Cinema

Star Trek films, from worst to best


star trek first contact

Yes, it’s another Star Trek blog! And another list blog! And just in time for Christmas; aren’t you a lucky bunch?

I know that I’ve done something quite similar before, but I’ve never actually set down my overall preferences of the films directly. So I’ve decided to. With some thought I’ve ranked all twelve films, and given a bit of explanation as to why and what I think of them.

Enjoy. And feel free to call me sad.

Read on…

Heresy of the Week: Mainstream cinematic horror has stalled


American-Horror-Story-Asylum-S2-Poster-2

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Horror is one of the longest lived and most popular genres of creative work, but in recent years it’s film branch has started to atrophy. Tropes which formed a basis have become a crutch, and the horror film industry has lost its traditionally innovative flare, favouring the familiar and missing the point of what horror is — bequeathing its legacy to the smaller screen.

Read on…

Dear cinema, we need to talk…



Dear cinema

I like you. I like you a lot, and have done for a long time. I don’t think this will come as a surprise to you, I haven’t exactly been coy about it.

I do, however, think that our relationship has been in many ways one sided. I feel like I’ve forgiven you for a lot. Not just the bad films, or the experiments gone wrong (I actually sorry of like those; your capacity and willingness is one of my favourite things about you), but the endless reboots and remakes, and the continual chances you keep giving to the likes of Michael Bay and Quentin Tarantino. I even came back after the disgracefully limited run you gave The Awakening.

Despite all of this, I always end up back queuing at your box office, walking down your sticky aisles, and sitting in your uncomfortable standard seats (not for the likes of me, the luxury of premier).

But I think your latest obsessive fad may be staining our relationship too far. I am, of course, talking about 3D.

Oh, it was exciting when it first appeared. Thick-rimmed indie glasses, the niggling headache as I staggered out into the cool air after the credits had tolled. And it even managed to put enough if a gloss onto Avatar that for a moment we didn’t notice what a shallow remake of Pocohontus it was.

But it’s three years later, and like three dry rot you try to ignore, it hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s got worse.

3D cinema is like hoverboards and jetpacks. The future continually promises them to is, yet every attempt ends in disappointing failure, and the idea is put back into the science-fiction box only to be brought out and obliviously tried again a few years later.

It was okay whilst you were offering 2D alternative showings. I could watch and enjoy your films without the headaches, and others could do as they chose.

I first noticed your attitude change with Dredd 3D. I should probably have guessed from the title, but I didn’t think it would be 3D only. I was hurt. I was disappointed. But I told myself it was a one-off.

And now it’s that time of year when we all like to watch a good horror film. No, not Paranormal Activity 4. I said a good horror film. Though whether Silent Hill Revelation will be any better is uncertain.

But that doesn’t really matter, because you’ve done it to me again. Yes, you’re only showing Silent Hill Revelation in 3D. I could cry.

So tonight, in order to enjoy (maybe) some psychological horror I’ll have to wear those uncomfortable spectacles, and have the paracetamol standing by. Oh I’ll do it. We both know that. It’s how abusive relationships like this work.

But I won’t be happy, cinema. Not like I used to be with you. Because it’s become clear to me that this isn’t some passing phase, it’s not something you’ll get over. You care more about 3D than you do about me, the audience.

Cinema, I’m sorry, but I think we need to see other people.

An Open Letter to Odeon Cinemas


The Awakening, the film I wanted to see at the weekend.

Dear Odeon Cinemas

I write to you as not only a fan, but an enthusiast of modern film as an art form and as entertainment. As such, I frequently avail myself of your services, watching the latest films in your cinemas. I should stress, initially, that this is not some sort of brand loyalty, but rather largely stems from your mainstream cinema monopoly in the town of Southend (where my girlfriend lives, and where I most frequently visit the cinema). However, I do regularly spend my money at your establishments, and even possess a loyalty card, so perhaps that counts for something.

This weekend, my girlfriend and I were quite looking forward to seeing The Awakening, a newly released horror film which has had an extensive national advertising campaign. Remember that, it’s important. Unfortunately, this wasn’t able to happen, since you weren’t showing it.

Now, as you are doubtless aware, over Halloween you didn’t show a single good quality horror film. Paranormal Activity 3, eing the sequel to two dire offerings and only marginally better itself , does not count. I have no idea why the makers of The Awakening chose to delay its release until 11th November, when it could have cleaned up over the Halloween weekend, but that is irrelevant to this discussion. So soon after the traditional time for horror film, didn’t it occur to you that if you showed The Awakening people would quite happily come and watch it?

Of course, it isn’t as clear cut as that. It wasn’t that you made a corporate decision not to show the film. Oh no. A scant few of your cinemas did show it. The nearest to us being either Chelmsford (at least 1 hour away), or Barking (again, about an hour away). I like film, but sadly I do not like it that much.

So why did you make the decision that the people of Chelmsford and Barking deserved to see The Awakening more than the residents of Southend? The cynical might conclude that you wanted the cinema space free to flog The Immortals, which was another new release, but was a rather flashier (and more vapid-looking) Hollywood affair.

(Incidentally, you should probably have a look at how you schedule that, too. I can understand that you want to make the most of 3D technology, but there are many like myself who would rather see no film than a 3D film. Thus, having only one 2D showing a day, and at 1:30pm of all times, is moronic and infuriating.)

The Awakening is a British film, with a British writer- exactly the sort of thing we are continually told we must support. You make it very difficult to do so, even for those of us who passionately want to.

But, since I suspect that matters little to you, let me finish on this. You have lost out on money. I fully intended to visit your establishment, and spend money on tickets and possibly (though probably not- let’s face it, your prices are extortionate) drinks. But I didn’t. And you’re to blame.

Yours faithfully

 

Matthew S. Dent

On 3D


When 3D first started rolling along and becoming the latest cinematic bandwagon, I was a bit uncertain. Avatar being the first 3D movie I saw probably didn’t help matters too much. But my opinion of it has, for a long while, been that it is nothing short of a gimmick, an excuse for cinemas to charge more for tickets, and for uninteresting and derivative films to be able to shout “Look at me! Look at me!”.

In my defence, look at the titles we’ve seen with 3D so far: My Bloody Valentine, Final Destination 4, Clash of the Titans, and so forth. Scarcely innovative filmmaking. I’ll add that I haven’t seen Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, so I might be talking out of my arse completely and that may use 3D in a completely different way. But I doubt it.

The thing about 3D is that I have yet to encounter a film where it’s actually incorporated into the plot, rather than being stuck on. If a film was to actually use the 3D element integrated into the plot (God knows how; I certainly don’t) then it might become the innovation that the film industry wants it to be.

That hasn’t happened yet, and I’m still not completely sold on 3D, but I’m a little more positive about it. What happened? I saw Toy Story 3 the other day.

Avatar's use of 3D graphics was distracting and gimmicky...

Let me explain. When I saw Avatar in 3D, I was underwhelmed by it. And I mean in general- the story was so-so, the acting was fairly bland, and it was longer than my bladder was comfortable with. But aside from that, the 3D was a distraction from the film. I couldn’t follow the storyline as well, because every so often I caught myself stopping to admire the scenery. In the end, the film became more about the graphics than the story, which really should be a death knell for a film. And the most damning thing of all is that I’ve since seen it in 2D, and if anything it came across better.

Watching Toy Story 3, however, it wasn’t quite like that. Maybe it’s because the story was stronger (it was outstanding), the characters more engaging, and the film as a whole more complex, but I didn’t feel that the fact it was in 3D lessened the experience, or detracted anything. It was simply there; and I was focused on the film for the whole duration. Now, this might just be that Toy Story 3 was a much better film than Avatar, but if I’d seen this first, I’d probably be a whole lot more optimistic about 3D.

...whereas in Toy Story 3, it faded to insignificance next to the film.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Toy Story 3 was a great film, but I’m certain it would have been every bit as good as in 2D. The 3D graphics were still just as unnecessary, but here they were a neutral force. I was able to focus on the film, and enjoy the story (and, yes, tear up at the end) without having to stop every few minutes to think “OH MY GOD! IT’S IN 3D!”.

3D is still problematic, in my opinion. The glasses are a pain, and it has a tendency to cause headaches (Toy Story 3 didn’t, for some unknown reason, have the same disorientating effect on me that Avatar did), not to mention being exclusive of one-eyed audience members. But I suppose it not being a problem is the first step on the road to it being a good thing. It could, I think, be a great force for interactive entertainment, used with the right idea. Nintendo are going to be the first to use it with gaming, releasing the 3DS at some still-vague point in the future, but honestly I expect it will be another gimmick-fest, like its big brother the Wii.

We may have to wait some time to see whether 3D can be the film revolution that the film industry are so desperate for us to see it as.