BOP 25 of Summer 2009: 5-1

May 1, 2009

Tired of being asked if he can perform Jedi mind tricks 5) Star Trek

The inconsistency of the Star Trek movie franchise is well documented by now. First, there was the tenet that only even-numbered films could be of any quality. Many diehard fans of the original series were heartbroken when the first movie came out, only to discover it featured a bald chick and that innocuous guy who would go on to birth Jessica Biel on Seventh Heaven. When Wrath of Khan came out, there was a collective HELL YES!, as everyone agreed it was a satisfying result that hearkened back to one of the best stories from the original series while building new storylines. Many were dissatisfied at The Search for Spock, which is an opinion I simply cannot abide, but we can all agree that The Voyage Home offers something the series does not exhibit enough, a sense of humor. All of those brooding Starfleet officers don't laugh enough, which leads to depressing events like Kirk fighting a god-like being in Star Trek V, Picard having his entire family killed in Generations and, well, the entirety of Insurrection and Nemesis. Those two films combined with the lifeless Enterprise television series on the now-defunct UPN network effectively ended Star Trek's run of greatness.


Paramount has made several billion dollars on the Star Trek franchise over the past 35 years. They were not going to let it stay on the disabled list for very long, but everyone involved with the process (except for the clueless Rick Berman) realized a fresh take was needed on the concept. In the Hollywood parlance, that means reboot. We've seen it with Batman, James Bond and we should have seen it with Superman. The two projects that started from scratch excelled while the one that tried to take up where its predecessor left off failed. We know the appropriate strategy here and so does Paramount. Rather than re-tread over the same tired terrain, a different moment in time is chosen to show how an established icon came to be that way. A hero is shown at an earlier period in time, making them more vulnerable and engaging. Star Trek tried to do this with Enterprise, but they missed the point. Instead of showing beloved characters, they showed the genesis of Starfleet, a less intriguing premise. The 2009 version of Star Trek is poised to correct this mistake. With J.J. Abrams onboard and a virtual Who's Who of almost famous Hollywood thespians reprising the roles made famous by Shatner, Nimoy, Takei et al, this is poised to be the latest big screen reboot to tear up the box office. And our resident Trekkie nerds are besides themselves with anticipatory glee over the whole thing. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Next one of yas that makes a crack about the stache cleans the latrine with his tongue 4) Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino doesn't quite understand subtle anymore.

OK, it's arguable if he ever really understood it in the first place, but the point is that as he's progressed through his career, his films have steady become more and more outlandish, from the straightforward (if bloody) Reservoir Dogs to the straight-up exploitation of his half of Grindhouse. That perhaps goes a step further with his latest, Inglourious Basterds.

Set in Nazi-occupied France, it's the story of a task force of Jewish soldiers dropped behind enemy lines and asked to be as brutal as possible, with the goal of sending fear into the hearts and minds of the Germans. In typical Tarantino style, this means copious amounts of blood, gore, bullets and as hinted at by the trailer, actual scalping.

No one does excess quite like Tarantino, and while that's kind of self-limiting for his audiences, the levels he goes to makes his films must-see for those that can stomach them. Add in the fact that he can fit in some actual storytelling while he's deconstructing some genre of film or another and that makes it all that the more interesting. This time, WWII movies get the spotlight turned on them, for better or for worse. The idea is one that Tarantino's been kicking around for the better part of a decade, so he's pretty clearly got some tricks saved up, which is kind of a frightening prospect.

While Brad Pitt as a headlining actor has caught a lot of the attention for this cast, he's actually not a major part of it, with most of the heavy lifting and Nazi-smashing done by a group of lesser lights, including BJ Novak of The Office, Samm Levine, and gorno-filmmaker Eli Roth. Also in the film in smaller roles are Diane Kruger, Mike Myers, and Maggie Cheung, making this one of the odder casts for a mainstream film in sometime. And we pretty much guarantee there won't be a more outlandish time at the movies this summer. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

Should have consulted Weather Bug first 3) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Unlike the novel upon which it is based, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is not the penultimate film in the Harry Potter movie franchise. Because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been split into two films rather than a single frenzied adaptation of a 759 page book, the sixth Potter film isn't the same build toward a finish that its novel companion proved to be. This is great news for those of us dying to see the movie.

We know that the end is nigh, of course, but Half-Blood Prince will be given more room to breathe in terms of storytelling than prior Potter film adaptations. In fact, the film's director, David Yates, likes to brag about the fact that this is the title in the franchise to put stuff into the movie that was not found in the book. A scene involving the Millennium Bridge was only incidentally discussed in the sixth novel yet it makes for an elaborate set piece action sequence at the start of the film. This means that people who have read all of the books have a chance to be surprised for the first time in one of the movies, a long overdue turn of events for what has been a staunchly reverential series of adaptations thus far.

For those who haven't read the book, both of you, well, I will avoid spoilers here. Suffice it to say that since the fourth novel/film, an important character has died each time and that trend will continue here as we lead up to the seventh and eighth titles, which could prove to be a bloodbath. You don't know yet and I refuse to be the one that ruins it for you. What I can say with complete sincerity is that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the story where all of the kids we have watched grow up on camera take a final turn toward adulthood. They deal with life and death, romance, raging hormones, and a strange new world where the Death Eaters run the government. Insert your own Bush/Cheney/Obama joke here.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the moment in the series where J.K. Rowling goes all in with the premise that these may be a bunch of kids under 20 years old, but the fate of their people is in their hands. This is one of the best regarded books in the series and the movie offers the promise of even greater heights of satisfaction. It also has a solid chance to be the box office winner of the summer, domestically as well as worldwide. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Let's see: Insert Tab A into Slot B.... 2) Terminator Salvation

By the time a series hits its fourth movie, it's usually running on fumes, heaving out poorly thought ideas that betray the original film's reason for existing and exist mostly to use up pyrotechnic budgets. For examples, see Superman IV, Batman & Robin, Alien 4, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, The Phantom Menace, Live Free or Die Hard... the list goes on.

On the surface, Terminator: Salvation seems like it should fit right into that group of mostly regrettable films. With none of the original actors, a director that's practically the poster boy for style over substance and a complete change of setting, you could be forgiven for expecting the worst. And that's not to mention the tape of its lead actor unleashing a stream of (hilarious) profanity at its cinematographer. But then looking at what we've seen of the finished product, maybe these were just the things that were necessary to jump start it again.

Instead of dealing with Skynet's attempts to kill John Connor in the past, in Terminator Salvation we're already in a post-Judgment Day world, with Skynet on the verge of wiping out humanity. It's the battle that we've all looked for from the series since it first premiered in 1984.

Christian Bale stars as Connor, taking some time off from his ridiculously profitable Batman franchise to take on another one, with this being the first of a planned new trilogy set in the ravaged future. And while it would have been easy to just turn it into battle after battle (and, okay, maybe it still is...) there appears to be some actual thought into this film, with script help from Paul Haggis, Shawn Ryan and Jonathan Nolan, in addition to the credited writers from Terminator 3 (which was one of the braver action films of the 2000s). Skynet seems to be bent not just on eliminating humans, but perhaps, replacing and trying to create its own, blurring the line between man and machine. Who'd have thought McG had it in him?

Curiously, on this film rests the fate of not just a franchise, but also a TV series, Fox's own The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which after a slow start has become exceptional action TV. While we're eager to see what the movie will bring us, we're just as, if not more, excited to see the revitalization of one of our favorite and smartest action franchises in all its forms. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
People will do anything not to fly USAir anymore 1) Up

BOP likes Pixar. If this hasn't been made abundantly clear by the fact that our various favorite movie lists include a variety of the company's CGI animated films, you haven't been paying attention. This love and admiration culminated earlier this year, as we selected WALL-E as our Calvin Award winner for Best Picture. Needless to say, when Pixar 's creative team goes to work, we pay attention. After teaching us that anyone can cook and that sometimes it's the smallest heroes who can make a difference in an entire galaxy, we're now ready to explore the world with the studio as they present their first ever 3-D adventure in Up.

If you haven't seen a commercial or preview for the movie (and where is the cave in which you've been hiding?), Up tells the story of a 78-year-old man named Carl Fredricksen. Carl decides that he'd like to see the world, and to make this happen, he ties a bunch of balloons to his house and prepares for liftoff. There's just one little thing. An annoying neighbor boy named Russell is on Carl's front porch as the house takes to the air. This means that Carl is stuck with the kid for the duration of the worldwide journey. But we bet that he grows fond of the young wilderness explorer by the time it's all said and done.

One huge mark in the plus column for Up is the fact that it was co-directed by Pete Docter. For those unfamiliar with the name, all you should need to know is that he is the guy who was responsible for Monsters, Inc. That happens to be my favorite Pixar film ever, so my expectations are made a bit more lofty since his name is attached. If the story and characters are even close to approaching the greatness of Boo, Sully and Mike Wazowski, we're going to be in for a treat.

Of course, Pixar has become a trusted household name, and fans both young and old have learned that they can count on the studio for something special. Admittedly, their box office has dropped off a bit over the past two films - it's tough to sell a rat as a chef or a robot movie that is almost entirely silent for the first half. I believe Up puts them back in the stratosphere, though. We've seen that audiences are hungry for 3-D movies, and given the right story (Coraline), it even adds to the overall experience. Up affords the perfect opportunity for a breakout thanks to the 3-D aspect, and if it's as good as every single other Pixar movie up to today, it will have staying power, too. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

BOP 25 of Summer Selections 25-16
BOP 25 of Summer Selections 15-6



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