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Stark Trek Beyond: Franchise Continues to 'Boldly Go' in New Direction
While it may be a little thin on human drama, there are plenty of thrills to be had in the he newest installment in the Star Trek franchise which arrives to the big-screen almost three years after the release of the reasonably successful Star Trek into Darkness. Stepping in for J.J Abram is Fast & Furious' director Justin Lin, who - along with writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung – has managed to put together and deliver a fresh goody bag of space adventures in the visually grand and super-entertaining, Star Trek Beyond.
It's been three years since Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) set off on his five-year mission to explore the depths of the infinite universe and seek out new life. Growing tired of his everyday routine, he is ready to jump ship, so to speak, and have a go at a more stable career. Subsequently, he decides to apply for the position of a Fleet Admiral at Starfleet's new Yorktown base while his first officer Spock (Quinto) is busy dealing with personal dilemmas of his own.
Their worries are soon put on the back-burner when they are tasked with the rescue of a crew stranded on planet Altamid. However, once the ship approaches its destination, the Enterprise is attacked by the villainous Krall (Elba), who would like nothing more than to get his hands on the artefact the Starfleet has in their possession. With their ship almost completely destroyed, the crew – including Bones (Urban), Uhura (Saldana), Sulu (Cho), Scotty (Pegg) and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) – are soon separated and now must find a way to locate each other.
Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, Beyond does a wonderful job in executing the type of visuals needed to immerse audiences into its deep-space world. Integrating a seamless array of striking images and combining them with a competently formed pop-up effect, the film's definitely belongs on the big screen, with the 3D managing to find a way to contribute to the overall viewing experience. The action is genuinely thrilling and Lin shows great confidence in handling some of the film's more intricate action set-pieces, while the story is brisk and never stalls.
As usual, it's the story's characters that the biggest draw, with the focus moving away from Kirk and Spock a little, to lend some spotlight on the rest of the crew who, after the attack, are all sent off on their own little journeys. While some get more screen time than others, all involved do a great job with the best coming from Boutella as the feral warrior Jaylah and the partnership of McCoy and Spock who demonstrate warm chemistry and offered some of the film's best comic relief.
On the downside, however, Elba's Krall is not as defined as perhaps he should have been and some of the hand-to-hand combat is a little underwhelming from an action standpoint. Nonetheless, the story is solid and the execution even more so with Lin taking successfully taking the franchise the exciting new direction that Star Trek into Darkness scratched the surface of.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.