October 2018~ Destination Star Trek Birmingham

This was the fourth official Star Trek event run by Showmasters/Media10 and the second to be held at the NEC in Birmingham.

If you read my blog post on the 2016 event you will recall that I was hugely disappointed with the whole thing. From the lack of things to do to the layout and the quality of some of the prop shoots that were available. I bitched, I moaned and with good reason. At one point I even refused to go again up until I had a chat with one of the organisers. That chat, and the temptation of meeting the Discovery cast was enough for me to give them another chance and I’m honestly glad I did. Life is too short to be holding on to grudges and I wanted to have some fun.

Most of the hotels were either fully booked or overpriced so I decided to stay a bit further out at the Travelodge Maypole. The crew of the USS Iceni were also there so I was able to grab a lift in with them.

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Things began on Thursday evening when Larry Nemecek (Trek Oracle and all round nice guy) and The Trekkie Girls organised a “Landing Party” quiz. There were about 10-12 teams, and my team came second. We won a bag of goodies provided by various people.

Friday morning arrived and we headed off to the NEC. Doors would be opening at 2pm but we had to put the finishing touches to the Iceni table. Once that was done I was able to have a look around.

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Hall 5 was bigger than the hall used previously and the layout was far, far better. The photo shoot areas were all along one side which greatly helped. In between each main shoot area you had the museum, the Discovery mirror universe exhibition (which was awesome) and the various green-screen shoot areas. This meant that there was no congestion around these areas and they were all well organised.

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The three stages had a corner each with the main Enterprise stage being right by the Iceni table. There was also a covered screening area with a set programme of episodes being shown over the weekend.

There were a number of prop shoots around such as a transporter, Borg chamber and a Horta with her eggs- I do feel that she could have been positioned better. There were also two bridge sets- the classic Constitution Class bridge from the original series and the Galaxy Class bridge from the next generation. I hope that they eventually make another bridge set. Maybe Voyager or the NX-01 bridge. Finally there was a Klingon captains chair and a replica of Quark’s bar on DS9. Lots to do!

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There were a lot more dealers than in previous years and the quality of the dealers was better too.

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The European Space Agency were also present, doing talks, giving away freebies etc.

Lastly, there were two gaming areas. One for board games and one for console/computer games and pinball machines. I got to have a play before the con opened.

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Matt Irvine, designer and model maker was also on hand with many of his pieces.

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John Eaves, Starship Designer was also present. It was good to talk to him about what influences his art. He was also signing and giving away a limited edition print of the USS Shenzhou from Discovery. He was a pleasure to talk to.

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The event itself ran smoothly. I only managed to get to one talk on props and model making as I was busy having photo shoots. I did however manage to get nearly all my autographs done on the Friday which made Saturday and Sunday even easier. I used my Discovery poster that I was given at the Netflix event last November.

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So in general there was much more to do this time around and the layout was better. Moving forward, I would still like to suggest dedicated seating areas for people as I did see lots of people struggling and not everyone is able to sit on they floor. Also, the fold up chairs that are used are not very comfortable. But that’s a minor gripe. I also think the fan zone needs work with a dedicated coordinator as Zoe was rushed off her feet!

As you can imagine there was lots of cosplay going on with many people making Discovery costumes, both prime and mirror universe.

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I had an absolute blast meeting the Discovery cast, especially my favourite, Sonequa Martin-Green who plays Michael Burnham. She loved my #Bonkers4Burnham shirt, which was inspired by the #Silly4Tilly shirt that Shazad Latif wore to a con. This inspired my friends and I to come up with a range of hashtags and have them printed on shirts. I have promised Doug Jones that I will come up with a suitable one for Saru. Mary Chieffo also liked the #Longing4L’Rell shirt but I didn’t get much of a reaction from Mary Wiseman over the #Krazy4Killy shirt by comparison. Just a “nice shirt!” In her defence, they all looked tired having just flown over from set. I got the impression that I, being a big chap, scared her and Anthony Rapp. I do hope not!

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I also managed to have a good chat with Astronaut Fred Haise who was part of the Apollo 13 mission, and Sandra Lee Gimpel who played a Talosian and a Salt Monster on the original series.

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They have announced a 2019 event for late October. Will you be there? I think I will.

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Showmasters, if you are reading this can we please have Rekha Sharma as a guest? Thank you muchly! I have a hashtag shirt to show her…..

October 2018~ First Man

I love a good space film- from films based on real-life events like ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Apollo 13’ to fictional films like ‘Space Cowboys’. I just love them!

Thanks to my dad I’ve always had an interest in space, space travel etc. My dad used to write off to NASA in the 60s and they sent him loads of things- maps, photos, an Apollo 11 kit and more. This was something that I also did during the late 70s onward. I have loads of photos, documents etc on the various space shuttles, the ISS and more recent projects.

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I was also lucky enough to take a week-long course, run by a guy from NASA, called ‘Space Camp’. It was based on the US camp of the same name but designed to work in UK schools. Up until a few years ago I ran lots of camps.

So as you can see my interest in space is extensive!

Early in 2017 I read that a film about Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, would be going into production and I’ve waited patiently ever since!

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I finally got to see it this week and I was blown away!

Unlike Apollo 13, it’s not a film just about the moon landing. It is first and foremost about Neil, his family, and his time as an astronaut. It shows us the struggle that Neil went through after the death of his daughter Karen, how her death affected him and his work, his relationships with his wife Janet, his sons and other astronauts.

The film begins in 1961 with Neil in an X-15, an experimental aircraft attached to the underside of a B-52 wing. Neil takes it through its paces but encounters a problem which he eventually resolves. He manages to land safely.

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The story then shifts to his daughter Karen, her battle and eventual succumbing to a brain tumour.

We have a number of time-jumps- the first show Neil’s selection as a Gemini astronaut, his partnership with astronaut Elliot See (who would die in a plane crash) and eventual command of Gemini 8 where he became the first astronaut to successfully dock two spacecraft, something of vital importance to the future Apollo missions. It also included the first critical in-flight incident in which the two docked craft went into a roll due to a faulty thruster.

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The next time-jump brings us to the events of Apollo 1 and the sad demise of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee- all friends of Neil. This again had an impact on him.

Finally we end up with Neil’s command of Apollo 11. We see Neil testing (and crashing) a lunar lander prototype before skipping forward to a press conference shortly before the mission. Neil’s wife Janet is adamant that he must tell he children that he may not return. A job which he reluctantly undertakes.

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As we know the mission is a success and the crew return to earth. The are some scenes that no one knows for sure happened but Neil’s sons (who are apparently big fans of the film) believe happened due to conversations with their dad prior to his death. I won’t say any more but they are quite emotional.

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Ryan Gosling was absolutely amazing as Neil Armstrong. It has always been known that Neil was a quiet, private man, with near-genius level intellect and a dry sense of humour. Gosling pulled this off perfectly! From the way Ryan portrayed Armstrong, every pain over the loss of his daughter was transferred to the audience and this thread carried through the entire film.

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Claire Foy played Neil’s troubled wife Janet with ease. She was believable and you felt her every worry.

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The recreation of all the official video as well as the tech, suits etc was absolutely astounding and will no doubt help fuel the moon landing conspiracy theories!

There have been so many amazing films this year, but this and ‘A Star Is Born’ both deserve to do well during awards season!

Go see it! It’s out of this world! (sorry, I had to! ūüôā )

Addendum- Trump and his followers have lambasted this movie saying that not showing Neil and Buzz planting the US flag is unpatriotic and people should boycott the film. He and his kind are wrong- if the film were about the US Space Programme then I would agree but it’s not. It’s about one man struggling with the memory of his dead child and friends, overcoming all the emotions that go with that whilst trying to do something courageous and succeeding. No flag needed.

October 2018~ Star Trek Short Treks

BLACK ALERT! SPOILERS FOLLOW….

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It was announced at San Diego Comic Con that CBS would be releasing a series of 4 “Short Treks”- 15 minute long episodes that would begin airing in October, and take us up to the start of Discovery Season 2. Each episode will be centered around a character.

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Now I will freely admit that I had to find an alternative way of watching this as CBS have made it US only. This is a bad move as A)there are fans worldwide like me who pay their Netflix subscription so they can watch Trek and B)it forces us to find other ways to watch as we have no idea if they will ever be seen! Sort it out CBS!

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The first Short Trek, titled ‘Runaway’ is begins with the now-Ensign Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman, communicating with her mother, Siobhan Tilly, who is cautioning her over her choice of career path and reminding her to know her limitations.

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Shortly thereafter Tilly is in the Mess Hall when she encounters a young Xahian stowaway named Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po, played by Yadira Guevara-Prip, who is a talented engineer. It is up to Tilly to help her return home in time for her coronation.

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It’s a great episode and definitely worth watching. Mary Wiseman is awesome once again as Tilly.

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The episode also has a couple of the best quotes from Tilly so far. “Hormonal space rabbit” and “quadruple espresso with milk alternative- it’s my best friend” both had me laughing out loud.

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Can’t wait for Season 2!

October 2018~ A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born, co-wrote, directed and starring Bradley Cooper, alongside Lady Gaga is the fourth iteration of this story. The first being in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredrich March, then again as a musical version in 1954 starring Judy Garland and James Mason and then as a rock musical in 1976 with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

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The basic story is unchanged:- A celebrity whose fame is waning, meets a young performer with hopes of stardom. He helps her into the spotlight whilst his career is in decline.

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I won’t go into specifics of this version. Suffice to say that if it doesn’t win awards then something is wrong. Lady Gaga puts in an amazing performance as Ally and Bradley Cooper (who learned the guitar and learned to sing and play well enough to perform at Coachella and Glastonbury for this film) is simply awesome as Jackson Maine. I felt not only Ally’s excitement through the film, but also Jackson’s pain. An amazingly emotional performance by both.

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The soundtrack, in which both Lady Gaga and Bradley perform, is definitely worth a listen.

A list of Easter Eggs put into the film by Bradley can be found here.

Go see it!

September 2018~ King Of Thieves

Michael Caine’s latest offering is based on the true story of The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Burglary which took place in 2015.

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It has a all-star cast including¬†Michael Caine as Brian Reader,¬†Jim Broadbent as Terry Perkins,¬†Tom Courtenay as John Kenny Collins,¬†Charlie Cox as Basil,¬†Paul Whitehouse as Carl Wood,¬†Michael Gambon as Billy “The Fish” Lincoln and¬†Ray Winstone as Danny Jones.

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It was an enjoyable film, but nowhere near as good as some critics have made out. The film was at times a bit disjointed, almost as if some scenes had been missed out during editing. It was hard to tell the relationship between the characters and it truly showed that there is no honour among thieves. Flashbacks to younger versions of the characters, using footage from the actor’r previous films (such as Get Carter) should have enhanced the film but flew by too quickly.

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As much as I try I just don’t like Ray Winstone as an actor. This role however, seems to fit him perfectly. It doesn’t matter who he portrays, Henry VIII, Beowulf, Indiana Jones’ sidekick, he always comes across as an East-End criminal- not much range.

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I was also very confused about Charlie Cox’s character Basil. He was “the one that got away” and not much is known about him. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but it came across as the character may be on the Autism spectrum. Was a tad confusing…

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Its an ok film and I’d probably see it again on TV or Blu-Ray as its always good seeing Michael Caine play a villain.

How close is it to what actually took place? Not a clue!

September 2018~ Crazy Rich Asians

*SPOILER-FREE REVIEW*

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This is one of the funniest, feel-good movies I have seen in a long time (apart from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again…).

It tells the story of Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), a Chinese-American economics professor from New York who travels with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore only to find out that he is the heir to one of the richest families in Asia. Rachel finds herself struggling to fit her American ideals together with ancient Chinese traditions and way of life.

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Its a great film with an equally great cast, including Michelle Yeoh from Star Trek: Discovery as Eleanor Young, Nick’s mother. Awkwafina plays a hysterical Peik Lin, Rachel’s college buddy and Gemma Chan plays Nick’s sister Astrid.

An excellent soundtrack accompanies nearly every scene.

It’s well worth a watch, probably more than once. Take tissues as you’ll laugh and cry….sometimes at once!

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September 2018~ The Predator

It’s not often that I see a film only once but I have no intention of seeing this film again in the cinema.

The Predator is set on earth, 20-ish years after the events of Predator 2.

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Two Predators arrive on Earth, one hunting the other. The one being hunted intends to deliver a gift to the people of Earth and the other is out to stop him.

This should have been a good solid action/sci-fi film but sadly it falls flat. The story concept is a sound one but is poorly delivered. A weak script which relies too heavily on laughs, many of which seem forced, leave this film feeling flat and predictable.

A number of plot holes are blatantly obvious. Olivia Munn’s character starts off as a simple Biologist but ends up as some kind of Lara Croft. At one point in the film she appears with a space age tranquilizer gun that seemed to come out of nowhere. Later in the film she is watching a Predator ship fly away in the distance, and we are talking a good few miles, yet minutes later she appears next to it! This and other strange occurrences had me shaking my head throughout the film.

One of the characters is a Tourettes sufferer and his condition was used for laughs constantly throughout the film. This didn’t sit well with me at all.

The soundtrack wasn’t great and didn’t really fit well in certain scenes.

There was the odd callback to earlier films including “get to the chopper” which could easily have been missed.

Unfortunately this is a poor addition to the Predator universe, which is sad as the end of the film has left it open for a sequel.

Not worth the cost of the cinema ticket in my opinion.