Star Trek And Chill!

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In news sure to excite Netflix subscribers around the world, the new Star Trek TV series will head to the channel in 2017.

The still untitled series will air in the U.S. and Canada on the CBS All Access channel, but Netflix has secured worldwide rights (outside of these two countries) for its 188 territories, and each episode will be broadcast within 24 hours of its U.S. premiere.

This is fantastic news to everyone except torrent pirates (who were no doubt expecting a torrent party with the show only airing on the CBS exclusive channel), and adds to the already huge buzz about the first Star Trek TV production since Scott Bakula and crew sailed off into the galactic sunset with Star Trek: Enterprise, in 2005.

Additionally, and in a move certainly intended to build and prime a new audience for the new series, all 727 existing episodes of the iconic Star Trek television library – including Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and the previously mentioned Star Trek: Enterprise will be available on Netflix around the world by the end of 2016.

Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller are co-creators and executive producers for the new Star Trek, based on Gene Roddenberry’s original series. Fuller launched his career writing for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, and created highly regarded TV series including Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies and the sorely-missed Hannibal. Kurtzman is co-writer and producer of the blockbuster films Star Trek and, rather less thrillingly, Star Trek Into Darkness.

Set to begin airing in January 2017, we can only hope this show carries on the pioneering spirit of Roddenberry’s original series, which aired from 1966 – 1969 and was followed by a slew of movies and TV shows.

Between this news, positive word of mouth on the new feature film, Star Trek Beyond, and Paramount’s announcement that Star Trek 4 will move ahead with the current movie crew and with Chris Hemsworth reprising his role as Kirk’s father, George (last seen sacrificing his life for his wife and son in the 2009 reboot), it seems there’s still going to be plenty of chances for man and woman to go boldly beyond the franchise’s 50th anniversary!

Source: Netflix

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The Legend of Tarzan – Me Tarzan, You Entertained

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The Legend of Tarzan is the latest screen version of the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912. With a cast headed up by Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz, and directed by David Yates (who will forever be in my good books for helming the classic BBC serial, State of Play, and more famously headed up the final four Harry Potter films), this take on Tarzan has a lot of production wattage.

It also feels like a genuine attempt to transfer Burroughs’ Tarzan to the screen, complete with (thankfully) a cultured, sophisticated lead character (as opposed to the more frequently featured noble savage) and much of the background material from the books, while updating things slightly for a modern sensibility (including some far too contemporary sounding dialogue, unfortunately).

The story sees Tarzan, Lord John Clayton III, having left Africa behind almost a decade previously, now living in Victorian England with his wife, Jane. The two become involved in a plot set in motion by Leon Rom, a treacherous envoy for King Leopold of Belgium, to lure the jungle lord back to the Congo. Rom plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds which will pay for an army to take over the continent.

Skarsgård makes a fine John Clayton/Tarzan, gifting him with a quiet intelligence and a restrained fierceness, Robbie continues to impress, giving us a feisty, admirable Jane Porter Clayton, while Samuel L. Jackson tones down many of his usual Samuel L. Jackson-isms for a character that always stays just the right side of comic relief. Christoph Waltz, as Rom, is far too talented to be anything other than entertaining, but his character lacks some truly defining dialogue and moments to make him rise above the actor’s increasingly familiar toolbox of tricks.

Yates strives for a Tarzan film that falls between the mythic grandeur of 1984’s Greystoke, The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (phew) and the gung ho nature of the 1930s-40s MGM Johnny Weissmuller films, and mostly succeeds. Unfortunately, the script, while perfectly serviceable, feels two or three polish drafts away from anything truly memorable – dialogue works but never sparkles or shines.

The film is also highly inconsistent in some of its production values. Many edits are inelegant, with some clumsy transitions. Sometimes the CGI work is wonderful – such as a small but sweet moment where Tarzan bonds with some lions, and sometimes it’s almost wilfully bad – the wildebeests seen in the trailer or a shot near the climax of a rowboat approaching the camera, which has it practically floating through nothing.

Despite these caveats, The Legend of Tarzan moves at an admirably classical pace, it treads around issues of colonialism with broad but well defined strokes (even if, in real life the Belgians ruled the Congo for another 70 years), is well cast and handsomely mounted, and it mostly looks wonderful, with sweeping vistas of plains and deep, emerald forests. It deserves plaudits for not insulting the audience with yet another origin story (though Tarzan’s backstory is present in the form of flashbacks), and there’s good chemistry between the two leads. It gave me a genuine chill of delight to hear an updated version of the classic Weissmuller Tarzan yell (though it would have been nice to actually see him do it, rather than just hear it – a result of post-production tweaks, perhaps) and definitely left me wanting to spend more time with these versions of the characters for further adventures.

While somewhat frustrating, this is still an entertaining and enjoyable Tarzan film for a modern blockbuster audience, proving the one hundred and twelve year old character is still the one, true king of the swingers. Next time he just needs to swing a little higher.

Tom Holland’s Amazing Spider-Man Selfie!

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Being in the middle of a road trip means I’m a day or so behind this, and while I’m not certain it counts as hard news it definitely ranks as one of the most charming things I’ve seen after the past fourteen days or so of fairly horrendous world events.

To mark the one year point until the first offspring of the new Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures partnership to relaunch (another) cinematic version of Marvel’s flagship character in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the film’s exciting new lead, Tom Holland, took to his Instagram page to post what might be the greatest selfie ever.

Hoist high in the air in costume, above the rest of the crew, the young actor struck a suitably Spidey-like pose.

Starring Holland, Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Robert Downey Jr. and what’s beginning to sound like every up and coming young actor in Hollywood, Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Cop Car’s Jon Watts, launches on July 7, 2017. If the finished film has half the charm and sense of fun of this photo we should be in for a treat!

The Man Who Saved The World Saved!

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For lovers of cinema, and in particular genre cinema, the realm of Turkish exploitation films, sometimes referred to as Turksploitation, is one of the most vibrant (and frequently hilarious) corners to poke around in.

Unencumbered by trivialities like copyright law or lack of budget, these anarchic, freewheeling films, mainly produced in the 1970s and 1980s, often feature 100% unofficial characters such as Spider-Man or Captain America, and almost always star manly men and voluptuous women, accompanied by “borrowed” snippets of music scores from the likes of John Barry, with little regard for staging, editing or indeed, a story.

What the films lack in narrative cohesiveness however,  they more than make up for in sheer exuberance and unfettered energy. A night spent with 3 Dev Adam (Three Mighty Men), Supermen Dönüyor (Turkish Superman) or Seytan (Satan) – a virtually shot for shot ‘remake’ of The Exorcist – will likely leave your jaw on the floor at both their sheer audacity and their flair and verve! You could never accuse these productions of being dull or uninteresting!

So it’s exciting news that one of the most infamous of these movies, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saved The World), more familiarly known as “Turkish Star Wars”, has itself been saved!

Available for many years only in a quite dupey-looking version sourced from VHS, the last remaining 35 mm print has just been rescued by Ed Glaser of the Neon Harbor production company, with a great deal of help from noted Turkish film journalist and film enthusiast Ali Murat Güven.

In the autumn of 2015, Güven, owner of the Turksploitation label, Aztek Film Production & Distribution Ltd (their first DVD release of Operation Codename: Long Live the Fatherland is imminent), bought the print from a retired cinema projectionist in Anatolia, Turkey, who had lied to the distributor in order to keep it. Now Güven has sold on the print to fellow enthusiast, Glaser, which is good news for the rest of us as he hopes to scan the film for future digital posterity.

Featuring Turksploitation superstar Cüneyt Arkın, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam uses wholesale blocks of special effects footage from Star Wars and borrows chunks of the music scores from Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Moonraker, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, and then spins off into its own uniquely demented storyline involving swordfights with a gargantuan sword, a man who trains with huge boulders tied to his legs, another man with two brains (most definitely not Steve Martin) and a whistle that attracts skeletons.

“A 35mm print of ‘Turkish Star Wars’ is the holy grail,” says Glaser, “not just of rip-off films, but all cult film. There are no negatives, and the few other prints of the film ever struck have been destroyed. My goal is to get this one scanned to preserve it for posterity — and hopefully screened in a theater for other fans like me.”

While this isn’t quite up there with finding a copy of the pre-studio mutilation of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, Güven and Glaser’s efforts represent an equally welcome contribution to film history. And you definitely won’t find a man with two brains in Welles’ film!

Keep watching the (Turkish) skies for more news on this as it develops!

Independence Day: Resurgence – bad, but not bad.

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Let’s get this straight from the start: the very, very belated sequel to Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich’s 1996 blockbuster is utterly predictable, suffers from a mostly leaden script, is occasionally silly, and is definitely not too smart. It is what many would term a ‘bad’ film.

However, for all that, I’m going to defend it for sneaking in a lot of intriguing ideas, and for the fact that not once during its 120 minute running time did I feel bored or was I overwhelmed by Michael Bay/Transformers-style “too many E numbers” compositions or editing. In short, was I not entertained? Well, yes, I was.

The plot itself can be written on the back of a (small) popcorn box – it’s twenty years later, the aliens return in a bigger ship, a bunch of stuff happens, things look bad for mankind and (SPOILER ALERT) we kick their slimy asses.

This all runs pretty much as expected (in fact, exactly as expected). Most of the surviving characters from ID4 crop up and run through their shtick, with the huge exception of Will Smith, who obviously felt this wasn’t going to be his much needed return to blockbusterville. The lack of Smith gives us more time to spend with Jeff Goldblum, and this should always be considered a benefit.

Now, snuck into all this predictable guff are some highly admirable concepts and character arcs, and this is where things get interesting. The world that ID:R posits is that the two decades since the first invasion have seen mankind put aside its petty international squabbling and come together as a unified planet (and boy, as someone from the UK, does that hit home right now), it also expands on the background of the aliens interestingly.

Many of the supporting characters are also shown to be normal people doing good and heroic things in terrible circumstances (above and beyond the super heroics of the chiseled leads): there’s a rather nice arc where Judd Hirsch’s character is saved by some orphaned children and then, later in the narrative, he stops his flight to find his son to save another group of stranded children. It’s a nicely understated piece of karmic business that wouldn’t hope to exist in many modern blockbusters. There’s also a subtle but definite gay relationship gifted to one of the returning characters, it’s a nice addition handled in a nice way.

These positive views of the human race and their heroic acts and ideas shine quite brightly through the otherwise by-the-numbers story and frequently risible, exposition heavy dialogue, and when added to always clear film making (definitely something of a rarity these days), plus some genuinely cool sequences (the climax, involving the alien queen and a whirling fleet of alien ships, while dumb as a box of frogs, is undeniably visually exciting) it shows that Independence Day: Resurgence is far from the complete disaster many reviews have suggested.

For a bad movie it sure has a lot of good qualities.