Let me start out by saying two things 1. that I was something of a fan of the original series and 2. possible spoilers ahead.
Last night I trundled off to see the latest Star Trek movie, I’ve seen most of them at the cinema to be fair and up until last night saw no reason to change the habit of a lifetime.
The film opened up with a delightful sequence of Urban and Pine racing through a pink forest attempting to save a culture on the brink of extinction. The cinematography was lovely, the chase scene was okay and idea of saving a culture against the edicts of the Prime Directive directly in line with how our beloved starship Captain should start the movie. Even the eruption of the Enterprise from the ocean and hurtling towards the volcano filled me with a childlike awe and I prepared for a good solid two hours of fun. Sadly my fun was short lived.
Star Trek has always prided itself on being about family, community – both on and of screen and yet with these reinvented versions of Kirk and co we appear to lost the heart of Star Trek, it’s all become a bit more like a generic action film, missing the tension, missing the chain of command, missing lots of things that Trek used to give us. Now think we an all accept that Trek had lost its way the last few years and the revised timeline of the new films has injected that newness and a survival instinct that will ensure that the StarTrek brand lives on, but the cost seems high.
Anyway, back to the movie – it rocks along at a racing pace with things happening left right and centre, not stopping to give any rationale or reasoning and let’s not even discuss the underwear scene with the Carol Marcus character – needed? Hmm.
Star Trek Into Darkness cheaply imitated the best bits of Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan and then gave us the happy ever after just to make sure that the third in the series turns up. The writers have described these as the Easter eggs for the fans but to my mind as a long time fan these seemed to be cheap imitations from a script that didn’t have enough good ideas of its own. Possible the worst of these was seeing Zachary Quinto screaming the name of the villain in an attempt to replicate Bill Shatners emotions filled ‘Khhhhaaannn’. This new version seemed so lacking in punch and the death scene of the captain was so badly framed, so poorly conceived that it didn’t hold true. Star Trek fans should replay STII and see which was better. Simon Pegg though in this scene, as he looked on filled the room with gravitas and his portrayal of Scotty continues to impress even if his sidekick doesn’t.
Let’s be fair though there was some good acting, Karl Urban is excellent in almost anything he does but the rest seemed a little lost, Chris Pine has little presence as Kirk and Quinto seemed out of depth attempting to portray a 21st century Spock,it seems our favourite Vulcan is now more than ever completely angst ridden. Zoe Saldana has become the kick ass girl on the crew and seems more concerned with command than linguistics, infact the captains chair had so many occupants I assumed that at some point she would become the captain or admiral or something. Then we have John Harrison played by Cumberbatch and while he conveyed suitable menace and emotion he was woefully underused and will not be remembered for his Khan the way Ricardo Montalban will be. He snarled and cried in all the right places and you will even develop a sympathy with him but his character is too caught up in blowing the movie to bits that we don’t get enough depth to him. Both Alice Eve and Peter Weller as the Marcus family came across as pretty wooden and this seemed more down to the direction and lethargic, angst ridden script. The funny thing is that so many of these actors really have done stunning work roast least done much better, take Anton Yelchin for example he spent most the film running round with goggles on shouting in his strangely stereotyped Russian accent! Wasted!
I want to find positives but I’m struggling, well perhaps the Enterprise has never looked better and Earth looked believable but there were so many special effects it all seemed so over cooked, add to this the scale of Enterprise never seems quite right, so many different costume types. Arrrghhh!
Perhaps the positive I’m looking for is found in the dialogue between Kirk and Scott, here the script opens up a. new relationship for Kirk, one that you suspect wasn’t suitable in the original series because of Doohan and Shatners poor relationship. Pegg and Pine come across like old drinking buddies and this seems perfectly suitable and a nice touch to the tradition trinity of Kirk, Spock and Bones.
However, in conclusion …
Disjointed, overlong, gimmicky and too many poorly conceived and executed ideas, but do go and see it and if like me as you half closed your eyes you saw a little too much of The Avengers… Still Abrams is off to completely change Star Wars next, oh well.
DREDD-FUL? NOT IN THIS MEGACITY OR THE NEXT
As I’m sure you are all aware as a Spaniel Daddy (@paulkdesigner) and I (@thaiview) like to have sit down and watch a movie together. The problem is that I’m only 5 years old and the film I fancied watching was Dredd with Karl Urban, not exactly the kind of PG goodness that most five year olds should be watching. I digress.
Daddy tells me that they made a version of this character starring Slyvester Stallone about 15 years ago that was more like the Mickey Mouse version than the hard, gritty version that was being served up by its 2012 successor. Let’s start with the synopsis of the movie
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.
The synopsis is pretty accurate, taken from IMDB but if you’d read this and knew nothing else this would be a pretty rubbish sounding movie. Dredd is about convictions, honour and above all duty … I mean yes it’s also about the uber violence – which this film delivers in glorious spades but Dredd is a character that we love to hate. He’s the character you would have sent after Bin Laden and knew that he would have found him and been home in time for dinner. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the protection of the law, be it right or wrong, you simply have to admire, even if not agree with. The depiction of Dredd here is as close to the comic books as you can get, he isn’t quite the fascist that perhaps the comic book version is but then I’m not sure that works on screen, this version is driven, Urban himself that his take on the character was as an average man with an insanely tough job in a fragmenting society and likened Dredd’s heroism to that of a fireman. But Dredd was only one of the characters Olivia Thirlby as Anderson worked a charm, her personality allowed some charm and humanity into proceedings that our beloved anti hero simply can’t have.
The story itself was a simple affair, Dredd and Anderson investigating a murder in a tower block and uncovering the key distribution centre and main players involved. Low on ammo but with a dedication to the law they search out Ma-Ma, our disfigured former prostitute and leader of the gangs. Lena Headey is on excellent form as a woman with no remorse and has nothing but self interest in her heart. It is the lack of emotion from the two key protagonists that perhaps set this apart from other dark comic book adaptions and make it infinitely better. Think how much better Ghostrider and The Punisher would have been if they had played to the characters key strengths.
Dredd was tight, confined and never really deviated from its key aim of telling a very simple story. Alex Garland brought a grounded version to the screen but not before he had played in his writings with lots of the elements that have made Dredd so successful in print. The direction, visual effects, acting and storytelling are compelling and those reviews that describe this as mindless mess are missing the point and the setting. Daddy may not have wanted this Spaniel to watch a certificate 18 movie but it was worth waiting for him to go out.
You can see how this would play better to a UK audience rather than the US, there’s no real happy ending, there’s no real hero, nobody’s coming out of this smelling anything other than shitty. It’s intelligent without being arrogant and is an excellent slice of near future Science Fiction that takes itself seriously.
My poor Spaniel brain once saw the Stallone version of this but Urban and his colleagues have vanquished that from my mind. Woof woof, thanks bipeds, now go see this film while Daddy takes me to see Oblivion.
I love film – but rarely review it, feeling that there is enough professional criticism out there but sometimes you go and see a film and you think, ‘yep, that’s worth a mention’. This weekend I caught Les Miserables and Flight. Les Miserables was not my choice of movie but I was hopeful that a great cast and what is considered to be a timeless story would hold my attention.
It was a little like when I went to see Moulin Rouge (a flim for which I held out little hope but which would become one of my favourite films of all time.) Anyway, I settled down with my now fully flowing tummy bug and a big jug of Sprite and the opening sequence served to amaze. Hugh Jackman was a man on fire, Russell Crowe an effective foil, even if perhaps not as vocally strong, and a sense that the grandeur of the stage show was about to eclipsed by the film.
The story for what it is in my opinion is a laboured affair with the key element of the relationship Jean Valjean and Javert never fully explored satisfactorily but this is not a fault of the film and more of the story. The remaining elements of an inherited daughter and the man she will fall in love with, the comedy landlord and his downtrodden wife, plus the revolutionary element of France all seem a little tacked on – it is almost as though there is one element too much. It never feels fully cohesive and actually it is the relationship between the two lead men that is most intriguing – one who would find his god and perhaps to his own surprise – his redemption and one who in service to his country believes he serves god only for his suicide to ultimately lead to his expulsion from Paradise. The role reversal from prisoner to free man and free man to prisoner, while well played out, could have been so much more.
However, that being said, the singing was excellent and while I’m not a fan of the music I would give very high marks for the vocal performance of Hathaway, Jackman and even Crowe. It brought a smile to my face to see Sweeney Todd alumni Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter reunited for a series of high jinks. Sadly, the rest of the cast was either woefully under used or simply set dressing, the exception perhaps being the two child actors – Daniel Huddlestone especially, as Gavroche giving a stellar performance and his ending brought about gasps from the audience when I attended.
Despite some failings the film is well acted, beautiful looking and suitably translated from the original with some interesting visual touches from Tom Hooper – including his dealing with some of the major songs, as characters literally stepped out of the film to sing them.
A worthy 7.5/10 and a 10/10 for Jackman who continues to deliver over and above.
Have you ever watched a movie and thought, thank crikey that isn’t me? I sat down for Flight and expected great things. Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle and John Goodman, this was an acting film and I expected acting. What we got was a very simple story about the destruction and redemeption.
The setup is pretty simple, a pilot with a severe addiction to drink and drugs saves most of the lives of the people aboard his morning flight when the plane nose dives. It then moves into the investigation and the subsequent (if you’ll excuse the pun) fallout.
The flight crash, while beautifully done and filled with tension, could have been any scenario – this was about Whip Whitaker, a man on the edge of his life and seemed not to know it. There was something about Whip that I recognised in myself and perhaps there is something about the character that we all can relate to, he was a bit of an everyman. And yes while I’ve never known a life dedicated to drugs and drink I have know what its like to be driven and needing to survive at any cost. So perhaps this is why Denzel Washington deserves to once again be Oscar nominated – because he performs to all of us, as all of us.
The ending is pretty much expected, although how we get there is rather cunning and Robert ‘Back to Future’ Zemeckis plays the tone just right throughout the whole movie, especially at the final act as Whip faces his demons and tormentors. All in all Flight was an excellent film, well crafted, nicely scored and brilliantly acted. My only gripe is that there simply was not enough of John Goodman and his ‘stroke magazines’ – what a wonderfully awful phrase.
Scene of the movie: Smoking on the stairway, creepy and compelling
There are very few things I love more in this world than slipping on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and hitting the road for a bit of a run. Being 34 means that I’m at that stage in my life where I’m not going to be running any 10.5 second hundred metres anymore but I’m at a point where I can perform across distance at a fair old pace (about 4 minutes 15 seconds per kilometre).
More recently I’ve decided to take things a little more seriously, I joined a bit of a social running group and decided that I wanted to race more. I also wanted to generally improve and keep that heart attack from the door. My new running group gave me a few bits of inspiration and importantly some excellent fashion tips, I say fashion but actually one of the chaps is a regular wearer of Vibram FiveFingers, something I have always eyed with suspicion but had noted that the Barefoot movement is gathering some pace – if you’ll excuse the pun.
After a long debate and thorough research I decided that I needed to try a pair. Off to Stratford City Westfield I went and there in all their glory where what I describe as ‘toe shoes’. Trying them on was actually amazing and I paid my money for some lovely Vibram Komodo and left the store (that night I went to sleep in them).
I did as instructed though and started reasonably slowly (4k) but then pretty swiftly kicked into gear and was running 10k in them. I think I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve always run on my toes and so as a consequence the transition didn’t seem as painful as some peoples, but even so it still took about 4 weeks to get properly into the swing of them.
The great news is, I’m faster, less injured and I look cool, what more can you ask from a pair of running shoes – now all I need is a pair of the FiveFingers Seeya and I’ll be a happy man
The problem was this wasn’t enough and my spend on running kit continued, the Camelbak XCT (review to follow) was the next thing after I decided I needed to run a marathon and finally I have recently purchased the Garmin Forerunner 410. I shan’t go into all the technical bits of the watch but instead simply deliver a verdict that this is actually really helping me to keep my pace sensible and track my routes – which is something I’ve always struggled with since moving my distances up. Add to this its a great looking piece of kit and you are really onto a winner. I paid just £150 which for a feature packed watch is nothing and the whole Garmin Connect website concept just means that I can keep in touch with what my fellow runners are up to.
Between them the Vibram FiveFingers and the Garmin Forerunner 410 (and my running group) have changed the way I run and think about running. Before it was about winning now its very much about taking part and doing the best I can on the day. I’ve just completed the Crystal Palace 10k and the Darent Valley 10k about 46 minutes for each and I see I’m getting quicker. I’m aiming for a time of 39.59 in the end but we’ll see if that ever happens again and if it doesn’t well I’ll survive.
Daddy and I had decided that we should have a bit of day out. He slipped the lead around my harness and off we went. he didn’t tell me where we were going to, he simply explained that my waggly Spaniel tail would have a lovely old time. Well we arrived at Bond Street tube station a little while later and headed straight for a place called a ‘gallery’. This is a space usually reserved for humans but I gave my usual doggy grin and the guard on the door let me in.
Once inside daddy showed me the delights of Dale Chihuly, an artist who makes beautiful glass things and equally beautiful paintings. Daddy says that Spaniels probably aren’t so great at the glass blowing but he says I might be able to have a go at the painting.
The Halcyon Gallery is a wonderful addition to the London art scene and recommend you go along and support it, this lovely little Spaniel will be trying to sneak in again sometime soon. The Chilhuly runs until the 21st April 2012, so don’t be afraid they are very, very friendly in there. Please note not all hounds are as cute as me and they probably won’t let you in 🙂
I was in a strange position just last week when I was asked to give a lecture about producing great campaigns and better presentations. I was greeted by a group of very interested future account managers, traffickers, creatives and business owners and I set about my own brand of madness to sell them the principles of good campaigning and presenting as I saw it. As I prowled and danced round the lecture hall I had the sounds of titters and giggles from the ladies as they witnessed either a breakdown or a very clever assessment of how creativity, business and common sense should all work together. I like to think it was the clever assessment but you can never quite tell can you?
As a creative I have always been interested in giving something back, this was one of those opportunities and if you are a designer or account manager out there today I would urge you to engage with the next generation of talent. Below are the notes I used during the epic 90 minute lecture and workshop.
Have a great team Putting the right people into a team is vital, when a campaign is produced you need the right balance of creative people and suits. This can be applied to almost any business team, creative people are your thinkers, ideas people and the suits are the ones who come across with the practical information, the grounding. However, remember suits and creatives can swop roles and often have skills that transfer – use these.
Put the right people in the right places There is no point getting a copywriter to produce the budget, this isn’t the strength they have been brought to your team for. However, if they have ideas about budget it’s worth a listen.
Leadership There must be a leader, somebody to make decisions One person makes the decisions and if there is a power struggle inside the team good management should deal with this swiftly, quietly and with dignity you will still need this team member later down the line.
Be prepared Starting a project when you haven’t got your brief, research or team decided can lead to problems including developing solutions that don’t fit or creating division in a team.
Ensure that the brief you have a as full as possibleIn the course of a career you will receive a project that has very little detail but these are dangerous, get information. Information is powerful, it allows you to go to the project with the knowledge that your solution can fit to. If your brief lacks information go to the client/service and find out all you can. At the same time if a campaign brief is too tightly fitted then you might have nowhere to go and the campaign will never get any traction, therefore you must negotiate openings with the client or service to ensure the brief is open enough.
Basically, if the brief doesn’t work or will fail to deliver the right results for the client product or service then it needs rewriting and they need to understand why.
Good research Find out what’s happening in your clients/products sector but don’t be restricted by this – also look at products outside that sector this will lead to positive campaign influence and don’t be afraid to use media that are considered unfashionable.
Forget others Don’t be hampered by what other people do, be true to yourself, the brief and the criteria, the client will always appreciate this and the work you produce will be better.
There is no such thing as a bad idea only ideas that do not fit the briefIdeas are ideas and somewhere they have a place but it might not be in this project. Remember get all the ideas pouring out, a project that only has one idea is a dangerous one. Remember that a great idea, the winning idea can come from the most junior member of the team, do not be afraid to accept this.
Be creative and dynamic ‘Seen it’, ‘they did this’, ‘I like this didn’t Coca Cola do that?’, ‘Couldn’t we copy Apple!’ I’ve heard them all. Be original in your campaigns, events, creative, you might hit upon the next great campaign that really touches. Clients and consumers are subjective, remember, somewhere, someone will hate what you do – that’s okay. Interestingly you may think you haven’t got a creative bone in our body – you are probably wrong, ever dressed for a fancy dress party? painted a picture for your parents? Taken a photograph on you iPhone? Then you’ve got creative in you and that thinking can be a powerful ally when making dynamic appropriate campaigns.
Critique Good critique can go a long way to producing even better campaigns. Accept it.
Keep things simple If you over complicate a campaign it runs the risk of coming apart under that complexity. There can be very complex tactical and production elements but at the hub a great campaign is the simplest of ideas.
Environment Consider implications outside the brief, producing a logo for example is great but how does it work on a website, on billboards, in black. Is it a product of its time and will it last or need replacing very quickly, is it an obvious solution?
Ensure you know what your campaign will need to succeed. With the increasing diversity of campaign opportunities in social media and beyond this is increasingly important.
There must constructive conversation and dialogue A good campaign leader listens, keeps conversation going, even a the last minute a good idea can be change the focus of a campaign. Charles Saatchi while playing chess was presented with the phrase ‘the worlds best airline’ he reached across with a red marker scrubbed out the world ‘best’ and replaced it with ‘favourite’ then returned to his chess. This change gave British Airways it’s most memorable ever strapline and campaign.
Ready, steady, go When you present a campaign in be very ready – drill the team on their roles, be ready for questions, ready to deliver the messages and ready for criticism. Be prepared for all these things and importantly remember – you aren’t going into battle, listen to the client but defend and sell your campaigns. Prepare your presentation in appropriate media, if you choose digital always prepare something to leave behind and always prepare a printed backup – nothing worse than getting there to discover your iPad has no juice left. Your printed and digital material should also be well branded, not be in a vairiety of fonts, clear and concise like the oral presentation you are giving.
Be polished Never look like it took you 20 minutes to produce your campaign even if it did, the client must think they are they most important thing in your universe – regardless of their actual financial worth to you.
Introduce yourself Assume that the people in front of you have never before seen you, your business or what you have to offer. Even if they have it never hurts to remind them.
Product Talk about the product, consider your strategy, building pain and applying gain often helps to sell in a campaign, what is the client or customer missing and how do you and your product or service fill this need.
Conclusion Be concise about the benefits – three great points that are unforgettable
The Monster Inside Have a giant noise or something stupid that you can do infront of your team to amuse or let off steam, it’s brilliant … and finally have fun, campaigns are often stressful to produce but enormously good fun to be involved in.
The lecture was finished with a brief workshop getting the students to go through how they would market a new brand of T-shirt, where they would do, why they would do it there, what forms of communication they would use. Nobody fell asleep and I felt great.
Until next time …
BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2009)
Are you a bit sick of the waste of time that is called Twilight? Have you actually had enough of vampire movies in general? Well let me tell you fellow Spaniels and bipeds too that there is a movie I saw recently that has restored my faith in the vampire movie. Blood: The Last Vampire, imagine if ‘Sin City’, met ‘House of Flying Daggers’ and had a child called ‘Dark City’ and you have a brief overview of what you would be witnessing. Daddy let me watch this instead of sitting in the cage, mainly because I think he was scared of the vampires. Anyway let me track back a bit
This is the story of a young (looking) girl, Saya, who happens to be a vampire hunting vampire, it follows her desire to exact revenge on chief vampire/demon Onegin and how these two enormous characters come crashing into each others lives. The visuals are very much inspired by films like Sin City, Dark City and Roadhouse but have the beauty we associate with films like ‘Hero’ and ‘Crouching Tiger’. What makes this better than most though is that the story is well composed, deftly crafted in direction, dialogue left to a minimum and paced at just the right level so that you don’t feel as though you might die of boredom (Twilight) or worse that you are going to vomit from too much camera movement (Transformers).
There is no doubt that it’s bloody, the body count is high and that it is vicious almost to the point of ridiculous but it is also warm and generous and while relationships aren’t explored in too great a depth we get a sense of each of the key characters.
So how did this Spaniel find it? I loved it and if you find yourself an enjoyer of all things vampiric then this is a movie you must try. There are very few English language movies like this and it really does have a little bit of everything and with the added sex appeal of the lead actress, South Korean, Gianna Jun then this is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Enjoy!
This review refers to the live action version rather than the animated version (2000) Image © Beijing Happy Pictures Cultural Communications