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Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, The Hangover Part III

Watch the trailers for these movies on Artvoice TV:

Star Trek Into Darkness (pictured top), Fast & Furious 6 (pictured middle), The Hangover Part III (pictured bottom).

Same as it ever was

Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, The Hangover Part III

You gotta love Randy Newman. Who else would take the occasion of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to perform a song making fun of recording artists who keep performing well past their sell-by dates? Sample lyric from “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It”: “I have a family to support/But surely, that is no excuse/I’ve nothing further to report/Time you spend with me/Is time you lose.”

Coming as it did at the opening of this year’s R&RHoF induction ceremony, broadcast this past weekend on HBO, he made it awfully hard to take the rest of the show seriously, even if you were inclined to do so in the first place.

You’ll never catch anyone doing that in Hollywood. So far from criticizing producers for making the same movies over and over again. The business has come to expect it, making most of their profits from summertime sequels and reboots.

Or, in the case of Star Trek Into Darkness, both. Ostensibly it’s a sequel to ubernerd J. J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot of the original TV series, which goes back to the early days of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the whole international gang that populated the USS Enterprise in the late 1960s. But it’s actually a pixilated remake of the second and third Star Trek movies, with things switched around just enough so that the writers of those can’t sue. (Just for the hell of it there’s a nod to Star Trek IV as well). I was the only person in the theater at the screening I attended, but I’m sure the rafter rocks with the knowing laughter of longtime fans at the appearance of a Tribble, or Dr. McCoy blustering, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician,” to name two of the most obvious instances.

Homage is one thing, but such wholescale pilfering is the eventual downfall of a movie that has been made with both technical skill and affection for its characters. When a major character dies near the end of the film, audiences may enjoy the way the story turns the incident on its ear from its original telling. But unlike its predecessor, it has none of the emotional impact it seeks because we know how it’s going to be resolved.

You can’t take the occasional stabs at emotional impact in Fast and Furious 6 any more seriously, though in that case it’s hard to believe they ever really mean it seriously. It’s the latest in a shapeless series of movies built around unlikely action heroes who drive cars. George Lucas may claim that he had a nine-episode epic mapped out before he directed the first Star Wars, but anyone involved with 2001’s The Fast and the Furious would have laughed in your face had you tried to tell them it would engender five sequels in the coming decade.

(If you ask me, the most interesting thing about the series is the effort they put into changing the title every time: 2 Fast 2 Furious; The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift; Fast and Furious; Fast Five. The onscreen title for this one is simply Furious 6. Take that, all you pointy-headed consistency craving copy editors of the world!)

The series seem to have built up some throughlines over recent episodes, but it doesn’t much matter. You may not get all of what’s going on here as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, et alia do battle against international terrorist who want to do…uh, something international and terrible. But like arguments about Diesel’s acting skills, it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other. You either like watching cars spinning through the air and doing somersaults down the road, or you’re going to stay home and see what’s on TV.

As for The Hangover Part III, it involves no hangovers, at least not of the literal kind, and features much less bad taste than its predecessors. I found it a lot easier to take for that reason, but as bad taste seems to be what audiences responded to in I and II, that may not be good news for the box office. If that’s what you’re looking for, be sure to stick around through the end credits, which contain the film’s only genuine belly laugh.

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