Monday, May 25, 2009

Star Trek Revisited

Recently released as a summer action blockbuster, Star Trek has a lot to live up to. It's famous fictional characters, it's conflicts, and fake aliens created a culture that has entertained several generations of fans. Star Trek was such an iconic show that became it's own genre, generating countless sequels and copies. But remaking it all over again - should we really?

In this new movie, the characters of Spock, Captain Kirk, and Uhura are filled out with very attractive new actors. The casting of Simon Pegg as engineer Scotty was inspired. The venerable Sulu and McCoy were also cast well, but Anton Yelchin's Chekhov was a disappointment. Eric Bana plays the Romulan bad guy, Nero, which is perfect. Something about that guy makes him suitable only for being disliked.

Having only a passing knowledge of the original series, this new version of an old T.V. show worked well for me. For die-hard Trekkies or Trekkers, I suspect it has too many holes. The plot is rather flimsy. But the movie has an great, glitzy look. It seems bright, shiny, and wide-open. Unlike the claustrophobic, overly carpeted stage set from the original show, this movie looks like outer space. The lighting is so unusual, with flashes, reflections, and varying colors of roaming beams of light.

Star Trek is almost good, close to perfect for the brainless summer action movie. But the movie, like it's plot, doesn't leave you with anything really memorable. Blockbuster action, glamorous cast, and good effects - these only get you so far. The story ended with the sequel set-up, so maybe that will take us all the way there, all the way to perfect summer movie land. So far, this Star Trek doesn't take us "where no man has gone before."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

17 Again

Zac Efron was made into a white-hot movie star by Disney in the assorted High School Musical movies. His latest film, 17 Again, was primarily aimed at his 'tween fans, but was surely seeking the approval of older teens and parents. As far as the teen crowd, I doubt it worked too well. But with parents, I imagine this sweet, squeaky-clean depiction of high school and family life scores highly.

17 Again focuses on the long-term effects of teen sex and unplanned pregnancy. Matthew Perry, aged 35 or so, resents his family commitments and has become estranged from his wife and kids. His life was ruined, he thinks, when he married his high school sweetheart because she was pregnant. Zac Efron plays the teenaged Matthew Perry when Perry gets his wish to be 17 Again. I wasn't sure what to expect from cutie-pie Efron. But he can actually act, and this movie was pretty funny. Thanks to Thomas Lennon (from cable comedy show Reno 911), there's a lot of laughs.

The big surprise in this film is the connection made between sex and babies. When he's in health class on condom day, Efron's character gives a speech about love, sex, and having a family. The movie Juno made a splash with it's teen character dealing realistically with pregnancy, but did anyone ever use the word "love?" I can't think of any movie aimed at teens in recent years that mentions love, sex, and babies together in the whole script, let alone one monologue. Efron's speech is so touching that several teen classmates refuse the offered condoms.

Actually, adult Perry's life isn't that bad: mid-level corporate job, nice house, pretty wife, and healthy kids. So another twist in this movie is that teen pregnancy doesn't look that bad from the distance of a decade or so. Watching this movie, one might even conclude that teens getting married when they're in love and pregnant isn't the worst fate in the world. Considering the general acceptance of abortion in these cases, I'm surprised this movie came together like it did. Considering all the outrage aimed at young Bristol Palin, isn't the politically correct choice an abortion?

By taking a traditional look at teens and marriage, 17 Again offers an alternative take on the subject. Thankfully, Zac Efron makes it pretty hip. After all, this movie was #1 for several weeks, wasn't it? Looks like being traditional is back with Zac.