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Movie Review: Boldly go and see it

WHILE it may take some doing to top Iron Man 3 's record box-office opening, the producers of the 12th instalment in the Star Trek franchise can at least take some solace in the fact that they've stayed true to the spirit of the best of the series and given us a summer blockbuster which doesn't insult the intelligence of its audience.

The decision to hand the reins over to JJ Abrams after a seven-year gap from Star Trek: Nemesis proved to be an inspired one, his decision to go back to the very origins of the story of the crew of the USS Enterprise for 2009's Star Trek bringing a much- needed warmth and humour to what had become something of a jaded run of movies.

Here, Abrams is on fine form again, maintaining the standards he set four years ago and expanding the characters' back-stories to slot in neatly with what hardcore fans will know of the Trek universe. Not that one needs a full knowledge of the TV series or the films to enjoy Into Darkness on its own merits for the rollicking adventure it is, but should you be thus inclined there are plenty of nods and winks here to keep you more than happy.

 

VOLCANO

The movie opens with an exhilarating pre-titles sequence which sees Capt Kirk (Chris Pine) and Dr McCoy (Karl Urban) fleeing from a primitive tribe on a distant planet while a volcano erupts in the background. There's a clear nod to the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark here – never a bad thing – before the tension is ramped up even further as Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) beams directly into the core of the volcano, possibly in violation of Starfleet orders.

It's a gripping 10 minutes or so before we're off to London where a mysterious figure (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers a Starfleet officer the opportunity to save his ailing daughter's life, leading to the organisation's London base being destroyed in a huge explosion.

We discover that the mystery man is a former Starfleet spook called John Harrison, but why has he taken it upon himself to attack his former employers? Equally, what exactly are those mysterious new weapons pods that Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) is anxious to use against Harrison after he's fled to a deserted province on the Klingon home world of Kronos?

To reveal any more about the plot would be tempting spoilers, but Abrams has put together a great sci-fi adventure. His pacing is outstanding and, crucially, he doesn't become overly bogged down with elaborate CGI set-pieces. The characters are more developed than the 2009 reboot, with the tensions between Kirk and Spock still lurking, Harrison making for a great villain while Spock and Uhuru's relationship seems to have hit a rocky patch. The forthcoming Superman revamp Man of Steel may well turn out to be a gem but, really, if Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 are as good as the summer's tentpole offerings get, then I'll happily settle for that.

4/5

Mud

 Drama. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Joe Don Baker. Directed by Jeff Nichols. Cert 12A

Writer/director Jeff Nichols' third film is his most engaging yet, a beautifully-shot coming of age story set in the magnificent landscape of the Mississippi delta in Arkansas. The story follows the adventures of two 14 year-old boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who discover a boat in a tree on a deserted island and immediately use it as their secret den.

However, the island isn't, in fact, uninhabited as they encounter Mud (Matthew McConaughey), a man on the run from the police and anxious to meet up with his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

Agreeing to help Mud get the boat down, the boys find themselves caught up in a dangerous series of events. Nichols has fleshed out the bones of the plot with some wonderful and subtle touches, from Ellis's worries about his parents' ailing marriage to the imminent passing of a way of life on the river and Mud's somewhat unreliable revelations about his past.

While it's arguably 20 minutes or so too long Mud is a genuinely heart-warming film, with more than a touch of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn about Ellis and the scampish Neckbone while you can definitely see traces of Stand By Me, Whistle Down the Wind and even Night of the Hunter in the movie's DNA. And if that's not a recommendation then I don't know what is.

4/5

Deadfall

Thriller. Starring Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Charlie Hunnam, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Sissy Spacek. Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky. Cert 15A

Set in the snowy wilds of rural Michigan, Deadfall echoes the Coen brothers' Fargo and Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan in its look and feel but, alas, first-time screenwriter Zach Dean's promising story manages to fall apart in a ludicrous final act.

Essentially pulling three story strands together with the most unlikely of coincidences we have the psychotic Addison (Eric Bana) and his sister Liza (Olivia Wilde) on the run after a casino heist only for their car to crash, Addison to murder a state trooper in cold blood and the pair to split up.

A freezing, barely alive Liza then happens upon Jay (Charlie Hunnam), a former Olymic boxer who's just out of prison and also in a spot of bother so he's heading home to his parents (Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek).

For all the graphic, sudden violence and the enjoyable unpredictability of Bana's character's behaviour – there's also the clear intimation of an incestuous subplot between him and Liza, which is downright creepy – Deadfall just doesn't hang together as a coherent story.

It leaps across the borderline into the ridiculous when all these characters are rather improbably brought together for a Thanksgiving dinner. Pass the potatoes? Pass, full stop.


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