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Cumberbatched Into Darkness

It’s a Thursday, there’s precious little on TV – why not take in the latest trailer for “Star Trek Into Darkness”?

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This would be the “Empire Strikes Back” of the reborn “Star Trek” movie franchise, then?  I’m guessing so, what with the doomy tone, Benedict Cumberbatch‘s messianic sociopath running amok and blowing up half of the planet and the gloriously blatant shuttle craft/Millennium Falcon riff showing up in this two minutes and 15 seconds of face-melting, nerd glee.

Oh, and if you’re into that kind of thing, Alice Eve‘s character apparently can’t afford clothes.  Hollywood double standards, how do they work?

Have a new poster for the movie whilst you work that one out…

"Star Trek Into Darkness" - none more dark, squire...

“Star Trek Into Darkness” – none more dark, squire…

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“Men in Black 3” – An excessively late movie review

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I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Barry Sonnenfeld‘s “Men in Black” series of comic book adaptations.

There’s no unique thing which makes me enjoy them – there’s the glorious comic interplay between glib, quick-gabbing Will Smith and taciturn Tommy Lee Jones, the streamlined, retro-futuristic styling, the notion of a secret government body efficiently averting minor apocalypses every day and the genius invention that is Frank the Pug each contribute in different ways to my enjoyment of the series.

Plus, I love a good non sequitur and the first movie, particularly, is full of them.

I don’t suppose that anybody except the financial portfolio managers of messrs Smith, Sonnenfeld and Jones was desperately awaiting a third movie in the series, but 2012 saw a threequel in the form of “Men in Black 3” and I finally managed to catch up with it this weekend.  Having read some of the reviews from last summer for the film, I was expecting a very by-the-numbers effort which didn’t have anything to particularly distinguish it or build on the sterling work done by the first entry in the series, all the way back in 1997.

And you know what?  It’s actually fun.  Not a film which you’ll remember for more than ten minutes after seeing it, and probably not a film which you must own for posterity, but certainly an enjoyable sci-fi comedy which undoes some of the damage wrought by the noisy, scatter-shot second film (which had some fundamentally interesting sci-fi concepts rather obscured by some of the most distractingly terrible special effects that I can recall seeing in a major studio release).

"Quick - neuralyse them and make 'em forget part 2!"

“Quick – neuralyse them and make ’em forget part 2!”

This film feels a lot more stripped-down and rattles along at a refreshingly brisk pace (a swiftness emphasised by comparison to my afternoon’s viewing, a second trip to the cinema to see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, which is still pretty but decidedly bum-numbing in its running time).  The jokes are swift and mostly on point, with character development revealed in mostly sideways observations rather than overwrought dramatic set-pieces and inventive action sequences liberally peppering the 107 minute running time.

The plot of this instalment of the now-venerable sci-fi franchise sees Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Jones) wrenched apart by an alien antagonist, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) who effortlessly escapes from a high security, orbital MIB prison and makes a concerted effort to rid the planet of galactic policeman K via the medium of time travel.  And it’s this wrinkle in the conventional formula of the film series which reveals one of the best aspects of “Men in Black 3”, Josh Brolin‘s wonderful performance as a younger incarnation of Agent K.

Once the plot requires Smith’s permanently bemused J to leap back to 1969 to undo Boris the Animal’s machinations and prevent a present day invasion of Earth by Boris’ species of homicidal extraterrestrial asset-strippers, the film steps up a gear and provides the viewer with a fine line in culture-clash comedy – the cumulative effect of this stretch of the movie is to cut-and-paste hip-hop elder statesman Smith into an episode of “Mad Men-era NYC, which works particularly well when J is pulled over by polite, professional abominably racist cops and given the once over.  It’s a sequence which might have sat oddly in what is otherwise a lightweight summer action sci-fi piece but it works really quite beautifully and in some ways harkens back to our introduction to Smith’s cocksure, authority-rebuffing young buck back in the 1997 original.

Culminating with an action sequence which happens in and around the launch of the Apollo 11 mission, “Men in Black 3” is really far more entertaining than you’ll perhaps expect that it to be.   It’s aided by a snappy script from Etan Cohen, an excellent acting ensemble (Alice Eve and Emma Thompson play younger and more mature incarnations of new MIB chief, Agent O, and Jemaine Clement is superb as louche alien assassin Boris, doing what my better half, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, describes as an excellent Tim Curry impersonation) and some fun retrospective continuity wrangling which adds a new layer of poignancy to the overall “MiB” story which I really didn’t expect.

A should-rent title, then, if not quite a required purchase for your sci-fi Blu-Ray/DVD collection.

 

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“Star Trek Into Darkness” gets a new poster

Ominous, much?

Ominous, much?  Image via Paramount Pictures

As we wait for either the nine-minute IMAX prologue playing before selected screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, the astute folk at Paramount have elected to steal a march on the marketing for next summer’s “Star Trek” sequel by releasing every geek-centric blockbuster’s must-have item, the enigmatic teaser poster.

Putting on my modish great-coat and a fashionably directional long scarf in the manner of all the best consulting detectives, I note that the poster seems to feature putative “Star Trek Into Darkness” villain, Benedict Cumberbatch, who is of course playing classic “Trek” baddie Gary Mitchell/Khan/Keyser Soze (delete as likely) in the J.J. Abrams directed sequel.

And that scene of urban mass destruction, the hallmark of all contemporary bad guys who seek to threaten our very way of life via the medium of terrorist action – could it be London?  As Empire magazine‘s post on the teaser poster intimated, the background scenery seems to have the ‘Gherkin’ building prominently featured.

England’s capital?  Being destroyed in a summer blockbuster?  Such a thing has never happened before…

A trailer for this must-see geek fest is due before the end of 2012 – I don’t know about you, but I already have my popcorn ready for that one…

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Buckaroo Banzai joins the Starship Enterprise…

Let me the 5,334th blogger to hope that he's playing Banzai in the next "Star Trek"...

More good news on the casting for J.J. Abrams’ next “Star Trek” movie – following on from the news that British thesp Alice Eve is lined-up to star (the internet scuttlebutt has her playing everyone from Nurse Chapel to a curiously attractive Tribble) comes the word via various blogs that Peter Weller is signed up for an a typically unspecified role.

He’s still a really great actor, as anybody who saw his excellent guest spot on “Fringe” will surely attest, so perhaps he’s going to play a conflicted nasty piece of work if he isn’t on the side of Kirk and co.

More speculation surely awaits as we await the  release of the film in 2013

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