Summer movie critic

Maybe it’s the delayed summer heat forcing us indoors, but my wife and I have recently seen two first-run movies right after they opened, a rarity for us.

I enjoyed Judd Apatow’s Funny People more than I thought I would and more than his other two flicks. Yes, it’s big, sprawling and doesn’t entirely hang together, but the performances and dialogue are winning. It also, as Ross Douthat astutely points out, has something of a conservative “family values” message, but a darker and more realistic one than his other films. And not the kind that makes for easy translation to a political platform.

Another movie I didn’t initially have much enthusiasm for seeing but ended up liking was Julie & Julia. Meryl Streep as Julia Child was fantastic, as you’d expect (as was Stanley Tucci as her husband Paul). Like most of the critics, I foudn Julie Powell’s story less than compelling and would’ve preferred an entire movie dedicated to Julia’s life. (And was any movie more designed to make you hungry after watching it? This vegetarian might not have been able to resist a bowl of Julia’s beef bourguignon had it been presented.)

Really looking forward to District 9, which comes out later this month. If the heat keeps up, I may just see it.

Anvil!

Went and saw Anvil! The Story of Anvil with some friends tonight (including Camassia). It’s a documentary about a b-list (c-list?) 80s power metal band from Canada that never quite made it big, but never quit either. The movie was terrific and surprisingly affecting.

After the movie I consulted Ian Christe’s magisterial history of heavy metal, Sound of the Beast, and found this amusing nugget:

Power metal bands like Anvil, still dressing in red leather bondage outfits and playing guitar solos with phallus-shaped vibrators, felt the chance for mass popularity slipping through their fingers. They had paid their dues and paved the way for Metallica, but were lost now in the wake of dozens of faster bands. There had been an instant years earlier when Lars Ulrich bragged that his band would someday be bigger than Anvil…. (p. 136)

Here’s “School Love” from Tokyo in 1984, at a rock festival they played with Bon Jovi and the Scorpions, among others, and which seemed to be the peak of their career:

Boldly going

A buddy of mine scored some tickets to an advanced screening of the new Star Trek movie last night, and was kind enough to invite me along. I enjoyed it a lot. I consider myself a fairly serious Trek fan, if not a true, hardcore Trekkie, and I thought it was great fun. It also takes a pretty clever approach to re-booting the series without disregarding past (future?) continuity.

Calling all Trekkies

I’m more of a casual Star Trek fan than a hardcore Trekkie (sorry, Trekker), but this Entertainment Weekly article makes J.J. Abram’s (of Lost fame) upcoming reboot of the franchise sound somewhat promising.

I thought this in particular was interesting:

Abrams says he was also drawn to the project because he believed in — and wanted to evangelize — Trek’s unabashed idealism. ”I think a movie that shows people of various races working together and surviving hundreds of years from now is not a bad message to put out right now,” says Abrams, whose infectiously upbeat energy and disdain for cynicism are among his most marked attributes. (Not for nothing did Abrams give Randy Pausch, the now-late author of The Last Lecture and avowed Trekker, a cameo in the film.) That ethos may seem cornball to an America darkened by a decade’s worth of catastrophe, but after an election season that has seen both presidential nominees run on ”hope” and ”change,” Star Trek just may find itself on the leading wave of a zeitgeist shift — away from bleak, brooding blockbusters and toward the light. ”In a world where a movie as incredibly produced as The Dark Knight is raking in gazillions of dollars, Star Trek stands in stark contrast,” Abrams says. ”It was important to me that optimism be cool again.”

The original Star Trek, as has been pointed out ad nauseum, acted as a metaphor for Kennedy-era Great Frontier-style idealism, while the Next Generation had more of a globalist, multicultural vibe and less Kirk-style unilateralism. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of spin Abrams puts on the culture and politics of the Trek universe.