Summer '09 Brings Must-See Blockbusters The highly-anticipated summer blockbuster film Star Trek earned a whopping $76.5 million dollars in its opening weekend at the box office. Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris talks about its big splash and spotlights other big productions slated for Summer 2009.
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Summer '09 Brings Must-See Blockbusters

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Summer '09 Brings Must-See Blockbusters

Summer '09 Brings Must-See Blockbusters

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And as we said, May is college graduation season but at theaters it is also the start of summer movies season. The latest Star Trek film ruled the box office this weekend, taking in more than $70 million, a record for the long-running franchise. But what other films will boldly go where no summer movies have gone before? Joining us to talk about films you might want to look for this summer is Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe. Welcome. Thank you for joining us again.

Mr. WESLEY MORRIS: Hello, how are you?

MARTIN: Well, I'm great. I did not get to the movies this weekend. It wasn't on my dance card. So you did see the big Star Trek film?

Mr. MORRIS: I did see it. I did see it.

MARTIN: How was it?

Mr. MORRIS: It's exciting. I'm not a Star Trek person. I don't - I didn't watch much of the show. I caught a few episodes, you know, here and there over the course of my life. But, you know, what's interesting? This movie kind of - it brings out how much the series is a part of just living in this country, just having had a television, or having had somebody who had a TV. You watch what these people were like on TV as their younger selves. It's kind of like muppet babies on Star Trek.

MARTIN: So, the prequel, kind of the prequel, it's the back story.

Mr. MORRIS: It's the back story, but I mean the movie takes a very interesting leap which is to sort of throw the whole - throw this new version through a wormhole that kind of allows J.J. Abrams, the director and writer of this new movie, to do whatever he wants because this movie is set in a universe that's parallel to the "Star Trek" that existed on TV in the 60s.

MARTIN: Oh okay.

Mr. MORRIS: It's a really brilliant - it's - it's kind of a brilliant idea.

MARTIN: All right, well let's play a short clip from the film. This takes a look back at the characters, as you said, from the '60s television series when they were young. In this scene that we are just going to hear, Captain Kirk meets ship Doctor 'Bones' McCoy for the first time on the shuttle flank. Here it is.

(Soundbite of movie, "Star Trek")

Mr. BRUCE GREENWOOD (Actor): (As Captain Christopher Pike): This is Captain Pike. We've been cleared for take off.

Mr. KARL URBAN (Actor): (As Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy): I may throw up on you.

Mr. CHRIS PINE (Actor): (As Captain James Kirk): I think these things are pretty safe.

Mr. KARL URBAN (Actor): (As Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy): Don't pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in 13 seconds. A solar flare might crop up and cook us in our seats. And wait till you're sitting pretty with a case of Andorian Shingles. See if you're still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger, wrapped in darkness and silence.

MARTIN: Oh cheery.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: That's fun?

Mr. MORRIS: It's fun. You know, it's funny watching these actors. The two characters - two actors in that scene were Chris Pine who plays Captain Kirk and Karl Urban who plays "Bones" McCoy. And what you sort of realize in an interesting way is how much the series - the characters became types but sort of as defined by the actors who played them and as by what the show put the -in the subsequent movies put the characters through.

So what could have been a very campy, almost Mel Brooksian exercise in, you know, farcical space travel actually becomes a really interesting re-appropriation of how these characters relate to each other as members of this crew and as people. The one thing that I didn't really love about the movie is that I was hoping it would have more for the other non-Spock, non-Kirk characters to do. So you've got, you know, Scotty and Uhura and Bones. I mean, they have things to do, but they're more functional. They're not as developed as characters as Kirk.

MARTIN: They're still more a part of the scenery, as they were during the series.

Mr. MORRIS: Yeah.

MARTIN: One other thing I wanted to ask you. There have been 10 - previous Star Trek movies, and they've been criticized on the whole for being watchable but for being great for the hard-core fans but not having much to offer people who are non-Trekkies, people who, like you, don't - aren't really fans of the series or the whole - it's a whole exercise. So is this film watchable for folks who are not that interested in Star Trek?

Mr. MORRIS: Oh yeah, I think so very much. And you know, some of those - some of the original Star Trek movies had - like "Wrath of Khan" is sort of, I think, held up as the best of all of those films. There was still a making in that movie, there was Ricardo Montalban giving this amazingly over-the-top performance that, you know, sort of brought something out of William Shatner in that series, or in that movie. And I think that there's filmmaking in this new "Star Trek."

J.J. Abrams, who's also done "Lost and "Alias," is - and he did a "Mission Impossible" movie, too - he's smart, and he also has a visual wit and some style that sort of carry along what could have been a very sort of pro-forma summer movie exercise.

If you look at something like "Wolverine," for instance, where there's not a lot of filmmaking craft, everything, every shot in the movie has been taken from a kit on how to make a big, loud summer movie.

I feel like "Star Trek," there's some - there's a real sense of craftsmanship. There's a real sense of care, both for how to make a movie and how to tell a story and also for the characters. I mean, he gets Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, who play Spock and Kirk, or Kirk and Spock, are really good in this movie. It's not campy at all. It's a real movie.

MARTIN: All right. Let's move on to some of the other films coming down the pike. That's what we promised. If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're talking about summer movies with Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe. More blockbusters coming down the pike. There are the latest movies in the "Transformer" and "Terminator" franchises. Now I understand you're not that exciting about either of these.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MORRIS: Who told you that?

MARTIN: We need to know.

Mr. MORRIS: No, I mean, it's one of those things where I don't know why we need another Terminator movie, but especially one that James Cameron didn't actually make. James Cameron made the first two, and the director of this fourth one is McG, who also made "Charlie's Angels," and I think he's a smart guy. He knows how to make a fun movie, but it'll be interesting to see where the John Conner story winds up.

I mean, I'm not that excited to see the end of the world happen yet again, but maybe - I hope to be surprised in some way. I mean, there are more movies that I'm more interested in seeing than another "Terminator," I guess.

MARTIN: And here's on, and I'll just warn our parents, who may be listening. They're little ears, and the title is one that you might not be thrilled with.

Mr. MORRIS: It's not spelled the same way, if that helps.

MARTIN: It's true. "Inglourious Basterds" is a World War II film, the latest from director Quentin Tarantino. It stars Brad Pitt. We have a clip from the trailer, and here it is.

(Soundbite of film trailer)

Mr. BRAD PITT (Actor): (As Lieutenant Aldo Raine) My name is Lieutenant Aldo Raine, and I need me eight soldiers. We're going to be dropped into France dressed as civilians. We're going to be doing one thing and one thing only - killing Nazis.

Unidentified People (Actors): (As characters) Yes, sir.

MARTIN: That's Brad Pitt, of course, in "Inglourious Basterds." What are you looking forward to in this movie? You are looking forward to this one?

Mr. MORRIS: I believe I am. And you know, a film critic saying he's looking to a Quentin Tarantino movie kind of risks a certain inevitability, but I have to say this movie is coming out at the end of summer, it's going to be at Cannes, the film festival in France, in about a week. And it's going to be really interesting to see how this director, who is really interested not so much - in this case, it's a World War II movie, but it's not about World War II as far as I can predict.

I mean, it looks like it's a movie about World War II movies, and he's just a very witty person, and I think at this point, you know, last Christmas, or at the end of the year last year, we had about four movies related in some way to World War II and the Holocaust. Tom Cruise was killing Nazis. You know, "The Reader" was about sleeping with a Nazi. "Defiance" was about the Jews who fought the Nazis and won. So it'll be interesting to see how this movie sort of not so much corrects that but what it adds to that conversation where, you know, the other three movies, I don't think were very good. And this one is going to try to do something fun, I think, with not so much the war but the conventions of movies about war.

MARTIN: Well, speaking of conventions, one of the knocks against summer films is they're really not films anymore. They're kind of - they're actually video games that you see in the theater, that they're all for young men.

Mr. MORRIS: That's true.

MARTIN: And I wanted to ask - women and grownups really need to wait for fall before it's safe to go back to the theater. Is that fair, or is that just something that the haters say?

Mr. MORRIS: That is absolutely fair. I mean, call me a hater because, you know, I think that one of the interesting things about the way these institutions got set up, and you know, this happened - it began to happen around 1975, where "Jaws" sort of - in '77 when "Jaws" and "Star Wars" came out respectively. The seasons began to be defined by things like importance in quality and frivolity. And so what began to happen and really solidified during the 1990s was this idea that the summer movie-going season was when you just put all your expensive eggs in a four-month basket, and that's when there doesn't have to be any sort of mind behind the filmmaking or mind behind the storytelling. You just have to get everything on a Happy Meal box or the side of a Burger King 16-ounce drink container, and people will just go.

So that means that mostly women and people who aren't 14 years old, they sort of feel alienated. And I think every summer, there's a sleeper that comes out of nowhere or that manages to grab people into the megaplex that wouldn't ordinarily go. I think last season…

MARTIN: Okay well quickly, what's the sleeper this summer, possibly? I know I'm putting you on the spot. I'm sorry, but…

Mr. MORRIS: Well, I mean, I hate to lean on Meryl Streep for the third or fourth summer in a row, but I mean, she miraculously - like, I think she's around 60 or a little beyond it. She is a bona fide movie star, more than she was when she was the greatest actress on earth. And I think - there's a movie coming out this August with her playing Julia Child called "Julia & Julia," where Amy Adams and she basically correspond with each other.

Amy Adams is cooking Julia Child's recipes, and it's directed by Nora Ephron. I mean, you know, I don't know what's going to happen, but I think it's a real - it's about the only thing that adults can really do.

MARTIN: That can stomach, as it were.

Mr. MORRIS: And respect themselves in the parking lot.

MARTIN: All right, we'll look for it. Wesley Morris is a film critic for the Boston Globe. He joined us from member-station WGBH in Boston. Hey, thanks. Live long and prosper.

Mr. MORRIS: Oh God bless you. Thank you very much.

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