Daily Archives: 16/04/2013

I, Claudius

IClaudiusI, Claudius (1976) – Originally written August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

Ok, this series is, without a shadow of a doubt, stunning. Derek Jacobi & everyone else, make this series one of the longest and greatest of all time. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life watching this series, but it was only upon the speech half way through in which Livia asks Claudius to make her a God that I felt inspired to write a review. This programme is stunning, simply because it takes so many of the characters so much time to realise it, but simply put, the superficial stupidity of Claudius overshadows his true genius so much, that it takes the really clever to fully understand. Brian Blessed’s Augustus realises just before his death, as does Sian Phillips’s Livia (both are stunning). This series is a wonderful portrayal of people’s superficial natures and it’s amazing that for such a long period you find yourself hating Livia, and yet towards the end, theres a sudden realisation that, despite all the evils things she does, she has perfect reasons behind them. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read the book or that I know the exact history of Rome (who does?) but Livia is almost like a Roman interpretation of Catherine De Medici in Renaissance France. In the 1400s, Catherine led her sons through an entire line of French Monarchs and attempted to guide their decisions in what she considered to be best for them, and this is exactly what Livia does.

This series may not contain any amazing graphics, but it is a beautiful piece of work which has stunning acting throughout (although I still can’t get used to Pat Stewart with hair) and is the greatest Drama the BBC has ever produced. Well done BBC, I wish you’d do stuff like this more often, but then again, where does someone find a script and cast as amazing as this?

28 Days Later

28DaysLater28 Days Later (2002) – Originally written August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

“28 Days Later” is one of those strange British films, which once again relies on minimal special effects, and comes out with flying colours. This film, without putting it mildly, is mostly stunning. All of the characters are well explained and well performed & the plot itself is excellent. In fact, the only flaw with this film is it’s ending which is (to say the least) a bit pathetic, but this seems to be an on running problem with all films nowadays which seem incapable of actually properly ending the masterpieces they are up until whatever point. Anyway, irrelevant of this one technical flaw, for the first 9/10ths of this film, it is expertly written & performed.

“28 Days Later” begins at an Animal Testing facility where a couple of Animal Rights Protesters attempt to release some infected animals into nature. They unfortunately succeed and thus doom the entire of Britain to become full of “infected”, people who are blood hungry and madder than Britain’s Foreign Policies. This film then skips to 28 days later where a man (Jim) awakens in a hospital after being put into a coma two or three days previously to the original outbreak. The film then progresses as Jim searches for survivors and answers & then attempts to escape this country which is now under quarantine.

Jim and his friends gain and loose members until an explosive climax. Now if you haven’t seen this film, I recommend stopping reading now as going to briefly mention later parts of the film & discuss things which could ruin this wonderful experience.

Everyone who doesn’t want to read ahead gone? Good.

Eventually Jim and his few remaining friends encounter the remnants of an Army compound & eventually these Army men abuse their abilities in an attempt to rape particular women & Jim is forced to fight back. This fight back is powerful (helped by a stunning soundtrack) and when Jim eventually is faced to face with his remaining friend Selena, it is the obvious culmination of the idea that despite the “rage” being an investment of physical violence, simultaneously it is possible for us to be just as crazy and animalistic when we are angry. Perhaps this is one notion the film intentionally tries to show us. This film shows us just how aggressive and exploitative we can be when a social morality ceases to exist and we are quite literally living like animals.

I could go off on one now about the whole notion of the flaws with Animal Activision, but I’m going to pass on this opportunity and summarise.

In general, for the vast majority of this film, the plot, acting, and minimal special effects work wonderfully together (Jim walking through abandoned London is particularly effective. Always wanted to see a Big Red Bus on it’s side), but ultimately the ending is a disappointing dip down. Either way, it is unfair to condemn the majority of this film for it’s ending. Watch this film, love it, but turn it off before the final five minutes.

Star Trek: Nemesis

StarTrekNemesisStar Trek: Nemesis (2002) – Originally written August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

So here we are then, the latest Star Trek motion picture. OK, I admit I’m writing this in 2003 when the film has already been released on video, but I can’t help but feel that seeing it from a different perspective allows you to witness it better. For one thing, I don’t think this film transfers as well from cinema to video. On video, it seems slightly lacking whilst I remember watching it twice at the cinema fondly.

In this film, the crew of the Enterprise go on “One final mission”, although lets be honest, most of them would return if they could (with the possible exception of Jonathan Frakes who’d probably rather concentrate on his directing career), but is it worth it?

Truth be told, yes I think they need to return. When Kirk and co finally parted the screen as a grouping (since obviously a few returned in “Generations”) at the end of “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”, they finished in a memorable way which was excellent. In contrast, this film feels to end very poorly and with no real goodbye from the team. Whilst it’s true that a few members of the Crew are a damn sight more important than others in the main cast, I still feel a proper farewell from everyone (even McFadden’s Dr Crusher, who despite growing older in appearance since the very first episode, is still a stunning woman in figure and appearance) would have been a better farewell than the one which was opted with. If anyone has this film on DVD, I recommend watching the deleted scenes. I admit to not being a big fan of deleted scenes sometimes, but in this case I made an exception as I was keen to witness Wesley Crusher’s appearance (hence my disappointment when I didn’t see anything more to add onto a glance at the wedding). Despite Wesley not appearing however, there is an excellent ending on the DVD which was cut for time, but which I feel could have produced a much more humorous and stylish finish than the one they finished with. But such is life.

Technically, irrelevant of the plot, the acting is of an acceptable standard, the special effects are suitably excellent (the collision course scene being a favourite) and the make up is once more excellent.

Truth be told, as far as Star Trek films go, this is a more than acceptable addition to the selection and it will be interesting to see what those boffins who think up these ideas think up next. My personal suggestion is that they finish off the remaining crew members for “Next Generation”, “DS9” and “Voyager” in one go by having one almighty 90 minute shootout where everyone from Wesley Crusher, via Dr Bashir and Dax at DS9 and through to Janeway, Tuvok and co, all join in the battle royal and the majority are randomly killed off. This may sound daft, but it’d put a full stop to any notion of sequels ever again and then the creators could remain fixed to the inferior ramblings of “Enterprise”. Again though, this is just my opinion.

Despite the previous paragraphs nonsensical ramblings, I finish by stating once again that this is a good Star Trek film with a good plot, an excellent bad guy, some good twists and is a worthy addition to the series. Long Live Pat Stewart!

Star Trek

Star Trek 2009Star Trek (2009) – Originally written April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS

There’s an article referenced on imdb from 2006 called “Spaced Out: Re-Booting Star Trek”. Written by Bryce Zabel, he talks about the concept of re-booting a series now only 3 years off it’s 50th anniversary. The Crew of the USS Enterprise, first hitting our TV Screens on September 8th 1966.

Well, saying “our” screens, my Mother would’ve been 15 at the time of premier, my Dad 14. It would be a further 16 years until I entered this world, and a further 5 years and the Premier of the Next Generation for my first discovery of Star Trek, and a love affair that would last for the rest of my childhood and most of my Adult life.

Anyway, back to case in point.

Zabel, like many others had a dream of bringing back a series and developing it into something new, something fresh.

Everyone in this life dreams of telling their own side to every story. Gathering the memories of life and taking them in a fabulous new direction.

Star Trek would eventually find this new life, this (to steal from another recently, successfully rebooted series) regeneration. It would find it thanks to the tender love and care of one of it’s own fans.

J.J. Abrams, the man behind Lost, Alias and countless other hit series/movies, took hold of Star Trek and reinvigorated it.

After Jean Luc Picard’s final outing on the big screen in 2002, Star Trek was flat out cold.

Personally, I’d never had a problem with the final film Nemesis, and a review written on imdb way back in 2003 by yours truly (yes I’m referencing myself from 10 years ago, and no I don’t care) showed that whilst at the time I enjoyed it, it never finished the series off properly. Admittedly the idea of the time whereby all surviving characters from the Next Generation, Deep Space 9 & Voyager would fight to the Death against an enemy (I even started writing a script where DS9 is blown up within the first 5 minutes) was a little far fetched, I honestly thought there was life in the series. The box office, and most other fans/pundits/critics felt differently. Star Trek was effectively KO’ed.

This meant that when Abrams got his hand on the series, there must surely have been only one option? A mainstay of Hollywood commercialism, a prequel.

At the time I shuddered and wondered how it could even work. A prequel is fixed within a universe, a point in time. Heroes shown as their younger selves, they cannot be changed, they cannot be written.

A character’s life is written in scripts/novels and cannot be changed. So how can a prequel be anything other than a attempt to recapture youth and recapture a former glory?

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, writers of this film find the only way possible. To create a prequel, to recapture the old heroes of your youth, whilst simultaneously telling a fresh and original story, there’s only one way to do it. You need to make it 100% crystal clear that you are effectively creating an entirely new world, a parallel to the world of our dreams and memories. A place where anything can happen, and facts can be manipulated.

This Back To The Future style alternative reality, it allows for an entirely new future to develop. One where the characters can change and personalities rewritten.

Should a key actor quit, the story can accommodate this. Should they choose to blow something up, again, this is acceptable.

What makes the whole concept of these films so wonderful is that they ARE able to do this. The shock value in this movie of destroying Vulcan, the pure genius of this move, it is breathtaking, it is wonderful.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t tributes within the film to the original. The throw away lines to series, the introduction of nicknames like Bones and Scotty, they all add to the wonderful effect.

Include some superb (but not ground breaking) special effects, and the story takes on a life of it’s own.

The acting is average, but acceptable, all actors mimicking the originals to varying degrees of acceptance. Karl Urban deserving special praise for his Leonard McCoy.

The film captures the mood effectively and does exactly what you’d expect really. It moves and enthrals. It makes you laugh, and it makes you think of days gone by. As a tribute it is superb, and as a fresh start, it is a masterstroke.

The sequel is due within the next month, and personally, there’s a thrill and an expectation. Star Trek is firmly back where it belongs.

Bibliography

Re-booting Star Trek by Bryce Zabel – http://bztv.typepad.com/newsviews/2006/06/spaced_out_star.html

%d bloggers like this: