Archive for the 'Genres' Category

Star Trek [2009]

The Star Trek reboot is here and JJ Abrams has done for Trek what Chris Nolan did for the Batman franchise. There’s no doubt that this is a great film - fun, inviting, exciting and downright cool. It has taken Trek from the increasingly complicated beast that it had become, and gone back to basics. Owing more to the original Sixties Trek than later incarnations, the film truly is a reboot whilst retaining much of the canon that came before.

Set well before the original series, the film gives a new and alternative account as to how Kirk became Captain of the USS Enterprise. From the opening few minutes, everything you see here is new and fresh but yet reassuringly familiar. With a whole new cast (save Mr Nimoy in an extended cameo as a much older Spock), the film had the difficult task of retaining the charm of the original whilst appealing to both old and new fans and the result is one of the best films the franchise has seen so far. Great performances and wonderful effects alongside a brisk, no-fluff story give the film plenty of appeal to those with short attention spans and Abrams along with Robery Orci and Alex Kurtzman inject a huge amount of humour that gently pokes fun at the characters and ideas of ‘TOS’ whilst retaining a huge amount of respect.

The Good

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are great in the roles of Kirk and Spock

The new Enterprise design retains much of the original’s charm whilst adding huge amounts of detail and realism

The story is great swashbuckling Trek of the old-school type. Kirk gets into fights, romps with aliens and saves the Earth

The film isn’t afraid to changed established history in the biggest of ways - who would have thought that they’d be brave enough to destroy Vulcan and leave it that way with no reset?

It’s funny - laugh out loud funny, but it’s also edge of your seat stuff

The effects are stunning - the best science fiction CGI so far - beautiful (if a little lense flair heavy!)

The OK

Whilst it isn’t rushed, one key piece of the story ended up on the cutting room floor - the Klingon capture of Nero and his subsequent imprisonment on Rura Penthe

There are some minor plot holes - but this would only get the nerds up in arms. The rest of us can overlook them.

The Bad

Not much at all - I liked the entire cast, the story, the acting, the direction and the SFX - is there anything not to like?

The Blu-ray

Gorgeous - colourful, sharp, no digital artefacts. The soundtrack is exhilerating too - active, basy and very very clear. The extras are worthy with loads of deleted scenes filling in some of the narrative gaps. The story was there, but pacing reasons meant that some key narrative was lost and now we can see it all.It’s a great overall package and well worth buying, even for non-fans.

Posted on 19th November 2009
Under: Favourite Films, Science Fiction, Blu-Ray, Genres, Formats, Chris Pine, J J Abrams | No Comments »

Blu-Ray Most Wanted - Number 1: Dark City

Now that I have fully adopted Blu-Ray (albeit via my US PS3), I’ve been looking ahead to some of the titles coming this year. For Blu-Ray to succeed it has to impress the masses over the next 12 months - this timescale will be enough to tell us whether the format is going to have any sort of longevity. We’re not going to see many big hitters this year, the Star Wars films, Indiana Jones and other classic blockbusters will be held back until Blu-Ray is more established. Thankfully that doesn’t mean we’re starved of quality as long as we know where to look.

Over the coming days I’ll be posting the titles I’m most looking forward to over the next year…

darkcityposter.jpgToday, my pick is currently only a rumour, but it’s a tantalising one! Alex Proyas’ mind-warping, little seen classic, Dark City. This film was drowned out on release by the hype that accompanied The Matrix, but it is by far the more rounded experience of the two. It requires constant attention - miss a couple of minutes and you may as well stop watching, but if you’re commited Dark City is totally rewarding.

The latest news is that writer, David Goyer, has said that we can expect new extended cut with new effects. The extended length means the film is being rescored and even more exciting is the prospect of a limited theatrical release; I can only hope that this theatrical outing makes it to the UK as Dark City should really be experienced on as big a screen as possible. The word is that a DVD and Blu-Ray release of this new cut will follow shortly after.

Posted on 3rd April 2008
Under: Science Fiction, Cult, Blu-Ray, Upcoming Films | 9 Comments »

Stardust - US HD DVD

stardust.jpgMatthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is a joy to behold. One of the best films of 2007, it was practically ignored on its theatrical release - but the reasons why are hard to grasp. It has a very strong cast - DeNiro, Pfieffer, Danes and a plethora of well known UK comic actors, it is a fantastic feel good fantasy and feels like a modern ‘Princess Bride’. It’s well directed, well acted and very funny, but on both it’s UK and US releases it sunk without a trace… It does seem that a modern fantasy that’s not filmed in New Zealand is doomed to fail from the start. A real shame.

Tristan (Charlie Cox) is so determined to take Victoria’s (Sienna Miller) hand in marriage that when they see a falling star he promises her that he will find it and bring it to her within a week. However, the fallen star turns out to be a beautiful woman named Yvaite (Claire Danes) and during their journey back to the village of Wall, Tristan finds himself falling in love with her. Unfortunately, Tristan isn’t the only person seeking Yvaite; the heart of a fallen star can give the person who takes it eternal life and three witch sisters led by Lamia (Michelle Pfieffer) are determined to do whatever it takes to capture and kill her; she also also hunted by some princes who must retrieve the ruby Yvaite holds to determine which of them will become king…

stardust_070921105550882_wideweb__300x445.jpgWith perfect casting, a touching screenplay, sypathetic direction and a wonderful story, Stardust certainly ticks all of the boxes. Shot mostly in the UK and Iceland, it makes use of the best that these countries can offer with some truly stunning scenery that offers just as much as any New Zealand backdrop. The biggest surprise is just how adept the director, Matthew Vaughn, is with the fantasy genre - it is a far cry from his usual work, but he seems to be able to hold his own.

The US HD DVD is a nice all-round package with excellent picture and sound quality, backed up by a decent making-of, outtakes, deleted scenes and theatrical trailer. It’s not a package that will set the world alight, but offers enough to justify a purchase.

Stardust HD DVD is available on Amazon.com for $19.99 at the time of writing, that’s around £10 at current exchange rates. The standard definition DVD is available for $17.99.

Film: 9/10, HD DVD: 7/10

Posted on 16th February 2008
Under: Fantasy, HD DVD | 1 Comment »

Premonition - Blu-Ray (Region A)

Sandra Bullock and Jullian McMahon star in this confusing, plodding, supernatural thriller from director, Mennan Yapo.

Housewife Linda Hanson (Bullock) learns of the death of her husband, Jim (McMahon), in a nasty car accident on the previous day; only to wake to discover he is still alive. The film then jumps forwards and backwards to events before and after the so-called accident as Linda has premonitions of what is to come. Premonition is a difficult film to judge - the performances are all there, and it’s not your usual ‘everything ends well’ piece of cinema. In fact it is a very downbeat film that closely mirrors Linda’s on-screen depression. Unfortunately this makes it a chore to watch and the eventual twist is one that is expected and doesn’t do anything to lighten the tone.

However, this downbeat feel isn’t the film’s biggest mistake - the real problem is that we really don’t care about the characters. There is no attempt to make Linda a likeable person - she is depressed from the start and we don’t get to know her or her husband in any way before we learn of his death. While this could be forgiveable if the subsequent scenes build on their relationship, they don’t - all we learn is that their marriage is in trouble and he’s thinking of having an affair (although bizarrely, all seems forgiven when he changes his mind about shagging his boss in a hotel). Coupled with some glaring continuity issues, which in all honesty should really be ironed out in a film that is inherently going to be a disjointed experience, there isn’t really a lot to like here.

Yes, it tries to be a bit different and there isn’t any kind of ‘reset button’ ending, but that isn’t enough to make me want to recommend this film…

The Blu-Ray release is good with a decent picture and sound quality. I did notice some flickering in the backgrounds that at times was a little irritating to my eyes, but other than that it was still an obvious step up from SD.

There are plenty of special features, but in all honesty after sitting down to watch the film I was in no mood to go through them all afterwards. Maybe I’ll revisit them in the coming days, but I somehow doubt it! As such, the rating below currenly only takes into account the picture and sound quality…

Film: 3/10, Blu-Ray: 6/10

Posted on 16th February 2008
Under: Science Fiction, Supernatural, Blu-Ray | No Comments »

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

indiana_jones_and_the_kingdom_of_the_crystal_skull.jpg
Movie Poster

My mixed feelings on the fourth Indiana Jones installment are beginning to err on the side of caution now. There are many things I like about reports on the new film; the Mayan setting, the fact that Indy is back for one last adventure and even the enthusiasm of the cast and crew. However, there are things that are causing me concern - George Lucas for one, whether Ford is too old for the role now and the lastly the gastly rumoured ’sci-fi’ elements.

For those that aren’t ‘in the know’, the Crystal Skulls of the title are supposedly based on some hotly debated artefacts, the most famous of which was allegedly discovered in 1926 by Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges. There are many rumours regarding the authenticity of the ‘Mitchell-Hedges’ skull, but it is still somewhat of a mystery. The ‘real’ skulls are anatomically correct copies of the human skull made out of solid crystal - anyone would think this enough to write an exciting Indy adventure. Alas, it seems that instead these fascinating skulls have been shelved and instead we have a very ‘alien’ looking crystal skull in it’s place. While legal threats have seen images of the film skull taken off the ‘net, the poster above shows this so called skull in the background.

Indy has always been on far-fetched adventures, but they have always been resolutely grounded on Earth with our own legends and stories providing the back story. I just don’t like the idea of aliens (even dead ones) making it into the mix…

Posted on 15th February 2008
Under: Cult, Upcoming Films, Theatrical | 3 Comments »

Superman Returns (US Combo HD DVD)

supermanreturnshd.jpegA brief update today having just finished watching the US HD DVD release of Superman Returns; something I’ve been putting off due to poor reviews dampening my interest. However, despite the negativity, I thought it was pretty good - and a good sequel to the first two films. All of the main cast have come in for criticism in the reviews I’ve read - each review seems to pick on a different cast member. Again, I wasn’t too disappointed with Routh, Spacey, Marsden or even Bosworth (granted she’s a bit young to play the role, but hey, her performance was good enough for me).

The HD DVD was excellent with a pin sharp picture quality and a wonderfully enveloping soundtrack. I did have a couple of stutters when playing back on 360 HD DVD drive which is the first time I’ve seen a problem on the new format, but it wasn’t a mastering issue and is more likely down to dust or dirt on the disc.

There are loads of extras too. I haven’t watched any of them yet, but there’s a reasonably lengthy making-of and also a big pile of deleted scenes.

Film: 8/10 HD DVD: 8/10

Posted on 14th January 2007
Under: Action, Comic Book, HD DVD | No Comments »

Pirates of the Carribean - Dead Man’s Chest

Oh dear. How far off the mark can Gore Verbinski be with his follow-up to his surprise hit, Pirates of the Carribean. While the first film was a well paced and well judged piece of entertainment, this time we have an over-long series of set pieces with minimal storyline. It’s too intense to be enjoyable and too fast to follow with any ease.

In addition, the characters become even more 2D (if that was possible?!) and their relationships from the first film may as well start from scratch. The only light in the film was Bill Nighy’s portrayal of Davy Jones, but even this can’t lift the film out of mediocrity. Coupled with so-so effects (which frequently suffer from the Star Wars-esque cartoony look) means POTC2 is a massive missfire.

It also seems that any successful film now seems to demand a mammoth two-part sequel that forces the audience to pay up twice to see the full story. Occasionally this works (Kill Bill), but more often than not it’s a massive waste of fimgoer’s money and time (POTC2, The Matrix sequels etc). Also, it’s usually a sign of a bad editor or director who can’t put together a tight story with a decent run-time - and given the plot of POTC2, there wasn’t enough story for one film let alone two.

4/10

Posted on 30th December 2006
Under: DVD, Fantasy | No Comments »

Doctor Who Christmas Special - and is Tennant off?

This year’s Christmas Special had a tough job to please fans this year - while those who are blindly dedicated to the new incarnation of Doctor Who will continue to extoll the virtues of the series, those of us who are a little more discerning are beginning to see the cracks appearing and they don’t look pretty.

While 2005’s Special had a big job to do in introducing the new Doctor, this year the producers decided against introducing the Doctor’s new assistant following the departure of Billie at the end of series 2. Instead we had Catherine Tate screeching her way through the episode as the titular Runaway Bride, Donna. Yes, she was irritating, but that was how the character was supposed to be - so I guess Tate was perfect for the role. We also had the usual Tennant gurning and plot holes bigger than the inside of the TARDIS; both of which should be familiar to viewers.

The big problem is that The Runaway Bride had an uphill struggle following the disappointment that is Torchwood - and Russell T Davies and co. will have a lot of work to do to restore this viewer’s faith in the Who franchise. Thankfully, while the trademark plotting and scripting issues seem to be rubbing off on Torchwood’s parent series, at least Who continues to be enjoyable, I just hope that the producers pull their fingers out and give us something to be proud of in the coming series.

And, just two days after the Christmas Special was broadcast, there are rumours abound that David Tennant is hanging up his pin-striped suit before the end of the fourth series - whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but given the hit-and-miss nature of the scripts and show direction over the past year it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise. I’m more than happy that Doctor Who is back, and that is thanks to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner - but I’m beginning to feel that it’s already time for a new pair of hands to steer Doctor Who away from the pantomime it is slowly becoming and Tennant’s departure might be a good time to make some changes at the top and reinvent the series all over again.

Posted on 28th December 2006
Under: Television, Science Fiction | No Comments »

Rentaghost with swearing?

torchwood-jackandgwen.jpgThe title of this article is one of the best descriptions (shamelessly nicked from Harsin’s post over on The DVD Forums!) of Russell T DaviesDoctor Who spin-off I’ve heard so far. After months hype and anticipation, Torchwood, is finally with us and it looks like good old Russell has scored a bit of an own goal. You see, it’s just not very good.

The publicity machine has been in action for a while - various descriptions have been thrown about by the cast and crew. “X-Files meets This Life“, “adult sci-fi” and “Doctor Who with sex” they said - unfortunately none of these really stick. It’s patently NOT Doctor Who and while it has sex, it’s not really sci-fi either and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to anything like The X Files or This Life. The scripts are terrible and the series has not one ounce of originality borrowing from anything you care to think of. RTD was a big fan of Buffy and here he tries to replicate the success of Angel in developing a more grown-up spin-off from a successful show - but in the case of Torchwood it hasn’t worked.

If it wasn’t for it’s Doctor Who links, not only would it never have been green-lit, no-one would be talking about it now. However, it seems that Russell can do no wrong and the UK media continues to fawn over him as some sort of media genius. We KNOW he can do good adult TV thanks to things such as Queer as Folk, Second Coming and even Casanova, but he seems to have lost the plot. Doctor Who needs the light touch to appeal to a family audience and it works wonderfully, but Torchwood doesn’t and yet we still seem to be getting child-friendly stories with some gratuitous bonking and a few fucks and shits thrown in to justify it’s post-watershed existence. Calling this adult television is insulting to those that were hoping the UK would for once have some intelligent, non-diluted and thought-provoking science fiction to rival anything the US can offer. Instead we have this mishmash of ideas that doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy, drama, thriller or some seedy sex-obsessed late-night junk.

Posted on 6th November 2006
Under: Television, Science Fiction | 4 Comments »

Battlestar Galactica - BEST TV SHOW EVER!!!!111

WARNING - SPOILERS FOLLOW…

A controversial finale for season two gave me some trepidation when I sat down to watch the first four episodes of Battlestar Galactica Season 3. I needn’t have worried - Ron Moore and the rest of the writers have proven themselves with some of the best television I’ve ever seen. Season 2 saw the survivors of the Cylon genocide settle down to life on New Caprica, unfortunately their respite lasted just one year and the Cylons returned and occupied the planet. Season 3 opened with parallels to the current war in Iraq - a strong occupying force and insurgent attacks taking the lives of both the occupiers and innocent civilians made the comparison obvious. It was handled well and what could have been an ‘in-your-face’ political statement instead made gripping and emotional television.

However, this isn’t the reason for this blog entry. Instead I have to rave about the latest two-parter - Exodus - a gripping, moving and jaw-dropping closure to the New Caprica arc. Amazing performances from every member of the cast, coupled with some stunning special effects made these two episodes a joy to behold. The opening moments of the second part see Colonel Tigh kill his wife in response to her treachery - a truly heartbreaking moment as he takes the life of the woman he loves, despite everything she did. Shortly afterwards we see Galactica appear over New Caprica and plummet through the atmosphere as the vipers launch - only to jump away before slamming into the planet below; this has to be one of the most breathtaking effects sequences ever seen in a television programme.

Battlestar Galactica could have jumped the shark at the end of last year, but now I have more faith in the writers and producers than ever before and I only hope that they’re given the chance to continue telling the story of the search for Earth for many, many years. It’s just a shame more people don’t watch what is probably the best show on television purely because it’s science fiction…

Posted on 24th October 2006
Under: Television, Science Fiction | 2 Comments »

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