Sunday, May 31, 2009

Two films

Something old, something new. We'll start with the latter.

Ventured into a mass of humanity at Regal's Pinnacle Theater at Turkey Creek last night. Big crowd. Bright lights.

I went to see "Star Trek," the new take on the old franchise, a film I have been reluctant to screen. I didn't care much for any of the later incarnations of Gene Roddenberry's space opera, but I loved the original. For William Shatner, of course, and Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley, and the ties between their respective characters. I liked its vision for the future and, yes, its Cold War undertones.

Thus my initially tepid response to this film. I get tired of remakes. Makes me wonder if anybody has an original idea anymore or whether Hollywood is just too cheap to pay writers. And, also, I heard about this film's revisionism. My friend Dewayne Lawson's first words were, "It changes everything."

Well, it does, and I'll leave the particulars to the wind, in case you go see it. But, I liked it. Its take on the origin of how the crew of the Enterprise assemble and evolve is imaginative. It is exciting, face-paced, true enough to "Trek" to satisfy the old guard, avant-garde enough to bring in the kids. And, it was good to see old friend Nimoy again. And, Bruce Greenwood plays one cool Captain Pike.

About halfway through the movie, I remembered why I loved the old show, and also why I didn't much care for its successors. To me, the best thing about "Star Trek" is its interplay between James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Theirs is a troika that feels real, a friendship that isn't fake, a bond that can't be broken.

It was good to see them again, even if played by younger and unfamiliar actors, and fly at warp speed together for a couple of hours. If this is the benchmark by which future films would be judged, here's hoping a new "Star Trek" franchise lives long and prospers, indeed.

OK, now to something old.

A few weeks ago, I watched "To Kill a Mockingbird," the 1962 classic based on the brilliant Harper Lee novel. I've waxed poetically about the film before, so I mention it now only to say that I was struck again by its excellent screenplay, written by Horton Foote. (I've often said it's the only movie that might be better than the book.)

So I did a little digging and found a few other movies with which Foote was involved. One, "Tender Mercies," stood out, because it stars a favorite actor -- Robert Duvall.

Its title sounds like a chick flick, but "Tender Mercies" is basically a cowboy picture about an alcoholic, washed up country singer named Mac (Duvall) who wakes up one morning at a tiny gas station/motel in a small Texas town. It is owned and operated by a woman named Rosa Lee (Tess Harper) whose husband was killed in Vietnam. She has a little boy named Sonny. She's a little lonely.

Mac sobers up, marries Rosa Lee, forms a bond with Sonny. And he tries to reconnect with his daughter Sue Anne (Ellen Barkin). But, she's heavily guarded by Mac's ex-wife, country superstar Dixie Scott (Betty Buckley). I won't give away too much, but let's just say that Mac starts singing again, puts his life back together, and loses one treasure just as he finds another.

I like Texas stories. Always have. Larry McMurtry. "The Last Picture Show." LBJ.

(I'm currently reading "The Lone Star," a book about former Texas governor John Connally. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he's the other guy who was shot in the limo when JFK was killed in Dallas.)

There's just something about the flat, desolate Lone Star landscape strikes a chord. Plus, Duvall did his own singing. Which wasn't bad.

There you have it. Two films. One from 1982, the other from last week.

Both are good. Be sure and see them.

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