Friday, July 22, 2016


Opening this weekend:

Star Trek: BeyondThis movie felt sort of like Star Trek, and sort of like Star Trek is about as much, I suspect, as I’m ever likely to get from this “rebooted” series. But like the first and second entries—maybe more so—it’s entirely entertaining on its own terms, a lively, action-packed space opera of no particular depth but with a warm, rousing, all-for-one-and-one-for-all spirit.

While on a rescue mission, the Enterprise is invaded by the minions of a scary ogre called Krall (Idris Elba). The ship is torn apart and the crew members are captured or marooned in small groups on a nearby planet. Gradually they regroup and their diverse skills come into play in overcoming their enemies. So do Public Enemy and Beastie Boys.

Chris Pine continues to make a respectable, somehow irked Kirk, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban share a droll interplay as Spock and McCoy, Zoe Saldana brings her usual touch of melancholy to Uhura, John Cho is a stalwart Sulu, and the late Anton Yelchin gives touchingly guileless line readings as Chekhov.

Luckiest here, maybe (and perhaps not surprisingly, since he co-scripted) is Simon Pegg as Scotty. The engineer falls in with a seriously elegant alien warrior, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who provides the gang with their means of escape. She could make an excellent addition to the standard cast of characters.

Absolutely Fabulous: The MovieIf memory serves, I’ve never seen even one episode of Absolutely Fabulous (or AbFab) the beloved, oft-revived 1992 BBC comedy by Jennifer Saunders, though I was aware of its popularity in the UK and its devoted cult in the States. So I suppose that seeing this movie version was, for me, something like seeing Return to Mayberry (1986) for a person who’d never seen an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.

That is, I can’t say if this film comes close to capturing the flavor of the series, if the characters come across like they’re supposed to, if the timing feels right. And no doubt there are gags and references that were lost on me, because of my unfamiliarity both with the show and with the London fashion/showbiz milieu in which it’s set.

But, for whatever it may worth, I can tell you that on its own terms, I found AbFab: The Movie an inconsequential but perfectly pleasant way to squander an hour and a half, and that it made me chuckle out loud several times. Like the show, it follows the adventures of selfish, cadging, drug-and-booze addled PR agent Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and her party girl pal Patsy (Joanna Lumley), trying to cope with a lack of clients, money and career options, as well as the horrified awareness that they’re aging.

The plot involves Edina learning that Kate Moss (well played by Kate Moss; the film teems with celebrities playing themselves) is looking for new PR representation. In an overeager attempt to get her attention at a party, she seemingly causes the supermodel’s death, and instantly becomes a hunted national pariah.

Somehow she and Patsy end up in the south of France, and Patsy ends up in drag as a man, trying to obtain an inheritance for the two of them to live on. Edina’s daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha), granddaughter Lola (Ideyarna Donaldson-Holness) and bizarre assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks), among many other characters from the old show, get caught up in the antics as well.

Saunders, who also wrote the script, carries the picture energetically. But she’s ably supported by Lumley, who was my favorite person in the film—always on hand to provide an unexpected growl or snarl when the situation seems to require it. She’s particularly poised and commanding as a man; she could teach the current crop of male movie leads a thing or two, and she earns the twist on Some Like it Hot with which the picture ends.

Ice Age: Collision CourseThe saber-toothed squirrel Scrat, engaged as always in trying to secure his beloved, elusive acorn, stumbles into a flying saucer frozen in the ice and launches it into space. He quickly, and hilariously, becomes the cause of such astronomical phenomena as the red spot on Jupiter, Saturn’s rings and the asteroid belt. All this is before the opening title.

He also sets a meteor on a collision course with earth, and the series regulars—Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), his wife Ellie (Queen Latifah), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), eye-patched weasel Buck (Simon Pegg, competing with himself this weekend in Star Trek: Beyond), etc—must band together to find some way to avert this apocalypse. In short, this fifth feature installment of the animated series, set earlier in the Quaternary Period, is the most fanciful yet.

That’s not all bad. With his anguished wails against his existential plight, Scrat is a great cartoon character in the Wile E. Coyote tradition, and his episodes here are so speedy and inventive that at times I found myself wishing they were the whole movie. But they aren’t, and the dysfunction-in-the-mammoth-family drama is a drag on the picture.

There is, however, an episode in which Simon Pegg’s Buck gets to sing his own version of Rossini’s “Largo al factotum” while rescuing an egg that’s rather good. One of Buck’s enemies refers to him at one point, by the way, as a “one-eyed weasel,” a phrase that had a non-literal and R-rated meaning when I was in high school. Was this deliberate, I wonder, or sheer chance?

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