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Star Trek – Mirror, Mirror (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

Mirror, Mirror is rightfully iconic.

It is a Star Trek episode that spawned sequels on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a prequel on Star Trek: Enterprise. It codified the whole idea of a “mirror universe” in popular culture, to the point where audiences readily accept the idea of an entire world populated with evil (and possibly sexy) counterparts to our characters. Shows as diverse as Doctor Who and South Park have played with the concept. Indeed, “evil alternate universe doppelganger has a goatee” is a recognisable trope.

... And that was the last time Koenig tried to upstage Shatner...

… And that was the last time Koenig tried to upstage Shatner…

There is a strange irony to all this. The mirror universe is an absurd concept for a number of reasons, and that absurdity is only heightened when it becomes more and more iconic. Turning the idea into a recognisable television cliché inevitably simplifies it. Although Mirror, Mirror is very camp – in the same way that a lot of classic Star Trek is camp – it is a story that has a lot of interesting and clever things to say. These tend to get sanded off through imitation and repetition. (For example, despite wearing the “evil goatee”, mirror!Spock is “a man of integrity.”)

And yet, behind the striking iconic production design and the admittedly absurd premise, Mirror, Mirror ranks as one of the best and most insightful scripts of classic Star Trek. It represents a cautionary tale and critical examination of some of the show’s core tendencies.

Bringing the pain...

Bringing the pain…

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Non-Review Review: Pompeii

Pompeii is a cliché love story nested inside a cheesy b-movie sitting inside a good old-fashioned disaster movie. None of these elements are entirely successful – in fact, there are points where the love story is downright painful – but Paul W.S. Anderson manages to construct a reliably pulpy (if entirely predictable) action adventure. While by no means exceptional – it’s a mess from both a plotting and a thematic perspective – Pompeii does look as sound quite nice. As with a lot of Anderson’s films, there’s a sense that the director is more interested in his action sequences than the characters trapped inside them.

Setting the town alight...

Setting the town alight…

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Non-Review Review: The Candidate (1972)

The Candidate is that rare movie that is anchored firmly in its own time, released in June 1972, but remains relevant through until today. Writer Jeremy Larner won an Oscar for his screenplay, and his portrayal of election politics seems worryingly plausible. The Candidate is remarkably frank about its politics, but also in its depiction of the system. There’s no pussyfooting around for fear of alienating the audience with hostile political ideas, instead the film embraces its political position and runs from there. While it feels like it was written in the shadow of the then-looming 1972 Presidential election, it does seem to be quite applicable to modern politics.It remains relevant, perhaps an illustration of how little has changed.

If anything, it seems like The Candidate is relatively tame compared to current political realities.

“I came here to chew gum and get elected… and… well, I’m not out of gum.”

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Non-Review Review: Centurion

I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed with Neil Marshall. I’ll concede that I genuinely enjoyed Dog Soldiers and The Descent, while acknowledging their flaws. His movies have a tendency to start in the absurd and just keep amping things up until they get unbelievably ridiculous. Even the over-the-top and quite-crap-actually Doomsday still had a lot of energy to carry it through as it gleefully veered through camp straight out into uncharted realms of gratuitous nonsense. On the other hand, Marshall’s latest, Centurion, seems relatively tame. It’s fairly mediocre throughout, which perhaps seems less entertaining because it never has the energy to go too far. And that’s a bit of shame.

The last Fassbender?

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