When Praxis, the Klingon moon and site of their energy production… MoreWhen Praxis, the Klingon moon and site of their energy production facility, explodes, the Klingons decide they must come to a peaceful agreement with the United Federation of Planets in order to survive. Much to his chagrin, Kirk (Shatner) is ordered to take the Enterprise to meet with Gorkon (Warner), the Klingon High Chancellor, and escort him to Earth to begin negotiating peace. After sharing a meal with the Klingons, someone on the Enterprise fires torpedoes at Gorkon's battlecruiser, disabling the anti-gravity mechanism. Two assassins in Starfleet suits, equipped with gravity boots, beam aboard and kill Gorkon. When Kirk and McCoy (Kelley) beam aboard to explain they weren't responsible, the Klingons refuse to listen, placing the pair on trial for Gorkon's murder.
The original series of 'Star Trek' was known for tackling the contemporary issues of the day through a science fiction filter. While 'The Voyage Home' had addressed environmental issues, it did so in a blatant manner rather than an allegorical one. For the sixth film, Leonard Nimoy suggested a plot-line which would mirror the ending of the cold war, as the Berlin wall had just come down in 1989. The relationship between the Federation and the Klingons had always been a thinly veiled allegory of that of the U.S and U.S.S.R so it made sense to now bring the onscreen cold war to an end.
With the preceding three movies directed by Nimoy and Shatner, the director of the series' best installment, 'Wrath of Khan', Nicholas Meyer, was brought back. As a result, this movie has a level of class that had been absent from Nimoy and Shatner's work. Despite working with the same level of budget, Meyer's film looks like a much larger scale movie, utilizing the relatively modest sets (many of which were borrowed from 'The Next Generation') to great effect. It's a shame Meyer never went on to bigger things as few of today's Hollywood directors have either his talent or integrity. Should you ever get the chance to listen to one of his DVD commentaries, I thoroughly recommend it, as he provides some great insights into the story-telling process.
This was the final film to feature the original crew in its entirety and, although he would return in a reduced role in the next installment, Shatner really milks his screen time here, putting in a tour de force like only he can. Kirk had fought himself in the original series and does so again here, thanks to the shape-shifting alien played by Iman. The dialogue here references the actor's notorious ego as Kirk exclaims "I can't believe I kissed you", only for his adversary to reply "Must have been your life's ambition!". The legendary Plummer is fantastic as the Klingon, Chang, replete with an eyepatch nailed into his skull. Cattrall, relatively unknown at this point, is perfectly cast as a deceitful Vulcan.
Youthful composer, Cliff Eidelman, took over soundtrack duties, providing one of the series' best. The opening credits theme is a rousing riff on Gustav Holst's 'The Planets', at Meyer's suggestion. There's little reference to previous Trek themes as Meyer wanted the score to feel like a "fresh start".
This is the sort of Hollywood movie that's all too rare now, fun without being dumb, involving without being convoluted. It's a shame the cast found themselves at an age too advanced to be taken seriously any longer as, under Meyer's guidance, this film feels like a new beginning, with Trek just hitting its stride as a big-screen franchise. Although 'Generations' ends the story-line of Kirk, it's 'The Undiscovered Country' which really acts as a farewell to the original crew. A fitting farewell.
Off his medication, Alan (Galifianakis) is becoming increasingly… MoreOff his medication, Alan (Galifianakis) is becoming increasingly deranged in his behavior. His latest madcap idea, buying a pet giraffe, causes a freeway pile-up, the news of which leads to his father's death from a heart attack. Alan's friends, Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Doug (Bartha) hold an intervention, convincing him to book into a psychiatric institution. The four hit the road to deliver Alan to the home but are run off the road by a bunch of gangsters, lead by Marshall (Goodman), who take Doug hostage.
Cinema-goers have recently witnessed a disturbing new breed of fascistic comedy emanating from the Hollywood studios. The days of self-deprecation seem to be over, replaced by a strand of humor which pokes cheap, and dangerous, fun at anyone who doesn't happen to be a white, straight, Anglo-Saxon male with a perfect physique. 'The Hangover Part III', the latest of such "entertainments", doesn't actually feature the titular condition. What it does contain is a copious amount of racism, homophobia, and a disturbing, and puzzling, amount of animal cruelty. Cooper, the film's sociopathic WASP superman, is never the butt of what passes for jokes here. Such cheap jibes are reserved for those who happen to be overweight, Jewish, or simply non-white.
The film's central quartet are an unlikable group of fiends, yet the film tries, and fails, to convince us otherwise. "He killed a giraffe, who gives a fuck?", is one of Cooper's first lines. What a charmer. There is, of course, much comic gold to be mined from such sociopathic characters. Just look at TV shows like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' or 'The Larry Sanders Show'. (Please, watch those shows before you go near garbage like this). Unfortunately, the writers seem to have an inexplicable affection for these characters, asking us to laugh with them, rather than at them. I counted no more than two half-chortles, enough to elevate it above '21 & Over' and 'Movie 43', but only just.
If you were the kid who cheered on the jocks as they toweled the nerds in gym class, this is your movie.
Rose (Francois) is an awkward but pretty girl living with her widowed… MoreRose (Francois) is an awkward but pretty girl living with her widowed father in a small Northern French town in 1958. When she applies for a position as secretary to handsome local insurance man Louis (Duris), her impressive typing speed gets her the job. Once in the position, Louis discovers Rose is a disaster, thanks to her clumsiness. Her one skill, that of typing at an incredibly rapid pace, intrigues Louis however, who insists she enter a local speed-typing competition. When she succeeds at this, Louis devises a rigorous training schedule for Rose, with the aim of entering the national championships.
The idea of taking an obscure sporting or competitive event as the backdrop for a comedy has been milked to death in recent comedies. We've seen figure-skating in 'Blades of Glory', ping-pong in 'Balls of Fury', and dodgeball in, well, 'Dodgeball'. None of those movies worked for one very simple reason; they revolved around one joke and died stretching it out to feature length. With this knowledge, I expected little from Roinsard's debut feature. Thankfully, he's used the concept of speed-typing as no more than a "MacGuffin". It's simply the backdrop to what is, essentially, a homage to the technicolor world of fifties Hollywood.
France never had this sort of cinema back then and there's a sense that Roinsard is trying to rectify this. The film is awash with references to that golden age of entertainment, from the primary colors of MGM musicals to a Saul Bass influenced credit sequence. There's even a 'Vertigo' homage which, unlike last year's 'The Artist', pays respect in the correct manner. Duris and Francois are playing the sort of roles Rock Hudson and Doris Day would have taken over half a century ago. Due to its fifties setting, accusations of male chauvinism may be leveled but, thankfully, Roinsard makes no concessions to modern sensibilities, (unlike Spielberg's 'Lincoln'). His film bears no resemblance to reality, instead it's set in the world of the cinema. In real-life, Normandy is a drab, grey region, lacking the brightness and color on display here. This is what movies of this nature do, they transport you from the humdrum of reality into a world where something as simple as a room of frantically typing secretaries can explode with the energy of a Busby Berkeley dance number. In French, the word "entertainment" literally translates as "diversion" and, as diversions go, 'Populaire' is one this year's best.
C'est le divertissement!
Radio host Heidi (Zombie) spots a figure in a darkened doorway at the… MoreRadio host Heidi (Zombie) spots a figure in a darkened doorway at the end of her apartment corridor but is confused when her landlady (Geeson) insists that nobody occupies the room. At her workplace, a rock radio station in Salem, Massachusetts, she receives a record in the mail from a band called 'The Lords of Salem'. Heidi takes the record home and, when she plays it, has visions of a group of witches murdering a newborn baby. The next night, she plays it over the radio, causing several women in the town to go into a trance. It would seem the record has woken an evil which has rested in Salem for centuries.
Rob Zombie is one of American cinema's most reviled directors, thanks mainly to his unwatchably bad 'Halloween' remake and sequel. Previously, he demonstrated no evidence that he knew the slightest thing about film-making, giving us a string of repugnant movies, ugly in both tone and aesthetic. I'm delighted to say he seems to have taken the criticism on board, as 'The Lords of Salem' contains few of the elements which made his previous directorial work so unbearable. Gone is the shakey-cam and poor composition, the constant immature swearing, and the juvenile gore. I can't believe I'm saying this but Zombie has made a stunning looking film, he and cinematographer Brandon Trost composing their shots in a manner so immaculate as to make Kubrick look like Paul Greengrass.
He also seems to have learnt a thing or two about creating mood, with the movie's first half genuinely atmospheric, thanks to an efficient use of long takes and extended silence. Sadly, for all his progress as a director, his writing is still awful. Halfway into the film you realize it's all going nowhere, as Zombie seems to be making things up as he goes along, ending in a twenty minute sequence that resembles a Monty Python parody of a Jodorowsky film. He also still insists on casting his wife, here in the lead role. She's not the worst actress I've ever seen but she simply doesn't have the charisma to carry a film by herself.
'The Lords of Salem' certainly isn't one I'd recommend but it is nice to see a film-maker learn from past mistakes.
Danish cargo ship, MV Rozen, is sailing through the Indian Ocean when… MoreDanish cargo ship, MV Rozen, is sailing through the Indian Ocean when a gang of Somali pirates seize the vessel. News quickly reaches the company offices in Copenhagen where the decision is made to bring in an outside adviser, Connor Julian (Porter), an Englishman with experience in dealing with pirates. Julian suggests the best course is to hire a professional negotiator but company C.E.O Peter Ludvigsen (Malling) ignores his advice and insists on handling matters himself. When an initial cash offer fails to satisfy the demands of the hijackers, the situation escalates.
Lindholm was responsible for writing duties on last year's excellent 'The Hunt', and here takes his sophomore directorial bow, proving himself something of a master of tense, yet realistic, drama. For a long time, Danish cinema was associated with the extravagances of film-makers like Lars Von Trier and Nicholas Winding Refn, but a new wave of gritty realism is sweeping the country's cinematic landscape. 'A Hijacking' is the first of two movies we'll see in 2013 dealing with this topic, as Paul Greengrass' Tom Hanks vehicle, 'Captain Phillips', is due later this summer. I'm not going out on much of a limb by theorizing Lindholm's film will be the more subtle of the two, as it's an underplayed, yet all the more tense for it, realistic piece of high drama.
It would have been all too easy to make the Peter character the villain and portray him as someone who cares more about the company coffers than the lives of his workers. Lindhom resists this, making Peter a reluctant hero. Malling is fantastic in the role, an actor with the ice cold exterior of a future Bond villain, and one I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of, outside of his homeland. As the situation escalates from weeks to months, his calm exterior slowly and subtly breaks down; there are no Hollywood histrionics on display here. The entire ensemble are thoroughly convincing as real characters, dealing with a horrific scenario in their own unique ways.
'A Hijacking' is another quality piece of drama from a country punching above its weight.
In 1922, Wall Street bondsman Nick Carraway (Maguire) rents a small… MoreIn 1922, Wall Street bondsman Nick Carraway (Maguire) rents a small house on Long Island, across a bay from his cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), and next door to the palatial home of an extravagant millionaire, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). Carraway learns that Gatsby and Daisy have a romantic history, and after making the former's acquaintance, decides to help reunite the two. Standing in the way is Daisy's husband, Tom (Edgerton), a man of "old money" stock who disapproves of Gatsby's self-made ways.
The Great Gatsby. In 3D. Just think about that for a second or two. The fact it doesn't sound ridiculous tells you where Hollywood finds itself in 2013. We now accept movie concepts that sound like one of Tim Robbins' crass ideas from 1992's 'The Player'. Two decades later, Altman's film has become prophetic, as Hollywood descends shamelessly into self parody. I guess we should be thankful Luhrman has shown restraint, having resisted the urge to turn Fitzgerald's most famous character into a vampire hunter. Otherwise, this is very much a Luhrman speakeasy, one which will have you calling for cinematic prohibition.
The Australian director should be buried in a time capsule, marked "Hollywood, early 21st Century". Over his short career he's committed several cultural atrocities, with a film-making style that delivers crassness in spades. It makes sense he should make a movie about the American dream, as he's proof of the concept's existence. If Luhrman can make it, surely anyone can? His films are to history and literature what that great cultural shame of the twenties, the minstrel show, was to Jazz; designed to pander to a class of cretin who really doesn't deserve such acknowledgement.
His latest atrocity continues on the tradition, but now he finds himself in the era of his protege, Joe Wright, who last year out-Luhrmaned the Aussie with his disgustingly moronic 'Anna Karenina' adaptation. He rises to the challenge with the aplomb you'd expect, though with slightly more respect for American literature than Wright displayed for its Russian cousin. This respect is, ironically, one of the film's biggest problems. Taken as a simple narrative, Fitzgerald's novel is pretty unremarkable, it's his prose style which gives it such a respected place in history. Rather than translating this into cinematic prose, Luhrman simply puts the author's words on screen, literally. Vast chunks of the novel are heard through Maguire's voiceover while the words appear on screen, words which Luhrman is clearly in love with. The voiceover, as is usually the case, is completely unnecessary, simply describing what we can see for ourselves on the screen. We don't need Maguire to tell us Gatsby is an extravagant fellow when we're seeing a party of a scale that would put the opening night of Studio 54 to shame. The effect is like listening to an audiobook while watching MTV on mute.
The movie's quieter moments, of which there are scant few, give a glimpse as to how a straightforward adaptation could have worked, despite the dull narrative, as DiCaprio and Mulligan are fantastic in their brief moments together. The same can't be said for the dull-as-ever Maguire, an actor whose stature is baffling to anyone who has the misfortune to watch one of his movies. Luhrman fills the secondary roles with his Australian compatriots, Edgerton, Clarke and Fisher, all of whom give the worst American accents this side of a Beijing drama school's 'West Side Story' production.
For such a modest narrative, Luhrman goes out of his way to render it unnecessarily complex. There's a strange disconnect between the audience and the uninvolving on-screen drama, like attending a lavish party you haven't been invited to and don't feel welcomed at. No doubt, sadly, Luhrman will host such parties in the future. We can castigate him with our reviews but it's a futile effort. Hollywood has left taste and integrity behind. We can but beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into Hollywood's golden past.
Gilles (Metayer) is a young wannabe-anarchist in his final year of… MoreGilles (Metayer) is a young wannabe-anarchist in his final year of high school, engaging in riots, graffiti-ing, and various other disruptive modes of communicating his political philosophy. One night, he and his friends attack their school with petrol bombs, resulting in an injury to a security guard who has a bag of cement dropped on him from a height by Gilles. When one of the group's ID cards is found at the scene, they flee France for Italy, beginning a summer of sex, drugs and psychedelia.
There are some films I like to give a few days to sink in before writing a review. Such films usually receive positive reviews from me, if for no other reason than the fact they occupied my thoughts in a positive manner. Then there are those films which are so bad, I rush to my keyboard to exact a petty form of revenge, chasing the film-maker off the lawn of my subconscious before he can get his creative ball back. I know, of course, he'll simply buy a new ball, one which will find its way over my wall at some point in the future, but it gives me a small pleasure to deflate this one, regardless. 'Something in the Air' is one such film. Allow me to puncture Assayas' ball.
The film is thought to be somewhat autobiographical, and, if this is indeed the case, Assayas teen years are nothing to boast about. I struggle to remember a lead character I wished to smack bout the face so much as the dopey-eyed Gilles, a spoiled, self-righteous brat who inexplicably seems irresistible to pretty French girls. Along with his friends, they're a despicable bunch of entitled clowns who speak about helping the "working classes" as if referencing a group of disease-sufferers. The idea that some people work for a living seems repugnant to these middle-class snobs. They're like a seventies, European version of the elitist teens of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower', but with more body hair, and, no doubt, worse body odor. Watching these juvenile Citizen Smiths sit around discussing Buddhism, Communism, Feminism, and many other "isms", in their uninformed way, is one hell of an irritating way to spend two hours.
There's nothing in the air of Assayas' shallow film. I've seen more profound Tommy Hilfiger commercials.
Retired criminal Dominic Toretto (Diesel) is living in exile in the… MoreRetired criminal Dominic Toretto (Diesel) is living in exile in the Canary Islands when he is approached by Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) with an offer of a full pardon for his crimes. Hobbs needs Toretto's crew to help take down a London based criminal, Owen Shaw (Evans), who is using a crew of expert drivers to pull off heists across Europe. When Hobbs shows Toretto a recent photo of his girlfriend, Letty (Rodriguez), who he presumed dead, working for Shaw, Toretto accepts and assembles his crew.
'The Fast & The Furious' franchise has a curious history. The first installment, a loose remake of a 1955 Roger Corman production, was a relatively big hit, given its medium budget, and made Diesel a star for a brief few years. Diesel was doing so well he turned down the sequel and made just a short cameo in the third movie. By the time the fourth movie arrived in 2009, however, his career was well and truly washed up so he was happy to return to the series. His return boosted the fortunes of the franchise and, unbelievably, 2011's 'Fast 5' enjoyed Universal's biggest ever opening weekend, ensuring this latest episode of vehicular mayhem. The first movie was a simple, and pleasant enough, reworking of the "cop seduced by crime" theme explored so well in 'Point Break'. Now the budget's as bloated as Johnson's biceps, as is the running time (a mind-numbing 130 minutes).
Watching this film is like being repeatedly struck on the head by a wrench, thanks to a script that seems to have been written by the producer's ten-year-old nephew. This is a thinking man's blockbuster, but only in the sense that you'll spend two hours trying to wrap your head around what exactly is happening before your eyes. The film raises a lot of questions. Questions like; why are the streets of Europe's busiest city always so empty, how can a car drive at 100mph for 20 minutes down an airport runway without running out of tarmac, and, if two objects collide in mid air at velocity do they...well, you get the idea. The characters here break a lot of laws, including several laws of physics.
Little in this film makes any sense. Why Johnson decides to recruit this inept bunch of criminals is beyond me as we don't see them achieve anything that actually requires their particular skills. In fact, everything Diesel and his crew touch ends in disaster. Johnson bullies his way around Europe, mocking those pansy European law officials' soft approach by employing his own brand of violence, a tactic which, shockingly, results in scores of civilian deaths which are never acknowledged in the film's happy ending. About fifty Spanish motorists are killed in one set-piece, but hey, Diesel gets his girl back in the end so it's worth it, right? If this was meant as an allegory for American foreign policy, it's genius. I'm not going to give the film-makers that much credit.
The concept of high speed chases through London must have looked great on paper, but Lin films it in such a dull, confusing manner, the onscreen result is completely underwhelming. If you're the sort of viewer who thinks a rim-job is something a mechanic does to your tires, you'll probably be satisfied by this. The rest of us will stick with movies like 'The French Connection' and 'To Live & Die in L.A' for our car-chase kicks.
Spock's half-brother, Sybok (Luckinbill), shunned by the Vulcan race… MoreSpock's half-brother, Sybok (Luckinbill), shunned by the Vulcan race for his embracing of emotion, has taken hostages on the planet Nimbus III. Kirk (Shatner), McCoy (Kelley) and Spock (Nimoy) have their shore leave interrupted as they are ordered to take the newly rebuilt Enterprise to the planet. Once there, they are overpowered by Sybok and his followers, who he controls through a form of "mind meld". It becomes apparent that Sybok used the hostage-taking as a ruse to acquire a starship. His plan is to take the Enterprise to find the mythical 'Sha Ka Ree', the place where, according to Vulcan lore, the universe began.
With Nimoy directing the previous two installments, Shatner insisted on being allowed to direct 'The Final Frontier', having come up with the film's original concept. After the high-concept, commercially appealing story-line of 'The Voyage Home', Shatner wanted to pursue a more heady plot-line, one which essentially boiled down to the crew of the Enterprise setting out to find God. In concept, it was closer in theme to the first movie, but the lighter tone of parts two, three and four continued here. In fact, this is by far the funniest installment of the series.
At the time of its release, 'The Final Frontier' was slated by critics, chiefly for its ambitious but simultaneously weak plot. It's this lightness of plot that makes the film enjoyable though, as we get to spend time with the central trio. The opening and closing campfire scenes are some of the best seen throughout the franchise. The relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy is Trek's greatest asset and it's a joy to just hang out with these characters. Personally, if the entire film had just followed the trio on their camping trip for two hours I would have been quite happy.
The plot is indeed nonsense but Luckinbill, an actor Shatner discovered playing President LBJ in a one-man show, gives a great performance which really sells the idea. When we do finally meet 'God', it's an anti-climax, but how could it ever not be?
The sound of 'The Final Frontier' is notable, reprising the bells and whistles so familiar to fans of the original TV series, yet largely absent from the previous four films. Thanks to the return of composer Jerry Goldsmith, we get the best score since 'The Wrath of Khan', erasing the memory of Leonard Rosenman's horrible work on 'The Voyage Home'. Goldsmith reprises the march he wrote for 'The Motion Picture'. At the time, younger fans mistook it for a borrowing of the 'Next Generation' theme, which was, of course, the very same theme.
If you're looking for a gripping story, this wouldn't be your first choice among the Trek series but, if you just want to hang out with three of pop culture's great icons for a couple of hours, 'The Final Frontier' is thoroughly enjoyable.
Following a rough break-up with his girlfriend, twenty-something New… MoreFollowing a rough break-up with his girlfriend, twenty-something New Yorker, Simon (Corbet) travels to Paris where an acquaintance, Carlo (Ronchi) has allowed him to make use of his apartment. Simon spends days walking the city, seemingly attracting negative attention from many locals. One night he wanders into a brothel where he meets prostitute Noura (Diop), who seems to show him more affection than is normal for such a situation. A few nights later, Simon is attacked by a group of youths (after possibly provoking them on purpose) and turns up at the brothel, telling Noura he has nowhere to stay. She invites him to stay with her and quickly falls for him romantically. It soon becomes apparent he's far from the innocent abroad she mistook him for.
Last year, Campos acted as producer for Sean Durkin's feature debut, 'Martha Marcy May Marlene'. Here, the roles are reversed, with Durkin producing Campos' follow-up to 2008's 'Afterschool'. Between the two of them, they seem to be forming a two-man American new-wave. While the rest of the American indie film community seems intent on boring us with dull "dramedies", Campos and Durkin ignore the restrictions of their budgets to give us low budget movies of a quality not seen since the Australian New Wave of the seventies. Like those Aussie flicks, their movies feel geographically unique; not quite American, not yet European, but borrowing the best elements of both schools.
Like 'MMMM', 'Simon Killer' is a "snippet" movie. Rather than a traditional three act structure consisting of a beginning, middle and end, we find ourselves thrown in at the deep end of the narrative. At first Simon appears to be a sympathetic victim of his own romantic nature, struggling to adapt to an intimidating alien city. It's a cinematic con-trick, deftly played by Campos and his committed, perfectly cast, leading man. Over the past decade we've grown accustomed to seeing Anglo-Saxons suffer at the hands of Europeans, be it physically ('Hostel'), psychologically ('Berberian Sound Studio'), or culturally ('Vicky, Christina, Barcelona'), but here Campos and Corbet flip things around. Early on, Simon appears to be suffering from mistreatment at the hands of Parisians, both aggressive males and apathetic females. As things progress, and Campos' constantly tracking camera begins to allow us to see his subject's face, rather than following him from behind to conceal his true nature, we realize Simon, not Paris, is the film's true antagonist.
Campos isn't a film-maker prone to spoon-feeding his audience, and his long takes (one unbroken static shot on a dance-floor is a stunning representation of Simon's coiled aggression) may well test the patience of less committed viewers. Those who appreciate a film which allows you to fill in the blanks will be richly rewarded. The American New-Wave has arrived!