Archive for Star Trek


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2015 by dcairns


KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy is a good TV doc by Dan Murdoch, which rather neatly allows the notorious hate organisation to make itself look both ridiculous and abhorrent. That might sound all too easy, but one can readily imagine a doc mocking the Klan and thus making them seem like a more or less harmless anachronism — Louis Theroux’s stuff occasionally comes close to that. And there are some atmospheric, sinister shots of hooded figures and cross-burnings here which run the risk of making these masked morons look threateningly cool, and we know from their eager flirtation with Nazi imagery that these chumps would far rather look evil than dopey. But they are both, and they largely do Murdoch’s work for him.

“People ask me, if I could travel back in time and not be a racist, would I do it? and I say, not in a million dollars.”

“She has helped me more times than I can count on my fingers and toes.”

Interesting to learn that among the grandiose titles, the Grand Wizards and Dragons, there’s a spiritual leader known as the Klud, which sounds like a plumbing problem. Also, the pasty, doughy racists have a guidebook/pamphlet called the Kloran. I guess that’s meant to be amusing, but it seems like a joke that backfires. Everything about these guys backfires. When they turn up “en masse” to protest the removal of the Confederate flag from outside a courthouse, they get their asses handed to them by anti-racist and black power marchers, and their own flag is stolen and ripped to shreds.

One depressing moment among many: a black protester shouting “Black power!” in the face of a pink-faced white supremacist shouting “White power!” back at him, a feedback loop of unproductive rage in which neither side emerges with credit. Black power was a legitimate demand from a disenfranchised, disempowered and persecuted minority. White power was a dumb response from a majority who love to feel persecuted and put-upon and paranoid. Put them together in a shouting match and it’s pretty depressing — a friend cited Frank Gorshin in Star Trek, if that reference means anything to you (season 3, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield). “What we got here is failure to communicate,” as Strother Martin says in COOL HAND LUKE. There is no hope anywhere in this shot. You have to look outside the frame.

Star Trek: Into Zero Dark Thirty

Posted in FILM, Politics, Science, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by dcairns


The new STAR TREK film met with our approval — it’s very silly, on the one hand, and on the other, very neatly worked out. So unlike PROMETHEUS, which is ponderous and nonsensical, and which also flowed in part from the pen of Damon Lindelof. TREK seems aware of its own daftness — the suggestion that a “cold fusion device” is what you use when you want to make things really cold may well have been thrown in just to annoy the kind of people who get annoying by things like that.


It’s also unexpectedly moving in places, mainly because it concentrates on Spock, and he’s such an intriguing concept for a character. The movie sort of treats him as an Aspergers person. Zachary Quinto is excellent in the role, but Chris Pine’s Kirk delivers a lot of the key scene too. And, in my gruff, manly way, I just love Karl Urban as McCoy.

In this movie Kirk battles Sherlock Holmes and Robocop, which I didn’t know going in.


I felt Simon Pegg’s Scottish accent had deteriorated a bit since the last film, where he was actually convincing. It’s weird, as I think he has a Scottish wife, and the film’s first assistant director is Tommy Gormley, who has the broadest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever encountered on a living human being. Pegg does throw in some nice bits of observational Scottishness, and I get a warm glow around the cockles, as if they were being beamed up, when I hear somebody use the phrase “hud oan” (translation: “Hold on”) in a Major Motion Picture, but the fact remains he is now a less convincing Scotsman than James Doohan. Which is a bit like being a less convincing echidna than Wallace Beery.

No explanation is given why Peter Weller talks like a cowboy while his daughter, Alice Eve, has a cut-glass English accent. Probably something to do with cold fusion. The show’s other new cast member, Benedict Cumberbatch, is pretty good value, striking dynamic poses and being cold-blooded in a way that’s distinct enough from the Vulcans to register.


Director JJ Abrams layers on the lens flare as usual, but manages to simulate the confusion of combat without his action sequences degenerating into actual incoherence, which I appreciate. He also does a few of the nice tie-in shots which made MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III quite pleasing in its set-pieces — a crashing craft pulls the camera down to a foreground character, who leads the camera onwards in a kind of relay. In an age when many directors seem unable to conceive of a shot which has more than one thing happening in it, this is refreshing.

On the whole, this is a kind of pumped-up remake of THE WRATH OF KHAN, but some aspects of it actually improve on that movie, so I’ll give it a pass.

It’s always been interesting, the way Star Trek reflects America’s view of itself and the world. In the original series, the Federation represented both a united mankind, and the USA, with the Klingons obviously standing in for the USSR. In this movie, with the Enterprise dispatched to retrieve a terrorist from the Klingon homeworld, they seem to be the Middle East in general and Pakistan in particular. And thus the movie seems to point with hope towards eventual peaceful coexistence with alien empires, while (perhaps, mildly) criticising Obama’s death squad incursion and drones policy.

Oh, there’s also a great segue involving a swearword and a sliding door — the sound effects gag of the season.

Midnight Movie

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2012 by dcairns

Caught up with JJ Abrams’ SUPER 8.

(JJ Abrams movies may be what rental is for.)

But I’m favourably disposed to him, really. And actually glad I saw his STAR TREK on the big screen, where the audience reaction was delightful. I’ll totally see the sequel.

Peter O’Toole cameo (left).

Abrams channels the Spielberg of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and ET well, but I disliked the faux-camera-flare and missed the grain. And also, Spielberg has been heavily absorbed by US filmmakers already, so there’s recognition without the shock when it’s done more self-consciously, as in “this is a retro statement” rather than “this is what we consider the acme of American cinema” which is the kind of attitude I get from those MUMMY films…

The story is fine, though I wished it were weirder: real UFO stories are WEIRD. The period feel didn’t really come alive for me, and oddly, the Super-8 film element wasn’t important to the story. Some kids are making a zombie film when they accidentally film a train accident in which a crashed alien, held prisoner for years by the government, escapes. But the accidental filming part isn’t really a big plot point, when you get to it. A shame, since it shouldn’t have been hard to get a BLOW UP thing going on.

Hey, it’s Glynn Turman — from JD’S REVENGE! — as whistleblowing science teacher Mr Woodward (easy Watergate reference). As we know from Breaking Bad, science teachers are bad-ass.

As the spectacle and crisis mounts, the film goes for emotion but doesn’t quite nail it, despite Elle Fanning being particularly good. I think this is because we don’t quite know how to feel about the big alien — he’s more sinned against than sinning but he does kill a lot of innocent people. And eat them. Even in Act III. There’s something nice about the film’s desire to make us consider things from an enemy alien’s point of view, and ask how these hostiles got to be so hostile — good liberal allegory work there — but it’s inimical to the simplicity Spielbergian emotion seems to require. And Abrams still has a weakness for gestural emotion, where characters throw away or let go things that they’ve grown out of. Never actually convinces or moves us. Gloria Stuart chucking that diamond away in TITANIC has a lot to answer for.

But as the extraterrestrial shit hits the fan and Spielbergian classicism melds with Abrams’ more chaotic, modern feel, one positive thing is that the funny lines play funnier amid the frenzy, so it’s a pretty good time. Just not, somehow, satisfying.

But the Super-8 film-within-the film is great ~



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