Monthly Archives: May 2013

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Cinema Review

541602_534406219945617_1298245140_nI’ve been a fan of Star Trek most of my life, watching the original series with Kirk and crew and I enjoyed JJ Abrams reboot of the series with all new younger versions of the familiar characters. Rather than just going back to the start and dumping years of continuity JJ Abrams kept it all and rebooted it with time travel leaving him free to still use the characters to tell new stories in an alternative reality. The weak forgettable villain in that film could be forgiven since he was just a plot device to get the Enterprise crew together and get their roles established. This second film has them face a villain whose a lot smarter and more complex than their

The opening sequence has Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew down on a primitive planet flagrantly breaching Starfleet’s Prime Directive with Kirk and Sulu (John Cho) being chased by the natives for stealing their sacred scroll while Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) try to prevent a world shattering volcanic eruption. This results in Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) giving Spock and Kirk a dressing down with Kirk getting demoted to First Officer while Spock gets reassigned to another ship.

Now it’s time the despicable baddie in this film John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to makes his move and he does by curing a little terminally ill girl. He does this to extract a favour from her father (Noel Clarke) who explodes a device in a Starfleet facility blowing himself up in the process. In response Starfleet calls a meeting of it senior captains who all attend with their first officers which means Kirk and Spock are there too. This is part of Harrison’s plan and he attacks the meeting from an armed flying car.

With many of the captains injured and dead Kirk finds himself re-promoted to captain of the Enterprise. He pleads with Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to allow him to hunt down and kill Harrison and Marcus agrees and lets Kirk have Spock back as his first officer. Spock is openly critical of the mission since going after Harrison to execute him instead of bringing him to justice is a breach of Federation law, however after the attack on Starfleet Harrison managed to use a portable teleportation unit to beam away to safety across the galaxy on Kronos, the Klingon home planet. To reach Harrison on Kronos from outside Marcus tells Kirk to take experimental photon torpedoes.

This comes to a head when Scotty (Simon Pegg) refuses to sign off on the torpedoes when told he can’t examine the warheads. Kirk has been convinced that he needs the missiles to kill Harrison without entering Klingon space and igniting a war so Kirk relieves Scotty of his position and once the Enterprise is underway he appoints Chekov (Anton Yelchin) as chief of engineering.

I don’t want to reveal too much more of the plot but when the Enterprise gets to the boundary of Klingon space things turn out to be a lot more complicated than a simple hunt for a terrorist. The film pulls out a few surprises as it progresses thorugh various action sequences full of running and jumping and fans of the old Star Trek films will see a certain familiar turn of events toward the end, which may have been a mistake since it doesn’t manage to evoke the same emotional resonance as it did the first time around and the consequences get waved away with a bit of an ass-pull.

The film has plenty of amusing character interaction and with Uhura doing her part of the action the role of attractive female is filled by Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) a science officer sent to specifically handle the top secret photon torpedoes. In many ways she reminded me of the guest characters who would appear for plot specific purposes in the Star Trek TV episodes. Bones (Karl Urban) is there and plays an important party in the story but he’s side-lined by the action. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a great over the top passionate performance as the dangerous terrorist John Harrison that really fits with the almost hysterical pace of action in this film. The film has the same strong, bright visual style as the 2009 Star Trek film and I really enjoyed it though no doubt there will be talk of lens flare again. The film might not be as great as it could have been but it’s a lot of fun which isn’t something that could be said for all the other Star Trek films.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Lords of Salem

DVD Review

The Lords of Salem DVD 001Rob Zombie is a horror director who has impressed me and disappointed me in the past but going by this film he seems to create better work when he has more creative control of the project and a limited budget. This film is strongly influenced by Satanic horror like Rosemary’s Baby but it has a strong visual style that reminded me of Suspiria and like that film the visuals are matched by use of really creepy sound.

Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a rock DJ at a radio station in Salem, part of a trio of DJs that also includes Herman “Whitey” Salavador (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) who have radio show full of jokey chat and music and features such as interviewing musicians from unknown bands. Heidi finds a wooden box has been left for her at reception after the show one night. She finds it really strange since is addressed to her by her real name of Adelaide not Heidi and all she knows about who sent it is that they are called The Lords. Inside is a vinyl record and she decides to take it home to listen to it and Jackson jokes that they should put it on their “Smash or Trash” feature. When she listens to the record it makes her feel funny and she has visions of witches.

These witches are part of a coven that were executed in the 17th century but the leader of the coven Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster) put a curse on those who killed them that the blood of the whores of Salem will be spilled to bring the Anti-Christ into the world and his vessel shall be the descendant of Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne, the man who sentenced them. We learn their story through visions that come to Heidi in her sleep and through the research of Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), an author of books about witchcraft who is a guest on Heidi’s show the night they play The Lords record. It is Matthias who figures out that Heidi is a descendant of Hawthorne.

All across Salem different women hear the music and are suddenly frozen, mesmerised by the discordant infernal sound. I spotted Barbara Crampton in a small cameo as horticulturalist who is spellbound by the music. It doesn’t affect all the women who hear it since Matthias’s wife Alice () listened to it and just thought it sounded horrible

Heidi goes home and her landlady Lacy Doyle (Judy Geeson) invites her for a drink with her two sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace). Heidi asks what the sisters do and Sonny gives a vague description of being some sort of alternative therapist. Sonny tells Heidi that Megan is a very skilled palm reader and prompts her to let Megan do a reading for her. Heidi is sceptical but goes along with it. Megan is a bit more intense than she expects giving her a talk about fate and destiny. It leaves Heidi feeling a bit uncomfortable and she makes her apologies and goes to her room.

From this point Heidi gets drawn into a world that is increasingly unreal. The three sisters are part of Margaret Morgan’s Satanic cult and they take charge of getting Heidi prepared to give birth to their Anti-Christ. Everything comes together in a climax of atrocity and blasphemy at an exclusive one-night invitation only concert of The Lords of Salem.

I remember when the Anti-Christ was all over horror films back in the 70s and this film really shows a strong influence from those films so anyone expecting serious look at the Salem witchcraft trials would be better looking off elsewhere. Meg Foster exudes total evil in the part of Margaret Morgan and there a great performances from Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn as the three sisters. Many reviews have commented on the way that Zombie has not gone for the pretty plastic Hollywood cast, especially with quite a lot of nudity on display but they are usually aiming this at Sheri Moon Zombie who I thought is really well-cast in this role. The number of familiar actor in the cast list with vanishingly small parts seems to hint at an original script that was much more ambitious but the tight budget meant it needed to be ruthlessly trimmed

The film uses some very strong visuals especially in the climax and while some are disturbing others are more comedic and ridiculous. I’m not sure if Satan was the giant Sasquatch or the red dwarf with the flippers and the huge tentacles or both.

The use of sound is very well done, not just with that creepy Lords of Salem music but also some good use of other music, especially All Tomorrow’s Parties by the Velvet Underground. I like the crazy voices ranting over the visuals that add to the sensory overload feeling at the end. This film is a lot less gory than the other films he’s made but then blood isn’t everything.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Iron Man 3

Cinema Review

Iron_Man_3_theatrical_posterMarvel have launched what they are calling phase 2 with Iron Man 3 and while it can’t match the sheer exuberance of The Avengers it still maintains all the elements that made Iron Man such a hit such as the high octane comic book action you could want and Robert Downey Jr. giving the role a touch of swagger and wit. It is certainly a better story than Iron Man 2 and I think it might be better than the first one though I’ll wait until I have seen it again to decide.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still haunted by the memories of his brush with death at the end of The Avengers film and sine he can’t sleep he has thrown himself into developing Iron Man suits. We get a flashback to years before Tony became Iron Man in Switzerland. Being Tony he is fascinated by an attractive female scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) but gives a geeky male scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) the brush-off. This all comes back to bite him on the ass in the present which is only to be expected since a large number of the evil villains superheroes have to battle are disgruntled scientists with a chip on their shoulder from having their genius ignored by the hero. The organisation that Killian wants help in founding is called Advanced Idea Mechanics or A.I.M. This organisation will be familiar to people who read Marvel comics as antagonists of The Avengers.

A new terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has appeared on the world scene attacking American targets with some new type of bomb that leaves absolutely no trace and so of course Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is put on the job in his War Machine armour but the government have decided to give the armour a tacky paint job and renamed him Iron Patriot. This does lead to lots of piss-taking by Tony.

Tony himself gets right on the Mandarin’s case when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) gets seriously injured in an explosion outside the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. After the Mandarin does one of his videos taking credit for the blast Tony holds a press conference outside the hospital where Happy is lying unconscious. Tony tells the Mandarin that he’s coming for him and dares the Mandarin to attack him, even giving out his home address.

Tony is at home with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he gets a visit from Maya Hansen who he barely remembers. She wants to warn him about Aldrich Killian but before she has a chance to say anything three helicopters full of the Mandarin’s henchmen start blowing up the place. This leads to a big action scene where Tony has to get Pepper and Maya to safety while the helicopters are destroying his house. Tony takes out two copters but ends up knocked into the sea and covered in rubble by the third which flies off.

When Tony escapes the rubble and flies up into the air but the damage to his suit results in it losing power and crashing in the middle of the countryside, hundreds of miles away. The world thinks Tony is dead so he lets Pepper and Rhodey know he’s still alive. He has to get his suit fixed and recharged and he gets help from a young boy called Harley (Ty Simpkins) with access to a garage and a neglectful mother. With Rhodey’s help he investigates the explosion and finds himself up against the Mandarin’s enhanced super-soldiers without his suit or his computer. This part of the film has Tony realises he’s not just a man in a can but without his suit he is still a technical genius.

I think that the villains in this film are the weakest part of it and they have no convincing motivation for what they are doing. Guy Pearce plays the sleazy sociopathic Killian very well and Ben Kingsley was a revelation in the role of the Mandarin but the main weapon on their side was secrecy and once their secrets were out they were no real threat to Tony and Rhodey. This means the climax had to rely on the predictable damsel in distress trope and of course that means Killian kidnapping Pepper, forcing a confrontation with Tony. Despite being such a hoary old cliché they managed to make it pretty exciting with whole of lot of robots and explosions.

I know people were wondering if Marvel could keep up the standard set by The Avengers and I think that with this film they haven’t tried to do that. I am glad they are keeping the solo films separate while not ignoring events happening in the others. The story is fairly straightforward and though Tony does have tough time it never sees too tough for him to handle without needing to call in help. There is a very controversial character revelation that will be very divisive but it didn’t give me any problem, but then I’m not really a big fan of Iron Man comics. I can totally understand if people feel differently about it. I know it’s a big brash expensive block buster with lots of special effects but it’s also a lot of fun and a lot of the time that is what I want from a film.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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