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. Continue reading

Choice Cuts: Danger Doom – The Mouse and the Mask

Lex Records, 2005Danger Doom - The Mouse and the Mask (800x450)Danger Doom’s album is high-wire fun that’d be an offence to anyone who takes themselves too seriously. So you can bet it’d go down well with smiley Liam Gallagher and today’s hardline extremists, right?

A collaboration between enigmatic super-producer, Danger Mouse, and equally reclusive masked rapper, MF Doom, The Mouse and the Mask is a marvel of audacious jams and masterful short stories, spliced with animated skits and more humour than a Hanna-Barbera classic. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

‘Set phasers to stunning’

To steal a quote I saw on the front of a film magazine, Star Trek honestly is ‘stunning’. In fact it’s easily the best film of the three or so cinema releases I’ve seen this year. Before I dip into a long, near endless account of Star Trek nostalgia I’ll sum things up for you real quick in the context of my viewing. My dad’s a big fan of the original series and when I was younger it kind of became a ritual thing to eat lunch and watch re-runs of Star Trek on Sunday. I love all the sci-fi paraphernalia in Trek but I’ve never been one to follow the law or canon too closely. I knew practically nothing about this year’s film going in, apart from seeing a trailer two weeks ago.

Confident, stylish and with plenty of fan-pleasing call-backs, I walked out of Star Trek with a feel-good sentiment that not every Hollywood remake or “reimagining” will turn out to be a horrific mess. I fully enjoyed it. No matter how many of these opinion posts I write; I’m no film critic, they are just that, my opinion. Just to play devil’s advocate, one might argue that the film didn’t offer anything new beyond the usual blockbuster expectations – SFX, a predictable plot and stuff going BOOM! But, you know what? That’s absolutely fine by me when the medium is used to its full potential, as it was in Star Trek. It may not win any Academy Awards, because, let’s face it, apparently sci-fi, comic book and blockbuster movies just aren’t Oscar material, but it’s precisely the kind of experience the big screen thrives on.

I do often wonder what other people in the cinema are thinking during the viewing. That middle-aged man in the business suit; hmm, this bar scene reminds me of my carefree student days, the cinema attendant in the corner on his eighth viewing that day ; I wonder if I’ll ever get to make a film like this someday, or the grumpy looking girlfriend; Why did I let David drag me to this? It’s sssoooo boring! Perhaps one day I’ll find out, if I ever inherit the ability to read minds. For me, the answer is quite simple. I haven’t picked up a pirate DVD in years simply because the viewing experience is utter tosh. People work hard to make films and I work hard to earn my money, so I’ve no problem paying the admission fee to see a film if it’s a satisfying experience. And Star Trek fulfilled my pandering need for escapism in moon-sized heaps.

The flashy sci-fi Federation gear was there. The costumes – the science guys in blue, the pilots or commanders in yellow and the red guys, whoever they are, security or something. Olympian shots of the starship Enterprise set amid even grander space phenomena. The on-screen brilliance of going to warp speed, that probably costs tens of thousands. A cast that appeared comfortable and fully aware of the expectation surrounding the film. A well-made script that works beautifully as a standalone film, but still manages to pay homage to the legacy of Star Trek, without feeling like a complete rehash. And enough ‘space action’ to make me want to dive straight into the projector screen as if it were a portal to the film itself.

Purely as a lover of science-fiction, astronomy and all things celestial, the film was gob-smacking. Kirk and Sulu freefalling from orbit to the precarious head of a planetary mining beaming. A black hole consuming a planet from the inside out – obliterating life in one terrifying instant. An octopus-like alien starship that reeked of menace and danger the moment it emerged from the murky darkness. A climactic last minute escape. And all with the usual bravado and gung-ho battle plans from Starfleet’s premier peacekeeping force. All of this and more had me leaning forward in my seat, desperate that my dreams of a projector-screen-portal might come true. Meanwhile a grumpy looking female spouse really was sitting next to me. Clearly her response was completely illogical

It wasn’t only the startling depiction of space and special effects wizardry that impressed me. The cast were far better than I original expected, given the history of Hollywood rebirths and the series’ legacy. Chris Pine as the risk-taking womanising, Captain Kirk, was a prime choice and certainly seems fit to sit in the captain’s chair by the end of the film. Performing less head operations in his role as the emotionless Mr Spock, Zackary Quinto had a LOT to prove. Some gripping scenes of lost, love and regret merged with some classic Spock moments made him a true star on that holo-screen. Karl Urban as Bones, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Coo as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Zoe Saldaña as the voluptuous Uhura; all wonderful interpretations of the original characters, with some semi-comedic references that almost sound out of place at times. Add in an irrefutable Leonard Nimoy performance – that’s more than just a cameo, it actually makes some sense regarding the plot – and you’re done.

Simply put, if you love eye-engulfing space vistas, cross-species romance and stuff blowing up, you’ll love Star Trek. If you’ve played enough video games to know that ‘when in doubt, shoot everything’ you’ll love Star Trek. If you like teleportation, phasers, communicators, and engaging your imaginary warp drive with the broken heater button in your second-hand car, you’ll love Star Trek. If you know enough about the series to enjoy this film trailer with understandable apprehension or this snippet from the original series with fuzz nostalgia, you’ll love Star Trek. Of course, I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy it as much as the space-loving ravings of this daydreamer (whose childhood dream of going into space was crushed by the realisation that technology won’t be advanced enough to make it as easy as hopping in the car to KFC for a good few centuries) imply. Live long and prosper.