2015’s most desirable films on Blu-ray

The holiday season is upon us. The month-long, end-of-year, all-round celebration known as December has now begun, and as per tradition, will conclude its final week with a celebration of life’s greatest gift: giving. And for those fellow film fans among you, nothing will be a better gift for them than some of this year’s best films on Blu-ray (this list will be updated up until Christmas Eve):

But first, what I’d advise against giving:

Not recommended

Inside Out

137011_largeInside Out

Pete Docter,  Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley

1080p

Inside Out, the latest Disney-Pixar coproduction, feels like a clever educational short stretched to feature length.” – Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader

 

Legend

140223_largeLegend

Brian Helgeland

1080p

Legend is a bad title for a film that doesn’t quite succeed in relating how these brothers became legends.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times

 

Spectre

141340_largeSpectre

John LoganNeal PurvisRobert Wade and Jez Butterworth

1080p

“The problem may be that Mendes is trying to offset the inherent pulpiness of the series by playing up the class.” – Jonathan Romney, Film Comment Magazine

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker [cover TBC]

Jocelyn Moorehouse and P. J. Hogan

1080p

“Surely Winslet can find better roles than this.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Focus

126284_largeFocus

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

1080p

“That sound you hear is the high-fives in the writers’ room, and that, unfortunately, is where the filmmakers’ focus remains.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

 

Fantastic Four

137907_largeFantastic Four

Jeremy SlaterSimon Kinberg and Josh Trank

1080p

“A lightweight and basically unnecessary attempt to once again bring some cinematic life to one of the lesser teams in the Marvel Universe.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times

Recommended

Jurassic World

103334_largeJurassic World

Rick JaffaAmanda SilverDerek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow

1080p

Jurassic World is precisely what every Jurassic Park fan would hope it might be. It delivers fair and square.” – David Sexton, This is London

Ant-Man

122328_largeAnt-Man

Edgar WrightJoe CornishAdam McKay and Paul Rudd

1080p

“In these playful moments, it feels as if we’re watching a sly spoof of a typical Marvel film; but then the film reverts to more predictable blockbuster fare.” – Michael Bonner, Uncut Magazine

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

122322_largeThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Peter Craig and Danny Strong

1080p

“The Hunger Games, which kicked off in a blaze of guts ‘n’ glory in 2012, ends now with a sad whimper, along with a lot of big bangs signifying nothing.” – Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun

Steve Jobs

144370_largeSteve Jobs

1080p

Aaron Sorkin

“[Boyle’s] real achievement is making cinema out of material that isn’t even a stage play as much as very expensive radio: a battery of dialogue, unbroken by reflective pauses or even, on occasion, the actors drawing breath.” – Danny Leigh, Financial Times

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

122327_largeAvengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon

1080p

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a sometimes daffy, occasionally baffling, surprisingly touching and even romantic adventure with one kinetic thrill after another. It earns a place of high ranking in the Marvel Universe.” – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times

The Lady in the Van

144290_largeThe Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett

1080p

“Smith, who has played Miss Shepherd onstage, is mighty and raging, stubborn and frail, always true to the woman herself rather than our idea of what Smith should be on screen.” – Alan Schersterstuhl, Village Voice

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire [2015 rerelease]

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn

The “finale” of the The Hunger Games trilogy-in-four-parts is coming-up soon, and my local cinema screened a marathon of them all. So I figured that as enough justification for reviewing them. The sequel instalment is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, based on Suzanne Collins’ novel Catching Fire. And this has perhaps the most interesting romance since Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.

In a world in-which Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are themselves the subject of celebrity culture, their every move reported in tabloids and relationship rumours needlessly and pointlessly making headlines, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a commentary on that. And it’s so meta that one can’t help but consider it a political statement. The Hunger Games series is itself a political commentary on society being obsessed with watching falsely-idolised “celebrities” humiliating themselves on un-”reality” television while there are more important issues in the world being undermined with the existence of television culture. Collins combined those things to make this statement in The Hunger Games, but – and I can only speak for its film adaptation – it lacked any of the intended commentary that I can only assume made the novel so popular.

But here, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire seems to be compensating for this by being a film about the way the media is also not just a distraction from the world’s important problems, but also a manipulation of the way they’re perceived. Panem is nation in-which victory speeches are scripted, and cultural symbols are designed by the government rather than being genuine revolutions of the people. For some reason, I’m reminded of Sebastian Coe’s Olympics opening ceremony speech that told us to be “dazzled” in the least dazzling way. The centre of this concept is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee.

He is the Head Gamemaker that designs for Coriolanus Snow the Capitol’s propaganda that will manipulate the general public’s perception of Mockingjay Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire. And the final twist, in-which Heavensbee is revealed to be a double agent working for the Second Rebellion was what tied all the themes together. “You were our plan from the very beginning”, says Heavensbee of Everdeen. “This is our revolution. And you are the Mockingjay”.

The Mockingjay’s significance as a symbol is explained in The Hunger Games, but the way it becomes used as an image of multi-District empowerment worked well. But then everything about this worked well that was important. Everdeen and Peeta Mellark actually feel as if the relationship we’re told they have is genuine, and not forced. Plus, the way it’s faked for the cameras to distract from important issues, while not necessarily being real, but also showing signs of becoming real as a result, ala Much ado About Nothing, worked more than it could’ve done because of Jennifer Lawrence.

Lionsgate saw something in her when casting the screen’s Everdeen, and their own prophecy became true. Lawrence is this world’s Everdeen. Few other actors could have defined the important elements of the character like Lawrence has. But then, there’s also that nagging sensation of Lawrence having betrayed the point of Everdeen’s character in basically becoming Everdeen.

There’s a reason Donald Sutherland compared her to Laurence Olivier. And that’s coming from the actor that appreciates The Hunger Games series for being intelligent political commentary for young adults. The Hunger Games defined something as being wrong with society, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is explaining what it is: being slaves to celebrity culture and ignoring terrible events in the world due to them being presented through the same medium that presents fiction and non-existent worlds like Panem – itself named after the latin phrase “panem et circenses”, meaning “bread and circuses”, a political strategy that distracts the public using glorified entertainment on the basis of survival being provided. The Hunger Games as a tradition was designed as a harsh warning of the past – “this is what happens if you disobey”. There must have been a Great Hunger before the founding of Panem.

Perhaps the world ran out of food, leading to defined territories as no longer mattering. It makes me wonder what will happen in future instalments. Will The Hunger Games become a reality for Panem? Either way, this complex balance of morality is what makes this world finally feel real, in a way that didn’t during The Hunger Games.

Yes, the Capitol has ensured survival for Panem, and its harsh practice is a harsh one, but is also necessary to maintain order. At the same time, is it too far? One imagines Snow as being a patriot, who loves Panem too much to sacrifice it, and who’ll consolidate his power to ensure the survival of his people – being cruel to be kind, so to speak. Honestly, I just don’t know.

But Sutherland brings a complexity to that role that makes it work, and makes you believe he does this from love and genuine interest. And that’s what makes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a great example of science-fiction allegory. It has a depth to it that makes you question it. Unlike pre-sequel The Hunger Games, which had not only nothing beneath its surface, but also barely a surface at all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is more like the true beginning after a prologue that doesn’t really contribute anything.

This is where that world becomes interesting, and I actually want to watch the next one now.

 

Other reviews

The Hunger Games [2015 rerelease]

The Hunger Games
Written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray

The “finale” of the The Hunger Games trilogy-in-four-parts is coming-up soon, and my local cinema screened a marathon of them all. So I figured that as enough justification for reviewing them. The initial installment is The Hunger Games, based on Collins’ novel of the same title. And its defining fault is its inability to build a world that feels both real or large.

We’re introduced to Katniss Everdeen, a girl who lives in District 12 – one of thirteen districts surrounding the Capitol district of Panem, a nation formed from the remains of North America. And under the Panem constitution, each district must offer a mixed pair of Tributes in a random selection known as the Reaping. These Tributes are then transported into the wilderness where they must kill each other while becoming self-sufficient in order to survive. It’s kind of like Battle Royale, except exactly like that.

And if that seems like your typical Crawling Text exposition, it only gets more complex. Which is where The Hunger Games fails at its premise: assuming the audience have read the novel. Currently, there exists a mentality on the Internet that novel adaptations are for only those who have read said novel. But I say being familiar with the source material simply skewers one’s own perception of any adaptations towards biased liancy, not to mention that distributors want as many people to see it regardless – don’t expect the producers’ opinions to correlate with the populous.

And as the film fan as I am, I can’t betray myself to that. I must judge The Hunger Games: the Movie for what it is – a movie. And as a movie, it’s frustrating to me, as a viewer, how little there is of either two things that make a film entertaining: style or substance. Preferably, a film should be stylish as well as substantial.

But films that aren’t substantial can still be stylish enough. And vice versa, a film that’s not stylish enough can still be substantial enough. I can engage with just about any film that has enough of at least one. The style distracts from lack of substance, and the substance therefore distract from a lack of style.

Whereas The Hunger Games is lazy. It aims for the market already familiar with the novel, which is a mistake because they don’t need it to be advertised. They’ve already read the novel, so it’s not as if a film adaptation will convince them to see what they think of it. And for the audience who haven’t read it… that’s the clincher.

There’s so much plot left unsaid that it’s alienating to the majority. And it is a majority. Most people watching the film haven’t read the book. That’s not a criticism of the readers – who won’t necessarily have even liked it – but a statement of reality.

But, it’s not a reality The Hunger Games seems to grasp. The plot moves between one thing to another without filling in the gaps, on the assumption that I’ve already filled them prior. It uses its status as a novel adaptation to fall-back on being a film in its own right, only putting in half the effort. Did it think being incomplete would prompt me to seek the original text?

Because it doesn’t work. Remember: an unappealing adaptation will make for a seemingly unappealing source material. This didn’t make me want to read the novel. Which, ultimately, was its intention.

 

Other reviews

Steve Jobs [2015]

Steve Jobs
Written by Aaron Sorkin

Steve Jobs works like a three-act stage-play. Each act, taking place in a different time period and before the unveiling of a key product from Jobs’ history as a technological innovator. Which is not interchangeable with the history of Apple, Inc., the company he co-founded. Because the visual storytelling is not that which makes Steve Jobs as impressive as Steve Jobs is.

But that’s something surprising enough; Danny Boyle is already an established picture-smith, and Steve Jobs doesn’t prove this, Steve Jobs just perpetuates a known truth of the film industry. What Boyle does here is to give each act their own distinct aesthetic gimmick, starting in 1984 with 16mm film, continuing in 35mm for 1988 and ending in digital for 1998. The passing time works on the audience, sub-consciously or otherwise. But I did notice consciously, and the experience was only heightened (and was reaffirmed that films filmed on film just look better than films not filmed on film).

Boyle’s the kind of director who understands that seeing the mechanism of film-making is only something of-which to be ashamed if the mechanism isn’t itself appealing. By changing the technology used for each year, he makes Steve Jobs‘ extended narrative more convincing, despite that choice reminding you that what you’re watching isn’t real. A baffling dichotomy, but one that Jobs understood well-enough, at least in this infamously exaggerated dramatisation. We, the audience, can see what’s underneath and between the seamless cuts of each scene, but we don’t mind, because what’s there is actually a part of the art, not just the easel.

This is not dissimilar to the iMac G3 unveiled in Act III – popular amongst mainstream consumers and the general public for being constructed with translucent materials, allowing them to see “behind-the-scenes” (I needed Wikipedia for this, I’m not a follower of technology). This is what made Act III the most interesting for someone like me, whose first school computers were the iMac G3. Let me tell you, simply seeing the iMac G3 here brought back many memories. Plus, Jobs’ Act III appearance is more in-tune with how the public knew him; the turtle neck, the jeans, the round glasses.

Almost like a superhero’s trademark outfit, this set of clothes were so iconic that seeing them on-screen for the first time pose the popular-cultural risk of doing Michael Fassbender’s acting all on their own, and would’ve been an easy cushion of support for a less competent actor. Acts I and II, therefore, are more like the origin story or a prequel that manages to be actually interesting (something with-which Fassbender is already very well-versed, several times), before the main act. Steve Jobs is extremely intellectual in the way the narrative is constructing a man whose greatest product was himself, while the plot is too being constructed in such a way for that to make sense, as well as being told parallel with the construction of modern film making – the evolution of a man, and the evolution of his creations, shown through a visual evolution that applied to the real world of that man’s life. Through nothing more than some intense monologues and a cool mise-en-scene, Steve Jobs works cine-magic and tells the hero’s journey formula in three heated exchanges from three different years – all of which develop his early life, how he and Wozniak started Apple, and chronicling his exile from his kingdom, subsequent return, reclaim of birthright and atonement with those important to him.

And that’s the power of Aaron Sorkin – he tells entire epic sagas through two people talking at each other with urgency. He writes exciting action films, but the action’s in the dialogue. As Jobs develops, each Act unveils a new, improved Jobs, with less flaws than ever before! But the audience’s interface, and the production of what they’re consuming, are hermetically sealed together.

Perhaps that’s why Steve Jobs is so fascinating, and my third best film of 2015.

 

Other reviews

The Lady in the Van [2015]

The Lady in the Van
Written by Alan Bennett

The Lady in the Van is “a mostly true story” about the time Alan Bennett allowed a transient woman to park her van on his drive for three months, which became fifteen years. The woman, Margaret “Mary Shepherd” Fairchild is portrayed by Maggie Smith, but it’s Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett that’s the real treat of the acting. Upon initially viewing the trailers, I actually thought it was Bennett himself, known to be an actor. Both Jennings and Smith reprise their roles from the stage-play source material, and their casting is what makes The Lady in the Van twice as enjoyable as it could have been.

Smith is good at what she does, and I can only assume it was her casting that filled my local cinema’s auditorium with the elderly, who laughed along with it throughout. But they were right to do so. The Lady in the Van is the best kind of comedy – incidental. The gags may be funny, but are included in the film in their own right, not just for the sake of comedy.

Which is strange, since the British Board of Film Classification considers it a drama. Or perhaps that’s just the genre the distributors, TriStar Pictures, Inc., submitted. Either way, there is drama here, but with enough laugh-out-loud moments to feel believable. Though something tells me that the comedy was only effective because of the acting being of such a high standard that one felt comfortable with loosening-up whenever something less than serious happened.

Nevertheless, The Lady in the Van is a film which stayed with me for some time, and has already made its way into my top ten, and definitely number one for the year. Jennings’ Bennett alone builds the kind of world that made me want to quickly return home for some tea and battenburg. Indeed, there was light rain on my bus ride back in the dark, and I was eager to slip into my pajamas, make myself a cocoa and catch-up on “my programmes” – a phrase choice that makes me sound old, but in the way that The Lady in the Van makes seem okay. Ordinarily, I’d recommend The Lady in the Van to everyone, but the majority of my readers are in the United States, where it hasn’t been released.

And if it is, I suspect it’ll only be limited. But that’s unimportant in the long term – The Lady in the Van has constructed a world so pleasant-yet-also-dramatic that it really makes you appreciate the little things in life. The street is gentler than the city, so to speak. And all of it told through the eyes of Bennett – who is not a beloved British playwright without reason. From anyone else, this story might have been done a great injustice of being undersold, but with his words, and his observations, it’s subtly motivational and delicate without reaching the heights of your typical Spielberg fairytale.

Especially the way its status as “mostly true” is exploited to comment on the writing process itself. Bennett lives with a second version of himself – there’s the writer Bennett and the liver Bennett. The writer comments on what’s happening and gets-on with adapting it as it happens, and the liver experiences the story in an interchanging past/present. The two of them engage and argue over the way certain events happened, and it’s acknowledged that liberties are being taken with the truth to make the story more appealing.

Indeed, the ending in particular is a great manipulation of the storytelling medium, as the Bennetts realise that anything can done with their adapting of the story to give it a powerful epilogue that was never possibly initially. And then, we leave the film as Fairchild’s blue plaque is unveiled on Bennett’s house – his real house, used for the reenacting of the story. The real Bennett is there, and the story completes itself by arriving at its own adaptation. The same model van in the same driveway.

Everything comes round and into itself. And as we learn Fairchild’s story, we come to understand how one thing can lead to another and the way one thing can open an entire story for two people that can last a lifetime, and how it, too, has left me with a much wider horizon than I ever thought possible. One woman, living in a van, on someone’s driveway, for fifteen years. That alone takes a million coincidences for the stars to align and make happen.
But the owner of the house happened to be a writer. And he happened to write about it.

 

Other reviews

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence — single drama review

Premièred by BBC One HD
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Written by Jed Mercurio

There’s a reason Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence is being called a “BBC period drama” rather than just a “period drama”. And it’s because BBC period dramas often have a style that separates them from other period dramas that might been seen on television, and it’s that they’re all the same. The period drama genre takes a lot of prejudice from people who aren’t interested in them for being indifferent from each other, but then so does every genre. People who don’t watch sci-fi may think that they’re all the same, for instance, even though they couldn’t be less similar. But for some reason, period dramas broadcast by the BBC are the same, and do prove their own stereotype. It’s weird.

The BBC is being scrutinised right now based on their content output and budgeting relative to the licence fee; which is to say, the government, who set the television licence fee, are asking whether the BBC’s really worth the money, and the quality of programming is at the centre of that. Personally, I take each programme on its own, as each is made by different artists, with the BBC acting just as the platform promoting them. The BBC may have a specific creative direction and intent, but they can’t be wholly judged for all their programming in the same way as, say, Music Television.

As it happens, that mentality is how I’ve come to judge Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, broadcast on BBC One HD earlier this month.

Because Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence really was quite, quite bland. Bland in the sense that, were I to tune in at any random moment, there’d be no way of knowing specifically which period drama I’d be watching. With most BBC shows, there’s something immediately unique about it. They all have their own style, idiosyncrasies and the “ah, it’s… [that show]” factor. But for some reason, period dramas are something the BBC think justify themselves. And nothing justifies itself. Right now, ITV’s Downton Abbey is possibly the most popular British period drama since BBC One’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The final season starts this Sunday, and it’s undoubtedly going to be a ratings hit.

And do you know why Downton Abbey has been renewed so many times? Because it’s actually about something. It’s about the relationships between the inhabitants, and their position compared to each other based on whether they’re upstairs or downstairs, even if that admittedly is basically ITV’s own Upstairs, Downstairs from fourty years ago.

But anything in any genre can work if there’s a story to it, as opposed to it having genre and that being what’s considered the selling point. Now, I’m sure that fans of period dramas will have watched Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have liked it. Because, if they watch so many of them, I doubt they’ll accept one on the basis of its existence. I’m like that with science-fiction. It’s my favourite genre, but that means I understand what works and what doesn’t.

I believe the thing I’m talking about is called “genre television”, where there’s nothing particularly interesting about it, but is fulfilling the basic check-boxes to qualify as a specific genre and push itself on that basis. Well I prefer that these things have something happening, rather than a “look, a period drama!” kind of thing. Because any story that’s told well transcends its medium to become universal. It reaches the point where the genre no longer matters, and it could be told through any of them. That‘s storytelling. This is just an excuse to put on some costumes.

Star Trek: the Motion Picture — screenplay, structure, story

"Screenplay, Structure, Story", in-which single dramas are analysed for their pace and narrative.

Theoretical structure

  • Duration: 126 minutes
    • Act I: 0 – 35 minutes
      • Introduce protagonist and antagonist: 0 – 15 minutes
      • Establish conflict: 15 – 30 minutes
      • Plot Point I: 30 – 35 minutes
    • Act II: 35 – 100 minutes
      • Synthesis between protagonist and antagonist: 35 – 95 minutes
      • Plot Point II: 95 – 100 minutes
    • Act III: 100 – 126 minutes
      • Conflict resolution: 100 – 125 minutes
      • Ending: 125 – 126 minutes

Act I (minutes 0 – 54)

Introduce protagonist and antagonist (minutes 0 – 12)

Antagonist: V’Ger (first seen at minute 4)

Protagonist: James Kirk (first seen at minute 12)

Establish conflict (minutes 12 – 15)

Kirk tells Scott “An alien object of unbelievable destructive power is less than three days away from this planet. The only starship in interception range is the Enterprise” at minute 15.

Plot Point I (minutes 15 – 54)

The Enterprise arrives at the V’Ger cloud at minute 54:36.

Act II (minutes 54 – 114)

Synthesis between protagonist and antagonist (minutes 54 – 112)

The conflict between Kirk and V’Ger takes place from minutes 54 to :

  • Kirk commands the Enterprise scan V’Ger and transit to the object within.
  • V’Ger sends a probe, which penetrates the bridge and destroys Ilia.
  • V’Ger pulls the Enterprise into it with a tractor beam, and closes its aperture, trapping the Enterprise.
  • Freed from V’Ger’s tractor beam, Ilia beams back on board the Enterprise as a spokesperson for V’Ger, stating V’Ger’s mission to travel to Earth and finds its creator.
  • Ilia investigates the Enterprise and why it needs carbon based lifeforms to function.
  • Decker asks Ilia to help them make contact with V’Ger.
  • Spock leaves the Enterprise to go inside V’Ger.
  • Kirk commands Chekov to fix on Spock and follow him.
  • Spock thrusts into V’Ger and sees a 3D construction of V’Ger’s journey. V’Ger sends a probe and shows Spock its history.
  • Spock returns from V’Ger and is taken back to the Enterprise by Kirk.
  • Spock explains to Kirk that V’Ger can’t understand the difference between machines and organisms.
  • V’Ger sheds itself of the cloud and approaches Earth.
  • Spock detects V’Ger’s signal to be radio.
  • Earth’s defence systems deactivate.
  • V’Ger dispatches probes around Earth.
  • Spock explains that V’Ger is like a child.
  • V’Ger blocks Starfleet’s transmissions to Enterprise.
  • V’Ger offers to lower hostilities if a Human’s submitted to it for study.
  • Enterprise enters the heart of V’Ger.
  • The Enterprise approaches the core of V’Ger.
  • Kirk and crew disembark the Enterprise and journey to V’Ger.

Plot Point II (minutes 112 – 114)

  • Enterprise crew arrive at V’Ger and discover it to be Voyager 6. Kirk’s defeated V’Ger’s attempts to stop him, and achieved his own goal of discovering what V’Ger is.

Act III (minutes 114 – 126)

Conflict resolution (114 – 124)

  • Kirk deduces that V’Ger is the combination of Voyager 6 with the living machines, which is now completing its mission of learning all that can be learned and beaming it back to Earth.
  • Kirk instructs communications officer Uhura to find the NASA transmission frequency to communicate with Voyager 6.
  • Kirk tells Ilia that Humans are the creator.
  • Decker further deduces that Voyager 6 refused to return transmissions to prompt Humans to come to it in person.
  • Enterprise crew discuss Voyager 6’s philosophy – it wants to achieve ultimate sentience, but cannot logically comprehend the existence of higher dimensions. Decker volunteers to merge with Voyager 6 to help it understand more than what’s logical.
  • Once merged with the Human Decker, V’Ger begins to disintegrate as it transcends existence.

Ending (minutes 124 – 126)

  • V’Ger disintegrated, the Enterprise sails away back to Earth as the crew consider the implications of what they’ve just seen.
  • Starfleet instruct Kirk to give a report on what just happened, as Kirk decides to take the Enterprise back to Earth.
  • The Enterprise sails on to its next mission…

Star Trek: the Motion Picture — single drama review

Premièred by Paramount Pictures
Star Trek: the Motion Picture
Written by Harold Livingston

From the very beginning, it’s immediately apparent that Star Trek: the Motion Picture is an unfinished production. Director Robert Wise admits this, and considers the director’s cut the final piece. But that’s irrelevant. I’m judging Star Trek: the Motion Picture by the edition released cinematically, because that’s the edition most people have seen. Unfortunately, Star Trek: the Motion Picture‘s a terribly vacuous film regardless, maintained only by its own momentum, with the continued story failing to justify itself.

In one sense, Star Trek: the Motion Picture‘s a visual accompaniment to Jerry Goldsmith’s score, like a screensaver or screen filler. On the other hand, that description is just a nice way of saying that the actual film is derivative, tedious, self-absorbed, pretentious and dull.

The approach taken to Star Trek‘s first feature adaptation is summarised perfectly in the subtitle: “The Motion Picture“. This is so far the worst title I’ve frankly ever heard, because it tells you nothing. The television series was a motion picture, because otherwise it wouldn’t be a television series. Even the animated seasons are motion pictures, and they’re only demi-canonical. The title suggests, without any knowledge of the film itself, that the taken approach is to make a Star Trek feature with as little imagination as possible. Is it right? I’d love to say “yes” or “no”, because then all I’d have to do is explain why that is and then we could all go home.

The problem is, imagination is the thing that’s abundant throughout. But that makes Star Trek: the Motion Picture a film that wants to be merited for its ideas and not for the actual film itself. No film I’ve seen hasn’t included some great idea at its heart… okay, so a few have, but they’re terrible anyway. My point is, I care more about telling a simple story coherently than an ambitious story haphazardly. As it happens, Wise cares about the opposite. He cares more about what ships look like than what they’re doing. What terminology the characters are using than what it means and what the sets look like than what they’re hosting.

A lot of people would praise Wise for not making a film just for the fans. He admits to not having seen an episode of Star Trek, and that’s not a requirement. But the ten-minute scene revealing the Enterprise is presented in such a way as to say “Look, it’s the Enterprise”. Except it says that for ten minutes just to really acknowledge that it’s the Enterprise. If Star Trek: the Motion Picture were a novel, that scene would be a whole chapter describing the Enterprise in minute detail, explaining absolutely everything even if most of it never becomes relevant.

And when the almost two-and-a-half plot is finished, you realise that Star Trek: the Motion Picture is a shaggy dog story. A tale described in mind-numbing amounts of detail even though it’s a very simple story. There’s a cloud heading for Earth, the Enterprise flies into its heart. They discover what it is and fix it. End of.

This could have been a fourty-five minute episode of Star Trek. But instead The Motion Picture is dragged-out so long that the final revelation of what V’Ger is and how it relates to Humanity is not so much a cherry on the cake but a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat. It’s not a Star Trek film accessible by a wide audience. It’s not even a film accessible by wide audiences. It’s a very niche art film that’s just a little too arty for its own good.

Things learnt from San Diego Comic-Con International 2015

Between Thursday and Sunday, entertainment companies flocked to the Comic-Con convention centre in San Diego to bring press exclusives regarding comic books. A lot of people accuse Comic-Con of no longer being just about comic books, and so for the purpose of this blog, only announcements relating to properties originating in comic books have been included.

Here’s what happened at Comic-Con this year…

Marvel

DC

  • Junk Food sold a new Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice-themed T-shirt each day.
  • New details were released for The Dark Knight III: the Master Race.
  • MAD Magazine announced Spy vs. Spy: an Explosive Celebration, an anthology of old and new Spy vs. Spy stories.
  • The Art of the Brick announced that their DC Comics show would debut at Sydney.
  • New DC Comics-inspired collectible statues were unveiled.
  • DC Universe Original Movies announced an adaptation of Batman: the Killing Joke.
  • Miniseries Justice League: Gods and Men was announced. Each one-shot issue will focus on a different hero during the Darkseid War: BatmanSupermanGreen LanternFlash and Shazam!.
  • Coming of the Supermen was announced, a story in-which three New Kryptonian heroes assist Superman in defeating Darkseid.
  • Superman: American Alien was announced, a limited series revealing the key moments of Superboy’s early life.
  • An update on Superman’s life since Truth was given, leading-into sequel Justice.
  • To celebrate Robin‘s diamond jubilee, new series starring the character were announced: Grayson, Robin: son of BatmanWe are Robin and Batman & Robin Eternal. A Robin mask was available to print online for the chance to win a family prize pack.
  • Arrow season four announced the casting of Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk and revealed a new costume for Green Arrow.
  • The Flash season two announced the casting of Teddy Sears as the first Flash, Jay Garrick and Shantel VanSanten as Patty Spivot.
  • Supergirl announced the casting of Peter Facinelli as Maxwell Lord.
  • Three Convergence spin-offs were announced: Superman: Lois and ClarkTelos and Titans Hunt.
  • Multiversity spin-offs were announced, including Multiversity too: the Flash.

IDW

Vertigo

  • New lines were announced:
    • October:
      • The Twilight Children
      • Survivor’s Club
      • Clean Room
      • Art Ops
    • November:
      • Unfollow
      • Slash and Burn
      • Red Thorn
      • Jacked
    • December:
      • Sheriff of Baghdad
      • New Romancer
      • Lucifer
      • Last Gang in Town

Milestone

  • The return of the Dakota Universe was announced – a universe created to feature progressive characters and storytelling.