'Star Trek,' 'Ice Age' Continue Summer of Sequel Sag
For box office, you should probably be looking down, Montgomery Scotty.
The fifth “Ice Age” movie, “Collision Course,” opened to shitty reviews (13% RT) and shitty box office ($21 mil, fifth place), which is the weakest opening for an “Ice Age” by far. The others opened between $41 and $68, and grossed between $161 and $196. “CC” will be lucky to top out at $100.
The third rebooted “Star Trek” movie, “Beyond,” opened to good reviews (84%) but so-so box office ($59 mil, first place), which is the weakest opening for a rebooted “Trek.” The others opened at $75 and $70.
Oddly, this is probably worse news for “Trek.”
The “Ice Age”s make most of its money abroad. Chronologically: $206, $465, $690, and $715 million. So the bigger question for “Collision Course” is: How will it play in Bonn or Beijing? The answer, so far, is: not bad: $178 and counting.
I remember seeing the original “Star Trek” in reruns in Taiwan in the late 1980s (Spock's dubbed voice sounded like it was recorded in a big empty metal box), so it's obviously disseminated abroad. It's just not big abroad—grossing, internationally, $128 and $238 for “Star Trek” and “Into Darkness” respectively. It needs those U.S. dollars more.
The poor opening of “IA” and “ST” continues a summer trend. Yes, the two top movies of the summer, “Finding Dory” and “Captain America: Civil War,” are both sequels, but after that it's originals or reboots. Most sequels are grossing only a fraction of what the previous film grossed:
|Franchise||2016 B.O.||Previous B.O.||%|
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||$81||$191||42.4%|
|Now You See Me||$64||$117||54.7%|
* Believe it or not, that's unadjusted, so it's actually much, much worse.
I hope Hollywood execs are paying attention. Probably not.
Black and Blue
“Here is the difference a color makes: 'blue lives matter' expresses a fact in our society; 'black lives matter' exists as a reminder, or an aspiration. The former is not a radical proposition; the latter, given the weight of history and habit, is a contested idea. The presence at the Dallas service of a mayor, a senator, a Vice-President, a former President, and a President sent a clear message about the importance of the men who died in that city and, by extension, of the profession to which they belonged. The movement that has sprung up to demand police accountability is voicing another principle that should be equally obvious: if the killing of an officer carries wider social implications, a killing at the hands of an officer does, too.”
-- Jelani Cobb, “Honoring the Police and Their Victims,” in The New Yorker, July 25, 2016. Read the whole thing, please.
Junior in the Hall
“Here's Junior to third! They're going to wave him in! The throw to the plate will be ... LATE, the Mariners are going to enshrine a player in the Baseball Hall of Fame! I don't believe it!”
Yes, it's finally happened. Today, in Cooperstown, NY, the Seattle Mariners joined 25 other teams/franchises with an actual player in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Missing teams: Angels, Rockies, Marlins, Rays.) The M's will have a few more in a few more. Ichiro will go in as a Mariner. Maybe Felix, if he pulls out of this slump. Maybe Edgar—he hit a career high 43% of the HOF votes this year. But today was Junior's day. He went in with the highest vote total ever: 99.3%. He's the only 99-percenter.
Thoughts on the plaque?
- They never get those face etchings right, do they? Junior was way more handsome than this.
- I almost want the cap on backwards. But I want to see that Mariners logo, too.
- “Ken”? That's a nickname? What about “The Natural”?
- I don't think you need “...particularly in the Pacific Northwest.” Junior was one of those players beloved in almost every city he played in. Mr. B can attest. He'll tell you his “visiting Wrigley Field in '94” story, if you want to hear it. Or even if you don't.
- “Easy-Going Nature”? Yeah, but he was also work.
- Maybe add “5 HRs in a five-game playoff series”? That was a record once.
- How about “Greatest player never to play in a World Series game”? That's the true sadness.
- Junior's full HOF speech. A lot of tears. A few laughs. My favorite are the Jay Buhner recollections.
- Art Thiel talks up Junior and Senior. That's also one of the best quotes in Junior's speech: “He made a decision to play baseball to provide his family, because that's what men do.”
- Junior on the dash home on Edgar's double. Pretty funny stuff. Piazza's his hallelujah chorus.
- David Schoenfield's Top 10 Junior memories. I'd put more catches in there. I'd put the Opening Day HRs. I'd put in this general memory of heading out for the night and then saying, “Wait, just this Griffey at-bat.” And invariably something beautiful would happen.
Quote of the Day
“The Ailes-Trump relationship has been turbulent, roiled by the differences of large narcissisms—two immense egos competing for the same ideological berth. Last year, Trump moodily boycotted Ailes’s network, complaining that Megyn Kelly, as a debate moderator, had unreasonably quoted back to him some of his most memorable descriptions of half of humanity: “fat pigs,” “slobs,” “disgusting animals.” Nevertheless, Trump, who admits that he reads almost nothing and gets his information from “the shows,” adopted Fox rhetoric, Fox fury, and Fox standards of truth and falsehood, all with a dollop of Trumpian nativist flair. The Republican Convention in Cleveland last week was like a four-day-long Fox-fest, full of fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, third-rate show biz, pandering, and raw anger. By comparison, Nixon in ’68 was Adlai Stevenson murmuring sonnets at a library luncheon.”
-- David Remnick, “The Donald Trump/Roger Ailes Nexus,” on the New Yorker site
Ezra Miller is the Best Thing in the 'Justice League' Trailer
- It's smart putting Batman/Bruce Wayne into the Nick Fury role, since he doesn't have, you know, super powers. At the same time, isn't it a little too “Avengers”? “I'm putting together a team.” Over and over again.
- What does “I was last night” mean? And when did Aquaman get so cool?
- Still don't know the Borged-out-looking black guy. As character or actor.
- The best thing here, by far, is Ezra Miller's Barry Allen/Flash. Every nuance, every line. Sometimes when you put an intelligent actor into a mediocre role, you make beautiful music. Cf., “Iron Man.”
- The worst thing, by far, is: “Directed by Zack Snyder.” On IMDb, not in the trailer. Who'd brag about that? They're even pushing it as a “Ben Affleck Movie” on YouTube.
Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Third time’s the charm, I guess.
The first rebooted “Star Trek” was too “Star Wars”-y for me, second was too “Raiders of the Lost Ark”-y (not to mention stupid). This one gets the appeal of “Star Trek.” So who do we thank for this midsummer gift? Simon Pegg (Cornetto trilogy), for co-writing it with Doug Jones? Justin Lin (Fast/Furious movies) for directing it? Or J.J. Abrams for finally stepping aside?
It starts slowly, which is so not-done these days it felt like a relief. Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) is in the doldrums because in the third year of his five-year mission it’s all beginning to feel a bit “episodic” (great line: I laughed out loud), and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) tries to bolster him with bad beside manner and good Scotch. Meanwhile, Spock (Zach Quinto) is on the outs with Uhura (Zoe Saldana, call me), and ready to leave the Enterprise, because he feels he owes something to New Vulcan—like propagating its nearly decimated species.
Not to brag, but here’s what I wrote about Spock three years ago in my review of “Star Trek: Into Darkness”:
How many members of the Vulcan species are left? Wouldn’t this small fact alter his trajectory a bit, get him off the Enterprise maybe, doing something else? Wouldn’t it give him a different girlfriend? (No offense, Zoe.) Doesn’t it make sense for Spock to want to propagate his species now that they’re nearly extinct? Or at least consider doing so? Or at least talk about it with someone?
It really isn’t bragging since it’s all rather obvious. You might even call it logical.
While on shore leave at the starbase Yorktown—which is a kind of M.C. Escher painting in space—Kirk volunteers the crew to retrieve a ship stranded in a nearby nebula. But as Admiral Ackbar would say, it’s a trap. The Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of ships that literally cut it apart, and it plunges to the planet below. And our roller coaster ride begins.
What I liked about the ride? Mystery. Who was the alien Krall (Idris Elba) and why did he attack the Enterprise? What’s his game? The early “Star Trek”s—and I’m talking TOS, first season—had a real air of the bizarre and mysterious and dangerous. You’re going into space. You’re finding all kinds of creepy shit. We get a whiff of that here.
What else I liked? We get character development and humor during the ride. There’s good repartee between Spock and McCoy, as well as Scotty (Pegg) and Jaylah (Sofia Boutelia), an alien who saves him. Yes, she’s the usual bodacious bod, ass-kicking chickiepoo that all the sci-fi geeks love, but she’s a great version of that. When they first meet, she repeats his name, “Montgomery Scott,” and he lets her know she can use the familiar, “Scotty,” so for the rest of the movie she calls him “Montgomery Scotty.” She speaks a sing-songy English, and knows all about the Federation, because she lives on the downed U.S.S. Franklin, which was the first starship equipped with warp drive. It went missing 100 years ago. One assumes it fell into Krall’s hands but the answer is more surprising and less interesting.
For a while I wondered if Krall was Cardassian (forgive: it’s been a while since my “ST” heyday), but—alley oop—he’s actually the former commander of the Franklin, whose physiognomy has been altered because ... I didn’t quite get it. Apparently he absorbs other life forms to stay young, a technology which he—I don’t know—found on this rocky, desolate planet? Anyway, his goal in downing the Enterprise wasn’t just for vengies on the Federation, which he blames for abandoning him, but to get a thingamabob (maguffin), that fits with another thingamabob, which creates a superpowerful bioweapon. He’s going to use this to destroy the Yorktown.
Are we better united or does it encourage weakness? That’s the slight (very slight) philosophical showdown between Krall and Uhura in the film. Krall gets the maguffin by torturing one crew member until another caves—thereby demonstrating the weakness in unity argument—but of course Kirk, et al., demonstrate its strength by working as a team and using the Franklin’s still operating transporters to beam the rest of the crew to safety. Then, in the Franklin, they take off in pursuit of Krall and his hive-like ships, and bring down the latter with a blast of old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. (In space, everyone can hear you scream bad heavy-metal.) BTW: Doesn’t this undercut Uhura’s, and the movie’s, argument? The hive-like unity of the ships is their weakness. And sure, that’s hive-like, which is bad, rather than creative team-building, which is good, but still. It’s also a ripoff of “Best of Both Worlds,” isn’t it? Not to mention—and not to brag again—“Fuck-Ups of the Federation.” Mr. B, you have the conn.
All of this leads to the inevitable battle between Kirk and Krall, which is done well, and then the usual bow-tying: Kirk turns down a vice-admiralship to keep his command, and Spock decides to stay with Uhura (schmaht!) and on the Enterprise (newly rebuilt). Screw New Vulcan, I guess. There’s a nice homage to Leonard Nimoy and the original crew, and a new version of the original opening monologue (“Space, the final frontier...”), but this time, per the movie’s theme, with many voices of the crew reading it rather than the one. Because the needs of the many...
Split your infinitives
I would’ve sacrificed some of the roller coaster for more character development, or a greater explanation of Krall. And once the endorphins wore off, I noted a lot of absurdity. But I had a good time.
A few thoughts for the future:
- Simon Pegg should keep writing these; well done, laddie.
- Jaylah should return; superhot and a good character.
- They still haven’t figured out Uhura. She’s still kind of a blank.
- Is Kirk? “You spent all this time trying to be your father,” McCoy says. “Now you’re wondering what it’s like to be you.” So are we.
- Sulu, too. Gay isn’t a personality.
- They still can’t get Spock’s hair right; but at least they get the Spock-McCoy dynamic right.
The movie focuses on the triumvirate—Kirk, Spock, McCoy—but right now McCoy’s relationship with both feels deeper than Kirk’s with Spock. So there's room for improvement. Just keep the characters in mind and boldly go.
Quote of the Day
“A wise old friend once told me that the most basic paradox in American history can be summed up in the question, ”Do you govern or are you governed?“ The answer throughout the week in Cleveland was something beyond even the parameters of that question. These were not people begging to govern. These were not even people begging to be governed. These were people begging to be ruled. For all the palaver about freedom and liberty, and all the appeals to the Founders and the American experiment, this whole convention was shot through with an overwhelming lust for authority.
”This was a gathering of subjects thirsting for a king.“
-- Charles P. Pierce, ”Donald Trump Sold Us Fear; Next Comes the Wrath," on the Esquire site. The FDR quote from 1932 is particularly instructive.
I guess by people who care about cinema history, but otherwise I'm not seeing the connection.