Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

An in-depth look at my (and many others) favourite Star Trek film, which recently screened at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse:

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan poster

Of all the films in the Star Trek franchise, THE WRATH OF KHAN from 1982 is usually cited as the best. There are plenty of reasons why that is the case, but there is a strange logic at work here. Current wisdom dictates that, in order to be successful, a film franchise based on a pre-existing property like a TV show needs to steer clear of anything requiring more than a cursory knowledge of the source material, so as to attract a bigger audience.

Yet STAR TREK II did precisely the opposite; it delved back in to the series mythology, resurrecting a half-forgotten villain of the week. It focused on the characters as much as the science-fiction story, and still delivered a smart, emotional sequel that resonates with viewers over thirty years later. How could this be? Wasn’t it a risky strategy to court the fans rather than an indifferent wider public?

Full article: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan | TAKE ONE

Review: RoboCop (2014)

Pity poor José Padilha. Not only did he earn the scorn and suspicion of the entire internet by signing up to direct this remake of Paul Verhoeven’s memorably savage sci-fi satire (taking over from Darren Aronofsky), but he must now endure the final product being measured up to its classic 1987 predecessor. The comparison inevitably doesn’t do his version many favours, but neither is it the total write-off many wanted or expected. In fact, ROBOCOP 2.0 emerges as the second best ROBOCOP movie ever made; but then after so many dud sequels and TV spin-offs, that wasn’t a terribly difficult accomplishment.

Full review: RoboCop | TAKE ONE

Review: The Railway Man (2013)

Following swiftly in the footsteps of 12 YEARS A SLAVE and MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM comes yet another real life tale of human brutality and endurance. After a very shaky start, THE RAILWAY MAN emerges as a modestly moving portrayal of psychological trauma and unlikely reconciliation. But Jonathan Teplitzky’s film is hamstrung by miscast stars and some extremely uneven editing, which negates much of the story’s emotional impact. What remains are honourable intentions and a reliably strong performance from Colin Firth as Eric Lomax, whose book about his experiences during World War II has been adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson.

Full review: The Railway Man | TAKE ONE

Review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

A deserving subject is given an ill-deserved biopic treatment in MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM. Though Justin Chadwick’s film may work as a superficial overview of the late icon’s life, from his upbringing in a tribal village to the moment he entered office as South Africa’s first black president, it suffers from a script that tries to do too much in too little time and is chock full of trite directorial devices, as though the audience couldn’t be trusted to stay awake. What makes the film entirely watchable are the central performances from Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, who bring much needed dignity and gravitas to the piece.

Full review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom | TAKE ONE

Review: The Innocents (1961)

If a gold standard for gothic cinema had to be chosen, then Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS would surely be on the shortlist, probably at the very top. No other film can touch it in terms of subtle emotional complexity and haunting resonance. On the surface a deceptively straightforward tale of spooky visitations, it’s only with repeated viewings that its true mastery reveals itself. Coming back to the film after a prolonged gap, the thing that really takes you aback is how creepy the story is – and not just in a supernatural way. Dark forces are very much at work in the real world too, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

Full review: The Innocents | TAKE ONE

Review: Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)

If you want see, touch and feel the highs and lows of young love in a way that only cinema can conjure, then BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR is the film for you. It’s an extraordinarily vivid portrayal of a romantic relationship, from the giddy upswing of its early halcyon days to its later violent and traumatic collapse. It even manages to transcend the highly misleading, and slightly distasteful, lesbian love drama label that it has been stuck with ever since it wowed audiences at Cannes earlier this year, where it collected the Palme d’Or.

Full review: Blue Is the Warmest Colour | TAKE ONE

Review: Philomena (2013)

Steve Coogan and Judi Dench have to be among the more unlikely of odd couples seen on the big screen in recent years – uniting Alan Partridge and M sounds like one of the Norfolk DJ’s more outlandish fantasies – but the combination works beautifully in PHILOMENA. This perfectly pitched dramatisation of Martin Sixsmith’s book walks the tightrope of comedy and pathos with such precision that there is no doubting the sure hand and light touch of an experienced director. Take a bow then Stephen Frears, whose earlier MADE IN DAGENHAM similarly tackled serious issues camouflaged as comedy; he allows the story to unfurl gently yet effortlessly, letting each new twist surprise and quietly enthrall.

Full review: Philomena | TAKE ONE