Tag: Seinfeld

MOVIE REVIEW | Clear History (2013)

In the 90s, Larry David helped redefine the sitcom from behind the scenes when he co-created Seinfeld.  In the new millennium, he did it again, this time much more visibly, playing a fictionalised version of himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm.  At the height of Seinfeld’s success, he thought he’d give movies a go by writing and directing the immediately forgotten Sour Grapes.  Then news came after Curb’s eighth season that there were no immediate plans for a ninth, because David was once again off to have a crack at the movies.  And it looks like the result has been pretty similar to his first go round.  And that’s a shame, because like Sour Grapes, his latest effort, Clear History, deserves more attention than it seems to have received.

Ten years ago, David’s character, Nathan, was working with a fledgling electric car manufacturer, run by John Hamm’s Will Haney.  After a miniscule difference of opinion gets blown way out of prepetition (this is a Larry David story, after all), he cashes in his shares and leaves the company.  Almost immediately, the electric car he’s been helping develop, the ‘Harold’, becomes a huge success and Nathan has literally lost a billion dollars by walking away when he did.

A decade later, he has escaped the humiliation of his billion dollar mistake by moving to the island of Marha’s Vineyard and going by the name Rolly.  He’s built a modest but happy life that is turned upside down when the now multi billionaire Will Haney moves to the island to start building his dream mansion.  Again, because this is a Larry David story, easily fixed misunderstandings run rampant, totally unnecessary lies, cover ups and deceptions go down, people act in ways no one ever would in real life in a million years, and almost all of it is pretty hilarious.

For a movie you’ve probably never heard of, Larry David was able to pull together an amazing cast.  Besides Jon Hamm, there’s Danny McBride, Amy Ryan, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes, Phillip Baker Hall and an almost unrecognisable Michael Keaton, who absolutely steals every single scene he’s in.

Going back to the Seinfeld days, and only amplified on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David loves coincidence.  The amount of tiny little, coincidental meetings, overheard comments, character quirks and contrivances that need to occur within your average Larry David story should make it impossible to suspend any disbelief.  But somehow, in the hands of Larry David, they work.

There’s an odd side story about Rolly’s ex girlfriend and the band Chicago that never really leads anywhere or has anything to do with the main story, but it’s funny enough to more than justify its existence.  Plus, his ex is played by Amy Ryan who is always amazing, so if nothing else, she makes that subplot worth it.

Basically Clear History is an extended episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, only Larry has a different name and set of friends.  And if I can’t have ten episodes of Curb every year, something like Clear History is a pretty good substitute.

Clear History
Directed By – Greg Mottola
Written By – Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)

“It was a hell of a thing when Spock died”.  Spoiler?  I don’t think so, that’s a quote from an episode of Seinfeld and it’s stuck with me ever since I saw the episode in the 90s.  Over almost a decade and 180 episodes, it’s possibly the only time when any of the core foursome on that show about nothing ever showed any real compassion.   The death of Spock and Capt. Kirk’s iconic “Kaaaaaahhhhhn!” bellow have become pop culture common knowledge and amount to everything I knew before watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

The sequel is a huge leap forward from its predecessor in story and production values.  It’s not quite as easy to guess the religion of the male crew members as the spandex body suits have been replaced by uniforms that look almost credibly militaristic.  And this time around, the writers decided to have an antagonist with an actual history, and, even more surprisingly, personality and motivation.  You see, Kahn is a character from an episode of the original series, a roided up super solider left on a desolate planet by Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise fifteen years earlier.  This history adds an unexpected level of depth than what I thought any Star Trek movie would ever offer.  A hero like Kirk is usually built on action and immediate payoff.  To see the consequences of his actions decades later is a really interesting way to make him a little more complex than I assumed.

Kahn is also more successful in giving the supporting characters a little more to do.  The core trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are obviously the focus, but as someone with no previous history with the TV series, it was good to see Chekov get to play a pretty major role moving the plot forward.  Even a small moment, like Scotty tell Kirk that Spock is, “dead already” is a nice piece of genuine emotion from a character usually delegated to pure comic relief.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture seems to be a conservative toe in the water, to see if the diehard fans of the original series would lead to cinematic success.  After it did just that, Kahn shows a definite increase in confidence.  Kahn’s final action, activating the Genesis Device he’s been pursuing all movie is the direct instigation of Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock.  The Wrath of Kahn also introduces Kirk’s adult son, David.  These all combine to make it very obvious that a third film was promisingly inevitable.

Overall, I can see why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn has taken its place as the quintessential and essential entry in the Trek series.  Ricardo Montalban as Kahn is the perfect hammy foil to Shatner’s James T Kirk and the sacrifice of Spock to save the day packs a legitimate punch.  I guess it all comes full circle, it really was a hell of thing when Spock died.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
Directed By – Nicholas Meyer
Written By – Jack B Sowards, Nicholas Meyer