Screen Gems via Everett Collection
J.J. Abrams brought Star Trek back to the screen in 2009 with suprising success, but Star Trek: Into Darkness was a disappointment earlier this year, leaving the fate of the series up in the air. Now, while Abrams is off to work on Star Wars: Episode VII, director Joe Cornish might be taking over the franchise. Sounds like good news, as Cornish is funny, smart, and has a good eye for sci-fi and action. Cornish certainly has limited experience making his own films, but Attack the Block was an assured and cohesive debut. Cornish has a long history of collaborating with director Edgar Wright, who has similarly risen from independent filmmaker to venerated action mastermind. And both directors are collaborating on the script for Marvel's Ant-Man, which Wright will be directing.
Working on a large studio project doesn't have to be the same shallow "sellout" move anymore. It's possible to be a unique filmmaker who makes one of the most popular movies on the planet and follows it up with something small and personal. (Just ask Joss Whedon.) However, Cornish is so under the radar even some die-hard Trekkies might not know exactly what he can bring to the table. So here are six good reasons why Cornish might be just what the Trek franchise needs to close out its trilogy:
1. He can work with a team. One of the key parts of Trek is the unit. Despite the "Red Shirt" trope, all of the main cast members should be indispensible, and if they're absent, that should be felt. One of the major failings of STID was the lack of collaboration and teamwork — Scotty disappeared for the first 7/8ths of the movie, and nobody noticed. But Cornish was able to take a collection of anonymous kids all dressed in near-identical hoodies distinct and memorable. He'll certainly be able to work wonders with famous characters like Bones or Chekov.
2. Humor that doesn't come at the characters' expense. Surprisingly, in the journey from Star Trek to Into Darkness, the character humor that initially seemed good-hearted started to evaporate and instead be replaced by an overall dourness only lightened when turning Kirk into a horny fratboy for a few minutes to ogle some female Star Fleet officer.
3. Aliens! Abrams and Co. have rarely deployed non-humanoid aliens. In Trek's television history, budgetary concerns stopped a full exploration of extraterrestrial life forms. But Abrams hasn't been shy about destroying buildings and cityscapes in explosive climaxes for both of his films, so why not juice up the adversaries? Cornish has proven himself adept at both action and creature design, and with a tiny budget managed to create two distinct types of aliens and stage dozens of attacks and setpieces around them.
4. Heroes that want to be heroes. When aliens invade their South London housing complex, the kids inside don't cower, they immediately rise to the challenge of protecting (and, okay, of having fun attacking) their home by killing the intruders. Moses, the lead kid and the protagonist of the movie, is never wrestling with the decision of whether or not to help with the defense. He's a true heroic character.
5. Female characters that don't feel extraneous. In Attack the Block, Sam isn't the protagonist, but she's the character that leads the audience into the story. That could have easily been a male character, but Cornish saw that he was building a world around this Despite that calculation, Sam never feels like she's useless or out of place like Carol Marcus in Into Darkness.
6. Diversity. At its heart, Trek is a series that celebrates boundry-pushing diversity of every type, not just romantic. It might not shock us any more when Uhura kisses Kirk (or Spock), but that doesn't mean stop there. Attack the Block is a celebration of poor London kids that rarely get depicted as much more than thugs, and tells a story where they singlehandedly save their own neighborhood. That lines up with the best of Trek, where expectations are flipped and accepted ideologies questioned.
While J.J. Abrams deserves a lot of credit for convincing audiences to pay attention to Star Trek again, his attentions will likely be better spent with Star Wars (the series he admitted he's always preferred), and Joe Cornish might make a lot more sense for the new Star Trek. Now there's just a late in the game Damon Lindelof rewrite to worry about. If only Cornish was also working on the screenplay.
After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Kirk Douglas--who’s working on the upcoming movie Smack, and whose eighth book My Stroke of Luck hits shelves in January--on his optimistic outlook, to Esquire magazine:
"No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. So what if my stroke left me with a speech impediment? Moses had one, and he did all right."