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Star Trek at 50: Ranking the Movies

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Star Trek at the movies. A mixed bag to be sure, as are the different series we’ve been treated to over the last five decades, some are great, other are terrible, and some sit somewhere in between. Thirteen films. That’s pretty impressive for any franchise, Star Trek has evolved over time, changing what the final frontier truly means.

Now, I consider the top 3 to be largely interchangeable, going in a different order depending on which day of the week it is. In my mind, they’re all ‘Number 1’.

1. The Undiscovered Country

ST7 - TUD

Perhaps not the film you were expecting at no.1? TUC was the final film for the original crew, and although several of them did reprise their roles in later films and TV series, this genuinely feels like a goodbye. But what a film to go out on, a brilliant villain in Christopher Plummer’s General Chang, a vicious but fun space battle, and most importantly TUC is Trek with something to say.

The central themes of TUC revolve around getting older and letting go of your prejudices, those that you’ve held all your life, such as Kirk’s hatred for the Klingons. It examines racism, and our willingness to help those who are different from us, people who might hold differing values but need help all the same. Kirk response to hearing the Klingon race will become extinct is “Let them die!”, which may not sound very heroic, but it is real and true to the character.

2. First Contact

ST9 - FC

First Contact is the rarest of Treks. It looks and feels like a big screen adventure, not just an extended episode, it is epic and cinematic from the moment it begins. The space battle against the Borg Cube is the stuff of Star Trek fans dreams, the reveal of the new Enterprise in its glory. But more than that, FC is different because it plays out like a horror film, it is easily the least child friendly Trek movie, the Borg making a terrifying reappearance, along the somewhat sultry Borg Queen. As a film it works on every level, as Star Trek it offers everything, delving into the past, but still our future, it is a film of two halves. One half is set aboard the Enterprise, and the other on Earth, trying to save their own history. A great character piece for Picard and Data, with everyone getting something to do and memorable moments. It is also one of the most accessible films in the franchise. If only the two TNG films that followed were able to keep a tenth of FC’s quality and scope, they might have rivaled the TOS movie series, instead we just this amazing entry.

3. Wrath of Khan

ST2 - WOK

What is there to say about Wrath of Khan that hasn’t already been said? It is the emotional core of the franchise in every way, giving us one of the all time greatest on screen deaths, and a wonderful performance from William Shatner who silenced all of his critics by showing Kirk’s vulnerable side. WOK saved Star Trek, made it a success among fans and critics alike, bringing everything fans loved about TOS and giving it a budget and the big screen treatment the show deserved. What really makes WOK spark is the villain, Trek will likely never top Khan as an antagonist, so important and consuming to the narrative, it is surprising that Kirk and Khan never actually share any screen time. This is a film where you feel every phaser blast and photon torpedo, with a truly unforgettable climax that J.J Abrams sadly chose to revisit many years later.

Of all the Star Trek films I have encountered, this was the most… human!

4. The Voyage Home

ST5 - TVH

“Captain! There be whales here!”

The Voyage Home has possibly the zaniest plot of any of the movies and arguably of the franchise as a whole, but it manages to create possibly the most fun adventure in all of their 50 years. Travelling back to the 1980s to rescue to humpback whales (George and Gracie!) to take them back to the future and stop an alien probe from destroying earth by devastating the oceans. See? I said it was crazy. The film plays out as a comedy in a lot of ways, and it is still incredibly funny, seeing the Enterprise crew displaced by more than 200 years, in a world all too familiar to us. The Voyage Home is a blast from start to finish, and a good entry point to the franchise for those who claim they don’t like Sci-Fi.

5. Star Trek

ST12 - 09

Everyone was dubious. The long rumoured reboot was upon us, we’d known for years that the studio were despearate to reboot the series with younger versions of Kirk, Spock and Co. Long term fans were worried, and while it didn’t resonate with some fans, Star Trek 2009 delivered an amazing thrillride and alternate take on a universe we know and love. The reason for this success came down to two things, J.J Abrams imbued it with a sense of energy and pace we simply hadn’t seen before, but more importantly, what made ST09 work is the brand new cast.

Chris Pine wasn’t the obvious choice for Kirk but he made it his own by taking the qualities of the character and not doing a caricature of William Shatner, that simply wouldn’t have worked. Karl Urban is pitch perfect as McCoy, Quinto as Spock bordered on eerie at times, and the rest of the cast are equally great. The inclusion of Leonard Nimoy and the fact that this wasn’t quite the reboot we were expecting, the old timeline remains intact and we’ll see it again. Charming, exciting and kinda sexy, this was a whole new frontier.

6. Star Trek Beyond

ST14 - B

The newest of the movie franchise and it is sitting near the middle of my list. Hopes weren’t high for this, with J.J Abrams having jumped ship to a galaxy far, far away, and Fast & Furious director Justin Lin taking over the helm, rumour of extensive reshoots and constant script and writer changes, the signs were not good. And yet, they managed quite possibly the most exciting Trek to date, the standout sequence being the total destruction of Enterprise, which was awesome and spectacular. Again, the Kelvin timeline suffers from a lame villain and the motorbike scenes were a touch unnecessary. Beyond manages to be a great character study, Chris Pine’s Kirk is the standout here, we see the realities of longhaul space travel and the true dangers it would hold. While it hasn’t set the box office on fire, Paramount have already confirmed a 4th film in this alternate universe and I suspect it will be the last.

7. The Motion Picture

ST2 - TMP
Yup. Here it is. What so many have dubbed the ‘Slow Motion’ picture. And while it’s true this is hard an action flick or particularly fast paced, it is pure Trek. Thoughtful, contemplative and intelligent.
It must have been jarring for audiences at the time, this serious science fiction film felt nothing like the Original Series they’d come to love in re-runs.
I urge anyone with a low opinion to go back and watch it again. Because it might be the most visually beautiful Trek we ever see, the designs of V’ger and that 5 minute spectacular tour around the new Enterprise set to the amazing score. There won’t ever be a Trek film like this again. It is a worthy addition to the movie franchise and the franchise as a whole. TMP isn’t the film you remember, it’s gorgeous and clever.

8. Generations

ST8 - G
Placing Generations this high was something I struggled with, on a lot of levels it doesnt work and feels like a slightly bigger budget tv movie. However, it has an ace up its sleeve, as TNG did for 7 years previous, Patrick Stewart’s fantastic performance. He anchors the film in a sadness and weakness we often don’t see, the tragic death of his only family sets Picard on a journey through this story that in turn sets him on a collision course with James T. Kirk himself. The meeeting between legends, Kirk and Picard, feels a little tacked on and forced, and of course it is, but there’s still a great pleasure as a fan seeing them together.
A very memorable opening sequence aboard the Enterprise B sets up a film that is clearly passing the torch, a nice gesture but the torch had been passed some time before.
We also get to see the Enterprise destroyed, a ship we have come to learn to love like a friend. But as Picard tells Riker in the closing moments, “I doubt this will be the last ship to bear the name ‘Enterprise'”.

9. Into Darkness

ST13 - ID
This film gets a lot of grief from fans. Some of it probably deserved. But…. Not all of it. ID is glorious looking film with a great cast and some fantastic action sequences. Fans and critics often say Trek should be allegoric, filled with real world current day issues, and they also say that ID is a film that has nothing important to say. They couldn’t be more wrong, because it has plenty to say, the subtext of a newly militarised Starfleet certainly plays into our reality, as does the notion of surveillance and drone strikes, the morality of modern warfare. However, I can see the complaints too, Benedict Cumberbatch makes for an imposing villain but he should not have been *Spoilers* Khan. And there were too many callbacks and ‘homages’ to the older film, and all too many plot conveniences. We will never forget the SUPER BLOOD.

10. The Search for Spock

ST4 - SFSThere’s a simple problem with Search for Spock, it fails to be memorable. It features the death of Kirk’s son, the resurrection of Spock, the destruction of Genesis and the Enterprise itself for the first time on screen. And yet, none of it makes much of an impact to the viewer. It’s a strange film too, parts of it felt like it was trying to be Star Wars.

11. The Final Frontier

ST6 - TFFUnfortunately, we all remember this one for the wrong reasons. Directed by William Shatner, TFF is a film full of big ideas and questions, it should have been a grand adventure with its themes of faith. But it turned out to be a dreadful mess on almost every level. Certain scenes are filled with charm and the final confrontation between Kirk and ‘God’ is everything you’d hope it would be. Not the worst Trek but it does come extremely hard to recommend.

12. Insurrection

ST10 - IInsurrection is Trek on autopilot, with a plot that feels like it was lifted from the bin in TNG’s writers room. It adds nothing to the franchise, the action sequences are poorly done and lack excitiement, the plot twist easily identified from the get go, sub-par villains, goofy comedy and a tone that felt like you were watching a kids movie. Now, Trek should be for everyone of all ages, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a more child friendly film especially considering this follows the horror elements that made First Contact the classic it is, but it is done so badly here. Nothing about Insurrection works, the kindest thing I can think of to say is that it appears like the actors enjoyed making it.

13. Nemesis

ST11 - N

The big stinker as far as I’m concerned. Again, it was a case of all the right elements being mixed into a complete mess of a film. This was to be The Next Generation crew’s swansong, their final film appearance. And the creators were clearly going for a Wrath of Khan vibe, failing miserably at every level. It’s genuinely sad to watch, everyone is going through the motions. A bizarre rape subplot felt horrendously out of place, and while the final space battle teeters on exciting once or twice, the product as a whole doesn’t work. The main plot involves a clone of Picard, played by now superstar Tom Hardy, and a duplicate of Data. There are themes running through the movie and it does have something to say, but the message is so lost in amongst the terrible plot and writing that it might as well not be there. A real shame that Picard and his crew ended on such a sour note.

Thanks to a delightfully helpful press release we already have a good idea of where the next Star Trek film is going, with Chris Hemsworth confirmed to be returning as George Kirk, we can guess there will be time travel involved.

ST

Probably not whales this time though, but I really, really hope there is.

Features

Venice, Cannes, London, Wherever: Film Festival Tips

A film festival veteran, Rehna Azim gives her tips on how to survive at film festivals wherever you are in the world.

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Film Festival Tips Movie Marker

I suppose I can be called a film festival veteran now. I’ve covered enough of them over the best part of a decade to be able to pass some, hopefully, useful tips on to those who might find themselves at one of the many film festivals that seem to spring up every 15 minutes. There’s a festival for everyone and pretty much everything. A fan of Korean cinema? You’ll find a festival in London. Sci-fi freak? Horror fanboy/girl? Gay, lesbian? Woman over 40? Someone somewhere will be running a festival of films you’ll love. Even towns you weren’t sure had a cinema seem to have a festival going on.

The biggies in Europe of course are Cannes and Berlin with London coming up in recent years. San Sebastien is growing in stature and there’s Ghent, Locarno, Edinburgh and many more. Wherever it is and whatever crowd it’s for, festivals are big business and popular. So here’s how to make the most of them:

Make sure your stomach is full and your bladder empty. The bigger the festival, the longer the queues and the more uncomfortable you’ll feel as you line up with a cast of hundreds to watch the latest gem from that Bulgarian auteur you thought only you loved. A film festival will draw a cine literate crowd that will fight you to the death for the last seat in the house. (At Cannes earlier this year, journalists almost came to fisticuffs in the huge, sprawling line that waited to catch the pearls of wisdom that fell from Christopher Nolan’s lips). A couple of years ago there was an angry stamping of feet as La La Land was, inexplicably, put on a small screen that couldn’t possibly accommodate all those who wanted to see it. At Venice earlier this month the lines stretched out perilously close to the canals. So you see, if you’re serious about festivaling, like a Boy Scout, you always have to be prepared. You simply can’t take the chance of popping away for 10 minutes to grab a quick burger or spend a penny. Go before you come, as it were. Carry a snack with you in your bag (trust me, even that festering flapjack at the bottom will seem enticing when you’re starving during a 3 hour long Ingmaar Bergman retrospective. Keep a small bottle of water with you at all times, not least to avoid the headaches that dehydration can cause.

Sacrifice glamour for comfort. Unless you’re going to a red carpet premiere, wear sensible shoes you can run between venues in. Layer your clothing. It doesn’t matter which city or country you’re in, you will either be too hot or too cold in whatever you wear. Taking something off or putting it on will be the best way to deal with whatever weather comes your way. I speak as someone who has been caught in sudden, monsoon level thunderstorms in both Venice and Cannes on brilliantly hot days when I was swanning around in skimpy summer dresses.

Film Festival Movie Marker

Plan your festival days. Screening times often overlap or just outright clash. Check the programme in advance, decide what you absolutely must see and what is a ‘if I have the time’ choice. Once you’ve made your choices, schedule your days accordingly. Those covering the festival for media outlets have to factor in interviews, talks and red carpet coverage as well as time to do the write-ups. It may seem like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs (did anyone’s grandmother actually ever do that) but sometimes the simplest, most obvious tips are the most helpful. I’ve known the super organised to create elaborate flow charts for their daily schedule but a simple list in a notebook will suffice.

Always keep a note pad and camera with you. Whether both are on your latest model phone or you have the old fashioned type, you will need them. Film festivals are exciting. Celebrities are swanning around everywhere, funny, interesting, record-able things are happening all the time and you will invariably meet people you want to stay in touch with. Writing a number or email address on the back of a receipt may seem a good idea at the time but you’ll never copy it out ‘properly’ into an address book. Most likely you’ll throw the receipt away when you’re next cleaning out your bag then spend hours rummaging through it later looking for the number of that nice agent/producer/actor/attractive person you met over drinks and really want to meet again. Network, make contacts, make friends. Festivals are fun!

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New entertainment platform CHILI launches in the UK

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Are you scrolling through the TV guide, trying to decide what to watch on your first night in for weeks, only to change your mind for the fourth time? Sounds tragically familiar, which is why I am very pleased to announce that European entertainment company CHILI have big plans for film and TV fans in the UK.

CHILI is a subscription-free entertainment platform that has launched in the UK after it’s recent success in Italy, racking up 1.6 million registered users since launching in 2012. Backed by the studios we all know and love, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Viacom, Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox, the on-demand service offers an array of content available at the click of the button.

What makes this different from say, Netflix or Amazon? The website offers a huge range of films and TV shows, from foreign art house to big screen blockbusters – as well as being a one-stop show for cinema; there is a newshub to give you the low-down on all film and TV news, you can purchase physical movies, merchandise and tickets to the cinema all in one place. Founder and chief executive Giorgio Tacchia describes CHILI as an entertainment hub; with customers discovering a new movie or TV show that they love and then browsing the merchandise to see what’s in store. From Star Wars Lego sets to beautiful concept art books, there really is something for everyone.

The platform is also filled with new premieres, including Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, Marvel Studios’ Avengers Infinity War and Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon. Customers can choose the quality they want their digital purchase, or choose to order a Blu-Ray or DVD instead.

My favourite section is the ‘highlights’ page which tailors content around your preferences and also offers flash sales and offers of the week. And with your first film on them? That’s an offer I can’t refuse.

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Our weekly updated UK streaming listings for September 2018

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Between the increasing number of streaming platforms in our lives, there’s far too much great entertainment being released day after day for any sane person to keep track of. 

There’s streaming giant Netflix, the curated offerings of MUBI, all the latest releases on NOW TV, and online video emporium Amazon Prime. There’s something for everyone, on demand, just waiting to be selected. What a time to be alive!

But that doesn’t help when you’re looking for something to wile away the evening with, so let us lighten the load and make your viewing choice that little bit easier with our weekly updated round-up of everything being added to your favourite platform.

Saturday, September 1st

  • After the Sunset
  • Appaloosa
  • Birth
  • Cellular
  • Final Destination 3
  • Harold & Kumar Escape
  • Highwaymen
  • The Last Mimzy
  • Lost in Translation
  • The Man
  • Mr. Woodstock
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Pride and Glory
  • Rendition
  • Semi-Pro
  • Shoot Em Up
  • Silk

Sunday, September 2nd

  • The Green Inferno
  • The Way Back

Monday, September 3rd

  • Molly’s Game
  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)

Thursday, September 6th

  • Pistorius

Monday, September 10th

  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)

Friday, September 14th

  • Forever: Season 1

Monday, September 17th

  • Mr. Mercedes: Season 2 (new episode)
  • The Post
  • Suicide Squad

Wednesday, September 19th

  • The Commuter

Saturday, September 22nd

  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Get Smart
  • The Lake House
  • Lolita
  • Mortal Kombat
  • North by Northwest
  • Payback
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Soylent Green
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • The Towering Inferno

Sunday, September 23rd

  • Early Man

 

Wednesday, September 5th

  • Boro in the Box

Thursday, September 6th

  • Living Still Life

Friday, September 7th

  • Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Saturday, September 8th

  • The Pleasure of Being Robbed

Sunday, September 9th

  • Tiny Furniture

Monday, September 10th

  • Went the Day Well?

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Champagne Charlie

Wednesday, September 12th

  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

Thursday, September 13th

  • Disorder

Friday, September 14th

  • The Wild Boys

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Eros Plus Massacre

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Street Life

Thursday, September 20th

  • Tonsler Park

Sunday, September 23rd

  • The Things of Life

 

 

Saturday, September 1st

  • The Bletchley Circle: Season 1 
  • The Bletchley Circle: Season 2
  • Born to Be Blue
  • Gangs of New York
  • Gone
  • Killing Gunther
  • La Catedral del Mar
  • Legally Blondes
  • The Man Who Invented Christmas
  • Marvel’s Iron Man
  • Marvel’s Iron Man 2
  • Marvel’s Iron Man 3
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Monkey Twins
  • Moonstruck
  • The Mummy
  • The Mummy Returns
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  • The Purge: Election Year
  • RoboCop 2
  • Saw VI
  • Sisters

Sunday, September 2nd

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, September 3rd

  • The Debt Collector
  • Power: Season 5 (new episode)
  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 4th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)

Wednesday, September 5th

  • The Hundred-Foot Journey

Thursday, September 6th

  • I Kill Giants
  • Inferno
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Tuesday, August 7th

  • Atypical: Season 2
  • Cable Girls: Season 3
  • City of Joy
  • Marvel’s Iron Fist: Season 2
  • The Most Assassinated Woman in the World
  • Next Gen
  • Shooter: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Sierra Burgess is a Loser
  • Stretch Armstrong & The Flex Fighters: Season 2

Saturday, September 8th

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)

Sunday, September 9th

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Wynonna Earp: Season 2

Monday, September 10th

  • Power: Season 5 (new episode)
  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • Daniel Sloss: Live Shows
  • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  • The Resistance Banker
  • The Square

Wednesday, September 12th

  • Burn After Reading
  • Call the Midwife: Season 6
  • Jane
  • On My Skin
  • Rex

Thursday, September 13th

  • Life Happens
  • Nowhere Boys: Two Moons Rising
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Friday, September 14th

  • American Vandal: Season 2
  • The Angel
  • Bleach
  • Boca Juniors Confidential
  • BoJack Horseman: Season 5
  • Car Masters: Rust to Riches
  • The Dragon Prince
  • Ingobernable: Season 2
  • The Land of Steady Habits
  • Last Hope
  • Shooter: Season 3 (new episode)
  • Super Monsters Monster Party: Songs

Saturday, September 15th

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)
  • Cabins in the Wild, with Dick Strawbridge: Season 1
  • The Hangover
  • How to Live Mortgage Free, with Sarah Beeny: Season 1
  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)
  • Queens vs. Kings: Season 1
  • Three Wives, One Husband: Season 1

Sunday, September 16th

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Monday, September 17th

  • A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities: Season 1 (new episode)

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Better Call Saul: Season 4 (new episode)
  • D.L. Hughley: Contrarian

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Julieta

Thursday, September 20th

  • American Honey
  • Suits: Season 8 (new episode)

Friday, September 21st

  • Battlefish
  • Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan
  • The Good Cop: Season 1
  • Hilda
  • Maniac
  • Nappily Ever After
  • Norsemen: Season 2
  • Quincy
  • Rafinha Bastos: Ultimate

Saturday, September 22nd

  • American Horror Story: Cult (new episode)
  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

Sunday, September 23rd

  • Mr. Sunshine: Season 1 (new episode)

 

 

Saturday, September 1st

  • Braven

Sunday, September 2nd

  • The Little Hours

Monday, September 3rd

  • Guardians of the Tomb

Tuesday, September 4th

  • Chronically Metropolitan

Wednesday, September 5th

  • The Mimic

Thursday, September 6th

  • Singularity

Tuesday, August 7th

  • Final Score

Saturday, September 8th

  • The Disaster Artist

Sunday, September 9th

  • The Ballad of Lefty Brown

Monday, September 10th

  • Psych: The Movie

Tuesday, September 11th

  • Never Steady, Never Still

Wednesday, September 12th

  • Hatred

Thursday, September 13th

  • My Friend Dahmer

Friday, September 14th

  • Murder on the Orient Express

Saturday, September 15th

  • Oddsockeaters

Sunday, September 16th

  • The Forgiven

Monday, September 17th

  • Devil’s Gate

Tuesday, September 18th

  • Affairs of State

Wednesday, September 19th

  • Wings of Eagles

Friday, September 21st

  • All the Money in the World

That’s it for this week, but don’t forget to check back each week for a fresh round of new releases for the UK on streaming platforms Amazon Prime, MUBI, NOW TV, and Netflix.

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