I saw Into Darkness…

 

"Siri, find me a Starship parking space..."
“Siri, find me a Starship parking space…”

Illness delayed me longer than I would have liked, but I finally went to see “Star Trek Into Darkness” last Tuesday night.

The second adventure for J.J. Abrams’  “Star Trek” crew, “Into Darkness” gave every impression prior to release of following the post-Christopher Nolan trend for imbuing summer popcorn blockbusters with a darker edge, investing these typically lighter-than-air, high octane thrill-rides with more realistic, disquieting underpinnings.  If you think that the adventures of the Enterprise crew could be improved greatly by some chin-stroking about terrorism, then you’ve picked the right movie.

A terrorist attack on London waged by rogue Star Fleet operative John Harrison (an impressively reptilian Benedict Cumberbatch) pits James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise into a dangerous journey across the stars battling against enemies within and without.  Into the mix comes a new science officer, Carol Wallace (Alice Eve) with her own agenda and Peter Weller’s Donald Rumsfeld-esque Star Fleet high-up, Admiral Marcus.

Sweet "COD" load-out, bro...
Sweet “CoD” load-out, bro…

To say anything more about the overarching plot is to get into spoiler territory – writers Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci and Bob Kurtzman have borrowed from one of ” Trek”s most sacred texts to create this sequel, playing with chronology a little and switching around events to tell a story which is part theirs, redolent of the Roddenberry/classic “Trek” era and somehow familiar and new at the same time.

Neat trick if you can do it.

Overall, this is a neat sequel which doesn’t quite hit the heights of the 2009 original – it probably can’t achieve that goal as this continuation of Abrams “Star Trek” doesn’t enjoy the shock of the new which the first film had (in theory, that should mean that the fans who were mortally affronted by the first J.J. flick can avoid this one as they know they won’t like it.  Yeah, good luck getting that idea to work…).

There’s a ton of brilliantly-staged, shot and edited action, wonderfully seamless special effects, great performances from the Enterprise crew and the new arrivals (it was nice to see one-man British film industrialist Noel Clarke pop up at the beginning of the film) really integrate well into the mix.

I might need another viewing to see if the break-neck plot contrivances hang together or – as I sort of suspect – Abrams’ command of cinematic sleight-of-hand means that you find yourself accepting events and motivations which don’t quite stack up when you’ve got room to breathe.

When the worst that you can say for a film is that it’s really exciting and that the shortcomings don’t really matter that much whilst you’re watching it, I would say that constitutes that it’s a success.

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it definitely worth paying the ludicrous price of a cinema ticket for?  Absolutely.

 

Xbox One – Jump Out?

Xbox None?

I have a history with Xbox.

The first console was my introduction to the idea of a multi-media device.  I skipped PS2, so the plucky upstart system with its hard drive, remote add-on accessible DVD playback and mp3-ripping shenanigans blew my fragile mind when I bought one.  Selling my system also helped fund my wife’s engagement ring, back in the day – I’d like to see the world-conquering Sony platform of the time claim that as a system feature.

Similarly, I was all over the Xbox 360 – which, for a time, fulfilled a special place in my wife’s gaming life as a dedicated “Burnout Paradise” platform.  That was more or less all she played for months.  Before that, her jam of choice was “Viva Pinata”, a bundled title I chose along with “Project Gotham Racing 3” as the advertised “Gears of Wars” was out of stock at our local retailer.

When I think of the time that I spent enjoying the adventures of Fenix and Delta Squad, that latter factoid can’t help but tickle me.

Why does this post seem like a fond farewell rather than a hopeful view of the Xbox’s future?  Last night’s unveiling of the new Xbox One console would appear to be the point at which I bid adieu to a gaming platform which has given me a lot of enjoyment and which no longer wants me as a customer.

Enforced use of Kinect, always-on internet connectivity, mandatory disc installation, the breathtaking arrogance of a company who don’t want you to loan a game to a friend so that they can try it out, a predictable but still infuriating effort to market exclusively towards beer-chugging American man-children – if any of these take-away nuggets of stupidity from last night’s conference prove to be wrong, by all means call me out on it, but I think we both know that Microsoft’s cards are on the table.

They’re rattled by mobile, tablet and evolving gaming sectors which didn’t exist when the 360 launched, so are retreating to an audience they know will pay a premium for Xbox One to play this year’s iteration of “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield” ad nauseum and not mind being told how they are going to use the system that they, you know, actually paid money for.

A games console which constantly monitors the living room and feeds back to God who knows back in MS HQ?  You can stick it.

PS4 teaser video – it’s on like Donkey Kong

You know, it’s almost as if Microsoft are launching a new games console tomorrow night or something? Weird, right?

24 hours before the house that Bill built reveal their new machine, Sony have rushed in with a quick video that hints at …stuff?

In truth, there’s not a lot of concrete intel to be derived from this bonkers, blurry-up-the-wazoo glimpse at the new machine – other than it’s black and looks a bit like a lozenge.  Confirmed: Sony intend you to swallow their new machine.  Don’t even ask about where you put the games…

It kind of counters the Microsoft hive mind’s assertions about Sony being afraid to show the form-factor of their new system, but doesn’t suggest anything too outre in terms of industrial design – no gigantic cyber-elephant in your living  room this time, surreality fans.

The Sony E3 conference is on June 10th…

Yeah, son...

…It’s on like Donkey Kong.

 

 

 

“Pacific Rim” trailer 1, Giant Fracking Monsters 0

Alright, it’s Jaeger time.  Let’s do this.

Guillermo Del Toro’s epic rock-em, sock-em monster mash picture “Pacific Rim” is one of this summer’s biggest gambles but it’s one that I really want to see, and I have no real history to speak of with the “Godzilla”-like flicks and Mech Animes which this film so lovingly homages.  Love Del Toro, but I’m no “Gojira” fanboy, so you know that I’m coming from a position of relatively well-adjusted geekdom.

It opens in the States and the UK on the 12th of July.  A perfect season to sit in an air-conditioned megaplex and watch ancient alien beasts get smacked up by giant robots using container ships as baseball bats, wouldn’t you agree.

Plus – Idris Elba is cancelling the apocalypse.  And do you want to argue with Stringer Bell?

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“About Time” – Richard Curtis does…sci fi?

 

Remember the film version of “The Time Traveller’s Wife”?   Yeah, me too.

Comprehensively destroying Audrey Niffenegger‘s brilliant novel, it’s one of those movies which actually makes me angry – how many potential readers of that wonderful book were actively turned off by the film and never got a chance to enjoy a story which is genuinely heart-wrenching, full of ideas and gloriously drawn characters who live on in the memory long after reading?

Apparently, Rachel McAdams may have felt a need to atone for her presence in that bloody awful film as she’s front and centre in the new film from the Don of Rom-Com, Richard Curtis.  And boy does 2013’s “About Time” seem a little bit…familiar?

In the nicest way, that is – I’m really rather keen to see Curtis play around in territory which is reasonably uncharted for him, given his triumphant previous brush with sci-fi.  Obviously, the presence of Greatest Living Englishman Bill Nighy certainly helps, as does appealing lead Domhnall Gleeson, last seen breaking hearts in series two of Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror”.  

As for Ms McAdams – she gets the benefit of the doubt.  It’s not her fault that director Robert Schwentke’s Hollywood movies suggest somebody taking the money and running…

Coulson Lives!

Huzzah – an “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” TV series promo is with us!

Being a cynical soul, I’ve got reservations about how a weekly Marvel Universe TV series could be sustained.  These are mostly related to my conviction that that the 24 Episodes US TV season model is a recipe for treading water and pushing out forgettable product rather than delivering fantastic storytelling each week.  If “Doctor Who” can’t hit the jackpot each week with fewer episodes a year to play with, what chance a show which has to exercise Clint Barton-like accuracy from September to April?

Whedon show?  Whedon show.
Whedon show? Whedon show.

 

That said, whose geeky heart doesn’t beat slightly quicker at the notion of plucky S.H.I.E.L.D agents having to work in the shadows and keep all safe from super-powered miscreants domestic, foreign and intergalactic?  And as for the prospect of having Cap or Tony Stark turn up for sweeps cameos? Oy vey!

Who would bet against the House of Ideas at this point?  “Iron Man 3” has enjoyed what some might call a divided response from critics and audience alike – FYI,  I loved it – but has still made $948,993,000 in a little over two weeks.  I’m not sure that a TV show can enjoy quite that much love, but I’d love to see the extended Whedon family knock one out of the park…

 

More Than Meets The Eye – Europe!

Thank Cadburys Chocolate Bar –  it’s Friday!

After a week which can best be described as cold-ridden and generally unpleasant, I’m more than happy to unwind with one of the better aspects of the last seven days – fluffy-haired purveyors of peerless 80’s hard rock and gleaming-toothed Swedish troubadours – Europe!

Yes, the dudes from Upplands Vasby, Stockholm who released classic AOR, keyboard-drenched classic, “The Final Countdown”.  I’ve been playing their astonishingly good value “Greatest Hits” record throughout the week – 36 mp3 tracks for £4.99 from Amazon?  Don’t mind if I do! – and it really drives home what a fine band they were and continue to be.

Indeed, the cheese is strong with them from a contemporary perspective but many of those songs are undeniable works of genius.  See the song linked above, or their 1991 single, “I’ll Cry For You”:

Fun Fact – Power Metal fans of a certain stripe may know the Edguy cover of this song, which is equally charming.

And it’s not as if the band have rested on their laurels – they’re still making the rounds of festivals and headlining tours themselves, having been introduced to new audiences at recent bows at  Bloodstock and Download.  Say what you like about the faint whiff of Prästost given off by the band’s image – the hooks and insanely melodic songs more than cut the flatbrod…

Star Trek – Into Sniffles

"Dammit, Fluffrick, I'm a Doctor not a miracle worker..."
“Dammit, Fluffrick, I’m a Doctor not a miracle worker…”

 

I blame the Romulans.

Who else would infect your humble blogger and Mrs Rolling Eyeballs with Arcturian Space-Lurgy on the very weekend that “Star Trek Into Darkness” opens in UK cinemas.

Suffice is to say that I’m on spoiler lock-down until I can find my way to a cinema playing said slice of cinematic fried gold.

Whilst I wait for the opportunity to witness the second of J J Abrams’ filmic reboots of Mr Roddenberry’s magnum opus, I’m making do with promo interviews like this very entertaining meeting of minds between Simon Pegg and Alice Eve.

Messed Up Metal Midweek Malarkey

Not a Mensa member - Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying
Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying

Today has been a weird one.  Take your pick from these bizarre Metal-related stories:

Wednesday morning began with the news that the frontman of As I Lay Dying and Austrian Death Machine, Tim Lambesis, had been arrested by police in Oceanside, California for allegedly trying to hire somebody to kill his estranged wife.  An already ill-advised gambit made all the more problematic by the fact that Lambesis’ intended hitman was an undercover cop.

Face? Meet palm.

As the day ends, Metal Hammer reports that former Obituary guitarist Allen West has been arrested for his part in running a meth lab.

See what I mean about this being a weird day?  It’s as if the darkest hopes and dreams of the Blabbermouth comment section have run amok and been uncoupled from the ID’s of entitled suburban comment thread trolls.

SMH, as the young people are saying…

 

Here be “Dragons”?

This ain't no game.  Apparently...
This ain’t no game. Apparently…

Fantasy as a film genre is notoriously difficult to get right.

For each Tolkien project which Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have lovingly brought to the screen, there are a veritable Dwarven hall full of movies which didn’t quite connect – I’m thinking here, particularly, of films like “Eragon” which seemed hamstrung by film executives less concerned with sympathetically adopting their source material and more keen to quickly get to screen in a rush to grab some of that post-“Rings” buzz and a slice of the financial rewards.

One such film where any cinematic potential was resolutely squandered by its adaptation was New Line’s 2000 “Dungeons & Dragons” movie, whose campy take on the beloved role-playing game killed stone dead any chance for that series to grow into a global multiplex bestriding colossus.  Direct to video sequels followed but didn’t bother any but the hardcore, with low production values not exactly filling the screen with spectacle and wonder.

 

If you need stuff done, get a dwarf to do it...
If you need it done, send a dwarf…

 

Cue an improbable saviour for the realm of Izmir in the form of Warner Brothers,  who have rushed into the breech, rolled for initiative and announced that they’ve picked up the rights to make a new “Dungeons & Dragons” movie.

Fantasy works as a genre when it’s done properly – i.e., not making the project on the cheap and using the limitless potential of contemporary tools in alliance with a great film-maker’s vision.  There’s a sign that this message might be getting through to Hollywood, what with Duncan Jones beavering away on the long-gestating “World of Warcraft” film, for example.  Heck, we might even get a decent Markus Heitz “Dwarves” movie if this trend continues…

There’s no reason that this can’t be a huge, ongoing series of adventures for Warner in much the same way as Disney now have the likes of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm projects to draw from.

As an utter nerd who is currently listening to Blind-fracking-Guardian as I write this post, this is the best news that I’ve heard all day…