“Star Trek: The Ultimate Experience”

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, 1st November 2015

I freely acknowledge that I know nothing about music, but I am fussy enough to prefer what I am listening to, to be in time and in tune. Like John Barry’s compositions, most Star Trek themes rely very heavily on the brass section for their impact.

I have no idea how long the London Philharmonic orchestra rehearsed this event, but although the brass section were all playing the same tune, too many of them were playing in their own key, to their own tempo and I am bloody sure a few of them were playing it backwards.

Couple that with the saccharine-drenched sentimentality of the cod-philosophical video links between the pieces of music, the overall impression was of being in a very poorly assembled primary school Christmas concert (and I have sat through a LOT of them).

I cannot emphasise how disappointing the whole thing was, especially having hugely enjoyed the live Titanic showing at the Royal Albert Hall a few months back.

I am sure, though, that most of the audience were enjoying it, being Trekkies in the worst sense of the word – wearing uniforms that fitted ten years and five stone ago…

I can’t remember which of the Hannibal Lecter movies it was where he eats the clarinetist that constantly plays incorrectly. Having sat through the first half of this performance by the Brass Section From Hell, for the first time ever, I totally get where Lecter was coming from. I just wouldn’t waste the Chianti. I left at the intermission.

I cannot warn people off this farce strongly enough.

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Godzilla 2014 Review – Zero stars.

Godzilla. Where to start? I don’t know what it cost, but the producers saved a fortune on the writers because this is a totally plot-free film.

The leading man does nothing – absolutely nothing – for the entire film. This is no mean feat, since he does a lot of running around and shooting at things and shouting, but if you ever have the misfortune to watch this steaming pile of excrement, keep an eye out for anything that he does which actually makes a difference. He always arrives just too late or interrupts something someone else was doing anyway or whatever he’s doing is utterly ineffective. He has to be the single most useless leading man in cinema history.

About halfway through I just wanted him to die. By the end of it I wanted them all to die painful, horrible deaths, just to end it all.

And god knows what Ken Watanabe’s stage instructions were – “Stand there looking wide-eyed, terrified and oriental” I imagine. A woeful waste of a very good actor.

There were many “exploding head” moments when it made even less sense that at other times:

For slightly weird reasons, they have to make a clockwork-powered nuclear bomb. When the inevitable point comes when they have to stop it, they can’t get the little glass door open. This stymies the entire might of the US military and they have to head off in a boat with it still merrily ticking away. A Brit would, of course, have just fired a bullet through the bloody thing. Clocks don’t like bullets and they tend to grind to a halt when they meet one.

We are supposed to believe that the Golden Gate Bridge is made of mostly gravity-defying steel because when one of the two main cables gets snapped, the bridge stays determinedly in place despite having thousands of vehicles (mostly school buses, apparently) on it. Even when the second and final main cable gets snapped, it still takes a 300-foot tall lizard to do any real damage.

When a main character loses his son, it is apparently perfectly okay to just reunite them an hour and several dozen location changes later with absolutely no explanation.

Would several hundred of San Francisco’s finest be just standing around mere yards from a fallen but still-breathing 300-foot lizard when their city lies ruined around them with thousands of trapped people? I would hope for a slightly higher level of focus and professionalism than that.

Certainly the worst film I have seen in a couple of years, maybe even longer.

I cannot recommend enough that you give it a miss…

“Man of Steel”

Right, here we go. Considered views on “Man of Steel”…

Acting: Actually, I didn’t think the acting was too bad, despite several big names being wasted on stuff like this. None of the characters was remotely believable, but I don’t put the fault for that at the feet of the actors who were all genuinely trying their best to polish a turd. Lawrance Fishburne is getting wider in the face than he is on the waistline these days, Henry Cavill has bulked up nicely from his Tudors role and is very do-able, and it’s nice to see West Wing’s Toby get to help save the world a bit more.

Plot: As coherent as Brownian Motion. All over the bloody shop. The multiple timelines were fine, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was the frequency with which they got to a rare meaningful plot point and rushed through it saying, in effect, “you’ll get this if you read the comics, tough if not”. It pandered far too much to the core audience, which when the core audience is teenage boys with a massive inferiority complex and incurable masturbation habit, is NOT a good thing. The nod to the fanboys in the shape of the small-dicked fat kid who becomes Superman’s “friend” was laugh-out loud funny. And laugh I did. Sadly, this one bit of unconscious parody does not make up for the rest. Ah, the rest. Basically, the rest was an incoherent mish-mash of CGI which could and should have been halved in length.

Audience: The film was totally made for comics readers. It didn’t work as a stand-alone sci-fi film by any means, as too much pre-knowledge was assumed. We were supposed to care about characters without knowing anything about them. Difficult to do. So while the hard-core tissue-users will be happy with it, the rest of us will be left wondering why they bothered making it.

Music: In any other film I would say the music was an overblown mess. But in this one, it was actually quite useful because it told us in the audience which bits we should care about, and which bits were meaningful, thoughtful ponderings on the human condition. Useful tips as I couldn’t have found any of either in this film without these musical clues.

Effects: There should be a new amendment to the American constitution banning CGI effects over a certain (very short) length of time in any movie. After a while they seemed so derivative that I wasn’t sure whether I was watching Prometheus, Avengers Assemble, Independence Day, Avatar or the Muppet Movie. The “big baddy slamming Superman around” was cut-for-cut so identical to the “big Hulk slamming Loki around” scene from Avengers that I expected the Kryptonian to say “puny God” at one point. Same old same old… Boring.

Subtexts: All the subtlety of a full-face sledgehammer hit. “Only you can save her” says Real-Dad-EL, so SuperJesus adopts the crucified pose, does a Javert-like back-fall (which was slightly confusing as it was Russell Crowe playing Dad-EL and watching rather than falling) and flies off to save Lois from the fiery flames of hell. The Vatican couldn’t have written it any better. I laughed so much at that bit that hubby looked over to make sure I was okay. Far too many religious references in the film for my liking, but then one is one too many for me.

Physics: A singularity within Earth’s atmosphere is not just going to go “pop” at the end because it’s eaten all the baddies and needs to disappear now as the film has only three minutes left to run. It’s going to grow until all physical matter nearby, including the whole of the Earth has gone into it. As a defence mechanism, it’s a good method of committing suicide.

Summary: Crap. Not even good crap, but bad crap. Terribly written, lazily directed, over-stuffed with effects and music and under-stuffed with plot. It was not fun to watch. It really wasn’t – it was as though someone somewhere confused the words portentous and pretentious. This was, sadly, two and a half hours of pretentious rubbish that should never have left the screenwriters’ wordprocessor. All in all, not sure I can recommend it…

Battle: Los Angeles – Undiluted Bowel Water

Before I start, I have to make the terms of reference clear on this piece. What I am about to say is based up just the first hour or so of this movie. At that point, both I and my boyfriend were giggling out loud at totally inappropriate points and decided that we’d had enough. We left.

So if the movie suddenly became a classic post-modern analysis of the America psyche worthy of Dostoevsky or Orson Wells, then I unreservedly apologise and withdraw my application for a refund of the 19 quid the two tickets cost me. However, since the hour that we did see made Skyline look like Citizen Kane, I suspect that my apologies will not be needed.

So. How bad was it. This can best be summed up by listing the stereotypes that were so freely used:

  • The ageing senior non-commissioned officer – a staff sergeant in this case – who has a “history” and wants to get out of the service because he’s done his bit. Tormented by his past, just a little sexually ambiguous and beyond his best but willing to put his saggy, greying balls on the line for his country just one more time. Not Aaron Ekhart’s finest part.
  • A group of marines, containing a couple of gung-ho types who you know aren’t going to make it beyond the first half hour (think Star Trek red shirts and you’re spot-on), a virgin, a barely-disguised gay guy with beautifully managed eyebrows and moustache, an unseen “on leave” sergeant who will need to be replaced by the guy above, and a neophyte “lootennant” fresh out of US Military McCollege who’s as keen as mustard but inexperienced, ready to be guided by said ageing sergeant.
  • One of our group of seven mental dwarf marines had a brother who was killed while serving under the sergeant’s previous care. This leads to inevitable tension. At least, I think it was supposed to lead to tension. I was busy tutting at the inevitability of it all.
  • They meet aliens within ten minutes of the start of the movie, but don’t really get to see them at all.
  • Aliens have already wiped out Tokyo, London (shown in a 2-second TV clip in the background, a clip that I suspect gets changed to whichever territory the movie is playing in just to keep the locals happy) and assorted sundry other coastal cities. This information is provided in around 30 seconds then dismissed like an unwanted US geography teacher.
  • BUT! They’re after LA next. Cue much chest-beating and drawing of arbitrary lines in the sand: “We can’t let them get LA. We won’t let them get LA, hell no…” (giggles from the Brit audience). No explanation as to why LA is so special – from what I’ve seen it’s a shit hole and would benefit from a few thousand angry spaceships levelling it, but I digress….
  • All shots of aliens, aliens landing, alien ships, large expensive explosions, ruined landscapes and the like are through TV images. This allows the special effects people to save time by rendering all their shots in crapo-resolution rather than multiple-thousand lines required by decent film stock. A cheap trick that fools nobody with a functioning brain stem.
  • Our (by now beloved) heroes are despatched to a police station where an unknown number of civilians are thought to be hiding from the beasties. There is a time limit on this before Santa Monica is blown to kingdom-come in the usual US Military display of subtlety to get rid of the aliens. The time limit is mercifully short as by now the cinema audience is ready to offer themselves as sacrifices to the aliens…
  • During one of a seamless series of gunfights with clouds of smoke (see cheap special effects mentioned earlier) a small group of lost marines join our heroes. One of these new people is a ballsy lesbian marine who bears a remarkable likeness to Michelle Rodriguez because a) it’s her playing the part and b) that’s the only part she ever gets to play. Looks of brief confusion from the cinema audience as they tried to figure out if they were watching Battle: LA, Lost, SWAT, Resident Evil, Fast & Furious, Aliens (mistaking her for Colette Hiller) or Aliens vs Predator (mistaking her for Cynthia Dale Scott). Sadly this confusion is insufficiently distracting as…
  • They shortly come across the civilians. “Anybody there?” “Yes” “How many?” “Five, three are children” thus neatly capturing the attention of the mums who’ve been dragged along to this testosteronefest. Now there are kiddies in danger, it’s a family film with some potentially moving death scenes. Hopefully all three kids and hopefully quickly…
  • One of the civilians turns out to be a veterinarian, which is useful as it allows her to say “I’m a veterinarian, can I help” when they finally manage to capture a nearly-dead alien and they want to find out what makes it tick. It is, of course, well known that all aliens have exactly the same internal structure as your average Fresian cow, so how lucky was it that she was there to help?!

Plot-wise, this is where I have to stop, because we couldn’t disguise our laughing as coughs any more so we left. We don’t know if they saved LA, or the kids or the vet. Nor do we care.

Overall? Crap. Not just crap, but crap photographed using a hand-held camera managed by a cameraperson who seems to suffer permanent epileptic fits with their hand on the zoom button. More time was spent looking for the person who’s supposed to be talking than anything else. The whole impression was that the film was an exercise by a first-year media studies student who saw Skyline and thought they would do another one but with a few recognisable faces this time. They would have got a D- for this effort. Really REALLY badly photographed, a token effort at a script, jingoism that the Argentinian Junta would have been proud of back in 1982 and no characters that anyone other than a 13 year old boy would care about, I wonder what the executive that green-lit this was smoking at the time.

I really hope that this undiluted bowel water doesn’t represent some sort of trend for US sci-fi films, because they just died if it does.

Paul.