MacPsych at the Movies: Rogue One

So. This was a long time coming. Or at least that’s how it felt. A new Star Wars movie, this time another prequel, just one year on the heels of  Star Wars sequel.

Confusing, perhaps, for those of us not steeped in the Star Wars universe and its complex history. But Rogue One does a great job of existing as a standalone movie – you don’t really need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Star Wars to enjoy it.

Continue reading “MacPsych at the Movies: Rogue One”

The Westworld Triumph

I’ve finally watched all of Westworld season one and I’m left wanting more – much more. A sure sign of an excellent TV show.

If you haven’t come cross it yet, the premise is loosely based on the Westworld film of 1973, where a ‘wild west’ theme park is manned by robots.

Forty-three years later, special effects (and dialogue) have moved on, leaving the TV series streets ahead of the movie that inspired it. Fans of the film are sure to disagree, but the TV experience was full of suspense, misdirection, character development and some seriously mind-blowing reveals. To be fair to the original film, that’s tough to accomplish in 90 minutes.

If you haven’t watched any of it now, I’ll start with a brief summary, but after that it’s spoiler-central. You have been warned!

Continue reading “The Westworld Triumph”

This has me so excited

The new trailer for Rogue One dropped the other day and I’ve watched it over and over since. Such a geek, such a Star Wars fan.

The trailer is so well cut – it’s tantalising and dramatic. Fleeting shots of characters and scenes you just want to know more about. It’s already being examined for clues about the wider story.

I go to the cinema a lot and some of the trailers just tell you the entire story. I always thought trailers were suppose to tease, to make you so excited about the film that you couldn’t wait to get out and see it. The creative team behind this know exactly what they’re doing here!

From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves. In theaters December 2016.

Roll on December and another series of trips to see a Star Wars film again and again!

Star Trek possibilities

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The news that there’s a new Star Trek TV show on the way did not escape me. Not one bit. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

I still remember tuning in to see the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and how I neglected dinner and the school friend who was visiting, shuffling close to the TV screen to absorb every last detail. This was, of course, long before the days of on-demand TV, so I had to wait a loooong time before I ever saw that episode again.

But I quickly started recording them on VHS (remember that?!) so I could watch them over and over again. I had loved the original series and watched the movies at every opportunity, so to have a new episode of a new ongoing series appear on TV was like manna from heaven to me.

And, if I’m honest, this cycle was repeated every time a new Star Trek series started. I’ve lost count of the hours spent watching DS9, Voyager and yes, even Enterprise. Each series had it share of awful phases and shockingly bad episodes (from memory, Voyager had more than a couple!). But overall, Star Trek on TV was overwhelmingly entertaining and fun.

And it’s fair to say I’ve remained a fan.

So… there’s a new Trek ongoing series on the way and I’m very, very excited at the possibilities. Firstly, when will it be set? Is it going to be set in the same time-frame as the new series of movies? Will we be seeing contemporaries of Kirk and Spock? Or will it be set in the same century as The Next Generation? Both offer intriguing possibilities.

And then… what will its focus be? Will it be set on a standard starship, like TOS and TNG, or maybe a space station, like DS9? Or another scenario entirely? Are we talking a crew of explorers, or maybe Star Trek’s equivalent of the police?

The wait is going to be agonising and I hope it’ll be worth it. And now, we just need to wait for the inevitable avalanche of rumours and leaks.

Each of which I’ll consume with glee.

Some thoughts on *that* trailer

I won’t lie. It was the first thing I did when I woke up yesterday. I’d received an excited tweet from @Nutchild with a link to the new Star Wars trailer.

I played it immediately, on my iPhone 6 plus. I played it again while still in bed. And then again. I played it once more for good measure while I was shaving. And perhaps once more. Explaining, in part, the very poor job I did of shaving yesterday.

I was – in short – quite excited.

There are mere seconds of activity on the screen. More a collection of tantalising snapshots of scenes and action. But when combined with the score, it had the desired effect. When the Millennium Falcon soared through the skies of Tatooine, my pulse quickened and I felt butterflies in my stomach. Sweaty, sci-fi hands all round.

The colours, the action, the sound effects, but above all the music. Thunderous, majestic and evocative. The Star Wars score is one of the best film scores of all time and JJ Abrams knew what he was doing by including that snippet in the trailer. I imagine every geek’s mouth opened just a little bit more at that point.

Now, I don’t have the patience to go through the minutae of sneak peaks like this trailer. I leave that up to the plethora of more professional blogs who’ll do the hard work for me. But for me, the stand out points to note were:

  • The inclusion of the Millennium Falcon – this needs no further explanation.
  • The minimal use of CGI – the original Star Wars felt gritty and real. The prequels were too CGI-filled and as a result, too artificial and more like a video game than a cinema experience.

I’m hoping beyond hope that these films pick up where Return of the Jedi left off. Not in terms of narrative per se, but more the tone and the focus. The three prequels were such a car crash of mish-mashed nonsense and missed opportunities. They have the chance now to reignite some of that old school Star Wars magic and enthuse a whole new generation of fans.

Maybe we can then all collectively deny the existence of the prequels and move on?

I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up so much, but frankly, December 2015 can’t come soon enough. We shouldn’t wish away our time for future pleasures, but in this case, I’m willing to make an exception. I’m just wondering how many times I’ll go to see it in the cinema if it’s as good as I expect. Seeing as I watched the trailer over a dozen times yesterday.

And now, once more for your collective enjoyment:

Review: Interstellar

@FrankDJS and I braved yesterday afternoon’s blustery weather and went to see Interstellar in our local picture-house. I have to admit, I was bracing myself for its three-hour duration (plus ads and trailers!) but it actually flew by.

It’s visually impressive and the soundtrack is mind-blowing. It was very reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed the similarities with both score and presence of black oblongs throughout?)

In fact, much of the storyline and the way the details were delivered reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s novels – in a good way.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t really see where an edit could be made to reduce its length, without detracting from the central story. They needed to explain the state of the Earth and the impact climate change and blight made on crop production. They also needed to invest time in explaining relativity and time – although it wasn’t exactly accurate, or – judging by the comments in the cinema behind me – accessible to all.

In fact, when the lights came up at the end, the only comment I heard was “What a complicated film!”

Again, your mileage may vary. You’ll enjoy it if you like adventures in space, combined with deep meaning-of-life stuff. You won’t like it if you’re a fan of 90-minute, neatly-wrapped-up Hollywood hits. It leaves the audience with a level of ambiguity at the end which was (for me) a welcome change.

There are some great action shots, some lovely visual effects and some real heart-in-the-mouth scenes – physical danger and emotional heart-wrenching stuff. I was bought in from the very beginning but acknowledge that my attention span may be a little longer than some cinema-goers.

I’m a sci-fi fan and have already visited similar themes in the many sci-fi books I’ve read over the years. If you’re new to sci-fi, or not a major fan in the first place, it’s better to think of it as a disaster movie rather than something like Star Wars.

I’d recommend it to anyone who was a fan of Nolan’s earlier films. There’s a lovely build-up throughout but a lack of a definitive end-of-narrative. You can interpret it as you wish. I liked that, but many may not.

Finally, it’s definitely a film to be enjoyed on the big screen. The imagery and soundtrack will lose a lot in translation to your home TV or tablet.

5/5

Getting my geek on…

Catching up with some reading and watching, geek-style. Owing to a particularly busy work-week, I have a stack of excellent comics awaiting me. I’m particularly interested to see how ‘Original Sin‘ pans out after last issue’s cliffhanger ending.

I spent some remaining iTunes vouchers on the latest season of Falling Skies (never seen this one) and the uncut version of World War Z. Amazingly (for me) haven’t watched WWZ since I saw it in the cinema – even though I enjoyed it immensely. Even though it was very, very different to the book – which is also excellent.

I’m also tearing through The Martian, which has kept me hooked this week and made my very uncomfortable flight home from Newquay (turbulence, screaming toddlers and obese passenger next to me) a lot more bearable. Recommended to anyone who likes their sci-fi grounded in hard science. There are no monsters or aliens in this – just one ingenious NASA astronaut, trying to survive the inhospitable environment on Mars. I’m actually learning about the science behind both space travel and how we might live on other planets.

While also learning that, despite childhood dreams, I am in no way whatsoever cut out for life in space. The toilet arrangements alone are enough to put me off…

Meanwhile, I’m bracing myself for the second half of Season 4 of Game of Thrones. I’m incredibly late to this particular party, thanks to my deep dislike of all things fantasy. I heard it involved dragons and so neatly filed it away as a waste of time. Boy was I wrong. GOT is fantastic – intrigue, murder, battles, more intrigue, swords, nudity and assassinations. What more could a boy ask for? (And I haven’t even mention the multiple hotties that appear regularly, or the gratuitous nudity neatly sprinkled throughout.)

I’ve worked hard to avoid all spoilers, so please… no spoilers! I’m also considering what will replace this as my go to show until it reappears next year. I’m considering re-watching Battlestar Galactica from the beginning. That was equally watchable and addictive, as I recall.

Yep. Definitely suffering from some pre-season-ending angst.

Advice from some other GOT fans would be most welcome.

Robocop: Just. Don’t.

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Against my better judgement, I braved last night’s storms to go to the local cinema to watch the new Robocop remake.

That, in hindsight, was a mistake of epic proportions.

It was a remake without any good reason – the original wasn’t even a favourite of mine, and I couldn’t think what new spin the creators could put on the story. It’s probably geek blasphemy, but I thought the original Robocop was a prime example of 1980s cinema excesses. It was pointlessly violent and shallow.

There, I’ve said it.

Why?

So why go to see the remake of an original I didn’t enjoy?

The lure of the Cineworld Unlimited Card. Basically, I’d already paid for it. With this card, I”m less fussy about what I go to see and I’m more likely to take a punt on something. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not.

This was an example of the latter.

This remake echoed the original’s penchant for violence and explosions, needless destruction and paper-thin characters. I began to think back to my disbelief at experiencing the first 30 minutes of Starship Troopers.

I was surprised it took so long to retell the Robocop origin story and, in doing so, wasted the talents of Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton – the latter acting like a pastiche of himself.

The Guilty Parties

Oldman was, as ever, impressive. But his make-up just kept reminding me of Commissioner Gordon, which made me think of the Batman link to Michael Keaton. Which led me to think about linking other cast members to the Batman franchise. The resulting mental gymnastics took some of the anguish my brain was experiencing at having to process such crap.

With hindsight, Oldman was chewing the scenery, but in an entertaining way. I could feel entertained just watch him reading the paper.

Samuel L. Jackson was also hilarious, but at the same time, about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face. His role hinted at the subtle antifascist theme this film could have emphasised, but I’m afraid the subtlety will be lost on most people. He got cheers every time he appeared on the screen.

Yes, it was that kind of crowd.

Anti-social behaviour

And the experience was made all the worse by the collection of toe-rags who used the evening as an excuse to demonstrate the functionality of their mobile phones to each other.

On that note, one of the most disturbing developing of the experience was the ad that encouraged people to download and use a cinema-related app in real time. All across the cinema, smartphones lit up like fireflies in a swamp and despite the advert’s plea to switch them off before the “main feature”, their users declined to comply and kept dicking around electronically for at least another 30mins.

I have to wonder if cinemas are actively trying to undermine the customer experience. They sell people smelly and noisy food to eat during the film and play ads that encourage you to play with your phone.

The visit was only saved by the opportunity to see the excellent trailer for Captain America: Winter Soldier on a massive screen.

In summary

Robocop: not even useful for sheltering from the weather.