August is invariably a quiet time for Taking The Short View in terms of items to review, the TV schedules having been swept clear of new material and left devoid of anything anything much worth reviewing, especially in a summer dominated by the Olympics. While I could have used all this sudden free time to go to the cinema instead, I increasingly find it difficult to find anything worth getting excited about in this age of big-spectacle but empty-headed superhero blockbusters.
However, there are always exceptions. Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve had a steadfast tradition of going to see the latest movies in three franchises in particular the minute they come out in the cinemas: James Bond, Star Wars and Star Trek. It was the turn of the latter to premier a new instalment this month and sure enough I maintained my tradition and saw it shortly after it came out. Which was, of course, some weeks ago now.
Why the delay in posting a review? I could say that an unexpected spike in work in the meantime has thwarted my attempts to write up a review, and there would be some truth in that, but it would only be part of it. The wider answer is that after seeing the film I just couldn’t get up enough enthusiasm to write anything, and that admission probably speaks as eloquently as to my feelings about Star Trek Beyond as any words that follow. Read the rest of this entry »
Contains some plot details/spoilers for episode 1
It’s a shame that by the time the first episode of Almost Human finally aired in the UK, we already know that it’s been cancelled in the US after just 13-episodes. That knowledge can’t help but colour our view of it when we finally get to see an episode: most of all we know we shouldn’t get too close to the show and its characters because otherwise we’ll have our hearts broken by its premature demise. And on the basis of the pilot episode, it really is a shame that Almost Human has had such a short lifespan, because what’s on offer is the first ‘proper’ science fiction television show since the end of Fringe – and yes, this is another series with JJ Abram’s name attached to it as executive producer.
The show opens with a strong hint of Blade Runner, set in a busy Chinatown district with our detective hero John Kennex (Karl Urban) seeking illicit medical treatment from a Chinese doctor to help him retrieve memories of an ambush two years previously in which his partner was killed and Kennix lost his leg and was left in a coma. However, very quickly you realise that the primary cinematic touchstone for Almost Human is actually the Will Smith movie I, Robot: Kennix blames a robot cop for abandoning him in the ambush and now had a pathological hatred of the ‘synthetics’, which is a problem because every detective is now mandated to have an android as a partner. Kennix jettisons the first one out of his car when it asks too many questions, and the replacement unit he’s given – Dorian, played by Michael Ealy – is an outdated, discredited DRN model off the scrapheap, who is almost too human for comfort compared with the current MX models that are chillingly precise and formal at all times. Read the rest of this entry »
These days I strictly ration my visits to the cinema, with the exception of two franchises that will immediately override the austerity lockout: one is the James Bond series, and the other consists of the Star Trek films. Currently the tally of each stands at 13 for the former up to last year’s Skyfall (or 14 if you include Never Say Never Again, which of course I don’t) while Star Trek Into Darkness marks the 12th film of the science fiction series that I’ll have dutifully trotted out to see during its initial theatrical run.
Let’s cut through the suspense and deliver the bottom line: is it any good? The answer is yes, very. If you love the 2009 JJ Abrams-helmed reboot (see my contemporary review here) then you’re almost guaranteed to love this follow-up since it contains all the elements that made the first film so successful, including the jaw-dropping spectacular visuals, non-stop adrenalin-rush thrills, the jittery camerawork and jump zooms and of course the lens flare that slathers every shot to the point of self-parody. Of course if you were among that group that felt the first film made a travesty of the original spirit of the Star Trek series then none of this is going to do anything to persuade you to the contrary this time, either. And I confess, I had at least one foot in that camp and wasn’t as utterly thrilled with Abrams’ first outing as many people were as a result. Read the rest of this entry »
Ahead of seeing Star Trek Into Darkness, here’s a review of the first JJ Abrams that I wrote on its original release in May 2009 and reproduced from the general topic blog that I had at the time …
The new Star Trek movie is a great piece of entertainment and easily one of the best action movies of the year. As a relaunch of the Trek franchise, it’s an outstanding success. But for all that, don’t believe the hype – it’s good, but it’s just not great.
Viewed as an attempt to reboot, revive and recast a moribund franchise, it’s an unqualified success. While remaining true to the underlying Trek ethos, the film manages to be fast, funny and action-packed where the old series and movies could be slow, ponderous and preachy. Yet despite any carping from die hard fans, the film is remarkably true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an optimistic, altruistic and inspirational future. And despite the misgivings of many a fan, myself included, the recasting of iconic roles is almost without exception a collection of huge successes.
Zachary Quinto, for example – so great in Heroes, where he plays arch villain Sylar with an intelligence, subtlety and an outrageous amount of scene stealing that he’s almost the only reason for watching that show any more – is beyond perfect as Spock. He is both convincingly a young version of Leonard Nimoy’s character, and yet his own man as well, much more expressive, on edge and volatile than the refined and dignified Nimoy. He’s so good that you almost believe that this film and the entire Trek reboot has been sitting on its hands for seven years since the previous film just waiting for Quinto to be ready to accept the role. Read the rest of this entry »