did this time. Battle of the Smithsonian is light and silly-funny, but the humor is almost non-stop and the story is enjoyable. Ben Stiller is pretty good at playing obnoxious characters, but he isn't one here, and I like him much better. The funniest addition to the cast of characters is Hank Azaria as the Egyptian pharaoh who wants the golden tablet, and Amy Adams is adorable as Amelia Earhart. Christopher Guest's look as Ivan the Terrible seemed to have been borrowed from his role as Count Rugen in The Princess Bride, which is fine with me (he didn't have the sixth finger, though), but there wasn't enough Owen Wilson for my taste. If you're a fan of NBC's Thursday-night comedies, keep your eyes peeled for cameos.

We've been talking about a family trip to Washington D.C. next year, and now I really hope we'll be able to do it; our appetites have definitely been whetted for seeing the Smithsonian.

Bonus Pre-season Feature: I Love You, Man
This was actually a late-winter/spring-doldrums release, but since we saw it in late April, I'm counting it. I'd be surprised if it's still in theaters now - two months in movie time is kind of like dog years - but if you're a comedy fan and a movie renter, you might want to put it on your list.

A surprisingly sweet adult comedy about a guy who's definitely not a "guy's guy," I Love You, Man chronicles [ I LOVE YOU, MAN Poster ] [Click on image to enlarge]
Peter's attempts to make some male friends after he gets engaged - and realizes he has no one to include 
in his wedding party. "Set-ups" by his mother his brother don't quite work out, but when he meets Sydney at an open house - Peter sells real estate, and Sydney's really looking for single women rather than a house, but anyway - they hit it off.

I enjoyed a male-bonding story that didn't revolve around sports and/or chasing women, and where the humor
came from the characters. My husband (who's a bit like Peter, and he'll tell you so himself) and I related to the social-misfit aspects of the characters, and we got a lot of good laughs. I liked the casting of Paul Rudd as Peter and Jason Segel (my favorite from Freaks and Geeks) as Sydney, and appreciated the fact that one of the things the characters connected over was Rush, a favorite band of every geeky guy I've ever met.

Have you been to the movies lately? What have you enjoyed - and what do you think people should avoid?


(all poster images found on MoviePoster.com)

8 comments:

  1. Haven't seen any of those yet. I want to take the kiddo to see Up in 3D. It looks cute!

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  2. I went to see The Soloist and loved it! My hubby's seen Star Trek twice and says he'd go see it again.

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  3. I just saw Star Trek and loved it, even though I was never into the series before. I'm trying to go see it again soon, even though I had sworn off movies when prices passed $11. It's that good.

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  4. Chris - I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing Up as well. We're devoted to everything Pixar does.

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) - I remember your review of The Soloist. If your husband sees Star Trek a third time - mine probably will! - you should go with him :-).

    Belle of the Books - It IS that good! Usually I figure that my second time seeing a movie will be on DVD, but I'll most likely go back to the theater for this one too.

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  5. Loved Star Trek, but haven't seen anything else yet. Planning to take my boys to see Night at the Museum, as they enjoyed the first one. I'm also looking forward to Up!

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  6. I'll probably have to see Star Trek by myself, but I want to. If my son was a few years older I'd take him. I think he's a tad young for it right now. He really wants to see Night at the Museum. Glad to hear it is funnier than the first one, that doesn't happen often. We'll probably see UP sometime soon, too.

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  7. Would you believe hubby and I didn't set foot in the theater this past weekend? I am so glad to hear that the Night at the Museum sequel is good. I enjoyed the first one, much to my surprise. I really hadn't expected to. Now I want to see the sequel. :-)

    I'd like to see Wolverine before it leaves the theaters. I can't believe I haven't seen it. I've heard such mixed reviews of it that I'm sure my own expectations won't be too high going in.

    Star Trek was so good, wasn't it?

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  8. Tracy (Gentle Reader) - Hope you and your boys enjoy Night at the Museum as much as we did!

    Mike - Your son might be a little young for Star Trek (Spencer's 9, and some of it was a little intense for him), but he'll probably really enjoy Night at the Museum. Tall Paul has heard some good advance word about Up - hope that means Pixar's winning streak continues!

    Wendy (Literary Feline) - Well, you and Anjin have been at the movies a lot too lately - nothing wrong with taking a little break :-).

    I think you'll have a good time seeing Night at the Museum - I definitely did. And yes, so far Star Trek is THE movie of the summer!

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