CONSIDERING…Star Trek Vs (?) Star Wars: why “Star Trek Beyond” reminds us we need the ‘other’ franchise

STB

First up, a confession: I’m pretty much a flat-out, die-hard Star Trek lover. No, I don’t call myself a Trekkie or Trekker (any more than I call myself a ‘Warser’ or a ‘Blakie’), but along with shows like Dr WhoThunderbirds and possibly Space 1999Star Trek (the original series – STTOS, henceforth) was an immensely important formative influence on me personally and (though I hesitate to type it) artistically – arguably as important as the ‘Big One’ for many of my kind and generation, Star Wars: A New Hope. I love that series. And while I don’t mind Next Generation (though I came to it much later), and enjoyed Deep Space 9 and Voyager, it’s STTOS that stands head and shoulders (hell, many body lengths) above all else.

Second, regardless of what follows, remember this: I fully expect Star Trek Beyond (STB) to be a critical (excluding me and others of a similar perspective) and financial failure. Why? Well, it’s flawed in lots of ways, but mostly because it’s the most ‘Star Trek’ of the current Star Trek films (known at the ‘Kelvin’ timeline amongst fans – a reference to the ship that is destroyed in the opening of the first film, resulting in a change to the STTOS timeline), and a necessary return to the tenets that made STTOS different (not better) to Star Wars (SW), especially if the films and new series are to distinguish themselves from the tidal wave of SW movies and shows that are surging toward our shore.

Here’s why: Continue reading

REVIEW: “Stranger Things” – it’s like ’80’s Spielberg…but from the future!

netflix stranger things poster

What happens if you take some of the great Hollywood adventure films of the ’80’s, and mash them up with a good dollop of Stephen King and a bit of Twilight Zone? You get Stranger Things, the new series from Netflix.

Oddly, I hadn’t been paying too much attention to this one until I saw the “Coming Soon” alert when I went into my Netflix account. I say oddly because if this show was aimed at anyone, it was aimed squarely at me. ‘Me’ in the sense of someone who:

1) Spent their teenage years in the ’80’s;

2) Watched a lot of sci-fi, and horror, and Spielberg (well, who didn’t?), and;

3) Read Stephen King (well, not me, but I watched the movies and TV series).

I watched the trailer, nodded to myself, added it to my Watch List, and waited for the alert. Finally, on July 15, the series dropped and we fired it up. And didn’t stop until it was done.

Here’s why… Continue reading

Han Dago and the Millennium Falconi: “Star Wars The Force Awakens” and cultural diversity

A day or so after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a friend who had just watched it messaged me the following: “Did you like Han Dago?”. It took me a moment to realise what she meant. Then I replied, “I hope he ends up flying the Millenium Falconi“.

Apologies to sensitive readers, but it’s a thing we do. In fact, it’s a thing many of us from non-Anglo backgrounds do. And we do it with gusto. We do it to claim our space. And my friend knows I’m a proud wog-boy (dago, for our North American  cousins), and knows I always appreciate non-Anglo casting, so she was keen to see what I thought of Oscar Isaac.

Now while I probably wouldn’t turn for Oscar (he’s no Don Hany – Google that fine Lebanese/French/Australian), I do love his work. The brilliant David Simon/HBO series “Show Me A Hero” and the film J C Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” were both heavily fueled by his powerful performances. Even subtler turns, such as in “Ex Machina”, are a pleasure to watch. He’s an actor who’s hard to take your eyes off. And, hey, he’s a good Guatemalan boy with big eyebrows and a wonderful mix of machismo (it comes from the Spanish, after all) and openness. Why wouldn’t I love Han Dago?

My friend started a thought process which, I’m embarrassed to say, I hadn’t considered before: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not only the most culturally diverse movie of the “Star Wars” franchise, it’s quite possibly (outside of Fast and Furious 7 – which is brilliant, by the way) the most diverse major motion picture to come out of a major Hollywood studio in years. Here’s why that matters… Continue reading

REVISITING… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: Dawn, Redux

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (henceforth BTVS) has been ‘family viewing’ for myself, my wife, and my two daughters since it first aired. Back in the days of ‘appointment TV’ we would gather around the television (well, the computer monitor, as I was illegally downloading episodes to keep up – sorry, but I do own all the DVD sets and quite a bit of merchandise, so…). Later, it was the series we would pull out every 2 years or so and watch ‘Best ofs’, or a particular season. Then, maybe 4 years ago, we stopped.

We were sated. We were more than sated, we were oozing BTVS from every pore like a family of overeaters at a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. Watching BTVS had become painful and a little sad.

So, when in late 2015 we decided to give it another go, from Season One to Seven, without skipping an episode, we went in tentatively, completely prepared to pull out before the end of “Welcome to the Hellmouth”, pretend nothing had happened, and move along.

However, to our surprise, it was an absolute joy again. Our BTVS hearts were emptier than we realised, and we were indeed ready to have them filled once more. There have been laughs, and tears, and there have been surprises as well, things we never felt even after so many viewings. Chief amongst them was our unexpected love of Dawn. Yup, you heard that right. Dawn. She’s actually pretty great. And before you walk away, shaking your head and muttering, “They’re lost to us.”, let me explain. Continue reading

REVIEW: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – Torn in two

Firstly…SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!! And LOTS of them! Okay, got that? Good. Let’s move on.

I’m depressed. Not a lot. But a bit. I’m definitely down. It’s been about 15 hours since the credits rolled on the midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the funk is still there.

Bad movie, you ask? No, not at all. In fact, while it borrowed heavily from the original (in order to assure my generation of fans that we were in safe hands, I suspect), and while there were some story issues, it was a resounding success, both as a stand alone film and as a new start for a film series torn apart by the taint of ‘the prequels’.

So why am I depressed? Well I’ll tell you… Continue reading

REVIEW: “The Walking Dead” S6 PT1: an opportunity lost

So, half way through the ‘season’ (what is a season in “The Walking Dead” universe, anyway?), and it’s a case of what could have been.

“The Walking Dead” (TWD, henceforth) is at it’s best when it’s less about the terror of the undead and more about the horror of the living themselves. When the writers use the show’s milieu as a cypher to explore humanity’s inhumanity, as well as its ability to rise above, TWD moves beyond it’s genre constraints. Characters are allowed to engage with the Big Questions, and the show resonates with pathos.

So what went wrong in Season 6? Continue reading

Video games and the narrative of frustration

The quiet night is shattered by an explosion of screamed profanities. I bolt upright, half-awake, and blink at the bedside clock: 1am glows red and angry.

Now, we live in a neighbourhood with its fair shares of late night family screaming matches and drunken parties. It’s an army suburb, so people come and go, thus the sense of community is fragile. This time, however, the yelling is coming from my own lounge room, from my own wife. “Fuck! Fuck you! You piece of fucking shit!”

I’m frozen at the realisation. And still dazed, I wonder: who is in my house, and why on Earth would they piss off my wife?!

Continue reading