Into the darkness with beaming luminescence – Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Star Trek Into Darkness – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Roberto Orci (written by) & Alex Kurtzman (written by) & Damon Lindelof (written by) and Gene Roddenberry (television series “Star Trek”)
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban.

I have been putting off writing this review. Simply because I have no idea even where to begin or what to focus on. I try to have a general direction with these reviews. Star Trek Into Darkness has made all the rationale words of a writer and reviewer disappear from my head. All I can think of to say is: “IT WAS AMAZING! YOU NEED TO SEE IT NOW!”.

But that would not be helpful. So here I go. Trying to describe this epic film in a few hundred words.

Visually this film is stunning. The graphics are simply breathtaking. From the very first moments of the film you know that the film is going to be a visual onslaught of beauty. The techniques Abrams adopted to shoot the first Star Trek film in 2009 are evident with lens flares galore. And sometimes you notice the visual cues that are cleverly adopted to salute to the old series, including a red shirt gag. Abrams has succeeded once again in using the screen, the set, the camera, and the lighting to tell a whole narrative alongside what is said and done on screen.

What is said and done though is just as great as the visuals. Benedict Cumberbatch has made it known that he is a formidable actor in a lot of different films and TV series, and as the tormented villain of this instalment his presence seals this film with a fifth star.

Narratively this film is quite similar to the first. Captain Kirk is faced with tough choices and with his comrade of Spock by his side they battle together with their differences clashing and complimenting each other. The emotional journey of these characters is always quite interesting as the ideas of what it means to be human are explored. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are fantastic lead actors but it is really the secondary actors of Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, and Karl Urban that make this film that little bit better than other action sci-fi films. The comic relief, the emotional support, the friendship and the conflict that these characters bring to the film makes it fun, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining.

I loved this film, as you can probably tell, and will see it many more times to come. It is one of those films that will make me giddy with excitement and make my heart race every time. Perfectly paced, this film doesn’t drag you along for the ride but welcomes you on to the bridge and gives you a seat just behind the captain’s chair.

5/5

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I will have nightmares – Trance

Trance - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Trance – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Trance (2013)

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel

You know how there are films, actors, directors, etc, that people keep telling you are extraordinary and you definitely need to see their films? Yea, me too. I’m usually the one telling people that they MUST watch this or that for reasons I can never verbalise in person without deteriorating into complete nerd state (yes high-pitched squealing included). Danny Boyle is one of those directors who I’ve heard the name of in different scenarios and people have raved about. And so when Trance was realised I was excited because, you know, Danny Boyle directed it; and James McAvoy is in it; and it’s sci-fi thriller; it’s right up my twisted alley. But five minutes into the film I remembered what Boyle was famous for: Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire and the London Olympics. Two films that, although are cinematically and narratively brilliant, I never wanted to watch a second time.  And Trance is another one of those films. I shall put it into my box of “Films I’ll never watch again” along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vanilla Sky, A Clockwork Orange, and a whole array of others.

Trance is about Simon (McAvoy) who is an art auctioneer at a reputable auction house in London. He teams up with criminal Frank (Vincent Cassel) to steal a painting to repay his gambling debts. But he gets knocked out, forgets where he put the painting and so Frank is a bit cranky at Simon. Who wouldn’t be if you’d just lost $25mil? Their solution to recovering Simon’s memory is to send him to a hypnotherapist. Coz that is always the answer. The hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) they choose at random ends up being a little more than expected. And so begins the trippy adventure. Trance is comparable to Inception in that you never really know whether the scene you are witnessing is real or part of the hypnotherapy. But it does grab you and yanks you along through the confusion and delusion of Simon to recover the events of what happened to the lost painting.

James McAvoy has this wonderful but eery ability to make you like Simon even when you find out what kind of person he is. He  captures the character so flawlessly that when the twisted world unravels it’s hard to believe. McAvoy is perfection in this role as you want him to get away with it even at the end. Rosario Dawson is also the perfect fit for her role as the hypnotherapist as she portrays a smartness and power that is hard to do, especially when using sexual power to manipulate. The slow reveal of the truth with Danny Boyle’s shifty, unfocused cinematic craft gives this film a very dark feel and doesn’t leave you with a happy ending. The film unveils the narrative in a clever form, using the cuts and glimpses, the voice-over and soundtrack, to produce a thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.

I probably won’t rave about this film because there were parts of it that were visually disturbing – I think Boyle has issues with bodily functions and probably needs therapy – but it was a thrilling ride.

3/5

H.G. Wells is a woman? – Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Warehouse 13 – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Warehouse 13 (2009-)

Creators: Jane Espenson, D. Brent Mote
Stars: Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly and Saul Rubinek

You may have noticed, if you have been reading my previous blogs, that I like a little bit of crime thriller/sci-fi action. This is true whether in film or TV. I think it’s because I wish I had a more exciting life and I like escaping into another kind of world and kind of thinking. Warehouse 13 caught my eye simply because it is made by the SyFy channel. It’s your average investigative agency trying to save the world kind of deal, but with a bit of a twist. It takes the myths and legends of history and takes the museum pieces we like to ooh and aah at and turns them into deadly weapons, or something like that. “Artifacts” possess a semi-magical/semi-scientific aspect that comes from the great event or person they were originally attached to. For instance, a hairbrush used by Marilyn Munroe turns people’s hair blonde. Okay so that one is less deadly than just a bit weird and strange, but the agents in Warehouse 13 track down these artifacts, neutralize them, and then pack them away so no one can use them for evil. You get the idea I hope.

I’ve only watched the first two seasons so far and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part. It’s not a serious or completely dramatic sci-fi show, it has it’s humourous moments. The characters are interesting and have complex pasts which makes them carry enough weight for me to continue to watch to find out where they end up. The stories can be a little far-fetched but then again it is science fiction, not everything is meant to be completely realistic. I find it hard to review because there is a level at which I really like the show, but there is also a level at which I think it could be so much better than it is. The cheesiness of some of the humour is a little unbearable at points but it does fit with the characters so maybe it’s the characters who need improving? Or maybe it’s that the scripts aren’t written well enough for the characters to be brought to life and be coherent with the humour? Or maybe it’s the direction of particular episodes? Or maybe it’s the fact that they try and bring H.G. Wells to life as a woman? I don’t know exactly what it is but there are bits and pieces that leave me a little disappointed with it.

Even saying that though I will get stuck into the third and fourth season as soon as I can get my hands on them. For nothing other than the character of Claudia Donovan who I love and I wish I was like.

3/5

Just don’t think about it too much – Looper

Looper - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Looper – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Looper (2012)

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt

Time travel is always a tricky idea to play with. It can do your head in a bit if you think about it too much. There is always the “what if you change something that changes the course of history which means you can’t have been sent back in time to change it?” thing. To be honest I like not thinking about that, it’s nice to just go along with the flow. But when a film demands you think about it and you are thrown into the mystery of chasing the future and changing the past at the same time it’s hard not to like getting swept up into the thrill of it. And it really is thrilling.

Looper is a film that makes your head hurt a little bit after and leaves you Googling for answers. Luckily the writer Rian Johnson is happy to give answers (yes I went to Google as soon as I left the credits started rolling). However, in saying this, I did think too much during the film. A friend had said that she was confused by it, and so I spent most of the second half of the film trying to work out the twist. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve found it less troublesome at the end. Looper is a real adventure and you do get swept away with Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his life as a looper, an assassin from the future.

Looper makes a massive comment on the value of life and the problems that hurt, pain, and killing cause for future generations. This is what stuck with me when all the time travel stuff had subsided. The fight to live and the acceptance of death are powerful mental and emotional drivers that can determine the way we make decisions and the way we think about the consequences of our actions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven once again why is one of the most in-demand actors. His performance throughout the film is captivating, even with prosthetics. Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt are incredible drivers of the emotion and complexity of life. But the actor that steals the show is little Pierce Gagnon. He is simply terrifying and adorable at the same time. He performs in such a dark and violent film with such maturity and truth that it is a little scary to see. I was blown away by him.

This film isn’t as confusing as some other films that have come out in recent years (yes, Christopher Nolan, I’m looking at you sir) but it takes a great idea and conveys it with conviction and continuity which can be the most troublesome thing for a futuristic time travel film. I really enjoyed getting swept up in the world that Johnson brings alive on screen and he grounds it in the present enough for it to be realistic which is something I always love about futuristic dramas, if it looks like today then I will buy in to your idea.

I really recommend this film. It’s a great escape and an adventure, although be warned there is a lot of splattery blood…

Why Rory Williams Is My Hero – Doctor Who

Doctor Who - Series 6 Poster - from IMDB.com

Doctor Who – Series 6 Poster – from IMDB.com

Doctor Who (oh since forever…jokes, 2005+)

Series Writer: Steven Moffat and a bunch of his friends.
Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillian, Arthur Darvill and everybody who has ever acted in Britain basically.

It is not always the case that a secondary character can transform everything you think about a show. It was one line, it was in a normal episode but it changed the way I forever thought about Doctor Who. Rory Williams told the Doctor “You don’t know how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.” From that moment on Rory Williams stole my heart and became my favourite Doctor Who character of all time. He trumps Amy Pond who is fabulously feisty and he trumps River Song who is the woman I wish I could be, and he trumps Donna Noble who proved herself to be so normal and yet so spectacularly special (I’m just gonna skip over Rose Tyler and Martha Jones). Rory tells it like it is. He is the male companion the Doctor never wanted but who he comes to treasure as a moral and ethical compass.

For a long time I watched Doctor Who for the adventures, for the friendship of the characters, and for the Doctor’s extravagance and wonderful charisma. It is a show that has been able to hold captive audiences for multiple generations and made the transition from black and white television to colour to HD and lived on. The production value may have gone up but the heart of the show remains the same. It is, at it’s core, a show about the wonder of humanity. For me, Rory embodies this as the character who is humanity at its best and most noble.

Doctor Who has for a long time been my favourite show. From the moment it was reincarnated by Russell T. Davis in 2005 to today and the imminent arrival of Season 7 on our silver screens, I have been in love with the Doctor. When Steven Moffat took over writing in 2009 after having written some of the best episodes in previous seasons, including my favourites “Blink” and “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”, I was overjoyed. I have loved Moffat’s writing since a kid, even though I hadn’t connected the dots until he started on Doctor Who – this included his teen drama “Press Gang” which I have vivid memories of as a child. I’ve already written about my love of Moffat (see my Sherlock review here) but it has to be said that Steven Moffat and Matt Smith’s teaming have brought Doctor Who to a new level of awesome. It’s a darker and more philosophical show when Moffat writes and collaborates with people and it provides a deeper level of intrigue than usual. There are so many moments whilst watching Doctor Who when I find myself thinking about the meanings of life and what it means to be a human. This isn’t necessarily the case in every episode but the more I watch the more I find the multifaceted nature of Moffat’s story lines and scripts. The way he weaves story lines together across multiple seasons is extraordinary and I am constantly awed by his genius.

Arthur Darvill as Rory in Doctor Who - Let's Kill Hitler - from Tumblr

Arthur Darvill as Rory in Doctor Who – Let’s Kill Hitler – from Tumblr – myvintagelove

Getting back to my love of Rory though… Rory Williams is a character that is centred on love, loyalty, courage, and honesty. This is all buffered by an underlying insecurity which is truly endearing and really grounds those characteristics in a truthful portrayal by Arthur Darvill. Darvill’s performance as Rory is practically perfect because he balances the insanity of the Doctor and Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) with a warmness and gentle strength. It is the combination of all his courage and cowardice that makes him a true companion and my hero of television. He is who I would want to be if I was with the Doctor, both petrified and cynical but ultimately triumphant in the moment of need. He is someone that seems realistic rather than being carried away with the charisma of the Doctor, and provides the grounding that the Doctor needs when off on adventures and traveling in the TARDIS. Rory is my hero because he is the one companion who is not afraid of leaving the Doctor but who is loyal to a fault to his friends. Rory always seems on the outer with Amy and the Doctor but it is Rory who will always be there for both of them when night falls on their tale.

With the new trailer having just been released for Part 1 of Season 7 I am both excited and sad to see the end of the Pond’s. I think they have been great companions and I don’t think that will ever change, but I know I will weep for a week when the curtain is drawn on their adventures with the Doctor. Moffat will make it as painful as possible, this we know, but I also think it’s going to be a good ending to a wonderful period of the show.

P.S. I know most people think River Song gets her sassiness from Amy but I really think she gets it from Rory, he is the truly bold and brave one.

P.P.S You can watch the new Doctor Who series trailer here:
Doctor Who: Full Length New Series Trailer Autumn 2012 – Series 7 – BBC One

Blind Faith and Viscous Visuals – Prometheus

Prometheus - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Prometheus – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender

I haven’t seen the other Alien films, and now I remember why I haven’t. I’m not a big fan of viscous visuals. I do however like Sci-Fi and aliens and so I went to see this film with a friend who also likes aliens and Sci-Fi. We both came out feeling slightly ill but I spent sometime reflecting on the subject matter of the film and have come to the conclusion that although I didn’t like the execution of the story I like the ideas behind it. The idea of searching for a creator of humanity, where we get our identity, where we came from, what drives us, and all the other scientific and philosophical questions of life penetrate Sci-Fi quite frequently and this is no different in Prometheus. The search for where human beings came is where we start and where we end in this film. The circular journey is the main thrust of the film and the answers and questions that the movie leaves you with are unsatisfying but that is the point. I found myself journeying with these explorers into this unknown world and getting lost with them and then being violently ripped back from it when something gross and violent happened on screen at which point I slid down in my chair and tried to hide my eyes from the viscousness of the subject matter on screen. The action, the visual effects, the characters were compelling and I was happy to ride along with them but I have to say my favourite part of the film was the creepiness of David’s head at the end. There was just something so wonderfully comic and tragically horrendous about this woman being left alone to search the universe for answers with a severed head and a robotic body.

I didn’t enjoy watching Prometheus and I don’t think I ever will enjoy watching the Alien films. I still feel slightly ill even thinking about it. But for what it is and what it tries to be I think it does okay. There are points where it fails far short of being a great alien sci-fi film and it disappoints your average joe if they are after something great and groundbreaking but there are some entertaining moments. I can’t stay I would recommend it but if you’re into that kind of thing, go for it.