Tag Archives: Star Trek Beyond

2016 in Review: A Soundtrack


It’s been a while since we did a review of the year’s soundtracks, so we drafted in frequent collaborator Tony Black – and head honcho at the TV and film music podcast Between The Notes – who put down his microphone in favour of writing down his thoughts on the top soundtracks of 2016. Plenty to consider before you vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards.

Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great year at the movies has it, 2016? Not if you’re a major blockbuster at least. Oddly enough though, the same can’t quite be said for the scores to many of those films, dodgy or otherwise. David Ayer, Zack Snyder or even Scott Derrickson may have let you down, but Michael Giacchino, Clint Mansell or Cliff Martinez have been right on the money with their orchestral scores to some of this year’s most disappointing or divisive pictures.

Here are five scores to the biggest (and not necessarily best) movies that have troubled your multiplex that I consider to be composers close to the top of their respective games:

5 – THE WITCH (Mark Korven)

Just like you probably hadn’t heard of The Witch before early this year, chances are you won’t have heard of Canadian composer Mark Korven. He’s a new kid on the block. Much like how Robert Eggers wowed us with his debut feature, Korven backs him up with a score that drips remote, screeching, primeval terror and the coldness of the austere Puritan setting in which Eggers tells his chilling tale. It’s not Sunday afternoon easy listening, but it’s one of the best horror/chiller scores in years.

Standout track: Caleb’s Seduction

4 – STAR TREK BEYOND (Michael Giacchino)

The new master and heir apparent to John Williams; it’s rare Michael Giacchino has a bad year. After a stonking 2015 scoring a raft of average movies with stunning music, he delivers this year both with Doctor Strange and even more so Star Trek Beyond. It’s his third score for the JJ Abrams spearheaded revival of the classic TV score and it’s possibly his best yet, a heady mixture of iconic, reworked themes with powerful, thrilling brass and an elegant sense of galactic scope. Plus you’ll always have a good laugh at the wonderful puns that litter the names of his cues, as if you needed more of a reason to listen!

Standout track: Night on the Yorktown

3 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Bear McCreary)

You’ve heard Bear McCreary, even if you don’t know his name. Trust me. He scored the excellent Battlestar Galactica remake and it’s his music that forms the memorable title track to The Walking Dead. He’s been much more television based (and continues to be) but in scoring the underrated, Hitchcockian sequel to secret blockbuster Cloverfield, he truly advances to the big leagues with a score one parts mythic, and two parts a gorgeous mesh of dark thriller & Jerry Goldsmith-esque creeping mystique. Even if you don’t love 10 Cloverfield Lane (and you should), it would be a surprise if you don’t end up a little in love with how it sounds by the end.

Standout track: Michelle

2 – THE NEON DEMON (Cliff Martinez)

Following previous partnerships with Nicolas Winding Refn on films such as Drive or Only God Forgives, Cliff Martinez perhaps reaches amongst the peak of his accomplishments with his remarkable and unique work on The Neon Demon. Now, not everyone took to Winding Refn’s garish horror about the fashion industry, but Martinez’s music drips with substance. It often sounds like diamonds falling onto a cold floor, infused with a sense of warped, pulsing disco, underlain with painful violins capturing the tragedy of Elle Fanning’s main character. It’s a stunning piece of work, and remarkable for the fact the standout piece, ‘The Demon Dance’, is a contributing from Julian Winding, the directors brother. If it’s not being played in clubs forevermore, it’ll be a travesty.

Standout track: The Demon Dance

1 – HIGH-RISE (Clint Mansell)

There’s a strong argument that Clint Mansell is the greatest composer on this list discussed today and, after listening to his score for High-Rise, it’s hard to provide a counterpoint. Ben Wheatley’s absurdist, neo-capitalist, period masterpiece and searing critique on Thatcherism may both be the greatest film of 2016 but also have a score to match. Mansell belies his roots as a Midlander growing up in the gaudy, concrete monstrosities of the 60’s & 70’s to deliver an operatic and creeping piece which matches Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s commentary. It’s full of brash violins, strong towering themes and an underpinning of controlled mayhem which Mansell explodes outward for effect at just the right moments. Of all these pieces, it’s the score that can be most listened to and enjoyed in isolation. Even in Mansell’s glittering career it’s a standout, possibly career best piece of work.

Standout track: The World Beyond the High Rise

In terms of honourable mentions, a shout out again to Giacchino for Doctor Strange, to Henry Jackman for The Birth of a Nation, the great John Williams for The BFG, Johann Johannson for Arrival, John Ottman for X-Men Apocalypse, Abel Korzeniowski for Nocturnal Animals and John Powell/David Buckley’s collaboration on Jason Bourne. There are more I’ve missed, undoubtedly, from even the honourable mentions, let alone the best of list.

So take a moment to remember than even in a hellish political year, or a largely average one for movies on the screen, the composers behind the music are still delivering work you’ll be listening to for years to come. 2016 does have one saving grace, after all…


Front Row with Owen and Paul: Return to Owz

Front Row Logo

Welcome to the second episode of our third stab at this Front Row malarkey. Dan Morris has clicked his heels and returned to Kansas, or Wales, or Stoke, or wherever it was he was from, and it’s led to a poorly received, slightly odder follow-up, as we Return to Owz. Owz… like, Oz, but with ‘Owen’, because he’s back this week alongside co-host Paul Rutland.

Owen+z. Owenz… Owz… You know what? Never mind.

On last week’s Bucks101 Radio show (broadcast Monday’s at 2pm) both Owen and Paul delved into just why exactly it was that one of them walked out on a screening of Star Trek Beyond – an issue raised on the first episode of this series. We also have our regular sports round-up, replete with a preview of the Olympics in Rio – something you can watch Paul do again in a slightly more organised fashion for Buckingham News. We also roll the dice and end up extolling the virtues of more Netflix shows as Owen gushes over both Stranger Things and the third season of BoJack Horseman.

Right click to download the episode as an mp3

Time to Quit Those Spoiler-Filled Trailers

Unironic warning: there are some minor spoilers in this article for the following films:  Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys, X-Men: Apocalypse.


Time to Quit Those Spoiler-Filled Trailers, Or: How studios are trying desperately to make it so that we don’t need to go to the movies anymore

Directors, producers, studios: we need to talk. I’ve had about enough of forcing myself to avoid your marketing because you are intent on spoiling the entire damn film, sometimes months before we’ve even been given the chance to see the bloody thing.

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve lost count of the amount of times where I’ve gone into a movie knowing not just the plot and some of the best bits of dialogue, but I’ve actually known the mid-film twist, or the big action sequence that’s supposed to be a surprise. All sense of awe has selfishly been taken away from me.

I go to the cinema to be amazed, to escape the day-to-day shittiness of having to go to work and to give me an excuse to babble on about films. Whether that’s with my mates, or in one of those many reviews I’m allowed to keep writing here.

What I don’t go to the flicks to do, is to watch the gaps in between the plot points and spoilers that I’ve already seen in your bloody trailers and TV spots.

So, of course, from here on in there will be spoilers. Mostly of older films, but I will telegraph them all and hopefully give you the opportunity to skip those you want to.

There are definitely degrees of spoiled bits, I reckon. There’s that key moment in last year’s Jurassic World where Chris Pratt’s main character, Owen, has his little bad ass moment. Zipping through the jungle growth on a bike followed by a herd of dinosaurs; that should be this amazing, awe inspiring moment. But we all knew it was coming. It was in the damn ads.

From the first reveal, to the final trailer: we saw Owen “taming” these animals one second and running with them like Mowgli and the wolves the next. But this ain’t that bad…. OK, it is. But it’s one action scene in a two hour film full of them. It’s almost understandable that you’d need to show something to whet the audiences’ appetite. There are plenty of other scenes you could have used, but whatever.

It’s nothing – and I mean nothing – compared to the now infamous Terminator: Genisys trailers. An average-at-best film (on a good day) needed a good marketing campaign to get people excited for it. After Salvation, no one wanted this pointless half reboot, and a great trailer campaign would’ve got you some serious hype.

Instead, the imbeciles whose only job was to sell me the movie decided to put the film’s defining moment, its big twist, in the god damn trailer. And here’s where my biggest issue with these bloody trailers lies – I can’t avoid them! I was staring at a screen the size of the barn when someone revealed that John Connor was a poxy Terminator!

So many films have fallen foul of this egregious marketing bullshit. Recently, X-Men: Apocalypse had Quicksilver’s family tree and a super-clawed cameo thrown directly into the faces of film goers in its final trailer The latter of which was revealed in TV spots during the ad breaks for any show on after 6pm.

Imagine trying to avoid spoilers for your next big film, only for it to be ruined because you had the audacity to be watching Coronation Street!

Southpaw gave away a vital plot point/character death in its initial trailer. Star Trek Beyond not only gave away massive plot points in its final trailer, but ruined what should have been a head nodding “awwwwww SHIT!” moment from the first reveal trailer. One of those Twitter buddies I hold so dear even had a spoileriffic trailer for The Huntsman: Winter’s War played to him in the trailer segment just before the Snow White sequel was due to be played.

I know it’s not a new phenomenon, I do. I know that as long as trailers have been a thing, they’ve been spoiling what they’ve been advertising, but surely it’s time for something to be done. As I write this, I’m furious (and deeply thankful) that another Twitter acquaintance warned me off of the latest Suicide Squad trailer as it reveals a load of act three spoilers! What the fuck, Warner Brothers?

It’s time these idiots leaned how to market their films. Recently, 10 Cloverfield Lane managed to get the world flocking to see it, even after it looked like a sequel to a mediocre film that no one really asked for.  Marketed perfectly, we all went in clear-headed with no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. And made an excellent film from it, too.

Or you can go the other way. You can pound us with never-ending ads, trailers and TV spots if you want. Why not? Deadpool did it. But its genius is in the fact that after trailer one, we got no new footage shown to us. A load of new stuff made especially for its campaign kept the jokes coming in at ten to the dozen, without killing the comedic payoff once the film actually came out.

Just take a look at what Adam Wingard did last week. He got us all super excited for his amazing looking, insanely creepy The Woods. Then went and revealed that it’s actually a Blair Witch sequel! He managed to grab a franchise many didn’t care for and as many had forgotten – myself included – and made me all kinds of excited for it. I guarantee that trailer has barely scratched the surface of what we see when the film hits!

Come on guys, you can do so much better. Some of the greatest, most memorable films that stuck with us came with stellar marketing campaigns too. There’s no need to explain the film’s plot, beat-by-beat. or reveal twists and show all the best bits in the 2-4 minutes you get to advertise your film.

Ask absolutely anyone. Blowing your load early like that is never pretty and people don’t come back for more.

Failed Critics Podcast Beyond


Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, boldly going where we’ve only been once before. That is to say, it’s another episode without any guests!

Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are left to their own devices, and yet still end up discussing two new releases. They review the latest sci-fi franchise to become a trilogy in Star Trek Beyond – well, one of them can review it as the other hasn’t seen it (all) – as well as Spielberg’s adaptation of everybody’s favourite childhood author, Roald Dahl’s classic, The BFG.

Elsewhere on the show, the duo run through as many of the trailers from San Diego Comic Con as they could get their hands on, plus Steve’s reaction to The Ouija Experiment, his booby-prize for losing last week’s quiz. There’s also enough time for some appreciation for The Purge films ahead of next month’s release of Election Year, as well as a quick appreciation for Andy Samberg’s latest comedy, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which is also due out exactly one month from today.

Join us again next week for a special triple-bill episode loosely connected to the forthcoming Olympics!



Star Trek Beyond

Just another day in Starfleet.”

A few years have passed since Paramount and JJ Abrams tried to convince us that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t really Khan. Even non-Trek fans like myself walked out after trekking Into Darkness to a resounding “meh” and a muscle-pulling shrug of the shoulders. So, I guess that makes it time for yet more Star Trek… Goodness?

Out is Abrams – off making star films of the Wars variety – and in is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the Fast and Furious films. Hoping to inject a little something different into this franchise and hopefully make fans forget about the travesty that that was the bastardisation of The Wrath of Khan back in 2013.

Sent into uncharted space on a routine rescue mission, Captain Kirk and his crew cross paths with a mysterious ship that chooses to respond to their calls with hostility and sets about attacking the Enterprise. Making light work of the Federation ship, the hostile race forces the captain and the crew that haven’t been taken prisoner by the unknown foe to abandon the Enterprise to crash land on a nearby planet.

Spread across the rocky landscape of the planet, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) must brave the odds and rescue their crew from their maniacal hostage taker, the leader of an old race that live underground, known as Krall (Idris Elba in some very heavy makeup). With a little help from mysterious warrior Jaylah (Kingsman‘s Sofia Boutella), the last of her race, stranded on the planet by Krall and his murderous race, the survivors have little time to release the prisoners, escape the planet and find a way to stop Krall and his plans to destroy the galaxy.

Here’s the thing with Beyond – or in fact any of the Star Trek films whether they be originals or from the rebooted now trilogy – they are safe films. For fear of pissing off a massive fan base, they’ll never do anything groundbreaking to the franchise. I mean, they couldn’t even kill Kirk properly in the last bloody film could they? In an effort to keep the rabid fanbase appeased, there will never be something done that they can’t come back from and while I did quite enjoy my time with the latest in the sci-fi series to clearly be missing a colon in its title, it meant that even the opening salvo of destruction had very little in the way of peril in it.

It did look good though. The annihilation of the Enterprise by Krall’s “Bees” like a hot knife through butter looked amazing and was a solid fifteen minutes of beautiful destruction. But the franchise has gotten to a stage where it feels a lot like the episodes everyone used to watch and rave about. Once the world famous ship has crashed landed, it’s very run-of-the-mill and definitely more about the characters than the set pieces. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that at all – my favourite films his year have had almost no action and been all exposition – but the third film in this rebooted franchise should feel comfortable enough to keep bringing the action and maybe hold back a little with the fanboy callbacks. When there are set pieces, though, it’s generally pretty good. Action is competent, combat is thrilling and the camaraderie between long-standing characters during these moments is always fun to watch.

The characters are definitely what makes this film – and the previous entries in this reimagined franchise – worth sticking with. I’ve enjoyed watching the relationship build between Chris Pine’s James Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock as the pair are put in these impossible situations that does nothing but strengthen their friendship.

The same can be said for Spock and Karl Urban’s Leonard McCoy; who I honestly think steals the show in each of the films with his neurotic insanity and paranoia. Urban brings such a wealth of character and comedy to the doctor that you can’t help but love him.

As you can imagine, Idris Elba is very cool as the bad guy and fits the maniacal monster perfectly. Like a great bad guy in an episode of the show though, you always wish for a little more screen time that just doesn’t happen, and it’s a real shame.

Some bizarre choices made by the creative team all the way through do hinder the film a little though. Ok, it hinders the film a lot. The script may be the poorest of the trilogy with some achingly bad dialogue and a real lack of effort in parts. One glaringly obvious and just awful moment hits you towards the end when Elba’s Krall spots Kirk in the heat of a massive dogfight and utters “Kirk, my old friend.” Even though the characters have never met before the film and they spent around eleven seconds in each others company up to that point. By those standards, everyone I spoke to getting my Starbucks on the way in to see this film should be getting an invite to my wedding! It’s moments like that, that take this film down a notch or two to just another average flick.

Briefly, because I haven’t really mentioned these thing in reviews, podcasts, or even in my usual rants on social media. A couple of things I want to touch upon:

First, I love the way the death of legend Leonard Nimoy is handled; with grace and respect. He’s given a send off worthy of a man who played such a classic role. Bravo.

Second, the gay Sulu thing. I love it. I think it’s about time a franchise of this magnitude embraced the times and making Sulu the focus of these attentions is great. In my humble opinion, of course. I don’t buy the “Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have wanted it” shit. The man famously gave us a black woman front and centre in a time that it wasn’t done. I believe he would have done the exact same thing for the gay community. Bravo, again.

And finally, while he doesn’t have much screen time, it’s achingly sad to see Anton Yelchin up on that screen. His dedication at the end of the film, along with Nimoy’s, was lovely.

Anyways, to wrap up. Dodgy scripting, some ghastly CGI, especially around a certain motorbike scene that made me cringe and massive sections of plot and continuity ignored, made for frustrating viewing at times. That’s not to say it’s unwatchable, but overall Star Trek Beyond is on a par with the previous entries in the series. You already know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t expect the world to change with this flick.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Luminous Critics


Welcome to this week’s edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, where hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by special guest Paul Field to tackle a few new releases (and one not-so-new release).

One new release that isn’t reviewed (despite what was suggested on last week’s podcast), due to an administrative cock-up of gargantuan-Stay-Puft proportions, is Ghostbusters. Sorry about that. You’ll just have to tune in again next week.

However, instead, Owen and Steve strived to stay awake long enough during the slog that was The Legend of Tarzan in order to share their thoughts with you all, whilst Paul survived an 80-mile round-trip specifically to see Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest divisive feature, The Neon Demon.

Elsewhere this week:  Steve takes a nostalgia trip all the way back to the mid-90’s for The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down or Speed Up Fast Enough To Escape the Simpsons Meme (aka Speed);  Paul digs out the best fan-fiction he can find after watching Slash at the Munich Film Festival (and by “best”, he means “smuttiest”);  and Owen endures the micro-budget Amish horror/thriller/mystery/psychological/thing, The Harvesting. Unfortunately for Steve and Paul, it didn’t come with a salad bar and free refills.

The quiz this week was utter chaos – this time thanks to Steve, not Owen! But topical chats were had about Sulu’s sexuality in Star Trek Beyond and the process of delaying or renaming films / TV shows after an unfortunately-timed national tragedy has occurred.

We’ll be back next week to definitely (definitely) review Ghostbusters. Definitely.



Failed Critics Podcast: X-Men: Apocalypse

x-men apocalypse

Welcome to this week’s episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, with your hosts … erm … Stan? Stuart? Stephen? Steve, Steve Norman, that’s the fella, and Owen Hopkins– I mean, Hughes. They’re joined by Andrew Brooker to review, look at, discuss, scratch their heads and generally mull over the latest Fox-driven superhero movie, X-Men: Apocalypse.

Before all of that, the trio run through the latest film news to cross their paths; namely the trailers for Ghostbusters (and why it might be OK to not like it), Star Trek Beyond, The Purge: Election Year and Independence Day: Resurgence. There’s also room for a discussion about Nicolas Winding Refn’s plans to remake Witchfinder General, as well as an astonished glance towards the impressive cast list of Thor: Ragnarok, boasting the likes of Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban and Jeff Goldblum.

As ever, the ongoing, never ending quiz battle between Owen and Steve rages on, this week pitting the latter against Brooker as they try to work out which X-Men names are real and which Owen has simply made up. In What We’ve Been Watching: Steve revisits a the first and the most recent of the X-Men movies prior to his trip to see Apocalypse; Brooker MC’s over Magic Mike XXL; and Owen gushes over cult zombie classic The Return of the Living Dead.

Join us again next week for a special movie-star triple bill episode.