Movie reviews: Star Trek Beyond, The BFG, Chevalier

Star Trek Beyond 4/5

Movie reviews: Star Trek Beyond, The BFG, Chevalier

Bored and adrift in the trackless wastes of space, three years into the USS Enterprise’s mission, James T Kirk (Chris Pine) is rejuvenated when he is charged with a rescue operation as Star Trek Beyond (12A) opens.

Whilst navigating an uncharted and unstable nebula, however, the Enterprise is attacked by a phenomenally powerful foe led by Krall (Idris Elba), leaving Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhuru (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) separated from one another and the rest of the Enterprise crew on a bleak and desolate planet.

Escape seems impossible; happily, as Spock points out, finding hope in the impossible is what the Enterprise crew does best.

Director Justin Lin isn’t exactly taking the Enterprise (or his audience) where no Star Trek story has gone before in this third instalment of the rebooted franchise, but while the story (scripted by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg) may seem familiar to Trekkies, Lin brings an undeniable style and panache to the proceedings.

Visually inventive in the extended opening sequence and superbly edited in the numerous action sequences, the movie does sag somewhat in the middle section as the separated crew members wander around their new environment trying to locate one another.

That said, there’s enough by way of sub-plots to keep things rolling along, including the burgeoning romance between Spock and Uhuru, and there’s also plenty of humour (check out the nifty use of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ on the soundtrack).

As blockbusters go, this is smart, sassy and fun; the Star Trek reboot continues to live well and prosper.

Stolen away from a London orphanage to Giant Country by The BFG (PG), young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) discovers that while her new giant friend (Mark Rylance) is very big and decidedly friendly, his bullying neighbours are even bigger and have an alarming habit of eating human children.

Is the giants’ appetite for human flesh connected with the number of children who have been going missing from orphanages recently?

Adapted by Melissa Mathison from Roald Dahl’s story, The BFG is arguably Steven Spielberg’s most child-friendly movie since ET — which Mathison, who died late last year, also wrote.

The shadowy, looming presence Sophie encounters as the story begins is quickly revealed as a folksy, gentle dream-catcher, and while the story is told from Sophie’s perspective, the movie belongs to Mark Rylance, whose giant is a twinkly-eyed teddy-bear of a giant, albeit one whose kindnesses are a vain attempt to quiet his conscience over a wrong he can never put right.

Meanwhile, Ruby Barnhill is superbly cast, her lively and intelligent performance animating the likeably outspoken Sophie without rendering the character overly precocious or saccharine sweet.

It’s not a perfect movie by any means — the CGI seems a little off in the early stages, there are a couple of incongruous Americanisms in a story set in the UK, and the final act is unnecessarily prolonged — and it’s unlikely to have the emotional impact or legacy of ET.

That said, it’s a charming tale aimed squarely at the younger viewer, and one that left my eight-year-old expert beaming by the time the final credits rolled.

Sailing a yacht through the Aegean islands on a pleasure cruise, a group of Greek men take up the challenge of playing a game called Chevalier (15A).

The idea is to discover which of the men — among them Christos (Sakis Rouvas), Josef (Vangelis Mourikis), Yorgos (Panos Koronis), Dimitris (Makis Papadimitriou) and The Doctor (Yiorgos Kendros) — is ‘the best at everything’, and so begins a competition that is childishly ludicrous, and includes the men rating one another on anything from their sleeping posture, the quality of their underwear and their ability to skim stones.

Director Athina Rachel Tsangari emphasises the humour integral to vain men competing for a valueless prize in events that are essentially unquantifiable, and she gets a fine collective performance from the cast as they subtly portray the internal tensions of a fragmenting group of middle-class Greek males.

The contrast between the public posturing and the private insecurities is neatly observed, with Papadimitriou quietly stealing the show as Dimitris stays true to his principles as the least overtly masculine of the protagonists. It’s a film that is noticeably lacking in drama, however.

The scenario and the obsessively competitive personalities points towards an increasingly tense and perhaps even violent denouement, but Tsangari maintains a downbeat, even tone throughout, and we get plain sailing with occasional choppiness rather than the full-blown tempest that might have delivered a more satisfyingly cinematic finale.

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