Ben Wheatley brought us both KILL LIST and SIGHTSEERS, so perhaps it is reasonable that expectations are high for his next film – A FIELD IN ENGLAND.
The trailer has just been launched. What do you think?
OR a review of the new Star Trek film in which there are MANY SPOILERS and lots of other Star Trek thoughts…
I’m guilty. I got too excited.
You see, I have always been a ‘Trekkie’ (see note 1). I grew up watching Kirk and Spock on VHS, I remember watching, initially disliking and learning to love The Next Generation. I still hold Deep Space Nine in high regard (see note 2). When I was made cinema manager, I was very, very tempted to walk around slowly while listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘The Enterprise’.
The point I’m making is that I know Star Trek. I adore Star Trek. I love it when it’s great (often), and I love it when it’s bad (Spock’s Brain, raise your hand… hehe). Over the last few weeks I have allowed my love of all things Trek to grow into a little ball of intense energy, and then last week I allowed it to escape. We had a screening of THE WRATH OF KHAN (see note 3), I got very enthusiastic with the social media posts, and I had a feature about Star Trek: Phase II published in Starburst Magazine, which I used to read about Star Trek in as a child. I even arranged for (cheap & fake) Starfleet uniforms for the staff, and made them listen to Shatner’s albums. Whew!
And then I sat down to watch this…
Let us begin, much like the film does, with the music. Michel Giacchino’s score for 2009’s STAR TREK is excellent, with enough nods to the past that it merge’s with the works of those great composers gone before, and also manages to sound fresh and exciting. There are a number of new themes thrown in this time, including some piano work, and I think it is fantastic. So, the film opens with the heroic, but slightly wistful notes of this great score before we are quickly into action. Running. Natives. Red trees. Some exciting nonsense and then… the Enterprise rising from the ocean. There is not a single moment in the remainder of the film which even approaches the greatness of this.
And then we get in to the nitty gritty. Terrorism against Starfleet by Cumberbatch’s mysterious enemy pushes the local officers into a frenzy of anger and vengeance. Kirk, being Kirk, figures out a little more than anyone else, so he and the Enterprise are sent on an assassination mission by Admiral Marcus. They must use some new, fancy and ultra secret photon torpedoes to take-out the terrorist, who just happens to be hiding on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos (see note 4).
There is some good old fashioned Star Trek moral angst, and Kirk decides to capture this terrorist instead of killing him in cold blood. Action follows. It’s exciting. I really appreciate the larger role that Uhura plays in this new film series. I think that it’s in keeping with what Gene Roddenberry would have liked.
Upon capturing him, it turns out that, much like the rumours suggested, Cumberbatch is indeed playing Khan, and he claims that he is being manipulated by Admiral Marcus, who wants to militarise Starfleet. Oh lordy. Khan. This changes the film somewhat. I really wish they hadn’t done that.
So, let’s swing around the sun and go back in time a week to the screening of WRATH OF KHAN I attended. Or maybe a few decades, to its first release. This film, you see, is iconic. Khan and his feud with Kirk is iconic. I know the film very, very well. And suddenly this new Star Trek is being directly compared to old Star Trek in my mind, and I’m sorry, but new Trek just isn’t going to win.
So, some more action happens to get our heroes onto Admiral Marcus’ big battleship (see note 5). The film then dispenses with the Admiral, and places Khan in his throne as the main villain. The brief period of ‘who can I trust’ is certainly interesting, but ultimately the answer is ‘no one’, so… back to the action. What I found myself wanting here was for Khan and Kirk to become allies, even friends. It would have been an interesting flip of the relationship coin, and a huge ‘what if’ which could change everything in future installments of Star Trek. After all, what’s the point of simply remaking the same damn thing?
What then follows is essentially a replaying of WRATH OF KHAN, but with the pieces moved around. Same dialogue. Same shots. Same everything, except much, much less emotion. In WRATH OF KHAN, the Kirk/Spock dynamic had years of building, and we had been a part of it. With INTO DARKNESS, we’re simply told that they’re friends, and it’s just not the same. It was too early to tell this tale with these actors – the bromance has yet to flourish.
I won’t lie, I did enjoy seeing the classic film mirrored, in quite a ‘geek’ way. But I also found it very distracting. What is interesting is the reaction of people who haven’t seen WRATH OF KHAN – it seems almost universally positive. Perhaps in this instance, pandering to the fans may have worked against the film?
The action scenes are all exciting, fast-paced and perfect ‘popcorn’ fun. I find that there isn’t a strong sense of location to any of it… and I also felt that any real threat or suspense had already gone by the second half of the film. You see, Khan’s blood apparently has some amazing ‘cure all’ possibilities, so we know that anyone who has to make a sacrifice will be magically brought back.
Gosh, this sounds like a very negative review. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film. I recommend going to see it, and I will be going to see it again.
The actors are all great, with Quinto and Cumberbatch really standing out. Sulu and Chekov get some great moments. Simon Pegg is fantastic as Scotty. I feel like McCoy needs some more time on screen. I like the new take on the Klingons. They feel dangerous, unpredictable and suitably alien. The effects are great throughout, and the action is exciting. Overall a very entertaining film.
If anything, I allowed my love of Star Trek to lead me astray. When I see it again, I will endeavour to leave all of my history at the door.
1) a term I prefer over ‘Trekker’. Although frankly I don’t much care. The realm of fandom deserves a post – possibly even a book – all to itself.
2) especially Jadzia Dax. Oh lord.
3) which my girlfriend slept through.
4) or Qo’noS, if you’re that way inclined.
5) Is it just me, or does it look like it’s been made from lego pieces?
With the imminent release of Star Trek Into Darkness, which has my excitement levels high enough to melt dilithium crystals, as well as the Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse screening of Wrath of Khan just around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to revisit my old friends, the Star Trek movies, and to put them in some kind of order.
Generally it is assumed that the even numbered films are the best, but I have never held to this. Growing up with Star Trek, each film (and series, even some episodes) is particularly important to me. I’ll listen to the music from them to evoke certain moods, quote them and generally just enjoy their existence.
The most difficult one to include is JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, as it is so different from the others. I enjoyed it a great deal, certainly, but is it the Star Trek that I know and love? I really can’t decide.
Anyhow, here are my top five Star Trek films.
Wrath of Khan
An easy number one. With spectacular special effects, exciting action sequences and enough drama dripping from Shatner’s brow to dissolve lesser films. Spectacular music from James Horner (which he has never bested), grand themes and a superb performance from Montalban as the vengeance-fueled Khan set this as not only the best Star Trek film, but possibly the best science-fiction films and an excellent adventure.
Just watch it, ok?
The Undiscovered Country
The first Star Trek film I saw in the cinema! This is much darker in tone than its predecessors, and has some heavy political overtones, with the Federation and Klingons dancing around the idea of peace and friendship. Classic themes, and excellent action make it a very satisfying film. The dark, gothic score from Cliff Eidelman is also superb, and so different from any other Star Trek film. As with ‘Khan’, the space-ships feel big, they feel like battleships or submarines, and that gives the action some scale. General Chang (Christopher Plummer) is another excellent foil for Kirk, and spends much of the film quoting Shakespeare.
Plus, any film that starts with an exploding moon must be good.
The first film with the cast of The Next Generation is also their only one in my top five! As with the previous choices, the making of this film is in the enemy – the Borg – and in making this fight the grand theme. This time there is something of Moby Dick, with Patrick Stewart on absolute top form as Picard.
Top notch effects, great action and a wonderful score from Gerry Goldsmith make this a film that anyone can enjoy – not just Star Trek fans.
The Motion Picture
I don’t expect many others would include this in their top five lists. Possibly not even in their top ten! It is slow, and ponderous and light on action. However, I like it for all of those reasons. It is a big film, with big ideas. I love the long flight around the new Enterprise, with the wonderful theme playing. I love the weirdness of V’ger as a villain. I hate the uniforms.
Star Trek (JJ Abrams)
An exciting summer blockbuster, this earns its place by managing to relaunch a film series that I love, and to bring new people in to see Star Trek. Although lighter than the previous films, some of the tone of the very first Star Trek series has been captured, and this is good. I’m still not sure I can completely come to terms with a different cast, and various other changes. I certainly am not a fan of the new Enterprise (Geeky, I know, but hey – it’s my blog, after all!).
I am excited to see where the franchise will go now.
THE LOOK OF LOVE… sexy? Sleazy? Funny? Serious? This film tries to be everything and does none of it well. Based on the life of entrepreneur Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) a man who rose to success from humble Liverpudlian roots to become the richest man on Soho’s streets by discovering just how much sex really does sell.
Coogan is irritatingly sober and only gives hints of the quirky humor that we have come to expect from the the chameleon 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE and Alan Partridge actor. We can enjoy little bites of genius Coogan comedy but it is not enough to satisfy the appetite of a fan. His portrayal of the man who is adored by many but liked by few and who selfishly controls the lives of his friends, wives and children through neglect, sex and drugs is on the whole a convincing one, but it is not enough to bring life to the plot.
The quantity of naked flesh in this film mirrors the themes of Paul’s life itself by questioning how much is too much, and when does art become pornography? The line is blurred in both senses and the quantity with which it is delivered to the screen takes away all of the gloss, glamour and excitmente of the erotic world and leaves you bored and entirely un-sympathetic to the characters.
The supporting cast do little to carry the movie long, however there is an intriguing and surprising performance by comedian Chris Addison as one of Paul’s employes, he is natural and funny and stars effortlessly against bigger names. Imogen Poots is another name to mention, she plays Paul’s spoilt daughter, desperate for the adoration of success but with none of the physical or intellectual assets, her character is hard to like and her singing much much worse.
No amount of celebrity cameos (of which there are many) can save this film from its bargain bin destiny. Michael Winterbottom disappoints the audience by turning an otherwise interesting story into a long and anticlimactic orgy of lifeless acting and plastic boobs.
Written by Katy Brooks
I’m So Excited is the new film from Pedro Almodovar, who most recently brought us The Skin I Live In, which was a very dark, stylish thriller. His new film is very much the opposite; awash with bright colours, latin temperaments and full of comedy, music and sex.
A plane is en-route and in the air when the pilots discover a problem which means that landing will be extremely dangerous. The crew respond in a variety of ways, mainly getting drunk, and then performing a full dance routine to the song ‘I’m So Excited’ to cheer the passengers up. They decide that the best course of action will be to give their passengers a cocktail which includes mescaline. It’s not long before various people have coupled off and become a little more amorous.
Behind the fizz, fervour and frivolity is a dark edge, though, with death also being an important presence throughout the film.
Each of the passengers has an outrageous backstory which we are given the chance to explore. The performances are appropriately dramatic, and the cast perfectly put together. Almodovar certainly has a touch for casting!
Some of the jokes are a little blunt, and there is certainly a heavy reliance on gay stereotypes – although in the almost cartoonish world of the film, this works rather well.
Short, sweet and fun. I’m So Excited is a film that will cheer you up, and add some colour to your life.
I have enjoyed both Iron Man films, even though the second had its problems. Indeed, I’ve enjoyed all of the Marvel films so far, and Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for us in the UK) was one of the best films of 2012, and really can’t be topped as a summer blockbuster.
Iron Man 3 had the difficult task of bringing us back down after the heady highlight of Avengers, and it achieves this by bringing down our hero, Tony Stark. Having fought with gods and wormholes, he is struggling to make sense of everything, and is even suffering from anxiety attacks.
This time the threat is coming from a new terrorist, the Mandarin, who is played wonderfully by Sir Ben Kingsley. A perfect choice of foe, the Mandarin can represent many real-world problems, and serves excellently to bring the Marvel films back to Earth. Kingsley is very good in the role, with a performance that will stay with you for a while.
We also have Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, leader of a ‘think tank’ with a grudge against Tony Stark. He doesn’t get a great deal of screen time, but is suitable creepy when needed.
The real strength of the Iron Man films has never been with the suit of armour, but with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and in this more than any other, he gets centre stage. This time, however, not as a platform to be a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, but as someone suffering and trying to find his place in a world that has changed around him.
Having said that, the film is full of humour – in characters and situations. I laughed more during this, than for most comedies. Iron Man 3 doesn’t forget its comic book origins, or play it too straight.
The action scenes are exciting and innovative – due in part to the new suit, which has the ability to fly around in separate pieces. There are also action sequences which Stark has to survive without the suit. These are fun, and important in terms of the film’s themes, although ultimately I wanted to see more of the suit!
I highly recommend Iron Man 3. If the rest of the blockbusters are this good, then we are set for an excellent year…
Terracotta Festival, in association with Cathay Pacific, present an exciting competition to win a trip to the vibrant city of Hong Kong.
Terracotta are partnering with Cathay Pacific to celebrate the launch of their 5th daily London Heathrow to Hong Kong flight. Accommodation is provided by the five star Design Hotels ™ member, The Mira Hong Kong.
To enter the competition, make and submit a short film on the theme: “Asia In London”. The film must last no more than 3 minutes in length.
Submissions are open from Tuesday 23 April and close at 12 noon 20 May.
A panel of judges including guest directors and actors attending Terracotta Festival 2013 will select the winning entry, and the winner notified by 30 May.
The winning entry will enjoy an Official World Premiere screening at Terracotta Festival and a prize presentation ceremony.
The prize consists of:
• 2 Cathay Pacific Economy class return flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong
• 3 nights stay at a Design Hotel The Mira Hong Kong including daily breakfast for two
• Winning entry to have an Official World Premiere screening at Terracotta Festival 2013
The competition is open to all UK residents aged 18 or over. Full terms and conditions apply.
Following our refurbishment work, the Stratford Upon Avon Picturehouse is launching a new strand – Friday Late shows. A bit of an experiment, as we don’t have a history of cult late films, I really hope that these shows work. There will be some give-aways and fancy dress fun to go with them!
Here are our planned events. Click on the title for the booking link, or the Facebook tab to join our event page:
The cinema re-opens with shows of The Place Beyond The Pines, so the obvious first choice of a late show would be a Ryan Gosling film. I won’t lie, I didn’t really enjoy Drive. However, I know that I’m in the minority with this opinion, and that many, many people love the film. We’re having some twitter-fun in the lead up to this screening, so keep an eye on #GoslingonAvon on Twitter.
Culture Shock: ABC’S OF DEATH 26.04.13
I’m really excited to see this one. It’s an anthology of 26 films from 26 horror directors, taking us through an alphabet of death. I’ve no doubt that some of the films are likely to be pretty awful, but then I also expect some of them to be truly amazing. I’ve been gradually running through the ABC’s on the Culture Shock Facebook page.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN 03.05.13
This would be the late show I’m most excited about playing! I’m quite the Star Trek fan, and yet I’ve never seen this film on the big screen! Everything about this film screams out to be watched in a cinema – the score, the effects, the acting… I really cannot wait.
This is one of the classic Trek films that stands out, and can be watched – and enjoyed – by anyone.
Expect a few more Star Trek posts over the coming weeks as I get my geek on…
And be sure to join us in the bar first!
More to come..?
If these three shows work, then undoubtedly there will be more cult late shows playing at the cinema, and I will make sure that they are interesting films, and that everyone has a fun night out!