Star Trek: Into Darkness

May 12, 2013 at 9:46 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Or as I prefer to think of it Star Trek XI.

Director J.J. Abrams has done a great job.

Warning: Plot elements discussed.

The old gang (Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Bones and Scotty) take on John Harrison – a Federation operative gone rogue. Harrison has killed tens of people and some of the Federation’s top captains – including Christopher Pike. Joining the crew is Dr. Carol Marcus as science officer – much to Spock’s chagrin.

The re-boot of the Star Trek universe is still underway. The death of Captain Pike by phaser fire removes all of the old story threads that originate with the Captain-Pike-in-a-wheel-chair. The addition of a new character – Marcus – creates fresh opportunities.

The film is very much a character study – of Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) gets a significant look-in. Quinto’s Spock is softer than previous portrays. In some ways John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) acts like a mirror for Kirk. How is Kirk’s disregard for the rules different from Harrison’s ruthlessness. Cumberbatch plays a superb villan.

There are some nice combat – small unit and ship-to-ship – sequences. The original TV-series was strong on script because the cost of special effects. Today’s Star Trek TV-series and films are less shackled. Abrams gets the mix right. Having the Enterprise re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere is spectacular.

The opening third of the movie does a great job of dangling a number of possible plot directions; so it is a total surprise when Harrison’s real identity is revealed. This film re-boots one of the original TV episodes – “Space Seed”.

There were moments of light-heartedness: the throttle control on the Enterprise looks like a copy of the on on Galaxy Quest.

Well done to the Trailer director – who put together a completely different impression of the film.

Definitely worth seeing on the wide screen.

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Bryn Terfel – A Gala Evening

May 4, 2013 at 8:34 am | Posted in Concert Review, Recital Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the concert last night: Bryn Terfel with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Michael Fowler Centre. I wasn’t sure what I would get, but I got a world renowned bass-baritone and a brilliant orchestra – conducted by Tecwyn Evans.

Bryn Terfel is bass-baratone sang a collection of Wagner, Boito, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and some ‘folk songs’. In between, the Orchestra played some Wagner, Boito, and Lilburn.

Evans is a comparatively animated conductor and really seemed to bring the parts of the Orchestra into a greater whole.

Terfel has a magnificent operatically trained voice. His voice easily filled the Michael Fowler Centre. He held his own against the combined orchestra – both in volume, and retaining his clarity.

I liked the Orchestra’s rendition of The Ride of the Valkyries. I was transported away with images of Huey helicopters attacking a surfing village in Vietnam; then I imagined chapter one of Starship Troopers the way it should have been filmed (or is it the way i would have done it?).

I also liked: Oh What a Beautiful Morning and Fiddler on the Roof; as I associate them with warm childhood memories.

I found the german/operatic/orchestral arrangement of The Ballad of Mack the KnifeDie Moritat von Mackie Messer – far too clinical.

I found the two encores hopelessly contrived. Terfel sang three songs that the orchestra just happened to know how to play. Maybe the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra could be expected to be able to play Pokarekari Ana, and be able to adjust for bass-baretone’s range, but for the other two songs the Orchestra just happened to have the sheet music (I could see the cello-ists turning and arranging sheet music).

The near-standing ovation at the end seemed much more genuine.

However, I did feel slightly out of place: the average age of the audience must have been close to 70; a sprinkling of Welsh flags were unfurled throughout the night; and I don’t speak German.

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