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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Die is Cast (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Die is Cast is, like Improbable Cause before it, a wonderful piece of television.

As with most Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine two-parters, The Die is Cast maintains continuity and consistency with its predecessor, but it feels like a very different episode than Improbable Cause. After all, the curtain has been pulled back. The assassination attempt is no longer the driving force of the narrative (in fact, it’s barely referenced), with the plot focusing on Enabrain Tain’s pre-emptive strike against the Dominion.

A bruised ego...

A bruised ego…

It’s interesting that it falls to the Cardassians and the Romulans to drive the Dominion plot onwards. There’s been no real development of this long-form plot since Sisko and his crew escaped at the end of The Search, Part II. Episodes like The Abandoned and Heart of Stone have seen the crew encountering individual members of the Dominion, and shows like Visionary have had characters sitting around talking about them, but nothing has actually happened. It is mostly business as usual.

As such, the episode’s title feels beautifully appropriate – it’s the crossing of a threshold, a point from which there can be no return. Not just for Tain or the Cardassians, but the show itself.

Odo's sympathy for Garak runs dry...

Odo’s sympathy for Garak runs dry…

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Star Trek – The Conscience of the King (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.

The Conscience of theKing continues the work of Balance of Terror in fleshing out the fictional universe of Star Trek. While the first few episodes of the show gave little thought to this universe’s shared history and our characters’ origins, The Conscience of the King offers us a glimpse into the past of Captain James T. Kirk. Like Dagger of the Mind, another episode borrowing its title from Shakespeare, it builds off the suggestion that humanity is still a long way from perfection, and that the fact we have reached the cold expanse of space does not mean that our troubles can be left entirely behind. In contrast to some of Roddenberry’s later decisions about the Star Trek franchise, it is clear that utopia is a path, and not a clear destination.

His mask is slipping...

His mask is slipping…

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Non-Review Review: Julius Caesar (1970)

Julius Caesar is a very ropey production. Produced by Commonwealth United Entertainment and American International Pictures, it doesn’t stand up as an enduring adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy. While quite a few of the essential ingredients are lacking, Charlton Heston actually does a fairly good job as Marc Anthony – it’s just that he’s never quite as good as Marlon Brando had been in the role back in 1953. On the other hand, Jason Robards is woefully miscast as Brutus, transforming “noble Brutus” from the most honest man in Rome to the most sinister of assassins. The production values are fairly decent, but Julius Caesar perhaps provides evidence that these sorts of historical epics were already on the way out by the start of the 1970s.

Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend my your expensive set designers!

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My Best of 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes & Hailing Caesar…

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is number seven. Check out my original review here.

If you had told me last year that one of the best summer blockbusters would be a prequel to The Planet of the Apes, I would have laughed at you. Hell, I’m still chuckling a bit now, trying to get over how such a strange concept on paper managed to work so well. After all, a movie about a bunch of damn dirty CGI apes taking their share of the planet from us humans, led by a chimpanzee on Alzheimer’s medication, sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. And yet, for some reason, it works incredibly well. I’ll concede that the plot is a bit ropey, and the human characters are quite underdeveloped, but I think Rise of the Planet of the Apes managed to grab its audience so well purely because it creates a fascinating and compelling three-dimensional lead character who we completely understand to and relate to.

Did I mention that the lead character is a CGI ape?

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Non-Review Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Why would have thought that a monkey rebellion could be the stuff of great tragedy? That, in a Simian  revolt, we may yet see the best and the worst of ourselves reflected back? The leading monkey of the piece is named for Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, but its to the credit of Rise of the Planet of the Apes that it evokes a wonderfully powerful observation repeated many times throughout both history and fiction, perhaps best articulated by Ghandi, “We are the architects of our future, not its victims.” I think we’ve come a long way in how we use computer-generated imagery in cinema, and I would suggest that Rise of the Planet of the Apes stands as something of a signpost. For the CGI Caesar stands as one of the most tragic and compelling protagonists of the year, in a film that manages to cut to the heart of a franchise in the way that decades of sequels and prequels and a remake could only dream of. It’s undoubtedly the best film to include the words “Planet” and “Apes”in the title since Charleton Heston had a mental breakdown on a beach.

I don't have no time for no monkey business...

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Non-Review Review: Cleopatra

The big budget Cleopatra is renowned as something of a massive contradiction. It was panned mercilessly by critics, and yet picked up four Academy Awards (and five more nominations). It was the most financially successful movie of the year, and yet still turned a fairly substantial loss. It’s one of the last great Hollywood epics, and it almost killed Twentieth Century Fox. So there’s something strangely fitting about the final line, in which it was suggested that the movie’s subject was “the last of so many noble rulers.” In many ways, the film was the last of its kind, but perhaps the most lavish. Perhaps history has been kinder to the production than its initial release was, but it’s still a very flawed film.

I can see Cleo now...

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