J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek – I have already written on this film once, so I will not spend much further time on it. I will just say that it generally does what a good Hollywood action film should do, that it strikes a good balance between respecting the past Star Trek franchise while making room for some new ideas, and that it moves well between humour and gravity. It even made me forget, at times, how much I hate plots that meddle with time continuity. It is never more than a standard action flick, but as long as you have no grander expectations of it, you will not be disappointed.
Oliver Stone’s Alexander Revisited – This is the super-extended version of the film, which was supposed to have corrected the problems with the the only somewhat extended version, which was supposed to have clarified the original theatrical version. I never did see the original or theatrical versions, so I am unable to say whether this third cut is an improvement over the first two, but I can say that, in its own right, it is not a very good film. It has a grand vision and massive landscapes, I will admit, but it also has horrible pacing and a ridiculously convoluted narrative structure to go along with some pretty average acting and one of the worst accents, courtesy of Angelina Jolie, that you are ever likely to hear. Some of the scenes are simply interminable, dragging on through endless conversation that does little to enrich the characters and almost nothing to forward the plot. These dialogue scenes grow so tedious, I confess, that I watched much of the third and fourth hours of the film on fast forward, and I feel as though this may have improved my viewing experience considerably.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception – This is another of those films, like The Matrix or Dark City, that is based on an interesting idea but lacks the script to be what it could have been. The dream worlds in which Inception primarily takes place are logically inconsistent in several ways that directly affect the plot, so it is almost impossible to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the story of the film, and there is no substance to any of the secondary characters, so it is difficult to care much about their fate, and there is little to compensate for these faults. The strongest parts of the film are those that explore the main character’s past relationship with his now deceased wife, a relationship that has become inseparable from the dream world. These sections remind me a little of Vincent Ward’s What Dreams May Come, a film that I liked very much but that most people seemed to pan, and theses sections are the only places in the film where there is anything very compelling to the story. Inception is perhaps worth seeing, but it is not nearly as complex or as innovative as many people make it out to be. Despite what your friends may have said, you will not need to see it more than once “to really get it.” Once will be more than enough, and only if you have not much else to do.
Robert Rodriguez’s Machete – I can only describe this film by saying that it is a Robert Rodriguez film. Either you will know what this means or you will not. His work is a little like Quentin Tarantino’s, only without the artistic pretensions: All the violence, but only a fraction of the thinking. Let this example stand for the whole: The lead character, whose name is Machete, finds himself trapped in a hospital. He grabs a bone scraper from a tray of surgical instruments, disembowels one of his assailants, then uses the dying attacker’s intestines as a rope to swing through the window to the floor below. I will leave you with this scene as the basis to make your own recommendation.
Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited – I quite liked this film, though it would not rate it as highly as some of his others. It has the same sense of being just slightly surreal, the same strange blend of humour and pathos, the same ironic tone, all of which I enjoy, but it lacks something that I cannot quite define, something that keeps me from being involved in its story as deeply as the stories of his other films. It is certainly worth watching, particularly if you are a fan of Anderson’s other work, but I was expecting more from the film than it offered.
Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly – This is an interesting film in its way, but like many scripts that are based on books, it suffers in comparison to its source text. It needs more time to develop the paranoia that the main character experiences as an anonymous narcotics officer assigned to surveil his own undercover persona, more time to explore the possibility that the drugs he is using are themselves producing a kind of paranoid self-surveillance, more time to examine the ways that this culture of self-surveillance, whether created by a drug induced paranoia or by a paranoia about the use of drugs, has now become a strangely essential part of our society. More practically, it also needs to have someone other than the ever underwhelming Keanu Reeves starring in the lead role, but this should have gone without saying.