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My 12 for ’13: Stoker & A Vampire Story Without Vampire

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 5…

Stoker is one of the most underrated gems of the year. Released early on, Chan-wook Park’s psychological horror easily gets lost in the shuffle. Which is a shame, because it’s a wonderfully disturbing little thriller, one crafted with an incredible eye for beauty. Even the name is somewhat appropriate, evoking the creator of the modern vampire story. Stoker is in essence a vampire movie made without a vampire, although Matthew Goode’s Uncle Charlie is a convenient stand-in.

stoker4

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Star Trek – Tomorrow is Yesterday (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It’s interesting how easily you can trace a line back from the original Star Trek films to the television show which inspired them. Each of the first four films has a very clear predecessor, an episode broadcast during the show’s run which seems to serve as something of a thematic forerunner. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is so similar to The Changeling that Star Trek: The Original Series 365 dubs it “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.” The Wrath of Khan is obviously rooted in Space Seed. Kirk’s decision to hijack the Enterprise and go against regulations to save his first officer in The Search for Spock feels like a full circle from Spock’s efforts to help Pike in The Menagerie.

And Tomorrow is Yesterday feels like a bit of a dry run for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The crew might not have to save any whales, but it’s a comedic time-travel adventure that finds the Enterprise crew visiting the twentieth century and trying to avoid altering the time-line too much. Tomorrow is Yesterday feels a little simplistic when compared to some of the franchise’s later interactions with time-travel, but it is a fun and entertaining little episode. It’s easy to see why The Voyage Home might be tempted to revisit the set-up.

Flying the friendly skies...

Flying the friendly skies…

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Star Trek – Charlie X (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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Non-Review Review: Fright Night (1985)

I have a soft spot for the original Fight Night. It feels like an affectionate slice of pulp nostalgia, harking back to a simpler time in cinematic horror. It rejects the growth and expansion of the slasher subgenre to focus on the original celluloid monster. As a result, Fright Night offers a conventional vampire story, told in a decidedly unconventional manner. While it is occasionally just a little bit too cheesy and too dated for its own good, it’s hard not to enjoy the conscious callbacks to an older time.

Don’t cross him…

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Non-Review Review: This Means War

It’s hard to find anything redeeming in McG’s This Means War, a romantic comedy that attempts to court the male demographic with promises of car chases and explosions and action sequences. However, the movie has some rather unpleasant undertones as it devolves into a competition between two male friends to see who can effectively trick a beautiful young woman into falling in love with them. Interestingly, the movie is primarily about these two guys and their relationship, with the (supposed) object of their affection serving as a glorified prop.

War and pieces...

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Non-Review Review: Real Steel

Well, at the very least, Real Steel confirms that Hugh Jackman is a bona fides movie star (as if X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t already do that). It proves that the actor can pretty successfully anchor and ground any high concept blockbuster in a charming performance, one that’s engaging and witty enough to allow the audience to overlook some of the movie’s more obvious flaws. Still, despite the rather wonderful special effects and the strong cast, I left Real Steel feeling just a little bit strange, as if I’d been watching a movie that I appreciated, but never really engaged with.

And in the neon orange corner...

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