Jonathan Poritsky

Review: Star Trek

Live long and pros­per” is the least that one could say about the Star Trek fran­chise. Over four decades have passed since the first incar­na­tion of Gene Roddenberry’s brain­child. The orig­i­nal series, known for it’s cheese and moral pomp, ran a mere three sea­sons, but nonethe­less inspired eleven movies, five tele­vi­sion series, count­less books, toys, videogames and, above all, gen­er­a­tions of space enthu­saists and geeks. Daunting, then, is the task of re-introducing the clas­sic char­ac­ters onto the big screen. Thankfully, direc­tor and tele­vi­sion impre­sario J.J. Abrams rises to the occa­sion to make Star Trek (it’s actu­ally the first film to bear that name alone) not only a wel­come addi­tion, but an inspired thrill-ride which really kicks sum­mer 2009 into gear.

Unlike some other 2009 block­buster, screen­writ­ers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have crafted a legit­i­mate ori­gin story for the fran­chise. The film opens with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock as chil­dren on their respec­tive plan­ets show­ing a dis­tinct promise of great­ness. Over the years, the Star Trek galaxy has become so vast that the char­ac­ters within it seem to have shrunk in stature, con­sid­ered more to be model cit­i­zens of the Federation than any­thing more. By focus­ing on the early years of these two ship­mates, Mr. Abrams is empha­siz­ing that Kirk, Spock and their cohorts are not the norm; they are extra­or­di­nary; they are super­heroes. Continue read­ing at the can­dler blog.

Review: Next Day Air

Next Day Air Still

Drugs, guns, vul­gar­ity and rims are just the tip of the pigeon­holed ice­berg that is Benny Boom’s fea­ture debut, Next Day Air; but what this lit­tle caper has that so many other films of a sim­i­lar ilk lack is heart, and lots of it.

The improb­a­ble story fol­lows ten bricks of cocaine from a for­mi­da­ble drug dealer in Calexico, California to his dis­patcher in Philadelphia by way of an overnight deliv­ery ser­vice, Next Day Air. Donald Faison, of Scrubs fame, plays Leo Jackson, a chron­i­cally stoned deliv­ery man for the fic­ti­tious com­pany, whose mind is so clouded on the job that he deliv­ers the coke to apart­ment 302 instead of 303, set­ting events in motion. The drugs end up in the hands of fledg­ling crim­i­nals Guch, Brody and Hassie instead of the diminu­tive yet feisty Jesus, who prefers to be called “Gee-sus” rather than “Hay-zoos”. While Hassie is sleep­ing on the couch, as he is for the most of the film, Guch and Brody, played with an incred­i­ble bal­ance of humor and charisma by Wood Harris and Mike Epps, respec­tively, hatch a plan to sell the dope to Brody’s cousin, Shavoo, before the right­ful own­ers get wise to the mis­take. Think of it like True Romance but with­out white peo­ple and set in Philly. Continue read­ing at the can­dler blog.

Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Sitting down to con­sider an entire series of X-Men (X-People?) Origins films, I am reminded of Chaucer, the Middle English scribe whose death kept him from com­plet­ing nearly 100 promised sto­ries in The Canterbury Tales. With any luck, I’ll be long dead before any­one tries to make another install­ment in this fran­chise with the same fool­hardy bravado that direc­tor Gavin Hood and his team have brought to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The film opens with a hint of promise in north­west­ern Canada in 1845. A sickly young James Logan, who is to become our Wolverine, acci­den­tally kills his bio­log­i­cal father (who had just killed his adopted father!) with his newly dis­cov­ered retractable bone claws and runs off to the woods. There, another boy, Victor, who we just learned is in fact James’s brother, is wait­ing. They run off together, promis­ing never to sep­a­rate and to never go back.

As it turns out, Victor is a mutant just like James. He will grow up to become who X-heads will rec­og­nize as Sabretooth, though film­go­ers will never know that as he is never bestowed a fab­u­lous nom de guerre as our hunky Logan is (Wolverine, rawr). Since their main power is the abil­ity to cheat death, they live on through his­tory, though oddly, United States his­tory. For what­ever rea­son, these two mutant Canucks fight in every major U.S. war of the last two cen­turies. This con­fu­sion is com­pounded by the ques­tion: if they are immor­tal, why did they choose to stay thirty-five for­ever? Normally I might gloss over these nig­gles, but this is an ori­gin story after all; these are the ques­tions we need answers to. Continue read­ing at the can­dler blog.

Review: Adventureland

Adventurland is the story of James Brennan, a recent col­lege grad­u­ate with a nog­gin full of impec­ca­ble vocab­u­lary and lofty eso­teri­cisms. When his father takes a pay cut at work, his trip to Europe is called off and his fall plans for grad school are put in jeop­ardy, lead­ing him to a sum­mer job at the local theme park whose name is the film’s title. There, of course, he falls in love, learns more about him­self, and meets all kinds of wacky char­ac­ters along the way in this refined com­ing of age comedy.

Setting aside (most of) the raunch and rau­cous­ness of 2007’sSuperbad, writer/director Greg Mottola offers us a view of young adults that has become fright­en­ingly rare in Hollywood. Grounded yet hope­ful, with lim­ited but suf­fi­cient resources, James and his love inter­est, Em, are relat­able and real­is­tic twenty-somethings, not overly ironic Napoleon Dynamites or vac­u­ous shells like those found on NBC’s failedQuarterlife (does any­one even remem­ber that show?). It’s hard to describe their tri­als with­out giv­ing away much of the film’s draw, so let’s mostly take a look at the who instead of the what. Continue read­ing on the can­dler blog…

Review: Duplicity

Duplicity opens qui­etly at an embassy soirée in Dubai. Clive Owen barely approaches Julia Roberts at the margherita table when we are thrust into this svelte lit­tle caper. Director Tony Gilroy, still glow­ing from the suc­cess of Michael Clayton, returns with his crack team (we’ll get to them) to cre­ate what this hum­ble critic believes is the best major release of 2009 so far.

Mr. Owen and Ms. Roberts play Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick, two for­mer state spies who take cor­po­rate intel posi­tions at com­pet­ing house­hold prod­ucts firms, Equikrom and Burkett & Randle (B & R). When B & R leaks the exis­tence of a top secret project, the game is on to see who can get to the spoils first. That is really all I can put down here to keep the film inter­est­ing for you, so let’s dive into the meat of it. Keep Reading at the can­dler blog.