Guilty Pleasures

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No matter how sophisticated we may become, no matter how many degrees in film, literature or the arts we may obtain, we retain our guilty pleasures — by which I mean those movies, books, and television shows we know aren’t great art and may be really dumb. It doesn’t matter. We love them anyway.

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I have a whole bushel of them, ranging from television shows about vampires with glowing eyes (Forever Knight), to reruns of the original Lassie. I’m a sucker for any movie featuring a non-human, be it cat, dog, horse, or sea creature. I’ll watch pretty much anything in which Candice Bergen starred or was at least featured. I’ll watch anything from any season of any Star Trek, even if I’ve seen it a hundred times.

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I love comedies by Mel Brooks, even the bad ones because they make me laugh. Ditto the Zucker brothers for the same reason. If you can make me laugh, you’ve got me. Sometimes, I watch things that are unintentionally funny … Xena, Princess Warrior comes to mind. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be funny, but it made me laugh until I cried.

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My lists of favorite movies, books and television shows are a study in contrasts. I love The Lion In Winter and The Seventh Seal. I love Airplane and Hotshots Deux. I never miss a run of Best Of Show or A Mighty Wind. Or the original version of The Haunting.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, I will watch or read whatever grabs my fancy or makes me laugh without discrimination.

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It’s one of the reasons I think that “awards” like the Golden Globes and the Oscars need many more categories. How can you put a screwball comedy against a serious drama and have any kind of sensible outcome? It would be like having a dog show that included camels and goats. It wouldn’t matter how beautiful a goat or camel you have entered, it would never win Best of show.

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I’d love to hear about your guilty pleasures? What makes you laugh? What cheers you up when you’ve got the blues? Are you a secret fan of Gilligan’s Island or Love Boat? Fess up! Time to come clean :-)

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Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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See on joyceschoices.com

Loved this–and  I am not a Trekkie, have never been on a spacecraft, or had an out of body experience (OK maybe once) but I love an exciting cinematic romp through outer space, and after seeing STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS I left the theater feeling like my car was the Starship Enterprise (and if you must know, I am always traveling at warp speed.) The 12th installment of the adventures of that merry band of space explorers led by Captain James T. Kirk (played by Chris Pine and his indestructible eyebrows) and Mr. Spock (played by Zachary Quinto of the equally bodacious brows)– just made me want to go along for the ride.

This time they are after a single guy (Who isn’t– A number of my friends are asking…) a super powerful dangerous bad ass (Benedict Cumberbatch) who’s hiding out in a neutral Klingon outpost and I won’t spoil it by telling you who it is. But what I liked about the film– and most Star Trek movies is that they are about the characters and their interaction– and there’s plenty here for the Enterprise crew to chew on.  Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock are finding their way through a rather complex relationship. In fact, Spock’s identity is at the heart of the action. As a half Vulcan, Spock acts logically of course, but must navigate a romance with the het up Uhura, and decipher his friendship with Kirk who’s operating from his gut. So Spock must adjust his thinking to take all of this into account; he’s also half human, but has made certain decisions not to feel– to protect himself from feeling what he confesses he actually at one time has felt or known–but must  now control. Or at least try to. Not even Dr. Phil could straighten this out.

Then there’s Kirk and his relationship to rules in general, his mentor Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood), and the chain of command–Peter “Robocop” Weller is onboard as Admiral Marcus. Then there’s Scotty (Simon Pegg) who resigns and gets drunk, while Sulu (John Cho) proves himself a man in the big chair, while McCoy (Karl Urban) gets off some choice one liners. Then there’s the gorgeous blonde (Alice Eve) who sneaks aboard.  The character drama holds up somewhat better than the action sequences which are often messy– sometimes not clear what’s happening or who’s doing what to whom. But there’s enough to fill in the blanks. The plot is a bit inconsistent on the details as well– the opening scene has Spock trying to solidify the lava from a volcano so it won’t overflow and wipe out a primitive civilization on the planet Nibiru– but I thought Starfleet wasn’t supposed to interfere with the history of a people? Later Kirk is called to account for doing just that. Lazy writing.

So what kept me onboard? The pace, the overall flow, the likeability of this cast, seeing the beginnings of their evolution as characters, and perhaps– I just needed an escape. “Star Trek Into Darkness” while not brilliant, was enough fun to take me out of the doldrums of a late Spring afternoon–just before a hail storm and a black bear invaded my neighborhood (See my Facebook/ Twitter stream). The blockbusters have arrived– and they will live long and prosper this summer if STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is any indication.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

I want to see this one. Soon!

See on joyceschoices.com

‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ will bring movie fans into the light

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“To Boldly Go, Where No One Has Gone Before”… a simple, yet iconic phrase that has delighted TV viewers and film fans for decades and is attached to the journeys of “Star Trek” in all of its forms. Open today in theatres everywhere “Star Trek: Into Darkness” takes us deep into the universe in ways that will delight the hardcore fans and not alienate the casual ones either.

After an attack of terror from one of their own within the Federation, Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) leads the crew of the Enterprise into uncharted waters risking interplanetary war to try and track down this one man weapon of mass destruction.

As J.J. Abrams gets to dive into this world for a second time, the results range from thrilling and brilliant to occasionally maddening but it is never dull and even the most dedicated and hardcore ‘Trekker’ cannot deny that “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is a wall to wall thrill ride that will delight all ranges of fans considering how brazenly nervy the material does get at times. The script from frequent Abrams collaborators Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have craft a big and bold action adventure told on a pretty grand scale, that flows like an easy current allowing us more time to really get to know and exist with these characters. The differences and similarities that we saw in the first film that referenced the original franchise, weren’t as subtle this time out as they clubbed the viewer over the head with some obvious story parallels but it is such a fun ride, that even the ardent ‘Trekker” won’t give up on this one. Always visually stunning to a fault, the film successfully never loses sight of the human element of the “Star Trek” universe as it is these interpersonal stories that have always made the franchise click. As Abrams throws as many lens flares at the screen as he possible can, this film like so many of his other projects keeps the people first and that is truly where the magic lies as the ensemble returns getting fully ensconced in their characters with some excellent performances.

Surprisingly enough, in this second film it is the supporting cast that shines just a brightly as the leads. Chris Pine is embracing the swarthy, arrogant swagger of Kirk that will all love so very much as he leads his crew into battle against this new villain. Benedict Cumberbatch simply tears up the screen as the best kind of bad guy there is, the one we love to hate and he gloriously chewed the scenery at every turn.

Zachary Quinto truly became Spock in this one channelling both emotional sides of his character really becoming Spock’s equal this time out. Karl Urban chews the scenery with his one liners and Simon Pegg provided some fantastic comic relief as John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana and newcomer Alice Eve rounded out the supporting ensemble making this film a real ensemble piece, just like a Star Trek film should be.

As they pay homage to the old, while trying to bring in new fans, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” despite the occasional hiccup works as an across the board action ode to the countless adventures that are out there in the universe for this crew to explore.

“Star Trek: Into Darkness” is now playing at theatres all across the country; please check with your local listings for show times.

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Redshirts, by John Scalzi: A Book Review

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas | [John Scalzi]The story within a story (or play within a play), where fictional characters interact with people in the real world is not new or unique. Shakespeare used it and as Scalzi himself bears witness, there have been a lot of movies, plays, books, and so on that have used one or another variations on this theme. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I enjoyed his willingness to explore a classic form and was curious to see where he would go with it. I also appreciated his acknowledging the other authors and script writers who have used some version of it.

The first portion of the story was fun. The characters gradually realize they are part of a  TV series. This isn’t a spoiler; the book’s title refers to the red-shirted characters on Star Trek who were always killed before the first commercial break. In Redshirts, after discovering they are characters in cable sci fi series, the characters slide into the real world. Even though it was obvious from the beginning what was happening, it didn’t matter because what the author was doing was less important than how he did it. John Scalzi has a unique and quirky perspective that make his books interesting and highly entertaining. At least for the first half of the book, Redshirts was no exception.

Then the codas began. The codas are rather like alternate endings, but also like an extra piece of story, tangentially related to the main storyline. It’s an interesting idea that didn’t really work. At least, it didn’t work for me.

The first coda explores the mind of a writer in the throes of writer’s block and was mildly interesting. Not exactly gripping, but not bad. When the first coda drew to a close and the second began, I realized I was restless and finding it difficult to stay focused. The final coda felt like a postscript and held little interest. Worse, the book felt like a writing exercise. Interesting in a technical way if you happen to be a writer, I nonetheless found myself muttering “Okay already, I got it. You made your point.”

I listened through to the end, though I kept drifting and had to remind myself to pay attention as the book plodded to its conclusion.

Less would have been more. The basic idea was good — cute and clever. In its audiobook version, it was helped along by a skilled narrator. But there wasn’t enough plot to go the distance, like a movie that runs out of script 20 minutes before it runs out of film. The story was too thin to support its length. The first half could easily have stood on its own as a novella.

By the end, I had lost track of the characters and plot. Too many endings, characters appearing and disappearing with blinding speed. A score card might have helped but ultimately, I didn’t care.

I’ve read worse books … but John Scalzi has written much better.