Culture, Film

Star Trek Beyond review – Shoots for the stars, makes it to the moon

Star Trek Beyond, still 01, Spock, Jaylah, McCoy (2560x1440)Director: Justin Lin  Starring: John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba

Crash landing on an uncharted planet was never going to look anything but spectacular when the minds behind the last two Star Trek films and the director of Fast & Furious 36 got together. Star Trek Beyond doesn’t wrap up as spectacularly as its bold initial vector, but this sci-fi adventure still manages to be rip-roaring fun.

Culture, Film

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review – passes the saber in spectacular style

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 02, Chewbacca, Han Solo (1920x1080)Director: JJ Abrams  Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega

History has taught us that anybody attempting to revive a film series as monolithic and beloved as Star Wars was doomed to fail. There is too much legacy, too much expectation and too many stakeholders to please, the naysayers said. JJ Abrams and crew have just proved them wrong, because The Force Awakens revitalises the series with the spirit and spectacle many have longed for.

Culture, Film, Music

Sam Smith, James Bond and the benefits of a hit theme song

Sam Smith - Writing's on the Wall, single (960x540)The James Bond series’ legacy casts a long shadow. And we felt that shadow last Friday when Sam Smith’s theme song, ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, for the forthcoming 007 film, Spectre, premiered on BBC Radio 1, and instantly garnered responses of delight and derision from listeners.

No modern James Bond film has appeared without a babble of disagreement over its accompanying theme song. Though some, including Sir Roger Moore, have praised Smith’s song, others have labelled it “bland”, “excruciatingly wimpy”, and suggested it “doesn’t seem to fit the possible theme of the film”.

Whether Smith’s (over)emotional outpouring makes it to number one or not, a hit theme song can do wonders for the life of a film, and the singer who performs it.

Books, Culture, Film, Gaming, TV & Radio

The Geeky Chef on fictional foods, cookbooks and the Portal cake

Geeky Chef Cookbook - Geeky Chef portrait, by Denis Caron (750x422)Cassandra Reeder is a chef with a very special repertoire. She makes fictional foods real.

From pumpkin pasties and Elven Lembas bread, to hot spiced wine and elixir soup, she has formulated some 80 recipes from beloved books, films, TV shows and video games on her blog, The Geeky Chef. Her home for succulent-sounding delicacies from the likes of Harry Potter, The Legend of Zelda, Game of Thrones, Fallout 3, Portal and more, offers step-by-step instructions, themed photography and brief backgrounders on the origin of these recipes. And it’s become something of a web sensation.

Culture, Film

Avengers: Age of Ultron review – a mouthwatering feast of supersized action

Avengers: Age of Ultron, 02 (964x542)Director: Joss Whedon  Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen

Director Joss Whedon and crew are having so much fun with Avengers: Age of Ultron. And it seems like, from the parade of CG neutron explosions, dismemberments and collateral damage that make up this globe-trotting comic adventure, when faced with the decision of whether they should do something simply because they could – much like Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark in the film – their answer every time was an emphatic: “How could we say no?”

Culture, Film

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel review – laughs that delight regardless of age

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, press photo 02, by Fox Searchlight/PR/Laurie Sparham (1062x597)Director: John Madden  Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tina Desai, Lillete Dubey, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, Rajesh Tailang, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t a film targeted at the more-than-catered-for 20-something with plenty of free time on their hands. In fact, you’d be right to be suspicious if anybody under the age of 30 told you this film – the sequel to a 2012 sleeper hit about a group of kindly, mature ladies and gents, living out their twilight years in an Indian hotel – was on their must-see list.

So how did I end up seeing this film, when under different circumstances, I would have opted for It Follows, Selma or even Shaun the Sheep? Quite simply, my grandmother requested I accompany her to see a film at the cinema, and, naturally, she left the choosing of the film up to her web-literate grandson, who in turn looked to see what grandmother-appropriate films were showing.

That’s how I ended up choosing to see comedy-drama, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, yesterday evening. And, you know what? It’s not bad. As light and somewhat predictable as the story is, the characters and plotlines here are entertaining and will delight most of those old enough to feel their youth is fading or behind them.

Culture, Film, TV & Radio

In memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

Mr Spock, Leonard Nimoy, Mar 16, 2010, by Pineapples101 (1331x749)Leonard Nimoy inspired so many generations with his defining role as Mr Spock from in original 1960s series of Star Trek. That’s where I saw him for the first time; sitting on my sofa, as my father, my brother and I absorbed the adventures of the crew of the starship Enterprise.

Books, Culture, Film, Gaming, TV & Radio

Why do some finales leave us dissatisfied?

Reading on Broadway, Oct 6, 2007, by Michele Markel Connors (3008x1692)Endings are tricky affairs, particularly for fiction and screenwriters.

They don’t always need to be comfortable or straightforward. In fact, they shouldn’t be. No matter what the medium, you expect the author to fulfil a sort of unwritten agreement that, at the end of it all, you will have gained something from taking the time to engage with their story. That could be as simple as learning something new (as the classic parables of old do) or it could be more personal (learning deep truths about the nature of life or society through the eyes of a character you identify with).

Endings and why some of them leave us dissatisfied have been on my mind recently, since finishing the finales to several video games and fiction series. Both mediums have presented me with examples of endings that livid up to my expectations and others that fell short.