Dear Mr. Abrams: Please Remember How To Use The Mystery Box For Positive Effect

JJ Abrams

Wait, what’s ‘The Mystery Box’?” you may be asking. The Mystery Box is something first coined by JJ Abrams to describe his approach to writing in the TED Talk he gave waaaaaaay back in 2007. The long version involves his grand father and childhood memories of a magic shop made real by way of an actual Mystery Box of Magic purchased when he was a child. The short version is that Mr. Abrams values, above all, we the viewers not knowing what is going on with his projects.

And I’m kind of tired of how that’s working these days.

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Matt’s 2013: Most Anticipated Revisited

Most Anticipated 2013

At the start of this year I posted a list of what were then the films I was most looking forward to in 2013. The list was a bit of a mixed bag, everything from Shakespearean comedy to superheroes to complicated generational drama.

Over the course of the year I managed to see all of the films on that list and review them. Here’s a rundown of which were hits and which were misses.

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Everything Wrong With Star Trek Into Darkness in 7 Minutes or Less

Star Trek INto Darkness

Er all know how much I really didn’t like Star Trek Into Darkness (most of Star Trek fandom doesn’t, it was recently ranked worst film in the series by fans at the Vegas Star Trek Convention.

Well now when people ask me why I can just show them this video! Handy!

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Film Crit Hulk on Current Blockbusters

Film Crit Hulk

Film Crit Hulk is one of my favourite writers going. If you’re not familiar with his work, well, you should be because it’s amazing.

In the most recent article he’s taking on how most of the current hollywood blockbusters seem to be needlessly convoluted.

AND SO WHEN WE LOOK AT THE STORIES IN ABRAMS’ WORK WE DON’T FIND MUCH IN THE WAY OF STORY AT ALL. WE FIND PLOTS. IT’S ALL MASTER SECRETIVE PLANS BUILT ON REVEALS UPON REVEALS UPON REVEALS. WE WATCH AS BRILLIANT CHARACTERS PLAY A HIGH-STAKES GAME OF TRYING TO OUTSMART EACH OTHER. WE WATCH THOSE PLANS GET TEASED OUT IN INCOMPREHENSIBLE WAYS. WE WATCH THEM UNRAVEL A STORY WITHOUT A HINT OF ORGANIC DISCOVERY. WE WATCH FILMS WHERE THE MECHANICAL PLOT DICTATES CHARACTER REACTIONS, RATHER THAN CHARACTER’S ACTIONS DICTATING THE STORY. AND WHILE THE MOST OBVIOUS TEMPTATION IS TO JUDGE THE MERITS OF THESE FILMS ON WHETHER OR NOT THESE CONVOLUTED PLOTS HAVE LOGICAL RESOLUTIONS (AND THE INTERNET DID INDEED GO NUTS DISMANTLING THE LOGIC OF STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS), HULK ARGUES THAT THE FUZZY LOGIC ITSELF DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. THE TRUTH IS THAT THE REAL VICTIM OF THIS CONVOLUTED PLOTTING IS TRADITIONAL DRAMA. BY OBFUSCATING CLARITY IN THE NAME OF A GRANDIOSE PUZZLE, WE CAN’T HELP BUT GET IN THE WAY OF THE OPTIMAL EMOTIONAL RESONANCE IN OUR STORIES. WE MAKE THEM FEEL LIKE CONSTRUCTIONS. WE SHOW ALL THE STRINGS. AND IT’S GOTTEN TO SUCH AN OBLIVIOUS STATE THAT THIS IS BAD THAT WE NOT ONLY SHOW THESE STRINGS, BUT THEN TURN TO THE AUDIENCE AND SAY “Hey! Look at all those strings I tied! Don’t they look complicated!?!?! I did that!”

Yeah, it can be tough to read a line or two of all caps let alone 5600 words of it but I promise you it’s totally worth the time. It manages to sum up everything I’ve been feeling about a lot of movies in a much tidier package than I’ve been able to so far.

So go read. I’ll wait here. Tell me what you think when you’re done.

Why I Was Disappointed by Star Trek Into Darkness (Spoilers)

Star Trek INto Darkness

In my review of Star Trek Into Darkness I ended up in a weird place. I think the film has some pretty amazing action sequences but that it’s not a very good movie. Which is to say, it’s just not a very good movie.

Since some of you have asked why I had the reaction I did I am going to explain it. I would have done in the review but I didn’t want to spoil anything. That will not be the case here; in order to fully explain my problems I am going to have to fully explain them. So if you haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet you may want to give this article a pass. Otherwise his the jump and let’s get going.

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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek INto Darkness

So, time to talk about another of my most anticipated films. I am a life long Star Trek fan. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. When I was a kid I watched The Original Series. When it debuted on TV I watched Every episode of Next Generaion, Deep Space Nine and even Voyager despite all it’s problems. Enterprise, I am of the opinion, got cancelled just when it had gotten really good. I’ve seen every movie multiple times and, perhaps most relevant to what I am about to say, I really liked JJ Abrams 2009 reboot of the franchise.

Yes, it has problems. Hell, the whole plot falls apart if you pay more than a cursory amount of attention to the details, but it has that certain extra je ne said quo is that makes me forget all this as I watch it. Despite it’s ridiculousness it sucks me in and I enjoy it every time.

Naturally I was excited for a sequel and today we got one. So how is it? It’s… well it’s something.

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Why I’m Worried About Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Most nerds seem to grow up one of two ways: Star Wars fan or Star Trek fan. That’s not to say that a fan of one can’t be a fan of the other but if you ask people they will invariably identify one way or the other when it comes right down to it. Simon, for example, is a Star Wars fan. I am a Star Trek fan. A Trekkie, through and through.

So tomorrow, for me, is a big day: there’s a new Star Trek movie coming out. I haven’t seen it yet but I will be tomorrow at least once, and potentially twice because that’s how much of a nerd I am.

If you follow [my twitter][twit] at all you may have noticed though that while I’m excited about new Star Trek I’m also rather worried about it. People have asked me why so here are the answers.

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THERE IS A NEW STAR TREK TRAILER AND I AM VERY EXCITED

Star Trek INto Darkness

IS IT 17TH MAY YET?

All joking aside, this is looking good although perhaps a little predictable. Clearly looks like the bad guy gets the better of Kirk due to Kirks arrogance which ends disastrous consequences and then has to fight back from a place of defeat with perhaps these help of his friends and colleagues.

None of this is a bad thing necessarily, that could be an amazing movie. It is well worn material though so we’ll have to see.

Then again, they might be leading me to think that so that they can hit me with something totally different. Either way, seriously, is it 17th May yet????

Star Trek Into Darkness International Trailer is better … at everything…

Star Trek INto Darkness

The closer we get the more exictied I get about Star Trek. Dyed in the wool fan I am, but this trailer is also just fantastic. Sets up the bad guy as a legitimate threat better than past trailers have and shows a lot more action from the plot than a lot of previous efforts have.

It’ been hard keeping myself in the dark about this one but damn if I think it’s not going to be worth it. Tell me what you think after you;ve watched it.

Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser #2

Star Trek Into Darkness

Were you worried that the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness would be light on action? Then check this out:

First off, yes, I know I’m a few days late posting this. Second off, this looks like it’s going to continue in the same action packed vein as 2009s Star Trek, which I am looking forward to.

There’s an argument to be made that it’s not “real Star Trek” but you know what? 2009’s Star Trek was fun. End of story. Also, this one has Benedict Cumberbatch being a total bad ass and it looks like this one is the “Captain’s Character Development” episode.

If I have a worry it’s that –whether or not Cumberbatch is Khan or not– this one will basically be Wrath of Khan all over again. That can really work (see: First Contact) but it can also really not work when there’s no existing context (see: Nemesis).

Either way, I just have one more question:

IS IT 17TH MAY YET?

Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness Super Bowl Spot

Star Trek INto Darkness

Super Bowl spot for my own personal most anticipated film of the year.

First off, let me just say this: HOLY SHIT BALLS IS IT MAY YET?

Second off, let me say this: Seriously guys, is it May yet?

And third, Yes I am looking forward to this movie. I’m a dyed in the wool trekkie (Simon’s more interested in Star Wars news) and this looks like it might take everything they learned on 2009’s Star Trek (but couldn’t fix due to the writers strike) and ramp it up considerably. It’s teasing lots of action, and I cannot wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch as the bad guy. Some people think he’s Khan, some people think it’s gonna be Sybok, but I honestly don’t think I want to know. It’s been a bit of a tricky thing keeping myself in the dark in terms of plot details so far but I am going to do my best to keep it up as long as I can.

And a few notes:

  1. He’s “better at everything” eh? Lends more credence to the genetically engineered bad guy idea.
  2. “Our World Will Fall” eh? So is he after Kirk, or Spock, or the federation, or ?
  3. That appears to be the Enterprise crashing through an atmosphere. Holy moly there’s a lot of stuff going on here that’s playing up previous movies.

You may have noticed that this embed was in SD. See the HD version at Apple.com/trailers, it’s much prettier.

Seriously, is it may yet?

Update: I forgot to mention, if you have the Star Trek Into Darkness app on your phone or tablet you can unlock a slightly longer version of this spot by having the app listen to it. It’s not much longer (37 seconds vs. the 32 seconds here) but there are a few more shots. Grab it for iPhone/iPad/iPod here and for android here. And if you’re wondering if there’s any spoilery content, it does not appear as such.

Awesome: JJ Abrams still involved with Star Trek, Mission: Impossible

JJ Abrams

When it was announced that JJ Abrams had been signed to direct the new Star Wars there’s been on big question: does this mean he’s not doing any more Star Trek?

Gina McIntyre at the LA Times:

According to Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Abrams — who directed both 2009′s “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” — will still be involved in some capacity with a possible third “Trek” movie, at the minimum as a producer, if not also directing the film.

Moore also pointed out that Abrams will continue to play a role in another of the studio’s most valuable franchises, “Mission: Impossible.”

“J.J. will continue to develop projects for us including a new ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and he is committed to produce another ‘Star Trek,’” Moore said Friday afternoon.

I’m taking this as good news. I still have mixed feelings on the whole affair, no small part of which is that I’m not really sure that its right to have one guy at the helm of three major franchises (two of which are completely beloved).

That said, power to him. That much high profile work must be a good problem to have.

[source: LA Times Hero Complex]