Friday, March 22, 2013

The Wrath of Bad Robot...

As many in the realm of sci-fi geekdom have encountered, the new extended (over two minutes long) international trailer for "Star Trek: Into Darkness" has surfaced courtesy of the benevolent Bad Robot. Like a masterful marketing mind, the Robot has now interwoven even more 'details' into the seemingly nonstop barrage of teasers building up the fervor and anticipation of probably one of the most popular sequels (if you consider the reboot of 2009 the original---I certainly do) or movies of this genre since, well, 'Star Wars: Episode III'. Yeah, I know-- hindsight. At any rate what we have is more of what I consider 'head fakes', besprinkled with little 'easter eggs' to generate a buzz that's going to pack out theaters days in advance. 
In this go-round we're once again greeted by the gruff British Barry White baritone of Benedict. Then an exploding building in futuristic London. Then more buildings with the same flyover and a funerary draping of a Star Fleet flag. Cut to a very familiar star-chamber (or is it Strangelove) -esque conference room with top Star Fleet brass who give us our first real juicy tidbit of who 'John Harrison' is. A 'former Star Fleet agent' is what we hear Peter 'Robocop' Weller refer to him as---along with the familiar 'you'll pay for the decisions your commanders have made' blathering that most soldiers-gone-bad have echoed throughout film yore. A rotorless Huey crashes the meeting (literally) and signals that the game is on.
Kirk, being the impetuous and perpetually insubordinate (how in the sam hell did this guy get a field promotion from junior officer to Starship Captain?) tries to convince the one-dimensional Pike of the need to retaliate. Cut to a rather familiar but out-of-place looking spacecraft trying to traverse through a narrow passage. You almost wonder if they'd be trailed by a few TIE fighters. Hmm. More fight scenes. Ah, then there's the voluptuous Alice Eve as Dr. Carol Marcus in a black bikini. Never a contemporary action-adventure flick without a sexy edge. Wonder if she'll have as much substance as Bibi Besch's 1982 version. Well, Zoe Saldana's Uhura reboot certainly does--and she lowers the 'we're outgunned, outmanned' boom to provide more fodder for curiosity. We know from previous trailers that the Klingons are most likely involved at some point. One John Harrison-no matter how powerful-doesn't constitute an army of multiples. Cut to some rehashed trailer footage of the cliff dive and finally the Enterprise (yeah, folks, that's what it is) doing a dive of it's own (buh-bye Alcatraz!). 
In perusing the net for hype and speculation I've seen more to say that the common theory is that John Harrison is a genetically-enhanced super agent of the Fleet that had a raw deal at the hands of his employer. The connection with Khan is that the engineering of his DNA was derived from the same methodology used for the 'augments' (hadn't heard that term before) of the Botany Bay. I still think that the marketing genius of Paramount/Bad Robot has thrown yet another brittle bone to the masses to make us think we know more about Cumberbatch's character. With JJ Abram's imminent (or eminent?) departure the need to have a sequel for the ages with a 'rival' franchise is almost obligatory one would think. One thing's for certain---Paramount's in this game for the long haul (hey, going on 50 years folks) and no one there wants this installment to be anticlimax. Not at all. There will be shockers. And there will be spoilers. Whether or not the villain has any connection to Khan Noonien Singh is irrelevant. He's a baddie. He's brilliant (terrorism in the 23rd century?). And he's British. A perfect answer for the blase Nero in our last episode. Like V'ger, Nero could destroy entire fleets of starships and even planets. But Harrison can kick your arse into next week and do it with class. 

Live long and prosper. At least until May 9th.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Argo, $%&* yourself. Love, Canada/UK/New Zealand/Iran.

OK, crude pun intended. It will of course resonate with those who have seen this well-received flick. As with most highly-touted pictures I waited patiently until this was available for rental to take in its greatness. During and after this viewing I engaged in something that I typically do that I'm sure is de rigueur nowadays -that being toggling between IMDB and Wikipedia.  More was written about the international outrage and historical inaccuracies than was about the plot. Pretty perplexing indeed. However, given that dis-proportionality, I find it appropriate to discuss this in a similar manner. First, let's get right to the point. The Academy Award for best picture, the near-perfect Rotten Tomatoes rating, all the hype and hyperbole were well warranted. And then some. Never did I expect a production from the likes of Ben Affleck and George Clooney to have such a measure of outright theatrical excellence. Everything--from the razor-witted dialogue, the environs, the dress, the soundtrack right down to the 'retro-grainy picture resolution' exclaimed 1979/1980--so much so that it made me wax nostalgic more than once.  I remember this era and the events surrounding it quite vividly. You could almost smell leaded gasoline, filter-less Camel cigarette smoke, cheap cologne reeking from leisure suits and Miller beer.  You embark on a tense non-stop ride from Embassy siege to takeoff from Tehran. Any film of this genre that can keep you on edge when you pretty much know the outcome and without excessive blood and gore is special indeed. Bravo.

Now to address the critical 'response' that ensued from covering such a touchy topic on celluloid. First, there was the Canadian knee-jerk. Granted, in retrospect the Canadian involvement was much greater in fact than the story line detailed. But to say that Argo relegated the Ambassador as the 'complicit concierge', a passive party that wished everyone 'good luck' at best was reaching. Even somewhat thoughtful viewers could discern that harboring escapees for months was anything but passive. The implications of which were not just risky but of a grand foreign-relational scale. Then there was the vitriol from British and New Zealand critics. Again, there wasn't a scene showing a 'no room at the inn' response from either Embassy. Just a simple, almost flippant generalization from a harried government official that was meant to foreshadow the plight and near-futility of the situation. Finally, as most would expect, was the Iranian reaction. To say that Argo aggregated an entire ethnic group into a maniacal, savage and radical populace is grasping indeed. In fact, the entire introductory narrative (not to mention a few statements regarding the Shah's wealth, abuse and US support by several on both sides) imply a sentiment that could almost justify the uprising and hatred of the US.  As to the assertion of the film having poor timing---tensions with Iran have been ongoing for years. Come on.

In sum, and most importantly is the glaring fact that this is one of those movies that was 'based on a true story'. No semantics here. 'Based' really does mean based. That is the essence of creative and dramatic license within the realm of the entertainment business. Yes, the moments of peril (and they are replete throughout the movie) are fictitious but suffice it to say that this is not just a movie about Hollywood but one that has its thumbprint of the grandiose therein. It's not a documentary. It's not a personal statement of conviction (to the extent of say a Spielberg).

It's a fiction. Based on a true story. A movie. And an incredibly good one at that.

You don't know Jack, Part II.

OK, apparently I don't know Jack. Seriously.

That is all.