So, I actually did manage to see both of my other "must-sees" from the first half of May, and despite forewarning about one of them, neither ended up being a disappointment, although one is certainly miles ahead of the other:
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - This whole "origins" story arc has become something of a staple in superhero franchises, spurred by the critical and commercial successes of "Spiderman" (2002) and "Batman Begins" (2005). Now, after three massively successful films, the X-Men series returns to the roots of one of its iconic characters: John Logan AKA Wolverine. Of course, some series will do it better than others, and while "Wolverine" is definitely on the lesser end of the spectrum of origin stories, it's surprisingly far from the train-wreck that people have been labeling it as; it is in no way the next "Catwoman". Really, the film only suffers from a handful of problems, but unfortunately, they're problems that cover the entire story, or even beyond. The first is the pacing. At just and hour and 45 minutes, and with so much ground to cover, "Wolverine" hits the ground sprinting, and never really takes time to slow down. While there is a pretty cool time-montage showing Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Victor (Liev Schreiber) fighting through the American Revolution, the Civil War, both World Wars, and
Star Trek - Despite any hints of an origin story, J.J. Abrams' reboot of the classic sci-fi TV series, shares that much in common with "Wolverine", but the similarities end quite shortly. The opening alone settles that, as a Federation star ship comes under attack by a massive Romulan vessel comandeered by Capt. Nero (Eric Bana). So, if that previous sentence made you think that I'm a "Star Trek" fan who knows the ins and outs of its universe, you'd be wrong. Before walking into the theater, I only had a loose idea of what the Federation is, and I'd never heard of this "Romulan" race, (same goes for the Vulcans). But that's part of what makes Abrams film such a roaring triumph; there is plenty to appeal to die-hard fans, but more than enough to bring in countless new fans. It's the first Star Trek movie for, well, anyone who loves a good time at the movies. There's not too much more I can talk about plot wise, because it's probably best if you go in knowing as little as possible, so I'll just stick to the other aspects. Re-casting the iconic roles of the original USS Enterprise crew had to be a daunting task, but everyone succeeds with flying colors. Chris Pine is fun as the rebellious, impulse-driven James T. Kirk, and is foiled perfectly by Zachary Quinto's Spock, a half Vulcan, half human who is constantly torn between his logic-filled upbringing and the emotions buried deep beneath the surface. Rounding out the delightful cast are Karl Urban as wise-cracking doctor Leonard McCoy, John Cho as sword-wielding pilot Hikaru Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Russian math wunderkind Pavel Chekov, Simon Pegg as Scotty, and Zoe Saldana as feisty Uhura. Quinto still turns in the most memorable performance, but thankfully, there are no weaklinks, and I can't wait to set sail with this cast again in the near future. Story-wise, what I CAN say, is that the structure is beautifully handled. The opening scenes with young Spock and young Kirk perfectly establish their adult personalities, and set up for their inevitable head-butting early on. Unlike in Wolverine, where events just kept happening, quiet scenes are actually allowed to breathe and grow, giving the film greater heft. What finally completes Abrams' space odyssey are the visuals, and they're glorious. Starships, exploding supernovas, space monsters, lasers, gun blasts, and set design are all gorgeously rendered. Much like Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings", the vision is very complete, and wonderfully detailed. This alternate future wasn't just thrown together casually; the crew put in a lot of work, and it shows. But even with all of its great effects and sets, Abrams never forgets story, character, or even humor, which is more than I can say for another recent set of sci-fi epics (I'm looking at you, "Star Wars"). I know that this is a totally cheesy way to end a review of this movie, but...I can't resist: I hope Abrams, the cast, and this film all live long and prosper. They wholly deserve it.
Number of 2009 films seen: 14