Movie Reviews

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Directed by Michael Bay
Review by Tony Sheppard

Describing this movie is an almost pointless exercise. It’s not going to be seen—or not seen—because of what critics think, or based on minor details like logical storytelling and plot coherence (or the lack thereof). It’s a movie that will be raved about by fanboys and by those who just dig 150 minutes of sequentially coordinated but also oddly disjointed special effects. In that regard, it’s a visual orgy of arbitrary excess.

That arbitrariness often comes in the form of clashes between the signature “alien robots” with no real sense of logic as to who is likely to win in any such encounter. That the Autobots win more on balance than the Decepticons seems to have very little foundation other than the old movie phenomenon that suggests that good guys are stronger and shoot straighter than bad guys. We are somewhat reliably informed that Optimus Prime (a juggernaut of a good guy) is going to win any reasonably fair fight, which makes one wonder if it’s really that fair, but you could reverse the outcome of almost any other clash without really affecting much or noticing the difference.

You’d have to watch the movie at about quarter speed to actually pay close attention to the robots as they make their extraordinarily complicated transformations from vehicles or appliances to hyper-articulated fighting machines. There isn’t an ounce of subtlety in the movie – not that any is expected from either the material or the director. The first sight of Megan Fox, for example, is in short shorts, from behind, as she stretches across a custom motorcycle. If she’s the objectified object of lust, and she is, then most of the other characters are just as broadly painted archetypes.  

This is a movie that stalls in the midst of a headlong quest for the ultimate weapon for an unlikely romantic interlude, and which can somehow take us through the back wall of the Air and Space Museum directly into an airplane graveyard somewhere in the desert. It’s clearly more of a commercial for the US military and Chevrolet than for Mapquest or MENSA. But Shia gets sweaty, Megan gets skimpy, his parents provide moderately comic relief, robots share b-movie witticisms as they pound on each other, and many, many, many things explode.  And those are what will ultimately matter as it takes the box office crown for a week or two.

Star Trek: Esquire IMAX
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Review by Malcolm Maclachlan

Star Trek is one of those properties that started out bad and keeps getting better (though not necessarily consistently). Let me start out by saying I’m not a Trekkie, and thought the original series was pretty awful (with the exception of the oddly awesome Leonard Nimoy, who makes an extended cameo).

So I’m not too concerned with any changes they may have made that would upset the purists. That said, this new version pumps up the Hollywood aspects with more action, more-ear buffeting sound, and especially much younger, better looking actors.
Leads Chris Pine (James T. Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) pay homage to their predecessors while making the roles their own. The twenty-something Kirk is a superficially troubled rebel with a birth story worthy of a messiah. The new Spock is more troubled by his half-human emotions than the original. I found this a bit annoying at times, but it’s a minor complaint. They also riff on many of the minor characters, most effectively Bones the doctor (Karl Urban), in ways that those barely aware of the original 1966 series can basically get. And like always, minor characters dressed in red always meet unfortunate ends.

Many of the earlier Star Trek movies might not have been worth seeing on the big screen, but this one definitely was. The space sequences were particularly effective because of the immersive effect you get from that huge screen. Like all earlier Star Trek efforts, this one involves absurd physics and nearly impossible plots. Though both are used in a clever way to make sure they don’t have to stay at all consistent with any of the Star Trek properties that came before.

In short, “Star Trek” is well-paced, exciting, and looks great. I’ve only seen one other blockbuster this summer (the absurdly awful “Terminator: Salvation”), but the consensus seems to be that this is the summer flick to check out.

Continuing: Sacramento French Film Festival
The 8th Sacramento French Film Festival got off to a great start last weekend and continues on the 27th and 28th with 11 more film programs, culminating on Sunday at 8:45pm with “Welcome” a drama about immigration, followed by a champagne party.

Last weekend we checked out a couple of flicks with political overtones. “Z” tells the thinly-fictionized story of a real political assassination in Greece in the 1960s. It features fast-paced political intrigue, seeming current despite being over thirty years old and featuring clubs are the only weapons. “Camping,” a surprise 2006 hit, tells the story of the clash of social classes (did you know they still had that in France) in the venue of a beach campground.

Save the Dates: 10th Annual Sacramento Film and Music Festival
July 14th – August 2nd at the Crest Theatre – check this column in future weeks, or, for more details.

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