A little more than four years ago, the J.J. Abrams–directed, franchise-rebooting Star Trek arrived in theaters to the breathless anticipation of a millions-strong fan community simultaneously filled with the hope they'd found themselves an energized, engaged custodian willing to respect Gene Roddenberry's sacrosanct vision, and the palpable fear that a big-timing Hollywood interloper was about to ruin everything they'd ever cared about, then escape through a wormhole made of money before they could exact their revenge for the appalling desecration. But Abrams said all the right things (except, you know, for letting it slip that he was always a Star Wars guy) and delivered blockbuster entertainment enjoyable by both the hard-core Trekker and the casual summer blow-’em-up-real-good moviegoer. The new, revitalized Star Trek opened to $75 million at the American box office and eventually finished its domestic run with a phaser-engorging $257 million. A franchise was reborn.
And so we fast-forward to stardate 05.16.2013 (note: not a valid stardate), four summers hence, and Abrams has returned to deliver the inevitable sequel, in fulfillment of the contractual prophecy etched into the wall of a Spock-sheltering ice cave by an advanced race of business-affairs aliens. Can Abrams once again pull off the massively profitable trick of satisfying both the core and summer audiences before tearing off his loosely affixed latex Vulcan ears, slipping into a Jedi robe, and taking stewardship of his childhood obsession? And, most important of all, should you support this latest Trek adventure with your ticket purchase? We're here to answer some questions and help you make the best-informed decision possible.
David O. Russell's follow-up to The Fighter deals, once again, with the question of male aggression, only this time the fights are all strictly amateur. (Still violent, though!) After discovering his wife cheating on him, Pat (Bradley Cooper) assaults the man who's cuckolding him and ends up getting treated in a mental institution. After returning home to live with his parents in Philadelphia, Pat is determined to give himself a whole-life makeover so that his ex-wife will find him worthy again, despite the fact that she has taken out a restraining order against him. But his path keeps crossing that of Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow who's dealing with her grief by teaching herself ballroom dancing.
Playbook was an awards monster: Its stars were nominated in all four acting categories at this year's Oscars, with Lawrence taking home her first Academy Award for playing Tiffany. The two leads have nice chemistry despite the fact that she is clearly way too young for him, but midway through the movie tries to make you forget that it's been making Tiffany's depression, Pat's bipolar disorder, and Pat's father's OCD seem like cute personality quirks, as opposed to debilitating mental illnesses, by turning into a dance movie. But hey: If you rent it this weekend, you kind of get two movies for the price of one.
Just when it was safe to open your mouth without "it is what it is" escaping like a weary cliché-genie from a lamp, "blessed" came along and infected humanity. It is the zombie of buzzwords, making anyone who uses it into a swirly-eyed, beatific drone person who probably sits with his or her hands folded staring at an imaginary sunset through dusty Venetian blinds. Recently infected: Kate Bosworth, Kim Kardashian, a Big Loser (not the Biggest), Selena Gomez (blessed but frustrated — she might survive), and Dennis Rodman. Grab some cynical idol, lock your doors and windows, and wait until it passes.
When I wrote about George Lucas last year, I called up J.J. Abrams. There wasn’t a hint that Abrams was going to be directing the next Star Wars movie, as The Wrap reported yesterday. There wasn’t even that much of known relationship between Abrams and Lucas. In the movie world, Lucas doesn’t do hands-on, Spielbergian mentorships. But, as Abrams explained, he’d recently sat at Lucas’s knee, like Luke with Yoda, and had learned from the master.
Silver: OK, so you’re making your first film. It’s about a legendary recording studio that's hosted such acts as Nirvana, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and Tom Petty, and which has since fallen into neglect due to the digital age. How in the world do you book interviews and get rights to all the music? Well, it helps if you're former Nirvana drummer, current Foo Fighters front man, and go-to Satan for Tenacious D Dave Grohl. Because booking Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Lars Ulrich, and Dave Grohl (wow ... how’d he land that one?) is probably easier that way. But the question of the film’s quality still remains; will Grohl be just another renowned musician stepping behind the camera in hopes of earning their renaissance man/raconteur merit badge? I honestly doubt it. He’s hired some key folks from The Cove, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, and Dogtown and Z-Boys to help him through his rookie effort. So in the end, I’m guessing Sound City is going to be my 2013 Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.
Yeah, Inception bwaaaangs could make just about anything seem hella dramatic, but the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness — J.J. Abrams's follow-up to his 2009 smash-hit big-screen reboot of the franchise — provides some pyrotechnics even with the sound off. A villainous Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice-over and all the plot explanation we need: He was wronged, he's here for vengeance, let's get it popping. And then it's all a giant blur of guns and fire and face-kicks and shrieks and a cliff jump possibly nabbed from leftover Lost footage and dudes running through windows, and then, bwaaaaang, a spaceship crashing to Earth. By the way, the name of the villain that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing hasn't yet been revealed. If they're still sussing that out, I think one good option would be "Benedict Cumberbatch."
With the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday all crushed and conquered in our wake, we are now deep into the holiday shopping season. It's that special time of year, when we are constantly reminded that the perfect Christmas is just one Happy Meal/diamond ring/Lexus away. Time to take a moment and tip our hats to some of the most memorable pieces of holiday advertising.
Editor's note: It has come to our attention that a few readers out there might take exception to a few details of Grantland's Sequeltology bracket. Rest assured, friends: You are not alone in your dissent.
Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci share an office — and a spacious desk — in a largish bungalow on the Universal Studios lot. The ceilings are high, the décor is film-geek-made-good — vintage posters for Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and General Dynamics, a giant Iron Man head, a circa-1983 stand-up Star Wars arcade game, couches you could hibernate on.
This is what a comfort zone looks like: Kurtzman and Orci, who met nearly 20 years ago in a film class at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica, got here by writing blockbuster entertainments both large (J.J. Abrams's Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek) and gargantuanly large (the first and third Transformers films). Together, they're responsible for something like $3 billion in box office revenue. Even their last bomb, 2011's Cowboys & Aliens, grossed $174 million worldwide. There's a black Porsche sitting sleek and Decepticon-like in Kurtzman's parking space out front.
Mindy Kaling will co-produce an animated series for NBC alongside Greg Daniels, her boss at The Office, which revolves around a girls’ high school volleyball team. She’ll also voice a character. Meanwhile, Daniels is also teaming up with Alan Yang, a writer on his other show Parks & Recreation, for an animated show about a group of bros living in the L.A. neighborhood Hancock Park. Apparently hit-starved NBC is hoping Daniels, who co-created the long running King of the Hill, can churn out some animated stalwarts. And if this doesn’t work, next up for the always-game, sort-of desperate network? Probably shows where dogs drive cars. Grade: A [Deadline]
Naomi Watts and Robin Wright have signed up for The Grandmothers, a French-Australian adaptation of Doris Lessing’s novel that features a pair of pals who fall in love with each other’s teenage sons, described by the Hollywood Reporter as an “erotic tale of misguided love and a celebration of the enduring nature of female friendship.” It’s pretty early so, hopefully, this is the first time today that you’re seeing the word ‘erotic’ and ‘Grandmothers’ in the same sentence? Grade: B+ [HR]
Julia Roberts will star in as well as produce (through her company Red Om Films) the workplace comedy Second Act, which revolves around a woman who has never had to hold down a job before and is forced to enter the workplace. But what kind of job will fictional Julia Roberts be forced to work? Ice cream truck vendor? Geeky record store clerk? Fiery-hoop-jumping and trampoline-dunking NBA mascot? I’ll be waiting patiently to find out. Grade: B- [HR]
Unlike somepeople, J.J. Abrams sees his highly lucrative franchises through to the end. He's nearing an agreement to direct Star Trek 2, the sequel to 2009's $260 million-grossing original. The only problem: He won't finish writing and shooting in time for the June 29, 2012 release that Paramount had hoped for. So the studio will open G.I. Joe that weekend instead, since they can probably knock that one out in a week or two. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
Jennifer Lopez is expected to sign a deal this week to return to the judges' table for the next season of American Idol. She was presumed to be holding out for more money and a chair farther from Steven Tyler. Grade: B [HR]